Recently in Child Support Category

April 17, 2014

Parents May Restrict Court's Review of Adult Child Support Order

market-movements-2-1388612-m.jpgUnder California law, support orders may be modified or terminated at any time, as the court deems necessary. The law further defines "support order" as including a child, family or spousal support order. These provisions apply to cases filed in family courts in San Diego and throughout the state. And court decisions interpreting the statutory language, in relation to the underlying facts and circumstances of a case, can impact the way future family court cases are decided. Families facing child support disputes are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney who is fully knowledgeable of the local and recent court decisions affecting a party's right to child support.

It is important to understand the complexity of child support laws and how they apply to adult versus minor children. While California law specifies that a parent's child support obligation typically extends until a child reaches the age of 19 or completes the 12th grade, parents may agree to provide additional support. The question then arises, does a court have the authority to modify such an agreed upon extension of support for an adult child?

In a case of first impression in California, the court of appeals was asked to decide whether, under the state family code, parents may contractually limit the court's jurisdiction to modify an adult child support order that was made under the parents' marital settlement agreement. Here, the court looked at the interplay of two applicable family code statutes: section 3651 and section 3587. Section 3651 provides a court the authority to modify or terminate a support order - subject to section 3587, which gives a court the authority to approve a stipulated agreement by the parents to pay for the support of an adult child.

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March 13, 2014

California Man Who Hid Assets in Divorce Gets 17-Year Sentence

handcuff-449966-m.jpgDivorce has the potential to bring out the worst in people. There are many significant issues to resolve before the parties can go their separate ways, such as child custody and support, division of property and spousal support. When the soon-to-be ex-spouses cannot see eye to eye on these all-important matters, disputes can arise and the negotiations can become more and more contentious. In an effort to minimize the animosity between the spouses and to move the process along efficiently and smoothly, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney from the San Diego area.

One of the most important issues to resolve is the division of marital property. In order to do that, parties must be able to find and identify marital property, subject to division. Fortunately, state law provides some guidance in this area. California is a "community property" state, which means that a marriage renders two people -- one legal "community." In effect, property that the couple acquires during marriage is "community property." In some cases, deceptive spouses attempt to conceal or hide joint assets in an effort to avoid division of the assets in divorce. Another tactic is to file a fraudulent bankruptcy petition.

In a recent case reported in the U-T San Diego, a man was sentenced to 17 years for his efforts to conceal millions of dollars in assets in divorce and bankruptcy. According to the news reports, the man told his wife that he would file for bankruptcy so that she would get "nothing, including child support." The couple split up in 1999. Between 1999 and 2005, the man reportedly concealed millions of dollars in assets by placing them in other people's names. In 2005, he filed for bankruptcy protection. In 2008, a California court of appeal ruled on the divorce case and said in the ruling that it was the husband's "unstated but apparent view that if he can conceal his finances long enough he will not have to support his children."

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January 30, 2014

Appeal of Child Custody and Support Order Must Include Complete Record of the Hearing

justice-srb-2-1040137-m (1).jpgMany litigants choose to represent themselves in court proceedings, and not hire an attorney. While most lawyers would advise against this, some people continue to conduct their cases "pro se" - without the assistance of counsel. It has been suggested in a recent article, however, that parties involved in family law cases, where the fate of a child is involved, would best be served by hiring an attorney. To take this point one step further, parents contesting child custody and support cases are encouraged not only to hire a family law attorney to protect their rights, but also to consult with an experienced practitioner with full knowledge of the local San Diego court procedures and requirements.

In a recent case, the California court of appeals denied the father's appeal of the lower court's order, pointing out that appellant failed to provide a compete record of the three-day hearing, and did not identify any legal error on the appellate record. The father was not represented by counsel and appeared in "propria persona" or for oneself (aka: pro se). Here, the couple married in 1991, had two daughters in 1998 and 2000. In 2004, the wife filed for divorce and the marriage was dissolved in December 2006. The court awarded the parents joint legal custody, and the mom received primary physical custody with an allocated time-sharing arrangement. The father was ordered to pay $2,000 per month in child support. There were other provisions in the support order identifying the sharing of certain additional expenses.

In 2009, the couple agreed to temporarily grant the mother sole legal custody, allowing the father to have limited supervised visits due to his pornography addiction (for which he agreed to seek treatment). In 2010, the couple entered into another stipulation acknowledging the father's progress in treatment and restoring the joint legal custody but affording the mother the authority to make all of the decisions concerning the children's health, education, activities and overall well being. The stated goal under the second stipulation was to eventually fully reinstate the original December 2006 order and judgment.

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December 12, 2013

California Court Applied the Wrong Standard When Ordering Payment on Child Support Arrears

the-calculator-2-1038102-m.jpgFor divorcing spouses with children, child support is one of the most important issues to resolve. It is the amount of money that a court orders one or both parents to pay each month to contribute to the support of the child, including the child's living expenses. The amount will undoubtedly impact the lifestyle of the parties involved. In California, there is a statewide formula (also known as a "guideline") for determining how much child support should be paid. If you or someone you know is confronting a divorce, it is critical to consult with a family law attorney who can guide you on the laws and procedures applicable to residents of San Diego.

In some cases, the party required to pay child support will find that they are unable to make the payments, or will fall behind in making the payments. Under California law, one must pay interest on the balance due on top of the amount that is owed. In fact, the law requires that interest charges must be applied to the amount owed and courts do not have discretion to alter those charges. In a recent case, the California Court of Appeals reviewed a family court's decision to order a monthly payment of "at least the interest owed" on the arrears.

Here, the couple divorced in 1990 and had four children. By 1999, the youngest child was 18-years-old. In 2007, a trial court ordered the husband to pay $850 a month in child support arrears. In 2012, the San Diego County Department of Child Support Services (the "Department") made a motion to increase the payment to a minimum of $10,000 per month, arguing that he owed more than $1.2 million and that the interest was accruing by an amount of $4,690 a month. The husband opposed the motion, claiming that he was unable to pay the amount of support ordered at the time of the divorce (even though records show he never moved for a downward modification). His tax returns showed that he had state and federal tax obligations totaling approximately $180,000, for which he was also making monthly payments.

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October 24, 2013

How California Courts Determine Amount of Child Support Payments

market-movements-2-1388612-m.jpgAs most people know, child support is a designated amount of money that one or both parents pays each month to support a child and to take care of related living expenses. When a couple divorces, separates or annuls a marriage, either parent may ask a judge to render a child support order. In San Diego and throughout California, there are guidelines that a court will look to when determining the amount of money to award. But this area of family law is not without its own nuances, and any parent who is seeking support or ultimately paying support for their children is encouraged to contact a local family law attorney with experience handling such cases.

In a widely publicized child custody and support case involving the famous actor, Jon Cryer, news reports say that his ex-wife, Sarah Trigger, is asking a judge to increase her child support payments from $8,000 to an exorbitant $89,000 a month. When the "Two and a Half Men" actor and his former wife divorced in 2004, the court allocated custody between the parents by awarding Trigger with 65 percent custody and $10,000 per month in child support. Trigger says she is seeking the additional support, claiming her son is humiliated that he does not have the lavish lifestyle that his fellow students have because she cannot afford it. Although he attends an expensive private school, his mother says that her son's fellow students have extravagant parties, expensive vacations, and fancy summer camps, all things she cannot provide.

At some point, Trigger's support payments were reduced to $8,000 per month at a time when Cryer essentially had full custody of the boy. According to Trigger's attorney, the two are now sharing custody 50-50, and she is seeking an increase in support payments. In California, there is a statewide formula (also known as a "guideline") for determining how much child support should be paid. In an ideal situation, the parents agree to the amount. But in many divorce cases, the parents do not come to a mutually satisfactory amount for child support. In those cases, the judge will use the guideline formula to decide the amount of child support.

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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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July 18, 2013

Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi Seeking "Swift and Amicable" Divorce

1108079_monthly_fee_5.jpgMost couples from San Diego enter into marriage with the expectation that they will be married for the rest of their lives. Over the ensuing years, married couples often have families, acquire property, incur debts, and share interests and experiences. Essentially, they share a life together - as intended. So when a couple makes the difficult decision to divorce, there are many issues and "loose ends" to tie up and settle. In an ideal world, the process would run smoothly, efficiently and with little or no strife. If you find yourself contemplating divorce, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who is fully knowledgeable in the local laws and court procedures and can help you navigate the process with as much ease as possible.

It seems that Nigella Lawson and her soon-to-be ex-husband are working toward the goal of a quick and easy divorce. According to a news article, the couple - each of whom is reported to be worth millions - intend to have an "undefended" divorce, and neither is expected to make a financial claim against the other. Media outlets have speculated that some widely publicized photographs of Saatchi with his hands around Lawson's throat during an argument may have led to the filing for divorce.

Saatchi said he was disappointed that his wife failed to make a public statement to explain that he opposes violence and never physically abused Lawson in any way. Another news source said Saatchi described the incident as a "playful tiff." But police reportedly issued Saatchi a "caution" after he allegedly admitted to the assault. After the extensive media coverage of the compromising photographs, it is no wonder the couple would like to expedite the divorce process as quickly and amicably as possible.

In California, when spouses seek to divorce, there are many issues to resolve, and working with an experienced family law attorney is one way to move matters along efficiently. Parties have to consider and address many matters, such as the division of marital property (identification and valuation), child custody and visitation (if the couple has children), and spousal and child support. In some instances, the law dictates how to handle and calculate these items. For instance, California law provides a set schedule for determining child support based on income. Parties have to keep in mind, though, that income can include finances received from a variety of sources, not simply a weekly paycheck. As for spousal support, there is no set schedule in San Diego County. Rather, judges rely mainly on court opinions, court orders and case law dating back decades.

Some additional issues to consider (to name a few): how long will you receive spousal or child support payments; who will be responsible for a child's medical insurance and expenses; who will pay for college; what if a custodial parent moves out of state; what is in "the best interest of a child" and who makes that decision? In order to obtain the best settlement for a client, the family law attorney will need to be experienced, prepared and fully apprised of the relevant procedures and local laws.

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May 30, 2013

In Ongoing Support Battle, Lakers' Steve Nash's Ex-Wife is Barred From Relocating to California

1015486_basketball.jpgThe divorce laws in San Diego may be different from those in Arizona, according to a recent article depicting the latest drama in the unfolding Nash-Amarilla family break up. Steve Nash's ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla, currently lives in Arizona with the couple's three children. Nash successfully convinced a judge there to deny Amarilla child support, arguing that she already received millions in the divorce settlement. Under Arizona law, no child support is required if the adjusted incomes of both parents are relatively equal. There has been some speculation that if she moves to California, Amarilla would have another opportunity to seek child support from Nash from the local courts.

In most states, "child support" consists of the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay each month for the child's (or children's) support and living expenses. California has a statewide formula (known as a "guideline") for determining how much child support should be awarded. Parents may first attempt to agree on an appropriate amount, but if they cannot, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation.

The guideline calculation takes into account the following items (among others): the amount of money the parents earn or have the ability to earn; any other income each parent receives; the amount of time each parent spends with the children; the number of children the parents have together; whether the children receive any support from other relationships; each parent's tax filing status; health insurance costs; expenses associated with daycare and uninsured health-care costs; and any mandatory union fees or retirement contributions.

In the Nash divorce, Amarilla is claiming that her ex-husband will not let her move to California so that he can avoid paying child support. Nash was granted a restraining order barring Amarilla from relocating with her children to Los Angeles. According to another news article, Nash previously convinced the Arizona divorce judge that his wife didn't need child support because the divorce awarded her millions and that she also receives approximately $30,000 per month. Amarilla is appealing the ruling. She has argued that Nash makes a million dollars more than her every month, and that he should be required to spend some of that money on their children. Nash claims to be paying 90% of the children's medical, school and extracurricular activities, as well as 82% of the nanny's salary. According to reports, Nash has said that his ex-wife spends money excessively, and if he is gives her more, she will spoil the children with too many luxuries.

The worrisome part of this widely publicized divorce proceeding is the effect it will have on the children. By battling with his ex-wife over child support payments and fighting to have her remain in another state with the children is sending a disturbing message.

In California, the guideline calculation system affords a somewhat predictable measure by which parents can estimate the child support payments that will be awarded. The best course of action in any divorce case in this state is to contact an experienced family law attorney who understands the intricacies of the local court rules and procedures.

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March 14, 2013

Demi Moore is Seeking Spousal Support in Divorce From Ashton Kutcher

1229466_dollar_sign.jpg It is no secret that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher separated more than a year ago. The news spread through the tabloids in no time. But it took until this past December for one of the parties to file for divorce. According to a Huffington Post article, Kutcher filed first and Moore just recently responded by filing her own papers. The intriguing, and perhaps surprising part of this story is that Demi Moore is seeking spousal support from Kutcher. When a couple decides to end their marriage, often one of the parties is entitled to spousal support. If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an experienced San Diego family law attorney, as early in the proceedings as possible, to identify and help protect your rights.

The article reports that Moore, who is 50-years-old, is asking Kutcher for spousal support and, to pay her attorney's fees, despite that she is worth (financially) more than he is. Some news sources have speculated that Moore was hurt by an affair Kutcher was thought to be having with a 23-year-old woman right before their separation. Reports also suggest that Moore is upset about Kutcher's publicly known relationship with Mila Kunis, an actress who starred in "That 70's Show" years ago, along with Kutcher.

From a financial standpoint, the request for spousal support seems to be stemming from bad feelings rather than a need to get by. According to the article, when Moore divorced Bruce Willis, she received $90 million. Currently, she is reported to be worth $150 million, compared to Kutcher's reported worth of $140 million. The decision on the amount, if any, of spousal support Demi Moore is entitled to will be determined by the court.

Under California law, when parties are divorcing, the court may order one spouse to pay the other a specified amount of money for support each month. A judge will look at what each spouse is able to earn to keep their standard of living as close to what they had during the marriage. In order to do this, the court will consider a variety of factors: (1) any marketable skills of the spouse receiving the support; (2) the current job market for those skills; (3) the expense and time it will take for the spouse who receives the support to obtain the training or education to get a job or to develop marketable skills or; (4) the extent that the earning capacity of the spouse who receives the support was adversely affected by unemployment during the marriage due to domestic responsibilities.

When one considers the above factors, it will be interesting to see what a court will order in terms of spousal support for Demi Moore. She seems to have earning potential and to be worth a great deal of money. For divorcing spouses who are not famous actors, the situation can be quite different. In order to ensure that you are treated fairly when it comes to spousal support, it is important to have an attorney who you can trust to protect your rights.

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January 10, 2013

Modification of Spousal and Child Support Orders During Pending Divorce Litigation Reviewed by California Appellate Court

file0001373070796.jpgA husband appealed pendente lite orders terminating spousal support and declining to modify child support in a divorce matter. In re Marriage of Freitas, No. D060281, slip op. (Cal. App. 4th, Oct. 3, 2012). The trial court entered orders awarding child support to the wife and spousal support to the husband. It later declined to modify the child support order, holding that a recent precedent decision prohibited it from doing so, but it terminated the wife's child support obligation, citing the husband's prior conviction for domestic violence. On appeal, the husband argued that both decisions constituted error. The appellate court affirmed the spousal support order and remanded the child support order.

Christine and Kevin Freitas separated in March 2010 after more than eighteen years of marriage. The couple have two children, who were thirteen and nine at the time of the separation. The wife filed for divorce in April 2010. The husband filed an order to show cause (OSC) that August requesting spousal support and child support. The wife opposed a spousal support order, informing the court that the husband had an October 2006 conviction for battery against her, and that in July 2010, the court entered a domestic violence restraining order against the husband. After a hearing on the OSC in October 2010, the court awarded the husband $800 per month in spousal support while the divorce was pending, and awarded the wife $7 per month in child support. The court reserved jurisdiction to modify the support awards for September and October, giving the husband until January 4, 2011 to present additional evidence of her income.

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November 22, 2012

Interstate Divorce Case Lands in California, Results in Large Child Support Order

15-18_foot_swell_taken_from_Corona_Del_Mar,_California.JPGIn affirming a trial court's child support order, an appellate judge quoted from Aesop's Fables, paraphrased as "be careful what you wish for." The case, In re Marriage of Barth, involved a divorce with petitions filed in two states, Ohio and California, a trip to the Ohio Supreme Court, and a final order in California that was far less favorable to the appellant husband. Ultimately, questions of credibility regarding the husband's financial representations persuaded the appellate court to affirm the large child support order.

The parties, Jeffrey and Andrea Barth, were married in 1989. They had two children, and they lived in Ohio until 2004, when the husband took an auditing job in California and moved to Orange County. The wife and children stayed behind in Ohio for about five months, during which time she quit her job and sold the family home. Several weeks after they joined the husband in California, he confessed to extramarital affairs. The wife and children returned to Ohio within days. She filed a divorce petition in Ohio on August 24, 2004, and he filed one in California the following day.

The Ohio divorce case went through litigation for nearly three years. The husband denied that the Ohio courts had subject matter jurisdiction, as the wife no longer had the required period of residency in the state at the time she filed. The Ohio court eventually entered an order setting current and retroactive child support. The husband appealed all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled in March 2007 that the wife's brief stay in California ended her Ohio residency. It vacated all prior orders and dismissed the case.

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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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August 16, 2012

California Court Rules that Child Support Order Was Nullified by Parents' Subsequent Marriage to Each Other

442705_38979230.jpgA child support order between unmarried parents was nullified when the parents married each other, according to the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth Appellate District. In Re Marriage of Wilson and Bodine involved a challenge by a father to the state's assertion that he owed child support under an order, entered before the parents were married, for a period of time after the parties subsequently separated and divorced. The appeals court held that the parties' marriage to each other nullified the prior order, and remanded the case to the trial court to calculate the amount of pre-marriage child support owed.

The mother and father had a son in August 2001. They were not married to one another at the time. After the father filed a voluntary declaration of paternity, the mother obtained a court order under the same cause number for the father to pay $1,600 per month in child support in July 2002. The court further granted the mother full custody and gave reasonable visitation rights to the father. A daughter was born to the two parents in June 2003.

The mother and father married each other on December 31, 2005, and lived together for about two years. They separated on January 30, 2008. The court bifurcated the divorce matter into a proceeding on the status of the marriage and a matter on child custody and support. It issued an order of dissolution of the marriage on January 30, 2009, reserving the issues pertaining to the children. The parents shared custody of the two children by agreement since their separation.

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August 9, 2012

California Bill Would Expand Criteria for Legal Designation as Parent of a Child

838397_54880119.jpgA bill pending in the California Legislature, SB 1476, would modify the Family Code by allowing a court to designate more than two people as legal parents of a child, if the court concludes that doing so would be in the child's best interest.

State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill on February 24, 2012. He says that it would amend California law to match the present reality of many families. State law allows a court to designate a person other than a child's biological parent as a legal "parent," but it explicitly limits the number of parents to two. The bill, if enacted, could impact children in families with unmarried parents, step-parents, or parents in same-sex relationships. Critics, in addition to rhetoric about changing the definition of family, contend that the bill could expose children to further stress in the event of a divorce, as custody could be split three or more ways, instead of just two.

Senator Leno's inspiration for the bill, according to Debra Saunders of the North County Times, was a child known in court documents as "M.C." M.C.'s biological parents had a brief relationship but never married. M.C.'s mother, "Melissa," married her former partner "Irene" during the brief period when same-sex marriages were legal in California. M.C.'s biological father, "Jesus," provided support for the child. Melissa later sought a divorce from Irene and started a new relationship. Melissa's new boyfriend, allegedly with Melissa's "complicity," stabbed Irene. Jesus, who by then lived in Oklahoma, sought custody of M.C. Because Irene was legally married to Melissa when M.C. was born, she was the presumed second parent under California law.

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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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