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Debra Joan Cheatham Reece
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Debra Reece’s Answers

716 total


  • How can i bring my family together in Arkansas.

    My wife and I are reconciling in Arkansas. we have a 16 month daughter in CPS in California. She has has had heart surgery to correct a defect, and has Downs Syndrome. I am currently going through reunification process but it is tedious and comp...

    Debra’s Answer

    You and your wife may be reconciling in Arkansas, but California CPS has custody of your daughter and they will make any determinations regarding her custody. So there's no point in asking for help in Arkansas. We cannot do anything about something in California -- that requires a California law license.

    If anyone were to help you pro bono it would have to be a California attorney. You need to know though (and I don't mean to sound harsh), that if CPS thinks there is some reason that your wife should not be around the child, and you're insisting on reconciling with your wife, then it's not likely you're going to get your child back, because you're not following their requirements. It's tough, I know. But if you're a parent, sometimes you have to choose your child over the other adult. The reunification process is ALWAYS tedious and complex. You don't say what CPS's problem with your wife is, but it generally falls under one of three categories: mental illness or mental incompetence, drug addiction, or abusive behavior toward the child. CPS is charged with protecting the child, and it is unlikely you will find a sympathetic attorney who will represent you pro bono, if there was a legitimate reason to take the child away from your wife and you want to violate CPS's requirements to get her back.

    Ask your question under the California forum, and maybe you will find someone who can help.

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  • Can or how will I be able to terminate his parental rights?

    I have a seven month old old and her father just started paying child support December 11, 2015. Her father has only seen her once, and refuses to establish a relationship with her.

    Debra’s Answer

    There are three ways parental rights are terminated in Arkansas, and all of them involve adoption. The first is when DHS takes the children and the parents do not conform to the requirements to get them back. The parental rights are terminated so the children can be adopted by others. The second is a step-parent adoption, when one natural parent remains a parent and the other natural parent's parental rights are terminated in order for the step-parent to become the new second parent.

    The last is a private party adoption. But there is a twist to this. Normally, in a private party adoption, DHS is not involved; and the natural parent(s) have agreed to allow someone else (either known to them, or through an agency) to adopt the child. So the natural parent's parental rights are terminated and the new parents adopt the child. In Arkansas, two groups can adopt -- married couples and single people. A cohabiting single couple cannot adopt. What's interesting about this is that, since single people are allowed to adopt -- not just couples -- a natural parent can actually adopt their own child. This has happened in Arkansas (rarely) and has been upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court. So, assuming you're not married, this would be your only option, since there is no stepparent. The process would be that you would petition to adopt your daughter. About the only way that's going to happen, though, is if the natural father consents to the adoption (and he might, if it would mean he no longer has to pay child support). If the single-parent adoption goes through, you would be the sole parent to your child. Some judges refuse to perform single-parent adoptions on principle; but some will do them.

    A couple of important things you need to be aware of, though: Many new mothers in your situation think of this as MY child (especially when dad is a deadbeat dad). But it's not about you. It's about the child. And that's what the judge will say. A judge will ask what is in the best interests of the child. It's generally not in the child's best interests to cut her off from her father and whatever inheritance she might get from her father or her family -- both financial and personal historical inheritances. Your CHILD has the right to two parents. Who's to say that he won't come around at some point and realize how much he wants to be a father, and then your little girl would be blessed with two parents who love her. It is tempting to try to cut off HER relationship with the person you cut off YOUR relationship with. Legally, you might be able to do that. But emotionally and financially, it will be your daughter who will pay the price.

    It is hard being a single mom. I understand. I was one. I've watched plenty of moms do everything themselves, and it's tempting to think that if I'm the only one bothering, then I should be the only parent getting any credit for being a parent. But unless he's a sex offender, a brute, or a junkie, a judge will probably not terminate his parental rights. Talk with a family law attorney in your area to find out all the facts, and to find out how the judges in your area feel about single-parent adoptions. Good luck.

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  • Who is legally allowed to claim my kids on their taxes?

    Child Support/ Taxes My ex doesn't work my kids income come from me and their ssi and their grandmother. They "live with their mother" and grandmother. There is nothing in the court documents about who can file taxes on them. I was told that the...

    Debra’s Answer

    One thing you didn't mention was where the children's custody decision was made. If an Arkansas court decided custody (and you failed to include the tax issue in the settlement agreement or decree), then Arkansas law states that the custodial parent claims the children on their taxes. That can be changed by agreement between the parties, or it can be changed by court order from the court who made the custody/child support decisions. This is what the Arkansas law says (It's from a document called "Administrative Order Number 10":

    f. Allocation of Dependents for Tax Purposes. Allocation of dependents for tax purposes belongs to the custodial parent pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code. However, the Court shall have the discretion to grant dependency allocation, or any part of it, to the noncustodial parent if the benefit of the allocation to the noncustodial parent substantially outweighs the benefit to the custodial parent.

    So if you want to get the tax credit and your ex won't allow you to do so, you'll need to get the court to allow you to do so. And you say you have "joint" custody. However, that means different things to different people. True joint custody means there is no "primary physical custodian" and both parents have the children an equal amount of time. It sounds like you actually have "joint legal custody" (not true joint custody), and the mom is the primary physical custodian. With "joint LEGAL custody," you both have equal access to the child's medical and school records, and equal ability to make decisions about medical and educational issues. But with joint legal custody, the person who is the primary physical custodian of the child is considered to have custody of the child under Arkansas law.

    So if you have true joint custody, you are both custodians and you have just as much right as the mom to claim the kids. If you have joint legal custody only, then you do not have the right to claim the kids unless mom agrees or you get a court to order it that way. (And of course, a court could order that grandma gets to claim the kids because she provides more than half their support.)

    This is all based on Arkansas law and the Internal Revenue code. If your kids live in a different state or custody was determined by a court in a different state, then a lawyer from that state would need to advise you on the law there.

    I hope this helps.

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  • What will happen

    I got forgey 2 degree charge but I was high on drugs and that month went to crazy house I was unstable and off meds at the time

    Debra’s Answer

    As some other attorneys told you, voluntary intoxication is not a defense in Arkansas. (Involuntary intoxication IS a defense -- that means someone else gave you the drugs and you weren't aware they had done it; but from what you said, it doesn't sound like that's your situation.) There are two kinds of examinations a court will order to see if you are competent -- the first is whether you're competent to stand trial currently, and the second is to determine if you were mentally competent at the time of the crime. Both are extremely difficult hurdles. You need to talk to your attorney about this. If you chose to get high and then committed crimes under the influence of drugs, you're not likely to prevail. Your attorney needs to be the one advising you, because he or she will know all the facts and circumstances of your case. If you have one, talk to them. If you don't, get one immediately.

    Good luck!

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  • What are the steps to revoke a guardianship?

    My husband's sister was given guardianship of his son by the child's mother years ago. Now we would like for his son to live with us. We, along with other family members, believe the child will be under much better care with us. My husband's name ...

    Debra’s Answer

    This is a complex situation and no one can give you definite advice on an online forum. Normally, a natural parent takes precedence over a guardian; however, we have no information about your husband (is he a registered sex offender? a drug addict? a convicted felon? some other issue a court would have trouble with?), nor do we know anything about the child or his aunt who has guardianship. There are many factors that go into trying to file a petition to terminate a guardianship and we cannot tell WHAT to do or HOW to do it. That's not something you can get from an online forum. You need legal counsel who can consult with you and prepare the proper documents and fight your case in court. If you try to do this yourself you run the very real risk of losing.

    So retain a good family-law attorney who regularly practices in the court in which the guardianship was filed (which will still have continuing jurisdiction over the case). Good luck!

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  • What are my legal rights in this situation?

    My ex and I are still legally married although we have been separated since May 2015. We have two children together, a 4 yr old daughter and a 5 yr old son. I have been the primary caretaker of the children since separating in May. I gave him poss...

    Debra’s Answer

    You should take action immediately. The children's "home state" is the state that has jurisdiction over custody matters. Assuming you live in Arkansas (since your post was for El Dorado), then your children's home state would be Arkansas if they lived here the past six months. However, if he's moved them to another state, then once they've lived in THAT state for six months, THAT state becomes the home state and you'll have to travel there to try to do anything.

    Hire a good family law/custody attorney, file for divorce and custody, and your lawyer can do what they need to do to get him served. And a piece of advice (which you probably have already realized) -- never let your kids go somewhere without knowing exactly where they are going.

    I am so sorry you're going through this. What a terrible thing. Get a good attorney right away so you can fight this and get the kids back.

    Good luck!

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  • My question is if it wasn't money he paid into do I still have ti give him half the money even though he didn't pay any?

    I am the custodial parent of my 3 children and my ex husband has to hold insurance on the kids. Well we are suppose to split the remaining balance that insurance does not pay. We got a bill for 400$ and he wants me to pay half although his HRA tha...

    Debra’s Answer

    If the court order requires you each to pay half of the remaining balance that insurance does not pay, then you must pay it. This is no different than if his parent chose to help him pay it all. Just because someone helps him (in this case, his employer), does not relieve you from the responsibility to pay your half.

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  • Can we get out of state temporary custody.

    My step daughter lives in Colorado. Paternity is established my y husbands name being on the birth certificate. The two parties were never married, but always agreed on summer visitation. We live in Arkansas by the way. Come to find out, the mom h...

    Debra’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Scholl. The child's "home state" has jurisdiction over custody issues, and if the child has been in Colorado for the last six months, that is the child's home state. Talk to Colorado counsel for advice. Good luck!

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  • Can I sue them . Can I get out of the DUI with medicine

    On December the 19th my medicine made me leave the house. The city cops put me in jail. I remember sign stuff ,I had no idea what it was. One cop tried to wake me 3 times. My doctor said they should have called an ambulance.

    Debra’s Answer

    First, what you are describing is not a DUI. It's a DWI-drugs. In Arkansas, DUI is a very specific crime of an underage driver who has had any alcohol, but is under the legal limit. DWI is driving while intoxicated. So, assuming you are over 21, it's DWI.

    Whether or not your medication issues will be a successful defense will depend on all the circumstances. Certainly, there are experts who can testify about such things. But you would have to hire a really excellent DWI lawyer to explore that, because many people who dabble in criminal law will have no idea how to fight this. We are not allowed to solicit clients for ourselves on Avvo. But for what you are talking about, I can highly recommend either the attorneys at Bennett & Williams in Conway, or Attorney John Collins (I believe he's in LR). All of them are extremely experienced in DWI-drugs cases and they can hear all the facts in your case to determine how best to proceed.

    Good luck.

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  • What does it mean if a lawyer has been disciplined?

    I just found out the attorney I hired for my bankruptcy has been disciplined by the state about 15 years ago.

    Debra’s Answer

    I agree with those attorneys who told you to ask your lawyer. If you "found out" that he was disciplined 15 years ago, that must mean that it's public information. So there should be no reason your lawyer wouldn't explain to you what happened. It could be something as simple as a client got upset about a case result and the lawyer spoke unprofessionally to him, or something as serious as embezzling client funds. Generally if it's very serious, here in Arkansas, the Supreme Court shows what the action was. If you go to the court's website and click on "directories," and then on Attorney Search, it will allow you to enter the attorney's name and pull up their record. If there are disciplinary actions, it usually lists them and, if they're serious enough, there will be a link to read the record. Here's the website:
    https://courts.arkansas.gov/
    Good luck

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