August 2013 Archives

August 29, 2013

Child Custody Dispute Continues After U.S. Supreme Court Makes Its Ruling

watch-children-1415869-m.jpgLate this past spring, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that an American Indian child should not have been taken from her adoptive parents, a white couple with whom she had been living for the first 27 months of her life. The main issue in the case concerned an interpretation of a federal law intended to keep Indian families intact. The Supreme Court found that the law did not apply to this situation because the biological father relinquished his parental rights even before his daughter was born.

While this decision did not emanate from the courts in San Diego, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision would govern any case in the country under similar facts. This case presents a complicated child custody dispute, involving state and federal laws. Most child custody cases are chock full of serious issues and demands by the parents involved. It is vitally important to contact an experienced family law attorney to help navigate the local laws and court procedures.

Once the child was born, her biological mother agreed to allow a couple from South Carolina to adopt her daughter. Four months later, her biological father changed his mind and sought custody, arguing that he was not aware that the child's mother was planning to place her up for adoption. Citing the National Indian Welfare Act, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the biological father, awarding him custody of the child even though the couple was already in the process of adopting her. However, once the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, the South Carolina Court ordered a family court judge to approve the child's adoption by the couple. The adoption was finalized on July 31.

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August 22, 2013

August is Child Support Awareness Month: Some Helpful Tips for San Diego Parents

man-woman-heart-5-1056041-m.jpgCalifornia Department of Child Support Services ("DCSS") reminds parents that August is Child Support Awareness Month. The DCSS supports programs to help parents be successful in supporting their children.

In California, child support is the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay each month to help fund the support of the child (or children) and the child's living expenses. The state provides a formula (also known as a "guideline") for determining how much child support should be paid. It is important to understand that if the parents cannot come to an agreement on the amount of child support, the judge is authorized to decide the amount based on the guideline calculation.

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August 15, 2013

Music Mogul Usher's Ex-Wife Loses Emergency Motion for Custody of Their Children

happy-family-1389105-m.jpgAccording to widely publicized reports, Usher's ex-wife, Tameka Foster Raymond, filed an emergency custody motion with an Atlanta court seeking temporary custody of the couple's two children after their son almost drowned in a swimming pool. Just last year, Usher won primary custody of the kids after a bitter court dispute during which Foster Raymond made accusations that Usher was an absentee father. This past May, Foster Raymond filed for a custody modification, which had not been heard by the court prior to the swimming pool accident.

Parents who face child custody issues typically bring their case before a local family court. Anyone going through a custody dispute is encouraged to contact a local San Diego family law attorney who will work to achieve the best possible outcome for your family under the circumstances.

Despite the fact that Usher's five year-old son almost drowned while in the care of his aunt (at the direction of Usher), the court ruled that it did not amount to an emergency or crisis situation requiring that his two children be taken from him. The judge characterized the incident as "an awful accident," adding that no one person could have handled the situation better. The judge described the aunt as "a capable caregiver." In addition to this ruling, the court advised Usher to keep his ex-wife informed about his whereabouts and who is taking care of their children.

There are many factors to consider in any child custody case, especially one that involves a request for modification or an emergency custody motion. Under California procedure, once a judge issues a custody and visitation order, one or both parents may seek to alter the arrangement for various reasons. If both parents agree to the change, they may do so by changing the court order through an agreement. But if they cannot agree, one parent will be required to file papers with the court requesting a change (known as a "modification") of the current child custody order.

In order to modify a custody order, one must show that there has been a "change in circumstances" since the final order was rendered. Essentially, this would mean that there has been a significant change requiring a new custody and visitation arrangement in order to serve the best interests of the children. It is considered best for children to have consistent and stable child custody arrangements.

It is unclear whether Foster Raymond will have any success in her efforts to modify the custody order in Atlanta. We do know, however, that her emergency motion for temporary custody failed. Although this case did not take place in the San Diego court system, in most states, child custody orders will only be modified if the change would be in the best interests of the children. In any child custody proceeding, an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with the local rules and procedures will be able to provide the best possible approach to your family's case.

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August 8, 2013

Bill Pending in California Would Grant Sperm Donor Child Custody Rights Under Certain Circumstances

667713_-paper_family-.jpgFamilies come in all shapes and sizes. Thanks to technological advances and breakthroughs in medical science, families can now emanate from non-traditional methods. For whatever the reason, people may choose to become parents through alternative means, such as artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and adoption, among others. But with each procedure comes a whole host of legal and practical concerns to weigh and consider, including who is entitled to custody rights should a dispute arise. A local San Diego family law attorney can help parents anticipate and resolve any legal issues concerning child custody matters, with a focus on obtaining the best possible arrangement for you.

In widely publicized reports, the actor Jason Patric's custody dispute with former girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber, has inspired sperm-donor rights legislation in California. In 2009, Patric donated sperm as part of a fertility treatment that resulted in Schreiber becoming pregnant. He wants to help raise the child (who is now three years-old), but has encountered legal obstacles in attempting to gain partial custody.

State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced a bill that would allow courts to grant parental rights to sperm donors under such circumstances where the biological father has shown that he always intended to parent, did, in fact, parent - with the mother's consent - and never waived his parental rights. A Los Angeles Times article indicates that Patric and Schreiber disagree on the nature of their relationship and the extent to which Patric was involved in the child's life.

Critics of the legislation reportedly are concerned that the bill could "open the door to litigation by sperm donors" and lead to "male dominance." But others suggest that opponents of the bill do not fully understand the legislation, and in fact, may be doing a disservice to women and children. Many believe that the bill has been narrowly drafted, in that it only protects the relationship between a father and child when the father has assumed that role, acted as his child's father, and helped raise and care for him or her, with the mother's previous consent.

An overwhelming number of babies are born to unmarried mothers: statistics compiled by the Children's Defense Fund indicate that a baby is born to an unmarried mother every 19 seconds in the United States. Of course not all of these mothers conceived their babies via the help of a sperm donor, but for those that have, the legislation seeks to protect a child's ability to maintain a relationship with his or her father, if the child was conceived by artificial reproductive technology to unmarried parents.

Child custody cases are of supreme importance to the parents and children involved, as the outcome will likely impact the rest of their lives. Disputes over physical and legal custody have the potential to escalate, as both parents typically want to remain fully involved in their children's lives. In order to ensure that your rights and interests are protected to the greatest extent possible, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney as soon as a child custody matter arises.

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