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Family Law
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  • Clearly Communicate with your former significant other/your child(ren)'s other parent (candidly account for things; don't posture).

  • Respond to court actions filed against you in a timely manner: failure to do as much may constitute an admission to an accusation, consent to a challenged provision, or a default to an entire action.​

  • Document agreements (it can have a noncompliance-deterring effect, by helping the parties account for things over which they don't recall or have a conflicting or disagreeing recollection about).      

  • Treat others the way you would like to be treated…  It's amazing how many "problems"  including those that lead to legal disputes, wouldn't materialize if this rule was adhered to.

  • ​Stipulations ought to be clear, and on the record to acknowledge their legal scope and facilitate their enforcement (there are many things that people complain about the other parent or their former partner doing, or not doing. But when complaints are drawn from an alleged breach of a prior agreement between the parties that wasn't part of the record, neither the agreement or its (alleged) breach are enforceable; therefore, account for your stip on the record (to "make it count").                 

  • Consent Orders/Court Orders: Be mindful of the 7 day rule (contact me to expand on this).   

  • Try to understand: your child(ren)'s other parent's legal parental rights are NOT subject to your approval.

  • Contact the police and request (rather than demand) that they monitor court ordered interactions, such as  child exchanges (visitation exchange and/or affirming an agent for supervision) and property transfers in volatile, or potentially volatile or violent interactions with your former partner.  

  • Obtain free legal representation in the criminal, family or appellate context if you are, or were recently exposed to and are trying to obtain relief from domestic violence (please click on the domestic violence page of this site for helpful information and offered representation to those who can benefit from it). ​  

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  • "Opting Out" of the FOC services is a clear option to the extent that you're eligible to proceed on those grounds; and we can explore that path during a quick conversation.   Interestingly, however, and on somewhat of a curious note, some construe the opt out language in the relevant statute in a way that can be described as more presumed than precise... The domestic violence and state assistance provisions aren't read in ("PM"), and an anomalous approach to statutory construction takes on a meaning that doesn't reach beyond the inventions of those who misread the provisions... it's helpful to have an attorney to help clarify some things to help your case proceed...   But even if you were met with some resistance on your own or with another counsel, there are appeals and other ways to achieve an "Opt out."  Call me to discuss this.

  • Child support deviation requests (this refers to the petition requesting that the court ordered child support amount not be determined by conventionally calculated means). This requires you to fill out a "child support deviation addendum."  Call me for additional information and assistance.

  • ​Visitation obstruction is taken very seriously, for good reason: every moment with your child, and the moments leading up to the time you spend with  your child (contact or visitation) are meaningful to the parent and child (e.g., the anticipation of the parent and child to see each other, their reliance (especially the child's reliance on the parent), the waiting, and expecting, the excitement, etc. are or can be momentous).  And having that interfered with can lead to disappointment, sadness, feelings of being  unwanted or unimportant,  not cared about, forgotten...  This can also detriment the relationship between both the visitation obstructed and obstructing parent and the child.  Accordingly, having one's court ordered visitation or parenting time with their child obstructed is considered a serious violation, for which a number of sanctions can be imposed increasing in severity with every sequential violation (admonishments and compensatory time and atty fees may be imposed/granted for initial violations, but eventually, it can escalate to the imposition of jail time for a finding of contempt).  

  • As a corollary discussion, as to whether compensatory time sufficiently compensates an aggrieved parent for obstructed and missed visitation (which isn't to imply a support for jail time either), it's important to call out a seemingly subtle but certainly important distinction: although compensatory time is an enforcement vehicle to compensate for the obstructed contact, that speaks to the amount of time (i.e., how much time was court ordered but wasn't spent as a result of the violation); but that's not the same things as speaking about the time "when" the obstruction happened: in other words, there's an attempt to account for the amount of time, but not the moments when it happens (e.g., if your two and a half year old didn't get to see you as a consequence of the adverse party-parent's obstruction (after which actions are filed and litigation ensues, by which time the court orders compensatory time), it may account for the amount of time obstructed, but it won't bring back your child's impression, effect, including consequences, such as disappointment, etc, from the expectation and also from not getting the benefit of your child seeing you at that   critical time (when your child was two 2 1/2  years old: when it's critical for their growth and your relationship (although I don't doubt that it can be restored, but unless the effect of the applied compensatory time is that it would deter subsequent obstructions, it seems like a good idea to apply another judicial tool to have that deterring effect. Note: "parenting time" complaints must be filed within 56 days of the alleged obstruction with your court ordered visitation ("parenting time" violation) in Ingham County; other counties may vary as to that aspect.  However, also note that filing a complaint within 56 days doesn't mean it will get heard by then; and it may be useful to amend your complaint to account for additional violations that transpired between the date of the filing and the date of your hearing (and the "relation back" doctrine spares your amendments from being violative of 56 day rule, by relating your amendment back to the date of your filed complaint -of course, to the extent that the initial complaint was within the required time).               

  • Pay child support in "paper trail" form or via tangibly accountable means (e.g., bank checks, cashier's checks, money orders, etc.) in order to "prove" it in the event of a dispute. Quite often, people pay child support in a manner that doesn't provide for some physical record of it (most commonly, delivering cash). Perhaps correspondinly, some child support recipients "forget" they were paid child support, then seek enforcement action against the "payor" (the party required to pay child support).  The enforcement action generally comes by way of a "Show Cause" hearing, or an "SC:" an action requested by a petitioning payee (court ordered child support payment recipient) alleging that the "payor" (the person court ordered  to pay child support) defaulted on that obligation).  ​ 

  • Defending against SC's: There are a number of things that can be done to defend against SC's; and a good start is by recognizing what is a show cause:

  • Starting with what it's not:  A Show Cause  is not some typically structured hearing: Unlike virtually every other proponent tasking hearing that commits to the theoretical virtue (or for those who denounce theoretical talk --while hypocritically engaging in it, the practical construct of "fairness") of being "presumed innocent unless proven (legally) guilty," an SC inverts that typical scheme: the accused (i.e., the payor), is rebuttably presumed to have inexcusably --as a legal matter-- defaulted on their support obligation by unlawfully failing to pay the full court ordered child support amount at the time it was due; and therefore, the same has the burden of proof.  In other words, the accused is presumed to have violated the child support order, and has to show there's a ​​​valid reason to not be held in contempt (as opposed to the far more common case, where the party accusing another (rather than the accused) has the burden of proving their case. But there's no shortage of things that can be done to rebut the presumption that the accused should be held in contempt, and there are numerous ways to prove it.  

  • One way, is by having a written manifestation of a previous payment that "shows" the child support obligation was already paid (i.e., a receipt, a check, money order, or a written acknowledgement of a payment received (e.g., a writing drafted or signed by the payee, etc.).  In other words, a "paper trail" (physical record) of which there are different kinds..., including those that can track delivery of payments, and others that reflect a payee's acknowledged receipt of a disputed child support payment.  Such a paper trail of a previously satisfied court ordered child support payment can be used to dispose of an alleged violation against you in two equally important ways:

  • (i) as to "active" claims or claims already filed against you (which to some is more important in the more immediate sense), a paper trail can be used to directly refute an allegation that you haven't paid the disputed support amount by exposing evidence that --at least on its face-- conflicts with the allegations against you; and

  • (ii)  as to prospective  or pending claims (i.e., claims filed pending further or future action), it  can also be used to expose a history of wrongful allegations filed against you which can (at least) either

    • (a) quell a prospective claim against you by prompting the proponent to think twice before falsely (or sometimes, innocently mistakenly) accusing you of defaulting on your support obligation where you have a record that contradicts that claim; and/or

    • (b) by offering relevant history  of prior unsupported claims filed against you to a court, it can subject the payee to sanctions for what would be viewed as the repeated misuse of that legal forum (Note: a history  of prior unsupported claims filed against you doesn't necessarily help you if you are currently in default (i.e., claiming you were falsely accused in the past, doesn't spare you from being held accountable from defaulting now; and indeed, you can be held accountable for attempting to distract the court from current matters);  but if you're currently not in "default" status, it can add seriousness to the charge that you're being wrongfully (intentionally, or at least mistakenly --and arguably repeatedly) accused of something you haven't done now: defaulted on your child support obligation.  And the consequence for this is the payee (the party accusing you of not paying child support) being subject to sanctions for the repeated misuse of that legal forum).  Further note: these things can be helpful, but they're not necessarily dispositive (i.e., tangible "proof" can go some ways, but it doesn't always necessarily tell the whole story; although it doesn't require anyone to ignore it either.  In other words, to the extent that it's taken into account by a fact finder/the court, it can contribute to a fuller story, but don't assume that there wouldn't be an attempt to question, object or refute it by adverse party --informing the import of being competently responsive to anything thrown your way).   

  • Payment method and compliance status: Whatever court ordered method you're required to pay child support with, use it: pay it that way (an easy way to pay child support and still be subject to liability (being accused of not paying it),  is to deviate from the required method of payment: questions as to your failure to comply with a method of payment can extend to questions as to whether or not you paid it, coupled with the unenviable task of "tracking  your payment").   And if you're not reduced to a particular method, explore available options (e.g., court monitored accounts, garnishments,  etc.).  To ensure you're complying with a court ordered method of payment --as well as with the payments themselves-- contact the FOC; or call me at (702) 449 - 1289, or email me at attorneybarnetlevine@gmail.com, and we'll discuss your current obligation compliance status and available and/or required methods of payment (delivery).  

  • Keep in mind: Hearings have particular purposes and rules; they are not "free for alls:" Do not mistake the court for a stage to denounce all of your ex's (perceived) errors.  To that end, you may have done your homework so-to-speak (e.g., you may have sought, obtained and preserved copies of texts, emails, etc.), and some of it may be useful in an upcoming hearing, but much of it may not be: your evidence must substantively align itself with the relevant scope and purpose of the hearing; and it must also be presented in a procedurally compliant manner in order for it to be admissible.  

 Domestic Violence Assistance
Child Support payment v Supporting your claim that you paid child support 
Child support Payment method and compliance status 
Stipulations/Consent Orders
Opting out of the FOC/Deviating from the ordinary child support obligation
 Obstructing Visitation ("Parenting time")
 Show Cause: Contempt Hearings