Category Archives: Blog

How Likely Is Settling A Family Law Case Rather Than Going To Court?

No one wants to stand in front of a judge, not knowing whose side the court of law will decide to stand behind. Perhaps it’s that feeling of powerlessness that results in a majority of family law cases being settled outside of court rather than inside. No matter how much animosity you and your ex-spouse have for one another, both of you will be statistically more likely to prefer making decisions for yourselves — even if it might seem impossible at first.

This wasn’t always the case. Historically, when the court almost always sided with the mother, the decision was often left up to a judge — because why wouldn’t the mother do what was in her own best interest when seeking a certain outcome?

That being said, these days you’ll be more likely to sit down with a mediator to resolve your differences. The mediator’s decision is final, which means there’s no saying “never mind” and heading back to court when you don’t like the outcome. Because you want what’s best for you and your family, there are a few steps you can take to increase the chances of achieving a desired outcome.

First, find the right mediator. Just like lawyers, they tend to focus on certain niche practice areas rather than the entirety of law. Are you trying to obtain custody of a child? You’ll want to find a mediator who specializes in mental-health or social work. 

Retired judges also make great mediators because they’ll let you know what they would do in court. That’s not to say that every judge makes the same decision, but you’ll get an idea of how the case would proceed outside of mediation. 

Family law attorneys also make good mediators — but you and your spouse probably already have your own sitting on either side of the table, and that means you won’t want a third in the room.

One aspect of mediation you should be prepared for before you head into the room is how long it will take. It’s not a fifteen-minute process. First you’ll have a joint meeting, then you’ll discuss what terms you’d like to seek with your lawyer and the mediator one-on-one. That usually takes at least an hour for your side and another hour for theirs. Then you come together for another joint meeting. If you can’t agree during that meeting, then guess what: it starts all over again. 

More than one session is more likely than not. That means you’ll want to be calm, cool, and collected. Try to give as much as you take, because otherwise you’re going to be in for a long, painful few days.

What Are President Trump’s Views On Same-Sex Adoption?

When Donald Trump began to run for president in 2015, he advertised himself as a great friend of LGBTQ folks — he said he thought same-sex individuals who were in love was perfectly okay. Of course, anyone who’s really keeping track of what the man says versus what the man does is probably storing too many corrupted files in their brain to keep sane. If Obama did something, Trump has tried to reverse the order. 

The same applies for same-sex adoptive efforts. 

During his time in office, President Obama didn’t exactly require adoption agencies to allow same-sex adoptions. But he did withhold federal monies from those who didn’t want to play ball with qualified parents. Trump fought to remove the previous Obama-era ruling based on religious freedom. The administration had been deciding between simply reversing Obama’s mandates versus simply allowing religious entities to deny same-sex parents the right to adopt at their agencies.

Sadly, it’s not about what makes the most sense from a societal standpoint. The officials who broke the news explained that it was about what would work in court, not what would work in reality. 

If put into law, the new Trump policy would be broached by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights. Roger Severino, who heads that office, did not comment on these potential adoption policies. But these actions were first noted in January when a waiver was given to Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina. This allowed the organization to turn away non-Christians (or anyone else really). 

The really perverse part of these policies is that at least one in five foster kids are part of the LGBTQ community. That means that kids are more likely to be adopted into a family that doesn’t support their very thoughts and feelings — or simply that they’re less likely to be adopted at all. These kids deserve a fair chance, and Trump is doing his best work to steal those opportunities away from them.

Obama also drafted policy that required doctors to provide care for transgender patients. Donald Trump was responsible for removing that one as well. The same move was used to give health care workers the right to deny services that go against their faith.

Why anyone would deny qualified parents the right to care for a child in need is beyond reason. There are approximately 440,000 children in the foster care system right now. But then again, kids in need is a common thread when looking at Trump’s policies.

Since his first day in office, he has worked to cut funding for the Education Department.

How Many Kids Are Up For Adoption In The United States?

You’ve probably heard the argument before: if you can’t have your own kids (or even if you can), then you should really consider adoption. There are so many kids out there who need a loving home where they can be given a chance to succeed in today’s harsh world! It’s a good argument. That’s because there are currently 422,000 kids under the age of eighteen who are living in foster care in the United States. 

6,541 of those kids live in New Jersey.

Do you know what foster care is? First and foremost, the ultimate goal of any foster care system is to reunite children with their biological parents (or other biological family members) when possible. The reasons why they were placed in foster care in the first place are varied and complex — for example, a child was recently placed in foster care when arriving in the United States even though her biological aunt was waiting to pick her up when her plane landed.

When reunification is not feasible, the foster parents will sometimes have the option of adopting the child they’ve fostered. This makes becoming a foster parent the first step for many adults trying to adopt. Foster parents are almost always considered first when a child is up for adoption.  

In order to adopt or foster children, prospective foster parents must be able to maintain and support a stable family environment. That’s the point: to give these kids a loving family life and keep them happy and healthy. Parents can be single or married; it doesn’t matter when determining whether or not a stable home is possible. Parents will need to complete 27 hours of PRIDE training in New Jersey, though. These classes are meant to prepare parents for the potential difficulties of foster parenting.

There are a variety of kids up for adoption. Older kids are far less likely to be adopted, which is why you might consider lending your home to make their lives go a little easier. Some have developmental or emotional issues that must be managed, and often these are the result of past events in their lives. They need love and support, but sometimes they can be more of a handful.

The costs of adoption are basically just the costs of raising any kid at any age. The process itself doesn’t cost anything extra, aside from costs incurred from ensuring each family member is medically examined prior to a foster or adopted child’s introduction into a new household.

A Fresno, California Family Law Attorney Was Accused Of Sex Crimes

What happens when a lawyer is accused of unspeakable crimes? It might surprise you that one Fresno, California family law attorney couldn’t even manage to find a defense attorney with a reasonable strategy. Then again, it might not. Jennifer Walters was arrested and charged with seven felonies, all of which fall under the umbrella of sex crimes — not exactly the sort of reputation you want for yourself when you’re a family lawyer!

Family lawyers are known for helping people through tough situations like divorce, alimony, child custody, and adoption. Many of these circumstances involve building an intimate relationship with adults and their children. That’s why this particular case is enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. 

Walters’s attorney, Mark Broughton, said the charges were a sham — that she had been completely set up!

“I’m not completely sure of the exact motivation for why these allegations would have been contrived,” he said. “We have our ideas.”

That last phrase — “we have our ideas” — might be code for “I’m your attorney and even I don’t believe in what I’m saying. You’re totally guilty.” 

The alleged crime Walters committed was having a relationship with a boy, who was fourteen or younger at the time, likely beginning in 2015. Walters routinely works on cases involving Child Protective Services, but it isn’t known if that’s how she met the victim. He was described as a “family friend.” He is seventeen today.

When Walters went on a trip to Italy, authorities jumped at the opportunity to serve warrants for a chance to search for evidence of her crimes unimpeded. She was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport when she returned from her trip.

Broughton said he isn’t convinced by the so-called evidence against Walters: “Well I got a whole pile of police reports, but as far as I’m concerned, those aren’t going to add up to any sort of valid conviction.”

The pair have assured the public that Walters is still practicing law — and that everyone loves her. “Everybody who knows her,” Broughton said, “everybody on the bench, all the other attorneys, her clients have all been supportive.”

If Walters is convicted on all counts, she might spend nineteen years in federal prison.

Do you believe an official you’ve had contact with is breaking the law? Corruption is something we take seriously in New Jersey. Please contact us with your story! Are you going through a divorce? We also have family law attorneys ready to take your case.

Where Can Same-Sex Couples Legally Adopt Children In The United States?

LGBTQ adoption rights didn’t exist for a long time — in fact, historically there has been a prejudice that prospective LGBTQ adoptive parents have had to withstand when simply stating their desire to adopt or foster children, and this prejudice has failed to disappear even with the furthering of gay and transgender rights. Can same-sex couples legally adopt in the United States? 

Many of the laws that barred same-sex parents from fostering or adopting children have been struck down even though many of the aforementioned prejudices persist, but same-sex couples are statistically much more likely to foster or adopt children than their heterosexual counterparts (proportionally). That means they are an integral part of the lives of many children who have been churned through this system; a system that is far from perfect.

Two million LGBTQ people have shown interest in foster programs or adoption.

Thankfully LGBTQ individuals are legally allowed to adopt in every state after a federal judge ruled unconstitutional a Mississippi law that banned the practice in 2016. It was the last state to hold such a law. The 2015 marriage equality ruling helped pave the way for legal adoption rights for LGBTQ parents.

Unfortunately the prejudice still prevents many prospective LGBTQ parents from fostering or adopting children even when it is perfectly legal to do so. The problem is that some agencies or individuals within those agencies use these prejudices to prevent LGBTQ individuals from placing children.

LGBTQ individuals who would like to become adoptive parents are urged to thoroughly research the agency they would like to use, and its history of allowing LGBTQ adoptions. It is always best to choose an agency with your future child’s best interests at heart, but if you believe that a particular individual or agency is actively trying to prevent a child from being placed in your home because you are LGBTQ, then you have rights!

If this is happening or has happened to you, then you should absolutely contact a qualified family lawyer for a free consultation. We will work toward making sure the adoption takes place if possible. Same-sex adoption works the same way for you as it does for heterosexual couples — or at least it’s supposed to work the same.

You may also want to keep in mind that the attitudes of your neighbors may reflect the aforementioned prejudices: you need to be ready for this, which is the one disadvantage to parenting when LGBTQ. Otherwise, your children are as likely to be raised in a stable home as they would if they were raised in a home with heterosexual parents!

Why Do We Need A Victim’s Cooperation To Prosecute Domestic Violence Charges?

The law sometimes doesn’t make much sense. Take a side-by-side comparison of murder and domestic violence charges, for example. When prosecuting a person for committing murder, there’s no need for cooperation (because the victim is deceased). But when prosecuting a person for many other violent crimes, domestic violence included, the law requires the cooperation of the victim.

Why?

It’s plain for all to see that the person who committed an act of violence not only did something immoral and illegal, but also that an arrest should be forthcoming. Yet that isn’t the way the system works, even when there is plenty of additional evidence a crime took place.

Part of the reason that the legal system is hesitant from prosecuting without cooperation is because victims will often do the exact opposite: obstruct justice. That would pave the way for arresting and trying someone who almost anyone would agree is a victim, but the law is the law, and on occasion no one wants it to work the way it does.

A victim of domestic violence, Michelle, wrote about her husband in an affidavit: “He beat me in front of my kids. He made death threats in front of my children, sisters and his parents.” She had requested a restraining order, afraid for her life and the lives of her kids. The problem is, her husband’s parents denied ever hearing such threats, and only days later she recanted her sworn affidavit in a hysterical visit to the district attorney’s office.

Michelle’s husband had already been arrested. When he promised his father and stepmother that he’d never do it again (as perpetrators of these crimes so often do), they bailed him out of jail. Because Michelle recanted, the case was precipitously dropped.

Michelle and her two kids were dead two months later. Her husband shot and killed them all before committing suicide.

In the 1980s and 1990s, prosecutors became tired of this familiar story and decided to do something about it. A new movement of “evidence-based prosecution” was born from their fight, which would allow criminals to be prosecuted without forcing the victim to testify against the abuser.

The cases have been historically difficult to win, though, in part because prosecutors aren’t experienced enough. Still, the system has come a long way and some prosecutors have learned the tricks of the new trade. Thousands of prosecutors have been trained to move forward with cases for which the victim had either recanted former accusations or didn’t make them at all. More cases are being won than ever before, and more lives have been saved because of it.

Still, though, many prosecutors won’t follow through with these cases without a victim’s cooperation because some prefer an easy win over justice. We can do better, and we need to do better.

Starting The Step Parent Adoption Process

Despite popular belief, the most common form of adoption is stepparent adoptions. Stepparent adoption is when the stepparent assumes financial and legal responsibility for their spouse’s child or children and releasing the non-custodial parent of their responsibilities including child support.

There is no federal law that oversees stepparent adoptions and therefore the process is handled by each individual state. In order for a step-parent adoption to take place in New Jersey, the following is required:

  • The stepparent has been a resident of New Jersey for at least six months
  • The paperwork is filed in the county where you reside
  • There is consent from the absent parent**
  • If the minor is between the ages of 14  and 17,  they have to give consent to the adoption as well.

**If the whereabouts of the absent parents is unknown or if there has been no contact from the absent parent for over 12 months, the adoption can still be processed. If the child is over 18, this is known as an adult adoption and doesn’t need consent from the absent parent.

In New Jersey, the court believes that is better for a child to live in a home with two parents. This is why the stepparent adoption process takes roughly 3 months to complete. An adult adoption can take a little as 2 months to complete.

Once the adoption is finalized, a new birth certificate can be issued to the adoptee. The adoption will also give the stepparent the ability to make decisions on behalf of your stepchild including medical care, school, religion, and other life issues. And in the event of a divorce, the stepparent who adopted the child will be able to entitled to child visitation and child support depending on the circumstance.

For more information on how to arrange a stepparent adoption in New Jersey, contact our law offices.

 

The Legal Consequences Of Adultery: Can I Get A Divorce?

Many people might not realize this, but because marriage is a legally binding contract, adultery is often considered a crime. In fact, in 20 states it is illegal to cheat on a spouse. Adultery is defined as any sexual relation occurring outside the bond of marriage. How these relations are defined is dependent on where you live, so it isn’t a bad idea to read up on the local laws if you believe your spouse has committed adultery.

Of course, the consequences exceed legal boundaries as well. Those who have cheated on a significant other, married or not, will likely face social stigma, and possibly religious consequences as well.

Historical penalties for this crime usually involve torture, mutilation, and death. Here in the United States, we don’t take it quite so far anymore. Even so, this country is one of the few developed nations that still criminalize the act at all. Adultery is considered a felony in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Michigan. In the other states the crime is considered a misdemeanor, even, surprisingly, in New York.

Penalties vary wildly. You may receive as little as a ten dollar fine in Maryland, or as many as four years in prison if convicted in Michigan.

There are a few odd laws that are still on the books that stem from the base accusation of adultery. For example, Florida only recently decriminalized a law that made cohabitation of unmarried couples a crime.

In six other states, the “damaged” party can sue the homewrecking party for “alienation of affections.”

The more likely consequences for infidelity occur in divorce court if a couple can’t settle its differences through more amenable means. An unfaithful partner is least likely to be treated as an equal when it comes to the splitting of resources or alimony.

There is a lot of criticism against adultery laws that still exist because most were allegedly put in place as a deterrent to keep women faithful, and not the other way around. These laws are steeped in religious belief, as many spiritual texts allow the faithful to believe that women have a duty to remain submissive to their male counterparts.

If the offending party is a member of the U.S. armed forces, then he or she could be subject to a court-martial. These cases are rare, but not unheard of.

Transgender Issues Meet Family Law: How To Get It Right

President Trump might roll back protections for transgender individuals, and that means there’s no better time to review transgender issues as they relate to family law. If you aren’t born in the right skin, it can make all sorts of things more complicated: identity, marriage, parenting, separation, and divorce, or even just get the right kind of ID. All of these issues are interrelated, and wading through the mess isn’t easy. Here are a few tips.

First and foremost, make sure your personal identification is current. If you go by a new name, be sure to file for a name change with the town clerk (who can be found at the nearest courthouse). Once the name has been legally changed, it’s time to start updating all of your mailing lists. On top of that, you’ll need a new Social Security Card with the new name. The final stop is the DMV. From there, get online and start updating insurance, accounts, and your passport.

Marriage is always in question as well, but when marriage allowances and protections were extended to same-sex couples, they were also made to apply to transgender individuals. If you need to divorce, your transgender identity won’t change the way proceedings are handled. Depending on the outcome, you may be allowed alimony.

Parenting can be difficult, as laws vary from state to state. It also depends on how you go about becoming a parent. If biological parentage isn’t possible, then adoption remains a viable option. You’ll want to talk to an attorney at a family law firm about potential protections for you as either a non-biological or biological parent.

The Trump administration would loosen the current protections to instead define gender as determined by physical characteristics (genitalia) at the time of birth. The Obama administration had increased protections by allowing each individual to make the decision for him or herself. The latter policy change is what led to the bathroom backlash a few years back. Trump has targeted almost every Obama-era policy on the books, so it’s not too surprising that he’s finally getting around to dismantling this one.

I Want To Adopt: What Should I Know About Federal Laws?

Adoption is a tricky process even during the easiest cases, but it can be a true nightmare if would-be parents haven’t done their homework. The good news is that everyone wants those kids to have good homes, and if you present yourself as a responsible, loving and caring parent, then you will be approved for adoption. Here are a few things you should know about the process and the federal laws that govern it.

  1. First, some laws will help you out. The Multiethnic Placement Act was conceived as a way to reduce the time children spend with foster parents in an effort to see them adopted faster. This is good for everyone. It also prevents discrimination toward foster parents and adoptive parents. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 guarantees your adoptive children the same rights to health insurance coverage as any children you conceive naturally. If your child has special needs, a state must provide financial assistance because of the Adoption Assistance Act.
  2. There are a number of forms you must complete in order to be eligible for adoptive parenting. It’s not a bad idea to get a family law attorney in order to ensure all the appropriate steps are followed to the letter. This is not the kind of process you want to make mistakes with.
  3. To adopt without restrictions you must be at least 21 years old and a resident of the U.S. This restriction applies whether you are single or married, so long as you prove yourself to be a responsible, financially secure adult capable of caring for a child.
  4. If the child lives outside of the country, then you must ensure that the Central Authority of that country has made the child eligible for adoption.
  5. The child’s biological parents may have signed a consent to adoption, but this is only valid if the parents are unable to provide the child with appropriate care.
  6. Some criminal charges will prohibit an adoption from moving forward. The agency handling your adoption will conduct a thorough background check to ensure the household is safe. In addition anyone in the household who is 18 or older will undergo an evaluation for child abuse.
  7. Some psychiatric illnesses will eliminate your chance of adopting.