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.

Making decisions in family law can be so taxing.  The emotional, mental and financial consequences of making the wrong decision can be overwhelming.  Choosing which route to go in divorce or custody, usually involves taking a close look at a number of things. One of the things is cost-benefit analysis.

What is Cost-Benefit Analysis (“CBA”)

Historically, the cost-benefit analysis was “used to determine the social benefits of a proposed project in monetary terms.” (According to Britannica.) So it was originally used by the US military to help make the best decisions on maximizing the use of our resources.  However, businesses began to incorporate the use of this principle when they realized it helps to reach a level of success much quicker.

It simplistic terms, it is the act of giving a monetary value each available option in a given situation while weighing the benefits of each of those options against each other.  For example, if someone is trying to decide if they should buy a car to commute to work into the city from the suburbs or buy commuter passes and ride public transportation instead.  Which factors would they have to consider? What is the cost of each factor? What is the benefit of each factor? Then compare the two.  The costs for the car include: car payment + insurance + gas + tolls + parking. The benefits include: quicker time + convenience.  The costs for commuting:  monthly pass.  The benefits:  Less money.    So the costs for owning the car seem to be more than the commute.  But the benefits of the car are greater.

Application of Cost-Benefit Analysis to Family Law Issues:

Family Court litigants would want to use the CBA when they are trying to negotiate settlement, when they are choosing the best route to go when all options seem unfavorable, or when they merely want to make sure they are making decisions that have the best long term consequences.  It is not uncommon to find yourself in a position where it seems like “the lesser of two evils” or that you have to think of the long term when the short term seems more appealing.

Let me give you a more related example:

In a divorce action, the wife wants to know if she should buy out her soon to be ex (“STBX”) on the marital home of should she agree to sell. Her lawyer will tell her to sell if the STBX insists on her not keeping the home (it’s in his name) or may suggest she keeps it if she can afford it. But her friend may tell her to do the buyout so that she doesn’t have to uproot her and her kids from familiar surroundings. Her family may urge her to keep it to stay close to them. So everyone here has an opinion that serves a different interest.

But in all honesty, there are several factors to consider when it comes to property division in divorce. 1. The legal costs and fees to get the lawyer to continue to fight for either one of his/her recommendations. 2. The costs and logistical burdens of refinancing the home solely in her name. 3. Being tied down in a home that has tons of memories and maybe limiting in future desires to move. A financial costs-benefits analysis should always be done but so should an emotional costs-benefits analysis.

Sometimes it helps to separate the issue from those too familiar with the situation. Putting distance between yourself and those familiar, helps to get a clear and insightful decision. Write it out with all the possible outcomes, the consequences, etc.  Gather as much information as you can, from all available sources including your ex or STBX, so that you can weigh everything and anticipate as much as possible.

This is an excellent example of a common issue where the CBA should be applied. This is something I emphasize when implementing strategy. Negotiations, in mediation or otherwise, is much more helpful if the parties utilize the cost benefit analysis.

In Conclusion

Making informed decisions can be tedious, but they can be costly if you don’t.  Weighing all the financial benefits as well as the emotional and mental ones can save you tons of stress.

If you need to discuss how my services can help you to negotiate settlement, please schedule here. 

Family Court is an experience. Once you find yourself in enthralled in the experience it is imperative that you prepare yourself.  There are often more questions than answers and this causes even more tension.  The way you speak, the attitude you present, the thoughts you share – these all play an integral part in how your case is received and how it is viewed from the court’s perspective.  So I wanted to take time to share some things with you based on the various roles I played in the family law arena. So learn these family court practical tips here:

 

Family Court Practical Tips

Communicating Effectively:

There’s a strategy to effective communication with anyone in Family Court, your ex or soon to be ex, lawyers, judges etc. The first thing, that I notice most people fail at, is LISTENING with objectivity. Way too often we focus on the lies, the put downs, etc. so we formulate a response while the other person is talking. This has been proven to be ineffective in custody and divorce cases. It’s not easy, especially when dealing with a manipulative, controlling opponent but it’s something you MUST learn to master if you want to prevail. Family law is the most volatile area of law, so it brings out a variety of emotions.  But not being able to put emotions in check can ruin any intentions of reaching your goals.  So let the lies be told, let the accusations flow and when it’s your turn you address them with a focused mindset.

One thing I do consistently to master this is anticipating the worse and practice my reaction.  I do this as often as I need to until my body gives me the sign that it’s “OK”.  It works!

 

Etiquette in the Courtroom:

Way too often Family Court litigants complain that the judge does not or did not listen to any of their major concerns when it came to their divorce or custody case. Although family court judges get the worst wrap in the judicial system, they are human. They can empathize with you if you learn to speak their “language”.  There is a decorum and protocol that should be used when dealing with the court.

Here are some key tips:

  1. Always address them with respect using “Your Honor”, “Your Magistrate”, etc.
  2. Don’t ever let your emotions cloud your judgment. (This is not the same as not showing emotions. Showing emotions can be a good thing at times.)
  3. Be persistent with the issue you are trying to get their attention on. This does not mean to ignore what the court is asking or emphasizing. It means being adamant about stating your concerns within the parameters established.
  4. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS show the court that you are willing to work on a resolution. Now is not the time to be insistent on things going your way. If your ex or soon to be ex is the one being difficult, let them be the one to show that to the court. You don’t have to be the one to say that they are not cooperating.
  5. If you see the judge leaning in a particular direction with a decision that is not in your favor, offer a compromise that addresses exactly what he/she is concerned about. For example, if the court has an issue with the fact that the other parent/party is not getting enough time without having overnight, then offer an extra day, more hours, video chats, etc. Do NOT disregard the court’s concerns by making excuses for not going along.

 

Presenting Your Case:

It’s prudent to give a lot of attention to HOW you present your case in Family Court because things can backfire on you in an instant.  (Read more here on what choosing your language carefully.) It is no secret that I focus primarily on strategy in my work to show Family Court Practical Tips to my clients.  So, a large part of how I help clients has to do with “packaging” their case in a way that is going to increase their chances of getting the best outcomes.

So, your concerns, your interests, your objectives all need to be carefully prepared.  Preparation, organization, formulation all plays an extremely role in how the case proceeds from beginning to resolution.

Take the time to carefully, I mean carefully map out how you will present your case.  It takes knowledge, guidance, and persistence to be able to do this correctly.  Come up with a strategy and stick to it.  Be sure to include how you will carry out every step of the strategy.  You can’t anticipate EVERYTHING, but you can keep an open mind and be ready to react when necessary if your strategic plan is rock solid.

 

In Conclusion

There are tons of tips I can give that will help you get better outcomes in your case. I can focus on explaining the law but that’s not going to help you as much as giving tips on strategy.

 

If you would like a FREE 15 min consultation to discuss strategy in your divorce or custody case, click Here.

A lot of people think stay-at-home moms are a thing of the past.  There are certainly tons of people who have no idea that dads stay at home too.  The decision to stay at home can be based on a variety of reasons but the main one is financial between the parents and divorce. The costs of daycare have skyrocketed in the past decade, making it more logical for one parent to stay home than pay. There are a lot of things that should be taken into consideration when the family makes this decision.

 

The Impact of Divorce On Stay at Home Parents

There are several things that come up in divorces, but particularly in one where one party was the stay at home or homemaker. Finances is a major issue in households with one wage earner when it comes to divorce.   Alimony or spousal support, child support and property division are all common topics that require attention when a divorce action is started.  The stay-at-home party usually needs some financial support to continue while the wage earner usually disagrees.

  1. Alimony or Spousal Support

Most states have a law that allows litigants to sue the other for financial support.  Each state differs in what it considers but some factors are pretty much across state lines.  For example, the duration of the marriage, the employability or work history of the parties, the financial resources, just to name a few.  Most states limit alimony to a set number of years based on the duration of the marriage, the age & health of the parties and the number of years it would take for the non-wage earner to become gainfully employed.  Some states, particularly community property states, do not have any laws for alimony.  Community property states that ALL property acquired during the marriage is subject to equal distribution.


Property Division in Divorce


The stay-at-home parent who was never employed or has no employable skills, due to being out of the workforce, has an advantage. The “employability” of that party is a major factor to consider in how long alimony should go on for.  As does their financial resources, the time it takes for them to find a job and the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.  These are all the factors specifically relevant to stay at home partners or homemakers.

  1. Property Distribution or Division

Property is subject to be divided in the divorce when it was acquired during the marriage. Property division laws follow one of two principles.  Some states have “equitable distribution”, while others are “community property” states.    Equitable distribution laws look at what is “fair” to the parties based on a few factors.   Those factors can include the contribution each party made to the acquisition of the property, the length of the marriage, an award of alimony (it is amount and duration) and the loss of health insurance benefits because of the divorce.  In community property states, however, the marital property is divided equally no matter what if it is considered marital (as opposed to being classified as separate property.)

  1. Child Support

Child Support is determined by the state’s guidelines (statute) and is therefore usually straightforward with respect to calculations.  The problems come up when the wage earner is self-employed, works “off the books”, gets high commissions and bonuses or something similar where income is difficult to determine.  So, with respect to stay at home party in the divorce, the only issue that is highly relevant is if the guidelines allow for deviation from the calculations.   Deviating from the state’s guidelines usually requires that certain elements be present in your case.  For example, in New York the courts are allowed to deviate from the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”) if the combined income of the parties is $154,000 or more.

So, if the wage earner in your case makes a reported income of at least $154,000, the court can look at each parent’s finances; educational needs of the parents; the income differences between the parents; the lifestyle if the family had remained intact-these factors are relevant in stay-at-home situations.   Although each state has their own guidelines, they may have similar provisions for considering the stay-at-home parent’s circumstances.

  1. Child Custody

When it comes to child custody, it is conceivable that the stay-at-home parent would be in the better position to gain custody of the children.   However, the best interests’ factors help the court determine who should have custody, physical and legal.  (Read here for the best interests’ standards.) The parent that stayed at home with the children is not automatically the more “fit” parent or the one that will be more likely to fulfill the children’s mental, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs. Parents who work outside of the home can be considered as “fit” or as suitable to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment as the homemaker parent.


Best Interests of the Child Custody Each State 


Only some states have specific best interests’ factors, while others have more like guiding principles. The states that have set out factors have implicitly left out the financial resources of each parent as a top of the list consideration.  However, some states have factors that have a more direct impact on the circumstances of stay-at-home parents.  Factors like, the need for continuation of a stable home, adjustments to school and community and parenting ability to provide a safe, nurturing environment.  These factors can have a negative or positive influence on custody since the financial means of the stay-at-home parent will be disrupted.   Maintaining a connection within the community the children are most familiar, staying in the home they are most familiar with, and parenting ability are all indirectly (or directly).  Stay at home parents must make huge adjustments, mainly because of finances, that will cause some inevitable disruptions for them and their children.

 

In conclusion

Deciding if either parent should stay home to raise the children and be a homemaker is a decision that requires the undesirable thought of its implication on divorce.  Although it might suit the family’s circumstances at the time, it can definitely create issues later on.

 

If you wish to discuss our services and how they can help you in your family law matter, please feel free to schedule a FREE 15min consultation.

To commence any action the Petitioner, or person who is pursuing the action, must have the other party “served” with a copy of the Complaint. This is a requirement in any type of case where the other party is an individual or entity. Having someone served in a divorce or child custody case can be quite a challenge and considers several things. I want to address some of those things here to help facilitate the process in family law much smoother.

 

Why Serve the Opposing Party in Family Law

The US Constitution Due Process clause, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment, affords each citizen the right to live their life free and fair if certain measures are in place.  The specific language that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”.  This basically means that “fairness” must be at the center of all government procedures with respect to its citizens.  And the process of serving litigants in an action is one of those procedures that must use fairness and notice.  The parties are deprived of fairness, if they are not put on notice or if they are unduly burdened by being sued in a jurisdiction that has no authority over them.  The procedural rules the states implement regarding service of process address these issues.


Perjury in Family Court


 

How to Serve the Opposing Party in Family Law

Each state has its own procedural laws regarding service.   The basic premise of each of them is to give the parties appropriate and adequate notice of legal action in court or administrative body, to exercise jurisdiction over them. The court, or administrative tribunal, cannot exercise jurisdiction over a person if the person was not properly served.

The steps to serving a party in action include:

 

Planning to Service of Process on the Opposing Party

So, from a strategic standpoint, I am all about strategy in all the services I provide, knowing when to serve the other party takes careful thought. Of course, within the purview of your state’s procedural rules, there are times when you should plot out service.  We know the reasons the legal reasons why a party should be served, but thinking about the practicality of serving them is important.

Opposing parties have a time limit to “answer” the Complaint they were served within a divorce or custody action.  The clock starts from the time they are appropriately served and failure to respond within that time can lead to a default judgment.  (Default judgment limits the ability to claim any defenses, counterclaiming.) So, if you want the case to move faster so that you can get a resolution faster, then ensuring effective service is prudent.

The other party has the right to raise defenses in their Answer or Response to your Complaint.  If you know that the defenses, they plan on raising are time-sensitive then you would want to plan the service of your initial Complaint around that.

If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of your personal possessions and how service of process can jeopardize these, then you need to make special arrangements.  Domestic violence officers, advocates, etc. can help you develop a plan to have the other party served while keeping you, your family, and/or your things safe.

 

In conclusion

Serving the opposing party is a must in family law matters and can make a difference in the overall outcome.  You should consider the details of this aspect of the case before you start.

Family Court is the most dramatic forum when it comes to people telling their stories. Everyone involved in Family Court all sudden become skilled storyteller. There is no other Court, not even Criminal Court, where the parties are prone to give the most salacious details of incidents. Exaggerated facts, animated recollection of events, etc. are all inherent in divorce and custody matters, particularly the most contentious ones. Believe or not, there are laws in place to keep misrepresentations to a minimum in court. Specifically, when the parties have sworn to tell the truth, knowingly lying in court is considered perjury in family court.

 

Perjury is defined as “the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation”. (Oxford Dictionary).


Parenting Access in Child Custody


 

When is it Perjury?

So, there are several instances in Family Court when individuals are required to explain events, scenarios, etc. in detail. In court documents, in mediation, in conferences and in hearings/trials, opportunities present themselves to give one’s account of how things happened. Family Court is the one venue where giving testimony can seem never-ending. And there are times when an individual can unconsciously skew the facts, to get their point across.

Perjury is not a mis-telling of the facts in the court hallways, or in conversation amongst the parties with their attorneys or not, or in any other scenario where they were not placed under oath. But perjury is a skewing of the facts in court documents, in court hearings and even in depositions because in all these scenarios the party affirms that they are telling the truth. A mistake on basic personal information may not arise to the level of perjury. So, for example, an incorrect date of birth, height or weight are not considered perjury and can be corrected by amendment.

A person does not have to be a party in the case to commit perjury. Witnesses in the case can also be guilty of perjury if they make a false statement or give false testimony while under oath.

 

Proving Perjury in Family Court

Knowing what perjury is or is not just part of the puzzle. The other part is making a case for perjury and effectively proving it. Just because a person makes a misrepresentation in a court document or in open court does not automatically make it perjury. If the statement is misleading or nonresponsive, but true, then there is no perjury. So, if the individual really believes that they are telling the truth in their statements or testimony, again there is no perjury.

If that statement made is not “material” to the outcome of the case. If someone makes a false statement that has no bearing on an issue that is being litigated, then it is not material. Trying to prove perjury for every single misrepresentation, no matter how small, would place a tremendous burden in the court.

To prove that an individual perjured him or herself the accuser must prove that the statement is false, that they knew it was false and that it was material to the outcome. Even when all these elements are met, the courts may not penalize the perjurer too severely.

 

The Consequences of Perjury in Family Court

Sometimes proving that someone made false statements or misrepresentation in Family Court is best addressed by impeaching them.  Because perjury is so rampant in Family Court expecting actual punitive consequences is a stretch.

Perjury can be seen as a civil liability, as a crime or merely as a violation. Civilly the accused can be subject to libel or slander if the target of the false statements can prove actual damages, or the court can impose its own fines pursuant to its laws. Criminally, the perjurer can be prosecuted and ordered to pay fines, be imprisoned or both. Or the perjurer can be held in contempt if the court finds that he or she violated the court’s inherent principles to act with decorum. In Family Court, the consequences usually involve a charge of contempt or a ruling on an issue that is the subject of perjury. For example, if a party has been proven to have committed perjury by lying about the value of his or her assets, the judge may order an equitable share of those assets to the non-perjuring party as punishment. Occasionally the courts will impose financial sanctions, such as attorney’s fees, where perjury was proven.

 

In Conclusion

This article is not intended to encourage lying in Family Court or to show how to lie in Family Court successfully. On the contrary, my intention is to enlighten you on the reality of Family Court and how perjury is viewed there.

If you wish to schedule a free consultation to discuss how I can help you in your divorce or custody please schedule here.

Family court has proven time and again that their agenda appears to be quite opposite of what many of us expect. Especially with respect to child custody and parenting time. The standard is the best interests of the child but that does not always seem to be match the outcome of court rulings. A lot of times parents think they are doing what falls in line with the best interests standards. However, to their dismay they find out that their efforts are often minimized, ignored or even, penalized by the system.

Parenting access is an improvement goal of family court. Parenting access is the time the noncustodial parent gets to spend with their child, to communicate with their child and be informed of important things in their child’s life. This article will address how Parenting access is factored in the child custody case.


“Good” and “Not so Good” Co-parenting is Still Coparenting


The Best Interests Standards in Child Custody

The best interests of the child in custody matters are the standard all the family courts use to decide what is best for children mental, physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. There is no specific law, but each state has come up with its own set of factors to help it make its determination.

These factors examine the child’s circumstances as well as the circumstances of the parents when the issue is custody. The objective is to ensure that the child’s needs are not overlooked when weighed against the parents’ capabilities. Conversely, looking at the parents’ circumstances from a realistic perspective is just as important. For example, the parents’ mental and physical health are factored in just as the children are.

Parenting Access as a Child Custody Factor

Another factor the courts consider is each parent’s effort and participation in facilitating a nurturing relationship between the child and the other parent. This means taking measures to arrange time for the other parent to spend with the child, keeping the lines of communication open between the other parent and child and informing the other parent of major changes in the child’s life.

(See Delaware’s list of factors.)

From a practical standpoint, rearranging your schedule to accommodate the other parent, being inconvenienced by traveling a little further than usual, allowing the child to have phone or video calls and so on, are examples of fostering a nurturing relationship. Showing that you are on board with the other parent maintaining a loving relationship with your child typically carries more weight than any “flaws” they can bring up in court.

How to Use Parenting Access Factor Effectively

As I mentioned above, everything does not always work out the way we intend them to in Family Court. Unfortunately, this happens in more cases than not. (Which is exactly why my services focus on strategy more than law, learn more here.) One of the main reasons people are highly disappointed in their custody outcome is because they fail to take the time to learn the courts ‘inner workings”. They do not learn the court’s language; it is rationale for its moves or its overall goals.

The parenting access factor is an important element with respect to the court’s goals. As I mentioned, the court has an interest in ensuring that the child has a healthy relationship with each parent. At the same token, if you are not mindful of how it intercepts with the other factors it can backfire.

Parenting access is an important factor, but it is not the only one. Most courts utilize a range of 8-12 factors to determine custody. Parenting access can be a specific factor on the list or can encompass a few of them. In other words, State A can look directly at the frequency of visits the custodial parent allows with the noncustodial parent. While State B can look at a combination of things that are not as direct but within context.

(Compare Virginia’s factors with Illinois’ factors to see how they differ in language.)

Because of the differences in how the states list their factors and how the courts examine them, litigants need to understand how they impact the final custody decision. Having clear insight on how the parenting access looks in the grand scheme of things is vital.

For instance, will allowing the child more time at the noncustodial parent’s home give the impression that the custodial parent does not want the child at home? Will encouraging communication between them support the other parent’s petition for joint custody? These are just some things to keep in mind, not as a deterrent but in planning and present your case.

In conclusion

Family Court is tricky with custody cases. If you take actions from a limited perspective, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

If you wish to schedule a FREE 15min consultation to discuss my services in your custody matter, please feel free to do that here.

family law
Family Law FAQs

 

As promised, I am working on Part Two of Frequently Asked Questions for family law-related matters. Every single day the family law community is faced with scenarios that look similar but have their own nuanced characteristics.  So, although some questions are asked repeatedly, how and if they apply to a particular set of facts vary greatly.

I encourage my audience, and the family law population at large, to ask question after question in an effort to maintain a basic understanding of what is at risk in their divorce or custody.  It does not matter if you refer to several sources, or even if the responses differ.  It is important to gather as much information from various sources when enmeshed in a divorce or custody matter.

One of the things that I do daily encourage my audience to ask questions.  As a result, what I have noticed is that there is a lot of misinformation being circulated.  In addition, I realized that people tend to have the same concerns regardless of their location, status, or position (in their case).  So, I have decided to dedicate this week’s blog to those common questions, providing some clear answers.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 1. Should we try to resolve all issues ourselves to save time and money in divorce or custody?

 An Uncontested Divorce is one where the parties either have no disagreement or have resolved/settled all issues so there are no disputes. In some instances, a divorce can start out as Contested (where there are disputed issues) and wind up in settlement early enough to be considered Uncontested.  This is different than a divorce that settles via mediation, although some courts will allow mediated divorces to proceed as Uncontested. This saves tons of time and money depending on the issues involved.  With respect to custody, resolving the disputed issues can also get the case over within months as opposed to years.

 

  1. Does joint custody mean that you cannot get child support?

In most states, court-ordered child support is determined by statutory guidelines.  One of the factors is typically included in the guidelines is custody.  In cases where joint physical custody is awarded, child support is apportioned according to the time with each parent. For example, in 50-50 cases, in some states, neither parent pays child support to the other. However, in some states, the financial obligation of each parent is calculated based on their income (and other factors) and then the parent who has the highest obligation may be ordered to pay the other the difference in both of their child support award amounts.


Where Child Support & Custody Intersect


  1. What can I do if I do not know where my ex or soon to be ex is living to notify him/her of the case?

Once you file your initial petition for divorce or custody, it is your responsibility to “serve” the other party with a copy of the petition.  This is how they are put on notice of the pending case.  If you are unable to locate them, you must follow your jurisdiction’s procedures in either locating them or serving them another way. Most states will allow an alternate means for service.  So instead of having the party served at a physical address, for instance, the court may allow the petitioner to place an ad in the local newspaper. The newspaper ad is considered “service by publication” as it puts the other party on notice of the suit.

 

  1. Should I consider mediation or some other alternative to litigation?

 There are alternatives to divorce or custody litigation, that do not entail the burden and overwhelm of trial in court. More than half of all family court cases settle, with only a small fraction making it to trial. Those options are mediation, collaborative divorce or Do it Yourself.  Mediation is the option most often used, in some states it is mandatory. Mediation prices range from $2000 up to $10,000s.  The costs associated with mediation makes it most attractive to many, but so does the quicker turnaround than litigation.  If you want to explore least expensive options to divorce and custody, be sure to seriously consider mediation.

 

  1. Do we need a Parenting Plan for our child(ren) if we already have a schedule that we work with?

Some states have their own form of a parenting plan, parenting agreement, etc. If there is a custody case pending, then the parties will be required to enter into such agreement to make it an effective order. If there is no court case pending, then the parties are free to create one that works for them. The difference in the two, is in the former if either party chooses to change terms of the agreement, the other can seek Contempt. In the latter, neither party is obligated to stick to the plan because there may not be any consequences for them choosing not to.

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Finding & Using Resources

Although there are tons of free resources on the internet, knowing which question to ask can make these resources useless.  When you are enmeshed in a legal battle, particularly in Family Court, it is critical to have the right information.  It is not advisable to trust your friends, family or even strangers to give you the appropriate answers to your legal questions.  Having gone through the process helps, but it does not qualify them to give you legal advice since each case is quite different.

I always recommend getting at least three (3) consultations from qualified attorneys in your jurisdiction so that you have a solid foundation to start your journey.  Most family law attorneys will provide a free consultation so cost should not be a deterrent.

 

In Conclusion

 Always, always, always ask questions and seek answers.  At the same time, use discernment to decide if the source is reliable.  There is an overwhelming amount of information relevant to divorce and custody, so filtering is important as well.

 

If you wish to schedule a consultation to discuss how I can help you, please feel free to do so here.