Category Archives: Modifications

Grandparents, Not Just for Babysitting (Grandparent’s Visitation in Mississippi)

For as long as people have had children there have been grandchildren.  Where there are grandchildren there are Grandparents.  Where there are Grandparents there are free babysitters!

Mississippi has a statute, MCA 93-16-3, that specifically provides for Grandparent’s Visitation.  Grandparent’s Visitation is different from babysitting and is different from just being in the child’s life.  Specifically, Grandparent Visitation is for when the mother or father of the child dies, to insure that the Grandparent continues to have access to the child or when the Grandparent and their child have a falling out and the Grandparent has a viable relationship and active in the grandchild’s life, and also in divorce and/or Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) situations.

The law provides a viable relationship may be proven by showing that the grandparent has supported the grandchild in whole or in part for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition, or the grandparent had frequent visitation for one year prior to the filing of the petition.

The case of Martin v. Coop, 693 So.2d 912, 913 (Miss. 1997), list the factors the Court considers when determining the amount of Grandparent Visitation.

  • Potential disruption in the child’s life;
  • Suitability of the grandparents’ home;
  • The child’s age;
  • The age, physical and mental health of the grandparents;
  • The emotional ties between grandparents and the child;
  • The grandparents’ moral fitness;
  • Physical distance from the parents’ home;
  • Any undermining of the parents’ discipline;
  • The grandparents’ employment responsibilities;
  • The grandparents’ willingness not to interfere with the parents’ rearing of the child.

Usually grandparent visitation is not the equivalent of parental visitation.  Meaning grandparents will not get every other weekend under ordinary circumstances.

A Grandparent Visitation suit can also result in the Grandparents paying their own attorney fees PLUS those of the mother/father as  provided for in the statute.

Grandparents have rights in Mississippi to see their grandchildren.

**Grandparent Visitation is different from a grandparent seeking custody, which is a different standard and a blog for another day.

Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney and knows grandparent’s rights.

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer Visit the website: Thompson Law Firm

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms

black-bow

Deposition Imposition; What is a Deposition?

Depositions are routinely taken in lawsuits, and are common in family law cases.  A deposition is a part of the “discovery” process where the parties or a witness are asked questions, under oath, outside of Court, so that the attorney will know what they will say when in Court.  You have heard the old maxim that an attorney should never ask a question that he doesn’t know the answer to, well the deposition is the mechanism where you can ask that question.  A wide variety of questions may be asked in the depositions even those that likely would not be relevant in Court.

Depositions are usually at the attorney’s office. The attorneys, the parties and a Court reporter are typically the only persons in attendance.  Depositions are transcribed and may be videotaped.

Questions about the witnesses education, work, finances and efforts with regards to the children are all fair game.  The dirty details of fault are also fair game. Naming names and being specific are part of the process too.  Depositions are a tool to gain information as well as pin witnesses or parties down on what their “story” is so that it does not “change” later.

I had an instance where I took the father’s deposition in a custody modification case. Both parties had remarried.  Step-parents always have a bull’s eye on their backs in custody modification cases. I made sure and asked the father several times and different ways if he had any issues with step-dad.  The answer was “No.”  Well, it took several months to get to trial. At trial the father tried to change his tune.  He attempted to say he had serious issues with step-dad and had for as long as he had been in the picture. I asked the father if recalled his deposition. He stuttered. I showed him the specific page and questions asked. He said he must have forgotten about the serious issues at the time of the deposition. Right.  He backed off on his assertions and the deposition “saved” the day.

Objections are rare in family law depositions, or at least less common than in trial.  They are typically limited to the “form of the question,” being made to preserve the right to object in the future, but the deponent usually still answers the question.  Questions regarding crimes, however, can be objected to and those are usually not answered – with the deponent pleading the 5th.  The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives all persons the right to not incriminate themselves.  How does this come into play in family law? Adultery is a crime in Mississippi (blogged previously).

The bottom line in depositions is, while they are nerve wracking for the deponent, ultimately you are just answering questions and your job is to tell the truth and rely on your attorney.

img_2897

Changing your Court Papers; Custody vs. Visitation

Modification is the process that is used to change a Court Order.  We previously discussed how NOT to modify your papers here.

Below are the basics for the right way to modify your current Court Order.  Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support are always modifiable. However, each has a separate standard.  Each require that you prove something different…

1.  Child Custody is the most difficult to modify. The non-custodial parent, must demonstrate 1) a material change in circumstances,  2) adverse to the child, 3) in the home of the custodial parent.  In English, dad has to show that there has been a big change, harmful to the child and it was mom’s fault.  It does not matter how much better dad is doing.  It does not matter that he has a new job, making good money, and has remarried Mary Poppins.  The Standard concerns what is going on in mom’s house.

A material change could be bad grades, serious behavior problems, serious problems with mom or serious problem with mom’s new beau. Now, once you show the bad change, harmful to the child, and it’s mom’s fault, dad wins, right? No. That provides the Court the authority to go back through the Albright factors for the Court to determine which parent is in the best interest of the child.

2.  Child Support is modifiable upon a showing of  1) a material change in circumstances, unanticipated at the time of the Order and that either the 2) paying parent’s income has increased (or a non-voluntary decrease) in a meaningful capacity or that the 3) child’s reasonable needs and expenses have increased, or both an increase in income and needs.  It should be noted that Child Support is statutory, as noted here, and the paying parent’s responsibility to pay does not continue to increase, just because his/her income does.

3.   Visitation has the lowest standard to modify.  In order to modify visitation all one needs to do is demonstrate that the current schedule is not working.  This can be shown by showing that a party moved over several hours away making every other weekend unworkable or by showing that due to the child’s schedule, or a parent’s work schedule the visitation plan is not working.  This one is easier to pursue, but the outcome is not always predictable, so have a plan for what schedule will work if you are seeking to change it because of distance or a work schedule issue.

*Certain other aspects of Order’s can/may be modifiable as well; ie; alimony, other child benefits.

Matthew Thompson is a Mississippi Child Custody Attorney and reminds you to follow your papers.

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer  You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms

img_3045