“Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.” The Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus, 44:1.
Domestic abuse is real and its impact on families is not limited to those who find themselves in family law courts. Family law courts deal with the issue on a regular basis though, whether legitimate or contrived as a strategy. Violence between parents poses a considerable psychological and physical risk to the well-being and development of children, however, the development of each child is unique based on the child’s experiences before and after the witnessed abuse as well as the environment in which they find themselves.
As the rate of marriage has decreased, childbearing and coupling have not. The unwed birthrate has dramatically increased in recent years, and by 2010 it was at 40.3%. Many parents who are living outside a marriage relationship may not share child-rearing responsibilities comparable to a married couple, therefore domestic courts are left to structure a parenting plan which may not have any familial precedence to look to for guidance, and in other cases the parenting plan may be created at the birth of the child leaving the creation of the parenting plan to the biases, whims, and judgments of the court without any evidence to support the parenting style of either parent.
Only 34 percent of children born in the United States in 2000 will be living with both parents in the same house by age 18, according to some projections. Further projections estimate only fourteen percent of fathers winning custody of their children, and only twenty-five percent of children of divorce seeing their father weekly or more.
Few issues within the domestic courts are as fraught with emotion and lead to prolonged litigation like those of disagreements over custody and parenting time. Good parents are often blinded by the emotions of the moment and fail to recognize the need to jointly parent their children. This leaves the courts to protect the parents’ equal rights to the children, but without a proper statutory framework, too many parents find parental equality an illusion when they step into a family law courtroom. This is in spite of the fact that recent studies and reports such as The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), the “Warshak Consensus” paper,1 and others have concluded that children are best served when parenting plans facilitate shared parenting and time between parents.
Children experience stress and anxiety in ways we don’t always recognize as parents. Whether children are home with parents during a quarantine, or learning what life is like in the middle of a divorce of those parents, how to help children manage their stress and anxiety is an important question for all parents. As an attorney working in the area of family law, children going through difficult times is not unusual, however, quarantine is and it became all too apparent that I needed help in learning how to talk to my children about what’s happening in the world.
Is a divorce more stressful than doing a prison term? According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (The Stress Test), divorce is only trumped by the death of a spouse on the level of stress experienced. And yes, Divorce scores 10 points higher than a Jail Term on the index. Not to be left behind a Marital Separation also scored above jail in terms of its stressful impact. These scores are referenced by T.H. Holmes and T.H. Rahe within “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1967. Not much has changed in the 43 years since the scale was published. Divorce is still stressful, but what can be done to navigate it more successfully, so you don’t have the negative health impact that comes with such stress?
Over the past month, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a dramatic impact on the lives of Americans. Oklahomans have not been immune and have begun to realize a more significant impact of the disease as the number of those impacted continues to rise.
In most cases, a child support computation is statutorily defined so long as husband and wife make less than $15,000.00 in combined gross (pretax) income. However, in cases where monthly income is above this $15,000.00 combined amount, the computation of child support is left to the discretion of the court, and as such, will vary significantly on a case-by-case basis. While most guidelines for child support cases reflect a level of income that is likely to continue at the same levels existing at the time of the award, how much to award when those levels are likely to change, such as in the case of a professional athlete, is an open question requiring a different method of computation and additional considerations.
The coronavirus pandemic is creating some of the more unique issues for our family law courts that we have ever experienced. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) that was enacted last Friday will not likely reduce issues that must be resolved when courts reopen for business. Two pressing issues created by the coronavirus relief bill involve child support payments and the relief payments for children.