Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Your Divorce or Child Custody Plan



If you have never been involved in the family court system I can tell you the experience will leave you confused, frustrated and anxious. I have assisted in thousands of cases in the last 25 years, therefore I have learned a lot about the “game” of family court. Below is a list of the significant bullet points which I have gleamed from my years of experience at United Fathers of America. Not all of the bullet points will benefit every person, but every person will benefit by reviewing all of the bullet points. Each reader will need to determine which points are critical for their situation. Again, your primary job is to make decisions about your life. The bullet points below are presented to assist you in making those decisions.

WARNING: Different states have different laws as to what you can and cannot do AFTER a divorce or paternity action has been filed and served. Therefore, the following information is provided as general information for the reader to consider upon the happening of the contingencies as noted. In other words, there may be some things you will want to consider doing BEFORE any papers are filed and restrictions are then placed on what you can and can not do. The following is not a substitute for sound legal advice, it is intended solely to produce critical issues for the reader to consider.

1. You may not want to listen to family, friends or co-workers.

Family, friends and co-workers have an emotional relationship with you. Although well intentioned, their information is based on their experience - not yours. Typically, if you get too excited, they will bring you back down with stories of how hard it can be. Likewise, if you get too depressed, they will lift your up with success stories. In family law, you need sound objective and unemotional answers to your real life questions. As in all of life, in family law information is power - the power you need to make the right decisions for your current and future life.

2. You may want to develop a healthy suspicion of any advice or suggestion given by someone who stands to earn money directly from that advice or suggestion (such as attorneys or paralegals).

Remember, their information, education, tactics and strategies are based on the fact they stand to make money off of you if you follow their advice or suggestion. In other words, they have a financial vested interest in what they tell you. On the other hand, you need to be a pro-active partner with your attorney or paralegal. If you can not get objective unemotional and unattached answers to your real questions from co-workers, family, friends, attorneys or paralegals, then from whom do you get the information and education you need?

3. You may want to seek out a nonprofit organization.

The best way to become involved, informed and educated is to seek out a nonprofit organization or group in which you have faith and in which you feel you can trust and rely upon. Do some research, find out about their reputation, then use this nonprofit group or organization as a sounding board for what is happening in your case and listen to their suggestions and experiences. This series of articles is a great way for you to gain education and information to consider for your case.

4. You may want to gather any and all information you can about divorce or paternity actions. Knowledge and information is power in the family court game.

5. You may want to put together a record of all marital facts including, but not limited to, a list of all assets and all debts.

Get together copies of all tax returns, copies of all pay stubs, copies of all bills including, but not limited to utility payments, credit cards, car payments, house purchase agreements and monthly payments, a list of any and all other bills or expenses, a listing of all assets such as your cars, house or major purchases, etc., and a copy of all important papers such as life, auto, home or medical insurance policies and copies of all retirements accounts. In other words, a copy of anything and everything dealing with any form of asset, debt or important papers. If you do not have, can not find or can not get your records, seek out a good nonprofit organization. With years of experience, they can assist you in obtaining your records. You do not need to hire a high priced attorney to do that which you can do for yourself.

6. You may want to start and maintain a written log, journal, diary or history of all significant events, no matter how small they may initially appear.

Many things are going to be happening in your changing world. Hopefully, most happenings will be peaceful. However, it may be critical to document events for future hearings or other legal actions. You need to note such events as the dates and times when you have the children with you, when you paid support (and how much you paid), and other relevant events. In other words, keep a chronological diary (with pictures if possible) of all family law related events or situations. Consult your support group, paralegal service or attorney for additional specifics of what needs to be documented.

By: Marvin Chapman & Dedicated Fathers

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