Do Child Support Cases Deserve ‘Real Judges’?

There are sooo many family court cases. Especially child support cases.

Establishing support … Enforcing Support … Adjudicating contempt … Establishing support arrearages … Increasing support … Decreasing support … Terminating Support … etc., etc.

It would take more judges than many court systems have for a judge to personally preside over all of those support cases, in addition to all the other family court cases pending before them.

So many states’ court systems, Florida included, have developed some alternatives which conserve judicial resources.

In Missouri, the state’s social services agency has been holding its own administrative hearings, in which its own administrative hearing officers have been modifying child support determinations – determinations which were originally made by judges.

The state (quite plausibly) maintains that the administrative process is faster and cheaper … but many people, including many judges, believe it may be less accurate.

Now, a support-receiving mother has taken the Missouri agency to court for allegedly exceeding its statutory authority, by reducing the child support a judge previously awarded her.

And the Missouri Court of Appeals (and, reportedly, many Missouri judges) agree with her.

It remains to be seen whether the case will be further appealed … and how far the shockwaves may ripple.

Read more in this St. Charles County [MO] Business Record article: Missouri judges to fight new child support system.

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When is a Sperm Donor More Than a Sperm Donor?

The Kansas Supreme Court is about to decide that question in the following case.

A woman was artificially inseminated by an old platonic friend. She became pregnant with twins.

During the months leading up to the birth of her twins, she more or less “dropped” the old friend who had donated his sperm to her. He only found out that she had given birth because of a mutual friend.

Now the twins are 18 months old. They’ve never met their mother’s old friend who had made their birth possible.

But he alleges that the mother and he had verbally agreed that he would co-parent the twins as their father. The mother denies that.

Now, a Kansas statute states that a sperm donor has no parental rights unless the mother and the sperm donor agree otherwise in writing.

No one contends that there was an actual written contract here.

Case closed? Not so fast.

The sperm donor argues that the statute is unconstitutional and not in the best interests of the children conceived.

Meanwhile, the mother filed a petition to terminate the sperm donor’s parental rights – the rights she simultaneously denies the sperm donor had – for unfitness as a parent.

The sperm donor contends that the mother’s petition to terminate parental rights constitutes a sufficient writing under the statute – the statute he argues is unconstitutional.

The sperm donor further muddies the waters by suggesting that the mother, who happens to be an attorney, incorrectly advised him as his counsel that no written agreement was necessary to protect his rights.

At the same time, the sperm donor filed a paternity action to establish the legal father of the children.

The trial court dismissed the sperm donor’s paternity case and the mother’s petition to terminate parental rights, in both cases, because the sperm donor had no parental rights.

The sperm donor appealed.

This is yet another complex, even convoluted real life case that would make a great law school exam.

Except for the fact that only one outcome seems even remotelypracticable: a sperm donor is nothing more than … a sperm donor.

Read more in these Topeka Capital Journal articles: Dispute between friends leads to review of sperm donor rights and Court weighs parental rights.

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VT: Court May Enforce Temporary Order Entered Before A Spouse’s Death

In some states, including Florida, if one spouse dies during a divorce action but before the divorce is final, the divorce grinds to a halt and the case is generally dismissed.

Does that mean that everything the court has done along the way is out the window and forgotten?

In a recent Vermont case, a divorce court ordered a temporary freeze on marital assets during the case.

That’s not uncommon, usually to protect one spouse from the other spouse siphoning off, mismanaging or dissipating marital assets.

Despite the order, the husband changed the designated beneficiary on his life insurance policy from his wife to other relatives of his. And died.

When the wife moved to enforce the court’s temporary order, the trial court ruled that it no longer had jurisdiction to enforce its prior order. And the wife appealed.

The state’s highest court reversed, holding that, since the order was valid when it was entered, the court still had the power to enforce it now. And equity demanded that outcome.

Read more in this Lawyers USA article: Vermont Supreme Court finds family court retains jurisdiction despite death before divorce.

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Leaving in Violation of Temporary Order to Stay Lands Canadian Parent in Jail and Kids with Uncle

A Texas judge presiding over the divorce of a Canadian citizen ordered her not to remove the couple’s children from the area.

Despite that order, the woman was allegedly caught on a northbound bus in Kansas with the children – and arrested for interference with a custodial order. She was believed to be headed out of the country, to her native Canada.

As result of the woman’s disobedience of the court’s order, the court reportedly awarded temporary custody of the couple’s children to the children’s uncle.

Read more in this Star-Telegram article on the Bradenton Herald website: Azle woman held in child-custody.

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Imprisoned Kidnapper of Niece’s Child Released Early with Niece’s Blessing

Why would a mother plead for leniency for her child’s alleged kidnapper – especially when the mother has been deprived of any contact with her child whatsoever since 1996?

That’s exactly what happened in this unusual case.

The man was convicted and imprisoned on charges of custodial interference, for aiding his friend in kidnapping the friend’s daughter with the man’s niece – from a supervised visit. The friend then absconded with the child to Iran.

The child’s mother has not been able to have any contact with her since.

Nonetheless, the mother has sought leniency for her uncle, whose wife now requires expensive medical treatments for cancer. The man reportedly wants his freedom so he can return to a six-figure job to pay for her treatments.

And that is what has tipped the scales of – mercy – in favor of the convicted kidnapper’s early release, just halfway through his 16 month sentence.

This case inspired an important change in Connecticut’s child custody laws in 1999.

In Connecticut, it is now illegal for a parent with joint custody to take the child away from the other parent either “permanently or for a protracted period of time”.

Read more in this Stamford Advocate article: Man serving time for kidnapping is out early.

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Aftermath of A Local Politician’s Divorce

Ex-husband files without counsel for a downward modification of temporary alimony – because his ex allegedly secretly remarried a wealthy man.

She was gifted with an interest in a $2 million home, which was sold for a substantial profit.

She represented to the court that she was unemployed – when she allegedly wasn’t.

She allegedly blocked his access to the kids.

He’s in bankruptcy court fighting to keep his pension.

He wrote the check for her to go to law school – but she allegedly didn’t.

It’s all part of the slightly colorful aftermath of the divorce of a local former mayor of Miami.

Read more in this Miami Herald article: Former mayor says ex is hardly in distress.

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Father Kills Child Because Overwhelmed by Boy’s Problems

A twelve year old boy afflicted with autism was missing too much school.

So social services went to court to remove him from his father’s home and care.

An undoubtedly well-intentioned judge instead ordered that the boy stay with his father, but under social services supervision to ensure that he attended school more regularly.

While under child welfare system supervision, the boy’s father brutally snuffed out the boy’s life.

It was reported that the father was overwhelmed by his son’s autism-related difficulties.

Sadly, help and support for this boy and his father were at once so close, yet so far.

Read more in this Newsday article: Judge didn’t know of abuse of boy found killed.

What about the next child and parent in need?

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A Close-up Look at Routine Bans on Travel with Children of Failed Relationships

Imagine living in a country where parents with children are absolutely barred from leaving the country – even for a short vacation to visit relatives abroad.

Every reader surely cringes at the prospect of such a prohibition on two parents of an intact family traveling together with their common children.

So, are we imagining a third world country? An extremist regime?

Try democratic Israel.

And maybe, just maybe, where US policy may be heading regarding relocation (or routine travel) with children born of now-broken relationships – even to another state in this country.

Read this chilling article on Israel’s When your new homeland becomes your prison.

In many states across the US, custodial parents today are finding it increasingly difficult to escape (either temporarily or permanently) the particular state where their divorce happened to have been entered, let alone the country.

Often, in practice, without any real regard to the circumstances imposed on the family in that particular state, the likely degree of risk of abduction or denial of access to children, or competing risks to the children and/or custodial parent. Certainly not without great expenditure of time and resources in the courts.

Does this policy serve the best interests of children?

The Hatikvah Foundation is fighting the prohibition in Israel. They are assembling an international panel of social workers and advocates of children’s and women’s rights to review and tackle the problem.

But what about here in the US?

Internationally, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction already provides legal recourse in case of child abductions. Domestically in the US, there is legal recourse in the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and a host of federal and state kidnapping and custodial interference statutes.

Is the “cure” growing worse than the disease?

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Is There Such a Thing as Gay Divorce Outside Massachusetts?

Of course, it was just a matter of time…

In 2004, a lesbian couple who had been living together in Rhode Island trekked to Massachusetts to get married after Massachusetts legalized gay marriage.

Well, now they’ve separated and filed in their home state of Rhode Island for … divorce.

Only Rhode Island doesn’t “recognize” gay marriage. So, can Rhode Island grant a “gay divorce”?

Or, more technically, does a Rhode Island court have subject matter jurisdiction over a gay marriage validly entered in Massachusetts?

It’s a good question…

All eyes are on Rhode Island as it becomes the first state to grapple with an issue sure to arise in other states in coming months and years.

Read more in this Fox News TV article: Rhode Island Judge Faces Legal Quandary as Gay Couple Seeks Divorce.

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