Family Law Blog

What Can an Unmarried Parent Do For Child Visitation?

Friday, February 23, 2018

For married parents that decide to split up, the divorce process includes proceedings to decide what happens to the children. However, for parents that never married, they do not need legal proceedings in order to stop seeing each other. The major downside of this is there is no legal order in place that says one parents has to let the other see their kids. However, while nothing legal may not be in place, unmarried parents do have options to put something in place so they can continue to have parental rights.

Establishing Paternity

By default in almost every state, the mother will have primary custody of her children in the event of an unmarried split. However, if the father files a paternity action in court to declare legal paternity, this will give them rights to have visitation or custody of the child. This will involve a paternity test as well as a public declaration before the court that you claim your paternal rights.

Establishing Custody or Visitation

The courts will always work within what is the best interest of the child, and most courts view a meaningful relationship with both parents as in the best interest. If you seek to take primary custody, the legal battles will be a little more complicated. You need to prove why the primary custodial parent is unfit and why living with you would be better for the child. However, if you are merely seeking joint custody or even just visitation, the court process will be significantly easier as the courts often want children to spend time with both their parents.

Both custody and visitation will have time schedules that are laid out with input by both parents, but ultimately approved by the courts. This will also include certain stipulations in which the primary custodial parent will need to make the other parent aware of such things like relocation since they will officially have legal parental rights like parents who had been previously married.

Are you an unmarried parent going to through a split and wondering how you can keep in touch with your kids? Contact us today to see what Jamra & Jamra can do to make sure your kids stay in your life.

What Happens When A Child Doesn’t Want to Have Visitation?

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Often when it comes to visitation issues, typically it is one parent not showing up to a scheduled visitation, resulting in understandable heartbreak. However, occasionally it can actually be the child that doesn't want to attend a visitation. Maybe they are bored just watching TV with dad all day, or maybe mom is seeing someone new and it is resulting in some discomfort on their part. Regardless of the reason, what happens when a child no longer wants to attend visitation?

If the custodial parent denies visitation, they can be held in contempt of court. This can still happen if your child is refusing. This is why the custodial parent needs to take steps in order to remedy their relationship with the non-custodial parent.

The incontrovertible first step should always be to ask your child why they don't want to go. Sometimes it can be from neglect or abuse, and then that becomes a whole different ball game where you can often have visitation revoked. However, if it is something like boredom and negative emotions, often you can ask your ex-spouse to address these issues. Perhaps it would be better to spend time with their child doing more interesting things or it would be better if their new significant other wasn't around until they were more comfortable. You, as the custodial parent, need to explain very clearly how spending time with both parents is important. Make sure it is known that both sides love them and both sides always want to spend time with them.

If your child still refuses, a last resort may also be asking your ex-spouse for a little break from visitation. However, this might open you up to legal action. This means that if your child is refusing visitation, you may want to contact us to talk your options over with a lawyer.

What You Should Know About Child Custody

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Are you about to be embroiled in a child custody battle? Being granted custody of your child isn't a straightforward process, and it could play out in any number of ways depending on the decisions that you make. Here are some of the aspects surrounding child custody law that you should consider: 

Mutual agreement via Mediation

Keep in mind that spending any length of time in court is going to cost you. So it's always a good idea to attempt mediation and try to resolve the issue of custody with your former partner and his or her attorneys. However, it's also worth noting that these negotiations don't have to be formal. You and your former partner could meet at a coffee shop and have a calm, rational discussion about visitation rights, who the child should live with, child support, etc. If that fails, you could proceed to formal negotiations featuring attorneys from both sides and a licensed mediator. The mediator might be able to find points of reconciliation that weren't able to be reached prior to professional intervention. 

Child Custody Battles Outside of Marriage 

If the parents are unmarried, the mother will typically be awarded custody by the courts. While the law usually grants custody to the mother, the father still has the right to pursue visitation rights. The good news is that the lack of a marital bond means unpleasant legal entanglements such as child support or property disputes are rendered a non-issue.

Not the Parent?

In some cases, child custody disputes can arise between a relative who isn't the biological parent of the child and an absent parent. If this is your situation, you'll have to submit a "non-parent custody petition" to the courts, which requires details such as relationship to the child, reasons for the custody request, as well as the status of the parents. 

Please, contact us for more information. 

Child Custody Issues When One Parent Wants to Move to Another State

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What happens when one parent decides to move to a different state? The first thing to know is that if there is joint custody, you’re not permitted to move without the consent of the other parent or a court decision permitting it. Here are some other things you should be aware of.

Physical Joint Custody Vs Legal Joint Custody

Legal joint custody is when the child is staying with only one parent, but both parents have a legal say in the future of the child. In such cases, making a move will be a lot easier to accomplish. When there is joint physical custody, however, things will get a little more complicated.

Getting the Courts to Agree to a Move

It won’t be easy to get the courts to agree to a move. The court will take the ultimate well-being of the child into account, and that includes the emotional effects of moving away from a parent. You will have to prove that moving will be in the best interests of the child. If you can prove that moving is the only way to get reasonable employment, for example, or that the move is necessary for the educational needs of the child, the court may approve the move. Otherwise, you can move only if you leave your child behind. 

Visitation Rights After Moving

If the court agrees to the move, they will work out some sort of visitation agreement for the child. For example, if you are moving far away, the child may spend the summers with their other parent. Other communication method plans such as phone calls may also be set up.

For legal help with your child custody case, just contact us!

Who Gets Child Custody If Your Former Spouse Dies?

Friday, August 25, 2017

What happens when your former spouse, who was awarded custodial rights over your children, suddenly passes away? In most cases, custodial rights will revert back to you, the remaining surviving parent. However, other factors can come into play as well. Here are some common issues that arise.

If You Are Unfit

Courts will be looking out for the child’s best interests. In most cases, their best interests is to be with their biological parent. If, however, you are deemed unfit for taking care of them (for example, if you have a history of child abuse), the court will probably deny you custodial rights.

If Your Spouse Left a Will

If your spouse left a will stipulating who should be the guardian of your child, that will generally not have any direct effect. Your spouse did not own your child. The courts may, however, take your spouse's suggestion into consideration in their final ruling when analyzing what will be the best thing for the child.

If a Third Party Intervenes

Although you will usually be awarded custody, a third party can still intervene. A grandparent or other relative has the right to petition the courts for custody. They will usually have to prove that staying with you will cause harm to the child.

If Your Spouse Remarried

What if your spouse remarried? The existence of a stepparent may complicate things. If the stepparent formally adopted the child and your parental rights were terminated, they will generally retain custodial rights unless you adopt your child again. If, however, the stepparent did not adopt the child and you still retain parental rights, things may be different.

Contact us for legal help in any case involving child custody so that we can help you out.

How Does Mental Illness Effect Child Custody

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Mental illness can be a tricky issue, more so when it is brought into a custody case. Raising a child can be a challenging endeavor, and this can be problematic for people who suffer from mental illness. However, there are parents that have mental illness who are great parents, and also those who are not. This means when it comes down to mental health issues, it is left to a judge to carefully consider and decide on custody.

Rest assured that the judge will always make decisions in custody cases that are in the best interests of the child. However, if you suffer from mental illness and are worried about losing complete custody of their child, there are things that can affect the judge's decision for better or worse.

When a judge is considering your case, here is what you should keep in mind:

  • Is the mentally ill parent compliant with treatment?
  • What specific mental health issue the parent suffers from
  • Is the home environment stable?
  • Does the mental health issue affect the parent's ability to meet the emotional and physical needs of a child?

Naturally, if a parent suffers from depression, they are not considered as potentially destructive to a child as a manic schizophrenic. However, any mental health issue, if treated and the patient willingly undergoes treatment, can still allow them to keep custody. The willingness to undergo treatment and provide a stable home environment for a child both go a long way to keeping custody of them.

If you are divorcing and worried about your mental health issue affecting your custody case of your child, contact us today. The Law Firm of Jamra & Jamra believes that if you are seeking treatment and a good parent, any mental health issue shouldn't keep you from spending time with your child.

When Can a Grandparent Gain Custody of a Child?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

When parents cannot properly raise a child, for whatever reason, grandparents often take over the responsibility. This is often done without a court's intervention but legal custody requires a judge's order. This poses difficulties if one or both parents refuse to relinquish custody. Learn what events can convince the court to give the legal responsibility of a child to a grandparent.

You must have a compelling reason for seeking custody of a child as courts are reluctant to take children away from parents. Judges are most likely to rule in your favor when you can prove a serious issue threatens the physical, mental and/or emotional health of the child. These include cases where a parent abuses drugs or alcohol, is physically abusive or neglectful or has a serious mental illness that impairs her ability to care for the child.

A judge's obligation is to always consider what is in the best interest of the child. So, if you are a grandparent seeking custody of your grandchild, you must prove the child will fare better with you than anyone else. So, you must provide a healthy, safe environment that the child does not have with his parents (or other legal guardians). Show the court you have a stable home and can provide the child with such things as proper nutrition, a bedroom, peaceful environment, toys and an appropriate education.

A judge is more likely to give you custody in cases where you are already a prime caregiver for the child. If you can prove you regularly take care of the child in your home, then the court knows the child is familiar and comfortable with the environment you provide. In general, judges prefer to place children with family members rather than foster or adoptive homes so this is something in your favor.

You can gain custody of your grandchild in certain circumstances. If you believe the child is in danger or his welfare is in jeopardy by remaining with his parents, you can petition the court for custody. Bring evidence such as pictures, letters and digital messages and affidavits from witnesses to prove the child needs relief  from his current environment. Also, show the court proof of your ability to provide a home and the best care for your grandchild.

Contact us for more information regarding legal custody of children.

What You Need to Know About Child Custody

Thursday, February 23, 2017

If you're getting divorced, you are wondering what it takes to attain the custody of your children. Fortunately, it is possible to come to an amicable agreement with your ex-spouse concerning whom the children will live with, as well as visitation rights.


Negotiations can involve a professional mediator, or consist of just you and your former partner. This is preferable in many ways to pursuing the court option because time and money are saved, not to mention the psychological health of any children involved. Keep in mind that negotiations don't need to take place in an "official setting." For instance, you can arrange to meet at a local restaurant where you will both be put at ease and will be able to focus on the important and relevant issues.

The Courts

If for some reason negotiations fall through, you could try your luck in court. The judge will look at various factors to determine what is best for the child. What is in the child's best interest includes their psychological and physical health, as well as what seems best for him or her long-term. Usually a court appointed psychiatrist will assess any children involved, and this will heavily influence the court's decision as to which parent will be awarded custody.  

Physical vs. Legal Custody

The two main types of custody that you should be aware of are physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where your child will reside day-to-day. Legal custody concerns the ability to make decisions affecting the child's education, health-related concerns, and other important aspects of life. Despite which parent is awarded physical custody, legal custody is typically shared between both parents. 

Please, contact us immediately. 

Understanding a Change In Circumstances for Child Custody

Thursday, February 16, 2017

First and foremost, it is supremely important to understand that each state uses its own laws to determine which relevant factors to consider, and how much weight should be given to each factor as it relates to child custody. The information given here is in no way intended to be substituted for actual research for your state's laws and regulations concerning child custody.

Most importantly, the outcome of the child custody case will change the contour of life for you, your child, AND the other parent. Parenting requires a constantly moving, dynamic, and systemic series of decisions, that should NEVER be taken lightly. Hire an attorney, and listen to what they have to say. After all, they went to school for a very long time to learn to help you, and for the most part, they are much more emotionally detached from the situation than you will be.

The cold hard truth about child custody cases is that they are so state-specific and even judge-specific, that almost anything can beconsidered relevant. Although the judge's discretion ultimately prevails, most courts have several factors they weigh when determining the best interests of the child, and how it might be impacted by the adoption of a Permanent Parenting Plan (PPP). 

In custody disputes, the court is primarily trying to determine which parent should be the Primary Residential Parent (PRP) and which parent should be the Alternative Residential Parent (ARP). In order to make this determination, the court will consider any factors it deems relevant, including but not limited to, the age and cognitive abilities of the child, the prior relationship each parent held with the child prior to the divorce, any history of addiction, any history of physical or emotional abuse, the ability of either parent to assume the same, more, or less parenting duties due to work schedules, the geographic location of work or home of each parent, and the educational opportunities each parent can provide. 

Once the court weighs the factors and adopts a PPP, any proposed modification of the PPP must be accompanied by evidence that the circumstances which led to the court making the decision it made regarding the PPP, have changed to the extent that the PPP should bemodified to allow the ARP more time with the child. Because the parent opposing the change will NEVER acknowledge that the change in circumstances requires a custody modification, and the proponent of the modification will ALWAYS feel the opposite way, the court will rely heavily on the discretion of the judge making the rulings. 

Actually defining what constitutes a material change in circumstances can be just as challenging as the circumstances themselves. Basically, the person asking for modification has the burden of proving that the factors considered in the best interests of the child would be greatly impacted by the change in circumstances, and that due to said change in circumstances, continuing the PPP as ordered would actually be against the best interests of the child. 

Things such as serious changes in the needs of the child, or the financial or educational support being given to the child, the PRP or the ARP changing locations, changing jobs, getting remarried, developing illnesses, or any other factor the court deems relevant, can beconsidered a material change in circumstances. 

The bottom line is, if you and the other parent are at odds as to what is in the best interest of your child, both of you should make every attempt to reasonably accommodate the other parent. If you choose not to, the court can use any number of factors to determine what it thinks is in the best interest of the child. 

Remember that when life happens, if it happens in such a way that these factors need to be revisited to determine what is in the best interest of YOUR child, it is best to be the parent who acted in the most reasonable manner possible under the circumstances. If you don't, and either parent asks the court to decide what’s best for your child, it is possible you will not be pleased with the decision made.

If you are currently in need of advice regarding a child custody case, contact us

Dealing With Tardiness in Child Custody Matters

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When figuring out a parenting plan and child custody schedule, parents might work something out before finalizing a divorce or have matters settled by a judge. Either way, everything won't always go according to plan. A visitation order might list how often and at what times a noncustodial parent receives access to a child or children. Problems may arise if one parent stops following the schedule by showing up late or not showing up at all. Here are some tips for dealing with tardiness or absences.

Occasional Slip Ups

Parents should try to work with each other when possible and realize that unplanned events do arise every now and then that could interfere with the regular schedule. Being late once or twice will happen, and it's better to not get worked up if little things like this occur.

When It Becomes A Habit

If a parent is always late or frequently changes plans without warning, start by talking to them. Maybe there is a reason and an easy fix for the problem or the person doesn't even realize there is an issue. Though a fixed schedule is helpful for kids and adults, real life can get in the way. Changes to a schedule might be needed as time passes.

When Parents Can't Work It Out

Mediation could be the right solution if both parents want to reach an agreement but are unable to communicate and solve the problem. A mediator could help parents find and agree on a compromise. If mediation doesn't work and nothing improves, going to court to enforce or change an order might be necessary. Try to document what is happening and how it affects your children.

When divorcing or trying to raise children after a divorce, an attorney's assistance may be needed. Contact us today for information about how we could help you.