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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.

How Does the Length of a Marriage Affect Spousal Support?

Monday, June 29, 2020

There are many aspects of marriage to consider when calculating spousal support when filing for a divorce. However, one of the more crucial aspects is the length of the marriage. The length of your marriage not only factors into how much you get, but how long you will get it for, and even if you will receive spousal support at all.

Shorter Marriage

Typically, those who have been married for a long time, usually more than ten years, will receive a lengthy spousal support period. However, the length will also be extended if the spouse asking for support does not work or makes a small amount of income.

For example, if a grocery store worker divorced a millionaire after a year of marriage, they will likely get no spousal support from the marriage. They weren't married very long and were able to support themselves just a year ago. Now, they can do it again. Even if they quit their job during the marriage, it is one they could get again without much difficulty.

Longer Marriage

Now, take a dissolving 30-year marriage where one party is a sole earner and the other has been a house-maker for the past 20 years. It is likely that the non-working party will get a long-term or lifetime of spousal support. This is because they have been out of the workforce for so long that it would be difficult for them to become gainfully employed.

Learn More About Spousal Support

It is likely that your marriage falls in between these two extremes. Typically, what the standard couple will be looking at is a limited spousal support award based on the length of your marriage. This will allow the lesser earning party an adjustment period after the divorce, but the payments will end eventually.

Are you going through a tough divorce and need help? Contact us today to see what Jamra & Jamra can do to help you get through this difficult experience.

How to Keep the Cost of Divorce Low

Monday, June 22, 2020

It is not a highly advertised fact, but getting a divorce can be expensive. For some, they have the funds to draw things out and make sure they get their fair share. However, that is not the case for most of us. If both you and your ex-spouse aren't exactly flush with cash or assets, there are a few things to keep in mind if you are looking to keep the cost of divorce as low as possible.

Divorce Amicably

If you and your ex-spouse are willing to work out property division and child custody amicably in mediation, it will save you quite a bit. Not only is it cheaper to not have to get the court involved, but it is also much faster.

Share Documentation

Bank statements, retirement account, or anything else you have that is a financial document – share it. Nothing will slow down a divorce faster than dragging your feet presenting documents or even trying to hide assets. The longer you take, the longer you need to pay your lawyer. If it becomes apparent that someone is being unnecessarily malicious, they may even face punitive measures.

Don't Fight For Items Not Worth It

If you and your ex-spouse are having a disagreement over who gets the multi-million dollar mansion, then certainly fighting for it is worth it. However, fighting over who gets a set of DVDs or a potted plant isn't worth what you are paying your lawyer for. There are battles worth fighting and there are battles that aren't worth it. You should know firmly what you aren't willing to give up and assess if it is really important to fight for it or if it can be replaced over time.

Conclusion

Are you going through a divorce? We can help. Contact us today to see what Jamra & Jamra can do to help you keep your divorce fair, quick, and as affordable as possible.

Can You Relocate Your Children Following Divorce?

Friday, June 12, 2020

Divorce is never easy as there is rarely a clean break. Often, the most precious assets are children over which there are custody decisions. Usually, a custodial parent is named and is the one who will have the most time with the children. The other parent is generally given visitation rights on a set schedule. Sometimes, "joint custody" is agreed upon or mandated by the court in which both parents have equal custody. However, one is named the "residential parent" whose address is utilized for the purposes of postal mail and school.

Notice of Intent to Relocate

Many courts deem "joint custody" as the ideal situation ("in best interest of children"), but sole custody is ordered when declared appropriate. For example, in cases of domestic violence or other threats to a child's safety. When there is shared custody, one parent is required by law to provide notice of intent to change residence by certified mail at least 60 days prior to moving. This is the case with any relocation, even if it is within the same neighborhood.

This notice is required to include:

  • The new mailing address if known. If unknown, the city for relocation must be named
  • A current contact phone number for the relocating parent
  • Proposed date of relocation
  • Short statement describing reasons for intended move of the relocating parent and children
  • Proposed plan for adjusting custody conditions (including visitation) as necessary

Consequences for Failure to Provide Notice

A parent who relocates his/her children without providing the required written notice risks much with the court in which custody was initially decided. The court will take into account this breach and will use it as a factor when deciding how, when, and if custody and visitation will be modified. It is possible the judge will order the children returned from the relocation and the offending parent might be ordered to pay expenses of the non-relocating parent.

Objection Filing By Non-Relocating Parent

Once a parent is noticed of his/her ex-spouse's plan to relocate, he/she has 30 days in which to file an objection with the court which initially handled the child's custody issue. Should the parent fail to file, the court will most likely allow the other parent to move. If the petition is filed, most often the court will hold a hearing to determine if the relocation is in best interest of the involved minors.

Factors the Court Might Consider

  • How drastically the current custody agreement will need to change to accommodate the distance of the move. For example, if the non-relocating parent currently has his/her children every weekend, a far away move would likely make visits much rarer.
  • Both parents income might be taken into account by the court as funds are needed to permit frequent visitation to other parent's residence.
  • Does the move provide a more stable and safe environment for the minors. For instance, is the new home in better condition than the old one, are there good local schools, is the new location in a lower area of crime, is there less air pollution in the area of relocation?
  • Record of prior visitation; for example, does the parent filing the objection have a history of frequent visitation or is it sporadic or rare?

Learn More About Relocating Your Children Following Divorce

A qualified and experienced attorney in child custody is advisable for those who wish to relocate a child following divorce. Jamra & Jamra is a firm dedicated to help those with divorce issues including child custody and visitation concerns. Please contact us so we can help you with your situation.

Why You Need a Prenuptial Agreement

Friday, June 05, 2020

What do you think of when you hear the word, "prenup"? Maybe that a prenuptial agreement is only for the rich or for couples who really don't expect their upcoming marriage to last? 

The truth is that a prenuptial agreement provides a lot of benefits for everyday couples. It does not mean that you expect your marriage to fail or do not trust your partner. Instead, a prenup can provide peace of mind by honestly putting financial matters on the table before you say, "I do".  

First, What Exactly is a Prenuptial Agreement?

prenuptial agreement is a contract created and signed by two people before they marry. It outlines what will happen to their assets and debts if the marriage ends in death or divorce. Here are a few reasons that you and your partner might want to consider one.

Protects Children from Previous Marriage

If you have children from a previous marriage, then a prenup lets you spell out what property your children will receive when you die. It prevents a spouse from claiming property that children are meant to inherit.

Outlines Financial Responsibilities

Individuals entering into marriage may have very different outlooks when it comes to finances. For example, one might be a spender while the other is a saver. A prenup can outline exactly who has what financial responsibilities during the marriage and can help smooth tensions when it comes to managing household finances.

Eliminates Arguments in Case of Divorce

If the marriage does end in divorce, then a prenuptial agreement can eliminate arguments about how to divide assets. Indeed, all of that is already spelled out. This can help make an already difficult situation, less so.

Learn More About a Prenuptial Agreement

So, although a prenuptial agreement is not particularly romantic, it can protect the financial well-being of your children, outline financial responsibilities during the marriage, and reduce conflict in case of divorce.

If you are entering into a marriage and are interested in creating a prenup, then please contact us. Our team looks forward to working with you!

Working Out Travel in Child Custody Agreements

Friday, May 29, 2020

When you are trying to agree on child custody during a divorce, there is a lot of consider. You and your ex-partner will likely be focused on where your children will live and when, but the key to a successful parenting plan is considering all situations. This is why you definitely need to take travel into consideration.

Travel With a Child

Travel as a child can greatly expand their horizons and it can be a very fun experience, but travel can be a pretty big disruption to the schedule. So, how do you factor in travel to your parenting plan when working out custody? In truth there are a few questions that you and your ex-partner will want to know the answers to:

  • When can travel be done? I.e. Will it interfere with school or parenting time?
  • Who handles providing travel necessities for the child?
  • How and if a child will be able to communicate with the non-traveling parent?
  • Will other parties be allowed to travel with you and the child?

Be Fair

It is best to approach these questions fairly, but also in a flexible nature. Such as if you aren't sure you want a child to be able to travel with the other parent and their new lover, you may want to set ground rules that you have to have met them first before it happens. This helps everyone feel more comfortable and does not completely close off the possibility. However, if you are in a potentially tumultuous divorce where there may be problems, you may also want to set stricter ground rules like barring out of country vacations, at least for awhile.

Learn More About Travel in Child Custody Agreements

Are you going through a divorce with difficult child custody? Let us help. Contact us today to see how Law Office of Jamra & Jamra can help you get through this.


Property Division in a Nesting Situation

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Nesting is a term describing a situation in which the child stays in the family home while the parents move in and out on a specific schedule. It is one of those situations that sounds great on paper, but doesn't work so great in practice. While the child has superior stability, there are a few issues with nesting.

Multiple Residences

Primarily, most divorced parents can't necessarily sustain two residences as would be required. Furthermore, nesting requires excellent communication to do well. However, the biggest issue can be how the property is divided in a divorce if you are still sharing much of it.

Ownership

If you wish to make a nesting situation feasible at least for some period of time, it is crucial that when you are dividing the property, you both retain ownership of the house. Both names will want to be on the mortgage so one person does not have legal ownership of it. Furthermore, you will want to negotiate who handles what bills when it comes to upkeep.

Upkeep

Working out the financial and physical care of a shared residence is the most important matter of property division in a nesting-based divorce. Outside of that, the property division remains much the same as a regular divorce. You will want to split up the items inside that house and if possible remove them so that your spouse doesn't have access to them. If items do need to remain in the shared home, it is important to have "your own" space there in which they should stay. This helps to mitigate instances that can cause fights.

Learn More About Nesting

Are you going through a divorce? It is a tough time, but having a skilled divorce attorney by your side can make it a little easier to navigate. If you are divorcing, contact us today to see how Jamra & Jamra can help.