Areas of Legal Expertise

Divorce and Legal Separation

Sometimes our happily ever after is just not meant to be.  When contemplating whether to end your marriage, you may want to consider a trial separation, marriage counseling or counseling with your church before deciding to involve the courts.  We offer both divorce and an alternative to divorce called a legal separation.  We can help you in determining which avenue to take and guide you through the process from start to finish.  When going through a divorce, you are faced with issues involving children, property and equitably dividing assets and debts.  This often translates into being a very difficult time in your life, but we can help ease some of the pain by assisting you along the way with all the ins and outs that make up family law.

Establishing Custody / Paternity

Many children are born out of wedlock to loving parents, but what happens when the parents no longer love each other and decide to break up?  We are faced with an area of the law involving child custody and support issues only.  As with divorce cases, we can guide you through the process of a custody case from start to finish.   Having a custody order in place allows you to rest assured that you will continue to be involved in raising your child after your relationship with their other parent has ended.  Protect yourself and your child by filing for custody, support and visitation early on if you find yourself in a situation where your relationship has ended.

Modifications

Most Family law orders are modifiable until the minor child graduates from high school.  Child custody, child support, visitation and sharing of expenses can be changed as the child grows and as circumstances change.  In order to modify a court order, you have to be able to prove to the court that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances.  There is no way to define what qualifies as a substantial and material change in circumstances though.  Your best bet is to consult with an attorney to see if you have enough of a case to warrant filing a modification.  Modifications are comparable to the underlying case in that the process is similar.  Both require opening the case, having a party served, attend mediation and ultimately go to trial if all efforts to resolve the case prior to trial are unsuccessful.

Contempt Motions

When a party violates the court order, the other party can file a motion to hold the violating party in contempt.  Contempt can be punishable by jail time, imposition of probation, monetary fines payable to the court and/or an award of attorney fees.  The purpose of a contempt motion is to enforce the underlying order and often times is used to get the offending party to simply comply with the court order.

Adoptions / Termination of Parental Rights

We handle what most commonly are referred to as “step-parent” adoptions.  Sometimes when one of the biological parents is absent in a child’s life for an extended period of time, an adoption by a step-parent who is filling the role of the absent biological parent is found to be in the best interest of the child.  In cases like this, we are required to seek a termination of parental rights of the biological parent who has abandoned the child prior to seeking the adoption by the step-parent.  Adoption hearings are one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.  To see step-parents elevated to the role of a legal parent in the eyes of the law is very special, not only for the parents, but for the child who has just been legally adopted as well.

Guardianships for Minors or Incapacitated Adults

Guardianships come in two forms: minor guardianships and those for incapacitated adults.  A common scenario for a minor guardianship is when the child’s grandparents are raising their grandchild due to the biological parents being in trouble with the law, involved in a lifestyle of drug use or when the biological parents are simply too young or immature to properly raise and care for a child.  Minor guardianships are permanent, but can be terminated upon a showing that the biological parent is able to resume care and custody of their child.  If the court finds it is in the best interest of the child, he or she will return custody to the natural parent or parents if filed jointly.  A guardianship of in an incapacitated adult applies when you have a child with special needs that reaches the age of majority (18) and becomes a legal adult, typically one or both of the parents files for this type of guardianship in order to continue caring for their child who is now viewed as an adult from a legal standpoint.