New York: Cohabitation is … in the Eye of the Beholder

When does the obligation to pay alimony end? That depends on many factors.

More and more, it is the intention of legislators, courts and divorcing couples that the alimony obligation end when the receiving spouse enters a marriage-like relationship, even if it lacks the ceremonial formality of marriage per se. In other words, “cohabitation”.

But what is “cohabitation”? That depends too.

New York’s highest appeals court recently addressed that very issue. In a case where a settlement agreement provided that alimony terminate if the wife lived with a new significant other for “60 substantially consecutive days”.

The evidence showed that she did in fact live with her significant other for the specified time period. What’s the issue?

Under prior New York case law, the intermediate appellate court concluded that cohabitation required “sharing of finances”. And that this “couple” did not do.

New York’s highest court held that the definition of cohabitation depends on diverse factors and the parties’ intent.

The decision is expected to incite much litigation over cohabitation as applied to the specific facts of particular cases.

Florida’s counterpart to NY law on “cohabitation” sets forth the factors comprising a “supportive relationship”.

Read more in this Newsday article: Court: ‘Cohabitation’ ambiguous in NY divorce law.

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Father’s Probation for Allegedly Kidnapping His Daughter Reinstated for Failing to Comply with Conditions

Minnesota Father allegedly kidnapped daughter from child protective custody.

Sentence: probation, requiring 40 hours of community service, undergoing a chemical dependency evaluation, undergoing a psychological evaluation, making restitution of costs of Amber Alert.

A year after sentencing, Father has complied with none of the conditions of his parole. None.

Father offers reasons to the court:

  1. he didn’t have a (valid) driver’s license to get to where community service was to be performed
  2. he didn’t have medical insurance to cover the costs of the evaluations
  3. he didn’t have the money because he owes so much in back taxes and child support

Father did fail two court-ordered drug screenings.

Minnesota judge ruled that Father willfully violated the terms of his probation – without excuse. Outcome: Father’s probation was reinstated pending another hearing.

Stakes: criminal record – whether previous conviction appears as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Whether Father is permitted contact with his daughter is not addressed.

Read more in this Winona [MN] Daily News article: Amber Alert dad violated probation.

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Mandatory Divorce Parenting Courses Withstand Challenge in Connecticut

Connecticut, like Florida, has a mandatory parenting course for divorcing parents.

A Connecticut resident challenged the requirement as an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right of parenting one’s children as one sees fit.

The challenger also attacked the requirement as unreasonable, because it is required equally of good parents and bad parents alike. Further, it applies even where it is arguably irrelevant, such as in the case where the child is an infant oblivious to the divorce.

The course in Connecticut, as in Florida, is not on parenting in general but rather on parenting through the transition of separation. For example, the course teaches conflict resolution techniques.

A Connecticut trial court concluded that the state has a compelling interest in facilitating smooth separation transitions. It ruled that the course is not intrusive – because no parent is bound to follow the “advice” offered in the course. A parent is merely required to pay the attendance fee and “sit through” the course.

Although hardly a resounding endorsement of the course’s value, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling and upheld the parenting course requirement.

For what it is worth, the mandatory divorce parenting course in Florida is shorter and less costly.

Read more in this Hartford [CT] Courant article: Conn. court: Mandatory parenting courses allowable.

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Mother’s Parental Rights At Risk of Termination for Abusing and Abandoning Adopted Child

A Michigan mother, hearing of Nebraska’s liberally drafted “safe haven law”, allegedly traveled there to abandon her 13 year old adopted son, with impunity.

The mother reportedly abused the boy the entire time the couple had custody of him. Both parents defended that they never wanted the boy, but had to take him in order to adopt another child that they did want.

The adoptive parents tried to return the boy to his biological parents and to previous foster parents on several occasions.

The County is pursuing terminating the adoptive parents’ parental rights to all of their children.

The adoptive parents’ other children, both adopted and biological, have temporarily been placed in child protective custody as well.

The County previously brought a similar termination of parental rights petition, based on child neglect, against the couple, but they dropped it.

Read more in this Detroit News article: County wants abandoned boy, 13.

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CA Husband Arrested for Beating Wife in Front of Their Children and Neighbors

California Husband and Wife have two young daughters.

Husband puts daughters in family pickup truck.

Husband allegedly assaults Wife in full view of neighbors – and daughters.

Husband drags Wife to pickup truck.

Whereabouts of Wife and daughters were unknown. Ambert alert issued.

Wife and daughters then found at Husband’s parents’ home.

Husband arrested.

Husband allegedly has a history of domestic violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Read more in this KTLA news article: Man Who Beat and Kidnapped Wife in Custody and this Missing and Murdered Children article: CA Amber Alert – Ortiz Siblings; Jacqueline Martinez.

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Israeli Husband Seeks Return of Children Wrongfully Retained in Australia after Consent to Relocate Revoked

Israeli Husband and Australian Wife live with their four boys (Boys) in Israel.

Wife takes Boys to Australia, where her parents live.

Wife claims that Husband abandoned his family financially and emotionally, in favor of a girlfriend. Without Husband, Wife felt she needed family support and, she claims, Husband agreed to her relocation with the Boys.

Husband denies abandonment and denies giving consent to Wife and children moving to Australia. He also maintains that Israeli authorities told him not to pay support.

Husband files an application for return of the Boys to Israel under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The jurisdiction dispute has been winding its way through the Australian courts for quite some time.

The trial court finds that the Boys were not wrongfully removed from Israel, because Husband did give his consent – but revoked it shortly afterward.

Accordingly, although Wife had not wrongfully removed the children, she did wrongfully retain them in Australia.

Wife appeals, but the intermediate appellate court upholds the trial court’s ruling and orders the return of the Boys to Israel.

Wife is seeking an appeal to the highest court in Australia and the court has stayed the return of the Boys until the appeal is concluded.

Meanwhile, Husband recently had his first visitation with the Boys in nearly two years.

Read more in this Australian Jewish News article: Israeli father battling Aussie wife for custody.

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Houston Woman Accused of Kidnapping Five Evacuated New Orleans Children … Who She Allegedly Took in for Three Years

Evacuated Hurricane Katrina mother and her five kids from New Orleans end up living in Houston.

Houston woman allegedly takes them all in.

New Orleans biological mother claims Houston woman refused to return the children to her when requested.

Houston woman claims she has raised the children for the past three years – with little financial assistance from New Orleans biological mother.

She also contends that children would be unsafe with biological mother, who she alleges cannot care for them. Child welfare agency does not find those allegations to be supported by evidence.

Police arrest Houston woman on kidnapping charges. Grand jury rejects indicting her – and Houston woman is released.

Houston woman, cut off from all contact, wants New Orleans children back in her life – along with their mother. But she drops her legal case to try to get custody of children.

Read more in this Houston Chronicle article: Woman who took Katrina evacuee’s kids no-billed.

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Spectre of Divorce May Promote Saving – and Working

Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing may depend on how the economy is and which economic expert you are speaking to.

But a study suggests that the spectre of divorce may promote saving – and working.

The study analyzes savings patterns in Ireland both before and after divorce was made legal there in 1996.

In comparison to other Europeans, the Irish upped their savings significantly after 1996.

This increase was especially marked among non-religious couples (who were impacted by the new law more than very religious couples) and singles, who were not particularly affected by the legislative changes.

Implication: people don’t save for something positive, but to protect against something negative (loss of partner’s income).

The study also reports that Irish women re-entered the work force in greater numbers after the statutory divorce scheme changed.

Read more in this New York Times piece: Risk of Divorce Leads People to Save More.

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Michigan Court Holds Woman in Contempt for Blocking Access to Children of Her Sister, Who Was Allegedly Murdered by Their Father

Michigan Husband and Wife have Children together.

Husband allegedly murders Wife.

Husband is sentenced to prison for … a very long time.

Children are adopted by Wife’s sister and her husband.

Husband’s Arizona mother seeks to exercise her court-ordered visitation with Children.

Wife’s sister and her husband withhold visitation.

Court holds adoptive parents in contempt and orders them to allow visitation with Husband’s mother within 90 days and to pay her $500 in attorney’s fees.

Court also transfers jurisdiction to Ohio, where adoptive parents reside with Children.

These rulings may have been different in some other states – and, possibly, even before different judges in Michigan. Welcome to the legal system.

Read more in this Chicago Tribune article: Judge: Slain woman’s kids should see grandmother and this Detroit Free Press article: Tara Grant’s sister found in contempt of court over visitation.

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National Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Fifty Families Expected to Utilize Supervision Services in a Small Colorado Town

During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Steamboat Springs, Colorado’s Advocates Against Battering and Abuse have erected human silhouettes outside the local courthouse, depicting victims of domestic violence.

The organization also started a supervised visitation and exchange program over the summer.

Where there are no specialized facilities and personnel to supervise visitation or exchanges, supervision is provided informally by therapists, family members or the general public. Unfortunately, they lack proper training to ensure compliance or safety.

The new program expects to serve 50 families in this rural area this year.

The program is open to families in need, even if they don’t have a court order. This is an improvement over many supervised visitation and exchange facilities nationwide.

That reduces options for too many families and sometimes creates unreaonably and unnecessarily high risk.

Read more in this Steamboat [Springs, CO] Pilot & Today article: Visitation program helps families.

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