Family Law Updates
Third Party Adoption Granted
We recently helped a family adopt who had prayed for a child for several years. From the day we were first called until the day the adoption decree was signed by the judge, the entire process took right at 3 months. Often people who are considering adoption decide not to pursue it because they have heard that the process can be long, difficult and expensive. While all of that may be true in some circumstances, we are often able to help our clients obtain an adoption decree in a very short period of time with reasonable expense and little headache. While family law sometimes involves a family separating, with adoption, we get to help put a family together. And, there are few things in life more rewarding than that! If you or someone you know has considered adoption before, but need more answers before deciding to move forward, please call us today to set up an adoption consultation.
A Decisive Win In A Difficult Divorce
As most people know, Mississippi is an "equitable distribution" state. This means that when a divorce case goes to trial, a judge gets to decide how to divvy up the marital property "equitably" using the Ferguson Factors. This may result in a 50/50 split and it may result is something substantially different, meaning the outcome of a dispute over how to divide marital property is often hard to predict and often depends on which judge is handling the case. This is why we strive to obtain our client's desired outcome in the form of an agreed settlement when possible. In divorce negotiations, we work hard to get our client what they want without them having to incur the time & expense of drawn out litigation and without having to face the risk of the unknown.
In a recent hard-fought fault grounds divorce case where our client suffered years of emotional abuse at the hands of an unfaithful spouse, we were happy to deliver a settlement to our client wherein they walked away with over 90% of the assets from the marital estate. We knew our work was cut out for us when opposing counsel's initial counter-offer demanded the parties split the equity from the sale of the marital home, demanded our client pay thousands in cash as an equalizing payment and further demanded alimony. Nevertheless, we took opposing counsel to task and immediately began an aggressive discovery campaign and held firm on what we felt like our client deserved. And, our efforts paid off. Within a matter of days, we were able to deliver a final judgment of divorce and property settlement agreement to our client that was better than what the client initially asked for. While not every case ends with the client getting over 90% of the marital assets, the outcome in this case was most certainly the result of hard work, a sound legal strategy and an unwavering commitment to fight for what was right.
Interlocutory Order Granting Physical Custody Obtained in 3rd Party Adoption
Most often people think of adoptions in the context of a step-parent adopting a child of their spouse or a couple utilizing the services of an adoption agency to facilitate bringing a new child into the family. However, thankfully, in Mississippi, private attorneys are able to help families adopt children both from the United States and from abroad when the adoptive parents and biological parents have no prior connection. In an unusual situation, we recently obtained an interlocutory order vesting physical custody of a minor child to our clients where the minor child was unrelated to our clients and whose biological father was unknown. There is probably nothing more rewarding in the work we do than helping bring a child together with new parents who have an unlimited supply of love and affection just waiting to be poured out.
Although Mississippi recently passed new legislation substantially modifying how termination of parental rights cases and adoptions are handled, we at Baldridge Law Firm work hard stay prepared to help our clients wishing to adopt, even in the most unusual and daunting of circumstances.
Third Party Custody Granted
While most people are familiar with courts granting parents or even grandparents or other relatives custody of children, you don't often think about a court awarding custody of a child to a third party, completely unrelated to the child. However, we recently were able to help a client obtain this type of custody. Our client had all but served as a parent to a pre-teen child for several years and the biological father decided he wanted to take back over. Our client, fearing for the safety and well-being of the child, came to us desperate for a solution. And, within 2 or 3 days, we were able to ensure safety and stability for the child over objection of the father. If you know someone who has stepped up to fill the void left by a wayward parent, even if the good samaritan is not related by blood or marriage to the child, and someone is threatening to take custody back, please ask them to call Baldridge Law Firm so we can go to work today to ensure the child or children in question can continue to sleep peacefully at night knowing they are going to remain in good hands.
Protection Order Set Aside, Attorney Fees Awarded
A client came to our office after having been served with a domestic abuse protection order. The client was a highly educated working professional and it was of paramount importance that the court revoke the order, else the client faced serious consequences with their professional licensing and employability. After reviewing the facts, it became clear that the petition for the protection order was false and, even if true, the alleged facts did not meet the legal standard that must be met before a judge can issue a protection order under Mississippi Law. With only one day to prepare for the hearing, we focused all of our attention on the matter and found case law that showed under the circumstances, as we suspected, the Court of Appeals would quickly overturn the protection order if the trial judge did not set it aside.
With our research in hand, we appeared at the hearing ready to set the record straight and had several supporting witnesses ready to testify on our client's behalf. After a thorough cross-examination of the petitioner, it was clear what the outcome should be. Thankfully it was clear to the judge as well. Without us calling a single witness, the judge dismissed the protection order and awarded our client attorney fees for having to defend against the frivolous petition. To say our client was felt vindicated would be an understatement. It was clear that justice had prevailed.
If you need a law firm that knows the law and is nimble enough to be ready to fight for you at a moment's notice, call Baldridge Law Firm today.
Emergency Custody Awarded
Recently a client came in desperate for help. She had been involved with helping to raise a child unrelated to the client. Unfortunately, the child came from a bad situation and client had served as a de-facto guardian for the child for several years. The natural father, recently released from prison, decided he wanted to take physical custody back of the child, and my client wanted to prevent that from happening. The client had serious and legitimate concerns for the child's safety due to the natural father's prior history involving domestic violence and illegal narcotics.
While it is not uncommon for other family members to be granted custody in situations such as this, other than in cases involving DHS, it is not common for unrelated 3rd parties to be granted custody of a child. Knowing the difficult task we had before us, we immediately drafted a comprehensive petition for emergency custody. Within a matter of 2 to 3 days, our client was awarded temporary emergency custody. While winning a case is always rewarding in and of itself, seeing the reassurance in the child's eyes upon learning they were going home to a safe environment was priceless! It's cases like these that remind us the Baldridge Law Firm team why we practice family law.
$86,000 Judgement Obtained for Client
We are pleased to announce that we recently obtained a judgment in favor of our client in the amount of $86,000 for past due child support.
Many people, including attorneys, are not aware that under Mississippi Law, an adult child can sue a parent for back child support. The attorney representing the delinquent dad in our case filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, and even went so far as to ask for sanctions against us for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
After explaining the case law that supported our client's claim to the judge, the judge in short order denied the defendant dad's motion to dismiss, and soon thereafter, found in favor of our client and ordered the defendant dad to pay his son for 15+ years of back child support.
If you know of someone who had a parent that failed to pay child support, even if they are now an adult, please ask them to contact our office to set up a consultation. We may be able to help them get what they are rightfully owed!
Difficult Divorce Granted
Matt recently won a fault grounds divorce for our client after months of pretrial litigation and a difficult trial. Despite offering a reasonable settlement to the other party, our client's wife refused to settle. After trial, our client was granted a divorce based on the fault of his wife, and he was granted 100% of the marital estate, including several pieces of property, the marital home, and all of his retirement account. While not every contested divorce works out as successfully as this case did, BLF will always fight to get our clients not just want they want, but what they deserve. If you are looking for a divorce attorney who can handle your divorce in Madison, or anywhere else in the State, please call us today.
Irresponsible Father's Visitation Rights Suspended
We recently were retained to help a mother shield her daughter from a father whose increasingly illicit and irresponsible behavior was putting his daughter's health and social well being at great risk. Within two days of being retained, we were able to have an emergency hearing, and the father's visitation was immediately suspended until he took some affirmative steps to getting the help he needs. Of all the work we do, Child Custody cases give us the most fulfillment as we know we are helping those who are the most innocent and most at risk.
Child Saved From Dangerous Dad
Our client had been forced to put up with a psychotic husband who not only threatened her with physical harm but made good on his promises and assaulted her on numerous occasions. With a 9-month-old baby to care for and protect, our client asked us to step in and end the nightmare she was living in. We went to court and after putting on our proof, the Court awarded our client a divorce on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Not only was our client awarded her divorce, she was also awarded sole legal and physical custody of her baby girl, and the husband was permanently restrained from contacting or coming within 1,000 yards of either our client or her daughter. Her nightmare now over, she can finally go home and sleep in peace knowing both her and her daughter are finally safe and sound and free to dream of better days ahead.
Children Placed With Family After Unfortunate Accident Claims Parent
After a mom was tragically killed in a head-on collision, we were able to help the deceased's relative obtain immediate emergency custody of the children. After a lengthy & highly contested hearing, the chancellor agreed that it was in the best interest of the children that they be placed with our client instead of the natural father in order to prevent irreparable emotional injury. It was a tough fight, but seeing the two children get to go to a safe, loving and stable environment made it worth it all.
Spouse Forced To Drop Fault-Based Divorce Lawsuit
Recently we were hired to represent a client who was sued by her spouse for divorce based on alleged adultery. After discussing the case with our client, we decided to immediately file a counterclaim for divorce along with requests for discovery. Through the discovery process, we were able to find out that the spouse had no legitimate evidence of our client's alleged "adultery." However, we were able to provide concrete evidence to the spouse's attorney of his client's misdeeds and bad behavior. Our evidence quickly took the wind out of the other side's sails, and instead of our client having to spend thousands of dollars and months of her life fighting for a divorce, we were able to sail relatively smoothly to a settlement, resulting in our client finally being left satisfied after an otherwise rather unsatisfying relationship. Some attorneys don't have the knowledge, desire or fortitude to go through the discovery process in a contested divorce; however, as this case illustrates, hard work and dedication always pay off.
Attempt To Stop Visitation Stopped Dead In Its Tracks
Our client (the father) was served with a petition for TRO and the matter was set for an emergency hearing. The mother alleged that allowing our client to continue his regular visitation with his daughter would cause the daughter irreparable harm. Through an aggressive cross-examination of the mother and her two witnesses, Matt was able to show the court that the mother's attempt to paint our client in a bad light was nothing more than tilting at windmills. After the mother's attorney rested her case, Matt believed the judge had heard enough and was ready to make a decision...for our client. Although we had witnesses lined up to testify on behalf of our client, Matt's instinct to put only our client on the stand proved intuitive. About five minutes after we rested our case, the judge found that there was insufficient evidence to prove the mother's allegations. After over a month of separation, our client was quickly reunited with his daughter, and a happy reunion it was indeed! This case proved that aggressive cross-examination coupled with the right gut instinct is crucial to getting results in the courtroom. Chalk one more win up for BLF!
Child Returned To Safety
Recently, an estranged husband shot and killed his wife, all allegedly in the presence of their seven-year-old daughter. In an attempt to keep the little girl from her extended family, the man signed a power of attorney over to some friends of his to give them physical custody of his daughter. Thankfully, the little girl's quick thinking Aunt hired BLF to help her get custody. After a hearing on an emergency petition filed by BLF, the Aunt was able to get immediate custody of her niece, and while the extent of the trauma suffered by the little girl will not be known for some time to come, at least now she is safe with her loved ones.
UPDATE: We are happy to report that after a second hearing the children are still safe with their aunt. During the hearing, the judge heard testimony from the estranged husband's oldest daughter from another marriage. The daughter testified that our client should not be allowed to have custody of the children; however, the judge was hardly convinced and ordered that the children would remain with our client.
Adoption Granted Even When Natural Father Fails to Appear
After several hours of investigation and follow up, Matt was able to help a family with a step-parent adoption where the natural father had not been involved in the child's life since birth and could no longer be found.
Whenever complex situations arise, some attorneys may shy away fearing the case may be too difficult to handle. The Baldridge Law Firm looks at those types of cases as a challenge and an opportunity to succeed in helping clients where others may fail or never even try.