Grandparents Seek Custody Over Anticipated Medical Neglect

Mother dies in childbirth (assisted by unlicensed midwives who end up in jail).

Father is sole surviving guardian of couple’s children.

Mother’s parents contend that Father rejects modern medicine – but this contention is in dispute.

In this unusual Florida case, the grandparents are seeking custody of the children to avoid anticipated medical neglect.

They bring this action themselves, not in family court, but in juvenile dependency court, the forum typically reserved for social services cases regarding children.

Hearings in this case will be held later in the year. Grandparents with grandchildren who they believe are suffering various degrees of neglect may follow this unusual case with interest.

Read more in this Sarasota Herald-Tribune article: Fatal midwifery case leads to custody dispute; The dead woman’s parents say her children aren’t safe with her spouse and they want custody.

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Help: My Ex Breached … Homeland Security … With My Child

Parental kidnapping cases just may involve the department of homeland security soon.

New, stricter laws were recently enacted which require Americans traveling anywhere outside the US to have passports.

These regulations have been attributed by the media solely to concerns about homeland security.

But there’s another reason for them too.

Increasingly common parental abductions of minor children across national borders.

The new measures will make it tougher for an abducting parent to “slip under the radar” by means of routing travel plans through places such as Mexico, Canada and the Carribean, which have not previously required passports of US tourists.

Read more in this New Jersey Observer-Tribune article: Abductions are focus of new federal laws.

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NJ Simplifies No-Fault Divorce

New Jersey just streamlined no-fault divorce, following the lead of many other states, including Florida.

Previously, a New Jersey couple had to live separately for 18 months. Now, a New Jersey couple need only have irreconcilable differences for 6 months.

One significant side benefit of the changes is that lower income couples can remain in the same household until property division and spousal support orders are entered.

New Jersey still offers fault-based grounds for relatively fast divorces, but this new, streamlined procedure reduces the need to utilize such adversarial measures simply to obtain a relatively prompt divorce.

It will be interesting to see whether this measure has any influence on New Jersey’s neighbor, New York state.

Read more in this New Jersey Star Ledger article: ‘Irreconcilable differences’ offers faster, more humane divorce.

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Foster Care: Is the Job Complete on Youths’ 18th Birthdays?

Last April I posted that Florida Kids Leaving Foster Care at 18 May Get More Help.

Actually, the premise of helping foster kids beyond the day they turn 18 is taking hold in at least 17 states across the nation, spurred by organizations advocating on behalf of some 24,000 teenagers who age out of foster care in this nation each year.

Various states are now offering programs that run the gamut from extending foster care in its entirety through the age of 21 instead of 18, to providing housing, education, medical care, money and/or mentoring beyond foster kids’ 18th birthdays.

Youth advocates point out that most young adults in the US are not prepared to fend for themselves on their 18th birthdays – and foster kids are even less prepared by virtue of being raised in foster care.

That’s why so many end up in jail, shelters and unrelenting poverty.

Preliminary studies support the belief that extending stays in foster care improves young people’s outcomes upon release.

But one young person lamented that he was not benefited by others taking too much care of him rather than raising him to care for himself.

Read more in this New York Times article: Offering Help for Former Foster Care Youths.

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Mother Dies At Hands of Husband After Being Ordered to Disclose Address in Court

A woman was shot and killed at her brother’s home, where she was staying with her children since they were released from foster care.

The killer is alleged to be her husband, who was subject to an order of protection at the time.

How did he find her at her brother’s house?

A judge presiding over a child custody hearing the day before the shooting reportedly ordered her to testify in open court as to where the children would be staying.

Ironically, it is reported that no one from the court system would discuss these events … citing confidentiality grounds.

Read more in this Portland [ME] Press Herald article: Victim’s family questions custody proceedings.

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Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em. Can’t Marry Your Partner? Adopt Them Instead.

In the shadow of courts grappling with the concepts of gay civil unions and gay marriage, and rights of gay couples to adopt children, comes a different sort of case out of Maine.

A gay woman formally adopted her partner in a lesbian relationship, with the intention of securing her dependent partner’s rights to inherit from her wealthy family in the event of the wealthy partner’s death.

As a result of the couple’s eventual breakup, complex cases are now pending in two different states – cases which turn upon technicalities, policy arguments and substantive legal grounds.

Some of the Technicalities: The couple actually lived in New York, which explicitly barred adoption between sexual partners, reserving it for parent / child relationships. The adoption in question apparently took place during an extended vacation in Maine, which had no such explicit prohibition. Maine’s jurisdiction is called into question based both on failure to meet the residency requirement and affirmative fraud upon the court.

Some of the Policies: If the elected officials of a state deny inheritance rights to resident gay partners through either marriage or civil unions, should resident gay partners be allowed to circumvent their home state’s social legislative policy by exploiting the less stringent adoption laws of a different, convenient state?

Some of the Substantive Legal Grounds: The creator of the trust that is at the heart of the matter reportedly did not even know about the adoption which transformed the woman that he knew only has his daughter’s gay partner into his legal grandchild – and an heir to his trust. As a matter of estate planning law, should his alleged intentions be thwarted by undisclosed, unforeseeable legal maneuvers by his daughter and her partner?

On the practical side, if the adoption is upheld, Maine might develop a “cottage industry” of hosting gay partner-adoptions for inheritance rights on behalf of homosexuals all over the country.

Of course, none of this would be in issue if gay couples could simply automatically inherit from each other by virtue of marriage or civil union.

This unusual case may turn out to be more significant than it may appear at first blush.

Read more in this Portland Press Herald article: Unusual adoption case has high stakes.

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Divorce Without Consent?

A conservative political group in Virginia sharply criticizes rising divorce rates – and any award of child custody to any parent who filed for divorce.

But the group is not stopping there.

It is lobbying for “consensual divorce”: divorce only in cases where both spouses/parents consent to it.

It does not appear that the group would carve out any exceptions for couples with a history of domestic violence or child abuse.

Read more in this Potomac News article: Family Foundation will push for divorce reform – Group to push divorce reform – Family Foundation says it will propose tightening Virginia’s no-fault laws.

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Some Grandparent Survivors of 9/11 Grieve Doubly Over No Contact with Children’s Children

One aspect of of 9/11 that may be glossed over by the general public are the grieving parents of victims, who have since been denied contact with their late children’s children. For them, a double tragedy.

Some bitter fights over visitation have wound their way through New York’s family courts over the last five and a half years, with little, if any, success. (See my previous post Grandparents’ Rights: Another Comeback?)

Other efforts have been made and battles fought outside the courts – sometimes only in the silence of the grandparents’ own hearts and minds.

Sometimes disputes were over disposition of the bodies, monies to be recovered, attempts to blot out a tragic past with a fresh start on a new future, differing house rules, pre-existing hostilities, allegations of abuse, and on and on.

Whatever the reasons, despite the nation’s boundless collective sympathies for the children and the spouses of the victims of 9/11, these grandparents’ double tragedies may have been largely ignored or forgotten.

Read more in this New York Times article: Parents of 9/11 Victims Torn From Grandchildren.

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NY: Desperately Needed – Family Court Judges

Following the death of a neglected Brooklyn girl, the staff of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services expanded in both numbers and skills training.

That was essential, because abuse reports climbed by 30% after people saw the consequences of silence and passing the buck.

But, according to a local editorialist, the biggest problem in the child welfare system persists, unimproved: the city’s family court system.

There are reportedly a mere 47 judges presiding over the city’s family courts.

This handful of judges is charged with overseeing the welfare of countless children, averaging 2,500 cases per judge per year. These judges have about 10 minutes per case to make life-altering decisions regarding children.

And the government and poverty lawyers typically appearing before them in such cases aren’t in much better positions.

The city’s public advocate has recommended that there be created the office of children’s public advocate. Given the monumental size of the city’s child welfare system, this sounds like a long overdue measure.

Read more in this New York Times editorial: Fix the Dysfunctional Family Court.

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NY Allows the King Solomon Approach to Dividing the House

Aging couple with four children live in spacious three story home in distinctive ethnic Brooklyn neighborhood both love.

Marriage breaks down. Among other issues, the wife alleges both psychological and physical abuse.

While the couple owns other nearby properties, each parent claims to love this home and does not want the upheaval of moving.

Further complicating the situation, it appears that physical custody of the children will be split, with one child to reside primarily with the husband and the remainder to reside primarily with the wife.

The trial court presiding over the case fashioned a creative solution: construct an interior wall to divide the house in half, with half to be occupied by the husband and half by the wife.

The innovative ruling was upheld on appeal by the wife.

Read more in this Miami Herald article: Divorcing couple wall off home – Amid a bitter divorce, a wall has gone up, dividing a Brooklyn couple’s house.

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