Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Custody dispute: What court do I go to?

When you and the other parent of your child are having a dispute over custody, visitation, child support, etc. the first step is to know what court you should be going to.  The answer is: it depends.

Are you and the other parent married and going through a divorce?  If so, then you have a choice of filing in either the Circuit Court or the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.  If you choose the Circuit Court, the custody dispute will be handled in connection with your divorce.  If you choose the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, the custody dispute will be handled independently from your divorce. 

Are you and the other parent not married?  If so, you should file in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.

The Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court is a district court and is a lower court than the Circuit Court.  The J&DR courts handle only juvenile matters and family matters.  Depending on which specific court you are in, the process may be somewhat more relaxed and you may have your case heard sooner than if you were in Circuit Court.  Also, because the J&DR court is a lower court than the Circuit Court, either party can appeal the ruling of the J&DR court to the Circuit Court.  This means, if you are unhappy with the result, you can go to the next highest court and have a completely new trial with a new judge. 

Now that you've figured out which court you should be in, how do you know actually WHERE to go.  Typically you need to be in the court for the county or city where the child resides.  Once that is determined, you can go to the Supreme Court of Virginia website and find the physical address for that court.

While these are the basics for determining which court you should file in, you should seek advice from an attorney to determine which court is best for your specific circumstances.  If you are involved in a custody or visitation dispute and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.   

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why you should consult an attorney BEFORE you file for custody

Many clients call me and want to retain me for their upcoming court date to determine custody, visitation, child support, etc.  Very few clients, however, think to make that call BEFORE they file their petition or motion to amend custody.  Here's why you should talk with an attorney first.

1.  It's pretty basic but if you are intent on hiring a particular attorney, you will want to make sure that attorney is available for your court date.  While courts will sometimes allow for a continuance so that your attorney can appear in court, that is not always the case.  If you want a specific attorney, you need them to be involved at the beginning to make sure the court date is a date that are available.

2.  You need to file the right documents.  In the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court it may appear simple to fill out a motion to amend and you may think you don't need your attorney to help with that.  While most of the time the filing needs to be done by you, the client, you need to know what to put in that motion to amend.  Simply asking for a change in physical custody may not be enough.  You may need to move to amend legal custody as well.  You may or may not want to move to amend child support and visitation at the same time.  Consult with you attorney on what to file prior to actually filing the papers.  It will make the process simpler and clearer for you down the road.

3.  We need time to prepare.  Most of an attorney's work goes on "behind the scenes".  There are deadlines we have to file, such as sending out witness subpeonas (to ensure your witnesses attend court) by a certain deadline.  Perhaps there are discovery deadlines that may pass before you hire an attorney.  The more time you allow an attorney in advance to prepare for your case, the better case you will be able to present.  To hit this point home, at a certain point in each case, many attorneys will decline to represent you simply because they do not have adequate time to prepare a competent case for you.  You certainly do not want to be in a position to not have an attorney because you waited too late.

Depending on your arrangements, it may be slightly more expensive to hire an attorney at the very beginning, or it may be the same cost.  The result of your case, however, can vary significantly depending on what stage you bring an attorney in to represent you.  If you are thinking about filing or have filed a petition or motion to amend custody/visitation/child support and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Does your custody arrangement include summer vacations?

Does your custody arrangement, whether by agreement or court order, include provisions for summer vacation?  Now is the time to find out.  Many times summer vacations are left out of the official custody arrangements, usually because people just weren't thinking about that when they were trying to figure out who their child would live with on a regular basis. 

If your custody arrangement does include provisions for summer vacation, great!  Follow the terms of your agreement or court order. 

If your custody arrangement does not include provisions for summer vacation, now is the time to figure out how that will play out.  Depending on where you live, you may have time to have the court decide a vacation schedule.  If not, you should have a serious conversation with the other parent of your child(ren).  If you do not have the ability to have the court decide a vacation schedule, you are going to have to work with your co-parent to determine a schedule that is best for your children.

While you are working with your co-parent, remember that this is all about your children.  You may not want to spend two weeks away from your child but would it be good for your child to go visit their extended family with their other parent?  It may be a burden to adjust your planned vacation, but would adjusting your planned vacation benefit your children?  Try to put aside the emotions that may come up in talking with your child's other parent and focus on your children and their needs.  If you are unsure that you can make this agreement with your co-parent, consider using a mediator, who is a neutral third party who can help you come to an agreement. 

If you are involved in a custody or visitation case and would like more information or a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.