Abducted Baby Returned from Mexico to US under Hague Convention

Ten months ago, a fourteen month old baby boy was abducted from California to Mexico, allegedly by the boy’s father, following his attack on the boy’s mother with a kitchen knife.

Although authorities surmised quickly that the boy had been removed to Mexico, finding him and getting him back home was another story.

Local authorities aided the mother in filing an application for return of her son to the US under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Local law enforcement actually traveled to Mexico to attend the Hague Convention hearing on behalf of the mother – and were able to escort the boy back to California when the Mexican judge ruled that the boy’s habitual residence was the US.

The father is still at large in Mexico, but there remains outstanding a warrant for his arrest on domestic violence and related charges, should he return to the US.

Read more in this Eureka [CA] Reporter article: Abducted toddler returns to U.S.

Posted in Uncategorized

NY: Model Plan for Child Welfare Reform or Recipe for Disaster?

New York, following in the footsteps of several other states, is revamping its child welfare system, in phases.

The goal of the changes: to get children out of the system more quickly, with fewer moves within the system and fewer placements in group or institutional settings. Oh, yes, and to save money.

Currently, half the kids who enter foster care in New York City remain in the system for nearly five years, bouncing among three or four different placements.

Seventeen percent of the children get stuck in group or institutional placements, rather than private homes. Which are very expensive and less suitable for children.

But there are sharp disagreements over whether the overhauled system is realistic – and will really benefit children.

Caseworkers will be replaced by supervisors, who will closely monitor agency performance of city objectives.

Proponents applaud the goal of more children receiving family services while staying in their own homes with their own families.

But opponents fear that the modified child welfare system will prematurely toss children back into the lion’s den without adequate support.

Read more in this New York Times article: New York Acts to Ease Process in Foster Care.

Posted in Uncategorized

New Grounds for Divorce: Polygamy

Grounds for divorce here in “no fault” Florida are typically euphemized into “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. But that’s not so in all states.

In a New York subculture of immigrants from Africa, relationships are breaking or straining over much more graphic grounds: polygamy by the husband. A religious custom of multiple marriages has reportedly been imported with some Islamic African immigrants.

Although illegal and grounds for deportation, polygamy is apparently widely practiced by immigrant African families who often live “under the radar”.

A recent, much publicized building fire in the Bronx suddenly illuminated the polygamous lifestyles of some residents of the building.

Polygamy is associated with a culture of domestic violence and living conditions that may tend to attract the intervention of social services agencies.

Women from these immigrant groups often condemn polygamy. The men, however, reportedly defend or deny it.

Read more in this New York Times article: In Secret, Polygamy Follows Africans to N.Y.

Posted in Uncategorized

NV Bucks Trend and Weighs Grandparent Visitation – Even When Parents Together

At a time when states are more likely to be whittling away grandparent visitation rights in the event of the separation / divorce of the grandchildren’s parents or the death of their own child, Nevada’s legislature is entertaining a grandparent visitation bill – for the situation where the grandchildren’s parents are both still alive and together.

Nevada already has a grandparent visitation statute available for the situation where the grandchildren’s parents separate. Despite that statute, it is reportedly quite difficult for grandparents to win visitation rights in the event of the separation of the grandchildren’s parents.

Supporters of the bill believe that parents don’t always make decisions that serve their children’s best interests, such as when they have substance abuse problems.

Opponents insist that parents have the constitutional right to raise their children free from state or other interference.

Nonetheless, where children are neglected or abused, because their parents have substance abuse problems or otherwise, there are alternative mechanisms for grandparents and other relatives to obtain access to grandchildren – and even to seek to have their grandchildren temporarily placed with them.

Read more in this Las Vegas Sun article: Nevada lawmakers hear testimony on grandparent visitation.

Posted in Uncategorized

Recovery Specialists Save Kids From Foster Care and Save Big Bucks

Demands on foster care have exploded everywhere with expanding drug addiction.

Now, a Minnesota community is “testing” an experimental program originally launched in Sacramento, California, in an attempt to control rising costs resulting from escalating removals of children from their parents into foster care.

This experimental program assigns a social worker to each at-risk parent, to mentor them in building better life-coping skills, so they can keep their lives together and, therefore, keep their children at home with them.

Instead of reaching for their substance of choice when the going gets tough, at-risk parents contact their social worker. Also called “recovery specialists”, these social workers serve in part as on-demand best friend.

Although the programs sounds as though it must be expensive, in fact, the investment made in hiring recovery specialists in Sacramento has doubled the number of parents who have been able to regain custody of their kids and saved government and taxpayers millions of dollars in foster care-related costs – not to mention the non-monetary savings in terms of reunification of families.

Read more in this [MN] Pioneer Press article: In Itasca, specialists ‘walk the path’ with recovering addicts.

Posted in Uncategorized

Children’s Special Needs Don’t Have to Go Unrecognized and Unmet Until a Child Custody Case

Whether because of physical disabilities, emotional conditions, learning disabilities or other causes, children may have widely differing and, sometimes, special needs.

Every child has a right to a public school education which is appropriate to their needs, including their particular special needs.

But not every parent knows their child has that right. Or recognizes that their child’s needs are special.

For many people, the first time, and possibly the only time, that they will interact with an attorney is for their divorce.

And that critical time and circumstance often leads to getting their house in order, in many different respects.

Preparation for the parental responsibility / child custody, timesharing / visitation and child support aspects of a divorce or paternity case may bring a fresh as well as more experienced perspective on important unrecognized and unmet needs of the children involved.

Articles such as this Kingman [AZ] Daily Miner article: Special education a major component at KUSD help to educate the general public about how common special needs are, and the legal right of special needs children to a quality special education.

Students with recognized special needs make up about thirteen (13%) percent of the student population on average. Students with unrecognized special needs would undoubtedly raise that statistic higher.

Every exceptional student must have an individual education plan or IEP designed with their particular special needs in mind.

If your child may have special needs, they shouldn’t have to wait until a divorce or paternity case for those needs to be recognized and accommodated by an IEP.

Help should be waiting in the office of the school’s exceptional student education counselor.

Posted in Uncategorized

Conjoined Twin Babies Face Substantially Different Challenges After Separation

The troubles of unfortunate Minnesota twin babies who were born conjoined, but separated shortly afterward, didn’t end with their separation in November.

One of the twins was later determined to have approximately 24 separate bone fractures in his legs and ribs.

The twins’ parents have been criminally charged with assaulting them and a civil suit is pending to terminate their parental rights.

The mother still has supervised visitation with the kids, but the father’s visitation was terminated as a result of his incarceration on unrelated charges.

Both parents are fighting the criminal charges and civil allegations against them.

In the meantime, the twins and their older sister remain in foster care.

Read more in this Mankato [MN] Free Press article: Judge OKs visits for twins’ mother – Ends visitation by jailed father.

Posted in Uncategorized

Introducing The Newest Kind of School Guidance Counselors – for Divorce

In the small town of Twin Falls, Idaho, two public elementary schools have a “divorce” counselor for their students. … And appointments with the “divorce” counselor are eagerly sought out by the kids.

The “divorce” counselors serve two purposes. First, they help the kids cope with their parents’ divorce. Second, they send home to the parents tips on how to make the divorce easier on their kids.

In this small town, children vicariously going through divorce are acting out in response to the situation and their parents’ behavior. Behavior such as disparaging the other parent to the children.

This although this small town already has mandatory parenting classes, nine hours’ worth, in fact. (Florida’s is only four hours.) And the children are required to attend a divorce class too.

Yet there is still a need for “divorce” counselors at school. Food for parental thought…

Read more in this Twin Falls [Idaho] Times-News article: Schools trying to help more students cope with divorce.

Posted in Uncategorized

International Child Abductors: Australia Reports Dramatic Shift from Fathers to Mothers

According to a study reported on in the Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald, in 1970, thirty percent of abductions of children to other countries were perpetrated by fathers.

Fast forward to today, and seventy percent of abductions of children to other countries are perpetrated by mothers – who are typically victims of abuse, trying to escape from it.

The study, Learning From The Links Between Domestic Violence And International Parental Child Abduction, was published by the International Social Service Australia.

This shift probably reflects two trends, one good, one bad. The good: fathers having greater rights and access under modern law and cases may feel less need to resort to international abduction. The bad: more domestic abuse is driving mothers to resort to international abduction in growing numbers.

Read more in this Sydney Morning Herald article: 70% of abductions are by mothers.

Posted in Uncategorized

FL Child Support: It’s Cut and Dried – Except When It’s Not

Thanks to detailed child support guidelines in Florida, child support is one of the more cut and dried aspects of a family court case, be it a divorce or paternity action.

But even so, there are certain issues that do-it-yourselfers or DOR-supplicants need to be aware of.

Too often, clients come in with child support calculations that they are so confident of, they already (verbally) agreed on numbers with the other parent. Typically, they used a so-called online child support calculator to arrive at the numbers.

Of course, almost anything parties can agree on is great. Almost.

But child support is a duty owed to a child. Except perhaps in extraordinary circumstances, it should not be waived, compromised or deferred by the custodial parent on behalf of the child.

Not even out of ignorance.

Florida’s child support statute allows for deviations from the guidelines under various circumstances.

The grounds for deviations are rarely (if ever) taken into account by so-called online child support calculators. Worse, they usually don’t even alert their users to considerations which are not factored into the online child support calculators.

This can be a recipe for disaster for many kids.

One all-too-common situation is children with disabilities or children with special needs. Special needs kids and disabled kids often require a variety of physical and other therapies, as well as special educational and other needs.

Although outside the standard child support guidelines calculations and online child support calculators, these needs may be taken into account in deviations from the standard guidelines.

More specifically, the statute allows deviations for:

“1. Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses. …

“6. Special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though the fulfilling of those needs will cause the support to exceed the proposed guidelines.”

This is especially important for the custodial parents of special needs children or disabled children because the special demands of parenting them may significantly limit their ability to “throw themselves into their career” so as to earn more money to support their family.

The bottom line is that parents of children with special needs or children with disabilities should not cut corners or jump on child support offers prematurely at the ultimate expense of the children and themselves.

The court is there to protect the interests of the children subject to the divorce or paternity action, especially those most in need and deserving of advocacy and protection.

Read more in Florida Statutes, Section 61.30 (11)(a) and (b)(8).

Posted in Uncategorized