How to Navigate Holiday Visitation Schedules

The holidays mean different things to different people. For some, it’s the best time of year. For others, it’s a stressful period full of family drama. Here are a few helpful hints for parents who are going through a divorce, or already divorced.

Stick to the Schedule

If you have a parenting schedule things are easier. You always want to have the parenting schedule in writing and agreed to by both parents in advance of the holidays. This can be done a couple of ways. If the formal divorce process has not yet begun, then you must agree on a parenting plan yourself. If you have a family attorney, they can help with this.

When you create the schedule, take a look at the entire year as a whole to determine a comprehensive visitation plan. Your parenting plan can be as broad or specific as you wish. The point is that both parents must agree, or it won’t be successful.

Christmas doesn’t have to happen on Dec 25

If you find yourself arguing over who gets to spend the day with the children, take a step back and remember it’s not about the calendar date. In other words, you make the day special no matter if it is Dec. 26 or Dec. 30. Whatever day you spend with the kids, you can make that just as special as December 25th. Don’t get too caught up on the actual day.

If you can be flexible with your time, it may not be worth the fight, aggravation and effect on the children.

Communicate with the Other Parent

It may seem impossible for some people to get along with the other parent, especially if you are recently divorced or separated. However, if you have children, you must do your best to communicate effectively.

Good communication (or at least some communication) is key to ensuring you will minimize the amount of time you spend fretting over where your “littles” will be eating turkey and opening gifts.

Remember to think of this holiday season as an opportunity to create new traditions and to create great new memories with your children. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and Happy New Year!

Adopting a Child in McKinney

Adopting a child in Texas requires prospective parents to follow state-specific guidelines. The state has requirements for who can adopt and who can be adopted.

A child residing in Texas may only be adopted if:

  • The parent-child relationship has been terminated or a suit for termination is joined with the suit for adoption
  • The parent whose rights have not been terminated is presently the spouse of the petitioner and the proceeding is a stepparent petition
  • The child is at least two years old, the parent-child relationship has been terminated with respect to one parent, the person seeking adoption has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession and control of the child for six months preceding the adoption or is the child’s former stepparent, and the non-terminated parent consents to the adoption
  • The child is at least two years old, the parent-child relationship has been terminated with respect to one parent and the person seeking adoption is the child’s former stepparent and has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession and control of the child for a period of one year preceding the adoption

Individuals facing complex adoption issues may benefit from the assistance of a family law attorney who understands the best interests of the child and can guide the parties through adoption court.

A family attorney can guide you through the documentation process that you must submit to the Texas court. Prospective parents who are not related to the child must provide the court with documentation regarding their criminal histories. They must also provide proof that the child has resided with them for at least six months. The adoption process may include home studies by a social services agency and a lengthy court process.

From the initial consultation through the resolution of your case, I emphasize communication in order to keep you informed. If you have an adoption issue, call 972-369- 0577 to schedule a consultation.

Protective Orders and Family Violence

Unfortunately, there are numerous cases where a member of a household is the victim of domestic violence. In such a circumstance, the Texas family code provides for certain persons to have the ability to seek protection from the court for themselves, their child, and/or other persons. In order to obtain a protective order, a party must very carefully and thoroughly make his or her application to the court.

There are numerous requirements prescribed by law for the application to be proper and for the applicant to obtain a protective order. In most circumstances, a person who applies for a protective order also seeks a temporary protective order for more immediate protection which can be, in some instances, applied for and obtained the same day. A protective order, unlike a restraining order can be enforced by both civil and criminal means.

Protective orders can be issued in cases of both family and dating violence when a person:

  • Commits any act that was intended to cause physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault; or
  • Makes a threat that reasonably places a person in fear of physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.

How Can a Protective Order Help?
Protective orders can require an abuser to do a variety of things, and allows the police and court system a great deal more power in dealing with them if they violate the order. Some examples of things a protective order can force the abuser to compile with include:

  • Prevent acts of family or dating violence, and acts that are reasonably likely to annoy, harass, alarm, torment, or embarrass you.
  • Prevent all communication, or communication made in a threatening or harassing manner.
  • Prevent them from coming to your home or work.
  • Prevent them from coming to schools or day care facilities attended by household members.
  • Prevent them from removing your child from the Court’s jurisdiction.
  • Prevent them from removing pets or assistance animals from your possession.
  • Prevent them from harming or threatening to harm your pets or assistance animals.
  • Prevent them from transferring or disposing of any property that you own or lease together.
  • Require they allow you visitation with your child or children.
  • Require they complete counseling or a family violence intervention program.
  • Require they turn over any firearms in their possession to law enforcement.
  • Perform any other acts that the Court deems necessary to prevent or reduce the chance of them committing any additional acts of family or dating violence.

Who is Entitled to a Protective Order?
The person who committed the family violence against the victim must meet one of the following scenarios:

  • Related to the victim by blood or marriage
  • Currently living with the victim or must have lived with them at some time
  • Someone with whom the victim has had a child
  • Someone the victim has or had a relationship of a romantic or intimate nature
  • Someone that sexually assaults the victim
  • Someone of a third party interest; because of the victim’s marriage to or dating relationship with an individual whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage

Contact a Collin County Family Attorney
If you are the victim of family or dating violence getting a protective order is the first step you should take to get yourself out of your situation. Not only will it make it easier for law enforcement to handle any calls you may need to make, it also puts your abuser in a serious legal situation if they violate the order. Please contact my office at 972-369- 0577 to discuss how you can begin getting through this difficult time in your life.

Divorce and Mediation

A growing majority of family law cases whether they are divorce, child custody cases, or even cases involving Child Protective Services are being resolved outside of Court. Mediation is more and more prevalent and effective at resolving these types of cases.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a confidential process where the mediator attempts to guide, not dictate, settlement discussions of the parties involved in the case. When I say mediation is confidential, it is different than attorney-client confidentiality. What is said in mediation stays at mediation. The mediator cannot be a witness and neither side can say “well at mediation you agreed to….”

Mediation has a lot of benefits compared to going to Court to seek an order from a Judge. In mediation, the parties agree to anything they want including ways to split property and time with the children. The Judge in your case has only certain options under the law to dispose of property in a divorce, or ways in which decisions are made about any child issues.

One example is in mediation, the spouses in a divorce can agree to an alimony settlement. Under Texas Law, no Court can award alimony to any party in a divorce. The law requires that any settlement reached in mediation has to be signed by the Court in the final order which contains the terms of the mediated settlement agreement.

It is Extremely Important to Have a Lawyer with You at Mediation

First, the mediator, while nearly all of mediators in Texas are lawyers or former judges; they are NOT your lawyer. Each mediator will make this disclaimer at the beginning of mediation. Second, it is important to have an opinion from your own lawyer about what you may or may not get from the Judge handling your case. One way to assess whether or not the mediation offer of settlement is good is to compare it to what you may receive in Court. Most importantly for family law cases, if you do not have a lawyer at mediation, you may inadvertently agree to mediation agreement, which may not be enforceable in Court.

The Court has certain restrictions about how it can enforce an order from mediation. Any agreement or Court Order, which is not enforceable, is ultimately no good if there is no way to make sure the other side sticks to their agreement.

If you are thinking about going back to Court on a child custody issue or preparing for a divorce, please contact my office to discuss what I can do to help you and prepare to resolve your case in the most efficient and effective way possible.

What Happens When CPS is Called?

This blog entry is intended to describe what steps CPS makes after a typical report of abuse or neglect is made. It is extremely important to hire an attorney that has experience dealing with child abuse investigations before meeting with CPS. An attorney will have knowledge to help guide you through this confusing and difficult time. Each person’s situation is different, but do not take your chances telling your side of the story without working with an attorney.

When CPS receives a tip, it must first determine whether or not an investigation is needed. While a caller does not have to be certain or have proof of abuse or neglect, reasonable suspicion is required. Before CPS registers a report and starts an investigation, it must consider:

  • Identity and Location – Can CPS identify and locate the child and family being reported?
  • Age of Child – Is the child able to protect itself from the alleged risk?
  • Jurisdiction – Does CPS have jurisdiction?
  • Person Legally Responsible – Is the abuser a parent, legal guardian, foster care provider or other adult responsible for the child’s care?
  • Allegations – Does the alleged conduct constitute abuse? If CPS determines that the alleged conduct is not abuse, then there probably won’t be any investigation.

If CPS determines that there may be abuse or neglect, a report will be registered, and CPS will begin an investigation. CPS will probably also make a report to the police who may conduct their own investigation.

The Investigation
CPS will want to conduct the initial interview with the alleged victim within 24 hours of a report. In this phase, CPS may take the following steps:

  • Interviews – The caseworker will either call or visit your home to interview you, the alleged perpetrator, the child or other members of the family or household. The caseworker will want to interview your child alone, and the caseworker IS NOT required to record the interview.
  • Examinations – The caseworker may request/inquire about medical or psychological examinations of your child to determine if abuse or neglect has occurred.
  • Drug Tests – Caseworkers routinely carry drug tests with them and will request you to take a test. More than likely, they will give you an oral swab test. These tests are not as reliable as normal drug tests done at any lab. Without a court order, CPS cannot force you to take any test.

Sometimes a caseworker will show up with law enforcement to try to gain leverage or to intimidate you. CPS has no authority to enter your home without a Court order. Caseworkers have threatened removal or warrants for arrests if they are not allowed in the home or not allowed to see the child. Sometimes, caseworkers will interview the child at school prior to you finding out about any allegations against you.

Possible Outcomes
If the caseworker determines that there is no evidence of abuse or neglect, the case is closed and the records are usually sealed. If the caseworker determines that there is evidence of abuse or a risk of abuse, CPS may:

  • Create a Service Plan: In most cases, CPS will try to work with the family to protect the interests of the child. CPS offers many services including psychiatric counseling, group therapy, parent support services and more.
  • Remove the Child: If CPS determines that there are no reasonable efforts that can keep your child safe in your home, CPS will get a court order and take custody of your child. If CPS determines that your child is in immediate danger, CPS may remove your child before getting a court order. When this happens, the court will review your case the next working day to determine if the removal was necessary and proper.

It is important to remember that caseworkers and investigators of CPS are not bound by the constitutional protections as found in dealing with regular law enforcement. It is best to treat the CPS worker as law enforcement and you need to be mindful of your actions during an investigation. I advise all my clients to record every encounter you have with CPS or law enforcement. You have the right to record any conversation. You can also conceal the recorder whether it is a separate device or your smart phone.

Caseworkers will try to intimidate you into signing a service plan or agree to place the children with a relative or friend. You should speak with an attorney before you take any steps. Service plans are not Court orders and have no special legal significance. Service plans are merely contracts with a temporary agreement between the CPS and the parents.

When choosing an attorney to help you with CPS, you need someone who is familiar with the laws, policies and procedures involved in these cases. You need to select an attorney who you can trust to guide you through the process.

I have represented parents, children and family members in CPS cases. I know how the CPS system works, and will give you an honest assessment of your case. Call me today to make an appointment for a consultation – 972-369-0577. Contacting an attorney early in the process can help you formulate the best strategy for approaching your CPS case.

Why Hire an Attorney with Criminal and Family Law Experience?

Sometimes when a person is arrested and charged with a crime a situation arises where there is a family dispute or separation with their spouse and children. This is a difficult situation for anyone. It is imperative you hire an attorney that has experience in both criminal defense and family law or CPS cases.

There are several reasons why hiring an attorney with experience in both criminal and family law is in your best interest.

1. Knowledge of the Procedure and the Law in Both Types of Cases
It is rare that a person’s criminal charge and family case are in the same court. The cases will have different deadlines and timelines. It is very important that whatever defense you have is not contradicted or affected in the way you address the other court. The witnesses will be under different rules in the various types of cases and will be allowed to testify to different issues which may be important in future hearings.

In a criminal case, you as the person charged with allegedly committing the crime cannot be compelled to testify in our own trial. This is not true in a family law hearing and it is quite common that a spouse or CPS will try to get you to testify on the record, under oath, about any alleged criminal conduct. It is essential you have a plan for these situations and take into account the ramifications on your criminal trial.

2. Save Money on Attorney Fees
If you have an attorney representing you on both cases, the prep work and communication with potential witnesses is not repeated and is more efficient. It is also beneficial to have evidence gathered, reports reviewed and witness statements taken by the same attorney. In a family law case, it is extremely difficult in some situations to get information from law enforcement which you are entitled to receive in your criminal case. The same is also true for getting information from witnesses in your family law case that are not working with the police.

If you are involved in a family law situation and you are worried that your spouse has committed a criminal offense, having a family law attorney with experience in criminal law will allow you to communicate with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office which may assist in your family case to secure the custody orders you are seeking.

CPS, family and criminal law are factually tangled in many cases and one will certainly affect the other. It is your best bet to have an attorney experienced in handling each and every facet of your legal issues, regardless if you are the one charged with a criminal charge or involved as a family member in these situations.

3. Implications of Criminal Charges on Your Rights Relating to Your Children
It is extremely important that a parent contacts an attorney with criminal and family law experience if they are facing charges for family violence or a protective order in Dallas County, Collin County or Denton County. If you are facing these sorts of charges the family court Judge may have the authority to modify your conservatorship with your child thereby limiting your rights to make decisions on behalf of your child.

If you are charged with a crime you are still innocent of the charge before your criminal case is concluded. It is important to have an attorney who will make sure no over reactions are taken in family court that are not warranted and unnecessary.

As a criminal and family law attorney, Ryan Kreck has successfully helped and represented clients that have multiple issues in their case including charges of domestic violence, stalking, assault, child abuse and juvenile crimes. Call my Collin County Law office at 972-369-0577 to speak with me to discuss your family, CPS or criminal case.