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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April 5, 2012

Former NBA Star Dennis Rodman in California Child Support Dispute

Dennis Rodman ToPoDennis Rodman, the former "bad boy" NBA star, was in an Orange County courtroom in late March on a contempt of court charge for failure to pay child support. The court had found him in contempt in November 2011 based on non-payment. Rodman and ex-wife Michelle Rodman have two children. She alleges that he owes over $860,000 in combined arrearages of child and spousal support. Rodman claims that he owes far less, if anything, and that he has evidence of past payments that have not been credited. His sentencing was rescheduled to May 29, and Rodman's attorney says they may move for the court to vacate the contempt order. He could face twenty days in jail.

Rodman played in the NBA from 1986 until 2000, with most of his time spent with the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls. He continued to play in the semi-professional American Basketball Association, not affiliated with the league of the same name that merged with the NBA in the 1970's, and in Europe for several years until he retired from basketball in 2006.

Rodman has a daughter with his first wife, Annie Bakes. They married in 1992 and divorced in 1993. Rodman had a highly-publicized marriage to Carmen Electra in 1998 that lasted all of ten days. They formally divorced in 1999. Rodman married Michelle Rodman (née Moyer) in 2003. The couple already had two children, a son born in 2000 and a daughter born in 2001. Michelle Rodman filed for divorce in 2004, but they spent several years attempting to reconcile. The divorce was not finalized until this year.

Alcohol and substance abuse issues have formed a major part of Rodman's public persona, along with what the Los Angeles Times calls his "wild ways." He owned a home on the ocean in Newport Beach known for loud parties. Police reportedly made eighty calls there due to noise complaints. He sold the house when the divorce began in 2004. In early divorce documents, Rodman listed assets including $3.4 million in property and $1.45 million in stocks and bonds. He also claimed over $31,000 per month in expenses. He has reportedly already cashed out his NBA pension to pay California taxes but still owes $350,000 more.

The NBA Hall of Fame inducted Rodman in 2011. He says that endorsements, licensing deals, and other offers have begun to come in. Rodman now lives in Miami, and says that he is on good terms with his children and their mother, despite the ongoing court battle.

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March 29, 2012

Bigamy Charge Results When Social Media Connects Man's Wife to His Other Wife

994424_51659180_03302012.jpgFacebook, the wildly popular social networking website, offers an automated service that matches users to other users it thinks the person might know. It looks at shared friends and interests and occasionally notifies a user that it has one or more friend suggestions. For a corrections officer in Seattle, this feature caused some trouble, as it matched up his new wife with the woman he married a decade ago but never divorced. Alan L. O'Neill now faces a charge of bigamy, which could get him up to a year in jail.

O'Neill, formerly known as Alan Fulk, married his first wife on April 16, 2001. The two lived together for a number of years, but they separated in 2009. Although they have lived separately ever since, they apparently never obtained a divorce. He has reportedly worked as a Pierce County, Washington corrections officer for about five years.

In 2011, O'Neill petitioned to change his last name from Fulk to O'Neill. A judge approved the name change, and shortly afterwards, on December 19, 2011, he married his second wife.

In early 2012, O'Neill's first wife was using Facebook when she received a recommendation that she become "friends" with the second wife. The two knew each other. According to the Associated Press, O'Neill's first wife was arrested in 2010 because of an "altercation" with O'Neill's then-future second wife. When the first wife viewed the other woman's Facebook page, she found pictures of her and O'Neill, dated a few weeks earlier, dressed for a wedding and cutting a wedding cake.

She reportedly called O'Neill's mother immediately after finding the pictures. The mother apparently told O'Neill, who showed up at the first wife's apartment within an hour. When asked, O'Neill confirmed that they were still married, but that he would "fix it." He asked her not to tell anyone about the two marriages. Instead, she contacted law enforcement, who searched court records to determine O'Neill's marital status. Prosecutors charged him with one count of bigamy on March 8.

All U.S. states prohibit multiple marriages through both their family and criminal codes, but states vary in how they treat the criminal side of the issue. Under just about any state's system of family law, a marriage that a person enters into while still married to someone else is void. Some states impose criminal penalties on a person who knowingly marries more than one person, while others punish both parties to a second marriage.

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March 22, 2012

California Bill Would Prevent Convicted Abusers from Receiving Spousal Maintenance

528902_48194552_03262012.jpgA bill pending in the California Legislature intends to close a loophole that sometimes causes abused spouses to owe maintenance payments to their abusers. Under the bill, people convicted of certain criminal offenses committed against a spouse would be precluded from obtaining benefits, such as spousal maintenance or attorney's fees, from the abused spouse in a divorce case. The law would also amend the California Family Code to award one hundred percent of the community estate to a spouse who is the victim of a "violent sexual felony" committed by the other spouse. The Family Code currently awards one hundred percent of the community estate to one spouse when the other spouse is convicted of either the attempted murder or solicitation of the murder of that spouse.

The bill, filed in the state Assembly as AB 1522, passed the Judiciary Committee on a 7-1 vote on March 20. The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and it has the support of the San Diego District Attorney, the California District Attorneys' Association, and the San Diego Board of Supervisors.

A San Diego case, previously reported in this San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, inspired the bill. Crystal Harris, a San Diego financial analyst, was ordered by the judge in her divorce case to pay $3,000 per month to her ex-husband in spousal maintenance. This was despite the fact that her ex-husband, Shawn Harris, is serving a six-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting her. The judge reduced the spousal maintenance amount to $1,000 per month because of the domestic violence allegations. On appeal, the order of spousal maintenance was reversed, based in large part on Crystal Harris' argument that Shawn Harris has no expenses while in prison. Under current law, he could ask the court for spousal maintenance again when he is released. His release is scheduled for 2014 if he serves his entire sentence.

In a separate proceeding, a judge ordered Crystal Harris to pay her ex-husband $47,000 in attorney's fees. This was based on an agreement the Harrises made before Shawn Harris' criminal case, one that Crystal Harris does not believe should have been honored given subsequent events. The total amount later came down to $26,000 when the amount of restitution owed by Shawn Harris in his criminal case was deducted from the total.

Crystal Harris testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of the bill on March 19. She says she felt "re-victimized" by the spousal maintenance and attorney's fee orders. Other supporters of the bill say it is necessary to prevent a second injustice against domestic violence victims, and to give "peace of mind" to said victims.

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March 19, 2012

Senate Democrats Push for Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

948508_88800125_03192012.jpgDemocrats in the United States Senate began a push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), along with new provisions that would expand the law's protections to additional groups of people. The proposal has proven controversial, which may not be surprising considering the contentious political atmosphere in Washington at the moment. Supporters of the law, which has found broad support in Congress in the past, argue that it is necessary to provide protection to certain vulnerable groups. Critics in the Senate have expressed general support for the new bill, but also concern over some of its provisions. Some Republicans have questioned the timing of the campaign for reauthorization, but a full debate has not yet occurred that might illuminate competing positions on the law.

VAWA became law in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed it. It had passed Congress with broad support. The law authorized up to $1.6 billion to go towards enhancing law enforcement's ability to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women. It made people convicted of violent crimes against women liable to their victims for restitution, and it provided victims with a form of civil relief if prosecutors opted not to prosecute their cases.

VAWA also provides funds for a variety of services to help victims of domestic violence and programs to educate the public about the issues. It supports community programs aimed at preventing violence, programs for immigrant women, crisis support services, and legal aid. The law includes provisions to help victims who have disabilities, and it provides protection for women who face eviction due to domestic violence-related incidents. VAWA has been instrumental in providing resources for people in abusive relationships who need assistance with divorce, child custody, and other legal matters.

Congress reauthorized VAWA with broad bipartisan support in 2000 and 2005. The 2000 reauthorization created the Office on Violence Against Women as part of the Department of Justice. The Office administers grants and helps develop national policies relating to domestic and dating violence and sexual assault. The statute requires reauthorization in 2012 or the law will expire.

The proposed reauthorization would expand the law's protections to immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, and same-sex couples. It would give Native American tribes jurisdiction to prosecute non-members who are accused of violence against tribe members. This would, according to NPR, supersede a 1978 Supreme Court ruling holding that tribal courts lack that jurisdiction, even if the alleged crime occurs on a reservation.

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March 15, 2012

"Baby-Selling" Scandal Illuminates Some Features of Contracts in Family Cases

1281126_37028477_03142012.jpgA scandal that the news media describe as a "baby-selling ring" has led to prison sentences for a San Diego attorney and another woman implicated in the matter. The case involves some relatively-unknown areas of both family and criminal law. Some aspects of the case relate to more familiar areas of the law, however, such as pre-nuptial agreements and child custody agreements. The case illuminates in some ways the care that must be taken in drafting agreements that relate to the custody and support of children.

Surrogacy, the process by which someone agrees to be implanted with a fertilized egg from another couple, carry it to term, and then turn the child over to that couple after it is born, is not subject to an uniform set of regulations. The parents and the surrogate enter into a contract outlining expenses, fees, and arrangements for the child. State statutes relating to surrogacy vary in how they treat contracts between parents and surrogates. The alleged baby-selling ring, according to prosecutors, involved recruiting surrogates and potential adoptive parents. Theresa Erickson, a San Diego lawyer specializing in surrogacy issues, Carla Chambers of New Zealand, and several other people were reportedly involved in the recruiting process. They would fly surrogates from the U.S. to a clinic in Ukraine, where the surrogates would be impregnated with "designer embryos" from various donors. The children would then be "sold" to adoptive parents back in the United States during the second trimester. Adoptive parents would be told that a prior surrogacy contract had "fallen through." People would reportedly pay up to $200,000 for an adoption.

The federal criminal case against Erickson and Chambers revolved around the fact that the children in question were conceived, and sometimes born, before there was a valid surrogacy or adoption contract. The defendants thus created an "inventory" of babies. According to prosecutors, neither the surrogates nor the adoptive parents were aware of this. The law requires that a surrogacy contract be in place before the surrogate is implanted with the fertilized egg. The specific criminal charges related to falsified surrogacy documents sent to California courts.

Erickson, Chambers, and Maryland attorney Hilary Neiman pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A judge sentence Neiman to one year of confinement, including both prison and house arrest, later last year. A judge sentenced Erickson to five months in prison and nine months house arrest in February. Chambers received a five-month prison sentence and seven months' house arrest.

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February 29, 2012

Man Who Abandoned His Son to Move to California is Denied Visitation and Custody

1123144_71064416_02272012.jpgLast summer, Steven Cross allegedly left his 11 year-old son in their Lakeville, Minnesota home with a note telling the boy to go to a neighbor's house for help. The house had gone into foreclosure, and Cross was heading to California. He reportedly asked family members to take over guardianship duties for the child. He now faces several obstacles in his efforts to be reunited with his son.

Cross reportedly left several notes with his son when he left in July 2011. He told the boy to go to a particular neighbor's house and asked the neighbors to take care of him through the end of August. The child now resides with a great aunt.

Cross moved to Cambria, California, where he worked in a deli and lived in his van. Police arrested him on August 29, and Minnesota extradited him to stand trial for child neglect. He was released from jail in September. A jury found Cross guilty of gross misdemeanor child neglect in January. His sentencing is scheduled for March 20. The judge has indicated that Cross will probably not serve any more jail time, but could receive up to two years probation.

At a child-protection hearing, Cross asked the court to reunite him with his son. The court appointed a psychologist to assess Cross and ordered other services for Cross to complete. At a subsequent hearing, the court still denied visitation rights, based in part on the report filed by the psychologist. According to news reports, the psychologist indicated that Cross lacked empathy for the child, believing that the boy was "unaffected by the abandonment" and denying his own role in the abandonment. He recommended against reuniting the two for the time being. The judge said that Cross had complied with the court's orders, but that he still has not met the "threshold that the therapist has set." Cross acknowledges that he has more work to do.

At the same time, Cross worked out a prospective agreement with the child's mother, Katik Porter, who has not been involved in the child's life for some time. Porter reportedly lost visitation rights in 2002 after police made multiple visits to their home during their original custody disputes. Cross told police that he wanted documentation of their disputes related to custody of the child. Both parents were arrested on one occasion during that time.

Porter's attorney proposed a joint custody arrangement earlier this month, which would allow both parents an opportunity to raise the child. The court will consider a proposed agreement once both parents can agree on something, which they hope to do before the next hearing in late March.

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February 22, 2012

"Poster Couple" for California Same-Sex Marriage Files for Divorce

The couple often referred to as the "poster couple" for same-sex marriage in California has filed for divorce. Robin Tyler filed for divorce from Diane Olson on January 25 in Los Angeles, almost four years since their wedding. This was shortly before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling striking down Proposition 8, the ballot initiative passed by California voters in 2008 that banned gay marriage.

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Tyler and Olson had been a couple for eighteen years when they were married on June 16, 2008, the same day that the California Supreme Court's ruling took effect, holding that equal protection required state recognition of same-sex marriages. For seven years prior to that, they had made an annual trip to the Beverly Hills Courthouse to apply for a marriage license. They were turned away every time.

The couple had been plaintiffs in the litigation that overturned Proposition 22, the 2000 ballot initiative that amended the state's Family Code to define marriage specifically as the union of a man and woman. A series of lawsuits filed in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2004 challenged the constitutionality of Proposition 22. The case went to the California Supreme Court, which struck down all state statutes restricting marriage to opposite sex couples. The Court issued a 4-3 ruling in May 2008 that took effect the day Tyler and Olson wed.

Within months of Tyler's and Olson's wedding, another ballot initiative, Proposition 8, was passed by voters. It amended the state constitution to replace the now-unenforceable Family Code section created by Proposition 22. Proposition 8 superseded the Supreme Court's ruling as well. It did not invalidate existing marriages, so Tyler and Olson remained married, but it prevented any more couples from marrying.

In May 2009, fourteen gay couples filed a lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, challenging Proposition 8's validity. After a trial, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco ruled in August 2010 that Proposition 8 violated both the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Ninth Circuit approved a stay of the order while an appeal was pending, meaning that California continued not to recognize same-sex marriages after the ruling. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional on February 7, 2012. The panel wrote the opinion to carefully state that the ruling only applies to California, but it will likely have an impact in other states.

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