Interviewer: Can they ever work something out where they say, ‘Hey look, I realize that I work a lot and I would prefer if my child stay with my spouse and my spouse is in total agreement of that. Can they work something like that out?
Danielle Hawkes: If both parties agree they can work out anything unless it is total off the law, not in the children’s best interest but pretty much we have a blank canvas as far as what they agree to. Generally speaking, if the parent who has parent time is not actually available, then the other parent will have what’s called the right of first refusal. The right of first refusal generally means that the other parent can take the kids during that time and there’s a lot of different ways we can work that out. It could be first three hours, it could be for eight hours.
The Parent Exercising their Right of Refusal Facilitates the Transportation
Generally the parent who is exercising their right of first refusal pays for or facilitates the transportation but that’s usually how that’s worked out. The court would rather the kids be with the actual biological parents or the adopted parents rather than the kid being with a step parent or grandparent or something like that, but if the child can’t be with the biological or adopted parents, then of course the next best thing is a good day care or grandparents or step parents who works well with the children and certainly we can come to arrangements that work.
Parents Can Chalk Out Custody Agreements with Specified Holidays and Time Sharing by Mutual Consent
Interviewer: Can a parent work with another parent off the record so to speak and say, ‘Hey look, can we set an extra day for Thanksgiving holidays,’ or something like that with the child and the other parent agrees, can that be worked out? Will the court be okay with that?
Danielle Hawkes: Yes, absolutely. The base line is there is a schedule for holidays, there is a statutory schedule for holidays and the parents just split them but it’s based off of Christian holidays for example, doesn’t include Hanukkah. In some cases, we have to adjust that right from the beginning and then once we get that adjusted just right, but then the parents decide to do their own thing. Parents can do whatever they want as long as they agree to it. The one thing I caution parents away from is sometimes an argument can be made couple of years down the line, that this decree is no longer in effect, it’s been modified by the behavior of the parties. So I encourage my clients to at least give me a call and talk about modifications they are doing just so they can figure out what that repercussion could be.
The Qualities to Look For When Retaining an Attorney For a Child Custody Case
Interviewer: When someone is looking for an attorney, and they are on Google and they are doing some independent research, even making calls, what are some signs of an attorney that they should be looking for? What are some red flags when it comes to child custody?
Danielle Hawkes: I think that with child custody, people have to be careful picking an attorney, who is sort of a do-it-all type of attorney. Child custody is not easy and the attorney needs to know the ins and outs of it and I think the person should choose an attorney who focuses on family law and that is their sole practice or main practice. Some attorneys do family law and criminal law and I think that’s a reasonable split. But then you have some attorneys who are doing very little family law, only when it pays the bills, that sort of a thing. The attorney says these are the bread and butter types of law they pay the bills and they do when they need to but I think it’s in the clients best interest to have someone who is practicing family law day in and day out, to hire.