Clifford Hall, 43, of Houston was sentenced to six months in jail for failure to pay child support.

After exhausting his appeal rights, he turned himself in and began serving his sentence last week.

But then AT&T, his employer, provided an affidavit that it had withheld the incorrect amount from his paychecks.

He was released from jail.

When separated spouses in Maryland and the District of Columbia require the aid of the court to resolve issues of support or custody they know where to file their case – in the local Circuit Court in Maryland and in Superior Court in the District of Columbia. And if they have been separated for less than the period required for an absolute divorce, they can include a request for limited divorce (legal separation in DC) in the support and/or custody suit.

Not so in Virginia. The circuit courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction, and are the trial courts preferred by lawyers, including family lawyers. But the court with jurisdiction of minors, including custody and support of minors, and support of spouses, is the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court (“JDR”). The Circuit Court only has concurrent jurisdiction over these matters if there is a divorce case pending. And, unlike in Maryland and DC, when the spouses have been separated for less than the required period (one year in general, six months with a written separation agreement and no minor children), a complaint for limited divorce is often not an option because in Virginia there aren’t any no fault grounds for limited divorce (called divorce from bed & board or, in Latin, a mensa et thoro ).
In this situation, the spouse needing custody or support relief faces a choice. He or she can:

1. File a petition requesting custody and/or support relief in JDR;

2. Assert fault grounds and file a complaint for divorce from bed and board and for the custody and/or support relief in Circuit Court; or

3. Wait the one year period and then file a complaint in Circuit Court for final divorce (called divorce a vincula matrimonii) on separation grounds and for the custody and/or support relief.
Each of these choices has advantages and disadvantages which I will address in my next post.

Guest post by David Williamson

Mothers Obtain Child Custody More Often than Fathers

In 82% of cases, mothers get custody of the children.  One reason for this may be, that On a purely statistical stand point, mothers are the primary up-bringer of the children (data:  2009). Even in cases where both parents work, statistics show mothers spend twice as much time engaged in primary childcare responsibilities than the fathers with mothers at 12.9 hours a week and fathers at 6.5 hours.

Court Involvement in Child Custody

In terms of how courts involve themselves in the custody process, a mere 4% of cases are actually litigated.  The vast majority of cases are settled long before trial.    In 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed on their own that the mother should have custody.

  • In 29 percent of custody cases, there was no third party involvement.
  • In 11 percent of custody cases, the parties agreed during mediation that the mother should have custdoy.
  • In 5 percent of custody cases, the issue was resolved after a custody evaluation.

Only 4 percent of custody cases went to trial.  Even of that 4 percent, only 1.5 percent completed custody litigation.  Fathers won about half of those litigated cases.  Approximately 91 percent of child custody cases are decided outside of court.

Child Support

When it comes down to child support post settlement, there is another gender divide. In 2009, mothers would get on average $5,997 in child support, whereas fathers would only get $5,601. The problems for fathers doesn’t end there, however, as only 30% of custodial fathers receive any child support, compared to 55% of custodial mothers. To put this in perspective, then, 91% of total child support dollars are given to custodial mothers, and 9% to custodial fathers.

These statistics seem to show a stark difference between male and female custodial experiences. The figures show an average, however, so it would be unwise to lean to heavily on this picture when considering how your situation might unfold. Should you require further information and an informal discussion regarding your individual circumstances, get in touch with one of Coles-Law Solicitor’s Family Lawyers for expert advice.

An 18 year old teenager from Lincoln Park, New Jersey has filed suit against her mother and father.

She claims they tossed her out of their home and cut her off financially.

She is suing for immediate support, current private-school fees and future college tuition.

She would not have a case in Maryland and Virginia, where parents are obligated to support children until age 18 unless they are still in high school, in which case it’s to 19 or graduation from high school, whichever comes first.  But that would be it.  In DC child support is to age 21.

 

There are many divorce cases where only one spouse is employed and there are no significant liquid assets or those assets are all under the control of the employed spouse.

In such cases, the financially dependent spouse can seek an award of pendente lite support.  “Pendente lite” is Latin for “pending the litigation”.  It means temporary support until the divorce trial.

Pendente lite support hearings are short and the only issues considered are need for support and ability to pay.  Some jurisdictions have established guidelines for  pendente lite spousal support.

For example the Fairfax County formula is:

When child support is also payable – monthly spousal support equals 28% of the payor’s monthly gross income minus 58% of the payee’s monthly gross income.

When child support is not payable – monthly spousal support equals  30% of the payor’s monthly gross income minus 50% of the payee’s monthly gross income

Child support is generally determined under the child support guidelines. Those guidelines are also used to determine child support pendente lite.

Virginia Courts can also enter pendente lite orders on maintaining health insurance coverage for a spouse or children, responsibility for debt payments during the case, exclusive use and possession of the family residence during the case, payment of attorney’s fees and other costs of the suit, and custody of the children pendente lite . However, most courts are reluctant to rule on custody pendente lite.  This is because custody matters have scheduling priority and will soon be heard as a final matter so pendente lite relief is not necessary unless there is an emergency.  And the judges do not like emergencies, so if you claim you have an emergency it better be a real emergency.

The Court’s ruling on any issue at a hearing on pendente lite relief can be reviewed and modified at the final hearing.

Contracts and Father’s Rights

William Marotta of Topeka, Kansas, answered an ad on Craigslist to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple who wanted a child. He signed a contract saying he would have no father’s rights nor parental rights nor responsibilities.

Following the birth, the mother, the child’s mother, Jennifer Schreiner, applied for public assistance. The Kansas Department for Children and Families has paid her about $6,000 in public assistance. That agency filed suit against Marotta to recoup the money saying that he owes back and future child support.

Besides the contract, there is a law in Kansas that exempts sperm donors from child support claims. Judge Mary Mattivi pointed out, however, that the law does not apply unless a licensed physician performs the artificial insemination. There was no licensed physician in this case.

Father’s Rights, Wanted or Not

The judge also said that a private contract cannot override the law and negate his father’s rights and Marotta is therefore the presumptive father of the child. Whether Marotta has to pay child support is yet to be determined. What do you think?

Guest post by Lauren Williams, staff writer at King Law Offices, Family Law Attorneys in NC & SC.

In Maryland, a child’s entitlement to support does not depend upon parents’ marital status. Every child is entitled to a level of support in proportion to the parents’ economic position regardless of whether the child is born of wedlock or out-of-wedlock or to parents whose marriage ended in divorce.  As with children of divorce, children born out-of-wedlock are entitled to fairness and equity in regard to child support.

“Born out-of-wedlock” means born to an unmarried female or born to a married female but begotten during the continuance of the marriage status by one other than her husband.

Under Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 1-206(a) there is a presumption that the child is a legitimate child if the child is born or conceived during a marriage. A child born to parents who are not married is considered to be the child of the mother. Pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 1-208(b), the ‘father and child relationship’ can be established in one of the following four methods: (1) Judicial determination of paternity, (2) Acknowledgment by father in writing that he is the father of the child, (3) Open and notorious recognition by the father that he is the father of the child, or (4) Acknowledgment by father that he is the father of the child after marrying the mother.

The Paternity Statute (Fam. Law §§ 5-1001 through 5-1048) provides a rebuttable presumption that the child is the legitimate child of the man to whom child’s mother was married at the time of conception. Upon request of a party, the court may order the parties (mother, child and the father) to submit to blood or genetic tests to determine the paternity. If the test reveals a statistical probability of the father’s paternity of at least 99.0%, it may be received into evidence and constitutes a rebuttable presumption of the paternity.  The court may pass necessary orders declaring the father based on the test.  The court may also pass necessary orders for 1, support, 2. Custody of the child, 3. Visitation rights with the child, 4. Giving bond, and 5. Any other matter that is related to the general welfare and best interests of the child.

If the child was conceived during a marriage, mere declaration by father claiming to be the father of a child born out-of-wedlock is not sufficient to overcome the presumption of legitimacy of the child based on the time of conception.  In order to overcome the presumption, the father must provide certain proof(s) specified in Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 5-1027(c)(2), (3), and (4).

Maryland follows the income shares model for child support.  Under this model, a child is entitled to a standard of living that corresponds to the economic position and lifestyle of the parents.

Guest Post by John Ellsworth, Esq.

If you’re paying alimony, you can take a tax deduction for the payments, even if you don’t itemize deductions.

Keep in mind, though, that the IRS won’t consider the payments to be true alimony unless they are spelled out in the divorce agreement. This is another rule for you to memorize: unless the divorce decree spells it out, it’s probably not going to be accepted by the IRS as alimony.

Your ex, meanwhile, must pay income tax on those amounts. Be sure you know your ex-spouse’s Social Security number. You have to report it on your tax return to claim the alimony deduction.

The opposite is true for child support: You don’t get a deduction for paying child support and the recipient doesn’t pay income tax.

Facebook photos may be used in a child support case in Wisconsin according to Kristal Roberts writing for ABC Action News.  The pictures show the father, who is behind in child support, holding wads of cash and visiting Buckingham Palace.

The father says the money is not necessarily his and he photo-shopped the Buckingham Palace picture.

Defense attorneys will argue this week that, in the real world, the father is impoverished and cannot pay his child support.

Father’s Rights Under “Duress”

Danny Carr, Counselor and Attorney at Law, punched the button on his phone this morning to listen to messages left last night on his voice-mail.

“I need to hire you for a custody case.  This is Ken Woodard. Call me at 301-555-5555.”

Carr hit redial, and when someone answered, he said,  “Mr. Woodard, this is Danny Carr, returning your call.”

“I was forced to give up custody and visitation by my wife’s attorney by duress,” said Woodard.

“Did he hold a gun to your head? “

“No, but he told me I would lose if I didn’t agree.”

“That’s not duress.”

“OK, well then I found out I still have to pay child support.”

“Right.  Parents are obligated to support their children.”

“But if I don’t have custody or visitation, haven’t my parental rights been terminated?”

“No.  You are still the children’s father.”

“My wife accused me of neglecting and abusing the kids.  Can I file a petition to terminate my parental rights on the basis of her saying I’m an unfit parent?”

“No.  You can’t file a complaint against yourself to terminate your own parental rights.”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“I have to go now, Mr. Woodard.  Good luck with your case.”