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What’s next in the Hunter Biden child support legal saga

<i>CNN</i><br/>President Joe Biden's son
President Joe Biden's son

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

President Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter Biden, is mired in a contentious and highly personal child support battle with an Arkansas woman who is the mother of one of his daughters.

The parties reached a settlement in 2020 where Hunter Biden would pay monthly child support of $20,000 to Lunden Roberts, but Hunter Biden reopened the case last year by asking a judge to reduce the payments.

The case has since morphed into a partisan proxy war of sorts, pitting the president’s son against Republican lawyers who are trying to get their hands on his financial records — including many of the same materials that House GOP lawmakers are seeking as part of their probes into the Biden family.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming up next in the high-profile case.

May 12: Discovery deadline

This is the deadline for both parties to turn over some additional material and answer another round of written questions as part of the discovery process.

Independence County Circuit Judge Holly Meyer has ordered Hunter Biden to provide more fulsome answers to written questions about his finances, including more detailed responses about his art sales and tax returns.

The judge also ordered Roberts to provide more information about any income she receives from working at her father’s gun store in Batesville, Arkansas. Both parties are also required to turn over any text messages or emails that they wrote about the case or about the other person.

These disclosures will not be public. They will only be shared among the opposing legal teams.

May 22: Ziegler deposition

This is when Garrett Ziegler, a potential trial witness, will sit for a sworn deposition. Roberts is trying to bring in Ziegler — a former Trump White House aide who has promoted right-wing conspiracy theories — as an “expert witness” to bolster her case.

Ziegler runs a website that has published emails, texts, pictures, videos, bank records and other material from a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, which has become a lightning rod for GOP attacks against the Biden family.

He said in a sworn affidavit for the paternity case that he has “spent years studying Hunter Biden” and that he is an expert about Hunter Biden’s “lifestyle … and personal finances.”

But he could also be liability for Roberts. Hunter Biden’s attorneys suggested in court that Ziegler is leaking sensitive information about the case — an assertion that Roberts’ lawyers denied. Ziegler also has a history of promoting right-wing conspiracy theories. After he testified to the January 6 select committee last year, he publicly went on a profane and sexist rant, which included racial attacks against House lawmakers, anti-Semitic tropes and misogynistic slurs.

The deposition will be conducted behind closed doors.

May 23: In-person hearing

This is the next in-person hearing in the case, which will take place at the Independence County Circuit Court in Batesville.

Meyer has said that this pretrial hearing will address any remaining discovery issues, and will set the schedule for the upcoming trial.

This is also when the judge will deal with the question of possibly holding Hunter Biden in criminal contempt, if it is still a live matter. Last month, Roberts asked the judge to find Hunter Biden in contempt and send him to jail for allegedly violating the court’s orders to turn over financial records.

However, at a hearing Monday, Meyer told Roberts’ lawyers that they need to file more formal legal papers in order to initiate a contempt hearing. Hunter Biden denies wrongdoing.

June 13-16: More depositions

This is when Hunter Biden, Roberts and others will sit for sworn depositions.

It’s routine for the parties involved in a case to be deposed as part of the pretrial discovery process. But it’s not common for the sitting president’s son to be tangled in a sensitive legal dispute like this.

Hunter Biden will be questioned under oath by Roberts’ lawyers, who are noted Republican activists who were part of former President Donald Trump’s legal team that tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

The depositions will be conducted behind closed doors.

July 24-25: Bench trial

The trial is scheduled to occur at the local courthouse in Batesville.

It will be a bench trial, which means there isn’t a jury. Meyer will preside over the trial, hear the evidence, and issue decisions on the key questions at play.

As of now, there are two main issues on the table for the trial: Hunter Biden wants to reduce his child $20,000-a-month child support payments, which Roberts opposes. And Roberts wants to change the last name of their four-year-old daughter from “Roberts” to “Biden,” a switch that Hunter Biden opposes.

Delays are possible, which is a common occurrence in high-profile legal cases. Roberts’ lawyer said in court this week that he might request a short postponement. It will be up to the judge to decide.

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