Incarceration for Non-Payment of Support Lands Dad in Jail and Ordering State in Federal Court

A Tennessee dad spent two days in jail in 2002 for failing to make all his child and spousal support payments.

The man claimed his financial circumstances had changed for the worse and that even though his obligations had been reduced, he still just couldn’t meet them.

Tennessee’s high court finally ruled that it was error to jail him, because the former wife hadn’t proved that he had the ability to pay and was willfully refusing to do so.

Armed with that ruling, the man is suing the state of Tennessee in federal court.

Although the former wife may have been entitled to an order of arrears for non-payment, a judgment of contempt warranting jail time requires more than non-payment; it requires willfulness.

Read more in this Memphis WMC-TV 5 article: Man jailed in child support case files federal lawsuit.

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Social Workers Practicing in Child Welfare System Are Entitled to Absolute Immunity

Social workers and other “evaluating” professionals play a huge role in child welfare law and the juvenile court infrastructure that protects children. Judges rely enormously on their reports and testimony. And their judgment calls largely determine whether or not a juvenile case ever gets filed.

Like every other member of the human race though, they sometimes make mistakes. Should they be liable for them?

A federal appellate court in California recently ruled “No”. Although a juvenile court later returned a boy to his own family’s custody despite the sworn petition of two social workers in California, the federal appellate court held that the social workers acted in the course of carrying out their responsibilities under the law and were therefore entitled to absolute immunity.

For purposes of the issue before it, the appellate court saw no difference between a dependency petition and a custody petition, or between testifying in court or swearing out a paper petition initiating the case.

One judge dissented as to the supervising social worker on the somewhat technical basis that she should not have personally sworn to medical conclusions, but rather should have cited to sworn medical conclusions furnished by medical practitioners.

It is worth noting that it was apparently not alleged that the social workers acted with malice against the parents and that, therefore, the court did not address the issue of malicious allegations which may conceivably be lodged by social workers in a dependency case.

It is difficult to imagine who would take on this tremendously difficult and, if not thankless, “under-thanked” job without absolute immunity.

Read more in this Metropolitan News-Enterprise article: Ninth Circuit Upholds Social Workers’ Claim of Absolute Immunity.

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MI: Dad Loses Agreed Sole Custody to Court-Ordered Joint Custody While Deployed

Yet another sensationally politicized case of a custody award rendered while one parent is deployed in the military …

With each new case, the stay features of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act are highlighted against a family court judge’s present ruling regarding a child that the court can’t “stay”.

This time, the court apparently ignored the mother’s letter allegedly “giving the father sole custody”. Apparently relying on the letter, the father left his son in the care of the boy’s paternal grandmother during his deployment.

In the father’s absence during his deployment, the court awarded the boy’s mother joint custody (not sole custody). The court also ruled that the boy should live with his biological mother during his father’s deployment, rather than his grandmother.

It is difficult to see any clear error or prejudice to the deployed parent in those rulings, under current law, based on the facts provided.

Presumably, the father can always seek a modification of custody and/or timesharing when he concludes active service and returns home.

Read more in this 49 ABC (Topeka, KS) TV News article: U.S. Marine loses custody of child while serving in Iraq.

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Delinquent, Disturbed or Just Plain Acting Out: Unfinished Adolescent Brain Development May Be to Blame

You may think the scientific subject of adolescent brain development may be out of place here.

Not so if you are a parent going through a family court case – or a parent of a child going through a juvenile (dependency or delinquency) court case. Or may be in the future.

According to studies, adolescent brains are not fully developed and are, therefore, less capable of reasoning and judgment and impulse control than adult brains – even during the late teens and early twenties.

This knowledge has important implications for parents and children who must interact with the legal system, whether by choice or otherwise.

Whether your child is acting out mildly during your divorce – or has started having run-ins with the law since starting high school, even though your family is intact.

While some of these behaviors may be responses to environmental stimuli, they may also be caused or exacerbated by biological factors.

Either way, every parent may benefit from learning about the biology of the adolescent brain.

Read more in this Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel article – Inside their heads: Rebellious teen behavior could stem from biology.

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MI Kids Die Due to Budget Cuts Affecting Appeals of Termination of Parental Rights Cases

A Michigan appeals judge is crying out that the state’s budget cuts are causing the state’s child welfare and protection sytem to fail Michigan’s children.

On average, ten Michigan children per year die in foster care.

Adoptions get bogged down, because the prerequisite termination of parental rights can’t be timely finished, because an appeal is still pending.

In recent years, appeals have been moving substantially faster, because of the services of outside contract attorneys.

But no longer. Due to budget cuts.

Before long, the judge fears, appeals will remain open longer.

And more children will die. Due to budget cuts.

Read more in this Lansing State Journal editorial: William Whitbeck: Vulnerable children victimized by crisis in Mich.’s finances.

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Training to Be a Better Dad

A multi-disciplinary group of recognized experts in the realm of parent-child, and especially father-child relationships, has banded together to sell ordinary dads training on … how to be a better dad.

Possibly the best feature of the training is that interested dads can totally avoid any embarrassment, stigma or deficiency which may be perceived to be associated with such training, because the training materials can be downloaded off the internet in the privacy of the student’s own home.

Although some of the materials are general in nature, others are geared toward dads engaged in custody battles. The trainers plan to expand their offerings in the near future to focus on other parenting situations from the father’s vantage point as well.

Read more in this press release: ‘Being a Better Dad’ — Smarter Fathers = Stronger Families Online – Educational Resources Now Available.

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Divorce Protection Trusts as Tools to Maintain Inheritances as Separate From Marital Property

Some parents worry how their legacy to their children and grandchildren will be impacted if their child should divorce.

While an inheritance is normally separate nonmarital property under Florida law if properly maintained, it can at times be all too easy to taint that status of separate.

One of the best ways for a parent to reduce that risk is to place the intended inheritance assets into a trust, specifically, a divorce protection trust.

Depending how it’s drafted, such a trust can allow the children the use and control of the assets, yet still preserve the protection from the spouse.

And unlike a prenuptial agreement, it doesn’t require the other spouse’s agreement.

Read more in this Honolulu Star-Bulletin article: How to protect inherited assets in the event of divorce.

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Child Ordered Returned to Spain Although He Knows No Spanish

Woman meets man over internet. Woman travels from New Zealand to Spain to meet man.

Man and woman have relations and child is conceived. Woman goes home to New Zealand and has child.

Mother and child remain in New Zealand and father visits a couple of times.

Mother and child go to Spain and remain there for a year. Mother and child again go back to New Zealand for a few months. Mother advises father she will not be returning.

Father brings proceedings for return of child to Spain under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Child is now four and has never lived in Spain before, except while he was a baby. Child reportedly doesn’t even speak Spanish.

New Zealand trial court rules child does not have to return to Spain.

The New Zealand appellate court reversed, ruling that the child had been habitually resident in Spain and must be returned there for a custody ruling on the merits.

Read more in this Stuff.co.NZ article: Court orders NZ mum to return son to Spain.

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Father’s Day … Without Fathers

Fifty percent of American children grow up without a father living in their household for at least part of their childhood.

Once the relationship with their mother sours, many of those dads have little to no contact with their kids.

Uninvolved dads tend not to pay child support.

Even where these dads remain connected with their children, although the kids have higher self esteem, associated with parental involvement, they still experience more adolescent difficulties.

So much for happy father’s day.

Read more in this New York City Journal article: A melancholy occasion for millions of American kids.

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Custodial Interference Arrest – 26 Years Later

Twenty six years after fleeing with her child from an ex-husband who, it is suggested, may have been abusive, a 62 year old Utah woman is under arrest and facing forced return to California.

Under Utah law, custodial interference is a felony carrying a sentence of up to five years – although such a harsh sentence is reportedly rarely actually imposed. The statute of limitations must be quite lengthy – or nonexistent.

The now-grown son with whom the woman fled is said to be completely supportive of her actions.

Tenacious police work for such an old case.

Is the mother a villain? Or a hero who protected her son?

Only time – and evidence – will tell.

Read more in this Salt Lake Tribune article: Mother who fled with son 26 years ago to appear in court Friday.

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