Marital and Family Law
Family matters bring unique challenges. Whether safeguarding your investments, securing support, or protecting your child, action must be taken to get results. Being knowledgeable about basic principles of law and how they apply allows meaningful participation in the litigation process. We provide this education to our clients and by working together we form a comprehensive strategy. We handle a variety of family law and domestic matters, including divorce, child custody and time sharing, child support, spousal support, and modification and enforcement of existing court orders.
Getting divorced can be a daunting effort; but it need not be so if you have a sound strategy and are aware of each step in the divorce process. Your attorney begins by filing with the court a petition (complaint) that sets out why you want to divorce and how matters such as finances, custody, etc. should be settled. The petition along with a summons is then served on your spouse who is required to respond within a certain time. Subsequently, each spouse submits relevant financial information prior to a scheduled mediation. If no agreement is reached at mediation, the case goes to trial. At trial, your attorney presents evidence and arguments in support of your petition. After hearing the arguments on both sides, the judge decides any unresolved matters such as child custody and visitation rights, child and spousal support, and property division. After reaching a decision, the judge grants the divorce. How long does this process take? It can be completed within a few months or it can drag on for years depending on the couple’s willingness to compromise and be reasonable.
At the time of a child’s birth to an unmarried mother, paternity must be established either voluntarily or by court order. This requirement redounds to the advantage of the child. The father may consequently be subject to court ordered child support. He might also have health insurance benefits that are available to the child. In addition, the child may be entitled to government benefits if the father is disabled or a veteran, and the child would be entitled to inherit from the father’s estate. The importance of a father in a child’s life now matters to some men. If the parents are at loggerheads, the father may need a court order for his share of parenting time. He may want joint decision making authority with the mother concerning the child’s health care, education, and religious upbringing among other major issues. Without establishing paternity, none of the preceding would be attainable by him.
The divorce decree is final but you’re not happy and want to change, say, alimony, or child support, or property division, or some other aspect of the settlement. It’s time to file a motion to modify the divorce decree. For the modification to succeed, you must show why your changed circumstances, such as the loss of a job for example, warrant a modification. Child custody can also be modified if it is in the best interest of the child and circumstances are such that make a change necessary. After the petition for modification is filed with the court and served on your spouse, a hearing date is scheduled for presenting your argument.
After a divorce is finalized, either spouse may appeal or modify the divorce decree. If you firmly believe that the judge seriously erred in his ruling, the next step is to file a notice of appeal. All deadlines and procedures must be exactly adhered to. Be aware that settlement agreements usually are not overturned on appeal if both spouses agreed to the terms of the settlement unless there are intervening factors. After filing the notice of appeal with the court and serving all relevant parties, the Record on Appeal is prepared. Among other papers and documents, the Record also comprises the court reporter’s trial transcript, pleadings, and exhibits and documents introduced at trial. Your attorney then files with the appellate court an Appellate Brief that advances supportable written legal arguments detailing why the trial court acted incorrectly. The amount of time the court takes to hand down a decision varies. If the appellate decision does not uphold the trial court’s decision, the case is remanded (sent back) to the trial court to either modify the decision or to conduct a new trial.