Once a divorce or custody case starts in Family Court there is usually a process in court. Unless the parties agree and filing the papers is just a formality, every case is set to proceed down the same path. The objective of that path is to facilitate the process by identifying issues, resolving issues, and getting a final determination. Each stage of the case has a specific goal and serves an exact purpose. To litigants, this process can seem confusing, unnecessary, and at times, prejudicial. But the process can be used to your advantage as a litigant if you would keep several things in mind. Strategy entails gathering information whenever and however you can, the court appearances are ideal in that sense.

 

The Initial Appearance

The Initial Conference itself is usually a brief meeting. Although all parties are required to appear, the way you appear is up to the court (via phone, video, or in-person.)

A final determination of anything asked for in the petition or motion is unlikely unless the parties agree to it. However, there are instances where temporary orders are issued depending on the parties’ requests, the immediate need, etc.

The Initial Conference is your first opportunity to gauge what the “real” issues of the case are. When crafting your strategic game plan, one of the principal elements is that you gain an understanding of where the opposing party stands. What this means, is that you need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. You might think you know what they are, but you will get confirmation at the initial conference. The judge will want to know what the issues are and will more than likely, give some hints as to which issues are “real” issues.

In addition, the Initial Conference is your chance to familiarize yourself with the court process, the key players, and the judge’s demeanor. These are all key elements to focus on when creating your game plan too. Your case is not just about the parties, the law, and/or the lawyers. There is an entire process that and that entire process has a significant impact on the outcome of your case.

And last, you are giving the court to make its impression of you. You get to determine that. So many people are intimidated by the court process when you get to dictate how it goes. You must learn to be calm, focused, and prepared as you only get one chance to make a first impression.

 

How to Prepare for the Initial Conference

Preparing for the Initial Conference efficiently is important. However, being intentional in how you prepare is critical to the strategy for your case. In other words, plot every step or tactic you intend to use at the actual conference. Review the opposing party’s petition or motion to look for key things to focus on. You want to focus on these specific things to watch for credibility in statements, to check for consistency throughout the process, and to make notes for Discovery requests.

Next, you want to do as much research as you can before the actual conference. Research the laws, the procedural rules, the attorneys, and the judge. You might not find exactly what you expect, but you should look to see what’s out there.

And last, you should have a set of questions in your mind. You might get a chance to ask specific questions and that’s fine. But you should pay attention because although your questions might be unasked, you might still get answers to them.

 

After the Initial Conference

Once the conference is over, you should have a much clearer picture of what you need to do next. You should feel confident, determined, and empowered, not defeated. Remember, this is your opportunity to determine the direction you want your case to go in. Not let the antics of the opposing party distract or discourage you.

You should be able to fill in some key parts of your game plan.

 

In Conclusion

Too many litigants overlook the opportunities to take control of their case presented in the Initial Conference. They allow their emotions to take over and lose sight as a result. Every interaction, encounter, etc. is an opportunity to gain leverage. Take advantage of it.

 

My new Pro Se Family Court Membership Program is the perfect solution to your custody or divorce situation.  Having a solid game plan that focuses on using strategy can make or break your case.  Interested in the details? Check here.

long-distance co-parenting

Co-parenting can be challenging when both parents live within the same state or certain distance of each other. However, during long-distance co-parenting, it can complicate things ever more so. Particularly when the parties have joint custody, mainly joint legal, it can cause major problems with enforcement.

Co-parenting Agreements or parenting plans for long-distance parents usually look different than for those who within a 50 mile radius of each other for example. Between scheduling time, facilitating visits, staying on the loop amongst a few things, the agreement needs to address all of these things in more detail.


Best Interests of the Child Custody Each State 


Sharing Information in Long-Distance Co-Parenting

The Agreement or plan should go in depth about how the long-distance parent can stay informed of doctor visits, medical decisions, school events, school reports, etc. So using email, co-parentings apps, text messages etc. are a good means. In addition, the noncustodial parent should have the contact information for school personnel, medical providers and whomever has regular contact with the children with respect to education, health and extracurricular activities. The custodial parent should provide these to the other parent without any lapses.

Communication

Video chatting and phone calls should also take place on a different schedule than if both parents live close by. The actual schedule for these should take into consideration any time differences as well as the parties schedule. Of course the age of the child should be considered but allowances should be made for the circumstances as well.

Scheduling

Travel may be a huge obstacle for the noncustodial parent when it comes to exercising visits. So when it comes to planning visits the logistics of travel should be priority. Inclement weather, means of transportation, costs to travel etc. should be factored in when creating the Agreement or plan.Also work and school schedules can certainly make long-distance visits formidable. Careful planning is necessary with respect to choosing vacation, mapping out school breaks and such. It is important to stick to schedules as much as practicable so that other planned visits are not thrown off.

Flexibility

The one thing that is paramount to any long-distance co-parenting relationship working is parties flexibility.  Things happen when parents are local let alone when there is distance between them. As I mentioned above, weather, schedule conflicts, sickness etc. can interfere with even the well planned out visits.If the noncustodial chooses not to exercise their visits or maintain contact that’s one thing. On the other hand, when exercising visits is out of their control the custodial parent’s willingness to work around will be looked at favorably by the court.

Making it Work

With today’s technology there’s no reason why long distance co-parenting should be near impossible. Between apps for communication, note taking, calendaring and so there’s a plethora of ways to make it happen smoothly. In addition, Skype, social media, text messaging makes staying in touch a feasible task.The parties should make an effort to discuss and agree on which tools will be used. Exploring what works for both parents based on their family’s specific needs is the key. The tools chosen should be included in the agreement but again flexibility is necessary.

In conclusion

“Normal” co-parenting is not impossible when parents live some distance apart. With careful planning, consistency and flexibility co-parenting with distance in between is doable.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you in your co-parenting, custody or visitation case please feel free to schedule a free 15 minute consultation.