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I am an attorney with 30 years of experience. I also taught legal research earlier in my career. I hope to provide you information that will help you in resolving your question.
If you are a novice to legal research the best method for case law legal research is to use the books, not the computer. This is because the computer only looks for what you ask it to. But if you use the books you will be able to look through the indexes and the table of contents. You will see things that will help you that the computer will never show you unless you know the exact words to search.
The first thing to do is to visit the county, state, or law school law library. Ask the librarian to show you the West Reporters and the West Digests.
If you happen to have a case to start with look it up in the reporters. In the West reporters you will find that in the beginning of the case they have added a summary of each point of law addressed in that case.
West then assigns each summary what they call a Key Number. The Key Number is ***** combination of the subject area of law and the point of law summarized. Once you have the Key Number for the point of law, you can cross reference it in any West Digest for any jurisdiction.
If you do not have a case , look in the West Digest for subjects that appear related to your question. You will see that the digests are organized by legal subject matters. You will start in the Family Law and Divorce sections. Once you find one case reference it will lead you to more. Once you get the hang of it it is not that difficult.
You can also find the Key number references in West encyclopedia and treatises. Treatises that you want to look at are called ALR or American Law Reports. Also there are a set called CJS. Both of these are good places to start looking for the topics that you are interested.
As to online research, the following free site is pretty good. You could use it with your search terms to try to get started, BUT you still want to cross reference whatever you find against the West digests and reporters.
Here is a list of child support paymetn cases to help get you started:
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