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Avoiding The Landmines And Pitfalls Of Custody Cases


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Presented by Brian C. Vertz, Esq, MBA, AVA, for the National Business Institute in 2006. Describes issues encountered by family lawyers in advising clients for custody disputes.

Published in: Business, Self Improvement
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Avoiding The Landmines And Pitfalls Of Custody Cases

  1. 1. Avoiding the Landmines and Pitfalls of Custody Cases Through Effective Interviewing <ul><li>Brian C. Vertz, Esq. </li></ul><ul><li>Katherine L.W. Krazmien, Esq. </li></ul><ul><li>Pollock Begg Komar Glasser LLC </li></ul><ul><li>Pittsburgh </li></ul>
  2. 2. What information will I need? <ul><li>Charting the Family Constellation </li></ul><ul><li>Determining Client’s Ability to Pay Fees </li></ul><ul><li>Ensuring Jurisdictional Requisites </li></ul><ul><li>Exploring Significant Life Activities of Parents and Children (Work, School, Other) </li></ul><ul><li>Medical and Therapeutic Issues </li></ul><ul><li>Making Collateral Contacts </li></ul><ul><li>Interviewing Children </li></ul>
  3. 3. What advice should I give, and when? <ul><li>Explaining Custody Procedure </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing for Mediation, Depositions, and Hearings </li></ul><ul><li>Advising Clients about Probable Outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Avoiding Requests for Childrearing and other Non-Legal Advice </li></ul><ul><li>Ruling Out Conflicts of Interest </li></ul>
  4. 4. How can I protect the client’s confidentiality? <ul><li>Deciding Who May Attend Client Meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Using Email and Fax Carefully </li></ul><ul><li>Reviewing Treatment Records </li></ul>
  5. 5. How can I transmit information effectively to other professionals? <ul><li>Using a Client Intake Form </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping Detailed Notes </li></ul>
  6. 6. Scenario 1: Custody Relocation <ul><li>Initial Interview of New Client: Susan Parent </li></ul><ul><li>Facts: Joe and Susan Parent were divorced three years ago. Their daughters, Amy and Brittany, ages 8 and 11, have resided with their mother since the Parents separated in 2001. Your law firm has received an inquiry from Susan, who wants to seek relocation to Florida. Under the existing custody order, Susan has primary physical custody of both children. Joe has partial custody three weekends per month (Friday evening until Sunday afternoon) and alternating holidays. </li></ul><ul><li>Susan and the children live in the former marital residence in Bethel Park. Joe resides in Alison Park with his new wife Gena and their infant son Rico. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Scenario #1: Issues to Explore <ul><li>Gruber Relocation Factors </li></ul><ul><li>likelihood of improving the quality of life for the relocating parent and child(ren) </li></ul><ul><li>motive of the relocating parent </li></ul><ul><li>availability of adequate substitute partial custody arrangements </li></ul><ul><li>Parents’ New Spouses and Kids </li></ul><ul><li>family constellation in each parent’s household </li></ul><ul><li>personality conflicts between parents and new spouses or kids of different parents </li></ul><ul><li>Money and Custody </li></ul><ul><li>transportation expenses </li></ul>
  8. 8. Scenario 2: Initial Custody Determination <ul><li>Initial Interview of New Client: Dr. Jerry Simpson </li></ul><ul><li>Facts: Jerry and Cindy Simpson are the parents of three children: Bart, age 12, Lisa, age 8, and Maggie, age 5. Jerry and Cindy and the three children are residing together in the marital residence. Cindy has filed a complaint for divorce, raising claims for divorce, division of property, alimony, custody and support. Cindy has informed Jerry that she wants him to move out but he has not done so. Jerry has come to your law firm for advice on how to win primary custody of the children. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Scenario #2: Issues to Explore <ul><li>Accusations of Abuse (mental and physical) </li></ul><ul><li>Coordinating Parents’ Schedules with Kids’ Schedules </li></ul><ul><li>Separating Siblings </li></ul><ul><li>Availability of Parents </li></ul><ul><li>The Standoff: Who Leaves When Both Parents Live Together? </li></ul>
  10. 10. Scenario 3: Grandparent Custody <ul><li>Initial Interview of New Client: James and Sydney Hyatt </li></ul><ul><li>Facts: James and Sydney Hyatt are the grandparents of Joel Hyatt, the three year-old son of their daughter Elissa Hyatt and her boyfriend Jeffrey Feiger. The grandparents had a close relationship with their daughter and grandson until two months ago, when Elissa’s hypnotherapist assisted her to recover memories of childhood abuse. Since then, Elissa has prevented James and Sydney from having any further contact with their grandson. James and Sydney seek your assistance in resuming contact and possibly even winning primary custody of the child. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Scenario #3: Issues to Explore <ul><li>Grandparent Standing issues </li></ul><ul><li>In Loco Parentis doctrine </li></ul><ul><li>Paternity issues </li></ul><ul><li>Addiction/Impairment Issues </li></ul>
  12. 12. Avoiding the Landmines and Pitfalls of Custody Cases Through Effective Interviewing <ul><li>(c) 2006 Brian C. Vertz, Esq. </li></ul>