A custody case, sometimes referred to as a paternity or support case, involves the issues related to children of an unmarried couple. It’s similar to a divorce, but no property issues are involved.
When an unmarried couple has a child their rights as to the child are undefined without a court order. Often the motivation for a custody case is one of the parties feel they need to lock down a firm parenting time schedule or one party requires child support.
Parties with a custody case must determine legal and physical custody, a parenting time schedule, and child support.
Read about the Steps in a Custody Case:
The first step in the custody case is the initial filing, call the Verified Complaint. Once filed with the Court, the Complain must be given to the other spouse, who then has 21 days to respond with legal pleadings called an Answer.
Issues for Resolution
There are two kinds of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means the ability to make large decisions for the Child, such as decisions related to school, medical choices, and religion. Physical custody relates to which household the Child resides.
The parties must then create a parenting time schedule. A parenting time schedule defines which household the child spends the night. A parenting time schedule can be any schedule the parents can create. For practical purposes, the schedule is often based on the school and extracurricular schedule of the Child and the work schedule of the parents. Often, the Child will alternate the households for holidays.
Child support may also be warranted. Child support is an amount of money paid by one parent to the other parent. Child support is determined by a formula created by the state government. The formula accounts for the number of overnights the parents have, the income of the parents, and which parent pays health insurance.
During the early phases of the custody case, the parties and their attorneys should explore whether the case can resolve through negotiations. Cases resolved in this way will help save the expense and time of mediation.
Many custody cases are now resolved through mediation. Mediation is a process through which the parties negotiate a settlement. The parties’ attorneys will agree on a neutral and independent attorney to act as a mediator, often an attorney with experience practicing in the same court as the custody case. The mediator facilitates a conversation between the parties to resolve the case.
Generally, the parties will go to the mediator’s office, and sit in separate rooms with their attorneys. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties with proposals and settlement offers.
The mediator has the power to draft an agreement that if signed by the parties will act as a binding contract.
Mediation is a very effective method to resolve the case. The parties are literally forced to the negotiating table. Parties are often happier with mediation than trial because they have more control over the outcome.
Trial in a custody case is statistically rare. Generally, judges will force the clients to attempt mediation at least twice before entertaining the idea of trial. Then, the judge will personally try to twist the attorneys’ arms to get them to settle, reminding the parties of the expense involved in trial.
Unfortunately, a trial sometimes is necessary, either because a party would not negotiate in good faith or the parties are simply too much in disagreement on the issues.
A trial in a custody case is not a zero-sum game. A custody trial is not like football, in which one team wins and one team loses. The Judge is often forced to “split the baby,” meaning each party wins and each party loses. This is the main reason most cases will settle short of trial.
Nevertheless, we are prepared to go to trial in any case.
Contact ArborYpsi Law and Speak with Sam Bernstein
Sam Bernstein is a Family Lawyer in Ann Arbor.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.