SANTA ROSA FAMILY LAWYER BLOG

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For decades, California state officials have been trying to get some children to pay for the debts of their parents who received aid from cash assistance programs from years past. These are programs aimed at helping the state’s neediest families.

This is caused by accounting errors of county administered cash assistance programs. One such cash assistance program is CalWorks, which provides qualified families with the necessary aid to sustain basic life essentials. For whatever reason, entities like CalWorks have been prone to over-pay their recipients usually because of mistaken paperwork and clumsy accounting errors. This problem is particularly troubling, though because the program’s consistently suffer severe budget problems.

As a result of these accounting errors, cash assistance providers are now seeking collection of the overpayments. However, the problem is that county officials are having trouble tracking down the actual recipients of these overpayments. Therefore, desperately some instances they have resorted to seeking collection from the children of the recipients. Our Santa Rosa family law attorney recognizes that it is not legally sound to hold a minor responsible for their parents’ debts.

According to an article from The Los Angeles Times, the practices adopted by these cash assistance programs have faced intense scrutiny.

For example, Clarence Ayers has experienced the negative effects of this collections process first-hand. Mr. Ayers provided support for his great-granddaughter by covering the child’s expenses from his monthly stipend from CalWorks. Last summer, Ayers’ CalWorks payment was reduced by 10% because the public assistance entity had mistakenly disbursed $10,000 to the child’s mother and grandfather. Essentially, as Ayers states, “She [his great-granddaughter] was being punished for something she never did.”

Recognizing that his great-granddaughter’s legal rights should be protected given that it would be unfair to hold her, a minor, responsible for the debts of her mother and grandfather, Mr. Ayers filed a lawsuit to end this unjust collections process implemented by public assistance entities. dollar sign.jpg

Fortunately, Mr. Ayers case was successful.. The lawsuit is currently in the settlement phase, but the California Department of Social Services has stated that refunds will be provided for any unfair withholdings since January 6, 2012. Further as a result of the suitcounties were instructed to stop collecting on past overpayments from adults whose families received assistance when they were children. This direct order circumvents California state law that requires county officials to try to recover overpayment of funds if a family receives an excess of $35 or more. The state law allows the option of county officials to track down other household members, which gives them the choice of unfairly burdening the children of the recipients of the funds with the debt. Our Santa Rosa family law attorney appreciates efforts being made that rightfully relinquish young people from debts that they are not responsible for.

As this situation demonstrates, family law issues can get quite complex. The law treats family members differently under the law than others, often leading to confusing (and sometimes unjust) legal actions. No matter what, our Santa Rosa family attorneys understand that certain rights must be protected in order to avoid one family member facing unfair legal burdens. If you are in need of legal help related to family issues, it is important to seek the advice of a Northern California family law attorney to ensure you are not taken advantage of by others or the even the government.

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In a disturbing sequence of events reported in an article in The Press Democrat, a Lake County woman is accused of having sex with her teenage son. She is scheduled to be back in Napa County Superior Court on Thursday. According to Napa County court records, Mistie Atkinson faces four felony charges of incest, oral copulation with a minor, lewd contact with a minor and distributing lewd materials to a minor.

Each Lake County family law attorney has worked on many cases involving unique family situations, but these allegations are a reminder that no matter how long one has practiced law, bizarre circumstances continue to arise. Of course, this sort of conduct has criminal implications: a sexual relationship between a parent and his/her child is not only a violation of the California Family Code, but it is also a violation of the California Penal (Criminal) Code.

handcuffs.jpgThe California Penal Code makes clear that incest is illegal in California. The language of the Code pertaining to incest is as follows: “Persons being within the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are declared by law to be incestuous are void, who intermarry with each other, or who being 14 years of age or older, commit fornication or adultery with each other, are punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.” Therefore, in application of this provision, Atkinson remains in the Napa County jail, where she is being held on $200,000 bail.

The Napa County court records provide a little more context for the story. Apparently, Atkinson and her son were absent from each other’s lives until just recently when Atkinson located her 16-year-old son through the Internet last year. Prosecutors allege that the two developed a sexual relationship in the latter half of 2011. Disturbingly, the son knew that Atkinson was his biological mother. Although the son had knowledge and the sexual relationship was consensual, our Lake County family law attorney understands that neither the Penal Code nor the Family Code in California allows for such an incestuous relationship between mother and son to go unpunished.

Not only does Atkinson face criminal ramifications for her actions, but she also faces child custody issues with her son’s father. In response to the sordid turn of events, the father obtained a restraining order against Atkinson in December 2011. Reports have yet to disclose what, if any, further action the father has taken. It is logical to infer that the next step the father will take is to file for full custody of the son (if he doesn’t already have it), asserting that it is in the “best interest of the child” to be under the supervision of the father given the mother’s criminal behavior. Based on this argument, it is likely that the court will grant the father full custody.

In previous posts, we had discussed several factors that fathers in child custody battles should be mindful of in order to protect their custody rights. Those concerns notwithstanding, however, the father in this particular case is likely to find favor with the court under the circumstances.

Our Northern California family law attorneys appreciate that unexpected, unusual and complicated family issues can arise. When faced with uncertain situations, it is always important to seek the advice of a qualified legal professional in order to protect your rights.

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Losing a spouse is a traumatic experience. During the midst of the tragic loss, however, the surviving spouse must deal with the legal effects of the death, including property and inheritance issues. Our Santa Rosa family law attorney knows that under California law, the surviving spouse has a right to inherit the decedent’s property through intestacy if there is no will or other non-probate instrument.

gun (another finn).jpgYet a high-profile local case is making news across the country which turns this basic marriage inheritance issue on its head. What happens with inheritance issues when one spouse kills the other?

General public policy based rules establish that anyone who kills should not profit from such wrongdoing by allowing the wrongdoer to inherit the property of the donor, either through intestacy, will, or non-probate instruments, such as life insurance.
But what happens when the surviving spouse claims the killing was in self-defense?

The Criminal Case

According to an article in Press Democrat, a Petaluma man, Kenneth Mullennix is on trial for the January 9, 2010 murder of his wife. The couple had been in the midst of marital strife just before the wife’s death. The discord was due to the wife’s extramarital affair. Mullennix admitted that he shot and killed his wife, but he claims that on the night of the incident he was very drunk. He did not recall the exact sequence of events. On the tape of Mullennix’s call to 911, he told the emergency dispatcher that his wife had attacked him and that she was insane. Some evidence suggests that before Mullennix shot and killed his wife, the wife had been in possession of the gun and was pointing it at Mullennix.

If this is in fact true, then, as our Santa Rosa family law lawyer knows, Mullennix may not be barred from inheriting his deceased wife’s property since he was acting in self-defense.

Further supporting the argument that Mullennix was acting in self-defense, Mullennix has testified that his wife had a very violent temper, stating that there were incidents where she came at him with knives and bottles. There were also incidents where she had punched him. On the other hand, the prosecution has offered evidence that depicts Mullennix as a man obsessed with his wife’s affair, ultimately causing him to murder her.

The law states that a person convicted of an intentional and felonious killing cannot inherit from his victim. Hence, a killer may not receive any property transfer from his victim. Because the killing must be willful and felonious, anyone convicted for involuntary manslaughter or who was insane at the time of the act can still inherit from the victim.

Santa Rosa Family Law Help

Fortunately, few local residents will ever be in a situation similar to this one. However, unique legal issues related to family property, dissolution, and custody concerns do arise. No two cases are identical. That is why if you are in our area and may be in need of legal help connected to family issues, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced Santa Rosa family law attorney. The legal professionals at Beck Law have been working on these issues for years and can provide the advice and advocacy you need.

All information discussed during your visit to the Beck Law Offices is confidential. Please contact our office for a free consultation at 707-576-7175 today.

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Some assume that child custody matters are simple issues that can be quickly resolved given that, according to California law, custody is ultimately determined upon what is in the “best interest of the child.” However, complexities in child custody matters often emerge when parents’ fail to reach an agreement on their own about what is in their offspring’s best interest. Our Santa Rosa child custody attorneys understand that a wide range of factors can play into the “best interests of the child” standard. We have helped guide many local residents through this process.

In California, either parent can have custody of the child or the parents can agree to share custody. The child custody agreement consists of both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody grants the parent the right to make important decisions for the child in regards to such issues as education and health care. Physical custody refers to with who the child lives. Both parents may share the rights and responsibilities to both legal and physical custody or one parent may have the sole right to either legal or physical custody. child.jpg

Custody is not given automatically to the mother or the father. A common misconception is that the mother has the more favorable platform in gaining custody rights of the child. However, the court takes into account several factors in determining what is best for the child, including the age of the child, the health of the child, the emotional ties between the parents and the child, and similar issues. Also taken into consideration by the court is the behavior of the parents during both the divorce proceeding and the child custody matter. Therefore, the father has an equal opportunity to gain legal rights and responsibilities of the child during a custody proceeding.
Although California courts give mothers and fathers an equal chance to gain legal rights in child custody matters, our Santa Rosa custody lawyers advise fathers seeking custody to take certain precautions so as not to thwart their equal opportunity. Due to the societal preconception that children are better off with their mothers, judges may have an instinctual disposition to unknowingly favor the mother. It is important for fathers in child custody battles to refrain from certain behaviors that might reinforce those preconceived notions.

A recent article touched on these issues. The story suggested that in order to protect their custody rights, fathers should not exude behavior that would suggest dominance or an attitude that men are more powerful than women. Such behavior that might suggest dominance and power include yelling at a wife, criticizing their partner to friends and family, or failing to inform the mother in advance of any decisions made in regards to the child. A display of dominance and power may allow the mother to assert the claim that she is afraid of her husband, which may ultimately put the father in a negative light in the court’s judgment. Overall, it is important to understand – especially for fathers – that determining the best interest of the child also entails how the mother and father treat each other.

Our Santa Rosa family law attorneys appreciate that child custody matters are emotional, complex, and often wrought with uncertainty. No matter what your situation, each Northern California family law attorney at our firm has the experience to help protect your rights. Please give us a call at 707-576-7175 to learn how we can help you in the child custody process.

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California is a “no fault” divorce state which means that grounds for divorce are rarely controversial. Instead, property division and custody arrangements are usually the most important issues to resolve between the spouses during a separation.

As our experienced Santa Rosa divorce lawyers often explain, a “no fault” divorce means that the spouse filing for the divorce is not required to prove that the other spouse committed any kind of misconduct, such as infidelity or domestic violence. In California, it is enough for the spouse to simply state that the couple cannot get along. However, before the spouses can go their separate ways, they must resolve several issues, including the property portion of the case. Depending on the amount of property that must be divided and what property is considered a marital asset, establishing a property division agreement between the spouses can be a lengthy, contentious, and downright stressful process. coins.jpg

Obviously, if the couple acquired a lot of property together during the marriage, it will likely take longer for the spouses to reach a mutual agreement, further dragging out the divorce proceeding.

For example, a recent story in the Press Democrat reports that Susan Decker, a former president of Yahoo, and her husband, Michael Dovey, finally reached a settlement on Monday in their divorce. They filed for divorce in 2007. It took five years to reach a settlement in large part due to the property involved, including about $71 million in real estate, stock, cash and other assets.

Other issues that extended the divorce proceedings were allegations of infidelity, drug use, and spying. Although these issues are irrelevant in the granting of the actual divorce, since California is a “no fault” divorce state, our Santa Rosa child custody lawyer knows that such allegations are can become relevant when children are involved, ultimately slowing down the process of finalizing a divorce. In this particular case, the allegations were pertinent factors to consider since Decker and Dovey had three children together. The judge will take these factors into consideration when determining custody of the children when they might affect what is in their best interest.

However, although custody of the children prolonged the divorce proceeding in this particular case, the main reason that the process was protracted was due to the large amount of assets the couple acquired during their marriage. Whatever the amount and type of assets involved, a couple going through a divorce must understand what exactly qualifies as “property” before a property division agreement can be established. Our Santa Rosa divorce lawyer can explain how property includes anything that can be bought or sold, and it is also anything that has value–such as bank accounts and security deposits. The court ultimately makes decisions regarding how to divide the property that was acquired during the marriage. However, couples have the option to divide their property by agreement on their own, but the judge must sign off on that agreement.

Because of the complexities that may arise during the property division portion of a divorce, in our area it is always important to seek the advice of an experienced Santa Rosa divorce lawyer. Our attorneys have years of experience guiding families through this process and ensuring that partners going through a separation have a strong advocate looking out for their unique interests.

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