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"Competent, Caring and Responsive"

The Law Concerning a Child Support Modification in Idaho

According to the law in Idaho, both parents share legal responsibility for providing support to a child, regardless of who has custody. Additionally each support order is determined with a view towards the most conducive outcome for the child’s quality of life.

However, as circumstances change, for one or both of the parties it may become necessary for you to consider updating the amount of child support ordered. In such instances many parents feel the stress of the situation could be alleviated by hiring the services of a skilled and experienced attorney.

Reasons to Modify a Child Support Order

The obligation for a parent to pay child support ordinarily terminates when a child turns 18 and is no longer attending high school, or turns 19 and remains a current high school student.

A parent may instigate a child support modification in Idaho and change the initial support award if the guidelines affecting the support amount change significantly or in such situations where:

• The circumstances of one parent changes dramatically, such as moving a significant distance increasing transportation costs between parents.
• There has been a change in health care insurance for the minors.
• One parent or both has a substantial pay increase or decrease.
• A parent is not spending the amount of overnights used to calculate the existing child support order.

How to have your child support reviewed.

Idaho Child Support Services may review, at the request of a party the individual circumstances of each parent and the child support order before allowing legal proceedings to take place. Idaho Child Support services is less expensive than using a private attorney, but are limited in when they will review child support and how the modification will be evaluated. The State typically sends out a questionnaire to the other side to provide the information regarding the other party’s income.

Talking to an attorney who understands child support and how to accurate calculate child support can be very beneficial to you. Not all income is included, such as voluntarily overtime. A person’s potential income may be used to calculate child support if that person is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Some benefits that a person receives may be included as income. An knowledgeable and experienced attorney will provide you with the direction that you need.

Finding the Ideal Private Placement Adoption Attorney in East Idaho

Adopting a child can be one of the most rewarding experiences for any couple. It is a complex process and most adoptive parents benefit greatly from the knowledge and expertise of an experience adoption attorney.

Categories of Adoption in Idaho

If you and your spouse are considering seeking custody of a child, it would be wise to obtain the support and representation of an attorney who is familiar with the state and federal laws that govern the different types of adoption.

The types of adoption that take place in Idaho includes:

  • Public agency adoptions: These adoptions are facilitated by the Social Services division of the Department of Health and Welfare in Idaho, and are limited to the adoption of children within the foster care system.
  • Private placement adoptions: These adoptions are state-licensed and can be for non-profit or for-profit organizations, and typically involve children with special needs, domestic and/or international infant adoption.
  • Independent (also known as private) adoptions: The birth parent or parents place the child directly within the care of an adoptive parent for the purpose of adoption.
  • Step-parent adoptions: These are the most common type of adoption. When a parent remarries the step-parent develops a relationship with the child and in some cases takes the place of the absent natural parent. Independent of the current issues regarding same gender marriages, Idaho’s Supreme Court is starting to recognizing adoptions in non-marital situations, such as with domestic partnerships, relying upon statutory language that states that “any minor child may be adopted by any adult person.” At the present time it is likely that only two persons at a time would be recognized as the parents of a child.
  • Adult Adoptions: There is also the possibility for an adult to be adopted by another adult in situations where there has previously existed a parent/child relationship.

Requirements for an adoption

In the State of Idaho, the adoptive family is required by law to participate in a current home study, except for a step-parent adoption. The home study provides a written assessment of the prospective parent’s ability to provide and care for the adopted child. Home studies are not required in instances where the prospective parent is either married to the birth parent or is the grandparent of the child in question, unless one is specifically ordered by the court. Adoption home studies may be completed by a person or entity approved by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare or by a licensed private adoption agency.

The adoptive parent must be 15 years older than the person adopted, or at least 25 years of age, unless the adoption is a step-parent adoption.

Adoptions also require that one or both of the natural parent(s)’ parental rights be terminated , have not been established (example father has not registered with the State as the father or not on the birth certificate) has died, etc.

Having a knowledgeable and experienced adoption attorney in East Idaho can help your adoption go through smoothly.

Marital Separations in Idaho

Sometimes couples come to realize that they don’t want to continue living with each other but are not certain about filing for divorce. If this happens, you might consider alternatives to filing for divorce.

While Idaho courts do not have formal procedures for legal separation, alternatives are available. For example, the parties could enter into a separation agreement that establishes which person has what assets; who is responsible for various debts; and how income and resources are allocated. Issues such as child custody, visitation rights and spousal support could also be addressed, much like you would in a divorce proceeding. Separation agreements are not marital settlement agreements unless they meet specific requirements in the law. However, negotiating such agreements and putting them in writing are usually enforceable in cases such as driving under the influence (alcoholic), conviction of felony, or insanity.

Reasons for Choosing Separation

More couples are opting to separate rather than divorce. There are several valid reasons for doing so, including:

1. A belief that there is a chance of reconciling differences after some time apart.
2. Either you or your spouse find it less stressful to negotiate a separation agreement.
3. You and/or your spouse are opposed to divorce for moral or religious reasons.
4. The same may be beneficial to you, your spouse or children during the transition to becoming divorced.

A good family law attorney will know and be able to explain to you the pros and cons of separation and whether or not your situation in which it is appropriate to explore such options.

Defining Substantial and Material Change of Circumstances for Modifying Child Custody and Child Support Orders

The laws governing child custody in Idaho is similar to the laws in other states as there is a general agreement in terms of child custody. For example, almost every law in the country is based on the assumption that the best interests of the children should always be the primary consideration when determining aspects of a divorce such as custody and support.

However, the law also recognizes that circumstances rarely remain static, and that a child custody order that made sense at the time of the divorce may cease to be beneficial years later. As a result, questions arise as to whether or not child custody orders should be modified. If such a question arises in your case, you should look at consulting with a qualified family law attorney. While an attorney is not required, their advice will be invaluable in deciding whether or not you can and should seek to modify a custody order.

Substantial and Material Change

The term ‘substantial and material change of circumstances’ is a legal phrase that is variously and loosely defined. The court must recognize a substantial change in the circumstances of one or both parents in order to justify changing custody and child support orders. For example, some common facts that often meet the substantial material change circumstances in Bonneville County, Idaho include:

  • Significant change in income for either parent (for child support changes.
  • Health problems for either parent or the child
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Co-habitation with person(s) who pose a risk to the children.
  • Inadequate care of children the other parent
  • A need to relocate to a new geographical area

Other Reasons

Judges have some discretion in accepting the definition of substantial material change. Even the mere passage of time can sometimes be a basis for reviewing court orders because a child has more ability to feel secure going between homes and/or desires to spend more time with a particular parent.

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.

Overcoming Instinctual Responses to Family Strife

family conflict resolution

Deep down, all human beings are essentially animals.  We’ve been given the gift of sentience and self-awareness, but we’re still ruled, in many ways, by deep primitive instincts – like the Fight or Flight Response.  When faced with any potentially dangerous or difficult situation, every human being chooses either to stand their ground or to run away.  While this is a handy instinct when confronted by, say, a hungry bear in the wilderness, it’s not always the ideal way to handle a personal crisis with your spouse or other family member.  In those situations it’s important to remember that you have more than two choices: You can fight – literally, or through a divorce; you can flee (by ignoring the problems or refusing to deal with them); or, you can mediate.


Not Instinctual

Mediation is often a difficult decision to make between people, for the simple reason that mediation isn’t an instinctual response.  We often think in terms of punishing our partners or running away from our problems, but the more complex, more civilized approach of working through the problems with a trained mediation professional and seeking a cooperative solution to your problems requires getting past the instincts and entering a higher plane of thought.  This can be a challenge, because nothing feels more honest and normal than our instinctual reactions to things – but as we don’t live in the wilderness anymore, but rather in civilization, those instincts can often be more destructive than helpful.


Leaving Fight or Flight Behind

However, simply agreeing to pursue mediation still isn’t enough.  Often people are still in the throes of their fight or flight response, and try to use mediation as simply a new battleground for the fight.  Mediation is not a place to air grievances and attack each other – it’s a more complex and sophisticated response to problems, and requires that both parties leave their weapons behind and concentrate solely on a cooperative solution.

Sometimes people even turn their fight-or-flight instincts on the mediator, transferring their anger and frustration to them.  This will also doom the process to failure.  Understanding our instincts and how they often control our lives is a key part of a successful mediation.

We often can’t avoid an initial instinctual reaction.  The key isn’t to think that we can alter our subconscious and natural reactions to things, but rather than we learn to let them run their course, take a deep breath, and then pursue a more civilized course of action.

How to Achieve a Successful Mediation

Successful Mediation

Mediation is generally not a step people take when everything is fine – there’s no such thing as “just-in-case” mediation.  Yet many people tend to think of mediation as one of two extremes: Either a magical fix-all that will instantly solve their problems, or as a perfunctory episode that has no chance of solving their problems.  Either attitude can guarantee that mediation fails as a strategy, but there’s another factor in mediation failure: A lack of preparation.

Mediation is like any other endeavor that we engage in: Its success is directly tied to the effort that both parties bring to it.  In order to give your mediation the best possible chance, you have to come into the experience prepared.

Mediation Preparation Step One: Be on the Same Side

When preparing for mediation, it’s absolutely essential that both parties enter into the mediation agreeing on at least one crucial point: That they want a solution and are willing to work for it.  If one party rejects mediation and is forced into it, it’s almost guaranteed to fail.

So, part of the essential work to be done prior to walking into the mediation room involves both parties committing to the process and entering into it in the spirit of cooperation.  This doesn’t mean you abandon your goals or grievances, but only that you sincerely see mediation as a way to resolve them.

Mediation Preparation Step One: Know What Mediation Is and Isn’t

The next essential part of preparing for mediation is to understand the mediation process, how it works, and what it can do.  Mediation involves a professional, trained neutral – your mediator – who will facilitate discussion and guide both parties to a mutually acceptable solution to their dispute.  A mediator has no authority to impose a solution and isn’t a judge hearing a case.  Their role is advisory, but they also have the skills and experience to intelligently suggest ideas, compromises, and other solutions that can help the discussion.  They usually also have considerable experience in the field in which the dispute occurs and can thus offer practical, workable advice on how to settle things.

Expecting to be able to “argue” your case and convince the mediator to “take your side” is the wrong attitude, and dooms you to fail.  Instead, understand that the mediator is a skilled guide who can help get you where you want to be, and your chances of success shoot up exponentially.

The Secret of a Successful Divorce Is Preparation

Successful Divorce

No one likes the phrase “successful divorce” because divorce is, of course, a failure.  But anything in this world has a best-case outcome and a worst-case outcome, and any divorce that winds up closer to the “best-case” end of the spectrum can be classified as a success in the sense that it could have been worse for all involved.

Denial is probably the worst enemy of the successful divorce: Too many people fail to prepare for the possibility because they don’t wish to admit that their relationship is over.  But once you even suspect you may be heading to divorce, the smart play is to prepare for it properly – a little preparation does nothing to preclude the possibility of reconciliation.

Divorce Prep 101: Consult a Lawyer

People often think of “seeing a lawyer” as an irrevocable step in a divorce.  But a lawyer does a lot more than filing the papers to get the process started.  They can sit down with you and walk you through the implications and tell you point blank what you need to do then to avoid huge problems later.  You may not need to follow their advice if you reconcile – but if divorce does become a reality, you will have taken some basic steps to protect yourself and control the outcome.

Divorce Prep 101: Consult a Therapist

It doesn’t have to be an official therapist – it could be your parents, or your best friend.  The point is, when divorce becomes possible, it’s an emotional time.  A lawyer can help order up your financial and personal life in preparation, but you have to deal with your emotions as well.  Whether its anger, sadness, or confusion – your dominant emotional state will affect the decisions you make about your future, your children and your finances, and the smartest thing you can do is get those emotions under control.  That means talking things out with someone you can trust.

Divorce Prep 101: Don’t Be Spiteful

One of the biggest mistakes people make is believing that their emotional reaction to a spouse justifies anything.  If your spouse has been unfaithful or abusive, you might feel that you can bad-mouth them and hide assets as a way to punish them.

The opposite is true.  These attempts at punishment will backlash against you and hurt your chances of coming out of the divorce whole.  Stay in control and pursue legal remedies.

A Rational Solution for an Emotional Problem

Emotional Problem

Divorce has been part of life for about as long as marriage has.  Despite popular conceptions of divorce as a modern affliction, the ancient Romans had a thriving divorce rate, with the more affluent and rich Romans (especially in the later imperial period) frequently divorcing their mates in order to improve their social standing or purely as a political move, so they could marry the daughters and sisters of their allies or adversaries.

That sort of rational approach to divorce may sound cold and perverse to us today, but the fact is, divorce is a rational and legal mechanism.  It has a set structure of events and procedures, and is an attempt to impose a rational solution on what is essentially an emotional decision.  The most important aspect of divorce is this distinction between the rational and the emotional.

Don’t Step Back

As a result of the powerful emotions that lead to and flare up during a divorce, many people view divorce as a button they can push to automatically take care of the problem.  They come to the decision to end their marriage, hire a lawyer, and then try to step back from the process and let it happen without their direct involvement so they can be insulated from the gritty details.  This is one of the most important aspects of divorce: The more you’re involved the better the end result will be.  This is your life you’re making decisions about, after all.  As painful as it can be, your direct involvement in the decisions is essential.

Regret Is an Emotion, Too

Letting your emotions get in the way can lead to concrete implications, as well.  Divorce proceedings need to settle a vast array of details: Property, support, custody, visitation – just to name a few.  The more you’re actually involved in the process, the better the final terms will be for you.  If you let your emotions rule the day and pull back from the process in order to numb yourself, you’ll almost certainly look back months or years later and wish you’d been more involved, because the details of the final settlement are simply not as you would have preferred them to be.

Divorce is a tool, but it can be a blunt one if you allow emotional distress to remove you from overseeing the process.  One of the most important aspects of divorce is recognizing this dichotomy between emotional problems and rational solutions.

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..]