Posts Tagged ‘Court Order’

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.

Can I sue for back child support if we just had a verbal agreement?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

I found this question in my email this week, and it is one that I get relatively often.

This is not just a question about child support.  It is also a question about whether or not you can enforce the terms of a verbal agreement.

Verbal agreements are valid.  You don’t necessarily need to have a written agreement to do anything, and we do it all the time.  Simple things like ‘I’ll meet you at noon for lunch’ is an agreement.  Or ‘I’ll pay for dinner if you get the tip’ is an agreement.  Most of the time these agreements work just fine and there are no problems.

But what if one party doesn’t do what was agreed?  What if I paid for dinner and you didn’t bring any money for the tip?  Or what if you brought money for the tip, but I didn’t bring enough money for dinner?

The problem is not whether the agreement was valid, the problem is whether or not you can enforce the terms of the agreement.

When you sue someone, you are asking the court to enforce the terms of your agreement.

The problem with verbal agreements is that there are often no other witnesses.  So if and when you go to court to ask the judge to enforce the agreement, the other person can just say that they didn’t make the verbal agreement.  Then it’s your word against theirs and the judge has a hard time finding sufficient evidence to enforce what you assert is an agreement.  Maybe the other person thought that they had only agreed to pay a tip up to one dollar?  Or maybe I agreed to pay for dinner, but only up to $10 and you ordered something much more expensive?  Or maybe I thought that the dinner was going to be that night and you cancelled and wanted to have the agreement reinstated for a dinner two months later?  And what if there was a witness to the agreement, but he is no longer available to testify, or maybe he forgot?  Maybe the other person thought it was a joke?  Or maybe the other person felt that they had to agree or something bad would happen to them?

Without something in writing, it is more difficult to prove the actual terms of the agreement.

Most people go to court to get a child support order.  An order of the court gives you extra power of enforcement because you can now bring a contempt charge if the person refuses to obey an order of the court.  The courts take these very seriously and a non-paying parent can be put in jail.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the amount that should be paid for child support is actually located in the Code of Virginia in Section 20-108.2 There are also online resources that can help you to calculate the correct amount of child support such as the Child Support Obligation Calculator on the Department of Social Services website.   The amount in the child support obligation calculator is the amount that the laws of Virginia say should be paid for the support of the child.  The laws of Virginia also allow the parents to agree to a different amount of support, so long as both parents agree that the different amount will be sufficient to pay for the child and that the custodial parent will not need to use government funds to supplement their household income.  The parents cannot agree to a lesser amount of support if the child is going to be eligible for TANF or WIC or any other government funds.  The parents may also agree to a higher amount of support if they wish.

If you are going to do this all on your own without the help of either the court or DCSE, then I suggest that you complete the form online and include a print-out of the calculation with a written agreement that is signed and dated by both parents.  However, I do not recommend doing it yourself.

My advice in these cases is for the parents to go to court to get the order.  It is not expensive, and you don’t necessarily need an attorney.  You can also go to the Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement to file the paperwork and you may not need to go to court at all.

As long as both sides to an agreement do what they are supposed to do, there is never a problem.  But if one side does not perform as they agreed, it is much easier to enforce the agreement if there is a court order, or at least some writing as proof of the agreement.

In my experience, there is seldom a writing as a back-up to a verbal agreement to pay child support.  Also, a verbal agreement to pay child support is seldom enforced by the courts because there is just not sufficient evidence to prove that the agreement ever existed.  What usually happens is that the court will order support to be paid from the date of the petition for the court hearing until the child reaches the age of maturity, but there is seldom an award for ‘back’ child support because there really isn’t any provable ‘back’ support due.

Can I move my child to another state?

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I often get calls from people who want to move to another state and want to know if it’s ok to take their children.

Like most things in law, the answer is ‘it depends’.

In Virginia, if there is any sort of court ordered custody arrangement, you must notify the court and the other parent at least 30 days in advance of when you plan to move.  Why?  So the other parent has a chance to bring this up with the court before you and the child relocate.  Will the court stop you from moving?  It depends on the reasons for the relocation and the ties that the child has to family in his/her current location.  Of course the court can not stop YOU from moving, but they may order that the child not be allowed to move with you.

What if you take the child anyway?  Can the court order you to bring the child back?  The answer is ‘yes’, and if you take the child against the court’s orders this is called kidnapping and it is not something that you should take lightly.

Also, the court order means you need to notify the other parent and the court prior to any move, not just a move to another state.  You also need to notify the court and the other parent if you just move to another town, across town, or even just move next door.

What if you don’t have any sort of court ordered custody?  In that case, either ‘legal’ parent may move and take the child with them.  Which brings up the next question, who is a ‘legal’ parent?

Generally, if the woman is married at the time of birth, her husband is presumed to be the father of the child, and he will be the ‘legal’ father even if everyone knows he is not the biological father.  In order to have this changed, you must go to court to get  paternity established so that another man can become the ‘legal’ father.

In the case of adoption, the court can name a legal mother and/or a legal father who is not related to the child biologically.

If you are a legal parent of the child and there is no court order regarding the custody of that child, then the answer to the question about a move is ‘yes’, you can move your child to another state even if this means moving the child away from the other legal parent.

If you think this might be a problem for you, then you might want to consider getting a court order to establish a custody arrangement.

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.

Watch what you put on Facebook!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

We all know that you shouldn’t put things like your home address or phone number on facebook.  But a lot of people put things on Facebook that can really ‘come back to bite  you’.  Talking to a good friend in person or on the phone is one thing, but typing some things onto Facebook can cause very severe repercussions, especially if you are in some sort of legal situation.  Privacy settings get changed relatively often these days and you really don’t know who is reading what you post.

In fact, you should always assume that whatever you post is being seen by everyone, including your soon-to-be-ex or his/her attorney and the Guardian Ad Litem that has been assigned to help the court make a custody decision.  Posting derogatory remarks about your spouse often backfires and leads the decision-makers to think poorly about you and your ability to co-parent your children effectively.

Talking about a new boyfriend and what a great weekend you spent together with your kids will possibly send you back to court when your children’s father points out that there was a court order that did not allow you to have overnight visitors of the opposite sex when the children were present.

Talking about your adventures on the new horse at the stable where you ride will not show you in a good light when you are brought into court for failure to provide the child for visitation and your excuse was that you are in a high-risk pregnancy that does not allow you to drive for over an hour to bring your child to his other parent after you moved away to be in a different state with your new husband.

Stories and pictures of you skiing do not help when you are trying to get disability or workman’s comp because of a back injury.

Bragging about having a new wide-screen TV that ‘fell off the back of the truck’ just might show up as evidence in a criminal investigation.

A picture of you with someone might be used as evidence that you and the person knew each other even though you say you never met.

Pictures of you with your ‘friend’ might just show up in your divorce proceeding as evidence of an extra-marital affair.  Or pictures of you out drinking with your buds might just show up in your custody case.

And don’t forget that potential employers might be reading when you write that your job is soooo boring and the time and date stamp of the post shows that you post on Facebook a lot while you are supposedly working.  I especially like the posts that tell the world that you think your boss is a ___ (fill in the blank).

You might think I’m just making this stuff up, but I’m not.  These things are really happening.

Text messages and Facebook posts are showing up more often in legal actions and they can often derail your legal plans.

Just be careful of what you post.  Remember that what you post, or what comments you make, are not just being seen by your closest friends.  Your fiercest enemy might also be watching!

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.

Do I need to go to court?

Monday, September 5th, 2011

I was in court last week and noticed that there were a lot of people who didn’t show up for their scheduled court dates.  The judge was NOT happy and issued a lot of ‘failure to appear’ charges.

In fact, in one case I remember, the judge dismissed the underlying reason for the person to come to court that day….but issued a summons for the person and that person now has a ‘failure to appear’ charge pending.  I know this judge usually gives people a couple of days in jail for the failure to appear, so this one particular person went from having his charge dismissed to facing possible jail time.  All because he didn’t show up.

Why do people not show up in court as scheduled?

I imagine that a lot of them just forget.  Forgetting is NOT a good excuse.  Think of it this way, would you want the jail to ‘just forget’ to let you out?  Get a calendar and mark that date.  Put a reminder on your cell phone.  Put a note on your refrigerator.  Whatever it takes to get you to court on the right day.

And make sure you know what courtroom you are assigned.  I’ve often seen situations where people will sit in court all morning just to find out they were in the wrong court!  If you don’t know for sure where you are supposed to be, ask the guard when you first come in the building.  Show the guard your summons and ask for directions to the right courtroom.   This can be especially frustrating when there are different buildings.  You can also check online to make sure you know where the court is located.  Or call the clerk’s office to confirm your date (and time) and ask the clerk for directions to make sure that you are going to the right place.

Some people say that they got a paper in court, but they never got anything in the mail.  In the past, they always got something in the mail, so they figured they would get a notice in the mail this time too.  Sorry, you get notices in the mail when they can’t give you the notice in person.  If they give you a piece of paper in court with the next court date, you NEED to be there!

I had one person tell me that the original date was ‘just for child visitation’ and they decided they didn’t want to fight the visitation request, so they didn’t show up.  Not a good idea!  If you don’t want to fight the visitation request, you need to show up in court and tell that to the judge.  Otherwise, the judge will probably issue a ‘failure to appear’ summons and you will show up in court at a later time, with a much bigger problem!

Some people say that something else came up and they couldn’t make it to court.  If something really does come up, you can contact the court before your scheduled time to appear and the judge MIGHT give you a break and schedule another day.  Being in the hospital for surgery is the type of thing that the judge might accept.  Wanting to go shopping instead, or oversleeping because you were up late the night before is something that the judge will probably NOT accept.

For traffic tickets, the officer will write on the ticket whether or not you need to appear.  Most of the time, you can use the online system to pay for simple speeding tickets (although you should be aware that pre-paying the ticket is the same as pleading ‘guilty’ and you will receive the ‘points’ against your license).  If you have been charged with reckless driving, you must appear.

Sometimes an attorney can appear in court on your behalf and you don’t need to be there yourself.  Be sure to check with your attorney to make sure whether or not you need to appear yourself.  I generally suggest that my clients also appear in court even if they don’t really need to be there.  After all, it’s your life, your money, or your freedom that is at stake and you really should be involved in anything that might happen.  The attorney can tell you what the ‘regular’ judge will probably do, but that judge may be sick this one day and there is a substitute.  It’s just better to be there yourself.

The bottom line is that if you have been told to be in court on a certain day at a certain time, you need to make arrangements to be there!

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.