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child custody

Can a Child Decide to Live With the Noncustodial Parent?

Child custody disputes and court cases can be fraught with emotions. When one parent is granted physical custody by the court, or via an agreement, children sometimes express their desire to live with their other parent. Despite the obvious emotional challenge to the current custodial parent, there are a few potential legal obstacles that must be overcome. Depending on several factors, and your state’s laws, a child’s opinion may or may not matter when it comes to where they want to live. Typically, in addition to the noncustodial parent’s willingness to take on physical custody, the age and maturity level of a child will be taken into consideration.Apart from these initial considerations, a court will base the decision on what is in the best interest of the child. However, if there is no child custody agreement, nor child custody court order, depending on your state laws, so long as the parents are in agreement, a child can live with whichever parent they choose without the court’s interference. A Child’s Wishes Although children may be able to clearly state their desire to live with the noncustodial parent, courts generally will give this little weight unless the child appears to be mature enough to make the decision. In some states, all custody determinations require a court to conduct a best interests analysis. As such, a child’s desire may not convince the court that a change in custody will serve the child’s best interests. Courts frequently must be attuned to a teen that is just trying to live with the more lenient, “cool” parent. One issue courts are frequently tasked with identifying, particularly when younger children express a desire to live with the noncustodial parent, is custodial interference. Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon for a noncustodial parent to attempt to convince their child during visitation that the child should say they want to live with them.While there may be a tiny ethical grey area here, if a noncustodial parent provides any sort of incentive, it will likely run afoul of the laws that protect against custodial interference. Related Resources: Facing a custody dispute? Get a free case review now. (Consumer Injury - Family) How Child Custody Decisions Are Made (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Can You Get Emancipated From Only One Parent? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Child Custody Over the Summer: Dos and Don’ts (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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Worst Legal Mistakes Parents Can Make in Divorce

Divorce can be hard on anyone. And when you add children into the equation, the process can only get more emotionally and legally challenging. Dealing with custody, support, and yes, even tax issues on top of an already difficult divorce can lead even the best parents to make some bad decisions. Here are a few of the worst legal decisions you can make during a divorce and how to avoid them. 1. Not Respecting Child Custody Decisions and Guidelines You may not trust your ex or the courts to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, you must respect any legal rulings regarding child custody and your former spouse's parental rights. Failure to do so may amount to parental kidnapping, and could mean losing what visitation can custody rights you do have. (And, just as importantly, make sure you pay child support if the court orders it.) 2. Not Following Marital Property Decisions How your property gets divided in the divorce will often come down to where you live and the circumstances of ownership before, during, and after the divorce. You may not lose exactly half of everything you own, but be prepared for a split that will generally try to leave both parents equally well off. Things can get tricky regard the home and the family car, but divorcing parents are usually allowed to construct a fair property split agreement on their own. 3. Dragging Your Ex on Social Media No, that's not a misprint -- "dragging" in this sense means disrespecting someone online. And what happens on social media tends to stay on social media, forever. Meaning that the mean things you post about your former spouse or soon-to-be ex on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else online will be visible to everyone from your kids to the court. So follow some simple rules for social media use during a divorce and keep those arguments offline and IRL. 4. Not Clearing Up Who Gets to Claim Children Come Tax Time The easy part: Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent on their taxes. Now comes the hard part: which of you will do it? And what if you have multiple children? If this sounds like a simple or inconsequential question, think again. The IRS takes dependency claims seriously and will punish parents for doing it wrong. 5. Not Hiring a Lawyer The legal ins and outs of divorce are always complex, and getting divorced with children will only make it more complicated. Make sure you find a divorce lawyer that you trust to protect your parental and legal rights. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Top 5 Parenting Tips During Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 10 Common Divorce Mistakes to Avoid (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Top 5 Marital Property Questions During a Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How to Find a Divorce Lawyer

When a married couple, or just one married person, wants to divorce, the first concern is finding the right divorce lawyer. While a person’s first instinct might be to hire their one lawyer friend, or the same lawyer that handled their injury case, or the cheapest lawyer they can find, unless those lawyers know divorce law, it’s a big risk. With the help of online lawyer directories, the simplest way to find a lawyer is by calling as many as you have time to call, and talking with as many potential lawyers as you can. Divorces can range in complexity from simple to impossible. When a married couple has no assets, no children, and both parties have their own equal incomes, the divorce may be as simple as just filing some documents that a court needs to approve. However, if there are children, a marital home, a shared car, a family business, and/or other assets, it is much more complicated. So how do you evaluate a potential divorce lawyer? Not Just Any Experience One of the most important factors any client should evaluate when hiring an attorney is that attorney’s experience in the type of law they will be asked to handle. For a divorce case, you may need an attorney who knows how to handle not only a simple divorce, but also child custody, and, if there was a family business, business transactions or dissolutions. Ask your prospective attorney about prior divorces they have handled, and probe them about how complex those divorces were. Even if an attorney has been practicing law for 20 years, if they have never handled a divorce with child custody at issue, and you have children, you may not want to be that attorney’s first. Comfort And Trust After Experience After you’ve found an attorney with the right experience, you should ask yourself whether you feel comfortable divulging private information to them. In order for your attorney to be effective, you will need to be able to discuss personal matters without hesitation. While your sex life, generally, is not something that needs to be discussed, in some states, infidelity matters during divorce. Your attorney doesn’t need to be your friend (and probably shouldn’t be), but should be someone that you feel comfortable, and trust, with discussing potentially embarrassing information. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Why Is There a Divorce Waiting Period? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) What Is Ex Parte Divorce? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) When to Get a Second Lawyer’s Opinion for Your Divorce (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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Top 10 Divorce Questions a Family Lawyer Can Answer

Going through a divorce is hard. And it's even harder to go through it alone without any legal help. There are many reasons why you'll want to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you with your divorce. One of them is an attorney's ability to accurately answer any and all questions you'll have about the divorce process generally, and your divorce specifically. Here are the top 10 divorce questions to ask a family lawyer: 10. How Long Will My Divorce Take? Although it occupies the 10 spot, this question may be one of the most important you have. Every divorce case is different, but you need to know what to expect and that your attorney has a good sense of how your case will go. A good family attorney should be able to provide a timeline of your divorce from initial filings to completion. This will also give your attorney a chance to give you a step-by-step overview of the divorce process in your state, as well as cue you into any deadlines or waiting periods. 9. What Is Your Experience With Divorce Cases? As part of demonstrating his or her familiarity with the process, your attorney should give you a rundown of their resume. Family lawyers might be experienced in various types of family disputes, without having many divorces under their belts. You should ask your attorney how many divorce cases he or she has handled, or what percentage of the firm's time is devoted to divorces. This gives your attorney a chance to discuss his or her legal experience -- hopefully in a way that inspires confidence. 8. What Can I Reasonably Expect From My Divorce? This is a broad question, but along with the timeline, you need to ask your attorney, if you hire him or her, what you can reasonably expect out of litigating or mediating your divorce. Your attorney should be able to paint you a range of likely outcomes based on your case, giving you a good basis for what to expect. 7. What Documents Will I Need for My Divorce? Depending on your shared assets and debts, you might need to provide quite a bit of documentation to back up your divorce filings. You may need to bring everything from pay stubs and tax returns to prenups and birth certificates to a consultation with a divorce attorney. And a good lawyer will be able to tell you how best to prepare for a divorce. So know what you'll need before you start you divorce. 6. How Will the Divorce Affect My Business? If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, your first question might be how to protect your business assets during a divorce. Ask your attorney about which legal structure can best insulate your business from divorce proceedings and whether placing your business in a living trust could help protect it, and its assets, from your spouse. An attorney can also help you create an enforceable postnuptial agreement regarding the business (if you don't already have a prenup) and advise you on the effect of community property laws on small businesses. 5. How Will Our Property Be Separated? Who gets what in a divorce can become a major battle, and you'll want to know where you stand before the first shots are fired. But if not, you may need to divide everything from the furniture to the financial assets. There are two main factors to deciding property issues: (1) whether you live in a community property state or not, and (2) whether the property is separate or marital property. Your attorney should be able to tell you which marital property laws apply, and how those laws will apply in your case. 4. How Will Custody and Visitation Be Determined? More important than sorting out the kitchenware is sorting out the kids. ...
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Mary Chartier is Successfully Defending Clients in Lansing, Michigan

We are always looking for cases involving women defenders in the news. This week I was struck by the fact that Mary Chartier, a criminal defense attorney from Lansing, Michigan, had two stories featured this year – both recognized her for successfully defending clients. First, in early 2015 she represented a client at trial and obtained a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict for an attempted murder charge. The case involved a father accused of shooting the mother of his 2-year-old child during a child custody dispute. Chartier successfully convinced the jury that her client was acting in self-defense after that the mother had stabbed him with a knife. The client was acquitted of all counts. Later in 2015 Chartier won a reversal of a denial of a hearing on a motion for new trial for a funeral home director who had been convicted by a jury of embezzlement and RICO.  Before this issue, she successfully convinced the judge to throw out a number of counts because the wrong victim was identified in the pleadings. The case involved prepaid funeral plans, and the beneficiaries of the contracts were the victims not the funeral home owner. The case was sent back to the trial court to hold a hearing on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Chartier was named as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Women in the Law for 2013, and has been named as one of the top 25 women attorneys in the state. She is a founding partner of Alane Chartier, a woman-owned law firm.  It is always thrilling to see brave women hanging out their own shingle – but nothing gets me more than watching a fellow criminal lawyer who is obviously putting herself out there, and fighting with all she has for her clients. Now that’s what I call inspiring! The post Mary Chartier is Successfully Defending Clients in Lansing, Michigan appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Cops Track Suspects Using Spotify and Netflix Accounts

Do you think you're being sneaky? Think again. Big Brother is always watching. In the old days, police tracked debit and credit cards to find the bad guys. Now, that most on the run criminals know not to use their credit cards, the authorities have a new tactic. They're tracking your Spotify and Netflix accounts! Mother on the Run In a case of parental kidnapping, Brittany Nunn, of Wellington, Colorado, allegedly abducted her six- and four-year-old daughters, skipping town during a contentious custody dispute with the children's fathers. Nunn and her husband Peter Barr managed to elude authorities for eight months. The family was finally found in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, after the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, with a warrant, tracked Nunn's IP address through her Spotify and Netflix account. Mexican authorities arrested the couple and deported the whole family back to the United States. Nunn and Barr were arrested in Colorado on charges of violation of custody, and the two girls were placed in their fathers' custody. Privacy Rights Are you worried about the government tracking you now? Unless you've committed a crime, you probably don't have to worry. Police need a search warrant to search and track your private accounts. Warrants The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." To search your home or private information, including your Netflix account, police, generally, must have a warrant. To get a warrant, police must show that they have probable cause. Probable cause exists if the facts currently known to the police give them a reasonable belief that a search will reveal relevant evidence. Ideally, warrants specifically describe what will be searched and what police expect to find. According to reports, the Sheriff's Office had a warrant to search and track Nunn's Spotify and Netflix accounts, and the courts don't just give out warrants willy-nilly. Learn from Nunn and Barr's mistake. If you ever do go on the run, leave your credit and debit cards at home and your Spotify and Netflix accounts signed off. Related Resources: Spotify account leads cops to alleged child abductors (Engadget) Valid Search Warrant? 3 Things to Look For (FindLaw's Blotter) Probable Cause (FindLaw's Learn About The Law) Woman Gives Cop Fake Name, Gets Arrested on Warrants (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
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Top 10 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

A divorce or separation can be tough on kids, but a good co-parenting plan can help you and your children maintain a sense of normalcy. That's probably one reason why actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, singer Chris Martin, announced they plan to "consciously uncouple and co-parent" as they work through their separation, Reuters reports. If you're also considering a co-parenting arrangement, here are 10 tips to make it work for everyone: Always put your children first. No matter how ugly or costly your divorce or separation proceedings get, always make your children's best interests the top priority. Get a court order. Although it's not required, parenting plans can become "official" with a court order. Depending on your state's laws, violating a legally enforceable parenting plan can result in criminal and/or civil penalties. Live near the other parent. While not always feasible, it may be best for a child if the parents live relatively close to each other so that the child can have regular visits with both parents. Respect each other's parenting style. Parents should accept that the other's parenting style will differ, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. So respect and honor the other person's parenting techniques unless it's clearly endangering your child. Communicate. Communicating openly and frequently with the other parent helps both of you stay on top of what's going on in your child's life. Plus, it'll help avoid misunderstandings that could result in a larger conflict. Create smooth transitions between households. On the days when your kids are spending time at the other parent's home, it may be best to drop them off rather than have the other parent pick them up. Experts say this can help reduce a child's feeling that he's being "taken away" from the other parent. Be involved in your child's activities. Another tip for successful co-parenting is to make sure both parents are involved in the child's activities. Even if you can't stand the other parent, try to maintain civility when attending your kid's school and extracurricular activities. Establish a shared document that both parents can access. Developing a shared account, like a Google Doc or other cloud-based document, that both parents can access can help you quickly share information about your children. This can work for emergency contact numbers and extracurricular schedules, for example. Be flexible. Even if you have a co-parenting court order in place, cut the other parent some slack if an unexpected change occurs and he or she has to change your agreed-upon schedule. (If the other parent routinely does this, however, then it may be time to modify your co-parenting plan.) Hire an attorney. Consulting an experienced family law attorney in your area can be helpful for figuring out and drafting a co-parenting plan, especially if issues like child support or custody are involved. While it may be tough to be around your ex, a successful co-parenting plan will set the ground rules and can help your kids better deal with your divorce or separation. Related Resources: Co-Parenting After Divorce (Psychology Today) Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin Separate: Will Co-Parenting Work? (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Hi-Tech Help for Co-Parenting After Divorce (FindLaw's KnowledgeBase) Moving & Child Custody: 3 Important Questions (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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5 Legal Issues Single Parents Commonly Face

Today is National Single Parents' Day, an observance that began 30 years ago with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan. While raising a child isn't easy, dealing with legal issues as a single parent can make your life even more challenging. But even though you can deal with many of legal issues on your own, you don't always have to go it alone. Here are five legal issues that single parents commonly face -- keeping in mind that professional help is just a click or a phone call away: Child custody. Custody can include both physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where a child will live and is usually determined by where the kid goes to school and whether or not a court can grant sole or joint physical custody. On the other hand, legal custody determines who gets to make decisions for the child, including medical care or religious instruction. For a concise overview of this topic, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Child Custody. Child support. Whether you're paying or collecting child support, this is often a major legal issue for single parents. It's important to remember that child support amounts aren't set in stone and can be modified according to your new income or special needs of your child. FindLaw's free Guide to Getting Child Support Payments provides a summary of what you need to know. Rebellious teens. Even if your teenagers are driving you crazy, it's not the best idea to kick them out of your house and make them fend for themselves -- unless they are legally emancipated. Often, kicking out an underage child who isn't emancipated and refusing to support that child can be considered child abandonment and can lead to criminal charges. Adoption. While states usually don't prohibit an unmarried person from adopting a child, adoption agencies may have different policies when it comes to single parents. In fact, some agencies may prohibit single parents from adopting altogether. Housing discrimination. Under the Fair Housing Act, it's illegal to deny housing to people based on familial composition, the presence of children, or gender stereotypes. So landlords can't refuse to rent you a house solely based on the fact that you're a single parent or that your kids will be living there with you -- even though some may try. Of course these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legal issues facing single parents. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed, let an attorney experienced in dealing with your specific type of issue help you figure out the best solution for you and your family. Related Resources: Top 10 Legal Issues for Single Moms (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What to Do If Ex-Spouse Won't Pay Support? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Single Parents at Work: 3 Legal Facts for Employers (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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Does Your Divorce Settlement Cover College Tuition?

College tuition may comprise a large chunk of your divorce settlement, but it shouldn't be unexpected. It was a bit of a surprise for one New Jersey father who was ordered to pay half of his daughter's Cornell Law School tuition -- a whopping $112,500. What settlement language should divorcing spouses focus on when considering future tuition obligations? Child Support for 18+ Although the term "child support" may be misleading, divorce settlements can guarantee support for children of divorcing spouses well into their 20s. Depending on the terms of your child support agreement -- which is often negotiated as part of a divorce settlement -- child support might continue after a child turns 18. In many instances, child support obligations to adult children are governed by state law. But it may also come down to the specific terms of an ex-spouse's divorce settlement agreement. If your agreement outlines specific parental obligations for a child if he or she chooses to attend college, you will likely be held to those terms. You can, of course, attempt to modify your existing child support agreement once a child turns 18 or decides to attend college or graduate school. But absent any major changes in your child support agreement, you may still owe child support toward an adult child in college or grad school. Paying for or Choosing Schools Depending on the specific terms of your child support order and/or divorce settlement agreement, you may have control over whether your child goes to an expensive out-of-state school. Married couples often disagree on this topic, so it isn't any surprise that ex-spouses might come apart when deciding which school is appropriate for their children. Much of the guesswork can be avoided if the divorce settlement or child support order contains specific provisions regarding: How much tuition each spouse is responsible for; Who has the final say in deciding which school to attend; Payment obligations for living on- or off-campus; and Meal plans, books, and other class-related expenses. If these areas are left unexplored, it may be left to a family court judge to delve into each spouse's expectations and the child's best interests to determine college choice and how much tuition is owed by a parent. Consulting an experienced child support attorney can help remove many of these if's and maybe's about whether your divorce settlement covers college tuition. Related Resources: Honors Student, 18, Sues Parents Over Paying for College (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Does Child Support End Upon Graduation? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Modifying Child Support (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Divorce: Child Custody and Religion (FindLaw)
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5 Legal Issues for Women: Where to Turn for Help

To commemorate International Women's Day, let's discuss the myriad legal issues women face and the resources that are available at their fingertips. Despite significant gains in gender equality over the past century, women are still victims of harassment, assault, and discrimination in the workplace and at home. Here are five legal issues women grapple with and where they can turn for help: Divorce and child custody. Family law encompasses a wide variety of legal issues that deeply impact women, including child custody, child support, and divorce. Low-income women in family court typically rely upon legal support from local legal services offices to represent them. Reform through policy and impact litigation can protect the rights of mothers and women on a larger scale. Employment. According to Marcia Angell's piece in The New York Review of Books, "women in more than token numbers have taken their place alongside men at the upper levels of government, the professions, and business, earn more than half of all college degrees, and will shortly make up a majority of lawyers, doctors, and college faculty." Despite strides made toward achieving greater workplace equality, gender discriminatory barriers continue to exist at work regarding pregnancy, breastfeeding, child care, equal pay, and sexual harassment. Domestic violence. At the intersection of family law and criminal law is domestic violence. One of the first issues with which a domestic violence victim needs legal assistance is getting protection from abuse orders. Many attorneys offer pro bono or reduced-fee services to assist victims with these needs. A domestic violence attorney can also assist a victim with other ancillary issues such as getting through a trial, considering mediation, and protecting children. FindLaw's section on Domestic Violence Victim Resources can provide additional guidance. Sexual assault. Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment continue to pose a great threat to women. Many advocacy organizations have resources available to assist sexual assault victims. For example, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has information on hotlines, local counseling centers, international resources, and other resources. Business ownership. There are now more ladies serving as general counsel at Fortune 500 companies than ever before. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Women currently boast ownership of 30 percent of all businesses. In addition, women-owned businesses receive more Small Business Association-approved loans than ever before, innovate entrepreneurial styles, generate huge revenue, and create the most jobs. As Gloria Steinem sums it up, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." Related Resources: International Women's Day Has an Unexpected History (The Daily Beast) Is It Legal to Breastfeed in Public? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Is Michigan's 'Rape Insurance' Law? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Unemployed Men Faring Worse Than Women: Report (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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