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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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COVID-19’s Effect on Child Support and Alimony Payments – Men’s Divorce Podcast

Can I pause child support arrears during the pandemic?

child support arrears

Question:

I lost my job due to the pandemic and already owe child support arrears. I know I can modify my child support order for payments moving forward but can I have those arrears paused during this time?

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.

You are correct regarding the fact that you can request a modification of your support payments moving forward. However, I do believe it is important that you are aware that, unfortunately, although a reduction in income is considered a change in circumstance, the court may not modify the amount or duration of support if it appears that the change in circumstance is considered temporary.

For example, there is case law that states that a 20-month reduction in income only was temporary, therefore a reduction in child support was not warranted. Further, the family court generally will not modify a support order, including pausing arrears, even during a modification time.

Additionally, the court puts the burden on the person requesting a change to notify the court of any change which could impact support. As such, the court will not know you have lost your employment until you file your modification petition. Therefore, your arrears balance will continue to accrue at the current level unless and until a modification is filed and granted, and I would recommend you file to modify your support as soon as possible.

However, if payment will become an issue for you, I would suggest contacting the enforcement unit and advising them of the change in your circumstances. You need to see if they would stay an enforcement proceeding against you, until your employment and income return to pre-pandemic levels.

While arrears still will accrue on the original amount, if the enforcement department is willing to stay any enforcement proceedings, this should mitigate any other actions against you, such as lack of payment being reported to credit agencies or incarceration for lack of payment.

However, please note this completely is within the discretion of the court, so I cannot guarantee that enforcement will not be sought against you. Also, I would strongly suggest that if you are able, you continue to pay the alimony at the level awarded, so you ensure that no enforcement proceedings are initiated.

Another alternative is to attempt to privately negotiate a temporary reduction in your arrears. If you and the opposing party can come to a private agreement, a stipulation, preferably prepared by an attorney, can be submitted to the court encapsulated the terms of the temporary agreement. Any stipulation modifying support/suspending arrears must be filed with the court. Otherwise, the original support order will continue to be in full force and effect, and the court will not know that the terms have been modified.

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 Can I pause child support arrears during the pandemic? appeared first on Dads Divorce.

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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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parental alienation

How do I deal with my child rejecting me?

It doesn’t make any sense, we used to be so close, what happened?

Children rejecting their parents goes against everything we know about attachment and parenting.  We are biologically programmed to NEED our parents for survival so when a child turns away from that, it’s a sign of deep emotional and psychological trauma.  

Having worked within Child Protection for many years, I have seen children who have been severely neglected by their parents (through substance misuse or mental health) cling to them like a lifeboat. That’s how parents feel to children.  In a scary world, their parents are (on a biological level) their protectors.

Sadly for many children the reality is that it is their parents who they cling to, who they see as their protector, who are really the ones who are putting them at risk.

But a child does not usually comprehend that.  In many cases they actually profess MORE love for the high risk parent because they need it more.  They have learnt that they need to work extra hard to get their needs met by that parent and so they do exactly that.  They become so eager to please that parent that they can be controlled and will surrender their own wants, needs, thoughts and feelings just so that they can get what they believe they need (attachment) from this parent.

Signs of an insecure ambivalent attachment:

A child’s anxiety and uncertainty are evident as when the incident becomes very upset at separation from the caregiver and both resists and seeks contact at reunion

parental alienation

So what happens when a child completely rejects a parent?

 

At the core of the rejection is the complete suppression of the child’s attachment bonding motivations towards you, a healthy and available parent. This occurs when the child is put in a loyalty conflict position where they have to align with the higher risk parent in order to retain a relationship with them. This is induced with subtle and covert behavioural manipulations.  The essence of which is a clear message to the child – “it is not safe to love this parent, I am the only parent who can love and protect you, if you show any affection for that parent you will not receive love from me”.

 

It’s important for you to understand this process as it will help you with dealing with the rejection.  It shows that you have done nothing wrong.  That your child is under enormous pressure and has no choice but to reject you.  

 

At this point many parents will realise the abusive nature of the behaviour of the other parent and go to Family Court to ensure they remain an active part in their child’s life.  Whilst I appreciate there is little option but to do this, I do feel it is important that you face the rejection and the emotions that brings up first so that you can present the as the healthy, available parent your child needs and remembers.

5 Stages of



  • Shattering – you are in shock, panic and bereft of life’s worth and meaning. Suicidal feelings are normal. You may also begin to feel old feelings of helplessness and dependency


  • Withdrawal – this is an addiction response where you crave the child, feel physical symptoms of withdrawal (unable to sleep, weight loss, anxiety and fatigue (physical and emotional)


  • Internalising – your self esteem suffers real damage, you begin to supress your anger and turn it on yourself or others (The Spring Effect). You may be pre-occupied with feelings of regret and play over in your mind what you might have done differently


  • Rage – as the anger begins to surface it can be used either positively or negatively (positive – regain self esteem and find a way forward/negatively – develop agitated depression and take your anger out on others who you feel responsible for making this better)


  • Lifting – the range has brought your emotions out and that can begin the process of feeling “normal” again. You are able to feel more positive about the sitation and feel stronger and hopeful

Whereever you are at in the process now, know that your feelings are normal and that you will move onto the next stage when you are ready.  



  • Do be kind to yourself


  • Do surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally


  • Do get professional support if you get stuck at any stage



  • Don’t blame yourself


  • Don’t underestimate the emotional toll this is taking


  • Don’t feel ashamed of what has happened (shame keeps you stuck)

Dealing With Anxiety

Part of our series of Free Webinars on Surviving Parental Alienation

The post How do I deal with my child rejecting me? appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.

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Can Child Support and Spousal Support be Changed After a Divorce is Final?

Can Child Support and Spousal Support be Changed After a Divorce is Final?

It’s a good idea to check with your lawyer every few years and ask the attorney to investigate the possibility of a modification in child support or maintenance.  

The post Can Child Support and Spousal Support be Changed After a Divorce is Final? appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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Child Court Order – What Is It And Do I Need One?

Child Court Order – What Is It And Do I Need One?

So your ex has stopped you from seeing the children or is making decisions which you disagree with.  They refuse to communicate and so you have no choice but to seek legal advice and apply for a court order.

What is it?

Firstly, we need to take a step back.  In the UK, applications for care orders will not been heard unless mediation has been attempted.  It is a legal requirement, the aim of which was to reduce the volume of applications going to court.  Sadly, if you are dealing with a hostile ex mediation will not work.  Mainly because (much like co-parenting) it requires them to cooperate and negotiate.  Narcissists don’t negotiate.  They have a “my way or no way” attitude and so invariably you will have your C100 signed off giving you permission to apply to the court.

 

Child court order (or Child Arrangement Orders) have replaced residency and contact orders.  They decide:

  • where your child lives
  • when your child spends time with each parent
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example)

As long as you have PR, you can apply for a CAO.  In order to apply you must follow these steps to apply for a court order.

  1. Read guidance CB001 on making an application.
  2. Fill in the C100 court form. You must show you’ve attended a meeting about mediation first – except in certain cases (there’s been domestic abuse, for example).
  3. Send the original form and 3 copies of it to the nearest court that deals with cases involving children.

 

It costs £215 to apply for a court order. After you apply for a court order, the court will arrange a ‘directions hearing’ with both parents if you apply for a court order (known as a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment or FHDRA)

child court order

Cafcass

Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Services

There will usually be a family court adviser from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) at the hearing. Before the first hearing Cafcass will do

 

  • Safeguarding checks: they carry out checks with the police and the local authority to find out whether there are any known safety or welfare risks to your children.
  • Telephone interview: In most cases, they will phone you and the other party to find out if either of you have any concerns about the safety and welfare of your children. You are unlikely to have a home visit before the first hearing. Only people who are parties to the case will be interviewed.
  • Safeguarding letter: At least three days before the first hearing Cafcass will provide the court with a short report on the outcomes of the safeguarding checks and any child welfare issues raised in the telephone interviews with you and the other party.

At the hearing, a judge or magistrate will try to work out:

  • what you can agree
  • what you cannot agree
  • if your child is at risk in any way

They’ll encourage you to reach an agreement if it’s in the child’s best interests. If you can, and there are no concerns about the child’s welfare, the judge or magistrate can end the process.

 

The court will make a consent order which sets out what you’ve agreed, if necessary.

 

If you cannot agree at the first court hearing the judge or magistrate will set a timetable for what happens next.

 

They may ask you to try again to reach an agreement, for example by going to a meeting with a mediator.

 

You may have to go on a course if your case is about child arrangements. The course is called a ‘Separated Parents Information Programme’, and could help you find a way to make child arrangements work.

 

The court can ask Cafcass to provide a report on your case to help decide what’s best for the child (known as a section 7). The Cafcass officer may ask your child about their feelings. You’ll get a copy of the report when it’s written.

 

The judge or magistrate will consider:

  • child’s wishes and feelings
  • child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • effect any changes may have on the child
  • child’s age, gender, characteristics and background
  • possible risk of harm to the child
  • ability of parents to meet the child’s needs
  • orders the court has the power to make

 

A judge or magistrate will only make an order if they think it’s in the child’s best interests. 

(from www.gov.uk)

Do you

If your ex is stopping you from seeing the children or making co-parenting extremely difficult, then yes, you need one.  

  1. Your ex will not negotiate with you at all and so it is your own real way of being part of the decision making process with regards to your children
  2. Any parent who tries to erase a parent out of their child’s life needs to be held to account.  Mild cases will usually be resolved through the “Separated Parents Information Programme” but moderate to severe cases often involve a parent with mental health issues which will need to be managed.  If their behaviour is allowed to continue, you can find yourself completely alienated from your own children.

Is it worth it?

I wanted to add this section because although it is absolutely necessary and your only real option at this moment in time, I do feel you need to be aware of the realities of going to Family Court.  

 

With certain personality types, they will see the court process as an opportunity for them to not only bleed you dry, but also to play the hero and victim in one go.  They will present as a victim of your treatment (abuse claims are common) and the hero for trying to keep the children safe.  They will rope in the children to deliver this powerful and damning report which is incredibly harmful to the children.  In any other circumstance I would also argue for keeping children and families out of court.  However, if you don’t go to court you are not only kissing goodbye to a relationship with your children but also ensuring only one side of the situation is ever heard.  By fighting through court (and unfortunately it is a battle) you are showing the children in the only way possible, that you want them in your life.  

 

One other point is that even with a CAO, if your ex is determined, they will do everything they can to breach it and not comply.  They will make continued false allegations to delay the process and they will induce behaviours in the children which make them believe you are dangerous and so they should stay away from you.  Sadly, the court doesn’t have a robust system for dealing with this and so breached go unpunished and Fact Finding Hearings delay contact for months at a time.  

 

I realise this is a bleak picture but parental alienation (the psychological manipulation of a child to reject their loving parent) is a very real issue in the court process and one which you need to be aware of.  Hopefully your ex is not severe but if you check multiple items on the list below, you are likely to be dealing with a personality disordered individual and need help FAST. 

Your Best Weapon Yet

Everything you need to know about parental alienation

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How Do I Parent My Alienated Child?

How Do I Parent My Alienated Child?

I work with so many parents who are attempting to co-parent (I use that term loosely as the reality is that it is about as far away from “co” as you can get) with an ex who wants to punish and erase them.  One thing that comes up time and time again is “how do I parent them?”.  The whole process has robbed you of your real parenting role.  You have been, at best, demoted to the safeguarder of your children but at worst you are now nothing more than the person your children view as the enemy and who they are “forced to see”.  

 

Parenting, whilst being hard work, should be fun and full of shared moments, love and laughter. It’s the day to day stuff, being involved in their lives and knowing who they are – that’s what being a parent is all about.  When you are dealing with alienation, those moments are few and far between and so you aren’t really sure where you stand as a “parent” any more.  

alienated parent

Why it is so

Targeted parents are continually having their time and relationship meddled with and subverted by the alienating parent, which can make it hard to parent at all. Visits are cancelled at the last moment, plans are changed and the alienating parent (AP) bribes the children with gifts or unique opportunities just as they are supposed to be going to the TP.  

 

Children are also used by the AP to create anxiety and conflict for the TP.  They will send the child back to the TP with lots of accusations which the TP has to navigate.  Children should never be involved in adult issues because they internalise the situation far too much.  Being asked to choose where they want to live or what they want to do means they have to reject and hurt the other parent, which they internalise and feel shame and guilt.  Even if they don’t show it, it will rear its head in self-sabotaging and harmful behaviours..

 

Alienated children are not always the easiest to parent due to some of the learnt and induced behaviour they exhibit.  They can like they believe they are superior to you, treat you like you are an idiot, insult you to your face and be outright disrespectful.  When you try to instil boundaries or use discipline, they of course claim you are being abusive and go running back to the alienating parent to share their tales of your disgusting treatment of them, which the AP loves and rewards them for.  

 

What makes it doubly hard is when you have a great time and you see the “real” them, having fun, sharing cuddles and allowing themselves to be loved by you.  Although at that moment this is wonderful, a few hours later when the AP calls to say they don’t want to see you or the social worker report states the children have no good memories of you it feels like a tremendous punch to your heart.  At this point, you feel the pain of their abuse and for a parent, that is probably one of the worst things you can experience.

 

The most obvious difficulty though is when you don’t see them any more.  When the alienation is so severe that they appear to reject you themselves.

How Do I Parent Through This?

Firstly, deal with your own emotions around the grief and loss, sadness and anger you are feeling.  Under normal circumstances, we parent better when we are at our best (not that we can be that all the time, but it is the “norm” we aim for).  When we feel sad and angry, it’s harder to be fun and lighthearted and in the moment.  Although we may be able to “fake it” for a while, children are like little sponges and they feel our energy.  So they respond to us where we are whether we like it or not.  You know this is true because of those times when you have felt stressed after work and come home, tried to pull yourself out of it and sure enough the kids start acting up!  They responded to your energy.  So being more aware and in control of your emotions can help you to deal with the turbulent nature of parenting an alienated child.

 

I recommend looking at positive parenting courses or activities which encourage you to engage your children in the disciplinary process at home.  This can be reward charts, behaviour contracts or family rules.  These methods serve to bypass the “controlling” narrative being spouted by the AP by asking the children to be a part of the process.  They also promote respect for everyone.  Your child has been taught to be disrespectful so it is important to counteract that by teaching them to be respectful and to model respectful behaviour.  It also teaches them about consequences for their actions and being responsible for their behaviour which in turn can, on a subconscious level, help them to begin to process and unpick the manipulation.  Finally they teach them an appropriate level of independence and self-regulation.  An AP does not want them to be independent because they need to be able to control them and they demand their children to regulate THEM (the AP).  These activities will again, gently unpick at those false narratives and the psychological manipulation.

 

It is important to remember that your child is a victim too.  They are akin to a soldier in war.  They didn’t start the war and aren’t really sure why they have to fight, they just do as the authority tells them to do with a subtle threat to comply.  Always listen to what your child is REALLY wanting from you.  An accusation could be a cry for reassurance for example. 

 

Finally, consider redefining what the term “parent” means.  It has lots of different connotations.  A parent is biological at the very basic level.  It can also mean caregiver.  What about unconditional love giver?  Guardian?  Constant supportive influence?  When I lost my dad, he didn’t stop being my parent.  Whilst I appreciate a lot of what you hoped being a parent would be has changed dramatically, there is also so much that hasn’t, and never can change.  Take some time to really focus on those things.  It doesn’t take away the pain but it does create a sense of connectedness that no matter what your ex does, they can never destroy.

I hope that these suggestions help you in some way.  I am under no illusion that this is living grief for so many of you but I always offer hope that you can find moments of peace and maybe as you string those moments together for longer, life begins to find new meaning.

 

Do take care and reach out if you need support.

 

NB: I am aware that parental alienation can be perpetrated by and to step-parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, new partners and others but for the purpose of this post, I have assumed the TP and AP are the biological parents. 

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move away with the child after divorce: mother and daughters surrounded by moving boxes

What Happens When a Parent Wants to Move Away With The Child After Divorce?

move away with the child after divorce: mother and daughters surrounded by moving boxes

 

Sharing custody of a child can be a difficult endeavor, even in the best of circumstances. However, things get more complicated when one parent wants to move somewhere far away from the family’s current area. Such a move can mean personal and financial growth for the moving parent, but it can cause issues with the other parent and the child custody agreement.

When a Parent Wants to Move Away With The Child After Divorce

Moving far enough away to create issues with the child custody arrangement is considered a “material change in circumstances.” This term means that the parents must either come to an agreement about the new situation or revisit the custody agreement in court. Either way, parents on either side of the equation can feel uncertain and nervous. That’s why it’s essential to understand how Canadian law addresses these issues.

Do I Get Custody Access if the Other Parent Moves?

When a parent wishes to move away with the child, it does not immediately or automatically change the custody agreement. Instead, parents must follow what their agreements say about material changes in circumstances. In most cases, parents have to either come to a new agreement together or go to the courts to settle the issue. This can play out in many ways, depending on the facts of the case.

If the primary caregiver tries to move away with the child, there are three possible outcomes:

  1. The judge and/or other parent allows both the child and parent to move
  2. A judge determines that the child must stay in the local area, but the parent moves anyway without the child
  3. A judge rules that the child must stay local, so neither parent moves

In the first scenario, the parent and child move, but the judge makes a new custody agreement for the parents. The other parent may get to see the child often but for longer stretches of time. For example, a father may go from seeing the child every-other-weekend to having custody over long school breaks and a few weeks in the summer.

The second scenario may cause the biggest change in custody. If a judge determines that it is not in the best interest of the child to move, but the parent wishes to leave anyway, the other parent may get primary custody. For example, if a mother has custody and wants to leave the state, but the father takes the case to court. If the court rules that the child must stay nearby and the mother decides to leave anyway, the father will get primary custody. The mother may then see the child during long school breaks.

Of course, many parents would rather stay in place than move away without their children. If a judge rules that the child must stay, then both parents can decide to stay as well. In this case, the custody agreement would likely remain similar to what it was before anyone considered moving.

How to Modify Custody Access Location

If you want to move away and take your child with you, you must first notify the other parent in writing. If the other parent agrees, you can modify the custody access location and move without issue. However, the other parent is likely to try to stop the move from happening. In this case, you will need to take the case in front of a judge, preferably with the help of an Ontario child custody lawyer.

Both parties in these cases have to prove why they have the best interest of the child in mind. If you are the person trying to move, you need to show the court all of the following:

  • The move is well-planned with the child’s well-being in mind
  • You are not moving simply to get the other parent away from the child
  • If the child is old enough to have an opinion, he or she wants to move or is not actively against it
  • The child can remain close to both parents
  • The child will be safe and cared for in the new location

If you can prove all of these things, the judge will consider allowing the child to move. However, the other parent will try to prove the exact opposite. For example, the other parent may talk about the loss of connection to the community, the high crime rates in the new location, or the lack of support the family will have in the new location.

If you are allowed to move, it’s important to remember that you will still have to make the children available for visits according to the new custody order. Depending on the judge’s ruling, you may be responsible for some of the costs of children traveling to see the other parent.

Hire a Child Custody Lawyer

Relocation cases like this can be complicated and difficult with incredibly high stakes. The outcome of these cases can change a family forever in many ways. That’s why it’s essential to have experienced, knowledgable lawyers on your side.  By hiring a child custody lawyer, you may benefit from their knowledge and they can thoroughly walk you through the difficult process of child custody and relocation.

The post What Happens When a Parent Wants to Move Away With The Child After Divorce? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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covid-19 and child custody access: young boy in surgical mask

COVID-19 And Child Custody Access

covid-19 and child custody access: young boy in surgical mask

 

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has created fear and uncertainty throughout the United States and the world. This pandemic has affected almost every part of daily life, including co-parenting with ex-spouses.

School closures, social isolation, travel restrictions, and business closures can all affect your ability to co-parent as you would in normal times.

It’s essential for all divorced parents to keep the well-being of the children at the top of mind during this unprecedented time. This means prioritizing the child’s physical and emotional health. Unfortunately, these two things can seem to be at odds during this pandemic when traveling is restricted, but being close to both parents is ideal.

When possible, parents should try to have open and empathetic discussions with their exes in regards to caring for the children during this pandemic. When all parties can agree to help each other as necessary, it can help everyone get through this crisis–especially the children.

However, working through it together is not always possible, especially if your ex-spouse is determined to fight against you. In these cases, it’s important to know the legal standards so that you can avoid any further problems.

COVID-19 And Child Custody Access

Will COVID-19 Affect Custody Access

There is not a single law that covers what all ex-spouses should do regarding custody in emergency situations. Instead, it’s incumbent upon parents to check their divorce decrees and child custody orders to see what these documents say about emergencies. Unfortunately, most agreements do not list anything about what to do during a global pandemic. However, there might be other relevant wording that can help you determine your next steps.

Read through all court orders regarding your case and ask yourself these questions:

  • Who gets the children during school closures?
  • What constitutes an emergency situation according to these documents?
  • What do these orders say I am supposed to do in an emergency?

Once you have considered the legal restrictions within your court orders, you must then consider the changes to your state and local laws. For example, some jurisdictions have ruled that parents should operate as if schools were open. Furthermore, many areas have passed shelter-in-place decrees that restrict the movements of residents.

While many of these decrees allow people to move in order to care for family members, it’s always a good idea to check the text of the bill to be sure.

In general, parents should not expect that COVID-19 and the resulting changes in society will legally stop them from seeing their children. However, some situations may arise in which the health and safety of the child supersede the parent’s rights.

Changing Child Custody Location Temporarily

Some parents may want to travel with their kids during this time, especially with travel so inexpensive. Furthermore, when parents live far away from one another, children may be required to take planes or other public transportation in order to visit their parents. Due to the current and ever-changing situation with the virus, this may be dangerous to the health of the child.

If your child’s other parent wants to travel with your child during this time, you may need judicial intervention in order to stop it. This may be especially important if the child would travel to or through a COVID-19 hotspot. Although many courts have suspended in-person and non-essential hearings, there may be legal actions you can take to stop the travel.

For example, judges may be willing to meet via teleconference. Be sure to contact a family law attorney in your jurisdiction if you find yourself in this situation.

Child Custody Access Modification Due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed many lives. As such, some families may require changes to their child custody agreements. Exes should discuss what they are willing to do in any of the following situations:

  • A child or parent gets the virus
  • Schools close
  • A parent is unable to work

These can be difficult conversations, even if you have a relatively good co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the  Association of Family and Conciliation Courts came together to release a set of seven guidelines for co-parents during the COVID-19 crisis. The organizations advise parents to be:

  • Healthy: first and foremost, follow the CDC, state, and local guidelines for health and safety.
  • Mindful: Be aware but calm about the situation, and talk to children about the virus in age-appropriate ways
  • Compliant: follow court orders and custody agreements whenever possible
  • Creative: when parents can’t follow orders precisely, they should work together to find solutions
  • Transparent: be honest with ex-spouses about your situation, particularly when it comes to possible COVID-19 exposure
  • Generous: make reasonable accommodations for the other parent when possible, including allowing makeup time for missed visits
  • Understanding: the pandemic could cause economic hardship for parents paying and receiving child support payments. It’s vital to be understanding of changing circumstances during this time.

Family law can be complicated at the best of times. In times like this, it can leave parents feeling at a loss for what to do. If you have consulted all the legal resources you have and you still have questions, be sure to contact a local family law attorney for help.

The post COVID-19 And Child Custody Access appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Can a Texas family court reduce an above guidelines child support obligation in an out-of-state Order?

Can a Texas family court reduce an above guidelines child support obligation in an out-of-state Order?

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

One of the cool parts of being a family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is that there is never a dull moment. There are always unique people with unique circumstances who walk through our door with questions about their lives and their families.

Like Texas, many other states lay out a specific percentage of a non-custodial parent’s income to pay in child support to the custodial parent. Texas has it that for one child, a non-custodial parent should pay 20% of their net monthly resources towards the support of that child. For two children, 25% would go towards child support. The percentages increase by increments of 5% until you reach five or more kids topping out at 40%. In this way, courts have a straightforward mechanism to be put into action for determining child support in most cases. It has become so predictable that the guideline levels of support will be implemented that most attorneys and clients don’t bat an eye when the issue of paying guideline support is raised.

Recently, a potential client presented a scenario where he and his wife were divorced in a state other than Texas, and after the divorce the man’s ex-wife and children had moved to Texas. The state that the children and ex-wife had previously lived in was a higher than average cost of living state and our potential client was ordered to pay child support that is above and beyond the “guideline” levels of support for that state.

Our potential client was thus left with a child support order that obligated him to pay an amount of child support that was above and beyond what is proscribed in the family code of his native state. When a judge decides regarding any subject that is related to a child, he or she must do so based on what is in the best interests of that child. This is a standard that most every state utilizes when applying the law towards the specific circumstances of a child and their family.

Based on the needs of that child, their current circumstances, the ability of their parents to provide the necessities of life and any medical/social/educational needs of that child, an amount of child support will be ordered. Whether the parties to the divorce agreed in mediation to that level of child support or a judge ordered that the amount be paid after a trial, the fact is that the current child support order for this man obligates him to pay an above guidelines level of support.

Where does the Law Office of Bryan Fagan come into play?

Here is where our office becomes relevant to the discussion. This gentleman contacted us about representing him in a child support modification case. His thoughts on the matter center around the reduced level of expenses that his ex-wife is responsible for now that his children live in the Great State of Texas. Having moved from another state whose cost of living is much higher than Texas, our potential client wanted to see what a judge would consider as far as reducing the above guidelines level of child support. Is there a basis in prior court cases to argue that an out of state child support order can be modified to see a reduction in the child support obligation based on circumstances like this?

Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to answer that question. As I see it, there are two parts to this discussion that we have to tackle. The first is whether or not a Texas Court has the jurisdiction to modify an out of state child support order. The second is what basis in the law would a family court judge have to reduce the above guidelines level of child support when there has been a change in the cost of living associated with raising children.

When does a Texas court gain the jurisdiction to modify an out of state child support order?

There are a couple of ways that a child support order that comes from a court outside of Texas could be modified, potentially, by a Texas family court. The Texas Family Code states in section 159.613 that if both the child support obligor (parent who pays child support) and the oblige (parent who receives child support payments) and the child all reside in Texas then our state has attained jurisdiction over the case and may modify and/or enforce the out of state order.

Likewise, when only one party (parent) live in Texas, then a modification is possible even if both parents do not reside in Texas. This occurs when the parent bringing the modification cases (in our above scenario, the father) is not a resident of Texas and the responding party (the mother in our example) lives in Texas and is subject to personal jurisdiction in Texas. Here, too, a Texas family court would have jurisdiction over the case.

What have Texas courts stated about subject matter like this?

So now we at least have a basic understanding of how a Texas court gains the ability to make rulings regarding an order issued by an out of state court. The jurisdiction to do so is critically important. You may be in a situation like our potential client- having seen a change in circumstances that have materially affected your family since the issuing of that order. Thus, some portion of your prior order is no longer suitable for you or your children. However, if you cannot successfully argue to a Texas court that jurisdiction is proper in Texas you will not be able to make an argument about any of the facts and circumstances that justify a modification.

A fairly recent Texas state appellate court decision would further assist us in our discussion. In re Dennis J. Martinez, 450 S.W.3d 157 (2014) contains within it a good discussion of the relevant law regarding how and when an out of state court can lose jurisdiction over a case and its parties.

This court notes that in section 159.205 of the Texas Family Code, our state law provides only two ways in which a court may lose jurisdiction over a case and its parties about a family law matter. First, the obligor, the oblige, and the child would have to all move out of the state that issued the order (as we discussed previously). Another and less likely scenario would be that all individuals file written consents in Texas allowing a Texas court to assume jurisdiction and modify the other state’s order.

As noted above, the circumstances under which a court may modify a support decree from another state are found in section 159.611 of the Family Code. SeeTEX. FAM.CODE ANN. § 159.611. A modification is permitted by the non-rendering state under the circumstances outlined in section 159.611 because under such circumstances the rendering state no longer has a sufficient interest in the modification of its order.

If you are facing a situation like a gentleman who contacted us about potentially representing him in a child support modification case here in Texas, you need to consider whether or not a Texas court will even be able to hear your arguments and potentially grant you whatever relief you are requesting. Keep in mind that if you cannot clear this jurisdictional hurdle you won’t even get the opportunity to submit any of your arguments to the court as to why your child support order needs to be modified.

Can a Texas court grant a reduction in the child support obligation of a parent under an out of state order?

Here is the question that our potential client is interested in knowing the answer to. He wanted to find out what facts and circumstances would need to be in play that could lead to a court in Texas reducing his above guidelines level of child support that he is currently obligated to pay.

A modification of a child support order is warranted when the petitioning party (the person asking for the modification) can provide evidence showing a material and substantial change in the circumstances of one of the parties to the order or a child of the order. As the court in Tucker v. Tucker, 908 S.W.2d 530 (1995), notes, there is an inherent fact-finding nature of child support issues and the cases that are made up of those issues.

The high court in Texas was stating what every family law attorney worth his salt could tell you: that family law cases are extremely fact-specific. If you would like to modify a child support order then you will need to present facts clearly and concisely to the court. This means that your initial petition to the court and in your oral arguments inside of a modification hearing need to display the requisite level of material and substantial change needed to grant the modification.

Cost in living expenses has been a factor alleged by prior parties seeking child support modifications

Part of the analysis that your court will look at when considering whether or not to grant a child support modification is the expenses incurred by the custodial parent who is raising the children on a day to day basis. Remember- our potential client would like to make an argument that because his ex-wife and kids now live in Texas, with its lower cost of living than their native state, is no longer in need of a child support payment that is above the guidelines of his home state.

Costs associated with special education for your child, school tuition and things of this nature are relevant to our discussion. A court would look to the expenses of your ex-spouse to determine whether there is sufficient evidence in the record to compare the expenses of her and your children at the time that the original child support order was issued and what the expenses are now. This means that you will need to do some digging to produce this kind of evidence, especially if the child support order is from a decade ago.

In the case, In the Interest of C.C.J. and C.M.J, Minor Children, 244 S.W.3d 911 (2008), the court went over a good analysis when that has to be shown to a court to justify a modification:

To determine whether there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances, the trial court must examine and compare the circumstances of the parents and any minor children at the time of the initial order with the circumstances existing at the time modification is sought. London v. London, 192 S.W.3d at 15. 

In that case, the parent who was attempting to modify the prior court order was the mother. She was arguing for an increase in the level of child support based on a material and substantial change in the circumstances of her and her children. Her expenses, she attempted to argue, had increased dramatically in recent years, while the income of her ex-husband had increased. The evidence she presented, the court determined was insufficient to justify an increase in child support. Here is what the appellate court determined:

Here, without both historical and current evidence of the financial circumstances of Mother and the children, the trial court had nothing to compare. See id. Because there is no evidence in the record of the financial circumstances of Mother or the children at the time of the entry of the divorce decree, we conclude the trial court’s finding of “a substantial and material change of circumstances since the rendition of the prior order” is not supported by the record. Accordingly, we conclude the trial court abused its discretion in increasing Father’s monthly child support obligation.

What does the Texas Family Code have to say about a decrease in the needs of a child about child support?

The Texas Family Code states that an increase in the needs, the standard of living, or lifestyle of the oblige since the rendition of the existing order does not warrant an increase in the obligor’s child support obligation. Texas Family Code section 156.405. I would also argue that the opposite could also be potentially held by a Texas court. Specifically that an argument that a decrease in the needs, the standard of living or lifestyle of the custodial parent is not necessarily a reason in and of itself to modify a child support obligation.

A Texas case that is important for our purposes is In the Interest of J.A.H. and M.K.H, Children, 311 S.W.3d 536 (2009). Here, as in the prior case we discussed, a mother was attempting to argue that an increase in her expenses due to a change in the cost of living after a move justified an increase in the child support obligation of her ex-husband. What the court found, in this case, was that all of the evidence submitted by the mother tended to show that there had been a change in her circumstances rather than a change in a substantial change in the circumstances of her children.

The court argued that simply showing a change in lifestyle and not a material or substantial change in circumstances of the children does not in and of itself justify a modification of the child support order. If you attempt to argue that because your ex-spouse’s mortgage payment has decreased or that their utility bills are lower and that justifies a decrease in the child support obligation, then this case should give you pause.

How are the needs of your child taken into account by a court?

Specifically, to justify an award of child support above the guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code, your ex-spouse must show that there would be needs of your child that would be unmet but for the higher than guidelines level of support. Rodriguez v. Rodriguez, 860 S.W.2d 414, 417 (Tex. 1993). Note that the needs of your child are not the bare necessities of life, either. Each court will decide as to what the needs of your child are. Like we mentioned earlier in this blog post, the facts of your case will guide the judge in large part.

The bottom line: if you wish to modify a child support order come with plenty of evidence

Whether yours is an out of state child support order or an order that originates in Texas, you need to come to court with plenty of evidence that justifies the modification request A family court judge has the authority to reduce a level of child support that is currently set above the guidelines of your home state, but to earn that decrease in the support obligation you have to submit sufficient proof showing a change in the conditions of your spouse, your children or you. A material and substantial change regarding the cost of living is a trickier argument to make than one based on a change in your income or an increase (or decrease) in the educational or medical needs of your child.

Please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan if you have questions about today’s material. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can answer your questions in a comfortable and pressure free environment.

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



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