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modify child custody agreement

Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement Myself, Without Going to Court?

modify child custody agreement

 

As an experienced Somerset, NJ divorce and family law attorney, I can tell you that the answer is yes, of course! But I don’t advise it, because when you and your ex alter your child custody arrangements on your own, you are creating more problems than you are solving.

Who suffers? Ultimately, your children.  Read on to find out how you can best protect your children and your parental rights.

Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?

The Child Custody Agreement

How a child custody agreement is reached varies by state, but in general, it is negotiated as part of your divorce and a court decree is entered setting forth the child custody terms. When parents agree on what living and legal arrangements are best for their children, the process goes smoothly.

When parents disagree, this is where the court steps in, attorneys negotiate, and a compromise is reached. Most often, compromise satisfies neither party and there are continuing ill feelings. But at least there is a court order in place, and either you or your ex could ask the court to step in if one of you fails to comply with it.

Generally, the initial child custody agreement will establish who has physical and legal custody, and whether there is joint custody shared between the parents or one parent has sole custody.

Physical vs Legal Custody

In most states, legal and physical custody are different rights. The child lives primarily with the parent who has physical custody. Either parent or both may have the right to make decisions for the child, and this is called legal custody.

When parents are married, both have physical and legal custody of their children.  When married parents divorce, these rights must be either divided or shared.

Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

These are what they say they are:  where children live with both parents, this is called Joint Custody. In this situation, both parents as a practical matter often retain joint legal custody.

Sole Custody is the term for when one parent has both physical and legal custody of a child. Usually, for the other parent to lose these rights, there is a hearing and the judge will make that determination based upon factors that vary by state.

Asking the Court to Alter The Child Custody Agreement

Parents who change the terms of child custody through the courts are doing the most they can to protect their rights as parents because the court issues an order memorializing those changes.  Thereafter, the new child custody terms can be enforced by the court should one party fail to keep to them.

Altering the Terms of Child Custody on Your Own

Of course, you and your ex can agree to change the child custody arrangement outside of court.  It’s quick, easy (assuming you both agree), and cheap in that there no attorney fees or court filing fees. But beware of the following pitfalls of changing the child custody agreement on your own:

The court will not and cannot enforce your new child custody terms.

If your ex wakes up one day and decides not to stick to the new child custody arrangement, there is nothing you can do about it. Only a court order is legally binding on your ex. There is no way to enforce your informal agreement with your ex.

Your ex can get the court to enforce the terms of the original child custody agreement.

You might be acting in good faith and sticking to the changes you and your ex worked out.  But your ex could still haul you in front of the judge and demand that the court enforce the original child custody order.  That would be well within his rights, and the court would find that you are the party who violated the order.

Changes in child custody may work out at first, but if you allow one informal change, where does it end?

It is common for an ex to take advantage of the situation when you are willing to make informal changes, either planned or on-the-fly.  Your life could become a hell of variables and resentment, with your ex constantly demanding little changes to the child custody schedule and you feeling powerless to say no because you allowed such changes in the past.

In short, making informal changes to child custody might seem convenient and harmless at the time but you end up laying the groundwork for future conflict between you and your ex. Didn’t you go through the pain of divorce to end that conflict? Your children also suffer, not only from the revived conflict between you but from the uncertainty in their parenting schedule. Parents who remain civil, a calm, stable environment, and a predictable schedule all help children heal from divorce.

Let the court help you and your children, and your ex, move forward in an orderly and predictable way by memorializing any needed change to a child custody agreement with a court order.

The post Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement Myself, Without Going to Court? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Child Support: How To Reach a Child Maintenance Agreement That Benefits Your Children

Child Support: How To Reach a Child Maintenance Agreement That Benefits Your Children

Although you may not be able to avoid tension during a divorce, your kids are your most important consideration. That’s why it’s vital to arrange a child maintenance agreement.

The post Child Support: How To Reach a Child Maintenance Agreement That Benefits Your Children appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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What You Must Know About Child Support Modification Hearings

What You Must Know About Child Support Modification Hearings

Modification of a child support order begins with filing a form by which either party can ask the court to reconsider the current child support arrangement.

The post What You Must Know About Child Support Modification Hearings appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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Child Support Custody And Visitation

Guidelines The Court Uses To Determine Child Support, Custody, And Visitation

Child Support Custody And Visitation

When going through a divorce with minor children or determining paternity, one of the many decisions you will need to make is how much time each parent will spend with the minor children.

It is important to note that the amount of time spent with the children can also affect child support.

The goal of any agreement affecting children should be to protect the children’s best interest.

However, due to the emotional nature and financial implications of custody and visitation, many parents struggle to reach an agreement.

In the event parents are unable to find an agreeable solution the Court will intervene and create child custody and visitation orders based on several factors, including the children’s best interest.

Once the Court determines child custody and visitation, it will then use guidelines dictated by statutes and a child support worksheet to determine which spouse owes the other child support.

Determining Child Support, Custody, And Visitation

Child Support

In California, both parents are financially responsible for minor children. However, child support can be ordered to help provide for the children’s housing, clothing, food, extracurricular activities, and other needs.

Child support is based on several factors including each parent’s gross income, mandatory deductions, tax deductions, amounts paid for healthcare, time spent with each parent and more.

Most often, the higher-earning parent will pay child support as they have more disposable income. For families who have 50/50 or close to equal timeshare with the children, the parent who claims the minor children as dependents could be ordered to pay the other parent support.

With so many factors and variables in determining support, it is important to speak with a professional to review all available options and develop the best child support agreement for you and your children.

Imputing Income

If you or the other parent is unemployed or underemployed, the Court can still order child support. In either situation, the Court will review employment records and education history to determine if gainful employment is feasible and determine what their earning capacity may be.

The Court may also consider other factors, including the length of time you have been out of work and the current state of the job market.

If the Court finds one parent is underemployed or willfully not working, the Court could assign income to that parent based on previous salary or current earning capabilities determined by work or educational experience.

The assignment of income, also known as imputing income, can result in Court-ordered child support.

If a parent fails to meet their financial obligation and does not pay child support as ordered, arrears will accrue, and the parent could face additional penalties.

State Disbursement Unit (SDU)

In the past, child support was paid directly to the receiving parent. When a child support order dictated automatic deductions, the paying parent’s (payor’s) employer would withhold the amount ordered and send it directly to the other parent.

However, in 1996 the federal government passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act, requiring states to create a centralized location where parents pay child support. The creation of State Disbursement Units facilitated payment by collecting child support and distributing to the receiving parent.

When a child support order utilizes SDUs to facilitate payment through employers, payors can have up to 50 percent of their wages deducted.

In addition to facilitating payment, the 1996 Act changed how payment was distributed if a payor had more than one child support order.

Prior to the implementation of the SDUs, child support orders were prioritized by date. For instance, if a payor had orders to pay child support for children from a previous relationship and for the most recent relationship, and the amount ordered for the first relationship more than 50 percent of their income, the first family would get the full amount while the second family would receive partial payment or nothing.

After 1996, a paying parent’s child support amount can change based upon how much the payor parent earns or if there are other child support orders or arrearages are owed by the payor parent.

The SDUs can adjust the distribution of child support to ensure all children receive support. This can result in a reduction of child support received if the amount owed for all orders exceed 50 percent of the payor’s income.

However, the original amount ordered is still due and arrearages will build up unless the paying parent pays the difference directly to the SDU.

Child Custody and Visitation

California recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions that affect the child’s health, welfare, and safety. Legal decisions include what doctors the child sees, what school the child attends, participation in religious activities, when the child can get a driver’s license, and more.

If one parent has sole legal custody, they are not obligated to consult the other parent when making decisions.

However, if parents have joint legal custody, they will both be able to make decisions. Ideally, both parents would communicate and agree on any decisions that affect their children.

Physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent and where the child resides. Joint physical custody, when children live with both parents, is the most common arrangement and the goal of California Courts.

However, it is not the best solution for all families, especially if domestic or substance abuse is an issue. If one parent has primary or sole custody, the other “non-custodial” parent has visitation.

Visitation schedules can vary depending on the relationship between parents and their children and work or school schedules. Common visitation schedules are unsupervised visits every other weekend, bi-weekly visits, alternating major holidays, or supervised visits once a week.

It is highly suggested that both parents work together to create a parenting plan detailing visitation, pick up/drop off times and more.  If you are unable to reach an agreement, a family law attorney can help you create a parenting plan that not only benefits the children but considers the parents’ schedules. In the event, you are unable to come to an agreement the Court can hear your concerns and create custody and visitation orders.

However, court orders will dictate the amount of time each parent spends with the children, which can result in orders that neither you nor the other parent agree with and have financial ramifications for many years.

Custody Disagreements

In some cases, the parents may not be able to come to a custody agreement. Regardless of how you feel about your spouse, you should not bring your children into the argument.

Nor should you try to dissuade your children from seeing the other parent. The Courts will consider this when making a custody decision.

In most cases, the Court will not let a child testify as to which parent the child wishes to stay with as it is not fair to make the child choose.

When determining custody, the Court will review several factors such as the amount of time each parent spends with the children, domestic violence issues, substance abuse, involvement in educational or extracurricular activities, and general care.

Child Custody Evaluations

In some situations, the Court may order a child custody evaluation to help resolve a custody dispute. If ordered, the court can appoint an evaluator, or the parents can choose a private evaluator.

In either situation, both parties are responsible for the cost of the evaluator. The evaluator’s role is not to treat patients, but to provide an objective evaluation with informed opinions to help the Court determine the most appropriate custody outcome. The evaluator will conduct an investigation and interviews to decide which parent can provide the best situation for their children.

Evaluators weigh several factors to make their decision, including reviewing interactions between parents and their children, if the parents allow contact or visits with the other parent, and how the children behave in front of each parent.

Spoiling a child will not get you extra points!  Once the evaluator has completed their investigation, they will submit their opinion to the Court for consideration.

An Attorney for the Child

In addition to a child custody evaluation, or in place of an evaluation, the Court may appoint an attorney for the child, referred to as Minor’s Counsel.

The role of Minor’s Counsel is to protect and advocate for the child’s best interest. As with the evaluator, both parties share in the cost of the child’s attorney. While the Minor’s Counsel generally has wide discretion in their investigation, it often involves multiple interviews with the children, and sometimes the parents.

Upon conclusion of their findings, Minor’s Counsel will present their recommendation and the children’s wishes to the Court for consideration when creating orders.

Following Court Orders

Parents who fail to follow court orders can be in contempt of the Court, resulting in fines or worse.

Parents of children who refuse to visit the other parent according to their visitation orders can also be held in contempt and face financial fines or even jail.

However, the success of contempt charges depends on several factors, including the child’s age and the concept of parental control. If your children are refusing to see their other parent, it is imperative you contact a family law attorney as soon as possible.

An experienced attorney can listen to your situation, advise the proper course of action to protect parental rights, and against contempt charges.

The Best Outcome

Even if you and your spouse cannot get along, it is better if you are able to create a parenting plan with the help of your attorneys.

The focus of any agreement should always be protecting the best interest of your children.

Consistent, cordial communication with your co-parent can help you and your children transition to the new family dynamic.

Additionally, discussing decisions surrounding the children’s health, safety, and welfare together can help avoid the stress of costly court appearances. In the event an agreement can’t be reached, an experienced family law attorney can help you protect your children and your parental rights.

The post Guidelines The Court Uses To Determine Child Support, Custody, And Visitation appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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How to enforce a child support order when the paying parent lives outside of Texas

How to enforce a child support order when the paying parent lives outside of Texas

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

One of the most helpless feelings that a parent can experience is being in a position where you are not receiving the court ordered child support that you are entitled to. This can leave you vulnerable to the ups and downs of your own income leaving you little wiggle room to plan and budget for your family. On another level, it can and should anger you because your child’s other parent is placing other responsibilities ahead of providing for their child. Having someone essentially tell you that your child isn’t that important can be extremely hurtful- especially when that other person is your child’s parent.

Make no mistake, you have options available to you if and when your child’s other parent does not fulfill their end of the bargain when it comes to paying child support. The most straightforward and practical option when it comes to bringing the violations of your child support order to the attention of a judge is called an Enforcement suit.

An enforcement lawsuit seeks to do exactly what it sounds like- enforce something, namely a court order. You would file this lawsuit just like a Divorce or Original child custody suit. The only difference is that this the second case under the original case number that you were assigned in your child custody/divorce case. In this suit you would be notifying the judge of the other parent’s violations of the child support order and can then request “relief” from the court in the form of money and possible jail time for your child’s other parent.

It takes effort and planning on your part to get to the point where you can successfully present your case to a judge. Before then you are just another parent who is not receiving the child support payments you are supposed to be. Sometimes taking that first step towards learning about child support enforcement cases is the most difficult step in the process.

What happens, though, when your child’s other parent does not live close to your child or even within the State of Texas? Is the process the same for parents that do live in-State? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will detail this subject.

People moving frequently is a reality in today’s world

As economies change, the job market changes as well. Gone are the days where a person is well guaranteed to grow up and live in one geographic location. Many times, people will up and move not only across a city but across the country for a variety of reasons.

Family courts cannot force you or your child’s other parent to reside in a certain place. However, a family court does have jurisdiction to limit where your child resides. Many parents choose to include what is known as a geographic restriction within their original court order. This geographic restriction often limits where your child can live to the county where your case was filed and any county that borders it. Family law language would term this as any county “contiguous” to the county where your case has been filed.

I have seen families in the Houston area use Harris County and any county contiguous to Harris. I have seen parents state that their child can live in Harris or Montgomery counties. I have even seen some parents state that the child must remain in a school district due to the excellent reputation of the schools. Whatever option is chosen, you need to know whether a geographic restriction is in place for you child and if so where your child can reside.

Getting back to the specific topic of this blog post, it happens that sometimes parents will cross state lines and begin to live in another state even if a geographic restriction is in place for their child. This parent is most frequently the non custodial parent- meaning that their child does not live with him or her primarily. There is nothing against the “rules” to do this. Again, a court cannot tell this parent where he or she can live. However, what it does do is open up the places where the child can reside. The reason being is that once the non custodial parent leaves the geographic region, so can the custodial parent and child.

Out of sight, out of mind unfortunately

Once your child’s other parent moves out of state it becomes an unfortunate situation that because he or she does not see your child as frequently their motivation to pay child support can  decrease a great deal. Maybe their move was predicated upon the promise of a job in the new location that did not actually come together as planned. Whatever the reason, if you are left waiting on child support from a parent that lives out of state here is what you need to know.

There are procedures in place that all states follow that allow for parents to enforce child support orders when the parent who owes child support resides outside of the home state. The Uniform Interstate Child Support Act (UIFSA) is the federal statute that contains the specific laws that pertain to this subject. In Texas the Office of the Attorney General is the governmental body charged with overseeing the complex child support structure in Texas.

You as the custodial parent would need to send the child support order to whatever body governs child support enforcement cases in the State where your child’s other parent resides. Then the order is reviewed and it will be sent on to the county judge where the other parent lives. It is in that court that child support enforcement cases are hard.

You may be asking how an out of state court would so easily enforce the child support laws of Texas. To answer this question you would need to know that UIFSA operates based on the legal certainty that the out of state court would honor Texas state law and the court in the other state would apply our laws to the process in whatever state the other parent is residing in.

What happens if the other parent does not pay

Whatever collection methods are approved by Texas law will be enforced in the out of State court. Garnishing the parent’s wages is a possibility if the parent’s employer can be found out. Missed child support payments can be made known to credit bureaus and liens can be placed on the property of that parent. Finally licenses like hunting, fishing, driving, commercial driving, etc. can be suspended for the failure to pay court ordered child support.

In extreme situations you can ask a Texas court to hold a non-paying parent in confinement for a period not to exceed 180 days or six months. Depending on the amount of child support that is actually owed this may be an option. Either way, an enforcement case is pretty straightforward in the sense that you must show the missed payments and the amount of money that is owed. There is not much the other parent can do to counteract your alleged proof of the violations.

Experience is essential when managing a child support enforcement case

If you intend to pursue a child support enforcement case against your child’s other parent it is in your best interest to become as well versed in the child support laws of our state as possible. If at all possible you should hire an attorney who has handled these type of cases before so that you can be as prepared as possible heading into the case.

After reading today’s blog post if you have any questions about the material that we covered please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. Whether you live in Baytown, Katy, Conroe or Tomball we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients and take pride in doing so. Before you rush into a case without much knowledge of the process or the law it is best to meet with an attorney who has been there and done that. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are those attorneys and we thank you for your consideration.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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best interest of the child

What Does a Judge Taking Into Consideration When Deciding “The Best Interest Of The Child?”

best interest of the child

 

The judge considers many factors in determining child custody during divorce. Most important is “the best interests of the child.” To determine best interests, the judge may look at the following factors:

When Deciding The “Best Interest Of The Child?”

Home Environments. This refers to the respective environments offered by you and your spouse. The court may consider factors such as the safety, stability, and nurturing found in each home.

Emotional Ties. The emotional relationship between the child and each parent may include the nature of the bond between the parent and child and the feelings shared between the child and each parent.

Age, Sex, and Health of the Child and Parents. Louisiana no longer ascribes to the “tender years” doctrine, which formerly gave a preference for custody of very young children to the mother. If one of the parents has an illness that may impair the ability to parent, it may be considered by the court. Similarly, the judge may look at special health needs of a child.

Effect on the Child of Continuing or Disrupting an Existing Relationship. This factor might be applied in your case if you stayed at home for a period of years to care for your child, and awarding custody to the other parent would disrupt your relationship with your child.

Attitude and Stability of Each Parent’s Character. The court may consider your ability and willingness to be cooperative with the other parent in deciding who should be awarded custody. The court may also consider each parent’s history, which reflects the stability of his or her character.

Moral Fitness of Each Parent, Including Sexual Conduct. The extent to which a judge assesses the morals of a parent can vary greatly from judge to judge. Sexual conduct will ordinarily not be considered unless it has harmed your child or your child was exposed to sexual conduct.

Capacity to Provide Physical Care and Satisfy Educational Needs. Here the court may examine whether you or the other parent is better able to provide for your child’s daily needs such as nutrition, health care, hygiene, social activities, and education. The court may also look to see whether you or your spouse has been attending to these needs in the past.

Preferences of the Child. The child’s preference regarding custody will be considered if the child is of sufficient age of comprehension, regardless of chronological age, and the child’s preference is based on sound reasoning. Louisiana, unlike some other states, does not allow a child to choose the parent he or she wishes to live with. Rather, the court may consider the well-reasoned preferences of a child, at any age. Typically, the older the child, the greater the weight given to the preference. However, the child’s reasoning is also important.

Health, Welfare, and Social Behavior of the Child. Every child is unique. Your child’s needs must be considered when it comes to deciding custody and parenting time. The custody of a child with special needs, for example, may be awarded to the parent who is better able to meet those needs.

The judge may also consider whether you or your spouse has fulfilled the role of primary care provider for meeting the day-to-day needs of your child.

One tool to assist you and your attorney in establishing your case as a primary care provider is a chart indicating the care you and the other parent have each provided for your child. The clearer you are about the history of parenting, the better job your attorney can do in presenting your case to the judge.

Look at the activities below to help you review the role of you and your spouse as care providers for your child.

Parental Roles Chart

Activity Mother  Father
Attended prenatal medical visits
Attended prenatal class
Took time off work after child born
Got up with child for feedings
Got up with child when sick at night
Bathed child
Put child to sleep
Potty-trained child
Prepared and fed meals to child
Helped child learn numbers, letters, colors, etc.
Helped child with practice for music, dance lessons, sports
Took time off work for child’s appointments
Stayed home from work with sick child
Took child to doctor visits
Went to pharmacy for child’s medication
Administered child’s medication
Took child to therapy
Took child to optometrist
Took child to dentist
Took child to get haircuts
Bought clothing for child
Bought school supplies for child
Transported child to school
Picked child up after school
Drove car pool for child’s school
Went to child’s school activities
Helped child with homework and projects
Attended parent-teacher conferences
Helped in child’s classroom
Chaperoned child’s school trips and activities
Transported child to daycare
Communicated with daycare providers
Transported child from daycare
Attended daycare activities
Signed child up for sports, dance, music
Bought equipment for sports, music, dance
Transported child to sports, music, dance
Attended sports, music, dance practices
Attended sports games, music, dance recitals
Coached child’s sports
Transported child from sports, music, dance
Know child’s friends and friends’ families
Took child to religious education
Participated in child’s religious education
Obtained information and training about special needs of child.
Comforted child during times of emotional upset

Domestic Violence. Domestic violence is an important factor in determining custody, as well as parenting time and protection from abuse during the transfer of your child to the other parent. If domestic violence is a concern in your case, be sure to discuss it in detail with your attorney during the initial consultation so that every measure can be taken to protect the safety of you and your children.

The post What Does a Judge Taking Into Consideration When Deciding “The Best Interest Of The Child?” appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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child discipline after divorce

Child Discipline After Divorce: 8 Tips For Single Moms

child discipline after divorce

 

Child discipline in an intact family is a responsibility shared between Mom and Dad. Once there is a divorce the custodial parent will have to take on the majority of this responsibility. Non-custodial parents should remain as actively involved in child discipline as possible but it only makes sense that the parent spending more time with the child will end up doing most of the work where discipline is concerned.

It is a dirty job but someone has to do it! It is especially important that children who are struggling to cope with the changes in their family be given a structured environment to help them cope with the many changes that come along with divorce.

This is a guide for the custodial parent who may find themselves not only attempting to cope with the stress of being a single parent but also the impact of divorce on their child.

8 Tips for Child Discipline After Divorce

1. Idle Hands Are the Devil’s Workshop:

Busy children are less likely to get into or cause trouble. Keeping your child engaged in fun or productive activities will not only keep them out of trouble it will keep you focused on something other than your own problems.

My ex sees our children 4 days out of the month which leaves me to deal with any disciplinary problems that arose on all those other days. I found that life was easier for not only me but the children also if I stressed the importance of not only having fun but also being productive.

They both had after school activities to participate in that were outlets for creativity and an opportunity to relax and distress. They also had responsibilities they had to tend to once they were home for the evening. Their homework had to be done, dinner dishes had to be cleaned and they were required to do 45 minutes of reading. By bedtime, they were so tired from their “fun and productive day” they welcomed the idea of crawling between the sheets and settling down.

2. Focus on Positive Behaviors, Not Negative Behaviors:

You can sit my younger son in time out all day or, take away his favorite toy and he would turn around and misbehave…over and over again. The trick with him was to give him something he liked doing as a reward for not misbehaving.

Once I figured this out I spent a lot less time punishing him and more time praising him. For example, he loved feeding the fish and cleaning the fish tank. That was his job unless he misbehaved and to hold onto that “job” he works hard at behaving in a way that is pleasing to his Mom.

If you have a child who isn’t responding in a positive way to standard forms of discipline try rewarding him/her with a liked task in exchange for good behavior. As a parent, it is so much less stressful to be able to say, “job well done,” instead of, “to the corner young man.”

3. Set Clear and Age Appropriate Boundaries and Rules:

Don’t expect your children the respect boundaries or follow rules they are not old enough to understand or physically capable of following. I had a written contract with my elder son that outlined his responsibilities and the rewards for living up to those responsibilities.

My younger son had a chart with stars. He was awarded a star for good behavior and lost a star for bad behavior. And they both knew what I considered good and bad behavior. I was specific with them about the rules and the consequences of breaking the rules. And the consequences for my elder son were different than the ones for my younger son.

4. Be Consistent When Disciplining:

As a single parent, it is easy to take the path of least resistance and relax the rules a bit. Let’s face it, at times it is easier to just “do it yourself” than engage in the power struggle that can ensue when trying to get a child to act.

The idea behind setting rules and boundaries is to let them know who is in charge. The more you bend the rules, the less parental authority you have. Bend them enough and you will soon find yourself with no authority at all.

Being consistent requires a parent have self-discipline, it requires a lot of effort. In other words, being consistent will probably be the hardest part of disciplining your child. If you are able to remain consistent you will not only promote growth and maturity in your child but yourself also.

5. Be Quick and Concise When Disciplining Your Child:

My mother was notorious for threatening me if I misbehaved when away from home. She would shake her finger in my face and say, “when I get you home you will pay for that.” And there I would be, filled with anxiety for hours over what was going to happen once she “got me home.”

She didn’t want to make a scene in front of others but didn’t mind dumping hours of stress and fear onto me in order to save face. Punishment is far more effective and less damaging if it is doled out at the time of the bad behavior. Justice should be swift when dealing with children and it will be more effective if done immediately.

The trick is to have a separate set of consequences the child will suffer if bad behavior takes place away from home than those you have for home. It can be as simple as telling her child if he/she misbehaves at a Birthday party you will remove them from the party. Whatever the consequences, whether at home or away from home do it on the spot.

6. Keep Your Anger Under Control When Disciplining Your Child:

When we discipline we are attempting to send a message…certain behaviors are not acceptable and will not be tolerated. When you become angry and scream or yell the message gets lost. All your child hears or retains is the anger that is mudding up the message.

Keeping your anger under control also helps promote a respectful and loving relationship with your child. You will also be setting an example for your child on how to deal with a negative situation without going off the rails emotionally.

7. Allow Children to Help Set House Rules and Boundaries:

This is especially helpful when disciplining teenagers. An older child will feel more motivated to follow rules and respect boundaries they have helped set. Teens are on the brink of adulthood, they are living on the fence so to speak. It is a very frustrating time of wanting control but having none.

Giving your teen the opportunity to negotiate such things as curfew and what happens if they break curfew will give them a sense of control. I found, as my boys aged the more power they felt they had, the less likely they were to take advantage of that power.

8. Work Constructively With Your Co-Parent When Disciplining Your Child:

Your job as a single parent will be easier if you work with the non-custodial parent when setting up rules and boundaries for your child. These can be a challenging part of co-parenting but for the sake of your children, it is helpful for both parents to be on the same page when it comes to crimes and how those crimes are punished.

As parents, we want to teach our children certain morals and values. If divorced parents do not work together they fall short of teaching their children anything other than to engage in conflict and power struggles.

The rules at one house don’t have to be the same for the other house but parents should be in agreement about the need for setting and enforcing rules and boundaries. Doing so is best for all concerned.

The post Child Discipline After Divorce: 8 Tips For Single Moms appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Contra Costa Protests Catch More CPS and Family Court Staffers in Child Abuse and Trafficking Rings

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A former member of the Contra Costa County Grand Jury has leaked information that indicates  2018 parent protests  and new laws  mandating the termination of privately run foster homes resulted in an investigation of staff employed in the county’s CPS and family court services.  That investigation found that CPS workers were not following the law when they acted to remove children from their family homes. 

A recall effort that had wiped Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky off the bench was threatened by parents in Contra Costa, which caused an immediate investigation of three of the county’s judges.

Turns out, parents were right.  The investigation revealed Judge Hardie and Judge Fannin had direct ties to money laundering operations that take children from loving parents and sell those children into sex trafficking rings, while non- profits collect fees for the children placed into foster care. 

” It was the parents protesting in the streets that was very embarrassing to the upscale Walnut Creek community, that protest launched not only a criminal investigation by the FBI. but also the local grand jury.’ said the former grand juror who asked to speak off records. 

The juror also expressed frustration in the lack of media coverage on the topic. ” We never saw this coming because mainstream media never covers what is really going on in the county’s family courts,

Judges in the county appeared rattled over the investigation, which is leading to supervised visitation  and reunification camps where judges hold financial interests through their spouses and family members to avoid disclosure. 

Of the $153 million budgeted for foster kids. less than 1 percent was determined to be going to benefit foster youth. Worse were the judges who ignored the law and took children from their parents for no legal reason. 

SANTA CRUZ – Judge Hell

A Santa Cruz mother described the year  a CPS worker took her 2 year old, causing the mother to pay $40,000 she paid to get her child back.  

” The payment felt like a ransom” , explained the young mother, “we had to pay to defend  CPS worker’s allegations’: 

The Grand Jury didn’t investigate the use of supervised visitation, where several judges have a financial interest. 

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Attachment and the Psychoanalytic School of Psychology

Court-Involved Clinical Psychology and Child Custody Decision-Making

Targeted parents are human beings.  They are people.  Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people.  Anyone.  Targeted parents qualify.

Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people.  We’re not allowed to do anything that would hurt the targeted parent.

Making professional recommendations that would limit the time that targeted parents share with their children to anything less than the maximum time possible, hurts the targeted parent.  It makes them sad, very sad, it takes away from them a fundamental self-identity role of mother or father, it takes from them life experiences with their ever-growing child that can never be recaptured or recovered, the child is only five once, only ten once, only fifteen once, never again.  Lost time is lost, and this hurts the targeted parent.

Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people, not even targeted parents.  They are people.

What is the maximum amount of time?  Following divorce, that would be 50-50% shared custody visitation.  We learn about sharing in preschool.  We take turns.  It’s a fundamental principle of social cooperation.  We share.  We take turns.

Following a divorce, that would a be 50-50% shared time.  A psychologist cannot advocate for anything other than that, because anything other than that will hurt one parent or the other, will make one or the other sad, very sad, and will take from them a fundamental life role, an important experience of self-identity, their role and experience of being a mother or father.  That would hurt them.  Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people.

But sometimes situations and limitations imposed by external factors make a shared 50-50% custody visitation schedule impractical or impossible.  What do psychologists do then?  We work to limit the harm.  We don’t make decisions as to who is harmed.

This is the APA ethics code on Avoiding Harm to the client, Standard 3.04a:

3.04 Avoiding Harm
(a) Psychologists take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable.

We’re not allowed to harm people, and if harm is unavoidable, we “minimize harm where it is forseeable and unavoidable.”

Sometimes the child’s need to attend a single school requires that the child has a school-week residence with one or the other parent.  This will hurt the less involved parent, it will make them sad and damage their life experience as a mother or father.  But it is unavoidable.  The child needs to be at a single school location during the school week, the child needs a single school residence.

If both parents can live close enough to each other that they can share custody visitation time with the child and the child can also have a single school, then this is the best option, then we share, we take turns, and a 50-50% shared visitation schedule is the best in “minimizing harm” caused by the divorce itself – the separation of the family structure.

But if that’s not possible, then an every-other-weekend to one parent and primary school-week custody visitation with the other parent becomes the next available option for a fair distribution of time with a minimization of the unavoidable harm to one parent or the other from divided custody time.

Giving one parent only every-other-weekend is a severe restriction on this parents time, and is less than the maximum possible.  The maximum possible would be every weekend.  If the limitation is the child’s need for a single school so that one parent is the school-week parent, then the more limited-time parent could be the weekend-parent, this would be the best outcome for the more-limited, and therefore harmed, parent.

But then the school-week parent is harmed in another way.  The school week is task oriented with homework and after-school activities, and coincides with the work-week schedule and stresses.  Weekends are a time of relaxing and quality bonding.  If we take all of these weekend times of bonding relaxation away from the school-week parent, this harms them because it harms the quality of their relationship with the child.  One parent, the weekend parent, would receive all the quality bonding time of relaxation, and the other parent would receive all the task-oriented time of schoolwork and activities.

We want to balance the quality bonding time of weekends, so we assign an every-other-weekend schedule for visitation.  But then this is less than the maximum time available for the limited-time parent, and an every-other-weekend schedules imposes a two-week absence between only brief visitation times.  We would like to provide additional time to this limited-time parent if possible, to maintain a consistent presence of contact and involvement.

Because the more infrequent time parent is being harmed, and because of the long period of absence between weekend visitations, we try to add some additional consistent time for this parent.   Typically this is through additional weekday time, often a Wednesday or Thursday dinner with the child every week, sometimes for a block of time, sometimes overnight if the infrequent time parent is able to maintain the child’s single school attendance the following day.

Psychologists, however, do not decide which parent is the school-week parent and which parent is the every-other-weekend parent.  That is not our role.  Ever.  It is not the role of a psychologist to decide who is harmed, who is sacrificed.  The second clause of Standard 3.04 says we “minimize harm” – it does not direct us to decide who is harmed.  The recommendations provided above regarding shared 50-50% custody visitation time, and an alternative every-other-weekend custody visitation schedule when the harm is “unavoidable,” meets this standard to “minimize harm where it is forseeable and unavoidable.”

We do not decide on who is harmed.

But what about the greater good?   If the child would benefit from more time with one parent than the other?

Two responses.  First, psychologists do not judge people to decide who deserves to have children and who doesn’t.  That is NOT our role.  Parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.  Psychologists should NOT assume a professional role of judging which parent is the “better parent” based on criteria that cannot be supported.  If there is no child abuse, then parents have the right to be parents.  If there is child abuse and child protection factors are a consideration, then there should be a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.

Psychologists should not be in a role of judging who “deserves” to be a parent and who doesn’t.

Second, the “greater good” argument for causing harm is specifically prohibited by the APA ethics code.  Standard 3.04b prohibits psychologists from consulting for or collaborating with torture practices (enhanced interrogation) of terrorists.  Even terrorists, where there is a greater-good argument about the information they possess, psychologists are not allowed to harm terrorists.  The greater-good argument for causing harm is specifically prohibited.

Psychologists are not allowed to harm people.

Targeted parents are people.  We are not allowed to harm them.

The argument made by the allied parent is that the targeted parent “deserves” to be harmed, because they are a “bad parent,” and the allied  parent wants psychology and the court to judge the targeted parent, and to punish the targeted parent because they are a “bad parent” by limiting or restricting the parent’s time with the child.

It is not the professional role of psychologists to judge people to decide if the person “deserves” to suffer and be punished for some flaw or frailty.  That is never the professional role of psychologists.  If the court wishes to take up the matter of whether one parent deserves to be punished for bad parenting, that is a legal consideration of the court.  Psychologists are never in the role of judging someone’s frailty or vulnerabilities to decide if they should be a parent, or to decide if they need to be punished for their frailty.

Psychologists do not harm people.  Targeted parents are people.

If there are frailties, we fix them.  Parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.

Everyone can recognize how we do not override cultural or religious values in parenting rights, I want to highlight personal values.  Society has no authority to override parents in their right to parent according to their personal value system.  This provides a broad latitude to parents regarding their decisions as parents.  As long as there is no child abuse (documented with a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse), then parents have the human right to parent according to their personal values.

Personal values are embedded in cultural values, personal values are embedded in spiritual and religious belief systems.  Personal values are respected by professional psychology.  Psychologists do no judge who is the “better parent” who “deserves” to have a larger share of time with the child, psychologists do not judge who is a “bad parent” who deserves to be less involved with the child.

If there is no child abuse, then the rights of parents to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values is their human right and is respected.

If there is child abuse, then this needs to be documented by a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, V995.54 Child Physical Abuse, V995.53 Child Sexual Abuse, V995.52 Child Neglect, V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.  If there is no DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, then there is no justification for restricting a parent’s time and involvement with their child.

Custody Visitation Schedules

The practice of child custody evaluation is a professional abomination, psychologists should never be in the role of judging parents and parceling out pain and suffering based on some ill-formed and arbitrary criteria.

Psychologists do not harm people.  Anyone.  Ever.

Targeted parents are people.  They qualify.

Child custody decision-making following divorce is not complicated.  A shared 50-50% recommendation would be the default option in all cases because in minimizes harm to each parent created by the separated family structure and need to divide visitation time with the child.  We share, we take turns.  This is a foundational principle of social cooperation taught to all of us in preschool.  It applies in adult social cooperation as well.

We share.  We take turns.

If this is not possible, and harm must be done to one or the other parent by limiting their time and involvement with their child, then an every-other-weekend (and an evening during the week) custody visitation schedule becomes the second option.

This is not complicated.  That is the recommendation of professional psychology in all cases.  Professional psychology is not in the role of judging parents and parceling out pain based on who “deserves” to suffer because they are a “bad parent” (bad spouse).

Geographic Separation

In some cases, parents are geographically separated by long distances.  In these cases, neither the 50-50% shared visitation schedule nor the every-other-weekend visitation schedule is possible.  Additional harm is unavoidable.

In geographically separated families, the child’s need for a single school location requires that one parent be designated as the school-year parent, and the other parent will receive visitation time during the child’s school vacations.  As with the every-other-weekend schedule, the limited-time parent should receive all of the vacation time to maximize their available time with the child, but then this would harm the school-year parent by taking from them all of their relaxed bonding time with the child.

Similar to weekends, holiday and vacation bonding time is typically divided equally in geographically separated families, although sometimes additional time considerations are granted to the limited-time parent during summer vacations, and a strong argument can be made in favor of this compensation summer-bump to the limited-time parent’s custody visitation time with the child.

Move Aways

When a separated family structure occurs because of the parents’ divorce, the geographic location is established and the rights of each parent-spouse are established.  No move aways are permissible except in the most exceptional of circumstances.  Each parent’s individual rights are equally valid.  To take the child away from either parent would significantly harm the limited-time parent.

Psychologists are not allowed to harm people.  Any people.  Deciding if someone should be harmed is not the professional role of psychologists.  Once the home geographic location is established, if one of the spouse-parents wants or needs to move away from that region, for whatever reason, that is their choice.  Their choice, however, should not impinge on the liberties of the other spouse-and-parent, which include the right to be an active and involved parent with their child.

Life circumstances can be difficult and can impose difficult choices.  Personal life situations and choices, however, are not the responsibility of the ex-spouse following divorce, and the rights of the ex-spouse and parent to be an active and involved parent are not made void by the wants and needs of the other spouse-and-parent.

The court may decide that special extenuating circumstances exist that warrant allowing the move away of one parent with the child.  In these circumstances, the geographically separated custody visitation schedule of a school-year parent and a vacation-primacy parent becomes the recommended custody visitation schedule.

All Children – All Families

These recommended custody visitation schedules and the sequencing of their application applies to all children and all families.

Altering these schedules for child protection factors should be accompanied by a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.

Psychologists are not allowed to harm people.  Anyone.  Targeted parents are people, they qualify.  Psychologists are not allowed to do anything that harms the targeted parent…. Standard 3.04 of the APA ethics code, Avoiding Harm.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

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Child custody essentials for Texas families

Child custody essentials for Texas families

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

Whether you are a parent going through a
divorce or a
child custody case in Texas, you need to be familiar with how a court will view your
case if you and your child’s other parent cannot settle in mediation.
The fact is that as long as you are not in a courtroom, what you and your
opposing party can agree to is pretty much how your case will be decided.
Meaning: if you all can settle on an arrangement for child custody a court
is likely to honor it because there is a presumption under the law that
as your child’s parents, you both have his or her best interests in mind.

On the other hand, if you cannot settle your case then it will head to
a courtroom where all of the power as far as decision making is taken
from you and your child’s other parent and placed in the hands of
a family court judge. This judge, while well meaning and bound to make
decisions based on the law in Texas, does not know you, your child or
the opposing party in your case. He or she will have a limited amount
of time to learn the facts and circumstances of your case and then apply
the law in a fair manner.

Best interests of your child

It is presumed that naming you and your child’s other parent as
joint managing conservators is in the best interests of your child. This is the starting point that
your judge will being their analysis from when it comes to awarding a
particular schedule of possession. However, once evidence begins to be
presented in a trial a judge can make different decisions regarding what
is actually in your child’s best interests.

What sort of evaluation does a judge make as to what is (or is not) in
your child’s best interests? First of all, the judge would likely
want to do a review of the home environments of both you and your child’s
other parent. This often times meaning have an amicus attorney or attorney
ad litem conduct a review of the home environments and to compile a report
for the judge so that he or she can make a more informed decision.

Next, what your strong-suits when it comes to parenting and what are your
weaknesses? What are those of your child’s other parent? Do you
and your child’s other parent work well when it comes to co-parenting
or are you unable to stand the sight of the other? Your jobs and your
financial stability are also considered, although to a lesser extent when
yours and that of the other parent are similar.

What a court will look to when making its ultimate determination as to
child custody

Judges in Texas are empowered by the Texas Family Code to use their judgment
to a great extent when making this decision. The law will guide him or
her but in large part your judge’s own notions and opinions on the
subject will be key.

I will note that if your child is over the age of 12 and you file a motion
to have him or her speak to the judge about their own wishes as to where
they want to reside primarily a judge must consider their opinion. How
much the judge considers it is left up to that judge.

The current and future needs of your child (emotional, educational, financial,
etc.) are considered along with your and your opposing party’s abilities
to provide for your child’s needs. How stable is the home that you
are living in and what do your habits and past actions in the realm of
parenting indicate as far as your ability to provide the sort of environment
that is conducive to raising a successful and happy child in today’s world.

There are other factors that will present themselves in your trial, but
since they vary significant on a case to case basis I won’t attempt
to discuss them here. Suffice it to say that a judge will consider a great
number of factors when determining custody and conservatorship issues.

Sole custody of your child

A judge can award you or your child’s other parent a
sole managing conservatorship. This means that your child would live primarily with that parent. This
is how it would work under a joint managing conservatorship as well, but
the major difference is that the sole managing conservator would be in
the driver’s seat as far as making decisions for your child in regard
to important subjects like education and health care matters.

Joint custody of your child

Joint custody is much preferred by judges and, as we just finished discussing,
is the presumptive choice for judges to order in a child custody or divorce
case. Not only does it encourage parents to both have a long lasting and
committed relationship with their child but it also allows parents to
split the responsibility of sharing rights and duties as to that child.
I think in my years of practicing family law that this is most underrated
aspect of parenting. Most parents focus on time and de-emphasize the rights
and duties aspects of parenting. Ask any parent who feels left out of
the conversation when it comes to making important decisions and that
person will tell you how hard it is to be an effective parent without
this right.

Drawing a distinction between rights/duties and time with your child

As a parent there are really two, main aspects to your ability to parent
your child. The first is being able to spend time with your child and
have him or her in your possession. Quality time is what most people like
to call this. Evenings spent watching a movie in the living room, early
morning breakfasts enjoying a sunrise together or playing catch in the
backyard. These are familiar images for a lot of families and are what
I think most clients in a family law case think about when considering
what it means to be a parent and what is being fought for and over in
a family law case.

I will again emphasize, however, just how important it is to have the legal
right to make decisions on behalf of your child. Where your child attends
school, what kind of religion he or she practices, the sort of medical
care he or she receives and many other decisions are just the sort of
life changing issues that I am talking about when I talk about rights
and duties of parenting.

While you or I may commonly refer to this as legal custody of your child
it is actually called conservatorship in the Texas Family Code. Ironically
enough, despite how frequently it is used by the general public and attorneys
alike, the word custody does not actually appear in the Texas Family Code
even one time.

Using the parenting class as an opportunity to learn more about your child
and your family

Most Texas counties will require you to go through a mandatory course on
parenting. It may seem a little demeaning for a court to demand that you
attend a course on parenting after you have been a parent for years. I
understand this may seem like a waste of your time, but I have had more
than a few parents tell me that it really did open their eyes on how to
resolve conflict, work with the other parent after a family law case and
how to maximize the time that you do have with your child.

More on the subject of child custody will be posted in tomorrow’s blog

If you are interested in the information contained in today’s blog
post then you will want to stick around until tomorrow when we conclude
this mini-series of
child custody issues in Texas family law cases. If you have any questions in the meantime
I suggest that you contact the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. One of our licensed family law attorneys can meet with you six days a
week for a free of charge consultation. We can answer your questions and
address your concerns in a comfortable and pressure-free environment.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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