Successful military campaigns require things like ample supplies, high morale, and effective leadership. The initiative, however, might be the most important thing of all. The side that moves aggressively, perhaps by taking the high ground, often prevails.
Similarly, success in a family law case often depends on which side has the initiative. Typically, the first courtroom skirmish, the temporary hearing, often dictates which side has the upper hand in this area. At the temporary hearing, the judge makes some important decisions which are difficult to undo.
So, early assistance from a Chicago family law attorney is often critical to a successful outcome in a divorce or other family law matter. If an attorney becomes involved too late, your lawyer could spend the remainder of the case playing catch-up. That is a very difficult position.
Before the Hearing
When they file for divorce or receive court paperwork, most people are not thinking about issues like property division, parenting time, and child support. Typically, a Cook County judge makes interim decisions in these areas only a few weeks thereafter. Therefore, if your attorney is not already considering these matters, your lawyer is behind the curve.
Very little evidence is available this early in the game. So, an attorney must maximize the available evidence. Intentional over-withholding is a good illustration.
This scam is one of the most common ways people hide assets. They voluntarily increase their income tax withholding to artificially lower their incomes. The reduced income justifies lower child or spousal support payments. Then, the following spring, the person receives a larger-than-normal tax refund, and no one is the wiser. Or at least so they think.
Another person’s pay stubs and tax paperwork is usually unavailable at this point. Account statements from joint checking accounts are easily available, at least in most cases. So, a tell-tale sign of intentional over-withholding is usually available, as well. Usually, as outlined below, that is enough at this point.
On a related note, if the other spouse unilaterally changed account passwords or preferences, that usually means the person is trying to hide something.
During the Hearing
The burden of proof is usually only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, if an obligor’s income suddenly decreased without warning, there is a good chance that intentional over-withholding is responsible. Aggressive lawyers take the initiative in matters like these and force the other side back on its heels.
Preparation is important as well. If an attorney draws up proposed agreed temporary orders, these orders often form the backbone of the final temporary orders.
After the Hearing
Financial and emotional discovery usually follows the temporary hearing. Discovery gives an attorney a chance to put meat on the bones of the legal arguments presented at the temporary hearing.
As mentioned, evidence of things like intentional over-withholding includes pay stubs and tax forms. Other important information includes recently-formed LLCs, trusts, and other legal entities. People often try to move money or property into these entities before anyone else notices.
Emotional discovery often includes a social services investigation. If the parenting time division is contested, most Cook County judges order such inquiries. It is important that the investigating official has no maternal or paternal bias and that the parent makes a good impression during the interview. An attorney can help ensure both these things.
Technically, the judge can modify the temporary orders at any time. The same judge that entered the orders is usually the one who considers a modification. So, unless there is substantial evidence, the orders will probably not change.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney
The divorce temporary hearing might be the most critical juncture of a marriage dissolution case. Consult with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact Andrea Heckman Law.