The Focus is On You and Your Family
Facing difficult life changes can be emotionally and physically tolling on you and your family. Our practice will stand beside you to relieve the stress as much as possible and find the best feasible outcome.
Don’t be discouraged, we are always here to answer any questions you may have about our areas of practice, the process and what we can do for you.
Basic Framework of a Case (not Juvenile Deprived or Neglected Cases)
1. Initial consultation with Attorney
2. Attorney drafts initial pleadings
3. Pleadings given to Client to review and approve
a. Attorney makes changes to pleadings, if needed
4. Pleadings are filed at the County Court Clerk’s Office
5. Pleadings are served on the other Party via Process Server, Sheriff’s Deputy or by hand delivering the pleadings, along with a document entitled “General Appearance and Waiver of Service” to the other Party, who is willing to execute the Waiver in a timely fashion and return it to the Attorney or you;
6. If the address of the other Party is unknown, publication may be required after a diligent search to locate the Party is done
7. Waiver is filed at the County Court Clerk’s Office
8. If it is a divorce action, you must take a parenting course approved by your County before the final hearing or entry of an agreed Decree
9. If a Temporary Order is needed, a hearing before the judge is set
a. We will meet to prepare our Exhibits & go over your testimony
10. Discovery is drafted and served on the other Party or his or her Attorney
11. Mediation will likely be scheduled before a final hearing is set, if no agreement has been reached
12. A final hearing is set or the case is set on a docket to enter an Agreed-to Decree or Journal Entry
a. We will meet to prepare our Exhibits & go over your testimony
Pro Se with Limited Representation
Legalese in a Nutshell
- Adoption – can be of an adult or a child. It can be a private adoption or it can be one through DHS for a child whose parents’ parental rights have been terminated and now needs a home.
- Affidavit – a document that sets forth facts that the person signing it attests is truthful as if testifying under oath
- Alimony in lieu of Property Settlement – is the amount of money that one spouse pays the other to equalize the distribution of assets and debts that they both will take at the end of the case. For example, if one person ended up with $200 worth of assets and debts and the other person ended up with $100, the spouse with the $200 would pay $50 to the other spouse so that both parties had $150 worth of assets and debts.
- Answer – the pleading prepared by the other side 20 days after having been served with the Petition by the party who started the action
- Bailiff – the Judge’s right-hand person and controls access to the Judge
- Child Support – paid by one Party to the other while a child/ren are under 18 years old or, if the child is a full-time, high school student, then until the child turns 20 or graduates, whichever happens first. It is a mathematical calculation that takes the gross (not take home) monthly incomes of each party, the number of children in this case, the number of children at home that are not a part of this case, the monthly premium for the health insurance of the minor child/ren of this case (excluding the spouses, other children, etc), possibly the monthly amount of daycare expenses, etc to arrive at the amount of Child Support to be paid in this case at this time. Child Support can be changed over the lifetime of the child/ren as children grow up, the gross monthly incomes increase or decrease and/or the other factors listed change. The computation is on a Child Support Guideline.
- Contempt – when one party willfully fails to follow a particular court order. Punishment can range up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine
- Court Reporter – a person trained to take down everything that is said at court. He or she usually sits near the judge and the person testifying to ensure that they get every word. You must pay a fee up front to ensure that one will be available for your hearing.
- Decree or Journal Entry or Order – document prepared by usually an Attorney, presented to the Judge for his or her approval, filed at the County Court Clerk’s Office and served on both parties that contains either the agreements of the parties, the rulings by the Judge after a hearing or a combination of both.
- Default Judgment – order entered by a court after: (a) the service on the other Party is only achieved by publication; (b) the other Party fails to enter his or her appearance or litigate after being properly served and/or (c) the other Party participates in the action for a while, but then stops and can’t be found.
- Discovery Request – a document seeking information from you that you have to answer and get back to the other party in 30 days. You must verify that your answers are truthful as if testifying under oath. The information is sought in the form of Admissions (statements to admit or deny), Interrogatories (questions to answer) or Document Production (documents to give to the other side)
- Divorce – now called a Dissolution of Marriage
- Docket – a time period set by each Judge to learn the status of certain types of cases (Domestic, Guardianships, Probates, Adoptions, Small Claims, Civil Litigation, Misdemeanors, Felonies, etc) and even hear oral argument by the Attorneys on limited disputes. Some counties will hold the Temporary Order hearing on his or her Domestic Docket; other Counties have a separate docket for Temporary Orders. The County Court Clerk’s Office can advise you on what cases are on any particular docket.
- Equitable Distribution – a fair division of the marital assets and debts of a marriage that may or may not be equal depending on the circumstances of the particular case
Guardian Ad Litem – an attorney selected by agreement of the parties or by order of the court to appear for and represent the child/ren in during the pendency of the case all the time advocating what is in the child/ren’s best interests after careful investigation of all matters.
- Guardianship – can be over a minor or an adult & can be over the person, the person’s property or both. It is needed when the Ward’s parents or prior Guardian(s) are found to be unfit or unable to care for the child/ren or the person become incapacitated and can no longer take care of him or herself or his or her property/finances. Title 30 Guardianships can be terminated after the parent(s) are no longer unfit and the Judge finds that it is in the child/ren’s best interests to do so.
- Home Study – required in Adoptions, and now Guardianships, to ensure that your home is appropriate. You will also have to get background checks done as well. There is a fee for each part.
- Income Assignment – a right given to the Obligee (person who receives child support) to have the pay of the Obligor (person who pays child support) garnished and sent to OCSS.
- Initial Pleadings – are the first documents filed in a case. They usually consist of a Petition (setting forth the nature of the action and the relief wanted) or a Motion to Modify (if it is a modification action), a Summons (advising the party served of his or her timeframe to answer) that is often combined with an Automatic Temporary Injunction Notice (setting forth certain rules that must be followed during the case unless waived by the Parties), an Entry of Appearance (the Attorney’s name and contact information), a Coversheet giving contact and personal information about each Party & the Attorney (used by the Court Clerk’s Office, but not made public); and, if needed, an Application for Temporary Orders (request for Temporary Orders) and its Notice & Order or Notification of Hearing (setting the Application (also used to set Motions)). A Discovery Request (see below) could also be filed at the beginning of a case.
- Joint Custody – does not mean that the parties have equal amount of time with the child/ren. It does mean that the parties will make the major decisions in the lives of their child/ren together. Sole Custody means that only one parent will make all the decisions on the care of the child/ren.
- Judicial Code of Proper Conduct – an order of the court outlining rules parents of children should follow
- Mediation – a confidential, out of court setting where the two parties come together with the help of a third person who will facilitate their efforts to communicate with each other to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties.
- Modification Action – changing Orders that are no longer valid (a child has aged out so should not be counted when calculating child support or the parties’ incomes have changed from the original Order), or that are no longer working (a standard visitation schedule when one person moved over 300 miles away).
- Motion – a pleading prepared by either party to get a particular issue before the Judge. It is filed and served on the other side. The other side has 15 days to file his or her Response to the Motion.
- OCSS – Office of Child Support Services that will be a necessary Party if your child/ren are on Sooner Care, you receive DHS Assistance with daycare, etc. and that will collect and monitor child support being paid
- Party or Litigant – you and the other Party, usually, – sometimes others are added to the case. The Party starting the action is the Plaintiff or Petitioner and the other Party is the Defendant or Respondent
- Paternity – establishing your rights to a child/ren born out of wedlock
- Primary, Physical Custodian – is the parent, who has the child/ren the majority of the time.
- Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) – a document used to transfer a certain portion of one spouse’s retirement account to the other spouse. Often, retirement accounts are divided between the parties, with each party receiving a portion, such as ½, of the amount accrued during the marriage (but not before or after) of the other spouse’s retirement account(s).
- Separate Property – personal or real property that you had prior to the marriage, that you inherited, that you received as a gift during the marriage or, probably even, what you purchased after you separated.
- Standard Visitation Schedule – the minimum amount of time that each County has decided the non-primary, physical custodian should have with the child/ren. Some counties have additional ones for Infants or when the parties live far apart.
- Support Alimony – an award of an amount of money from one spouse to the other that can be paid in one lump sum or over a period of time. In a Legal Separation action, it is called Alimony Without Divorce. It is often hard to determine in advance how much Support Alimony may be awarded in any given case. The initial inquiry is whether or not one spouse has a need for it and the other spouse has the ability to pay it. Other considerations can include the age, health, education level or ability to work of the receiving spouse. The same set of facts given to different judges would more than likely result in a different outcome.
- Temporary Order – the opportunity to put certain rules in place while the case is pending, such as: to provide temporary support (child support &/or support alimony), to determine who will remain in the marital home and who will pay what bills while the case is pending, to set a custody and visitation plan, and to address any additional issues that might be needed before the final order is entered. These rules go away when the final Decree or Journal Entry is entered, if they were not included in said final order. Some courts don’t allow Temporary Orders in a modification action.
- Transcript – the written copy of what the Court Reporter took down for a particular hearing and that must be purchased if you want a copy of it
- Ward – the person who is the subject of a Guardianship
D. Scott Pappas
808 South Main Street
(in the BancFirst Building at 8th & Main)
Stillwater, OK 74074
Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and By Appointment for Additional Times
(Drop off information under door any time the Bank is open)
Saturday - Sunday: By Appointment