Californians Propose Changes to State’s Family Courts

In California (although not exclusively), there is widespread dissatisfaction with the workings of the family courts.

Numerous legislators have and continue to propose legislation to address the problems and improve their performance.

Several legislators are also seeking audits of several counties’ family courts, in an effort to account for inconsistent outcomes and difficulties in access for unrepresented and lower income parties.

Special attention has been drawn to cases involving custody disputes. There are dramatic differences across the state in the costs of custody evaluators, which are beyond the means of many, many parties – who nonetheless need their services.

There are many reports of custody being awarded to accused sexual or violent abusers, sometimes due to the use, or abuse, of claims parental alienation syndrome (PAS).

PAS is an increasingly controversial theory that one parent sometimes turns children against the other parent. PAS is not recognized by the legitimate, organized psychological or psychiatric community and some legislators propose barring its use in family court.

Other legislators propose allowing children to testify themselves in family court cases, having the courts absorb the costs of custody evaluations rather than parents, and requiring custody evaluators to have specific training in child sexual abuse.

Read more in this Capitol Weekly article: Several bills seek to reform family courts.

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Florida Annulment: Highly Desired, Rarely Acquired

So many people whose marriages fall apart very quickly after the honeymoon simply assume that the marriage can be annulled, voided, as though it had never happened.

They most often prefer that over divorce for religious or other purely personal reasons. Occasionally, for long-term or short-term financial motivations.

The financial consequences of annulment can be quite different from those of divorce.

But, under Florida law, it is the rare marriage that is eligible for annulment. There are two different types of marriages that can be annulled and they each can have different consequences.

It gets pretty technical. But, either way, only rarely does a marriage meet either set of criteria.

So it’s hardly anything but painful to ponder the difference in financial consequences.

But that’s what a recently published article set out to do, just the same.

Unfortunately, it isn’t until you get to nearly the end of the article that the author reveals that it isn’t purely a matter of free choice whether to divorce or annul a marriage.

In a nutshell, when a marriage is annulled, the court strives to put the parties back into the same financial position as they were in immediately before the marriage.

Read more in this Mainstreet.com article – Annulment vs. Divorce: The Financial Differences.

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American Mother Accused by Father of Abducting Baby Daughter from Denmark

It isn’t just non-Americans who are accused of abducting their children across international borders.

The case below suggests a different scenario entirely.

American Mother and Danish Father live with their two year old baby Daughter in Denmark.

Mother and Father previously agreed in writing to joint custody of Daughter.

When Mother’s father was visiting them in Denmark from the US, he allegedly diverted Father and gave Mother opportunity to get away with Daughter and leave the country.

Father has now brought suit in a federal court in Pennsylvania to have Daughter returned to Denmark under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

A federal judge has enjoined removal of the child from Pennsylvania pending a decision on jurisdiction over Daughter.

Mother’s mother reportedly informed a reporter that Mother was prepared to explain to the judge why she left Denmark as she did.

Read more in this [Northeastern Pennsylvania] Times Leader article: Denmark man: Wife took child.

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Canada: Parental Alienation: Is It Appropriate for a Court to Order Intense, In-Patient “Rehab” at a Distant, Secure Facility?

In Canada, claims of parental alienation are taken extremely seriously.

So much so, that at least one commentator has noted a judicial “fad” of ordering alleged child victims of it to a US clinic for cure.

Parental alienation remains very controversial.

Many organizations of psychologists and psychiatrists reject it, at least as a diagnosis of a disease or psychological condition.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t accurately describe certain very real patterns of behavior present in certain family court cases.

Recently, a Canadian judge bucked the reported trend there and overruled an arbitrator’s ruling to send a disabled teenager for treatment.

Even if accepted as applicable to a child victim, parental alienation may not be capable of a “quick fix” – and some therapists believe the very attempt may do more harm than good.

The holding in this recent Canadian case may signal emergence of a new trend in Canada, or it may be limited to the somewhat unusual facts of the particular case before the court in that case.

Only time will tell.

Read more in this Toronto Globe and Mail article: PARENTAL ALIENATION – No quick fix.

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What’s the Best Timesharing Schedule for the Family Dog? Possibly, None

Anyone who has a pet knows that the pet is part of the family.

When couples break up, their children typically still spend time with each parent, including time on the parent’s turf.

But what about the family dog or dogs?

Believe it or not, it’s a lot more complicated with a dog.

First, if the couple can’t agree privately, the judge will decide the pet’s fate as though the dog were an item of personal property, based solely on its fair market value. The pet’s best interests will not be a consideration in most cases.

Second, unlike kids, who are pretty resilient and generally able to tolerate regularly bouncing from one parent’s home to the other’s, dogs aren’t. According to one animal consultant, dogs like “routine and predictability” and “structure”.

Read more in this Asheville [NC] Citizen Times article: Dog custody becomes an issue when relationships end.

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Niagara Falls: Yesterday Honeymoons, Today … Rising Domestic Violence

Most of us associate Niagara Falls with honeymoons.

But that’s not what people who live there are thinking about lately.

Domestic violence is on the rise in the county, both in frequency and severity.

In one recent incident, a mother was allegedly both stabbed and shot by her ex-boyfriend – after she obtained an order of protection from him.

The ex-boyfriend also reportedly shot two police officers who came to her aid.

Ironically, the attack occurred next door to a church.

In other recent incidents, a husband shot his wife in the head.

And a teenaged boy shot and killed a teenaged girl and then himself.

Local shelters, stretched to capacity, emphasize the importance of having a safe exit plan and a support system in place before leaving a relationship with domestic violence.

Read more in this Buffalo [NY] WKBW-TV 7 news article: Spike of Domestic Violence in Niagara County.

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Wisconsin Father Gets Five Year Sentence for Not Paying Child Support for Six Years

Wisconsin Father divorces in 1995. Father ordered to pay child support for his 2 year old.

Father enters plea agreement with prosecutor’s office over his failure to pay support for years. Agreement places Father on probation and defers prosecution.

Father doesn’t comply with agreement. Father convicted of felony failure to support his child.

Father in arrears by more than $25,000 by 2006. Father then sentenced to five years’ incarceration.

Plus a year’s “supervision” and two years’s probation after that. During which Father must work and continue paying child support arrearages.

Not paying timely certainly worked out well for Father…

Read more in this Baraboo [WI] News Republic article: Man gets 5 years for not paying child support.

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NH: Under Bill, Judges Are To Consider Whether Bail Requirement Will Doom Child(ren) of a Single Parent Defendant to Foster Care at Taxpayer Expense

In the same spirit as that of the unified family court as it is implemented in Florida and certain other states, New Hampshire is on the verge of passing a bill that is on the cusp of criminal and family law.

The proposed legislation would introduce as a consideration for the judge presiding over bail hearings whether a defendant is a single parent whose child or children would have to go into foster care if that parent were confined prior to trial.

A disproportionate number of single mothers are reportedly confined before trial because they have insufficient resources to gain their freedom with bail.

Apparently, this bill could save the state of New Hampshire a nice chunk of change. To illustrate, in New Hampshire, a year’s incarceration and a year’s foster care each cost about $30,000, yielding a savings to the government of at least $60,000 per single mother freed on bail.

If passed, the proposed legislation would also spare some children temporary upheaval which is, ultimately, for nothing.

Read more in this Laconia [NH] Citizen article: Bill aims to cut down on confinement for single parents.

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Dow Jones Heir’s Child Support Obligations Are Increased Dramatically After His True Income and Assets Come Out

Husband and Wife divorce in 1997.

Husband is ordered to pay child support of $512 per month for Daughter.

Now, a court has ordered Husband to pay about $5,000 more in monthly child support than was previously ordered.

The court has also ordered retroactive support of $160,000 to adjust support for prior years.

Husband characterizes these rulings as “absolutely laughable”.

The judges aren’t laughing though.

It turns out that Husband is an heir to the Dow Jones fortune, with trust funds valued at at least $4 million at the time of his divorce.

The court has found that Husband deliberately concealed his assets.

Husband maintains that he had no knowledge of his trust funds until after the divorce.

It is unclear whether Husband voluntarily came forward on his own to dislose his tremendous trust fund assets when he allegedly discovered them.

Read more in this WAOW TV 9 article: Dow Jones heir: Child support ruling ‘laughable’ and this Dubuque [IA] Telegraph Herald article: Wisconsin: Wealthy heir blasts back child support ruling.

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Mother Allegedly Leaves Small Children Home Alone To Go to Bar and Liquor Store … on Two Different Occasions … Two Weeks Apart

Mother allegedly leaves her 6 year old and 2 year old home alone at night.

To go looking for her boyfriend at a bar.

Mother is arrested.

Mother pleads guilty to child endangerment.

Just two weeks later, Mother allegedly leaves 6 year old and 2 year old home alone at night again.

To go to a liquor store.

Mother is arrested again, for driving under the inflence, traffic offenses and child endangerment.

Mother’s mother (Grandmother) is reportedly seeking an order of protection and trying to have Mother’s two children removed from her custody.

Grandmother reports that Mother is an alcoholic.

Grandmother advises that she will be seeking custody of the older child, whose father is deceased. The younger child’s father will be picking her up.

Mother is already on probation.

Read more in this Northwest [IL] Herald article: Police: Mom left children alone again.

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