Alimony / Maintenance / Support
The term alimony means the same thing as spousal support or maintenance. Arkansas Law allows a judge to award temporary alimony to either spouse until a divorce is final. In most cases in which alimony is awarded, the alimony is “rehabilitative” and is awarded for a certain period in order to give the spouse time to get back on his/her feet. In the case of a long term marriage or where one spouse is ill, the court can establish a permanent spousal support arrangement.
Annulment vs. Divorce
An annulment is a legal procedure which abolishes a marriage as if it had never existed. The most common reason that a marriage is annulled is fraud. This might mean a failure to disclose some important fact to the spouse like a communicable disease, an inability to have children, a previous divorce or a criminal past. Other common reasons are bigamy, incest, or duress. Most people do not get annulments unless they have some legal, financial or religious reasons to avoid a divorce.
A contested divorce often comes about when there is substantial property or assets and a feeling by one spouse or the other that he/she deserves more. In Arkansas the court will fairly and equitably and fairly distribute the marital property. Factors considered by the Court when dividing marital property include each spouse’s earning power, non-marital property, services as the homemaker, duration of the marriage and the age and health of both parties.
You might need to petition for guardianship if you have a loved one, either a minor child or an incapacitated adult, who is not being cared for properly or who needs assistance. A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward.
When parents are unable to take care of a child, or when that child becomes the victim of child neglect or abuse, guardianship may be an option to help protect the child. In addition, if children are in state custody, grandparents or other relatives may sometimes ask to have the children placed in their homes instead of foster homes.
I help my clients create guardianships for incompetent or incapacitated adults, like the elderly, developmentally disabled adults, or those who suffer from mental illness. When a loved one requires legal and physical guidance for their own safety, or is incapable of administering his or her own affairs, a guardianship can be the best way to protect them.
Adoption of a child can be a joyous and exciting event, but it is also a complicated process. Arkansas law requires that certain procedures be followed to adopt a child. Ordinarily, the child’s biological parents must consent to the adoption, but there are circumstances in which a parent’ consent may not be required, such that the parent has failed significantly to support or communicate with the child for one year. Adopting parents are also required to undergo a home study which is usually conducted by a licensed social worker and includes a personal history interview, safety assessment of your home, and criminal background and child maltreatment registry checks on each person living in the home. There are circumstances in which some of these procedures may not be required, such as a step-parent who wants to adopt a step-child. You will need an attorney to guide you through the many steps that must be followed in an adoption.
There is also the possibility that an adoption may be challenged. In that case, a hearing would take place in front of a judge. In every adoption case, the court will determine whether all the procedures required by law have been followed, and the judge must also find it to be in the child’s best interest to be adopted.
Every situation is unique. You need the advice of a skilled attorney who is experienced and understands the law to advise and guide you through the adoption process. Contact my office at (501) 623-7372 for a free consultation.
Orders of Protection
According to Arkansas law, courts may issue an order of protection in cases where there are allegations of domestic violence or there is an imminent threat of violence. There are two types of Orders of Protection – criminal and civil. Civil orders of protection are domestic relations cases and involve persons who are related by blood or marriage, are in a romantic relationship, live in the same home, or are the parents of a child.
If you or someone in your home is the victim of threats or domestic violence, you may be able to obtain an order of protection against the alleged offender. You should contact an attorney to determine if you can obtain an Order of Protection. Orders of Protection may also be filed on an emergency basis, and you should contact your local sheriff’s office or prosecutor’s office for more information to obtain an Ex Parte Emergency Order of Protection.
If you have been served with an Ex Parte Emergency Order of Protection in a domestic matter, you need to act quickly to contact an attorney to protect your rights. The order will prohibit you from having contact with the alleged victims and may also restrict you from the locations where the alleged victims may be, including places of employment, schools, and even your own home.
Ordinarily, a hearing will take place in court within 30 days from the date that the petition is filed. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether there is a continuing danger and whether the order should continue. You will need to be present at the hearing for the judge to hear your side of the story. If a Final Order of Protection is entered against you, there may be negative impacts for your job and other areas of your life. In addition to any personal contact restrictions ordered, you will also be prohibited from possessing any firearms.
A violation of an Order of Protection may result in your arrest and additional charges against you.
Orders of Protection should be taken seriously. You need an experienced attorney who understands the law to advise and guide you through this process. I know the law governing orders of protection and am experienced in handling these cases. Please feel free to contact my office at 501-623-7372 today for your free consultation.
Visitation Rights for Grandparents
Many grandparents are worried about the welfare of their grandchildren. They may see their own children as lacking in parenting skills and find it impossible to watch their grandchildren suffer abuse and neglect. Nowadays grandparents are demanding the right to see their grandchildren after a divorce and under some limited circumstances they are being given visitation rights. The scope of these rights depend on Arkansas Law as well as state and federal constitutional provisions. Please call me at 501-623-7372 to schedule a free consultation to determine whether or not you are entitled to grandparent visitation.
When a man impregnates a woman he has few rights concerning the welfare of the fetus or the child. He does not have the right to stop a woman from getting an abortion. She does not need his consent. She does not even need to notify him if she plans to terminate the pregnancy. If the woman decides to carry the child to term the father may be required to pay child support. If he refuses the court can garnish his wages and seize his property and bank accounts. The father may also be required to pay for the cost of pregnancy and child birth, but he also has the right to seek custody of the child or visitation. If there is any doubt that the child is the man’s, the modern paternity test can determine the paternity of the child with nearly 100% accuracy.
Legitimizations and Paternity
If the father and mother were not married at the time of the child`s birth, an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity or a court order naming the legal father establishes paternity. The alleged father may voluntarily admit that he is the father of the child. This can be done through the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Program of Arkansas that is offered at all birthing centers in Arkansas, all Child Support Enforcement Offices, and Vital Records Offices. In cases where he does not admit paternity, a court hearing and/or paternity tests can be scheduled. Paternity tests examine the genetic markers of the mother, alleged father and the child. The paternity tests will indicate the likelihood of paternity or exclude the alleged father. The alleged father must pay for the costs of the tests. If the alleged father is excluded, the custodial parent (CP) may be required to pay for the tests.
The process of judicially establishing paternity can be initiated by the father or the mother in the State of Arkansas. Establishing paternity is the process of determining who is the biological father of a child. At one time the medical establishment could determine in only some cases with certainty that a particular man was not the father of a child. The mother of a child needed to use other evidence to prove circumstantially if the man was the father. Today, through DNA testing, it is possible to determine with almost 100% accuracy if the man is the father. It can also determine with 100% accuracy that a specific man is not the father. Once paternity is established, the father must pay support for the child and may have to pay part or all of the pregnancy and child birth expenses. If the man refuses to pay, the court may garnish his wages, seize his property and bank accounts, or even send him to jail.
It is important to note that a father has absolutely no legal rights to his child until paternity has been established, and he has been adjudicated the father of the minor child. At that time, he can determine whether to proceed to setting up visitation and arrange to pay for child support.
Visitation / Custody / Support Rights
In most cases, the mother and father will agree on their rights to custody and visitation. If they can’t agree, then the court will make the decision for them. The court makes custody decisions based upon the best interests of the child. It must be determined if the visits are to be supervised or restricted in any way. If there are no restrictions necessary, then a visitation schedule may be established. Either the parents or the court may decide on a schedule that is fair and reasonable for both the parents and the child, including outlines for phone calls, weekend visits and holidays. Transportation arrangements and travel notices are further issues that may be resolved. The visitation right of grandparents and step-parents may also be addressed.