At McEnroe, Gotsdiner, Brewer, Steinbach & Rothman, P.C., we have helped thousands of families and individuals in family law matters for over twenty years. Cases involving family law issues can have a devastating impact on many aspects of a person’s life. It can range from where the children live, division of assets, visitation of children, debts, etc. Our attorneys are experienced in helping clients maneuver through a very trying time in a person’s life. We understand that family law matters can be extremely expensive and strive to work out solutions on your legal matter. However, in the instance where a resolution cannot be worked out, we provide zealous advocacy on your behalf in judicial proceedings and trials. If you need assistance or have questions about family law, contact our office at 515-267-9000. We don’t charge for initial consultations.
We provide our family law clients with experienced, principled, and aggressive representation. We pledge to always advocate zealously on our client’s behalf, maintaining the highest standards of professional legal service. However, we also understand that domestic relationships usually must continue in some form after the litigation is over.
To that end, we strive to keep family law litigation civil -while never sacrificing our clients’ rights or interests.
Premarital Agreement: This is a written contract/agreement between two persons setting forth certain restrictions on the division of assets/debts in the event the parties marry and then divorce. In general, you cannot prohibit the payment of child support and spousal support and/or establish custody and visitation.
Dissolution of Marriage: A dissolution of marriage (divorce) deals with the legal ramifications of ending the “marriage agreement” between two persons. It can be a marriage pursuant to a formal ceremony or common-law marriage. Common-law marriage is a legal term applied to persons who have acted as if they are married without having a formal ceremony. A divorce establishes the legal rights of each party. It includes custody and visitation of children, support of children or spouse, division of assets, and debts. Iowa Code §598 and 592.00
Legal Separation: A legal separation deals with the same issues as divorce. The only difference is that the marriage is not dissolved. The parties are still married but their legal rights and responsibilities for all issues are set forth in the Court Order.
Paternity: A paternity action is a proceeding to decide custodial visitation and support issues between two persons pertaining to their children. It is similar to divorce and legal separations, but without the court deciding issues of the party’s personal matters.
Modifications: A modification is a legal process of changing the Orders * in a divorce proceeding or paternity action. There must be a substantial change in circumstances of the previous Court Order in order to proceed. Most issues are modifiable. The procedures are similar to those in divorce and paternity.
Child Support: Situations involving child support arise in divorce, paternity, modifications, and proceedings with the Child Support Recovery Unit. Iowa Supreme Court on July 1, 2009, adopted new guidelines that the Court must follow when establishing or modifying child support.
Adoption: An adoption involves a party being legally established as the parent of another person; it can be of a minor or adult. It also applies to the process whereby a stepparent wishes to adopt their spouse’s child/children.
Termination: Whether you are seeking to terminate a parent’s rights or someone has filed to terminate your rights.
Procedures for Situations
The following is a very brief discussion of the procedures for each family law situation. This is only a snapshot of how each situation proceeds. You should contact McEnroe, Gotsdiner, Brewer, Steinbach & Rothman, P.C. for a more depth discussion as it relates to your individual needs.
Premarital: When 2 people decide to get married, they may want to protect and/or establish rules on how things get divided if there a divorce. Each party is required to provide full and complete financial affidavits/statements. This allows each party to weigh their options and plan how to divide assets or debts. These financial documents need to be complete and exchanged enough in advance so that an agreement can be prepared and signed BEFORE the wedding. Each shall be provided with a copy of the Agreement.
Dissolution of Marriage: Divorce restores an individual’s right to marry someone else. Legally divides marital assets and debts and determines the care and custody of the children.
No-fault divorce in which the spouses are not required to prove that the other caused the breakdown of the marriage.
Primary issues to be decided are alimony or spousal support, property division, children, child custody, visitation, and child support.
Custody must address both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody typically involves allocating parental rights and responsibilities regarding the day-to-day care and activities of the children. Legal custody typically involves allocating the legal rights and responsibilities associated with the child’s upbringing.
Parents must financially support their children. An order for child support may be entered during or after a divorce and either parent may be ordered to pay support depending upon how custody is arranged. An order for support will be entered once paternity has been established.
A Divorce case begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the District Court of the county where either party lives. Iowa is a no-fault State, which means no specific grounds for the Divorce need to be alleged. The Petition will usually set out how the Petitioner (the filing spouse) feels the court should resolve issues such as custody of children, the establishment of child support, or spousal support (alimony) division of the marital assets and debts, and payment of attorney’s fees and court costs. A mandatory 90 day waiting period must pass before a divorce can be granted.
Once the Petition has been filed, a copy of that Petition along with any accompanying orders must be provided to the other spouse. Process in One of Three ways to do this:
- The other spouse can simply sign a paper acknowledging the receipt of those documents.
- A process server or county sheriff can hand the other spouse the papers.
- In rare cases, the court will allow under limited to be served by publication in a newspaper.
The parties may proceed to trial if they are unable to reach an agreement on all disputed issues. Either party can request information from the other using several different methods. Questions called Interrogatories can be sent requiring the other party to answer those questions under oath. A request that a party produce documents or admit certain facts can also be sent to the other party. Before a trial can take place in many counties, the parties and/or their attorneys may be required to attend a pretrial conference to advise the court of what issues have been resolved and which remain disputed. Many counties require the parties to attend mediation. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the divorce case will be scheduled for trial before a judge. The judge will make a determination and announce orally or in writing what that determination is.
Paternity: The procedures outlined above for Divorce apply in general to an action to establish paternity of a child with some notable exceptions:
- Paternity actions involve parents of a child who are not married to one another. Therefore issues involving the distribution of assets and debts and alimony are not present.
- There is no 90-day waiting period before a Paternity Decree can be entered.
- An alleged father can dispute the paternity of the child or children in question. Paternity testing, usually through DNA samples, can be ordered. If paternity is disputed, this testing must demonstrate that the probability that the alleged father is in fact the father of the child must be at least 95%.
- The court may require the father to pay or contribute to the birthing and hospital expenses for the child and mother.
Adoption: By Consent: A person seeks to adopt his or her spouse’s child from a former relationship. A Petition is prepared naming the parent seeking to adopt as the Petitioner. Petitioner’s spouse signs a document indicating that he or she consents to the adoption. Other parent signs a similar document consenting to the adoption. Obtain Order appointing Guardian Ad Litem.
The parent whose parental rights are being terminated must receive proper notice. The Guardian Ad Litem must be given notice. The Guardian Ad Litem will file a report
Judge makes findings that the statutory requirements have been met and approves the adoption. A new birth certificate will then be issued for the child along with a new Social Security card.
Contested: A person seeks to adopt a child’s spouse from a former relationship without the other parent’s consent. It is a two-step process. The first step is to terminate parental rights. A Petition is filed naming the proposed parent as the Petitioner and the non-consenting parent as the Respondent. Orders appointing a Guardian Ad Litem. The parent is then served with the Petition. Guardian Ad Litem must also be given notice.
Hearing itself is tried to a Judge. Court’s primary concern and consideration is the best interests of the child. If the court determines that the proposed parent is the best interest of the child the court will enter an Order terminating the parents parental rights. Then a Petition for adoption may be filed.
Enforcement of Orders: Suspend professional or business license, take away driver and recreational license, payment of future owed sums in advance, or non-paying parents in jail when child support obligations are overdue.
The term “Family Law” applies to many situations regarding familial relationships.
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