Month: November 2015

What Is Child Support Used For?

What Can I Use Child Support Payments For?

Clients often ask whether there are any limitations to what a custodial parent can use child support payments for. The truth is, child support can be spent on nearly anything. There are no federal laws that limit the use of child support payments. Most state laws do not place limitations on use, either. Nevertheless, most non-custodial parents need some assurance that the payments they make are being used for their child’s needs. This article will provide some information on how child support payments should be used and how payments are often determined.

Child Support Payments Should be used for Basic Needs

Typically, it is expected that child support payments will be used to pay for food, clothing, and housing. Of course, the cost of raising children involves much more than that. For instance, there are usually school expenses, extracurricular activity fees, and toys. Older children, especially teenagers, can have costs associated with cars, like gas and auto insurance. Since child support payments are generally calculated to cover all of a child’s portion of household expenses, a custodial parent has the discretion to spend the additional money on extra items or expenses.

Child Support Based on Parents’ Income

In a very general sense, child support is meant to ensure that children of divorced or separated parents will continue to live as comfortably as they would have had their parents stayed together. States typically calculate child support payments by combining both parents’ income, and setting aside a percentage of the total amount for the needs of the child. The law will assume that the custodial parent pays for food, clothing and shelter directly, as that parent buys the groceries for the home and makes housing payments. Thus, the non-custodial parent contributes by making cash support payments to the custodial parent.

What is a Child Support Add-On?

In addition to the basics (food, clothing and shelter) and typical school and extracurricular expenses, children also need healthcare and medical insurance. Also, child care is a common expense, as the custodial parent often has to work outside the home. Therefore many courts add a percentage of these additional costs, after calculating basic child support, to this basic child support amount. Some states, though not all, also include extracurricular or educational costs in the child support add-on.

If you have questions regarding child support, or any other family law issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (251) 304-3200.

International Visitation Issues

International Child Visitation Issues

Though it might not be the most common situation, there are families who have parents living outside of the United States. These situations create a certain challenge with the issue of custody and visitation. Not only are there the practical issues involved in visitation between one country and another, but there are complex legal issues as well. This is especially true if one parent is seeking to take the child outside of the United States.

Determining Jurisdiction over the Legal Issues

The first issue that arises in these situations is which country has jurisdiction over the divorce, custody and litigation issues. When both parents live in Alabama, for instance, then there is no dispute that Alabama courts have jurisdiction over these legal matters. However, if the child lives outside the United States, the laws that govern visitation are more complicated. In those case, you need an attorney with international family law knowledge and experience; particularly, knowledge of the Hague Convention International Laws.

What is the Hague Convention?

The primary purpose of the Hague Convention is address international child abduction issues. The Convention is meant to preserve the child custody arrangement that existed before any alleged wrongful removal or retention occurred. The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16.

What is in the Best Interests of the Child?

Whenever the courts make decisions regarding child visitation matters, the concern is always what is in the best interests of the child. This is the primary concern above all else. Though the task may be more difficult when international visitation is involved, it is still critical that parents keep the lines of communication open so that the child can spend time with both parents. The worst case scenario is that a child becomes alienated from the parent who lives outside of the United States.

If you have questions regarding child visitation, or any other divorce issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (205) 401-1309.

Adults in Juvenile Court

Can an Adult Be Convicted and Sentenced in Juvenile Court?

In Alabama, as in most states, the juvenile court system has exclusive original jurisdiction over all legal proceedings involving a child who is alleged to be “delinquent, dependent or in need of supervision.” In Alabama, a child is considered to be anyone under the age of nineteen. An underage individual cannot be convicted and sentenced in an adult court. So, what happens when someone commits a crime while underage, but is not charged with that crime until after the juvenile court has lost jurisdiction?

The Conviction and Sentencing of an Adult in Juvenile Court

In M.A.M. v. Alabama, the defendant had been convicted and sentenced in juvenile court to one year in Youth Correction Services, for alleged sexual abuse of a 6-year-old. He was 16 years old at the time of the crime, but was 24 years old at the time of the conviction and sentencing. The defendant in M.A.M v. Alabama appealed the conviction, asserting that the juvenile court did not have jurisdiction over him.

The Alabama Court of Appeals Overturned the Conviction

The Court of Appeals overturned the conviction. Since the defendant was 16 when he allegedly sexually abused the victim, the juvenile court had exclusive jurisdiction over the proceedings. However, the law also states the juvenile court only retains that jurisdiction until the child turns 21. Because the defendant in that case was 24 at the time the charges were filed, the juvenile court had lost jurisdiction over him.

The Alabama Juvenile Justice Act Closed the Loophole

Alabama passed the Alabama Juvenile Justice Act in 2008, which repealed many of the statutes applied in M.A.M v. Alabama. The new law holds that while the juvenile court has no jurisdiction over acts committed before an offender was 18 but not filed until after the offender’s 21st birthday, there is an exception for offenses that have no statute of limitations. This exception would include sexual offenses involving victims under the age of 16. However, the decision in M.A.M v. Alabama involved acts that occurred in 2003, prior to the passage of the new act.

If you have questions regarding juvenile delinquency, or any other criminal defense issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (251) 304-3200.

Protecting Fathers’ Rights in Divorce

Protecting the Rights of Fathers in Divorce

Many clients believe that when it comes to divorce, fathers simply do not have the same rights as mothers. While it may be that mothers are often awarded custody and child support, the reality is that fathers have the exact same rights. Indeed, it is improper for the courts to consider gender when making decisions regarding support and custody. The primary concern should be what is in the best interests of the child.

Why fathers should be treated equally

It is just as important for a father to establish a bond between himself and his child. That paternal bond is also a crucial part of a child’s development. Therefore, in most cases it would be in the best interest of the child to grant custody to the father and mother jointly. At the very least, visitation should be awarded, depending on the circumstances.

What rights does a father specifically have?

During a divorce where the couple has children, a father’s rights include the right to custody, child support, visitation and various paternity rights. The issue of paternity is typically an issue only when the parents are unmarried, but are informally separating. If a father is granted primary custody, or sole custody, a mother may be ordered to pay child support to the father.

The need to resolve paternity issues

There are various ways to determine paternity, including DNA testing, an Acknowledgement of Paternity, a court order, and legitimation proceedings. The issue of paternity often arises in cases involving child custody disputes or support. Until the father is acknowledged under the law as such, they will not have the same rights as the mother. Nevertheless, the best interests of the child is always the primary concern.

If your rights as a father are being violated, or you have questions regarding any other custody or support issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (251) 304-3200.