Tag Archives: Family Law Attorney

In Defense of Step-moms (and dads)

Remember Cinderella’s step-mom? “Light the fire! Fix the breakfast! Wash the dishes! Do the mopping! And the cleaning and the shopping!”* She was definitely not the kind of step-parent a child would ever want or need. She was the original “step-monster”.

I’m a step-parent, but to grown adult children with children of their own. But whether the children are very small or adults on their own, there is no tried-and-true manual for step-parents to “fit” into the new family dynamic. After all, each family is unique with their own way of doing things, patterns of communication, and traditions. And, maybe the step-parent is not entirely welcome, especially if the “original parent” feels replaced, angry, jealous, and/or threatened and communicates this directly or indirectly to the children.

Nothing could be worse for your children. Several years ago, a woman I know (we will call her Linda) met the fiancé of her former spouse.  Sadly, Linda took most every opportunity to criticize the woman.  She would not listen to reason nor dignity. Her child marinated daily in her mother’s hatred for the fiancé.

The fiancé appeared to love the child. She attended the child’s events at school, church and gymnastics.  She sent her home with treats, and otherwise demonstrated her attachment to her.  The child wanted to love the step-mom but Linda sabotaged it in every possible way.

The child’s father was no “winner”. Having been previously granted only supervised visitation, his ability to properly care for the child was in question. Linda failed to grasp that the fiancé could ensure her well-being during the father’s parenting time. We encouraged Linda to make an ally of the fiancé but she refused. The fiancé became the step-mom. She gave up trying to be friendly and joined her new husband in the ongoing war between the parents.  The child suffered and exhibited signs of emotional distress as a result of her parent’s antics.

Don’t be “Linda”. Love your child more than you hate their step-parent.

So, what do you do when the step-mom / step-dad appears? To be direct, you do not have a right to prevent your child’s other parent from dating or remarrying. They have all the same rights as you do to live a full life.

So, it is time for a little introspection.

First, do you welcome a step-parent in your child’s life? If not, why not? Be specific. Write it down. Odds are if you are unable to lay out the “why” on paper, it may be more of an emotional reason than a rational one. Note, it is not enough that you “just don’t want someone else in the child’s life”. If that is the only thing you can come up with, take a breath and put on your adult shoes. Life moves forward whether we want it to or not. Adulting is not always easy, but it is what we are called to do once we have children.

Second, take inventory of your emotions. Are you angry? Jealous? Threatened? And, if so, why? Are these emotions something you want your child to marinate in? Even if you don’t openly verbalize your unhappiness about the step-parent, your child will still pick up on the non-verbal cues.  Keep adult emotions and feelings away from the kids. They can’t fix it and the are very sensitive to the emotional well-being of the hand that rocks the cradle. In short, keep the kids out of it.

Third, is it the thought of your calling someone else “Mommy” or “Daddy”?  Please know, if you seek to maintain your place in that child’s life and take care of your obligations as a parent financially and emotionally, there is no reason why you won’t remain “Mommy/Daddy”. Yes, seeing your child get attached to a new dating partner can be hard (Divorced and Dating with Kids is the subject of another article). But, by creating and maintaining a respectful relationship with the new step-parent, you will know someone is ensuring your child’s well-being when you are not there, and that peace of mind is priceless.

Fourth, do you believe the step-parent is in any way a threat to the safety and well-being of your child? Does he or she have a history of drug use? Violence? High risk activities? Child molestation? Alcoholism? Criminal activity?  If you have any of these concerns, then stop reading and call your attorney right now.  The “best interests” of the child is the gold standard in parenting time allocation. 

Our hope is that your co-parent will be respectful and reasonable in how they handle introducing the new spouse into the family. Remember, it is not always the easiest task for the parents, step-parent or the child. Show each other some grace and give it some time. Take it slow. Open a dialogue with your co-parent about any concerns you have and collaborate – don’t try to dictate. This is not your decision. Yes, your child is involved but again, your ex has every right to move on in his or her life. Collaboration with your co-spouse will ease the transition.

Life evolves. You will want the same considerations when you fall in love again and or remarry. The shoe (glass slipper) will be on the other foot and you could be the step-monster, I mean step-mom.

Good luck!

 

*from Cinderella’s, “The Work Song” Continue reading

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Collecting Your Judgment

Congratulations on winning a judgment against your Defendant! Even in the glow of your victory, take note that winning a judgment doesn’t automatically mean you get a check. Getting the judgment, no matter how much work you or your attorney put into getting it, can be the first step to getting paid, or what is referred to as a “satisfaction” of the judgment.

If your Defendant pays immediately, great! The payment is made to the Court Clerk and then the funds are forwarded to you. The judgment is then deemed satisfied.money gavel

But what happens when the Defendant doesn’t pay the judgment?

Note, even though there is expense and time involved, you can pursue satisfaction through judgment collection. The Court may or may not grant you a judgment increase to cover your collection costs. Thus you must decide how far you are willing to go to collect your judgment. Depending on the size of the judgment, the size of the reward (the judgment) is worth the extra effort to collect.

An initial step towards satisfaction is garnishing the Judgment Debtor’s wages. In Tennessee, employers are required to garnish the Debtor’s wages or be responsible for the payment of the debt. A percentage of the Debtor’s wages is collected until the judgment debt is paid in full. It takes a while, but eventually, you will be paid in full – so long as they remain employed with that employer.

What if your Judgment Debtor is self-employed? You can still collect on your judgment but it will likely take more time and expense. Your Tennessee judgment will last ten years and can be revived to last even longer – so you’ve got time if you have the patience.

First, you need to do some reconnaissance and maybe post-judgment hearings to determine what property your Judgment Debtor owns. Maybe he owns real property and personal property like cars, A.T.V.s, motorcycles, a truck, video game, three large screen televisions and more.

Second, if the Judgment Debtor still refuses to pay, the County Sheriff can seize the personal property and sell it at auction to satisfy the judgment. If the proceeds are not enough to pay the judgment, a lien can be placed on the real property. That lien (the judgment) must be satisfied first or at the time of closing before the property can be sold. Ultimately, this means you finally get your money!

You may have a Judgment Debtor who is “judgment proof”. This means essentially they do not have an employer from whom you can seek garnishment and don’t have any real or personal property of value. If so, this may mean your judgment may be difficult to collect and will require a lot of patience.

So, while getting your judgment is the first step towards adding to your bank account and the process can take time, ultimately you can receive satisfaction in more ways than one!

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Spousal Abuse & Literal Payback

domestic violenceLast month, an Ohio Court awarded Jennifer Kershaw $1,580,000 in compensatory damages and $20 million for punitive damages.  The  Defendant was her former spouse, Jerry Bailey.  The lawsuit was over physical injuries she received from being punched in the face repeatedly by Mr. Bailey while the two were still married.  Mr. Bailey was fined $100, sentenced to two years probation, and served a mere two days in jail after a conviction of misdemeanor domestic violence for his then wife’s broken facial bones.  Two days in jail.  $100.  Probation.   Case over?  Not yet.

Genesis 2, verse 24 reads  “… man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  Aside from the spiritual aspects this invokes, it is the “one flesh” that was used indirectly to deny women the right to vote, to own property, and other core rights we as women now take for granted.  Women were considered part and parcel of their husband’s person and even property, depending on the time and culture.  If the two were “one flesh”, a woman’s individual rights merged with of those of her spouse.  The rights belonged to him alone, not her individually.  And to be fair, men could not sue their wives either.

Times change.  Tennessee abolished interspousal tort immunity in 1983 with Davis v. Davis, 657 S.W. 2nd 753 (1983).  In Davis, a wife sued her husband for injuries she received from his negligent operation of a boat.  That case opened the door for suits against spouses in Tennessee, but that open door has not turned into an open flood gate.  While relatively few, it is still possible to pursue an action in tort against a spouse in Tennessee.

While the Kershaw judgment will be reduced under Ohio’s caps for punitive and non-economic damages, the case sends a message that domestic abuse – by either spouse – is not okay and will not be tolerated.

Whether you are male or female, if you are facing domestic abuse, get help.  Being hit is never “your fault”.  Filing suit is not your first  step – but getting and staying safe is.  We can assist you with Orders of Protection, filing for divorce, custody or suit when you are ready.

Click here and here for Nashville area resources.

Click here to read more about Ms. Kershaw’s case.

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The California Raisins on Truth, Lies, Dating and Divorce

People say believe half of what you see.  Son, and none of what you hear.  I can’t help being confused.  If it’s true, please tell me dear.”  

Okay, so maybe it was actually Marvin Gaye who vocalized that famous line in his song “I heard it through the grapevine”, but it still holds true.  California RaisinPeople are not always…. uh, forth coming about past marriages and especially the divorce(s).  If you have assets or children to protect, a little caution can go a long way towards protecting both your finances and your heart.

So, if you can’t believe half of what you see and none of what you hear, how do you know what the “truth” is?

A phone call to your local clerk’s office (which court houses divorce information differs by state) in the county where your love lives  or was divorced in, can reveal if your significant other has filed for divorce, is actually divorced and more.  The records also contain number of prior marriages, indicate who filed for divorce, the property division and more.  They are public records and the clerk’s office, depending on the size of the file, may be able to email or snail mail the document to you.

If the divorce was amicable or if the parties were committed to keeping their privacy, then the filings (the documents describing the position and responses of the parties in the case) will likely be short, concise, and “clean”.

If the divorce was not amicable, then the filings will likely be extensive and contain a lot of “dirt” on the marriage, the parties, and contested issues. Details regarding abuse, instability, drug use, affairs, poor parenting, financial issues, bank records, and so forth will be laid out in (embarrassing) detail.  Reviewing the full case file, including subsequent lawsuits between the parties, will give you a good idea of who your significant other is under pressure and an idea of their character as well.

What you do with this information?

It is up to you.  What is seen cannot be unseen.  Either way, you will be able to make informed decisions regarding your relationship and won’t be hearing the news through the grapevine.

-TLHR

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