On June 5, 2000, the United States Supreme Court handed down a seminal ruling as regards the complex issue of grandparents rights. In the case of Troxel v. Granville, the court struck down a Washington state law that allowed any third party (i.e. grandparents, etc.) to petition state courts for child visitation rights over parental objections. The Court held that "the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children-is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court." That fundamental right is implicated in grandparent visitation cases, and as such, it struck down the Washington visitation statute because it unconstitutionally infringed on the right.
Some 40% of babies born in the United States are born to unwed mothers vs. about 10% in 1970, according to a UN report. Almost 60% are living with their baby's father. Like married couples, many of these relationships fail, leaving the challenge of determining custody, particularly for fathers. Our firm has handled a growing number of such cases.
When divorce clients contact me, the first two questions they typically ask is how long will it take and how much will it cost. Of course, there is no single answer for this as no two cases are alike. For example, a young couple with no children living in an apartment with few assets might file an uncontested divorce that will typically take 2-3 months. An older couple with a home and children, perhaps retirement accounts, with a contested divorce could take over one year. A Texas divorce cannot be concluded any faster than 60 days after it is filed.
Separating? Divorcing? Do not sign anything your spouse/partner asks you to sign, no matter how innocent it may appear, without consulting an attorney. Let me repeat: do not sign anything without consulting an attorney. Does that sound self-serving? Sure it does. But let me assure you that (1) words matter, even if what you are signing may not technically be a legal contract, or legally enforceable, and (2) because words matter, signing such a document may cost you infinitely more than an hour with an attorney. The following is one example of a recent case of a mother who did take the time to consult with me before signing an agreement proposed by her husband. We will shortly write about two clients who sadly, did not. Divorce is difficult enough without handcuffing yourself to a document you never should have signed.
In many of our divorce cases, the most challenging issue of couples with children is, indeed, the children. Specifically, who gets custody or is it shared, and, if so, how? For noncustodial parents, the issues of visitation and child support can be contentious. However, for childless couples, and for some with children, the most challenging issue can be the division of assets and debts. Here are some things to be aware of and remember to insure you get what you are entitled to.
Because the divorce process is unfamiliar to most people, the terminology can be daunting. Some terms are unfamiliar, some are often misunderstood. Our firm believes it is important our clients fully comprehend the key elements and language of divorce. The following is a glossary of terms and phrases related to divorce and the divorce process.
Choosing a lawyer can be challenging. First, the need for a lawyer is usually infrequent, less frequent than choosing other professionals like doctors or dentists. Secondly, it is difficult for lay people to assess the technical competence of professionals like doctors or lawyers. We usually make those judgments based on their "bedside manner" and whether we feel we can trust the individual. Finally, the need for a lawyer is frequently associated with a stressful situation, and it is well known that stress and anxiety can affect the quality of our decision-making.