If you are in need of a divorce or paternity judgment, or have other family law issues involving custody, placement or support, our panel of family law attorneys can help. While legal help can be found on-line and at the courthouse, the law in this area is complex and your complicated fact situation often requires the assistance of competent counsel.
Divorce begins with the filing of a summons and petition for divorce. The petition gives the factual history of the marriage and states the desired outcome of the divorce. Sometimes it is necessary to have temporary orders issued which will provide ground rules that each spouse must follow until the final divorce hearing. Temporary orders may determine child custody and physical placement of the children, who lives in the family home, payment of maintenance and child support, and payment of debts.
In every divorce action involving minor children, parents must agree on a placement schedule. If needed, they meet with a court-appointed mediator to reach an agreement. If that fails, a guardian ad litem is appointed for the children to recommend a placement schedule that is in their best interests.
Another issue that must be decided is the amount of child support to be paid by a parent. Percentage guidelines are used to set a fair amount of support. Maintenance, formerly called alimony, is money one spouse pays to the other during or after a divorce. Whether maintenance is appropriate and, if so, the amount and duration, is based upon various factors, including the length of the marriage, the spouse’s age and health, each spouse’s educational level and earning capacities, and various other factors.
The court also divides the assets and debts of the marriage after considering many different factors, such as the length of the marriage, the property owned prior to the marriage by either spouse, tax consequences, agreements made by the spouses, and other equitable factors. Property division is usually a 50/50 proposition but many cases involve facts that may warrant a deviation from the presumption of equal division.
In paternity situations, the court sets orders regarding child custody and placement, child support, allocation of the income tax deduction, and other related issues. Many of the same considerations made when determining these issues in a divorce case are made when determinations are made in a paternity case. In both divorce and paternity cases, the best interests of the child are paramount.
The court can modify a divorce or paternity judgment. Usually, you must show that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the current orders went into effect before a court can revise a judgment. In most cases, orders regarding property division cannot be changed, once the orders are approved by the court.
If a former spouse disobeys the court order regarding custody, placement, child support, maintenance or debt payments, you can petition the court to enforce its order through a contempt motion. After hearing the facts, the court will decide whether your former spouse has willfully disobeyed and may find your former spouse in contempt and grant him or her an opportunity to correct the contempt. Failure to do so can result in as much as six months in jail.
Good family law attorneys will help clients settle their issues, rather than go to trial. They act as problem solvers and peacemakers. Give us a call to find an attorney experienced in the family law area to help you resolve these very personal and sensitive issues.