September 2012 Archives

September 27, 2012

Reunification with Children Denied for California Father Because of Abuse Allegations

1401191_72228763.jpgA San Diego father appealed a superior court ruling in a juvenile dependency case that denied him reunification with his two sons. The Fourth District Court of Appeals reviewed In re A.G., et al and affirmed the superior court's ruling. It held that California law required the superior court, given the circumstances of the case, to deny services to the father, and that the father failed to meet his burden of proof that reunification would be in his sons' best interests.

The appellant, Hugo G., is the presumed father of four children, two sons and two daughters. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) filed dependency petitions for all four children in October 2011. At that time, the two sons were eight and three years old, and the daughters were eleven years and nine months old, respectively. The dependency petition alleged that Hugo sexually abused the older daughter, A.G., in January 2010. HHS asserted jurisdiction over the other three children on the grounds that a sibling had been abused.

An amended petition, filed by HHS in November 2011, alleged that Hugo physically abused A.G. and the two sons beginning in September 2010. The court denied Hugo's request for reunification services, including a child abuse class, but ordered them for the children's mother. Hugo appealed the superior court's denial of reunification services only as to the two sons.

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September 20, 2012

Husband Ordered to Pay Wife's Total Attorney's Fees in California Divorce Case After Refusing to Produce Financial Information

1162216_39371391.jpgWhen a husband appealed of an award of attorney's fees in a divorce case, the California Court of Appeals for the Second District applied the "disentitlement doctrine" and dismissed the appeal outright. The husband's argument on appeal in Marriage of Hofer was that the trial court did not consider evidence of his own financial hardships when it ordered him to pay his wife's attorney's fees. The appellate court ruled that this lack of evidence was entirely due to the husband's own refusal to abide by the trial court's discovery orders.

John Hofer filed a petition for the dissolution of his marriage to Lisa Hofer in January 2009, after about eighteen years of marriage. John derived much of the family's income from several business entities owned by his family, in which he owned some interest. He exclusively managed these assets of the marriage. During the marriage, Lisa was never employed outside the home, so all income of the marriage came from John.

The Superior Court of Ventura County granted their divorce in 2010 after several prolonged discovery battles. At a hearing on Lisa's motion for attorney's fees, the court found that Lisa had incurred nearly $165,000 in attorney's fees, and that John had paid more than $47,000 of that amount for her. John had paid his attorneys more than $300,000. California law requires courts to make reasonable orders ensuring both parties have access to legal representation. Because Lisa had no resources or income of her own, and John had the apparent ability to pay at least $347,000 in attorney's fees, the court ordered John to pay an additional $200,000 towards Lisa's attorney's fees and costs. John appealed this ruling.

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September 13, 2012

California Court of Appeals Affirms Parental Rights of Former Same-Sex Couple

505709_75076992.jpgA woman appealed a trial court's ruling, which held that her former partner is the child's second parent based on the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). In her appeal in L.M. v. M.G., the woman argued that the court could not declare anyone to be the child's second parent because the child had a single-parent adoption decree. The Fourth District Court of Appeals was not persuaded and affirmed the trial court's ruling.

From 1998 to 2003, M.G. and L.M. cohabited as same-sex partners, although they never registered a domestic partnership with the state. M.G. sought to adopt a child from a woman in Tijuana, Mexico in 2000. She arranged for the woman to live in California until she gave birth, and the child was born in November 2000. M.G. officially adopted the child in October 2001, and she and L.M. shared childcare duties. L.M. told the court that, at the time of the adoption, they planned on registering as domestic partners, and L.M. planned on adopting the child as a second parent.

California allows a partner in a same-sex couple to adopt the other partner's child. The process generally matches the process of adoption of a child by a stepparent in a marriage. The California Supreme Court recognized this process, commonly known as second parent adoption, in Sharon S. v. Superior Court of San Diego County, 73 P.3d 554 (Cal. 2003).

M.G. and L.M.'s relationship ended in 2003. As a result, the two did not complete the adoption process for L.M. After their separation, the child primarily lived with M.G., but he regularly stayed overnight at L.M.'s house several times a month. L.M. said she did not commence court proceedings to establish parentage at the time on the advice of several attorneys, who noted the lack of legal precedent before the Sharon S. case and M.G.'s willingness to share custody.

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September 6, 2012

Name Changes After a California Divorce

600px-Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svg.pngThe change of a former spouse's name is an often-overlooked issue in divorce. While anyone of any gender may request a name change, it applies particularly to women who take their husband's name upon marriage, but then want to go back to a previous name during or after a divorce. California law makes the process of returning to a previous or maiden name rather straightforward, but a name change requires further steps to ensure that the new or changed name is used consistently in all of a person's identifying information.

Traditionally, a person has been able to change their name simply by publicly using a different name. This is commonly known as the "usage method," although it has many limitations and has fallen out of favor as government requires more and more documentation to prove identification. Minors and convicted felons, for example, must obtain official documentation in order to change their name. Various government agencies require proof of identification as a means to prevent fraud, deter crime, or even pursuant to anti-terrorism statutes. For this reason, it is usually preferable to obtain a court order for a name change.

California law allows a spouse, usually the wife in a marriage, to petition the court during the divorce to change her name to her maiden name, or to another last name she has previously used. After a divorce is finalized, a woman may decide to go back to a previous name, and she can do so by petitioning a California court.

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