Child Abduction Prevention: A widely circulated video showed a male trying to drag a 13-year-old girl across the floor and out of a Dollar Store with the mother attempting to intervene and to save her daughter. Frequent reports from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children [NCMEC] of stranger abduction attempts emphasize that no parent should ever leave children unattended in a public place. KIDSMARTZ is a website parents can use to teach their children some very effective abduction prevention tools.
In my world, "Knowledge is Power." I want my clients to be empowered, and I want their children to be empowered as well. Prevention is key to keeping your kids safe.
I know that abortion may be something that you oppose. I respect that. For some families, however, and for victims or rape, incest or for matters of personal choice, others may choose abortion. The news today about abortion rights is quite dramatic, particularly considering the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court. As you know, we have only eight justices since the death of Antonino Scalia.
In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a 2013 Texas law that required physicians in abortion clinics to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals and required abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.
SCOTUS Blog, discussing the decision in Whole Woman's Health et al. v. Hellerstedt said: "Texas's admitting-privileges and surgical-center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution."
Today's guest author is attorney James P. Ryan who practices in Plymouth, Michigan. Jim responded today to a colleague's question whether an older person who has a guardian may legally marry and whether the guardian must consent to the marriage, stating:
In May 2001, MCL 551.6 (about insane people getting married) was repealed, but the requirement that a person be capable of contracting marriage in MCL 551.2 remains unchanged. So mental capacity is a legal issue to be determined in the appropriate forum. See, e.g., May v Leneair, 99 Mich App 209, 215; 297 NW2d 882 (1980): "Marriage is a civil contract to which the consent of parties capable in law of contracting is essential.... Therefore, an adjudicated mental incompetent cannot enter a valid marriage." Marriages solemnized in this state involving a person who was not capable in law of contracting at the time of solemnization are "prohibited marriages" that are "absolutely void" under MCL 552.1, and they are included as situations subject to an annulment in MCL 552.3. Marriage of a person adjudged mentally incompetent or for whom a full guardian has been appointed is void. May, supra, at 215.
But, if the person has certain disabilities, but has not been adjudged to be incompetent, nor has a guardian with full powers been appointed to care for him/her at the time of the marriage and thereafter, he/she could have sufficient mental capacity to understand the consequences of marriage and be capable of contracting to marry.
I do not know if the marriage of a person with a guardian has to be approved by the court, but that sounds like a good idea, if only to avoid disputes about it later.
Child abuse comes in many different forms, but knowing the definition of child mistreatment, how to prevent it, and how to promote positive change can make all the difference for a family.
Abuse can be sexual, physical, or emotional in nature and can include neglect. Studies show that all of these can lead to adverse effects on children later in life, including substance abuse and other risk-taking behavior, social disorders, teenage pregnancy, anxiety, depression, and suicide, so it is important to stop the cycle as soon as possible. According to the CDC, mistreatment can include:
● Physical abuse, such as hitting, kicking, or shaking ● Neglect of any kind, including not meeting a child’s needs for food, shelter, clothing, or education ● Emotional abuse, such as shaming, threatening, or name-calling ● Sexual abuse, including physically abusing a child or exposing him/her to sex acts
Divorced and separated families have relied for years on airline unaccompanied minor flight programs. A report today indicates that American Airlines (perhaps others) need to offer a little more service to vulnerable travelers.
A report today in the Washington Post described a young girl's distressing contact with another airline passenger while she was traveling as an unaccompanied minor on an American Airlines flight. In plain view of others, including attendants, he groped an unaccompanied 13-year-old girl.
According to the Post:
"Chad Cameron Camp had his choice of seats on the half-empty American Airlines flight from Dallas to Portland, Ore. But Camp, 26, curiously chose a middle seat — right next to an unaccompanied 13-year-old girl, the FBI said in a statement.
"Flight attendants offered to move Camp to another seat where he would have more room, but he declined.
“ 'No, I’m fine,” he said, according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Washington Post..
" 'When a flight attendant returned for drink service a half hour later, she saw Camp’s hand on the teenager’s crotch, according to the complaint.' "
On this Father's Day 2016, I read a post online at PBS Newshour that made me feel incredibly sad. Last week, police arrested Lee Kaplan, 51 for statutory sexual assault after they found 12 young girls living in his Feasterville, Pennsylvania, house. The girls ranged in age from six months to 18 years. The 18-year-old girl (unrelated to Kaplan) told police that she and Kaplan had two children together, a six-month-old and a 3-year-old.
The prosecutor in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, also seeks additional charges of aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor against Kaplan.
On Monday evening, less than 48 hours after the deadliest mass murder on American soil since 9/11, Anderson Cooper began his prime time program with an emotional tribute to the 49 lives lost in the Orlando, Florida nightclub shooting.
Noting that his broadcast would neither display photos nor mention the name of the dead gunman, the CNN anchor listed the names and some known facts about those killed in the attack at Pulse nightclub as their names scrolled on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. At times, Cooper's voice broke with emotion."In the next two hours we want to try to keep the focus where we think it belongs, on the people whose lives were cut short," Cooper said.
OK. I promise that this is the last blog post I will write about the Brock Turner case. There are some developments that need to be acknowledged--kudos that need to be delivered. People are standing up and saying: "Rape is rape. Rape is not OK." Strong women. Bless them everywhere!!
For example, there is Twitter user @alexandraozeri. She helped Brock Turner's father out by editing his (letter) statement for him. Need I mention that she added in quite a few details that Mr. Turner left out--either accidentally or intentionally.
Alexandra re-vised Brock Turner's father's letter. In her (blog post?) medium circulated by Twitter, she says:
Brock Turner was convicted in March of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at a fraternity party in January 2015 at Stanford University. He faced up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence him to six years in prison. Instead, the judge who reportedly worried that a stiffer sentence would have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old, ordered him to serve only six months in jail with three years of probation to follow. The light sentence drew harsh criticism from prosecutors and advocates and prompted a firestorm on social media.
Brock Turner's father, Dan A. Turner, wrote a "pity-party" letter to the Court begging for leniency for an act that Turner called "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action." He decried the fact that Brock would be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life. The letter was widely criticized as oblivious, "tone-deaf" and "impossibly offensive." Download Letter-from-Brock-Turner-s-Father
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen called the victim's Victim Impact Statement, delivered in a packed courtroom in Palo Alto “the most eloquent, powerful and compelling piece of victim advocacy that I’ve seen in my 20 years as a prosecutor,” according to Palo Alto Online. I could not agree more. Download B-Turner Victim_Impact_Statement
Use of website icons and accolades such as like "Super Lawyers" and "Best Lawyers" have become the subject of scrutiny by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Attorney Advertising. That committee has issued a warning that many lawyers are failing to comply with its rules governing promotion of comparative accolades, according to an article published recently in the New Jersey Law Journal (sub req).
The committee said numerous grievances concerning promotion prompted the committee to issue a reminder about the rules on attorney advertising. The warning issued on May 18, 2016 calls for use of such accolades “only when the basis for comparison can be verified and the organization issuing the award has sufficiently vetted the lawyer.” In addition, certain language that provides an explanation and context of the award must be added to such advertisement.
A colleague asks how to resolve the issue of child care costs and child support modification when the custodial parent cannot find/afford reliable day care and has, in the past, lost her job because of inability to conform her schedule to the employer schedule. This Mom finally, in order to work, has been paying her teenage children $50 per week to watch their little sister (the child of the payer of support, not of school age). Thus, Mom was able to find a job last August. Fifty dollars per week is far less than the cost of available child care costs during the 35-40 hours per week while mom works in the restaurant field. Mom cannot afford to pay a licensed day care and the father has not been paying reasonable child support that includes child care. The Referee questions whether the child care costs are actually being paid to the teenager, and questions whether she can include this in the computation. The children are in the care of the father half the time.
Common questions are: How old must a child be to be left home alone . . .or to be left alone in the care of a sibling? A couple of other questions and concerns arise:
Effective April 14, 2015, changes in MCL 600.2529 will require the payment of the $80.00 Friend of the Court fee upon the filing of a Complaint regarding custody, support or parenting time of a minor child. Previously this fee was collected at the time of Judgment. New complaints of this type include the $150.00 filing fee and the $80.00 Friend of the Court fee for a total of $230.00.
Truefiling.com will be modified accordingly so please make sure to select the correct document type based on if the case was filed prior to April 14, 2015 or after that date. Please see the attached memo from the State Court Administrator’s Office for further details.
Family law practitioners and laypersons need to know how divorce and/or death affect Social Security benefits. Both groups of people should be aware of the fact that Social Security provides spousal benefits to divorced people only if their marriages last at least 10 years. Therefore, if a divorce could be finalized next week, but that date does not quite make the 10 year mark, putting the case into an administrative stay so that the divorce is not entered until the 10 year anniversary mark has been reached can be very beneficial. What many people don't know is this: Collecting ex-spousal benefits does notaffect the ex’s benefit or that of their current spouse if remarried. Also, unlike spousal benefits, both ex-spouses can collect this benefit based upon the other’s record at the same time.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), even if you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record (even if your ex-spouse has remarried) if:
"Gray Divorce" is a growing trend. in 2013, researchers Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin sociologists at Bowling Green State University, working under a grant, wrote Working Paper WP-13-03, published in March 2013 as The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce among Middle-aged and Older Adults, 1990-2010. They explored the significance of later life divorce. The authors said: "As early as 30 years ago, researchers argued that divorce among older adults would be a growing trend." These studies gave several educated guesses why this would occur.
Remarriages are more likely to end in divorce than are first marriages
The stigma of earlier times regarding divorce has disappeared
Females, who are more likely to be employed and have greater autonomy now than in the days of Ozzie and Harriet , have greater freedom to seek divorce and live independent of a husband.
People are living longer. This increases the likelihood that a marriage (or re-marriage) might end in divorce as opposed to ending by death of a spouse.
Many people have greater expectations in life and want marriage with a spouse who is a real partner. If spouses "grow apart," one or both is more likely to see divorce and re-marriage or life as a single to be more appealing than an empty sham marriage.
On the way to the Forum . . . well, while reading the New York Times . . . I wandered "off the page" and found a blog called ACODTimeForSerenity. It's a blog that was written by an adult child of divorce. The author, "Serenity," writes about the difficulties experienced by people whose parents divorced when they were adults. Because I am seeing greater numbers of older adults divorcing these days, I thought I should call this blog to my readers' attention.
"Gray Divorce" is a growing trend, says Ina Jaffe on NPR: "Older Americans' Breakups Are Causing A 'Graying' Divorce Trend." Jaffe, however, focuses an how divorce coaches are helping the divorced seniors with group therapy (or "coaching") combined with meet-ups and "dinner and a movie" groups. So much for the parents . . . but what about the kids? The adult kids? Do they have a hard time with their parents' divorce? You bet. Here's one lesson Serenity writes about that applies no matter what the age of the children those divorcing may leave behind in the wreckage . . . whether they are adults or not.
People used to say "Sticks and stones may break break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Experts now say that this old, old saying is not true and that because verbal abuse is often continuous, the consequences can be longer-lasting.
The April issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter says that scolding, swearing, yelling, blaming, insulting, threatening, ridiculing, demeaning, and criticizing can be just as harmful as physical abuse, sexual abuse outside the home, or witnessing physical abuse at home. According to the report, constant and severe verbal abuse creates a risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, the same type of psychological collapse often experienced by combat troops.
In the first post in this series, Families in Crisis | What Matters Most? Part I. "The Vanishing Neighbor", I wrote about how loss of family support systems, including a loss of neighborhood, community, and school support systems, leave vulnerable custodial parents and vulnerable children adrift without a lifeline. The video below (from Australia) illustrates something of the way in which some or most dysfunctional families address the issue of what children in crisis need the most: a family system that functions adequately, or a school or community system that picks up the pieces. Bottom line: Studies show that today's parents are more concerned about their own independent adult lives and do not attend to the social, emotional, growth, and psychological needs of their children. I admit that the children's responses were a shocker for me, too. The innocence of children. Isn't it amazing that the children knew immediately the answer to the question of what would help them the most!
Mind you: This is a video. It does not purport to be an illustration of the norm. The question is: WHERE, as parents, do you stand in the social and emotional equation for your children? And See Damour, Lisa. "Where’s the Magic in Family Dinner?" New York Times, November 27, 2015. Accessed April 13, 2016. Where's the Magic in Family Dinners?
Scott Bassett, one of Michigan's finest family law appellate lawyers mused the other day about the fact that Americans seem so isolated socially. Of course, we see people tuned out in a group--focused only on their iPhones looking at Facebook, Twitter or texts. "Forgive me for getting philosophical this early in the morning, but I've often wondered why so many of our clients, particularly those younger than me, have few neighbors or nearby friends they know well enough to rely on when unexpected problems arise (child care, a car breakdown, borrowing a cup of milk, etc). They lack the informal "safety net" that was present when the older members of this discussion group were growing up, and that has significant consequences for their post-divorce quality of life. The questions presented are: How important is community--an informal safety net? How important is school as an informal safety net? How important is family (from the perspective of the parent and from the perspective of the child?
“Brides for Sale” rapper Sonita Alizadeh performed during the 2016 Women in the World Summit Live in New York City. She was only 10 years old when her mother first spoke of selling her as a bride. The anguish and torn loyalties to family are so evident in this performance. Laws that forbid child marriage would free young female children of the torment that Sonita Alizadeh experienced. She is now an advocate for all young girls facing forced marriage.
Since 2004, my friend Wendy Harpham, M.D. of Richardson, Texas has been participating in the Dallas Lymphoma Research Foundation annual fundraiser. Wendy's children were only 2, 4 and 6 when she was diagnosed in 1990. Within a few days, she'll be a grandmother! Wendy participated in Phase One cancer trials. She is a poster child for clinical trials, a wife, mother, mentor, friend to so many others. Wendy advocates for healthy survivorship. Helping to fund research is just one of the many ways she does that.
To help Wendy reach her fundraising goal, please consider making a donation to Wendy's Eagles. You can do that by clicking here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Ronald Nelson, family lawyer in Lenexa, Kansas brought to our attention this week an Iowa case in which an adult sought access to court files related to her adoption. Her married parents had given her up for adoption 50 years earlier. Knowing she had married parents who gave her away is a tough and deep rejection for anyone. Perhaps her parents believed that their poverty caused by the Great Depression was a reason to give her a chance at "a better life." But she will never know because the court turned down her request to identify her parents. She, like so many other adoptees whose parents did not register with the state registry giving permission to be identified if an adult adoptee came looking for him or her, is left with the question whether her birth-mother "chose" to give her up for adoption, made the adoption decision on her own, or had other choices available to her. She’s left with a sense of rejection—believing that her mother and father rejected her. She has no closure. Appointment of a GAL would have at least allowed a neutral contact (and notice of hearing) so that the birth parents could decide whether they wanted to be identified. (They had not registered with the State's Adoption Registry, and it probably did not exist 50 years ago). The Iowa case, In Re R.D. Download In Re R.D.
On Wednesday, March 17, 2016, authorities arrested a woman at the at the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel as she attempted to enter the US with her three children, ages 10, 11 and 12. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials discovered a custodial kidnapping warrant had been issued for the woman. The unidentified 43-year-old woman who is a U.S. citizen, was transferred to the custody of St. Clair Shores police after her arrest. The children were placed in custody of St. Clair Shores child protective services.
Can you imagine a legal mother deciding upon divorce that she could disavow her parentage—that she could / would say that the gestational surrogacy contract made between a wife, her husband and a gestational carrier was invalid and unenforceable? What is this really about?
Well, most of the time it’s about the money . . . and where a child is involved—perhaps actress and television personality Sherri Shepherd just never wanted a child in the first place or failed to bond with the child.
Nevertheless, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied Shepherd’s appeal, ruling that the surrogacy agreement is enforceable. As a result, Shepherd is now required to pay more than $4,000 a month in child support.
In "Ministerial Versus Discretionary Acts or Omissions in Child Welfare Litigation," an article recently published in an online law review journal, authors Andrea MacIver and Daniel Pollack note that children, especially foster children, are often failed by the social welfare system and, being a most vulnerable population, are at risk of harm. In fact, many children in the welfare system are injured or even killed because “[t]he system frequently fails to provide children with stable, secure care” and “fails to meet foster children’s basic medical, psychological, and emotional needs.” MacIver and Pollack identify a system-wide failure based upon several recurring and increasing problems, particularly: "inadequate investigation of prospective foster parents and their families, placing children in inappropriate homes, overcrowded foster homes, placing children with first-time foster parents who are inexperienced and become overwhelmed, and inadequate supervision of foster homes. These recurring problems have resulted in harm to those children under the care of the child welfare system, leading many of them to seek redress in the courts." Co-authors MacIver and Pollack discuss the viability of tort claims for injuries that occur when a child is harmed while under the care of child welfare services.
The New York Times reports on February 22, 2016 that the vaccine introduced a decade ago to combat the HPV virus, has already reduced the virus’s prevalence in teenage girls by almost two-thirds, federal researchers said Monday. However vaccination rates in the U.S. are very low. The most dangerous types of human papillomavirus, or HPV, that that cause nearly 100% of all cervical cancer, have been reduced by more than a third. The American Cancer Society estimates that 4,120 women will die of cervical cancer this year.
Sadly, immunization rates remain low, in spite of the proven effectiveness of HPV vaccination. In the U.S., about 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 have been vaccinated. Because HPV is associated with adolescent sexual activity rather than cancer prevention, many parents decline to seek vaccination of their children because they don't want to appear to be consenting to their teen engaging in sexual activity. Despite efforts to enact mandatory vaccination regulations, there are only three states that require the HPV vaccine: Only Virginia, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
Currently, if Wife has been married at least ten years to Husband, even though she has not been out in the working world at all or if she's has a much lower income (think "glass ceiling" for women), she can expect to elect to base her social security income at retirement on her husband's higher earnings. Her ex-husband will not punished by this, and his social security income will not be reduced at all by this. However, recently Congress ripped this out from under seniors calling these "loopholes" that need to be closed to stop people from collecting more in Social Security income than was intended. This is information that is very important for divorce lawyers, for divorcing couples and for Boomers who are still working to know.
Seniors should act promptly--prior to May 1, 2016--to preserve important Social Security benefits. After May 1, 2016, no one will be able to voluntarily “file and suspend” benefits for the purposes of either; 1) triggering a spousal benefit for a spouse; or 2) protecting the right to file for retroactive benefits. Act during the grace period if you are at least 66 years or have reached the age of 66 before May 1 to voluntarily “file-and-suspend” in order to be grandfathered into the old Social Security rules. The spousal benefit protects future security of one who has been married at least 10 years so that he/she can claim Social Security based upon the other spouse's higher earnings. [Note: This does not affect the Social Security benefits paid to the other spouse.]
Kelly Cosby and her friend Elizabeth Gavin co-wrote a rap song that is a wonderful (and clever) tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Titled “Notorious RBG,” in the style of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy," this performance went viral once it hit YouTube! Turn up the sound!
Cosby and Gavin co-wrote “Notorious RBG” in 2013 at a time when they were working at the Global Justice Center. Gavin told the New York Law Journal that Cosby was “one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest people that I have ever met.” Cosby also worked with Amnesty International while attending the University of Kansas as an undergrad. What I love is how much Justice RBG likes this tribute. Ginsberg recently talked about Notorious RBG during a televised interview with Gloria Steinem.
As reported in the ABA Journal last week, Kelly Cosby died on Sunday at the age of 25 from an aggressive form of melanoma only days after learning that she'd passed the New York Bar examination. She was an amazing young woman and she will be missed!
Yesterday, the Michigan Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court with instructions that the trial court grant standing to a non-biological mother, in a same-sex relationship now broken, to seek custody, parenting time and child support. "Pursuant to the dictates of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v Hodges, ___ US ___; 135 S Ct 2584; 192 L Ed 2d 609 (2015), we remand this matter for proceedings consistent with this opinion."
In Jennifer Stankevich v Leanne Milliron, the parties entered into a same-sex marriage in Canada in July 2007. Before that date, defendant had been artificially inseminated, and later gave birth to a child. Defendant is the biological mother of the child. The parties separated in March 2009. While they initially agreed to a visitation schedule, they subsequently found that they could not agree.
As a result, the plaintiff filed a verified complaint under the Paternity Act, asserting that she fully participated in the care and rearing of the minor child. She requested relief from the trial court, which included an order dissolving the marriage, an order affirming that she is the parent of the child, and orders regarding custody, parenting time, and child support. Defendant filed a motion for summary disposition asserting that plaintiff lacked standing to petition for custody of the child. The trial court granted defendant’s motion. Plaintiff then appealed.
Stankevich v Milliron, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued October 17, 2013 (Docket No. 310710)]. An application for leave was submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court. The MSC vacated and remanded 498 Mich 877 (2015).
Yesterday, the Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court with instructions: "Pursuant to the dictates of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v Hodges, ___ US ___; 135 S Ct 2584; 192 L Ed 2d 609 (2015), we remand this matter for proceedings consistent with this opinion." The opinion may be read here: Download STANKEVICH_v_MILLIRON
Internet safety is on my mind, whether it's protecting children or my clients from online predators, or protecting them from hacking to read emails or see browsing history,whether it's cyber-bullying or invasions of privacy.
Here is a link to all of the Blog posts on Updates in Family Law that deal with Internet issues that may affect divorcing families and vulnerable children. Use them as needed to help yourself, your children, your clients or your friends from falling prey to online victimization. http://tinyurl.com/o4mw2v6
There are many agencies available to help women and their families to escape and/or to prevent family violence. See, for example:
May a custodial parent, over the objection of the co-parent, exercise parenting time in a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction? Parent A says: "I am the custodial parent. I should be able to take my children to visit my parents in Jamaica (for example) without my co-parent's permission because I have custody and he/she only has parenting time." Parent B says: "Michigan law prohibits a parent from exercising parenting time in a non-Hague Convention country if I do not agree. And I don't agree because all of the custodial parent's relatives live in the non-Hague Convention country and I am fearful that if they travel there, the children will never be returned."
And, indeed, this is what the Michigan statute says:
A family lawyer in a case involving fault or significant flaws that can negatively impact a child custody proceeding loves to have access to Facebook archives. These can be a goldmine of evidence. The first thing a good family lawyer will do is to advise new clients to stay off Facebook and other social media sites--or at least not publish comments that should remain private.
Subscribers and other frequent readers of Updates in Family Law will not be surprised to learn that there are over 40 posts (of about 1100 since 2006) concerning Facebook. All of them may be reviewed here. [NOTE: It's easy to subscribe and receive an email with link to all new posts. Just insert your email address in the box in the upper left-hand corner above.]
After the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), there are some people who do NOT live in Vermont (the first state where civil unions were legalized by statute) who may wonder whether, where and how to dissolve their civil union formed in Vermont and legal in Vermont. Thus arises the question of whether a civil union recognized, before Obergefell in some states by virtue of the fact that the marriage was legal in Vermont. Do folks with civil unions in Vermont need to dissolve them before marrying in another state?
Should you dissolve a Vermont civil union if you want to marry someone else?
A Vermont attorney has stated that the statute in Vermont didn’t automatically convert civil unions to marriages. Thus a couple with a civil union still has one state (Vermont) that recognizes that civil union.Why leave this civil union hanging out there when it could result in complicated estate issues at some time in the future?
Where would you dissolve a Vermont Civil Union?
As the Vermont Court's website will make clear, even a non-resident may dissolve a civil union in Vermont fairly easily without going there if there are no minor children and if the parties stipulate to everything, including property division. The process is fairly simple, the court forms are provided, the cost is small (about $200) and there is online help for questions.
Dissolving Civil Unions with Children:
If you live in Vermont and you have minor children, you may only dissolve the civil union in Vermont.
How can you dissolve a Vermont Civil Union?
Fortunately, the Vermont Courts have online court forms and tremendously helpful information. In fact, Vermont seems to be going out of its way to make this simple for people. It appears that most people can do this without even having an attorney's help.
Alton Abramowitz, 2013 national President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, shared via LinkedIn today a link to the publicly available and downloadable pdf of the AAML’s Child Centered Residential Guidelines.
Current AAML President, Jim McLaren of South Carolina, described the guidelines as follows:
"[T]he parenting visitation and access schedules presented allow families to choose the most appropriate framework for their children after carefully considering the maturity, circumstances and unique characteristics of each child. The overall goal of the Guidelines is to make every minute that a child spends with each parent to be as meaningful as possible, while decreasing the stress and pressures of the custody process and transitions between households. We believe that you will find this publication to be indispensable and hope that you will ultimately share it as an essential resource with your clients."
Family lawyers are often requested to guide parents toward a child-centered parenting time plan that is developmentally sensitive. This is a great resource, encouraging parents to develop an informed and individualized parenting time plan.
Family law attorney Ronald W. Nelson of Lenexa, Kansas, has graciously agreed to be today's Guest Blogger.
An interesting question was raised in an ABA Family Law Listserv discussion recently concerning whether a 1994 judgment of divorce dividing the parties' property (specifically a business) was still enforceable.
Here's what Ron said about trying to enforce a 21-year-old judgment. The point of his advice is: "People, don't sit on your rights!" A take-away for lawyers is this: You should always provide clients with information about the time limitations for enforcement of judgments so that they will take steps to enforce and not be left with an empty basket.
Ron Nelson said, "Simply put, an unexecuted judgment becomes dormant after five years, and shall remain dormant for an additional two years." Thus, a plaintiff may neglect his judgment for seven years, lacking a day, and then revive and put it in force for five years more.” Riney v. Riney, 205 Kan. 671, 680, 473 P.2d 77 (1970). If, however, a party neglects his judgment for over seven years, the judgment extinguishes and becomes unenforceable. The relevant statute mandates the Court to release the judgment of record upon request, stating that it “shall be the duty of the judge” to release a judgment which has exceeded the seven-year deadline. See K.S.A. 60-2403(a)(1) (emphasis added). The statute does not allow for courts to make findings as to whether a judgment may linger beyond the seven-year threshold, nor whether its enforcement is a discretionary issue. The Kansas Supreme Court has clearly explained what occurs when a judgment exceeds the seven-year threshold, whether or not a motion to release the judgment has been filed: “Once a judgment grows dormant . . . and is not revived pursuant to K.S.A. 1990 Supp. 60-2404, it becomes absolutely extinguished and unenforceable.” Cyr v. Cyr, 249 Kan. 94, 97, 815 P.2d 97 (1991).
How did this 6-year-old get to be so wise? She's not reading a script or cue-cards. This is an extemporaneous and sincere plea by a young child that her divorced parents put aside their anger and just get along. This is powerful stuff.
Kudos for great mentoring on the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Listserv and for all of her efforts on behalf of clients--paying clients and pro bono clients. What she said!
Michigan lawyer Paula Aylward, who received many accolades in 2013 and 2014, when asked what could be done to stop harassment--a co-parent making serial and groundless reports to Child Protective Services, triggering CPS investigations, interviews and visits to the children's school and to the other co-parent's home--reports that over the course of nearly a half-dozen visits in a nine-month period resulted in the accusations being unsubstantiated, said this:
"Yes. First, you should ask CPS to report Dad's groundless reporting to the local FOC per MCL 722.628(20). That section of the Child Protection Law provides:
Children of divorce--often during the divorce itself--and often afterwards as well when there is high conflict--experience anxiety. Many parents are not equipped to help their children deal with anxiety. Parents can feel helpless and overwhelmed. This, of course, usually makes everything worse.
NPR critic Kenneth Turan says that 'Meet The Patels' makes you think and laugh. The film began as a home movie and ended up as a "laugh out loud" documentary about a first generation Indian-American man trying to find a wife. The film won many awards in film festivals around the US in 2014, including the coveted "Audience Award" for Best Documentary and also the "Founder's Grand Prize--Best Film" at the Traverse City Film Festival in my home town. (How did I miss this?) I can hardly wait for it to come back to a theater near me!
All lawyers have been at this stage: Either the case is closed or a successor lawyer has taken over. Different states have different ethical rules for how long a lawyer must keep papers before destroying them. But what about returning the file to the client if there is a change in the helmsman? [Well, that was a sexist remark.] What if there is a change of lawyers midstream?
The ABA Journal has a perceptive article on this issue today. You can read it here. The logic makes perfect sense.
Have you read recently about the increase in suicide among college students? It's concerning. The photo at the left is a traveling exhibition by Active Minds, an advocacy group. It consists of 1,100 backpacks representing the approximate number of undergraduates who commit suicide each year. Photo Credit Activeminds.org
There's so much pressure on college students to succeed, to measure up to external expectations. Suicides among college students is increasing, as reported in the New York Times. The Times describes young adults struggling to meet their parents' expectations about getting into "the right college," and once there, feeling pressure because there always seem to be other students who are prettier, have more friends, go to cooler parties, get better grades.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University described her concerns about how helicopter parents demand perfectionism, demand success, but don't teach their children how to fail. Lythcott-Haims says she watched the collision of these two social forces up close.
The Michigan Court of Appeals released an opinion reversing and remanding to the trial court with instructions in a case involving the parents' dispute about whether or not their children should continue to receive vaccinations. Kagen v Kagen, unpublished per curiam opinion of Court of Appeals, issued November 27, 2013 (Docket No.318459). These parents share joint legal custody. Interesting evidentiary holdings arose out of this opinion and also out of the subsequent appeal. Computer generated evidence that is admissible under the catch-all exception to the Rules of Evidence is the topic of this Blog post, Part I of a two-part series.
The COA held in Kagen I that information published by a governmental agency on the Internet is admissible where it meets four requirements.
In Kagen I, Mr. Kagen challenged the circuit court’s exclusion of his proffered evidence at the hearing. This evidence included statements and summaries of scientific studies regarding the safety, benefits, and risks of childhood inoculations. These statements were issued by the Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Michigan Department of Community Health. Finding that it fit within no exception to the hearsay rule, the circuit court excluded this evidence,
The COA stated that the circuit court correctly concluded that the proffered evidence was hearsay because it was offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. citing MRE 801. in addition, the authors of the documents presented by Mr. Kagen were not present in the courtroom. The evidence was offered by Mr. Kagen to prove the truth of the matter asserted—that childhood vaccinations are beneficial and safe while deciding not to immunize your child is a dangerous decision that can result in disease and death. Thus, Mr. Kagen had to establish that the evidence fell within an exception to the hearsay rule. He relied upon MRE 803(24), the catch-all exception to the hearsay rule, which provides:
The Kagen case was before the trial court because Father wanted to have the children vaccinated and Mother opposed. The Court of Appeals remanded this matter to the circuit court for reconsideration of whether securing vaccinations for the parties’ minor children was in the children’s best interests. (Kagen I). The COA opinion in Kagen I described in considerable detail the circuit court’s several legal errors and clearly erroneous factual findings. The COA remanded with a specific recommended course of action to be undertaken by the trial court on remand. The Court of Appeals decisions provide clear guidelines for all parents and their lawyers about what is required when two parents sharing joint legal custody disagree about a medical issue such as immunization.
(1) The circuit court was directed by the COA to verify that the vaccination decision would not affect the children’s established custodial environment. The court complied.
From the Detroit News at 8:52 P.M. yesterday (July 10th):
Oakland County Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca lifted her contempt of court rulings Friday and ordered the release of three Tsimhoni children at the center of a contentious child visitation case. They'll be going to a Jewish summer camp where programs typically run for two weeks. It's unclear what will happen to them when it concludes, although it appears a custody battle could be looming. The father plans to file a motion to change custody.
The decision means the kids won't spent the summer in the county's juvenile detention center where they have been housed for the past few weeks.
Annette Burns, an Arizona Family Law attorney and subscriber to this blog, thoughtfully sent me a very interesting Illinois case in which the trial judge faced the same situation that presented last week in Macomb County Circuit Court. I'd like to share that with my readers since the Tsimhoni case has gone viral. It's an important read, respectfully noting the comments of Elizabeth Sadowski, a Michigan family lawyer and colleague, that this is not a case to be "decided around the water cooler."
In In re Marshall, the Illinois Appellate Court noted that
1) The trial court had jurisdiction over the child in this custody / visitation case;
2) Where the child admitted to the violations of court order in the presence of the court, this constituted direct contempt and the trial court had authority to deal with the contempt summarily.
Thanks to Sheldon Larky, terrific family lawyer in Bingham Farms, Michigan for his contribution to our State Bar of Michigan Family Law Listserv this past week. What a lot of mentoring occurs on that listserv! In response to another lawyer's query, Shel wrote:
Pertinent to the appeal in the newly published Michigan case Eickelberg v Eickelberg, __ Mich App __ (2015): Under the 100 mile rule limitation in determining a child’s change of residence [MCL 722.31], the 100 mile rule means radial miles rather than road miles. Road miles refers to the distance between two points along the shortest route of public travel, while radial miles refers to the distance between two points as measured along a straight line. Bowers v Vandermeulen-Bowers, 278 Mich App 287; 750 NW2d 597 (2008), lv app den 481 Mich 908 (2008); Lash v Traverse City, 479 Mich 180, 183 n 1; 735 NW2d 628 (2007).