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Paternity and child custody

Establishing paternity is a legal way to determine the biological father of a child. This helps decide issues related to child support and child custody.

Maya Shulman | Sep 30, 2019

What is Parental Kidnapping? How Can You Prevent It?

Knowing When You Should Be Concerned Whether there have been threats of withholding custody or you're wary of a long-distance trip overseas due to your ex-spouse's dual nationality, you're in a difficult position. You want to protect your children, but you also don't want to be an alarmist. Understanding Parental Kidnapping It is important for you to know that others around you will understand if you have legitimate concerns about parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping or abduction is when a child is kept from the other parent in violation of a custody order. When that kidnapping potentially involves multiple countries, it can be extremely scary for the parent involved. What is Considered To Be Parental Kidnapping? Every state is a little different, but in general, parental kidnapping occurs whenever a parent is withholding custody maliciously. For example, the parent may physically restrain the child from leaving the home and lock the doors when the other parent arrives for a scheduled pick-up, which would be a violation of the other parent's rights. More often, people think of kidnapping as when a parent takes a child and flees. This could lead to serious problems for parents, as they have no idea where their children are or how to reach them. What Should You Do If You're Worried About Parental Kidnapping? To start with, you need to have some kind of evidence that supports your concerns. For example, if your ex-spouse repeatedly returns your children to you late or tries to restrict them from seeing you, that's a problem. If your children mention passports or an upcoming trip you haven't been informed of, that could also be a sign of a parent making plans that are less than appropriate. If you have evidence that concerns you, then reach out to an attorney immediately. If you believe your ex-spouse has already fled with your children and you cannot find them, call 911 and get police involved. It is easier to find children who are still in the United States if international travel is a possibility, so letting the authorities know about the fact that they're missing is important. If your children are in danger of being kidnapped, a judge can also take steps to restrict your ex-spouse's actions and to protect your children. The CPIAP The Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) allows the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues to contact the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to verify whether the parental consent requirement for minor passport issuance has been met when a passport application has been submitted for an enrolled child. Alerting Parents through CPIAP Upon a child's enrollment in the CPIAP, we may alert the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a pending passport application and past passport issuances for the child. Only U.S. citizens or children under the age of 18 who qualify for U.S. citizenship can be enrolled in the CPIAP.

Maya Shulman | Aug 12, 2019

Paternity Leave: You Have Only Two Years to Contest Claimed Fatherhood

Julio Iglesias and Paternity Take, for example, Spanish singing star Julio Iglesias, who allegedly had a highly productive fling with a Portuguese dancer in 1975, and has not escaped a Spanish judge’s recent paternity ruling just because he refused a paternity test. The singer reportedly told his erstwhile sex partner that he wanted no part of what they had wrought, and he clearly thought he had outsmarted the system. The judge said lack of biological proof wasn’t a problem: The alleged son looks remarkable like Iglesias. Spain vs. California Iglesias faced judgment in Spain, but had the case been brought in California, the outcome would likely be no different. Claims to contest paternity are generally time-bound. In California, you have just two years from the birth of the child to argue that you aren’t the biological father. If you miss that window, guess what? You’re now legally on the hook for that child. No Statute of Limitations In many states, including California, there is no statute of limitations for establishing paternity. That means that your biological offspring -- like Igelsias’ -- could assert claims years or even decades after your one-night stand. Your obligation to support could very well be limited, depending on your state of residence, but you also could be on the hook for a substantial amount of back support. Always Consult Your Lawyer Don’t think that refusal to take a paternity test will protect you. If someone has named you as the father of her child, you must act without delay. That means consulting with a reputable family lawyer who will advise you how to respond. Establishing Parental Rights Suppose you believe a child is your offspring and want to establish your right to parent the child? That situation can be complex. That child may already have a “presumed father,” which can be the husband of the child’s mother, an acknowledged father, a man who has taken responsibility for the child, or an “adjudicated father,” a man who has been legally determined to be child’s the father. You’ll want good counsel if you’re hoping to unravel what’s already been settled. Don't Delay Paternity laws are designed to bring stability into a child’s life. Whether you want to clear up any confusion about fatherhood or become an established presence in your child’s life, waiting too long to act will likely result in an undesirable outcome.

Fritznie Abigail Jarbath | May 21, 2019


WHY ARE PARENTING PLANS CREATED? Parenting Plans are formulated to lay out expectations and avoid conflicts. Although a plan cannot anticipate every possible occurrence, it will provide a road map that can make the process of sharing responsibility for a child much easier. Once Paternity is established under Florida law, a Parenting Plan specifically created to meet the needs of the child needs to be created and approved by the court. The parents should try to cooperate to arrive at an agreement about how the child will be raised and how each parent will participate in the child’s upbringing, however, if the parents are unable to agree, then the Court will step in and create the Parenting Plan for the child and the parents will have to abide by the Courts ruling. If the parents fail to agree on a Parenting Plan or come up with a plan that the court will not approve, then the Court will step in and establish the Parenting Plan, eliminating a lot of control from the hands of the parents. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both the parents and the child to come up with an acceptable Plan. WHAT WILL THE COURT CONSIDER WHEN COMING UP WITH A PARENTING PLAN - Demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to facilitate & encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required. - Anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties. - Demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to determine, consider, & act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent. - Length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment & the desirability of maintaining continuity. - Geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children & the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. - Moral fitness of the parents. - Mental & physical health of the parents. - Home, school, & community record of the child. - Reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, & experience to express a preference. - Demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, & favorite things. - Demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime. - Demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child. - Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. - Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect. - Particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation & during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties. - Demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school & extracurricular activities. - Demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse. - Capacity & disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, & refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child. - Developmental stages & needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs WHAT YOU SHOULD KEEP IN MIND WITH PARENTING PLANS As long as you and your former spouse remain flexible, respectful, and keep the best interests of your children at the heart of the discussion, the two of you can create a solid parenting plan. For assistance in putting together an agreement that will help your children thrive after the divorce and let both parents stay involved and active in their lives, contact Jarbath Pena Law Group.

Lori I Barkus | May 14, 2019

HIring a family law attorney: What most people get wrong and how to get it right

How to Choose Maybe you don’t know any divorce attorneys. That’s common. Many people dislike or distrust attorneys or experience a general aloof vibe from those they have met. You might begin your search by looking at websites. There are a lot of those, and most look the same. Professional photos, accolades and client reviews. After reading a few, your vision may start to blur. Or maybe you ask friends, coworkers or other professionals if they know someone. What I believe you should be looking for is a personality fit with experience to match. It’s important that the person you meet with knows the law and can handle your situation. Equally important is that you are comfortable with this person (I said person and not lawyer for a reason). Yes, you are seeking to be educated on an unfamiliar process. But you should feel that you are speaking with another human being who can relate to you and accurately advise you on the process and a strategy for going forward. One of the best ways to find this is to seek recommendations from people to whom you relate the most. Ideally, these should be people who know or have worked with the lawyer before. They are better able to tell you what might work for you, and far better than all the fancy websites and online reviews. Is anything really free? Why free consultations are a waste of everyone's time Do you do free consultations? I get this question a lot. Seems more popular these days with so many graduating from law school and hanging their shingles. The answer is no and I’m happy to tell you why. In my opinion, free consultations are about the lawyer and not the client. The person offering you the “free initial consultation” is just trying to get your business. You probably know this already. Lawyers need to make money too and the only reason a lawyer is offering you free legal advice is because they want money from you in the future. Family law consultations are far more important that people realize. This is not only your chance to see if the lawyer is a good fit, but its also to get information you can trust and a game plan for moving forward. Many free consultations are like lawyers’ websites- vague and generic. You may get some information, but not enough to tell you what your best options are for moving forward. For me, consultations are always in depth. I review information provided to me beforehand and begin with a working knowledge of the basic facts and what the legal issues might be. The goal of the consultation is to give the client sound advice on moving forward, the different ways to move forward (which may include the client representing him/herself for some of the process or a discussion of flat fees for certain portions of the process) and a discussion of the best way to proceed. My practice focuses on the needs of the client and the consultation is no exception. I’m looking for ways to be cost effective rather than convincing someone to hire me. To litigate or not? Why an aggressive lawyer is the last thing you (or your wallet) need Many people think they need to hire an aggressive “pitbull” or “bulldog” lawyer. It seems the thing to do when you feel scared or the other party has launched a plan of attack against you. Here is why that thinking is flawed. Aggressive lawyers generally talk a good game about how they will protect your interests or ensure victory. If you listen closely, you might find that there’s no real plan to get the promised outcome. There are a lot of promises, but no step by step plan to back it up. Ask for specifics and you will get a vague response. You are probably hearing more about the lawyer him/herself- their track record, how many cases they have “one”, how weak opposing counsel is, etc. The conversation is often more about the lawyer than the client. That’s the first red flag. The other problem is that most cases settle. The goal of any experienced lawyer who is intent on protecting the client’s interests (rather than running up fees) is to figure out how to create the best possible outcome in the most efficient period of time. Granted, you do not want to hire someone who is afraid to stand up for themselves- or you. But you don’t want to pay out your life savings or take a second mortgage on your house to feed an aggressive campaign that could have been settled far more quickly, with far less expense and often having the same outcome. The biggest problem with aggressive family lawyering I that the aggressive behavior and tactics drives conflict, which keeps things going, both your case and your fees. I’ve settled cases where parties paid their first round lawyers tens of thousands of dollars to send angry messages to each other. This is not money well spent. Negotiation is the most important skill a family law attorney can have. Finding someone who’s a skillful negotiator will go much farther than seeking a barking dog. Who's handling your case? Co-counsel, coverage counsel, who has my file? Some law firms use associates or co-counsel to handle some or all of your case. So the lawyer you met with, whom you selected, may not be the one whom you interact with on the aspects of your case. And others may delegate most communication to a paralegal or legal assistant. That is fine for routine scheduling matters. And, while it might be a way to keep costs down, things can get lost in translation if you and your lawyer are not communicating about the main issues in your case or your concerns. In family law cases, you and your lawyer need to have a one on one working relationship. It needs to work well for you, the client, to make sure your concerns are addressed and that your interests are served. If your case is delegated to someone else, or your calls are handled exclusively by someone other than the lawyer you hired, you may find yourself feeling less than comfortable with the situation. This is something you will want to address before you hire someone. Divorce and custody matters are some of the most difficult challenges you will face in life. It’s hard enough to navigate the process without having to second guess your decisions about the professional you hire to assist you. The decisions made by you or for you by a judge will greatly affect the course of your life and should not be taken lightly. And the hiring decision you make at the outset will play a large role in the outcome and the time and cost expended in getting there.

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