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June 2017 Archives

New Jersey Bans Participating in Avvo's Legal Services

On June 21, 2017, the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Committee on Attorney Advertising, and Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law issued a Joint Opinion (ACPE Opinion 732, CAA Opinion 44, UPL Opinion 54) stating that the legal service program operated by Avvo through its website is an impermissible lawyer referral service, in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 7.2(c) and 7.3(d), and comprises improper fee sharing with a nonlawyer in violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4(a).  New Jersey lawyers may not participate in the Avvo legal service program. 

Joint Custody / Parenting Plan -- Do You Really Know? And Who Has the Final Word?

Joint Custody is all the rage today. And parenting plans abound. But do you really know what they say, and understand how to avoid conflict? The idea sounds simple. Sure both parents will share custody. But what does that mean, and what happens when there is conflict? Joint custody in Utah is controlled by statute, and there are a couple of them. And do you really know what those statute require -- particularly as to how to handle conflict and which parent actually has the final say? Remember, there are only two parents -- so there is no natural way to break a tie. Statute requires that each and every parenting plan has provisions as to how to handle this issue. And, every joint custody order must be accompanied by a parenting plan. So, you will have to deal with this issue. Statute says that, before you can go back to court to enforce any of the orders, you have to comply with the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan. Yet almost all of those (particularly the ones from the court and other sources) say you have to mediate, and then the custodial parent has the final say subject to the other parent's right to go to court to challenge that say. That means that you have to take the time to find a mediator, spend the time and money to attempt mediation, and after a few hours find out that you got nowhere because the other parent simply says "No". Mediation only works by agreement, and if you were able to agree you wouldn't be in this mess anyway. So why even put that mediation stuff in place? I suggest that instead, you list a special master; a person who is court appointed and can actually make a decision on an issue. A special master is allowed by statute, as is arbitration. But, a special master usually works without attorneys, and is much quicker than court or arbitration. I know, as I can usually make a decision within 24 hours of having the issue presented to me by both parties. I suggest that if you are working on a parenting plan, you change the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan from mediation to a special master, and that you actually name and appoint the special master in the parenting plan. If you already have a parenting plan in place, you can amend it to you change the dispute resolution procedure in the parenting plan from mediation to a special master, and that you actually name and appoint the special master in the parenting plan. In that way, the next time there is a problem, be it big or small, you can go right to the special master and resolve the issue in just a couple of hours of work! And, you'll actually have a decision!

What to do when your ex is badmouthing you

Divorce is done; Custody is awarded; but the other side keeps on bad-mouthing you. Yes, it happens! Your divorce case is completed, or custody orders are in place, but the other side keeps telling your relatives, your friends, even your employer and anyone else who will listen what a totally terrible person you are, how you cheated in gaining what you were awarded, and whatever other terrible things the other person can create to tear you down. And often, the children are included in those tirades.

DIY Divorce -- and then your ex pulls a stunt!

You and your future ex decide to file divorce on your own -- DIY. You file the petition and then your ex pulls some stunt like filing a counterclaim, files some motion, or gets an attorney to fight you. What do you do?You can hire an attorney to help you. Or on the other hand, you can work with a legal counselor, an attorney experienced in family law you hire to help you, by educating you and coaching you on your options and how to accomplish your goals. The legal divorce counselor may, or may not, appear in your case, depending on what you decided to do. But at the very least, you have an experienced lawyer in your corner to help you out.You can then control how much you use the counselor, and you can continue in your DIY divorce case with some level of confidence.

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.

I am David R. Hartwig, Esq., a Salt Lake City attorney with extensive experience helping parents resolve simple or high-conflict custody issues reaching arrangements that work for children and parents. Child custody involves parent-time and visitation schedules, and can affect support. I help in all of these areas, providing comprehensive service clients need to achieve their custody goals.

Factors In Child Custody Decisions

As an experienced Utah child custody lawyer, I understand that custody cases may become a contentious issue even years after an order is finalized. The trend in Utah toward joint custody often creates messy, unworkable situations, which ultimately lead to enforcement issues when parents do not abide by their custody orders.

The best interests of the child must be considered, including:

• Whether joint legal or physical custody will benefit the child's physical, psychological and emotional needs, or the child's development

• The parents' ability to give first priority to the child's welfare, and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest

• Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

• Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce

• The distance between the parents' homes

• The parents' maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents

• The parents' ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly

• Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping

• Any other factors the court finds relevant

Despite the complicated and sensitive nature of custody matters, I have helped many clients successfully establish custody orders.

Get Help With Your Child Custody Issue

If you have a child custody issue, please contact me, David R. Hartwig, Esq. I am an experienced Salt Lake City custody lawyer dedicated to helping clients resolve complex custody issues and implement necessary custody orders. For high-conflict cases, I am also one of the few Utah child custody modification attorneys trained as a Special Master for ongoing dispute resolution.


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