Welcome to Our New Legal Blog

Attorney in Leawood, Kansas

At the Law Firm of Kevin Stuart Cavanaugh, I have over 25 years of experience representing individuals throughout the Kansas City Metro area in Kansas and Missouri. My practice includes divorce and family law, and residential real estate. I place a high priority on personal service and accessibility.

You can call me at (913) 387-3193 any time, day or night, when you have questions about your case.

For a free initial consultation, contact my offices.

Major credit cards are accepted.

Passengers Have Rights at Traffic Stops Too

In most discussions of legal rights attendant to traffic stops focus on the Fourth Amendment rights of the driver of the car. While it is inarguable that a driver who is stopped by law enforcement has certain rights, these rights also extend to any passengers that might be in the car as well. As the recent Kansas Supreme Court decision State v. Cleverly (No. 111,282) makes clear, a search of a passenger is not necessarily considered valid just because the search of a driver is authorized. The detention and search of a passenger of a motor vehicle must also be supported by independent probable cause or other legal justification.

Facts in Cleverly

 In the Cleverly case, law enforcement officers stopped a vehicle in which Cleverly was a passenger. The driver of the vehicle eventually consented to a search of the car, and Cleverly was told to stand by a patrol vehicle while the search was conducted.  Cleverly was not permitted to make a call on his phone despite asking for permission to do so. The search produced a glass pipe, believed to be used to smoke methamphetamine, but officers did not have any evidence to connect the pipe to Cleverly or to suggest Cleverly had committed a crime. Nonetheless, Cleverly was interrogated at the scene of the stop and a second search was performed. Officers eventually searched a cigarette box Cleverly had placed on the hood of the patrol car at the time the driver’s car was searched and found methamphetamine.

The Voluntary Presence of the Driver Does Not Extend to the Passenger

Cleverly’s motion to suppress evidence of the methamphetamine was denied by the trial court, and this denial was upheld by the Court of Appeals. In upholding the district court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals claimed that because the driver’s presence at the scene of the traffic stop was considered to be consensual and voluntary, that this made the presence of Cleverly at the scene voluntary and consensual as well. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected this line of reasoning, however, and found that though the driver may very well have consented to being detained beyond the end of the investigatory stop, this did not mean that Cleverly had also consented to a continued detention beyond the end of the lawful investigatory stop.

What are the Implications of Cleverly

The Cleverly decision, therefore, stands for the proposition that the continued, nonconsensual detention of every individual at the scene of a traffic stop must be supported by individualized probable cause suggesting that each individual is somehow connected to criminal activity. Officers cannot rely on the consent of the driver to continued detention to continue to detail passengers unlawfully, even if the driver is the passengers’ only method of travel away from the traffic stop.

When to Contact a Kansas Traffic Defense Attorney

If you were a passenger in a motor vehicle who was detained along with the driver and criminal charges were thereafter filed against you, you should have the facts and circumstances of the traffic stop analyzed by an experienced Kansas traffic defense attorney. The fact that the driver may have voluntarily remained with officers after the initial traffic stop was completed does not necessarily mean that officers were free to continue to detain you as well.

Contact the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh for a free consultation to discuss your traffic stop and whether your rights were violated by police misconduct. This may result in a reduction or dismissal of your charges. Call Kansas City Traffic Defense Attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh now at (913) 387-3193 to set up your free initial consultation today.

 

Action Needed When You Fall Behind on Your Child Support Payments

In a Kansas City child custody or divorce proceeding, courts tend to issue final orders and then expect the parties to carry those orders out. Unless a need exists for the judge to intervene, courts tend to dislike having the same parties and litigants reappear time and again when there has been no new developments or issues in the case. One of the surest ways to have your child custody or divorce case land back before the court, however, is to fall behind on your child support payments.

A child support order is an enforceable court order, and the courts expect you to treat a child support order in such a manner. The reality is, however, that these orders can impose a significant financial hardship on the payor. While not paying your child support obligation is never a good idea, there are steps you can take if you realize you are not going to be able to make a payment.

Seek Out Legal Counsel – Fast!

Not making your child support payments on time may cause the court to issue a warrant for your arrest and to hold you in contempt of court. To have the greatest opportunity at avoiding this, you need to take swift, decisive, and effective action. The best way to do this is by retaining an experienced Kansas City child support attorney. A skilled attorney is in the best position to recommend what actions you should take based on the specific factual circumstances of your case.

Speak with the Agency Responsible for Receiving Payments

Communication is often key in child support cases – if the court and/or the agency responsible for receiving your payments are not informed of your situation, they will almost invariably assume that you are willingly refusing to pay your child support obligation. As soon as you know you may be late in making a payment, contact the payment processing agency and inform them of the situation. Let them know when they can expect the payment to be made. In some cases, if this is your first missed payment and you are able to make it up within a few weeks, you may suffer no adverse consequences at all.

In speaking with the agency, make sure you keep your promise.  If you promise to pay a certain amount by a specific date, make sure you do so. Do not overpromise – if you know you will not be able to make your full child support payment within a certain timeframe, do not agree to do so. Also, be certain you keep records of your conversation: who you talked with, when you spoke with them, and the substance of your conversation. You may wish to put this information into a letter and mail the letter to the agency immediately following your conversation so as to confirm your understanding and agreement (be sure to keep a copy of the letter or notes for your own record).

Consider Filing to Modify Your Child Support Payments

Finally, take this opportunity to ensure your child support obligation is properly calculated. While even parents who are unemployed or employed at minimum wage are expected to support their children, child support obligations in Kansas and Missouri are also supposed to be based in part on the income of each spouse. If you are careful about your expenditures but still find it difficult to make your child support payment, there may have been a mistake made when the order was calculated. Speak with an attorney who can review your order and determine if the obligation imposed on you was properly calculated.

The Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh is a Kanas City-area firm assisting parents with child custody, divorce, child support, and other family law issues. Contact Kansas City Divorce Lawyer Kevin S. Cavanaugh for a free, initial consultation to discuss your child support concerns by calling (913) 387-3193.

Kansas City Foreclosure Defense Attorney Explains the Process of Loan Modification

You know the consequences for falling behind on your mortgage payments: if you are not able to bring your account current within a specified period of time (typically 60 to 90 days), your lender may begin a foreclosure action against you. In a foreclosure proceeding, the lender presents evidence to the court that you violated the terms of your mortgage agreement (i.e., by failing to make payments) and requests an order seeking to retake possession of your home. Absent some viable defense to the foreclosure proceedings – for example, if the lender failed to provide you proper notice about your delinquency and the time frame within which you could cure the delinquency – foreclosure proceedings will end with you losing your home.

Why Your Lender Does Not Want to Foreclose Against You

Even though foreclosure is an available path for your lender to follow in the event of a default, generally foreclosure is not a resolution favored by lenders. This is because the foreclosure process takes time and money to complete. Even after it has obtained a judgment against you and can sell your house to another buyer, there is no guarantee that the lender will be able to recoup all of its losses from the sale. While it is true that the lender could pursue you for the difference between the amount you owed on the mortgage and the costs the lender incurred and the amount for which the home sold, there is similarly no guarantee that the lender would recover these costs quickly – or at all. For these reasons, lenders typically resort to foreclosure when there is little evidence you will be able to bring your mortgage account current.

Loan Modification as a Foreclosure Alternative

Instead of foreclosing on your property, the lender may agree to a modification of the terms of your mortgage. More specifically, the lender may agree to reduce your interest rate, cancel an amount of principal, postpone payments or forgive payments entirely if the lender believes (1) you will be able to keep your account current following the modification; and (2) your loan became delinquent because of a temporary and unforeseen financial hardship that is not likely to repeat itself.

Things to Be Aware of During the Loan Modification Process

Borrowers who choose to resolve their mortgage delinquency through a loan modification should keep the following tips in mind to protect themselves and their rights:

  • Get any modification of your loan in writing and signed or approved by your lender. Make sure the document accurately reflects the modification terms you discussed with your lender before you sign it;
  • Beware of companies that promise to be able to modify your loan or obtain certain terms for you. There is never any guarantee that your lender will agree to a loan modification in lieu of foreclosure;
  • Keep current with your new payments. If you fall behind in your mortgage payment again after the terms of the mortgage were modified, it is unlikely that the lender will grant you another modification. Make sure the terms you agree to are terms with which you can comply.

The Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh is available to assist struggling homeowners in the Kansas City area facing foreclosure. We help homeowners explore alternatives to foreclosure so they can keep their home. Call our Kansas City Foreclosure Defense Attorney today at (913) 953-7301, and we will discuss your legal rights and options with you. If loan modification may be available, we will help represent your interests to the lender and strive to obtain a modification of the terms of your mortgage.

Kansas City Family Law Attorney Explains How You May Be Able to Obtain Counsel in Your Family Law Case While Sticking to a Budget

Behind the jokes and stereotypes of attorneys and lawyers there is a grain of truth: retaining the services of an attorney in a divorce or child custody proceeding is not always cheap. Unfortunately, there is no constitutional “right to counsel” in civil cases: that is, the court will not appoint you an attorney for your family law case if you are unable to afford an attorney as it would in a criminal matter. This leads some litigants to “go it alone” and represent themselves in their family law dispute, much to the detriment of the litigants’ rights and prospects for achieving the best possible outcome in their cases.

Affording an Attorney When an Attorney Seems Unaffordable

Before deciding that you cannot afford an attorney to represent you, consider the following methods for obtaining counsel:

  • Borrowing funds from friends or family: Consider obtaining funds for your attorney’s fees from friends or family members. Some enterprising litigants have even used crowdfunding sources such as GoFundMe and solicited donations from strangers in order to be able to afford their attorney’s fees;
  • Discuss whether your attorney’s fees are negotiable: While not every attorney will negotiate his or her retainer and/or fees, some may do so – especially if you are only needing representation for a specific purpose. For example, an attorney may agree to charge you a flat fee if you are only needing representation for a simple, uncontested divorce.
  • Seek out an attorney to handle your case pro bono: When an attorney handles a case pro bono, the attorney is agreeing to represent you without charging you any attorney’s fees. While attorneys are not required to handle any cases pro bono, they are encouraged to do so. Even though the chances of an attorney handling your case pro bono is slim, it does not hurt to ask – especially if there are special, unique circumstances (such as there is excessive domestic violence).
  • Ask law schools and/or legal aid clinics: Both Kansas and Missouri have legal aid societies that provide low-cost representation to clients who meet certain income limitations. Similarly, the various law schools in eastern Kansas and western/central Missouri (University of Kansas; Washburn University; University of Missouri – Kansas City; University of Missouri) have clinics in which law students represent clients under the direction and supervision of licensed attorneys. Like legal aid societies, you must generally meet certain income guidelines in order to qualify for services. In addition, your case must generally fall into one of a few specific categories before the clinic will agree to take your case.

In seeking an affordable attorney, you must act swiftly if your case has already been filed: while a court will usually allow you some time to obtain legal counsel, the court may direct that your case proceed if it feels too much time has elapsed without any progress being made on your case.

Can the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh Help Me in My Case?

Before deciding you cannot afford an attorney to represent you in your Kansas City divorce or child custody case, contact the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh.  Kansas City Family Law Attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh offers new family law clients a free initial consultation in which he reviews their cases, discusses their legal options, and explores how the clients may retain his experienced and knowledgeable services. The costs of proceeding in your case without legal representation can be enormous, so contact the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh today by calling (913) 953-7301.

Kansas City DUI Attorney Responds to Canadian Police Office’s “Cruel and Unusual” Means of Transporting Drunk Drivers

The Kensington Police Department in Canada has put forth a new and interesting way of “starting the discussion about drinking and driving” around the holidays. The department recently made a Facebook post warning the public that if a person was caught drinking and driving then they would be taken to jail in a police cruiser – a police cruiser that was blaring tunes from the Canadian band Nickelback. While some might call the police department’s intended course of action “creative” while others might consider it to be “cruel and unusual punishment,” this story opens up a larger, more serious discussion – how “creative” can courts be in punishing DUI offenders and others for their transgressions?

The Role of the DUI Statutes in Sentencing DUI Offenders

 Stories abound about judges who have sentenced offenders appearing before them to creative or unusual punishments. One Ohio judge has gotten national attention for his “creative” methods of sentencing defendants, some of which have included sentencing defendants convicted of:

  • Animal abuse to spend 90 days in jail or eight hours at the local dump picking up garbage;
  • Avoiding a taxi fare to walk 30 miles or spend 30 days in jail;
  • Stealing a bike to work ten days of community service and ride a bike in a local parade or spend 60 days in jail.

According to news reports, these creative sentences may be responsible for a low offender recidivism rate in Plainville, Ohio, where this particular judge presides. This Ohio judge gives offenders who admit to wrongdoing a choice between suffering the traditional punishment or completing an alternate sentence. Can a court force an offender such as a DUI offender to complete an alternate sentence.

Every state (including Kansas and Missouri) has a statute that in some way criminalizes the act of driving while intoxicated. These statutes also typically set forth mandatory sentences that a court must impose. “Mandatory” here means that a court does not have any discretion as to whether to impose the sentence. So, for example, a first-time DUI offender in Kansas must be fined $750.00.  The law does not give the court the discretion to not impose the fine. Beyond the mandatory sentence, courts have some discretion to craft and impose a sentence the courts believe will benefit the offender and/or community. However, the court does not have any authority to impose what might be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment. Doing so would violate both state constitutions and the federal constitution. What constitutes “cruel and unusual” is a fact-intensive inquiry, but generally speaking a court cannot impose a punishment or consequence that:

  • Is grossly disproportionate to the crime (no long periods of incarceration for a first-time DUI, for example);
  • Is meant to expose the offender to needless ridicule, harassment, or disrepute. For example, the court cannot make a DUI offender wear a sandwich board that says, “I am a no-good drunk and a danger to the community” in a public place;
  • Is so unusual that it does not serve any legitimate sentencing purpose. For instance, the judge cannot make the offender perform community service by cleaning the judge’s own house.

Most courts are not likely to impose creative or unusual sentencing methods, but having an attorney assist you with your Kansas City DUI offense can not only ensure this does not happen but assist you in obtaining the least severe sentence possible. Let attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh use his years of experience to challenge the proof of intoxication in your DUI case. Even if you are convicted, Kansas City DUI Defense Attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh can often argue for the imposition of a sensible, rational, sentence that intrudes into your life as little as possible. Learn more by calling the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh today at (913) 953-7301.

Kansas City Family Law Attorney Discusses Recent Paternity Decision Finding Sperm Donor Not Responsible for Child Support

A paternity determination – that is, a finding that one person is the legal parent of a child – has always been described as a decision that carries with it both privileges and responsibilities. The privileges of paternity include the ability to visit with the child, form a parent-child relationship with the youth, and participate in decisions concerning the wellbeing and upbringing of the child. The responsibilities of paternity include the requirement to support the child financially, regardless of whether the child’s parents are married, cohabitating, separated, or divorced. For these reasons, being found by a court to be the legal parent of a child is a significant matter.

A Child’s Biological Parents are Usually Held to Be the Child’s Legal Parents

Kansas (like many other states) has passed a statute in which several paternity “presumptions” are enumerated. In determining whether a person is a legal parent of a particular child, a court will consider what, if any, paternity presumptions the person meets. An adult who meets at least one paternity presumption may be found to be the legal parent of a particular child. If the adult does not wish to be named the legal parent of a particular child, the adult must then come forward with evidence and/or testimony showing the court why the presumption should not apply and the individual.

A paternity presumption applies if the adult is determined by genetic testing to be the biological father of the child in question. For this reason, the Kanas Department for Children and Families (DCF) sought an order directing a Kansas man who donated sperm to assist a same-sex couple in becoming pregnant to pay child support for the child after the couple split.

(Kansas law clearly states that a male who donates sperm to a doctor is not the father of a child fathered from such donated sperm unless there is an agreement in writing stating otherwise. DCF believed the protections of this law did not apply in this case because a doctor was not involved in the reception of the man’s sperm or in attempting to impregnate the recipient with the donated sperm.)

The court determined the man was not a legal parent of the child and was not obliged to pay child support to the parent with custody of the child. The court did hold that the child’s legal parents were the same-sex couple. In making its ruling, the court noted that there was no evidence showing the man intended to act as a parent of the child and had minimal involvement in the life of the child.

This Ruling Is Very Fact-Specific – It May Not Apply to All Cases

Adults who are attempting to contest a paternity determination will not likely benefit from this ruling. In other words, assuming the potential parent is not a sperm or egg donor, an adult may not be able to avoid a paternity determination simply by removing him- or herself from the child’s life. Instead, the significance of this case is that it demonstrates the struggle that courts may sometimes have in applying paternity and custody laws to situations and circumstances that legislators who passed the laws may not have even contemplated. When these situations arise, it is usually the party who is able to best articulate a sensible solution that does not clearly run afoul of the statute’s language that prevails.

The Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh can assist individuals seeking to obtain or fight a paternity determination in the Kansas City area.  Courts should consider the “big picture” before making a paternity determination, and Kansas City Family Law Attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh can ensure the court is aware of the applicable law and all relevant factors before it makes a decision. Contact the firm today to discuss your family law needs by calling (913) 953-7301.

Kansas City Family Law Attorney on Why You Need to Make Your Holiday Plans Now

For divorced parents and the children of those divorced parents, there is probably no more stressful time of the year than the holidays. Thanksgiving and the time around the Christmas holiday are traditionally viewed as very “family-oriented” times of the year: parents naturally want to be around their children and children may wish to be around one parent, the other parent, or both parents at these special times as well. With the holiday season fast approaching, the time to make your holiday visitation plans is now. Here are some tips:

  1. Review your parenting plan. Nearly every parenting plan in Kansas and Missouri will have instructions as to which parent gets to have custody of the child for each of the upcoming holidays. Refusing to follow the parenting plan to the letter can be considered contempt of court and result in unpleasant consequences. So as you are making your plans to visit friends and family, make certain you know when you will have custody of your child and when the other parent will be exercising his or her parenting time. If you need to adjust the parenting plan, now is the time to begin talking with the other parent and see if you can reach an agreement modifying the plan.
  1. Plan sooner rather than later and document all changes. It is probably too late in most areas in and around Kansas City to set a hearing and adjust the parenting plan, but this does not stop you and the other parent from agreeing to a modification of the plan. If you and the other parent do agree to a modification, be sure to write the modification down and provide a copy of the writing to the other parent (it would be best if the two of you signed the writing). This protects you from an allegation that you violated the parenting plan (and possible contempt proceedings). The sooner you speak to the other parent about your holiday custody wishes and desires, the more likely it is that you and the other parent can reach an agreement.
  1. Do not expect the court to intervene in most cases. The fact that you are now one hour late for your family gathering because the other parent has not returned the child on time, while a violation of the parenting plan, is not going to stir the court or a law enforcement agency to action unless there is reason to believe the child is in danger. That is to say, attempt to work with the other parent and be flexible as this will result in the least amount of stress on your child as possible. If the other parent is refusing to return the child to you in defiance of the parenting plan, speak with your attorney and local law enforcement about your options.

During the hectic holidays, remember that as much as you want to be with your child to have “family time,” your child is likely wanting to have as normal of a holiday season as possible. Remaining flexible in regards to your own plans and the plans of the other parent and taking time to discuss those plans ahead of time can help accomplish these objectives.

If you need assistance in reviewing your parenting plan, if you believe modifications to that plan are in order, or if you need to discuss your legal rights after the other parent has violated the parenting plan, call the Kansas City Family Law Attorney at the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh at (913) 387-3193.

 

Kansas City Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Gifts Given Before Death

When someone is approaching their final days of life, it is common for him or her to gather his or her family near him or her. He or she may share stories or family information with his or her loved ones and may pass along family treasures to those gathered nearby. These “treasures” often have a very significant sentimental value to one or more family members (if not a significant monetary value as well). The passing along of these family treasures immediately before the benefactor’s death, however, may set up future legal struggles and arguments.

A situation that is not uncommon is this: The gift-giver gives a substantial gift to someone or some entity but also has a will directing that the particular item gifted – the decedent’s wedding ring, or a family heirloom, for example – be given to someone else. The decedent may be accomplishing the gift with the best of intentions, but by doing so he or she may be creating legal trouble for his or her heirs and beneficiaries.

A Problem that Defies Easy Solutions

Of course, had the decedent amended his or her will (or had a carefully-worded will) prior to his or her death the problem may have been avoided. Individuals who create wills are always able to amend the will through a codicil (or a complete rewriting of the will) at any time before his or her death, so long as he or she retains the capacity to make a will. However, when the soon-to-be decedent makes a “gift” of an item of property covered by the will, the heirs and beneficiaries are left with two choices:

  • They can do nothing and treat the before-death gift as a tacit modification of the will. In this case, the executor of the decedent’s estate would follow all other directions of the will and ignore any provision dealing with the property in question. The heirs and beneficiaries may need to sign a legal document acknowledging their understanding and agreement to this course of action.
  • The aggrieved beneficiary or heir – the one who should have received the property but did not – may file an objection in the probate case and seek return of the property to him or her. In order to prevail, the beneficiary or heir may need to show that the benefactor was not in possession of his or her full mental faculties to know what he or she was doing in making the transfer. The suit itself may or may not be successful but is sure to add to any family conflict that might already exist.

Is There a Reason to Accept a Gift of Property Covered by a Will?

Some individuals who are about to pass may believe it is necessary to gift property to their heirs and beneficiaries to avoid estate taxes. However, estate taxes do not apply unless the decedent’s estate is several millions of dollars. Therefore, unless the soon-to-be decedent is extremely wealthy, there is usually very few, if any, tax advantages to gifting property already covered by a will.

The better tactic to employ if a loved one is nearing his or her end and wants to gift property covered by a will is (assuming the person is still in possession of his or her mental capacities to make a change to the will) to draft a codicil. If this is not possible, having one or more disinterested witnesses (individuals who are not receiving anything from the decedent’s estate under the law or under the terms of the will) present to observe the gift may help a court in understanding the situation and ruling appropriately on how to treat the “deathbed gift.”

Avoiding legal trouble after death begins with a solid estate plan that is regularly updated as one’s assets and desires change. Kevin S. Cavanaugh can help you do this important task and help insulate your family from disputes over the terms of your will and gifts you made during life. Contact the Kansas City Estate Planning Attorney at the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh today by calling (913) 387-3193 to learn more about our estate planning services.

Kansas City Attorney Explains How to Obtain Compensation for Your Legal Fees

It is no secret that hiring an attorney for your family law case, estate planning needs, or criminal DUI matter can be expensive. This can leave cash-strapped individuals and families in a difficult predicament: on the one hand, proceeding without legal representation can jeopardize the individual’s opportunity for successfully resolving his or her legal matter and protecting his or her rights. On the other hand, obtaining the funds necessary to hire an attorney may put the individual and his or her family in serious financial trouble (or the person may simply not be able to come up with the funds necessary to hire an attorney under any circumstance).

Conventional and Unconventional Methods for Paying for Legal Services

In some cases, (mostly personal injury cases) attorneys may take cases on a contingency-fee basis. This means that the client is not responsible for any of the attorney’s fees unless and until the attorney is able to recover compensation for the client or obtain a particular outcome for the client. In most cases, the client is still responsible for costs incurred by the attorney during the course of representation (which can include costs for making copies, transcriptionist fees, and other similar expenses). However, ethical rules do not allow attorneys to represent clients on a contingency fee basis in every type of case.

Low-cost, “court-appointed” attorneys are an option for individuals facing certain criminal charges who are in need of legal representation. In addition, some individuals have tried clever methods to save enough money to pay for an attorney. After exhausting traditional funding sources (such as loans from banks, family, and/or friends), some cash-strapped individuals have turned to crowdfunding or online donations sites and requested generous individuals to donate small sums of money to help pay for the person’s legal fees.

Shouldn’t the Other Party Pay for My Legal Costs?

Other individuals may attempt to have the judge in their case order the other party in the dispute to pay the individual’s attorney’s fees and costs. While this sounds like an attractive method whereby the amount expended for your attorney’s fees can be compensated, there are several points to keep in mind:

  • You must give the court and the other party reasonable notice (usually at the outset of your case) that you are requesting compensation to cover your attorney’s fees;
  • Absent an agreement with the other party to have your legal fees covered, you generally must prevail in your case before a court will order the other party to pay your legal fees;
  • There must usually be a compelling reason – a great disparity between your financial resources and the other party or evidence that the other party’s claims were frivolous and without merit – for the court to award you compensation for your attorney’s fees;
  • Except in some extremely rare circumstances, your case must be concluded or resolved before compensation will be awarded. A court will generally not force the other party to pay your legal fees so that you can present and prosecute your case;
  • Finally, courts will award you “reasonable” compensation for your attorney’s fees and expenses. If the court believes your legal expenses are not reasonable given the nature of your claims and defenses, the court can limit your claim for fees – or deny the claim altogether.

If you have a family law dispute or estate planning needs in the Kansas City area, contact the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh to discuss your case today. Where appropriate, we will file the requisite motions with the court and help you obtain compensation for your expenses and losses. Call Kansas City Attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh today at (913) 953-7301

Missouri Divorce Attorney Analyzes Whether New Parenting Time Law in Missouri Will Have Any Practical Effect

The struggle of any noncustodial parent in a divorce or other family law proceeding has always been obtaining as much parenting time as possible with his or her children. Courts are generally granted a great deal of discretion to create parenting plans they believe will advance the best interest of the child. For many judges, this means a parenting plan that gives the noncustodial parent visitation on alternating weekends and for a few hours during the week. The court is free to impose this sort of parenting plan even where the parents jointly propose a different parenting plan and where there is no evidence suggesting the noncustodial parent is a negative or harmful influence on the children (although, in reality few courts will depart from a reasonable parenting plan that both parents have created together). A new Missouri law that has recently gone into effect aims to change this, however.

New Law Aims to Promote Equal Parenting Time

The new Missouri law does not break any “new” or novel legal ground but instead enshrines family law principles that have been gaining wider acceptance nationally in recent years. For example, the law prohibits family law judges from making decisions concerning child custody and parenting time that are advantageous to one parent at the expense of the other based upon the gender of the disadvantaged parent. (In times past, some courts considered primary residential placement with the mother more beneficial to a child’s growth and development.) The Missouri court administrator is also now required to develop parenting time guidelines for implementation in the courts that are intended to maximize the amount of time parents are able to spend with their children. (Missouri’s previous law enabled judges to award “significant,” but not necessarily equal, time to parents in a divorce or child custody proceeding).

Will the Laws Actually Change Any Practices?

Noncustodial parents who feel their current parenting time arrangements are unfair may be delighted with this new law, believing that they will be able to obtain a more favorable modification of their existing parenting time and visitation plans. Until the court administrator develops and promulgates new guidelines in accordance with the law, however, it remains to be seen what practical effect (if any) this new law will have. While the new guidelines will (presumably) have family law judges begin with the assumption that equal parenting time is in the best interest of the child, by their very nature the guidelines will likely continue to give courts the discretion to depart from these guidelines when the court deems appropriate. While courts may not be able to make custody and visitation decisions based upon gender-related beliefs, courts will still likely be able to limit parenting time if the court believes the noncustodial parent’s work schedule is too busy to allow for meaningful visitation with the children (for instance).

Legal Assistance Can Prove Invaluable

While Missouri’s new law encapsulates principles reflecting current thoughts and trends in child custody and parenting time law, parents seeking to obtain the maximum amount of visitation time as possible should enlist the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Kevin S. Cavanaugh and the staff of the Law Office of Kevin S. Cavanaugh have been helping parents obtain fair parenting plans in their Missouri divorce and custody cases for years. Missouri Divorce Attorney Kevin S. Cavanaugh keeps abreast of changes in the law so he can provide accurate and effective assistance to his clients. If you are involved in a divorce or custody proceeding and attempting to obtain as much parenting time with your child as possible, contact Kevin S. Cavanaugh by calling (913) 953-7301 to discuss your case.