July 26, 2012

Judge Upholds Child Support Order Against Woman Who Returned Adopted Son to Russia

320px-Kremlevskaya_Naberezhnaja_Moscow.hires.jpgA Tennessee woman who now resides in California must pay $150,000 in child support for the adopted child she gave up in 2010, according to a Tennessee judge's ruling. Torry Hansen made headlines when she reportedly put her adopted son on an airplane back to Russia by himself. The adoption agency filed suit against her for child support last year.

After adopting the then-7 year-old boy from Russia with the help of a Seattle-based international adoption agency, Hansen claimed that she became concerned with the child's behavior. According to Hansen's mother, the boy became violent, hitting and screaming at Hansen and threatening to kill family members. Hansen claims that her parents took him, and that they made the decision to send him back to Russia. No one ever contacted the police or the state's social services agency.

The boy arrived alone at the Moscow airport in April 2010. He reportedly had a note in his jacket pocket from Hansen, addressed to the Russian Ministry of Education, calling the boy "mentally unstable" and "violent," and claiming that he had "severe psychopathic issues/behaviors." The note accused the Russian orphanage of lying about the child's mental health. Russian officials vigorously disputed Hansen's descriptions of the boy, and the child reportedly spent six weeks in a psychiatric hospital due to emotional trauma. A Russian court ruled that Hansen's actions amounted to child neglect and abuse. The boy currently lives in a group home for children near Moscow.

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July 19, 2012

California Child Support: Halle Berry Ordered to Pay $20,000 Per Month in Child Support, Still Wants to Move with Daughter to Paris

Halle_Berry_11_AA.jpgAn ongoing child custody dispute between actress Halle Berry and her ex, Gabriel Autry, took an unconventional turn in late June, when a judge ordered Berry to pay child support to Autry for their daughter, 4 year-old Nahla Aubrey. Berry must pay $20,000 a month to Aubrey under the judge's order. Berry has said she wants to move to Paris, France with Nahla. The specific custody arrangement remains to be determined.

The 45 year-old Berry began dating Aubrey, a 36 year-old model from Canada, in 2005. Their daughter, Nahla Ariela Aubry, was born in March 2008. The couple reportedly separated in April 2010. Berry started dating French actor Olivier Martinez later in 2010, to whom she is now engaged. She has stated that she wants to move to Paris not only because of her fiance, but also to escape from the intense media scrutiny that comes from being a celebrity in Los Angeles. Her wish to raise Nahla in Paris appears to be the major point of contention between her and Aubrey.

Aubrey filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court on December 30, 2010, asking the court to formally recognize him as Nahla's father. He and Berry, according to his court filing, had already signed paternity documents. Since they were not married at the time of the child's birth, Aubrey has no legal presumption of paternity. Aubrey also asked the court to award joint custody of Nahla to both parents.

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July 12, 2012

California Divorce Report: Child Custody Issues in the Divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

335px-Tom_Cruise_&_Katie_Holmes_WHCAD.jpgHollywood actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes made headlines when they began dating, and they continue to be the subject of tabloid scrutiny up to this day. Their divorce, filed by Holmes in June and finalized in less than two weeks, brought media attention to the marriage once again, particularly to their six year-old daughter Suri. Issues of child custody and alleged concerns over the child's safety appeared to play a major part in the divorce. Much of the coverage of the case amounted to speculation about possible discord over religious issues. While the media offered many theories, it offered few confirmed facts. Since the parties have asked for privacy, details of the divorce will likely remain out of the public eye. Conflicts between parents over religious issues is quite common in divorce, so if that did play a role, this case is far from unique.

Cruise and Holmes began dating in 2005, and were married in November 2006. Both are well-known actors. Cruise, who is now 50 years old, has been acting in Hollywood movies for more than thirty years. Holmes, who at age thirty-three is seventeen years Cruise's junior, is best known for the 1990's television series Dawson's Creek. Cruise is a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, and Holmes reportedly began studying the Church when the two started dating. Their daughter was born in April 2006.

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July 5, 2012

Court Upholds Termination of California Man's Parental Rights

South_dakota_fence.jpgThe Supreme Court of South Dakota recently upheld a lower court's ruling terminating the parental rights of a California man, identified as M.A.S., finding that the state's efforts to reunite the child with the father were not successful and that termination is in the child's best interest. The case involved a complicated intersection of state and federal legal systems.

South Dakota's Department of Social Services (SDDSS) removed the child from the mother's home, while the father lived in California. The Golden State's Department of Social Services (CDSS) reportedly monitored the father's progress on court-ordered services. The federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) also played a role in the case because both the mother and the child are members of Montana's Fort Peck Sioux Tribe.

According to the court's ruling, SDDSS took the child, identified as P.S.E., into custody in June 2009, shortly after her first birthday. The mother identified M.A.S., who lived in California, as the father. He said that he did not know he had a child until SDDSS contacted him. The mother admitted to neglect of the child at an adjudicatory hearing, and her rights were later terminated with no appeal.

The trial court found that M.A.S. had not provided P.S.E. with "care and support", but through no fault of his own. SDDSS told the court at M.A.S.'s adjudicatory hearing that its goal was to eventually place the child with the father.

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June 28, 2012

Mother Surrenders Child at "Safe Surrender" Site at Oceanside Fire Station

418px-Barnevogn2.jpgCalifornia's family law system provides little-known remedies for parents who may not be ready to fill the role of parents. Intended to deter the abandonment of children by panicked new parents, the "Safe Surrender" program allows parents to drop off a newborn child with no risk of prosecution. While the program may have saved many children from abandonment, it has also created new problems.

A fire station in Oceanside reported that a mother in her mid- to late-20's surrendered a newborn baby boy on Sunday, June 10. She reportedly said that she wanted to put the baby up for adoption. Firefighters described her as "heartbroken," but "calm and cooperative." She stayed at the station to complete an optional health questionnaire, which will help the state and potential adoptive parents understand the child's medical needs. Authorities took the child to a hospital for a checkup, but firefighters said he looked healthy. News media reported that this was the second baby surrendered at the Oceanside station in the past eighteen months.

California created the Safe Surrender program in 2001, reportedly in response to a growing number of infant abandonments and deaths. Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill permanently including the program in state law in 2006. According to the California Department of Social Services, 407 infants were surrendered in the first ten years and three months of the program. Another 151 newborns were reportedly rescued after illegal abandonment.

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June 21, 2012

Maryland Court Allows Divorce of Same-Sex California Couple, Does Not Allow Same-Sex Marriage

NoWedding.jpgThe Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled unanimously that a same-sex couple with a legal California marriage could obtain a divorce in Maryland. The state currently does not otherwise recognize the legality of same-sex marriages from other states. Same-sex marriage will begin in Maryland in January 2013, although that is subject to a referendum on election day in November. If the law passes the referendum, then the situation that the couple involved in this case found themselves in will be reversed, as Maryland will allow same-sex marriage while California no longer does.

The Court of Appeals considered the appeal of a trial judge's 2010 refusal to grant a divorce to two women who were married in California during the brief period when same-sex marriage was legal there. Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan went from their home in Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, California in 2008 to get married. The exchanged vows in the courthouse and returned home. Two years later, they had separated but could not divorce. Port had purchased a house in Maryland, so she filed a petition there. The separation was reportedly amicable, with the two separating their belongings and even sitting next to each other in court. The judge, however, said that since Maryland law does not recognize their marriage as valid, Maryland courts cannot grant them a divorce.

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June 14, 2012

California Divorce Report: San Diego Chargers Player Discusses His Divorce and Its Effect on Him

345px-2008_Chargers.jpgQuentin Jammer, who plays cornerback for the San Diego Chargers professional football team, recently spoke about his divorce and the difficulties it presented for him in his professional life. Jammer had a difficult time during the 2011-12 NFL season, he acknowledges in an interview with Kevin Acee of the San Diego Times-Union. His experience demonstrates the profound emotional toll, beyond the legal issues, that divorce can take on people, and the importance of support from family, friends, and others whenever possible.

The Chargers drafted Jammer, who played in college for the University of Texas, in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Jammer was the fifth overall pick of the draft. He has played for the Chargers his entire ten-year career, making him the most senior player on the team. He has reportedly missed only two games since 2003. He and his now ex-wife, Alicia, have three children and were active in San Diego community organizations. They founded a charitable organization called the Jammer Family Foundation to support education for disadvantaged youth in San Diego.

Jammer and his wife divorced in 2011, and they now share joint custody of their three children. He had impressive statistics on defense prior to the 2011 season, but his numbers began to slip. He allowed six touchdowns in 2011, down from his average of four per season during the previous six years. He now says that his mind was too distracted by the divorce and issues surrounding it. He says he dealt with depression and alcohol throughout the season.

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June 7, 2012

California Divorce Report: Irreconcilable Differences All Around

383px-DanicaMcKellar-2007-10-01.jpgTwo Hollywood actresses recently filed for divorce from their husbands in Los Angeles. The cases offer glimpses of some common claims brought in divorce petitions, such as the most frequently-pleaded ground for divorce, issues pertaining to property division and support payments, and child custody.

Danica McKellar, the actress and author best known for her leading role on the sitcom The Wonder Years, filed for divorce in Los Angeles County Superior Court from her husband, composer Mike Verta. The two have been married just over three years, and they have a one year-old son. They reportedly separated at the end of May, about a week before McKellar filed her petition. She cites irreconcilable differences as the sole ground for divorce. She is asking for joint legal custody of their son. The couple allegedly has a pre-nuptial agreement, according to the news media, which should eliminate the need for litigation over property.

The actress Debra Messing has also filed for divorce from her husband of over eleven years, screenwriter Daniel Zelman, in Los Angeles Superior Court. The couple separated last year. They have an eight year-old son. Messing claimed irreconcilable differences in her divorce petition, and she is asking the court to order child and spousal support

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May 24, 2012

Supermodel, Billionaire Settle Child Support Dispute

Supermodel Linda Evangelista has settled a child support dispute with billionaire businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, her ex-boyfriend, relating to their five year-old son. The case revealed extravagant expenses and costly security measures for a child of two extremely wealthy individuals. It also displayed many features common to child support disputes at any income level, such as an exploration of the non-custodial parent's involvement in the child's life and the nature and necessity of claimed child care expenses.

Evangelista has worked at the highest levels of fashion modeling for over twenty years and has amassed a fortune doing so. She is credited with the iconic quote, "We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day." She gave birth to a son, Augustin James, on October 11, 2006, and at the time did not disclose the identity of the father. In July 2011, she stated that French businessman Pinault was the child's father. Pinault is the owner of a Paris-based company that owns Gucci and other high-end brands. He is married to actress Salma Hayek, although the two were not married at the time the child was conceived. Pinault and Evangelista briefly dated in 2006. Pinault has three other children, two from a previous marriage that ended in divorce and one, now four years old, with Hayek.

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May 17, 2012

Father of 30 Seeks Help With Child Support Bill

Knoxville_bridges.jpgA 33 year-old Tennessee man, Desmond Hatchett, has requested a break on child support from a family court in Knoxville, citing difficulties making ends meet. Hatchett has allegedly fathered thirty children by eleven women, possibly a record from Knox County. His case illustrates the sometimes bizarre balance family courts must strike between children's need for support and parents' need to support themselves.

Hatchett's thirty children range from toddler-age to fourteen years old. He reportedly told a television reporter that he was finished having children in 2009, when he only had twenty-one children. Hatchett must pay fifty percent of his income towards child support, but that amount is divided among eleven families. Hatchett currently works a minimum wage job. According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the mothers only gets $1.49 per month from Hatchett.

Hatchett is an extreme example of a common phenomenon, a parent without primary custody who must pay child support to the other parent, but who struggles to make the payments. Both of a child's parents owe a duty to support the child, so in cases where the parents live separately, the non-custodial parent may be obligated to pay the other parent periodic child support. California law bases the amount of the child support obligation on a parent's monthly income and the amount of time the child spends with that parent. At a maximum, a parent must pay fifty percent of their monthly income towards child support. The law presumes that children should enjoy the same standard of living as their parents, but also that parents should pay for the support of their children according to their own ability. This system usually works with families of only a few children. When a child support obligor must support a large number of dependents, it becomes more complicated.

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May 10, 2012

Actress Will Not Face Charges for Alleged Domestic Violence

Prosecutors in Los Angeles decided recently not to file charges against actress Lisa Robin Kelly over an alleged incident of domestic violence in April. Kelly was arrested after her roommate, John Michas, accused her of assaulting him. The media alternately describes Michas as her roommate and her boyfriend. Kelly is best known from the television series "That '70s Show" as the main character's older sister, Laurie Forman. Her case spotlights the difficulties in both alleging and defending against allegations of domestic violence.

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Police arrested Kelly shortly after midnight on Saturday, March 31, 2012, after Michas told police that she had assaulted him. The arrest was reportedly based on suspicion of corporal injury to a spouse, a felony offense under California law. Kelly went free on $50,000 bond.

California defines "corporal injury to a spouse" as willfully inflicting "corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition" on a spouse or "cohabitant," a former spouse or cohabitant, or the parent of the accused's child. Cohabitation does not require marriage or the appearance of marriage in order to qualify under the statute. Punishment can include two to four years in state prison or one year in county jail, as well as a fine of up to $6,000.

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May 3, 2012

Electronic Discovery Helps Find Money Hidden by a Spouse During Divorce

T-Mobile Dash wikiSpouses going through a divorce have hidden assets from one another for as long as marriage and divorce have existed. Of course, not every divorcing spouse does this, but it is in the interest of both a divorcing spouse and a divorce attorney to know how to fight against the concealment of assets. Recent technological developments, such as the increasing use of computers and the internet for financial transactions, and widespread use of social media, offer a number of useful tools. Using the discovery process during divorce litigation to collect digital information, commonly known as electronic discovery or "e-discovery," can help a party to a divorce find the others spouse's misconduct or deception.

The Wall Street Journal cites statistics from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) showing that eighty-one percent of the lawyers in that organization reported in 2010 that they had seen a five-year increase in the number of cases that used evidence obtained from social media sites. A year later, ninety-two percent of members reported an increase over a three-year period of evidence obtained from smartphones appearing in divorce cases. Social media and smartphones can provide a wealth of evidence of a spouse's conduct (or misconduct), but they also often play a role in efforts to hide assets.

The intersection of internet and smartphone technology with the age-old practice of hiding assets presents both opportunities and risks for litigants and their attorneys. Hiding or failing to disclose assets in a divorce case could expose a party to contempt or other penalties in some cases, and it could play a role in a judge's final division of the marital estate. A lawyer who helps a client conceal assets could face discipline as well.

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April 26, 2012

Does Cohabitation Before Marriage Make Divorce More Likely? The Debate Rages On.

1381938_39880399_04302012.jpgThe number and percentage of couples choosing to live together before, or instead of, getting married has vastly increased over the past few decades. Couples in America may choose to cohabit either as a prelude or an alternative to marriage, and they may do so for a variety of reasons, from the purely financial to the deeply personal. The practice remains controversial for some, though, and studies conducted over the years have reached conflicting conclusions about what, if any, effect cohabitation may have on a couple's prospects for success in marriage.

A recent opinion piece in the New York Times claims that the total number of cohabiting couples in the U.S. has increased by over 1,500 percent in fifty years, from around 450,000 in 1960 to about 7.5 million today. According to a 2001 nationwide survey conducted by the National Marriage Project, two-thirds of respondents believed living together before marriage would help prevent divorce. The Times author claims that experience suggests otherwise, although she cites a government report that suggests the divorce rate among cohabiting couples is declining. Citing stereotypes about women viewing cohabitation as a step towards marriage and men viewing it as a means of avoiding commitment, she concludes that cohabitation leads to people getting "locked" into marriage and then later divorcing.

A writer at the Huffington Post offers a mismatched comparison of a ten percent cohabitation rate in the 1970's that increased to a rate of fifty percent among women ages fifteen to forty-four in the 1990's. The writer cites research from the University of Denver that claims that people who do not cohabitate, and people who only cohabitate after getting engaged, have "more positive marital relationships," meaning fewer divorces. The researchers reportedly concluded that people who cohabitate before marriage "drift into marriage" with a different level of commitment, a somewhat similar conclusion to that of the New York Times piece.

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April 19, 2012

California Divorce Report: Heidi Klum, Seal File for Divorce from One Another

Emmys-bennett-klum-sealGerman-born supermodel Heidi Klum filed for divorce from her husband of almost seven years, British-born singer Seal, earlier this month in Los Angeles. The two had separated, seemingly amicably, in January, Seal filed a response to Klum's divorce petition a few days after receiving the papers, suggesting that a more contentious case could be in the works. Several issues could be in dispute, including division of property and custody of their four children.

Klum has been famous for her modeling work in the United States since the 1990's. She currently hosts the television show Project Runway. Seal's music career began in the late 1980's and took off in the early 1990's. He has won numerous awards, including four Grammys. The two began dating in 2004 and were married in May 2005.

Klum was pregnant with her first child when she and Seal began dating. Seal legally adopted the child, Helene "Leni" Klum, in 2009, and her last name was changed to Seal's legal last name, Samuel. They have three biological children: son Henry, born in 2005; son Johan, born in 2006; and daughter Lou, born in 2009.

The couple announced their separation in January 2012. They told People that they decided to separate "after much soul-searching." They described the process as "amicable," saying that they still loved one another but had "grown apart." It was not clear at the time if or when the two would formally divorce.

Klum filed a divorce petition in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, April 6, 2012. She cites "irreconcilable differences" as the grounds for divorce, and requests primary custody of the four children with visitation rights for Seal. The petition reportedly claimed that the couple has a post-nuptial agreement that determines property division and other issues.

Seal filed his own counterpetition for divorce on Tuesday, April 10, contradicting many of the claims in Klum's paperwork. Seal is requesting joint custody of the children. Despite Klum's claim of a post-nuptial agreement, Seal's court filing asks the court to assist in dividing "community and quasi-community assets." Klum's net worth is reportedly estimated at around $70 million, while Seal's is about $15 million. News sources now claim that "unnamed sources" say Seal has "rage issues." The divorce case clearly has the potential to be less-than-amicable.

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April 12, 2012

California Loses Storage Devices Holding Personal Information of 800,000 Child Support Obligors

Data cartridge 1The state of California ran a exercise in March 2012 to test its ability to operate its child support system from a remote location in the event of a disaster. The procedure established to do so partly involved transporting computer storage devices containing the data needed to run the child support system to a secure location. The exercise reportedly went well with one exception: the contractors employed by the state to run the exercise lost four storage cartridges containing as many as 800,000 California child support obligors' personal information. This may include not only the obligors' names, birthdates, social security numbers, and home addresses, but also names of employers and health insurance providers.

Child support consists of a parent's (or other adult's) obligation to make payments for the care and support of that child (or children) to the person having actual custody of that child. This is most commonly one parent paying support to the other parent, but other arrangements do exist. A person paying child support often also provides health insurance or other medical support for the child. An obligor's net monthly income usually determines the amount of support, so the obligor's employment and income information are highly relevant to the child support office's work. Keeping this information secure is extremely important.

The loss occurred on March 12. The cartridges were reportedly at an IBM testing facility in Boulder, Colorado. After the successful tests, Iron Mountain was to transport the cartridges back to California. Since Iron Mountain only offers ground transportation, it reportedly arranged to have FedEx fly the cartridges back. A spokesperson for California's Office of Technology Services told the Associated Press that the container may have been inadequately secured, causing the cartridges to fall out. The cartridges vanished somewhere in transit between Boulder and Sacramento.

The Department of Child Support Services said that the loss of the cartridges will not delay processing or payment in child support cases. The state notified the three credit reporting agencies of the security breach. It also notified all obligors and others possibly affected by the breach via e-mail on March 12. It recommends that people who may have been affected protect themselves from possible identity theft by putting fraud alerts on their accounts and requesting copies of their credit reports.

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