5 Things You Should Know About Domestic Violence

If you are facing domestic violence charges or if you are a victim or a witness in a domestic violence case, you may have some basic questions.  

Can the victim “drop the charges”?  No, in a criminal case the victim is not the person bringing the charges.  In a civil suit, the plaintiff can choose to dismiss the case.  In a criminal case, the charges are brought by prosecutor, and the judge has the power to dismiss the case. The prosecutor has to have enough evidence to be able to convict the defendant, so the victim’s testimony may have an impact on the prosecutor’s ability to convict.  However, in many domestic violence cases, the prosecution has pictures, statements from the victim which may be admissible due to the particular circumstances, or other types of evidence that can be used in spite of a victim’s reluctance.      

Do the defendant and the victim have to be married for the crime to count as domestic violence?  No, the defendant and the victim just have to be in an intimate relationship (which includes but is not limited to marriage).  For example, domestic partners, currently or previously dating, living or lived together, have a child together can all qualify as an intimate relationship for a domestic violence charge.

Is domestic violence a felony or a misdemeanor level crime?  Each case is unique and the prosecutor determines the charges.  There are multiple different types of specific crimes relating to domestic violence.  In general, the extent of injury involved is one factor the prosecutor uses in determining how to charge, and the second factor is previous criminal convictions.  

Are there any possible defenses to a domestic violence charge? Yes, there are many potential defenses, and you should seek legal advice on the facts of your specific case. Self-defense is one common defense, where the defendant claims that he/she reasonably perceived an imminent threat, had a proportional response and was not the initial aggressor.  False allegations for manipulating child custody or divorce proceedings.  Here, the defendant shows that the witness has a motive to lie about facts, and did in fact lie about them.  Another tactic for winning these types of cases is to attack the level of proof presented.  The prosecutor must prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt and many domestic violence cases leave room for significant doubt about what was said and done. Another common defense is to show that the conduct was not willful, in the instances where a true accident occurred.

Is a domestic violence allegation a big deal? Yes, it can be, and it’s likely that you are going to want to hire an attorney to vigorously defend you.  Fines can be up to $6,000, and on rare occasions with enhancements even higher.  Penalties can include up to a year of jail for misdemeanors and several years for felonies.  Convictions can have consequences for your career as well, so it’s important to take a domestic violence allegation seriously.

 

3 Most Common Financial Questions When Hiring a Divorce Attorney

It has been said that there are no right answers to the wrong questions, so the first step in making your divorce process work for you financially is to ask the right questions.  This article will outline a few of the most important financial questions when hiring a divorce attorney.

1. What is the structure of the fee agreement?

Your lawyer should have you sign a fee agreement that lays out how you will be billed.  Understanding this agreement is extremely important.

Ask about the retainer.  The retainer is like a down payment that you pay up front, and it will be used to cover the fees as your case progresses.  

Ask whether you will be billed hourly or flat fee.  If you are billed hourly, then you will obviously be billed for the attorney’s time, but what isn’t obvious is how this can add up and how you can work with your attorney to keep costs down.  

Ask about who will work on your case, and how you will be billed for each attorney or staff member’s time.  Find out how much you will billed for the paralegal or other support staff.  If you want only a particular person or group to work on your case, you need to put that into the agreement because otherwise the default is that firms may utilize various people to work on your case and you may be paying to re-educate one attorney about issues another one has covered.

2. What kind of cost estimates can be anticipated?

Your attorney will very likely be unwilling to get pinned down to a definitive cost estimate of the overall divorce because your ex-spouse is a wild card that can lead to lower or higher costs depending on what they decide to do.  However, if you push for specific answers to smaller questions, you may be able to get a reasonable understanding of the costs that will be involved.

Does your attorney anticipate fees from any other professionals?  What are the typical ranges for these people– i.e. counselors, investigators, accountants, appraisers, etc?

What has been your attorney’s experience in terms of costs in prior cases that he or she has handled?  For example, you can ask about cases where the spouse was cooperative and where the spouse was uncooperative, where custody was an issue, where certain types of assets were involved, etc.

3. How can I keep costs down?

You are the person who will be in touch with your attorney the most.  Find out your attorney’s preferences and how to save his or her time.  

Find out whether your attorney feels that it will be more cost effective to communicate with him or her via email, text, calls or in person.  Focus on the most cost-effective ways of working together. 

Find out what kind of document organizations works best for your attorney.  If you make sure that any documentary evidence you have is assembled and summarized in an organized manner then you will save your attorney time and therefore save yourself money.

Are there things you can do yourself to save attorney time?  You may want to find out if there are tasks relating to your case that your attorney can delegate to you to save on cost. Your attorney may have staff set up to do non-legal tasks, but it never hurts to ask whether there are things you can do to keep costs down. 

You can expect that your divorce will have a significant financial effect on you, your ex-spouse, and your children.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the process and educate yourself on how you will be billed, what you can anticipate, and how you can minimize the impact to your financial bottom line. 

What Is the Typical Legal Procedure for a Standard Divorce

When you are embarking on a journey, it is important to have an overview of where you are now and where you are going.  Similarly, with a separation, divorce or an annulment of a marriage or domestic partnership, an overview of the system will help you plan ahead.  This article will give you a view of a big picture, but be aware that this is a generalized summary that will certainly vary depending on the unique facts of your case, your assets and your family.  

1. Petitioner Files Paperwork.  The Petitioner is the person who files the paperwork to get the divorce process started.  The forms needed to start your case in California can be found at this site:  http://www.courts.ca.gov/1229.htm

2. Serve the Forms.  The other party (Respondent) needs to know what paperwork is filed.  To accomplish this, a person serves the forms to the Respondent.  The Petitioner can’t serve the forms themselves because the Petitioner is a party in the case.

3. Respondent Responds.  The Respondent has 30 days to reply to the paperwork that is served.  There are 4 possible scenarios here:

  • Respondent Doesn’t Respond.  The Petitioner waits 30 days and files the appropriate paperwork for a Judgment.  
  • Respondent and Petitioner Work Out a Written Agreement. Respondent doesn’t respond but the Petitioner files the written agreement between Respondent and Petitioner and the paperwork for a judgment.   
  • Respondent Files a Response and Written Agreement (“Uncontested Case”).  This is the “uncontested case,” where one of the parties files and Appearance, Stipulation and Waiver and a Proposed Judgment.
  • Respondent Files a Response (“Contested Case”).  The Respondent files a response, but the parties can’t agree, so it proceeds to the next step toward trial.  

4. Disclose Financial Information.  Both parties are required to fill out disclosures of financial information within certain timeframes. This is where you submit information, and you must not withhold information or be dishonest about any information.

 

5. Orders.  During the process, either party can request temporary orders relating to child support, spousal support, custody, etc.

 

6. Mediation.  Mediation is where an attorney or an arbitrator assist the parties in seeing whether they can come to an agreement on important issues such as dividing the assets or time with the children.

 

7. Trial Preparation and Trial.  There are various steps that can lead to trial.  The discovery stage is where parties are trying to get more information from each other.  They can do this with interrogatories, which are questions posed that are required to be answered.  Requests for admissions is where you submit a statement to the other side that they have to affirm or deny.  There are also requests for production, where certain documentary evidence can be requested.  Deposition is sworn testimony where a person is asked questions while they are under oath.  These steps help the parties prepare for a trial, where the judge will make a decision on the issues presented.

 

8. Final Judgment and Timing. Your divorce will be finalized by a document that is signed by a judge.  This is when the proposed Judgment that was filed by one of the parties is signed by the Judge and becomes a Final Judgment.  Be aware that in California, you have to wait until 6 months after the case is filed and the Respondent has been served before the Judgment is Final.

 

9. Additional Resources.  This is just a primer on the divorce process, but there are many resources for more information.  One very helpful resource can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/1225.htm.   

 

 

5 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your Shirt When Splitting Marital Assets

With any looming separation or divorce, you are wise to be worried about the income and assets and how your financial well-being may be impacted.  This article will give you some essential background information and five ways to make sure you protect your assets in a divorce.

Background.  In California, community property includes all the assets and income acquired during the marriage, and the law requires that the community property will be divided equally, unless there is a written agreement requiring something different.  

1. Identify the Extent and Value of Your Marital Assets.  This step is vital to protecting your financial future.  Discover and document everything you can about the state of your marital financial affairs.  In many instances, taking screen shots of information that shows both the information and the date can be very useful down the road.

 

  • What bank accounts do you have and how much money is in them?
  • What investment accounts do you have and what are those values?
  • Are there employment benefits involved, such as HSA accounts?
  • What health insurance do you currently have?
  • What real estate holdings are involved?
  • What other benefits might be applicable, such as military benefits?

 

2. Get Your Ducks in a Row About Your Separate Property.  In general, separate property is anything acquired before the marriage, by gift or inheritance during marriage, or property obtained during the marriage that can be traced to a pre-marriage acquisition.  What does this mean for you?  The court is going to presume that any property acquired during the marriage, except by gift or inheritance, is community property.  That means that you need to gather the proof to show that what is yours is yours.  Look at all sources of documentation to prove your case. This is a list of where to start to look for that proof:

 

  • Check emails
  • Find texts
  • Ask the gift-giver for any documentation they might have of the gift.
  • Look for documents or receipts
  • Check account histories

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Most people in a divorce are angry, disappointed and hurt.  There is a temptation to be stubborn and to focus on a few key emotional items.  If you want to be financially successful in your divorce, you will likely be best served by letting go of the negative emotions and thinking about your marriage as a business that is winding down.  Don’t get caught up with issues or assets that don’t have a great value.  Time is money, and you will not get the satisfaction that you are seeking out of a “So there!” moment from operating out of revenge or vindictiveness.  As much as you can, look at your assets impartially, and seek to make moves that will benefit you the most long-term.

4. Don’t Lie, Cheat or Hide.  For many, it is ever so tempting to hide an account here or lie about an asset there.  This is typically a very poor long-term strategy for protecting your money.  A court can order you to pay the legal expenses of the other side for the search of hidden assets.  Those legal fees can add up.  Furthermore, a judge can sanction you for lying to the court.  Think long-term not short-term, and be forthcoming in your disclosures, not just because it’s your duty, but also because it really is almost always in your best interest financially as well.

 

5. Hire Competent Help.  The legal fees for an attorney can seem daunting, but having an experienced guide help you through the maze of dividing assets will often save you money.  Find an attorney who is experienced in divorce and who is committed to helping you reach your goals for dividing your assets.

 

 

5 Essential Tips for Successfully Navigating a Divorce

Many people who go through a divorce in California have little or no experience with the legal system.  Divorce is a difficult process that will put a strain on you and your children, but this guide will help you keep on track and avoid some of the common pitfalls involved in a divorce.

  • Avoid making threats or reacting to threats.  A common temptation in divorce is to make threats such as “I’ll drag this out and make it as expensive as possible,” or “I’ll make sure you never see the kids again,”  or “I’ll quit my job so you’ll never get a penny,” etc.  These threats do no good and can do a great deal of harm. Making threats puts you in a negative light and can lead to sanctions from the court. If your spouse is making these threats, do not react to them.  Document the threats by taking note of what was said and in front of whom, and report this information to your attorney.
  • Keep focused on the important things – your children, your job, and your health.  The stress and time involved in a divorce can tear you away from your most important priorities, which are likely your children, your job and your health. Make a plan to stay focused on what you really care about. Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do.  Make a schedule.  Get organized. Force yourself to keep doing the things that you need to do to survive.  Take time to exercise.  Guard your mental health.  The divorce can take over your entire life unless you take charge and make sure that the important priorities are not neglected.
  • Move forward.  Whether your strategy is to settle or to go to trial, make sure your case is moving forward.  The process of divorce is uncomfortable and expensive, so you want to discuss with your attorney how to keep things progressing.  Some vindictive ex’s may try to slow down the process as a revenge technique, so discuss with your attorney the various options that make sense to keep the process moving.
  • Know the strategy and the budget.  Some of the most important conversations you should have with your attorney will be about the strategy and the budget.  Don’t go into this war without a plan of attack.  Discuss your options with your attorney and evaluate the cost of different strategies to come up with a plan that is right for you. Each case is unique and the plan for your case needs to fit your needs and budget.
  • Don’t let emotions rule your decisions.  You are human, and your emotions will be running wild during a divorce. It’s ok to cry.  It’s normal to be angry or depressed. Be kind to yourself and don’t repress the gamut of emotions, but also make sure that you avoid making purely emotion-based decisions.  Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Make decisions when you are in a calmer frame of mind.  There are cases where parties spend money out of revenge.  Think about your divorce as a business, and look to have a return on your investment in legal fees.  To simply this concept: don’t spend $5 to win $1.

5 Things Not to Do in a Divorce

If you are going through a divorce, you want to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that others have fallen prey to. In an ideal world, your ex is cooperative and willing to co-parent peacefully if children are involved. You may not be that lucky, though, and may have a controlling, cruel, or cheating ex. The following list of mindsets and behaviors to avoid applies equally, regardless of the type of ex you are dealing with, because this list will focus on you and your actions.  By putting your energy into yourself, the person that you can control, you will be empowered to make the most of a tough situation.

  • Don’t expect a clear-cut “win,” but expect a reasonable amount of success.  A divorce by its nature is the splitting up of a family and assets, so the concept of “winner take all” almost never applies. A reasonable expectation of success is for a fair allocation of time with the children and an equitable distribution of assets. You likely invested years and love into the marriage and may wish that the legal system were set up to exact vengeance on your spouse.  The court can’t give you back those years or sacrifices, and focusing on revenge will only allow your ex to steal more time and energy from your life.  Talk to your attorney about how a judge would perceive your circumstances and set achievable divorce goals.
  • Don’t fake the numbers.  In California, you will disclose assets, income, liabilities, debts, etc. Don’t mislead or fudge these numbers. The court has discretion to award the other party a greater amount if you are intentionally dishonest in the information that you provide. Your answers will likely be carefully scrutinized by your ex and their attorney, so make sure that you provide accurate information.
  • Don’t count out mediation.  You may want to have your day in court, but don’t let visions of tv legal drama playing out in the court room prevent you from making the decision to pursue mediation. Although mediation might not be the glamourous court hearing you were envisioning, it can often be a much more cost-effective and time-effective way of resolving issues in the divorce.
  • Don’t let your kids be second place. If you are creating a parenting plan, make sure that your kids and their individual needs are your first consideration. Each family is different. Consider each spouse’s ability to take children to school, lessons and activities. Think about the time in transportation. Consider the confusion and distraction your child may experience by living in two households. Many parents make the mistake of trying to make sure things are “equal” and “fair,” between the spouses, but they should also keep in mind what is best for the child.  It may be that having a little less quantity of time, but more quality of time with your child might be best.  It might be that sacrificing some of your scheduling preferences might help your child feel more comfortable with the arrangement. There is no single answer to this question, but make sure you evaluate your parenting plan with your children, and not yourself, at the center.
  • Don’t stay stuck in the past.  You rightfully feel disappointed and betrayed. You wonder why this happened to you. You think about the fights. You feel angry for the hurt and the loss. These are natural emotions that go along with a divorce, but don’t let the divorce define you. Don’t rob your happiness and future by continually replaying the past. A divorce is similar to a death of a spouse in many ways, and you have to let yourself mourn and then move on. Think about the freedom, the possibilities, the new experiences, the new people, and a new normal. Keep your thoughts disciplined to look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

3 Things to Avoid Saying in a Custody Battle

You’ve probably heard that you have a right to remain silent in a criminal case, but sometimes it’s an advantage to you to remain silent in a civil case as well.  This is particularly true in the tense situation of a custody battle.  Some parents can be their own worst enemy in a fight over custody of their children.  This article is going to remind you of what you likely already know when you are in a non-stressful situation, and will help you apply these tried and true principles in a custody case.

Avoid All Physical Threats/Cussing/Bashing the Ex

When you are in a custody battle, you need to be cautious about every word you speak.  Imagine that the judge is sitting on your shoulder overhearing every word and decide whether your tone and language will benefit you.

  • Never make a threat of physical harm, even if it is in jest.  Even words meant with sarcasm can be taken out of context.
  • Avoid cussing or hateful speech as these can reflect poorly on you.  You have an opportunity to create your image with the words that come out of your mouth, so make sure that you come across as even-tempered, wise and caring. These are traits almost anyone values in a parent, and exhibiting them will help win points in the custody battle.
  • Don’t bash the ex to the children.  When you talk about your ex negatively to the children, it puts the kids in the middle of the battle.  It isn’t healthy for them, and it won’t help you with the case. 

Don’t be too eager to show your hand 

  • Keep your strategy between you and your attorney.  If you were a gambler, you wouldn’t show your opponents your hand of cards.  Similarly, you want to avoid giving the other side too much information about your strategy and plans.
  • You may not want to be too specific initially about your priorities.  If having the kids this Christmas is the most important thing to you in this world, you may or may not want to share that information just yet.  Revealing your pain points may cause a vindictive ex-spouse to try to prevent you from having the kids this Christmas just to spite you.
  • Follow your attorney’s advice on information you share. Your attorney can advise you on what information to share or hold back, but in general you want to share information strategically at the right times and in the right ways. 

Refrain from “never” and “always” and stick to the truth

  • Don’t back your ex into a corner.  When you tell someone you will never do something or you always deserve something, then you automatically trigger an obstinate reflex.  Even though the term is custody “battle,” they often involve a lot of negotiation, so keep tried and true principles of negotiation in mind:  Don’t back your opponent into a corner by using words that show you aren’t interested in compromise.
  • Don’t exaggerate, stick to the truth.  In an emotional situation, it is easy to exaggerate a story or twist the truth a bit to try to get what you want.  When you are working to get custody of your children, you will be best served by only saying things that are absolutely true because this builds credibility with your children, with the counselors and evaluators that may be involved, and ultimately the judge.  Stick to the truth.

While these are a few of the things you shouldn’t say, there are many things that should be expressed.  Children are sensitive to divorce, so share your love and appreciation for them often.  Take an interest in them.  Spend the time that you can and talk to them about their feelings.  Take the opportunity to model cooperation and civility for your children during the custody case, and if hard positions or harsh words need to be said, let those come from your attorney so that you can be a calm and collected rock for should children to lean on.

Thinking About Getting a Divorce?  10 Essential Steps for Planning Ahead

If you are considering a divorce, it never hurts to plan ahead. Read below for the 10 essential steps you won’t want to miss in preparing for divorce.

  1. Document everything you can find about money coming in or out from your spouse’s side.  If you are in the dark about your spouse’s sources of income or the amounts, start nailing that information down.  Pay attention to anything your spouse tells you about income or debt, and document that information with screen shots if possible.  Check your credit card statements.  Find out about employer benefits that your spouse may have, such as 401K or HSA accounts.  Think outside the box to assets your spouse may hold that may not be as obvious, such as a large number of frequent flyer miles or a side business with his or her family that brings in a certain income.  
  2. Get organized about money coming in or out from you own side.  You likely have a general idea about your own income and debts, but you will want to save that information in an organized manner.  Do you know where your tax information is?  Refresh your records on your savings accounts, investment accounts, etc.  
  3. Prepare your information in a place that will be easy to access after the divorce.  After you have documented information about your collective finances, you need to save it in a place that will be easily accessible, such as your workplace or in the possession of a family member.  Even where both parties are civil, keeping this information in a neutral place will avoid the potential for uncomfortable situations.
  4. Get property valued before the divorce.  Getting a valuation of property may be valuable down the road, but your ability to do or the value in this information highly depends on the types of assets involved and their value.  Some ideas to consider include:  Taking the ring into a local jewelry store for assessment.  Asking a car dealership the trade in value of your vehicles. Obtaining an appraisal of the home.
  5. Update your job resume before filing.  If your spouse provides the financial support for your family, you may want to consider getting additional job training or education before filing.  You may not end up receiving as much support from your ex-spouse as you need, so being able to step into the job market will empower you.
  6. Look at the date you are planning to file.  The timing of your divorce can be important in some cases.  Is your spouse expecting a large bonus or promotion soon?  Do you have a large financial obligation pending, such as a house under contract as buyer or seller?  Is one of your children approaching their 18th birthday?  Consider everything before deciding when to pull the plug.
  7. Plan ahead for health insurance.  If your insurance is through your spouse’s employer, you may want to see what other health insurance options will be available to you.  You may be able to find options that are less expensive or you may be able to find employment where you can get health insurance benefits on your own.
  8. Consider what you value most.  It’s a good idea to think ahead and decide what you value most and what you want to fight for, so that you can advise your attorney on what success looks like for you in the divorce.  Do you want to stay in the family home?  Do you care about the timeshare?  Think ahead logically.  One mistake often made in divorce is that the parties get caught up in the anger and spite and spend a lot of money on an issue that they don’t care about that much.  Before the fireworks start, think about what you must have and what you can give up.
  9. Don’t assume that something is your because it is in your name. You may think that because an asset is in your name that it can’t be divided up in the divorce, but that often is not the case.  When you are looking at your financial landscape, consider that assets and liabilities are likely to be taken into account regardless of the superficial designation of ownership.
  10. Seek professional advice.  Even if you haven’t decided for sure whether you want to leave the marriage, you can seek advice from an attorney on how to plan ahead financially in the event that divorce is the right decision for you.  

How to Take Charge of Your Custody Battle Without Losing Your Mind

If you are like most parents, your kids are the most important people in your life.  They are adorable and irreplaceable, and you would do anything for them.  If you are going to battle with an itinerant ex-spouse to determine the fate of your precious ones, then you need every arrow in your quiver possible.  This guide will help you understand the what you need to do to be successful in a custody battle.

  1. Understand the rules of the game.  Courts have broad discretion to protect the best interest of the children, which includes each child’s health, safety, education and general welfare.  Courts can take into account any number of factors such as the following:

 

  • evidence of abuse or neglect,
  • the age of the child
  • sibling relationships
  • degree of attachment between parent and child

 

Courts cannot take into account the gender or race of the parent.  One parent’s financial ability can’t be the sole factor in a custody decision. 

 

  • Be your best self.  During a custody battle, you actions and the words that come out of your mouth will be under a microscope.  Be careful of the way you behave with the ex-spouse and also with the children.  It goes without saying that any type of threatening or violent behavior should not occur, but also you should proactively behave as if the judge were observing you at all times.  Speak courteously to the ex.  Try not to take unreasonable positions. When you are with your child, give them your quality time.  If there are ways you can make yourself a better parent through overcoming addictions or seeking more education, look to improving yourself as a parent.  Taking the high road is not only the right thing to do, but it will give you an edge in getting the custody you seek.

 

  • Pinpoint Areas of disagreement with the ex-spouse.  In any legal case, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the opposing party.  Don’t just get frustrated with what they do, but look deeper to try to understand why.  If you can get to the why, then you will be one step closer to finding a resolution that will be acceptable to both parties.  If the issue is unresolvable, then by understanding your ex, you will be better able to fight them in court.  For example, if your ex-spouse wants a different schedule, look at why he or she is taking that position?  Is there a work schedule reason?  Is there a grandparent or otherwise, whose schedule is playing into your spouse’s mindset?  If you can get beneath the surface to understand your opponent’s arguments, then you have a better chance of a successful outcome.

 

  • Gather evidence and document everything.  Your word that the other person is a bad parent is not as convincing as solid evidence.  If a child care worker, neighbor, teacher has observed your ex-spouse abusing or mistreating the child, then have them document that observation.  Consult with your attorney on the best way to preserve this evidence, but don’t pass up the opportunity to memorialize important evidence. If your spouse has sent you malicious emails, organize those in a file for your attorney.  If your spouse has posted damaging comments on social media, screen shot that information and share it with your attorney.  It takes extra work to be organized and document everything, but in many cases that time in preparation pays off.

 

  • Consult with professionals.  If you feel your children are suffering from the custody battle, don’t hesitate to get them counseling.  If you need someone to talk to, turn to a trusted friend, look into community resources for counseling, or find a professional counselor who can help you.  It’s not uncommon to have a high stress level during a custody battle, and you can seek help.  Hire an attorney that you trust and who will be zealous in advocating your interests.

 

 

3 Ways You Can Help Yourself in Your Upcoming Divorce Hearing

Whether you have an attorney or are representing yourself, you want to be prepared to have the best possible outcome in any divorce hearing.  This article will discuss three steps that are always important in preparing for any court appearance:

1. Know Your Goal.   You need to understand what the purpose of the hearing is and clearly identify your goal for the proceeding. Emotions often run strong during a divorce, and sadness and anger are almost inevitably going to occupy the minds of both parties and take your focus away from getting what you want. To achieve a successful outcome, you need to think through your strategy:  

  • What options are likely to be an outcome of this hearing?
  • How does this hearing play into your overall strategy for getting what you want in the divorce?
  • What would a third party consider fair?

If you have a good idea of what will be accomplished in this hearing, then you can do your part to keep on track and laser focused to achieving your ends.

2. Get Organized.  Your anxiety will be less if you know when and where you need to be in court and what will happen.  Leave plenty of time to get there.  Arrange for child care in advance if you have children. If your attorney has requested any documents, get them to him or her well in advance of the hearing date.  If you are representing yourself, make sure you have identified what you need and bring several copies of each document. Here’s a short checklist:

 3. Look and Behave Professionally.  Impressions are very important, and even if you are represented by counsel, you want to look and act professionally. The judge and/or staff will make unconscious judgments of your clothing, appearance and demeanor. Wear attire that would be presentable for a business or business casual setting and something you feel comfortable in. Be wary of showing any hostile gestures: speak calmly and avoid glaring or sarcastic looks.  

Knowing your goal, getting organized and looking and behaving professionally are simple tips that are easy to implement, but they will help you succeed in having a great outcome at your hearing.