Recently in Child Custody Category

ACLU Scores Another Win for Same-Sex Marriage - Kidnapped Daughter Returns to Mother

Child-Abductions.jpgWisconsin's motto is "Forward" and same-sex couples took that motto to heart two weeks ago after a federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban, which voters had endorsed eight years ago. Gay couples quickly moved forward to secure their marriage licenses, much to the Attorney General's dismay.

ACLU Joins Fight to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Back in February, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Similar to appeals filed in other states, the suit claimed Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. The ACLU argued that the prohibition against gay marriage deprived couples of the legal protections that married, heterosexual couples enjoy.

In her 88-page decision, US District Judge Barbara Crabb said, "Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution." With this decision, 15 consecutive lower courts have now ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

You may recall that in Utah last winter, a similar situation arose. Soon after a federal court struck down its ban on gay marriage, 1300 same-sex couples got married over the course of the following 17 days. That particular case is still tied up in appeals.

Wisconsin Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has threatened to file a motion in federal courts to stay the order.

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Child Support Becomes Restitution for Murder - Halle Berry's Custody Battle Ends

Child-Support.jpgIowa seems to be proving that the incarceration of an ex-spouse with a life sentence won't liberate you from making child support payments.

In this case, the ex-spouse making the payments, Michael Roberts, won't exactly be paying for child support. Instead, the court wants to garnish his wages for the child support he owes and then pass the money along to the family of a murder victim for the restitution his ex-wife owes.

Child Support Garnishment Used for Restitution for Murder Victim's Family

Tracey Richter of Iowa is in prison for the 2001 killing of then 20-year-old Dustin Wehde. At the time of her trial, Tracey argued that she shot Dustin in self-defense to protect her children.

That's not with the jurors believed. They sided with the prosecution and agreed that Tracey shot Dustin to frame her first ex-husband, an Australian, and regain custody of her children.

The court has decided that Tracey doesn't need the child support that her ex-husband was ordered to pay. Instead, Michael's income will be garnished to help pay the $150,000 in restitution that Tracy owes Dustin's family.

Tracy has the right to repeal the decision. Meanwhile, Michael maintains that the initial order for child custody payments had always been unaffordable due to his financial vulnerability. He also rejects the notion that he should be responsible for paying for his ex-wife's crimes.

Stay tuned.

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Deportation Sparks Custody Battle

US_border_patrol.jpgSince its inception, the United States has welcomed immigrants from around the world so it's only natural that immigrant-related cases would find their way to a family law court.

Take the case of Ruby Maldonado-Morin, who married American-born Michael Daniels of Omaha. They married, Ruby gave birth to a son, and then the couple ended up in divorce court. Ruby, who enjoyed having primary custody of the child, eventually married a Mexican immigrant by the name of José Morin.

The triangle of parents worked amicably together for a while. Ruby and her second husband went on to enjoy the birth of two more children while Ruby shared custody of Deonte with Michael.

Can Divorced Parents Move Their Children Out of the Country?

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California Refuses Back Child Support to Woman Who Hid Children - Texas Outlaws Proxy Marriages

baby-child-support.jpgYou Can't Hide Your Children and Still Receive Child Support

Can an ex-wife who hid her children from their father collect child support even after the adult children are more than 30 years old?

That is exactly what Vladixa Boswell tried to do.

Boswell divorced her husband in 1985 when her daughter was five years old and her son was three. The court ordered her ex-husband, John, to pay $70 a month per child. He obeyed that order until Vladixa left California, changed the children's names, and failed to notify the ex-husband of their new address.

The ex-wife returned the 16-year-old son, John Jr., to the father when the daughter was already an adult in 1998. It wasn't until recently that Vladixa decided to sue her ex-husband for $92,735 in back child support.

The courts were probably appalled. A Ventura County judge, ruled in favor of the ex-husband. Vladixa appealed the decision but the California Court of Appeals concurred with the judge.

Vladixa was lucky that she wasn't fined for filing a frivolous appeal.

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Some Custody Battles Never Seem to End

images.jpgWhen is a custody battle finally over? For some couples, it's when the children turn 18. Take the case of the Shindells.

Ex-husband Roger Shindell felt annoyed with his ex-wife - Kimberly Shindell - for ignoring portions of the custody agreement they had negotiated in 2004. So he filed a motion with the court.

At that hearing, the district court determined that Kimberly was, in fact, in civil contempt of court for refusing to comply with that court's previous orders regarding the parents' rights to visitation and communication with their two daughters.

The Shindells had divorced in 2004 when Kimberly, who lived in Jackson, Wyoming, was granted primary residential custody of the two daughters. In addition, Roger received visitation and communications rights via the phone and the Internet/email.

In 2012, the father was living in Indiana and had remarried. After checking with the daughter's doctor, Kimberly decided the girls could not travel to Indiana because the father now had household that the older daughter was allergic to.

Although the father had the right to summer visitations, he was not able to see his daughters then either.

In August 2012, the father filed a motion for order to show cause why Kimberly should not be held in contempt of court. During that hearing, the mother explained that visiting the father would present a health risk for the older daughter.

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Bifurcated Divorce Proceedings and Parenting Plans

parenting-plan-calendar.jpgIf you were about to go to court over your divorce proceeding would you want your case bifurcated? In other words, would you want the division of assets separated from child custody issues?

In the case of Kathryn Brookfield Hoover and Richard Craig, the wife requested a jury trial but instead the court separated the issues. The first hearing related to the issue of child custody in a bench trial. At the end of that trial, the judge issued a court-ordered parenting plan that granted joint physical and legal custody of the children.

Two additional amended parenting plans were also issued.

The jury trial never began because Kathryn and Richard reached an amicable settlement about their assets. The final judgment and decree of divorce was entered February 14, 2013.

To Kathryn's surprise, the final judgment referenced the three orders relating to the parenting plan and stated the orders "are . . . incorporated herein and made a part of this Final Judgment and Decree."

Within thirty days, Kathryn filed an appeal on the custody issue but Richard filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted.

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Courts Argue over the Rights of a De Facto Father

mediationdv.jpgWhat happens when a woman involved in an intermittent relationship over the course of eight years becomes pregnant?

In the case of Amanda Moore and Matthew Pitts, the boyfriend filed a complaint in 2011 seeking parental rights and responsibilities for the child, who was by then nearly three years old. Matthew succeeded, even after a pregnancy test proved he was not the biological father, to be designated as a de facto parent.

Amanda filed an appeal to remove Matthew's de facto parenthood and to recognize Eric B. Hague as the father. A paternity test determined that Eric, with whom Amanda dated for a few months in 2008, was the biological child.

Amanda also asserted that Matthew's role in her son's life had been short, inconsistent and devoid of caretaking.

At the time of the appeal, Eric was on active duty in the military and lived in Wisconsin with this wife, son and two stepchildren. In court, Eric testified that he and Amanda wanted the child to recognize him as his true father.

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Older Couples Have a Higher Rate of Divorce

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for divorcecakeFayMillar2.jpgNew studies indicate that the social scientists who read data on marriage and divorce rates have been studying the wrong data.

According to the Minnesota Population Center, it turns out that more people are splitting up these days, not fewer.

One-In-Two Marriages Do Not Fail

Who hasn't heard the statistic that one-in-two marriages fail? Well that proclamation, as it turns out, was based on shaky data. In recent years, we were also told that after divorces peaked in the 80s, the divorce rate has been steadily dropping.

That's not true either.

The American Community Survey - an ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year - started asking divorce questions six years ago, and the data gives little to no cause to celebrate.

It seems that the divorce rate is higher than previously estimated, especially among older people. Among younger couples, marriages tend to be more stable.

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Are Your Unvested Retirement Benefits Community Property?

US-Army-retired-logo.jpgAre unvested military retirement benefits considered community property?

That's the question a trial court dealt with in the divorce case of Daniel v. Daniel. In this case, Christen and Sean Daniel had married in 1995 and had three children. Just prior to marrying, Sean enlisted in the National Guard and at the time of his divorce, he had served 16 years and had reenlisted for an additional six years.

The parties handled all areas of their dissolution amicably except for the military pension. In court, a judge concluded, "Ohio law does not permit the court to divide a non-vested pension benefit."

The plaintiff argued that her ex-husband had reenlisted and would, therefore, be automatically vested by the time he ended his new commitment. Despite her argument, the court of appeals in Ohio affirmed the trial court's decision.

However, there was a lone dissent opinion issued. The dissenting justice argued the potential military pension was the only marital asset the parties had. Furthermore, while the other justices asserted that a valuation of the plan was necessary to make a decision, the dissenting justice disagreed with that conclusion.

Emboldened by the dissenting justice, Christen Daniel appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justices agreed with Christen Daniel. They even suggested that the parties follow this formula for dividing the benefits: the number of years in service compared to the number of years of marriage.

In explaining their decision, the justices wrote that the starting point in any divorce is the equal division of marital property. Furthermore, it noted that the statute the appellate court had relied on did not distinguish between vested or unvested retirement benefits. The justices remanded the case back to the trial court.

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Offsetting the High Cost of Adoption

adoption.jpgLast week I discussed the unexpected political issues that nearly derailed the adoption of four children from the Ukraine (International Politics Can Affect Your Foreign Adoption). This week I'll explain how you can offset some of the expenses involved in adoption.

First, let's review some of the costs associated with private adoptions whether you use a private adoption agency or find a surrogate. These costs can include:

  • A home study
  • Post-placement supervision
  • Orientation meetings
  • Case management services
  • Prenatal medical care
  • Delivery and hospital costs
  • Living expenses provided during pregnancy, including housing, transportation, food, and maternity clothing
  • Physical examinations by a pediatrician
  • Legal expenses
  • Termination of parental rights, including publications, court costs, attorney fees
  • Finalization of adoption
  • Diligent search for birth fathers
Total costs for adoption can range from $10,000 to $40,000 or higher depending on if you decide to adopt a child from this country or you elect to have a foreign adoption.

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International Politics Can Affect Your Foreign Adoption

adoptions.jpgAn Alabama family was on the verge of completing their dream - to bring four adopted children to the U.S. from the Ukraine - when violent protests broke out.

The conflict intensified and then soon after the Olympics ended, Russia invaded the peninsula of Crimea, which until last week's vote belonged to Ukraine.

The adoption of three of the children was processed smoothly, but Lisa Bundy needed to remain in the Ukraine until she could secure final approval to leave Ukraine with her fourth child.

According to CBS News, the Montgomery, Alabama couple decided a year ago to adopt the children, Nastia, Karina, Max and Alla. The couple arrived in Kiev last November and anticipated leaving quickly until the protests began and delayed their plans.

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Northern California Man Fakes Bankruptcy to Avoid Child Support

shutterstock_41419909.jpgDo judges take child support seriously? Oh, yeah.

Take the case of a businessman from Northern California who declared bankruptcy and hid assets just to avoid paying child support and alimony.

Steven K. Zinnel and his wife split up in 1999 and a contentious divorce ensued. He declared bankruptcy and it was finalized in 2005. He wasn't really bankrupt; he had moved his assets to shell companies in order to reduce his child support obligations.

The courts don't look lightly on people who hide assets, try to file bankruptcy, and attempt to avoid support payments. In fact, this particular father received a prison sentence of 17 years. In addition, he must pay a $500,000 fine and forfeit assets worth more than $2.8 million.

Call to FBI Leads to Arrest of Zinnel

Zinnel's problems began soon after he contacted the FBI and asked an agent to investigate his ex-wife for trying to get illegal access to his private health insurance information. When the FBI heard his ex-wife's side of the story, they became more interested in Zinnel's bankruptcy than her alleged offense.

The FBI discovered that Zinnel had laundered funds through a company owned by his attorney Derian Eidson. He and Eidson had set up a trust account through which he could essentially launder money from an investment in an electrical firm and some real estate. Furthermore, prosecutors discovered that Zinnel had placed much of his property in other people's names before and after his 2005 bankruptcy.

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The Long Battle of Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

scotus-gay-marriage.jpgLast week, the state of Arizona dominated the news. The state Legislature there passed SB 1062, which would have allowed people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense for discrimination against gays and lesbians.

After a public maelstrom of objections that emanated from both political parties, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the Republican bill last Wednesday.

State Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican running for governor in Arizona and who voted for the bill, was quoted as saying, "... it is a sad day when protecting liberty is considered controversial."

Arizona's History with Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In 1996, Arizona's legislature banned same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Eight years later the state's voters took another step toward preventing gay marriages in their state: They approved Proposition 102, which limited marriage to only a union of one man and one woman.

Despite the government's tough stand, a 2003 poll found that 53% of Arizonans supported same-sex civil unions, though 54% oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Last month, four same-sex couples filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking to have Arizona's definition of marriage ruled unconstitutional. The couples' complaint argues that the federal courts must declare Arizona's definition of marriage as unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court ruling last year. A rule has yet to be issued.

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Child Abuse Allegations Fuel Custody Battle

February 25, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

parental-alienation-270.jpgA child custody battle has been brewing in Maine for the past six years.

The battle began when the parents of "M.M." divorced in 2008 and the mother received primary custody of the child with parents equally sharing parental rights.

Unhappy with that decision, the father later sought custody, and a district court awarded him sole parental rights but noted that the mother had the right to frequent visitation.

The custody struggle was far from over.

Petitioners Allege Child Abuse Against the Father

In 2013, four petitioners who were unrelated to the child - the mother's investigator and three private citizens who had no legal or familial relationship to the child - filed a petition for a child protection order and alleged the father abused M.M. The petitioners also sought a preliminary protection order granting custody to the mother.

A preliminary protective order can be issued upon the filing of a petition provided the request is supported by an affidavit or sworn testimony before a judge.

The petitioners provided the court with documented incidents of child abuse, including evidence that the father had assaulted the child's head with a metal pan, physically abused his second wife, and was unwilling to allow the mother to visit her child.

The court dismissed the petition and denied their request. The judge determined that the petitioners lacked legal standing and that the claims asserted by the petitioners were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Res judicata is Latin for "a matter already judged."

Displeased with that decision, the petitioners appealed to the State Supreme Court.

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Paternal Grandfather Tries to Usurp Mother's Custody Rights

February 18, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Grandparents.jpgChild custody cases can take unusual turns. You win your child custody battle and feel secure until something occurs that turns your world upside down. That's exactly what happened in this case to the mother of an autistic child.

The mother, while living in Ohio, received sole custody of her daughter in 2009. Sometime thereafter, she and her daughter moved to Arizona.

In 2012, the mother made plans to travel temporarily to Ohio and left her daughter with the maternal grandmother. While the mother was out of state, the child's paternal grandfather filed a motion for emergency temporary custody of the child in Ohio, which the juvenile court granted.

Upon learning this, the mother filed a complaint for a writ of prohibition. She contended that the Ohio court lacked jurisdiction because she and the child were residents of Arizona.

The Ohio Court of Appeals dismissed the mother's complaint. It reasoned that the juvenile court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and that the mother had an adequate remedy by way of appeal if the juvenile court erred in its rulings.

While all of these court cases proceeded, the paternal grandfather retained custody of the child.

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