August 2012 Archives

August 30, 2012

California Appeals Court Addresses Definition of "Remarriage" in Deciding Question of Spousal Maintenance

1383703_77353170.jpgA California appeals court, in Marriage of Left, has upheld an order that a man must continue to pay spousal maintenance, finding that his ex-wife's alleged remarriage was intentionally not legally valid and did not extinguish his maintenance obligation. In reaching its decision, the court examined the legal meaning of "remarriage" for the purposes of determining when to terminate a spousal maintenance order.

The parties, Andrew and Andrea Left, were married in June 2001, and Andrea filed for divorce in November 2005. The two entered into a stipulation in February 2007 in which Andrew, who worked as a stock trader, agreed to pay monthly child support of $14,590 and spousal maintenance of $32,547. The two reportedly attempted to resolve contested issues for some time. A court entered a "status-only" order dissolving the marriage on June 30, 2008, but it reserved jurisdiction over all remaining issues

According to the court's ruling, Andrea got engaged in December 2008. She and her fiance set a wedding date of May 2, 2009, believing that the remaining divorce issues would be settled by then. They planned and made arrangements for the wedding, but in the weeks leading up to the wedding date, Andrea reportedly realized that some divorce issues would remain unresolved. She did not want to enter into a new marriage until the remaining divorce issues were resolved, but she did not want to cancel the wedding ceremony, either. Instead of a "wedding," she and her fiance had a "commitment ceremony" that day. The rabbi who performed the ceremony was aware that they had not obtained a marriage license, although the guests reportedly believed that they had gotten married. They informed Andrew on June 24, 2009, that they were not legally married.

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August 23, 2012

Father Sues for Custody of His Daughter After She Appears on Television Program "Toddlers and Tiaras"

772163_27795068.jpgA father is asking a judge in Kentucky to award him sole custody of his six year-old daughter. He filed a complaint after his child appeared on a cable television show that, many critics contend, sexualizes young children by showing them in beauty pageants. The father, who reportedly has his own history of legal troubles, must convince the judge that the pageant activities and television appearances, as directed by the mother, are harming his daughter, and that awarding him custody would be in her best interest.

The cable network TLC premiered "Toddlers and Tiaras" in January 2009 to showcase child beauty pageants. Contestants in these pageants may be as young as four or five but compete in seemingly "adult" attire, including makeup, gowns, and high heels. Lindsay Jackson reportedly began entering her daughter, Maddy Verst, in pageants when she was thirteen months old. The current controversy may have begun when Maddy appeared on "Toddlers and Tiaras" at the age of five last year. Maddy was dressed as Dolly Parton, complete with padding meant to imitate the famously voluptuous singer's figure. The girl appeared on the cover of People magazine with a headline that read "Gone Too Far?"

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August 16, 2012

California Court Rules that Child Support Order Was Nullified by Parents' Subsequent Marriage to Each Other

442705_38979230.jpgA child support order between unmarried parents was nullified when the parents married each other, according to the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth Appellate District. In Re Marriage of Wilson and Bodine involved a challenge by a father to the state's assertion that he owed child support under an order, entered before the parents were married, for a period of time after the parties subsequently separated and divorced. The appeals court held that the parties' marriage to each other nullified the prior order, and remanded the case to the trial court to calculate the amount of pre-marriage child support owed.

The mother and father had a son in August 2001. They were not married to one another at the time. After the father filed a voluntary declaration of paternity, the mother obtained a court order under the same cause number for the father to pay $1,600 per month in child support in July 2002. The court further granted the mother full custody and gave reasonable visitation rights to the father. A daughter was born to the two parents in June 2003.

The mother and father married each other on December 31, 2005, and lived together for about two years. They separated on January 30, 2008. The court bifurcated the divorce matter into a proceeding on the status of the marriage and a matter on child custody and support. It issued an order of dissolution of the marriage on January 30, 2009, reserving the issues pertaining to the children. The parents shared custody of the two children by agreement since their separation.

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August 9, 2012

California Bill Would Expand Criteria for Legal Designation as Parent of a Child

838397_54880119.jpgA bill pending in the California Legislature, SB 1476, would modify the Family Code by allowing a court to designate more than two people as legal parents of a child, if the court concludes that doing so would be in the child's best interest.

State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill on February 24, 2012. He says that it would amend California law to match the present reality of many families. State law allows a court to designate a person other than a child's biological parent as a legal "parent," but it explicitly limits the number of parents to two. The bill, if enacted, could impact children in families with unmarried parents, step-parents, or parents in same-sex relationships. Critics, in addition to rhetoric about changing the definition of family, contend that the bill could expose children to further stress in the event of a divorce, as custody could be split three or more ways, instead of just two.

Senator Leno's inspiration for the bill, according to Debra Saunders of the North County Times, was a child known in court documents as "M.C." M.C.'s biological parents had a brief relationship but never married. M.C.'s mother, "Melissa," married her former partner "Irene" during the brief period when same-sex marriages were legal in California. M.C.'s biological father, "Jesus," provided support for the child. Melissa later sought a divorce from Irene and started a new relationship. Melissa's new boyfriend, allegedly with Melissa's "complicity," stabbed Irene. Jesus, who by then lived in Oklahoma, sought custody of M.C. Because Irene was legally married to Melissa when M.C. was born, she was the presumed second parent under California law.

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