family law

When Is It Too Late to File for or Modify Child Support?

In just about every divorce involving children, some child support arrangements will be made. But not every divorce is the same, and not all go as planned. And even if a child support agreement seems perfect at the time, circumstances can change.

Whatever the reason, you may find yourself trying to file a child support agreement, enforce or modify an existing one, or end your current child support obligations. But when is it too late? Here's a look.

Too Late to Create?

It's generally never too late to create a child support agreement. While most arrangements are negotiated during the divorce process, there's nothing that can prohibit exes from handling other issues first and hammering out child support later. You will want to be careful about waiting too long, though, because child support determinations are often made with each party's financial situations in mind, and the sooner those arrangements are made, the more accurate they can be and the sooner you'll receive the money (or, conversely, the sooner you'll know what you need to budget).

There are two ways you can go about creating child support arrangements: you can either go to family court and request a child support order from a judge (which may require multiple hearings, filings, and financial evidence), or you and your ex can negotiate a child support agreement on your own. Even if you come to your own agreement, however, you'll want to file it with the court, so it will be enforceable against both parties.

Too Late to Modify?

Child support agreements are not always set in stone, and as personal circumstances change, the amount a parent must pay or is owed can change as well. Obviously, these kind of life changes don't occur on a specific timeline, so there are no hard deadlines for child support modifications. Some child support agreements may have clauses that invite both parties to renegotiate payments at certain intervals -- otherwise you'll need to request a child support modification from the court or your ex. Courts will normally modify a child support order if there is a substantial change in your or your child's circumstances, so requests should be made as soon as possible after those changes.

Too Late to Collect?

Everyone wants to know when child support obligations end. Generally speaking, it's when the child turns the age of majority in your state, usually 18. But some states tie child support to high school graduation, and some child support agreements can cover college tuition as well. It's important for both parties to know, however, that it's never too late to collect back child support payments. While a child turning 18 may end child support obligations going forward, if a parent missed payments before the child turned 18, they are still on the hook for those payments.

States and the federal government are pretty serious when it comes to enforcing child support orders and non-payment can result in seized or revoked driver's licenses, passports, wages, tax refunds, or even jail time. Enforcement measures can continue after the child turns 18, although states may have varying statutes on the time a parent has to collect after the child turns 18.

Child support issues are often complicated, both legally and emotionally. If you have questions regarding child support obligations, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.

By Christopher Coble, Esq.

Should I Talk to My Spouse During Divorce?

Every divorce is different. Some separations are quaintly referred to as a "conscious uncoupling." Others are wars. There is no one-size-fits-all divorce, unfortunately, as every marriage is unique.

Some couples can calmly talk about their issues, even if it means divorcing. Some spouses may not feel safe in the same room as their soon-to-be exes. So how do you know when you should talk to your spouse during a divorce, and when it's best to maintain radio silence? Here are some factors to consider.

Anything You Say...

There are distinct advantages to a collaborative divorce, as well as some drawbacks. On the one hand, increasing communication and utilizing mediation and negotiations to settle your divorce can save money and time, and provide a resolution both parties are happy with. On the other hand, you may be unwilling or unable to work with your spouse, and without a judge's involvement, it may be harder to get accurate information regarding assets and custody.

There's a chance that communicating with your spouse during a divorce can make the process fast, cheap, and painless. Then again, your spouse may use anything you communicate against you later in the divorce proceedings. So, even if you choose to communicate with your spouse, choose your words (and actions) wisely.

Getting Social

Communication doesn't always occur face-to-face, and far too often we let our social media presence speak for us. Don't make that mistake. Whether it's ripping your spouse on Facebook to friends and family, or seemingly innocuous Instagram posts (3 a.m. selfies from the club on a school night), your actions on social media can speak louder than words.

Family Time

Obviously, kids complicate any divorce. Custody issues, child support issues, and communication issues can provide flashpoints for the most amicable divorce, and how you and your spouse co-parent during the divorce can speak volumes when it comes to resolving those issues. Communicating positively with both your spouse and your children (and not bad-mouthing your spouse to your children) can help matters. However, if personal safety, for you or your children, is at stake, don't sacrifice your own security for the sake of speaking to a dangerous spouse.

Whatever you decide, an experienced attorney can facilitate communication during a divorce. Contact one today.

By Christopher Coble, Esq

Jilted to Gilded: North Carolina Husband Gets $8.8M From Man Who Slept With His Wife

For the most part, courts aren't concerned with telling people who they can and can't sleep with. Sodomy laws are unconstitutional, and even the states that still have them rarely enforce their adultery statutes. But there's one legal claim jilted lovers can use to extract some financial penance from those with whom their spouses cheated, and one state that appears all too happy to order millions in relationship restitution.

Keith King says his wife's affair with Francisco Huizar ruined their marriage. And a North Carolina judge is ordering Huizar to pay King over $8 million in damages. Must've been some marriage.

The Price of Affection

So-called alienation of affection lawsuits are nothing new. And they've ensnared some pretty famous folks. Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox was sued last year by a man claiming Cox's affair with his wife destroyed their marriage. Former presidential candidate John Edwards' wife threatened to sue his aide Andrew Young for facilitating her husband's affair with another woman. Even golfer John Daly's ex had her case appealed to the Supreme Court.

And many of the biggest awards for alienation of affection are coming out of the Tar Heel State. An estimated 200 such suits are filed in North Carolina each year, leading to some pretty big payouts. In 2010, a jilted Mrs. Cynthia Shackelford won $9 million from her husband's mistress, and in 2011, a judge in Raleigh awarded $30 million to Betty Puryear, the former wife of a trucking company owner.

Breaking Up a Happy Home?

In this case, Durham County judge awarded King, the owner of a BMX bike stunt show company, more than $8.8 million: $2.2 million in compensatory damages and triple that in punitive damages. According to court documents and testimony, Keith and Danielle King married in 2010 and have a 5-year-old daughter. King claimed the affair, and an assault by Huizar, cost his business revenue and an employee (Danielle worked for the company) and increased his expenses on household help, child care, and counseling.

Huizar's attorney, Cheri Patrick, claimed her client was not responsible for breaking up a marriage that was already damaged beyond repair. Danielle King testified that the marriage had been unhappy from the first year and that she pursued Huizar. "This marriage needed one more blow before it was over," Patrick said. And then there was the alleged "discovery" set-up, in which Danielle, who had since moved into an apartment with Huizar (unbeknownst to King), asked her husband for help with electrical trouble and had Huizar answer the door when King arrived. King's attorney claims the pair were setting him up for a domestic violence allegation, and the resulting scuffle left King with PTSD.

The multimillion-dollar award will do little to stem the flow of alienation of affection lawsuits, and more judges and juries are likely to drag sordid bedroom details into the courtroom.

by Christopher Coble, Esq.

10 Smart Back-to-School Tips for Divorced Parents

Back-to-school season is stressful for all parents but it’s a little more complicated when you’re divorced: Who’s doing the annual trek to Target to load up on school supplies — and more importantly, who’s paying? Are both of you listed on important school forms? 

 To make heading back to school a little less overwhelming for you and the kiddos, we asked HuffPost Divorce bloggers and readers on Facebook to share their tried-and-true advice. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Split the cost of back-to-school supplies. 

Between backpacks, calculators, school uniforms and that extra big box of Crayola crayons, your kids’ back-to-school supplies can end up costing a small fortune. To lessen the individual burden among parents, Lynsey Mattingly and her ex divvy up purchasing responsibilities.

“My ex and I always separate who’s buying what, with him buying the backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles while I usually get the entire supply list the teachers send home,” she told us. “It comes out to about the same price and this way we are both playing to our strengths: he gets a few quality items that he’s better at picking out and I get the specific, detailed things.”

2. Create a shared Google calendar to keep everyone in the loop. 

Each school year, Elizabeth Denham dutifully updates the families’ shared Google calendar with the kids’ upcoming school events. This way, no one misses back-to-school night or a holiday performance. 

“For all of the really important events, I send invites through the calendar as soon as I enter the date so that I don’t have to remember to do it by phone,” she said. 

3. Drop the kids off together on the first day of school. 

The first day of school can be a scary, overwhelming experience for even the most confident kiddo. If at all possible, try to free up your schedules so both of you can drop the kids off and show your support, said Leah Porritt. 

“On the first morning of school this year, we met before and walked our son to school together,” she said. “He had both of us there to send him off to first grade and I think that meant a lot to him — even if the normal school year mornings are a mixture of mom, dad, stepparents or before-and-after care. For his sake, we put differences aside and make an effort to both be present together.”  

4. And if your ex can’t be there for day one, text a pic. 

If your ex is unable to make it that first day, be generous and send him or her a pic. (You have at least 20 on your camera roll — why not share the love?) 

“Texting a pic is an act of goodwill and will be greatly appreciated,” said blogger Valerie DeLoach. “And you never know — one kind act could change the whole dynamic of your current relationship.”  

5. Let your kids’ teachers know who’s who in your blended family. 

Your family tree likely got a lot more complicated post-divorce, especially if you or your ex remarried. Early on in the school year, fill your kids’ teachers in on who’s who in your family; that way, there’s no confusion when your child’s stepdad picks her up. 

“I do it because it can be confusing for teachers to hear my son talk about his parents, stepparents and numerous siblings on either side,”said Porritt. “He’s old enough now to explain who is who, but it makes it more comfortable for him if his teacher already understands his extended and blended family situation and doesn’t need to question him!”

Another bonus of touching base with your kids’ teacher? Backpacks that are a little less heavy, said reader Carmen Poff. 

“When my ex and I tell the teachers our kids have two homes, most will send home a second set of text books so they won’t have to haul them back and forth,” she said.

6. Attend parent-teacher conferences together. 

Heading to parent-teacher conferences as a team — like writer Carolyn Flower does every year with her kids’ dad — sends a strong message to your children and their teachers: Regardless of what happened in the past, today we’re partners who have the kids’ best interests at heart. 

“As a collaboratively divorced family, we’ve never missed a parent-teacher meeting,” Flower said. “We feel that demonstrating we are still a team shows the children and the school they are loved and supported in all they do. It plants healthy seeds for successful mindsets.” 

7. If your ex lives out of state, have him or her call into the meeting. 

Don’t let distance interfere with both parents taking a proactive, involved role, said Honorée Corder. 

“Because my ex lives in another state, when it’s time for parent-teacher conferences, we schedule a time that works for both of us so he can be conferenced in,” she said. 

8. Set times when you and your ex can debrief on your kids’ progress at school. 

To ensure that no book report or soccer meet falls through the cracks, Kasey Ferris and her ex have have scheduled communication days where they discuss and update each other on their son’s life. 

“Every Sunday and Wednesday there’s an email exchange where we discuss the week, any tests coming up and updates on projects that need to be completed,” she said. “Anything crucial or time-sensitive is handled via text, but everything else goes into a Sunday/Wednesday email. It’s created a lot of peace between us.” 

9. Don’t leave your ex’s side out of the family tree.

Regardless of how you feel about your ex, your kids still need him or her in their lives. When there’s a family tree assignment — or a photo project that calls on family photos — rise above any bitterness and include your ex’s side of the family (yes, that includes new spouses). 

“If there is a project at school that asks for family photos I always make sure that the kids try to include pictures of their mom, their mom’s partner and kids as well as my own partner and kids,” said reader Barry Fraser. 

10. Create a group chat where you discuss your kids’ wins and progress. 

Start a group chat that includes the parents and the kids and send texts whenever your kids ace an assignment or need a little encouragement to bring that C grade up. It’s a little communication trick that has worked wonders for blogger Emma Bathie and her family. 

“The idea is to direct the reminders and notes to the kids but they’re there for both parents to see and comment on if needed,” she said. “It can also be a nice way for the parents to make positive/encouraging comments about each other in front of the kids (‘Hey Matt, I really appreciate you picking up the kids for me last night when I was stuck in a meeting and then traffic. It was really helpful!’) You’re also showing the kids you can be the grown-ups they need you to be.” 

Together, you’ve got this school year! 

by: Huffington Post

Can Your Family Force You Into Rehab?

Many addicts are the last to recognize that they have a problem. Others feel that they can solve it themselves, without the need for admission into a full-fledged rehabilitation program. Still, some exasperated parents and siblings may not be willing to wait for a family member to sort out their addictions on their own, and will seek to forcibly institutionalize them.

But is that legal? Can you be compelled to go to rehab against your will?

Just Say No

The general answer is: No. Most state laws don't permit forcible rehab of adults (outside of criminal sentencing for drug- or alcohol-related crimes, of course). And almost no rehab facilities will admit a patient who doesn't want to be there -- both out of legal liability issues and because a recalcitrant patient is rarely successful at managing their issues. This is not true for children, however. A parent or legal guardian can put a person under the age of 18 into a rehab program without their permission.

So, for the most part, while your family may come up with a compelling argument for you to go to rehab (and perhaps withhold money, room, or board in exchange for such a deal), they can't legally compel you enter a rehab or treatment facility.

Hold Up

There are some exceptions to that rule, though. If someone believes a person is a danger to themselves or others, most states allow a temporary period of custody or a "hold" on them for assessment and possible treatment. Known in California as a "5150" (in reference to the section of the Welfare Institutions Code under which it is permitted), it allows officers to take a person into custody "for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention," if that person "as a result of a mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled."

Such holds are often temporary, although some statutes allow doctors to recommend a longer custody period if the person requires intensive treatment prior to their release.

Family members may be at their wits' end when it comes to a loved one dealing with addiction. But for better or worse, forced rehab is normally not one of their options. If you're the family member or the loved one struggling with addiction in this scenario, consider contacting an experienced health care attorney to discuss your legal options

By Christopher Coble, Esq.

Summer Child Custody Dispute: When to Seek Mediation

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 13, 2018 6:00 AM


As any parent knows, summer can be a hot topic. And not just the weather.

Come June, when the kids are out of school, the real heat begins. The workable child custody agreement that separated parents have put together during the school year flies out the window, and the bummer of summer begins. If a child custody dispute arises, you may be wondering, when should you seek mediation?

How Can I Turn Down the Heat?

If you are feeling this way, you aren't alone. What can you do? That's a complicated question. If there is already a court-ordered custody agreement in place, parents have to stick to it until it is officially modified. To modify, parents either have to work it out between themselves, or seek legal advice in the form of mediation or a divorce attorney to modify the existing custody agreement.

The easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to handle a summer child custody dispute is to have the parents work together to find a solution. Open communication is key, and the earlier the better. If you foresee a scheduling conflict or are planning a summer vacation, contact the other parent as early as possible to find a solution that works for both of you.

What If This Is Too Hot Too Handle Alone?

Do you feel this is easier said than done? You may want to hire a mediatorto help devise a solution. When should you seek a mediator? It may be a good idea if any of the following applies:

  • If you have issues speaking with your ex, a mediator can always help. Mediators are lawyers who are trained to find a solution that is amendable and fair to both sides. They understand that you may not be able to be in the same room with your ex, and are usually quite comfortable speaking with each separately. Mediators can devise a solution without either party ever having to even see one another.
  • If you want to modify a custody agreement on a trial-basis, and are not ready to make it part of the official custody agreement, mediators can help with that too. Unlike court orders, mediator recommendations are not binding and often not admissible in court, which means that parents may feel a little more comfortable trying out mediator solutions.
  • If you need a solution right away, a mediator can help much quicker than courts. As stated, until there is an agreed upon modification in place, parents must stick to the original agreement or risk legal ramifications. A court ordered modification can take months (maybe years!) to obtain. But a mediator may be able to hammer out an agreement in a week.
  • If you need to find a cost-effective solution, hiring one mediator is almost always cheaper than two litigating attorneys. Mediators work on behalf of both parents, so only one needs to be hired. And since mediators are attorneys, if both parents end up liking the new agreement, the mediator can file the agreement with the courts to be part of the permanent custody agreement going forward in future months.

Summer can be a fantastic time with your kids. Keep in mind, once they turn 18, those summers together could be over. Make the most out of each and every summer with your kids by planning early and often with your ex. If you need any help settling a custody dispute, contact a mediator today to see if he or she can settle the dispute quickly, cheaply, and relatively peacefully.

Jury Awards $4.7B in Another J&J Baby Powder Lawsuit

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 17, 2018 11:10 AM

The long and winding road of baby powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson took an expensive turn last week, with a St. Louis jury awarding almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families who claimed that asbestos contained in the company's talc-based powder products contributed to their ovarian cancer.

It's the largest of five previous verdicts against Johnson & Johnson involving their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. But like those others, it is sure to be challenged, appealed, and may be overturned or reduced.

Risk / Reward

The incredibly complex litigation has been leaking allegations, jury verdicts, appeals, and reversals for at least two years:

Last year, Bloomberg estimated that Johnson & Johnson was facing over 5,000 talc and baby powder claims, many of which were consolidated in St. Louis. Litigants have cited a 1997 internal from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant saying, "anybody who denies" the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary." And the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified the genital use of talc-based body powder as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

Awards & Appeals

The enormous verdict in the latest case is somewhat due to the number of litigants involved: 22 plaintiffs including six who sued on behalf of deceased relatives and others who had a spouse who claimed health effects. The jury awarded $25 million to each family who sued, along with $3.15 billion in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and another $990,000 against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

An unnamed female juror told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the jury multiplied the estimated $70 million Johnson & Johnson pocketed from baby powder in a single recent year by the 43 years it's been since the company denied their products contained asbestos. "We were just trying to find something they would feel," she added.

That award may be tenuous. Plaintiffs' attorneys conceded punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and Johnson & Johnson attorneys have already vowed an appeal. "Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies," the company asserted in a statement. "Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed."

If there's anything that's certain about J&J's talc litigation, it's that the trials are far from over.