Protective orders and child abandonment allegations

California has a very broad definition of domestic violence — and victims’ advocates say that it’s necessary in order to protect victims from subtle forms of abuse like harassment or stalking.

Unfortunately, that also makes the law easy to abuse when someone who isn’t a victim wants to cut his or her child’s other parent out of his or her life — and out of the child’s life as well.

Sometimes, it can be very effective. Since there are rarely witnesses around to exchanges between the two principal parties involved, the judge is usually forced to make a decision based on nothing more than one person’s word. Judges may side with the alleged victim simply because they’re afraid that if they don’t, the next time they hear that person’s name, it will be on the news — as a murder victim.

Parents willing to abuse the court system are also often willing to abuse the processes used by Children Services. They’ll fabricate an abuse allegation — alleging that their spouse or ex-spouse inappropriately touched the child or did some other indecent act.

As one father was told, findings often fail to clear the name and reputation of the accused (most of whom are fathers). The results of an investigation will be listed as “inconclusive” because even though there’s nothing to back up the other parent’s claims of sexual abuse, there’s nothing to disprove the claim either.

While that might not sound so terrible, it actually is. When the father goes into family court, the allegation follows him. The judge doesn’t know the evidence — all he or she knows is that there was nothing exonerating the accused. That can lend weight to other accusations of abuse even though it’s just a bit of legal shade being thrown.

The end result is that a parent can be put under a protective order that forbids him or her from contacting both the ex-spouse and his or her children. Eventually, the ex-spouse can use that as leverage to try to get the other parent’s rights over the children terminated due to abandonment.

An attorney can help if you find yourself in this sort of predicament where an unfair order of protection is keeping you from seeing your kids.

Source: newsreview.com, “Parental restraints: California's domestic violence law can leave nonviolent parents facing protective orders,” Alastair Bland, Nov. 02, 2017

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Why is shared custody better for children of divorce?

The old model of custody looked pretty familiar to just about everyone. The mother often had primary physical custody of the kids and the father saw his offspring every other weekend and occasional holidays.

The new model of custody tries to divide parenting time straight down the middle between the parents — as much as possible, anyhow (unless, naturally, one of the parents is unfit to be in that role for some reason).

While psychologists, child development experts and researchers are joining in agreement that shared parenting is the way to be, what exactly makes it so superior to the old method?

The old method assumed that it was better to give one parent primary control in order to limit the conflict the children had to experience if the parents couldn’t agree on how to handle something.

The new method has discovered that the conflicts between parents and the parents’ relationship with each other matter less than the child’s relationship with each of his or her parents in turn.

So far, the research is winning. Children in shared parenting situations generally do better in everything from academic and social success to just having a more optimistic outlook about their general futures.

The key thing that experts try to stress with parents is that modern custody arrangements are designed not to have a clear “winner” or “loser.” They’re designed to be focused entirely around the children, and they give both parents the opportunity to actually parent.

There are no “Disney Dads” because fathers have to be there for the hard part of parenting as well, which may ultimately reduce friction between the parents as well, since neither is stuck doing the heavy lifting emotionally or excluded from the fun times.

For more information on how you can handle a custody dispute, it’s wise to talk to an attorney. There are often changes on the legal horizon that have to be adapted to and managed. An early response is far better than a slow one.

Source: StarTribune, “New research supports shared custody for children in divorce,” Gail Rosenblum, accessed Nov. 02, 2017

4 signs that say a marriage is on life-support

Every marriage has its ups and downs — but if your marriage seems like it has been on the “down” side of things for a long while, is it time to get an attorney?

According to divorce attorneys, here are the signs that a marriage is terminal — not merely troubled.

1. The couple has lost common ground.

If a couple used to have common interests but those have faded, and they no longer see much point to spending time with each other — that’s a really bad sign. A lot of “grey” divorces start out this way because the couple realizes that they stopped having anything in common except the house and kids long before.

2. They lie about money.

No matter how the family finances are ordered or managed, if one or both partners is lying about their spending or money habits, that signals a lack of trust in the marriage. It also means that the couple can’t really work toward common financial goals.

3. The sex is pretty much over.

If the couple has a tepid sex life at best, if one member of the couple is only participating out of a sense of obligation or the couple has stopped having sex altogether, there is a loss of more than just physical intimacy — there’s a loss of emotional intimacy as well. It usually means the couple is too guarded with each other to engage in sex in an open way.

4. They fight all the time or not at all.

Constant screaming, open contempt and name calling is a bad sign. However, the silent treatment is just as awful. Perhaps even worse, some couples will just say anything to avoid a fight — which means they aren’t living in a relationship with any real strength at all.

If you’ve come to the realization that your marriage simply isn’t going to last, it’s time to talk to a divorce attorney. Our firm has attorneys who are experienced in that area of the law and may be able to help you as you move forward.

Abducted child found, mother and grandparents jailed

A search for a missing baby cut a path from Mesa, Arizona, all the way to California. Now, the baby has been returned to his father while the child’s mother and her parents are sitting in jail on various charges related to the kidnapping.

Child custody disputes are often emotional and have the potential to draw extended family members into the dispute rather deeply — which this case certainly illustrates.

It also illustrates the problems that come from trying to take the situation out of the courtroom and into your own hands. The results are seldom good and the parent who acts in that manner may permanently ruin his or her chances for anything other than supervised visitation at best.

Many parents simply refuse to grasp the idea that a court has the right to decide how custody is divided when the parents can’t agree. By abducting that child, however, the parent not only shows that he or she refuses to recognize the court’s authority and work within the law but demonstrates an unwillingness to work with the other parent in any way — something that the courts see as inherently bad. The prevailing wisdom is that a child needs to have a relationship with both parents whenever possible — even if those parents no longer get along.

In this case, the whole thing seems to have been set in motion because the judge appeared ready to expand the father’s visitation time with his son. The mother of the child and her parents have accused the father of being abusive — a charge he denies and the court has not been able to substantiate.

What has been established, however, is that the mother purposefully changed her appearance and dressed her infant son as a girl in order to avoid detection.

Her parents were willing accomplices, going so far as to report their daughter and grandson “missing” after giving their daughter money to fund her flight. They then accused their former son-in-law of having something to do with their daughter and grandson’s disappearance, indicating that they thought perhaps he’d harmed them.

The child was eventually found thanks to supporters who dedicated their time to helping reunite father and son.

Don’t make a similar mistake if you’re fighting a child custody battle — contact an attorney for help instead of making a rash decision you’ll later regret.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, “Conrad man's missing baby, ex-wife in California,” Seaborn Larson, Oct. 02, 2017

How do you handle religious issues after divorce?

It isn’t unusual for interfaith marriages to happen these days — and it isn’t unusual for one or both spouses to turn back to their religious roots during a difficult time (like divorce).

However, that can create all sorts of unintentional conflicts over the children. If the kids were once raised “interfaith” or generally kept to the secular world, one parent may not see the other parent’s newly discovered religious devotion as a good thing — especially if the more religious parent wants to involve the children in his or her faith.

Wait — isn’t it every parent’s right to involve his or her child in the parent’s religion?

Not exactly. There’s no one standard that’s followed on a national level, but courts can (and do) restrict parents from raising their children in their current or former religion for a number of reasons:

  • The children are old enough to express an opinion and are not interested in attending the religious services or don’t have the same belief systems.
  • The parent with primary physical custody may simply have the legal say-so over the religion the children follow, per your custody agreement and the law.
  • There may be an existing agreement in the divorce to continue raising the children in a specific religious tradition. For example, the divorce may state that the children will be raised in the mother’s Jewish tradition — which is how things were done when you were married. Objecting now that you’re divorced probably won’t gain much traction with the court.
  • The court decides that exposing the children to their parent’s religion creates a risk of harm to your child. The risk could be physical or emotional. For example, if your religion forbids modern medical care and you have a child with asthma, the judge is likely to side against you.
  • The court decides that the exposure to the religion is creating actual harm to your child. For example, if your religion says that anyone who doesn’t follow certain rules will be damned for eternity and that includes their other parent, that can be psychologically damaging to your children.

It’s important to address interfaith issues during the divorce — otherwise you may find yourself back in court again very shortly.

Source: FindLaw, “Divorce: Child Custody and Religion,” accessed Sep. 20, 2017

Why does a parent become a deadbeat dad or mom?

Why do some parents choose not to pay child support? It certainly isn’t a wise choice to go against a judge’s order, and the penalties can range from having wages garnished and tax returns grabbed to being jailed for contempt of court.

Here are some of the main reasons experts have discovered that parents refuse to pay support:

  • Their own low self-esteem leads them to believe that their children would be better off if they simply drop out of their lives altogether. Even the support payment is a connection that they see as unnecessary.
  • New romantic interests or spouses might resent the children, the custodial parents or the money being sent to a different household. Noncustodial parents can be persuaded to stop sending child support payments.
  • Some noncustodial parents are convinced that if their exes drive nice cars, wear expensive clothes or get manicures, they are using “the children’s” money on it. These noncustodial parents seem to prefer their exes live in poverty. They see any visible indications of material wealth as signs that the child support is unnecessary.
  • Others feel the whole system is rigged. Maybe they didn’t want children and felt tricked (even if the contraceptives just failed), or maybe they wanted the mother to get an abortion or think it’s unfair that a woman has to pay support to a man when the dad has custody.
  • Some genuinely can’t afford to pay. They’ve lost their jobs, been demoted or laid off, were recently injured or had another child and now can’t afford the same amount of support.

Whatever the reason, you have to decide how to respond, whether you agree to receive less support on a temporary or permanent basis (if the nonpayment is due to a real problem). You might decide to ask the court to enforce the order.

You also need to reassure your child, if he or she is old enough to understand the money-flow problems, that the situation isn’t his or her fault. Children often worry that they are somehow responsible for things they can’t control.

For help with child support issues, talk to an attorney today.

Source: the spruce, “21 Reasons Why Deadbeat Parents Bail On Their Kids,” Jennifer Wolfe, accessed Sep. 08, 2017

How do you tell your adult children you’re getting divorced?

Whether you were only staying together for the sake of the children or just grew apart after you had an “empty nest,” telling your adult children that their parents are getting divorced is never easy.

In fact, it’s probably easier both to break the news to young children and for young children to adapt. Adult children generally have a hard time getting people to understand that their grief over the divorce is very real — even when they are grown.

Here are some tips on how to handle the issue:

  • Make sure you tell your children early. You don’t want to let them find out on social media. They need to hear it from one or both of you first.
  • If possible, tell them together. Try to consider it your last joint act with your spouse when it comes to raising your children.
  • Reassure the kids that they don’t have to choose sides. Make sure you mean that statement, too.
  • Remember that it’s okay if you don’t want to discuss certain things. Frankly, you may not have thought far enough ahead to have considered how the holiday dinners are going to be handled. As to why you are divorcing, keep your answer short and simple. Good answers include things like, “We just don’t want to be married to each other anymore,” or “We fell out of love.”
  • Don’t go into tawdry details — even after you have any of the kids to yourself. While they may eventually find out that their father has a chronic drinking problem or their mother had an affair, avoid trashing out your spouse. That gives the kids the impression that they do have to take sides.
  • Don’t try to defend your decision. Some of your kids may insist that you’re too old to divorce or that you’re being foolish. Recognize that their feelings are a reflection of their own grief and you can’t convince them of the “rightness” of the divorce.

The biggest thing to remember is that you don’t need their permission or acceptance to have a divorce — but they do need your reassurances that they’re still loved equally by both parents and that it’s okay if they still love you both equally in return.

For more information on divorce at any age, talk to an attorney today.

Source: AARP, “The Way They Were,” Brooke Lea Foster, accessed Aug. 25, 2017