Posts made in June 2018

Who can I Turn to For Domestic Violence Help?

In a crisis situation, a call to the police is a good place to start. Many people complain that police do not take accusations of domestic violence seriously. That can be true in some circumstances, but on the whole, police are treating domestic violence situations more seriously, and police officers are receiving increased training on the subject. 

The local state attorney or district attorney also may be able to offer some help. An increasing number of hospitals, crisis intervention programs, domestic violence shelters, and social service agencies have programs to help victims of domestic violence. Agencies offering help in cases of domestic violence might be found on any search engine under “Domestic Violence Help,” “Human Services Organizations,” or “Crisis Intervention.” 

If one is working with an attorney in connection with a divorce, the attorney also should be able to initiate the appropriate legal proceedings. 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

CAN I SUE FOR DAMAGES RELATED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

In 1994 Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act. The more formal title of the new law is the Civil Rights Remedies for Gender Motivated Violence Act. Prior to this statute, laws against domestic violence were almost exclusively at the state level. 

The Violence Against Women Act allows a person to sue for damages if another person “commits a crime of violence motivated by gender.” The new law is part of the federal government’s civil rights statute. If the crime of violence constitutes a felony against the person or the property of the victim, the victim can sue the assailant for both compensatory damages and punitive damages. 

Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the victim for the loss. The damages could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Punitive damages are an added amount of damages not for the purpose of compensation but rather for the purpose of punishing the assailant and deterring future abusive conduct. Punitive damages, however, are still paid to the victim. 

STATE LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

In recent years, state legislatures and courts have been paying increasing attention to domestic violence. Many states have elaborate laws designed to protect individuals from domestic violence by their spouses, other family members, and people with whom the victim may have had a social relationship. 

A common remedy is for a court to issue an order of protection (also known as a protective order) that orders the alleged abuser to stop abusing or harassing someone else. In addition, the orders often will direct the abuser to stay away from the spouse, the spouse’s home, or place of work. If the person continues to abuse his or her spouse (or another person protected by the order), the abuser can be charged with a criminal violation of the order in addition to being charged with other offenses, such as assault and battery. Penalties include fines and incarceration. 

The domestic violence statutes in most states apply not only to physical attacks, but also to other types of conduct. Some examples of conduct that could be considered domestic violence: creating disturbance at a spouse’s place of work, placing harassing telephone calls, stalking, using surveillance, and making threats against a spouse or family member (even though the threat may not have been carried out). 

DOES RELIGION PLAY A ROLE IN CHILD CUSTODY?

Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, both parents have a right to practice religion or not practice religion as they see fit. A judge is not supposed to make value judgments about whether a child is better off with or without religious training or about which religion is better. If a child has been brought up with particular religious beliefs and religious activities are important to the child, a court might favor promoting continuity in the child’s life, but the court should not favor religion per se. 

In some cases, a parent’s unusual or non-mainstream religious activities may become an issue. Normally, a court should not consider a parent’s unusual religious practices in deciding custody or visitation unless specific harm to the child is shown. If, because of a parent’s religious beliefs, a parent has not given the child needed medical care or has tried to convince the child that the other parent is evil and should not be associated with, that could be a basis for placing custody with the parent whose religious conduct does not harm the child. 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

CAN I BE RESPONSIBLE FOR CHILD SUPPORT AS A STEPPARENT?

The responsibilities of a stepparent depend on state law. A stepparent usually is not required to pay child support for a spouse’s child from another marriage, unless the stepparent has adopted the child. Until then, the child’s biological parents are liable for the child’s support. Some states, however, make stepparents liable for the stepchild’s support as long as the stepparent and stepchild are living together. 

A stepparent who does not adopt a spouse’s child normally may not claim custody of the child if the marriage ends in divorce, although some states allow a stepparent to seek visitation. 

A stepchild usually does not share in the estate of a stepparent, unless the stepparent has provided for the stepchild in a will. However, an unmarried stepchild under eighteen may receive supplemental retirement benefits or survivor’s benefits under Social Security. 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

WILL BANKRUPTCY REMOVE MY CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS?

Bankruptcy’s effect on child support is very similar to its effect on alimony. Past-due child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. If one spouse owes child support but has not paid because of hard times, the past-due amount still must be paid. A bankruptcy court can discharge many debts, but the court cannot discharge a child support debt (or an alimony debt). Severe financial problems (as evidenced by the bankruptcy) could be a basis for reducing future child support payments, but not for reducing past-due payments. 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

TIPS FOR COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT?

The following is a checklist of techniques for collection of past-due child support: 

Wage withholding orders. These are entered by a court and served on the employer of the parent who owes support. (The person who owes support is called the “obligor.”) The employer sends payments to the government, which then sends support payments to the parent to whom support is owed. 

Tax refund intercepts. The government sends a notice to the Internal Revenue Service or the state department of revenue, directing that the obligor’s tax refund be sent to the government for payment of support. 

Liens on property. A lien can be placed on the real estate, automobile, or other property of the obligor. If support is not paid, the property can be confiscated and sold. Alternatively, the lien may stay on the property until it is sold by the obligor, at which point the debt must be paid before the obligor receives any proceeds from the sale. 

COURTS POSITION ON UNDERMINING A CHILDS RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER PARENT

Most states declare a specific policy favoring an ongoing, healthy relationship between the child and both parents. If one parent is trying to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent, that is a negative factor against the parent who is trying to hurt the relationship. If other factors are close to equal, a  court may grant custody to the who is more likely to encourage  an open and good relationship with the other parent

Similarly, if a custodial parent regularly interferes with visitation, that is a negative factor against the custodial parent and can lead to modification of custody to the noncustodial parent (assuming the noncustodial parent is able to properly care for the child). 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

DOES THE COURTS HAVE A BIAS AGAINST HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN DETERMINING CHILD CUSTODY

The impact of a parent’s homosexual relationships on custody decisions varies dramatically from state to state. Courts in many states 

are more willing to assume harmful impact to a child from a parent’s homosexual relationship than from a heterosexual relationship. On the other hand, some states treat homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally and will not consider the relationship to be a significant factor unless specific harm to the child is shown.  Continue reading

DOES A CHILD’S PREFERENCE PLAY A ROLE IN CUSTODY

The wishes of a child can be an important factor in deciding custody. The weight a court gives the child’s wishes will depend on the child’s age, maturity, and quality of reasons. Some judges do not even listen to the preferences of a child under the age of seven and instead assume the child is too young to express an illformed preference. 

A court is more likely to follow the preferences of an older child, although the court will want to assess the quality of the child’s reasons. If a child wants to be with the parent who offers more freedom and less discipline, a judge is not likely to honor the preference. A child whose reasons are vague or whose answers seem coached also may not have his or her preferences followed. 

On the other hand, if a child expresses a good reason related to the child’s best interest-such as genuinely feeling closer to one parent than the other the court probably will follow the preference. Although most states treat a child’s wishes as only one factor to be considered, two states (Georgia and West Virginia) declare that a child of fourteen has an “absolute right” to choose the parent with  whom the child will live, as long as the parent is fit.