Posts Tagged ‘emergency custody’


Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Do you remember the popular television game show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader? The host, comedian Jeff Foxworthy, would ask an adult contestant general 5th grade appropriate questions. The more correct answers given, the more “cash and prizes” the adult would win. It was a fun show to watch, especially when the contestant would get an “easy one” wrong; fun for everyone except of course, the contestant.

Your family court dispute is certainly more important than a television game show, and so I will refrain from any “Family Feud” references. But the premise of the game show and your court case is very similar: correct answers are the key to you to winning, while wrong answers can always cause you to lose. With that in mind, let’s discuss the strategy of your case so that you will be able to answer the questions correctly and win the “cash and prizes” that are at stake in your case.

Preparation is the always the key. Gathering your relevant information, anticipating the strengths and weaknesses of your case (as well as your opponent’s), and familiarizing yourself with the process are the steps that the wise litigants take. Listed here are some of the more common steps to this process that you may prepare for, and doing so may make you a better “contestant”, and may save you some money along the way.

Initial questions from your attorney, both before and after you retain his services:

This is an often undervalued or overlooked part of the process; however, wrong answers at this early stage of your case can torpedo the entire effort. Moreover, the questions that are left unasked, either by the client to his attorney or visa versa may leave some of the more important information uncovered. You know your case better than anyone, and so it certainly makes sense for you to prepare for this meeting. Most lawyers have standard intake questionnaires” that are used for the basic information.

Written questions called interrogatories:

This can be very expensive, especially if you are not willing or able to assist your legal team. Its best to have the financials, tax returns and bank records ready when you first meet with your attorney, as this information is almost always going to be needed. Bottom line: the more you can help your attorney with this process, the more familiar you will be with the legal “game”. Be thorough and prompt when you are asked to provide these answers and information.

Demands for your information:

This includes your tax information, banking information, employment information, medical information, social media information, cellular activity, and , any and all other information that is exclusive to you. (YES, they are going to ask these questions, and they are entitled to the answers and information!).

These “questions” are most often asked by Subpoena Duces Tecum issued by the Court and served on either you, or your CPA, your employer, your cellular provider, your medical provider…you get the point. Properly issued subpoenas are honored by the recipient and your private information is certainly in play in this very high stakes game. Beware: social media posts are also fair game. You should always consider that whatever you post might be read by your mom, your priest, or worse: your opponent’s attorney!

Oral questions asked at a deposition:

Deposition subpoenas can be issued for you, or for anyone else who may have information useful to the case (witnesses). Not every case will employ this measure, but there are some things that you should be aware of if you are deposed. Consider a deposition as a practice run for trial. This process, much like the interrogatories, can be very costly simply due its the time-consuming nature. The wise participant prepares himself with his attorney. One helpful tip: Listen to the questions asked and answer it. Added information or expounded upon answers can help the other lawyer.

Oral questions asked at Trial or Hearings in your case:

All of the situations described, above, take place outside of the precence of the ultimate decision maker of your case. Any time the trier-of-fact (most commonly referred to as “the Judge”) is involved with the process, your answers must be correct. The trial portion is usually the end of the case and so these answers are the “Final Jeopardy” of the case. Inconsistent information in any facet of this process will make all of the answers wrong. That’s right: even correct answers at the end of the process, if preceded by a different (not necessarily wrong) response to the same question at an earlier stage in the case, can often prove very costly to the respondent. If the Judge believes you to be untrustworthy, dishonest, without credibility, or even just insincere or cavalier with your answers at trial, you have probably ruined your chances to have your case end successfully.

The best and often most successful contestants, both on the game show and in a legal proceeding are the ones who are best prepared. Any litigant, no matter the issue or type of legal dispute he is involved in, is more likely to satisfied with the results of the action if he is more prepared than his opponent. Therefore, the well prepared litigant in a family law case IS smarter than a 5th grader and the “cash and prizes” are more likely to be awarded to him in the end.

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.

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.