Archive for September, 2015

Mississippi Family Lawyer Discusses Child Custody Contempt Orders

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

When you enter into a child custody agreement as part of an uncontested divorce or a judge drafts a custody order during a contested divorce proceeding, that child custody agreement becomes legally binding. Not only can your former spouse report you to the court if you violate it, but the court may find you in contempt. There are two types of contempt: civil contempt and criminal contempt. Civil contempt requires you to pay money, such as past due child support. Criminal contempt places you in county jail as a punishment for violating a custody order.

Common reasons for criminal contempt orders in child custody cases include:

  • One parent repeatedly failing to appear or appearing late for custody exchanges
  • One parent extending the visitation without notice to or consent from the other parent
  • One parent leaving the jurisdiction with the child without notice to or consent from the other parent
  • Neglecting or abusing the child
  • Picking up the child from school when the day is assigned to the other parent

While biological parents do have rights, think of parenting as a privilege, not a right. A privilege is something that can be taken away if you do not follow certain rules. Your right to custody of your child can be taken away if you violate the custody order.

If the other parent is egregiously violating the custody order, you should first attempt to resolve things with that parent. Remind them of their obligations and agreements under the custody order and respectfully request that they fix the issue. If this does not work, consult with a child custody lawyer like Matthew S. Poole. Matthew S. Poole can advise you on your options and next steps. One potential next step is to file a motion for contempt.

A motion for contempt alleges that the other parent is in violation of the custody agreement. If the custody agreement is not already part of the record, attach a copy with your order. The motion will state which provisions in the agreement have been violated and how. You may also request a remedy. Remedies can be as light as warnings and as severe as jail time. If your former spouse has committed serious violations, you may be able to seek temporary legal and physical custody.

As an example, one Mississippi couple entered into a custody agreement that stated that the mother and father shared joint legal and physical custody of their daughter. The custody agreement also laid forth an education plan for the child, including which school she was to attend. One day, when it was the father’s day to pick up the child from school at the beginning of the school year, he was unable to find her. He spoke with the principal of the school, who told him that the mother had not registered the child for school that year. He immediately called the mother to find out where his daughter was, and the mother stated that she was getting on a plane to Africa, where she would be moving permanently to live in a Zionist colony and homeschool the daughter.

The father filed a motion for contempt, arguing that the mother violated his visitation rights granted by virtue of joint custody. In addition, the mother violated the education plan set forth in the agreement. The U.S. Department of State assisted the father by locating the mother in Africa and conducting a welfare check on the child. The Department of State determined that the child was in danger for her health and safety and was not receiving adequate food, water, and shelter. The mother and daughter finally return to Mississippi after almost two years. Upon attending the motions hearing, the mother was found in criminal contempt and ordered to serve seven days in county jail. The father was awarded sole legal and physical custody.

If you are frustrated with your former spouse for violating the child custody agreement, contact Mississippi Family Lawyer Matthew S. Poole now to schedule a free, no hassle case evaluation at (601) 573-7429.

Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Discusses Famous Child Custody Battles in the News

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Across the state of Mississippi and around the world, parents are embroiled in lengthy and exhausting child custody disputes concerning issues like joint versus sole custody, visitation schedules, and child support. This past week, several famous celebrity couples hit the news with shocking tales of their own custody battles. Below is this week’s round-up of famous child custody battles in the news.

As discussed in an August blog post, Kelly Rutherford of the hit television show Gossip Girl has been fighting a child custody battle with her foreign ex for several years now. Recently, a United States court ordered that Rutherford send her two children back to Monaco to reside with their father, Daniel Giersch, after Rutherford attempted to keep the children permanently in New York City following what was supposed to be a short visit. This week, Rutherford and her tv mother, Caroline Lagerfelt, flew to Monaco to plead a local judge to grant her custody.

Back in August, French financier Arpad Busson sued ex-fiancee Uma Thurman, famous for Quentin Tarantino films like Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2, demanding more time with his daughter. The former couple met for a closed proceeding with their lawyers and a judge. The judge announced that a temporary agreement had been reached, but a permanent parenting plan had not yet been finalized. Following this hearing, Thurman yelled at reporters and demanded privacy. Thurman and Busson went back to court in New York this past week and emerged all smiles. According to the judge, the former couple finally comprised and agreed to a confidential plan that was designed to make their daughter happy.

Chris Brown, well-known for his singing, dancing, and run-ins with the law, was recently awarded joint custody of his daughter. Brown learned he had a daughter back in March with an ex-fling. Brown was proactive about accepting responsibility and was eager to play a major role in his daughter’s upbringing. He filed for paternity, which was confirmed. The mother requested $15,000/month for child support, sole custody, and supervised visitation for Brown. However, the judge awarded Brown joint custody, provided that the daughter spends four days a week with her mother, and ordered Brown to pay only $2,500/month in child support.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, once Hollywood’s “It” couple, recently announced their decision to co-parent their children despite Affleck’s alleged adultery. The former duo has decided to keep their custody plan private and is not seeking the assistance of the court at this time.

Famous chef Giada De Laurentiis recently split from her husband of eleven years. According to their child custody agreement, the pair will continue to co-parent and share custody of their daughter. As the main earner, De Laurentiis must pay $9,000/month in child support. In addition, due to a lack of prenuptial agreement, the ex-husband will walk away with a stunning Southern California home, extravagant art collection, $2 million in bank accounts, exotic cars, and rights to half of the proceeds for multiple cookbooks in the pipeline for De Laurentiis.

In a sad turn of events, Rosie O’Donnell’s former spouse was hospitalized this past weekend after hearing rumors that O’Donnell had moved on and was dating someone new. Several years ago, the couple married and adopted a daughter named Dakota. The two separated, and the divorce was finalized in February of 2015 after a long and contentious battle regarding parenting styles. The court gave sole custody to O’Donnell, who permits her former spouse to frequently visit with Dakota.

If you are struggling with compromising with your former spouse on child custody issues, contact the Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Matthew S. Poole now at (601) 573-7429 to discuss your case for free.

Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Discusses How to Explain Child Custody to Your Young Child

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

A divorce alone is difficult enough for your child. The trial separation, the fighting, the court hearings, and the stressful atmosphere can cause extreme trauma for your child. When you factor in child custody, the anxiety level may heighten. Your child will be shipped off to various homes, will witness terse encounters when you and your former spouse meet to exchange your child, and may have difficulty adjusting to the unexpected changes.

When explaining child custody to your child, it is important to first understand how a child thinks. Books, television shows, movies, and even past parts of your relationship have shown your child that parents love each other unconditionally and until death do them part. Media targeted toward children does not show divorced families or even single parent families, so the concept is foreign to your child.

While it may seem illogical for your child to blame the divorce on himself or herself, many children in fact do this. Children remember happy memories in which the entire family was doing something together, having fun, and smiling.  When you argue with your former spouse in front of your child, you child often thinks that he or she is the cause of this arguing. In addition, divorce is a very emotionally taxing experience for the parents, and children are commonly neglected during this period. When children do not have the same loving household and level of attention they are accustomed to, they believe that they must have done something to cause this.

So knowing that, how do you go about explaining something as difficult as child custody with your child? Below are five tips to get you started.

  1. Work as a team. This may be one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have with your child. Regardless of how you feel about your former spouse, you must join together to tackle this head-on as a team. If you or your former spouse has a new significant other, do not invite this person to the discussion. Parents only!
  2. Explain divorce to your child. This is the hardest step, but it is imperative that you start the conversation with explaining what divorce is. Provide examples of people who have gotten divorced. Then explain why you and your former spouse are divorcing. Make this explanation age-appropriate and gloss over real issues. For example, if you are divorcing due to adultery, simply state, “Mommy and Daddy still care about each other very much, but we think it would be better for the family if we lived in different houses.” Do not disparage your former spouse in front of the child.
  3. Tell your child that he or she is not to blame. Your child needs to know that he or she played no fault in the divorce. In addition, your child needs to know it is okay to be upset or sad.
  4. Tell your child the proposed custody and visitation schedule. Clearly but succinctly explain the schedule you and your former spouse have come up with so that you child knows what to expect. Your child will likely have a lot of questions about how the schedule will work. Be prepared to tackle difficult questions.
  5. Listen to your child. There may be something about your proposed schedule that works for you and your former spouse but not your child. For instance, your child may want to stay with Mom during the weekends in order to play with friends or may want to be with Dad on Monday nights for baseball practice. Be flexible based on your child’s suggestions and concerns.

If you need advice on child custody in Mississippi, contact Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Discusses When Custody Disputes Become Kidnapping Charges

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

When one Mississippi parent violates the child custody agreement, commonly one of four things happens: (1) the other parent forgives and forgets, (2) the two parents talk and come to a mutual understanding, (3) the court scolds and warns the parent or (4) the court holds the parent in contempt. However, some courts have grown weary of flagrant violators, and prosecutors have turned to filing formal criminal charges for kidnapping.

In one famous case, Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins met in 1997 and began a same-sex relationship. The two women longed to start a family together and traveled to Vermont in 2000 to obtain a civil union. Just one year later, the women began discussing pregnancy. Lisa Miller conceived through in vitro fertilization. Unbeknownst to Janet, Lisa questioned her sexuality during her pregnancy and began to believe that homosexuality was an immoral way of life. When their newborn daughter, Isabella, was only seventeen months old, the two women separated. Lisa subsequently moved to Virginia, which did not recognize civil unions at the time, and Janet drove for 10 hours each weekend to see her daughter and pay child support.

However, the child custody agreement between the two women was weak in a state like Virginia, which did not recognize parental rights for same-sex couples. Lisa became embroiled in the Mennonite faith and began working for a church. At this time, she started blocking Janet from visiting Isabella. Janet would make the long drive only to find that Lisa had left with Isabella.

Eventually, Lisa sought full custody of Isabella, arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act stated that Janet was not legally a parent because she had no biological ties to Isabella. Initially, Lisa was granted full custody. However, an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court gave Janet a visitation schedule.

Despite this higher court-ordered visitation schedule, Lisa was hesitant to allow her daughter to visit with her other mother. She again began to refuse to let Janet see Isabella. The two women repeatedly went to court to the exasperation of the judge. Each time, the judge gave Lisa a second chance and ordered visitation. However, after numerous denials of Lisa’s pleas for sole custody on the basis of religious beliefs, she began to concoct a plan.

When Isabella was only seven years old, she and Lisa boarded a car full of Mennonites headed for upstate New York without the knowledge or consent of the court or Janet. Once in upstate New York, they took a cab to Canada, then flew to Mexico, and finally flew to Nicaragua. When they arrived in Nicaragua, they assumed the names Lydia and Sarah.

For the past five years, Isabella, now twelve, wanders the Nicaragua slums with her mother in a desperate attempt to flee U.S. Marshals. The mother-daughter duo receive help from Mennonite communities in Nicaragua but live largely in squalor.

In fact, according to a New York Times article, several individuals and Lisa herself are now being prosecuted for international parental kidnapping and conspiracy. Philip Zodhiates was the individual who picked up Lisa and Isabella in Virginia and drove them to upstate New York. Zodhiates sells mailing lists to conservatives in Virginia. He faces up to eight years in federal prison.

In addition, Timothy Miller, a Mennonite Nicaraguan missionary, has been formally charged with aiding Lisa by assisting them in Nicaragua. Kenneth Miller was already convicted of aiding and abetting international parental kidnapping in 2012.

Meanwhile, Janet was awarded sole custody in 2010 and awaits the day her daughter returns.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a child custody issue, call the Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer Explains How the School Year May Test Your Parenting Plan

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

If your child is between the ages of five and eighteen, you likely understand the trials and tribulations of putting that child through elementary, middle, and/or high school. The school year for a child is associated with unique concerns and needs. These include:

  • Has the child done his homework?
  • Has the child studied for a test the next day?
  • Is the child getting to school on time?
  • Does the child have sports practice or an extracurricular activity the next day?
  • Does the child have something to wear, e.g. a clean uniform, for the next day?
  • Does the child have adequate school supplies?
  • What will the child do on half-days and holidays?
  • What will the child do during winter break, spring break, and summer break?
  • Does your child need tutoring?

The to-do list for parents of school-aged children is endless. In addition to ensuring that your child has everything he needs, you also need to ensure that you are meeting all of your goals as a parent. As such, I recommend that every couple draft a parenting time schedule to effectively map out and manage your time. Many couples going through a divorce are required by the judge or mediator to create a parenting time schedule. A parenting time schedule sets forth all of your parenting responsibilities, how much time they take, and when exactly you will do them. For instance:

  • Sunday: Assist Stephen with science fair project from 3-5 p.m.
  • Monday: Drive Stephen to school at 7 a.m. Pick up Stephen from school at 3 p.m. Drive Stephen to soccer practice at 4 p.m. Help Stephen with homework from 7-8 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Drive Stephen to school at 7 a.m. Pick up Stephen from school at 3 p.m. Attend parent-teacher conference at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday: Drive Stephen to school at 7 a.m. Pick up Stephen from school at 3 p.m. Meet with former spouse to exchange Stephen at 3:30 p.m.

A parenting time schedule allows you to be realistic about the time demands of being a parent. Without a schedule, many parents overestimate how much free time they have to devote to their children. Over my 10 years as a child custody lawyer, I have seen countless couples squabble over visitation schedules out of spite. They wanted to spend as much time as possible with their child – not because they had the time and desire to supervise the child but because they wanted to seek revenge by restricting parenting time for the other parent. This leads to many couples entering into time schedules that are wholly flawed.

However, time schedules do allow some room for error. When you are a newly divorced couple, it may take you a while to find the perfect balance. Even when you are honest with yourself, you may find that certain parenting tasks require much more time than you expected.

When the school year starts, you need to consider: (1) how much time your child needs and (2) how much time you have to give. While ideally every parent would be able to devote every waking moment to their children, most parents have jobs. If your job requires you to work until 7 p.m. every night, you shouldn’t sign up to take Stephen to soccer practice at 4 p.m. every Monday.

In addition, be aware that time demands can fluctuate and the nature of your parental obligations may change. For example, Stephen may decide to start playing baseball too, which involves three practices a week and one game. This requires you to find a way to help Stephen with getting to and from baseball and also making time to watch your son get better at the sport.

For helpful insight on how to effectively manage child custody arrangements, call the Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 for a free consultation.

Mississippi Child Custody Attorney Discusses Risky Experiments in Child Custody Arrangements for Same-Sex Couples

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

The traditional child custody scheme arose when two adults married, entered into a divorce, and then had to decide the type of custody (e.g. joint physical custody) and visitation schedule. However, in the 2000s, a shift away from the traditional nuclear family began. Today, nuclear families account for only 24.1% of American families. Other family structures are now more prevalent. These include single-parent households, unmarried parents with children, and multi-parent households. A new form of family arrangement that has recently begun gaining traction involves same-sex couples.

The state of Mississippi does not permit adoption by same-sex couples, though single LGBT parents are permitted to adopt. To get around this law, many same-sex couples have begun experimenting with some highly unusual and often problematic parenting arrangements.

One new method of child custody occurs when a same-sex couple desires to have a biologically related child. In order to do so, they must seek an outside individual to act as either a surrogate or sperm donor.  Previously, many same-sex couples used third party donation clinics to facilitate this process, essentially compensating an individual who agreed to help in the conception and/or pregnancy. However, many same-sex couples have now entered into arrangements with individuals they know regarding sharing custody of the child. For instance, a male couple sought the assistance of a close sister, who was also interested in raising a child. One of the males provided the sperm for artificial insemination, the sister carried the child to term, and then the male couple and sister shared joint custody of the child. A schedule was agreed upon in advance in which the baby was to spend half of each week with each respective parent. However, after a falling out regarding different parenting styles, the sister sought sole custody as the biological mother of the child. The young toddler was then forced to endure a lengthy and emotionally traumatic custody dispute.

Another method pairs two same-sex couples in pursuit of the same thing – a  child. A male same-sex couple and a female same-sex couple pair together to conceive and raise a child. These couples generally know each other quite well and agree on custody, visitation schedules, medical care, education, and all other aspects of custody prior to conceiving. In one case, the two couples bought side-by-side condos. They decorated the condos identically with the same paint, wallpaper, decorations, furniture, toys, and more to help the baby feel more at home. The couples split the year into quarters and agreed to swap custody at the end of each quarter. Because they lived next door, the other couple was never far away and could visit if permitted by the couple with visitation rights for that quarter. However, the agreement became problematic for the couples. First, the parenting styles widely differed, resulting in frequent clashes. Second, the quarterly schedule caused the couples to miss important milestones in the child’s life. Third, the quarterly schedule also took away from crucial developmental time with each parent. The arrangement therefore created problems for both the couples and the child.

Devising a child custody arrangement as a same-sex couple can be difficult. To avoid future problems, the easiest route to take is to find someone who is willing to relinquish all parental rights. However, if you wish to enter into an alternative custody agreement like the ones mentioned above, it is best to work alongside a skilled Mississippi child custody attorney to discuss your options and draft a legally sound contract.

To schedule a free initial appointment with a Mississippi Child Custody Attorney, call Matthew S. Poole now at (601) 573-7429.

 

Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer Provides Tips for a Seamless and Safe Child Custody Exchange

Friday, September 4th, 2015

When a couple goes through a divorce, there are often pent-up feelings of resentment, bitterness, anger, sadness, and disappointment. These negative emotions have an effect on your children. What you say and how you act around your children influences how they feel, as well as how they perceive the world. If you constantly disparage your former spouse in front of your child, your child may begin to mirror your feelings despite your former spouse being an excellent parent. And remember – just because someone was a lousy spouse does not mean they cannot be a good mother or father.

If you do share joint custody, you will undoubtedly have to encounter your former spouse often in order to conduct child custody exchanges. For couples that went through painless uncontested divorce proceedings, child custody exchanges may seem like a walk in the park. However, for couples who went through tumultuous and lengthy contested divorce proceedings (especially ones that are still ongoing), child custody exchanges become stressful and uncomfortable encounters. Not only may tempers flare at the exchange, but how you act towards your former spouse may emotionally traumatize your child.

Over the past ten years, I have witnessed a lot of heartache and anxiety among parents, but I have also learned that all of my clients ultimately want what’s best for their children. This includes parents who want to set an example for their children when interacting with a former spouse in their presence, despite any litigation issues or past history. Below are five tips on ensuring that your child custody exchange goes as smoothly as possible.

  1. Attend in person. Many parents don’t wish to see their formers spouses and will hide inside the home while sending their children out alone to climb into the former spouse’s car. This sends the wrong message to your child – that you cannot trust the other parent and are afraid of them. In addition, there will be many times when you or your former spouse need to communicate about your child, such as on the status of homework.
  2. If you worry about your safety, conduct the exchange in front of a police precinct. Unfortunately, many divorced couples have extremely tumultuous relationships that often turn violent. If your former spouse was verbally or physically abusive, harasses you or has a tendency to yell when around you, conducting the exchange in a safe and well-monitored area will keep everyone behaving well. In addition, any misconduct will be recorded on video camera. Many police stations in Mississippi welcome child custody exchanges in their parking lots and lobbies.
  3. Be punctual. When you enter into a child custody agreement, you are signing a legally binding document. If it says you need to meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m., be there on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Showing up extremely late or not at all will not only cause disagreement with your ex but might also result in a contempt order from the judge.
  4. Treat your former spouse respectfully. When your child is present, always talk cordially with your ex. Do not allow your emotions to overcome you and set a bad example for your child.
  5. Be flexible. While your custody agreement can be enforced by a judge, that doesn’t mean you and your ex shouldn’t be flexible with each other sometimes. If your former spouse has an emergency or a special request for an extra night, you are not required to consent, but you should at least consider it. This will improve the relationship with your ex and smooth the custody exchange process.

Don’t forget – just because you are divorced doesn’t mean you are no longer a parent. To discuss child custody issues with a Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer, call Matthew S. Poole now at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Explains the Most Common Child Custody Clichés

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

You hear them in movies and television shows. You see them on magnets. Even your own parents repeat them to you. Clichés. For some reason, the divorce and child custody process brings the clichés out of the woodwork. As a family law attorney who has practiced in Mississippi for the past ten years, I have heard them all. Most clichés are well-meaning but flawed, while others are shockingly wrong. It is important to understand that no two child custody cases are alike, so it makes sense that these overbroad and generalized sayings should not apply to every family. Below I list five of the most commonly used child custody clichés and discuss how they might actually provide guidance for your life.

 

  1. [Former spouse] isn’t fit to be a parent. You may have had the most tumultuous relationship ever – adultery, lies, and gambling. However, just because someone makes a bad spouse does not mean that they make a bad parent. In fact, most clients I have worked with are excellent, loving, and very involved parents who simply married people who weren’t right for them. Don’t try to preclude your ex from exercising his or her parental rights simply because you didn’t like the way they treated you.
  2. [Former spouse] can’t bring his/her new [girlfriend/boyfriend] around my child. You will always be your child’s parent, and no one can take that away from you. However, the time will come when your former spouse will move on and meet someone new. You may feel a twinge of jealousy to find out the news, and this may grow as your child begins regaling you with happy tales of time spent with your ex’s new beau. While your first instinct may be to restrict the visitation schedule or seek an order from the judge banning the new spouse from interacting with your child, don’t forget the impact this may have on your child. You want your child to be surrounded by healthy and positive relationships.
  3. I’m the mother, so I’ll get sole custody. While Mississippi courts in the past traditionally awarded sole physical custody to the mother, times are changing. I am now seeing more shared parenting and single dads with custody. Mississippi courts are more readily recognizing the father’s parental rights and are more apt to award joint custody when requested.
  4. [Child] doesn’t love [former spouse] as much as me. This isn’t a competition. The emotional stress of divorce may have become entangled with your child custody planning. Remember that a child develops best when both parents are able to play an active and meaningful role in the child’s life. By preoccupying yourself with competing with your former spouse for your child’s love, you may be inhibiting your child’s ability to learn about healthy adult relationships.
  5. Let’s bring [child] to court to choose. Unless your child is an adult teenager, you should never put your child in the middle of a custody battle. In fact, when you need to go to court for a custody hearing, leave your child with a babysitter. The less involved your child is with the dispute process, the better. Asking your child to choose will put undue hardship on the child. In addition, your child may feel overwhelmed and confused about what is happening. If the court requests the child’s opinion or preference, ask that your child be interviewed in private by the judge to minimize stress.

Cliché or not, it is vital that you speak with a child custody attorney in Mississippi if you are facing difficulty agreeing on a visitation schedule or type of custody. For experienced advice on the divorce and child custody process, contact Mississippi Family Law Attorney Matthew S. Poole at (601) 573-7429 now.