Rob Backus and Mark Oettinger, who have handled a broad range of family law cases during their careers, are the family law practitioners at Montroll, Backus & Oettinger. In family law cases the court’s primary concern is the effect on the children, and understanding this is critical to successful representation.
Most (but not all) of family law is related to divorce. When the husband and wife have children under the age of 18, a divorce proceeding can have as many as five distinct elements: (1) “legal parental rights and responsibilities” (sometimes called “legal custody”); (2) “physical parental rights and responsibilities” (sometimes called “custody and visitation”); (3) child support; (4) spousal maintenance (often referred to as “alimony”); and (5) division of property.
The phrase “parental rights and responsibilities” is sometimes abbreviated “PR&R.” Legal PR&R governs which parent has decision-making authority over the child’s health care, education, religion and extraordinary travel. Physical PR&R establishes the times during which the child is with each parent. Child support is set through a fairly complex formula which is based mostly on the parents’ incomes, and the amount is time the children spend with each parent. Spousal maintenance is generally intended to equalize the parties’ standard of living for a period of time after the divorce, and is more of a factor in longer marriages, especially when one spouse has a much greater income that the other. Property division depends on a variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, how and when the property was acquired by the parties, and in rare cases, the relative “fault” of the parties.
One way for parties to limit the cost of the divorce process is to gather all of the information about their income and expenses, and their assets and liabilities, prior to consulting a lawyer. This process has other benefits as well. This task is not a simple one, and we encourage you to use the forms provided by the courts for this purpose. The forms will have to be filled out shortly after the filing of the divorce in any event, and engaging in the process prior to filing can sometimes allow the parties to approach the process in an uncontested manner. This, in turn, is better and cheaper for all concerned. The forms are Form 813A and 813B, and can be obtained by clicking on the embedded links.
The process of going through a divorce is almost always one of the most difficult life transitions that one can experience, and for this reason, as is the case in all aspects of our practice, we encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution (usually mediation) whenever it is appropriate.
Attorneys Experienced in Family Law
Mark practices as an attorney and teaches law at Vermont colleges. Mark is experienced in Administrative, Business, Civil & Commercial Litigation, Criminal Defense, Education, Family, Government, International, Non-Profit, Probate & Trust Administration, Professional Licensing and Wills & Trusts.