Posts Tagged ‘child custody lawyer’

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.

Are Legal Child Guardians (Guardians ad Litem) Still Relevant?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Once upon a time, Chancellors in Mississippi relied heavily on child legal guardians to make recommendations as to the best interests of minors subject to litigation in their respective districts. Although it has always been clear that Mississippi statute mandates the appointment of a guardian ad litem (guardian at law, latin derivation, or simply G.A.L.), in certain scenarios, such as those involving abuse, neglect, or adoption, and termination of parental rights, chancellors also often relied on these appointees to perform much of the fact finding in custody/visitation cases. After a recent appellate court decision, child guardian’s roles in custody matters has been significantly diminished and minimized in legal domestic proceedings.

In the current context, G.A.L’s have enjoyed, up until recently, broad discretion in making custody recommendations to the presiding judge in the cases to which they were assigned. However, after a recent Mississippi Court of Appeals Court ruling, much of their sway has been eliminated due to the evidentiary rule precluding hearsay testimony. I once heard a very experienced lawyer in 2008 argue against the appointment of a child guardian because, as he put it, they are simply a ”conduit for hearsay”. It seems he was ahead of the curve and that his opinion is now broadly reflected in Mississippi jurisprudence. When and if a chancery judge disagreed with a custody placement recommendation by a child guardian, they have to go through additional rigor and explanation in order to cement their reasoning for such disparity. It rarely occurs. Such is often grounds for appeal, and often well-placed.

At any rate, it is important to understand the basis for hearsay objection in order to recognize the basis for our recent shift in law and the effect it has had on the role of child guardians. Hearsay is defined as “A statement other than one made by the declarant while testifying at a trial or hearing offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted”, (Black’s Law Dictionary, 2008 as amended). McCormick on Evidence has a more complex definition, but for our purposes it is in essence a distraction from the broader concept. Sounds simple enough, but combined with over a dozen exceptions and exceptions to those exceptions, it can get tricky pretty fast. So, the short of hearsay exceptions as they pertain to child custody matters is that few practically apply, therefore what the child has TOLD his or her court appointed guardian is more likely than not inadmissible in a court proceeding.

So, child guardians are a thing of the past? Not exactly. Although they have reduced roles in custody matters, guardians have been largely privy to adjust their reporting to the court and issue appearance subpoenas for those with firsthand knowledge of the matters at hand. Essentially, costs just went up for the parties who request the intervention of a fact-finder and guardian due to increased complexity in commanding witnesses to court. Their statements, as well as those of the children, are certainly scrutinized by virtue of this seeming “crackdown” on out-of-court statements offered as evidence.

In the “good old days” as I call them, hearsay rules seemed to have limited, if any application to child guardians in custody proceedings. (As a side note, when I used to reference the “good old days”, a former clerk would quickly remind me, “Matt, give it a few years, you’ll be saying that these were the good old days”…..well put. Now, under enhanced scrutiny from both state appellate courts and constitutional principles, not to mention adherence to the strict rules of codified evidence, hearsay will likely be held out of custody proceedings unless a clear exception is applicable. Gone are the days of playing fast and loose with evidentiary truisms. Although it is not clear what the future holds in child custody litigation, it is obvious that we are on a path toward appreciable adherence to the simple rules as codified by the rules of civil procedure and of evidence. Back to square one it seems.

If you are involved in custody litigation and would like a fresh, second opinion as to your best path forward, feel free to contact us anytime.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi custody and divorce attorney who has taken several hundred domestic matters to trial. He is a 2001 Second Century Scholar and Finalist of the Steen, Reynolds, Dalehite Trial Competition at the University of Mississippi School of Law.