Mother Allegedly Hides Child in Hole in Wall for Two Years to Keep Custody From Father

Mother and Father break up.

Their Son is 5 years old.

Court awards custody of Son to Father.

Mother alleges that Father sexually molested Son.

Child welfare investigators find no evidence to support those allegations and recommend that Father be awarded custody of Son.

Mother abducts Son.

And allegedly hides him in a hole in the wall – quite literally – at the house of her mother (Grandmother).

For two years.

Police say Son reacted to his release as though he had rarely if ever been outside of his hole in the wall, a small hidden crawlspace built into a wall in his grandmother’s house.

Mother is now charged with felony child abduction.

Grandmother is now charged with aiding and abetting.

A man who also lived in the Grandmother’s house is under arrest as well.

Son is now living with relatives pending further investigation of Father and evaluation of Son by child welfare workers.

Father maintains his innocence.

Read more in this ABC News article: Father Rejoices After Police Find Missing Son Alive, Hidden at Grandmother’s Home and this WSIL ABC TV 3 news article: UPDATE: Another Suspect Arrested in Kidnapping Case.

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Guess What? Unmarried Parents Don’t Have an Automatic Right of Appeal of Child Custody Rulings in all States

Boyfriend lives in New York.

Girlfriend lives in New Hampshire.

Boyfriend and Girlfriend “meet” on the internet.

Couple has two Daughters.

Relationship sours.

Custody battle in New Hampshire begins.

Girlfriend accuses Boyfriend of sexually abusing Daughters and of “mental delusions”.

Boyfriend accuses Girlfriend of sexually abusing Daughters and of “mental delusions”.

Neither police nor child protection agencies in either of their states have taken any action against Boyfriend (or, apparently, Girlfriend).

Boyfriend [erroneously] contends that this proves that Girfriend abused him with false accusations … alienating their Daughters from him and manipulating the legal system.

Court concludes that couple cannot “co-parent”.

Therefore, court awards Girlfriend primary custody and majority timesharing.

Court also awards Boyfriend “liberal” visitation.

Seeking primary custody himself, Boyfriend files appeal … and learns that New Hampshire law denies unmarried parents in child custody cases, among other folks in family cases, an automatic right of appeal.

So, Boyfriend seeks a discretionary appeal. And loses.

Now, regrouping, Boyfriend asks the trial court to reconsider its ruling, a little late in the game. He is now asserting that different appellate rules based on marital status of parents is discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Whatever else, New Hampshire’s unusual appellate rules do at least have the virtue of trimming the appellate dockets considerably.

Read more in this Concord [NH] Monitor article: Unmarried couple’s custody case hits snag – No automatic appeal in fight.

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UK: Is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

The goal of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is to facilitate return of internationally abducted children to their home states within a brief six weeks.

Unfortunately, this is a far cry from the reality.

According to an article written from the British perspective, one-third of children abducted from the UK to other countries which have signed the Hague Convention are not returned within a year. Several countries typically require well over a year, or even a couple of years, for cases to run the course of their legal system.

Some countries which are parties to the Hague Convention reportedly never return children. Others rarely do so.

According to the article, Hague Convention signatory countries least likely to return children to the UK (and, presumably, anywhere else) are:

  • Croatia

  • Ecuador

  • Honduras

  • Mauritius

  • Peru

  • Serbia

  • Sweden

  • Zimbabwe

According to the article, even the US refused to return one-third of abducted children.

Of course, some cases of non-return by Hague Convention signatories may be the result of good faith differences in findings of fact or good faith differences in the application of the law of the Convention (particularly the exceptions) to the facts of the cases.

But, if this is the track record of the countries that agreed to the Hague Convention, the even poorer track records of non-party countries shouldn’t be surprising.

Read more in this [UK] Guardian article: Third of abducted children not returned home after a year.

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New York Remains the Last Bastion of Fault-Based Divorces

Florida is a so-called “no-fault” divorce state. Actually, at this point in time, so is every other state in the union.

Except, of course, New York state. The lone holdout requiring fault for divorce.

Many attorneys and mediators have worked for years toward changing New York’s divorce law.

But with no success to date.

Leaving it to divorce litigants to discover and prove legal fault.

One commentator points out that the added costs to spouses and the extra clogging of the New York courts with courtroom fault-dramas are just too much in these recession-plagued times.

Who knows? Maybe this will be the year New York’s divorce law changes.

Read more in this New York Times editorial: New York’s Antique Divorce Law.

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Child Killed by Father While in Father’s Custody … After Being Removed from Mother’s Custody

Mother and Father are divorced.

Child welfare agencies in two states are familiar with the family.

Mother is initially awarded custody of their three Children.

Later, Mother loses custody of Children and Father is awarded custody of Children.

Mother is allowed visitation supervised by child welfare personnel at the child welfare agency’s facilities.

Father has other children from other relationships. Father’s visitation with them is reportedly restricted and he was allegedly arrested for injuring one of his other children previously.

While Children are in Father’s care, Father allegedly gets drunk while “playing” with a gun … on Christmas Eve.

All three Children are present at this time, including one-year old Baby.

Father’s gun goes off, shooting one of the Children in the head and killing her.

One of the other Children dials 911, not Father.

Father is arrested for manslaughter, endangering a child and tampering with evidence … and released on bail.

Mother’s counsel seeks to have the surviving Children placed into Mother’s care. Father’s counsel seeks to have the surviving Children placed into Father’s care.

Instead, the Court orders that Father have no contact with the two surviving Children for the time being, that Mother continue to be restricted to supervised visitation, and that neither parent have access to Children’s school.

Children are in foster care.

Read more in this Denton [TX] news article: Father accused in girl’s shooting can’t see children.

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Long After the Divorce, Ex-Wife Sues Very Wealthy Ex-Husband for Hiding Assets During Divorce, Fraud, Etc. … and $300 Million

Ex-Husband and Ex-Wife divorced in the early 1990s.

Ex-Husband is a very, very wealthy man who founded a successful investment company during his divorce from Ex-Wife.

Ex-Wife sues Ex-Husband in a civil lawsuit for claimed racketeering. More specifically, allegedly:

  • hiding assets from Ex-Wife and the family court during their divorce
  • filing papers with the court that were false
  • fraud and
  • insider trading.

Ex-Wife’s first lawyer dismissed her suit shortly after it was filed, apparently due to a falling out between him and his client. But Ex-Wife plans to re-file through new counsel.

The original actions reportedly sought $300 million.


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Floridians: Don’t Take Your QDROs for Granted If You Are Entitled to Share in Your Ex’s Pension

There’s a relatively easy way and a potentially very hard way to collect a spouse’s share of the other spouse’s pension awarded in a divorce.

The hard way in many cases is to passively wait for the ex-spouse to send it. Perhaps to e-mail, call or text message the ex.

When things get bad enough (arrears mount), to file a motion for contempt.

Time-consuming, costly and aggravating.

Then there’s the easier way.

To have the pension plan administrator just send it directly to the spouse awarded a share.

No begging, arguing, threatening or waiting.

The spouse on the plan never gets their hands on the money and has no opportunity to interfere with collection.

What wondrous mechanism accomplishes this?

Well, in Florida, former spouses receiving checks directly from their ex’s pension plan administrator know they owe their thanks to a “QDRO“, or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (and the lawyer who advised getting it).

A QDRO (pronounced “quad-ro”) is a nifty order that a judge signs as part of the divorce.

Although QDROs can be somewhat complex and may cost some money, for the spouse who is not directly on the pension plan, the return on investment can be huge … and the other spouse may well be required to bear the associated expenses.

To appreciate what the big deal is about a QDRO, you’d probably have to talk to someone living in one of the five states that do not recognize QDROs.

Such as Kentucky.

One woman, waiting for her share of her husband’s pension benefits, has instead seen him jailed twice rather than send her her court-ordered share. And still she only receives her share long enough for him to “get out of jail”.

But Kentucky legislators are working on implementing (sadly, reinstating) recognition of QDROs in Kentucky.

Read more in this [Louisville, KY] Courier-Journal article: Bill aims to simplify pension payments.

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Husband Held in Contempt for Violating Injunction or Restraining Order Intended to Protect Marital Assets Until Property Division Settled

Minnesota Husband and Wife divorce.

Court ends marriage without yet addressing all issues in the case.

Court enters an injunction or restraining order prohibiting either spouse from transferring or spending marital assets while property division is still up in the air.

Husband has a substantial 401(k) account in his name.

Husband spends $125,000 from that retirement account, without Wife’s or court’s permission.

Judge holds Husband in contempt of court.

Judge sentences Husband to ninety days’ incarceration, but allows Husband thirty days to replace the funds and thus avoid jail.

Judge also orders Husband to pay Wife’s attorneys’ fees. Either way.

Read more in this [Minneapolis / St. Paul] Pioneer Press article: Judge: Hecker must pay back 401(k) or go to jail and this EyeWitness 5 ABC-TV news article: Judge to Hecker: Pay Up or Go to Jail.

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Thirty Days of Domestic Violence Leading Up to the Holiday Season

During a thirty day span between November and December, domestic violence resulted in eighteen deaths in the state of Oregon, including children. The killers all committed suicide when they were through.

Oregon is appointing a special domestic violence prosecutor and working to improve statewide services in domestic violence situations.

Government commentators made the following observations after this run of violence.

  1. Shelters and related services are not adequately funded relative to need

  2. Child welfare agencies must work in conjunction with domestic violence services providers

  3. Domestic violence carries over into victims’ workplaces and

  4. Abusers’ access to guns is lethal

It is hoped that these insights will translate into more effective strategies and better outcomes.

Read more in this [Portland, OR] Oregonian editorial: Domestic violence murders: Community and victims cry out for solutions.

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Lesson Learned From Case of Child Abducted to Brazil and Retained for Five Years: An International Convention is Only As Good as Its Enforcement Mechanism

Brazil is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Yet it took nearly six years and massive political and legal effort to secure the return to this country from Brazil of a little American boy abducted by his mother … who died over a year ago.

That boy reportedly was far from the only American (or other non-Brazilian) child abducted to Brazil.

On the other hand, India is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Yet, in a recent case there, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that an Indian Wife who had been permanently residing in the UK with her Husband and their child, must return to the UK with their child for custody proceedings there.

Ultimately, the adverse impact of Brazil’s conduct on future trade with the US may have propelled Brazil to finally send the boy home.

Now, a Congressman from that boy’s home state, New Jersey, has introduced legislation intended to promote enforcement of the Hague Convention by appointing an official to monitor compliance and to empower the government to impose sanctions for noncompliance.

An international network of judges is also communicating in the hope of facilitating timely returns of abducted children.

Read more in this [India] Daily News and Analysis article: SC asks NRI woman to fight child custody battle in England and this Baltimore Sun article: Justice for stolen kids and this [New Jersey] Hub article: Legislators call for bill on international child abduction.

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