EXPERIENCE MATTERS WHEN IT COMES TO TACKLING TOUGH CASES!

Getting a Divorce? Should I Move Out of the Marital Home?

This is a complicated question to answer depending upon the facts of each case.  If you have experienced domestic violence you need to immediately do whatever is necessary to secure you and your child’s safety.  Many times a victim will go to court for a protective order and ask the judge to move the abusive or violent spouse out.  In this situation contact an experienced family law attorney now!

In most cases, absent of violence or risk of abuse, we would not suggest that a spouse move out of the marital residence.

Why is this?  One reason is once you have vacated the residence it may be very difficult to get back in! You have no legal obligation to leave the residence if your name is on the lease or mortgage personally and exclusivity.

Our suggestion to a client might be, to remain in the residence since the person who vacates may still have financial obligations and expenses of the family residence, while paying all expenses on a new residence for themselves. Double expenses are not a desirable result during the divorce process.

The higher wage earning spouse who moves out of the marital home must expect to continue to pay most of the household expenses, including the insurance and mortgage!  What about the personal property and furnishings in the residence?

If an agreement has not been made between the divorcing couple, the moving spouse will generally only be able to leave with personal belongings (clothing & jewelry) until a court rules fairly as to temporary possession.

Secure a court order ASAP to equalize property and household expenses.

Interstate Jurisdiction Cases when a Parent Abducts their Child

Parental child abduction is the offense of a Parent wrongfully removing, retaining, detaining or concealing their child from the other parent. This often occurs when parents separate or divorce proceedings begin. The abducting parent may consensually remove or retain the child to gain an advantage in pending child-custody proceedings or because the parent fears losing the child in the divorce proceeding. Many times the abducting parent may refuse to return a child at the end of an approved visit or may flee with the child to prevent the other parent from seeing the child or in fear of domestic abuse.

Many abducting parents try to take the child across state lines (Interstate Jurisdiction issues) or out of the country to make sure that the child will never be found by the other parent. They would rather live a fugitive than lose their child.

Are there any laws to stop this child abduction to another state or country? The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA) provides remedies with valuable enforceable tools in deterring both domestic and international abductions by parents and unethical people or agents on their behalf. This Act empowers courts to impose measures designed to prevent child abduction both before and after a court has entered a custody decree. Unfortunately, the UCAPA has only been enacted in 14 states (Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Michigan, Utah) and District of Columbia, since its inception.

In Texas Interference with child custody is a felony!
Texas currently follows the Texas Penal Code 25:03, Interference with Child Custody:

Sec. 25.03. INTERFERENCE WITH CHILD CUSTODY. (a) A person commits an offense if the person takes or retains a child younger than 18 years of age:

  (1) When the person knows that the person’s taking or retention violates the express terms of a judgment or order, including a temporary order, of a court disposing of the child’s custody;

  (2) when the person has not been awarded custody of the child by a court of competent jurisdiction, knows that a suit for divorce or a civil suit or application for habeas corpus to dispose of the child’s custody has been filed, and takes the child out of the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district if the court is a district court or the county if the court is a statutory county court, without the permission of the court and with the intent to deprive the court of authority over the child; or

  (3) Outside of the United States with the intent to deprive a person entitled to possession of or access to the child of that possession or access and without the permission of that person.

    (b) A noncustodial parent commits an offense if, with the intent to interfere with the lawful custody of a child younger than 18 years, the noncustodial parent knowingly entices or persuades the child to leave the custody of the custodial parent, guardian, or person standing in the stead of the custodial parent or guardian of the child.
(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a) (2) that the actor returned the child to the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district if the court is a district court or the county if the court is a statutory county court, within three days after the date of the commission of the offense.

    (C-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a) (3) that:

      (1) The taking or retention of the child was pursuant to a valid order providing for possession of or access to the child; or

(2) notwithstanding any violation of a valid order providing for possession of or access to the child, the actor’s retention of the child was due only to circumstances beyond the actor’s control and the actor promptly provided notice or made reasonable attempts to provide notice of those circumstances to the other person entitled to possession of or access to the child.

  (C-2) Subsection (a) (3) does not apply if, at the time of the offense, the person taking or retaining the child:

    (1) Was entitled to possession of or access to the child; and

    (2) Was fleeing the commission or attempted commission of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004, Family Code, against the child or the person.

(d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony: Minimum term: 180 days to Maximum Term of 2 years; fine up to $10,000.00

Hopefully, in the near future, more states will adopt the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, but until then, if you think you have a problem with your ex trying to kidnap your child, find out what can be done in your state to stop this before it happens!

Texas Fathers and Child Custody Cases – Time for Modifications or a Change?

The New Year is always a good time for personal changes and after another stressful Holiday Season with your kids and Ex, you have decided to make some serious changes in your child custody situation to stabilize the entire family. Mom is not helping and the children are seriously acting out.  What to do? What to do?

Maybe it is time to look at changing your child custody status with the children or at least modifying the current orders. Many changes have occurred in American Family Behavior and fathers are taking a more active role in their children’s lives.  The Pew Research Center has recently published some new research on today’s fathers with some important and surprising changes:

  • Fewer dads are the family’s sole breadwinner: dual income households are now the dominant arrangement (60%). Both mom and father must now be responsible for child raising and home chores.

  • Dad and mom roles are converging: fathers have taken on more housework and child care duties and moms have increased time spent at a paid job. There is definitely a more equal distribution of labor between mother and fathers in today’s world.

  • Fathers feel they spend more or as much time with their children as their fathers did when they were children

With the latest scientific research showing that a father’s involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period, many state legislatures and family courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as equal to the mother.  Courts are also looking at the more stable parent, who may have a better income and parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing a better home life and more quality time with the child.

Another reason for changing opinions regarding fathers’ rights child custody issues has been the high divorce rates and the affect it has had on the USA population life experiences.  Many adults have been raised in a divorced home with Mom as the main custodial parent. Now these adults are divorcing they want a different and better experience for their own children and their lives.

Things you want to consider as you prepare for your child custody battle are:

  1. Who has the financial ability to best care for the child (ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.

  2. Establish a detailed viable parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).

  3. Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?

  4. Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child (ren) in the same school district?

  5. Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.

  6. Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child (ren).

  7. Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?

  8. Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)

  9. Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?

  10. Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?

  11. Is there evidence such as pictures, social networking sites, video tapes, texting, etc. that may help your case?

  12. Avoid unnecessary compromising photos, data on social networking sites, or texting!

Just Remember the five biggest mistakes men make in a custody suits are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect child custody legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a quick child custody settlement agreement while passions are high that is later deeply regretted; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement as signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.

Think smart when contemplating Child Custody Modifications, be prepared and get an experienced legal professional to help you accomplish your goals!