Monday, July 21, 2014

Interference with Child Custody

  Maria Jose Carrascosa, 48, is a native of Spain and lived in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She had a child, a daughter, with Peter Innes while in New Jersey and the couple separated in 2004.  They signed a parenting agreement prohibiting either parent from taking the child out of the country without the consent of the other.  In 2005, while custody was still unresolved, Carrascosa took the child, then 4, to Spain.

    In 2006, the New Jersey Court ordered the child returned, but Carroscosa refused.  Carrascosa returned to New Jersey and was promptly arrested for contempt.  She has been in jail for the last five years.  The child, now 14, is still in Spain and has not been returned.

    Carroscosa was sentenced to 14 years in 2009, after being convicted of interference with custody.  She has recently been paroled but has not been set free yet.  Innis has not seen his daughter since she has been taken to Spain.  As the article states, until she returns the child to New Jersey, she is still in contempt and she can be placed back into prison.

    When there are court orders regarding custody, make sure to follow them.  When, as Carroscosa did here, one parent makes it difficult/impossible for the other parent to see their children, then this will certainly be taken into account when making future orders.  In California, this type of behavior, whether just restrictive gate-keeping parenting, or whether more extreme like this case, can serve as a basis for a modification or custody orders and even a change of custody entirely.  Judges want to see co-parenting, and in the absence of that, will award custody to the parent that they feel will encourage the relationship between the child and the other parent.  As always, you should consult an experienced family law attorney before making any major decisions regarding the children especially those that will impact the custodial time of the other parent. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Should a Very Young Child Give Preference Testimony?

    Professional basketball player, Chris Bosh, has been in a custody battle over his young year old daughter with the child’s mother, Allison Mathis.  Apparently Mathis is requesting that their daughter, Trinity, (either four or five years old), testify in court.

    Calling a child to be a witness as to their custodial preferences is always a risk.  Judges, at least in Los Angeles County, disfavor it.  It’s the Judges discretion whether to allow it, but there would generally need to be a fairly compelling reason if the child is under the age of 14.  Judges are not mental health professionals.  Since there are a number of different methods of obtaining a child’s preferences or input which does not involve his/her direct testimony in court, such as a custody evaluation, a parenting plan assessment (in Los Angeles County), or minor’s counsel, judges are typically reluctant to meet with children.  The younger the child, the more unlikely it will be that the judge will want to speak with her/him. 

    It is unclear with Mathis wanted her four/five year daughter to testify to and I don’t know the rules as to minor’s testimony in Florida.  In California, at least in Los Angeles County, I would be surprised if a judge would want to speak to a four/five year old directly.  Also, I would caution against even making this request for a child that is this age unless there are extenuating circumstances because it may reflect poorly to a judge who’s primary objective is to determine the child’s best interest.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Update on Failure to Make Child Support Payments

    An update on my previous blog from last week (July 1)!  Apparently, Houston resident, Clifford Hall, who was jailed for failing to pay child support has been released after one week.  Hall’s wages were being withheld to pay the child support but, due to some type of clerical error by his employer, the wages were improperly withheld or not being paid to the mother.  He is current and has paid $1,000 extra but was still sentenced to six months in jail due to the existing Texas law.    

    He is now released after serving one week and has set up visitation with his son.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Failure to Make Child Support Payments

    Clifford Hall from Houston, Texas was sentenced to six months in jail for failure to pay his child support.  He fell behind and owed more than $3,000 in child support.  His wages were garnished but his company failed to submit the money to the court for his ex-wife to collect.  Hall has become current plus an extra $1,000 but could not avoid facing jail time based on a Texas law.
    When making support payments (spousal or child), make sure that you have proof of payment.  If you are making the payments directly to the other person, then keep good records of your checks or bank statements showing payment.  This can also be helpful in the future if the other party claims that you failed to make payments.  If you can’t prove that you made the payments, then you probably won’t get credit for them.   Failure to pay child support can lead to a number of unpleasant consequences ranging from suspension of your driver’s license to jail time.