Managing Life as a Single Parent after Divorce

When a divorced couple has children, life can get very complicated. Each parent is now on their own and suddenly realize all of the small things they did not notice when they had the other parent to back them up. Parents of babies and toddlers are tested by late nights and early mornings, with no one to alternate sleep, feedings, changing, and difficult nights with. Mothers and fathers of school aged children have to handle the morning routine: getting the kids to school, meeting with teachers, and driving the kids to after-school activities, all on their own. Managing life after divorce as a parent is not easy, but life will get back to normal much faster if steps are taken to deal with the challenges, instead of just hoping for a solution.

Struggles of Single Parents

Going through a divorce and living with divorce are very complicated life events which statistics show that many people in this country go through. Below are the two main challenges for single parents:

  • Childcare

This can be tricky one when the other parent doesn’t want to play nice. Developing a set schedule, if at all possible, for visitations will make it a little easier to figure out childcare. After visitation is established, each parent needs to find their own sitters or agree on one childcare or babysitter for both schedules. Both parents should have their own backup in case help bails at the last moment. This will keep the other parent from having to cancel their own plans to watch the children.

  • Finances

If child support or alimony is in play, you could come out a little better or a little worse; this depends on if you are the one receiving it or not. Large house payments and car leases might not have fazed you before, but now that there is one income, it’s likely time to downsize. The best way to downsize is to move into a smaller house with lower rent or mortgage; otherwise, make sure you’re not overdoing it on the spending – credit card bills can drown a single person.

 Coping with Stress

Divorce and death are the two most stressful events for people to deal with in life. Stress can take its toll on the individual and potentially destroy their life. With such a high stress situation, how does a single parent cope? Below are the five best ways to cope with stress during a divorce.

 Manage your weight with diet and exercise

It’s not about vanity or attracting another partner, keeping a steady weight will keep your hormone levels normal.

 Get out and be around the people you used to spend time with

 When you’re married, you tend to push aside others in your life to spend time with your spouse. If you’re dealing with divorce, now is a great time to reconnect with the people you lost touch with. Reconnecting will give you a chance to talk to people about things other than the stressful separation – it also gives you ‘adult’ time away from the kids.

Laugh

 Laughing is a great coping mechanism; when you laugh your body releases serotonin and reduces cortisol levels. Watch a funny movie, go watch a comedian, or just have your kids tell you about their silly perspectives on childhood things.

 Don’t turn to vices such as smoking, drinking or drugs

This one is important for everyone, but most especially for parents. As tempting as it may be to turn to vices to get you through the divorce, do not give in. Smoking, drinking, or using drugs will only make you feel ‘okay’ for a very short while; most of the time, using these substances end up making you feel much worse as soon as they clear your system. More importantly, you don’t want to set that example for emotionally vulnerable children.

Read more about coping with stress on the CDC webpage.

 

Ginarte O’Dwyer Gonzalez Gallardo & Winograd, LLP is a family divorce law firm located in New Jersey/New York. For more information, please visit us at www.Ginarte.com.

Divorce: Is Your Child the One Suffering?

divorceGoing through a divorce is a stressful and upsetting time for a couple, but you have to keep in mind that this is an extremely stressful time for your children as well. Learning that their parents are splitting and that everything they know is about to change is daunting. Make sure your choice to divorce does not cause your child to suffer unnecessarily. Below are three tips to help your child manage a divorce healthily.

Be Conscious of What Will Upset Your Child

A divorce will probably result in a lifestyle change for your child, and a huge change in their daily routine can cause a child to feel stressed. Try to keep your child’s life as consistent as possible: keep them in the same school, surround them with their same friends, and make sure they keep up the same activities they’ve always loved. Maintaining a routine and schedule when another aspect of their life has become chaotic is integral.

It is also hugely important to make sure you keep heated and emotional debates between you and your partner to a minimum. Arguing, fighting, name-calling or any other nasty behavior does not need to be witnessed by your child. Even if the divorce was messy, remember that this person is still a parent to your child. Avoid blaming their parent, bad-mouthing their parent or fighting if your child can hear. At the end of the day, a child needs to know that both his parents are still in his life and still love him, regardless of the divorce.

Encourage Conversation With Your Child

Another way to ensure that your child manages a divorce the best they can and doesn’t suffer through it is to encourage them to voice their feelings and concerns. Initiate conversation with your child and talk about the changes they can expect to happen during the course of the divorce. Help them put their feelings into words, and listen to their response. It is important to let your child know that the way they are feeling is normal and that you respect their feelings.

If your child isn’t encouraged to speak about the divorce, this could have a negative impact on their behavior. Young children might have a change in appetite, their sleep patterns might be affected, or their behavior in school could be impacted. If your kids are older, they might take uncharacteristic risks. Letting your children speak will only help them emotionally.

Talk Care of Yourself and Learn to Manage Stress

The way you take care of yourself and manage the divorce will also affect your child. If you let the stress of custody and divorce paperwork get the better of you, you might fail to properly care for yourself. When you properly care for yourself and manage stress well, your child will learn how to handle stress and change in a healthy way. Get support if need be so that you can take care of yourself and your children.

Going through a divorce is always going to be a difficult time, but don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for your children. Follow these three tips to help your child healthily manage the new changes in their life. Your divorce shouldn’t result in your child suffering.

If you are going through a divorce, it is important to seek legal representation to mediate the situation and protect your child.  Charles R. Ullman & Associates, Attorneys at Law, are experienced divorce lawyers who can help you manage stress during this difficult time, ultimately shielding your child from the unhealthy effects.  For more information about this North Carolina law firm and how they can help you, visit the website at  www.divorcelawnc.com .  

Common Factors in Determining Custody Battles

child custody

Going through a divorce is a difficult time, both for the couple involved and their children. What makes it especially difficult is deciding who gets custody and how the child’s time will be divided between parents. Judges will determine a custody battle by considering what is best for the child and looking out for the best interests of the child. However, there are several factors involved that will determine a judge’s decision. Below are a few common factors that will determine the outcome of a custody battle.

The Child’s Age and Gender

The first factors that a judge will probably consider when settling a custody battle is the age and gender of your child. If a couple’s child is very young, chances are in the mother’s favor. That being said, nowadays a judge does not usually have a gender preference when determining custody. That is, a father will not necessarily get custody of his son and a mother will not necessarily get custody of her daughter. The judge will examine which parent can better provide care to a child of a particular age and gender. It is also important to note that siblings are unlikely to be separated.

The Child’s Personal Preference

The child’s personal preference is also taken into consideration. However, how much weight this factor holds will depend on the age of the child. While a 6 year old’s opinion will be considered, it will likely not hold as much weight as the opinion of a 14 year old. While it differs between states, generally when a child is between the age of 12 and 14 his opinion begins to receive more substantial weight.

The Parent’s Lifestyle 

There are a variety of factors regarding the parents that a judge will consider. First and foremost, a judge will consider which parent can best provide for their child’s physical, emotional, and medical needs. A parent’s health and their financial stability are both common factors influencing the outcome. For example, a mother who frequently moves, thereby uprooting her child’s education and influencing their grades, will not be seen as beneficial for the child. Other factors considered by a judge are whether or not any allegations of abuse, neglect or violence have ever been filed against either parent, whether any claims have been falsely filed, and how willing a parent is to let the other parent see the child. The parent who is awarded custody must be able to provide their child with the necessities of life.

The Child and Parent’s Relationship

Another one of the most important common factors a judge considers is the relationship the child has with either parent. If one parent has been more present for the child’s life so far, that parent will probably have a better chance of winning custody. Love, affection, and emotional ties are all strongly considered by a judge.

Going through a divorce is stressful enough, but the added stress of custody can make the whole situation overwhelming. If you’re headed into court to determine who gets custody of a child, remember that a judge will not make a decision on just one factor. All of the above are common factors that a judge considers. At the end of the day, a judge will make a decision that is in the best interest of the child.

If you are amidst a custody battle, you should seek a professional to help you fight for the rights of your child.   Charles R. Ullman & Associates is a team of child custody lawyers with experience advocating for children and their best interests in North Carolina.  For more information about custody battles and processes, visit the website at www.DivorceLawCary.com.

Indiana’s Parenting Time “Nightmare Before Christmas”

It’s that time of year again. People run all over town to do their Christmas shopping, to decorate their homes, and attend holiday parties to spread cheer among their friends and themselves. However, this is also the worst time of year for lawyers, parents, and most importantly, children, because of what is known around our office as “Indiana’s Parenting Time ‘Nightmare before Christmas.’ ”

A number of years ago, some brilliant (and I say “brilliant” both literally and sarcastically) people put together what is known as Indiana’s “Parenting Time Guidelines” (guidelines that apply in all legal custody cases to assure that children have frequent and meaningful contact with each parent).  Although these are to be utilized as “guidelines,” they are far from it.  Many lawyers give copies of the guidelines to their clients without guidance on how to apply them, and the clients (or those who act as their own counsel and search the Internet), utilize the guidelines as the Bible of Parenting Time; no exceptions, no deviations, no thought or consideration to the consequences of how they affect who the Guidelines are suppose to protect: the children.

Although the parenting time guidelines provide guidance on many issues (most of which should be common sense), the one area that creates the most confusion for clients, and often times lawyers, is the portion that addresses Christmas Parenting Time for parents with their children.

Christmas Break is supposed to be a time when children are happy with the expectation of gifts, seeing family and friends, and most importantly to them, not going to school. However, the revolving door contained in the Christmas Break provisions of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines create not only a nightmare for children, but a nightmare for parents and attorneys alike.

My practice is primarily based out of Porter County, Indiana. Porter County has six school districts, most of them on the same Christmas vacation schedule.  However, due to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines and how they cause children to be bounced around during their two-week Christmas break, the nightmare occurs for parents and attorneys who must get out calendars, calculators, slide rules, iPads and many other devices in order to simply figure out how the children are going to be shuffled about during their Christmas vacation.

The confusing (and oftentimes, disastrous) pertinent parts of the IPTG provide:

D. HOLIDAY PARENTING TIME SCHEDULE
2 B. Christmas Vacation.
One-half of the period which will begin at 8:00 P.M. on the evening the child is released from school and continues to December 30 at 7:00 P.M. If the parents cannot agree on the division of this period, the custodial parent shall have the first half in even-numbered years. In those years when Christmas does not fall in a parent’s week, that parent shall have the child from Noon to 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Day. The winter vacation period shall apply to pre-school children and shall be determined by the vacation period of the public grade school in the custodial parent’s school district.

2 C. Holidays.
In years ending with an even number, the non-custodial parent shall exercise the following parenting time:
[1] New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. (The date of the new year will determine odd or even year).
From December 30th at 7:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M. of the evening before school resumes.

Huh?????

Based upon Indiana’s Parenting Time Guidelines and the main school districts of Porter County’s vacation time, as well as the majority of the other school districts in the State of Indiana, the once-deciphered guideline schedule for division of children causes the following “bouncing” to occur:

(Last day of school: December 21, 2012 – School Resumes: January 7, 2013)

Custodial Parent:
(a) Friday, December 21 from 8:00 PM until Tuesday, December 25 (Christmas Day) at 12:00 Noon, and
(b) Tuesday, December 25 at 9:00 PM until Wednesday, December 26 at 3:00 PM, and
(c) Sunday, December 30 from 7:00 PM until Sunday, January 6 at 7:00 PM.

Non-Custodial Parent:
(a) Tuesday, December 25 (Christmas Day)  from 12:00 Noon until Tuesday, December 25 (Christmas Day) at 9:00 PM, and,
(b) Wednesday, December 26 at 3:00 PM until Sunday, December 30 at 7:00 PM.

*** THIS ALSO APPLIES TO PRE-SCHOOL CHILDREN AND IS GOVERNED BY THE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN WHICH THEY RESIDE***

Pack your bags, kids… and leave them packed until New Year’s Eve because you and your suitcases will be travelling between Mom’s house and Dad’s house more in the next few weeks than a steamer trunk traveled the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, don’t be fooled by the phrase in the Guideline “One-half of the period… .”  This year (odd or even… this break counts as an “odd”) provides for the custodial parent to have the time from December 30 until the night before school begins, so in actuality, the custodial parent has the children 13 days compared to the non-custodial parent’s 6 days; one of which is 9 hours on Christmas Day.

Five back-and forths in a short period of time?  That makes a lot of sense.  Yet parents don’t care. If I had the proverbial nickel for every time in my nearly 30 years of practicing Family Law that I heard, “It’s MY time, I want it!” I’d be sipping scotch on the rocks on the beach outside my house in St. Maarten.  But I don’t have those nickels, I don’t have a house in the Carribean, and already, the phone calls have started asking “When do I get my kids for Christmas?”

Thank God the scotch is readily available this time of year, even if the nickels and beach house aren’t.

Wait a minute… isn’t the “Holiday Season” and the associated break from school suppose to be for the children?  Isn’t that a time when they are suppose to be happy and having fun?  Santa, snow-persons (politically correct, I believe), movies, junk food and sleeping in?

Nope!  This is another excuse for misguided parents to jab at one another, cause needless and unwanted turmoil, and drive their lawyers crazy with fights over “She’s getting 12 more minutes than I am” or “My family always celebrates on Christmas Eve and he won’t let me have them.”  On and on it goes… where these parents will stop, nobody knows.

Indiana has a draft of “revised” Parenting Time Guidelines that is floating around in limbo.  They’ve been circulated for nearly nine months, but for some reason, can’t be/haven’t been adopted.  Why? Because the professionals who know what’s best for children can’t agree on what’s best for Indiana’s children.  Sound familiar?

If they are ever adopted, the Christmas Vacation merry-go-round may finally come to an end. The mystery draft has the following solution to ending the constant back and forth:

B. Christmas Vacation.
The Christmas  vacation shall be defined as beginning on the last day of school and ending the last day before school begins again.    Absent agreement of the parties, the first half of the period will begin two hours after the child is released from school.  The second half of the period will end at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school begins again.
Each party will receive one half (1/2) of the total days of the Christmas vacation, on an alternating basis as follows:
1.In even numbered years, the custodial parent shall have the first one half (1/2) of the Christmas vacation and non-custodial parent shall have the second one half (1/2) of the Christmas vacation.
2.In odd numbered years, the non-custodial parent shall have the first one half (1/2) of the Christmas  vacation and custodial parent shall have the second one half (1/2) of the Christmas  vacation.
3. In those years when Christmas does not fall in a parent’s week, that parent shall have the child(ren) from Noon to 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Day.
4. No exchanges under this portion of the rule shall occur between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., absent agreement of the parties.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day shall not be considered separate holidays under the Parenting Time Guidelines.

A little more simple? Absolutely. Less suitcase mileage?  Finally! Will parents still find ways to fight about the breakdown of time and count their minutes to make sure the other parent doesn’t get a few seconds more?  Most likely.  Will lawyers still have to deal with parents arguing over the amount of time they demand over the Christmas holiday, even though most of the parents will still have to go to their own daily job and not be able to actually spend any extra time with their children after all (oh no… here comes the “First Right of Refusal” fights!)? Sadly, yes.

As Family Law attorneys, it is our job to help guide our clients through rocky times.  However, we can’t properly guide them if we don’t explain the road map we give them; simply handing them a copy of Parenting Time Guidelines and saying “Read the book… Good Luck!” is not enough.  On the other hand, if the road map we give them is so confusing and leads to more hazards than assistance, it’s the responsibility of the drafters of the revised guidelines to get them finished, get them approved, and make them simple enough for everyone to understand and apply.

The solution to Indiana’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” can be solved with a few simple steps that end with the same conclusion:

1. The new Parenting Time Guidelines that appear to address a more reasonable division of the Christmas Break need to be approved NOW; keeping in mind, not what’s best for the parents, but what’s best for the children,

2.  Parents need to AGREE on how to divide the time their children have off from school for the holidays, long before December 20 each year; keeping in mind, not what’s best for the parents, but what’s best for the children,

3.  Family Law attorneys need to better explain the Guidelines to their clients and not just hand them a copy, wish them well, and send them on their way; keeping in mind, not what’s best for the parents, but what’s best for the children, and

4.  Drafters, attorneys and parents MUST realize that the Christmas Holiday Break, as well as all other parenting time, is a time for the children.  Petty differences over minutes and overnights should be put aside… THAT is what is best for the children.

The drafters of the new guidelines need to act quickly in making their final revisions.  Lawyers need to provide input as to what we see in the field as reality, not what “studies show” or “other states have done… .”  The Indiana Supreme Court needs to promulgate the new guidelines as soon as possible so holiday issues have more clarity and resolution in 2013.  But most importantly, everyone involved in the Family Law field has to realize that quality parenting time does not equate to hours, minutes and overnights with a child.  Quality parenting time is what is done during the time a parent and child are together.  As soon as attorneys, at the commencement of a case, start advising their clients to look at the parent’s time with their children as a precious commodity, instead of “time of possession,” everyone will be better served, especially the most important people of all… the children.

How to Prepare for a Custody Trial

(US family law procedure and generally) When a relationship ends, whether it is a marriage or two people living together, the emotional and financial toll it takes on the parties can be overwhelming. The impact of a break up is multiplied when the couple is embroiled in a dispute over custody of their children.

People fail to realize that a judge hearing a child custody case does not know either of the parties or the circumstances that brought them to court. A judge’s decision in a case is based only on the evidence presented by each side in the dispute; therefore, it is essential that you be prepared to provide your lawyer with the information, witnesses and documents she needs to prove that you are entitled to have custody of your children.

Do Not Involve the Children

If the children are living with you, do not bring them to court unless your attorney or the judge instructs you to do so. A child custody case is a dispute between the parents that affects the children. The children should not be made parties to the dispute.

Parents who speak negatively to their children about the other parent in an effort to win the children to their side are only hurting themselves. Judges hearing a custody case will usually speak to the children privately at some point in the proceedings. One reason for the interview is to determine if either of the parents has attempted influence the children.

Maintain a Diary

Your lawyer needs an accurate account of the facts and circumstances in the relationship both you and your partner had with the children. You should prepare a diary for your lawyer of current and prior incidents that have a bearing on the question of custody or the relationships you and your spouse have with the children.

Each diary entry should begin with the date, location and names of people who were present. After this preliminary information, there should be a brief, factual description of what occurred including statements that were made. Keep the description as accurate as possible and limit it to occurrences having to do with the issue of custody.

Witnesses

Witnesses who have information that bears upon your relationship with your child are more important than testimony from your high school classmate saying you were a wonderful person when she last saw you 15 years ago. The following are examples of useful witnesses in a custody case:

• Counselors who have treated you or your child
• Your child’s teachers
• Guidance counselors at your child’s school
• Friends and neighbors who have witnessed your interaction with your child
• Doctors and other health care workers

Documents and Other Evidence

Documents such as letters and photographs that are related to the issue of custody should be gathered and shown to your attorney. Keep in mind that not every piece of evidence can or should be used be used in court, so do not get upset if your attorney decides not to use something you believe the judge should see or hear. For instance, you may have a tape recording of a conversation you secretly recorded between your spouse and the children that your attorney refuses to use in court. Your attorney will probably advise you that such secret recordings are illegal in most states.

Listen to Your Lawyer

A family law attorney knows the custody laws in your state and the rules for the admissibility of evidence in child custody cases. Following your attorney’s instructions and advice is the best way to achieve a successful result.

Karen White knows how stressful custody trials can be. Seeking help from a Dallas family lawyer can bring good results to your divorce and custody trial cases.

Popular Myths about Divorce

There is a popular myth among divorcing couples, which has the mother automatically gaining custody of the children. While this myth is simply not true, it is relatively prevalent among couples and can lead to serious challenges in the preparation of a case. Because a divorce is a time of trouble and considerable emotional hardship it becomes vital to understand all your rights and the actual content of the law before making snap decisions, which is why an attorney is critically important.

Laws today are very different and do not seek to favor one or the other party, especially with regards to child custody. Here are some things that the court does look at; versus the popular urban legends about divorce floating around the water cooler.

Myth: Mothers are automatically favored and will by default be awarded custody of the children, especially if they are young.

Fact: The fact is that mothers are not directly favored, neither are fathers. The law, in states like Florida, spells out very specifically that neither party will be favored and that the law cannot act in the best interest of one or the other party.

Myth: The one making the most money will have to pay a great deal of support and maintenance to the other party because they are not making as much. It is better to have no income or lower income during a divorce.

Fact: The court looks at a variety of factors to make sure the division of assets is equable. This means that income is certainly a factor. However, if one partner is not working or is under employed voluntarily the court will account for income to that person depending on what they are capable of making. This may seem unfair at times, but it is the only way the court can prevent manipulation of the system by voluntary unemployment or underemployment.

Myth: Divorce decrees are written in stone and once they are written there is no going back to change or modify them.

Fact: Circumstances change, often significantly, which allows one or the other party to go back and request the court to change the divorce decrees. Typically courts will not change a property distribution that has been set out but other parts can be changed depending on the circumstances. These include, and are not limited to, child support, alimony, and visitation.

Myth: Lawyers cost an arm and a leg, so it is better to try and represent your own interests in the court. There are many resources to help you and you will be just fine by yourself. Aunt Betty represented herself and was awarded everything but the kitchen sink, so it behooves you to try the legal justice wheel of fortune by yourself.

Fact: The legal justice system is complex and riddled with policy and procedures. Failure to follow the proper process can lead to significant losses. There are many resources available, but often the resources will only show you the exact law which can lead you to more confusion when you try to interpret it. Lawyers are trained for years to ensure that they can follow the correct procedures, understand the laws and statutes fully, and guide you in the best possible manner. Divorces can be expensive, even more so if your former significant other has a lawyer and you are going it alone. Finding out the cost of an attorney and ensuring that you have the right representation are critical in safeguarding your rights.

Andrew Miller is an avid legal blogger and manager of over 20 attorney blogs. This article was written on behalf of Charles R. Ullman & Associates : A Divorce attorney located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Hazardous Playgrounds: Can My Ex Take My Child There?

Playground Hazardous Playgrounds: Can My Ex Take My Child There?

In any marriage, parents will have different ideas about properly raising children. These disputes regarding parenting styles continue after couples divorce. Some parents will be more permissive to the point of ignoring a hazardous environment, such as an old and battered playground. When one parent is irresponsible with the child’s safety, the other parent should be motivated to take action.

Criminal Penalties

Criminal sanctions for taking a child to a playground are usually not possible. Child endangerment statutes vary between jurisdictions, but generally, there has to be intent to place the child into a dangerous situation. California law requires criminal negligence, which is a much higher standard than ordinary negligence. Taking a child to a playground that has peeling paint or the occasional sharp edge would probably not meet this standard.

If the parent is taking the child along to meet with drug dealers at the local playground, discussing the situation with the local police may be prudent. In practice, getting the police to file charges and getting the prosecutor to pursue the case can be difficult.

Custody Dispute

Divorcing parents have a high probability of being involved in a dispute over joint custody. In most states, custody decisions are made by the courts. Judges can modify custody arrangements at their discretion in most jurisdictions. While a parent may not be criminally liable for bringing a child to a hazardous playground, a judge can set conditions on the parent’s custody.

Endangering the child by taking him or her to a hazardous location may not constitute criminal liability, but it can sway a judge. The court can either order the parent to not bring the child to that location or modify the parent’s right to custody. Parents often raise trivial issues during custody disputes, so the judge will want proof that the playground is actually dangerous. Showing evidence of blatant criminal activity, drug usage, and other serious safety problems can sway the judge.

Liability

In the event of an injury, our Charleston personal injury attorney adviser points out that a property owner who fails to maintain the property may be liable. If the property had hidden defects, such as rusted or sharp equipment, the property owner must either warn guests or repair the defect. Failing to do so constitutes a breach of the property owner’s duty of care, and may make the property owner liable for negligence. A playground is likely to be in a public park or school. Thus, the city would be liable for failing to maintain its facilities.

Filing a lawsuit against the spouse for the same cause of action is also possible. The guardian has a duty to care for the child, and taking the child to a hazardous location may constitute a breach of that duty. If the plaintiff can show that the playground was actually dangerous, then the parent may sue on behalf of the child as his or her legal guardian. Lawsuits are expensive. Additionally, lawsuits will cement an adversarial relationship between the parties, which can have detrimental effects on the way that the child views one or both parents. Thus, parents should view a lawsuit as a last result.

Divorced parents will often disagree with one another. Parents who have disputes over where the adult should take the child should first discuss the issue with the other parent. Failing that, modifying the custody agreement may be possible. Parents do not have the right to endanger their children simply because they have custody at the moment.

Ann Bailey is a parent and contributor for research about playground safety. She adds this report highlighting work that can be done by lawyers like the Charleston personal injury attorney firm of Howell and Christmas, a U.S. group offering clients help and protection in litigation and compensation for instances of child injury or death.

 

The Legal Implications of Child Custody During Divorce

(US law and generally) No doubt, the greatest victims of divorce are the children. The impact of a custody decision on a child’s mental and physical health is enormous. Disturbances in the parent / child relationship cause depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, and may impair the child’s ability to form healthy relationships as an adult. Notable studies (Brook, Zheng, Whiteman, & Brook, 2001) have unequivocally linked angry parenting practices with the expression of anger and aggression in very young children.

There is a persistent and harmful misconception that joint custody predictably provides better long-term outcomes for children of divorce. It is well documented through years of scientific research that actual custodial arrangements are secondary to other issues. Instead, the greatest factors influencing child adjustment are the levels of parental conflict and the quality of parenting that the child receives.

Complex Child Custody Laws Require Effective Legal Assistance

Although child custody laws vary from state to state, most integrate a similar list of statutory factors that assist judges in performing a comparative fitness analysis. While consideration of these factors is mandatory, judges are given great leeway in decision-making. With this in mind, it becomes imperative to realize that bitter parents who litigate child custody often get distracted hurling accusations against each other.

This scenario provides very little useful information to the presiding judge, who needs to know which parent is the best suited for custodial status. While it is certainly necessary to point out negative factors and justifiable reasons for limiting visitation or decision-making authority, it is also crucial to give the judge positive information he or she can use.

Delays in the case are damaging for children and should be avoided. The American Bar Association advises judges and attorneys that, “When litigation proceeds at what attorneys and judges regard as a normal pace, children often perceive the proceedings as extending for vast and infinite periods. The passage of time is magnified for children in both anxiety levels and direct effect.”

Gender Bias

With the abolishment of the Tender Years Doctrine, a new presumption that favors gender neutrality is indicated in most state statues. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that perceived gender bias still exists in our family court system. Sometimes this bias is against the mother, especially if she works full time or becomes labeled an over protective parent. Fathers may experience the same frustration when the child is young and he has had limited involvement in day-to-day care.

Divorce and child custody issues cause a tremendous amount of financial and emotional stress, igniting volatile battles between the sexes outside the courtroom too. Political action groups advocate for the constitutional rights of both mothers and fathers, frequently ignoring the fact that the law requires the child’s best interests to be paramount to that of either parent.

Implications for the Future

Divorce and child custody issues are vulnerable to trends that favor public opinion. The law today is substantially different than it was twenty years ago. The way that law is practiced is also changing. The hardball litigation tactics used by older generations are being gradually replaced with a preference for negotiating child custody cases when possible.

In fact, only a minority of cases proceed to trial. These will typically involve complicated issues such as domestic abuse, child neglect or a personality-disorder parent. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges publishes a bench guide for assessing safety in these situations and offers recommendations for developing a plan that works.

Divorce and Drinking in CA: Will a DUI Affect My Custody Rights?

When parents are going through a divorce that involves a battle for the custody of children, there are considerations when DUI charges are pending or were present in the past. California courts are concerned with the safety, well-being and proper care of the children. Having physical custody of a child involves many responsibilities. Ultimately, the goal of the court system is to place children in a home that offers optimum parenting skills.

If you are trying to obtain legal custody and not physical custody, a DUI may still be a serious consideration. Decisions about a child’s health, education and many other details of their daily life may be better handled by the parent that shows responsibility through their own actions.

What Else May a DUI Charge Imply?

Our Walnut Creek DUI lawyer in California suggests that the court will want to know your background as a parent. If you have a current DUI charge, is it because you are a partier? If so, will parenting take a backseat to the lure of your social life? Was the child present in the car when you were stopped for the violation? Even if you had just dropped off your child or were just arriving to pick up her up, that is a serious situation and concern for the court when making custody decisions.

Current DUI Charge

The wisest decision you can make when faced with a DUI charge while a custody hearing is in progress, is to get an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced with DUI cases. If you live in Northern California, contacting an attorney local to the area is essential to helping you achieve a favorable outcome. In fact, if this DUI is your first offense, a California court may allow a plea bargain that will reduce the charge so that no DUI will be entered on the records.

While the DUI charge may enter into the decision about custody, facing the charge and making an effort to resolve the issue will also have an impact, and hopefully, a positive one. Calling an attorney as early as possible after a DUI arrest is important because he or she can counsel you in many ways if they are involved in the case from the beginning. You could even choose a lawyer who is experienced in both DUI and child custody issues.

Past DUI Charges

Some other things to think about if you have past DUI charges on you record are: How did you handle those? Did you have more than one? Was it determined that you had a drinking problem? If so, did you complete a program to conquer the addiction and did that result in no additional DUI charges? A continuing history of DUIs is extremely detrimental to a custody hearing.

Another issue that may have adverse effects on your child custody case is if the DUI charge was coupled with other charges. Did the DUI involve an accident? Were any criminal charges filed? Were people hurt or was property damaged? All of these factors will be considered in your ability to care for your children.

Finding the Best DUI Attorney

As a parent facing a custody battle and a DUI issue, you will undoubtedly need the best attorney you can afford. Sharing custody of your children, at least part of the time, is a big incentive to get an attorney on your side as soon as the DUI charge is filed. A qualified legal team will be instrumental in helping you by offering the best possible options and alternatives in your specific situation. Knowing all your options and what actions you need to take is vital to the success of both your DUI charge and your custody hearing.

Karla M. Somers has worked as a child advocate and family mediator for divorce and custody cases in the state of New York. She is a contributing writer for the Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson, a dedicated Walnut Creek DUI lawyer team who is passionate about DUI defense and parental rights cases. They can answer your questions and help you put legal matters behind you.

Flexibility in Child Custody in the Best Interests of Growing Children

(US family law and divorce generally)

Custody Should Adapt to a Child’s Changes:

Divorces in the 21st century always include a parenting plan if there are children involved. Some parents share parenting almost equally, and some utilize a week-day/week-end schedule to keep the kids going to the same schools no matter which parent has visitation. Parents who live states apart can enact a parenting plan where one parent has the kids during the school year and the other has the children during summer vacation.

No parenting plan is ideal, because “ideal,” to a child, would be for the parents to be together. But this is the real world, which is a concept that all children will learn at some point in their upbringing. Parents, though, can do a great deal to keep pick-ups and drop-offs amenable and communication civil.

Communication:

If divorced spouses can keep the lines of communication open, the children fare better. Married parents talk about their children all the time. If a divorced parent has a concern or just wants the ex-spouse to know something new about their child, he or she should be able to call the other parent. Keeping parenting the same in both homes is always better for the children.

Tender Years Doctrine:

Many states have, or are in the process of, eliminating the “tender years” doctrine. This means that instead of the presumption that it is always best for children to live with the mother, now both parents are being considered equally. This is a much fairer way to handle parenting options after divorce. Not only does it keep both parents more involved in the lives of their children, but it also levels the playing field for disputes over custody issues.

Best Interests of the Children:

In all states, crafting a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children is the primary consideration. It may be inconvenient for both parents, but the children should always come first. However, for many divorced parents, the children are caught in the crossfire of unresolved marital issues. With a concerted effort on the part of both parents, co-parenting can be accomplished after divorce without the insinuations, sabotage and veiled threats that some parents continue to remain embroiled in. Parents don’t have to like each other; they just have to act like they like each other.

If both parents are able to live within the boundaries of the school(s) that their children attend, there is little reason that parents can’t split their parenting time 50/50. In time, the children adjust to this and regard it as normal.

When a Child Decides:

A child’s needs change as he or she gets older. For instance, when a boy is 10 or 11, he may want to live with his father. Depending upon the parenting plan, this could actually involve only slight changes on the plan to allow the child to spend more time with his dad. But, if the dad lives out of state and sees the child only in the summer, the mother may not want to become the “summer” parent. In this event, the couple will have to work with the Court and a mediator to develop a new parenting plan.

In instances such as this, the judge may actually ask the child in chambers, away from his or her parents, to learn who the child wants to live with. The judge may also appoint a psychologist to meet with the child to discuss the issue. As long as it has been determined that the child hasn’t been coerced, there’s a good chance that the parenting plan will be revised to represent the child’s preference.

About the Author

This article was written by Karl Stockton for orlandodivorcehelp.com. If a family law issue arises, contact a family lawyer to receive legal assistance.