February 2013 Archives

February 28, 2013

U.S. Congress Passes Renewal, Expansion of Violence Against Women Act

OneBillionRising.FarragutSquare.WDC._14February2013-oldwomen.jpgThe U.S. House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on February 28, 2013, ending months of wrangling over various expanded terms included in the reauthorization of the law passed by the Senate. First enacted in 1994, VAWA provides federal funding to support investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, including domestic violence, and by allowing civil claims by victims of violent crimes. The reauthorized version, which will now go to the president for his signature, includes expanded protections for Native American, immigrant, and LGBT populations.

Domestic violence is a tragic and unnecessary occurrence in divorce. A simple search on the web of words like "divorce" will quickly lead to news stories of domestic violence incidents, some fatal. While domestic violence can affect anyone, the common perception is of men or husbands as the perpetrators. We condemn all domestic violence, and we support efforts at prevention and support of victims.

Then-Senator Joseph Biden drafted the original VAWA bill. It passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support, and was signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994. Congress has reauthorized it twice before this year, in 2000 and 2005. The White House claimed earlier this year that domestic violence rates decreased by sixty-seven percent between 1993 and 2010, and that more victims are willing to report assaults. VAWA created the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in the Department of Justice, which assists communities in creating policies and programs to combat "domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking." It also administers grant programs that support local governments, nonprofit and community organizations, and schools that are developing programs to assist victims and improve law enforcement.

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February 21, 2013

Nullify, Dissolve, or Legally Separate? Understanding California's Divorce and Annulment Laws

795735_66817305.jpgWhen married couples and domestic partners in California seek a formal end to their relationship, the most common procedure is divorce, legally described as a dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership. California law allows alternatives to jumping head-first into a divorce. In relatively rare instances, couples may be able to annul their marriage, which wipes the slate clean in a legal sense. Couples can legally separate, either to make gradual changes to their finances, or to conduct a "trial separation" before divorce. Some couples choose to remain legally separated but never divorce, while other reconcile after a period of separation.

Grounds for Divorce or Legal Separation

Divorce and legal separation follow the same procedural rules. A spouse seeking a divorce or legal separation must petition a court, and must first state grounds for the divorce or legal separation. California is a "no fault" state, meaning that a spouse does not need to show specific wrongdoing by the other spouse in order to obtain a divorce or legal separation. The two grounds for divorce in California are "irreconcilable differences" and "incurable insanity." Irreconcilable differences, defined as reasons identified by the court that show that the marriage should not be continued, is by far the more common ground cited in divorces and legal separations. Incurable insanity requires medical or psychiatric evidence showing that the spouse was insane at the time the other spouse filed for divorce or legal separation, and continued to be insane up to the present.

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February 14, 2013

International Adoptions in California May Begin Again from Central Asia

Kyrgyzstanmap.pngA group of prospective adoptive parents from around the United States, including California, learned that they may be able to adopt the children they have grown to know and love after multiple years of waiting. The government of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia announced that it has amended its Family Code to allow international adoptions, after blocking the American families several times. International adoption has been a popular procedure among Americans in recent years. California law also provides several methods for adopting within the state or the U.S.

Kyrgyzstan suspended all international adoptions in 2008 due to multiple allegations of fraud in its social services programs. At that time, American families were waiting for final approval to adopt sixty-five Kyrgyz children. Those families, now known as the "Kyrgyz 65," have continued to wait for more than five years. During that time, Kyrgyzstan experienced a revolution in 2010 and a civil war between the country's Kyrgyz majority and Uzbek minority groups. A few of the Americans gave up during that time, and a few of the children were adopted domestically.

The Kyrgyz government lifted the ban on international adoptions in 2011, allowing some of the adoptions to go through. It reinstated a ban on most of the remaining adoptions in progress in 2012, pending further corruption investigations. Many international adoptions rely on the Hague Adoption Convention, which sets international standards for adoptions between countries, including safeguards of children's welfare and protections against fraud, corruption, and abuse. The U.S. signed the Hague Convention in 1994, shortly after its creation, and it gained the full force of law here in April 2008. Kyrgyzstan has not signed the Hague Convention, but many of its reforms since freezing international adoptions are purportedly intended to bring the country's system in line with the Convention. As of February 26, 2013, the country has lifted the ban.

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February 7, 2013

California Divorce Report: Actress Liberty Ross Files for Divorce from Director Rupert Sanders

Rupert_Sanders,_2012.jpgActress and model Liberty Ross filed for divorce from her husband, director Rupert Sanders, in late January 2013 in Los Angeles. The couple was in the news last summer after the story broke of an "affair" between Sanders and Kristen Stewart, who was the lead actress in his first feature film. Neither spouse has made a public statement, so the role of the affair in the divorce is only speculation.

Ross reportedly filed a divorce petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court on January 25, 2013. She and Sanders have been married for nearly ten years, and have two children, ages eight and six. Both Ross and Sanders are British, and they moved to Los Angeles for his film career. Ross has had a successful career as a model, and has also acted in several films. She had a role in Sanders' first feature film, Snow White and the Huntsman. Ross pleaded irreconcilable differences in her divorce petition. She is seeking custody of the two children and spousal support. Sanders is reportedly asking for joint custody and shared attorney's fees.

Actress Kristen Stewart played the title role in Snow White. Sanders cast Ross in the role of Snow White's mother. A story appeared in July 2012, around the time of the film's theatrical release, that Sanders and Stewart had a "massive makeout session." Descriptions of the incident range from an "affair" to a "hook-up" or "fling," depending on who is describing it. By most accounts, it was a single incident as opposed to a lengthy relationship. Both Sanders and Stewart issued public apologies. A lengthy series of deconstructions of the "affair," as well as media examinations of Sanders' marriage to Ross and Stewart's relationship to then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson, ensued for much of the rest of the summer.

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