Family Law Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a lawyer?
It depends. Dissolutions (divorces) can become complicated when there are issues of retirement accounts, real estate, and children involved, either children common to you and your spouse or children of prior relationships. We would always recommend an initial consultation with an attorney to find out exactly what your rights are and what issues you may need to give extra attention.
How long will my divorce take?
Every divorce is different, and the time (and fees) involved usually depends on how complicated the issues are and how much you and your spouse can agree upon. The less there is to fight about, generally, the quicker cases move along.
My spouse wants custody of our children. If I agree to this, do I lose my legal rights to them?
There are two types of custody: legal and physical. There are two ways to have custody: sole or joint. Even if one parent has sole physical custody (primary residence) of children, you can still enjoy significant parenting time (visitation) with them. You can also have the right to determine important decisions in the children’s lives if you have joint legal custody. Lastly, if one parent has sole legal and physical custody, the other parent always has a right to access important records for the child’s school, medical, religious and other training/treatments.
We have never been married, but live together and have a child together. She moved out and took our child. What are my rights?
First, you must determine whether you have been adjudicated as the child’s father. If you have never been to court, but signed a Recognition of Parentage form (ROP) when your child was born, you have admitted paternity but have not been adjudicated as the father, you will need to have a court order adjudicating your paternity. At that point, you can further pursue custody (physical and legal) and parenting time (visitation) with your child.
How is child support calculated?
Child support is calculated on an income shares method, meaning that it is necessary to know each parent’s gross monthly income, the cost of medical insurance, the cost of child care and the number of minor children common to both parents (joint children). It is also important to know whether either parent has a child from another relationship (a non-joint child) and whether the parent pays child support pursuant to a court order for that child’s benefit. Once this information is available, a simple computer program will figure out the total support amount, each parent’s percentage of total gross income and each parent’s percentage of the total support amount. The amount of support paid by either parent will also depend on the amount of court-ordered custody/parenting time either party has with the children. If one parent carries medical insurance for the children, the other parent will be responsible for a percentage of the medical premium and out-of-pocket costs. If the family has child care costs, each party will be responsible for a percentage of the total child care costs. Please review the child support calculator to learn more.
My spouse left me with our children, how can I get child support?
You can visit your county social services office and speak to representatives from the Support and Recovery division. They can assist you, but this usually takes several months before any court-ordered support would be put in place. If you need to apply for public assistance (MFIP, Child Care Assistance, or Medical Assistance) the financial worker will direct you to Support and Recovery to begin the process. Another option is to consult with an attorney who can help you begin the process of obtaining support, and possibly reach an agreement with your spouse, to shorten the time you may be without financial support.
My spouse has abused me and I am frightened for myself and my children. What can I do?
If you do not feel safe in your home, you may seek shelter elsewhere, at least on a temporary basis. Call a family member, friend, or the Women’s Shelter. If you cannot leave your home, you can go to the courthouse and file an Order for Protection to have your spouse removed from the home. The Court Administrator’s office will make sure that your petition is filled out correctly and make arrangements for you to be notified whether your petition is granted or denied. From there, a court hearing may be necessary, and you should seriously consider hiring an attorney to assist you with that hearing.
Do you accept major credit cards as form of payment?
Yes. We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.