Mom Bites Back – and Gets “Bitten” by Authorities

How do you punish a young child who misbehaves or is aggressive with family members?

This is a question that many families face at one time or another.

And there are many possible answers, lying across the spectrum from appropriate, to inappropriate – and worse.

For one Iowa mother, the ultimate solution to a child who was biting her was: to bite him back.

Local authorities didn’t second her sentiments though.

While examining her boy for an unrelated injury, hospital workers discovered and reported to police an apparently human bite mark on the child’s arm.

Although no charges have been filed at this time, the boy was taken into protective custody by the local child welfare agency.

Read more in this Daily Nonpareil [Council Bluffs, IA] article: Child in protective custody after parent bites.

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Possible Settlement Promotion Technique in High Profile Cases: Denial of Sealing

Although there has been much written about it in the mainstream media and this blog, Florida is hardly the only state where the rich and the powerful have successfully cloaked their divorce (and other) proceedings in secrecy using a legal mechanism called sealing.

A high profile San Francisco attorney has zealously attempted to seal records pertaining to custody and visitation in his contested divorce case.

And that in itself has spawned quite a bit of publicity – not favorable to him.

Also unfavorable to him have been the court’s denials of the attorney’s motions to seal.

Perhaps as a result, the bitter proceedings appear to have ratcheted down, on their way to settling amicably.

Just like most family court cases eventually do.

Read more in this SF Weekly article: Sealed With a Dis – A powerful Bay Area trial lawyer with political connections tries to keep details of his messy divorce from going public.

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Protect Your Assets from the Government: Get a Divorce?

Of course, there are many different reasons why a spouse might want a divorce. And they don’t all have to do with marital fault of a spouse or incompatibility.

One of the less common reasons to seek a divorce: to try to shelter assets from the government.

That was the reason that former Qwest CEO allegedly considered divorce. He had about $52 million at risk as a result of insider trading, of which he was convicted.

When allegations surfaced against him, he began transferring some of those assets into his wife’s name.

But, for anyone considering something similar, will that really do the trick? Not necessarily.

Read more in this MyFox Colorado article: Prosecutors: Nacchio Considered Divorce to Protect Assets – Former Qwest CEO Faces Sentencing for Insider Trading Conviction.

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Building Healthy Stepfamilies

Sometimes, shortly after divorce follows remarriage.

If there are children, that means stepparents and stepsiblings and complex new relationships for children of divorce. Tensions and resentments can run high when the split-off family unit expands.

In Jackson, Michigan, counselors are working with families to facilitate the union into a stepfamily.

Difficulties can range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from who signs a report card, who gives permission for a school trip to what holidays the family will celebrate and how they will celebrate them.

Since the process doesn’t come with a roadmap, some guidance from trained professionals who may have been down that path may save a lot of time and agony.

Read more in this Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot article: Stepfamilies learn to deal with divorce.

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Child Residing in US Abducted During Court-Ordered Visitation with Father in Australia

She did everything right …

The court awarded her residential custody of her children. When she decided that she wanted to move to the US with her kids, she obtained permission from the Australian court last year, ahead of time.

The Australian court ordered her to send the kids back to Australia to visit with their father twice a year. So she did.

She did everything right.

And on what was likely the second such visit, the father abducted their younger child.

She made an application for return of the twelve year old boy to the US under the Hague Convention. But the boy can’t be returned if he can’t be found.

She and her daughter had to move back to Australia, leaving their new lives in the US behind, to be closer to the search.

But after three months, her son still hasn’t been found. They believe that the father is on the run with him in a mobile home.

Neither mother, his sister or any of his friends in the US or Australia has heard from him by e-mail or phone.

She did everything right …

Read more in this Border Mail article: Mother’s frantic plea after boy fails to fly home – ‘Please help find my son’.

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SC Battered Woman Blocked From Presenting Evidence to Support Her Claim of Self Defense

South Carolina woman tries four different times to secure a domestic violence injunction against her allegedy abusive boyfriend.

For unstated reasons, three temporary injunctions were never served on him.

The man reportedly physically abused the woman and stalked her over a ten year period, and killed their daughter’s cat and pet rooster in front of her.

The woman and her daughter took refuge in a church on five separate occasions, and the woman talked about the abuse to two aunts.

Then came the day that the man rolled their daughter across the floor “like a bowling ball”, and threatened both of their lives.

And the woman shot and killed him.

The woman was convicted of manslaughter.

The trial judge barred third party testimony as to the woman’s state of mind based on her accounts of the abuse, which testimony was offered to support her claim of self defense. The appeals court upheld the trial judge’s ruling and the conviction.

Two appellate level judges criticized the rulings as depriving the woman of the opportunity to prove her defense.

Ironically, the appellate court claimed to be committed to protecting victims of domestic violence.

Read more in this Charleston Daily Mail article: Albright says justices need to learn abuse law.

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Where Should Kids Face Justice?

Does prosecuting juvenile offenders in adult courts deter and reduce crime?

According to studies cited in an editorial, the answer is a clear no.

It is reported that juveniles who serve “adult time” typically go on to commit more violent crimes later on than juveniles processed through the juvenile justice system.

So where do kids face justice? And where should they face justice?

Another study concludes that some 200,000 children run through the adult court system for nonviolent offenses could be better dealt with through the juvenile system.

Apparently, several states routinely escalate kids into the adult justice system for fairly minor infractions.

According to the article, several states are now acting to make it easier to keep juvenile offenders in the juvenile justice system, in the hope of better outcomes for youthful offenders – and society as a whole.

Read more in this New York Times editorial: Juvenile Injustice.

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Unbundling the Marriage Contract, Among Other Things, Would Simplify Divorce

NYU Sociology Professor Dalton Conley proposes isolating the legal rights conferred by marriage – and making them each individually transferable to a partner (or purchaser) of choice.

This view of marriage as a contractual relationship represents a shift in values.

An apparently unintended benefit of the Professor’s proposal is that it could certainly simplify the divorce process.

In the hypothetical world proposed, all rulings in a divorce should be governed by a contract entered prior to marriage, subject to modification by one or more additional contracts entered during the marriage. In other words, all married couples should have prenuptial agreements and some would also have one or more postnuptial agreements.

Read more in this New York Times article: Spread the Wealth of Spousal Rights.

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Psychological Father Awarded Custody by Court Charged in Boy’s Murder

A Denver boy is dead – just a few months after a judge awarded custody of him and his half-brother to his “psychological father”, who had been investigated by the local social services agency.

The boys’ mother had previously been incarcerated for child neglect, and the court had limited her visitation with the boys.

The surviving boy was placed in foster care when his father and stepmother were charged with murder of his older half-brother.

As questions surfaced about the role of social services in the tragedy, the agency defended that its responsibility for the boys ended when the court entered a final custody judgment.

Post-judgment follow-ups are not routine in such situations.

It is unclear whether the alleged murderer treated his biological son different from the boy who the court ruled related to him as his “psychological father”.

Read more in this Denver Post article: Custody decisions close caseworkers’ book.

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Deployed Parent’s Rights Versus: Other Parent or Child?

Federal law enables deployed soldiers to put most civil proceedings against them on hold while they are serving their country.

But practically since the beginning of the war in Iraq, soldiers (and their advocates) have been speaking out against family courts rendering child custody modification decisions while they are away on deployment and unable to participate in the proceedings.

Read more in this Associated Press article in the Roanoke Times: Forced to fight battles on both fronts and this Newday article: Wartime Custody Deals Would Be Protected.

Both articles focus on the admittedly important parental rights of the deployed parent.

However, it is unrealistic to deny that there is any impact on the innocent children whose lives are uprooted by their parent’s deployment. Or that the children’s rights (or best interests) may support the children remaining with the other parent – even after the previously deployed parent returns.

Family court proceedings are not just like other civil court proceedings. And children are not the same as a car loan or apartment lease.

The policy and human considerations are just more complex.

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