Recently in Child Custody Category

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" »

What Will Happen to these Frozen Embryos in Landmark Case?

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

Test-Tube-Baby.jpgIf you've had fertility issues in your marriage, you will appreciate this story.

Pianist and part-time anesthesiologist Mimi Lee married Stephen Findley, reportedly a wealthy executive, five years ago.

Right before the wedding, Mimi was diagnosed with breast cancer, so she cautiously took the step to have her eggs and her new husband's sperm used to create and freeze five embryos.

At the time, Mimi signed a consent form allowing the destruction of the embryos in the event of a divorce. However, if the husband were to die the embryos would not be destroyed and would instead go to Mimi.

Now that Mimi and Stephen are divorced, they are contesting the fate of those frozen embryos.

Mimi sees the embryos as her only chance to have children. Stephen, on the other hand, doesn't want to see the embryos develop become children because of his now contentious relationship with Mimi. He said he didn't want to spend the next 18 years of his life interacting with his ex-wife.

Yes, the embryos are in the middle of a custody battle.

Continue reading "What Will Happen to these Frozen Embryos in Landmark Case?" »

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?" »

Would You Flee to Mexico to Avoid Your Ex-Inlaws? This Mother Did

grandparents-custody-rights.jpgHow carefully have you reviewed the family law court order in your divorce?

When Jennifer Lopez met and decided to marry George DeJongh, she had three children.

But this isn't a story about Jennifer and George. No, this post is about the children's paternal grandparents, Gary and Cathleen Miller. You see the children's father was Brian Miller.

Mother Ignores Divorce Decree

Jennifer and Brian had divorced in 2007, and their settlement agreement included these provisions:

  • Jennifer and Brian would share joint custody.
  • Neither party would move out of Los Angeles County without the consent of the other ex-spouse.
  • Jennifer would allow her children to visit with Brian Miller's parents for "extended" visits. Those visits would initially include a reunification counselor and take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, at least initially. Then there would be a hearing in 2008 to review the grandparents' progress in reunifying with the children
Instead of complying with the provision for the grandparents' visitation schedule, Jennifer took the children to Mexico. The FBI became involved in their disappearance and in August of 2011, Mexican authorities released Jennifer and the children to the Millers at the US/Mexican border.

Continue reading "Would You Flee to Mexico to Avoid Your Ex-Inlaws? This Mother Did" »

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" »

After Lengthy Battle, Military Dad Wins Custody Battle

Military-Child.jpgWere they star-crossed lovers when they first met? Probably.

But things change with time and in the end they brought life to this often heard quote in legal circles: "... in criminal cases you see bad people at their best and in custody cases you see good people at their worst."

That truism applies to the case I'm about to share. Here's this couple's story.

Military Duty Interferes with Child Visitation Schedules

Jane and Christopher had two children, born in 2002 and 2006. Following the birth of the second child, the couple separated and three years later divorced.

At the time, Christopher was a military pilot stationed in Hawaii.

He and his ex-wife signed a marital agreement that provided for joint legal custody. However, due to Christopher's career, a family court commissioner assigned him 8 percent physical custody with the remaining 92 percent allotted to the mother.

The agreement specifically stated, "If [Father] has an opportunity to spend more time with the boys, it is encouraged."

Military Dad Deployed to The Middle East

What happened next is a common occurrence since the start of the wars in the Middle East.

The service deployed Christopher in a medevac unit in Iraq and Afghanistan - and redeployed two more times.

With the new assignment, it became more difficult for the father to enjoy his children during summer vacations.

Three years after signing the marital agreement, the mother received permission from the court to move to California to live with her fiancé.

Then in 2013, the military transferred Christopher to Alabama where he lived with his new wife. To see his sons, he registered the marital agreement with the court in Orange County.

Continue reading "After Lengthy Battle, Military Dad Wins Custody Battle " »

Child Custody Cases Are Never Easy - Especially this One

Child-custody-process-in-Suwanee-Ga-Clark-Oxendine-and-Sauls.pngIf you think that formerly married couples are the only couples who argue about child custody, well, you wouldn't be taking into account today's world.

Not everyone gets married. But every divorcing couple does argue about child custody.

That was the case with Brittney Berg and Darin Mowan.

The couple had a child in 2012. The following year, Brittney moved from Minot, North Dakota, to Illinois and then Iowa, taking the child with her.

Not too pleased with his ex lover's decision, in 2013 Darin decided that he wanted primary residential custody of the child.

And thus the struggle for child custody began.

Continue reading "Child Custody Cases Are Never Easy - Especially this One" »

Grandparents Lose Bid to Adopt Grandchildren when Father's Murder Conviction Overturned

bigstock-Man-and-womans-hands-cutting-p-26460842-300x207.jpgNow here's a complicated case. A wife and husband with two children divorced and in 2011 the mother died from strangulation.

Who committed the murder? And should the alleged murderer - the ex-husband - be able to retain his parental rights?

Initially, a jury found the ex-husband guilty of strangling his ex-wife and sentenced him to life in prison with no option for parole during the first 25 years of his sentence.

Grandparents See Opportunity to Terminate Parental Rights & Adopt Grandchildren

In March of 2012, the maternal grandparents - guardians of the children - filed an action to terminate the ex son-in-law's parental rights. Coincidentally, that same month the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the father's murder conviction.

In June 2014, the grandparents filed an amended petition to adopt the children. In light of the murder conviction, their decision made sense.

Four months later, a court terminated the father's parental rights even though the father asked the judge to delay a decision until after his appeal hearing, which was scheduled to start in December.

This year, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho overturned the murder conviction based on the fact that a district judge wrongly excluded evidence that would have corroborated the father's testimony proclaiming his innocence.

In addition, the court overturned a lower court's decision to terminate his parental rights.

Continue reading "Grandparents Lose Bid to Adopt Grandchildren when Father's Murder Conviction Overturned" »

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" »

The New Frontier: Custody Fights over Embryos

101122-stem-cells-hmed-1a.jpgYou fall in love, you move in together and instead of having children you decide to create embryos together.

It's not the typical storybook progression, is it?

So what happens when a live-in couple who share embryos split up? The answer can be complicated especially if you have the kind of money that Sofia Vergara - the highest-paid TV actress who also has hefty endorsements and a product line - and Florida businessman Nick Loeb have.

The once "it couple," who apparently signed legal papers promising not to pursue the embryos if they split up, are having a disagreement.

Vergara vs Loeb

Sofia has definitely moved on. These days, she is sporting a 7-carat diamond ring from her fiancé and beau of the past year.

However, Loeb is focused on the embryos. In fact, he would like to bring the embryos to term with another woman.

He feels strongly about this issue and raised an interesting issue in a recent New York Times op-ed piece:

"A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects. Shouldn't a man who is willing to take on all parental responsibilities be similarly entitled to bring his embryos to term even if the woman objects?"

Loeb, who is half Jewish, baptized Episcopalian and was raised with a Catholic nanny, believes that life begins at conception. Therefore, he reasons that embryos are human beings and cannot be destroyed or left frozen forever.

To bring the embryos to life, Loeb would need to either use a surrogate or have the embryos implanted in a significant other. It's unclear what his plans are.

Continue reading "The New Frontier: Custody Fights over Embryos" »

Girl Returns to Mother Following Abuse by Adoptive Father

414748-5f0d74aa-8cc5-11e4-a5fe-753c416d0f8b.jpgWhen do adoptive parents lose the right to continue to raise the children they adopt?

The answer is simple: when they abuse the privilege of raising children. Or in the case of the adoptive parents of a child identified simply as T.H., once the authorities discover that the adopted father was sexually abusing the girl.

It's a horribly sad case.

When T.H. was just three years of age, the courts terminated the parental rights of the girl's mother. It took just one year for another couple to come forward to adopt the girl.

15-Year-Old Girl Reveals History of Sexual Abuse

By the time T.H. was 15, she bravely stepped forward and disclosed that the father had been sexually abusing her since she was five or six years of age.

When the court set its process in motion, the adoptive parents backed down and agreed to the termination of parental rights. T.H. filed a petition to reinstate the parental rights of her biological mother.

At first, the state objected to the grill's petition arguing that there was one element of the statute that had not yet been met. The trial court agreed, and the state entered an order denying the application.

There was an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which reversed the decision.

T.H. was able to proceed thanks to a fairly new law passed in 2009 by the Oklahoma legislature.

Continue reading "Girl Returns to Mother Following Abuse by Adoptive Father" »

Before You Say 'I Do,' Talk to Your Fiancé's Parents

3.119.jpgHow many people interview their prospective in-laws about homosexuality, climate change, or corporal punishment?

I suspect very few people. Yet when a marriage falls apart, and the grandparents come knocking at your door with a summons looking for unsupervised visitation, what are the red flags that prevent you from trusting your ex-in-laws with your precious child?

And how do you battle that out in court?

Grandparents Arrive with a Summons

This is what happened to Kristin Glueckert after she separated from her husband, Thayer Glueckert.

She and Thayer got married, had a son and while Thayer was still on active duty in the military outside of their home state of Montana, the couple separated.

What would you do if you separated from your ex, remained busy working and raising a son as a single parent and then your ex-in-laws started to demand unsupervised visitation with your only child?

In Kristin's case, her son had lived with her since birth and Thayer would see his son whenever he was home on leave.

Unhappy with the supervised visits, the grandparents suddenly decided they wanted to be able to visit with the grandson without having to see the ex-daughter-in-law.

Specifically, they wanted four, three-hour unsupervised visits per week and additional unsupervised visits on special occasions throughout the year.

Kristen wasn't too pleased.

Continue reading "Before You Say 'I Do,' Talk to Your Fiancé's Parents" »