Month: October 2015

Failure to Pay Child Support

What Happens if I Fail to Pay Child Support?

The purpose of child support is to cover not only a child’s necessities, but also school fees, entertainment, medical, and extracurricular activities. When child support is ordered by the court, the failure to pay court-ordered child support can leave you in contempt of court, which can carry significant civil and criminal penalties.

Being in contempt of court for failure to pay child support

If you owe child support and have not paid, the other parent can go to court and request a hearing. Failure to obey the court’s order to pay child support is called “contempt” of court. If you are found in contempt, you will be served with a document ordering you to appear in court for the hearing and explain why you have not paid the support you owe for your child. Your failure to appear at the hearing will often lead to the court issuing an arrest warrant. You could still face jail time, even if you show up for the hearing, if the judge is not convinced by your reason for not paying the child support you owe.

What can happen at a Contempt Hearing?

The court may order you to make future payments, or allow you to set up a payment plan for catching up on the unpaid support. The amount of your arrearage cannot be reduced, as a prior child support award cannot be modified retroactively. However, future payments may be decreased or modified. A judge can also order that your wages be withheld or a lien placed on your property in order to correct the arrearage.

What about jail time?

It is rare that a court will put a parent in jail for contempt of court. Judges realize that a parent who is in jail cannot earn money to make child support payments, so jail time is counterproductive.  Incarceration is typically ordered when an Income Withholding Order (IWO) or wage garnishment has not been successful, and the payor doesn’t have a plan to catch up or make the required payments.

If you have questions regarding child support or any other divorce issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (251) 304-3200.

Stepparents and Custody

Stepparent Rights in Custody Disputes

Most child custody disputes occur between divorcing parents. In some rare cases, there may be a custody dispute between grandparents. Although these types of disputes certainly represent the majority of custody cases, it is not entirely impossible to have a custody case involving stepparents. Indeed, blended families are more and more common these days. So, what rights do stepparents have in custody situations?

Parent or Third Party?

Basically, custody disputes involve either parents or third parties, which are non-parental individuals. The reality is, despite how close a stepparent may become to a child, from a legal standpoint, a stepparent is always classified as a non-parental third party. That means their legal rights are automatically less than those of either parent. But do stepparents have any rights?

Stepparents can still sue for custody

Third parties, such as grandparents, stepparents and other relatives, and even friends of the family, have a right to sue a custodial parent for partial custody or visitation. Typically, this occurs when a stepparent has lived with the child for a significant period of time and developed a very close relationship with the child – often taking on the role of co-parent. So, when a biological parent refuses to allow the stepparent to have any form of custody, the stepparent can sue for partial custody.

Which is more likely — custody or visitation?

Although the law allows stepparents to sue for custody of a minor child, judges typically reject these claims unless the biological parents are deemed unfit and would pose a danger to the child. More commonly, stepparents are granted visitation with the child. When a court determines that it is in the best interest of the minor child for the stepparent to remain in the child’s life, visitation will be awarded. Judges often weigh the degree of participation in the child’s life, including the length of time the stepparent cared for the child, the depth of emotional attachment that has been established, the degree of financial assistance provided by the stepparent, and the harm that the child would suffer if visitation were denied.

If you have questions regarding child custody, or any other divorce issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (205) 401-1309.

Special Needs Adoption

Adopting Children with Special Needs

There are currently tens of thousands of children with special needs in our country who are waiting to be adopted. Historically, these children have been seen as hard to place for adoption compared to children without special needs. But in reality, there are families out there who are willing and able to help these children. While extremely rewarding, adopting children with special needs takes commitment and perseverance. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering adopting a child with special needs.

Who is eligible to adopt a child with special needs?

The legal requirements for special needs adoption are no different from a traditional adoption. The decision needs to be made by the family after considering the capacity to parent a child with special needs, as it can be a challenge. A wise step would be to discuss your concerns with other experienced adoptive parents to make sure you are making a decision that is right for your family. Basically, factors that will be considered include the age and health of the parents, and will obviously include background checks to be sure the potential family poses no threat to the safety or well-being of the child.

Understanding what the child may have experienced in foster care

A common concern for potential adoptive parents is what life was like for the child while he or she was in the foster care system. It not uncommon for children with special needs to have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and subsequently placed in foster care. There are resources available for families considering adoption that can shed some light on the common experiences of foster care children, as well as potential issues that adoptive families may face.

If you have questions regarding adoption, or any other family law matter, contact us online or by calling Brad J. Latta at (251) 304-3200.

The Basics of Child Support

The Basics of Child Support

The purpose of child support is to provide continued financial assistance from a non-custodial parent. Because that parent no longer has custody, his or her income is not automatically available to benefit the child on a daily basis. Child support awards are not typically made in cases of shared joint physical custody. Courts presume that the needs of the child are being met by both parents.

The legal duty to support

The legal duty to support a minor child belongs to both parents, regardless of whether the parent who has physical custody can provide sufficient care by themselves. The purpose of child support is twofold: to provide for the child’s basic needs and to allow the child to share in the standard of living of both parents. Contrary to what many people think, both fathers and mothers can be ordered to pay child support.

How prevalent is this issue?

According to most reports, 45-50% of all first marriages end in divorce. Forty percent of those marriages have minor children. Statistics also tend to show that 25% of all children are born to unmarried parents. The majority of children who live in single-parent homes have a right to child support. While child support can be completely voluntary, it many cases it is ordered by the court or through the initial divorce decree.

Collection of child support payments

Unfortunately, obtaining a child support award is not necessarily the end. There are some cases where an enforcement action must be taken in order to collect the child support payments. There are several methods available for custodial parents who need assistance collecting child support payments. Contact an experienced family law attorney if you need assistance.

If you have questions regarding child custody, or any other family law matter, contact us online or by calling Brad J. Latta at (251) 304-3200.