US Pitches the Hague Convention against Child Abduction to India

Fifty-five children of American / Indian unions have gone missing in India.

That is why the US is asking India to join the many other countries tht have joined the Hauge Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

If India did sign on, it would expedite case resolutions and tend to “assign” cases to the proper jurisdiction. It would also make India a less attractive haven for kidnappers.

Read more in this The Times of India article: US wants India to sign treaty on child abduction.

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Don’t Overlook Social Security Retirement Benefits Based on Ex-Spouse’s Work

One issue that probably won’t come up during a divorce of non-senior citizens is social security retirement benefits.

But it is something that dependent ex-spouses should consider after both ex-spouses have reached 62 years of age, provided the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the dependent spouse is not married to someone else.

Once the dependent spouse applies for benefits, the Social Security Administration will determine whether the applying spouse’s own work record or an ex-spouse’s record will provided greater benefits, and should pay the highest benefit available to the applicant.

Read more in this Providence Journal MoneyLine column: Social Security survives divorce and at the Social Security Administration’s website.

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The Divorce Loan Debuts in Japan

Divorce is expensive.

Two households now have to be supported, often on the same income that previously supported one.

Many child-related expenses have to be duplicated in both households.

There are numerous special expenses incidental to a separation.

Lawyers have to be paid for the legal proceedings.

Sometimes accountants and a host of other experts in the legal proceedings have to be paid.

And on and on.

One, if not both spouses often find it tough to keep up.

So Japan has innovated a solution – or at least an aid.

The Divorce Loan.

A relatively low-interest special-purpose loan to divorcing parties.

This sounds like a great idea that would catch on here in the States, if given a chance.

Especially if the underwriting criteria are flexible enought to accommodate the current circumstances of dependent spouses and needy parents.

Read more in this Reuters UK article: From heart-broken to broke? Japan divorce loan helps.

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TN Judge Reprimanded for Disregarding Appellate Court’s Order and Upholding Custody Award to Allegedly Abusive Father

One occupational hazard attorneys face is not-quite-ranting calls from (or appointments with) people who believe, rightly or wrongly, that they – or, worse, their kids – have been unfairly “beaten up” by the legal system, when they were represented by another attorney – or no attorney.

Those folks often have a lot in common with this Tennessee mother.

A Tennesee judge awarded custody of her child to the child’s father. After Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Service had allegedly already made a finding of abuse by the father.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The mother appealed the custody award.

And won. An appellate court reversed the trial judge’s ruling, and remanded to the trial court.

Only, reportedly, the trial judge obstinately refused to alter its custody award in accordance with the appellate court’s ruling. Just plain refused.

Forcing the mother to spend gazillion more dollars to compel the implementation of the appellate court’s ruling.

This Tennessee judge was ultimately publicly reprimanded, according to the article below.

But it wouldn’t be surprising if this mother had to do some almost-ranting before she got her child back, safe.

Still, things did get straightened out in the end.

At least for this Tennessee mother and her child. Who, somehow or other, could apparently afford the appeals.

Read more in this Macon County [TN] Times article: Judge Byrd reprimanded in Wilson County case.

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SWAT Team Serves Child Custody Order in Amish Country

Service of papers is not typically a colorful topic. But there are exceptions to every generalization.

In Ohio, a mother was served with a child custody order requiring her to turn her 9 and 21 month old babies over to their father. She was served at the school where she teaches.

The sheriff arrived with a juvenile detective. And a SWAT team.

According to one account, the SWAT team was armed with automatic machine guns, a battering ram and surrounded the school as soon as they arrived. According to the sheriff, only two members of the SWAT team got out of their vehicle.

The school was in an Amish community. And the mother is the daughter of the bishop of the community.

The sheriff defended his actions with reports of threatened violence by the Amish if the authorities persisted in investigations of alleged sex crimes within the Amish community.

The served mother promptly left the school and headed to her farm, with the sheriff and the SWAT team in pursuit.

The children were handed over to authorities by a relative.

Read more in this Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register article: Hearing Set In Amish Raid and this WTOV9 TV news article: Amish Couple Appears In Court For Child Custody Dispute.

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Law as Therapy

Unfortunately, most non-lawyers have little good to say about the legal system. But one research professor disagrees sharply.

It is his belief that legal proceedings can and should be therapeutic for the participants. And his paradigm is called therapeutic jurisprudence.

This mindset emphasizes how the law impacts on people’s lives and well-being, and how the quality of interactions between litigants and judges can affect litigants’ experiences of the legal system.

Under this schema, the law is a “dynamic social force”, which seems fitting and appropriate.

Some family court judges are prime examples of therapeutic jurisprudence. They extol to litigants the virtues of resolving disputes through mediation rather than litigation, not so much because it may save the parties money, but because it will benefit their children – and they will just plain be more satisfied with the outcome than if it is court-imposed.

If therapeutic jurisprudence fails to describe the current state of our legal system, it aptly describes the standard that all legal system professionals should aspire to.

Read more in this University of Arizona News article: Legal Proceedings can be Therapeutic, UA Researcher Finds.

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Dividing Pension May Have Tax Consequences

I previously posted on one installment of a series of articles on Basic Tax Questions for Divorcing Parties Answered.

A later installment in the series focuses on division of pension plans, IRAs and the like.

As the article explains, pension plans are often divided via special court orders called QDROs that cause the plan administrator to make part of the former employee’s pension payments directly to the former spouse.

The QDRO does not alter the total pension package payable as a result of the one spouse’s participation in the plan.

QDROs must be prepared with meticulous care. Errors can lead to inability to roll a benefit into another qualified plan without a tax event occurring.

After the divorce is finalized, it is prudent to update all beneficiary designations.

Read more in this Lancaster [PA] Intelligencer Journal article: Tax issues in divorce and separation – Dividing retirement plans and IRAs.

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Child Snatching Attains Epidemic Status, Even in Tupelo, MS

Sadly, child snatching is a fact of modern life. Even in Tupelo, Mississippi.

A local birth mother recovered her baby from adoptive parents-to-be. Custody disputes between parents. Fights between a parent and extended family members.

Then there are the abductions to another country.

With 200 cases of parental child abduction per year, the problem is epidemic.

And all of the above happens despite child custody jurisdictional acts enacted throughout the US and intended to, among other things, deter abductions.

The left-behind parent often feels frustration, however, because, in many instances of reported “kidnapping”, law enforcement is powerless to do anything – because it isn’t kidnapping in the eyes of the law, just in the eyes of the left-behind parent.

Read more in this Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal article: Kidnapping – Why do people steal their own children?.

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PA Billionaire Ordered to Pay Three Quarters of One Million to Wife as Monthly Temporary Support

One of the most common questions in a divorce is whether a spouse can qualify for temporary relief and, if so, how much. In the typical Florida divorce, these are not always easy questions to answer.

But, in one Pennsylvania case, the first question was easy to answer and the answer to the second question was “a shot heard round the bar of family law attorneys”. The case is anything but typical.

A Mellon Bank heir and publishing magnate, a billionaire, is divorcing his wife of more than fifteen years. He earns several million annually.

Pennsylvania, unlike Florida, has a formula for temporary support. The dependent spouse receives forty percent of the paying spouse’s income.

This elegant simplicity led to a court ordering monthly temporary support in this case of $725,000.

It sets an all-time record for temporary support in Pennsylvania – and probably elsewhere too.

The billionaire’s attorneys are, of course, fighting the amount of the award.

Other issues in this unusual case include custody of the couple’s pet Golden Retriever, property division, income determination for purposes of calculating permanent alimony, etc.

Questions about temporary support are still generally tough to answer. But not if the paying spouse is a billionaire.

Read more in this Editor and Publisher article: Scaife’s Wife Gets Giant Settlement After Messy Divorce — Claims Newspaper is ‘Hobby’ and this Pittsburgh Post Gazette News article: Millions up for grabs in Scaife divorce fight.

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