Paternity Challenge to Avoid Child Support Cannot Be Raised Indefinitely in Maryland … or Florida

Husband and Wife are married for sixteen years.

During the marriage, Husband has a vasectomy.

Several years later in 1992, Wife gives birth to another child, Daughter.

Husband treats Daughter as his own child in every way.

During the divorce, Husband enters a settlement agreement with Wife on custody and child support for Daughter.

When Daughter is in her teens, the local child support agency (Agency) petitions to modify Husband’s child support, to increase it.

At that time in 2005, for the first time, Husband denies paternity of Daughter … when Daughter is approximately thirteen years of age.

At trial, the court orders a paternity test. As expected, the result disproves Husband’s biological relationship to Daughter.

Child support is terminated and the Agency appeals.

Maryland’s highest court reverses, holding that the trial court should not have ordered the paternity test. The opinion appears to be based primarily on the appellate court’s view of the best interests of Daughter.

A stronger rationale might have been grounded in Husband’s unreasonable delay in asserting his change of position.

Despite changes in the law in many states now making it easier for a man to challenge paternity and avoid a child support obligation, this child support case would have come out the same way in Florida today.

In Florida as in Maryland, a de facto father does not have a legal right to change his mind about taking on the role of father at any old time he pleases, at his whim. Any paternity challenge must be fairly timely to stand a chance of succeeding at avoiding a child support obligation.

Read more in this Maryland Daily Record article: Court: judge erred in allowing paternity contest after 13 years.

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New York Family Court Holds Child Welfare Agency in Contempt for Arbitrarily Retaining Baby in Foster Care for Nine Days Instead of Placing Her With Her Uncle as Ordered

New York Mother of three suffers from depression.

Baby is hospitalized for “failure to thrive”.

Children, including Baby, are removed from Mother’s care.

Court orders that Baby’s Uncle be investigated for possible placement of Baby with him.

In Court several days later, the Child Welfare Agency clears the Uncle but cannot produce the court-ordered written report.

Court investigates Uncle and approves him as well.

Baby’s Guardian ad Litem approves placement with Uncle.

Parties reach agreement on placement of Baby with Uncle.

Court orders liberal visitation by Mother, supervised by Uncle.

Family Court orders that Baby be placed into the custody of Uncle.

Child Welfare Agency delays actual placement with Uncle for nine days, for reasons that are not clear – if any.

Baby and Mother (and Baby’s siblings) are thereby deprived of substantial (six hours) daily timesharing and bonding.

Court holds Child Welfare Agency in contempt for its delay in placing Baby with Uncle … and fines Child Welfare Agency $2,500 plus costs. And awards Mother damages.

Read more in this West Palm Beach Examiner article: Judge finds NYC Administration for Children Services in contempt for not placing child with uncle.

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Cooperative Divorce Law: Yet Another Path to a Florida Uncontested Divorce

I’ve previously posted, more than once, about mediation, a very common route to a Florida uncontested divorce, and collaborative law, a trendy, generally higher-end path to a Florida uncontested divorce.

A California attorney attaches yet another label to yet another path to an uncontested divorce: the cooperative divorce law approach.

What’s that?

Cooperative divorce is a variation of collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce typically involves a sizable team of professionals.

This can add substantially to the cost of a Florida uncontested divorce … and in many cases is professional overkill.

Cooperative divorce seems to be a more cost-effective and practical alternative.

For one thing, the nonlawyer professionals (accountants / financial planners, mental health professionals, etc.) are not brought on to the team unless and until they are demonstrated to be needed. In many cases, all of them or some of them may not be.

Also, if, despite the best of intentions on both sides, it turns out that all or some of the issues in the case cannot be resolved amicably, the original lawyers may continue to represent both spouses in litigation. In the collaborative approach, if the case doesn’t settle, both parties must start over with new lawyers. That results in substantial additional expense and slows the process down.

Read more in this San Diego News Network Family Law blog post: The Most Basic of Family Court Proceedings–Divorce.

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Victims of Domestic Abuse in California Get Slammed Again … By Gutted State Budget for Domestic Violence Services

Victims of domestic violence in California are finding it less hospitable than ever to live there.

Faced with severe budget deficits, the governor virtually eliminated the budget previously allocated to services to victims of domestic violence.

The magnitude of the cutbacks far outstrips other struggling states.

Now shelters are feeling the same level of desperation as their charges.

Some have closed. Some of reduced staff. Some have scaled back their facilities. Some have scaled back their operations.

The result: victims fleeing domestic violence, often mothers with children in tow, are being turned away.

The situation is especially bleak in rural communities.

This is an especially bitter pill for victims of domestic violence to swallow in the midst of this recession.

High unemployment, many foreclosures, tight credit, fuel high tensions which tend to trigger domestic violence incidents.

Some federal aid, combined with private donations, is helping to keep some services going that would otherwise have been shut down.

But advocates for domestic violence victims, and victims themselves, worry for how long.

Read more in this New York Times article: Cuts Ravage California Domestic Abuse Program.

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Florida is Home to Three of the Ten US Counties with the Greatest Concentrations of Divorced Residents

Newly released US Census statistics also reveal that three of the ten US counties where divorced residents are found in greatest numbers are right here in Florida.

Those three Florida counties with the most divorced folks are

  1. Monroe, home of the (in)famous Keys, to our South

  2. Pinellas, home of Tampa / St. Pete, on the West Coast of the state and

  3. Putnam County, a rural county in the northern part of the state

Eighteen percent of the residents in the Keys are divorced, making this the US county with the second largest population of divorced people.

By contrast, across the nation, less than eleven percent of US residents are divorced.

Which state has the highest rate of divorce per person? Oklahoma, which is the state with the largest number of people who have been married at least three times.

Read more in this Associated Press article delivered via Yahoo News: Divorce in America: Ind., Fla. counties are tops.

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In Which States is Divorce Most and Least Prevalent? The Answers May Surprise You.

Newly released US Census statistics reveal the prevalence of divorce in each state’s population.

Some of the statistics are somewhat surprising.

For example, New York and New Jersey have two of the three lowest rates of divorce.

Not surprisingly, Nevada leads the nation in divorced folks by a wide margin.

But who would have guessed that Maine has the next highest rate of divorce?

Or that California would have only a moderate rate of divorce?

The statistics are actually quite interesting.

Read more in this Associated Press article delivered via Yahoo News:State-by-state divorce rates.

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NH Woman Attacks Man and Police Unit With Hands, Knife, Glass … and Teeth, in Domestic Violence Incident

New Hampshire Girlfriend and Boyfriend are at home, apparently having a disagreement about something.

Girlfriend allegedly pursues Boyfriend around the kitchen, brandishing a knife.

Boyfriend calls the police for assistance.

Police arrive.

Girlfriend allegedly pushes and strikes one or more police officers with her hand and with glass.

Girlfriend allegedly bites a police officer on the arm.

Police make to arrest Girlfriend.

At which point Boyfriend reportedly changes sides and seeks to protect Girlfriend. (Not unusual in domestic violence incidents.)

Boyfriend is arrested on charges of resisting arrest.

Girlfriend is arrested on multiple counts, including assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Boyfriend is not confined.

Girlfriend is out on bail.

A no-contact order, a criminal law variant of an order of protection, is entered to protect Boyfriend from Girlfriend.

Read more in this New Hampshire Union Leader article: Woman will be tested for diseases after charge of biting a police officer.

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When Bankruptcy Meets Divorce

For divorcing couples who are overburdened with debt incurred during the marriage, the possibility of a bankruptcy filing by one spouse hangs over the other like a dark cloud.

Each divorcing spouse may have a different income, credit standing, attitude toward repayment of debts and bankruptcy, degree of appeal to a creditor seeking to collect on a debt, etc.

These differences can generate substantial tension and conflict during divorce. And fighting over them can prolong and drive up the cost of the divorce.

And in some cases, despite the best of intentions, how things will turn out is all but a foregone conclusion.

It may be prudent for each spouse to consult with a bankruptcy attorney before filing for divorce. Like it or not, it may well simplify the divorce to dispose of the debt through bankruptcy first.

Among other changes made in the new bankruptcy code, it is significantly harder for a spouse to evade their legal obligations to their spouse under a settlement agreement in family court through a bankruptcy filing.

But, as under the old bankruptcy code, creditors can still target either spouse who signed for the debt.

In cases where bankruptcy is a real possibility, the marital settlement agreement should make special provisions to protect a spouse from a bankruptcy filing by the other.

Read more in this California-issued press release: The Intersection of Divorce and Bankruptcy.

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Chinese Couple Separate Just Three Months into Their Marriage

Chinese Husband and Wife meet online in November 2008.

Husband and Wife marry in April 2009.

But a month later, they are fighting. Over nothing. Frequently.

Husband and Wife separate in August, with a six month re-evaluation plan.

Already they miss each other. And plan to give it another shot after the six months elapses.

Sounds like the perfect time for them to work on a postnuptial agreement or marital property settlement agreement … just in case.

Read more in this Sindh [Pakistan] Today article: Chinese couple married for 3 months sign 6-month trial separation agreement!.

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Yes, Your Florida Uncontested Divorce Really Can Begin with a Settlement Before Filing the Divorce Case

Many people are baffled by the divorce process. At their initial consultation, some people question – and even obsess – over the sequence and timeline of the legal steps in the Florida divorce process.

But the truth is, there’s more than one possible sequence of legal events on the road to a Florida divorce, even a Florida uncontested divorce. For example, a settlement may be reached at any point in time before a final judgment is rendered after a divorce trial. And a settlement is what converts a divorce into an uncontested divorce.

Of course, if settlement is in the cards, settling very late in the process is not optimal for the spouses. They would save considerable money and upset if they reached their settlement much earlier in the divorce process.

How early?

It always surprises people to learn that there is absolutely no reason why spouses can’t reach a settlement before they even officially start their formal Florida divorce case. That is one of the hallmarks of one approach to a Florida uncontested divorce, called collaborative divorce.

The Achilles’ heel of the trendy collaborative divorce approach, however, is that both parties must be in synch with one another in agreeing on having a divorce, being ready to sit down at a negotiating table and being committed to settling before a divorce case is filed.

Unfortunately, both spouses aren’t always able to get on the same page in those respects that soon. Some parties need to be served – and sometimes even to experience a certain amount of litigation – before they are ready to accept the fact of the divorce, let alone deal with what must be dealt with.

But until a divorce case is filed, one spouse cannot force the other spouse to sit down at the negotiating table. It can be a long wait until the other spouse sees the light.

Every couple is unique and therefore every divorce is unique. Rigid approaches, strict methodologies and trendy labels don’t necessarily fit.

If and when both spouses become receptive and ready for it, any divorce can become a Florida uncontested divorce. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a costly or bitter process.

Nor do collaborative divorce evangelists have a monopoly on pursuing settlement prior to filing. And non-collaborative Florida uncontested divorces can save spouses as much – if not more – money than Florida collaborative divorces.

It is important to understand the dynamics of your divorce before adopting any particular approach to divorce.

Read more in this FOX TV 5 news article: Collaborative Divorce Can Save Money.

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