Are You Trying to Get Custody of a Child?
Achieving custody of a child can be a highly emotional battle between parents. Add to that a number of legal issues courts weigh to award custody and child custody cases can become daunting. This area of law significantly impacts the child’s present well being and future.
Legal Issues in Child Custody
In determining who gets custody, courts consider what is in the “best interest” of the child, which is a broad term that does not have a fixed standard and can take into account a number of considerations. Child custody law is complex, so to get the best result obtaining the services of a qualified Saint Johnsbury attorney who practices child custody law is imperative.
What do judges look for in custody cases?In every state, family court judges must consider what is in the child’s best interests when determining custody. In most cases, judges emphasize making sure the child will spend ample time with both parents. To make this happen, a judge will likely want to know what each parent’s home environment is like, whether each parent will be able to give a child the proper attention, and which situation the child will be most likely to thrive in.
Who has legal custody of the child when the parents aren’t married?If the parents are not married, the child’s biological parents both have parental rights unless the law says otherwise. An exception to this could be if no father is listed on the child’s birth certificate. In that case, the father would have to go through the legal process of establishing paternity to be able to assert his parental rights for visitation.
How can a mother lose custody of her child?A mother can lose custody of her child in much the same way a father could. This could include abusing the child, abusing drugs or alcohol, providing an unsafe home environment for the child, or abandoning the child.
How can you change a child custody order?If you or your ex are unhappy with the current custody arrangement, you can negotiate a change to your agreement. If a judge feels that the changes are still in the child’s best interests, then they may approve the order. If one of you is pressing ahead with seeking a change and the other parent is contesting it, you will need to prove a “substantial” change in circumstances. This could include one of the parents moving out of state, suffering from a disability or illness that affects their parenting ability, exposing the child to an unsafe environment, or having a change in work circumstances that requires rescheduling of visitation.
Top Questions to Ask When Hiring an Attorney
- How many years have you been practicing law? How long have you practiced law in the local area?
- How many cases similar to mine have you handled in the past?
- What is the likely outcome for my case?
In legal practice, experience matters. An experienced attorney will likely have handled issues similar to yours many, many times. Therefore, after listening to your situation, the attorney should have a reasonable idea of the time line for a case like yours and the likely resolution.
Tips on Approaching an Initial Attorney Consultation
- Use the consultation as a means of gaining a better understanding of your legal situation.
- Ask the attorney how many cases similar to yours he/she has handled. An attorney’s experience and knowledge can speak to their expertise (or lack of) in addressing your situation.
- Your attorney should be able to articulate roughly how long a case like yours will take to resolve and what sort of procedures to expect.
- Determine how comfortable you are working with the lawyer and/or law firm.
How will an attorney charge me?
A reputable attorney will be very upfront about how he/she will charge you. The three most common fee structures that attorneys use to charge for their services are:
- Bill by the hour
- Contingent fee agreement
- Flat fee agreement
Depending on your specific legal situation, it’s possible that only one type of fee structure is available. For instance, criminal defense attorneys almost always bill by the hour. In a flat fee arrangement, an attorney accepts a one-time payment to help you resolve your issue. With a contingent fee agreement, the client pays little to nothing upfront and the attorney receives a percentage of the money recovered if you win your case.
Common legal terms explained
Personal jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority over a person, in order to bind that person to the judgment of the court, based on minimum contacts. International Shoe Co v. Washington is a landmark Supreme Court case outlining the scope of a state court’s reach in personal jurisdiction.