Beauticians in Unique Position to Help Domestic Violence Victims

The first person to spot domestic abuse may be an unlikely prospect: the victim’s hair stylist, nail technician or massage therapist.

Victims often confide in these intimate professionals in comfortable surroundings – and then stop coming.

But that still leaves at least one final chance to get educational resources and sources of help into their hands first.

The abuse spotted may be a bruise – or an overwhelming exertion of control.

Read more in this Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel article: It isn’t always pretty.

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Nebraska Statute Seemingly Authorizes Seizure of International Child Custody Jurisdiction

Father lives in Canada. Mother now lives in Nebraska with daughter.

Canada still has jurisdiction over the child.

Mother alleges that Father has sexually and physically abused daughter, and seeks to block visitation ordered by Canadian courts. No criminal charges have been filed anywhere.

Nebraska courts agree with Mother and, exercising emergency jurisdiction, enter order to protect daughter.

The exercise of emergency jurisdiction under emergency conditions is not extraordinary. Typically, the court does what it must on a temporary basis to protect a child until the proper jurisdiction can proceed.

But Nebraska appears to have undertaken an extraordinary measure in this case.

According to reports, it seems that the legislature rushed through a special statute authorizing the Nebraska courts to seize continuing jurisdiction over the child.

If true, this would appear to violate both US child custody jurisdiction laws (UCCJEA and UCCJA Acts) and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Read more in this Omaha World-Herald article: Foreign custody bill zips through to signature.

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Domestic Violence Court Excludes Guns From Evidence Against Previously Convicted Abuser

A Washington state judge excluded from evidence weapons found in the possession of an alleged felon previously convicted of domestic violence. The possession would have constituted a felony in and of itself.

Police reportedly observed the weapons in the felon’s bedroom when dispatched to the home on a new domestic violence call.

The judge held that the officers had inadequate basis to enter the bedroom of the renter despite the 911 call and permission by the owner of the house.

The court felt there was insufficient evidence of a threat to officer safety to justify the officers’ actions without the tenant’s permission. This conclusion may have been supported by the police officers’ failure to supervise or secure the weapons, undercutting the contention that the officers perceived a threat.

Read more in this Washington Tri-City Herald article: Guns thrown out as evidence in domestic violence case.

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Threats against Family Court Judges Lead to Criminal Charges

Three Jacksonville, Florida family court judges will undoubtedly remember one particular child custody case forever.

The child’s father apparently wasn’t satisfied with the outcome.

So he allegedly sent threatening e-mails to each of the judges who had been involved in his case – months and years before.

He demonstrated that he had their private residence addresses.

He sought criminal charges against the judges for their rulings.

And he was reportedly a military school graduate.

As a result of the judges’ complaints to law enforcement, the man has been charged with felonies, each count of which could send him to jail for 15 years.

As that father now knows, the above are not recommended strategies for challenging an unfavorable ruling.

Read more in this Jacksonville Florida Times-Union article: Judges in fear after e-mails.

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Single Fatherhood Skyrocketing

The fastest-growing group of single parents in Western New York is single dads.

Households headed by single fathers skyrocketed 106 percent between 1990 and 2005, census data shows.

In part, these statistics bear out that child custody decisions today tend to be less about the gender of the custodial parent and more about serving the child’s best interests.

They also reflect that more fathers are seeking primary residential parent status these days.

Read more in this Buffalo [NY] News article: Dads gaining ground in parental rights issues.

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IL Legislator: Parties Have Right to a Jury in Divorce Trials

A bill was just introduced in Illinois which would allow a divorcing party to have a jury serve as fact finder in his or her divorce case.

This represents a sharp departure from the established divorce law practice – except in Texas.

Proponents argue that having a jury ensures that the outcome will be more fair than leaving everything in the hands of a single judge would be.

Opponents argue that juries are inadequately trained to preside over family cases.

The need for juries in divorces is belied by the experience in Texas. With nearly 7,000 divorces statewide in the month of January of 2005, juries were opted for in only 75 cases that entire year.

Read more in this Illinois State Journal Register article: New legislation – Divorce juries – If passed, couples would have the option.

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Victims of Domestic Violence in Pittsburgh Can Now Get Orders of Protection When and Where They Need Them

There’s no question that the process of getting a protective order has gotten much easier for victims of domestic violence. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Two huge problems facing victims is that the incidents often occur during evening, nighttime and early morning hours – before most courthouses are open for business.

And many county court systems are highly centralized, necessitating a trip to a distant downtown area, which with victims may not be very familiar or comfortable.

Many areas have instituted half-measures intended to address these difficulties.

But Pittsburgh has taken a giant step forward.

In one Pittsburgh community, victims of domestic violence can head to a neighborhood hospital for emergency treatment.

And then visit the videoconference center in the emergency department of the neighborhood hospital to obtain a very temporary order of protection – even at night and on weekends.

This is a system designed with the needs of victims in mind. A model for communities everywhere.

Read more in this Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article: Site gives abuse victims a better chance.

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Celebrated Mystery Sperm Donor Sheds Anonymity and Reaches Out to Bio Kids

I previously posted on Our Father Is Donor 150, Can We Talk?.

Since the media blitz over Donor Sibling Registry, at least one prolific sperm donor has thought about coming forward to his biological offspring.

And for Valentine’s Day 2007, that exactly what Sperm Donor 150 (a/k/a Jeffrey Harrison) did.

Since then he has spoken with several of his genetic progeny and met one in person.

Whatever the differences in their socioeconomic circumstances, they all seem to have in common a love of animals.

Will the newfound relationships endure and blossom? Only time will tell.

Read more in this New York Times article: Sperm Donor Father Ends His Anonymity.

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US Service Members Civil Relief Act

Oklahoman serviceman has custody of his daughter. He gives guardianship of his daughter to his parents.

He reports for training prior to deployment to Iraq.

His ex-wife moves for modification of custody.

He is deployed – before being notified of his ex’s motion.

Despite intervention of military attorneys, a hearing on the wife’s motion is imminent.

Under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the serviceman is entitled to a postponement under the right circumstances.

But, according to reports, not all state judges are familiar with the federal statute and how it may apply to state court family actions.

The military is fighting hard to acquaint the courts with the federal law and the need not to distract servicemembers with family worries at home.

Read more in this Oklahoman article: Courts: Serviceman faces losing daughter while serving in Iraq ; State bill could help custody fight; Federal law gives military members reprieve while on duty.

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Domestic Violence: A Problem Far From Beaten

Despite our society throwing more and more resources at ending domestic abuse and aiding domestic abuse victims, several recent reports cast doubt on how much progress is really being made.

The Vermont Network Against Domestic Assault and Sexual Violence reported that it served 50% more victims from 1997 to 2006.

The Vermont Criminal Information Center reported that incidents reported increased by 6% from 2003 to 2006.

And the numbers don’t begin to tell the story. According to a spokesperson for the Vermont Network, the individual incidents are also more serious.

So much so, that Vermont legislators are studying the domestic violence problem in greater depth in the hopes of coming up with a more effective and comprehensive legislative scheme to attack the problem.

According to reports, Arizona has also seen a rise in domestic violence incidents. Sometimes small measures can help.

The legislature there has recently introduced a bill to permit victims of domestic abuse who have been tracked down by their abusers to break their leases without financial penalty.

For many victims, being able to break a lease will make the difference in whether or not they will get away safely.

Six other states have statutes similar to the Arizona bill. Florida is not one of them.

Read more in this Boston.com article: Abuse seen more frequent, intense; lawmakers take notice and this East Valley [AZ] Tribune article: Bill would aid abused seeking to end leases.

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