Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins
Question: My wife and I have been in court for what seems like an eternity. Because we have not been able to come to terms, she recently told me that unless I settled on her terms, she was going to take out a criminal warrant for me for domestic violence and child abuse. She wants 75% of what we acquired during our ten year marriage, and I don't think it's fair for her to use the threat of criminal prosecution as leverage to try to get me to settle. On the other hand, even though I have done nothing wrong, I know that their threats will cause me additional expense and keep me in litigation for a long time. My lawyer tells me there is nothing I can do, but this doesnít seem right.
Answer: It isnít. It is against the law to use or threaten criminal charges where the purpose is to secure an advantage in resolving a civil matter. If this was not the rule, there would be threats of criminal prosecution Ė with basis or not Ė in every divorce case in order to try to gain an economic advantage. If there is probable cause that you are guilty of a crime and your wife deliberately conceals this information in order to extract money or other concessions from you, your wife is guilty of misprision of a felony or compounding a felony. These very serious problems should be reported to your local law enforcement authorities.
Question: My husband and I are divorcing after eight years of marriage. The major reason is our disabled son whom he has never been able to accept. While I was working, my mother, who is a widow, took care of him. But now she is very ill and canít. There has never been any question but that our son would be in my custody, but we have been fighting over how much of additional financial and support settlement I should receive to help care for our son, provide him with education, and allow me to stay home with him -- which means leaving my job. The lawyers and my husband can't seem to get it through their heads that we have a very special problem here that needs attention. Can you give us some guidelines?
Answer: While you know best what it costs to care for your child when he is at home, the question here appears to be the necessity of you staying home as opposed to finding other available care alternatives. While these matters are best addressed by experts in the field, when it comes to education and other available services, rather than fight, you and your husband should use your energy to research the wide array of programs available for your child???many of them free of charge. But you and your husband must avoid a settlement that makes your son ineligible for these services or exposes you and him to reimbursement.
For example, children three years of age or older are generally entitled to Early Intervention Services from local school districts -- free of charge. Eligibility is based solely on clinical need. Disabled children over 3 years of age are entitled to preschool special education services from their local school districts -- again, free of charge. And these services must be tailored to your child's individual needs.
By state and federal law, all handicapped children between the ages of five and 21 are entitled to a free special public education. And as parents, you are entitled to participate in the special plan which is drawn up for your child. The district must also provide transportation, parent counseling, and residential services, if needed. To prevent regression, the district must provide a summer program. And no child can be rejected, regardless of the severity of the handicap.
States also provide vocational programs, independent living centers, and other rehabilitation services. Many of these services are free of charge, but some require reimbursement from the parents. So check these and other programs out and make sure you and your lawyers know all of the options before you make a final settlement.