Month: February 2014

Preparing for A Custody Battle

How to Prepare for a Child Custody Battle

A divorce is difficult enough.  But a child custody battle can be the most trying part of a contested divorce process.  Child custody proceedings are emotionally draining and the results will likely have lifelong consequences for both parents and children. Those parents who can work out a parenting plan amicably, without involving the court system, are always better off.  They usually have more control when it comes to making future decisions and they are better able to shield their children from the legal process.  More importantly, the children are less likely to be made to feel as though they have to choose between their parents.

How can I be ready?

When parents are not able to resolve their differences and come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation arrangements, then it is left up to the court.  If you are facing a child custody proceeding, there are a few things you can personally do to be prepared.

  • Evaluate your parenting skills.  If you have any bad habits, be honest with yourself about them and be prepared to defend your actions.  Explain to the court how you have changed and point out your positive parenting skills as well.  
  • Collect relevant evidence.  Any information that may support your position on certain issues, or defend against any allegations your spouse may make, should be gathered before the hearing.  Examples include witnesses, police reports, school record, phone records, bank records, child protective service records, social media posts, and other sources of information.
  • Hire professionals to help.  It is usually a good idea to get an attorney who has experience in child custody disputes, especially if your spouse also has an attorney.  Depending on the seriousness of the allegations against you or your spouse, you may need to consider obtaining a child specialist or expert.  Discuss these options with your attorney.

A contested child custody case is never simple.  If you prepare yourself, stay focused on the best interests of your children, and rely on the advice of your family law attorney, you can get through it. Contact us today at (866) 345-2528 for a free case analysis and consultation. 

Termination of Parental Rights

 

There are many reasons why parental rights might be terminated.  Termination of parental rights can be voluntary as well as involuntary.  Some parents recognize their inability to properly care for their child and seek to voluntarily terminate their rights.  This could allow someone else who is better suited to take on the responsibility legally.

In some cases, however, where a parent has shown repeated failure to care of the physical or emotional health of their child, a court may be asked to terminate that person’s parental rights.   Terminating parental rights severs a parent’s legal ties, preventing that parent from making any further decisions for the child.

Factors to Consider

Termination of parental rights is a binding and usually permanent decision.  Therefore, courts generally require substantial evidence before making such a ruling.  In order to begin these proceedings, the child’s other parent or guardian is usually required to show that termination is in the child’s best interest and that termination is the only remaining option.

Most states set out specific factors that the court should consider.  The most common statutory grounds for determining that a parent is unfit include:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
  • Abandonment of the child
  • Long-term mental illness or deficiency of the parent(s)
  • Long-term alcohol- or drug-induced incapacity of the parent(s)
  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child
  • Involuntary termination of the rights of the parent to another child

Alabama has similar grounds listed in Ala. Code § 12-15-319.  Consulting an Alabama Family Law Attorney who knows the specific factors considered by the court will strengthen your case.  As a parent or guardian, your first duty is always to protect the child you are responsible for. Terminating an unfit parent’s rights may be the only way to do that.

Alternatives to termination of parental rights.

Depending on your specific situation, there may be other options to consider before proceeding to terminating rights. Some other options include limited visitation, supervised visitation, awarding full legal custody to the fit parent or guardian. Call our office at (205) 988-5570 if you have further questions. 

Collecting Child Support

Need help collecting child support payments?

Unfortunately, obtaining court-ordered child support is not always the end of the battle.  Sometimes, enforcement actions must be taken to actually collect the child support payments.  There are several methods available for custodial parents who need assistance collecting child support payments. 

One of the quickest and most successful enforcement remedies is income withholding.  A petition can be filed asking the court to direct the employer of the non-custodial parent to deduct the child support payments from his/her wages.  There are other methods of collecting, as well as other consequences for non-payment.

Liens on property and other assets.

A system known as the Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM) can be used to identify bank accounts belonging to the non-custodial parent who is delinquent in their child support payments.  The accounts that are identified can then be subject to liens and levies in order to collect back child support. A lien is a legal hold on property until the debt is paid. A lien can also be placed on real estate or personal property such as vehicles, bank accounts, insurance settlements or lump sum payments.

Tax consequences for non-payment of child support.

If a parent owes back child support of at least $150.00, the state can report that parent to the IRS and the Alabama Department of Revenue.  The back support is then deducted from that parent’s federal or state tax refund and paid to the family.  There is a $10 certification fee deducted from any money collected.

Other consequences for failing to pay child support.

Also, back child support greater than $1000.00 are automatically submitted to credit reporting agencies.  That debt will remain on file with the credit reporting agencies for seven (7) years.  If the back child support amount is more than $2500, the spouse may become be denied a passport.  Suspension or revocation of driver’s licenses, professional, sporting or recreational licenses is also possible.

If you have further questions, call our office at (205) 988-5570.