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"Competent, Caring and Responsive"

Archives for July 2014

Adoption Agreements

Adoption Placement Agreement

The traditional concept of adoption, supported by endless melodramatic stories on television and in films, is one of anonymity: The child “given up” by the mother and raised without knowing they are adopted. Becoming more common today is an “open adoption” which has various meanings. An open adoption could mean that the child’s status is not kept secret and could include provisions to keep the birth parent or parents involved. This may occur when relatives of the natural parents are the adoptive parents or when a former spouse gives up his or her parental rights in favor of the new spouse. Adoption agreements may significantly limit the natural parent’s involvement. Oft times the natural parent may be limited to being provided progress information and photographs of the child on a periodic basis or designate a time when the child will be informed of his natural parents(s), etc.

The Agreement

Many families attempt to define boundaries and parameters in an “Adoption Agreement” or “Kinship Agreement.” This can be either a verbal or formal written contract that sets out acceptable levels of contact and involvement for the birth parent(s) and attempts to head off potential conflict. Sometimes these are formally filed with the court; sometimes they are merely signed by both parties in good faith.

Like any other agreement, care should be taken to make the agreement evolve along with the real-life situation.

Representation/Mediation in Open Adoption

Whether for the first time or when an agreement needs to be advised, the parties can avoid problems by using a qualified attorney to represent their interest to address necessary matters. If a conflict arises, the early use of the mediator could avoid litigation, costs, parents being cut off, or the minor being subject to the conflict, causing harm to the child’s well-being. When both sets of parents enter into mediation with the best interests of the child in mind, they can be guided by a trained, professional mediator towards a solution that is healthy for all involved – especially the child. Mediation by its very nature keeps the lines of communication open, which is what a Contact Agreement is designed to do in the first place, and helps to identify the reasons why the agreement no longer works. Often, this means that each side understands the other’s difficulties clearly for the first time, and the sense of familial bond that inspired the Open Adoption in the first place returns.

Mediation isn’t a “magic bullet” that solves all problems – but for Open Adoptions that are founded on the concept of honesty and connection, it is often the best solution.

Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions

Conflict between the man and the woman

Making a decision to end a marriage is very difficult and stressful. According Holmes and Rahe Stress Scales, the most stressful rated event is the death of a spouse. Divorce was second and marital separation was third. Persons facing or going through divorce deal with the stress in different ways. This may include anger or blame towards the other spouse, depression, hopelessness, illness or capitulation. All of these emotions can influence your divorce in many ways.

Some of the better and more productive ways to get through this difficult period include:

  • Understand the process. Have your attorney explain the typical steps in a divorce case at the beginning of the case. Additional stress is inevitable if you are uncertain as to what is going on.
  • Understand what is likely to happen. Cases have a lot of variables and are subjectively determined. The outcome of cases depends upon the facts of the case, the attorneys, what the judge allows into evidence; all drive the opinions of the judge. Different judges generally place different weight of the same factors. However, an experienced attorney can give you some reasonable parameters of how a judge will decide as case based upon the known facts. Attorneys often talk in terms of “possibilities”, which the client may understand to be “probabilities.” Ask the attorney what he or she believes probably will happen, but only after the attorney has had a chance to understand both parties’ sides of a case.
  • Be prepared and knowledgeable. Information is power. As you prepare for a divorce, the more information you have and give to your attorney, the better off you will be. For example, knowing where all of the bank accounts, investments and retirements accounts are useful. Better yet, if you have statements of balances for each account. Copies of documents such as real estate closing papers and a description of property items (make, model, and year) can save a lot of time later. Your attorney can help fill in the gaps later on, but the more preparation you do, the better off you will be.
  • Understand when you are acting emotionally. It is certainly okay to be emotional. However, you need to be very careful with how your emotions effect your decisions. If you are angry, you may want to fight for things that you cannot realistically obtain. If you are depressed, you may give up things that you are both entitled to and will need for the future. In either extreme, if emotions affect your decisions, your problems are likely to increase in the long run. If/when a decision is based upon emotions rather than logic, you may need to rely upon a neutral advisor, such as your attorney. A friend who has gone through a divorce may seem like a good source, but oftentimes your situation is different than theirs and your friend’s emotions and bias may exacerbate your emotional decision making.
  • Take steps to be healthy. This includes exercise, diet, regular routines, sleep, etc. Sometimes seeing a counselor helps to talk through matters that are giving you anxiety. Typically even just a few sessions can be very effective. Others may find relief in support groups or in providing service to others. Sitting at home in front of the television generally does not help your state of mind. Also, find ways to enjoy your personal time, such as when the other parent has the child(ren).
  • Look at the big picture. People typically have a normal field of vision of 120 degrees. Moving the eyes and turning the head can give us 360 degree view of what is around us. Yet sometimes, particularly when we are in stressful situations, we may spend our time having an altered view of reality as looking at life through a virtual telescope or microscope, or perhaps we are standing too close to a wall” or “tree” that blocks our view of your true world each point giving a specific view, but without seeing all of the good things around us. Finding times to look for the beauty around us brings us contentment and joy. There will be sufficient time to address the problems in our life without the need for constant attention to the same. Have an attitude of gratitude.
  • Take responsibility for the way you feel. Some emotions are beyond our control. Others we can learn how to maintenance and control. Certainly others, particularly an estranged spouse can do things that will cause you to feel angry, betrayed, insecure, etc. However, you can decide how it will ultimately influence your life.
  • Avoid/minimize alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and may actually increase your problems overall. In the short run, it may seem to calm you but in the long run alcohol does not help. In some situations it can cause major problems.
  • Emphasize the present and future, minimize the past. Even if you have had problems in the past, you can decide to change yourself for the better. Keep in mind that the Court decides a case based upon the evidence before them at the time of the divorce trial, which could be a year or so after the divorce was filed. Although you cannot erase the past, you can make sure the most recent history is most favorable to you.
  • Hire an attorney you can trust. In most divorces, the cost of representation is a major concern. Some attorneys attempt to generate a large fee by creating a lot of documents. Other attorneys may be too passive and fail to communicate effectively with you. Hourly rates are often misleading because a newer attorney charging a lesser hourly rate, but will actually spend more time doing a particular task. Finding an attorney you can trust and works the way you want them too will substantially reduce your stress and help you to move forward in a productive manner.

Divorce is not fun, but you can get through the process in a manner that will enable to you to move on with a productive and happy life.

David A. Johnson has been providing quality legal services in East Idaho. As both a private attorney and as a former Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Johnson has substantial courtroom experience. Mr. Johnson has handled cases all over the State of Idaho. His primary areas of practice are in Bonneville, Bingham, Butte, Jefferson, Madison, Fremont Bannock and Jefferson Counties. In addition, to Idaho Falls, we serve residences in the Blackfoot, Shelley, Firth, Rigby, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Ashton, Ammon, Driggs and Victor, Idaho. [Read more..]