Archive for May, 2015

Mississippi Family Law Attorney Discusses a Positive Effect of Shared Custody

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

Divorcing parents are likely to worry about the emotional experience that their children will have during and after their divorce. Fortunately, new research that was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health is likely to put the minds of at least some divorcing parents a little more at ease. The study indicates that children who split their time between both parents relatively equally often enjoy good mental health.

If you have chosen to share custody with your former or soon to be former spouse, you are likely to find the results of this study quite reassuring. If you are in the initial stages of a divorce or you are contemplating divorce, you may want to consider the findings of this research as you decide how you will proceed with custody in your divorce case.

The findings in this study are important for many reasons, one being that some parents who choose shared or split custody and some who are contemplating it are concerned that frequent transitions between the homes of their parents will have a negative effect on their children’s sense of stability. The research indicates that children who move frequently between two homes experience less stress and stress-related ailments, such as headaches and stomachaches, than those who spend the majority of their time with one parent do.

            Part of the reason why kids in shared or split custody situations may experience less stress is that parents who have chosen those kind of arrangements often have less interpersonal conflict than parents who choose or are given other kinds of custody arrangements. This is often because parents who choose shared custody understand how much interpersonal communication and contact they must have in order to co-parent, and they learn how to do so while keeping the fighting to a minimum. Also, in arrangements where one parent has sole custody and the other has visitation, there is a larger risk that the child will somehow lose contact with one parent than there is in shared parenting arrangements. The results of the study indicate that the amount of movement between parents’ homes has less of a negative impact on children than tension and arguments, and the risk of losing contact with one parent do.

Deciding how to approach parenting can be a very difficult part of a Mississippi divorce. It can be hard to figure out how to account for your own needs as well as the needs of each of your children when proposing a custody arrangement to your soon to be former spouse, or when assessing a proposal that your son to be former spouse has created. When you work with a Mississippi Family Law Attorney, you can feel confident that you will get all of the information that you need in order to make a choice that will work for you and for your children. If you would like more information about the child custody options that are available to parents who divorce in Mississippi, Mississippi Family Law Attorney Matthew S. Poole can help. Please call us today, at (601) 573-7429 today, to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Discusses the Termination of Parental Rights

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

The word “termination” invokes feelings of seriousness and finality. When you pair the word “termination” with “parental rights”, you describe the most extreme action that a court can take regarding the relationship between a child and a parent. Termination of parental rights is not something that courts like to do, but rather something which must be done in certain cases because of the severity of harm that a child has endured, and in other cases because it provides a child with stability and certainty about who their permanent caregivers are.

Because termination of parental rights is a serious and permanent matter, the party that seeks to terminate the relationship, which is often an agency, must prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the rights of one or both of a child’s biological parents serves that child’s best interest. There are a variety of circumstances that can lead to the termination of a parent’s rights, including abuse, abandonment, and a failure of one or both parents to address certain issues that prevent them from fulfilling their parental responsibilities.

Abandonment or desertion of a child can result in the termination or parental rights, and it can happen more quickly than you might think, because of the developmental needs of children of different ages. If a parent does not have contact with a child who is under three years old for six months or more, or does not have contact with a child over three years old for a year or more, that parent’s rights may be terminated. Children, especially young children, need certainty, and parents who essentially walk away from their children and remain apart from them cannot expect to be able to come back and parent their children at some future time of their choosing. Termination proceedings in the case of abandonment or desertion enable a child to find a permanent home with an extended family member or an adoptive family.

Repeated instances of child abuse and/or crimes against children can also lead to the termination of parental rights. The effects of abuse, especially repeated abuse, on children are undeniable. If a crime has occurred, criminal charges may be filed around the same time as the petition to terminate parental rights.

Addiction can seriously undermine a parent’s ability to fulfill their parental duties, including providing a safe and consistent home environment and responding to their child’s everyday needs. Because children need stability and consistency, termination of parental rights proceedings may be initiated in situations where there is evidence that a parent’s long-term addiction is interfering with their parental duties. In some cases, the removal of their children from their care serves as a catalyst for positive and lasting change in the life of a parent who is an addict, and the parent is able to pursue recovery and bring their parenting back to where it needs to be in time for the child to successfully return to their care and remain there. In other cases, parents attempt recovery, sometimes multiple times, and are unable to resume parenting. In these cases, termination is likely to occur on a timetable that is consistent with the child’s age and developmental need for permanency.

Termination of parental rights is a matter of the utmost concern. Whether you are facing termination of your parental rights or you are concerned about a child whose parents may be involved in termination proceedings, you could benefit from the assistance of a Mississippi Child Custody Attorney. Call Attorney Matthew S. Poole today, at (601) 573-7429 to arrange a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Explains the Concept of Bonding

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

There are a few concepts that are important for parents to understand when they are involved in a child custody case. Bonding is one of these concepts, and it is important that you understand it because the term can be used in both a positive way and in a negative way in child custody cases. Bonding is a term that describes the strength and quality of an individual child’s attachment to his or her birth parent, or to a foster parent.

The bond between a parent and a child is a complex one, involving both physical and emotional components. The type and nature of touch, how the child interacts with the parent and vice versa, caregiving by the parent in response to the child’s needs, and the reaction of the child upon separation are just some of the many things that make up the parent-child bond. In some child custody cases, the parents, social workers, and other witnesses will be the sources of information regarding a child’s bond. In other cases, an expert on bonding will assess the bond between parent and child, as well as between the child and other adults, such as foster parents, and provide that information in a report and, if the case goes to trial, testify regarding their findings.

Bonding can work in a parent’s favor, or it can work against them, depending upon the situation. When a parent is working towards reunification with their child and they can show that they had a strong bond with the child prior to their child being removed from their care, that is helpful. It is even more helpful when that same parent is able to demonstrate that they have maintained or even strengthened their child’s bond with them through visitation and other forms of contact throughout the period of separation.

Sometimes, parents who are pursuing reunification with their children find themselves on the negative end of the use of the term “bonding”. One example of this is when a father, who has previously been uninvolved in his young child’s life, steps forward and asks for custody or visitation as the mother of the child faces removal of the child from her care. He may be given a chance to develop a bond with the child through visitation or even temporary custody, but bonds take time to develop, and if the mother’s reunification efforts go well, his “lack of bonding” prior to the child being removed from the mother’s care may prevent him from being given as much parenting time as he would like.

Bonding can also be used in a negative sense when foster families are involved, especially when parents are working towards reunification and the foster family is seeking to adopt. Social service agencies sometimes try to show that the child’s bond with their biological parent or parents has been diminished while at the same time a strong and lasting bond has been developed with the foster parents.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Matthew S. Poole understands the role of bonding in your child custody case. If you have questions about bonding or other topics related to child custody, please call us at (601) 573-7429, to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Discusses the Indian Child Welfare Act

Friday, May 15th, 2015

In child custody cases where the children involved are of Native American descent, it is possible that the protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) will be invoked. The ICWA’s status has long been that it is legally persuasive, but not binding. This means that in the thirty seven years since the statute was created, judges, adoption agencies, and others involved in child custody cases have been able to circumvent or even blatantly ignore the provisions of the Act, which was designed to protect the rights of Native Americans to raise their children in their own communities.

This year, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is updating the ICWA, and seeking a federal rule that would make it binding instead of merely legally persuasive. Ultimately, their goal is to have the rule codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. In creating the updated guidelines, the Bureau of Indian Affairs worked with tribal nations from all over the United States, as well as other Indian child welfare organizations. As part of the rulemaking process, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has also conducted public hearings on the matter.

At the public hearings, arguments on both sides of the issue were presented. Adoption attorneys and others in the adoption industry expressed their point of view, including their assertion that Native American parents do not often intervene in ICWA cases, and concerns that the ICWA could be applied to children who are not living in tribal communities, but who do have some miniscule percentage of Native American descent.

Attorneys for tribes and ICWA workers had a different perspective, and different concerns. They have experienced irritation on the part of family court judges and social services agencies when they do intervene on behalf of American Indian children. They also feel as though the judges and social workers go beyond expressing contempt, to intentionally making it hard for tribes to locate their children, which they must do in order to reclaim them. The revisions to the ICWA have recently gained the support of the American Bar Association, Casey Family Services, and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

As indicated by the types of comments that were provided at the public hearings on the ICWA, there is a great deal of disagreement between what American Indian tribes and social service feel is in the best interest of American Indian children. As with any child, an American Indian child is at risk for being separated from their family from the time a child custody case begins with an emergency custody hearing. When children are placed into foster homes, they are often separated from family. For American Indian children, this separation often results in placement in a foster home outside of their tribal community. From that point of departure, it is a long and difficult path to reunification. A path which, in many cases, results in the ultimate adoption of a child by non-Indian parents or a lengthy stay in the foster care system outside of their tribal community.

If your child custody case involves a child of American Indian descent, the current status of and pending updates to the ICWA are relevant to your situation. If you have questions about how the ICWA could affect your child custody case, Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Matthew S. Poole can help you. Please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Discusses the Role of Bonding in Child Custody Cases

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

The bond between an adult and a child, whether it is between the child and his or her biological parent, a foster parent, or some other adult who is in a caregiving role plays a large part in shaping the course of a child custody case. In a previous article, we described the basics of bonding and described some examples of how it is commonly used in child custody cases. Now, we invite you to take a deeper look at how bonds between children and adults form, as well as how bonding impacts the timeline for child custody cases.

Every child has a history, and an important part of that history is who their caregivers have been over time, as well as how much time the child has spent with each caregiver. Over time, birth parents will either remain constant as a child’s primary caregivers, or other things will happen, such as situations where one of both birth parents find that they cannot, for some reason, care for their child and entrust most or all of their day to day care to a grandparent, family member, or even a family friend. Children can have all different kinds of caregiving histories, so each child’s bonding situation is unique.

            The parent child bond is a two way street, so for a bond to exist, both the parent and the child must both want it to continue and expect that they will be a part of each other’s lives long-term. This sort of reciprocal attachment can be observed in the interactions between a parent and a child, and it involves both outward and obvious things like language, responsiveness, and general attitude, as well as subtle things like body language and whether the everyday interactions between the parent and child, which involve things like eating, playing, getting dressed, toileting, and so on seem natural or forced. Bonding also involves the child having a sense of identifying as part of a family, and of the child as being perceived by others as part of a specific family.

A bond may begin to form between a child and one or more caregivers after three months of a caregiving relationship. When six months of a stable caregiving situation have occurred, it is more than likely that a bond has formed. By the time that a year has passed since a change in custody, it is virtually certain that a child has bonded with their caregivers, whomever they may be.

            The time frames that relate to the development of bonds between caregivers and children have been incorporated into the timelines for child custody cases. Temporary placements are expected to be short-term solutions until a more stable and long-term placement can be located. Parents who want to be reunified with their children are expected to work on maintaining a strong bond with their children as they address the issues that led to the children’s’ removal from their care. They are also expected to have resolved those issues within a relatively short amount of time, and this expectation comes from the knowledge of how bonding works and a mandate to get children into stable and permanent homes on a time frame that meets their developmental needs.

Child custody cases can be difficult to navigate on your own. Call Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429, to set up a free consultation.


Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Talks about Group Home Placements

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

A recent report published by a major child welfare research group has revealed that approximately fifty seven thousand of the four hundred thousand children in the American child welfare system live in group homes. This study is particularly relevant to Mississippi, because the percentage of foster children living in group homes is slightly higher than the national average.

Many group homes are designed for children who face specific behavioral challenges. Forty percent of the children who are living in group homes do not have the behavioral challenges that the homes are designed to accommodate. In theory, in child custody cases, group homes are supposed to be pretty far down on the list of desirable placements, far behind family members and other less restrictive placements. What’s more, when children are placed into restrictive placements like group homes, social services agencies are supposed to provide a justification for doing so. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

Family members are able to become licensed foster parents through an expedited process, so that children can be placed in their homes as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, not all family members who are willing to become foster parents are able to obtain certification, so non-family licensed foster homes become the next best option. The demand for licensed foster homes currently exceeds the supply, and that is how children who do not need the type of care that is provided by group homes often end up there, for lack of a better alternative.

The reason that the current shortage of licensed foster homes in Mississippi is such an important issue is that children who are able to remain in stable, family-centered placements are likely to have better outcomes than those who are not because of the support that a family can offer during a difficult time in the child’s life. Perhaps even more importantly, the children who are most often affected by the shortage of foster homes are older kids and teens. These are the children who are most often sent to group homes when group home care is not needed. This can have a negative impact on the outcome of their experience, because the turbulent world of adolescence is a time during which the stabilizing and positive effects of being part of a family are very much needed.

If you are a parent whose child is involved in a child custody case, it is important to proceed with a Mississippi Child Custody Attorney by your side. Your attorney can help you to understand your options, as well as the path that your particular type of child custody case is likely to follow. In a child custody case, there is so much at stake. You and your family deserve the very best in experienced and compassionate legal assistance. To learn more about how Attorney Matthew S. Poole can help you with your child custody case, please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429, to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Discusses International Custody Disputes

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

In today’s increasingly mobile society, it is not unusual for families to be created by parents who are from different countries. Children can benefit from having a culturally diverse family, and they may also have opportunities to travel frequently, in order to visit with family members in different countries. Unfortunately, when parents part ways, the international aspect of a family can really complicate matters. Depending upon each parent’s citizenship status and a number of other factors, navigating custody and visitation can become a difficult task, complete with the possibility of losing contact with and even custody of their children.

Kelly Rutherford was involved in an international child custody nightmare that appears to be headed towards a positive resolution. If everything proceeds as it should, her children will soon be returning to America to live with her. When she and her husband initially divorced, they had a shared custody agreement. In 2012, he was deported, and a California judge ruled that the joint custody agreement would continue, and that children would move to Europe with him because he is barred him from visiting them in America. The children went to Europe to live with him, and Rutherford reports that he has violated the custody agreement on multiple occasions.

The 2012 court order required Rutherford to travel overseas to see her children, which she has tried to do without much success due to her former husband’s actions. She has encountered a costly legal battle while resulted in bankruptcy as she fought to get the 2012 court decision overturned, and it has finally happened. A judge in California recently ruled that the children, now ages five and eight, are to be returned to America, where they were born and where they have citizenship. Since the children are currently located in Monaco, their arrival back in the United States depends upon Monaco’s recognizing and respecting the California court’s ruling.

Kelly Rutherford’s situation serves as an example of the types of issues that families must deal with when their child custody case has an international dimension to it. Deportation is an issue for many people who are visiting the United States on visas which later expire, or who divorce after having obtained a visa through marriage. While there are laws, such as the Hague Convention, that are designed to protect children in international custody cases from abduction, not all nations participate in the treaty. Even in nations that recognize the treaty, if a court order exists to justify the removal of a child from one place and moving them to another, that is not considered abduction and is not covered by the protections of the treaty.

International child custody cases can be complex and concerning for everyone involved. International travel is expensive, and problems with documentation can create situations which unfair to both parents and children. A Mississippi Child Custody Attorney is a trusted ally that you can count on to explain your options so that you make the best decision for your family. Call Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Matthew S. Poole today, at (601) 573-7429.

Mississippi Family Law Attorney Talks about Unpaid Child Support

Friday, May 1st, 2015

When parents enter into a child support agreement or they are given a child support order by the court, they expect that they will receive child support. Unfortunately, as many parents know all too well, an agreement or even a court order does not always guarantee that the promised or required support will be forthcoming.

The problem of unpaid child support is a nationwide issue. Here in Mississippi and in many other places, there are parents who owe child support amounts that amount to thousands of dollars apiece. The parents are not just the “deadbeat dads” that are often pointed out in media accounts of the problem. The parents who fail to pay child support are men and women. The problem is also not restricted to a specific economic status, either. Some of the parents who owe thousands of dollars in child support are, in fact, impoverished, but others are financially stable or even wealthy.

In one county in Georgia, a full thirty five percent of parents who have been ordered to pay child support have failed to pay at least some of the amount that they were ordered to pay. Court officers visit their homes looking for them. Sometimes they do locate the individuals and arrest them, but often they do not. Sometimes the money is able to be collected, and other times it is not. To further complicate matters, many parents who are owed child support are unable to afford an attorney who can help them pursue a case against the other parent for the unpaid support.

When parents who are due child support do not receive it, they are forced to make do with what resources they have or can earn on their own. They also must often find additional work in order to make ends meet, and this sometimes involves placing their children in the care of others for even more time than they already do. This sort of constant financial and physical struggling to stay afloat is stressful for parents, to be sure, but the children are the ones who miss out even more. They can sense, if not always see, the stress and struggles that their parent endures in order to provide them with the basics – food, shelter, and a little clothing. They also miss out on spending time with their parent, especially when the parent must work additional hours and have the child attend day care or after school programs, or stay with a babysitter or family member while they do so.

If unpaid child support is a problem for you, it may be time for you to pursue the funds that you and your children deserve. Mississippi Family Law Attorney Matthew S. Poole may be able to help you get the back child support that you are owed, and get the child support payments flowing regularly again. To learn more, call our office today, at (601) 573-7429, to set up a free consultation.