Child Custody

26 posts

Co-Parenting for the School Year

As the new school year is about to begin, I’d like to offer some tips for the newly-divorced or new members of a blended family to ease the transition and try to avoid unnecessary conflict. First, get ahead of your anticipated disputes by designing, implementing, and complying with a detailed and customized Parenting Plan (easier said than done, right?) This document is your roadmap, and provides all parents (biological and step parents) the specific terms and conditions under which they are to operate, leaving no room for “innocent” confusion or misunderstanding. Second, set expectations relating to school work. Who will be responsible for making sure that classroom assignments are properly completed and handed-in? Who is available to work on research projects that span across multiple weeks? Perhaps design this by subject matter (Mom helps with Math, Dad helps with English). Or maybe Mom will work with one child, while Dad works with the other. There is no “correct” answer but a well-designed Parenting Plan identifies roles and responsibilities so that academic performances don’t suffer. Third, discuss what you are willing (or, aren’t willing) to agree to relating to after-school activities and sports. And please, DO NOT engage your child(ren) in […]

Divorce and Separation

Domestic Violence: Child Custody and Family Law

Domestic violence can have devastating effects on children. Batterers often use children to manipulate their partners. While the relationship continues, batterers may threaten to take custody of, kidnap or harm the children if the victim reports the abuse. After a battered woman leaves a relationship, batterers may use child custody disputes, visitation and joint custody arrangements as opportunities to threaten, intimidate, coerce and harm their former partners. From Kendall Segel-Evans, Wife Abuse and Child Custody and Visitation by the Abuser (1989). For a long time, domestic violence was not considered relevant to custody and visitation determinations. As explained in more detail in the Toolkit to End Violence Against Women, created by the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women and the United States Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Office, available in PDF and text formats, judges making custody determinations “routinely concluded that violence toward the other parent had nothing to do with one’s ability to adequately parent, and most court decisions revealed that judges did not believe that domestic or sexual abuse of one parent by the other fundamentally compromised the interests of the children.” As the Toolkit explains further, because of the ways in which batterers can use […]

Prevent-Child-Abuse

Tips for Recognizing Child Abuse

Child abuse is something that affects more children than most are aware of, and it is up to everyone to help protect children from these situations. Beyond that, it is an obligation under the law to report children who you suspect are being abused. One of the primary issues that people have, though, is being unaware of signs that children around them may be being abused. Here are some common signs that a child may be being abused: Unexplained injuries. Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries. Changes in behavior. Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive. Returning to earlier behaviors. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue. Fear of going home. Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them. Changes in eating. The stress, fear and […]

Child Abuse

A Public Child Abuse Registry?

A Michigan woman is on a mission to make a public registry to search for convicted of child abuse. Erica Hammel’s son Wyatt was severely injured and left disabled after his father’s then-girlfriend shook him. The girlfriend had been twice previously convicted for child abuse and did not have custody of her own children.   The Department of Human Services in Michigan already has a registry of people investigated or convicted of child abuse or neglect, however, child welfare attorney Elizabeth Warner says that the registry has issues – under-inclusion and over-inclusion being a few of them.   The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment act requires all states to have a tracking system, which can be used for screening potential foster or adoptive parents.   While a public registry seems like a good idea, registries always have issues – such as people being on the registries who don’t belong there, or vigilante neighborhood justice against people who may be on the list for an issue like the family we talked about earlier – who are involved in the CPS system for letting their children walk home unattended from the park.   Source: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/macomb/2015/02/14/mother-crusades-statewide-child-abuse-registry/23425805/

Free-range parenting

Risks of “Free-Range” Parenting

The Meitiv family in Montgomery County is being investigated for neglect of their children after allowing their 6 and 10 year old children walk home about a mile from the park to their home. What the parents call free-range parenting and lessons on independence, the Montgomery County Child Protective Services call neglect – in Maryland, state law requires that a child under 8 years old be accompanied or supervised by someone of at least 13 years of age in dwellings, enclosures and vehicles. The parents say that this law does not apply to their children as the children were walking home and not indoors. Additionally, the county provides bus services to elementary children only if they live a mile away from the school, implying that the county condones children as young as kindergarten aged walking up to a mile to get to school. Drawing the line between neglectful parents who put their children in harm’s way and free-range parents is very important and unfortunately parents who practice free-range parenting are finding that they are burdened by overzealous CPS investigations. The Meitivs say that their involvement with CPS has been an invasion of their privacy, with police and caseworkers insisting on […]

Child support issues

Paying Child Support for Someone Else’s Child?

Michigan man Carnell Alexander owes the state $30k in child support for a child that is not his after his ex-girlfriend named him on state financial assistance forms in 1987. The state requires that a father be listed so that the state can track down the father to reimburse the state for the financial assistance.   Unfortunately for Alexander and other men in similar situations, the state does not require any proof to be provided when naming the father on forms. Instead, the responsibility is passed to the person named to then prove that they are not that person. The state sends a summons and the person named must appear at that time.   Many people are unaware of the importance of appearing in court when summoned. In cases regarding child support and paternity, failure to appear results in a default judgment and the person named is then legally responsible as the father.   Mr. Alexander, however, can prove that he never received the summons as he was in jail at the time. The process server delivered the letter to a relative instead of directly to him. The state also sent following letters to an address where he no longer […]

Gay Marriage

First Gay Marriage License Issued in Travis County

Two days ago, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional as part of an estate dispute. Because the state does not recognize same-sex marriages, the marriage of Stella Powell and Sonemaly Phrasavath was not recognized and her estate passed to her siblings instead of her wife of 8 years.   Today, the first same-sex marriage license was issued this morning to 31-year couple, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant who were then married in a ceremony outside of the Clerk’s office.   Judge David Wahlberg of the 167th District court issued an order to County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir ordering her to, “cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage license specifically to Plaintiffs Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant.” The ruling was made based on medical issues, as Sarah Goodfriend suffers from ovarian cancer.   Because the County Clerk is complying with the specific court order, same-sex marriage licenses are not being generally issued in Travis County.   Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the legality of same-sex marriage unfolds here in Texas.   Source: http://www.statesman.com/news/news/breaking-news/travis-county-clerk-issues-first-same-sex-marriage/nkD63/  

Child Support and Debtor's Prisons

Child Support and Debtor’s Prisons

A friend of mine asked me the other day which type of cases I found most emotionally draining. I had to think about it for a minute, but I eventually came to the conclusion that while termination cases can be heart wrenching at times, and divorces can be full of drama, it was my experiences in IV-D (Child support) court trying to defend against enforcement actions that often were the most DIFFICULT for me emotionally. The reason for this is twofold: First, there is the lack of defense. Believe it or not, I chose to be a lawyer because I want to help people with their problems, and finding defenses for clients defending against the state in child support actions basically amounts to begging for leniency most of the time. That is not to say that it isn’t successful, but the best defenses are somewhat based around the idea that sending people to jail rarely gathers more money, so therefore its best to leave people in the free so that they can work. The actual statutory defense of “inability to pay”, which is the actual reason 99 percent of people aren’t paying, is virtually impossible to prove as an affirmative defense […]

Texas State capitol

Gay Marriage and State Sovereignty

There has been a lot of discussion recently in regards the recently proposed House Bill 623. This bill essentially proposes to allow Texas to circumvent federal court decisions in regards to declaring gay marriage bans unconstitutional. However, rather than continue the discussion of whether gay marriage should or should not be legal, this bill poses some interesting questions in regards to a state’s ability to circumvent the federal courts. The Texas attorney general has already appealed the previous federal court decision from February of last year to the 5th circuit courts, and oral arguments on that issue will be taking place imminently. However, this bill appears to be proposed as a legislative mechanism to avoid the courts entirely. The strangest thing about this to me is that it is being proposed BEFORE the judicial avenues have been exhausted, which makes little sense, as it could be rendered effectively moot by a favorable outcome in the 5th circuit courts by the attorney general. As an attorney, from a procedural standpoint, this is a fairly troubling issue as the intent is clearly to strip power from the judiciary. Though the chances of success may be low, the intent is still there and still […]

Statutory rape victim forced to pay child support

Forced Child Support for Rape Victims

The purpose of child support is to ensure that a child is taken care of. This is a social value that tracks from the idea that all children are inherently innocent (true) and thus deserve to be supported even if it creates hardships for the parents. However, some situations create results that are so egregious that this philosophy NEEDS to be altered. Take for example, the case of Nick Olivas. At the age of 14, he was statutorily raped by a 20 year old woman who later became pregnant and had his child. 10 years later at the age of 24, he was served with a lawsuit demanding child support for a daughter he had no idea even existed. There seem to be TONS of issues with this: First, is whether or not the state should be helping to enforce ADDITIONAL consequences on the victim of a sex crime. If that language sounds harsh, good, because that’s how I view the situation. A long time ago, in regards to women, we moved past the idea that it’s acceptable to force victims of sex crimes to deal with the consequences of the non-consensual pregnancy. It used to be the case that women could […]