Archive for the ‘Custody’ Category

Should I take a Polygraph?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Sometimes, I have clients come in who are adamant that they are not guilty and they will state ” I’ll take a polygraph that will prove I’m innocent! ”

A polygraph is a nice name for a lie detector test, and most people think they can ‘beat the test’ even if they are guilty. And sometimes, they really aren’t guilty of this particular accusation so they think they’re safe in taking the test.

The problem is that a polygraph has been proved to be ‘inherently unreliable’ and cannot be used in court.  It doesn’t really prove anything.

That part is fine.  What isn’t fine is that any statements you make during the interviews before or after taking the polygraph CAN be admitted into court.

Most of the time, the person taking the polygraph isn’t in custody, they came into the office to take the polygraph on their own and they are free to leave at any time, so the authorities don’t really need to issue any Miranda warnings, and they can ‘chat’ about anything.

Also, people use lie detector tests in cases other than criminal.  For example, sometimes people will be accused of adultery in a divorce case and they will agree to a polygraph to ‘prove’ they didn’t have an affair with someone.

My advice?  If you are ever in a position where you think you might want to take a polygraph to prove you’re innocent, just say no…..or at least contact an attorney and have the attorney with you when you go to take the test.  The attorney may be able to stop you from answering an ‘innocent’ question that might end up getting you into real trouble.

If you have questions about this or any other legal topic, please feel free to contact us at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at www.BeaversLaw.com.

Will I get custody if I have a bigger, nicer house?

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

That’s not exactly the question I got this week.  Instead, the actual question was about whether parents with shared physical custody needed to have comparable living arrangements.  Although I must admit that I’ve had the question that is the title of this blog post in the past.

The short answer to both of these questions is ‘NO’.

There is no requirement in VA that the children be given their own rooms, or that they be provided a home with a yard for outside play.  Also, there is no requirement in a shared custody arrangement that the homes be comparable.

Each of the homes must be ‘appropriate’ for the children.  But appropriate can encompass a lot of differences.  The main thing that is reviewed is whether the child has a safe place to sleep (so we generally look for a bed in a bedroom instead of a recliner in the living room), whether the home appears to be safe (no hanging open wires or holes in the walls), whether the home is relatively neat and clean (although ‘messy’ may be ok, dirty or filthy is usually not ok)….basically safety issues.  It is not necessary to have separate bedrooms for each of the children, although we would tend to discourage putting children of opposite sexes in the same room once one of them reaches the age of puberty.  Again, safety issues.

I know that when I grew up we had a three bedroom home with a ‘parent’ bedroom, a ‘girl’ bedroom and a ‘boy’ bedroom with the ‘baby’ staying in the parent room until he or she was able to consistently sleep through the night so as not to interrupt the other siblings.  From my experience this was the norm in my community and very few children had their own bedroom, unless they were the only child of that gender in the home.

There are also many cultural differences and what is acceptable in one culture is not necessarily acceptable in another, but that is a personal choice of the parent as long as the child is safe.

A big yard is also not required, so long as the parent has the ability to take the children to a place where they can have outside play.  To be quite honest, many families do not take advantage of their backyards for playtime and instead the children may spend more time at a park where they can play with their friends.

The relative financial position of the parents and the ability of one parent to provide a more luxurious home environment is not as important as the interaction between the parent and the child.  We’ve all seen children who have lots of toys and really enjoy playing with a box.  Also, financial disparity is addressed through child support, not custody and visitation.

What does the Commonwealth of Virginia look at when determining custody?  I’ve written a couple of blog posts here and here that go into the details of what the courts consider.  And of course you can review the actual code section here.

Bottom line?  The courts don’t really care who has the bigger home or the nicer furniture or the best car.  Assuming that the child’s safety is not an issue, what is important is the interaction of the child and the parent.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

What Is An ‘Uncontested Divorce’?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I often have potential clients come into my office saying that they want an ‘uncontested divorce’, that quickly evolves into a ‘contested divorce’ instead.  Most of the time that is because the client really doesn’t understand what is meant by an ‘uncontested divorce’.

It is more than just an agreement that the marriage should be ended.

At least one of the Circuit Courts in this area has detailed exactly what they consider to be an ‘Uncontested Divorce’:

(a) All of the issues regarding the division of property have been agreed to by the parties; and

(b) The grounds are separation for the statutory period (no-fault); and

(c) Child support, spousal support, custody, and/or visitation are not requested; or if they are requested; there is a written and signed agreement between the spouses.

Of course, there is often no signed agreement when you first come to the attorney’s office for a consultation, but in order to have a true uncontested divorce, you need to have full agreement between the husband and wife about the important aspects of the property division and matters concerning the children.

I suggest that the husband and wife should write down what they understand to be in the agreement, so both parties have a copy of what is going to be put in the final agreement drafted by the attorney.  Once the details are given to the attorney, he or she can put those details into the proper form.

If any of the above are not true, then you probably do not have an uncontested divorce.  This does not necessarily mean that the divorce has to be contentious or that we can not quickly get to an agreement, but it will take at least a minimum of time and effort.

Usually, if the other spouse has retained an attorney for anything other than to just prepare or review some paperwork, the divorce is considered contested.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Child Support and Custody (and visitation)

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Custody and visitation go hand-in-hand because if one parent has physical custody, the time that the child spends with the other parent is called visitation.  Most people are comfortable with how these work together.

Most people are also comfortable with the idea that the parent who has physical custody of the child can receive child support from the other parent.

Sometimes the visiting parent, who is also ordered to pay child support, may not be making those child support payments on time.  That is a problem all by itself and it can be handled through the courts.

But making or not making child support payments is only one factor to be considered when determining visitation.  Not making child support payments alone should not keep a parent from having visitation with his or her child.

The bottom line is that if the court has allowed visitation with the child, the custodial parent cannot deny visitation just because the visiting parent is not current in his or her child support payments.

So, what do you do if you are reading this and you are in the position where you are behind in your child support payments and your child’s custodial parent won’t let you see your children?  The specific action will depend on what court orders are already in place concerning custody, visitation and support.

If you don’t have copies of the orders, you can go to the clerk’s office and request copies.  (this is also a good place to mention that these orders are very important and you should keep copies in a safe place so you have access to them when needed).

My suggestion is to then take those orders with you when you consult with an attorney.  That attorney will be able to read the orders, listen to your story, and give you a plan of how to go about trying to get what you want based on the laws that pertain to your situation.

From a very personal standpoint, I find it very sad when a father wants to see his children, but he doesn’t even try because he is behind in child support.  It is sad for the father, it is sad for the grandparents and other family members, but most of all, it is sad for the child.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

What is a GAL and why did the judge appoint one in my case?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

If you are charged with a crime, and there is a possibility that you might be sentenced to at least 6 months in jail, and you cannot afford an attorney, the Judge can appoint an attorney to represent you in that case.  This attorney is appointed to advocate on your behalf and to assist you in your defense.

The Court in Virginia can also appoint another type of attorney if your situation meets the criteria set by the court, and the Judge feels it is appropriate.

‘GAL’ stands for ‘Guardian Ad Litem’.  There are two parts to this term.  Part one is ‘Guardian’ which means someone who acts for the benefit of another, and part two is ‘Ad Litem’ which means ‘for the Lawsuit’.  So, the court may appoint someone to act for the benefit of another for the purpose of the lawsuit.  The person that is appointed by the court is called the ‘GAL’.

The court may appoint a GAL when a party to the lawsuit is incapacitated in some way.

Most of us think of incapacity as having a mental or health disability, and this is considered a physical incapacity.

Someone is also considered legally incapacitated when they are unable to attend court themselves.  This might be because they are in the military and stationed away from home.  Or perhaps the person can’t be found because none of the persons involved in the court case knows where they live now.  Or perhaps they are incarcerated.

In all of these situations, a GAL can be appointed to represent the adult who is not able to represent himself.  The role of the GAL in these cases is to make sure that the adult is treated fairly in the legal case and that any decision that is made by the court is not going to permanently put the represented person at an unfair disadvantage.

Another type of incapacity is based on age.  A person under the age of maturity, which is the age of 18 in Virginia, is also considered legally incapacitated.

If a child, under the age of 18, is charged with a crime it is possible that the court will appoint both an attorney to defend the child against the criminal charges and a GAL to look out for the best interests of the child.

Another time when the court might appoint a GAL is during a legal case regarding custody or visitation of a child.

When parents are fighting over custody and visitation of their children, the courts base their decisions on the best interests of the child.   Most of the time, the parents really do believe that what they are trying to do is in the best interest of the child.  But everyone must understand that the parent’s vision of the best interest of the child is colored by the position of that parent.  That is why the courts will often appoint a GAL to represent the best interest of the children.

The GAL does not represent either the mother or the father, and if either parent wants to have an attorney, they should retain one on their own.

The GAL  for the child has the ability, and the duty, to look at all aspects of the child’s life.  The GAL is able to talk to the child’s teacher, doctor, day-care provider and any other person that can bring input about the child’s life.  The GAL also talks with each parent and will usually do a visit to the parent’s home, generally while the child is there so the GAL can see how the child and the parent interact with each other.

If the child is old enough, and mature enough, the GAL will listen to what the child wants and take the child’s desires into consideration.  But, the GAL is not there to advocate for what the child says he/she wants.  The GAL is there to report on the situation and to make a recommendation on what is in the child’s best interest.

The GAL might provide a written report to the Judge before the trial, or the GAL report might be given as oral testimony at the trial.  In either case, the Judge will consider the GAL report as one additional piece of evidence to be considered.

The Judge is the one that makes the final determination.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.