Alimony Awards Unpredictable: Canada Considers Changing That

Canadians lament that alimony, or spousal support, is “all over the map” and unpredictable in cases where the paying spouse has high earnings, over $350,000.

In the US, some would say that alimony is all over the map across the board, regardless of the paying spouse’s income.


In a nutshell, in the US, states do not have alimony guidelines, formulae or charts to guide (or constrain) court awards, as they do for child support.

That is really the long and short of why spousal support awards may be inconsistent and unpredictable.

As in Canada, settling alimony disputes via mediation maintains greater privacy and reduces risk.

Read more in this Canadian Lawyer article: All over the map.

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Grandparents Visitation Rights Upheld Where They Had Been Raising Child From Birth and Substantial Timesharing Was In the Child’s Best Interests

Wisconsin Mother has Son while she is imprisoned.

Maternal Grandparents raise Son … until he is five years old.

When Son is three years old, Father files a family court case to establish legally that he is Son’s father and to win custody of Son.

Prior to trial in family court, Father and Grandparents come to a child custody and timesharing agreement granting Father custody, but also granting Grandparents substantial visitation with Son. That agreement is adopted into a visitation order by the family court.

Later, Father seeks to modify the agreed order with the intention of reducing Grandparents’ timesharing and visitation.

At trial on Father’s proposed modification, the family court does modify its previous order, but the court still awards Grandparents substantial visitation with Son, although less than previously agreed.

Father appeals, raising several technical arguments relative to a Wisconsin grandparents’ visitation statute and a landmark federal constitutional case.

On appeal, an intermediate level appeals court upholds the family court’s award of substantial school year visitation to Grandparents at trial, but reverses and remands for further proceedings as to nonschool year visitation, based upon ambiguity in Father’s court papers as to whether Father was seeking to modify visitation outside the school year at trial.

Read more in this Wisconsin family court opinion and this Kids Matters Inc article: Visitation Rights of Grandparents Reaffirmed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

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Gay Partner of Biological Parent May Win Custody and/or Visitation Rights Even Though Jurisdiction Does Not Recognize Same Sex Marriage or Civil Unions

Nebraska Mother has Son in 2001.

Mother’s gay Partner of twenty years was actively involved in choosing Mother’s sperm donor for Son’s birth, planning and financing the in vitro fertilization, and raising Son until their breakup in 2006.

Mother allowed Partner to visit with Son for a year and a half afterwards.

Then Mother allegedly cut off all contact with Partner – for two years now.

Nebraska does not recognize gay marriage or civil unions, nor allow adoptions by gays.

Partner files for visitation and timesharing.

Prior to trial, the Nebraska family court dismissed Partner’s case for visitation and timesharing. Partner appealed.

On appeal, Nebraska’s highest court held that Partner nonetheless may argue in family court that she is a legal parent based on her course of parental conduct toward Son. This principle of in loco parentis has long been applied to stepparents and grandparents.

This ruling is consistent with rulings in several similar cases in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Nebraska Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court to take evidence in regard to Partner’s claims.

Read more in this Omaha World-Herald article: Ruling: Woman can seek custody.

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Mother Arrested for Allegedly Leaving Her Toddler Alone Outside in the Rain Outside a Bar

Florida Mother and Father have a Toddler together.

Mother takes Toddler to a shopping center in a stroller on a weeknight.

Mother tells Toddler to stay put outside, while Mother goes to get Toddler a candy bar.

Mother allegedly enters a bar – and gets a cocktail.

Soon, it starts to rain outside.

Patrons of the bar call police about the Toddler left alone outside in the rain.

Mother is arrested.

At her first appearance in court, Mother tries to tell the presiding judge that she went to the bar to apply for a job.

Read more in this New York Daily News article: Florida woman tells judge she was going to look for a job when she left baby outside a bar.

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Mother Alleged to Have Murdered Her Eight Year Old Son Defends It as ‘Altruistic Filicide’, a Kind of Mercy Killing

Mother and Father have eight year old Son.

Son is autistic.

Mother is a multi-millionaire businesswoman who reportedly retired to care for Son.

Mother takes Son to posh New York hotel.

During their stay, Mother allegedly kills Son with an overdose of prescription pills.

Mother’s suicide note is found in the hotel.

But Mother is still alive, if just barely.

Their hotel suite is littered with pills.

Mother is arrested on murder charges.

Mother’s pricy defense team assert that Mother acted to protect Son from sexual abuse by Father and other abuses by “predators” in their lives – and intended to commit suicide by drug overdose after her “mercy killing” or “altruistic filicide” of Son.

It is unknown whether Mother pursued any other avenues to protect Son from the alleged abuse.

Mother reportedly has psychological challenges.

A sample of Mother’s blood, taken near the time of the murder, was reportedly lost prior to testing at the hospital to which Mother was taken. Due to legal wrangling between the prosecution and the defense, there was a significant delay after collection before testing was undertaken.

Mother has been confined since her arrest a year and one-half ago, and her most recent request for bail has been rejected.


  • this Fox News article: Mom charged in NYC death of son, 8, to stay jailed

  • this [UK] Daily Mail article: Uncertainty hangs over case of millionaire mother who ‘killed autistic son’ after authorities LOSE her untested blood sample

  • this New York Daily News article: Lawyers for Gigi Jordan, woman accused of killing autistic son, want prosecutor booted from case

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    Medical or Recreational Drug Use, Child Custody and Visitation

    Every state views it differently. In fact, an argument could be made that every family court judge views it differently.


    Drug use. By a parent.

    The potential field of drugs that may be used and/or abused is broad: cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, too many to name really … and marijuana.

    The latter of which more and more states are legalizing use of for medical purposes.

    Not all the same?

    Perhaps, perhaps not.

    Family law and juvenile dependency law often draw no hard and fast distinctions based on the particular drug of choice – or the type of use.

    In family court or juvenile dependency court, the answer to whether the particular drug of choice – or the nature of the use – matters may well depend on what state you live in … or which family court judge or juvenile dependency court judge a case – your case – happens to be randomly assigned to.

    Right now, in New York City, for example, the child welfare agency may be following a policy of filing civil child neglect charges against parents caught with nominal amounts of pot and/or who have admitted to authorities using marijuana in the past. In cases where law enforcement takes no criminal legal action. But makes a notification or report to the child welfare agency hotline.

    Although the criminal justice system’s hands are tied from even making an arrest, such parents still face loss of child custody of their children – or restrictions on their contact with their own children – through the family court system or the juvenile dependency court system. Often without any proof of actual demonstrated neglect or harm to their children.

    And their children could be forced into foster care, at least temporarily.

    Child welfare agencies often maintain that even recreational or medical marijuana users may in fact neglect their children. Fail to send them to school. Leave them unattended. Otherwise suffer impaired judgment while caring for them which exposes them to danger or risk. And, of course, that may be true.

    Representatives of parents, on the other hand, counter that, once such parents are on the child welfare agency’s radar due to possession of nominal amounts of marijuana or admission of pot use, the agencies then are in a position to seek other grounds to act against the parents – and, as a result, sometimes they may in fact look for those grounds – and they may in fact find them. And, if they exist, in the context of child protection, does it matter how they were identified?

    Such parents ultimately face high stakes consequences. Not only as to custody and visitation and timesharing. But also restriction of their prospects for employment working with children in a variety of capacities.

    In New York, this civil court record raises a cloud over such parents until the parent’s youngest child turns twenty-eight years old.

    In contrast to New York, California, which has legal medical marijuana use, now requires a showing of actual harm to children before their child welfare agency may mount a juvenile dependency case for removal of the children.

    Needless to say, one may take a different view of these complex cases depending upon whether one’s vantage point is parental rights or children’s rights.

    Read more in this New York Times article: No Cause for Marijuana Case, but Enough for Child Neglect.

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