The early conciliation hearings in the alimony process
When we talk about alimony, many people think that it is an amount imposed by a third party (Judge) and that it simply must be paid, without any objection. A few years ago, the corresponding Courts received the request for alimony and the judges established a provisional alimony quota, considering only what the person filing the claim stated and presented. The defendant, at that time, only had the option of filing an appeal; however, while this appeal was being processed, he was obliged to deposit the amount that was established.
The Alimony Law mentions that conciliation can take place at any stage of the process; however, it does not expressly establish a conciliation hearing prior to the beginning of the process, as the Courts carries out actually. When consulting the topic with several judges, they indicated that this hearing is an institutional measure, established three years ago for not setting a provisional alimony amounts that were disproportionate.
What is the early conciliation hearing?
The conciliation hearing occurs immediately after the request for alimony is filed. The defendant is informed, via phone call, that there is a child support process and is invited to participate in the early hearing. If the person says no, the claim is processed, setting a provisional alimony amount, as has been done before these hearings were implemented.
If the defendant agrees to participate, a hearing is scheduled, usually within ten days after the call. In this conciliation hearing, there will be no discussion of the merits of the case, as with any other conciliation hearing. This is an ideal space for the person requesting the alimony to explain their expenses and needs; in addition, the person obliged to pay may also expose his obligations and economic possibilities to try to reach an agreement of an amount that is fair, both for who receives the money, and for who is obligated to pay it.
It is important to indicate that the phone call made by the Court in no way replaces the notification; therefore, if the defendant does not agree to participate in the hearing, he/she must wait to be notified personally, at his/her home.
Are there disadvantages to the early conciliation hearing?
Normally, the early conciliation hearing does not present any disadvantage, rather it is favorable for the defendant, since it is a possibility that he/she has to achieve an amount of alimony that is consistent with its income and obligations. However, in practice, there are aspects that put the defendant at a disadvantage regarding the person requiring the alimony.
When the defendant receives the phone call from the court, they tell him/her that it is not mandatory to bring a lawyer, since it is simply a conciliation hearing, and when he/she arrives at the hearing, commonly finds out that the other party does have a lawyer. This causes that the party that goes without legal representation often ends up accepting an agreement that is not reasonable and impossible to fulfill.
The best option for both parties, is to always hire a lawyer to attend any hearing.
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