Deciding to pick up the phone and make that dreaded first call when you feel the time is right to contact an attorney is a petrifying moment. It’s one of those times in your life where you just have to take the plunge, dial the phone and make the call.
When parents get divorced, they are encouraged to sort out arrangements for any children between themselves, so that things can remain as amicable as possible. The best interests of the children should be the focal consideration and both parents should continue to have a strong involvement in their lives, so long as there are no welfare issues to consider.
The welfare of the child has always been the fundamental consideration for courts dealing with child arrangements following a couple’s separation. The welfare checklist set out in S8 of the Children Act 1989 provides statutory guidance that requires certain factors to be considered. Amongst other things, the wishes and feelings of the child and the child’s needs are considered, so that the most appropriate arrangement is reached. Due to the subjective requirements of each child, extreme care must be taken to ensure that the specific needs of the child are met.
If you are a parent involved in a Florida marital dissolution, your relationship with your children typically will be a significant concern. Depictions of toxic highly contested child custody disputes in popular movies and television shows can perpetrate the illusion that most child custody cases are bitterly contested. However, many parents are able to navigate the challenging emotional issues that can interfere with parents’ communication during a divorce to achieve a mutually agreeable parenting plan.
When an amicable timeshare arrangement can be constructed based on reasonable negotiations of both parents, both the parents and kids generally will benefit. While the benefit to kids of having their parents deal with one another in a positive cooperative fashion might be apparent, the parents also benefit because they will tend to arrive at more stable and acceptable parenting plan arrangements than a parenting plan imposed by a judge after highly contested litigation of custody issues.
While there are certainly custody cases that cannot be resolved amicably, we have provided an overview of benefits that can be derived from the amicable resolution of custody disputes:
- Preservation of Financial Resources: When parties are involved a contested divorce, high conflict custody cases can be one of the most costly aspects of a divorce. A child custody evaluator may need to be appointed with the cost of the custody evaluation paid by the parents. If the parents cannot cooperate on simple parenting issues, the parties may be forced to return to court to handle matters that are often resolved informally between the parties and/or their Florida child custody attorneys without the need for a court hearing. If the case is particularly egregious, the case may even require a full scale trial.
- Lack of Finality: While the divorce process can be amicable, a marital dissolution is still a chapter in the lives of most that they would like to conclude. If the judge is forced to impose a parenting plan, one or both parties may be extremely unsatisfied with the judgment. This dissatisfaction may result in one or both party’s violating the terms of the judgment so that contempt proceedings are necessary to obtain compliance by the offending party. Further, mutual discontent with the parenting plan also may make the parents more inclined to repeatedly return to court to seek modification of the terms of the custody and timeshare arrangements. While a parent must be able to establish a substantial and material change in circumstances to justify an actual change in the judgment, a parent may continue to file modification requests making it difficult for the parents’ to move on.
- Positive Communication between Parents: When parents develop the ability to communicate and deal with each other effectively, this communication will permit the parties to more effectively communicate about issues concerning the kids and to coordinate their efforts when issues arise. Parents who are able to communicate effectively can obtain reasonable adjustments in the parenting plan without the need for court intervention.
- Minimizing Adverse Impact on Kids: While the divorce process is difficult for kids, it can be much easier when kids are shielded from animosity between their parents. A wealth of studies have shown that children fair better when their parents deal with each other in an amicable and reasonable way than during bitterly contested custody cases. While divorce may end marital status, it does not terminate the need to continue co-parenting so a functional co-parenting relationship can facilitate more effective parenting.
Because Florida child custody lawyers recognize the value of the amicable resolution of custody issues, they can help you navigate the emotional roadblocks that often derail the constructive negotiation of parenting plans when parties proceed without legal representation in custody cases.
In November 2013, Tyler Nelson and Pamela Nelson of Tampa, Florida, sat down for an interview with The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine. The Nelsons had decided to Divorce using the Collaborative Process, as they did not want to fight in Court and they wanted to focus on the best interests of their daughter. Tyler was joined by his collaborative attorney, Adam B. Cordover, and Pamela was joined by her attorney, Joryn Jenkins. The interview was conducted by carl Michael rossi.
You can find the full interview at The World of Collaborative Magazine, and you can find excerpts below.
Tyler: A child needs her mother and father, even if they’re not together…Pamela was the one who found out about the collaborative process and told me about it. You know, you’re always going to have some kind of fear. Is this going to work out like it should? What is everyone going to have to do to make this work out? But as soon as I spoke with Adam about everything, all of my fears were gone. He explained everything and the way it was going to work, how it was going to work. I’m pretty sure Pam felt the same way, as soon as she spoke to her lawyer, she probably went through everything. That’s the one good thing about our lawyers, that they explained everything that was going to happen before it happened.
Pamela: Not everybody knows about collaborative divorce, yet. We really didn’t know until it was explained to us. It was a better process for us, rather than go to court and fight.
Tyler: Everything that needed to be addressed, has been addressed…Everything that we wanted to agree on, we did, and everything that we wanted put down on paper, it was.
Pamela: We also have different visitation rights with our daughter. More than, likely, other people have. We already had that situated, and we just needed to put it on paper. It was kind of different than normal people, where they only see their kids every weekend. We do our schedule every week, and we split the holidays. We had to work that out, and put that on paper.
Pamela: The judge actually said that she agreed that we were doing it the best way and that we were dealing with the divorce in a good way. Instead of people fighting and it being a bad thing, it was actually a good situation.
Adam: It was interesting that, at the end of that final hearing, Tyler and Pamela had their pictures taken with the judge. It was described afterwards as being not so much like a divorce setting, but strangely enough kind of like a wedding setting. They had their picture taken with the officiating person. Judge Lee was fantastic and was praising Tyler and Pamela for dissolving their marriage in a way where they keep their focus on their children and not on fighting. To divorce in a way that
was in the best interest of their daughter.
Joryn: I can’t remember doing another divorce where the judge congratulated the parties afterwards, and I’ve been doing this for thirty years.
Tyler: (regarding an interdisciplinary team) They told me about the financial manager [Monicas Ospina, CPA], and she was great. So was the psychologist [Jennifer Mockler, Ph.D.], she was great. They were all great.
Pamela: [The financial professional and mental health professional] were very helpful. They helped us with our tax returns, to see who should file for dependency exemptions to get the most out of it. And the mental health professional helped us stay on the same page with our daughter to make sure that we were doing the right thing. The psychologist made sure we were on the same page in how we were raising our daughter and determine what’s best for her.
Pamela: (regarding the collaborative process) There’s no arguing, you know, there’s not really fighting or going back and forth or going to court or having the records be there out in public. There’s more privacy. I would definitely recommend it to anybody considering divorce.
Tyler: I have to agree with her…If you go and do the collaborative divorce, you have a lawyer there…They are not trying to make us fight. They are just there to write down what we want, and that’s the best thing about collaborative.
Tyler: We all sat down and talked. There was no arguing.
Pamela: The professionals worked around our schedules instead of us being court ordered to go to court on certain times and dates.
Pamela: (regarding going to the state-mandated parenting class) Everyone else was crying and hated their ex and wanted to kill them and I was like “well,
we’re friends, and everything is good.”
Tyler: “If anybody is thinking about doing a divorce, they should look into a collaborative divorce instead of jumping into it and going to court and fighting.”
Adam: “What I found excellent about this process and this couple, as opposed to the court-based divorces that I generally go through, is that when we were sitting around the table together with the mental health professional and financial professional, and we were talking, we weren’t just talking “civilly.” We were talking in earnest. We were actually just joking around at a few times and able to communicate in ways that you just couldn’t imagine doing in other divorce processes, even at a mediation table when there is the threat of litigation.
Joryn: “It is a much more protected environment, I think. It freed me up, and I’d like to think Adam, as well, to feel like we were teammates. We didn’t have to be adversaries, even though we were both representing different interests.”
Adam B. Cordover, Joryn Jenkins, Monica Ospina, and Jennifer Mockler are all members of Next Generation Divorce, formerly known as the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay. Next Generation Divorce is made up of professionals dedicated to respectfully resolving family disputes.
The day that you most dreaded in your divorce has come—the receipt of your attorney’s billing statement. After having put it aside, and having found ten other things to open in its place, you are left with the one, unopened envelope, bearing your attorney’s logo, and certainly carrying no news of anything good. You carefully open the envelope; you are surprised by how many pages fit into that one envelope. Unfolding the pages of the billing statement, there it is for you to see: every single minute spent on your case, either detailed so precisely, you find it irritating that your lawyer would have been so picayune, or detailed so generally, you cannot understand how that much time was purportedly spent, doing so little. And what is the only thing missing? The majority of your initial retainer.
As a St. Petersburg practicing attorney with 26 years of experience in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, the last twenty years having been spent in family/criminal and personal injury law as Attorney Hanks, P.A., I am here to tell you that I take no greater interest or appreciation in creating that billing statement, than you did to open and read it. And not matter how much I prepared you for this moment when you first read and signed my fee agreement, you likely did not realize the math involved: .10, the lowest hourly percentage for which most attorneys will bill, when applied to a $275.00 hourly rate, equals $27.50. Ouch. Read your letter to me? $27.50. Sent you that email? $27.50. That time, last week, when you called me to ask about your hearing date? $27.50. And that is just at that hourly rate. Applied to the higher hourly rate of attorneys in bigger cities or in bigger firms, those small activities could run $35.00 each ($350.00 per hour), $45.00 each ($450.00 an hour), and so on. How quickly then, will your retainer be exhausted?
So, how can you prevent this? What can you do? My first suggestion, at least if you are not already in an hourly billing arrangement, is to ask your attorney for a flat fee quote, for part or all of your case. This is not as unusual as it may sound. Criminal Defense fees are standard flat fee arrangements. Personal Injury and Probate fees are usually flat fee arrangements as well, though these will be based on a percentage of the recovery or the amount of the assets. Professionally, I have had my fill of hourly billing arrangements, even in family law cases. No client wants to see how much I am charging for an email response and I do not want to account for every email I send a client. In this age of electronic communications, many of emails are sent when I am out of the office, either in Court waiting for a hearing, in a break between depositions, or even out to dinner with my family. To have to account for them the next day or days after, becomes a burden.
For the attorney, the basis for a flat fee in a family law case, whether the case is a divorce, child custody, child support or paternity case, is the same as the basis for a flat fee in a criminal case. Each case is going to have the same initial, basic components, and the same, initial procedures. For my clients, in a Florida family law case, these are the pleading stage, the exchange of mandatory disclosure (financial documents), and the attendance at an initial, family mediation conference. I know the amount of time each one of those actions takes, both before in preparation, during, and upon its conclusion. No matter what the dynamics of the case, these three elements will be present. For the client, the flat fee is somewhat of a relief. They know that their case, at least up to a point, will cost “X” amount of dollars. I say up to a point, because mediation may not settle all of the issues in a case. Depending on what issues are left over to be tried, then different amounts of time will be needed to bring the case to a conclusion. But even in those situations, I will try to provide my client with a flat fee quote for their representation beyond the mediation, and through a trial.
But what if you are already in under an hourly billing arrangement, how do you get the most out of your retainer?
1. Understand The Billing Arrangement. Recognize that you are under an hourly billing arrangement. Recently, I had a divorce client, who had received a billing statement tell me, “I didn’t know you billed for emails or phone calls.” Well, most family lawyers do, as our time I one of the things we are selling. Whether we spend ten minutes in a phone hearing on your behalf, or ten minutes answering your email, the cost is the same. Therefore, clients should only contact an attorney, when he or she absolutely needs advice or information. If you call me to ask if there is anything new in your case, I will be happy to tell you that there is no new update to provide you, but I have to charge you for having had that phone conference.
2. The Minimum Fraction of Time: Keep in mind what I wrote earlier, that the minimum slot of time for which an attorney will generally bill you, is .10—six minutes or one tenth of an hour. If you send me five separate, short emails to review, you will spend much more of your retainer than you would have spent, had you sent me one longer email to review. The same applies to phone calls. Ten phone calls over two weeks, will cost much more than one longer phone conference, or even an office conference.
3. The Attorney’s Assistant or Paralegal. Whenever possible, is to speak to the attorney’s assistant or paralegal, instead of the attorney. My hourly billable rate in St. Petersburg, Florida, is $275.00 an hour, but I bill my paralegal at $75.00 an hour. If you want to confirm your hearing date or time, you can get this information from my paralegal at a much better rate, than getting me on the phone. Now this will not work for anything that requires legal advice or consultation. In those instances, the paralegal should put you through to the attorney, but you will then get billed for having spoken to both. However, for any time that you are simply seeking procedural information, contact the paralegal or legal assistant. He or she can inform you just as easily as the lawyer can, and at much less of a cost.
4. Follow instructions. This would seem to be unnecessary to relate, but I have found this is the source of the greatest increase in billable time, and the greatest reduction of a retainer. It is, though, quite basic, and at the heart of any successful representation. Comply with your attorney’s instructions. When your attorney asks you to provide certain documents, provide them. I have had clients who have refused to provide many of the financial documents necessary for mandatory disclosure (tax returns, bank statements, etc..), on the belief that those records are either not relevant to the case (Florida’s financial disclosure requirements are the same—whether it is a new divorce or a modification of an older custody judgment), or the client believes the records should not be seen by the other party, for the sake of confidentiality. This leads to additional and unnecessary communications with me or my paralegal, then to letters and motions to compel filed by the other side, and finally to an actual hearing, so that the client can be told by the family law judge, what I have been telling him or her all along—provide the documents. And at that point, the client has not only run up his or her own legal fees, but now may be subject to paying the other side’s attorney’s fees, for having to take that step. It is simply a waste of a retainer, and potentially hampers the progress of the case on the actual issues such as alimony, child support or child custody, if the client has to raise more money to continue the representation.
If you follow these steps, you can guarantee you will make your own legal representation more affordable and more effective. And as a result, you will be more satisfied with your attorney, and more likely to refer a friend with a divorce, time-sharing or other family law case. So, both you and your lawyer come out ahead.
Mark Hanks, Attorney Hanks, P.A.
Your Family Attorney
St. Petersburg, Florida
Military divorces are much like any other divorce. Two people decide they no longer want to be married, and go through the process of separating property, assets and determining child custody issues. However, the way these concerns are addressed, and the way things are separated between the two parties, requires a consideration of the military member’s lifestyle and benefits. Understanding how survivor benefits and military pensions are divided up, and how custody of children is determined, is important for both spouses considering divorce.
Many military marriages involve an active duty spouse and a civilian spouse. The lifestyle of these families adapts to the military world, with active duty personnel moving regularly for various deployments, and with the military spouse frequently away from home. Families that fit this description should be aware that the courts will rarely grant full custody to the active duty spouse.
When determining child custody, the courts always look out for the best interests of the child. It is understood that, while the active duty spouse is doing much for his or her country, the lifestyle is ill suited for raising children. Military families should assume that child custody will go to the non-active spouse, and this will likely include child support payments.
Division of Military Pensions
Active duty service members are entitled to a pension after 20 years of service. The courts answer the question how to divide up this pension in the case of divorce. Most military couples are aware that the non-military spouse is entitled to half of the pension after 10 years of marriage. However, not all are aware that this division is negotiable.
The couple can come to an agreement on the division of the pension in their own way. This includes if the marriage has been shorter than the standard 10 years, and it includes the possibility of a payout of less than 50 percent of the pension after the 10-year mark.
The 10-year and 50 percent standards are simply guidelines for the court to go on. The arguments presented by both divorce attorneys and the decision of the court can produce a number of different results. Each spouse may wind up with more, or less, than he or she was aiming for.
It should also be noted that only after ten years of marriage can the finance center pay the awarded portion of the pension to the spouse. If the non-military spouse wins some of the pension, but the marriage did not last for at least ten years, it is the responsibility of the retiree to make the payments to the ex-spouse.
Some spouses make the mistake of assuming that the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) – the payout that happens upon the death of the military spouse – will still go them in the event of death. While the SBP can be awarded to the divorced spouse during the divorce proceedings, this is certainly not guaranteed.
If the ex-spouse is not awarded the SBP, then he or she will stop receiving pension payments in the event that the military member dies. This is something to remain aware of during divorce negotiations.
Military Divorce Lawyer
Spouses considering a military divorce should seek the help of an experienced military divorce lawyer. This will help ensure the best possible results from the divorce.
Child custody is often a tricky subject. Two parents going at it over who will have custodial rights of their child can turn out badly, and the laws that will eventually lead to a judge’s decision are rather complex. Unfortunately, when a parent dies with legal custody of their child, the complexity related to these issues becomes even more daunting. This is why all parents should fully understand what their child may face in the event of a parent’s death.
One Parent still Alive
Many individuals believe that if one parent dies, the other parent automatically has custody. Well, this is true in some cases, but definitely not in all. If the two parents are married and share custody of their children, the surviving parent would obviously retain custodial guardianship over the child. If the parents are divorced, however, the waters can get a bit more murky.
The granting of legal custody to a surviving parent isn’t automatic if the two were divorced and only one had legal custody. Now, it’s important to note that judges are usually inclined to grant custody to the surviving parent, but they’ll definitely consider a few factors before doing this.
The factors considered are similar in many states. According to www.dgtucson.com divorce lawyers in Arizona, for instance, along with several other states, judges will consider the child’s wishes, any parental criminal activity, the relationship the parent has with the child and even whether or not the deceased parent stated in their will that they wanted a specific person to have custody. Regardless of what’s going on, the surviving parent, if divorced, will need to file a petition to modify custody.
Both Parents Deceased
If both parents are deceased, child custody becomes a whole other issue. As in most cases after a custodial parent’s death, a judge will grant temporary custody to someone seen as fit for raising the child. Unfortunately, if there are no surviving family members, such as grandparents, and the parents didn’t leave a will, the child could end up in foster care.
This is why it’s essential for parents to have a will stating who they’d like to care for their children in the event of their deaths. In many cases, the courts would decide upon having a child stay with other family members, but if a parent prefers to have a godparent or friend care for their child, they’ll need to have this in their will. This is also imperative if there are no other surviving family members.
In cases where both parents die and there are multiple parties seeking custody, such as a godparent and grandparents, an individual will need to file a petition for custody with the courts. This is basically the case in most situations involving the death of at least one custodial parent, and it would behoove a person to seek out a family law attorney to help in their quest for custody.
The death of a parent can be devastating for a child. Unfortunately, months following the tragedy can be just as difficult if a custodial plan wasn’t figured out before their death. Even in the presence of a will, however, child custody can be contested. According to the lawyers at www.dgtucson.com, family law may often seem straightforward, but it can be extremely complicated. There is no steadfast rule of law that will determine who gets custody every time. Judges are tasked with deciding what’s best for the welfare of the child, and in reality, this is usually a good thing.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), state DOMAs were not affected by the ruling. This means that same sex couples cannot get legally married in states, such as Florida, that enacted a DOMA.
This also means that gay and lesbian couples cannot get divorced in many DOMA states and oftentimes do not have any legal remedy to separate. If the domestic partners did not adopt each other’s children, even if both partners had been considered the parents of the children, then child custody, visitation, and child support laws usually will not apply. Equitable distribution laws (laws related to division of marital assets and debts) do not apply, so separating property and liabilities can get real messy, real quick. Further, alimony and spousal maintenance laws do not apply, so a partner who spent years homemaking and taking care of children may suddenly become destitute. So what are separating same sex couples to do?
Domestic partners who are dissolving their relationship should seriously consider entering into a collaborative family law process.
Collaborative family law is a form of private dispute resolution that allows clients to enter into agreements and achieve results that could never be attained through a court process. Each client retains a separate attorney who advises and counsels the client and helps in the negotiating process. A neutral facilitator, who is a mental health professional or mediator, helps the clients focus on their interests, such as the welfare of clients’ children, continued relationships with each other’s family members, or financial stability. If there are substantial assets or debts or a business, a neutral accountant or financial planner will be brought in to educate the parties in finances, help fairly and cost-effectively divide property and liabilities, and, if requested, develop a budget for the clients’ future.
As you can see, collaborative family law is a holistic process that takes into account not only the legal, but also the emotional and financial needs of the clients.
The crux of collaborative family law is that the clients agree at the beginning that they will not seek to resolve their dispute through court battles, but rather they will come to a mutually agreeable settlement through this private process. The clients, and their attorneys, enter into a participation agreement which disqualifies the attorneys from representing the clients in any contested court action. This provides a safe space in collaborative meetings because each client knows that the other client’s attorney is not conducting opposition research and is committed solely to helping the clients reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This allows clients to feel more comfortable offering and listening to potential solutions.
In truth, the disqualification clause has much more of an effect on heterosexual couples who are getting divorced, rather than homosexual couples who are separating. This is because, as stated above, most DOMA state courts just do not have remedies that would properly address the clients’ concerns, and so attempts to fight it out in court will oftentimes be dismissed.
If you are experiencing a same sex separation, make sure to speak with an attorney who offers collaborative family law, and check to see whether the attorney has received collaborative law training that meets at least the minimum Basic Training standards of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
If you have questions regarding a Tampa Bay collaborative family law process, or you want to learn more about your Florida family law rights, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover currently serves as Research Chair of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida and Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay. Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida) and has completed over 40 hours of basic and advanced collaborative family law continuing legal education credit.
Child custody laws are meant to provide a legal structure to govern relationships between divorced parents and their children. Preferably, divorced parents are supposed to work together to have a cordial agreement to have shared custody, but this if often not possible due to resentment between the divorced spouses who tend to drag their children in the divorce and marital disputes. This raises the need for you to hire a divorce attorney or a child custody lawyer to assist you in your child custody battle.
The best interest of the child is the major focus in determination of child custody. Thus, every aspect of both parents life, both past and present, is put under scrutiny so as to determine which parent is most suited for child custody.
This is a general term referring to different aspects of an individual’s life. You need to have your life together for you to be awarded sole custody of the child. The factors to be considered here include your ability to provide safe home, environment and social setting for the children, your employment status and financial security, criminal history and psychological stability (history of substance abuse, mental illness, and child neglect or abuse). Thus, you must prove in court that you are more stable than your partner.
The court knows that quite often, spouses file for full custody of the child just to hurt their ex without necessarily having developed a relationship with the children. Thus, it is important to leave out personal vendettas out child custody cases because the court will investigate whether you have strong ties with your kids. Thus, the court is likely to award custody to the parent with stronger emotional ties with the children.
Just as mentioned earlier, some parents may seek custody just to get back at their spouses. Though it’s normal for parents to want to be with their kids, you must prove to the court that it is in the child’s best interest to be awarded sole custody. For instance, a father asking for sole custody of children less than 5 years does not consider that this can emotionally hurt them or can create an emotional barrier with their mother. Thus, the court is likely to award custody to the parent who can prove that his or her motive is in the best interest of the children.
The child’s wishes can also be taken into consideration in determining custody cases. Nonetheless, this factor is greatly dependent on the age of the child where the preference of children below 6 years old may not hold as much weight in court as the preference of children above 12 years.
* The health of the parents and the child’s age, sex and medical needs
* Impact of changing living arrangements to the child or children
* Quality of life, including health, education and social life while living with one parent
* Effect on the child’s established lifestyle which includes school, home, church etc.
(Guest family law blog post based on family law practice in the US and generally; Views are those of the author and not necessarily those of FamilyBlawg)
Are you wondering is it possible to win a child custody battle without a lawyer? Well, the good news is that you can get some respite from the struggles involved in child custody proceeding. This is because you can embark such a proceeding without legal representation.
Here’s a list of 5 Easy Steps To Win A Child Custody Battle Without A Lawyer:
Go to a clerk in the court and obtain a motion for child custody or modifying a child custody form. The court clerks will typically maintain these forms, required to address a range of custody issues. Some locations allow you to download relevant forms available on the court’s website. Indicate to the court that that the existing custody arrangement is no longer serving the best interest of the child. Complete the motion for modifying the child custody form. Take care to follow all the instructions given by the court clerk.
Study your state’s existing child custody laws. You can easily undertake this by accessing the legislature website of your state. Additionally, you can visit a Legal Aid office or law library, where you could read about the relevant legal provisions, find forms or copies of motions, ask questions and understand more about successful child custody cases.
Keep a detailed record of all calls and visits with your child. If you have issues with the other parent not allowing you visits or late visits of the other parent, write them down to use during the hearing. Participate in all social, psychological and home evaluations. This will facilitate your case in moving forward quickly. It will indicate to the judge that you are co-operating. You could give a specific example if there is a change in circumstance, in order to support your request to change custody. For instance, if the custodial parent has developed a problem related to substance abuse, it can serve as a sufficient status quo alteration in the given situation.
Obtain your hearing date either from an administrative assistant for the judge assigned to your case or from a clerk of the court. On the day of the scheduled hearing, present all the evidences to support your request for child custody or to support the requested modification of an existing custody arrangement. Learn all the local court procedures and rules. Every court has their procedures and rules for custody cases. Find the procedures and rules followed by your court.
Prepare for the court hearing a week in advance. Gather all the important evidence, motions, exhibits, rules and laws. Make a short summary to be read aloud in the court, favoring your case. Mark all the important key points for you to remember. Reach on time to attend your hearing. Carry all the notes, exhibits, responses and your evidences supporting your child custody application. Dress appropriately, preferably in a business attire. Address the judge appropriately, as “Your Honor,” speak clearly and follow all the court rules.
Remember, the decision to obtain or modify child custody, is an emotionally challenging and legally complex procedure, under the family law proceedings. Prior to taking any action, you must correctly comprehend the essential elements associated with an existing order for child support without undertaking any legal assistance.
After the recent cuts to legal aid the government has taken steps to redress the balance in favour of separated parents by announcing £6.5 million of support. The money will help over a quarter of a million separated parents throughout Britain, funding pioneering and innovative support to help them work together for the sake of their children.
The new funding has been awarded to seven voluntary and third sector organisations and will give around 280,000 separated families targeted help to work together in their children’s interests. The funding is part of £20 million the government has dedicated to helping separated families, as it attempts to provide as much support to out of court settlements as possible following the large cuts to legal aid. The coalition will hope that this extra funding will prevent warring couples from representing themselves in court, which slows down the legal process and often results in vitriolic testimonies against former partners. Taking couples away out of this confrontational environment should create a more constructive atmosphere that is much less harmful to any children involved.
The government funding has been awarded to projects in Powys, Oxfordshire, Cheshire, Newcastle, Warwickshire, Scotland, Kent, Stirlingshire, Angus, Birmingham and the West Midlands. The projects include an online tool that provides coaching to separated couples and face to face guidance and mediation projects to help low income couples. Alongside the schemes are plans for parenting classes for teenage mums and dads, counselling and therapy projects and specialist support for those who live in fear of their ex-partners.
The focus on providing mediation services highlights the government’s desire to protect the interests of children in these situations. Because mediation is focused on helping couples resolve their differences amicably there is less risk of the separation being hostile as it can often be when taken through the court system. Children will be better off in a family where parents are on good terms and focussed on being the best possible parents to their children, rather than looking after their own personal interests.
It will be some time before we can assess the impact of the government’s latest efforts to give families an alternative to going through the court system. Whilst the cuts to legal aid may help to cut the deficit in the long term, critics of the move will maintain that in many cases mediation is simply not viable as an option for those separating. In many relationships communication deteriorates to such an extent that mediation will not help and court proceedings are ultimately required. However this latest round of funding is focussed on helping parents re-engage with each other no matter how bad their relationship has become. Legal aid is no longer a reality for many separated families, and they will have to decide if they want what is best for their children before completely rejecting family mediation.
About the author: Ramsdens Solicitors offers help settling child custody disputes inside and outside of court.
When most people think of divorce, they envision scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer vs. Kramer. Yet more people in Tampa Bay are learning that there is another way, collaborative divorce, which is just a sensible method to resolve private family disputes. However, just as mediation was characterized in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a rich person’s option, many people think that the collaborative process is only for the very wealthy. Not only attorneys, but also a collaborative facilitator and financial professional are retained, so only the very rich can afford the collaborative model, right?
A four year study conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals found that 87% of female participants and 47% of male participants of collaborative family law cases had an annual income of less than $100,000.
Though the collaborative process may not be the cheapest in all cases, it has a substantial opportunity to save you money as compared to the courtroom battles we have all come to associate with divorce.
First, child issues, such as custody schedules and decision-making authority, are some of the most emotional and costliest issues in family law matters. Lawyers in courtroom cases tend to prepare interrogatories (questions) to be answered under penalty of perjury, set depositions, conduct opposition research to put the other spouse in the worst possible light, and prepare for trial. Attorneys’ invoices pile up along each stage of this process. Alternatively, these fees and costs can be greatly reduced in the collaborative process where facilitators, who usually are licensed mental health professionals, can cut through the clutter of emotionally-charged issues and bring the clients (and lawyers) to focus on the future and best interests of the children.
Similarly, a financial professional (who is usually either an accountant or financial planner) adds cost-saving value to the process. In litigated cases, lawyers prepare “requests for production of documents and things” that demand reams of financial documents which could conceivably be relevant. Searching for those documents cost clients tremendous time and money while, when received, the requesting attorney will spend countless billable hours meticulously combing through the documents. In the collaborative process, on the other hand, the financial professional will only request documents that are necessary to make an informed settlement option. His or her expertise in finances enables the financial professional to review and assess the documents and develop settlement options more quickly (and often times at a lower rate) than attorneys.
Finally, the dirty little secret in family law is that the vast majority of litigation cases eventually settle. However, because having a judge decide on the parties’ personal matters always remains a threat, in traditional courtroom divorce the attorneys will always work on two tracks: (i) attempt to settle the case while (ii) conducting opposition research and preparing for the courtroom battle in case the parties cannot come to an agreement. In the collaborative process, attorneys are retained solely for the purpose of settlement and are contractually barred from taking disputes to be decided in court, and so they are not racking up those billable hours planning to fight it out in court.
Now, back to the question, is collaborative divorce only for the wealthy? Absolutely not, and I would be happy to speak with you and talk more about how the process can help your family.
If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative divorce process can help you, schedule a consultation with attorney Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam spearheaded the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez.
A Huffington Post article highlights the often contentious nature of arguments over child custody. As the article states, when children are involved, a divorce is not the end of a couple’s relationship; they will be joined through their children for the rest of their lives. A well-developed child custody plan and a well-defined child support agreement can go a long way toward keeping things civil and keeping the children out of the middle of disagreements.
Traditionally, women have been awarded primary custody. Today, a father’s rights will be taken into account, even if it requires an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that it is so. What’s critical is the delicate balance between child custody and child support. Awarding custody to a parent who simply wants to support money can be a disaster for both the child and the parents. Similarly, a newly single parent, mothers in particular, must adjust to the fact that they will likely be returning to the working world and/or working more hours than ever before.
Intellectually, parents on the cusp of single-parenthood get it. They just often fail to fully appreciate the reality. Too often, whether out of spite or a belief that they are right, we see a parent fight joint custody. After winning, they are forced to allow their spouse more visitation or hire childcare! Raising children is hard. Divorce doesn’t make it any easier.
Custody law in most, if not all states do not favor either parent. Rather, it seeks to award custody based on what’s in the best interest of the child.
A best-interest determination can be based on a number of factors, including:
- Which parent has been the main caregiver.
- A parent’s parenting skills and ability to provide.
- A parent’s mental and physical health.
- Any domestic violence history.
- Parental work schedules.
- Family relationship dynamics.
- Child’s wishes (depending on age).
- A parent’s ability to cooperate with a former spouse.
A parent’s relationship with a child is a precious gift. An experienced divorce attorney must protect that relationship while seeking to assist both parent and child in making as smooth a transition as possible.
After a divorce, families have to go through very hard moments. One of the two parents, for example, will have to leave the home and find a new place to live. The children could live very high stress because of a change in their living habits and the disappearance of a parent. Another stressful subject is child custody: who should take care of the kids after the divorce? This question tears apart many families and its answer vary from a country to another. If you are from Canada, the following article could give you basic insights on the subject.
How is the custody decision taken?
If there is a disagreement between the two parents and their divorce lawyer in regards to who will get the custody, an assessor could have to interview the parents in order to evaluate their parenting abilities. He will also visit the environment in which the child would live and analyze if it is suitable for him. After talking with the child to find out about his preferences, if he believes he would need extra information to make a good decision, the assessor can also discuss with relatives or professionals who have been in contact with the child.
This professional, though, cannot force the court to take a decision: he will only formulate recommendations. Sometimes, the judge will only hear out the different parties without hiring a third party to help. The opinion of an adolescent could be considered more important than the opinion of a child, even though some parents will play tricks in order to influence it.
The types of child custody
Based on each familial situation, the judge may decide to establish different kinds of custodies. Here are the four possible outcomes:
Sole custody: After hearing both parties, the judge may decide that only one parent should take care of the children. This parent will have full custody and will be entitled to taking all the main decisions regarding the children’s life.
Joint custody: In this case, the two parents will have to take care of the children. Sometimes, the father will be in charge of them one weekend out of two, for example.
Shared custody: Similar to joint custody, this main different of this alternative is that both parents will take care of at least 40% of the children’s custody.
Split custody: Even though split custody is pretty rare as it may disturb a family’s cohesion, it still exists. It means that the different children’s custody will be separated between the two parents.
Most people will at least receive access to their children even if they do not get custody. Most of the time, these will be part of an agreement between the two parents. Two reasons could force the court to remove visitation rights: if abuses have occurred or if one’s parenting abilities are judged to be insufficient. Supervised access could still be granted in such situations, if the court agrees to it.
In conclusion, take note that parents who received custody of a child cannot easily move away with him. If the other parent disagrees, an application will have to be filed to explain to the judge why it would be in the child’s interests to move away. If the application is able to prove that the family’s life will be better off after the relocation, for example if the parent has found a much better job elsewhere, it could be accepted by the judge.
Parental child abduction cases are on the rise. In December 2012, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office launched a media campaign in which they revealed that parental child abduction cases had risen by 88% in under a decade. Between 2001 and 2011 there was a 206% increase in the number of children being taken to a country which has not ratified the Hague Convention on child abduction, making it much harder to arrange for the children’s return.
In two recent cases the main issue for the courts has been in determining where the children are habitually resident, and therefore whether they should be returned to the country from which they have been taken.
Child Abduction Case 1 – R v A
In R v A  EWHC 692 (Fam) the parents originated from Zimbabwe and moved to California following their marriage. Their two oldest children were born in California and their third child was born in England. The parents had travelled to England on what the father claimed to be a temporary visit for the sole purpose of the caesarean section delivery of the third child. Following the birth, albeit after some delay due to medical complications, the family returned to California. Thereafter, the mother removed the children from California and brought them to England without the consent of their father.
In determining that the children were not habitually resident in England, the court considered the mother’s witness evidence to be “unimpressive” and inconsistent. The children’s stay in England had not become an ordinary part of their lives and the mother did not own a home there. An order returning the children to California was made.
Child Abduction Case 2 – FT and NT
In FT and NT (Children), Re  EWHC 850 (Fam) both parents were British nationals who were born in the UK. Two years after the birth of their second child, the family relocated permanently to Canada. Whilst the father conceded that the move was intended to be permanent, he claimed that he made the decision to relocate conditionally on both parents finding jobs, being settled and being happy. The parties separated soon after their relocation.
The father maintained that there was always an agreement between the parties to return to the UK if either or both of them was unhappy in Canada. He contended that whilst the intention was to settle in Canada, this was never achieved.
The court dismissed the father’s assertions and found that there could be “no other conclusion” than that the children were habitually resident in Canada at the time of their removal by their father. The evidence in favour of this decision was “overwhelming” and included such facts as the family home in England having been sold six months before the move, the mother attaining employment in Canada and the enrollment of the children in a Canadian school and nursery respectively. The court accordingly made an order returning the children to Canada.
In 2011/12, children were abducted to 84 different countries. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is limited in how it can assist parents whose children have been subject to parental child abduction, particularly where they have been taken to countries which have not ratified the Hague Convention. If you are concerned that your child is at risk of parental child abduction, you should contact a child abduction solicitor as soon as possible.
You can also download a help pack from the Reunite website at www.reunite.org.
For help and advice relating to child abduction cases, or any other area of family and divorce law, contact Lisa Kemp
Separating parents have long expressed frustration with certain aspects of the family justice system, with fathers’ rights groups in particular defiant in their stance against the apparent bias in favour of mothers when it comes to addressing the ongoing residence of the children. In a bid to tackle this issue, the Government has proposed several changes to the family justice system by way of the Children and Families Bill (“the Bill”).
One amendment put forward by the Bill is that Residence Orders and Contact Orders will cease to be, and a single concept Child Arrangement Order will take their place. The reality of Residence Orders and Contact Orders in their current form is that one tends to be seen as a “victory” over the other, adding to the animosity between conflicted parents.
The proposal follows from the Government’s response to the 2011 Family Justice Review, where it announced its commitment to promoting the importance of both parents remaining responsible for the care of their children. As a result, the concept of “shared parenting” has overshadowed the remainder of the legislative changes to become the buzzword(s) of the Bill.
A public consultation on the notion of shared parenting ran between June and September 2012 and the Government concluded that the starting point in any matter before Court should be that both parents should be involved in a child’s life (presuming of course that welfare is not an issue).
The concept of “shared parenting” to many evokes the presumption of a 50/50 division of residence and contact between parents, which is reinforced by a Child Arrangement Order. However, this is simply not the case and a starting point of 50/50 residence is in fact discouraged in the Family Justice Review.
It is crucial to remember that the Court will always give the most weight to the interests of the child when considering childcare arrangements. Therefore, whilst those parents who have less contact following the breakdown of a relationship are likely to feel let down by the justice system, those feelings are ultimately not the Court’s concern. The paramount consideration remains the child’s best interests and, more often than not, the Court deems that those interests are unlikely to be best met by a straight down the middle 50/50 split of residence.
That said, the importance of maintaining a relationship with both parents, taking into account all aspects of parental responsibility, is very much at the forefront of the changes proposed by the Bill. Contrary to much public opinion, this notion is nothing new to the Courts and does in fact form a major consideration in deciding almost all of the cases which appear before them.
What does the Children and Families Bill mean for you?
It has long been understood by the Courts and related agencies that more often than not, an ongoing relationship with both parents and close members of both extended families is likely to be beneficial to a child’s well-being following parental separation. It is also understood however that the quality of those relationships, rather than the quantity, is likely to be the most crucial factor in fostering and developing family relationships to the child’s greatest benefit.
Proponents of “equal access” for parents are likely to be disappointed by the Bill which does not, on that view, go far enough.
However, it will be open to the Courts to test the question of what shared parenting amounts to exactly and it may yet be the case that the Bill goes quite some way in leveling the playing field in respect of parents’ involvement in their children’s lives.
For advice regarding children matters or any other aspect of family law, contact Lisa Kemp
Changes in child custody law reflect the changes in American families that have taken place over the last several generations. Earlier eras assigned child care duties to the mother and tasked the father with supporting the family’s economic needs. While this traditional structure still prevails in some families, many homes today see both parents working outside the home and sharing child care responsibilities. There are also families today in which the father takes care of the children while the mother serves as the breadwinner.
While the structure of families has evolved greatly in modern times, child custody laws in some states have failed to keep pace. Some fathers trying to win custody of their children may be confronted with archaic statutes that preference maternal rights and leave fathers wondering if child custody laws are biased against them.
Washington Child Custody Laws Are Gender Neutral
Child custody statutes vary by state. While a handful of states retain an explicit preference for awarding primary custody to the mother, the state of Washington has adopted a gender-neutral standard. In Washington State, as well as many other states across the country, the prevailing factor in child custody cases is what outcome is in the best interest of the child. While there is no guarantee that a father won’t encounter a biased judge, the laws in Washington regarding child custody make no reference to gender. In fact, in Washington divorce cases, state statutes encourage parents and judges to agree to joint custody whenever possible.
In Washington State, joint custody may be awarded if the following minimum conditions are met: each parent is active in making decisions for the child, the proximity of the parents allows a joint custody arrangement to be feasible, and the parents are willing or able to work together to serve the child’s best interests.
If one parent is awarded sole custody, the non-custodial parent will usually be awarded visitation rights. Visitation rights are granted in almost all circumstances, except in cases of abuse or abandonment. Child support in Washington may be ordered of either parent, regardless of gender.
Custody Cases in Washington State Require a Parenting Plan
Washington law requires parents who are fighting a custody battle to submit, and eventually agree to, a parenting plan. Each parent may draw up their own plan and then negotiate a final agreement in front of a judge or mediator. Alternatively, both parents may agree on a joint parenting plan by themselves, and then present it to a judge for approval.
Parenting plans will differ for each family, and joint custody is often different from equal custody. Although Washington law does not preference maternal rights, it does allow that the best interest of the child may require a majority of his or her time to be spent with one parent. While gender is not a factor is assigning these responsibilities, the courts will take into account each parent’s financial status, work schedule, proximity to the child, the existing relationship between the child and each parent, and the parents themselves.
Fathers Often do not Fight for Child Custody
Statistics demonstrate that nationwide, mothers are granted sole custody more often than fathers. These statistics do not necessarily represent a legal bias against fathers; the fact is that many fathers do not ask for sole or joint custody, but cede these rights without contest. In Washington State, there is no legal reason why a father seeking to protect the best interests of his children should not get a fair hearing.
About the author
Kevin Danielson is a freelance writer who concentrates on a variety of legal topics such as Personal Injury, Brain Injuries, Family Law, Intellectual Property and others as well.
A daycare is a place where you expect your kids to be safe and happy while you’re away at work. You have to be able to instill trust in a daycare because they are spending just as much time with your children as you do, thus you expect them to protect your youngster. A neglected child is the last thing that you would expect at a daycare, but the sad truth is that some kids are either abused or neglected at daycares all across the country. The important thing is that you’re able to spot the classic signs of the abused or neglected child. Here are some indicative signs that your child may be abused or neglected at daycare.
Changes In Comfort Level Are a Warning Sign
Let’s say that your child has always been happy or even excited to be left behind at daycare. Suddenly, though, your child’s demeanor changes to the point where he’s anxious or reluctant to be left alone at daycare. That can be a very telltale warning sign of either abuse or neglect occurring at the daycare. If your child was abused or neglected at daycare, he’ll naturally exhibit these signs of fear when faced with the prospect of going back there.
Are There Any Unusual Bruises?
Another telltale sign that your child is the abused or neglected child at daycare is the mysterious appearance of bruises on his or her body. This is especially true if you leave your child at daycare with no bruises, and when you pick him up, there are noticeable bruises on his body. Of course, it is always a possibility that your child could have gotten some bruises from the typical play in which kids engage. However, a big, red flag ought to go off in your head if these bruises occur much too frequently.
Withdrawal Is a Suspicious Sign
Children are naturally outgoing, playful and highly energetic. That’s why a child who withdraws and becomes more reserved is suspicious, especially if this withdrawal starts to occur only after you’ve been leaving him at a daycare. A child who begins to become withdrawn could be doing so not only from physical abuse, but also from mental abuse, such as neglect during the time you leave him at daycare. If you see your child becoming more withdrawn, you should investigate.
Does Your Child Flinch?
Flinching is a sign of expecting something bad and forceful to happen. If your child unexpectedly begins to flinch when you do something harmless like raising your hands or arms, then that should also set off alarm bells in your head. If your child was ever hit at daycare, then they’ll develop the flinching reaction as a way to brace them self for what they expect to be another smack in their direction.
An abused or neglected child is an extremely serious issue, especially if it’s your child. Daycare is one of the last places on Earth in which you expect child abuse or neglect to occur, but it does happen from time to time. The best thing parents can do is to be vigilant and monitor their children for signs of abuse or neglect.
If you suspect your child has been a victim of neglect or abuse in their daycare, it is important to find a new daycare and seek the help of a legal representative. Hardison & Cochran, Attorneys at Law are child care negligence lawyers located in North Carolina. For more information about negligence and abuse at day care, visit the website at www.LawyerNC.com.
When two people decide that it is time for them to end their marriage and get a divorce, the idea of alimony payments is always brought up. Alimony is a monthly financial payment from one spouse to support the other after a marriage ends. Alimony payments were historically made from the husband to the wife, the idea being that the husband was the one who worked and the wife would be the one to stay home and raise children. Since the ’70s there has been a movement in the other direction towards equality, and today where many wives support stay-at-home husbands, alimony is paid both ways. This is determined by assessing the financial situation of each person involved and after taking into account certain factors concerning the marriage. Here are the guidelines that are followed to determine who is awarded alimony after a divorce.
Determining Who Has the Ability to Earn an Income
The main factor that is taken into consideration when it is determined which person will pay alimony is the ability to earn an income. Alimony used to be easier to determine when there was only one earner in a marriage, but in today’s world it’s far more difficult. In many cases, both members of the marriage have good careers and earn their own income, but they still wish to be awarded alimony. It can be difficult to discern which party needs the extra income. When there is only one person with an ability to earn a living because the other spouse gave up a career to raise children, then that person would be the one who would be required to pay alimony. The court also takes each person’s ability to earn a future income into consideration, so if a stay-at-home wife left a successful career, that would also count.
Determining Who Has the Ability to Pay Alimony
In some cases, neither spouse earns an income, but instead live off of a passive income. Lotto winnings, a trust fund, income from investments, or savings are all examples of passive income. In these cases, the person who the money belongs to is the one who has the ability to pay alimony, even though they are not actively earning an income.
Standard of Living and Length of the Marriage
One of the big factors of a divorce is making sure each person has the ability to maintain the same standard of living that they had during the marriage. A high standard of life would need to be maintained for each person, which would result in higher alimony payments.
The amount of time the marriage lasted is also a major factor. If a week-long marriage ends in divorce, then there would not be a significant amount of alimony paid out. However, if a marriage lasted over 10 years the amount of alimony would be significant.
It can be difficult to see your marriage come to an end, but even worse is being in a situation where you give up your career and dedicate your life to one person only to end up divorced with no form of income. Alimony is designed to protect people from situations like that, and the first step to getting alimony is to know the guidelines that are followed when determining who is awarded alimony.
If you are going through a divorce and you think you will have to pay alimony or are hoping to receive alimony payments, contact a lawyer who can advocate for you. Charles R. Ullman & Associates is a spousal support/alimony divorce law firm located in North Carolina. For more information about spousal support, visit the website at www.DivorceLawCary.com.