This year my young son and I decided that we were going to grow cherry tomatoes. Together, we went to the garden center, chose the tomato plants and purchased the pots and soil. We then planted and tended them. When we got our first crop, a handful of delicious tomatoes, we tasted them. He didn’t appear to like them and told me that I could have them all. I made a salad with the tomatoes and ate it all.
About two weeks later, we harvest the second crop. Again he told me “You can have them all mom.” So I made another salad and ate it all. Coming into late August we harvested a third crop. We didn’t speak at all about what use we would put the tomatoes. Later that day, I made a salad with the tomatoes and proceeded to eat my delicious lunch. While I was eating my salad he walked into the kitchen and said “Mom, why are you eating the tomatoes?” “Did you eat all of them?” “How could you?” “Didn’t you think of me?” “My plan was to take the tomatoes and put them in the fish we plan to cook later today!”
I was a little surprised. I thought that our preceding interactions about the tomato harvesting set the precedent for our later interactions. He thought differently and believed that each interaction needed to be judged on its own unique circumstances.
Similarly, in family law cases, a judge has to decide the outcome of a case based on that case’s own unique facts. But, in making that decision, a judge has to rely on the legal rules and framework established in prior cases with similar facts. Moreover, a judge has to look at the long standing relationship between the two parties, the plaintiff and defendant, now before the court. Those rules and frameworks are called “legal precedents or presumptions.” Looking at the prior relationship of the parties is called the “status quo” of the relationship.
To determine the status quo of the relationship the court may consider the following:
- The lifestyle of the parties;
- Whether one spouse was the primary caretaker of the children; and
- Whether one spouse was the main breadwinner.
Because these are the things the court will look at in determining the custody of the children, the amount and duration of spousal and child support, and the division of marital assets, you must also evaluate these things before filing for divorce or separating from your spouse.