David R. Hartwig, ESQ.
Attorney & Counselor At Law
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High conflict Archives

Picking a Special Master

Just last week the Utah State Bar held its 2017 Annual Family Law Seminar, which included a presentation on special masters, including the recommended training. The recommendations included membership with AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts); training in Parenting Coordination and Advanced Issues in Child Custody through AFCC or similar agency; continued affiliation with AFCC or similar group, and continued education through that group; and, experience in custody cases. That is what you should be looking for. If you go to my website, you will see that I have the affiliation, the training, and the continuing relationship as noted above. Plus, I have handled all phases of family law cases, juvenile law cases, and appeals in those areas, as well as other work. Plus, I do offer a sliding scale for fees, depending on your income. So, If you are thinking about a special master for your case, you now have some idea as to what you should be looking for.

Nasty Custody Dispute? Want to drive the other side Crazy? Here's how:

Custody disputes can be nasty, really nasty. Be it in a divorce, a paternity action, or a subsequent action to modify prior custody orders, allegations can fly back and forth, and parents can bring up the nastiest allegations and claims. The other side will fling all kinds of garbage at you, from minor incidents to completely false claims -- and that will all be done to hurt you and make you feel defensive, if not downright combative. After all, the other party is making all of those claims to show just how terrible of a parent, and person you are. How could you not take that personally?You do have your way to fight back; a plan to not only show how all those claims are false, but also to possibly show the other party's attempts to malign you. This is a real strategy that may well not only prove all of that, but also help you win your custody claims.Here is the plan:
•    Every time junior comes home from school with a gold star on a paper, test, or project, scan, or take a picture of it and send it to the other party with a kind note, something like "thought you'd like to share in [child's name] accomplishment.
•    Every time junior comes home from school with a good grade on a paper, test, or project, scan, or take a picture of it and send it to the other party with a similar kind note.
•    Every time junior gets selected to be in a school, or other, play; joins a team or some other activity; or is to be honored in some ceremony, scan, or take a picture of the announcement and send it to the other party with a similar kind note (or, if there is nothing to copy, send an email anyway with the information included).
•    Every time you get some note or announcement about a school, or other activity, again scan it and send it to the other party; you might even want to invite that person to attend.
•    Every time you schedule any sort of medical or dental appointment, email the other party and let that person know; and, then follow up with whatever information you learn from the appointment. Just an FYI note, or something similar.
•    Send an email to the other party telling him or her just how excited junior was to hear from the other party, enjoyed the time junior spent with that person, or how much junior truly enjoyed the gift or item junior brought home.
•    Be willing to work with the other party if there as scheduling problems (so long as it does not become an obvious abuse of the current custody orders).
•    And never, never respond to any of the negativity in an emotional state; in fact, it might be better to completely ignore the insults and taunts you receive, and let your attorney handle all of that through counsel thereby documenting the other party's bad conduct.This will work in your favor. There is a rule in Utah that custody evaluators have to abide by, which includes, methods of communications between the parents, the ways in which a parent supports the child's relationship with the other parent, and just how you are willing to work with the other parent to accommodate problems or conflicts in schedules. You will be showing your love of your child, and your willingness to let your child be with, and love the other parent.

Divorce Conflict? How to pick a Special Master?

If you are reading this, then you know that a Special Master can be used in situations where there is high-conflict in a divorce or custody case; or after the case, if the conflict continues or worsens. But, how do you find a Special Master.

Divorce Conflict? Tired of dealing with all the problems your ex creates? Try a Special Master

During, and after, a divorce there is often conflict - a great deal of conflict. The conflict often involve the rights of parents in relation to the children: custody disputes, parent-time (visitation) conflicts; and, parenting styles or roles. The children are affected and pulled by parents, and the parents are frustrated by the costs, and weeks of delays, in having to go back to court to determine their rights, or enforce the terms of a divorce, custody, or paternity order.

Conflict, Protective Orders, and Attempts to Dismiss

The Utah Court of Appeals has issued another decision supporting the denial of a motion to dismiss a protective order. The case is Card v. Card, and reviews the entire process involved in an attempt to dismiss a protective order, the various factual requirements involved, and the legal standards to be applied.

What is a "high conflict" divorce or family law case.

High conflict divorce and family law cases    High-conflict cases arise in matters where one parent asserts a "right" to certain privileges without regard to the court orders, and usually that one parent is, or perhaps both are, seeking to control the other with entitlement attitudes. In some instances there may even be underlying psychological problems. They usually involve custody of the children and issues surrounding how custody is assigned, and how the parties participate in parent-time. A high conflict case does not have to be a divorce; it can be any family law case, such as a paternity matter, a custody matter, or a case seeking to change prior orders. High conflict
    I am aware of only one Utah case that actually discusses what a high-conflict case is; R.B. v. L.B.1 The Utah Court of Appeals noted that the case is and has evidently always been a high conflict case. Before the [divorce] decree, there were numerous hearings before the commissioner, objections to the recommendations of the commissioner, motions to reconsider the commissioner's orders, motions for contempt, discovery disputes, motions for discovery sanctions, motions to compel, motions for Rule 11 sanctions, accusatory affidavits, allegations of abuse and child abuse, numerous temporary orders, motions to transfer jurisdiction to Kentucky, requests for communication with the Kentucky courts, disputes about a custody evaluation, a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from an order denying bifurcation, motions to disqualify counsel ... disputes about GAL fee allocation, motions to strike pleadings as untimely, a motion for [a temporary restraining order] ... alleging [Mother] was trying to get [Father] dismissed from his job ... allegations by [Father] against the two female commissioners who have been assigned on this case of sexual discrimination against [Father], and changes of counsel.2    R..B. demonstrates what parties go through in a high-conflict matter. If your case has just some of the R.B. elements, then you could be involved in a high-conflict case.
    Please understand that the motions mentioned and legal actions taken are not "wrong". Affirmatively bringing the underlying facts to the attention of the court can be appropriate, such as when the facts support your position or your opponent is violating the rules of court. These kinds of motions are required when one side does not abide by the rules of court in a timely manner, files pleading late, or takes actions that are not in the best interests of the child. There are also times when commissioners make mistakes and a party has to take one, or more, issues to the judge.
    If you are dealing with a high-conflict case, you need to prepare to affirmatively and legally protect your rights while holding your opponent accountable. Although you can attempt to use counsel or mediation in order to resolve any issues, those options may not be viable in a true high-conflict case -- the other side will control the mediation and use it as a forum to assert his or her rights. Besides, the other side will ignore any agreements made. Your sole option then is to take the disputes to court.
    When you take the disputes to the court, you need be sure that you have fully complied with all rules. In other words, you need "clean hands". You will need to have the detailed evidence to support your claims fully. You want to make it as easy as possible for the commissioner or judge to understand the facts, and rule in your favor.
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1 2014 UT App 270; 339 P.3d 137; 2014 Utah App. LEXIS 275; 773 Utah Adv. Rep. 14
2 339 P.3d at 140; ¶ 2.

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