Posts

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.

Read More –>

divorce recovery

Daycare Costs During COVID-19

child care costs

Question:

My ex removed our child from daycare because she’s afraid of safety during the pandemic. Should I be given a credit since a portion of my child support is meant to go toward daycare costs?

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.

Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is that it depends. The reason that it depends, is due to how your support order is written. In my state, any daycare expenses are separate and apart from the “base” support order. If, in your state, all of the child support is lumped together, it would be difficult to determine what portion of the support would be considered for daycare costs.

If you cannot determine what portion of the support is for daycare, then it will difficult to determine if you were entitled to a credit. Further, another consideration is if private childcare, like a babysitter is being used. If so, then the daycare costs could be transferred to the payment of a babysitter.

However, if you easily can determine what the daycare expenses are, then, if daycare is not being utilized, then you generally should receive credit for those payments. That being said, all support orders generally will remain at the current levels unless and until a party to the action files a petition to modify support. The court places the burden on the person seeking a change to the support order to take the affirmative steps to file the modification with the court.

Unless and until there is a modification filed, as mentioned above, the current support order, with daycare costs, will remain in place. In most jurisdictions, changes to a support order only will be effective from the date of filing when a change was requested. Therefore, if you are going to address this issue, you should not wait too long to file a petition with the court. 

Further, please note that some courts will not modify the amount or duration of support if it appears that the change is 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 support was not warranted. Since the pandemic presumably is going to be a limited duration event, the court could consider the change in daycare costs as a temporary change and not warrant a change to the support order. 

Another alternative is to attempt to privately negotiate a temporary reduction in support. 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 daycare payments 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 Daycare Costs During COVID-19 appeared first on Dads Divorce.

Read More –>

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.

Read More –>

As a Nurse Amid COVID-19, How Can I Protect My Parental Rights?

As a Nurse Amid COVID-19, How Can I Protect My Parental Rights?

Question:

As a nurse amid COVID-19, how can I protect my parental rights?

Answer:

Michigan attorney
Jeffrey Worosz

I am only licensed in Michigan, so my answer may vary from the particular state that you reside in.

Until recently, being a nurse would not have much of an effect on custody and did not put a parent at risk for losing custody. The only issue with such a career, would have been the unconventional work hours nurses can have. However, the COVID-19 situation has certainly changed that since some parents will use whatever they can to their advantage in a custody battle. They also may be overly concerned about the safety of their children.

Making matters worse is a recent national news story, where judge in Florida stripped an emergency room doctor of her parenting time due to concerns over COVID-19, which undoubtedly emboldened some parents to seek to do the same. 

The best way to protect yourself and reduce the chance that a judge can do this is with strong evidence to show that your career has not created a danger for your children. Displaying evidence that you are not infected is necessary. It is hard for the court to say you are a danger if you do not have the virus.

Beyond that, it also is helpful to show the court what the realistic risks of contracting the virus are. Obviously, working as a nurse the risks would be higher than a parent that is working from home and not leaving their house, but that does not mean you have a 100 percent chance of contracting COVID-19.

A nurse can show that they are not at risk by noting what kind of safety precautions they use at work, how often they are tested at work, the extent of their possible exposure to COVID-19 at work, and any other measures that are taken to reduce risk. Showing the court that you are more aware than the average parent about exposure and protection will help show them that you are cognizant of the risks and are working to minimize them.

Another issue results from the misinformation and constantly evolving facts about the virus. Nurses and other medical professionals also come into contact with all sorts of illnesses by virtue of their job. Only recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, has one’s profession become an excuse for parties to try and restrict their parenting time.

Working in the medical field, having access to more accurate information can be beneficial. If your hospital provides updates and information regularly to its employees, you can use that information to your advantage. Most judges and attorneys do not have backgrounds in the medical field and need to be educated as well from solid sources that can be trusted, such as hospitals and medical professionals. That information can allow the court to make a more informed decision regarding parenting time.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Michigan divorce lawyer Jeffrey Worosz, contact Cordell & Cordell.

The post As a Nurse Amid COVID-19, How Can I Protect My Parental Rights? appeared first on Dads Divorce.

Read More –>

How Does Shared Custody Work Between Separate States During COVID-19 Quarantine?

How Does Shared Custody Work Between Separate States During COVID-19 Quarantine?

Question:

What is the procedure when traveling across state lines during COVID-19 quarantine, when you share custody?

Answer:

Texas attorney Ashleigh Bearden

As I am barred only in Texas, I cannot provide specific legal tips with regard to your state in particular. However, I can provide some general guidance that may help you navigate your child custody issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No nationwide domestic travel prohibitions have been issued, and air and ground travel continues. However, many states have issued orders restricting both interstate and intrastate travel. Some have restricted all non-essential travel and further clarified their orders by defining what travel is considered essential.

Before traveling to exchange your children with your former spouse, consult your state’s executive orders, those in your former spouse’s state, and — if traveling by car — those in the states you will travel through for the exchange. If none of these states restrict travel, you likely are free to proceed with the exchange.

Keep in mind that a state’s stay-at-home order may define travel for these purposes as essential further into the document. Additionally, the order explicitly may not make mention of custody or children, but still may provide that travel for purposes of compliance with a court order is essential.

For example, the order may read similarly to the following: “Individuals may leave their residences for the purposes of traveling required by a court order.” This will apply to any order of the court, including any orders entered pursuant to your divorce or custody matter, so be sure to read the orders carefully and completely.

Additionally, be aware that some states specifically have issued orders regulating travel from certain states or localities. For example, Texas has ordered mandatory 14-day self-quarantines for people traveling by air from certain states, and previously implemented ground checkpoints to identify travelers from Louisiana. Keep in mind that you may be affected by travel restrictions like this.

If you plan to travel by air, be aware that the TSA has implemented social distancing procedures and modified their operations. Recent policies include an allowance for wearing a facemask during screening. However, the agency states that “a TSA officer may ask you to adjust the mask to visually confirm your identity.”

If you find that such travel is not restricted by your state, your ex-spouse’s state, or those states you will travel through by car, and your former spouse refuses to comply with your court-ordered custody or possession agreement, consider consulting a Cordell & Cordell attorney to seek enforcement of your parental rights. Bearing in mind the laws in your state, keep records of your former spouse’s refusal to comply and their stated reasons for doing so.

Regardless of whether you are able to facilitate exchange prior to the end of travel restrictions, these may be helpful to your attorney in the future.

If, however, any of the state orders restrict travel and do not provide clarification on whether travel for the exchange of children under a court order, or for purposes of complying with a court order in general, you should seek legal assistance from an attorney barred in your state.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Texas divorce lawyer Ashleigh Beardencontact Cordell & Cordell.

The post How Does Shared Custody Work Between Separate States During COVID-19 Quarantine? appeared first on Dads Divorce.

Read More –>

cohabitation during covid-19 Shellshocked couple looking straight ahead

6 Strategies For Survival: Cohabitation In The Time Of COVID-19

cohabitation during covid-19 Shellshocked couple looking straight ahead

 

As a nation, America is facing one of its most uncertain times in recent decades. Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is sweeping across our nation at an alarming rate and shelter-in-place orders are bringing daily life as we know it to a halt. Americans are struggling with this uncertainty in many areas of their lives, including the potential impacts on their physical health, emotional health, mental health, and financial wellbeing. This level of uncertainty often breeds insecurity and vulnerability, which often leads to conflict.

Most Americans are now several weeks into social distancing and are staying at home full-time with their families. But, what happens to the couple who was on the brink of filing for a divorce and now are stuck living together? While ending the marriage, these couples are now in a tough predicament: they must cohabitate and possibly co-parent during a pandemic without harming each other or their children. The person they want to divorce, and all the marital baggage, now sit in the house like a familiar friend, and the home becomes a pressure cooker for conflict.

The mandate to stay at home due to COVID-19 is an impractical scenario for divorcing couples, who are now forced to shelter-in-place together, just as they were planning on separating permanently. While it is important to remember that this health crisis is not permanent, it is equally as important to learn how to effectively cope with this “new normal”.

Surviving Cohabitation During COVID-19

In collaboration with Dr. Marian Camden, an expert in the field of psychology and family therapy, we have developed a few strategies that you can implement to make cohabitation with a soon-to-be-ex-spouse more manageable:

Expect a Longer Divorce Process.

The backlog for the courts is still unknown and each county in Colorado is handling the timeline differently. Most counties are not setting evidentiary hearings unless they involve a threat to welfare and safety. This means that it will take longer to resolve temporary issues such as who will reside in the home, temporary maintenance, and temporary parenting time. However, the bright side is that many cases are settled in mediation without the need for a hearing. At this time, mediations are still moving forward by way of video conferences.

Please note: Courts are still holding emergency hearings for protection orders and parenting time restrictions. If you feel strongly that you or your children are not safe, then Court intervention is still possible and you should speak with an attorney.

Focus on Your Children.

If you have children with your spouse, make a decision that you are going to put your focus on your children first. Many children will not remember the details of this pandemic, but rather they will remember how their home felt during this time. They will remember if there were heated arguments, fighting, or physical confrontation between their parents. Children will remember more about how their parents reacted to the crisis and the atmosphere that their parents created than they will about the pandemic itself. Children are constantly observing and learning coping mechanisms from their parents, so focus on creating a positive impression, even during the darkest times.

Shift Your Mindset.

To survive in a crisis, you must shift your mindset. Living in the same home as someone you are either divorcing or planning to divorce is not an ideal situation for most.  To survive in this scenario, it may be helpful to shift your perspective of your relationship with your spouse from an “intimate relationship” to a “business relationship.” Often the first step is to remove your most impassioned emotions from the picture. Rather, behave toward your co-parenting partner in a detached, professional manner, in a manner in which you would not be embarrassed for your co-workers or friends to see. Basic manners go a long way toward making the cohabitation and co-parenting process tolerable. Try going back to the basics mantras we learned as children: (1) say please and thank you and (2) if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

Implement Structure.

The more conflict that you have with your soon-to-be-ex, the more you need to create a routine that provides you the best chance at peaceful cohabitation. This routine should provide as much “separation” as possible, even when you are sheltering in place. Try to create a rotation of when each of you is primarily responsible for caring for the children. If needed, you can create a routine that allows for separate mealtimes and physical separation in different areas of the home. Creating some physical space from your spouse will allow for more emotional space in your home. If you can’t get your partner to co-structure with you, then structure your day so that you don’t overlap very much. This may require sacrifice, but it will create a more peaceful home for you and your children.

Plan for Behavior Spikes

In difficult times, spikes in irritation and anger are often unavoidable. Having awareness around this concept will help you to create a response strategy for potential fallout, rather than simply reacting. When you feel the anger (or years of pent up rage) rising, have a calm response, such as: “I need to take a break”; “I’m going to walk the dog”; or (my personal favorite) “I need to think this over and get back to you.”

Focus on Self-Awareness.

The more you can be self-aware and have that moment to catch yourself, the more freedom and choice you have with your situation. What does that mean? Basically, NOW is the time to incorporate a daily mindfulness practice into your life or recommit to the one you used previously. According to Dr. Camden, “anything you can do to raise your self-awareness will result in more self-control and greater freedom over your choices. Self-awareness allows you the ability to respond, rather than react. If you start by taking care of yourself in a kind, gentle, and reasonably self-disciplined manner, you will enhance your ability to cope, co-exist, and co-parent during these challenging times.”

  • Begin writing in a journal. This is an opportunity to channel your internal conflict over old grievances and the things you can’t stand about your partner. There is a vast amount of research that supports the benefits of journaling, such as reducing symptoms of depression, boosting mood, and enhancing your sense of well-being.
  • Learn how to meditate. Meditation is not just for the “enlightened.” The reason it is so mainstream and popular right now is that it actually works. Whatever your living situation may be, try sitting quietly for a few minutes at a time and reflecting on your thoughts. You do not need a “meditation space”, in fact, if you are in a pinch, this can be done from the privacy of your bathroom. There is significant research indicating that mediation can have a positive effect on depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, ulcerative colitis, and more.
  • Move your body and get outside every day for at least ten minutes. Try something you enjoy, such as going on a walk or run, doing yoga, riding a bike, or playing games with your children.
  • Reduce unhealthy vices. Remember to eat well and reduce the consumption of sugar, alcohol, and recreational drugs. These vices stand in the way of healthier coping strategies and will not provide you with adequate energy to cope in this crisis.
  • Create a consistent and healthy bedtime routine. A healthy bedtime routine, also known as “positive sleep hygiene” is a behavioral practice that includes establishing a regular sleep schedule and limiting exposure to stimulants (light, electronics, food, and alcohol) before bed.  Having positive sleep hygiene will help ensure you are providing your body and mind with restful sleep. Sleep provides the body and mind time to relax and reset, which is especially crucial in times of stress.

Dr. Camden’s #1 Strategy for Successful Cohabitation

If there is one basic skill that’s going to keep everybody safe in their homes, it’s remembering to take a time out when you need it and then actually taking the time out. There’s no shame in it, just say, ‘I need a break.’ If there is a question that needs answering, then do the classy thing and say, ‘I’ll get back to you’ and then actually get back to them once you’ve had time to respond, instead of just reacting. Often, there isn’t even a decision to be made. Couples tend to quickly fall back into hard-wired ways of thinking about each other, talking to one another, and fighting battles that no one will win. This is where increased mindfulness will be helpful.

Remember, this uncertain time is temporary and the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 will not last forever. For this reason, it is crucial that divorcing couples do not take destructive actions that WILL permanently impact their lives. Domestic violence charges can impact individuals for years to come, not to mention the lasting emotional impact it has on children in the home. In remembering to be kind to others in your home during this time, remember to also be kind and patient with yourself. These are trying times and everyone is working to survive peacefully as possible.

No one should feel unsafe in their own home.  Those suffering from domestic abuse are free to leave their homes and seek help if they feel unsafe. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7:  Call: 1-800-799-7233; Text: LOVEIS to 22522, or visit: thehotline.org.

 

Written in collaboration with:

Dr. Marian Camden is a licensed psychologist offering counseling, therapy, coaching, and consultation in Denver. For nearly two decades, Dr. Camden has helped adults, children, and teens work through difficult divorce situations, become better parents, heal from depression and anxiety, recover from trauma and emotional abuse, feel happier, more confident, and better about themselves: as parents, as partners, and as professionals.

Website: camdencounseling.com/

The post 6 Strategies For Survival: Cohabitation In The Time Of COVID-19 appeared first on Divorced Moms.

Read More –>

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.

Read More –>

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.



Read More –>

Mediating in the Wake of COVID-19

Mediating in the Wake of COVID-19

Originally published by MehaffyWeber.

Written By Managing Shareholder Bob Black

One of the consequences of the current pandemic is a change in how we practice law and deliver legal services. Mediation is an example. We have gone from in person mediations to Blue jeans and Zoom virtual mediations. After 4800+ mediations, I embraced change about a month ago.

In researching videoconference options, I chose Zoom, the professional version. It is available at a low cost per month. I chose Zoom after reviewing the issues raised regarding confidentiality and network security. My assessment was that security issues exist for all videoconferencing methods and that Zoom had the most usable process right now. There will be rapid development in this area and my choice may change.

I like Zoom a great deal but do have some observations about it after conducting 18 Zoom mediations. Let me address security and confidentiality concerns first. Then I will share my observations about mediations conducted by videoconference.

Security and Confidentiality

I have had no issues with the Zoom system. Once parties are in their own breakrooms, confidentiality concerns are basically nonexistent absent an error by me as the host. For example, if the host places someone into a breakroom that does not belong there, it could be a problem. If it does happen, however, the host should quickly realize it and the people in the breakroom can see on their screens that someone is present who should not be. Removing that person involves a simple click of the mouse. Again, it has not yet happened to me. We are careful to provide the link to the videoconference only to pre-identified participants. That way, we know who should be present. Last second call-ins pose a problem and I do not admit them until I have verified they belong with one of the parties.

The more serious confidentiality issue is the available Record process. Mediations (including virtual mediations) should not be recorded. Some recordings violate various state laws anyway. The Record button is easy to hit. My advice is be sure to question the host – who is almost always the mediator – about whether the Record function is being used. Outside the mediation world, a recording may be needed and appropriate, but not in mediation. I tell the parties at the beginning there will be no recording. Separately, whenever I enter and leave a breakroom, I announce it. This helps ensure confidentiality throughout the process.

Mediation Observations

Videoconferencing is a “cooler” medium than more traditional mediations. Table-pounding theatrics come across poorly in videoconferences. I believe it favors a television news anchor approach. All mediations favor the prepared and virtual mediations are no exception. Learn to use the Share Screen feature to display photos and documents.

Opening Sessions are of very mixed utility in videoconferenced mediations. Your view of whether that is a good or bad thing depends on your view of opening sessions in general.

The pace of mediation is no different than in-person discussions. I try to move the process along but accept that videoconference discussions have their own pace.

I have had little problem so far with people disappearing from the mediation. However, people are beginning to step away for other business. It is frustrating at times. Of course, this is true of in person mediations as well. People have to remained engaged. And I quite enjoy “teleporting” from one room to the next.

People should dress for the occasion. A widow, for example, might see someone wearing a track suit and be offended. Also, everyone is curious about the visual background of participants. I advise a neutral background and suggest that one consider this in choosing where you sit. My favorite so far is the lawyer who was in some sort of massage chair that was shaking him vigorously. I had trouble understanding but perhaps it was because I was laughing.

Overall, I think in-person mediation is better in some types of cases but that Zoom mediation is quite effective in most. Below please find my Protocol for Virtual Mediations for your review. The American Arbitration Association has also issued “AAA Guidelines for Virtual ADR Proceedings” and it is very thoughtful. I have borrowed from those Guidelines and adapted them to mediation. If you are interested in the topic, I highly recommend the AAA Guidelines.

Protocol for Virtual Mediations

  1. Any video conferencing platform must protect the confidential nature of the mediation process and must comply with all applicable rules governing mediations.
  2. The platform should be easily navigable by the parties, recognizing the participants may not all be at the same technological level.
  3. The host must be able to verify the identity of all participants to protect the process and those participating in it.
  4. The platform must have a feature that permits the viewing of relevant documents.
  5. The mediation may NOT be recorded.
  6. If there is a platform failure or outage, teleconferencing will be used.
  7. I believe Zoom (professional) best satisfies the criteria outlined above.

The post Mediating in the Wake of COVID-19 appeared first on MehaffyWeber.

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



Read More –>

COVID-19 Emergency! Where Are My Children? They have been taken By My EX!

COVID-19 Emergency! Where Are My Children? They have been taken By My EX!

Originally published by Nacol Law Firm.

We are now experiencing the worst Medical Pandemic in the USA since the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. The COVID-19 Outbreak may be changing our American way of life for some time. Many families are in upheaval from fear of loved ones getting the virus, losing jobs, and not having food for their families. And in the middle of this situation you may be going through a family breakup, divorce, or just trying to Co-Parent your kids with your EX.

Now the “Never Want to Live Through It” Scenario may happen! Your kids are picked up by your Ex and they all disappear! Where are they? Are they in danger? When will I ever see my children again?

After you get over your shock, the main question you will ask is:
What can I do to get my children back?

On March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order that divorced / single parents should go by the originally published school and visitation schedule in their current decree. Since the last life-threatening pandemic in the United States was the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, most divorce / single parent agreements do not include a pandemic clause! This emergency order was issued with the potential need of closing all courts, non-essential businesses and stay-at-home orders, Texas had to have an order in place to protect the children so that both parents could continue to care and protect them during the Pandemic.

If a custody agreement is in place with the court it is legally binding. If the runaway parent violates the agreement terms, he / she is in violation of the law and will likely face some serious legal consequences.

Many times, the runaway parent may take the children out of your area and may even cross state lines. This violation in your custody / visitation agreement could be considered parental kidnapping if the runaway parent moves over a state line without telling you the new residence of the child or without getting legal permission through the court to move or modify the custody order.

When the runaway parent and children are found, this is what could happen:

  • Custody Arrangements may legally be changed by court orders. You will, in the most aggravated cases, most likely be awarded protective orders or custody with the runaway parent receiving supervised visitation or no contact with the child.
  • The runaway parent may also face criminal charges and jail time.

At any time, this could happen to you!  If your legal position concerning custody and visitation with your children is in limbo, go secure a family law attorney and the help you need to protect your kids.

*If you were never married or divorced from the runaway parent, or if you have no legal court orders concerning or establishing custody and visitation rights in place, this could be a serious impediment in securing help to find your children.

After you get over your shock, the main question you will ask Is:
What can I do to get my children back?

  • Think Clearly! You must respond quickly. Time is of the essence.
  • Contact the police immediately. You need to tell them that the runaway parent may have taken the children without permission. Make sure that you have your certified legal court orders that pertain to your parental arrangement agreement concerning your children. It is important to be able to show the police the specific orders and how important it is to find the runaway parent and kids!
  • Contact a family law attorney immediately. Texas Courts are dealing with many of these runaway situations and an experienced family law attorney can help you legally deal with finding your child in a timely fashion. After the runaway has occurred, there will be court intervention to prevent any further occurrences. Custody and supervised visitation issues will also need to be addressed. Texas Judges and Courts will not take a runaway situation lightly by an errant parent!

Click to open the Texas Supreme Court Emergency Order (pdf)

Nacol Law Firm P.C.
8144 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 1190
Dallas TX, 75231
(972) 690-3333

Fathers Rights in Texas – WE NEVER GIVE UP!

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



Read More –>