Family Law Services

 

Guam's Most Comprehensive Family Law Practice




Adoption
Few legal matters are as joyful as an adoption.  However, the legal procedures sometimes seem confusing and overwhelming.  I will take the time to explain the procedures to you and guide you step-by-step along the way. The entire process usually takes from four months to a year, depending on the circumstances.
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Child Support 
Under Guam law, both parents are responsible for supporting their child and either can file an action to establish child support. The amount of support is based on a formula established by the Guam Child Support guidelines.  There are two sets of formulas: the first set is used when one parent has primary physical custody and the other is used when the parties equally share physical custody.  Even in cases where parents equally share physical custody, child support will be ordered if there is a disparity between the parents' income. Because child support is a right of the child and not the parent, parents cannot waive child support.  A judge will not grant either a divorce or a judgment for custody without a provision for child support.
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Custody/Visitation 
Custody usually becomes an issue under one of the following situations: 1) when a married parent with a child files for divorce, or 2) when a non-married parent files for custody of a child.  If the parents cannot agree between themselves on the custodial arrangement, a judge will determine both legal and physical custody.  Legal custody involves who will make major decisions on behalf of a minor.  These decisions include such matters as where a child will attend school, what religion the child will practice, and the authorization for medical treatment, etc.  Physical custody has to do with where the child will live.  Guam law favors joint legal and physical custody under most circumstances.  If the parents agree to other arrangements, or there are unusual circumstances, a judge may grant alternative custodial arrangements.
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Divorce for Current Guam Residents
There are few events more painful than a divorce.  Understandably, emotions run high.  Without careful legal guidance a spouse can make poor decisions that may have disastrous impact on the divorce proceedings and on his or her future.  I carefully counsel my clients about their rights and responsibilities and strongly encourage both sides to be reasonable as they work through the various issues.  This is especially important when children are involved.

There are three basic types of divorces: consent, default, and contested.  A consent divorce is possible only when both parties agree to all terms of the divorce and both are willing to sign all required documents.  A default divorce is used when the whereabouts of a spouse is unknown or s/he lives off island and does not enter an appearance to challenge the divorce.  A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree on all issues and they go to court to contest the divorce. Through a trial, the judge will decide all outstanding issues.  You will need to discuss the specifics of your case with me to determine which approach is appropriate for your situation.
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Guam 7-Day Residency Divorces
Under Guam law, married persons residing outside Guam can obtain a divorce on Guam if both spouses consent to obtaining a divorce on Guam and one of the spouses stays on the island for seven consecutive days.  Please note that this divorce is only available for consent divorces where both parties sign all the required documents.  My office will work with you to prepare the required documents and to make the necessary arrangements.
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Guardianship Over the Person of a Minor
The guardianship over the person of a minor involves a situation where someone other than the child's parents is granted custody of the child.  Although the petitioner is often a relative, any adult can be granted guardianship over a child.  A person who has guardianship over the person of a minor will make day-to-day decisions on behalf of the minor.  If both parents consent to the guardianship, the process can be quite quick.
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Guardianship Over the Estate of a Minor
If a minor should inherit money or property, be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, or the beneficiary to another source of money or income, the minor will need to have a guardian of his/her estate appointed by a judge.  Often times, the guardian will be a parent, but not necessarily so.  The guardian will be required to deposit the money in a financial institution until the minor turns 18, and is required to file an annual accounting of the funds with the Court.
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Guardian of an Adult
There are times when an adult, because of a physical or mental challenge, is no longer able to conduct her everyday affairs and is at risk of someone taking advantage of her.  In such instances, a guardian is appointed for the personand estate by a judge.  The guardian is responsible for protecting the person's finances, assisting the person in conducting day-to day financial matters, and ensuring that the person's medical/psychological needs are met.
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Living Will/Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare 
A living will is a document in which a person makes specific provisions for deathbed decisions, such as what measures can or cannot be taken to prolong life.  On the other hand, a durable power of attorney for healthcare covers all health care decisions and last only as long as a person is incapable of making decisions for himself.  Both these documents are usually prepared together.
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Name Changes
For a variety of reasons, a person may desire to change his/her name.  A name change can only be accomplished through a formal court procedure and the name change takes effect after a judge signs an Order for Name Change.  The entire procedure normally takes about two to three months.
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Paternity
Either the mother or the father can bring an action to determine the paternity of a child.  If the parties cooperate, court involvement may not be necessary.  Otherwise, a judge will order the parties and the child in question to undergo a paternity test.  Custody and child support will probably need to be determined as well. 
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Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is used when a person wishes to authorize someone else to do something for her.  This can be very specific, like cash a check at the bank, or very broad, like handle all financial matters on her behalf.  There is always a danger that a power of attorney can be misused, so choosing a trustworthy person to act on your behalf is very important.  I will help guide in making this choice and in deciding what kind of power of attorney best suits your needs.
 

Prenuptial Agreements
There are times when persons wishing to marry decide to enter into an agreement concerning their property prior to taking their marriage vows.   Because such an agreement often alters the usual manner property and debts are handled during a marriage, careful counseling is necessary.  I will provide clients with a worksheet that will help them make important decisions and discuss with them the consequences of their various choices.
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Restraining and Protective Orders
In some extreme circumstances a person will need to seek either a restraining or protective order against another person.  Protective orders are commonly used when family members are involved while restraining orders usually involve non-related persons.  With either procedure, a person is ordered to stay away from a specific person or persons and/or from specific places.
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Wills
Perhaps there is no greater gift you can give to your family than that of a Will.  You can save your family needless expense, heartache, and emotional stress by taking the time to have me work with you to draft a Will that meets your unique needs.  Many people put this matter off until it is too late.  Don't be one of them.  Protect your investments and your family - prepare a Will now!
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If you would you like more information about any of these services, please look at the main menu and click on the desired service.  I look forward to consulting with you in the near future. 

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