Why You Should Be Honest in Your Child Custody Case

When your children are part the equation in a divorce, it can be hard to be reasonable and rational, especially when you believe that their wellbeing is at stake. Going through a divorce when you are having differences regarding what you believe is best for your children is an extremely upsetting and highly emotional process.

When you make decisions based on emotional upset, you can hurt your chances of achieving your child custody and parenting goals. If you lie about your spouse or about your own parenting, it is likely that you will be found out. Don't do it. Judges are smart, and they have pretty much seen almost every type of family law case there is. They will smell a lie and that will harm your credibility.

The judge is accustomed to a certain percentage of people who fabricate stories about sexual abuse, neglect, or alcohol or drug abuse. Embellishing or exaggerating is also frowned upon. The judge may wonder what else the person who lied is lying about.

Additionally, if you are lying, your spouse will likely be even more upset. You may simply be adding fuel to the fire, which can impact your children, who are already dealing with a loss that they had nothing to do with. And also remember, you are going to be forced by the court to co-parent with your children's other parent. If you are lying and they know it, it can be harder to co-parent cooperatively, which will hurt the wellbeing of the children.

There are occasions when one party will suggest a parenting time schedule that will certainly get rejected, thinking that if they ask for all the stars, they might get what they actually want, which is the moon, for example. It is far more useful and less costly to begin negotiations with what you actually do want. That means becoming clear on your custody goals, adding into the equation what is reasonable in the eyes of the judge and your spouse. Also, when you ask for something that is completely unrealistic, settlement negotiations can potentially completely break down, which means you will be heading toward a court trial, which is extremely costly and in most cases, leaves bad feelings for years to come. This won't help your children.

If you start out asking for what you want, but your spouse does not agree, it is useful to stay calm and focused on your long-term goals, rather than on retaliating by asking for unreasonable terms.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.

For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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When the House Mortgage is Underwater and You’re Divorcing

What do you do when you are divorcing and need to come to agreement regarding a property settlement, but your house, formerly your largest asset, is now underwater?

1. Let's say that neither you nor your partner can afford to take on the mortgage individually. Here are a few options that others in your situation have chosen to do:

a. Short sale. A short sale means that you sell your home for less than the mortgage, but the lender agrees, collects the sale proceeds, and cancels your debt fully.
b. Squat. You and your spouse remain in the house but stop paying the mortgage. At a certain point, the bank or mortgage lender will begin foreclosure actions, but that could take a year or longer. The one caveat is that in some cases, the lender could potentially seek to obtain the difference in cost of the house if it sells for less than the debt on the house at the time of foreclosure.
c. Roost. Both of you choose to stay in the home, sharing mortgage expenses until such time as the house can be sold for the remainder of the mortgage balance.
d. Jingle mail. Each of you leaves the home and just gives the house back to the mortgage company. Essentially, you are walking away from your debt. Potentially, however, the lender could come after you for the mortgage balance remaining unless the bank agrees to cancel the remaining balance and let you walk out debt free. The "jingle" comes from the jingle of the house keys sent in the mail.
e. Bankruptcy. When you file for bankruptcy BEFORE your divorce is final, the debt can potentially be cancelled, but you will need to leave the home. It is important to discuss the implications of bankruptcy pre-divorce, post-divorce and joint bankruptcy. There are definitely issues to watch out for in each situation.
f. Deed instead of foreclosure. You and the person you are divorcing deed the house over to your lender and the lender forgives your remaining debt.

If you choose to stay in the home on your own, it is likely that you will need to refinance, so that you are the person listed as owner on the home, and responsible for the mortgage, not your spouse.

If you cannot refinance, it may be possible to work a deal with your spouse so they will allow you to keep their name on the house ownership papers as long as you guarantee that they will avoid incurring any liability for the mortgage debt. Or, the house payments could be part of a support arrangement you work out with your spouse.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.

For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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Parental Alienation Syndrome

The term parental alienation syndrome was coined by the late Columbia University Professor Dr. Richard Gardner, in 1985. He used this phrase to describe the process by which one parent socializes his or her child against the other loved parent. He noted that the condition or disorder occurred exclusively in situations of high-conflict divorce and child custody cases.

Typically, a custodial parent actively blocks access, including phone calls and online connection between the absent parent and the child in question.
There are several ways that the parent will do this, including explaining or through actions intimating that:

  • a.The other parent is not a good parent and the child suffers after a visit.
  • b. The other parent abused or is abusing the child physically, sexually, or emotionally when with the child.
  • c. It's just not good for the child to see other parent as the child is adjusting to a new living situation, as if the other parent is not a parent but rather just someone who is a bother that the child is bound by law to see occasionally.
  • d. Visitation with the other parent is inconvenient, like a chore, and if there is any need to deviate from the schedule, the parent in question uses it as a reason to cancel visitation on that occasion or altogether.
    Another identifying marker of PAS is that the alienating parent de facto is acting as if he or she is better than or superior to the other parent, who should not be involved in any integral way in the child's life.

If these sorts of things happen over a long period of time, and bear in mind that younger child have no sense of time, the child in question gets a clear message that the other parent is "bad" or "wrong." They also are often afraid that if they do want to be with the other parent, the custodial parent or alienating parent will also reject or abandon them.

In regard to false accusations of abuse, over half of these involve allegations of sex abuse that occur as the parents are in conflict and divorcing or in a post-dissolution issue.

Physical abuse allegations are less common, because they actually leave a mark. More common allegations include those of emotional abuse when the alienating parent charges that the other parent is abuse to the child. Common examples include differences in parental judgment, which the alienating parent calls out as emotional abuse of the child.

Another marker for Parental Alienation Syndrome may include the deterioration of a parent-child bond since the separation from the household. For example, if the nonresidential parent had a good and involved relationship with the child in question, but the bond has deteriorated badly despite the parent trying to maintain involvement and connection, it could be a callout for parental alienation syndrome.

When you are dealing with these types of issues that involve your beloved children, it is critical to retain the guidance of an attorney who understands the how's and the whys of PAS, and how to fight for your rights and for your children's best interests.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.

For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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Keeping Your Cool in High Conflict Divorce

When you are dealing with high conflict in your divorce, it is critical that you get support for dealing with the big feelings that arise and that you have good counsel that can help prevent you from making decisions based on emotions and upset, rather than rational, long-term goals for yourself and your family.

Ways to deal with the anger

  1. Find Ways to Express It Outside of Court
  2. Vent your feelings, to a friend, in a journal, to a therapist, or another trusted person in your life.
  3. Take care of yourself during the divorce by getting a massage, doing things that you know you enjoy, and getting lots of rest.
  4. Make sure to exercise or do some other form of physical activity so that the trauma of the conflict does not stay stuck in your body. Exercise has been proven to help relieve stress, so you need a lot of exercise!
  5. If you feel completely overwhelmed, it's time to get professional help. Do that sooner rather than later, because the hurts and conflict will become exponential if you cannot find a way to deal with it differently.
  6. Meditate or try some other form of self-help that has been proven to help provide a calm, centered, grounded experience. Because you will definitely need all resources when you are going through high conflict like this.
  7. Remember, the situation is not forever. It will end. There will come a day when you look back on it all and it will be over.

Conflict in Divorce Can Blindside You

Going through a divorce, whether you initiated it or not, is a loss. It can bring up echoes in your psyche of all other losses that you have not resolved. You are essentially dealing with any other unresolved baggage from the past as you go through this divorce.

Sometimes, it can be hard for one of the divorce parties to make sense of the bitterness, lying, anger, or other difficult encounters that they are now having with their soon to be ex spouse. Expecting an unreasonable spouse to be reasonable all of a sudden is a waste of time. It's more useful to get yourself support and know that it's going to be a tough road, but that you will figure it out, with the help of a knowledgeable attorney and having clear end goals.

For some people it will seem like all you can think about is the divorce. Don't worry about that. This is common when people are going through an extremely stressful time. In fact, there is a lot at stake – financial stability, and if there are children involved, the best interest, as you perceive it of your children. The more you can offload your anger and upset about the conflict, the better off you'll be as you go through the process of divorce.

There are occasions when a high-conflict divorce pushes a person into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder syndrome. If you believe that you have been traumatized to this degree, there are therapies specifically designed to help resolve this sort of trauma, including EMDR and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) therapy.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.

For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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Family Law Adoption Dispute Goes All The Way to Supreme Court

Adoption disputes have an added layer of complexity. At the center of this particular adoption dispute, scheduled to be heard in June by the U.S. Supreme Court, is an innocent two-year-old girl, who was adopted in an open adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco. They were even present at the baby's birth.

Evidently, birth mom Christy Maldonado, a single mom of two, and Dusten Brown, who is about two percent Native American, were engaged when she got pregnant, The relationship deteriorated and he eventually texted her that he was giving up his rights as a parent to the child and that he also would not support the child.

That's when Christy decided she would not be able to support or rear another child in a healthful financially and emotionally sustainable manner. She began adoption plans. She followed all usual legal procedures, including notifying the Cherokee Nation of the adoption plans. They said they had no record of Dusten as a tribal member and the adoption went forward.

Dusten did indeed sign papers waiving all rights to the baby when the baby was just four months old, but days later, he filed a formal objection, saying he didn't really mean to sign off on them. He cited the Indian Child Welfare Act in his efforts to stop the adoption from going forward.

He said that when he had signed the papers, he didn't realize that in signing, he would also not even be able to see her at all. He sought full custody. Around that time, the Cherokee Nation found his name on the tribal lists. And when the case went to court, the South Carolina family law court ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act took precedence over state court, and thus, the court orders that the Capobiancos give the baby girl to her biological father, even though she had never even met him. The baby girl was handed off, crying, to Dusten.

The family, along with the birth mom and a guardian ad litem (neutral party who represents the interests of the child) appointed by the South Carolina family law court, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court took this case on, likely because it tests the Indian Child Welfare Act's limits.

At the time the law came into being, some 40 percent of Native American youngsters were being removed from their family homes and given to foster and white adoptive parents. This had a devastating effect on tribal nations across the country.

The birth mom's attorney, Lori McGill, questions, if Indian fathers can override at the birth mom's decision, why couldn't sperm donors or rapist how are Indians do the same?" It raises issues around the rights of birth-moms, in general.

The case will be heard sometime this month. "Baby Girl," as the little one is referred to in the court briefs, was happy and well adjusted in her adoptive parents' family. She appears, in the videos with her father, to also be happy. The birth mom says that while she used to spend time with her child at the adoptive parents' home, she does not even know where her little girl lives now. Nor do the adoptive parents.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.
For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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Do I Need Restraining Order?

Protective or retraining orders can be used to prohibit a person from committing further family violence, stalking, harassing either directly or indirectly the victim, or coming near to the school or daycare center that the order-protected child is attending.

Restraining orders also serve other purposes. For example, when divorce papers are filed, a restraining or protective order can also potentially:

  • Stop or prohibit property transfers or disposal of any property
  • Establish a temporary possession and visitation order of any involved children
  • Establish a support protocol for the immediate future
  • Order mandatory counseling
  • Force one person to leave the residence of the property specified in the order

These restraining or protective orders are all filed in civil court. If a protective order is violated, the person who violated the order must be found in contempt of court, first. If the person does not then adhere to the rules, he or she can potentially be put in jail.

If you believe that you are at risk of violence, harassment or stalking from the other person involved in your divorce, then it pays to obtain a restraining order. If the violence appears to be immediate, the police can issue an Emergency Protective Order, which allows you to be protected for a few days while you apply for a temporary restraining order with civil court.

If you believe that you cannot trust the other person to dispose of or in some other way attempt to transfer property that will come into question during the property settlement of your divorce, then it's wise to obtain a temporary restraining order that can be served at the time the papers for filing a divorce are served.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.
For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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Decided on Divorce – First Steps to Take

If you've decided on divorce, it's useful to know the first steps to take to protect your rights and the best interests of any involved children, before you jump into serving papers. Divorce, even if you are the initiator, can be a traumatic, upsetting, and conflict-ridden experience. How you move through it may well impact your future, your children's future, and your financial and emotional well being for years to come.

The first step in a divorce is to file a petition for divorce with the court. The person who applies for this petition is known as the petitioner or the plaintiff. This is the one who has initiated the divorce proceeding. The papers in the petition for divorce are then "served" on the spouse. The spouse is known as the respondent or defendant.

If the couple has agreed to divorce and the divorce is amicable, then the respondent can sign a waiver that legally gives up the right to be served with papers. Otherwise, the papers must be personally delivered to the respondent as a first step.

The petition for dissolution of marriage you records facts about you, your spouse and any involved children. It is a public record and it is brief, maybe a few pages, in all. It does not contain information such as the reason you want to divorce or your income. Texas is a "no-fault" state, which means that you do not have to give a reason for divorcing. However, if one of the spouse's behaviors has clearly contributed to the breakup of the marriage, the judge may take that into account when it comes time for equitable property division.

If you believe that you may be in danger from your spouse, then you may at the time of the filing for the petition of divorce, also obtain a Temporary Restraining Order mandated by the court. This temporary restraining order can require that:

  1. All assets must remain where they are and not removed from accounts until they are divided by the court
  2. Each spouse must act with civility toward one another, with no threats or harassment.

Other temporary orders during this time period can be filed, including temporary custody orders, temporary visitation orders, temporary property usage and debt orders, and temporary support orders, as well as payment of attorney's fees during this time period.
If there is an issue with obtaining information from your spouse, or you believe that your spouse has not been forthcoming with financial or other information you need to protect your rights, then a process called discovery can be initiated. This involves both parties exchanging documents and information.

After this, you make decisions about how you want to proceed with your divorce. Are you getting along with your spouse and really just need an attorney to make sure your paperwork is in order? Do you get along with your spouse for the most part but have some disagreements around child custody or property division? Then you may consider retaining a mediator to help with the part that you cannot come to agreement on.

If you are not able to agree with your spouse or there is a lot of conflict, it is likely that you could go to trial. However, before trial, you are required, as is your spouse, to seek to mediate an agreement. Going to court is the last resort, because essentially you are putting your important life decisions in the hands of a complete stranger, the judge. Also, a contentious divorce breeds animosity for years to come, and can seriously impact the well being of children involved.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.
For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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How Intrusive Can a Divorce Court Judge Be?

Is it possible for a judge to order a father of nine children who is behind on child support payments to stop having more children until he can demonstrate that he is able to provide for them financially? Sounds like the government intruding into a person's seriously private life, right?

But that's exactly what happened for Corey Curtis, 44, who has fathered nine children with six different women. Wisconsin Family Court Judge Tim Boyle instructed Corey Curtis, 44, instructed him to stop having children until he can pay for them. He stopped short of ordering him sterilized, which is considered unlawful government intrusion.

Just wait, there's more. A recent New York Law Journal reported that a deadbeat dad in Clinton County was put on a budget for "egregious" violation of court orders until he pays off the $14,000 in way past due child support. In this case, Thomas M., the father, is not allowed to "purchase, lease, or rent" anything from alcohol to tobacco products to electronic devices to guns to camping equipment to hotel rooms to RVs and even movies!

Truly, just how intrusive can a divorce court judge legally be? What rights does the judge have to tell you what to do and how to live? Evidently, when it comes to not paying child support that is ordered by the court, the judge has a lot of leeway. They can even have you thrown in jail for contempt of a court order of child support.

The judge in the budget case cited specific Family Court Acts that allowed the recalcitrant father on probation. When it comes to best interest of the children in question, the court has a very long arm.

If you believe that you are going to fall behind in your support payments, it might be wise to seek counsel with an attorney. Do not wait until you are months behind. The law has a way of catching up with those in violation of court orders, fair or not, it's the way the family law system works.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.
For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

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Can I Stop My Ex From Smoking Around Our Child?

There will probably always be things your ex does that irritate and annoy you. Maybe he (or she) is perpetually five minutes late. Maybe you think he lets your joint child watch too much television during visitation times. Perhaps you think he takes the "healthy lifestyle" too far and should let your joint child have an ice cream cone once in a blue moon.

These types of issues may make you fume, but they do not rise to the level of importance where Texas family law courts would get involved. However, there are some issues that used to be considered "minor" that are becoming a bigger concern. One of these issues involves cigarette smoking around children.

For a long time, family court judges avoided invading the privacy of a person's home to place restrictions on a person's freedom to smoke. However, facing new evidence on the negative health effects on children of exposure to secondhand smoke, family court judges in Texas and elsewhere have used cigarette smoking to make or change custody orders and to modify visitation orders.

Three recent cases provide examples of the lengths to which family law courts are going to protect children of divorced parents from secondhand smoke:

In the 1988 Texas case of Pizzitola v. Pizzitola, the court of appeals affirmed the jury's decision to award custody to the nonsmoking father even though the mother was the primary caretaker of the children during the marriage. The father had testified that the mother has smoked in the children's presence and that one of the children was extremely allergic to smoke.

Lizzio v Lizzio, a 1994 New York case, is an example of decisions in which family courts favor custody arrangements that provide protection from secondhand smoke for children with respiratory illnesses. In Lizzio, the court reversed its original custody determination after the custodial parent refused to provide a smoke-free environment for the child.

In Johnita MD v David DD (New York 2002), the New York Supreme Court ruled that the 13-year-old in question had the right to live in a smoke-free environment and further ruled that neither parent could smoke in the home or car when the child was present. This landmark case addressed cigarette smoking and its effects on a healthy child.

These case summaries, and others, can be reviewed in an article titled "Children's Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Private Homes and Cars," located at the federal government's National Institutes of Health website.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.

For an appointment with an experienced child custody lawyer who can help you create a strategy to protect your child from secondhand smoke, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

Posted in Child Custody, Childrens Issues | Tagged | Leave a comment

When Your Ex Gets A New Girlfriend/Boyfriend: Concerns About Joint Children

If you start worrying about your ex's future partners while you are still in the divorce processes, there may be clauses that your attorney can help you add to the divorce papers to address some of these concerns:

  • A cohabitation clause, also known as a morality clause, prohibits both parents from having overnight "intimate guests" while the joint child is under a certain age and unless the parent remarries. Cohabitation clauses often state that child support or alimony payments will end if and when the ex begins cohabitating with a new partner. Divorce court judges will hardly ever approve these unless both parents agree to put this type of clause in effect.
  • A "meet the girlfriend" clause is something you can discuss with your divorce lawyer. This type of agreement is better worked out informally directly between the divorcing spouses. However, some final divorce decrees have included clauses that give one parent the right to meet the new serious partner of the other parent. "Serious partner" has to be defined, of course, as does "meet."
  • During the divorce proceedings, you may be able to get a temporary order stating something along the lines of "no unaccompanied females shall be in the presence of the joint children while this divorce is pending." These are becoming more rare but have not disappeared from the family courts.

The problem with all of these types of clauses is the same: what do you do if your ex violates? What satisfaction will you get? You could pay an attorney extra fees to take your ex to court for violating the agreement, but you probably won't get much satisfaction. Your ex may get a slap on the wrist and be required to pay your attorney's fees, but the family court judge is unlikely to order a serious financial penalty or change in the ex's visitation rights (unless the new partner is a proven danger to the children).

Except in unusual cases, the better option may be to attempt open and honest communication with your ex about how you want to interact with each other's new partners.

You may find helpful resources at the National Stepfamily Resource Center, which is a division of Auburn University's Center for Children, Youth, and Families.

Contact Pfister Borserine & Associates

At Pfister Borserine & Associates, we have protected the rights of people across north Texas for more than 20 years. Board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney John J. Pfister, Jr. understands that every case is different and will take the time to learn the details of your situation. We will then carefully craft an individualized approach to help you get the outcome you want.

For an appointment with an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 972-712-6700.

Posted in Child Custody, Childrens Issues | Leave a comment