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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" »

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" »

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" »

Mother Loses Child Custody and Support Battle

Hague.jpgJust when you think a child custody issue is resolved, something happens.

As usual, two people fell in love, married, and had a beautiful child in 2006. But three years later the parents filed for divorce.

Although the parents lived in Wyoming, California was the child's home state at the time of the divorce. Therefore, the custody issues were litigated in California.

During Custody Battle Mother Takes Child to Norway

Before the court had an opportunity to make a determination of child custody, the mother decided to take her child outside of United States to her native Norway. She did not seek the father's consent before making the trip.

It wasn't the mother's best decision.

Father Pursues Case Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Production

Under this scenario, the father's only recourse was to proceed under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Production. The process sounds complicated, right?

Despite the complications, the father was successful in having his child returned to the United States. Then the family returned to California to settle the child custody issue. Needless to say, the mother's action did not help her custody battle.

A number of hearings ensued on issues of custody, visitation, and child support.

In fact, a California court ordered that the father have sole legal and physical custody of his child. The court also noted that the parties stipulated "this is a final and permanent termination of custody."

Continue reading "Mother Loses Child Custody and Support Battle" »

Mother Loses Physical Custody and Right to Homeschool Daughter

lonely.jpgWhen I first read the headline and summary of this case, I wondered why a court would prohibit parents from homeschooling their children.

I thought to myself, "This would never fly in California."

Then I downloaded the court decision, and I understood the deeper issues involved in this very sad case. Prepare yourself.

Superficially, the case is about whether a parent has a right to home-school her children.
The deeper facts of the case are very different, however.

State of Nebraska Places Daughters in Custody Due to Physical Abuse

Three years ago, the state of Nebraska asked the juvenile court to place two children - Cassandra and Moira - in temporary custody with the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

Apparently, a county sheriff reported that Cassandra, who was just 13, was forced to sleep in a tent outside of the home even when the temperature was a cool 55 degrees. After she attempted to leave the tent to enter the warmer home, her uncle forced her back into the tent and zip-tied it shut.

The child attempted to escape again, so the mother turned on a water hose, which the uncle used to spray the girl. Then the uncle used rope to tie around the girl's wrists.

Continue reading "Mother Loses Physical Custody and Right to Homeschool Daughter" »

In this Divorce Case, Neither Parent Won their Custody Battles

CPS knocks.jpgWhen two people marry, have children and then file for divorce, what do you think one of the most contested issues can be?

Here's the answer: anything and everything having to do with children. Custody, child support payments, and child visitation can be among the most contested and emotional issues two ex-spouses fight over and file appeals over.

With Both Parents Incarcerated, Who Takes Care of the Children?

Take the case of Martin Olsen and Dixie Jackson.

While Dixie was in jail, her ex-husband cared for the couple's children. During this time, child services were commencing a reunification program with the father as the custodial parent.

Then the father slipped.

Police arrested and incarcerated him after charging him with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. So the Utah Division of Child and Family Services stepped in and placed the two children in foster care.

When the case came before a judge, the Division of Child and Family Services recommended the court terminate the reunification process with the children.

Continue reading "In this Divorce Case, Neither Parent Won their Custody Battles" »

Mother Indicted for Manslaughter in Child Abuse Case

120405-F-FC540-001.jpgDoesn't it appear as though I'm writing a lot about child custody issues of late? You're right.

It's because child custody issues can be the most emotionally contested issues in a divorce. And there are simply too many cases where parents are unable to provide the care - and address the needs of - the children they bring into the world.

In addition, it can be difficult to revoke custody from an ex-spouse.

Mother Gives Birth to Premature Twins

In this particular case I about to discuss, two premature twins were born on October 3, 2013. Just six days later, the Department of Health and Human Services petitioned for a child protection order. The department felt that the babies were at "risk of serious harm based on the mother's affliction of fatal injuries to the parents' adopted son" earlier that year.

In addition, there was an allegation that the father had inflicted serious bruising to the son just two days before he died.

Needless to say, the court granted the department's petition. When the twins were released from the neonatal intensive care unit, they were immediately put into foster care.

Continue reading "Mother Indicted for Manslaughter in Child Abuse Case" »

Mother Wins Primary Custody and Proves She Knows How to Protect Her Children

DV.jpgAt times, life seems horribly unfair.

That must be how Andrea felt after being accosted by her husband and fleeing to her local police department for help.

What happened next was social services took her children and then attempted to prove that the mother was incapable of protecting her children from harm.

But let's start at the beginning.

Husband Becomes Increasingly Violent

In 2006, Andrea was married. Along with her son Jonathan from a previous marriage, Andrea and her new husband had two children, Richard, and Savanna.

Three years into the marriage, Andrea's husband punched her in the face while arguing.

By 2013, Andrea and her husband separated and the children lived primarily with her mother.

A year later, the children attended a party with the father, and when the mother picked up her children her ex-husband noticed marks on Andrea's neck. Enraged, the father called Andrea a "bitch" and "whore" and pinched her neck.

He then ripped off her sunglasses, destroyed them, and then tossed her belongings out of the house. He didn't stop there. Eventually, he punched her and slapped her.

Andrea took refuge that night in her local police department. She couldn't have anticipated that the police would then contact the Department of Children and Family Services, which filed a petition a petition against Andrea.

Her crime? According to the Department, failing to protect her children from their father's violent nature.

Continue reading "Mother Wins Primary Custody and Proves She Knows How to Protect Her Children" »

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" »

Grandparents Gain Visitation Rights Despite Mother's Objection

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

Grandparent.jpgWhat normally happens when two people decide to divorce each other?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to answer that question: They end up hating each other.

Even worse, they also end up hating their in-laws.

Think about it. Didn't your feelings about your mother-in-law change when you decided to leave your ex-husband? It's normal.

So what happens when your ex-in-laws decide to assert visitation rights as grandparents? Some people resent it.

Other people go so far as to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

Surprise! Your Ex-in-Laws Have Visitation Rights

Take the case Grove vs. Grove, for example.

This divorce case was moving along quite smoothly. The parties agreed to all terms of the divorce, property settlement and custody issues.

The ex-husband even agreed that his ex-wife should have primary physical custody of their child since he had a substance abuse issue for which he was addressing in a residential rehabilitation facility.

However, the ex-husband still had the right to visit his child, a situation that concerned the ex-wife, so she added some conditions.

To address her concerns, the ex-husband's attorney ensured the court that the grandparents would accompany the ex-husband when spending time with the two-year-old.

Can You Demand Support Payments as a Bargaining Tool?

Continue reading "Grandparents Gain Visitation Rights Despite Mother's Objection" »

Divorce Briefs: Tame Your Social Media Use and The Worst States for Divorce

January 27, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

facebook-divorces-united-kingdom-2012.jpgThere was an interesting article in Forbes the other day about the increasing importance social media posts play in litigation.

The article pointed to a 2009 case, People v. Franco, in which a jury convicted Franco of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Threat on Facebook Has Deadly Consequences

In this case, Franco posted on her Facebook page: "If you find me on the freeway and you can keep up I have a really bad habit of racing random people."

The next day, Franco was traveling 75 miles an hour on a freeway when Henry Chavez started to tailgate her. Whenever she changed lanes, he followed her.

Franco testified that she noticed that her speed was increasing so she tapped on her brakes to slow down, ostensibly to avoid getting a ticket. Not expecting her to brake, Chavez veered to avoid a collision with Franco, lost control of his vehicle and died.

This case is a reminder to everyone that what you say on social media, and especially Facebook, can and will be used against you in court.

In fact, what you post on social media can replace the official story you tell a judge in court.

Continue reading "Divorce Briefs: Tame Your Social Media Use and The Worst States for Divorce" »