Lawyer Suzannah Gambell | Featured Attorney Child Custody

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Losing Children By Default

In the legal world, the word “default” is dirty.  It’s what happens when someone has totally dropped the ball.  After being served with a complaint for divorce, a petition for paternity, or a petition to modify child custody, visitation, or child support, and after the other party was told that they had 20 days to respond, the other party did…NOTHING.  They ignored the 20 days to respond and did nothing, or if they did something, it surely wasn’t what they were supposed to do.  You might ask, “what happens now?”  Well, in non-legal terms, the person who screwed up gets screwed.  The party who didn’t screwed up ordinarily gets exactly what they were asking for.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  It should.  When children are involved, it is terrifying.  A parent’s worst nightmare.  Imagine a child who has been living with one parent for years, suddenly being ordered to live with another parent they barely know, because the parent who has been raising the child failed to respond.  Or worse yet, imagine an abusive parent suddenly being awarded custody of an abused child because the non-abusive parent didn’t respond.  Surely that doesn’t actually happen, does it?  Don’t fool yourself.  It happens.  It happens in Wyoming.

I have had parents call me after they have received a default judgment against them.  They are sobbing, hysterical, and horrified that they have just lost their children.  Sometimes they tell me they have talked to another attorney, or someone they know, and have been told there’s really not much that can be done.  Often there are reasons given as to why they did not respond within twenty days.  They had been talking with the other parent and believed they were working things out.  They had talked to the other parent’s attorney and believed they were working things out.  They were confused as to how to correctly respond. 

If you are reading this and you have lost a child by default, I urge you to contact an attorney immediately, whether that is me or someone else.  Call an attorney and ask for help.  If the attorney you talk to says they can’t help you, call me, or call another attorney for a second opinion.  Default is scary, but it is not necessarily impossible to overcome.  But the passage of time from when default is entered can make a difference.  The faster it is addressed, the better the chances are to fix it.

In cases that don’t involve a child, a default judgment is difficult to overcome.  If child custody is involved, however, Wyoming courts do not prefer default judgments.  Relief in these situations can be granted.  This is not an easy road to have to go down, but travel the road if you must, with some help.   Because children should not be lost by default.

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If You Better Call Saul, Don't Call Me.

As I have been practicing law privately, I have repeatedly had questions presented to me, and requests made from me that have caught me off guard.  I have been asked to commit blackmail.  I have been asked how to hide money.  I have been asked how to hide property.  And then there are the requests that at least aren’t criminal in nature, but are still at the very least, unethical, in order to “win.”  It usually starts with a phrase like, “can’t I just…?” and ends with me saying, "No."

It has made me think.  Why do so many people think I can help them with these requests?  As an attorney, I can advise people how to do things in a legal manner, which I am most happy to do.  So why do people think as a lawyer I am there to help advise how to do things the “wrong” way and get away with it?  There are probably many answers to this, and I don’t like to just point blame here, but I am fairly sure of at least one reason behind this, which is how lawyers are typically portrayed to the public.

Several months ago, a family member from back East commented on how she liked the pictures of my office, and how it looked like it was “right out of Breaking Bad.”  Having heard of the television series, Breaking Bad, but not even having cable as most current television does not hold my interest (just the thought of reality TV makes me a bit nauseous), I had to google the show to find out what the similarity was.  After looking, I decided her reference was to my office looking “western,” and similar to some of the buildings in the show, which is based in New Mexico.

After this bit of research, my significant other and I decided to give the series a try via Netflix.  And, joining millions of other Americans, we became hooked.  Of the various characters – most of which I hated more often than I liked – one repeatedly made me think.  Saul Goodman.  A late night commercial shows a lawyer with greasy, slicked hair and a flashy, cheap suit speaking to the camera.  He tells his future clients that when they are facing criminal charges he will save them, and how they “Better Call Saul!”  Just the name “Saul Goodman” oozes irony.  He is a fantastic character for the show.

Truthfully, and sadly, Saul is the epitome of what most Americans believe lawyers are.  He is sleazy.  He is out for money and little else.  The list of what he will do for money is unending, short of him “doing the deed” himself.  When his clients need help laundering money, they call Saul.  When his clients need help finding a business “front” for a major methamphetamine operation, they call Saul.  When his clients need to hide evidence, they call Saul.  When his clients need a hitman, they call Saul.  And you know what?  Saul delivers.  Every single time. 

The concept seems so enticing, doesn’t it?  All you have to do is call a lawyer and they can solve all your problems, no matter how bad they are. 

But here’s the problem with a fictional TV show that some of the general public doesn’t put together, at least until the final episodes, when Saul is having to “disappear” from the feds himself.  Saul is a criminal. 

As an attorney, I am an officer of the court, and a member of the Wyoming Bar.  The Wyoming Bar requires that all members follow an ethical code.  Part of this code requires that I not take part in criminal or other questionable activity for clients or anyone else.

I am sure there are some lawyers out there that would do things similar to Saul for money.  Like any other profession, there are going to be criminals amidst those following the law. 

I am not one of them.  I will not become one for you.  Life behind bars isn’t a life I have any interest in pursuing for any amount of money.  So please don’t ask me to help you with certain things.  If you want to know how to do things the legal way, please call me, I am happy to help if I can.  

But…

If you better call Saul, don’t call me.

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Child Visitation Denied

I am sad to say how common I have already found this problem to be.  I am not talking about an occasional missed visit, or showing up late, missed phone calls, or even missing an entire summer visit.  I am talking about absolute, complete denial of visitation.  Nothing.  And this does not just apply to fathers, it happens with mothers too.  It is a roller coaster of emotions, lost time, and torn relationships.  

There are many reasons why something like this happens.  Perhaps no one ever initially went to court because they didn't have the money, they lacked the knowledge of how, or they tried and didn't have legal counsel that adequately helped.  Perhaps there was a court order and the custodial parent is just refusing to abide by it.  Perhaps the non-custodial parent has gotten lost in back child support and the custodial parent is threatening them as a result.  Perhaps there was a domestic violence situation and the abuser took the children and the other parent is terrified of what will happen to them and to the children if they fight.  There are hundreds of reasons why.

For parents that have child visitation denied (as with any parent), time is of the essence.  Time is precious.  For many reasons.  If a child does not have access to a parent until they are a teenager, building a relationship that has not existed for years (or perhaps ever) may never be possible.  Even losing out on six months with a young child can completely alter the relationship.  There are lost birthdays, holidays, "first" moments...lost memories that can never be replaced and create a constant state of mourning and pain.

This type of situation can seem like the highest mountain peak glaring down on the parent who has been denied access to the child; a constant shadow that refuses to move to give the smallest glimpse of sunlight.  For a parent contemplating separating from another, it is their worst nightmare scenario of what might happen if they go through with the separation or divorce.  

Light does exist.  I fully believe that it exists in the judicial process.  But in order to see this light, those parents who are standing in the mountain's shadow must step forward.  I am not here to say this type of scenario isn't a battle, and I'm not here to say it can always be won.  It is a fight.  It can be a long, hard, expensive battle, and even if won temporarily, it may continue to be a battle until the child is an adult.  But there is light to see if the parent is brave enough to take that step out of the shadow.  

For readers struggling in this situation, contact me.  My information is in the "Contact" section of my website.  As I always tell everyone, I cannot make promises. I am not a magician and I cannot always fix everything.  But these are cases I care about. These are cases that make me remember why the justice system is important.  These are cases that remind me why I am a lawyer.

 

 

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Gambell Law, P.C. Logo

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Gambell Law, P.C. Logo

Gambell Law, P.C.'s logo has been created.  If you are on the Gambell Law website, you will see it now in the top left hand corner of your screen (I know...it's very small...the website doesn't let me make it any bigger...but if you are on a smart phone, you can zoom in to look at it in more detail).  Some of you will love it.  Some of you will hate it.  It has been a hotly debated topic especially among attorneys I have shown it to, with half of those who looked at it being very much against it, and half of those being very much for it.  The topic of debate was 95% aimed at the "e" in Gambell, which if you look closely, is of a bulldog sitting down.  In the world of attorneys, we by nature gravitate towards that which appears "professional."  We wear suits.  We read books.  We do our best to make shades of grey black and white.  Incorporating a bulldog into a logo is not what historically would be considered to fall within "professional" standards, and would be (and WILL be) frowned upon.  However, after debating, stressing, worrying, and fretting for months about it, I have decided to move forward with the concept as it has been created.  And the reason behind it is this: Gambell Law was not created to be like any other law firm, or any other historical notion of what is considered "professional."  I believe the old notion of "professional" attorneys is severely lacking in today's world.  Attorneys are currently viewed as uncaring, egotistical, untrustworthy, only in the profession for themselves, and quite frankly, boring.  We are by many a hated lot.  As I began working on opening the office I had a concept in mind: a family lawyer in today's world should be different.  They should care about their clients.  They should be willing to listen, even if they can't fix everything.  They should have an office that puts clients at ease, not further stresses them out...when I was decorating the office the thought in mind was that it should have the atmosphere of a relaxing spa, not a harsh doctor's (or lawyer's) office.  The bulldog logo is not going to please everyone.  But it is different.  It is fun.  And it is me.  Introducing:  Gambell Law, P.C.

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