A number of you have begun sending us questions about family law and how it relates to your divorce, child custody case, or child and spousal support situations. While we can’t answer all of the questions we get, we picked a few of the more common ones.
If you have a question you’d like to see answered*, email us, and we’ll be happy to answer in a later blog post.
*Please remember we cannot answer questions about your specific case. Should you have a question about a case, use our Contact Us page to speak with an attorney.
5. “Do I Really Need A Lawyer?”
There’s two sides to this. Technically, you don’t. You are entitled to counsel, but not required to have counsel. However, the legal system is, at its best, complicated — on a good day. Lawyers exist to handle this legal minefield for you, and make sure you are taken care of and things are done correctly.
Think of your divorce (or any legal action, for that matter) like major repairs on your car. Nobody says you have to take it to a mechanic; but if you work on it yourself, you’re more than likely going to end up at a mechanic who will have to fix the problem and undo whatever it is you did to mess it up. In the long run, it’s a better idea to take it to an expert and have it done right the first time. Having an experienced attorney handle your case will ensure things are done right the first time, and you won’t have to go back and fix things.
As the old saying goes “Act as your own attorney, and you have a fool for a client.”
4. “How Much Will It Cost?”
We hear this a lot, and it’s a valid concern. As much as you want things to be done correctly, there’s still a cost associated with it.
Family law attorneys work on what is called a retainer. The retainer is an up-front cost paid to the attorney to secure them for your case. When your case begins, your attorney will charge you an hourly rate for the time they spend working on your case. In some situations, a lawyer might offer specific fees for things like court appearances or document preparation. This is one of the ways an attorney can work with you to make sure you still have access to quality legal representation, regardless of your finances.
3. “If We’ve Been Married More Than 10 Years, Don’t I Get Spousal Support For Life?”
This is a very common question, and people are always surprised when we tell them…. No, not really.
In the simplest terms, a long term marriage does not equal a lifetime annuity. Following a marriage of 10 years or more, there is a window for support that is always left open. However, this does not equal a lifetime paycheck, and the courts won’t allow that to slide.
In the vast majority of cases, courts will issue what is called a Gavron Warning. This warning lets the supported spouse know that they need to make some sort of effort to begin supporting themselves. While not every situation is conducive to self-support, the courts expect you to at least try. Sometimes it just doesn’t work that way, but you’re expected to at least make an effort. Should the supported party decide to ignore the Gavron Warning, and not make any attempt to self-support, the courts will terminate the spousal support.
2. “Don’t The Courts Always Side With The Mother In Custody Cases?”
It sort of seems like the courts side with the mother, but we assure you they don’t. This is a product of circumstance and just the way modern family life has been set up in our society.
Courts don’t see gender in these cases, and will go for whatever is “in the best interest of the child(ren).” If it’s all about the best interest, then why does it seem like the mother always wins? This is because the courts do their best to disrupt the child(ren)’s life as little as possible. Keeping the child(ren) in the routine to which they’ve become accustomed is part of this status quo the court likes to maintain. The way divorces usually play out, by the time you’ve gotten to the custody agreement, the children have been with the mother the entire time. That’s why it seems like a bias, because it ends up being less of a disruption.
That’s not to say that the court will always side with the mother. However, because it seems that way, many fathers won’t even bother to pursue custody. This is not always the best way to go, since you and your lawyer could argue for a shared agreement that would still be in the best interests, as well as minimally disruptive.
Short answer, it seems like it… but no.
1. “I Lost My Job, Do I Still Have To Pay Back Child Support?”
Of course you have to pay back child support. Not only that but you ignore your obligation to your kids, you’re still going to owe late fees, penalties, and other fines. Also, don’t forget, you won’t be able to renew your driver’s license, get a tax return, or do anything legal until you settle that debt to your kids.
To be blunt, the court doesn’t look at whether or not you’re working. Your obligation lies with your kids, and in the end — that’s what matters. Should you lose your job, or encounter any kind of hardship, it’s on you to go to the courts and ask for a modification. Remember that a modification does not mean you’re off the hook — it means modification. There might be some sort of arrangement, or temporary reduction, but there’s still money that’s owed.
If you’ve skipped paying your child support for whatever reason, you need to be in a courtroom sooner than yesterday to take care of it. The courts ultimately want to see some sort of solution reached, but you have to do your part.
The moral is, that child support must always be paid, no matter what.