Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Choosing an Appropriate Attorney for Child Custody

A child custody case is not a game, but it often boils down to a contest to see who can present themselves as the most 'fit' parent to care for the children full-time.  It can be brutal, heartbreaking, sad, and scary.  Going into a child custody case without an experienced, compassionate attorney by your side is never a good idea.  It's important to have an attorney you trust, and to know how to choose an appropriate attorney with child custody experience.
Free Consultations - One thing you should know is that most attorneys offer a free consultation, where they meet with you or speak to you on the telephone about your child custody case and about the kind of representation you need.  This is the perfect chance for you to determine whether you feel comfortable with a particular attorney or not. Speaking to a few different attorneys is a great idea, because you want to make sure the attorney is compassionate and really out to help you, as well as meshing well with your personality.
Experience - You'll need to find out about the attorney's experience before you move forward and hire him or her. Don't be afraid to ask about how many child custody and divorce cases the attorney has represented.  If the attorney is worth anything, he or she will be more than willing to discuss their experience, and how many cases they've represented. Many attorneys will have files on hand with the numbers available; the number of cases they've represented, and their wins/losses.
Cost - One of the biggest factors in choosing an attorney is the cost. Attorneys can be very expensive, and if the divorce is contested - meaning that you and your wife haven't agreed on all the terms of the divorce - it can cost even more.  Typically, attorneys will charge a retainer, and then they'll bill you for hourly costs against that retainer.  So, if the attorney charges a $1,000 retainer and bills $150 per hour, he will work until the $150 per hour has depleted the $1,000 retainer and then you'll be charged additional costs.  It's important to determine what you can afford and be up front with the attorneys.  Some will work with you on the costs by allowing you to make payments.
Finally, you should know that some attorneys try all kinds of family law and others focus solely on divorce and child custody cases. Some people feel as if those who specialize in the child custody cases are more competent and can represent you better.  Remember - do it right the first time - it is extremely difficult to get rulings and decisions reversed later.

What to do When Served with Divorce Papers

If you've been served with divorce papers, it may have been a shock or it may have been expected.  In either case, it's a frightening situation, especially if there are children involved.  You might worry that you're about to lose custody of the children to your wife, since the majority of the time, mothers obtain custody of the children.  However, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and ensure that you get fair child custody as well.
Who is the Sole Caretaker of the Children?
The first thing you'll want to think about is who the sole caretaker of the children is.  Your wife may do the majority of the caretaking, you might, or it might be fairly even.  Who takes the children to school and picks them up?  Who meets with the teachers and attends PTA meetings?  Who takes the children to their doctor's appointments and has a good relationship with their physician?  Who takes the children to their extracurricular activities?  Does either parent coach or participate in these activities?  These are all things the judge will be looking at, and the majority of the time the person who does more of this will get primary child custody.  However, if it's fairly even, the judge may decide to grant joint child custody to the parents.  Keep any documentation that might prove the caretaking that you do; such as notes from the teacher to you specifically, proof of meetings, doctor's appointments, etc.  Make sure all statements from others are certified by your or their attorney.
Behavior Toward the Children/Wife
Another thing you'll want to do when served with divorce papers is keep calm and stay where you're at.  Don't lose your head and let your anger get the best of you, because it could ruin your child custody case.  Explain to the children what is happening - with your wife present if possible - and reassure them that you're still a family and you still love them.  While most men may feel as though they need to leave the house, you should not.  If your wife is in possession of the house at the time of the case, there's a good possibility that the judge will simply grant her possession of the house legally.  If you're both there, there's a chance that you may get possession of the house.  Keep calm and keep your head so that you have the best possibility of having a favorable outcome.
Financial Situation
Finally, you need to think about your finances.  Do you and your wife have joint checking or savings accounts?  If so, it's perfectly legal for her to take the money that's there without informing you, since the money is hers too.  You should be aware of this, and if you have direct deposits from work, you might want to switch over to your own savings or checking account.  Also, if you can document how the money got into the joint accounts and take what you've put there, it will look much better than if you drain it and leave your wife with nothing.
These are some things to think about when you've been served with divorce papers, so that you can be sure your best interests are being taken care of.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Steps to Prepare Yourself Before Your Wife Files for Divorce

When you stand at the alter with your beloved and say, "I do," you never really think about the possibility of divorce. Unfortunately, it does happen, and when it does, it's important to be prepared. With a divorce comes a whole slew of things that one must worry about, especially if you have children with your wife. Knowing how to prepare can help you protect yourself and your best interests.
Monetary Issues - One of the things you'll want to think about is your money. Most married couples have savings accounts, checking accounts, and other joint interests that will need to be taken care of. There's always the possibility that your wife could drain those accounts and since they're legally hers too, there's nothing you can do about it. This is something you should be aware of. Most likely, in divorce court, the judge will divide up these assets, so it's important to have documentation regarding all income and assets.
Custody Issues - A large portion of the time, divorces seque into child custody cases. Dads often become worried that they will not receive full custody of their children and they'll be stuck visiting them on weekends and holidays. If you do the majority of caretaking for your children, obtain proof. Write down the things you do for your kids; whether it's taking them to and from school and doctor's appointments, meeting with teachers and extracurricular activities, attending games, etc. In most cases, the primary caregiver - the person who does most for the children - will recieve full child custody. In some cases, parents will receive joint custody, which is the perfect way to go if it's possible in your case. Regardless, it's important to have this documentation.
Personal Steps - In a divorce, one or other of the couple will need to leave the house. If this will be you, you'll need to find a place to stay. It's important - if you're going to try for custody - that you remain close to the children. You'll also need to make sure you have a working vehicle and that you're able to get back and forth to work. The last thing you want is to risk losing your job and compounding your problems. A divorce is difficult, and it can push people to extreme circumstances. No matter what you do, try to remain calm and level-headed so you don't risk jeopardizing your case.
Legal - Finally, it's important to obtain legal counsel so that you can have your best interests protected and looked after. The chances of your wife obtaining legal counsel are excellent, and this isn't something you want to go into alone or without the benefit of an experienced lawyer. Many attorneys give free consultations, so you can use this to your advantage to find the attorney that's right for you. Being prepared for divorce can often mean you come through the other side more easily and in better shape.
Michael Lauren

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Welcome to "Dads In Court"

Before I faced divorce I had no idea how difficult and expensive the whole process would be.
The child custody process remains an uphill battle for fathers, and can turn your whole world upside down.  Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it can make all the difference in the final outcome.
In this blog I will try to help other fathers better navigate the process, both emotionally and financially.  I have been there…I lived it…so I know the anxiety, fears, and hardships.
Stay tuned…