Recently in Juvenile Law Category

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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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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Don't Let Your Child Custody Battle Turn Deadly

December 31, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Police-outside-Westminste-007.jpgSometimes child custody issues turn deadly.

Take the case of the Ukrainian father who threw his 3-year-old son and them himself to their deaths from a Manhattan high-rise building a few days before Christmas. In that case, the 35-year-old father, Dmitriy Kanarikov died instantly; his son died later at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.

The murder-suicide was surprising considering a Facebook post that Kanarikov wrote just three months earlier. In that status update, the father wrote that his greatest desire was to be a great father and husband. "I want to be the best dad - nothing is more important to me," Kanarikov said.

In response, his wife, Svetlana Bukharina commented on Facebook, "I have the best husband and son in the world."

What Went Wrong in this Case?

Not long after those glowing and very public messages appeared on social media, the couple broke up and a custody battle ensued. The father's anger over the custody battle was so intense that the parents met at a local police station to exchange their son for their visits.

What could have angered the father to the point that he would not only take his own life but that of his son's as well? Some believe it might have been something as innocuous as his wife not arriving on time to deliver the son to his father. But those are only rumors.

The reality is that emotions always tend to be tense during divorce and custody battles. Issues of fairness and justice can sometimes appear to be weighted in favor of the "other spouse." And the slightest indication of disrespect can enrage an already angry parent, causing them momentarily to lose sight of reality.

How to Stay Calm During a Custody Battle

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U.S. Attitudes Shift About Single-Father Households and the Role of Dads

December 17, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Single Dad.jpgIt was once inconceivable for a father to pursue custody of his children. Decades ago, mothers routinely received physical custody while the fathers were relegated to the occasional weekend or holiday visit.

We've come a long way--but we have further to travel.

The most recent Census Report (published in June 2013) contains interesting statistics on this topic.

  • There are an estimated 70.1 million fathers in the U.S. (these numbers are for the year 2008).
  • There were about 1.96 million single fathers in 2012.
  • 15% of single parents are men.
  • About 44% of the 70.1 million fathers were divorced.
  • 42% of the 70.1 million dads had an annual family income of $50,000 or more.
  • In 2009, single-parent fathers received $1.9 billion in child support payments

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Seek Supervised Visitation When Your Ex Is Mentally Ill

December 3, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

supervised-visitation-1.jpgThere are times when divorce happens for the saddest reasons. I'm talking about mental illness today.

Sometimes couples meet and fall in love and don't realize that a partner is taking medication for a mental illness until they are living together or engaged. When a partner discovers the truth, his or her fears may be assuaged by the fact that the other person is on medication and takes it regularly.

But what happens when the couple marries and has a child, and then the spouse with the mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or severe depression, stops taking the medication? Sometimes divorce happens and oftentimes, the parent with the mental illness is restricted to supervised visitation with the child.

Parent's Mental Illness Can Affect Children

How a parent's mental illness affects children depends on various factors. For example, the illness is more likely to have deleterious effects when the child is young. Other factors need to be examined as well. For example, what is the severity of the parent's illness, how does the illness affect the parent's positive parenting, and does the parent show real interest in the child? These are all important considerations.

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How to Prevent a Custody Battle from Turning Ugly

November 5, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

vegetarian-children-custody-battle-537x382.jpgLast week, a 27-year-old man from South Carolina, shot and killed his girlfriend, her parents, two children and then turned on himself. According to authorities, he was enmeshed in a custody battle with his girlfriend over their 7-month-old child and felt he wasn't being allowed to visit their daughter as often as he'd like. He was also facing a jail sentence for a burglary he committed.

Earlier this year, an ex-husband's father shot and killed his former daughter-in-law and her friend, and wounded two police officers while at a Delaware county courthouse. They'd arrived there to attend a court hearing on child support payments. Law enforcement officers shot and killed the gunman as well.

Child custody battles tend to be acrimonious. A father can feel jealous about his ex-wife's new boyfriend and seek retribution by demanding physical custody. A mother may be convinced that her ex-husband's payments are low considering his salary and bonus schedule. As the stress mounts and animosity builds, the feelings can explode with the direst of consequences.

Be on Your Best Behavior

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Four-Year Adoption Battle Involving Cherokee Nation Member Finally Ends

October 1, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

ICWA.jpgAdoptions can be tricky.

Consider this: An unmarried, pregnant woman, who received no financial or emotional support from the biological father, decided to place her child up for adoption through a government agency. The agency found a deserving couple and the adoption of baby Veronica was finalized in 2009.

But the case didn't end there.

After the adoption Dusten Brown, the biological father and a member of the Cherokee Nation, contested the adoption. He alleged that his former lover lied about the child's true heritage and that the reason he'd agreed to relinquish his parental rights was to avoid paying child support.

The adopted parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, and Brown took their disagreements to court. The Capobiancos appealed a lower court decision awarding custody to Brown, causing the case to land at the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Adoption of Native American Children

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Massachusetts Rapist Receives Paternity Rights

September 3, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

rapists-custody-rights.jpgThis is an unbelievably tragic story. In 2009, a 20-year-old man named Jamie Melendez raped a 14-year-old girl (identified as H.T.) in the state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, she became pregnant.

The rapist pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced in 2011 to 16 years of probation.
Paternity was established in this case and as part of probation, the court acknowledged Melendez as the father of the child and ordered him to comply with the family court's orders until the child reaches maturity, age 18.

The family court ordered Melendez to pay $110 a week in child support. As a result of being ordered to pay child support, Melendez sought visitation rights. A family court judge granted his request even though Melendez had never expressed any interest in the child before that date.

Outraged, the young mother sued Massachusetts in 2012 in an effort to stop the court from forcing her into a lengthy relationship with the man who violated her. She asked the court to order Melendez to pay criminal restitution instead of child support but the court denied her request.

Presently, H.T. is seeking an injunction - a court order that would prohibit Melendez from having a relationship with the child - and annulment of the order. The case is pending.

What Happens Elsewhere to Children Born to Rape Victims?

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Indiana Adoption Case Finally Resolved after 7-Year Battle

August 27, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Term of Rights.jpgAdopting a baby can be as joyous a moment as bringing your own children into the world. But it is also a legal process that can be emotional, expensive, and wrought with worry.
Take the recent case in Indiana as an example. Fraternal twins were born to a mother identified as C.A.B. in 2004. The father's identity was never established.

Two years later, the children were removed from the biological mother's home and placed in foster care. In 2007, a Terminated Parental Rights (TPR) judgment was issued against the biological mother and a year later, the judgment was approved by the court.
The foster parents, eager for children of their own, petitioned to adopt the children and won in 2008 despite the fact that the biological mother's appeal of the TPR judgment was pending.

No one notified the biological mother about the adoption proceedings because state law didn't require notification when a TPR was pending.

Adoptive Parents Won - For Awhile

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How You Behave Can Affect Your Santa Rosa Custody and Visitation Agreements

child-custody.jpgYou finalized your divorce, all custody issues have been settled and you're living apart peacefully.

But suddenly your ex-spouse isn't agreeing with some aspects of your custody and visitation agreement.

When Agreements Fall Apart

Here are a variety of ways that custody and visitation agreements can often fall apart.

  • Your ex-spouse is repeatedly showing up late for visitation exchanges or missing them completely. Or she might be discouraging your children from spending time with you.
  • If you and your ex-spouse share legal custody, you both have a right to be involved in major decisions relative to the education, health and welfare of your children. Excluding each other from key decisions means that you are violating your agreement.
  • You are not allowed to attack your ex-spouse in front of the children, lie to the kids about their father or mother, or denigrate your ex-spouse. Causing your children to think negatively about your ex-spouse will affect the court's opinion of you.
  • If you allege that your ex-spouse is being abusive to your children and those charges are false, you will put your own custody rights at risk.
  • If you have a problem with substance abuse, you can expect to have your drug habit negatively impact your child custody and visitation rights

Back in Family Law Court

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Child Custody Issues for Eddie Murphy

childairport460.jpgWhen celebrities such as Eddie Murphy and former Spice Girl Melanie Brown were married, it made the news - at least entertainment news coverage.

Now their custody battle is grabbing legal headlines.

Eddie Murphy vs. Melanie Brown

Brown, who entered into a contract with Australia's version of The X Factor, decided to break her agreement with the Down Under network due to Murphy's refusal to allow their daughter to move to Australia.

Murphy and Brown were never married but in 2007, Brown gave birth to their child, the now 7-year-old girl, Angel Iris. Initially, Murphy refused to acknowledge the child until a paternity test proved that he had indeed fathered the child.

Now he wants a relationship with Angel Iris and for her to live in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Brown's professional future is at stake because if she can't move with her daughter, she will be in breach of contract with her employer.

It's a mess.

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Child Custody Battle Brews in Aftermath of Mindy McCready's Suicide

child-custody2.jpgWhen country music singer Mindy McCready took her life on February 17, she left behind two sons whose future will now be determined by a judge.

Two weeks before McCready's death, and at her father's urging, Human Services placed her two sons - Zander, 6, and Zayne, 11 months - in foster care. McCready is known to have waged a battle with substance abuse and there were reports that the home was disheveled and that prescription bottles were readily available.

A custody battle has ensued between McCready's father and stepmother, and Zander's father, Bill McKnight. On April 5, a judge will decide the fate of the two brothers, including whether they will be raised separately.

There is no custody dispute over Zayne; his father reportedly committed suicide in January.

What the Judge Will Take into Consideration

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Child Custody Disputes Among Unmarried Heterosexual and Gay Unmarried Couples Are Similar

pic_child.pngLater this month, the Manhattan Supreme Court will decide the fate of a child born last July to an unmarried, heterosexual couple. In the interim, the baby is stuck in foster care and under the purview of Child Protective Services.

How Could This Happen?

Jonathan Sporn, a 54-year-old pharmaceuticals executive, began co-habiting with his partner, Leann Leutner, a lawyer, in 2010. Both had been previously divorced, weren't in a hurry to marry again, but wanted to start a family. They sought the assistance of an anonymous sperm donor and last July, Leutner gave birth to a healthy boy, Lincoln Amory Aurelian Sporn Leutner.

On January 1, 2013, the mother, who had struggled with postpartum depression, committed suicide. Not recognizing Sporn as the father due to the couple's unmarried status, Child Protective Services stepped in and placed the baby in foster care.

Now Sporn and Leutner's sister, Susan Sylvester, are battling for custody of little Lincoln. The court has visited both homes and deemed them both appropriate for the child.

According to the law, Sporn isn't a parent because he never married Leutner and he didn't father the child. In addition, Sporn failed to immediately take steps to adopt Lincoln following his birth.

Case Bears Similarities to Challenges Gay Parents Face

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