Articles Posted in Visitation

Published on:

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What are my custody rights if the other parent moves?”

As anyone who has ever been through a divorce with children knows, custody is almost always the thorniest issue to be resolved. Though it can be difficult to reach agreement with a spouse privately, it is often better to try this rather than hand your case over to a judge to decide. A recent custody decision out of Virginia illustrates this point well, with the judge handing down what many view as a bizarre order which says that the girl at the center of the custody dispute is prohibited from practicing or playing golf.

Published on:

Charlotte Divorce Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Does adultery affect who gets custody?”

This summer’s same-sex marriage ruling has resulted in rapid change across the country as courts adapt to the new legal landscape. The family law court system has borne the brunt of these changes, dealing with weddings, adoptions and, unfortunately, divorces. Given how new same-sex marriage and divorce is across most of the country, some issues have arisen and the courts are having to make their way through uncharted territory.

Published on:

Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can I do to gain custody of my child in North Carolina?”

 

Holidays are all about tradition, and as Heather Gray writes for Yahoo Parenting, divorced dads can get the feeling over the holidays that “traditions don’t really exist” for them anymore.

Dad with children Charlotte Family Law Attorney North Carolina Divorce LawyerIf what a divorced dad has in mind for a happy, fulfilling holiday doesn’t square up with reality, the first step towards making a happy holiday a reality is becoming clear about exactly what a divorced dad wants. One may not—due to opposition from an ex-wife, due to legal agreements or other circumstances—be able to get everything one wants, but it is important to begin with a clear picture of what one believes happiness must include.

The worst that can happen is an ex will say no. The ex has Christmas with the kids. It’s in the custody order, that’s it.

But that’s not it, and if relations are generally amicable between a divorced dad and his ex, perhaps there is room for compromise. Maybe there is something a divorced dad can offer in return for holiday time with children. Perhaps on an upcoming weekend the children can remain with their mother instead of spending the weekend with their father, as is their custom.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Child Custody Lawyers Monroe, Union County, NC.jpgGuardians ad litem are people that have been appointed by the court to represent “the best interests of the child” in court proceedings. In family court, guardians are appointed in contested custody and visitation cases, and cases where abuse or neglect has been alleged. Though guardians can be directly appointed by judges, in many contested custody and visitation cases the guardian is selected by the parties’ attorneys.

In these contentious custody cases the guardian is paid for by the parties. Though the guardian ad litem is typically an attorney, this is not always the case as anyone who meets the requirements can be a guardian in such cases.

The guardian’s role is a bit of a mixture of investigator and advocate. Some guardians will tend towards one side and not the other; it depends on the circumstances of the case and the temperament of the individual guardian. Some are zealous advocates for the children while others act as reporters, documenting behavior and recording interactions between parents and child.

The guardian who acts as an investigator will try to develop a strong factual understanding of the life of the parents and child. Guardians are empowered to interview the parents and the children, observing them on multiple occasions and even conducting surprise home visits. The guardian can then present the court with information that a judge would want to know when making a decision concerning custody and visitation. The guardian who behaves more like an advocate can have more of a viewpoint, deciding which situation is a better fit for the child and attempting to influence the court to support this view.

Even the most balanced guardians can invariably influence judges in their final reports. A guardian whose final report that says the children are doing fabulously well with the mother or that the father is an alcoholic carries a lot of weight with judges and can ultimately be determinative. Such reports let the court know what’s going on so that they can make a recommendation as to custody.

Continue reading →

Published on:

grandparents visitation.jpgAccording to a recent article in the New York Times, divorce couples face a tricky issue that they may never have expected when beginning the process of separating from their significant other: grandparents. Most parents want them involved in their children’s lives but it can be complicated given hurt feelings on both sides.

If the divorce was civil and no one was at fault things might be fairly simple, but what if things didn’t go so swimmingly? The goal for parents should be keeping the grandparents in the family regardless of the parents’ differences. The following suggestions can help ease a difficult transition:

1. Figure out your own relationship with your ex’s parents.

What’s your relationship with your former spouse’s parents? Do you visits with them? If you’re comfortable, go for it. Coffee, e-mails, texts are great. If you’re not, now’s a good time to practice being civil. Don’t let whatever emotions you might have towards your husband spill over to the rest of his family.

2. Keep the lines of communication open.

One thing parents can do is make it clear to the grandparents that they have full access to the grandkids no matter what is going on between husband and wife. Make yourself available to the other side of the family, they might be worried about you cutting off contact and an olive branch can go along way to making everyone relax.

3. Issue invitations.

Ideally it would be good for the ex-spouse to take the lead in making certain that his or her parents were invited to graduations, to concerts, to school functions, etc., but if he or she doesn’t, do it anyway. Another good bit of advice is not to limit time with the paternal grandparents to when the kids are with their dad and vice versa for the maternal grandparents.

4. Be aware of the kids’ needs.

Sometimes having everyone gathered at the same time for holidays and family events isn’t what’s best for the kids. Many children won’t want to have their worlds collide with new spouses mixing with their parents and grandparents. If that’s the case, try for more visits under different circumstances. Better to have them spend time one-on-one and have the time be meaningful than put on a show that makes everyone uncomfortable.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Man Working on Laptop.jpgA recent article in the Washington Times discussed the not uncommon occurrence following divorce is one parent moving out of the city or even state. New job opportunities, family times or new relationships can cause one parent to need to relocate. When kids are involved this can cause problems and much stress for parents and children as they worry about a strained relationship developing as a result of distance.

According to a report for the National Center for State Courts, an estimated 18 million children have separated or divorced parents, and an additional 17 million more children have parents who have never been married. One out of four of these children have a parent living in a different city. Within four years after separation or divorce, 75% of mothers will relocate at least once, and of that number over half will do so a second time. As a result, close to 10 million children do not have regular face-to-face interaction with one of their parents.

Technology has now provided an option that did not exist before. Parents can now stay in touch with their children and avoid losing that close relationship thanks to email, texting, Facebook and video conferencing systems such as Skype. This new trend of “virtual visitation” can make long-distance parenting much easier for both parent and child.

The term “virtual visitation” has a very specific meaning under the law and refers to the rights of a non-custodial parent to have electronic communication with their children. Since the early 1990s when the first cases arose concerning the issue many states have enacted provisions concerning the subject. Utah enacted the first electronic visitation law; Illinois was the most recent state where virtual visitation became law in 2010. So far six states have laws on the books covering “virtual” or “electronic” visitation rights including North Carolina: Florida, Texas and Wisconsin are the other three. Twenty-two other states have their own efforts underway to add similar laws to their books.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Bride and Groom.jpgAsking for a prenuptial agreement may not be the most romantic thing, especially with Valentine’s Day just behind us. That might not be true according to some experts who suggest that sitting down with a soon-to-be spouse and making arrangements for the worst might do a lot to alleviate worries going into marriage.

According to a recent article on Yahoo.com, everyone could benefit from a prenupt, even if you’re not going into marriage wealthy. One divorce attorney pointed out that “You might accumulate assets during the marriage, and even a young couple embarking on their own careers wants to make sure that what they acquire during marriage isn’t just left up to a judge to divide.”

Trying to predict how a court will divide assets is all but impossible and the certainty that a prenup offers is one of its best features. No two divorces are alike and judges might make choices with your assets that you weren’t prepared for. Student loan debts, often viewed as personal might actually be made marital burdens and split between the parties under certain circumstances. By drafting a clear plan outlining how your debts and assets will be divided in the event of divorce couples can shield themselves from some of the uncertainty of a litigious divorce.

The following are a list of four reasons you should consider creating a prenup:

1. Talking about potential problems can shed light on the status of your relationship today.

Many couples today enter marriages on an equal footing. Life and families can change the financial picture with one person staying at home and another continuing in their career. When you ask about the possibility of alimony in the event of divorce many couples are surprised to hear the response of their significant other and shocked that it might not be what they thought. If your husband balks at the idea of paying support then that can play a role in deciding whether or not you’ll continue to work.

2. You can create a post-nup.

While post-nuptial agreements are tricky and can be more difficult to enforce, they can be created if each party brings something to the table. A post-nupt might make sense for instance if one spouse decides to stay home and wants to protect themselves financially.

3. Prenupts cost half as much as the average engagement ring.

A typical prenupt costs around $2,500, close to what it costs to have a lawyer create an estate plan. Do-it-yourself forms from websites (LegalZoom.com) can sometimes be tossed out of due to legal requirements not being met and are not a viable alternative. The average engagement ring costs about $5,200 according to The Knot, putting the cost of a prenup into perspective.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Bride.jpgIn an rare case of a “Groomzilla”, the Associated Press reports that a recently divorced man is now demanding that a photography studio pay to recreate his wedding to make up for what he has decided are flawed pictures and videos of what was supposed to be his happiest day. Though many in the press have dubbed Todd Remis a “groomzilla,” he recently spoke out saying that his lawsuit is actually about holding a business to their promise, not clinging to a broken marriage.

While suits over wedding photographs are common occurrences, Remis’ case contained an unusual spin: a demand that the company recreate the ceremony of his now failed marriage. Remis began divorce proceedings in 2008 and the couple officially split in 2010.

Despite the marriage no longer existing, Remis says that he needs the “wedding recreated exactly as it was so that the remaining 15 percent of the wedding that was not shot can be shot” and the album and video completed “so we have memories of the wedding.” In order to capture this missing footage Remis acknowledges that “we would need to recreate everything.”

Remis began his lawsuit against H&H Photographers in 2009, saying the well-respected New York City-area studio had done a terrible job of shooting his and Milena Grzibovska’s December 2003 wedding. Remis claimed that the chosen photographer ignored the couple’s request not to shoot in front of a mirror that ended up reflecting photographers’ lights. Moreover, the photographer and videographer left 45 minutes before the end of the reception, missing the last dance and the bouquet toss, evidently crucial events in Remis’ mind.

The couple paid a $3,500 advance toward a $4,100 total price for the photos and videos, part of a wedding Remis has said cost more than $48,000. For their part, H&H co-owner Daniel Fried says he stands by the photographs and videos. “I think the photography is lovely,”

Continue reading →

Published on:

Grandparents 2.jpgIn the case of Powers v. Wagner, the North Carolina Court of Appeals considered a case where the trial court awarded primary custody of a minor child to the child’s grandparents. As with any grandparent visitation or grandparent custody case, the analysis is very fact specific and it is important to consider all of the relevant facts when considering such a case. Here, the mother and father had a child out of wedlock while they both lived in Florida. Mother and father did not marry. Mother eventually filed an action against father in Florida for paternity and child support. The paternity action determined that father was the biological father of the minor child. Mother also received an order for child support against Father. Importantly, no child custody determination was made in Florida.

Father took the minor child to North Carolina and the minor child lived with the paternal grandparents in North Carolina for an extended period of time. The paternal grandparents were granted temporary child custody of the minor child in September 2009. The paternal grandparents were granted permanent legal and physical custody of the minor child, with a structured visitation schedule for mother, in November 2009. Mother appealed and challenged two issues with respect to this family court opinion. First, mother contended that the trial court erred in finding that it had subject matter jurisdiction. Second, mother contended that the trial court failed to make adequate findings of fact supporting its conclusion that mother had acted contrary to her constitutionally protected parental rights.

While the trial court’s order did not explicitly track the language of North Carolina General Statute § 50A-102(7), the North Carolina Court of Appeals found that the trial court did make adequate findings of fact to support its conclusion that North Carolina had subject matter jurisdiction over this grandparent custody case. The North Carolina Court of Appeals noted that it is a better practice to for the family trial court to specifically outline its findings of fact pertaining to the “home state” of the minor child, it is not necessary.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with mother that the trial court did not make adequate findings of fact to support its conclusion that mother had acted contrary to her constitutionally protected parental rights. The North Carolina Court of Appeals considered the recent decisions in Bozeman (discussed herein at North Carolina Supreme Court Considering Same-Sex Adoption, Same Sex Adoption without Same Sex Marriage? and Same Sex – Second Parent Adoption Case Decided by North Carolina Supreme Court) and Price to illustrate the importance of the trial court analyzing the intent of the parent who is alleged to have acted inconsistently with their constitutionally protected parental rights. Specifically, the trial court is required to consider the parent’s intention with respect to the relationship between the minor child and the third-party (in this case the paternal grandparents) when the relationship begins and as it develops.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Charlotte Child Custody Law Firm.jpgA case out of the Mecklenburg County Family Court (Charlotte, North Carolina) denominated Maxwell v. Maxwell was recently considered by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. After being held in contempt, ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and having his visitation suspended, Father entered notice of appeal. He appealed the Mecklenburg County Family Court’s order on three grounds: First, he contended that the court erred in holding him in civil contempt of court for failing to pay child support. Second, he contended that the Court erred in ordering him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Finally, he contended the court erred in suspending his visitation. At issue in this case was whether the Mecklenburg County Family Court’s order amounted to a temporary order on child custody or whether it was a permanent order on child custody. We will only consider the second two issues in this post.

After taking evidence, which included evidence of physical and verbal abuse by the Father, the Charlotte family court judge ordered, ex mero moto (on its own motion), that the Father must go through a psychiatric evaluation before he may have visitation with the minor children (who happen to be quadruplets). In essence, the father contended that the Court erred in requiring him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation without proper notice of the hearing and an opportunity to be heard. The North Carolina Court of Appeals disagreed noting that the Court has broad discretion in the determination of the best interests of minor children. Consistent with this broad discretion, the trial Court has the authority to order, on its own motion, that a party undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The last issue raised by appellant was whether the Court made adequate findings of fact to support its suspension of father’s visitation with the minor children. Interestingly, there was some issue here with respect to whether the Mecklenburg County Family Court Judge intended to enter a temporary child custody order or whether it intended to enter a permanent child custody order. The issue raised by Father was that the Court did not find that either (1) the Father was unfit to have visitation with the minor children; or (2) that it was in the minor children’s best interest that Father not have visitation with them. Indeed, these are the requirements set forth in North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 50-13.5(i).

As mentioned previously, at issue is whether this was a temporary child custody order or a permanent child custody order. The reason being that a temporary order would ordinarily not be immediately appealable whereas a permanent order would be immediately appealable. The North Carolina Court of Appeals treated the order at issue as permanent, and therefore immediately appealable, despite the fact that it was silent with respect to whether it was a temporary child custody order or a permanent child custody order. Importantly, the North Carolina Court of Appeals noted that the order at issue in the case at bar was silent with respect to a review date.

Continue reading →