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Family Law Blog

Step Parent's Quick Guide to Teen Custody Questions

Monday, July 27, 2020

With the way modern families form today, custody and parenting questions can get pretty complicated. There are rock-solid families where the parents are not married, dedicated spouses raising step-children, and co-parenting teams with two to ten different family members working together. One of the most common "gray areas" of custody is the role of step-parents who may be acting as active parental roles with limited legal grounds to make decisions.

This is especially challenging for step-parents of teenagers who are often at least partially aware of their rights and have a great deal of choice in which parent they live with, if they choose to exercise that power. Being a good parent to a teenager requires a balance of giving space and enforcing boundaries, something that can be uncomfortable for even the most dedicated step-parent. You may be wondering where your real enforceable authority begins and ends. As a child custody attorney office, we're here to answer those questions as clearly as we can in general terms.

Your Parental Rights as a Step-Parent

If you have adopted your step-child, you have full legal rights as their parent, the same as a biological parent would. So, that should clear up a whole slew of teen authority related questions. If you haven't adopted your step-child, then your authority comes through the biological parent you are married to.

You are, effectively, functioning with implicit permission to exercise parental duties and make decisions your partner -- their parent -- would agree with. Much like a camp counselor has implicit permission to care for kids under their supervision. However, as the spouse of the biological parent, you also have some extended rights to sign things like permission slips for your step-children instead of their parent.

Your Step-Parental Rights Against the Wishes of Your Spouse

What about in cases where you disagree or are splitting up with the biological parent of your step-children? This issue comes up often with modern blended families. Particularly, in cases where the step-parent has become the more dedicated caretaker. Without a custody battle, your rights are usually still limited to anything that is an extension of the biological parent's wishes.

However, in a legal separation or divorce, step-parents who are a dedicated part of a child's life have a surprisingly strong chance of winning at least partial custody. Your custody rights will more likely be determined by what is best for the child, including your existing parent-child relationship. This is true even if you are not the biological parent. However, your custody rights do not overpower those of both biological parents.

There are very few situations where a step-parent is able to take full custody or make a decision directly against the wishes of capable and reputable biological parents.

Your Parental Rights Dealing With a Rebellious Teen Step-Child

So, your teen step-child, about whom you love and care, has shouted that you're not their real parent and can't make them do __X__. Now, you're wondering if they're right. As we said before, your parental power are an extension of their biological parent's rights. Therefore, if their parents agrees with the rule you are enforcing, yes. You can probably ground them, lock their phone in a drawer, deny their allowance, or forbid them from dating someone for a few more years.

Alternately, your teen step-child has made it clear that they want to live with you and not their biological parent after a breakup. Now, you're wondering if you can support them in that. Would be charged with kidnapping, or something similar? This goes back to the custody question. The teen can absolutely speak at a custody hearing and make a strong case for living with you, as teens get a lot of say if they explain themselves well and their reasons are good.

Additionally, if your teen step-child shows up on your doorstep and insists on staying, most courts would not consider this as a qualified kidnapping. But the teen may be forced to go back to their biological parent's home once found. 

Conclusion

As a step-parent, you exist in an interesting custody limbo unless you choose to step up and make yourself a separate entity in a custody battle. For the most part, as long as you are parenting with your spouse, you have all the parental authority you need to handle step-children and even rebellious teens. For more information about family law or to consult with a child custody attorney, contact us today!

The Child Support Process Doesn't Have to Be Scary

Friday, July 17, 2020

Unfortunately, just the words "child support" can strike fear in the hearts of fathers and mothers alike. It is a stigmatized government system that is often misunderstood and seen as a necessary evil. 

In reality, child support is designed to ensure children receive consistent and reliable support from both of their parents. This is best achieved by understanding each parent's current life circumstances and then guiding them how to best provide for their children in both homes. 

An Unbiased System

The system is set up to be unbiased. Payment responsibility and amounts are calculated using an impartial statewide calculation system. Items that impact responsibility and amount include:

  • Gross income
  • Expenses
  • Amount of time spent with child(ren)

With regards to the last item, it is important that each parent accurately documents the amount of time spent with their child(ren) in case it becomes a "he said/she said" situation at any point. The court looks favorably on a paper trail. Minimally, use a calendar to not only note sleepovers, but also rides to/from school, extracurricular activities spent together, visits and so on. An hour here and a couple hours there adds up quickly. It is particularly important to note when custody schedules are not being upheld and why.

Professionals Remove the Emotional Factor

Many amicable parents tend to handle the payment of child support on their own, trusting the paying parent to do so in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the relationship could take a turn for the worse for a wide variety of reasons, and withholding child support is often the first line of attack.  

This can be avoided by engaging with a professional right from the beginning. It takes the emotion out of the equation since the agency is in the middle acting as a non-partial gatekeeper, so to speak. Children's lives are kept more consistent and stable, which is of utmost priority.

Let Jamra & Jamra Help

Jamra & Jamra's Beverly Hills child support lawyers have been practicing family law in California for nearly 40 years. We are experts at providing guidance through complex and emotionally fraught child custody and child support scenarios.

Examples of services typically provided are:

Please contact us for a free in-office initial consultation. After a thorough analysis of the facts of the case, our lawyers will promptly offer all of the legal options available.

When It’s Time to Modify a Child Support Order

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Going through a divorce after establishing a family is stressful and upsetting. Sometimes the turmoil doesn't end when your divorce finalizes. Perhaps you and your ex-spouse settled on a child support agreement—perhaps the court ruled on an appropriate order. Either way, changes may occur that give cause for a change in your child support order.

Changes That Effect a Child Support Order

Have you or your ex-spouse experienced one of the following changes?

  • The income of one or both parents has changed
  • A parent has a child from another relationship
  • There have been significant changes in time the child spends with each parent
  • A parent becomes incarcerated
  • The child's needs change in cost, including but not limited to health care, child care, or education
  • There have been changes in any of the factors used to calculate child support.

For parents who have already been through the trials of a divorce, going back before a judge to argue with your ex can be dismaying. You've already gone through the proceedings once before. Still, the financial needs of you and your children are very important. As a parent, you want the best for your child, and if some occurrence puts a strain on your wallet, it is in your best interest to obtain a fair resolution. Whether that is with the cooperation of the other parent or without, having the correct child support is essential to the stability of yours and your children's lives.

Proceedings

Child support proceedings can transpire through multiple avenues. You may reach a new settlement with your spouse amiably, or you may have to take them to court. You may also involve your local child support agency (LSCA). The LSCA acts as a middleman between you and the court; the agency determines whether a modification to your child support order is needed based on both parents' financial records. If you and your former spouse are able to reach an agreement without the interference of an outside party, the LSCA may also file what is called a "stipulation" to the court of your agreement.

Learn More About a Child Support Order

No matter the route that is taken to reach new child support arrangements, it is always important to have a family attorney to ensure that all outcomes are in the best interest of you and your child. Please contact us with any questions you may have about your child support.

Can Contentious Couples Be Successful in a Mediation Setting?

Monday, July 06, 2020

Did you know that mediation is possible in divorce to keep even the most contentious couples out of the courtroom for the duration of their legal separation?

Correct mediation procedures allow for practical and flexible resolutions to problems. Otherwise, they are finalized in a courtroom at a higher cost by a judge who doesn't know or understand you and the dynamics of your family.

What Does Mediation Involve?

Mediation is an Alternative Dispute Resolution for divorcing couples who truly want what is best for their children and their futures. We back you up during your meetings with a neutral third-person, or mediator, and your former partner to come up with unique and personal compromises that both you and your former partner can agree on. 

Mediation can cover all aspects of divorce, including:

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child and spousal support
  • Property and asset division
  • Business evaluation

According to Rule 5.210 in the California Rules of Court 2020, every mediator in California must legally be impartial towards each party and competent of all laws and regulations concerning the divorce process. We will be right there with you to ensure that the process is legal and that you are protected from giving more than you are able. 

Contentious Arguments

When you and your former partner argue, or disagree, about a situation, then the mediator will call for a break to cool down and discuss further options with your lawyers. The discussion can continue after a reevaluation of the situation from both sides or we can make another appointment and come back after a time of contemplation and consideration.

Mediation has worked well with many contentious couples. The process works around your schedule, not ours, and so decisions are not made hastily or out of exasperation. Arguments and even bickering are halted immediately and, with much contemplation, attacked creatively from a different angle. We want the process to be a smooth as possible and we are here to help you do that. 

Contentious couples can be very successful in mediation and sometimes the process can change your relationship with your former spouse into a more positive one, one that supports a positive co-parenting experience for everyone involved. 

What Can Jamra & Jamra Do for You?

Our legal mediation support is crucial and renders court appearances unnecessary. We can work together to create a binding contractual agreement that accomplishes everything a traditional divorce does in a quicker, more personal, and much more private way. 

California Super Lawyers at Jamra & Jamra L.L.P. Family Law Attorneys in Beverly Hills use creative and personalized strategies that focus solely on you and your protection during divorce proceedings, no matter what direction you decide to take. Family law can go one of two ways. We're prepared for both. 

Contact us for a free consultation and brainstorming session to discuss what could be our cost-effective and diligent plan of defense. We understand your needs and are prepared to stand by your side.