The Utah Court of Appeals issued a decision addressing whether a trial court can establish a proximity requirement for having the parties live within a given distance of each other; the concept of equalization and incomes in determining alimony; and, in the award of partial attorney fees. The Court of Appeals affirmed the proximity requirement (that the parties had to live within 25 miles of each other), and the denial of an award of partial attorney fees.The Court of Appeals remanded on the alimony issue stating that the trial court's explanation of its equalization was inadequate, and that it erred in using wife's gross income while only using husband's net income. It also suggested that the trial court review allocating the tax consequences of the alimony award as a matter of equity.
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.
You might have heard about divorce counsellors, divorce coaches, and the like. But what do they do, and are they for you. A lot of times, those people are social workers, family counselors, or psychologists. They work with you to handle the stress involved in your life situation, and coping with divorce or custody issues.A Legal Coach is different - A Legal Coach or Counselor is an experienced family law attorney who has handled all of the different issues involved in divorces, paternity matters, and petitions to either change existing orders or enforce current orders. The underlying issues can include custody, parent-time or visitation, child or spousal support, retirement issues, how the house is handled, personal property, and the need for restraining orders.A Legal Coach knows the law on those issues, as well as the procedural aspects and issues involved in filings, motions, required initial disclosures, discovery, mediation, and trial if you cannot settle. A Legal Coach may not actually represent you in the legal action, allowing you to handle the majority of your case on your own if that is what you want, or the Legal Coach may enter either limited appearances, or a general appearance, in your case to assist you while working to keep fees down. The advantage though is that the Legal Coach can help you lay out your goals and plans on how to reach those goals; taking into account the overall status of your case and your situation.This education and planning phase is the most important part of your case. It allows you to know what you want, whether your goals are realistic, and the overall steps required to attain your goals. In that way you can plan your case, know what you can realistically handle, and have the assistance of an experienced attorney if things take a wrong turn, like when your spouse hires an attorney.If you start with an attorney that you feel comfortable with, and develop trust in that person because the attorney is capable of being brutally honest with you, then you'll have the confidence to handle what you can, and the knowledge to know what needs to be done. You'll will have your own trusted expert in your corner, a knowledgeable ally who already knows you and your concerns.
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.
Going to court negatively impacts the children, Right? I participate in a number of the online legal question and answer forums I often see that claim. But, it is always preceded by allegations that the other parent is not allowing visits, won't let the parent have time with the child, breaks his or her agreements to allow a visit, or demands that all schedules and agreement must be his or her way -- all without going to court. Let me be blunt. The only way parents going to court for assistance in establishing custody and parent-time orders impacts a child is if one, or both, of the parents put that child in the middle and involve the child in the case. If both parents are doing what is best for the child, then the child will not even know that there is a court case, because that case is between the adults. So, going to court to obtain orders concerning custody and parent-time should not directly impact the children. Any impact the child would be passive by way of having parents who love the child and allow the child to openly love each parent -- that can only be a positive impact. Plus, going to court will provide a set, consistent, and predictable schedule for parent-time. A schedule that the parents and the child can count on, and look forward to with happiness and anticipation. So, if the other parent is already causing problems by denying access, limiting parent-time, or playing games with dates and time, that parent is already putting the child in the middle and causing the child harm by way of depriving the child time with the other parent. In those situations, the one parent needs to be an adult and take the situation to court to obtain appropriate orders, including orders to keep the child out of the case. And, I bet that it will be the offending parent who then cries that going to court will "negatively impact the child"!
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.
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.
Notice that "strategy" in divorce is first; that is because simple aggression in a divorce matter, or in any family law matter is not good. If you really want to burn your spouse, or ex-spouse, because they cheated on you, or some other perceived wrong, then you will simply be wasting your time and money. In general, the courts are not going to punish anybody like that, and Utah law says that things like alimony cannot be used to punish or reward a party.There are times to be aggressive in carrying out your over all plan. Times to clearly assert, with determination, your position and your goals as allowed under law. If, for instance, your spouse abuses the children or there is conflict, you need to stand strong and marshal all of your evidence to protect your children -- that type of problem does not really allow for compromise, not if you truly care for your children.But first, there needs to be the plan, the strategy. You and your attorney need to sit down, determine what you want, what your liabilities may be, and what your rights are. You do have to know where you are going before you start this journey, and it is often best to plan a route, and potential alternate route. To do that, your attorney needs to educate to the risks and benefits of your position and goal.With your plan and strategy determined, it is time to proceed. Depending on what the other side does, you may well have to become aggressive. The other side may play word games, delay matters, become exceedingly verbose, aggressive, or simply refuse to do anything. It is then that you should appropriately assert your position with simple clarity and force. You are not being nasty, you are simply moving the case forward to cut short whatever shenanigans the other side is throwing at you. Sure, the other side will get upset and make all kinds of accusations about you. But if you are using your aggression appropriately it won't really matter. Because you are diligently working toward your goal by clearly and concisely presenting your position to the court. And, if the court gets its decision wrong, you will need the same kind of strategy and appropriate assertiveness to appeal that decision.One final caveat: strategy and aggression may be appropriate in litigation, but aggression is not appropriate in settlement negotiations or mediation. Mediation in particular, is a procedure to work together for a mutually beneficial resolution of the issues.
Joint legal custody, with some form of joint parenting, is approaching the norm. There are two sides to the issue, which are addressed elsewhere. But, I continue to see recent posts and articles about the issue of how do I co-parent with an uncooperative (or narcissistic) parent.