Even though it was years ago, I can still remember the feeling when I left the courtroom that day.  The air had been taken completely out of me.  I couldn’t believe what had just happened.  Was that really a court of law I had just been in?  It was supposed to be but what had just happened was more like a robbery.  My client?  Well, she was devastated.  This was an early hearing in the process so we still had plenty of time to fight.  But the tone had clearly been set.

We had just finished in DHS/CPS court, and you know what I am talking about if you have been there.  This was about my fifth DHS/CPS case and to be honest I was about to be finished with these cases altogether.  I had noticed an obvious pattern - frustration for the client and me was the norm.  And DHS/CPS got whatever they wanted.  Discovery rules didn’t seem to apply.  Everything, and I mean everything, was stacked in the favor of DHS/CPS.  The judge believed everything the State had to say and nothing my client had to say.  Worse, the judge cut us off anytime we tried to introduce helpful evidence.  In a word, we felt railroaded.  This is not to mention how bad it was for the poor souls who were there pro se (without an attorney and representing themselves).

DHS/CPS court is relentless.  It drags on for months sometimes years.  There are staffings that you have to attend; hearings that you have to attend; home inspections that you have to attend; drug tests you have to take – and then take again; classes you have to attend; counseling you have to attend.  The list is exhausting.  If your children are in DHS/CPS custody they may not even be living in the same city as you.  You might have to travel across the state just to get visitation.  How in the world is a hard-working parent supposed to keep a steady job and get all of this stuff completed?

I decided that day after court that if I was going to keep taking these cases then we had to figure out how to win them.  These cases are a different breed and most attorneys don’t want anything to do with them.  We were going to have to have a completely different approach and be just as relentless as the system if we were going to stand a chance.

That decision that day has made all the difference.  We still have our challenges in DHS/CPS court, but now we know how to handle them – and win them.  And we can do the same for you.  So if you’re tired of trying to fight your case on your own, or you’re just getting started, give us a call.  We know the struggle…and we’re ready to help you put your family back together.

Cross Examination

CPS & DHS Stories

Getting A Court To Approve Relocation With Ki...

  These days it is not uncommon for a parent to need to relocate for a job. While today’s global economy has allowed some to work remotely, it has also required moves out of state or even out of the country. These job changes can be exciting and help catapult your career to the next level, but they can and often do create a big problem regarding child custody and whether or not the child is allowed to move with the custodial parent. Rightfully so, the non-custodial parent is concerned that they will not be able to see their children as often and it will be virtually impossible for them to be involved in the children’s day-to-day activities like ballgames, school plays, dance, the list goes on and on. Modifying a child custody agreement can seem daunting and, admittedly, can be difficult, but not impossible. Your first step is calling your attorney to discuss the matter; therefore, allowing the two of you to gather the appropriate evidence to support the move with your children. Then, we at, Kevin Hickey Law Partners, always recommend trying discussing the matter with your ex before taking it to court if you have any communication at all with your ex. Anything settled out of court is always the preferred method, but, unfortunately, often can’t be settled that way leaving you with the only other option of filing for a child custody agreement modification. Most child custody agreements state that the custodial parent must get permission for moving with the children if outside the parameters set forth. There will often be a specified distance or described geographically. For instance, permission from the other parent must be received to move more than 30 miles or you may not be allowed to move out of the city. These agreed upon distance parameters are another reason it is important to have an attorney when making the initial agreement, because our firm will help you determine on the front end if a job relocation might be necessary in the future for you and your career. If we are able to discern this in the beginning, then we can build an exception to the custody agreement that a career move may be required. Even if this was built into the original custody agreement, we always recommend you discuss a move with the other parent, to keep the peace and to avoid your ex filing a modification request. Remember, the same as you can ask for a modification to move, the other parent can ask for a modification to prevent you from moving even if it is built into the original custody agreement. If an agreement can’t be reached out of court, the first step in modifying a child custody agreement is doing your homework to prove your position in court. It is crucial for you and your attorney to prepare beforehand to gather strong evidence and arguments in support of your need to relocate. A court is looking specifically for: A legitimate reason for the move, i.e., a career change, remarriage or medical issue. The move is reasonable in light of its purpose. In other words, you’re not moving just because you feel like it. The move is in your children’s best interests. As unfortunate as it is, many parents make a move just to spite the other parent and make life difficult for them. If a judge discovers this, it will not reflect kindly upon you. After the evidence is presented, to decide if the relocation is in fact in the best interest of the children they will consider many factors including, but not limit to: The children’s relationships with both parents. The impact of the move regarding the children’s ability to spend meaningful time with both parents. The feasibility of making alternative parenting time arrangements to accommodate the move. Economic, emotional and educational benefits received from the move. If the children are old enough, the court will consider their preferences when making their decision. Family law matters involving children and a parent’s ability to see his or her children are complex and difficult to maneuver. That is why it is important to consult with an attorney that specializes in family law. We at Kevin Hickey Law Partners have helped many parents work through relocation and custodial agreement modifications. Let our experience and expertise work for you. Call today.

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Managing the Holidays and Child Custody...

The holidays are filled with happiness and joyous occasions…most of the time. For families of divorce the holidays can be anything but those things. They are often filled with struggle and conflict about custody. Then, top all of that off with emotions in regards to past relationships you have a recipe for a very stressful time of year. It doesn’t have to be that way; you can regain the joy and happiness in your holidays with a bit of planning, collaboration and especially communication. The first step in a happy holiday season is to determine which holidays are most important to you. For example, is Thanksgiving more important to you than Christmas Eve? If so, then communicate this to the co-parent. Christmas Eve may be more important to him or her; thus, eliminating a conflict. There will be times that you both want the children on the same day. If you live close enough to one another, then you could possibly share the day. To split the holiday in one day requires some coordinating, but it can help children not feel torn and guilty for enjoying the day with one parent and not the other. For example, one parent could host a Thanksgiving brunch or early lunch and the other could host a Thanksgiving dinner allowing the children to spend an enjoyable day with both parents. If you do not live near one another, then you will most likely need to alternate years with the co-parent. If it is not your “year” to spend the holiday with your child, you can still let your child know you are thinking of him or her by sending a package to arrive in time for the holiday. Planning ahead with your ex will help to identify conflicts and sort them out early. This also allows the children to know ahead of time where they will be spending the holiday. Couples often forget that the children need time to plan as well. This is especially important if the divorce is fairly recent and this will be their first year or two spending the holidays with each parent separately. Kevin Hickey Law Partners can help you go through this process and present it to your ex and/or his or her attorney. If it is short notice, it is unlikely the court will approve a change, but we can work with your spouse’s attorney to help reach the same compromise that the court will likely order. Additionally, if your children are old enough, check in with them. They have inner lives to consider as well. Talk to them to get an idea of what is important to them and what they want to do on their vacation. After you have determined the best holiday visitation schedule for you and your children, it will need to be written down. In order to be valid, the agreement should be signed by both you and your ex. This ensures that you both understand the agreement and it is favorable evidence if your ex fails to adhere to it. A couple of other things to keep in mind this holiday season: If you plan to take your children out-of-state, check your custody agreement. Many have provisions prohibiting out-of-state and/or a distance over a certain amount of miles without telling the other parent. You will need to ask permission first. Think twice before purchasing a gift for your child that you know will upset the co-parent. If you feel the gift is safe and appropriate, then it is a good idea to make a deal with your child that it only stays at your house. Planning and communicating early allows you to focus on the children and making their holidays memorable and happy. After all, isn’t that your first priority? To make sure your children are happy and secure. Contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners to let us help you work out a holiday schedule for you and your children. We not only identify relevant holidays, but we also help establish the parameters. If you get the children on Christmas Day, when does it start? Is it 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, etcetera?  We are also here to help you when legal questions arise. Our team is dedicated to your legal care.

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How Families Can Avoid a Halloween Nightmare...

Halloween is the unofficial start to the holiday season and it is often overlooked when divorcing parents are making visitation arrangements, because most are focused on the big ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Parents get honed in on who gets the kids for Christmas morning and Thanksgiving dinner, but often aren’t prepared for where the kids are going to trick or treat, what type of costume is acceptable or a curfew for older children. To avoid a horror story consider the following:   Plan and Communicate Planning and communication is the first line of defense to avoid the nightmare. An open line of communication with one another is key to avoiding many problems when co-parenting. Communicate with one another as to how you will both be able to enjoy the holiday with the children. Communicating with your children as to what the plan allows them to know ahead of time will keep them from being surprised on the day of. When the children know in advance, they will have time to process and accept how things will be that day allowing them to have a fun Halloween night.   Costume Selection Costume selection may have gone off without a hitch in years past, but after a divorce, it may become a hot topic. Working together to choose an appropriate costume for your child is a great way to set a cohesive example for your kids. One parent allowing the children to wear a costume knowing the other parent would not approve will set a bad parenting example with lasting effects. You want to keep in mind that older children may take advantage if they know you do not work together.   Splitting Time Consider the children first. Think about their past Halloween routine. Is one parent still residing in the neighborhood that the children are familiar with? Do they have friends in that neighborhood? Do they prefer to stick with something familiar? Why not keep it classy and allow the children to trick or treat where they want? Consider splitting the night. Let them trick or treat a few hours with one spouse and a few hours with the other.  Let them think of it as getting double the candy. If you are not able to spend Halloween night with your children, start a new tradition with your kids. Do something special like a family night of carving pumpkins; take them to a pumpkin patch or a corn maze the weekend before. Whatever you do, do not bring the new girlfriend or boyfriend along, especially if this is all new territory for everyone. This can create tension and uneasiness for all involved—especially the children. The most important thing is to not ask your children who they would prefer to spend Halloween with. Their first preference is going to be both parents and if that is not possible, do not put your children in an impossible position to choose. If it so happens that you do not end up with children due to work commitments or other reasons, don’t make a big deal about to your children making them feel bad for having a good time a fun night. If you do not feel like you can handle being alone, make plans of your own with friends.   Disputes Over Religious Beliefs This can be more difficult to maneuver than simply having a say-so in the type of costume your child is wearing, because the court must balance a parent’s First Amendment right to religious freedom. As with most situations, it would be best if the two of you could work this out rather than have the courts decide. The outcome could result in a division that could be nearly impossible to repair. All parenting agreements should consider the possibility that a child may participate in events that may offend a parent’s religious convictions. These should absolutely be addressed beforehand to allow time for both parties to defend their beliefs. It can be more tricks than treats when working out holiday custody arrangements, so allow Kevin Hickey Law Partners to help make the holidays a smooth process for you and your family and avoid the nightmare that could evolve from poor planning.

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(479) 434-2414 Fort Smith • (479) 802-6560 NWA

In the River Valley:
502 Garrison Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72901
Phone: (479) 434-2414
Fax: (479) 434-2415

In Northwest Arkansas:
1750 S. Osage Springs Drive, Suite 210
Rogerse, AR 72758
Phone: (479) 802-6560
Fax: (479) 802-6561

Mon - Fri 8:30 - 5:00

(Closed 12:00pm - 1:00pm)