Frequently Asked Questions
At Resides & Resides we realize that every client is different and has different needs. Our experienced attorneys and staff can help you determine the best solution for you and start you back on the path to financial recovery and stability.
We realize that divorce is not a matter to be taken lightly. The process can seem confusing and complicated. At Resides & Resides we pride ourselves on offering the best possible legal advice given by experienced and confident legal professionals.
Our team has compiled a short list of frequently asked questions to help explain the family law process.
Q: What is family law?
A. An area of law that deals with family-related issues and domestic issues including but not limited to the nature of marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. These issues include spousal abuse, legitimacy, adoption, surrogacy, child abuse/abduction, divorce, annulment, property settlements, alimony, child custody, visitation, and child support.
Q: What is legal separation?
A. Unlike divorce, a legal separation does not put an end to the marriage. During a legal separation, you have a court order that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse while they are living apart. You remain legally married while choosing to live separate lives. Issues that can be addressed in a separation agreement are division of assets and debts, child custody and child support, visitation schedules and spousal support.
Q: What happens when I file for divorce?
A. A petition is filed with the Court along with payment of the filing fees. This happens regardless of whether you are filing a contested or uncontested divorce. A petition advises the Court you are filing for divorce, no hearings or trials are based on this general document. In most cases, a summons will be filed with the petition and will need to be served to the opposing party via process server or restricted certified mail.
Q: What is the difference between contested and uncontested divorce?
A. An uncontested divorce, commonly known as a “waiver divorce,” is when both parties agree on the terms of the divorce and sign off on the Decree of Divorce without the need of going to trial or the Court’s intervention. This is typically done with one attorney who handles the paperwork and presents the Decree to the Judge.
A contested divorce usually consists of a situation where parties are unable to come to an agreement regarding the terms of the divorce decree regarding issues such as property distribution, custody, child support, or one of many other terms that are addressed during a divorce. This normally ends with both parties obtaining separate counsel and usually requires Court intervention to settle the issues.
Q: How does the divorce process change when a minor child is involved?
A. If a minor child or children are involved there is a longer waiting period before a divorce is final. Additional issues must be addressed as well such as; custody, child support, and visitation. There may also be requirements of parenting classes or other Court ordered programs. If custody is contested, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed to the children at cost to the parents. A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney who represents the interests of a child.
Q: Can custody rights be modified?
A. After a divorce is final, if there is a substantial and material change that affects custody you can Motion the Court to modify the decree regarding custody.
Q: What is a child support order?
A. A child support order is a document from a court that states (a) when, (b) how often, and (c) how much a parent is to pay for child support. A child support order is typically part of a divorce decree or paternity judgment.
Q: What is the difference between an Obligor and an Obligee?
A. An obligor is the parent that is to pay child support. An obligee is the receiver of payment.
Q: How is the amount of child support determined?
A. The Oklahoma Child Support Guideline Schedule is used to determine the parents’ base child support. The schedule is based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children in the household. Each parent’s percentage share of the combined gross monthly family income sets that parent’s percentage share of the base child support obligation. The parent who is not the primary custodian of the child generally becomes the “obligor,” and pays the primary custodian his or her share of the base support.
Q: What happens if child support/alimony isn’t paid?
A. The parent required to pay child support can be held in contempt of Court, have their drivers license suspended, or even be arrested. The penalties that are taken against an obligor who has failed to meet his/her child support obligation are usually dependant on the amount of child support that is owed.
Q: In the event of domestic violence, what should a person do?
A. First and foremost, it is important for the person to get away from the aggressor. She/he should seek the assistance of a friend or a neighbor. In the event of domestic violence, immediate police assistance should be requested. Often, local police officers and sheriffs have received special training with respect to domestic violence and can be extremely helpful to a victim. In addition to local law enforcement personnel, city and district attorneys may be very helpful not only in prosecuting the crime, but also in providing referrals to other local assistance – emergency shelters such as “safe houses,” counseling, and legal assistance. A victim of domestic violence should never try to “go it alone.” The usual profile of an abusive person is an aggressive, dominant personality that is both manipulative and controlling. The victim of domestic violence is often very vulnerable and can be persuaded from attempting to obtain assistance. Outside assistance is often essential in protecting a victim of domestic violence.
An attorney can assist with domestic violence situations by seeking a protective order against the abuser (see below).
Q: What is a Protective Order?
A. A protective order is a civil court order that restricts the contact certain people may have with the “petitioner” (the person requesting the order). The person restricted by the order is called the “respondent.”
A protective order requires one or more individuals over the age of 18 to refrain from directly or indirectly contacting the petitioner and from threatening, abusing or harassing any member of the petitioner’s household. The judge can create various exceptions, or modifications, as conditions of the protective order. For example, if the petitioner requests, a judge may create a modification of the protective order that would permit contact between the parties only for purposes of child visitation.
A judge can order a number of conditions as part of the protective order. These conditions include, but are not limited to: ordering a respondent to vacate a residence, pay child support or not to possess firearms. If the petitioner requests that the respondent be prohibited from having firearms, a hearing is required before the court can grant such a request. If the respondent receives notice of the hearing, even if he or she is not present, then the court can issue an order prohibiting the respondent from having any firearms.
A protective order is entirely separate from any criminal matter.
Q: How do I decide if I need a lawyer?
A. Although hiring a good lawyer can be quite expensive, it is money well spent when it comes to domestic relations, especially child custody cases. A child custody battle usually occurs when parents separate or divorce, or when something happens to cause one parent to believe that the custodial parent is no longer the best parent to care for the children. Whatever the situation may be, it is important to take a child custody case seriously, and you can best do that by hiring an effective lawyer who has handled many child custody cases.
First, custody cases often involve a lot of information about you, your child’s other parent, and your child. Almost every detail about you and your family can come into play in a child custody case, as the judge’s goal is to decide what custody and visitation arrangement is in your child’s best interest. An attorney can help guide you through this information-gathering process, which is commonly known as discovery, and ensure that you are not revealing information that is not relevant to your custody case. An attorney can also help you better organize the information and present it in a format that is most favorable to you.
Next, an attorney can give you advice about how to best conduct yourself during a child custody case, which is likely to be very stressful and emotionally draining. Contact with your child’s other parent can become very strained, and the case is likely to also impact your child, which can make parenting more difficult. An attorney can advise you about taking actions that might be detrimental to your case. For instance, if you are wondering if it is okay to move out of state with your child in order to live with the boyfriend that you met online, your attorney can advise you whether doing so would negatively affect your custody case. Having an attorney on your side gives you a resource for asking questions before you take any actions that could cause the judge to view you negatively as a parent.
Furthermore, an attorney often can give you valuable advice about the judge, the custody evaluator, and the other attorney that can help you be better prepared for your case. For instance, if the other attorney is very aggressive in court, your attorney can prepare you for the type and intensity of questions that you might face from the other attorney during a court hearing. Your attorney also can advise you about whether you should spend the money on a custody evaluator or Guardian Ad Litem, or whether you should take other important steps in order to strengthen your custody case.
Finally, an attorney is the best person to represent you, and your child’s interests, in court. If you are facing an extensive custody trial, and the other parent has hired an attorney, you will be at an extreme disadvantage if you attempt to represent yourself. Without specialized knowledge of the law, including the rules of evidence, you are unlikely to be able to adequately present your case to the court, which endangers your ability to obtain or maintain custody of your child.