Saturday, October 29, 2011

Name Change and Adoption Notice

Involuntary termination of parental rights and name change

My ex has had nothing to do with my now 13 year old child. He is on the birth certificate, and was sent to jail for domestic abuse, and a "peace bond" was ordered for a year. I know he had been released from jail, and I have been granted a divorce, with no child support ordered because I have no idea where he is. He has never made contact, or attempted to make contact with me. My child wishes tot take my last name, and I would like my fiance to be able to adopt and not have to seek "permission" from a non-existent party. I live in Virginia, and would like to find out if the time that has passed is considered abandonment.

You do not need permission, but you do need to give notice to the father. If you cannot locate an address for him, he can be given notice through an Order of Publication entered by the court and run in the newspaper. This is true for both a name change and a step-parent adoption (once you and your fiance marry).
Legal disclaimer: This response does not create an attorney-client relationship and is intended for general information purposes only.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Straight Talk From Your Lawyer

I have "lost" many a client at the initial consultation (and beyond) for being bluntly honest in evaluating a case. I have been accused of being on the other party's side, of not being willing to "fight for" the client, among others. In fact, I am doing what I would want my lawyer, my doctor or any professional to do- give it to me straight. Especially in a divorce/custody case, the truth is often the last thing that a client wants to hear. It is better to hear it in the privacy of the office rather than going to court and having a judge deliver the news.

Read the following Huffington Post blog for insight from another lawyer about the issue.

9 Questions To Keep Your Divorce Lawyer Honest

There is a lot of incentive for litigation attorneys to blow sunshine up your skirt and tell you what you want to hear. In that first consultation at the beginning of your case, we lawyers are, after all, salespeople. We start with an optimistic overview of your case, and it will be awhile before we start to talk to you about any potential downside.

Plus, it's human nature to decide what you want to do, and then amass evidence supporting your position and discount evidence to the contrary. So we're going to help you do that, particularly at the beginning of your case.

Let's face it, nobody wants to hear bad news. But as an informed client, you need to be prepared for whatever might happen so that you can decide how to best handle your case.

If your lawyer is being honest, he or she will answer the following 9 questions:

  1. What is my best case scenario in this case? If the Judge agreed with everything I say, and nothing that my spouse says, what do you predict the outcome to be?
  2. What's my worst case scenario in this case? If the Judge doesn't agree with anything I say, but agrees with everything my spouse says, what do you predict the outcome to be?
  3. What's an optimistic, but realistic outcome?: Let's say the Judge agrees with a good part of what I have to say, and some of what my spouse has to say, what do you predict the outcome to be?
  4. What's a pessimistic, but realistic outcome?: If the Judge agrees with a good part of what my spouse has to say, and only some of what I have to say, what do you predict the outcome to be?
  5. Will you play devil's advocate?: Pretend for a minute that you are my spouse's attorney. What would you tell my spouse based on what you've heard today? Please do not sugar coat your "advice" to my spouse.
  6. What's the local reality?: I know you can show me copies of the law and legal cases. But based on what you're seeing down at the local courthouse, in the family court mediation and custody evaluation office, with the judges, and typical lawyer to lawyer negotiations, what are the realities of settling cases and trial outcomes? As a practical matter, what really goes on?
  7. Is it worth it to enforce my rights?: Can you quantify the amount of money which is in question? If I enforce all of my rights in this case, as opposed to settling for something less, how will that compare with the legal fees and experts' fees it will cost to get everything I'm entitled to?
  8. What's the range of cost?: If we went to court, what is the range of cost you'd see, given your experience with prior cases similar to mine, both high and low? Are you willing to put that estimate in writing?
  9. Will you put my money where your mouth is?: It sounds to me like you're pretty certain of the result you can get for me in my divorce case. Would you please put that in writing? And if you're not willing to do that, why not?

If this feels confrontational, you can feel free to print this out and hand it to your lawyer. Tell him or her that while you think it's crazy and overkill, your Huffington Post friend said to talk to them about this because it's really important.

Like I said above, there is overwhelming incentive for litigation attorneys to tell you what you want to hear. Read this "Open Letter from Your Divorce Attorney" for a real eye-opener, and the truth about why this happens all too often.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana's divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Follow Diana Mercer on Twitter:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Child Custody Case-Will I Win or Lose?

Will my daughter lose her son?

My 17 yr old daughter has an 11 month old son with a 16 yr old boy. My daughter and her son live in my home and my grandson has lived here since he was born. The father is now taking my daughter to court for legal and physical custody. My daughter works 30 hours a week and is a senior in high school with a 4.0 gpa and is in the honor society. My husband and I take care of our grandson 3-4 nights a week so our daughter can work. The father of my grandson works as well and he gets our grandson Friday evenings through Monday mornings (when he has to take the baby back to daycare.) Neither my daughter or the baby's father does drugs or are bad kids. Do I have anything to be worried about? We go to church and are good people and live life right. Help?

Attorney answers (1)

First, I doubt that a 16 year old boy wants custody. It is his parents who want custody. I suggest that you try to meet with the family and discuss this. If there is some communication issue between the families, you need to work to overcome this. Mediation often is useful.
There is no way to predict the outcome of a custody case-even if you have actually met the parties. People say things in court that often are exaggerated or just plain untrue. It is difficult to anticipate everything that might be said.
Also, the judge must determine what is in the best interests of the child. While there are statutory factors that the judge is to consider, in the absence of any of these pointing strongly in favor or against one party, much depends on the impression that the parties make on the judge in court. The judge also could appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, an attorney for the child, who can make a recommendation to the judge about custody. Since this person has yet to be appointed, we do not have any idea what he or she may say.
For these reasons, settlement is always the best option.
Legal disclaimer: This response does not create an attorney-client relationship and is intended for general information purposes only.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Effect of Separate Bank Accounts

Am I A Parent Alienator?

Am I a Parent Alienator?
by Jayne A. Major, Ph. D.

Please answer unconditionally.
This is strictly for your own benefit.

1. Have I ever criticized or spoken negatively about the other parent or his/her family or friends in front of my child or where the child can hear me?

2. Have I ever forced my child to assure me that he/she loves me more than the other parent?

3. Do I talk about child support, money, or legal issues in front of my child?

4. Do I ever limit time with the other parent because I feel I am the only one that knows what is best for my child?

5. Do I ask my child to keep secrets, lie or hide things from the other parent?

6. Do I pump my child to get detailed information of where they go and what they do when they are with the other parent?

7. Do I prevent my child from speaking with the other parent by blocking phone messages, not returning phone calls, erasing email messages, not giving them mail or gifts?

8. Do I interrupt my child's time with the other parent by calling too much or planning activities during their time together?

9. Have I ever sabotaged any activity that my child is doing with the other parent?

10. Do I encourage my child to blame the other parent or to choose sides?

11. Do I use my child as a therapist or my special friend to share my deep and upsetting emotions?

12. Do I let my child know that I feel badly when he/she has a good time with the other parent?

13. Do I ask my child to spy for me while with the other parent?

14. Do I ever instill guilt for liking the other parent or insist that my child reject the other parent?

15. Do I make a contest of how much love, care, and attention my child gives to the other parent and his/her family and friends versus how much attention I receive?

16. Do I stop my child from expressing his/her feelings (e.g., love, happiness, excitement, anger, fear, sadness) when I don't like what is being said?

17. Have you ever made false accusations, such as implying drug abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior, to the police or Department of Child and Family Services?

If you answered "YES" to any of these questions, you need to evaluate to what extent you are engaging in parental alienation.

Children need to be free to love both parents. If you don't like the other parent or feel that they are inappropriate for your child, you need to solve the problem without resorting to destroying that child's relationship with this parent. Your child can make up his or her own mind about how much they love or even like the other parent without being unduly influenced by you.

Obsessed parent alienators will stop at nothing to damage or even sever a child's relationship with a parent. This is a serious form of child abuse where a child is not allowed to have loving feelings for the targeted parent, or his or her extended family and friends. These people represent half of the child's heritage. Most parents "slip up" once in a while, however, parents who really care about their child's best interest will do all they can to keep their children out of the middle and allow them to love both parents.

The best parent is both parents.

Jayne A. Major, Ph.D. is the founder of Breakthrough Parenting Services, Inc. and the author of Breakthrough Parenting: Moving Your Family from Struggle to Cooperation. She is nationally recognized as an award-winning expert in family education and parental alienation. She can be reached at (310) 823-7846. Visit her websites at and

For more articles on Parental Alienation Syndrome , visit