Drugs and Child Custody

As the illegal drug epidemic becomes worse and worse in our country, there is no shortage of family law cases involving at least one parent who struggles with addiction. Having the unique position of representing both addicts and the former (or soon to be former) spouse of addicts, I know the concerns both parties have in these cases. Personally, I recognize drug addiction as an illness; however, not all Judges feel the same way. Accordingly, it is important to have an attorney who knows her audience when presenting your case at trial. Despite the differences in opinion I may have with Judges, the goal in every case is first and foremost to protect the best interest of the parties’ children and to maintain their safety and security. The Judges and I both agree on that! However, that does not mean no contact with the afflicted parent. Most often a parent struggling with substance abuse will be required to exercise his/her visitation under the supervision of another person or through a paid facility. Most often this means no overnight visitation, as true supervision requires monitoring of every second of visitation. For this reason, supervision by one individual can be burdensome and difficult to secure. Luckily supervised visitation facilities are much more numerous and far less expensive than they were just 10 years ago. This period of supervised visitation provides peace of mind to the custodial parent, but also preserves the parent/child relationship with the other parent in a safe environment. For the substance abuser, this is the time to rehabilitate yourself, as well as your case. At Vella & King, we can put your and your family in touch with the numerous resources in our community to assist your family during this difficult time. Please call us today for a consultation to learn how we can help guide you through this difficult process: 205-868-1555.

Traci Owen Vella Scores Huge Victory With Alabama Court of Appeals

Alabama Court of Appeals Recognizes Adoptions by Same-Sex Parents
(Montgomery, AL, February 27, 2015)—Today, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals unanimously held that a second parent adoption granted to now separated same-sex parents by a Georgia court in 2007 must be recognized in Alabama—and that V.L., the adoptive mother of their three children, must be recognized as their parent and allowed to seek custody or visitation. The court explained that the “Georgia judgment is entitled to full faith and credit throughout the United States, including Alabama,” and ordered the case sent back to Family Court for a hearing on visitation. This decision reverses the same court’s earlier ruling last fall, which ruled that the adoption was void and could not be recognized because the Alabama court interpreted Georgia law as not allowing second parent adoptions.

In E.L. v. V.L., two women in a long term relationship had three children through donor insemination. The non-biological mother, V.L., adopted the children in Georgia. When the parents later broke up, the biological mother, E.L., kept V.L. from seeing the children. V.L. sought visitation in Alabama, where the family lives, which was granted. E.L. appealed and argued that V.L.’s adoption did not have to be recognized in Alabama, and the Court of Civil Appeals initially agreed.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and V.L.’s Alabama attorneys, Heather Fann and Traci Vella, sought a rehearing by the same court. The children’s Guardians Ad Litem also supported rehearing, arguing that the children must be able to count on their adoption being final. Although rehearings are rarely granted, the court reconsidered the case and heard arguments. Today, the court reversed its earlier decision and ruled that the family court properly recognized “V.L. as a second parent of the children.”

“We are elated that our client and her children will not be kept apart, and that the Alabama Court of Appeals correctly applied black and white constitutional law requiring all states to recognize court orders from other states, including adoptions by same-sex parents,” said NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “Children who are adopted must be able to count on their adoptions being final—any ruling that adoptions can be ignored or reconsidered years later puts all adopted children at risk of losing their forever families.”

“This is a great victory for parental rights and children’s rights,” said Traci Vella. “I’m very happy for my client and the children in this case who will not lose one of their parents who has raised them.”

“We are so pleased that our courts are recognizing that the law requires equal protection of all families,” said Heather Fann. ‘Much credit is due in this case to Legal Aid of Alabama, who fought as Guardians ad Litem for these children to preserve their relationships with both parents.”.

V.L is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Alabama attorneys Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C., and Traci Vella of Vella & King, Attorneys at Law.

The children’s Guardians Ad Litem are Breauna R. Peterson and Tobie J. Smith of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham.

The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Georgia Council of Adoption Lawyers filed an amicus brief in support of rehearing.

Services at Vella & King

Vella & King Provides Boutique Law Firm Services

At Vella & King our focus is making you feel at home when your home may be breaking up.  We are a boutique law firm that specializes in all of your family law and domestic relations needs.

Most often the calls we receive are with regards to divorce and adoption, but there are a number of services that we provide outside of that realm.

We also assist clients with modifications of their final decrees of divorce, modifications of custody, visitation, child support, and alimony.  Keep in mind; property settlements are not something that we can modify.

We also assist clients with what we refer to as petitions for contempt.  In other words, if your ex-spouse is not doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, according to the decree of divorce.  We can assist you in navigating the courts and making sure that you get the relief you need, as well as, compensation of attorney’s fees for your efforts to do so.

We do offer a number of services beyond the simple categories mentioned above.  We offer services in the family court of the juvenile court here in Birmingham, AL including paternity, basic visitation and child support.  It can also include dependency actions.

It’s not uncommon for you or someone you know to have custody of a child that may not even be related to you. You may also know a child that needs a change in custody or supervision.  We call those dependency actions because we can assist you in going to the juvenile court in order to get an order of custody for that child.

No matter what family law and domestic relations need arises, you can rest assure that we can help you with a favorable outcome.   If it involves family, we make your family our business. Please reach out to Vella & King anytime you or someone you know needs help.

Complications with Summer Visitation

little positive boy at the monkey bars and his father watching and helping

One of the most repetitive calls a divorce lawyer receives is the call about summer visitation. In most cases, non-custodial parents have expanded time with their children in the summer, usually four weeks taken in two separate two week intervals. However, rarely does a non-custodial parent also receive his/her regular weekday or weekend visitation during the school summer break. In other words, summer visitation (like most holiday visitation periods) supersedes any regular weekday or weekend visitation.

Due to the recent shortening of school summer break, more and more Divorce Decrees are allowing the non-custodial parent to exercise their rights to visit with their children on a week-on-week-off basis during the school summer break. This provides the non-custodial parent approximately the same amount of summer visitation, but does so in way that prevents the custodial parent from having to go two weeks without seeing his/her children.

The Final Decree should state with specificity whether or not the non-custodial parent shall receive his/her expanded summer time with their children in addition to his/her regular visitation. The reason being, Courts want to avoid the non-custodial parent stacking his/her four weeks (or every other week) with the regular visitation, thereby essentially having the minor children the entirety of the school summer break.

Regardless of whether your Final Decree provides for an expanded summer visitation period, or a week-on-week-off summer schedule, you must read the language carefully before you start making plans that include your regular weekday or weekend visitation, or else you may find yourself in a contempt situation before you know it.