Preparing for your Family Law Case
Updated: Sep 14
What should I include in my declaration?
You could include the following:
The parent's problems with drug use or other criminal behavior, such as violence.
Your sense of each parent's personal characteristics, such as integrity, dependability, stability, etc.
Situations when you have seen the parent and child together. You could write about what they did, how they acted, etc.
A parent's home life. You could explain whether you think it is appropriate for children.
Anything the parent has said in front of the child.
Note on Formatting*: Your Deceleration's formatting must meet your county's legal requirements. Some counties will even fine you if your formatting is incorrect so it's worth reviewing your local county rules.
What should I not include in my declaration?
Some things you should not include in a public declaration include the following:
Home address (where you live) and phone number: Just give an address where you can get mail from the court. You should also give the court a phone number where they can reach you.
Social Security/Driver’s License, ID numbers of adults and children: Put only the last four digits.
Dates of birth of children: Do not put them in court papers.
Bank account, credit card numbers: Put the bank name, type of account (savings, checking, and so on), and last four digits of the account number.
Depending on the case, from time to time, the court may look at the financial position of both parties and access if one party should help the other with their attorney fees. Typically the judge will look at each party's tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, W-2s, and financial declarations. Even if attorney's fees are ordered it may be substantially less attorney's fees than what you actually paid to your attorney.
Temporary orders hearings typically take two court appearances. The first appearance will have some argument from the parties regarding the documents and declarations filed in the case. The Judge will make a ruling on each issue that is not agreed upon by the parties. At the end of the hearing the court will ask counsel to draft orders that conform with his ruling. The second court appearance will be to present the orders that reflect the judge's rulings. The second appearance may take place two weeks or more after the initial appearance.
Do I need to appear at the hearing?
The Judge typically makes rulings for each contested issue at the temporary orders hearing. However, he will not make those rulings unless both of the parties are present.
If the orders are agreed upon by the parties then you typically do not need to appear at the hearing that those are being presented. You attorney or the other party can enter the agreed orders without you there, ex parte.
The court may place a number of temporary restraining orders on one or both of the parties in a case.
For example, the court may decide that a spouse is temporary allowed to remain in the home will the other is restrained from doing anything that interferes with her use of that home. Here are the orders listed on the 2019 court forms:
Do not disturb – Do not disturb my peace or the peace of any child.
Stay away - Do not go onto the grounds of or enter my home, workplace, or school, and the daycare or school of any child.
Also, do not knowingly go or stay within _______ feet of my home, workplace, or school, or the daycare or school of any child.
Do not hurt or threaten
Do not assault, harass, stalk, or molest me or any child; and
Do not use, try to use, or threaten to use physical force against me or the children that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury.
Warning! If the court makes this order, the court must consider if weapons restrictions are required by state law; federal law may also prohibit the Restrained Person from possessing firearms or ammunition.
Prohibit weapons and order surrender
Do not access, possess, or obtain any firearms, other dangerous weapons, or concealed pistol licenses until the Order ends, and
Immediately surrender any firearms, other dangerous weapons, and any concealed pistol licenses that he/she possesses to (check one):
the police chief or sheriff.
other person (name): ________________.
Other restraining orders
Immediate Restraining Orders
The court may find immediate restraining orders if one of the parties health or safety is being imminently threatened. The other party does not need to be present for the requesting party to present this motion in front of a judge.
For example, husband in the middle of winter cancels the utilities in the house and will not let mother put the utilities in her name. The judge may require husband to put the utilities in wife's name and stay away from the residence.
Appointing or not appointing a GAL
A GAL can be a game changer. Because his or her recommendations can dramatically affect the case and their decisions can be difficult to predict. Moreover, the GAL is much more likely to take in soft evidence like personality traits and likability in their interviewing, compared to a judge in a courtroom environment.
The Judge may ask one of the attorneys to prepare a bench order that expressly states the Judge's ruling from that day. Typically the Judge has a form for the attorneys to use in his courtroom for Bench Orders. These orders are typically signed by the Judge on the same day as the relevant hearing.
What parenting plan will be set?
If the spouses had an agreed on parenting plan for a period of time before either party filed motions with the court then it is likely that the court will rule in a favor of a similar plan. For example, if the spouses mutually agreed to for Dad to see child every Tuesdays, Thursday and Sunday for an overnight visit, and the spouses practiced that plan during the six months prior to the court hearing, then the Judge will likely rule that their agreed upon plan should continue.
On the other hand, if those same spouses agree to change their plan to an every other weekend schedule for Dad then the Judge will not likely stand in the way of that agreement.
How do the courts divide assets and debts in a "fair and equitable" distribution state?
The court may consider the length of the marriage, age, health, conduct of the parties, occupation, skills and employment of the parties. The court often times does not divide an equal division or what may be referred to as 50/50. However, the court may come close to an equal division when:
It was a long marriage
The spouses have nearly equal wealth before the marriage,
Both spouses have approximately equal earning ability.
There are no minor children.
The court may award more property (and fewer debts) when a spouse has:
Less earning ability
Less financial contribution to the marriage if the marriage is a short-term marriage.
Poor health or other adverse circumstances.
Custody of minor children.
Marital and Non-Marital Property.