Law Offices Of Andrew Merlo, P.A.

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Law Offices Of Andrew Merlo, P.A.

Family Law FAQs

Basically, every type of case that is involved in a family law court goes to mediation. This can include dissolution of marriage, child related matters including time-sharing and child support agreements, partition actions, alimony, etc. Mediation is used in other matters that are not family law related as well, but family law mediators are certified specifically to handle family law matters.
No. The mediator is there to assist the parties in reaching decisions. They do not unilaterally decide anything. They do not make rulings or create binding agreements and they do not decide who “wins” at mediation.
The reality is that every case is different. Your mediator may not have handled a case that is exactly like yours but is trained in dispute resolution, regardless of the complexity of the case. The more complicated the case and the more issues that need to be agreed upon can mean a longer time spent at your mediation, but this is not always the case. Some individuals can’t find common ground on simple issues and their mediation may take longer than one with complicated facts but more agreeable parties. Mediators are used to looking at each case individually. It is best to have your attorney with you to make sure that everything that needs to be resolved in your case is resolved at mediation.
There are some special circumstances where mediation may not work for you. Talk to your attorney about your options. If you have someone pressuring you to agree who has abused you in the past, you can seek legal protection from that person. Sometimes this includes a restraining order or injunction, but your attorney is the best person to help you.
An agreement made at mediation can be operated very quickly. There is no need to wait for additional hearings and steps before the judge. Family court systems are often quite busy, so you may have to wait a considerable length of time for appointments before the court. Mediation is typically a lot more flexible.
You can go to mediation without an attorney, but you are risking important rights that you may have by making a legal agreement without representation of counsel. Even if you agree to the terms, if you are not an attorney yourself, you may be walking away from things that are due to you. Your attorney can protect you and help you devise an agreement that is in YOUR best interest and the best interest of your family. If you choose to go this route, at the very least have your attorney review your agreement before you sign it! You hired an attorney to fight for you, don’t take away their weapons.
The common issues in regards to child support litigation are when parties try to hide their true income or try to overstate their actual expenses. They also fight over the time-sharing schedule, recognizing that timesharing is a direct factor on the amount of child support that they pay. Most parents recognize and are more than agreeable to pay the statutory amount of child support that they are required to pay. When circumstances happen that they just can no longer comply or despite their best efforts, they cannot pay what they are currently required to pay, then child support modification actions are very hotly contested. People get used to receiving a certain amount of money and they depend on it. There is always skepticism and distrust about whether someone’s income has really changed justifying a modification of child support.
If you are not receiving your child support payment from the other parent then you have the right to take them back to court to enforce that payment. It is every parent’s duty to support their children financially, whether or not they are actually seeing the child or not. There are many remedies available to you to enforce the payment. If you can show that the other side has the ability to pay and is voluntarily choosing not to pay then you can seek to have the judge hold that party in contempt of court even up to incarceration as a possible remedy. You can seek to have the non-payors driver’s license suspended. You can seek garnishment of wages directly from his employer. If the employer does not comply, the employer can also be responsible for the payment. The child support arrearage will not go away, it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and it is subject to additional attorney’s fee. Not only are you entitled to collect the child support you are owed, you are also entitled to reimbursement of all your reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in pursuing that child support.
The current statute says that child support after a divorce is generally paid until the age of 18. It can go beyond the age of 18 if the child is in high school with an expectation of graduation before their 19th birthday. There are other exceptions, such as if the child is emancipated. With a child with special needs, a disabled child or a dependent child, so to speak, child support may continue beyond the child’s 18th birthday. A new law in 2011 requires a termination date to be included in all new child support orders. In any agreements or court orders entered after 2011, it is not supposed to be required to return to court for your child support to terminate. However, if you are one of the folks who had a settlement or an agreement or court order prior to October 2011, then your child support does not automatically terminate on the child’s 18th birthday and you are required to return to court yourself. It is your obligation to go to court and ask the judge to stop the child support based on the child turning 18 and reaching the age of majority. It would need to happen for each child as they turn 18.
Child support can be modified at any time and to do so means you have to be able to prove to the judge that there has been a substantial material and permanent change in circumstances that was involuntary. That is the legal standard that you have to allege and prove. It can be modified when either the expenses change or the incomes change in a substantial way. When you calculate the new incomes of the parties and you run the child support calculation, in order to be entitled to the modification of the child support amount, the new child support amount has to be different by at least 15 percent or $50.
Andrew Merlo, Esq.

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