(844) 815-9632

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)
continue reading

Teens Charged in Sexual Assault Live-Streamed on Facebook

No matter how many stories get written about criminal activity streamed on Facebook Live, criminals don't cease to record their crimes for prosecutorial prosperity and the crimes themselves don't get any less heinous. A 14-year old girl in Chicago was lured into a home and raped by as many as six men, one of whom broadcast the sexual assault live on Facebook. The Chicago Tribune notes it's at least the fourth crime in the city captured on Facebook Live since the end of October 2016. Two teens are in custody thus far, and the victim and her family have been moved following threats and online bullying after reporting the crime. Facebook Crime According to the Tribune, the girl was attacked on her way home from church, and not found until two days later. A relative was told the assault was on Facebook, and Chicago activist Andrew Holmes was able to forward the video of the sexual assault to police. The girl's mother was then able to identify her daughter from screen shots of the video. Two boys, one 14 and the other 15, are now in custody facing charges relating to the rape and the posting of the video. Both have been charged as juveniles with aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography, and dissemination of child pornography, though it is unclear if either was the one who initiated the broadcast of the assault. Social Media Cycle of Trauma Police say their investigation has been hampered by the victim's trauma and harassment of her and her family. Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan described the difficulty at a news conference over the weekend: "She's just having such a difficult time even communicating what occurred to her. We obviously have a video of the incident, so we have verifiable objective evidence of what occurred to this young lady, but she's just having a very difficult time ... On top of it, there's constant social media ... bullying (of the girl), making fun of what occurred. This is just a very traumatic incident." The social media bullying has manifested in real life as well. The victim's mother told the Tribune that after word of the attack got out, people began harassing the family at home, ringing the doorbell and appearing at the house in a threatening manner. Police were also frustrated with the lack of response from the estimated 40 people who viewed the livestream of the assault, none of whom called 911. Deenihan says authorities are exploring what criminal charges may be available against those who watched the video, but proving exactly who did watch the video may be impossible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 2 Teens Arrested in Chicago Sex Assault Streamed Online (CNN) Police Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Charged With Manslaughter (FindLaw Blotter) Prostitutes Use Facebook to Drum Up Business (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

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)
continue reading

No Criminal Charges After Inmate Was Boiled to Death in Florida Prison

There was no question that Darren Rainey died in the showers of the Dade Correctional Institution in 2012. What was unanswered was whether the officers who locked Rainey for two hours in showers that could run as hot at 160 degrees were criminally liable for his death. That answer came last month, when the state attorney for Miami-Dade County released an "In Custody Death Investigation Close-Out Memo" that attributed Rainey's death to schizophrenia, heart disease, and "confinement inside the shower room." Yet the state attorney declined to press criminal charges against the officers or the prison, saying instead that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff." Deadly Disregard The details of Rainey's death are as grisly as they are tragic. Rainey, schizophrenic and heavily medicated, was a resident of Dade's "Temporary Transitional Unit" which houses mentally disabled inmates. According to the report, corrections officers Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson took Rainey to the showers after he defecated in his cell and smearing the feces on himself and the cell. Determining what exactly happened from there depends on whom you believe. Harold Hempstead, an inmate whose cell was below the shower, said he heard much of the incident, including Rainey screaming, "I can't take it anymore!" Another inmate said he heard guards sarcastically ask Rainey "Is it hot enough?" Rainey allegedly screamed, kicked the door, and begged to be let out, before he was found unresponsive almost two hours after he was locked in. A later investigation found that the water temperature, which could only be controlled from a closet outside the showers, could reach as high as 160 degrees. Mark Joiner, another former inmate at Dade, said guards ordered him to clean pieces of skin that had peeled off Rainey's body from the shower floor. And nurses allegedly said Rainey's body "was covered in burns so severe that his skin came off at the touch," according to the New Yorker. Charging Accounts The Close-Out Memo, on the other hand gave the benefit of the doubt to Thompson and Clarke, who told detectives he made sure the water wasn't too hot. And although a preliminary medical report detailed "visible trauma ... throughout the decedents' body," the final autopsy, not completed until 2016 and yet to be released found no trauma and "no thermal injuries (burns) of any kind on his body." In the end, the state attorney cited a lack of sufficient and consistent evidence in deciding not to criminally charge any of the officers involved in Rainey's death. Related Resources: No Justice for Inmate Darren Rainey (Miami Herald) $8.3M Jail Death Settlement Sets Record in Calif. (FindLaw's Decided) NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Hot Jail Cell: Report (FindLaw's Injured) Inmate Wrongful Deaths: Suing for Neglect or Abuse in Jail or Prison (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

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)
continue reading

Can You Refuse a CPS Drug Test?

When Child Protective Services knocks on your door, many parents are so confused that they may make some poor decisions or give some suspicious answers without even realizing it. CPS investigators are trained in working with confused, worried parents. If they observe certain behaviors or things around the house, they may ask a parent to take a drug test. When CPS asks you to take a drug test, many parents assume they must comply. This is simply not the case. Just like any law enforcement officer, unless you consent, a CPS investigator would need a warrant to force you to submit to a drug test. In order to get that warrant, they need probable cause. Although you do not need to comply/consent, oftentimes doing so is the path of least resistance, or it may be a condition to get custody back. While you can refuse, doing so may have other consequences. Comply or Cry Frequently, CPS shows up because they receive an anonymous report that they must investigate. If they don’t find any evidence to substantiate the report, typically, that will be the end of it. Because CPS has a position of power over parents, many parents believe that not complying with a CPS request for a drug test will automatically lead to their children being taken away.Sometimes parents believe that by taking the drug test, the investigation will end. However, none of this holds true in every situation. If there are other issues being investigated, a drug test may just be one piece of evidence, and one that may not even be needed. Unless there is a court order, refusing to take a drug test will be viewed in the context of your case, and negative implications can be drawn from the refusal. When CPS Can Drug Test Generally, CPS can drug test only when they have consent, or a court order. CPS will often require parents who have had their children taken away to pass drug tests in order to get their children back. Some agencies will have parents sign an agreement stating that they will comply with CPS’s rules and conditions, and will include random drug tests, as a condition to get their children back. While a parent may still refuse to take the CPS drug test, CPS can then refuse to return their children. In essence, CPS is still getting the consent of the parents before administering a drug test, but that consent may feel rather forced from the parent’s perspective. For CPS to get a court order, they generally will need to involve law enforcement. If law enforcement is involved in a CPS investigation, you should be concerned about potential criminal charges, and should contact a criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Have family law problems? Get help now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Do’s and Don’ts: False Allegations of Child Abuse (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Ending or Changing Alimony Payments After Retirement (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Under New Facebook Policy, Newsworthy Trumps Nudity (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Juvenile Carjacker Arrested Twice in 48 Hours

Last week, a juvenile carjacker in New Jersey made headlines for being arrested twice within 48 hours for two separate carjacking incidents. Police released the minor into the custody of a relative after his arrest on a Friday for carjacking, and on Sunday, the teen was rearrested for another carjacking. The juvenile carjacker, surprisingly, is only 13 years old. Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of his actions, however, police have linked an additional two to three car thefts from surrounding communities to the young suspect. Penalties for Juvenile Carjacking While criminal laws vary from state to state, juveniles can face very serious penalties for carjacking. The penalties can become exponentially worse if a weapon, or gun, is involved. Additionally, older juveniles may be charged as adults. While some juvenile offenses may be summarily dealt with if they are minor, or offenses that relate to the minor's age (such as possession of alcohol or tobacco), carjacking, especially when a weapon is involved, is not one of these. Unlike a joyriding charge, which can be charged as a misdemeanor in some jurisdictions, when a carjacker physically removes the driver of a vehicle by force and takes the keys and car, the likelihood is that even a juvenile will be charged with a felony. When a carjacker does not intend to permanently deprive the vehicle owner of possession, a joyriding charge may still apply, however, the act of stealing the car directly from the victim's possession will likely impose additional charges. Recent Trends Over the past few months, there have been several news stories across the country involving juvenile carjackings. The story out of New Jersey comes after a brutal story out of Oakland, California, where four juveniles punched an old lady and stole her vehicle. A month prior to that, a nearby city saw not only a juvenile carjacking, but it led to a high-speed pursuit, ending in a crash and arrest. In Denver, a juvenile carjacker that was fleeing from police was shot in the leg. Carjacking is a serious criminal offense that can land a juvenile in adult prison. Due to the fact that it involves more than simply taking the car, but potentially assault and/or battery (with or without a weapon), the charges tend to more serious than simply joyriding. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Juveniles and Age ("Status") Offenses (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Shooting at George Zimmerman Illegal, Florida Man Learns (FindLaw Blotter) BB Guns Are Not Firearms, Minnesota Supreme Court Rules (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

No Indictments in Sandra Bland Death, but Prosecutor Says It’s Not Over

A Texas grand jury this week issued no indictments associated with the death of Sandra Bland, 28, who was found dead by an apparent hanging in her jail cell this past summer. Bland's death made national headlines because the African American woman was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, allegedly got into an altercation with the officer over a lit cigarette, and was found hanging by a trash bag in her jail cell after only three days in custody in Texas. Local officials vehemently denied that Bland was mistreated, and the grand jury's failure to indict in the criminal case seems to support those claims. But Darrell Jordan, the special prosecutor, said that "the case is still open," and that grand jurors would reconvene next month to discuss other aspects of it, according to the New York Times. Bland Family Responds Bland's family suspect that Sandra was mistreated because she was black. Her parents filed a wrongful death suit in August against a Texas trooper, the Waller County Sherriff's office, and her jailers -- they blamed authorities for their daughter's death and do not believe she would commit suicide. Bland's family responded to the grand jury's decision through their lawyer, Cannon Lambert. "We are unfortunately disappointed by the fact that our suspicions regarding this sham of a process have come to fruition," said Mr. Lambert, who is based in Chicago. Mr. Lambert said he was unsure of what to make of Mr. Jordan's statement that the grand jury would return to work in January, saying, "We would like very much to know what in the heck they're doing, who they're targeting and if it has anything to do with Sandy and her circumstances." Background on Bland Sandra Bland, who was from the Chicago area, was in Waller County, Texas this past summer because she had accepted a job at her alma mater, the nearby Prairie View A&M University, a historically black institution. Bland's family does not believe she would commit suicide because she was an activist, recording videos about racial issues, including policing. The last video Ms. Bland was known to appear in, unfortunately, is that of the trooper who used a dash cam to record her traffic stop for a failure to signal lane change. In it, the trooper physically struggles with Bland after she refuses to put out her cigarette and is reluctant to exit her car, slamming her head and expressing pleasure about it, among other abuses of power. For those disappointed that the trooper, the county, and Bland's jailers appear to have gotten away with something this week -- possibly even murder -- special prosecutor Jordan said, "The case is not over. That's what I'm stressing right now. The case is not over." Criminal Defense Counsel If you face charges as a result of a traffic stop or anything else, do not delay. Speak to a criminal defense attorney about your charges and get help getting them resolved. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Traffic Arrest FAQ (FindLaw) Can the Police Set Up roadblocks for any Reason? (FindLaw)
continue reading

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. ...
continue reading

First Trial in Freddie Gray Homicide Ends in Mistrial

After 16 hours of deadlocked jury deliberations, the judge finally declared a mistrial in Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter's trial in the homicide of Freddie Gray. Jurors told the judge they could not reach a verdict on any of the charges against Porter, the first of six officers to stand trial after Gray died in police custody last April. The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a new trial date for Porter will be set on Thursday morning. Homicide, but Is It Manslaughter? Six Baltimore Police officers face charges relating to Gray's homicide. Porter specifically was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Each of the six is scheduled to be tried separately and consecutively, although it is unclear how Porter's mistrial will affect that schedule. Gray was allegedly the victim of a "rough ride," during which suspects are handcuffed but not secured to a seat in a police vehicle and then intentionally battered by a rugged and bumpy ride to the station. Gray suffered fatal injuries to his spine after being placed in police custody, and an investigation suggested his arrest may have been illegal in the first place. Deadlock in Death Case Porter's trial lasted two weeks and jury deliberations spanned three days. It was apparent to Judge Barry G. Williams that further discussion wouldn't lead to a verdict: "You clearly have been diligent," he told jurors. "You are a hung jury." Following a deadlocked jury, prosecutors have the option of a retrial on any charges on which the jury was unable to come to a verdict. And because the jury did not decide any of the charges in this case, double jeopardy doesn't apply. Prosecutors declined to comment after the mistrial ruling, citing a "gag order that pertains to all cases related to Freddie Gray." Related Resources: Mistrial Declared in Baltimore Police Officer's Trial (Reuters) Baltimore Offers Freddie Gray's Family $6.4M to Settle Civil Claims (FindLaw's Injured) 6 Police Officers Involved in Freddie Gray Homicide Indicted (FindLaw Blotter) 4 Updates on Recent Police Shootings (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading
12