DUI Arrests Are Fast Track in Florida to Child Abuse or Child Neglect Arrests … But Prosecution of Child-Related Charges is Unlikely

In cases where drivers are arrested for DUI in Pasco County, Florida and children are in the vehicle at the time of arrest, arresting officers typically also charge the driver with child abuse or child neglect.

In the vast majority of cases, however, even where the arrested driver pleads guilty to DUI, law enforcement typically drops the child abuse and child neglect charges.

Child abuse and child neglect are felonies. Many DUIs are misdemeanors.

The state attorney’s office nearly always maintains that it doesn’t prosecute child abandonment and neglect in these cases because they cannot prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt (as required in criminal cases) where the evidence merely supports DUI.

For the child abuse or neglect charge to stick, there must be a “serious risk of person injury or mental injury to the child”.

But even in weaker criminal cases, the arrest is not the end of the issue of child abuse or neglect.

Arresting officers are supposed to call in complaints to Florida’s child abuse hotline. From there, child protective services and child protection investigators can address the child-related issues more thoroughly – and resolve them in juvenile court with a lesser burden of proof than in criminal court.

Read more in this St. Petersburg [Florida] Times article: Child abuse charges are fleeting in Pasco County DUI cases.

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Unintended Casualties: Compensation Caps Pushed By Government Complicate Divorces and Pinch Dependent Spouses

Recent restrictions on executive compensation are having significant impact on divorces of people in the financial services industry. Nowhere is this felt more than in New York, where so many people are employed in the targeted financial services industry.

Employers have dramatically reduced cash bonuses, until recently a huge component of compensation. Instead, employers are compensating employees with company stock of speculative value and varying vesting dates, and deferred cash payments.

The effect is to reduce current cash income for purposes of calculating child support and spousal support.

Depending on exactly how the compensation is structured, it may also change the character of the compensation from income available for support to property which must be divided.

Meanwhile, the reduced current cash income is overextending family resources for private school tuition payments and carrying costs for existing second homes, not to mention support payments.

The timing and uncertainty of real, cash income is breeding increasing litigation over the financial aspects of divorce for financial professionals.

Dependent spouses seem to be getting the shorter end of the stick in these situations. Less cash income available for support now. Disputes over whether deferred cash or benefits / assets is even marital and, if so, as of what date should they be valued.

Ultimate impact on divorces of financial professionals? More, expensive litigation in filed cases … but markedly fewer cases filed.

Read more in this Bloomberg BusinessWeek article: Bonus Pay Changes Put ‘Massive Wrench’ in Wall Street Divorces.

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Expert Tips on Easing Children Through Divorce Transition

Unfortunately, divorce is hard on children.

But there are things parents can do to make it easier on them.

One expert suggests:

  • Both parents should look happier than before and avoid discordant demeanors around the children. Don’t rush to shed the wedding ring(s).

  • Give children frequent reassuring hugs and soothing physical contact. The nontimesharing parent should have some contact with the children on days the child is with the other parent.

  • Keep angry and sarcastic voices out of earshot of the children.

  • Make sure both parents share in the children’s major events.

  • Be positive.

Read more in this [Vancouver, Canada] Province news article: Helping your child feel secure and loved through divorce.

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Judge Allows Visitation with Father Despite Mother’s Pleas … and Baby Dies

California Mother and Father appear before Family Court Judge to determine timesharing and visitation.

Mother begs Judge to protect nine month old Baby from Father.

Mother produces e-mails, allegedly from Father, recounting a father’s murder of his nine month old baby and his own suicide. The sender of the e-mails is identified only as “John Hancock” though.

Judge reacts by saying to Mother that “[m]y suspicion is that you’re lying“.

Only Mother isn’t lying.

Ten days later, Father and Baby are dead of gunshot wounds at Father’s hands.

Father allegedly put strange messages to Mother out on the internet in the days preceding his death, apparently seeking reconciliation.

Community in which Mother, Father and Baby live is angry over Judge’s ruling and behavior toward Mother. Voters picket Judge’s courtroom carrying “baby killer” signs.

Other candidates spring up to run against Judge in upcoming election.

Judge concludes that order of protection would not have stopped Father anyway.

But Judge apologizes for virtually calling Mother a “liar”.

Mother doesn’t want to see any other children hurt by Judge.

Read more in this San Jose Mercury News article: Judge faces election after unpopular decision.

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It Takes One to Divorce: One Convicted Murderer Seeks to Divorce Another on Maryland Ground of Other Being Convicted Felon

In Florida, by far the most common ground for divorce is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.

But different states have different “grounds” for divorce.

A Maryland Husband has filed for divorce on the Maryland ground that Wife is a “convicted felon”.

Wife is serving a sentence of life in prison – and an additional twenty years. For murdering a couple.

Husband is also incarcerated for that couple’s murder.

Husband maintains that his Wife was the perpetrator of the murders. Husband’s sentence is only thirty-eight years.

It is unclear whether the legislature contemplated the application of the statute by one felon against another.

Read more in this Washington Post blog post: Report: Divorce for couple convicted of murder

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Parental Abduction on the Rise in Australia … Next?

2010 brings a sharp escalation in parental abduction of children in Australia.

Alarmed, law enforcement is putting the word out that parental abduction carries a sentence of one year’s imprisonment.

Authorities are also resorting to publishing in Australian newspapers photographs of children abducted by a parent. Generally, this is confidential and not permitted under Australian law.

These children are believed to be on the run with their abducting parent, missing school and regular activities.

Children currently missing are as young as two years old.

Australian authorities are taking this disregard of the law seriously and making these cases top priority.

Experts advise that parental kidnappings are traumatic and damaging for children, especially those between the ages of five and fourteen.

In Australia, approximately two and one-half million people are denied access to family in the courts, and approximately seven hundred thousand children have no relationship to speak of with one of their parents.

Read more in this [Australia] Herald Sun article: Hunt for children snatched by their own parents.

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Need Evidence? Don’t Forget to Check Out Social Networking Sites

Social networking websites have gained great popularity.

People put their lives in pictures up on them without hesitation.

And pour their hearts out on them without inhibition.

In many instances, they “let it all hang out”.

And, when they become embroiled in child custody cases, it is all “out there” to be found, easily, by the other parent.

And used as evidence in court of questionable parenting.

Something to think about …

Read more in this Victorville [CA] Daily Press article: Spouses use Internet to gain child custody.

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Parenting Class Developed By Attorney-Educational Psychologist Claimed to Enhance Co-Parenting Skills More Than Mandatory Divorce Parenting Classes

Georgia has a mandatory parenting class for divorcing parents. Just as Florida does.

Still, despite the mandatory class, many divorcing and divorced parents find it difficult to co-parent together and to stay focused on their children, instead of each other.

An attorney who is also an educational psychologist has collaborated with a psychologist to create a new educational program called Co-Parenting Resolutions.

This program can be substituted for Georgia’s mandatory parenting class. In fact, some Georgia judges encourage the substitution.

The course developers claim that their course actually “shows parents how to get along for the sake of the children in matters of custody”. And the creators of the program favor parents taking the class together.

The entire program is eight hours, but only three hours are live and in-person. The rest are recorded on DVD.

One thing is certain: high conflict parents who can’t co-parent will almost certainly make their way back to court … over and over and over again, in many instances.

As described, this program is not suitable for cases where there is a history of domestic violence.

Read more in this Gainesville [GA] Times article: Class helps divorced parents work together for kids’ sake.

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Divorce Your House, Advise Some Experts

The real estate market is in shambles.

Many homeowners are upside down in their mortgages.

Husband and Wife really can just barely keep up with mortgage as it is.

After divorce, they will have to support two homes on the same incomes.

A lot of divorcing couples shoot from the hip when it comes to dealing with their house and debts in settling (or litigating) their divorce.

One expert warns that couples are not truly divorced if they are still tied to a mortgage and other debt with their ex.

Cold, hard fact: joint debt means joint liability.

If either borrower defaults, both will have problems that they didn’t bargain for.

Like damaged credit, bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc.

The only way to eliminate the risk of the unknown and unforeseen is to sell the house before the divorce is final.

If one party wants to stay in the home, the cleanest way is to buy the other out and refinance their name off of the mortgage.

And nothing should be taken for granted. The home should be thoroughly inspected and appraised to make sure that the buying spouse understands what they are signing up for.

Whether selling the home before the divorce is final works for you or not, one lesson drawn is surely valid: when it comes to financial and legal obligations, you can’t do too much due diligence in your divorce.

Read more in this Santa Clarita Valley [CA] Signal article: Divorcing your house along with the spouse.

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Disagree with the Court’s Order? Then Shoot the Judge, As One Israeli Threatens in the Heat of the Moment

Husband has upcoming hearing on Wife’s claim for alimony.

Husband doesn’t want to pay. Certainly not the amount Wife is asking for.

Husband, who has no lawyer in the case, tells Wife’s lawyer that he would shoot the presiding judge if he is ordered to pay that kind of alimony. Husband also threatens to set fire to the courthouse.

Not the best moves.

Husband is criminally convicted on his threats against the judge.

And sentenced to thirty-eight days in jail. And another five months, suspended. And three months of community service.

All things considered, the judge is pretty lenient and considerate of Husband’s situation. She looks to Husband’s clean record and the fact that he didn’t have a lawyer at the time that he spoke out.

Unfortunately, Husband’s threats are hardly unique in Israel at this time.

Read more in this [Israeli] Haaretz article: Petah Tikva man gets 38 days for threatening to shoot judge.

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