Articles Tagged with Custody

Divorce  never is easy, but if you have children the issues are complicated in a way that differs from the economic issues.   Spousal and child support and division of property involves mostly you and your spouse.   If you have children,  they are affected at every stage of your divorce. ..and how you deal with your children from the very start of your separation through the children’s adulthood can have profound impact.

Oftentimes parents think they can protect their children from the struggles of their parents. Unhappy couples may stay together for the sake of the children.   Child psychologies differ on whether, in fact, this does children well.   Children are extremely sensitive and pick up on the tension, anger, and hurt that parents may be experiencing — even if parents may be “putting on a good face.”   Thus, the idea of “sticking it out” until the kids are grown, while well intentioned, may not be the best choice—especially if the level of discord between the parents is high.

If you have decided to separate, involving your children suitably in the separation and divorce process is exceedingly important.  Child development experts agree that being upfront with children and telling them what is happening should be a  major consideration.   Edward Kruk, PhD., advises that you should talk with your children about divorce.

  • Provide facts about what is happening between mommy and daddy without going into the reasons.   You can let your children know that their parents have differences and will no longer be living together, but you do not have to give the reasons why.
  • Allow children their questions, and answer them honestly. This is essential. Your children may want to know what will happen to them; where they will sleep, will they still see their friends and family, whether they will have to move. Be clear about what will happen in your children’s lives.
  • Remind the children that both parents love them and that the cause of the parent’s split has nothing to do with the children this is critical.

Children may fantasize that parents will get back together.   It is best to not let them indulge this fantasy to excess.

Dr. Fran Walfish a family and relationship psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child adds the following tips for the newly divorced or divorcing parents: Continue reading

 Custody, In Loco Parentis and Reproductive Assistive Technology

With more couples building families through reproductive assistive technology, custody questions  may become an issue  if the original family is no longer is intact, if the parents never married, and/or if the non-biological parent did not adopt the child.   More and more courts are being asked to determine custody in these cases.   There are steps that couples can take to help avoid or minimize this intervention.   The  facts and result in a recent Pennsylvania case are instructive.

In the  case of C. G. v. J.H.,  J.H. conceived a child by artificial insemination.    C.G. and J.H. were not married and Florida (where they resided)  did not recognize same sex marriage at that time.   J.H. was the biological mother.   The child, J.W.H. , was born in Florida in October 2006, while C.G. and J.H. were living together as a same-sex couple.   C.G. and J.H. continued to live together for about five more years.   The relationship, however,  began to wane and J.H. moved with the child to a separate residence in Florida and then moved to Pennsylvania in July 2012.

About three years later, in 2015, C.G. petitioned the Pennsylvania Court for shared legal and partial physical custody, alleging that she, C.G. “also acted (and acts) as a mother to the minor child …[and] the minor child was conceived by mutual consent of the parties with the intent that both parties would co-parent and act as mothers to the minor child.”    Since C.G, was not the biological parent,  J.H. alleged that she did not have  “standing” to bring the matter at all.    Because the parties were not married at the time of conception, and because C.G. did not adopt the child,   the trial court held extensive hearings looking into the roles of each party to determine whether there was sufficient status for C.G, to raise the claim for custody.   iStock-517851326-300x220

As might be expected, the testimony conflicted.   Just as in a traditional custody case, the parties presented extensive evidence including  who attended to the child’s “[p]hysical, [e]motional, and [s]ocial needs.”   Testimony including facts of  day-to-day life was considered by the judge, as were facts regarding  decision-making about the child’s medical and educational needs, child care, financial support and other items.
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The United States Supreme Courts’ landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing same sex couples’ right to marry is only the beginning of the journey through the world of Family Law for same sex couples and their families. Depending on the state and the domestic relations laws of the jurisdiction, adoption, assisted reproductive technology, custody among other issues remain to be decided.    Just recently, the Supreme Court  issued a stay blocking the Alabama Supreme Court from implementing a ruling which refused to recognize a second parent adoption, completed in Georgia, by a lesbian mother of the three children she shares with her ex-partner.

V.L and E.L. were in a long-term same-sex relationship in which they planned and raised three children together, using donor insemination. To ensure that both had secure parental rights, V.L., the non-biological mother, adopted the couples’ three children in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the two later broke up, E.L. kept V.L. from seeing the children, fighting her request for visitation, and arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live. On September 18, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption and declaring that it is “void.” Even though both women participated in the adoption hearing and consented to the adoption, the Court broke with more than a century of precedent requiring states to honor court judgments from other states.  Under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states. Disregarding this clear precedent, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Alabama can treat the adoption as void based on the Alabama Supreme Court’s view that the Georgia court should not have granted the adoption in 2007.

In Pennsylvania, any individual can become an adopting parent. The court process used by the unmarried heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or trans-gendered partner who is not the biological parent to adopt their partner’s minor child is called a Second Parent Adoption. This is different from the adoption of a minor child by their stepparent , which is called a Step Parent Adoption. Continue reading

Mediation is a semi- formal process for resolving conflicts. The parties come together in a comfortable setting with a neutral third party who should be a certified mediator. The mediator is there to facilitate a process whereby the participants can safely discuss their issues and come to an agreement. It can be used in Divorce, Custody, Support and many other situations involving conflict. Mediators take specialized classes to prepare them for different types of mediations such as: family, labor, international, etc. If the parties are ready and suitable, mediation can be a wonderful solution because it allows the individuals to work out an agreement between themselves.

As an alternative to the traditional method of divorce, mediation has pros and cons. The positive attributes are that it is an opportunity for the parties to openly and honestly discuss the matters that brought them to this point in their relationship. It is a chance for them to work through some of the emotions, and to see to the future. It can be a time to make decisions (personal and joint) and to show caring and respect for the other party. With the help – but not legal advice of the mediator–the parties will decide how to divide their property in a way that feels fairest to them. The equitable distribution laws of the State of Pennsylvania, or of any other state do not bind them. If children are involved, the parents and not a stranger get to make the decisions about things such as where their children will live, who they will spend holidays with, how college might be paid for, who will be responsible for taking the children to the doctor, etc.

The cons of mediation are related to the pros. Since the parties do all the work, it is important that they are ready to mediate; that they are open to and trust the process; and that they be somewhat equally situated. If one party wants a resolution, but the other is being “pulled along,” the process is not likely to work. If one party is not trustworthy, or is unlikely to keep a promise made in mediation, the process will fail. If one party has all the power in a relationship, the couple usually is not suitable for mediation. Power in a relationship can be manifested in many ways. It can be economic, it can be emotional, and it can be physical. If there is a power imbalance the mediation could result in an unfair agreement.