Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi child custody lawyer’

Age 12: Not A Magic Number

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

The law is full of misconceptions, and one of the most common ones that our office receives calls about is the role a child plays in a custody case. Many people seem to believe that when the child reaches age 12, they have the choice of which parent to live with. While age 12 does have some significance in custody cases, it does not give the child license to make that decision entirely on their own. It does, however, allow the child to express a preference, and the way the child chooses to do that may largely affect the outcome.

It is often a joke with lawyers that if we allowed children to make their custody decision, the child would pick whichever parent allows them to jump on the bed and have ice cream for breakfast. That is a slight exaggeration, but judges acknowledge that many 12-year-olds do not have the maturity to make the best decision for themselves. Several factors go into the judge’s decision on how much weight to give the child’s preference, such as the child’s age, their reasons for their preference, and the judge’s personal sense of the child’s maturity level.

If the child has good reasons for picking the parent they want to live with, a judge will most certainly consider the child’s preference. Good reasons include the school situation, the home environment, and, to some extent, the child’s community record. Reasons that will most likely not persuade a judge include picking the more lenient parent, being closer to a girlfriend or boyfriend, or, like the old joke goes, the parent who lets the child eat pizza for every meal. Ultimately, the case largely leans on the child’s ability to make a thoughtful, reasonable argument to the judge about what living arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Below are some examples of good and bad arguments by a child for their preference.

What may work: “Your honor, I want to live with this parent because I believe this environment is best for my personal growth and educational opportunities.”

What will probably not work: “Your honor, this parent is stricter than the other, and therefore I do not wish to live with them.”

A child’s living arrangements is an extremely important decision, and courts prefer to have the child involved as much as possible. Allowing a child of 12 years or older to be able to show a preference and giving them the opportunity to speak on their behalf achieves that while still giving the court enough control over the situation to make the decision that is in the child’s best interest. We often hear the misconception that the child has control over their custody arrangement, and while they do play a role, it is not as great as many people believe. If you or someone you know has a custody problem, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. Our office has the experience and knowledge to properly address your case and achieve a fair result. With any questions, call our office at 601-573-7429.

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 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 Child Custody Lawyer Discusses Grandparents and Custody

Friday, August 14th, 2015

In some child custody cases, grandparents feel a need to assert their right to have access to the child or children. This often occurs in situations where they feel as though a custody arrangement will be made which could result in them having less access to their grandchildren than they are accustomed to having. One grandmother in Georgia has gone a step further than asking for visitation, asserting that she should share custody of her ten year old grandson with the boy’s father.

A judge in Gwinnett County had ordered that the grandmother and the father share custody, and the child’s father objected to that decision. The Georgia Supreme Court recently reversed the county court’s decision because state law does not permit such an arrangement.

The grandmother has, at times, filled the role of primary caregiver for her grandson. The boy’s mother is unable to fulfill a parental role because she struggles with drug abuse. The boy’s father moved out of state to start his own business, and he does not dispute that the grandmother has a strong bond with his son and that she takes good care of him. However, the father has now established his business, he is able to provide the child with a stable home, and he has maintained a strong bond with his son.

The ruling in this case does not seek to undermine or diminish the role of grandparents in their grandchildren’s lives. In some cases, grandparents provide much needed stability for children whose parents are having a difficult time providing it for them. Some parents depend upon their children’s grandparents for child care, or even to fulfill the role of primary caregiver some of the time. In some cases, parents even voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to their children so that the children’s grandparents can raise them.

The difference between the aforementioned situations and the case at hand is that the arrangements in the aforementioned situations are all voluntary, and the county court had ordered shared custody between the grandmother and the child’s father when the father did not want to share custody with her. Custody involves not only the day to day care of a child; it involves the ability to make decisions regarding education, health care, and other matters. This is why Georgia law is written so as to preclude situations where a fit parent shares custody with another individual who is not a parent, so as to preserve the rights of parents to make decisions regarding their children. Grandparents can be granted liberal amounts of visitation in Georgia if they can meet certain criteria, but this does not have the same effect as a grant of shared custody would because visitation does not include parental rights and responsibilities.

Custody and visitation issues involving grandparents do sometimes arise in child custody cases. A Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer can help you understand how these issues could affect your family. Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer Matthew S. Poole helps parents with the challenges that they face as they move through their child custody proceedings. To learn more about your Mississippi child custody case, please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429, to schedule a free, initial consultation.


New York Judge Rules that Evidence of Abortion Should Be Allowed in Child Custody Case

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

A child custody case coming out of Manhattan is making headlines news because of the judge’s seemingly alarming holding—New York Supreme Court Justice Lori S. Sattler has ruled that divorcee Lisa Mehos, who is in the middle of a custody battle with her former spouse Manuel John Mehos, must provide testimony concerning an abortion she had after their divorce.  Lisa Mehos and Manuel John Mehos were married for six years and divorced back in October of 2011.  Manuel John Mehos heads a bank in Texas and has made headline news before when he was arrested for allegedly hitting his ex-wife in front of their children.  The charges were later dropped.  The Mehos are now embroiled in a custody case.

A week before Judge Sattler’s ruling, Manuel Meho’s attorney, Eleanor Alter, raised the topic of Lisa Mehos’ abortion after discovering it pursuant to a subpoena for Ms. Mehos medical records.  Alter noted that the abortion took place over Easter weekend in 2012, during which time Ms. Mehos had requested custody of the couple’s two young children.  Alter urged the judge that she should be able to question Lisa Mehos concerning the abortion, as it calls into question her presented motives for requesting custody back in 2012 and is relevant to Ms. Mehos’ complaints of being under constant stress due to Mr. Mehos.  Alter urges that the abortion should be looked at as a possible source of stress, rather than Manuel Mehos.  Lastly, Alter stated she should be able to question Lisa Mehos concerning the abortion in order to determine whether the children were exposed to the man who impregnated her.

Judge Sattler agreed with Manuel Mehos’ attorney.  She ruled that Lisa Mehos must provide testimony concerning her abortion because it is relevant to her credibility.  Sattler seemed particularly troubled by the fact that Lisa Mehos had previously testified she did not have men over to her New York apartment, which she felt the abortion called into question.  Forced to open up about the abortion, Lisa Mehos testified that she became pregnant after a one time sexual encounter with a friend at his place.  Her mother cared for the children while she had the abortion.  Lisa Mehos told reporters she felt violated having been made to talk about the abortion.

Sattler’s ruling has sparked outrage among women’s rights activists and many citizens.  Was Judge Sattler’s ruling correct?  Take a look at the following facts:

  1. A parent’s behavior and willingness to foster their child’s relationship with the other parent are relevant factors for a determination of custody.  Manuel Mehos’ attorney Eleanor Alter claims the abortion is relevant because:
    1. It shows Manuel Mehos did not cause Lisa Mehos’ household stress—the abortion did
    2. It indicates Lisa Mehos’ acted hypocritical in keeping the kids for Easter weekend for the apparent reason that Mr. Mehos is an atheist
    3. It allegedly showed Lisa Mehos might have lied about having men over to the apartment
  2. While these are the purported reasons for admission of the evidence—it seems in reality the evidence is designed to paint Lisa Mehos as a bad parent for her actions in becoming pregnant and choosing to have an abortion
    1. Alter’s purported reasons for requesting the testimony as described above all seem fairly far-fetched and trivial to require a woman to testify to a very private medical procedure
    2. The judge could have considered some alternative to requiring Lisa Mehos to testify in open court as to her abortion, such as an in-camera review of her intended testimony.
    3. It seems the relevancy of the testimony is outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.

If you are involved in a child custody dispute or fear you may become involved in one, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole.  Matthew S. Poole is a passionate and experienced Mississippi child custody attorney who will fight tirelessly for you to achieve the child custody arrangement you desire.  Call him today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.