State Auditors Reportedly Find Ample Room for Improvement After Audit of Local Court Systems

Litigants complain about the California family courts – a lot.

The California Bureau of State Audits has been auditing the family courts in Marin and Sacramento counties for the past 17 months.

What did they find out?

According to the Marin Center for Judicial Excellence, both counties’ family courts are substandard in most every category measured.

A California senator reportedly reacted by characterizing the report as “disturbing”.

But local officials in Marin county reportedly interpreted the same reports as “proving beyond any doubt … there’s no problem”.

The Center for Judicial Excellence is particularly concerned (and requested audit specifically on) children involved in custody disputes who are placed with parents who are violent and/or sexual abusers instead of the parent who is not abusive.

But politicians in the court system may have succeeded in ejecting such issues outside the scope of this audit.

But what has come to light is not encouraging. For example, the court system could not show that five of seven of their mediators were even minimally qualified. And the mediators’ supervisor is reportedly not qualified to supervise them.

Similar criticisms apply to custody evaluators as well.

And complaints and potential conflicts are reportedly not documented or followed up on in any systematic way.

The Center also alleges “mass document destruction” hindered the audit.

The Center’s expressed concern is for the impact of these deficiencies upon children dragged through the courts.

Read more in this Marin [CA] Independent Journal article: Marin Voice: Audit unveils court problems.

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Family Court Awards Full Parental Rights to Gay Partner Who is Not Biologically Related to the Biological Children of His Partner

An Australian gay male couple hire a surrogate mother in India to carry twin fetuses to term for them. The twins’ genetic materials comes from one of the two men and an egg donor.

The couple bring a case in family court to establish the parental rights of the partner who is not biologically related to the twins.

And the Australian family court awards the other partner, who did not contribute genetic material, full parental rights over the twins. The court also acknowledges that the children now have “two fathers”.

Use of foreign surrogate mothers is thriving in Australia.

Read more in this Earth Times article: Court rules gay couple can both be fathers and this Advocate article: Australian Couple Wins Parenting Case.

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Child Support Agency Disburses A Half Million UK Pounds in Retained Child Support for One Thousand Children After Three Years in Limbo

The UK’s Child Support Agency had accumulated roughly half a million UK pounds in child support over three years that was not flowing to custodial parents as intended.

The accumulation resulted from errors in child support orders and errors in implementation of them. Some accidental and some intentional.

But now the agency, working with UK banks, has corrected the errors and has reinstated the flow of child support money to approximately one thousand children.

It is unclear whether the retained monies earned interest and, if so, where that goes.

Read more in this UK Telegraph article: Missing Child Support Agency money reunited.

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Animal Cruelty Is An Indicator of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abusers often cut their teeth on abusing pets and other animals before they graduate on to people. Other abusers abuse animals parallel to abusing human victims.

The correlation between animal abuse and abuse of humans is so strong that Florida’s domestic violence statute expressly authorizes the court to consider injury or killing of a pet as a factor in entering a domestic violence restraining order of protection.

Victims of domestic violence often stay in abusive relationships out of concern for their pets. Fifty-four percent of domestic violence victims staying in shelters report that their abuser had hurt or killed their pet.

Three states extend the protection of a domestic violence restraining order to pets. Other states are expected to follow their lead.

As a first line of defense, helping professionals should always seek out information about pets in working with victims of domestic violence.

Read more in this RDH Magazine article: Discerning the truth about abuse.

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Juvenile Court Presides Over Termination of Parental Rights of Woman Cleared of Murdering Her Attorney-Husband

Husband, an attorney, dies of an apparent heart attack.

Wife, who has two young children from another relationship, is arrested on murder charges.

Wife was previously diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder with schizophrenic features, as well as pain medication addiction.

A dead dog, blood and human tissue are found in their home at the time of Wife’s arrest.

Husband had warned child welfare authorities that Wife could not care for her children alone.

Child welfare agency removes Wife’s children from her custody and seeks to terminate Wife’s parental rights to her children.

Authorities seek appointment of a guardian for Wife in the juvenile court proceedings, but the court court denies it.

The Court does appoint a guardian ad litem for the children though.

It is eventually determined that Husband’s death was a complication arising from old injuries unrelated to Wife.

But the child welfare agency persists in its efforts to terminate Wife’s parental rights and ensure that children are placed with their father.

The guardian ad litem takes the position that even supervised visitation with the children by Wife could be psychologically damaging to the children.

Read more in this Detroit News article: Judge won’t name guardian for lawyer’s widow cleared of his murder.

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Can Turning Down Alimony Make Sense?

Lower income spouses ending long term marriages in Florida are well-positioned for awards of permanent monthly alimony. But permanent alimony isn’t the only option – and may not be the best option in all cases.

Increasing numbers of dependent spouses, even seniors, are forgoing permanent monthly alimony in favor of lump sum alimony and / or divisions of property that are more generous to them than an equal division of property.

How come? Prompt and full payment of lump sum alimony and/or generous property divisions:

  1. eliminate the risk of the paying spouse’s death in permanent alimony cases

  2. eliminate the risk of the paying spouse’s unemployment in permanent alimony cases

  3. eliminate the risk of having to chase the spouse for payments the spouse fails to make in permanent alimony cases

  4. eliminate their own disincentive to remarrying or cohabitating in permanent alimony cases

  5. buys their independence, cuts the cord from their ex and ends ongoing contact with their ex

But when the dependent spouse’s lump sum payment or share of divided property is gone, they will most likely be out of luck getting any monthly alimony.

Read more in this Reuters piece: Gray divorce: The question of alimony.

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Family Court Judge Orders Proceedings to Terminate Parental Rights … After Ten Years of Parental Neglect of Seven Children

Mother and Father have a long history with child protective services.

Some of their children have been taken into protective custody and placed in foster care a number of times.

But Mother and Father kept having more children.

They now have seven children.

Mother and Father have been charged over the years with substance abuse, domestic violence, educational neglect and medical neglect.

Mother and Father reportedly haven’t always visited regularly with their children while they were in foster care.

Mother and Father have allegedly misused government funds made available to them.

Mother and Father’s children have been in protective custody on and off for ten years.

Their children are stuck in limbo.

Family court judge orders the child welfare agency to petition to terminate Mother and Father’s parental rights, in the hope that the children may achieve permanency with different parents.

Read more in this Albany Examiner article: Judge orders ACS to file termination petition after 10 years of neglect.

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Father is Denied Shared Parental Responsibility for Pushing Children Too Hard to Perform in School

Australian Husband and Wife have two Daughters and a younger Son.

Husband and Wife split up.

Australian family court must decide child custody.

Husband places great emphasis on Daughters’ academic performance. Husband pushes Daughters.

Husband assigns Daughters extra school work … more challenging than their teacher-assigned homework.

He also requires them to write daily reports not required by their teachers …

And requires Wife to read the reports to him on the phone every night.

Wife maintains that Husband and she argue constantly over Husband’s pressuring of Daughters.

Parenting experts frown upon parents imposing excessive pressure on children over academic performance.

And Daughters refused to see Husband for a year.

The family court concludes that Husband is too “rigid and obsessive”. And awards sole custody and sole parental responsibility to Wife.

The Australian family court also orders Husband to undergo family counseling with Daughters and Wife to try to foster a better relationship with Daughters.

Read more in this [Melbourne, Australia] Herald Sun article: Dad slammed over homework load.

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Top Financial Mistakes in Divorce

According to a divorce financial analyst, the following are the Top Five financial mistakes people make in divorce:

  1. Not appreciating the liquidity or illiquidity of each asset

  2. Not appreciating the consequence of taxes on each asset and transfer

  3. Not appreciating the special considerations associated with retirement assets (taxes, early withdrawal penalties, etc.)

  4. Not appreciating legal obligations regarding debt, and how credit ratings work

  5. Not appreciating the unpleasant consequences of trying to hide / transfer marital assets

Read more in this [State College, PA] Centre Daily Times article: Identify all assets in divorce.

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Mother Pleads to Reduced Charges and Sentence for Criminal Non-Support of Children

Nebraska Mother is court-ordered to pay monthly child support of $244.

Mother actually pays $150 per month or less over the next seven years.

Mother is in child support arrears by about $24,000.

Mother is arrested on five felony counts of criminal non-support of children.

Mother enters an agreement under which she pleads guilty to three misdemeanor counts of attempted criminal non-support and is sentenced to probation. Mother is also required to pay $200 per month in child support until her sentence is complete.

Failure to pay support may be dealt with very differently from state to state.

Read more in this Plattsmouth [NE] Journal article: Plattsmouth woman pleads guilty on failure to pay child support.

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