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How Will I Know My Kids Are Safe?

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If you have ever lost sleep wondering how to keep your children safe during your ex's parenting time, you are not alone. This is, hands down, the most common parenting time question. Call it parental instinct, loss of control of plain distrust, parents do not like the reality that they cannot be there every minute of parenting time restoring harmony like a graceful dove -- they look like pesky pigeons instead. Nevertheless, you can negotiate a parenting time plan that includes protective provisions. Consider these provisions, which you can enforce in most states with a contempt motion:

For transportation: Each party should be responsible for providing and paying for transportation during that party's parenting time. If necessary and due to reasonable work schedule conflicts or unavoidable and reasonable personal schedule conflicts, the party may select another properly licensed adult known to the child to provide transportation. The party must personally give advance notice to the other party when possible, and the party will have a first right of refusal to provide transportation instead.

For parenting time pick-up and drop-off delays: Parenting time must be exercised in a prompt manner. If necessary due to an emergency or a reasonable schedule conflict, a thirty minute delay is allowed. The delayed party must personally give advance notice to the other party when possible.

For communicating with your children during parenting time: Each party must provide the other party with a phone contact where the children and the party can be reached at all times during parenting time. The parties may not abuse phone contact privileges but may call the children at reasonable times.

For parenting time modifications: The parties should be encouraged to make arrangements to exchange parenting time to allow the children to attend special events and activities with extended family members and to cooperate with each other to allow the children to spend such other time with the other party as the children desire. However, where applicable for purposes of calculating child support, only ordered overnights will be considered.

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If your case is trial-bound, by now you should have heard of the term "deposition." (If you have not, then, please, call your attorney immediately and ask why not.) A deposition is a formal question-and-answer session akin to a cross-examination at trial. It is a time for your opponent to learn what information you have about the case. It is a time to testy particular questions before trial. It is a time to determine how you will testify, what you will testify to, and how your wife's attorney's questions affect you. For example, if the attorney asks, "Have you had an affair?" and you lurch across the table screaming, "Why does that matter?!?!" you had better expect that attorney to ask that very question at trial, hoping to put your angry temper on display for judge and jury.

Depositions are important tools, and for many reasons. First, your deposition testimony enables the opposing attorney to find out your version of events. Second, by taking your deposition, the opposing attorney may hope to catch you in errors or falsehoods, which cam be shown at your trial to raise an inference that you are not a truthful person, thereby discrediting your testimony. Third, your deposition testimony, under oath, can lead to settlement discussions, if you are truthful in your answers and thereby show your wife, for example, that you really do not have that million dollar bank account in Switzerland or really do want to spend time with your children because they are your children, not to reduce your support amount. As a final example, your wife's deposition testimony can help you narrow the issues or point you in the direction for additional research before trial.

Or, depositions can be your death knell. It may be, and usually is, tempting to lie. One little white lie over a loan to your brother a few years ago, for example, could barely be proven untrue. If only your brother knows about it, and he's not talking, who's the wiser? Probably no one. The problem is, the thrill of "getting away with" one lie will make you feel invincible. Lying becomes easy, and, before you know it, you've told a grand lie that someone can prove. And, once proven, that lie destroys your credibility and could send you to jail for perjury.

This it will not happen to you? Think again. Parties, and judges, are crafty. A lie about something as simple as a Facebook username cost one client $5,000 in attorney fees payable to his wife's attorney immediately. He denied the name was his -- and when the judge searched Facebook from the courtroom, during the hearing, in a black robe and holding a gavel, his eyes grew wide with terror when the name corresponded to "someone" living in his city, with his birthdate, and using a profile picture of his truck. Your judge has broad discretion to punish either party for hiding information. That includes the power to order you to pay attorney fees. That includes the power to prohibit you from presenting evidence at trial that would have been disclosed, had you been truthful. That includes the power to jail you for perjury. And so forth.

So, what you do at the deposition can help or hurt you significantly, depending on your attitude, truthfulness and appearance. Consider the following tips as you prepare:

1. Dress and act as if you were going to court. Be clean, neat and businesslike.

2. Treat all people at the deposition with respect.

3. Avoid being overly friendly, losing your temper, joking or arguing.

4. Take your time before answering a question. Give yourself ample time to understand the question so that you can give a proper and truthful answer.

5. Instead of shaking your head or shrugging your shoulders, make sure you answer all questions aloud and clearly so the court reporter can record your answers.

6. Answer a question directly and as concisely as possible. There is no need to volunteer any more information than requested.

7. If you do not understand a question, say so. Never guess what a question means or where the opposing attorney is "trying to go" with a question.

8. When answering a question, stick to the facts and testify only to what you personally know. Never guess what you think the answer is or should be.

9. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. You are not expected to have an answer to every question or to know all the facts yourself.

10. Always tell the truth, even if you feel the answer is embarrassing or will harm your case. If you anticipate such questions, tell your attorney beforehand.

Be sure to address any questions, comments or concerns about your deposition with your attorney. Your attorney works for you and, while he or she cannot "coach" you with canned answers, should be able to help you prepare mentally, if needed, and avoid needless worrying --

-- and the tempting little white lie that a search on Facebook can prove.

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