Family Law Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Prospective clients and others often ask us questions about various aspects of family law in an effort to obtain more information about the process or to verify information relating to various topics they may have heard about from friends or relatives. We have provided information below on some of the topics about which we are frequently asked.
How can I have an uncontested divorce?
People often contact us and claim that they are seeking representation for an uncontested divorce. After asking them a few questions regarding their circumstances, it becomes apparent that their divorce is anything but uncontested.
An individual spouse does not get to make a unilateral decision to have an uncontested divorce. What most attorneys and judges consider to be an uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both parties have come to a complete and comprehensive agreement with respect to all issues related to their divorce action before it has even been filed. If there are any issues upon which the parties disagree, their divorce is going to be contested, at least to some extent.
If you do have a truly uncontested divorce and are just simply in need of an attorney to prepare the necessary paperwork to present to the court and shepherd you through that process, you can save a lot of money in attorney’s fees. Thomas A. Camp, P.C., certainly offers that service to those who have been able to come to a complete and comprehensive agreement with their spouse on all issues related to their case, though most of our time is spent representing individuals in contested cases.
Can my case be resolved through mediation?
Within the last 10-15 years mediation has become an increasingly popular means of resolving divorce and other family law cases. Many counties in the local area require the parties in family law cases to attend mediation and make a good faith effort to resolve their case through mediation.
Mediation is a process by which an independent mediator facilitates communication between the parties in an effort to allow them to resolve their case by agreement. Family law mediations are almost always conducted in caucus with each party (and his or her attorney) being in a separate room with the mediator shuttling back and forth between the two rooms. Although it is not absolutely necessary to have attorney representation at a mediation, it is certainly advisable, especially if your case involves issues relating to custody, parenting time, and/or child support.
A mediator is not authorized to provide you with legal advice, and it is important for you to have an attorney provide you with advice and guidance with respect to these issues at a mediation. It is also important for you to understand that mediation is really a formal negotiation and that an experienced attorney with good negotiating skills can be invaluable. It is also preferable to have an experienced mediator who has spent some time practicing family law specifically.
What exactly is a Guardian ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem (oftentimes abbreviated as “GAL”) is an individual, usually an attorney, who has been trained to investigate issues related to child custody and to report their findings and make recommendations to the Court. A GAL can be appointed in a divorce action or any other type of proceeding in which custody issues are being litigated. A GAL is appointed by the Court and is tasked with making recommendations which are in the best interests of the child or children.
It is interesting to note that these recommendations are sometimes contrary to the actual desires of the children. A GAL is often appointed by the Court in hotly contested divorce and custody cases, and usually when the children are younger and not authorized by law to express their desires to the Court or make an election as to which parent with whom they would like to live.
A GAL will often visit and observe the children in the home of each parent; interview teachers and other professionals who may have a relationship with the children; and interview other friends and/or relatives of the children and the parents. The appointment of a GAL can add a substantial amount of additional expense to a divorce or custody action as the costs of the GAL, who also bills hourly, are typically shared by the parties. A GAL will typically be appointed by a Court upon the request of one of the parties as they can provide a wealth of valuable information to the Court in the form of a report without the constrictions of the rules of evidence that typically have to be observed in court hearings.
What if my child’s mother or father is relocating to another state/country or just far away from me?
Relocation cases are some of the most difficult cases to negotiate and/or litigate. There are many issues for the consideration of the Court in these types of cases:
- If the custodial parent is relocating, is it for a legitimate purpose (a job promotion) and not arbitrary or whimsical (the “grass is greener” somewhere else)?
- Is it better for the child or children to remain with the custodial parent and to relocate to a new community, or for custody to be changed to the other parent and remain in the community in which they have lived for some time?
- If the parents have joint physical custody, which parent will now be in the best position to become the custodial parent?
Regardless of the decision with respect to which parent will retain or be awarded custody of the children, it is almost always a given that the parenting plan will have to be significantly revised or modified. If the parents will be living a significant distance from each other, the children will often spend a large portion of their summer recess and holiday breaks from school visiting with the non-custodial parent. These cases also involve various visitation-related travel considerations including but not necessarily limited to how the costs of travel will be allocated between the parties. We have significant experience litigating these types of cases, and they are some of my most difficult.
What are my options if my child’s mother or father has substance abuse or mental health issues?
We regularly represent parents in divorce and child custody cases in which one of the parents (and sometimes both parents) struggle with substance abuse. Obviously, these cases present challenges with respect to creating a safe environment for parents to have contact with their children.
Although most judges believe the safety of the children is paramount, they also recognize the need for the affected parent and the children to have regular contact and maintain a close relationship. Fortunately, there are many treatment programs available to individuals suffering from substance abuse and there is also some new technology to allow the Court to more effectively manage and monitor visitation in these cases.
One device that has become popular in managing and monitoring visitation in these cases is a Soberlink device that a visiting parent can be required to blow into at regular intervals during his or her visitation to assure the custodial parent that the visiting parent has not been drinking (a text message result is then sent to the custodial parent). Although this device can only be used when the substance being abused is alcohol, reliable drug testing is also widely available at a reasonable cost in most communities and can be used to manage visitation when the substance being abused is something other than alcohol.
Supervised visitation is also used in some of these cases, sometimes in conjunction with the above-referenced testing methods, but it is sometimes difficult to find appropriate individuals to supervise visitation and hiring a professional supervisor can be prohibitively expensive. In these cases it is important for the attorney representing either parent to come up with creative solutions to offer to the Court to allow regular and safe contact between parents struggling with substance abuse and their children.