October 2012 Archives

October 25, 2012

Court Awards Damages to Man for Intentional Misrepresentation of a Child's Paternity: Hodge v. Craig

Argue.jpgIf a man acknowledges paternity of a child based on the mother's assurance that no one else could be the father, then discovers, after a divorce and order for child support, that he is not the child's biological father, is he entitled to damages? The Supreme Court of Tennessee, in Hodge v. Craig, addressed the question of whether the person acknowledged as the father could pursue a claim for fraud or intentional or negligent misrepresentation against the mother. The trial court awarded the man over $100,000 in damages for child support and other payments made pursuant to the divorce decree. An appellate court reversed the order, but the state Supreme Court reinstated the judgment with a modified damage amount.

Chadwick Craig and Tina Marie Hodge met in high school, when they were both sixteen years old and began dating. Hodge reportedly had a daughter who was almost one year old at the time. They briefly separated in October 1991, and Hodge had sexual relations with another person. When she got back together with Craig, she never told him about this encounter. She learned she was pregnant the following month and told Craig that he was the father. The two were married in December 1991. Hodge gave birth to a son in June 1992. Craig also adopted Hodge's older child. He had a vasectomy in 1999 when he and Hodge decided they did not want more children.

After nine years of marriage, Craig and Hodge separated in October 2000, and their divorce became final in February 2001. Craig was ordered to provide health insurance for both children and pay child support. Hodge remarried in 2002. Craig moved to Georgia in 2003 and remarried. His son, who was in his early teens at that point, came to live with Craig in 2005. Based on a suspicion that he was not the biological father of the child, Craig obtained a DNA sample from the boy while he slept. A test confirmed Craig was not the biological father.

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October 18, 2012

California Supreme Court Affirms Adjudication of Dependency of Two Children Due to Sibling's Death in a Car Accident: Los Angeles Co. Dep't of Children and Family Svcs. v. William C

939161_49088660.jpgThe California Supreme Court affirmed an adjudication of dependency for two children in Los Angeles Co. Dep't of Children and Family Svcs. v. William C. A father had appealed the adjudication of dependency of his two surviving children based on a section of the dependency statute, California Welfare and Institutions Code § 300(f), that allows a dependency adjudication when a parent is found to be responsible, through abuse or neglect, of the death of another child. The Supreme Court held that the statute did not require a finding of criminal negligence, nor did it require proof of a present risk to the surviving children.

According to the court's opinion, William C. and Kimberly G. were the parents of three children: Ethan, Valerie, and Jesus. The parents separated in the spring of 2009, and the children lived with William in William's mother's home. On June 17, 2009, William noticed that Valerie's arm was injured, apparently due to falling off of a bed. He intended to take her to the hospital, but did not have a child safety seat in the car he was driving. Instead, Valerie, who was about two years old, sat in William's sister's lap while William drove. A car collided with William's car, and Valerie sustained fatal injuries. Although William was reportedly not at fault in the accident itself, he faced criminal charges for child endangerment. He reportedly admitted to transporting a young child without a safety seat and paid a $100 fine.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (the "Department") responded to a report of the neglect of Ethan and Jesus about a week later. The Department claimed the children "were dirty and seemed unsupervised." Opinion of the Court at 5. The Department said that it also learned that Kimberly had a history of mental health problems and cognitive impairments, and had an alleged pattern of domestic violence against William. Kimberly's family, meanwhile, alleged that William's family severely neglected the children.

Continue reading "California Supreme Court Affirms Adjudication of Dependency of Two Children Due to Sibling's Death in a Car Accident: Los Angeles Co. Dep't of Children and Family Svcs. v. William C" »

October 11, 2012

California Court Rules on Division of Public Employee Retirement Benefits in Divorce

656184_25956468.jpgThe California Court of Appeals for the First District considered the characterization of benefits from the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) purchased by the husband during the marriage, but based on services performed prior to the marriage. The case, In re the Marriage of Green, was a matter of first impression for the court. The trial court found that the benefits were the husband's separate property, but the appellate court reversed that ruling. It ruled that the benefits were community property, and remanded the case for determination of allocation between the parties.

The husband, Timothy Green, served in the United States Air Force for four years between 1982 and 1986. He joined the fire department in Dublin, California in 1989, and he married Julie Green in 1992. His employer participated in CalPERS, which included a program that allowed an employee who served in the military to purchase up to four years of additional CalPERS service credit. He exercised this right in 2002, using around $11,000 of community funds to purchase the credits.

The wife petitioned for divorce in 2008. The parties disputed whether to characterize the military service credits as separate or community property. The husband argued that the credits were separate property, because his right to the credits arose before the marriage. The wife claimed that they were community property because they were obtained during the marriage using community funds, and she sought a separate account for fifty percent of the credits. The trial court ruled that the credits were separate property, but ordered the husband to reimburse the wife about $6,700 for half of the community funds used to make payments.

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October 4, 2012

Ex-Wife's Motion to Extend Spousal Support Denied by Court, Finding Lack of "Reasonable Efforts" to Become "Self-Supporting"

1376892_12302791.jpgA California court denied a woman's motion to modify a spousal support order in In re Marriage of Khera and Sameer, finding that she had not adequately shown evidence of changed circumstances. The original spousal support order provided for a gradual decrease in support payments until an eventual termination date. The ex-wife (referred to herein as the wife for brevity) sought to delay the date for termination of support payments.

The husband, Sameer Khera, filed for the dissolution of his marriage to Madhu Sameer in October 2003. They had been married since 1986 and had three children. After they agreed on the record to some of the terms of the divorce in May 2007, a court entered a final judgment on the remaining issues in February 2008. Under the agreement and final judgment, the husband was obligated to pay spousal support of $2,650 per month beginning in June 2007. Monthly support would decrease to $1,650 on June 1, 2009, and would terminate entirely on June 1, 2010.

This type of spousal support order, in which the amount decreases over time, is known in California as a Richmond order, after In re Marriage of Richmond, 105 Cal.App.3d 352 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1980). Spousal support, under California law, is intended to allow the recipient spouse to maintain the same reasonable standard of living as during the marriage. The purpose of a Richmond order is to allow the recipient spouse time to become financially self-sufficient. The Richmond court held that a court should retain jurisdiction over a spousal support order to ensure that the recipient spouse has the ability to meet their own financial needs by the termination date, and to modify the support order if a spouse can show good cause.

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