Drafting legal pleadings is a process oriented task. First you must identify the relevant legal issues in your case. Next, you must identify the laws that govern the relevant issues in your case and then research those laws to make sure you have a good case. Once that is done, you need to identify all the relevant facts that can be applied to those laws - facts that make it more or less likely for a judge to rule on your behalf. Finally, your legal pleadings need to be drafted clearly and concisely so that the judge will understand your case and want to rule for you.
We take your pleadings very seriously. Before we draft your pleadings, we ask ourselves what information we would want and need to see before we made a big decision on someone’s life (to determine what the most
relevant facts are). We also ask ourselves what information we would need to justify making a ruling on your behalf (to determine what evidence we have and what we still need). And once we have answered those questions, we figure out how to best organize your legal arguments and clearly convey them to a judge. Once that is all done, we strategize on how to best collect any necessary evidence and then put your arguments on paper for submission to the court.
Finally, we discuss how to handle making arguments and counter-arguments in court. And we even put our strategies in writing so that you can study them and take them to court if needed. After speaking with one of our attorneys, you will walk away knowing issues and rules that you didn’t even know existed before you came in. But, best of all, you will know how to use these issues and rules to your advantage to help make your case the best it can be when your case is on the line.
Step by Step Example of a Sample Child Support Modification Action
Hypothetical issue: Let's say a divorced mother of two wants to modify her child support award because she needs more money to raise the kids.
First step: Identify the legal issues. 1) Modification of child support and 2) Statutory guidelines on modifying child support.
Second step: Identify the relevant laws and research them. Utah Code 78B-12 covers most child support issues, so this is where you should start your research. You may also want to check out google scholar to see if there have been Utah cases that have dealt with your particular legal issue. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_courts
Third step: Identify the relevant facts and gather information about those facts. 1) Is there a current child support order? 2) How long has that order been in place? 3) What was your income and living expenses when the order went into effect? 4) What is your current income and living expenses? 5) What was your ex's income and living expenses when the order went into effect? 6) What is your ex's current income and living expenses? 7) Does your ex have any hidden income? 8) What is the current child support order? 9) If child support were modified today based on the statutory guidelines, how much would be ordered? 10) How much is the difference? 11) Any exceptional circumstances.
Fourth step: Do you have a good case and enough information to proceed with initiating a legal action? Some information should be readily available (like your income). Other information might be tougher to get (like your ex's current income). You can proceed with filing papers and starting a legal action without ALL of your ex's information, but you cannot realistically initiate a legal action without all of YOUR necessary information. If you don't have all of your information, get it, then proceed to the next step.
Fifth step: Draft the motion / petition to modify child support (assuming you have a good case). Your legal pleadings need to identify all the relevant issues, all the relevant laws, and all of the relevant facts in your case. Additionally, you need to apply the facts of your case to the relevant laws to demonstrate why your case should be successful. Evidence exhibits should also be attached if they support important facts.
Sixth step (should happen at same time of step 5): Put your evidence together and make of list of evidence you need from your ex - if he contests your case. This will likely mean putting a Financial Declaration together for your self at a minimum.
Seventh step: File your pleadings and serve your ex. Depending on whether you file a petition or a motion, you will have different service requirements before the court can make a ruling on your case. Make sure you understand them and comply.
Eighth step: Prepare for your hearing (assuming your ex contests the case). This would include organizing your arguments into an easily readable outline (where you apply laws and facts together); practicing making your oral arguments to the court; anticipating your ex's arguments and coming up with counter-arguments; and making sure you have all of your physical evidence prepared to bring to court along with any witnesses you have identified. If your ex files a response, you can better prepare for the counter arguments and file to a short reply to what he responded with.
Ninth step: Attend the hearing and put on your case. Assuming the courts sets out a hearing - get plenty of rest the night before and do your best at the hearing. If you win, take good notes of the judge's ruling because you may be ordered to draft the ruling for the court to sign.
If you read through all of that, you will certainly notice that some steps are more complicated and time consuming than others. At Pro-Say, we focus our practice on letting YOU choose what you can handle and then helping you with what you need assistance with (if anything).