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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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?

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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" »

Family Law News: Billions at Stake in Divorce Case and a Child Lost in Social Services Shuffle

January 20, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Thumbnail image for skd284552sdc.jpgIf your ex-husband offered you a divorce settlement check for $975 million, what would you do?

The majority of divorcing women would probably say "Hallelujah!" all the way to the bank. Right?

Well, that's how billionaires differ from the rest of us. You see, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, whose estimated worth rounds at a cool $8 billion according to Forbes, tried to pay off his ex-wife with a multi-million dollar settlement.

The $1 Billion Divorce Settlement Offer that Wasn't Good Enough

Let's just say that she didn't quite appreciate the offer.

His former wife, Sue Ann Arnall, had been an attorney and former executive at Continental Resources and likely felt that after 25 years of marriage, well, she deserved more.

In November, both she and Hamm appealed the trial court's judgment awarding her $1 billion. She didn't think that $1 billion was enough either; meanwhile Hamm thought it was too much.

This type of disagreement is typical in divorce cases. When tensions are high, it's hard for ex-spouses to agree. Reason seldom dominates.

There's another interesting tidbit about this case. In addition to the as-of-yet undetermined divorce settlement, the CEO has already paid Arnall $20 million over the past two and a half years.

Twenty million is a handsome sum for most women, but not Arnall.

It will be interesting to see what happens in this case in the coming months. Unless the parties can come to an agreement soon, the attorneys will continue to litigate, and the spouses will continue to argue and file appeals.

Continue reading "Family Law News: Billions at Stake in Divorce Case and a Child Lost in Social Services Shuffle" »

When You Risk Losing Your Children, You Need An Experienced Dependency Lawyer

October 28, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

article-2310920-0F6A935E00000578-746_634x514.jpgHow far would you go to keep your children? Would you hire an attorney? Would you appeal any decision that separated you from your kids?

The answer is obvious, right? Every parent would do whatever it took to keep their children with them.

What happens to the children who don't receive proper care or enough food and who don't have winter coats or parents who care if they attend school? Should those parents be allowed to keep their children?

These were the issues presented in the case of a couple, Larry M. and Sonia M., who tried to keep their six- and eight-year-old children from ending up in foster care, or even worse, being adopted by another couple.

Continue reading "When You Risk Losing Your Children, You Need An Experienced Dependency Lawyer" »

U.S. Supreme Court Hands Another Win to Gay Marriage Activists

October 21, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

usup.jpgThe same-sex marriage battle tipped in the favor of gay and lesbian couples last week.

On October 7, 2014, the Supreme Court refused to hear same-sex marriage decisions appealed from the lower courts.

Those courts had ruled in favor of gay marriage, and state Attorneys General and interest groups had filed appeals, hoping to gain support from the Supreme Court justices to ban same-sex marriage once and for all.

Instead, the Supreme Court's refusal to consider the appeals nullifies those appeals and allows the affected states' to proceed to allow same-sex marriages.

In many of the cases under appeal, the lower courts based their decisions on rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Those judges had ruled in favor of same-sex marriage because to treat people differently based on sexual orientation is tantamount to being unconstitutional unless there were a compelling government need or argument.

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Domestic Violence Dominates Sports Headlines

October 14, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Thumbnail image for goodell.jpgAs of this writing, the San Francisco Giants, a wild card pick, just trounced the Washington Nationals in the Division Series. The Giants, who tend to perform well in post-season games, are off to play the San Louis Cardinals.

Sports, it seems, is always in the air.

Unfortunately, the sports channels have been covering more than just runs batted in, home runs, strikes, errors and balls.

There's a new statistic being tabulated: The number of times major league athletes are arrested for domestic violence.

Take the case of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. The Atlantic City Police Department claims he struck his fiancée, caused her to lose consciousness, and dragged her body out of the elevator where they argued.

Then there's Adrian Peterson, one of the league's biggest stars and the 2012 NFL MVP. Police arrested him for reckless or negligent injury to a child following a grand jury investigation.

That case involved Peterson's decision to use a tree branch to spank his child, a discipline measure his parents had used on him. His case proceeds to trial on December 1 of this year. In that case, the National Football League banned Peterson from playing pending closure of his case.

In September of this year, Anheuser-Busch issued a public statement expressing its concern about the manner in which the NFL has handled recent domestic violence controversies.

Perhaps the company's concern and outrage expressed by organizations serving domestic violence victims or advocating stronger policies to protect women, caused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to strengthen his league's stand on these issues.

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