divorce trends

What can I do if my ex disregards the stay-at-home order and puts our children at risk?

divorce trends

Question:

What can I do if my ex disregards the stay-at-home order and puts our children at risk?

Answer:

I do not practice law in your state. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can provide you with general tips for this sort of issue.

As you are experiencing, many parents during this time improperly are ignoring the pandemic warnings. As such, many of the nation’s family courts quickly are responding to these types of situations.

That being said, the courts generally do not like to see parents engaging in self-help, which is when a parent decides what they believe is the best course of action without seeking court intervention. For example, if you decided to withhold your children based on the other parent’s behavior, this could be frowned upon by the court. 

If you have an enforceable court order, you certainly have the right to inform the police that the order is not being abided by if the other parent is putting the children in harm’s way. At times, law enforcement is unwilling to engage in any type of situation which may be considered a family law matter and will direct people to file appropriate actions with the courts.

A lot of courts now are having emergency or expedited hearings, as it relates to contempt of custody orders. Further, if your jurisdiction is under a stay-at-home order, many courts have implemented virtual hearings, so you can participate in a hearing by phone or video conference.

In my jurisdiction, once a custody order is entered by the court, the court expects that each party will abide by the order, but the court does consider the best interests of the child(ren) paramount. If parties to a custody order do not abide by the terms of the order and/or put the children in harms way, the party seeking enforcement of the terms of the order has the ability to file a contempt petition against the offending party.

In order for contempt to be found, the moving party (the one who wants to show there was contempt) has to show that the offending party has “willfully failed to comply” with the court order. In other words, you have to show that a person purposely is not abiding by the terms of the custody order.

However, the courts generally will not enter a contempt order until such time as the custody order actually has been violated or there is a clear indication (i.e. a person actually stating, preferably in writing, that they will not abide by the terms of the court order) that the custody order will not be followed. If the courts find that a party is in contempt of the custody order, there are several remedies the court may utilize.

Some examples are: imposing monetary sanctions, awarding counsel fees if counsel is retained, changing of the custody order (a rare occurrence but may happen if contemptuous behavior is pervasive and ongoing), and potential incarceration.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Pennsylvania divorce attorney Caroline Thompsoncontact Cordell & Cordell.

The post What can I do if my ex disregards the stay-at-home order and puts our children at risk? appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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child support

Paying Child Support & Alimony During COVID-19

child support

By Jadelyne Long
Litigation Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Companies are laying off and furloughing employees across the county, with those furloughed unsure that they will be employed after the stay-at-home order is lifted in their state. These are common concerns many of our clients at Cordell & Cordell have presented us with due to the COVID-19 crisis.

With these worries, they may not have jobs to return to and consequently, they will not be able to pay their child support and/or alimony obligations. The unemployment rates in the past month have skyrocketed, all due to COVID-19.

If you are experiencing any of this, know that you have options, and we are here to help. Keep in mind that I am licensed in the state of Florida, so any tips are based on my legal experiences in that state.

I was furloughed from my employer for the next few months and cannot make payments during this time. What do I do?

Unfortunately, your child support and/or alimony obligations do not automatically stop if you can no longer afford to pay them. Additionally, if you do not pay child support, you can be held in contempt of court, your driver’s license can be suspended, you might be ordered to pay a purge amount or lump-sum payment, or a warrant can be issued for your arrest. These obligations continue unless and until they are modified by a court order.

If you are experiencing hardship and an inability to pay your child support or alimony obligation contact a family law attorney, like those at Cordell & Cordell. An attorney can help you with navigating your options to protect your interests in court.

The courts still are open and remotely conducting hearings. A motion can be filed requesting for a temporary abatement or hold, of your obligations during this time. You still should pay what you can during this time to show the court that you are making a good faith attempt to pay and not completely avoiding your court ordered obligation. If you can pay something, do it.

I was laid off from my job and cannot make the support obligations. I have applied for unemployment. What can I do?

To change or modify your obligation you must show a substantial change in the circumstances that were not foreseen at the time the original agreement or order was entered. If your circumstances become permanent and you are laid off, you can seek to modify your child support and/or alimony obligation by filing for a modification. However, the request for the modification only can be made from the time you filed for the modification.

Therefore, any changes cannot be retroactively made to the day you filed for the modification. For example, if you lost your job last month, but wait two months to file for a modification, the court only can modify your payments from the date you filed the modification, even though your income significantly was reduced two months prior.

Again, it always is suggested that you pay what you can, even if that means a portion of your unemployment income. Unemployment compensation also is considered income for purposes of calculating child support. You also should make an attempt to seek new employment and maintain record keeping of all job applications submitted as proof of your efforts.

The post Paying Child Support & Alimony During COVID-19 appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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children of divorce

Can we temporarily change our parenting plan by verbal agreement until quarantine is over?

children of divorce

Question:

Can we temporarily change our parenting plan by verbal agreement until quarantine is over?

Answer:

I practice law in the state of South Carolina. Unless you live there, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can give you some general observations on family law issues and how they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the jurisdiction where I practice.

The answer is yes, and it highly is encouraged that parents be reasonable in attaining such an agreement. It is inevitable that both parties will experience some roadblock that renders their rights short of what is court ordered. Both parents should expect to make concessions for the other to abide by the spirit of the agreement as much as possible. A family court judge undoubtedly will respect the parties and their decisions considering the circumstances.

If you are the parent being asked to make a change in the parenting plan, then you should consider these requests. Keep in mind that your conduct can be scrutinized by a judge if the facts show that you were not being reasonable under the circumstances. It also is important that you make clear to the other parent that the change strictly is intended until such times as things get back to normal. You should be careful in not allowing the other party to misconstrue the change as a new agreement, but rather a temporary agreement.

If you are the parent requesting for a change in the parenting plan, then you should memorialize these communications whether the changes are consented to or not. Memorialized communications can be recorded through text message, email, or any other form of written communication wherein you can justify the other party’s intent. If the changes are not consented to by the other party, then these communications will come in handy when illustrating to a family court judge the conduct of the other parent should you need to go to court in the future. Similarly, these memorialized communications will protect the requesting parent should the other party claim some violation of the Agreement in the future. The bottom line is that written communication is key when communicating with the other parent.

Due to the fact-specific nature of this situation, I would strongly suggest you contact an attorney who handles family law matters in your jurisdiction to see how your state’s laws specifically can help you with this serious situation. This type of attorney should be helpful in providing you specific assistance for your matter. Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they particularly impact your potential case.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including South Carolina divorce attorney Chris Jacobcontact Cordell & Cordell.

The post Can we temporarily change our parenting plan by verbal agreement until quarantine is over? appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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Parental Alienation and Accountability

DISORDERED PARENTING AND PARENTAL ALIENATION

 

Disordered parenting and parental alienation affects hundreds of thousands of children every year in the UK alone.  And yet cases are often misrepresented and misinterpreted leading children to being left in the care of abusive parents, all  under the supervision of agencies whose sole responsibility is to protect vulnerable children.

 

Child protection issue

 

Parental alienation and disordered parenting is child abuse.  It is emotional, physical, psychological and sometimes sexual abuse.  The main categories are:

 

  • Rejecting (spurning) 
  • Terrorizing 
  • Corrupting  
  • Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability  
  • Unreliable and inconsistent parenting  
  • Mental health, medical, or educational neglect  
  • Degrading/devaluing (spurning)  
  • Isolating  
  • Exploiting

 

Adapted from Joan T. Kloth-Zanard, 2012, FOR THOSE THAT REFUSE TO USE THE WORD PARENTAL ALIENATION 9 CRITERIA FOR CLASSIFYING AGGRESSIVE PARENTING BEHAVIORS AS PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

 

Legal issue

 

  • Family courts are often adversarial, unaffordable, slow, and even intimidating – characteristics which are profoundly incompatible with “the best interests” of children; 
  • Family courts and lawyers are neither qualified to assess children, nor to assess the competence of other professionals, and insufficient professionals have the highly specialized skills necessary for assessing children and families involved in separation, dispute or litigation, where the incidence of family violence & abusive parental behaviour, including extreme psychological manipulation of children, is very high; 
  • By exposing children to unqualified “professionals”, by taking years to make decisions, and by greatly exacerbating parental conflict & stress, our courts contribute directly to the occurrence of psychological child abuse and family violence; 
  • Our courts restrict public scrutiny and fail to obtain feedback on the outcomes of the thousands of life-changing decisions they make each year; theirs is not the open, evidence-based approach our children need and deserve; 
  • Through the actions of our family courts, which typically result in a dramatic reduction, or loss, of loving, important relationships between children and parents (or a failure to restore such relationships), the UK is failing in its obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: we are denying some of the most fundamental rights, and needs, to tens of thousands of children and to their families; 
  • The annual cost of our family court system in government funding, consequent welfare dependency and lost income: billions of pounds. The cost in human loss and suffering: incalculable.

 

Adapted from Family Law Reform Coalition (AUS), 2015, Children in Crisis Executive Summary Urgent actions required to protect children in divided families 

 

Health issue

 

Parental mental health impacts the child’s outcomes.  Therefore a disordered parent is going to have a huge impact on a child’s health and well-being.  

 

Children of disordered parents and those who experience parental alienation often experience the following in adulthood:

 

  • Depression
  • Low self esteem
  • Substance misuse
  • Reduced ability to self direct
  • Reduced willingness to co-operate
    • (Amy J. L. Baker & Maria Christina Verrocchio 2013)
  • Anger and aggression
  • Self harm and suicide
  • Splitting
  • Long term mental health issues such as narcissism

Education issue

Hostile or neglectful parenting can result in anxiety and stress related disordered in children.  This can make school a very difficult environment for children.  They will be hypersensitive to sensory input and struggle with peer relationships.  This can lead them to be disruptive, withdrawn and eventually non-attenders (through expulsion or truancy).

Social Issue

When a child has chaos, neglect, threat, violence and other adversity, their potential is stunted, distorted and fragmented and when development is delayed, disrupted or impaired, the risk for more self-absorbed, impulsive, aggressive, violent and anti-social behaviour increases.  

Adapted from Bruce D Perry, 1996, Reflections on Childhood, Trauma and Society

Isn’t it time we worked together to address this problem?

The post Parental Alienation and Accountability appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.

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COVID-19 And Divorce: Effective Child and Spousal Support Strategies

COVID-19 And Divorce: Effective Child and Spousal Support Strategies

Many guys across the United States are facing a severe economic strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Divorced fathers, in particular, are being hit hard as they try to figure out how they are going to make their child support payments.

 Cordell & Cordell’s latest Virtual Town Hall reviewed strategies men can utilize during this time to modify child support or alimony.

File quickly

In the town hall, Cordell & Cordell’s divorce attorneys explained the vital importance of filing quickly as to set a retroactive date that will lead to relief.

“They really should be looking county to county,” Cordell & Cordell Mississippi Litigation Attorney Jerrod Rayborn said. “Initially, with the filings for support or divorce, there was a big slowdown, but that has started to speed up.

“Depending on what county you are in, some counties you can go directly into the clerk and file it, and it’s done that day. Other counties, you have to leave it in a Dropbox.”

Gathering important information

When seeking a modification, it is your responsibility to help your divorce attorney as much as possibly by gathering relevant financial records.

“Whenever you file a motion to modify, whether you’re modifying alimony or modifying child support, you’re going to want information on not only your own finances, but what your ex is going through during this pandemic,” Cordell & Cordell Oklahoma Litigation Attorney Carly Haiduk said. “Issuing, even if it’s just a few discover requests, can be beneficial.”

Although the discovery process might seem a little invasive, it is important for proving to the court why a modification is necessary.

“Discovery is just the process for getting information from the other side,” Ms. Haiduk said. “For example, in Oklahoma, when you file a motion to modify, you can ask 30 questions under oath. You can ask your ex if she’s earning any extra income at this time. Is she on furlough? Did she get some sort of severance package?

“Getting all of that information, so you can use it in negotiations and present it to the court in your motion to modify.”

Modifying spousal support

The attorneys also noted that the process for modifying spousal support can sometimes be a little more difficult than child support.

“Your first step is going to be taking a look at the language in your marriage settlement agreement, in order to see if it’s modifiable or not modifiable,” Cordell & Cordell New Jersey Senior Litigation Attorney Michael Prasad said. “Even if the language in your agreement indicates that it is nonmodifiable, it’s still a good idea to consult with an attorney.

“Alimony obligations are modifiable based on the showing of a change in circumstance, and judges operate very differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even from county to county. Some judges may look at that and say ‘Well, you have a contract you entered into,’ and some judges and courts may look at the circumstances and see that the change in circumstances was unforeseeable.”

More information

Cordell & Cordell is continuing to produce weekly Virtual Town Halls and daily podcasts to answer your questions about how the pandemic is impacting family law. You can find a full library of content on this topic on the Cordell & Cordell COVID-19 and Divorce Information Hub.

The post COVID-19 And Divorce: Effective Child and Spousal Support Strategies appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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Celebrity Divorces During COVID-19: What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes

Celebrity Divorces During COVID-19: What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes

In Cordell & Cordell’s latest Virtual Town Hall about divorce during COVID-19, the firm’s divorce attorneys examined some recent celebrity divorces that have made headlines and explained what lessons could be applied to regular cases.

No matter how much money you have, divorce is a time of turmoil. The economic uncertainty is even greater during the Coronavirus pandemic as the virus has strained the finances of millions of Americans.

“The same mistakes that celebrities make are the same that guys watching [the webinar] right now make,” Cordell & Cordell Managing Partner/CEO Scott Trout said. “That’s why I think it’s so relevant to look at what’s in the public eye. Learn from what they’re doing, and don’t make those same mistakes.”

Ditch social media

The panel of divorce attorneys discussed the breakup of former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler and “Laguna Beach” star Kristin Cavallari to illustrate how social media use can be dangerous during a family law issue.

“There’s really no upside to using social media during a divorce,” Cordell & Cordell Oklahoma Senior Lead Litigator Ron Gore said. “The courts already know that even if you come across well in your social media posts, you’re on stage, and you’re probably acting at your best, hopefully.

“We also are all human, and we all have times, especially in difficult times like a divorce, that we’re not acting as well as we would like toward each other,” Mr. Gore said. “So if you’re acting well, the court may think ‘Oh, it’s just an act. If you’re acting poorly, the court may think ‘They can’t even control their behavior when they know everybody’s seeing it. What are they doing?’ Since there’s no upside and lots of downside, it’s not a good idea.”

Missing parenting time

The panel also dissected the divorce of singer Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Ms. Stefani moved with her children to Oklahoma during the pandemic to quarantine, but that has caused Mr. Rossdale to miss out on his court-ordered parenting time.

Many parents across the U.S. are being denied access to their children with the pandemic being used as the excuse.

“It’s not legal to deny any custody or parenting time,” Cordell & Cordell New Jersey Senior Litigation Attorney Diana Megalla said. “As long as there’s a court order, that court order is place, until there is a new court order or written agreement.”

In many instances, missed parenting time can be made up at a later date.

“I had a case not too long ago, where we had to file a motion for family access, and it was granted,” Cordell & Cordell Missouri divorce attorney Igers Vangjeli said. “Parenting time can be made up, if you file.”

The key is to make sure you are proactive in filing so that your issue is documented. If you need help with any divorce issue during this uncertain time, get in touch with the divorce lawyers of Cordell & Cordell.

The post Celebrity Divorces During COVID-19: What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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Disbarred Divorce Attorney DIED of Coronavirus in Santa Clara: Contact Tracing  Begins

 
​Nearly  three years after Lynne Yates Carter taught lawyers how to earn more in fee awards at a lawyer training led by Judge James Towery and Justice Mary Greenwood at the Santa Clara County bar association , Lynne Yates Carter was disbarred and has now reportedly died. Her death is rumored to be connected to COVID-19 and contact tracing of the county’s  dirtiest divorce lawyers has begun.

Yates- Carter was celebrated in the local family law community for getting the wife of lawyer Richard Falcone sanctioned over $1 million dollars and declared vexatious in the Falcone v Fyke divorce case.  This case became the flagship for divorce lawyers and family court judges operating a criminal enterprise out of the area’s family courts where lawyers who are part of a criminal enterprise convinced clients to use a fake judge, claiming a lawyer overseeing a divorce instead of a duly elected judge ”  will be cheaper, faster and more private”, Minor’s counsel appointments are pimped out to local judges in return for appointments to act in the best interest of the children whose parents get caught in crosshairs of this criminal enterprise.. Lynne Yates Carter and her corrupt associate,  Tracy Duell Cazes.  wrote the playbook on this corrupt practice. Duell- Cazes continues to benefit by acting as a private judge where she can earn $5 million a year doing very little work..   

Contact tracing related  to Lynne’s death has turned up far more than coronavirus super spreaders.. Emergency orders in the county  have closed the courts  and county buildings.  These closures have reduced opportunities for lawyers to hold secret meetings that historically have provided an important tool for the most corrupt lawyers using the public courthouse to conduct their criminal conduct.  This conduct has now drawn the   attention of federal investigators who  are now looking into  family court cases where Yates Cater and her associates,  including Duell Cazes and Kathryn Schlepphorst,  appear to be at the center of the scandal.  

In what appears to be a deathbed confession, Yates Carter revealed corruption where divorce lawyers and family court judges have  turned a blind eye to child abuse and money laundering in attorney trust accounts. . Once she was disbarred Lynne Yates Carter reportedly warned  Elise Mitchell and Sharon Roper that the COVID-19 crisis could significantly impact the enterprise as  real property equity in the area dries up and court business  essentially grinds to a  halt. Further, Shelia Pott , a loan manager, recently lost an important appeal and is worried the loans she wrote for area lawyers and judges as kickbacks for favorable rulings in her own divorce case are now on the  radar of federal investigators at the DOJ. 

Jason Pintar has also been exposed for his role in the darkest part of the  enterprise after  it was discovered that cases Pintar was involved in with Constance Carpenter, Nat Hales, Richard Roggia , Laura Perry and Annie Fortino appear to be related to  sex trafficking rings revealed in cases before Judge Mary Ann  Grilli in 2014 and Judge Towery in 2017. Pintar appears to have  teamed up with Laura Perry and Annie Fortino  who have connections to the Gilroy Police and local politicians.   

 Twenty years ago, attorney Ed Mills  was  appointed in the Falcone v, Fyke divorce case as a referee/ Private Judge.  Ms. Fkye had to represent herself,  Over 20 years,  Lynne  Yates Carter,  is believed to have brought in cases that have generated  millions of dollars in fees to benefit  private judges James Cox, Ed Mills, Nat Hales, Sharon Roper, Michael Smith, Richard Roggia, Ed Berra and, Tracy Duell- Cazes..  

An attorney,  believed to be David Patton.  was recently overheard speaking to a staffer claiming Yates Carter’s death was timely as her recent disbarment threatened to expose private judging, attorney trust account abuses   and minor’s counsel appointments in the county. 
A whistleblower who contacted this website noted that family law attorneys are worried COVID-19 will expose mass corruption in the family courts in a manner that will result in the termination of what surely was the golden era for corruption in California’s courts. 

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Want to resolve your Texas family law case outside of court? Remember these rules of engagement

Special Needs Trusts: What they are and how they can impact your Texas divorce

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

Special needs trusts are designed to hold onto assets of a person who is receiving governmental benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Whatever assets are held in the trust would be available to augment and add to the level of care that a disabled needs. The main force of the special needs trust is that the person would still be eligible to receive the government benefits that they need due to those assets being held inside of the trust, rather than at their ready disposal or usage.

There are two varieties of special needs trusts. For example, you could create a special needs trust for a child of yours who has a special need or a disability. That special needs trusts may be created by you, your spouse or by both of you under estate planning provisions. The other type of special needs trust is one where the trust is created out of the special needs’ person’s assets or money. These trusts will reimburse Medicaid for any funds spent on the special needs’ person’s behalf.

What impact will a special needs trust have on your divorce

If your child or you are receiving benefits from Social Security or Medicaid, those agencies provide only limited guidance for you and your spouse in a divorce setting. Special needs trusts can play an important role in the negotiation and settlement process in divorces because they allow for you and your spouse to plan on how finances will be handled immediately after a divorce. This is critically important when one of the parties or your children have a special need and rely in part on government assistance to receive medical care, pay bills or both. Spousal maintenance, child support, and other court-ordered payments can be held in these trusts.

Think about this example to better illustrate my point. Suppose that you have a fifteen-year-old son who receives $500 per month in SSI benefits as well as Medicaid. Within your final decree of divorce, your ex-spouse is ordered to pay you $750 per month in child support which is paid directly to you.

Under the rules of Social Security, 1/3 of the child support that you receive is excluded from income limits that go towards determining eligibility, only $500 goes toward the government’s calculation of income and assets to determine whether or not your child is eligible to receive SSI benefits and Medicaid. Even still, the $500 of support that counts towards the calculation will wipe out the $500 of potential benefits ($500-$500 = $0). That means no SSI benefit every month and no Medicaid to help pay for necessary medical treatment. You may have been planning the entire divorce to live in part on the child support and SSI payments. Now you are in a position where you have only one of those sums to count on for survival.

Here is how you can structure your final decree of divorce to protect yourself and your child in the future. The final decree of divorce should require your ex-spouse to pay the child support directly to your child’s special needs trust. That will allow you to slip by the government’s income/assets test and receive both SSI and child support. This benefits you and your child and does not harm your ex-spouse in any way. It is a win-win all the way around.

Yes, there are costs associated with creating a special needs trust. You may even have to hire an estate planning attorney to at least give guidance on the subject if not create the whole thing for you and your family. However, the short-term investment than hiring an attorney and creating the trust entails will be quickly canceled out by the increase in benefits and child support that you are fully able to take advantage of. Medicaid eligibility is a huge part of the equation, one that you may not be able to accurately project how much money you will save throughout your special needs child’s life.

The bottom line is that you can have your child support payments ordered to be put into a Special Needs Trust. The cash payments by your ex-spouse which instead be converted into distributions by the Trust whenever they are needed.

Take care of these issues before your divorce is over with

Another important point that I want to stress to all of you today is that you should do whatever it takes to have the issues settled before your divorce concludes. If you do not, you run the risk of having the SSI payments reduced by the child support (as we saw above) or lost completely due to your receiving child support payments.

Whenever a child support figure is set, whether by agreement or order from a judge, I would recommend that the attorneys in your case agree to hire an attorney who has experience creating special needs trusts. There are details that this attorney must be able to sort out and it is not common to find a family law attorney who is also a competent builder of a special needs trust.

As far as your final decree of divorce is concerned, it should order that your ex-spouse make a payment for your child’s special needs to the Trustee of the Special Needs Trust each month. The resources and programs that are available to you and your child should be considered when negotiating child support. A judge will do so, and it makes sense for you to consider that when making a settlement offer for child support. Also, you need to think ahead to the future to determine if your child will need either more or less care and therefore monetary support as he or she ages.

I know of some people who would tie the amount of child support paid to the amount of SSI benefits that are paid. They would take the amount of SSI benefits and subtract that amount from the amount of child support that would otherwise be agreed to. That reduced amount would be the child support figure that is agreed to. Here is why I think that is a bad idea and why I would advise a client against doing so.

If your daughter is disabled and your divorce decree states that there will be an offset of the child support obligation for each dollar received in SSI benefits, this does not take into consideration that your child’s needs may increase. You can try to go back to court in the future to have the child support orders modified based on a substantial change in the circumstances of your case and probably win on that basis. The increase would need to be reported to the Social Security Administration. This will cause a substantial decrease in the amount of SSI that your child can receive.

There is a chain reaction that follows this decrease in SSI benefits due to your divorce decree tying the amount of child support that your ex-spouse has to pay to the amount of SSI benefits that your child receives from the government. The lesser amount of SSI increases the child support obligation, so on and so forth. What you have done is set yourself up for a roller coaster ride of increases and decreases in the number of benefits you receive and child support that your ex-husband has been ordered to pay you. This will go on and on until the SSI benefits completely go away.

As far as I can tell, you should just agree to a specific dollar value for child support. Do not tie child support to the SSI benefits that are also received. Do not have the child support payments go to you directly, but rather into a special needs trust. Your case will not look exactly like any of these examples that I have provided you with today. With that said, I think these examples can paint a clearer picture of the circumstances that you need to be aware of. Along with your attorney, look into your options and you can plan a course for your case that benefits you and your child.

How will a judge determine that your child is disabled?

The definition of “disabled” changes depending on who or what group you are asking. The DMV may find your grandmother to be disabled just based on a note sent by her doctor. The military may declare you to be disabled when you are not able to pass several mental or physical tests. Social Security makes disability determinations based on the ability to work and earn a sufficient income for yourself to live on.

Your family court judge has their criteria to look to when determining whether or not your child suffers from a disability. Whether your child requires substantial care and personal supervision because of mental or physical impairment is an important part of the judge’s analysis. Those impairments must also render your child unable to care for himself or to provide a basic level of self-support. These impairments must be in place before your child’s 18thbirthday, as well.

If you are trying to establish in your divorce that your child is disabled, you are likely trying to do the same through Social Security to establish SSI benefits for him or her. The impairment must be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in the death of your child to be approved for SSI. AS I mentioned earlier, it is a job-based analysis that Social Security will undertake. If your child is not expected to be able to work on a full time, sustained basis.

It is likely that if your child has already been approved for SSI benefits, he or she would also meet the first part of the disabled test for Texas family courts. That is, your child would be unable to support him or herself absent monetary support from one of their parents (or both). Requiring constant supervision and care is not necessarily a part of the SSI analysis, but it would follow that requiring constant and around the clock, care would mean that your child is also unable to perform substantial gainful activities in the workplace.

If your child has not yet been examined by Social Security for benefits, then your child’s doctor’s will need to act as witnesses in a trial or hearing to help establish their disability. Often teachers will work closely with special needs children and are therefore great at testifying as to their limitations currently and their prognosis in the future. These folks have direct experiences with your child and are oftentimes stronger witnesses than medical experts who know nothing of your child beyond the medical records provided to them.

You may want to consider videotaping your child throughout a day just to give the judge an idea of what a typical day looks like for your child. What special needs does your child have? Do you have to go to great lengths to feed, bathe or care for your child? This can be especially powerful evidence if your ex-spouse testifies that your child’s condition is not that severe and that child support after adulthood is reached would not be necessary.

More on child support for disabled children in tomorrow’s blog post

Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on our blog. We enjoy sharing relevant information with you and helping the people in our community. If you have any questions about today’s blog please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity to learn more about family law, to ask questions of an experienced family law attorney and to receive feedback about your particular circumstances.

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



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What should parents do about exchanging their children under a Texas standard possession order when school is not in session due to COVID-19?

What should parents do about exchanging their children under a Texas standard possession order when school is not in session due to COVID-19?

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

This is a question that the family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have been receiving with great frequency since the middle of March. Most family court orders in Texas determine possession and visitation based on the school year calendar for the school district or school that your child attends. Without that reference point many parents were left scratching their heads as to how to proceed. With there being some question as to what will happen with school starting up (or not) in the Fall, we figured it was a good idea to continue to provide answers to these questions as we head into the summer months.

If you have been keeping your child on a set schedule with at home learning then you and your family will be ahead of the game at least when it comes to maintaining a structured environment. Many children, however, are left to fend for themselves due to a range of circumstances. Talking to your children about these abnormal times can help them to process these changes instead of just reacting to them without any context about how or why they are occurring in the first place.

Since your child lives apart from both parents you can utilize this time as a great opportunity to begin to focus on co-parenting and working together to coordinate your messages to your children, child care during the summer and what you all will plan to do during the fall if school does not start up on time at the end of summer. As unpleasant as it can be to work directly with your ex-spouse on situations like this I can tell you from experiences working with many parents in our community that it is best for your children.

What are family law attorneys advising their clients during this time?

It is beneficial to have an attorney in your corner who not only knows the law but can guide you as far as what to do in the event that a problem comes up associated with possession or visitation. If you have an ex-spouse who is not honoring your court orders or has decided to not be flexible with you during this difficult time then you may need to hire an attorney to help you sort of your options.

Without knowing your particular situation, it is tough to give specific advice. If you do want to talk with experienced family law attorneys then you should contact our office today. We can schedule you for a no strings attached, free of charge consultation via phone or video. It’s in these conversations where your specific questions can be answered. Otherwise, we will do our best in today’s blog post to provide general advice that you can apply to your life.

I think one piece of advice that is not legal in nature is that you and your family should focus on one thing above all else right now: your health. This means that you should be aware of what the government is advising you to do as far as staying healthy. However, that does not mean that you should not work with your doctor and the pediatrician for your children as well. Common sense (which isn’t so common anymore) cannot be ignored during this time, either.

Showing your child how to act in a tough circumstance can be a lesson that sticks with your child for the rest of your life. More in caught than taught with children, in my opinion. I know that with my kids they will often “forget” something that I tell them, but they will remember vividly the things I do. The habits that you display for your children as far as your health and how to take care of yourself are incredibly important for your children during this time.

Simple things that we take for granted are habits that need to be ingrained into your child starting now. This means handwashing before and after meals and making sure that the surfaces in your home are regularly cleaned seem like little things in the grand scheme of things. However, I think we can all attest to the fact that little things can make a big difference in the lives of our families right now.

Social distancing a concept that we are all undoubtedly familiar with at this stage of the game. The idea of distancing yourself from people who may or may not be ill makes sense and in theory should have been something that we did even before COVID-19 or the coronavirus became parts of our vocabulary. We should all be making sure that our kids understand why we are behaving like we are and that they begin to keep in mind how to protect themselves from sickness.

Finally, staying healthy means keeping up with the news at events warrant it. I am not saying that keeping the cable news networks on your phone or television all day long is a smart thing to do. In fact, doing that may actually do more harm than good. However, you should find a reputable news source and refer back to it when updates occur in our area. For example, as the governor begins to roll out various openings for businesses you should know when and if those changes impact you and your family.

Help your child to keep things in perspective

Your child may be one, seven or seventeen years old. Depending on the age of your child you need to be able to help him or her be aware of the changes that are ongoing as we begin to live our lives in the age of COVID-19. Eventually there will be a vaccine for this virus. Eventually we will be able to live our lives more normally than we have the past seven weeks. However, we are not there quite yet. As a result, we need to help guide our kids through this time.

That does not mean that our kids need to live in constant fear of becoming ill, getting others sick or seeing family members get sick. Someone they know may get sick, but you should help your child to understand that we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves healthy. That is how we can show responsibility to others, as well. Striking a balance between staying healthy, distancing ourselves in public when need be and educating our children on steps they can take in the meantime to keep a proper perspective on this virus.

Look to your court orders when deciding how to proceed with possession and visitation

Unless you and your child’s other parent are able to come to a mutual understanding and agreement on alternative set ups for visitation and possession, you will need to abide by your court orders. Dig out a copy and make sure that you understand what is expected of you. Those orders are not optional and do not stop working in case of pandemic. They are still the rules and you need to follow them until told otherwise by the judge from your court.

The tough part about that is your schedule and ability to care for your children during this time may have changed a great deal. For instance, if you are ill, live with a person who is ill or are a member of the “at risk” population, then you may want to allow your child’s other parent to care for your child at least for the next few weeks. Again, getting the coronavirus does not mean that you will get ill. It does not mean that worse will happen to you. However, if we are aware of the virus being passed from person to person there is no use risking your health or that of your child’s.

It would make a ton of sense for you and your child’s other parent to work out between yourselves how you would handle a situation where one of you get sick. Hopefully that never happens but you want to be prepared. Until that would occur I think it would generally be best for little to change in regard to your court orders. For one, changing court orders between yourselves will become difficult to enforce. Secondly, it will be good for your child to live their life as consistently as possible in these days where there is no school.

If you and your child’s other parent can come to an agreement on an alternative scenario for possession or visitation this week, your circumstances may change next week and one of you would simply need to change their mind for the agreed to scenario to go up in smoke. This will cause anger, frustration and a disruption to your child’s schedule. It also promotes (in my opinion) a constant degree of negotiating and back and forth between you all when it comes to modifying the orders on the fly.

The whole point of going to court, hiring attorneys and submitting them to a judge for approval was to avoid being in a situation where those orders stop working right away or are able to be changed without a great deal of thought. Coming up with new orders on the fly with your ex-spouse may work for a short period of time but in the long run may cause more problems than it solves. Talk to your ex-spouse as soon as you can about how you want to handle future periods of possession/visitation that are disrupted by this virus.

Do not try to hide your being ill if you do get sick

At this point, I’m going to guess that a lot of us know a person who has gotten sick with COVID-19. Whether or not the person got gravely ill or was just under the weather, the sickness has spread to the point of most of us having come into contact with it previously. You may have even considered what you would do if you do get sick and have a visitation time period coming up with your child. You wouldn’t want to get him sick but you also do not want to miss out on a period of visitation.

What you should do is be completely honest with your child’s other parent about your situation. If you think that you have the virus or are just sick generally speaking, then it is not wise to be with your child right now if you can avoid it. This is when working directly with your ex-spouse on coming up with visitation arrangements is a good thing to do. Our lives have all changed as a result of this virus- at least temporarily. It would make sense that visitation and possession would change as well.

You should make sure that your ex-spouse has a plan (and that you do, too) if the other one gets sick. Alternative child-care, transportation logistics, extended family who can help, etc. all need to be worked out before either one of you falls ill. This is no longer a situation where you can just say that you got sick out of the blue. We are all aware of what can happen as a result of this virus. Now it is up to us as parents to help keep our children safe.

Questions about possession and visitation in the age of COVID-19? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan appreciate the time that you spent with us on our blog today. We post unique content here every day so we encourage you to return tomorrow, as well. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we have discussed in this blog post please do not hesitate to contact our office. We can schedule a free of charge consultation for you with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations can occur over the phone or via video to better suit your needs as we hopefully transition back into a more normal, and virus-free, routine.

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



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Unemployment & Slowdown: COVID-19’s Impact on Divorce and Dads

Unemployment & Slowdown: COVID-19’s Impact on Divorce and Dads

The COVID-19 pandemic has left more than 30 million people unemployed. The financial hardship is even tougher if you are going through a divorce during this tumultuous time.

There are millions of divorced dads who can no longer afford
their child support or alimony payments because the pandemic has wrecked their
finances. Perhaps even more concerning is the number of fathers losing access
to their children because of custody exchange complications during stay-at-home
orders.

On April 30, Cordell
& Cordell
hosted a Virtual Town featuring a panel of divorce lawyers
from across the United States who answered questions from viewers about the
divorce issues they are facing during this unprecedented time.

How to file for
divorce during COVID-19

The Coronavirus has closed many family courts, but that does
not mean there is no way to move forward with divorce.

Although you might not be able to appear in court for
in-person hearings and court appearances, you should still be able to file.

“In Florida, the courts are closed to the general public,
meaning that you can’t walk into the court and file an action, unless it’s an
emergency,” Cordell & Cordell Florida Litigation Manager Marc
Cohen
said. “But they are open, in terms of us [attorneys] being
able to file actions, being able to get hearings before judges.”

How to modify support
orders during COVID-19

One of the biggest problems divorced fathers are encountering
is that their income has been dramatically reduced because of the pandemic and
they can no longer afford child support or alimony.

In those instances, it is important to file for a
modification as soon as possible.

“Whether you are looking to modify support or maintenance,
due to a job loss or you’re just starting out on a divorce, it becomes
especially important to modify if you’re now collecting unemployment and you
have had a significant decrease in your income,” Cordell & Cordell Regional
Partner Bridget Landry
said.

“In Minnesota, the support modification, which includes
spousal maintenance or alimony, and child support, are retroactive from the
date they are served. So, if already have a decrease in income, it’s very
important to get that motion served, as soon as possible, because even though
your court date may not be a month, or two, or three from now, the
retroactivity will go back to the date of service.”

The courts are unlikely to cut you any slack if you fall
behind on payments, even if it was because of the pandemic.

“When you say to judges ‘Well, it was Coronavirus. I didn’t
do anything,’ it’s not going to be an excuse,” Cordell & Cordell
CEO/Managing Partner Scott Trout
said. “We want to give the judge the maximum latitude across the country, where
ever you may be, to make that order retroactive and apply toward payments that
you couldn’t make.”

Extramarital affairs
during COVID-19

The Virtual Town Hall also briefly touched on the topic of
infidelity during the pandemic and how that can impact the divorce process. An
affair can potentially affect how much alimony is owed. At a time when the
economy is reeling, and employment is tough to come by, that determination can
end up being very costly.

“New York, like many states, is considered no fault, which
means you don’t have to show that somebody had an affair, in order to get a
divorce,” Cordell & Cordell New York Litigation Manager Asa
Neff
said. “But it is certainly taken into consideration for a lot
of purposes. It can have a financial impact, certainly if you are spending
money on an extramarital affair. If that’s found out, a judge can order that
that money come back in and have to be redistributed and repaid to the marital
estate.

“If there are issues of custody in a case, a judge is going
to look at your behavior and make a decision about whether or not that should
impact the time you’re going to have with your children.”

Child custody during
COVID-19

The top issue divorcing men are struggling with during the
Coronavirus might be sorting through child custody exchanges while still
following quarantine and stay-at-home orders.

Some dads fear traveling with their children for custody drop-offs
will risk exposing them to the virus. Other fathers are missing out on parenting
time because their ex is withholding custody and using the virus as an excuse.

During the Virtual Town Hall, Cordell & Cordell Regional
Partner Erica Gittings
explained steps to take when debating whether to withhold your child and refuse
to give up custody during the pandemic. She suggested providing written
communication expressing your worries to the other parent and documenting your
actions during this time.

“Document what you are doing to make sure that you are
following all of the Governor’s orders for your state and making sure you’re
following all of the social distancing requirements,” Ms. Gittings said. “Also
make sure to document any evidence you may have that your co-parent is not
following the isolation orders or the social distancing orders.”

She also emphasized the importance of consulting with your
divorce attorney before proceeding with any actions outside the guidelines laid
out in your custody order.

“In the state of Wisconsin, we have the statute, a motion to
enforce placement, and if you withhold the children and the court finds out
that it was intentional and unreasonable, you could be subjected to paying the
other side’s attorney’s fees,” she said. “So it is important to put all of your
ducks in a row, in order to show the courts your concerns, which are real and
are expressed appropriately, and that you’re taking the right steps.”

Proactiveness is key

Repeatedly, the attorneys stressed the importance of being
proactive on family law matters during this time.

Always document any interactions you might have with your ex
regarding co-parenting. Pay what you can in child support and alimony. Stay up
to date on the guidelines your state and local governments provide – especially
as it relates to custody exchanges and modification issues. And contact your divorce attorney
when you are uncertain how to proceed.

The post Unemployment & Slowdown: COVID-19’s Impact on Divorce and Dads appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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