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.

child support

 

Child support and child custody intercepts at times, but that depends on several factors. In most states Child support is determined by statutory guidelines imposed by that state. Those guidelines usually takes into consideration parents’ income (either one or both), number of children, previous financial orders and some excepted expenses (like employment deductions). Some states also consider the custody arrangement.


Best Interests of the Child Custody Each State


The Purpose of Child Support

Child support is intended to provide financial support for children. That generally means that each parent contributes to providing all the basic needs of their child(ren), including medical and educational too.  Although the Child Support Standards Act is the federal law governing child support, each state has its own law with respect to parents financial obligations to their children. Most states statutes base their guidelines on cost of living among other things.

There are 3 models each state chooses from, which are as follows:

Income Shares Model– this is based on the premise that children should receive the same proportion of their parents income that they would have received if the parents loved together. Most states, 41 to be exact, use this model. (Get more details here on each states guidelines.)

Percentage of Income Model– sets out a percentage of ONLY the noncustodial parent’s income. The custodial parents income is NOT taken into consideration. There is the Flat Percentage and the Varying Percentage variations. Four states use the former, while two states use the latter.

Melson Formula-a more complicated (and rarely used) version of the Income Shares Model. This takes into account each parents needs as well as the children’s. Only 3 states use this one. (See Delaware’s child support law.)

Child Custody Impact on Child Support

There is a difference in joint custody, shared custody and 50/50 custody. (Read here for in depth discussion from one of my previous blog posts.) In cases where either parent has sole or primary custody the noncustodial parent pays child support pursuant to their state statute. However, with respect to shared or 50/50 custody, where the child(ren) spend equal time with both parents obligation varies based on which Model the state uses.

With respect to Income Shares Model, the parents combined incomes and the number of children results in a figure. That figure is then divided proportionately based on the amount of time the children lives with each parent.

In the Percentage of Income Model, custody and support usually takes a different approach. Typically, only the noncustodial parent’s income is used to calculate support obligation. However, in shared  or 50/50 custody arrangements, the custodial parent’s income is a factor. The custodial parent’s income is compared to the noncustodial’s income to determine which is the highest. The parent with the highest income pays child support.

Some states’ statutes allows for the court to use discretion in rendering a final support order. In these instances, shared or 50/50, or any variation of joint physical custody, can justify the court coming up with an amount different from the statutory calculation.

In conclusion

 You should definitely familiarize yourself with your state’s child support and child custody laws before attempting to negotiate any settlements.

If you would like to discuss the options I have to help you prepare your case for settlement, mediation or trial, please feel free to set up a free consultation. Visit my Home page for details about the services I offer.