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Gay Adoption Battle Continues to Brew in Alabama and the Problem with SwanLuv

January 26, 2016, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Swan.jpgAn Alabama Supreme Court made a huge mistake. The court refused to recognize parental rights to a lesbian woman who had already adopted the children in a neighboring state.

In fact, the woman at the center of this case, V.L, adopted the children in 2007 during a 17-year relationship with her partner, E.L., and had even changed her last name to match her partner's surname.

Here's the full story. Now that gay marriage can take place in the United States, some of the remaining issues have yet to be ironed out, such as family law matters.

So far, more than 20 states have allowed gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. In the case of the Alabama woman, she had already adopted three children her former partner had given birth to. Those children are now 13 and 11-year-old twins.

After seventeen years together, the women separated. For some time, V.L. continued to visit the children until E.L. decided to prevent access to the kids. That's when V.L. asked the Alabama Court to honor the adoption judgment that V.L. had obtained in Georgia.

The Alabama court responded by asserting that Georgia had violated its state laws when it allowed V.L. to adopt the three children. The Alabama court also noted that to allow V.L. to adopt the children, George should have forced E.L., V.L.'s partner, to relinquish her parental rights.

The Alabama court even went further and asserted that V.L. didn't deserve visitation with the children she had already been raising.

V.L. appealed the Alabama Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which blocked the Alabama court from denying parental rights to V.L.

Continue reading "Gay Adoption Battle Continues to Brew in Alabama and the Problem with SwanLuv" »

Same-sex equality in the courts takes another step forward

December 22, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

14th-amendment.jpgThe fight for same-sex equality in the arena of family law recently took a giant step forward.

A Utah judge who earlier decided to remove a foster baby from its same-sex foster parents decided to amend his decision and return the child to its original foster parents.

In his initial decision, the judge based his decision to remove the child from the same-sex, married couple based on research that, "has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home ...."

Did the judge have a change of heart or did he react to adverse publicity and criticism about his initial ruling? Some have surmised that the judge might have been concerned that his earlier ruling would be construed as a decision based on religion rather than an application of the law.

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, the couple involved in this case, had been legally for a year and had passed all of the inspections, background checks and interviews required by the division of family services. As such, their status as a lesbian, same-sex couple was no surprise to family services.

It was, in fact, the child services division who filed a motion asking the judge to stay his order. The family services division even went so far as to threaten a formal appeal.

Continue reading "Same-sex equality in the courts takes another step forward" »

Father and Son Fight for the Right to Marry

December 1, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

635824401793519435-948903896_just-married-jpg.jpgI know what you're thinking: "Now I've heard everything." Am I right?

Well, keep reading because the headlines in this story don't depict the unusual circumstances of this case.

The father and son are gay men who are unrelated by blood. These are the not so unusual facts in this case.

Adoptions Were Fairly Common Before Decision Allowing Gay Marriage

Before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage, Nino Esposito adopted his partner Roland Drew Bosee so they could become a family unit with all the benefits laws provide.

In addition, at the time of the adoption Esposito and Bosee sought to reduce Pennsylvania's inheritance tax payable upon the death of one of the men from 15% to 4%.

At the time of the adoption, they'd been a couple for more than 40 years - clearly longer than numerous heterosexual couples manage to stay together.

After the Supreme Court's decision, the two men began to rethink their decision. Why live as father and son when they could more correctly live as a married couple?

Continue reading "Father and Son Fight for the Right to Marry" »

In Hollywood Divorces, the Stakes Are Much Higher - But the Issues Are the Same

November 24, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

divorce_1976996c.jpgWe can learn a great deal from Hollywood stars who divorce and continue to dispute their settlements years later.

When you stop and think about it, the only difference between their divorce and your divorce is the amount of money involved. Otherwise, they endure the same court battles, and custody and support disputes.

Empire Star Terrence Howard Disputes Divorce Settlement Terms

Take the divorce case of Empire star Terrence Howard as an example.

He and his lawyer recently convinced a California family court judge to overturn a 2012 divorce agreement that would have entitled his ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, to a healthy share of Howard's earnings.

The initial divorce settlement gave Ghent several of the couple's bank accounts as well as a portion of all of his income.

Considering that Howard has a hit series on Fox, her portion would have been sizeable.

In the recent proceedings, Superior Court Judge Thomas Trent Lewis agreed with Howard, who successfully argued that Ghent had bribed him into signing the 2012 divorce agreement that was in question.

Back in 2012, Ghent had warned Howard that if he didn't sign the divorce agreement, she would reveal private details about the actor, including sex recordings and a video of him nude.

Howard explained to the court that he submitted to her bribe only because he believed the release of the items in Ghent's possession would have damaged his career.

Continue reading "In Hollywood Divorces, the Stakes Are Much Higher - But the Issues Are the Same" »

Spousal and Child Support in California - What Every Parent Should Know

November 10, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

index.jpgHow long does a couple need to be married for the court, during a divorce, to award spousal support?

California Law on Spousal Support

Well, let's first look at what the law says. California law (Family Code Section 4336(a)) says that where marriage is "of long duration," the court "retains jurisdiction."

Not very clear, is it?

If a marriage lasts less than ten years, spousal support may be available for five years.

If a marriage lasts longer than ten years, the continuation of spousal support may be indefinite.

However, there are still variables that can change the outcome.

Continue reading "Spousal and Child Support in California - What Every Parent Should Know" »

Hollywood Stars, Prenups and Divorce: A Common Recipe

October 6, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

n_24wed.jpgWhen you earn $28.5 million a year a prenuptial agreement is practically mandatory, especially when one party is a Hollywood star.

While Kaley Cuoco, the well-paid actress of Big Bang Theory, may not be pleased that her marriage fell apart after just 21 months, she must be relieved she took that extra step and filed a prenup.

For all we know, her former partner, tennis player Ryan Sweeting, might benefit from it as well.

It's reported that the details of their agreement included alimony provisions, which can be typical. What I do know is that the details included in prenups vary.

Unusual to Zany Prenup Provisions

Some of the most interesting contracts have included provisions for:

  1. Mutually owned pets.
  2. Coveted gardeners and babysitters.
  3. Responsibilities for such duties as dusting, dishes, and other domestic chores.
  4. Infidelity clauses.
  5. Protecting time to watch football with friends.
  6. Trim waists.
  7. Restrictions on work hours. After all, some people don't want to be married to a workaholic.
  8. Restricting drug and alcohol use.
  9. Sex, such as how often a couple should engage in sexual relations - and related issues.
  10. Not playing the piano while one spouse was home.
  11. Hair, such as the case where the wife was not allowed to cut her hair.
  12. Fines for being rude to a spouse's parents.
  13. Payment for being pregnant

Continue reading "Hollywood Stars, Prenups and Divorce: A Common Recipe" »

Divorce Spikes This Summer and Tennessee Allows Same-Sex Divorce

September 8, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Divorce_by_timpura.jpgEven Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog parted ways. Other notables include:

  1. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert
  2. Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstone
  3. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner
  4. Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale
  5. Donald and Shelly Sterling (okay, they're not celebrities but he did own the Clippers)
There were rumors about Will Smith and Jada Pickett but the actor set the record straight on Twitter, ending the message emphatically with "NOT GETTING A DIVORCE!!!!!!!! :-)"

What You Can Learn from the Spike in Divorces

What can the rest of us learn from this summer trend? A couple of things.

  1. Have you ever asked a couple who's been married for 50 years what the secret to their longevity is? I have. They'll tell you this, "It takes work." Relationships involve compromise, surviving the bad times, and working through the sticky times. Of course, they also involve a lot of fun, commitment, and wonderful memories.
  2. Narcissists do successfully marry but even if you're a narcissist, in a marriage you need to put your spouse and children first. That doesn't mean you won't spend a lot of evenings at the office working. It does mean that you'll allocate plenty of quality time for the things in life that truly matter: your spouse and your kids

Continue reading "Divorce Spikes This Summer and Tennessee Allows Same-Sex Divorce" »

Are you legally "separated" if you're still living together?

Date-of-Seperation-400x230.pngHow might a court divide community property from separate property while a couple considers themselves separated yet continue to live together?

That's the question the Supreme Court of California had to resolve recently. And to answer this question the attorneys felt it was necessary to explain where their clients had been sleeping.

The case isn't as tawdry as it sounds at first blush.

First Comes Marriage, then the Babies and then ... Divorce

After conceiving their second child in 1999, Sheryl Jones Davis and Keith Xavier Davis stopped being sexually intimate and began sleeping in separate bedrooms.

The spouses took separate vacations on occasions, traveled separately to their children's events, and took care of their own laundry.

Their next step was to handle their finances separately. By 2001, Keith had started a business and opened his own account. Two years later, Sheryl reactivated a separate bank account for her expenses.

Together, they handled routine household expenses.

It was in 2006 that Sheryl formally announced to her spouse that the marriage was over and presented a ledger to him itemizing their household expenses. She proposed that they split certain expenses evenly.

Sheryl went so far as to remove Keith from her credit cards. By July of 2006, she was working full-time and earning a sizeable income. Several months later, Keith left his job.

During this time, they celebrated holidays and birthdays together with the children and seemed to present a unified front for their kids.

Continue reading "Are you legally "separated" if you're still living together?" »

The Next Frontier: The Right to Divorce for Same-Sex Couples

14th-amendment.jpgIt wasn't long after the U.S Supreme Court voted in favor of same-sex marriage throughout the country that a similar battle brewed in Texas: the right to divorce.

Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, both from Texas, married in 2004 in the state of Massachusetts.

The union didn't last long.

Same-Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in the Lone-Star State

Just a few years later, Naylor filed for divorce. It was complicated not just because they were gay but because they were raising a child and operating a business together.

Had they continued to live in Massachusetts, securing a divorce would have been easy. But they were from Texas and the state's position at the time was that there could only be a marital union between a man and a woman. Since same-sex marriage wasn't legal, women couldn't be divorced.

Ironically, it was Daly who argued the position that divorce was impossible.

The state court granted the divorce noting that the record stipulated that the judgment "is intended to be a substitute for . . . a valid and subsisting divorce," and "is intended to dispose of all economic issues and liabilities as between the parties whether they [are] divorced or not."

Attorney General's Office Steps In

Continue reading "The Next Frontier: The Right to Divorce for Same-Sex Couples" »

Romantic Proposal Turns into Harassment Charges Between Former Lovers

divorce.jpgIt's amazing how quickly a romantic marriage proposal aboard a loved one's yacht can sink into a morass of reprisals these days.

What caused the dramatic turn of events in this seemingly storybook tale of two star-crossed lovers?

I can answer that question with just one eight-letter word: Facebook.

The nasty voicemail messages didn't help either.

Storybook Marriage Ends in Bitter Divorce

After the proposal, the couple married, moved to a home worth $2 million and had two children.

It was as much a fairytale affair as any story you'd find in a book. The thrill lasted just three years.

Several years following the dramatic proposal, Max Walker filed a restraining order against Rebecca Vowles for calling him a fraudster - among other monikers - on Facebook.

Rebecca also pleaded guilty to harassment for her social media posts and nasty voicemail messages.

In a series of voicemail messages, Rebecca had accused her husband of foul play and questioned his parenting skills. She also accused her husband and his business partner of misdeeds and called Max a lying scumbag.

Her recriminations didn't stop there. She called him more names and made additional accusations against him on the phone.

Then she turned up the volume on her verbal assaults and continued her rants on Facebook.

Continue reading "Romantic Proposal Turns into Harassment Charges Between Former Lovers" »

Gay Couples Battle on in Texas and Louisiana

gay_marriage2.jpgThe latest Gallup poll indicates that 60% of Americans believe that the law should allow marriage between gay couples.

Obviously, there has been a huge political shift in this country. Back in 1996, the Gallup poll reported that 68% of respondents were against same-sex marriage.

When you break down the numbers by party affiliation, 37% of Republicans, 64% of independents, and 76% of Democrats endorse same-sex marriage.

Texas and Louisiana Struggle with Gay Rights

Recent events tell us that apparently the majority of people who support same-sex marriage do not live in Texas or Louisiana.

In fact, the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, recently attempted to "protect" those citizens who don't support gay marriage.

Some suspect the executive order was merely a political device. Jindal issued the order soon after similar legislation failed.

Under state law, executive orders expire after the legislative session next year when Jindal will no longer be governor.

Jindal couched the order as a religious freedom referendum. The governor was quoted as saying, "We don't support discrimination in Louisiana, and we do support religious liberty."

Continue reading "Gay Couples Battle on in Texas and Louisiana" »

Custody Battle: Fighting The Ex-Husband from Hell

bigstock-Tough-7278255.jpgThere are custody disputes, and then there are all-out custody wars.

That was the case when Richard Rifkin and Kimberly Dawn Carty decided to divorce.

As they took their battle to family law court in three counties (Marin, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), the father made multiple accusations against Carty - while mostly representing himself in court.

After a Marin County trial judge had heard numerous complaints and allegations about the mother from the ex-husband, the judge had enough of the father. The judge ordered the father to pay a portion of his ex-wife's attorney's fees, declared the father a vexatious litigant, and prohibited the father from filing new litigation without representation from an attorney.

A vexatious litigant is someone who brings meritless legal actions against another person for the sole purpose of harassing an adversary.

Continue reading "Custody Battle: Fighting The Ex-Husband from Hell" »

A Tale of Two Mothers Fighting for Custody and Safety

main-events-tale-of-two-cities_bc.jpgIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times for these two mothers. If you are active on Twitter or Facebook, you've probably seen this popular hashtag #StandWithNanHui.

#StandWithNanHui Case Draws Attention to Domestic Violence

Nan-Hui Jo isn't a celebrity. She is a mother who fled to South Korea with her daughter to escape what she described as emotional and physical abuse by her former partner and her daughter's father.

Jo's former partner, Jesse Charlton, has admitted to grabbing the woman by her throat and tossing her against a wall.

Despite that assertion, a California jury decided the mother was guilty of child abduction.

The judge has delayed sentencing until April 1. However, it's possible that the mother will be convicted and deported. In that case, the child would return to her biological father, Charlton.

Several groups, including Asian-American, domestic violence, and immigration advocates have rallied in support of the mother and recently organized a rally at the San Francisco Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Order Protection.

No one knows what the outcome will be until the judge rules on April 1.

Continue reading "A Tale of Two Mothers Fighting for Custody and Safety" »

Are You Sure You Don't Need a Divorce Lawyer?

justice_onpage.jpgAre you thinking about leaving your spouse but fear that you can't afford a divorce?

There are resources that you can access that can help you reduce your costs.

Resources for Divorces

To find court forms, courthouse information and to run financial calculations, you can get started with California's Judicial Council Forms. You will find divorce and legal separation forms there.

If you are intent on handling your divorce without a lawyer, you will also need to familiarize yourself with California Family Code, Code of Civil Procedure, California Rules of Court, and local rules of court for your county. You will find some of this information on Findlaw's website for attorneys.

In addition, there is a California Self Help website with information and instructions to help with contested and uncontested matters.

The California Department of Child Support Services includes a Guideline Child Support Calculator to help you determine child support obligations.

Furthermore, if you'd like to educate yourself about your divorce while using a family law attorney, the State Bar of California publishes online recordings of continuing legal education programs.

A special program called CourtCall is a service allowing lawyers, parties and sometimes witnesses to appear via telephone instead of in person at the courthouse.

Are you trying to determine the value of your home? Zillow and Trulia are websites that can help to accomplish this task.

Of course, to determine the value of your vehicles you can always use Kelly Blue Book, which also has a website.

Continue reading "Are You Sure You Don't Need a Divorce Lawyer?" »

Can a Prenuptial Agreement Be Overturned? I Have the Answer

premarital-agreement.jpgDid you hire an attorney to draw up a premarital agreement to protect your assets?

There are instances in which a court can overturn a prenuptial agreement. So be sure to read my suggestions at the end of this article.

There have been cases when an ex-spouse will claim the agreement should be invalidated because he or she signed it under duress.

Take the case of Rasheed Wallace, the former Piston and New York Knicks basketball player, whose combined assets and investments are estimated at $75 million.

That's a lot of money, right?

The Story of Rasheed and Fatima Wallace

Here's the story. Rasheed and his wife Fatima married when he was playing with the Portland Trail Blazers. Since then, he has played for other teams as well.

Eventually, he was traded to the Detroit Pistons and then worked with the team as an assistant coach until last year. Fatima moved there when he was still a player and remains there with the couple's two children - now 10 and 17 - in a 19,000 square-foot house.

The spouses filed for divorce in 2013, and they settled their case. However, Fatima isn't happy with the settlement. Fatima claims that the premarital agreement she signed was "procured by fraud."

Fatima now believes her ex-husband misrepresented his finances and that her ex-husband's attorney had been her counsel. She seeks a more even distribution of his estate.

Continue reading "Can a Prenuptial Agreement Be Overturned? I Have the Answer" »