The plan that I have in mind is a visitation plan for you to be able to petition the judge for when that question is reached in your hearing. Child Support court may cause you to think that all they do there is determine how much child support you will pay but that is not true. Other areas of family law like visitation, possession, access, and conservatorship are also discussed in these hearings. The results of the hearing will go into an order that you and your child's other parent will be expected to follow.
How I recommend that clients do this is to pull out a calendar and physically mark it up before coming to court. Have a good idea of the days that you are not able to see your child and when your schedule allows for more time. I have found that many parents go into court without a solid idea of when they will be able to see their child. If you don’t know what sort of plan you want to have, the judge certainly will not. Many parents get stuck with a Standard Possession Order (SPO) because they are not able to communicate an alternative to the judge and their opposing party.
Next, figure out what parts of the schedule that you have come up with a flexible and what parts you are unwilling to negotiate in regard to. The latter group would be those dates that you believe are extremely responsive to you or your child and you believe that it is essential that you be able to spend that time with your child. Once you have done this, figure out a couple of backup plans in case your first choice is not taken up by the judge. If you can spend a little time going over your reasoning for the particular plan that is even better.
Do not come to court empty-handed, bring evidence
This is something that people in your position will often time overlook and it can be extremely detrimental to their case. Testimony (words you say under oath) is one thing, but if you can bring in documentary evidence, photographs, video or any other form of evidence that can really enhance your case. This is especially true if you are trying to argue for something that is outside of the norm, like the supervised visitation or restricted visitation for your child's other parent. On top of the practical advantages that bringing evidence to court provides you with, it will cause you to feel better prepared for your hearing. Like studying for an exam, you will perform better in your hearing if you are prepared.
What sort of evidence would a judge be looking for in your hearing?
If you have the ability to hire an experienced family law attorney to represent you in your hearing then I would highly recommend doing so. The reason for this is that all of this advice that I am about to give you is no less relevant if you hire an attorney, but it is the case where the burden of coming to court with this evidence, collecting it and organizing a case around it shifts to the attorney from you.
Evidence comes in many shapes and sizes. Ultimately the judge in your case will be the only person whose opinion will matter in regard to how much weight (importance) to place on particular pieces of evidence. However, you can give him or her a great deal to think about by coming to court prepared with evidence to offer into the record.
Text messages, emails, and social media postings are becoming increasingly common forms of evidence that are submitted in family law cases. The reason for this is that just about everyone is on social media these days, and we tend to post personal things on these websites. In fact, I have found that people are more willing to post personal details about their lives on social media than we would be willing to share that information with friends or family members. Something about posting something from the privacy of your living room causes people to get the impression that nobody will really see what has been posted.
Talking to the judge is part of the hearing- be ready to do so
Anyone who has watched television or seen a movie knows what a typical courtroom looks like. The courtroom that you will be sitting in may not look exactly like something you see in a movie but it will be pretty close. You also know that these movies and shows tend to give the attorneys and clients a great deal of latitude when it comes to giving poignant, moving speeches about whatever subjects are relevant to their case. As such, you may think that this is common in court- long, emotional, narratives about people’s cases.
In fact, this is not the case. Long-winded answers are objectionable for being too wordy (known as a "narrative" response) and not sticking to the point. If you are going to the family law court and will be expected to testify you should work on what you want to say to the judge beforehand. Work with your attorney or their paralegal on what questions you will likely need to answer in this hearing. Map out your thoughts ahead of time.
I am not telling you to write a script. Judges assess litigants based on their credibility as witnesses. Basically, the judge will be determining whether or not he or she can trust your testimony as being accurate and truthful. If the judge feels like you are a bit too rehearsed it is possible that he or she may not trust that what you are saying is authentic. This can and will hurt your case in the long run.
Remember that in an ideal world what you say will track with documentary evidence that has been submitted. You and your attorney should make sure that the words you use coincide well with the other evidence brought to court. The best case scenario is that what you say in your testimony lines up perfectly with the other evidence you submit. This will put a tremendous burden on your opposing party to come up with evidence of their own that refutes your highly credible evidence.
All of this preparation will help you to keep your testimony on track, thus keeping your case in general on track. If you are nervous to talk to a judge that is completely normal. Most people have never been in a situation where they were expected to speak to a judge. There is nothing wrong with being nervous, but if you choose to not do anything to prepare for your case then you should not expect your nervousness to subside. The more you have planned and prepared, the more concise on and on point your testimony will be. If your testimony drifts in and out of issues relevant to your case the judge may lose interest somewhat.
You will not have an unlimited amount of time to present your information to the judge
One of the biggest things that you can keep in mind with regard to your hearing is that you will not have all day for a hearing. If you are in child support court you will be lucky to have thirty minutes in front of the judge. This makes it even more important for you to be able to come into court prepared. If you have an attorney, he or she will help guide you in the hearing and will address the judge directly on issues related to your case. However, if you don't have an attorney it will be up to you to keep on track.
However, the judge does want to hear from you so don't go to court thinking that you are wasting the judge's time or that what you have to say is not important. You will be asked direct questions from the judge about your case and your life. Be prepared to give answers to the judge in an honest manner. Do not agree to things just to get the hearing over with. If you are given the opportunity to form a judge to voice your opinion about something, then it is your job to do so. Remember, you are doing this for your child. If you cannot speak up for him or her nobody will.
You can always ask the judge to schedule your case for another hearing if you need more time to collect evidence or prepare your case. There are things called temporary orders that can be set up for now as a placeholder until a final order can be achieved. The judge can consider your request and deny or accept it. The worst the judge can say is no, and if you do not ask then that will be your answer.
What to do if you are in a violent relationship and you want out
If you have made the decision to leave a violent relationship then I give you a great deal of credit. It can be very difficult to leave a person that has exerted so much control over you in the past. Having the fortitude to stand up for yourself and your child is admirable. However, want to get out of a relationship like this is one thing, actually doing it is something different. What can you do to prepare yourself for the exit?
In the event that an argument breaks out while you are at home, it is a good idea to seek out a. the room where you have no means of escape or rooms in your home where there are potential weapons. I am envisioning a situation where you get into a heated discussion with your partner that turns violent. What you want to be able to do is leave quickly (with your child, if necessary) and avoid allowing your partner to turn a household item into a weapon against you.
You should have a list of persons who you can rely on for help in the event that you need to leave your home for safety reasons. This could be family members, friends or neighbors. You should not return home if your partner is still living there. In fact, it may not be safe for you to return for an extended period of time- at least until you are able to be granted a protective order by a court. This is the time where you're having a support system can really benefit you and your family. Keep a list of these folks handy where you can contact them if need be for assistance in difficult times.
Finally, if you do plan on leaving the relationship and your family home then it is a wise idea to take with you important papers or anything else that you may need for your court case. Odds are you will not be able to get back into your home to retrieve them. Insurance, banking, pay stubs, checkbooks, etc. are all important to take with you as well.
Questions about violence in your home and family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you are involved in a violent relationship and feel like there is nobody who can help, I recommend that you pick up your phone and contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These confidential consultations are a great opportunity for you to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your particular circumstances.
Our office will work with you on a game plan to develop winning strategies that we can use to protect you and your child from harm. We can also help you to craft a game plan for your life after our representation of you has concluded. Thank you for your time and we look forward to being able to work with you and your family in the future.
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- Child Support in Texas: What is the most you will have to pay and what are the exceptions to that rule?
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child supportlawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child support cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble,Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.