Archive for November, 2018

Doubling Down: Why Emergency Custody Matters Can Be Expensive

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Even in the most hotly contested asset-based divorces, when no children are born to a marriage, costs can be relatively predictable. Although true that alimony demands can often hang up the obtainment of a divorce, most of the time attorneys and litigants alike can come close to an agreement by doing a simple cost versus benefit analysis and a rudimentary calculation of the legal fees estimated to require a complete and final cessation of the marriage.

For obvious reasons, when children become involved, the level of complexity and thus expense of litigation becomes far more extended. So, what about emergency child custody matters? Why so expensive and unpredictable? The answer is simple: multiple hearings will be needed to finalize these often heart-wrenching cases.

In emergent child custody matters, the basic landscape (with some deviation depending on multiple factors) looks something like this;

  1. An initial hearing will be required in order to determine whether in fact the children are in harm’s way and an order is issued the corresponds with the evidence presented. These orders often only last for a short duration. The standards of proof in emergency hearings is often not precisely the same as in the other aspects of the case.
  1. The court then requires a second hearing to determine whether any relief granted should be temporary or extended until a trial date.
  1. The court often holds a third hearing to determine whether or not the emergency relief should be modified, clarified, or eliminated outright.
  1. Discovery (the process of obtaining evidence from the opposition in a lawsuit) issues often require another hearing on motions to clarify whether the parties have completely followed the rules of procedure and what outstanding obligations may exist. These are often simple but can range from basic to inordinately complex.
  1. A final hearing on the merits (trial) is held. Oftentimes there may be mandated a status conference prior to trial in order to shore-up any loose ends. These status hearings are usually not terribly time-consuming, but trial can last 4 hours or even an entire week, depending on how much evidence exists.

As you can see, emergency custody matters often require not just a couple of court appearances, but often approach or even exceed half-dozen mandated appearances and a large investment of time and attorney preparation. Although there is little question that these complex cases can be won based on the quality of preparation, no quick resolution should ever be expected by a custody litigant. Trust your lawyer’s advice assuming they are sufficiently experienced. Rookie lawyers often step on landmines along the way, further complicating matters that could have been relatively simple.

In sum, it is clear that emergency matters are far from the legal equivalent of ordering fast food. I would argue that they look far more like sitting for an extended five-course meal. My best advice is to not set unreasonable expectations. Be prepared for a drawn-out war, not a brief skirmish. There is always a path forward in order to do what is best for the young and innocent lives involved.

If you need help in estimating the requirements of your emergency custody case, feel free to give us a call.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic attorney admitted to the state bar in 2004. He is a Millsaps Second Century Merit Scholar and has received national recognition in the area of family law.

2019 Child Custody and Divorce Prices and Discounts

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

In 2018, we offered several different discounts for specified time periods, and the results were exceptional for both our clients and ourselves. Law enforcement, military (including veterans), first responders, and teachers deserve to be rewarded for the tough work that they do in such brave and selfless ways. Therefore, it seems logical that we made the discounts more long-term. Seems logical, right? So, we are making strides to extend discounted domestic legal services for longer periods. Until March 31, 2019, we are cutting domestic legal fees by 15% to all:

  1. Law Enforcement and support staff.
  2. Military and veterans, including their direct family (excludes cousins and extended family).
  3. First response personnel to include firefighters, paramedics, and their support teams.
  4. Teachers at public institutions (excludes private school employees).

First I would like to emphasize in the most adamant way possible that costs for divorce will be SIGNIFICANTLY lower for those that can agree to terms, particularly child custody, support, visitation and division of assets and debts, if there are in fact marital debts. For instance, the price for agreed divorce in the Hinds, Rankin, and Madison county area is as follows (plus $93 filing fee–out of area is slightly higher).

  1. No children or property: $675.
  2. Children and no property: $775.
  3. Property and no children; $725
  4. Children and property: $875.

Please note that some additional fees may apply if a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (Q.D.R.O.) or property deed is needed to finalize the marital dissolution. These costs are significantly lower after any discount is applied.

Also, it is important to note that these fees require total unequivocal 100% agreement between the spouses.

Contested (not agreed to) divorce and custody prices vary between $3,000 and $5,000 retainer at $250/hour. It is obvious the value of trying to forge some agreement between yourself and the opposing parent. Child custody and divorce cases are time-consuming, stressful, and expensive. Although it is quite clear that parents often struggle to agree, it is quite worthwhile to attempt avoiding litigation if at all possible. After all, I often repeat that “if everyone were totally reasonable, I would have no job”. Sage wisdom is hard to find when attorneys put their own profits above your well-being. It is all too common, but a better way does exist.

In short, do yourself, your kids, and your spouse (or the opposing parent) a favor by seeking compromise so that you do not spend money on an attorney who simply wants to fuel the fire and line their own pockets with your hard-earned savings. It is always possible that you have no other option than to litigate, and if so we are fully up to the task. I have tried over 400 cases in 15 years and take great pride in winning the close ones. For your own sake, just be sure you have thoroughly explored other options before taking that path toward a prolonged legal battle. Unfortunately, not all lawyers will put ethics before profit. If you need help and advice in crafting an approach to a sane and reasonable custody or divorce matter, I will gladly help you, free of charge.

Matthew Poole is an award winning top 10 family lawyer and practices in Jackson, Mississippi. He has managed domestic cases in over 90% of the court districts in Mississippi over a 15 year period.

Back to Square One: Revisiting “Maxims of Equity”

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

What in the world is a “maxim” and how does this term relate to Mississippi chancery court proceedings? To put it simply, a maxim, within the context of custody and divorce law, is a truism that cannot be avoided. Maxims represent well-established principles of law and are deeply rooted in what the English legal system regards as law “agreeable to natural reason”. In other words, maxims are the highly regarded principles upon which chancery court finds its very core roots. Maxims are well-accepted as natural law, as opposed to law created by legislative proclamation or executive fiat.

The following is not a comprehensive list of the well-established maxims of equity have been utilized in each and every chancery proceeding, rather a short and palatable version of the ones seasoned chancery lawyers most often argue. Most apply in every case to some extent or another. They are, in no particular order, as follows;

  1. Chancery courts aid those who are vigilant. Those who rest on their rights and fail to act quickly to protect them are often barred by the doctrine of “laches”, which essentially curtails certain rights if they are sought after unreasonable delay. This concept is distinguishable from statutes of limitation and no specific numeric time period applies. The standard is highly subject to interpretation of what constitutes reasonable delay. Each court can interpret this concept much differently.
  1. One must have “clean hands”, or be relatively faultless in order to seek the intervention of the court. Although perfection is not required, those who have violated court orders and acted with virtual impunity are often shown the door-quickly. The court will not aid those who violate basic principles of fairness.
  1. The opportunity to be heard is not unique to divorce and custody proceedings, however, those fundamental rights elaborated by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are given significant preference in terms of being chancery due process of law. Opportunity to be heard is soundly fundamental.
  1. Substance takes precedence over form. Although to a certain extent this shift in procedural dynamics has also been seen in damages/non-equity courts, the transition away from fact pleading and toward notice pleading is even more visible in courts of equity (chancery). Intent is more valuable than form of pleadings.
  1. All wrongs have a remedy, even if no statute prohibits specific conduct. Generally, and going back to 8th grade civics class, the legislature makes laws that are then interpreted by the judiciary. In equity courts, strict adherence to legislative proclamation takes a back seat to redressing all wrongs. A particularly pointed example of this function is when a party has failed to specifically make a claim that is within the general subject matter of the litigation but the opposing party is well-aware of the potential for liability. Often after a pleading is filed but prior to trial, facts and circumstances change. The court is not often inclined to hold you to a rigorous standard when this simple oversight occurs.

In summation, Mississippi chancery courts exercise broad authority in determining all matters that come before them. Chancellors have broad discretion and will exercise them to the benefit of fairness. Strict rules of pleading are not par for the chancery course. Although most litigants are willing to deal with the stress of domestic law, often a simple path remains elusive to those who are charged with excessive emotion. If you have a chancery court matter and need some fair advice from a seasoned litigator, feel free to give us a call.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who specializes in domestic conflict management. He is a single father and extremely passionate about the best interests of children.