Divorce: Temporary Hearing – What does Dick need?

As we continue to look at Dick and Jane and the topic of divorce, recall that the process is underway. As we move through the process, we are going to examine each phase from the perspective of Dick and from the perspective of Jane. Last month, we looked at the temporary hearing from Jane’s perspective. This month, we approach the same hearing from Dick’s standpoint.

Dick’s primary concerns moving forward are as follows:

  1. Maintaining contact and a relationship with his children;
  2. Making sure that the funds he earns support Jane and the children but don’t prohibit him from providing for them either;
  3. Minimizing the financial impact of the divorce and avoiding funding a “war chest” for the attorneys;
  4. Shielding his marital indiscretions from the case.

Just as Jane should view all of her goals at the temporary hearing through the lens of family stability, Dick should have the same approach.

On a temporary basis, he may be willing to concede that Jane is the primary physical custodian but he should ensure joint legal custody. Dick may have some subject areas of legal custody over which he would like to have final decision making authority. For example, he may feel strongly about public v. private school, certain medical treatments of the children or their religious upbringing. The Court may not decide final legal custody on a temporary basis, but if Dick does not make these areas known at this phase, he will lose out on his ability to do so later.

The parenting time and visitation schedule will be an important opportunity for Dick to demonstrate his role as a parent and Father. If he bites off too much time and cannot keep it up due to work conflicts, he will play right into Jane’s arguments. If he takes too little time, he runs the risk of becoming a “Disneyland Dad” or guy that just sees his kids every other weekend, but is not really involved in their lives. The best outcome would be for Dick to try and obtain visitation time that blends weekends and weekdays so as to give him quality time and involvement with the children. Schedules like Thursday after school until returning to school on Monday morning one weekend and Thursday after school until returning to school on Friday morning the next weekend are becoming increasingly popular with the Courts. The schedule is predictable and structured and minimizes back and forth for the children. In addition, the children are exchanged through the school, rather than in a parents driveway (which can be tense and lead to disputes).

Financially, Dick needs to step up at the temporary hearing and support the family, but he must be prudent in doing so. The temporary order should be structured so that it is just that, temporary. Most Judges and Courts are going to expect Jane to seek some level of employment. If she is receiving all of the funds that she needs or wants on a monthly basis, she may not be inclined to push for work. From Dick’s standpoint, he would be best to volunteer to pay certain monthly expenses (mortgage, utilities, car note and insurance, etc…) directly rather than just giving the money to Jane. On a temporary basis, all of the foregoing is commonplace. This creates a feeling that this structure is not permanent and will be revised on a final basis. On the contrary, if Dick were just to pay over a sum of money each month in gross support, a precedent could be created for a final order.

Attorney’s fees and the payment of Jane’s attorneys will be a major struggle for Dick. If he cuts off funds to Jane completely, she cannot obtain adequate representation and the case will bog down. On the other end of the spectrum, if she has or receives a large amount of funds, she may be inclined to start a major battle.   Dick should concede that some fees may be appropriate (particularly in light of his misconduct problem) so as to appear reasonable, but should push that additional attorney’s fees be borne by the parties individually or be paid equally utilizing marital assets as the source. Some Judges will state that it is very necessary that both spouses (regardless of fault) need to “feel the pain” of the divorce process if they choose to keep fighting. The goal of every Judge is for the parties to settle the case themselves. If one side is paying 100% of the costs on both sides of the fight, the non-paying side has no incentive to ever end it.

Next month, we will look at the discovery process from Dick and from Jane. We will focus on what each side needs to gain by way of information, particularly as it relates to the valuation of the marital business.