Webinar: How to Represent Yourself in Family Court

This is Billie Tarascio with Access Legal
& Modern Law. I am so excited to be here with you today for an upcoming webinar and, before
we begin, I just wanna tell you a bit about me and what I do and what Modern Law does
and what Access Legal does. I am a family law attorney here in Arizona. I’ve been
practicing family law for the last 10 years. I absolutely love it and I am the owner of
the family law firm Modern Law. Within my work that I do at Modern Law it’s become
very clear that the vast majority of people are representing themselves and there are
not enough resources out there for people who are representing themselves. In fact,
it’s between 80 and 90% of you who are representing yourselves in family court. Access Legal is a company that was created
out of Modern Law to bring law firm resources available to you, the public, who are representing
yourself. And one of the things that we are going to do is be offering these webinars.
Today’s webinar for instance is on how to represent yourself in family court. And, I
will warn you, it is an action-packed hour of a tone of information; it is definitely
a high-level view of everything that you can expect to have happened in your family law
case. As we move forward in the future we will have other webinars that are more specific,
will drill down into the specifics of the different areas and really answer your questions.
Feel free to ask questions as we go and, if you have other webinars that you want to hear
or questions that were not answered, feel free to reach out to me, either through Modern
Law or through Access Legal. A little bit about Access Legal is that Access
Legal is a legal doc prep entity. What that means is that it makes law firm resources
available to you, including documents. And the same documents that we use within Modern
Law have been made available to you through a very easy question-and-answer format on
the Access Legal website at a fraction of the cost of working with an attorney. It’s
really an outstanding resource that we are very excited to offer and if you have more
questions on that, let me know, but feel free to check out that website, the family law
forum, the articles and the webinars. Thank you so much and we will get started. Today we’re going to be mostly focused on
the process, which is long and not really easy. But we’ll also talk about the substantive
law with regards to custody and divorce, because it does look like that—based on the poll—that’s
something that affects everyone. Let’s start at the beginning. The beginning is before
you file or before you’re served. If you know that you are going to be facing a family
law issue—because you’re either facing a divorce or you’ve had a child out of wedlock—before
you go to the court house, there’s some things that you should do. We should determine
what your objectives are; what is most important to you. This means really thinking about what
your life is going to look like in 3 years. How do you see a custody arrangement working
out? How do you see a parenting plan working for you and your children? And—everyone
can still hear me, right? There are some people who are saying they can’t. Oh yeah, people
are saying they can. Ok, fabulous! So, we’re going to look at what are the main issues.
Do you want to stay in your own house? Do you want to continue being a mostly stay-at-home
parent? Are you looking for financial security? What are your most important objectives and
your biggest fears? The next thing that I’m gonna ask you to
do—after you really think about what your life looks like here in the next 3 years,
2 years, one year—is to gather your resources. The process of going through a family law
case is long and hard. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. I’m gonna ask you to
really gather your resources—both emotional and financial—so that you can make the best
determinations about how to achieve your objectives and set the correct expectation. How do you
anticipate the opposing party will respond? Is it possible for the two of you to work
together to come up with some solutions that work for you? Because the bottom line is,
as a family, if you’re not in a family court system, you decide how your family is going
to operate. There is no statutes, there is no government, there is no one involved telling
you how you are going to run your family. You can continue to have that only if you
and the opposing party can agree on how your family will continue to operate after your
break-up or your divorce. If that’s not the case—if you’re not able to come to an
agreement—then the statutes and rules apply and they will determine how your family is
going to run. It’s usually not the best position for people to be in, so if there is any way
for you and your opposing party to work it out, usually that’s a better outcome for
you and your children; not always, not always. By considering these issues in advance you
can better come up with and execute a strategy. You don’t wanna go into a family court case
without a strategy; without knowing what it is that you’re hoping to achieve. Otherwise
you can’t really measure success and we have so many different tools available to
us, both as self-representing litigants and as attorneys, to figure out how we’re going
to move forward that in advance; before we file anything, we want to come up with and
execute a strategy. One of the first decisions you need to make
is whether or not hire an attorney. You may or may not know this, but between 80 and 90%
of people in family court represent themselves. You are the majority. You are the vast majority;
in fact it’s not even close. So with that being said, there are too few resources that
are really geared towards meeting your needs, empowering you and making sure that these
life-changing events are handled in the best possible way. Most people are happier if they
hire an attorney, but the fact of the matter is that that’s not true for everyone and
there are various reasons why people choose not to hire an attorney. Money is the primary
reason, but also people may think that they can handle it on their own or may think that
it’s not a good use of their funds and I think it’s really important for you to do that analysis
to determine if you have the funds, is it a good use of your funds and is it a good
use of your funds to hire that attorney right now or is it a better use of your funds to
map out a strategy and figure out when and if you need that attorney most and wait to
hire the attorney until you need them? Usually and sometimes that’s a better idea for people
and that’s what limited-scope services are. Under a full-scope model you go in, you retain
the attorney; the attorney is your attorney of record, they take care of everything for
you. The nice thing with that is that you get the peace of mind of knowing that an attorney’s
gonna handle everything for you. The downside is that the average divorce in this country
costs each side 20,000 dollars and if you’re faced with the decision of ‘’Do I spend
my child’s college fund on an attorney or am I a smart capable person who can do a lot
of this on my own?’’—then maybe that’s the best bet for you. This is an analysis
that you need to make, but I really strongly suggest that you really consider what the
plan is. Don’t go into this blindly; don’t stumble along your path; really figure out
what you are going to do. There are other resources available to you
besides attorneys that you can use either full-scope or limited-scope. You can use legal
doc preparers. Access Legal is a company that is a legal doc prep company and there are
many other legal doc preparers out there. People who are legal document preparers have
special certification from the Supreme Court. They are not attorneys; they have not gone
to Law School, but they do know how to answer questions and help navigate you through the
system, which is essential, which can be so helpful when you’re dealing with this very
long and complicated process. You also have lay legal advocates at various non-profits,
your friends, a forum. We’ve created a forum on Facebook that’s for people who are representing
themselves or people who are going through a family court matter. It doesn’t even have
to be about representing yourself. It can be just about gathering with other individuals
who are going through you’re going through, who can help give you support and say ‘’Hey,
I went in front of the judge with this set of facts, and this judge, this day and here
is what happened.’’ Having this sort of information really makes it so much easier
for you to navigate this process. With that being said, now we’re going to
walk through what to expect when you get into the actual case and we will use legal decision-making
and child custody as our example, as we walk through the process of what to expect when
you’re in a family court case. The first step is your initial filings and your initial
filings include the petition, the response and potentially a motion for temporary orders.
When you file a petition or if you have been served with a petition, you’re going to
make a statement on how you want everything; what you would like to see happen. You’re
going to let the judge know what the potential issues are and how you would like the judge
to resolve those issues. With custody legal decision-making issues
it’s a little bit different from when you’re going through a whole divorce, but not really
all that different. I would recommend when you’re filing these initial documents—the
petition, the response—that you leave yourself room for changing your position. Consider
keeping these documents a bit vague, asking for something like an equitable distribution
of community property or saying things like ‘’there may be separate property’’
or if you commit in your petition that a certain piece of property is separate property and
then you later find out through discovery it’s not separate property, you have kind
of boxed yourself in. Unless you think that you are going to go through a default—and
we’ll talk about default—consider keeping the statements that you make in the petition
and in the response open so that, as you get more information, you can change and refine
and really hone down and specify your position. In the 9 to12- month process that you go through,
typically, to get a divorce or go through a case, you may change your mind on whether
or not you want to live in the house or sell the house. You don’t wanna lock yourself
down to a position now because the risk is that an attorney could come in and say ‘’Your
Honour, I would like attorney’s fees be awarded to me from the opposing party because
they have been all over the place on their positions. They said this in the petition,
this in their motion for temporary orders; they said something else in their resolution
statements; now in their pre-trial statements they are asking for something they’ve never
asked before and therefore we should award attorney’s fees’’—and I have seen
this happen. In order to avoid that, consider keeping your options open early on. If you are the respondent you’ve been served
with a petition, what that means is that if you’re in the state, you have 26 days to responds;
if you’re out of the state, you have 30 days to respond and there’s a couple of
ways that you can draft your response. Many attorneys, many people, draft a response by
admitting or denying the petition in each paragraph. So the response would be ‘’so
and so asks for sole legal decision-making in their position’’ and you’re going
to say ‘’I disagree with petitioner’s position.’’ I would recommend that you
consider drafting your response more like a counter-petition where you affirmatively
state what it is that you want. The reason is this: you don’t want your response to only
makes sense in light of the petition; you want someone to be able to pick up your response,
read your response and understand your position. Instead of saying ‘’I disagree with petitioner
on the issue of legal decision-making’’ for instance, you instead could say something
like ‘’Petitioner and I should share joint legal decision-making; we have always been
parents to these children; we have always worked together.’’—that sort of thing;
you can add some facts if you want to or simply just state your position ‘’we should have
joint legal decision-making.’’ Affirmatively state what you want. Don’t set yourself
up so that your response is basically irrelevant without reading the petition as well. A motion for temporary orders is the other
document that I include in basically set one—the initial court filings—and the motion for
temporary orders can be filed by either the petitioner or the respondent along with your
initial documents. The motion for temporary orders will let you get in front of the judge—usually
between 30 and 60 days after you filed a motion—to deal with imminent issues. With that being
said, I should take a step back. Remember how we started with the importance of figuring
out your objectives and really taking your time before you filed your documents, before
you embarked on this decision. That does not apply if you are in a dangerous situation
or if your children are in a dangerous situation. If you and your children are not safe, then
you don’t have time to come up with a strategy right now today. You don’t have time to
wait and think about how really you want your life to look in three years. Let’s get you
safe first and foremost, then we will work on our plan and that also ties into what we
are talking about here at the motion for temporary orders. An emergency order is separate from a motion
for temporary orders. An emergency order can be filed—let’s say for sole legal decision-making
if your child is in a dangerous situation— without an order in place. So that will not
take you 30 to 60 days to get in front of the judge; that will be an immediate order.
You go before the judge—it’s called ex parte—it means that it’s you, without
the opposing party, and you are asking the judge for an emergency order, because if that
emergency order is not going granted, there will be irreparable harm. It’s something
to consider; it’s something that it’s available to you. But the motion for temporary
orders is not for those situations; it’s not for an emergency situation. It’s for
situations where you need to figure out, during the pendency of your hearing, what the parenting
plans are going to be; or you need temporary child support and you can’t wait 12 months
until the judge takes the final decision on child support; or you need temporary spousal
maintenance; or you need to know who’s gonna pay the bills; or maybe you wanna put the
house on the market. There are really an unlimited amount of things that you can ask for in your
motion for temporary orders, so consider whether or not that is something that you need.You
can find all of these documents for free at the Maricopa County Self-Help Center. You
can get them on the Access Legal website and they are not the same as what you would get
in the county; it’s a questionnaire were you would fill out your questionnaire as you
go and then you have a legal doc preparer you can consult with and talk with or you
can talk to a legal doc preparer who can help you do the paperwork or an attorney. All of
these are options. There are filing fees that are required for
both petitioners and respondents. If you are unable to pay that filing fee, you can ask
the court to defer that filing fee. That’s something to keep in mind. You shouldn’t let
the inability to pay the filing fee stop you from filing, but you should consider what
it is that you’re asking for and what it is that you are writing down and drafting
to the court before you file. I’ve seen the court really come down on women who filed
a petition asking for her $2000 a month spousal maintenance for the rest of their life. Some
judges are offended by that, so if you leave yourself open to ‘’I need spousal maintenance
to meet my reasonable needs’’ and you don’t define it and you don’t ask for
how long, you give yourself time to really figure out if what you’re asking for is reasonable,
who your judges, all these things that are gonna help you as you move forward. We talked a little in the beginning about
a default. In the event that you think your opposing party is not going to respond—either
because they are out of the state or they are, you know, MIA or they agree with everything—you
can consider filing for a default. If you do that; if you know that you wanna file for
a default—and this can be a strategic move that you and your spouse or your ex make—then
what you needed to do is draft a very specific petition that also includes your parenting
plan that says: here’s exactly what I want; you serve the other party; you pay your filing
fee. If the other party agrees, then you can go forward with the default and that opposing
party avoids paying a 268-dollar response fee monthly, so it’s an absolutely valid
strategy to people who agree, because there’s no way in Arizona for you to get an uncontested
divorce. Someone must file a petition; same thing with establishing paternity legal decision-making,
which is legal custody. And let’s just talk for a minute. We’ll pause on default and
talk for a minute about these terms. Legal decision-making is legal custody. It’s
who makes the major decisions for the child—where they go to school; whether or not they get
on medication; or get a surgery that might not be an emergency surgery, that sort of
thing; their religion and personal care decisions. Most of the time, the courts prefer joint
legal decision-making, which requires both parents to talk and make decisions together.
That’s not always the case and there could be very good reasons why there should not
be an award of joint legal decision-making. So do not think that you have toask for joint
legal decision-making. I’m seeing right now a lot of pressure being put on people.
They’re being told ‘’Don’t even bother asking for sole legal decision-making.’’
And that’s a mistake. You really need to look at your facts and apply the law and then
determine what’s gonna be most appropriate for you. Legal decision-making is separate
from parenting time and Arizona has done away with the term visitation. No one, no parent
is given visitation. Each parent is given parenting time. And we have statutes in place
that require very specific rules for the parenting plan that must be in place. It’s not ok
for the two of you to come up with a parenting plan that is, you know, so and so will be
granted liberal or reasonable parenting time. The courts and the statutes require that you
have a specific parenting plan in place that deals with vacations, holidays, transportation
and specific days and times for each parent to have parenting time. With that being said,
there is also a preference for maximizing parenting time with both parents, when you
have good parents, when you have safe parents. If that’s not the case, then you do not
need to feel pressured into entering into an equal parenting time arrangement; if that’s
not what best for your children; that’s not right in your circumstances. We really
do have to look at that case-by-case basis. With that little aside, we’ll go back to
the default. If you have served the opposing party and they have not responded—they have
20 days to respond in Arizona; 30 days to respond if they are out of Arizona—then
you can file an application and affidavit for default. They get 10 more days to respond
and you serve them with that application and affidavit of default. At that point you can
request either a hearing—if you have children—and you would go before the judge for a default
hearing or you can submit paperwork—a decree for the judge to sign—if there are no children
involved. Be aware, one more piece of time frame to keep in mind is that there’s a
60-day waiting period for divorce, so you can’t file really your application and notice
of default or submit your decree to get it signed before that 60 days. That’s something
to keep in mind when we are also considering the 20 days plus the 10 days; we’ve got
a factor in those 60 days as well. A hearing is usually required when there are
children involved. So what that looks like is you call the court; you make an appointment;
you and a bunch of other people show up on the day of your default hearing; you wait
in line; you go before the judge. The judge will compare the petition and the decree,
so you have to bring a decree with what you want to have happen. The decree must match
what you’ve ask for in the petition, because the person who was served—the respondent
who did not respond—deserves to know what it is that they have waived their rights to
by failing to respond. We cannot have a very vague petition that you then go get a default
judgement on. That’s something to consider. What we might have to do in that case is amend
your petition, make it more specific, then ask for a default. After these initial filings,
you might do the default, you might not. Don’t go through default and your opposing party
goes ahead and responds; then the next phase of your divorce—really phase two or phase
three if we might consider a default phase two and then the discovery and [inaudible
23:07] disclosure phase three. This is where we get into disclosure and discovery. In family court disclosure and discovery is
really not optional; it is mandatory. That means if you’re going to use an exhibit,
if you’re gonna use a witness, it must be disclosed and Rule 49 sets out the mandatory
minimum disclosures. The rule is lengthy; it’s complicated. We created a fantastic
chart for you that you can check out. It’s hosted on the Access Legal website. It shows
you exactly if parenting time is an issue, here’s what must be disclosed; if there
is a protective order in place for anyone that lives in either household, here is what
must be disclosed; if there’s criminal records, here’s what must be disclosed; if it is
property, here’s what must be disclosed. It’s an excellent chart for you to review.
This lets you now, not only what your obligations are in disclosure, but what you can expect
to get from the opposing party. So check that out and let me know if you have questions
on it. This brings us to the next topic on disclosures
and discovery and the rules of evidence. In family court, the rules of evidence are relaxed.
That means the same rules that you have in civil court—objections to hearsay or authenticity
of documents—don’t apply in family court. In family court the general rule is that any
evidence that’s relevant will be admitted. That is unless a notice of strict compliance
is filed. A notice of strict compliance is not a request to the court; it’s putting
the court on notice that the rules of evidence—the civil rules of evidence—will be in effect.
I would advise you to think long and hard before filing the notice of strict compliance.
It makes it more difficult for you to prove your case. What that means is that instead
of submitting a police report as evidence, you need to actually subpoena the police officer
who has to come and actually testify because that’s the best evidence; the best evidence
of what happened is not the report, but the actual witness who saw the event, so that’s
just something to keep in mind. If the opposing party or the opposing party’s representative
and their attorney files a notice of strict compliance, we’ll need to do a crash course
for you on the rules of evidence and that might be a different webinar that we put onor
a series of blogs. If that’s something that you need to know, just let me know; put it
in your questions and then we’ll know what we need to cover. I’ve got some questions here so I’m just
going to read them really fast. Here’s one question: ‘’If you amend your position,
do you have to reserve the other party and does the 60-day start over?’’ That’s
a fantastic question! The 60-day waiting period doesn’t have to start over, because your
waiting period for divorce relates back and any amendment relates back to your original
petition, but you do have to serve them with the amended petition and they still do have
time to respond. Here’s another question: ‘’What if your
time is unjustly limited?’’ That’s a really great question. So, that has to do—I’m
gonna save that for when we get to trial prep and trial presentation, okay? ‘’When did
the court start requiring specifics? Has it always been that way?’’ I’m not sure what
specifics you’re required. Oh, you mean for default judgement? I think the question
is ‘’In order to get a default judgement, why must it be in the petition?’’ That’s
because, let’s say, the petition says ‘’I want the opposing party have reasonable parenting
time’’ and then you come up with a parenting plan in front of the court that says the decree
that you are submitting for default says that, you know, they get Monday, Wednesday and Friday
from 2 to 4—they haven’t had the ability to respond to that and that’s why that’s
required in order to get a default judgement. The next question that we have here is ‘’Does
the petitioner get to see the answer from the respondent?’’ Yes. The petitioner
does not have to be served with the answer, but the answer has to be mailed to you and
another couple of quick facts that you should know, there is something called an ECR—an
electronic court record. Every single one of you should register for an ECR account
that will allow you to go on the court website and see exactly what has been filed, what
decisions the judge has made. Sometimes you don’t always get the information that you’re
supposed to get from the opposing party, so register for an ECR account and if you have
questions on how to do that, there’s directions for you on the Access Legal website. But in
short, yes, you will get to see the answer. Next question here is ‘’When you get the
dissolution papers filed, does one parent immediately become the residential parent?’’
There’s no real consensus on this idea of residential parent. What does happen when
you file a dissolution is that a preliminary injunction goes into a fact and the preliminary
injunction says that there can be no major changes; you now cannot take that child out
of state without permission; there cannot be any spending that is unusual or outside
your typical scope of spending. But no, there is no immediate kind of preference for one
parent over another parent. Alright, keep the questions coming, because
I really do want you to be able to get your information answered. Let’s see… couple
of other questions just came in. ‘’Separated about for years and did not receive any monetary
support.’’ You know, there’s a blog on the Modern Law website right now that has
to do with exactly that, what happens to your rights for things like spousal maintenance
and support when you do not enforce them. Check that out and then we can also talk privately
about that. Another question I have here is ‘’What
can I do to maximize the request for temporary orders?’’ One thing I didn’t mention is
that your temporary orders request cannot be as vague as your petition or your response.
If you’re asking for temporary orders—let’s say temporary spousal maintenance or something
like that, temporary child support—you need to be very specific and ask for what you need
in that moment to get by. You need to maximize your request. You’re going to want to say
something like ‘’the opposing party has always paid for everything; our bills are
X; I need X amount of money in order to continue paying the bills.’’ That is the extension
of the status quo. You’re going to have your best bet at getting a temporary order
if it is an extension of the status quo. A couple of other questions… I don’t understand
this question, so I’m messaging the person privately. Alright, another question here:
‘’Prenuptial agreement—how do I enter that as an evidence?’’ Okay, we’re gonna
get to… There’s all sort of questions here, so bear with me. ‘’What’s the
benefit of filing a notice of strict compliance?’’ If someone is accusing you of being a very
bad person and you want them to be held to the highest standard of evidence where they
can’t just bring in hearsay—you want actual evidence—that might be a reason that you
would consider filing a notice of strict compliance. I love that these questions are coming in;
they’re fantastic, but I’m going to keep going on the actual presentation and then
try to get to as many of these as we can when we’re done. Please keep them coming and
I promise we will go through all of these at the end, okay? Discovery tools: if there
is—you looked at Rule 49; you need XYZ; let’s say you need access to their bank
records and they’re not handing them over or you know they’re hiding assets or you
think there might be something really terrible—like child pornography or something like that—there
are discovery tools that you can use in addition to the Rule 49 disclosures. The discovery
tools are interrogatories which are questions that are asked and served upon the opposing
party. They must answer them within 40 days. There is a set of uniform family law interrogatories
that are fantastic. I mean, they arefantastic! They ask for things like, you know, name every
account you have, name all the people who live in your house and any criminal record
they have. It’s extensive; it’s great! You can get it on the Access Legal website. You can also serve non-uniform interrogatories.
Non-uniform interrogatories are questions that you make up. For instance we thought
the opposing party in one of my cases was hiding rental income, so we created a non-uniform
interrogatory that said ‘’identify each and every house you own, who lives in the
house, how much the mortgage is and what is paid in rent.’’ That’s not a uniform
interrogatory, it’s a non-uniform interrogatory and you’re limited in the number of those
that you can use, but they’re very powerful discovery tools. The next discovery tool you have available
to you is the request for the production of documents or things or items. You can request
someone’s computer. You can request that that computer be imaged by a forensic analyst
who then goes through and searches for things, you know, in the child pornography example
that’s a reason we would want to get their actual computer or image their computer or
their tablet. We can also do that with someone’s phones. We can look for bank accounts. You
can request specific items, lots of specific items, using this request for production of
documents. And again what we’d wanna do is think back for a strategy, think back to
what we must prove and then request what we need to using these discovery tools. A request for admissions is a separate document
that goes out and says ‘’Did you do XYZ?’’ They have to lock down yes or no. And why
do you do these interrogatory and these requests for admissions? Because you lock down their
answers and you can use this as evidence and you can use it to impeach them. And impeachment
means you’re proving them a liar; that’s what it means. We wanna start with these tools
and using these tools and gathering our evidence soon. There is a reason that I put this in
the process right after the filing of the original and initial documents. You do not
want to wait. The reason is that the same information is used not only for trial prep,
but for negotiation and for settlement. It’s information that you’re entitled to. A subpoena
is a little different because it’s like a request for production of documents or a
request for a witness that goes directly to the third-party: a bank, a witness, a school,
any third party who has information that you need. Bear with me for one second while I
take some allergy medicine. Thanks! I don’t know about you, but the orange blossoms have
been killing me. In the family court there are a series of
prehearing conferences that are designed to help facilitate settlement, narrow the issues
and figure out what the case strategy is going to look like. A resolution management conference
is an RMC. It’s typically scheduled when there’s attorney, sometimes if there’s
no attorney. A resolution management conference is about half an hour. You have to file a
resolution statement prior to this. You can get that form on the Access Legal website
or on the Maricopa County Superior Court website. You wanna be pretty specific in your resolution
statement about exactly how you’d like the case to be resolved. You can’t do a good
RMC statement without the information that you gathered during discovery. How do you
know how you wanna specifically split the assets if you don’t know exactly where they
are or exactly who owns them or exactly what the terms of the interest rate are? That’s
why discovery’s so important. The resolution management conference is a half an hour. It
is in front of the judge that is assigned to your case at the court house. One quick thought on this: you have the ability
to change your judge once as a matter of right before you go in front of the judge. If you
are assigned a judge that you do not want for your case, you need to file a notice of
exchange of judge before the RMC. At the RMC you tell the judge how you want things to
move forward. Not only do you tell them how you want the substantive issues to be resolved—for
instance, I want Joey to go to X school or whatever kiddo issues you have going on or
money issues—but also do you want certain experts appointed; do you wanna go to a parenting
conference; do you want to go to an ADR; do you want a comprehensive family analysis;
do you want a drug testing for the other party? What sort of things do you need the judge
to order, this is the time to ask. An early resolution conference is different.
It is set with conciliation services.You go in front of the third-party mediator. It’s
you and the other party; usually this is set when there’s no attorneys, but sometimes
attorneys get to go. One time I got to go and I was able to really help my client facilitate
a fantastic settlement. It’s set for 3 hours. It’s different from an RMC. You’re not
in front of the judge and you don’t have to file a RMC statement in advance, but you’re
gonna want to bring your evidence, because that’s gonna help you negotiate. An ADR stands for alternative dispute resolution.
This is usually a judicial settlement conference. This is a three-hour conference that is assigned
to, not your judge, but a judge pro tem. They are usually an attorney or someone who has
a lot of experience in family law. Their job is to help facilitate the settlement. Before
you go to the ADR, you submit a confidential memorandum to that judge pro tem, outlining
all of your positions. This is like your pre-trial statement.You are going to want to have all
of the information that you need going into it, so again this is why discovery is so important.
The other prehearing conference that you might get is a return hearing or as a status conference.
That is a little more loosely defined; sometimes they take evidence, sometimes they don’t.
It’s just an opportunity for you to talk to your judge—sometimes it’s telephonic,
sometimes it’s in person—kind of come up with an idea of what’s gonna happen.
Maybe you’re gonna set a case for trial, maybe you’re gonna go over the remaining
outstanding issues etc. etc. Prehearing conferences are designed for a
lot of different purposes and we just talked about those, but the other thing to consider
here throughout all of this is negotiations. You should make a good-faith effort to look
like you are negotiating. It’s important. If you don’t, you are exposed to paying
the other party’s attorney’s fees. Unless you’re in a position where you are afraid
of the opposing party, you should try to engage in negotiations as much as possible. With
that being said, there is many ways with to do it. If you are afraid of the opposing party,
you can engage in negotiations in writing or via attorneys. You don’t have to do it
yourself; it doesn’t have to be in person. And when we do mediations or ADR, alternative
dispute resolutions or judicial settlement conferences, we can absolutely have the parties
be in different rooms where they never see each other. Another option is that someone—one
party—shows up an hour earlier than the other party so that you’re never ever seeing
each other. It is absolutely an option. Let’s talk about trial prep. Now, all of
this is kind of trial prep, but it’s also negotiation prep and case prep and helping
you to figure out what it is that you want. When you are engaged in trial prep, here’s
what you’re looking at: you need to identify all of the remaining issues that have not
been settled—property divisions, spousal maintenance, parenting time, child support.
Once you’ve identified the issues, then you need to look at the law to figure out the
elements of each issue—for instance child support. Child support is calculated pursuant
to a calculator. The elements of child support are mum’s income, dad’s income, childcare
expenses, healthcare expenses, any extraordinary expenses. You need to drill down into the
elements and make sure that you have the information that you need to prove each of those elements.
How do you prove mom’s income, dad’s income, healthcare expenses? This is all information
you’re going to need in order to prepare for trial and prove your case.You’ll need to
look at the statutes, which you can find under Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
That’s all of the family law statutes. If you look at each one, you know, the one on
parenting time will give you all the factors that the judge will consider when determining
what the appropriate parenting time arrangement is. At this point you are gathering legal
information and analysing that legal information and applying your facts to that legal information.
Get help; consult the statutes, lay legal advocates, people who have been doing this
before, doc preparers, attorneys; do what you need to do to make sure this is your very
well-prepared and you can articulate the facts and have the evidence that the judge actually
cares about. Pre-trial statement—there was a question
about a pre-trial statement. The pre-trial statement is the most important document in
your entire case. I cannot emphasise enough how important this document is. This document
identifies all of your issues, gives the procedural history and background of the case, cites
the law, applies your facts to the law and incorporates exhibits. Last week I had a hearing
with a client. The other side was represented as well. We had submitted to the judge a joint
pre-trial statement laying out here’s what’s happened in the case, here are the outstanding
issues, here is the law, here is how we applied —each of us each—each attorney applied
our facts to the law and we gave it to the judge in advance. When we walked in for trial
that day, the judge had written up for us his presumptive findings. He had already drafted
his ruling. He called us back in chambers. He said ‘’Look, I’m open to changing
my mind once I hear a testimony, but here’s what I’m thinking I’m gonna do.’’
It was incredible! This tells you how important this document is. If you pay an attorney for
one piece of your case, I recommend you pay them to do a prehearing statement for you;
take your exhibits; apply your exhibits. The reason is you’re going to use this as an
outline for everything. We can talk more about that if you’d like. One question that I had earlier was ‘’Is
there an example?’’ Not really. It’s one of the things that Access Legal is working
on creating—a document library with actual examples, showing you how different people
have constructed their arguments. It doesn’t exist right now for [inaudible 44:10] litigants
and I’m sorry; I think it’s a tragedy. We have a form through Access Legal that can
walk you through the questions that will help. And we’ll work on making that better. But,
at this point, I don’t have a great way to show you, you know, 10 examples of different
awesome pre-trial statements, but we’re working on it. Alright, what are you going to use
for witnesses and exhibits? How do you determine what you’re going to use or who you’re
going to use? You look at your pre-trial statement. Your pre-trial statement shows you what fact
you must prove. If you must prove dad’s income, you know that you need an exhibit
that shows dad’s income. If you have to prove that dad never showed up to pick up
little Johnny on time, then you’re going to need exhibits that show that dad never picked
up little Johnny on time or witnesses from the childcare center that can say that dad
never picked up little Johnny on time. If there are facts really important to you that
cannot be applied to an element, you don’t get to use them. So if there is something
that is very important to you, for instance your ex cheated on you and you’re pissed
and you want the judge to know; I don’t blame you, you know, it makes sense that you
are upset and you want the judge to know, but we have a no-fault divorce state, so it’s
really not relevant, unless we can show waste—community waste of assets. If you put in legal argument
an analysis related to waste, then you get to bring up the fact that your spouse cheated
on you and spent all this money. You must figure out a way to get the facts that are
important to you to apply to an element of a legal issue. Let’s talk now a little bit about trial
procedure. We have 10 minutes left, so I’m going to attempt to get through the rest of
this very quickly and then answer your questions in the last 5 minutes. Trial presentation
works like this: first the petitioner goes, the petitioner will call his or her first
witness—usually that’s you—you will testify as to what’s important. How do you
know what to testify to? You testify based on what’s in the pre-trial statement, because
if you’ve done a great pre-trial statement, your pre-trial statement is exactly what the
judge needs to know. That is your testimony. That is the question you’re asking dad.
That is your outlined new use and trial, because that is what the judge has used as evidence
by the fact that the judge brought up a draft agreement based on our pre-trial statement.
Alright, so the petitioner goes first; you’re going to offer your testimony. The opposing
party has the ability to ask you cross-examination questions. Answer these questions as quickly
and succinctly and without animosity as much as you possibly can and that’s where we
get into the decorum piece here. You want to kind of be on your best behaviour. Judges
want to feel like you respect them and respect their court room. It’s a place that is more
traditional than many of the places that we attend in society and so some people are really
shocked by the level of respect that is expected by the judge and the level of decorum, but
it is there, it is real; you have to follow it, it will help you. The opposing party is going to ask you cross-examination
questions. You have the ability to redirect or re-clarify anything based on what they
asked you. And you get to do that for every single witness. After you’re done with you,
you call your next witness; you ask them questions; the opposing party asks questions, then you
get to ask clarifying questions.You do that until you’re done presenting your case.
You use the exhibits to bolster the testimony. The exhibits really don’t and cannot speak
for themselves, so each—I’m sorry, the evidence—each exhibit must be authenticated,
which means you must say ‘’I’m looking at father’s pay steps from this month to
this month, which says bla bla bla bla bla.’’ You have to tell the judge what the exhibit
says; then you can show the judge the exhibit. Then you need to offer the exhibit—and you
do that by saying ‘’I offer to admit exhibit X’’—so you’re going to submit to the
court, let’s say, 30 exhibits prior to trial. You’re gonna give that to the court, to
the opposing party. Some judges want a copy, some don’t. You can call the court and find
out exactly what judges wanta copy of the exhibits and which don’t. In order to have the exhibits actually looked
at by the judge, you’re going to have to offer to admit the exhibit. At that point
the other party has the ability to object by saying ‘’I object.’’ What are the
bases for objection? Irrelevance; wasn’t disclosed; not previously disclosed—those
are all reasons to object. If the exhibit doesn’t say what they’re purporting, it
says—so for instance, in a case I was working on last week, the other side was trying to
put in exhibits that had nothing to do with the case; that had to do with, you know, his
wife’s grandparents’ money that they earned and it didn’t have anything to do with the
case and they were trying to argue that it had to do with showing that he worked for
them, but it didn’t show that he worked for them, so we objected. The objection was
sustained, which means yes, I agree with you councillor, it doesn’t get it. If the exhibit
is not admitted, the judge doesn’t look at it and the judge most likely has not looked
at your exhibits before you’ve got into trial. Okay? So you’re going through your
case, you’re presenting your witnesses, you’re presenting your evidence, you’re
offering to admit your exhibits, then you’re going to rest your case. The opposing party
does the same. Most often there is no closing argument or
opening argument, although you might be able to submit a closing argument in writing—a
closing brief to the court—and that’s something you are probably entitled todo.
You can ask the court or you can simply do it. What to expect? You finished, they finished.
It’s now time for everybody to go home. You want the court to give you a ruling. They’re
probably not gonna give you a ruling. Most likely the judge is gonna take the matter
under advisement and you’re going to receive a written ruling sometime between 30 and 60
days later. During that period of time, the status quo remains. If there is temporary
orders in place, they control. You’ll just continue doing what you’re doing. Now, just finally you get the ruling and there’s
something horribly, terribly wrong. What are your options? Motion to clarify, motion to
reconsider, an appeal or Rule 85 motion to set aside. There are good reasons to do this.
For instance in a divorce that I was working on about two years ago, we got the decree
and the decrease did not divide all of the marital property, so it wasn’t clear who owned
the business or the houses or, you know, the boat and the cars and they hadn’t been divided,
so that was a really good reason for us to file post-decree motions regarding the actual
decree—it does happen and there are other reasons you wanna do that. Let’s see, we are now at 11:56. I am going
to peruse these questions and try to answer them all. One question is ‘’What if you’re
self-representing your own witness?’’ Well, you’re not asking yourself questions,
but you are offering testimony. You wanna offer the testimony that are the facts that
support your position under the law. That’s how you know what you need to testify to. Next question: ‘’How do you get the other
party to reveal finances if they refuse and you don’t have a lawyer?’’ We use Rule
49; we use the discovery tools, then we file a motion to compel. Judges don’t really like
this motion to compel. It takes a long time to get their attention, so we need to start
early and often, but we will file with the judge a motion to compel saying they’re
not participating. If there is enough kind of financial resources at the parties, then
we might even ask for [inaudible 52:42] to be applied. They have judicial authority and
the ability to gain discovery for you, so that is something to consider as well. Next question: ‘’Is the other party entitled
to larger child support because she reported lower income, but the reported income isn’t
actually what she makes? Can I use the interrogatory to help point this out and negotiate lower
child support?’’ Yes, what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna argue. The child support
guidelines are actually extensive, so while it seem really simple—you just put the numbers
in—they are actually really extensive and they define what is income, what is underemployment,
when is someone underemployed, when should they be imputed higher income. And those are
things that can be done. I should say here, in this setting, I’m offering legal information
to empower you; I’m not able to give you legal advice. I’m not your attorney. I don’t
know everything that’s going on with your case and so the information that I’m giving
you today is really just the surface. You have the ability to contact my firm; we do
offer free consultations. I can offer you more specific information that way, but the
information that I’m giving you today, please don’t take it as legal advice, please consult
other people. Alright, there’s your disclaimer. Next question: ‘’I’m in the middle of
a custody hearing with a judge and has horrible [inaudible 54:11] and is very unfair. Can
I request to change judges in the middle of the trial?’’ No, you cannot. And unfortunately
this does happen. You have the right to change judges only at the beginning of your case,
before they’ve heard your actual case. So, unfortunately you’re stuck. At that point
is probably time to re-strategize and figure out what you need to do; maybe you get an
expert involved. You need to really work with somebody to come up with the best strategy
in order to move forward. Next question: ‘’Prenup—how do I enter
that as evidence?’’ You submit it to the court as an exhibit in advance. And you need
to disclose that to the other party. Anything you want to use as an exhibit or witness must
be disclosedin detail. You need to do a disclosure statement pursuant to Rule 49. Look at the
chart that we referenced earlier, which is on the Access Legal website—right here.
We also have disclosure statements on the website that are revealed for you. They walk
you through the questions so that you know what you need to do, what you need to include,
what you need to disclose, all of that. Let’s see, it is now noon. We’re done with the
webinar. We will make the recording available and I am happy to meet with anyone of you
individually following the program if you’d like to do that.


  1. I filed for Divorce with temporary orders I submitted that I already planned a vacation and already paid for with fathers approval. Could that be denied?

  2. my ex iscontesting the the supplement Inc what shall I do should I contesting the divorce I also a text with my ex promising me insurance

  3. the ex parte order is a trick to get custody, it works 9 out of 10 times, hence, lying and saying you need protection from a man you felt safe enough with to open your legs to a couple years back, is the best way to secure custody. Common knowledge, but you may be hurting your daughters with your lies, they wont be able to use this tactic when they go into court because guys are wising up to the lady's lying ways lol.
    The specific time for visitation is about title D-4 federal funds management, its a money issue.
    Trust me folks, this lady is lying for her career, family court is full of liars and thief's and criminals, and like much else in our society its a money game, make no mistake 'the best interests of the child' will be the last thing considered.

  4. responding as Proverbs 3:5-6:  I need information on pro se representation in a divorce case with no children in Duplin County, NC

  5. If you're a man you can expect shooting craps to pay out before facts and evidence, statutes and process does in family Court. Family court is a SCAM!

  6. When notified you send to Secy of HHS a dispute under 45 CFR Part 32.4 and demand to review copies of proof of debt under 45 CFR part 32.4

  7. Heh.. how about when your in laws have kidnapped your child, refuse to give him back and now you and your husband are fighting together as a married couple because your in laws believe you are 'dangerous'. Yeah, I had postpartum depression. But seriously? I wonder what would happen if my husband and I filed for notice of strict compliance? As the in laws accusations are entirely false and even discriminatory and we as legal parents have nothing to hide. In fact we have medical professionals I'd been seeing for my postpartum completely ready to step in, as my child is being verbally abused by my in laws right now. My husband found this out as only he's allowed to visit our son.

  8. Attorneys are scum! One of the only professions that lets the service provider (attorney) charge whatever the fuck they want!!!???? Their practicing license is their license to steal. Judges are worse!!

    We have a family court judge in our district that doesn't even have children!!! WTF!!! That's like getting a history teacher to grade some physics tests!!!

    Attorneys write in language so that only THEY can DECODE it so that you have to hire them so that they get more money. Attorneys are never in the best interest of the client, they are in the best interest of their pocket books.

  9. I'm going to represent myself at federal court on next month because i couldn't afford more money for the lawyer after i cash payment amount $8,000 already😢

  10. If you are here looking for knowledge and/or information regarding “fighting CPS”, representing yourself in court, etc. There is nothing you can do to save yourself. Judges are bias against Pro Se litigants. You will not be released from the clutches of the system until you have somehow become a benefit financially to the court. If your marriage didn’t work the court will punish you for it. To invite the court into your life you are promised they will determine the worst case scenario. This attorney is full of garbage. There is nothing you can do to save your soul. Ex Parte is one of the biggest abuses of the system.

  11. What are the steps to get a subpoena filed and served? I have been in litigation for over 2 years and my attorney was unable to get my ex husbands bank statements. My ex filed a Motion to Modify Child Support and I have no idea how much he makes and I fired my attorney. I am no pro se and have run out of time to get the bank records from my ex so I am trying to subpoena… I just don't want to mess up the subpoena. I have already had the subpoena signed by the clerk and served the other party with it and sent it off but is anything supposed to accompany the subpoena? I read about a Notice to the Consumer but who drafts this and who is it sent to??? So many questions…

  12. well done to this guy! the same abuse is consistent globally in such matters, including the UK, where it's legal to steal, home, savings, jewellery, lock up wife in Saudi arabia and attempt to kill wife, TWICE! all ongoing court claims as a litigant in person in 16 court claims-CORRUPTION IS RAMPANT!

  13. i filed a restraining order against my husband for domestic abuse he hired a lawyer two days before hearing so I scrambled to get an attorney free from local domestic abuse facility helped me obtain a lawyer as he took all the money. Minutes before we were to have our hearing his lawyer pulled a sneaky move and asked for visitation and My husband would not fight the restraining order. My lawyer told me to take the deal even though I had told her kids have seen this abuse he has been Out of control when he spanks my son and my daughter is afraid of him my lawyers Response was if there’s no evidence there’s nothing you can do at this point take the deal argue in Family Court. The very next day my husband again for the third time since the temporary restraining order now permanent has been issued my husband Uses a third-party person to relay messages to me I called the police and they told me again that he is just trying to abide by the agreement arrangement. The lawyers and him keep changing the terms of our verbal agreement. So I had to send my lawyer a long email stating all this is not what we agreed on and her response is your not making yourself look good when you go to family court. Also since he’s been moved out I also found a loaded gun in my garage and I’m afraid to tell the police about this because when I told police about him contacting the third-party I was told he’s just trying to abide by the agreement and restraining order so my thought is there going to say it’s not his gun do you have any advice for me at this point. The other factor is the agreement we verbally mean in regards to arrangement for the children suddenly change about my lawyers and and his lawyers and he wants more time than we discussed and he wants to be able to pick up the kids whatever he chooses so also i found a loaded gun In my attic in garage I’m sure they’re just going to say she’s just saying that to frame him. Any advice would be of help I’m just beside myself not sleeping and Continuously been victimized by everybody I feel even my lawyer

  14. It is good that your doing this, if you still are. This is 2018 , now. So this is why kids do not get to come home, the family court has control over the funds that they get from the government. In 2001 on family got 40,billion dollars to take care of the cps case's and they have immunity from Hillary Clinton and Bill, so family will get a bonce if they keep the child in the system, the cps it a bounce, and anyone who is working the cases of family court. Our government gave immunity to family court to do what they will to the cps cases. The one real reason that we represent our selfs is because we are not on the take where the cash bounce come from, we want our kids, and we want all kids to come home, our kids are not the bank for family court. If we do our court ourselfs then the family court has to listen to us. CPS lies all the time in family court, the judge allows them to lie so they can all get there bounces. You all have immunity and this year in 2018 I am sure that the money in take is well over 80 billion now. Just wanted you to know we all know what family court is all about.

  15. Look past the people to find truth. It is evil using these people to disenfranchise the Fathers, (men) further empower women, and ultimately to take down the Family, which is the same as destroying the foundation of what this Country was. A good analogy is to think of the family like a ship. There has been a mutiny, inspired by both this women’s lib movement, and exploited by the Gov. for both profit, and control. The Captain (Father) has been taken out of Command. What was the “First Mate” (Mother) has tried her best to seize/takeover control of said ship. And after said attempt, and almost complete failure the children have taken over the ship. Why? Because it is the exact opposite of what God’s will is, was, and has been for thousands of years up until our arrogance has tried to turn such once sanctified, and strongly valued moral Christian-based tradition completely upside down in only a few decades. Yet we continue to be blinded by said arrogance as to why our this Nation is in such moral decline. Our ships are now adrift without direction, or moral compass. You cannot have two Captains in a house, any more than on a Ship. And our arrogance dictates that we no longer learn, and haven’t in a VERY long time. We are fast becoming a Godless Nation despite our empty claims/words of loving, and knowing God. “Pretty is as pretty does.” We all had/have a place, and contrary to our idealogical, and convenient wants, (Politically Correctness) we were NOT created equal. But rather carefully designed with our own unique diverse strengths. In order that our families, when serving as God has clearly laid out to function as a team. (Family unit) Time tested tried and true culture thrown out the window. But we MUST be right, and know better than what God laid out? Obviously not. We couldn’t be more wrong. What would our “Elders” know? That wisdom that had been passed down through so many generations was no good. Right? Wrong. We become more, and more spoiled, and arrogant, so we (the moment they become the least bit inconvenient) kick our wise Elders into the “Care Facilities” rather than valuing such precious wisdom. You WILL NOT find this in the vast majority of the Middle East, and the Far East. In fact, even if you tried to explain to them what “a Nursing Home” was/is, they’d have no clue why anyone would do/need such a thing. They respect their elders, and there is no question of doing anything other than honoring them, and in essence LEARNING from such truly valuable wisdom. We are the exact opposite. Truth.

  16. Access Legal can you post a video on how to request a legal court purges against my ex-husband for non payment of Alimony please 😔

  17. Need advice regarding false claims being brought up against me and lies told bout my character. It seems like accountability, truth, or evidence to know actual truth is even looked into. I'm fighting against a controlling women and need to know how truth can be seen. Reality would be great if just that could be seen truthfully. Tired of defending against a ghost that is not real

  18. She says we represent ourselves…what a joke. What she is saying women get an attorney or representation for free as most men go in there and represent themselves.

  19. It is hard to represent yourself especially if the opposing side has an attorney..the non judicial person or judge will usually give them the benefit of the doubt to them over you since they are in the same club..the American bar association..the theatrical show they put on is a criminal conspiracy to get you to agree to their terms which will be a profit for the attorneys n court appointed people..if they would only follow the laws which has been prescribed by the supreme court..there wouldn't be so much corruption..the laws are not being followed and the ones who doesnt catch them committing the crimes by violating your civil rights and the laws of the land will always lose

  20. If you walk into a court with an attorney the court considers you incompetent. That's why you have your attorney with you is so he or she can make all the decisions for you.

  21. What if the plaintiff is recorded admitting falsifying documentations ? What do I do to get this before the judge ?

  22. How do I word my own emergancy custody form. I put temporary primary custody. Then in my paperwork I listed the reasons why. Drugs, neglect ect. Did I word it wrong?

  23. The pro se law clinic at the court house in the county is a big help. And one can go to the legal library usually in the city's District Courthouse. The librarian there will help you much to find what book you need to study and you can video record the pages to read later. The motions must be prepared exact to the rules and procedures of that county court. To do this pro se, it takes a lot of reading and staying on top it.

  24. Okay this is 2019 and I’ve been railroaded twice by Family court System.
    First one was terrible but I won after my “wife” son and suffered so much.

    THIS TIME my children and I are on the rails .
    with my estranged “wife” now ON THE TRAIN everyone else involved remained the same.

  25. when I amend my supporting statement do my initial filing need to be repeated or is my amended added to my initial complaint

  26. bottom feeder here. they just want your money and they know what they are doing isnt even right look up title 4d read it and learn child support isnt even enacted into law

  27. All lawyers are evil; Family “Law” lawyers are the worst lawyers of all… don’t EVER get married…

  28. We have been going through hell for 13 months because my husband isn’t complying with discovery.
    To date, he has filed 16 objectively false statements to the court!
    There are no consequences. He makes out rages claims and then I spend time, effort, and energy with my attorney to provide the evidence.
    We have no kids but we have a fair amount of equity.
    $27,500 so far with no end in sight
    His attorney made fun of my multiple sclerosis.
    If that sounds hard to believe it’s because it’s hard to believe. She submitted a comment marking the ADA!
    She wrote ADA-Sigh
    ADA Sigh?

    There are no consequences for the perjury, discrimination, slander.
    None. Zilch. Zip

    It’s a joke

  29. I am a pro-se ex-wife I represented myself in my divorce and I won Permanent Alimony and I want to thank Divorce and your Money 🤓🏦📃📑

  30. My ex received custody of my children in 2015 while I was in jail and I was never served or notified of anything. When I was released, it took me a month to re-establish myself and find a nice place and I brought the kids home for the weekends and all summer. Last year, my ex was arrested again for abusing his live in gf and was given 90 days for violating his parole. During that time, I filled a motion for a change in circumstance and he told his uncle, who has been the primary care taker of our kids since he received custody, not to allow me to have any contact with them. When he got out, his lawyer rescheduled the hearing once, then again the day before the reacheduled date. The judge signed as "continuance until later date". The next thing I received was a form stating I never returned a questionnaire or something. Plz help me. He's given our 12 year old a tattoo, killed their puppy in front of them and is an extremely unstable person who has alienated me from my children. What can I do?

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