What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

When it comes to divorce, child custody and visitation disputes are no picnic. These events can be a very emotional and intense process. Frequently in divorce, child custody, or visitation disputes a Guardian Ad Litem, also known as a GAL, will be appointed.

In Alabama, a GAL is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the “best interests” of the child or children involved. A GAL’s duty is not necessarily to advocate for what the child wants which can sometimes be opposed to what is in the child’s best interests. The Guardian Ad Litem will often be asked to present a report and recommendation to the Court for consideration at the conclusion of the case, and, while the Court will take into consideration the recommendation of the GAL, the Court is not bound by what the GAL recommends.

A Guardian Ad Litem is not only appointed in divorce and custody cases but might also be appointed in cases such as;
• Minors involved without living parents
• Juvenile Delinquency Cases
• Child Abuse and Neglect cases
• Guardianships, Conservatorships and Decedents’ Estates in Probate Court.
• Civil Suits of all kinds where minors are involved.

Is it Time to Consider a Child Support Modification?

Is it Time to Consider a Child Support Modification?

Is it Time for You to Consider a Child Support Modification in your case? Whether you are the person who receives child support or whether you are the party who pays child support for the benefit of your minor children, there are several factors that influence the amount of child support paid:

Date of Prior Order

The Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration, Rule 32, is the Rule of Court which governs the method used to calculate child support in Alabama. A new set of Child Support Guidelines under Rule 32 became effective on January 1, 2009. If your order of child support pre-dates January 1, 2009, you may need to consider taking another look at your child support order.

Incomes of Parties

If there has been a significant change in the income of either the party paying or the party receiving child support, it might be time to re-evaluate child support, as same is based on the income of both parties in the state of Alabama. Some examples of such changes are if one party was unemployed at the time of the last order and is now employed; a party has become disabled and unable to work; a party has been promoted and received a significant salary increase; a party formerly received bonuses or overtime and no longer receives same, etc.

Day Care

Work-related day care for children under the age of 12 is included in the child support calculation in Alabama. Day care can be very costly, so if children are no longer in day care or if day care is not work-related, this can effect the amount of child support in a very significant way.

The above items are just some of the various fact situations that could result in a child support modification. If you believe it may be time to consider a child support modification in your case, contact your attorney to schedule a consultation.

*The above post is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, contact an attorney.*

Tips for Helping Children Cope with Holiday Stress

Tips for Helping Children Cope with Holiday Stress

For most children the holidays are happy, fun and exciting. Children are on a break from school, and the holidays serve as a time to see friends and relatives and enjoy special food and family traditions. For some children, however, the holidays can be stressful and confusing. When parents are newly divorced, the holidays often remind children of what has changed in their lives. Although things have changed, it is important to make sure that both the children and the parents have peaceful holidays.

For those parenting out of two households, seasonal festivities often send stress levels soaring. But with these useful tips, these stressful situations can be manageable for the children as well as the parents.

  • Keep the holidays tension free. Orchestrating a Christmas between split parents can be frustrating. But be mindful that they key to making things work for the children is to have a tension free holiday. If you can reasonably manage your feelings, a holiday together could be meaningful for the children. If not, you will be better having separate celebrations. Just keep in mind that even though you may have personal differences, putting on a tension free front to your children will be for their best interests.
  • Keep the children in the loop, and smooth out transitions. Going back and forth between two households during the holidays can be challenging as well as frustrating for children. Many kids will not understand why they are being shuffled between so many people and locations. Keep the children in the know of what is going on and give them a heads up of what’s next. Instead of telling them when it is time to go without notice, inform the children of what the plan is ahead of time. Set time aside to sit down with your children before the holidays begin and map out a schedule for them. The more they know ahead of time, the easier the transition from one family to another will be.
  • Don’t focus on “fair”, but what is right for the children. When it comes to scheduling holidays between households, parents can often become overly concerned with conflict or competition with each other and forget how it feels for the children. But parents must remember that what is “fair” for the mother and father may not be what is best for the children. Do your best to stay flexible and make sure to keep your children’s needs at the top of your agenda.
  • Holidays present challenges for lots of families. While the holidays can be stressful, keeping the children’s best interest in mind will be the best way to ensure that you and your family have a stress-free holiday. Talk with your children. Ask them what they would like, and do your best to take that into account. By following these tips, you can make sure that you and your children have a successful holiday season.
Warning Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Warning Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect is rampant, and we all have a duty to protect children. The US Department of Health and Human Services has published the following list to aid the public in recognizing signs of abuse and neglect in children:

The Child

1. Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
2. Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
3. Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
4. Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
5. Lacks adult supervision
6. Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
7. Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

The Parent

1. Shows little concern for the child
2. Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home
3. Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
4. Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
5. Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
6. Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

The Parent and Child

1. Rarely touch or look at each other
2. Consider their relationship entirely negative
3. State that they do not like each other

For more information on child abuse and neglect, visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/identifying.

Talking With Your Children About Divorce

Talking With Your Children About Divorce

Divorce can be a difficult situation for all parties involved, especially the children. Many children are confused about the situation and do not understand why their parents are separating.

Although this can be difficult, talking with children is a crucial part of the puzzle when you are dealing with a divorce. Parents often put off talking to their children about divorce because they are unsure how to explain such a complex situation. But a delay in talking with your children can actually make the divorce more difficult for the children in the long run.

When children are suddenly surprised with the divorce of their parents, they go through a great deal of emotions. Many feel as if it is their fault that their parents are separating, while many begin acting out and become angry with others. This is another reason why explaining to your children why you and your spouse are divorcing is very important.

To help you make this process easier, here are six strategies for talking with your kids about divorce. While it may seem beyond your capabilities, just remember that there are ways to make it easier on both yourself and your children.

  1. Talk to your children with your spouse, if possible. If you present a united front to your children, they may not be as confused about the situation.
  2. Carefully, and appropriately, explain the reasons for the divorce. Make sure whatever you tell your children is appropriate to their age and maturity level.
  3. Make it clear that the divorce is not the child’s fault. Many children struggle with guilt during their parent’s separation. Be sure to reiterate that this is not their fault.
  4. Maintain eye contact and a calm attitude. In order for your children to believe the situation, you must remain calm and truthful. If you begin to get angry, the child may become angry and upset as well.
  5. Avoid blaming your spouse. Although you will have personal issues with your spouse, they are still the child’s parent. Do not put down your spouse to the child. This will only create more stress on the child, making them feel like they should have to pick sides when they should not.
  6. Allow plenty of time for children to ask questions. They will have many questions as to why this is happening and what is going to happen in the future, and they deserve to have those questions answered to your fullest abilities.

Remember, every family is different. Talking about your divorce with your children can be difficult, but will be a critical step forward in the healing process.