Minnesota Pleased with Early Results in Pilot Program to Resolve Custody Issues Amicably Outside Court

Minnesota is experimenting with a program to reduce litigation over child custody.

Early Case Management and Early Neutral Evaluation are the cornerstones of the pilot program.

In the program, parents begin working with professionals to amicably resolve child issues early in the case.

About 120 cases have participated in the program over three years.

One hundred of those cases were amicably resolved.

None of them have had to go back to court.

The program costs $600 to participate in.

Details were sketchy as to the types of professionals involved, the types of issues in dispute at the outset of those cases and the presence or absence of domestic violence and related behaviors in those cases.

Read more in this [Mankato, MN] Fox 12 TV news article: Program Makes Custody Cases Easier On Kids.

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New York State Husband Goes Missing, and Disabled Wife and Children Struggle Because Court Withholds Child Support

Husband and Wife have two children.

Wife has medical condition which prevents her from working.

Husband takes off on a fishing trip one day in April of 2006 … and appears to disappear from the face of the earth.

Wife seeks financial assistance in court.

Court repeatedly refuses to award Wife child support from Husband’s estate.

Court refuses to allow Wife Husband’s share of proceeds from sale of marital home.

Wife struggles along on food stamps and other public assistance to support her two teenaged sons without child support or a job.

Even though

  1. a guardian ad litem for the boys and for Husband recommends that the Court allow support from Husband’s estate assets and
  2. a family court made an award of child support prior to Husband’s disappearance.

Wife reportedly says her family is trying to live on $84 per month.

After the third anniversary of Husband’s disappearance, Wife may seek to have him officially declared dead – in the hope that her sons may collect social security benefits as a result.

Read more in this Albany [NY] Times Union article: Woman denied child support funds in missing man case.

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A Canadian Participant Rates Collaborative Divorce as … Not Cheap

Collaborative divorce has been enthusiastically embraced by many attorneys and other professionals serving people going through divorces.

Its primary virtues are touted as:

  1. nonadversarial
  2. less costly than litigation

Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on the particular case and parties.

One participant in the process in the Toronto Canada area felt moved to comment on a series of articles on collaborative divorce published in the local newspaper.

Her advice is “run as fast as you can in another direction”.

In her case, fees were reportedly estimated at $4,000 to $8,000. At the time of her letter, they exceed $15,000 “with no end in sight”.

Not inexpensive. More than she indicates she was led to believe. More than she bargained for.

But, of course, the only benchmark by which to judge the cost of collaborative divorce is what this woman’s legal fees would have been had she been a participant in a traditional, litigated divorce.

And still, that doesn’t address non-monetary, emotional costs or savings at all.

And her experience may not be typical. But it is worth considering.

Read more in this Toronto Star letter to the editor: Collaborative divorce not cheap.

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International Custody Case Hard to Follow

This case is almost as hard to follow as a sleight of hand trick.

Daughter, an American citizen, is in Mexico, with nonrelatives. That’s been the case for four years of the five year old’s life.

Her Father and Mother are US citizens in the US, although not together.

It all started when Daughter’s Mother married a Mexican man, identified him on Daughter’s birth certificate as Daughter’s father and then moved to Mexico when her new husband was deported.

Father only saw Daughter one time in her life.

But DNA testing confirmed that Father, not Mother’s husband, is Daughter’s biological father.

Mother returned from Mexico to the US for a few days, leaving Daughter behind with her husband.

And there Daughter has stayed ever since.

Mother was arrested and incarcerated.

Father was also incarcerated.

Mother and Father both agreed to give custody of Daughter to Father’s wife.

A Florida court even approved the custody agreement.

And so Father’s wife has been trying ever since to bring Daughter home to Florida.

But she’s gotten nowhere. She can’t even verify that Daughter is alive.

It turns out, Daughter is with Mother’s husband’s sister – who is fighting to keep Daughter there and has identified her as a Mexican citizen.

A hearing was finally held in Mexico.

Mother’s husband’s sister testified that Mexico was all Daughter knows and that her parents are both criminals who shouldn’t have her.

But the Mexican judge has not ruled, either way.

Allegedly because the Court was awaiting papers from the US government.

And Daughter remains in Mexico with nonrelatives.

Read more in this Ft. Myers [FL] News-Press article: Lee couple fight to get little girl back home.

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Retired Ex-Husband Accused of Killing Ex-Wife Over Divorce Award Which He Felt Judge “Stole” from Him

Retired NY police officer (Husband) is on trial for murder … of his former Wife. He allegedly killed her in 2007, while she was waiting to pick up their now 27 year old Daughter from a Park and Ride location.

The couple separated in 1999 and their divorce was finalized in 2003.

Wife was awarded child support, alimony, half the proceeds of sale of the marital home, her jewelry and most of Husband’s police pension. Husband was most recently employed as a manager at a fast foot restaurant in Florida.

Husband tried to negotiate a better settlement through Daughter, with whom he had had no other contact since 2000. He wrote in an unsolicited note that the judge “stole” from him and “I intend to get it back”.

Daughter had disowned Husband and, out of fear, had taken steps to keep information about herself from him. She found the note in her car.

Husband’s co-worker testified that he spoke more than once, over the course of a year, of wanting to kill his ex-Wife for taking his money.

At 63 years of age, Husband faces 25 years’ confinement to life. And his worries over his assets have likely been displaced by others.

Read more in this Staten Island Advance article: Daughter disowns cop who’s on trial for murder and Co-worker says cop joked about killing his ex-wife.

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Montana Indian Tribe Implements Tribal Child Support System Offering Traditional Tribal Enforcement Mechnanisms

A Montana Indian Reservation is following the lead of reservations in Washington state, Wyoming and Oklahoma and will be implementing their own child support legal systems independent of nontribal legal systems.

All they are waiting for is final comments from the Indian population for federal funding to kick in and then the Tribe will exercise jurisdiction over child support matters involving tribe members.

The state and the tribe are working on interagency cooperation agreements.

The new system will allow the parties to a dispute to opt for resolution in the Traditional Circle, a traditional, tribal forum, rather than in a court.

The Montana tribe is the first to really use the Traditional Circle.

Read more in this Havre [MT] Daily News article: Rocky Boy rolling out child support programs.

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Australian Father Gives Himself the Sad, Final Word on Daughter’s Custody

Australian Father and Mother battle over custody of their three children.

They are in court two days in a row.

The next day, Father allegedly stands on a bridge and throws 4 year old Daughter over the side of it, into a river.

The couple’s other two children may be in the car during the incident.

Daughter dies.

Father is charged with murder. Father faces a possible life sentence if convicted of the charge.

Father is deemed “psychologically unfit” to appear in the initial criminal proceedings.

There likely won’t be much of a battle over custody over the two surviving children, even if Father is not deemed “psychologically unfit” to appear in family court.

Read more in this [Lake Charles, LA] KPLC 7 NBC TV news article: Man charged with daughter’s death plunge involved in custody battle.

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NJ: One Parent Should Not Have to Pay Alimony to The Other if the Other Kills Their Child

New Jersey Husband and Wife divorce. Husband is ordered to pay alimony, as well as child support for Son.

Wife and teenaged Son argue. Wife is angry and drunk.

Wife allegedly beats Son … to death.

Wife is sentenced to three years’ incarceration for Son’s death.

The trial court suspends Husband’s obligation to pay current alimony, but requires Husband to continue payments of arrearages into Wife’s “prison account”.

An appellate court later suspends Husband’s obligation to make payments on the arrearages, deferring payments of arrearages until Wife’s release from confinement.

The appeals court cannot not find any legal authority authorizing it to terminate Husband’s alimony obligation because of Son’s death.

But the Court invites the state legislature to address the issue by statute.

And address it the legislature eventually does.

A new New Jersey bill terminates alimony to a parent who kills a child intentionally or through abandonment or neglect.

The bill also cuts off a parent’s right of inheritance from a child the parent abandoned, abused, neglected, or endangered.

Read more in this North Jersey Crime Examiner article: No alimony for parent who kills child, panel recommends.

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For Your Next Appeal, Consult a … Musician

A Wisconsin Father recently won an appeal to the state’s intermediate level appellate court. His victory saved him from having to pay out nearly $4,000 in legal fees.

The case is somewhat noteworthy because the Father represented himself, without an attorney.

The case is much more noteworthy because the musician-Father composed his legal brief all in rap lyrics.

The ruling appellate court made no mention of that fact, but the Father is convinced that this form of expression played a significant role in his prevailing.

The Father had filed a federal court case against county officials who had recommended that his timesharing with his children be less than his former wife’s. This type of matter is not appropriate for a federal court.

Ironically, the Father may now seek costs from the party who sought but was ultimately denied fees from him.

While the case is probably not likely to set a new standard in legal drafting using rap anytime in the near future ….

Read more in this MSNBC TV article: Man Writes Rap for Legal Dispute.

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Introduction to Mediation

It sounds as though Peoria is discovering the benefits of mediation in appropriate cases.

Although very common in the context of divorce, most divorcing parties are unaware of mediation or unclear as to what it is.

Mediation is not trial or arbitration. The mediator does not decide all or part of a case and cannot tell parties what to do.

A mediator is a neutral third party, a facilitator in regard to the issues in dispute between the parties.

As helpful as it can be in resolving cases, mediation is not appropriate where there is a history of domestic violence by one party, and may not be appropriate where there is a history of drug abuse by one party, one party is very controlling and manipulative, one party has all the economic power in the relationship, etc.

Mediation is becoming increasingly popular, even mandatory, in many types of family cases.

Mediation is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Some issues can be resolved in a case even if others cannot.

Long, contentious mediations, however, can be as costly as many trials are.

Read more in this Peoria [IL] Journal Star article: When custody disputes get dicey, a third party often mediates the split.

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