Articles Posted in Family Law

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My ex-spouse will not pay child support. Child support is not supposed to be a voluntary commitment for divorced parents. Courts often order one parent to make payments to the ex-spouse who is primarily raising their children, for the express purpose of supporting those children. However, sometimes the parent falls behind and does not meet their child support obligations. There are many reasons why this would happen, such as loss of employment, illness or injury, or simple laziness. But no matter the reason, the parent who should be on the receiving end of the child support will want to know how to get the money they are owed.

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How to Get an Ex-Spouse to Pay Child Support

There are a variety of ways a parent can go about compelling their ex-spouse to pay their court-ordered child support. Among the possible courses of action are the following:

1.    Enter into a private agreement with your ex-spouse: If your ex-spouse genuinely cannot make the court-mandated child support payments, whether due to lack of income, illness, or injury, you can always work out a private agreement that reduces or suspends the payments while your ex tries to get back on their feet. Family courts will generally allow these side agreements and will refrain from enforcing their own orders while the private contract is in effect. However, you should be clear with both your ex and the court that, if the ex does not resume making payments when they are supposed to, you will go back to court to force them to do so. You will probably want to hire a family law attorney to draft an agreement of this sort.

2.    Go to mediation: If you want to address the child support issue in a formal setting without actually going to court, mediation might be a good route. Mediation is less adversarial and less expensive than family court, which is why more and more couples are using this option. Agreements reached in mediation can be more flexible and creative than court-ordered remedies. There are probably a number of licensed mediators in your area, and you can usually get a list from your local court.

3.    Take your ex-spouse to court: This is the most drastic, but probably also the most effective, of your options. You can hire a lawyer and return to family court for a contempt proceeding against your ex-spouse. If you can show that your ex is not meeting their court-ordered obligations, the court will try to find a way to compel them to pay the child support. One way the court may do this is through wage garnishment, where a percentage of the person’s wages are automatically diverted to the court and then to you. Many divorced parents hesitate to take their ex-spouses to court any more often than they have to, but if the well-being of your children is at stake, it may be the only viable alternative.

What to Do if Your Ex-Spouse Will Not Pay Child Support

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Bode Miller and his ex-girlfriend are engaged in a unique custody dispute that could have major consequences for this area of law. Many Americans watched skier Bode Miller compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics over the past two weeks, as he capped off his legendary career with a bronze medal in the Super G event. He also generated a great deal of sympathy from viewers around the world when he broke down in tears during his post-race interview. But a custody dispute story involving Miller has made headlines in the world of family law, even as it was swept aside during the television coverage of the Olympics.

Skier The conflict centers on Miller’s ex-girlfriend’s decision to move to another state while she was pregnant with Miller’s child, but after they had broken up. The issue is whether she had a right to do this and what implications her decision has for deciding custody of the child.

Custody Dispute initiated in Moving From California to New York

Miller, who lives in southern California, dated the mother of his child for a few months in 2012. Before they broke up, she became pregnant with his son. In November 2012, Miller (who had married another woman by this point) filed a “Petition to Establish Parental Relationship” in California. The next month, while she was seven months pregnant, the mother moved to New York in order to attend Columbia University.

Two days after the baby was born in February 2013, the mother went to a New York Family Court to petition for custody. Under New York law, the child’s “home state” has jurisdiction over any custody case that arises. However, the family judge ruled that the case should be sent to California, accusing the mother of moving to New York for the purpose of finding a more friendly court. The California family court then awarded custody to Miller and his wife.

The mother appealed the New York decision, and a five-judge panel ruled in November 2013 that her rights had been violated and that New York should have jurisdiction over the case. Since then, California and New York have been engaged in a legal dispute over jurisdiction, with the parties caught in the middle. The baby has mostly remained with Miller and his wife, with the mother getting occasional visitation.

Outcome Could Shape Future Custody Disputes

Most likely, the courts will eventually determine that New York should have jurisdiction, since the mother moved there before the baby was born. If Miller wants to contest custody, he may have to do so in New York courts. However, that will still leave the thornier issue of how to deal with custody when, after a baby’s birth, one parent wants to move far away and the other wants to play an active role in the child’s life. Perhaps this case will provide some clarity for these disputes moving forward.

What to Do if You Are Involved in a Custody Dispute

If you are involved in a custody dispute with a former partner, you should contact a family law attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case and provide you with advice and guidance regarding your concerns.

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Same sex couple married in CA seeks same sex divorce in Mississippi. Simple? Not exactly.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham asked a Mississippi court to recognize her same sex marriage, which took place in California, so that she could file for divorce within the State. Although the couple was married in California, they resided in Mississippi for the duration of their marriage. Czekala-Chatham could file for divorce in California because the State exempts same sex couples from residency requirements that ordinarily require at least one divorcing spouse to be a California resident for six months prior to filing. In part, this is so same sex couples who marry in California but reside in states where their marriage is not legally recognized do not have to face the burden of establishing residency before they can file for divorce. However, California courts will not always be able to issue significant rulings related to property ownership, debt, alimony, or children.
Because California cannot issue certain rulings regarding property ownership, debt, alimony, and children, it is not a viable option for some divorcing same sex couples.
In a telephone interview, Czekala-Chatham explained that failing to get divorced could have serious repercussions. Czekala-Chatham has children from a prior relationship and is concerned that her spouse could contest her will and take her children’s inheritance if they failed to get a divorce. According to court filings, Czekala-Chatham is seeking the couple’s marital home in Mississippi as well as, alimony in the divorce. Czekala-Catham says she will go all the way to the State’s Supreme Court in order to have her same sex marriage recognized because she doesn’t see another way out of the situation. If the State were to recognize her marriage, it would not permit same sex marriages in Mississippi, which remain banned under Mississippi law.

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Since the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, several states have faced similar requests.
Several other states which have bans on gay marriage have been faced with similar requests since the U.S. Supreme Court struck downs segments of the federal Defense of Marriage Act earlier this summer. For instance, the Texas Supreme Court is considering whether it has jurisdiction over same sex divorce cases, even though it does not allow same sex marriage. Oral arguments are scheduled for next month. At least two same sex couples have filed for divorce in the State.
However, Mississippi College constitutional law professor, Matt Steffey says the Mississippi case is a long shot because the right does not exist within Mississippi law. He believes the issue of same sex divorce will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
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In a (perhaps temporary) blow to gay couples and Utah same-sex marriage advocates, the United States Supreme Court has granted a stay on a federal district court judge’s decision overturning Utah’s gay marriage ban. According to a story in The Salt Lake Tribune, the Supreme Court’s ruling, which came down on Monday, will effectively halt same-sex marriages in Utah for the time being.

The district court judge’s decision legalizing gay marriage in Utah came down about three weeks ago, and surprised observers both in Utah and around the country. Overnight, one of nation’s most conservative states was granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, the state plans to appeal the ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and, if that fails, all the way to the Supreme Court. The stay means that no more same-sex marriage licenses will be issued in Utah at least until after the 10th Circuit rules on the appeal.

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Stay Puts Married Same-sex Couples in Limbo

Many same-sex couples were married during the three-week period between the district court ruling and the Supreme Court stay. The legal status of those couples, in terms of their rights and their ability to receive government benefits, is unclear for now, and no more gay couples can get married until the higher courts sort out the appeals. The Supreme Court’s decision came after both the district court and the 10th Circuit declined to grant stays. An attorney for the Utah same-sex couples who originally sued in district court, objected to the stay and was quoted as saying, “every day that goes by, same-sex couples and their children are being harmed by not being able to marry and be treated equally.”

Similarities and Differences with California Decisions

Utah is the second state in the nation, after California, to have a federal court strike down its law banning same-sex marriage. In California, a district court judge found Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage, to be unconstitutional. In that case, the district court imposed an immediate stay on the ruling until the issue could be resolved by the higher courts on appeal.

That stay prevented the situation we now see in Utah, where couples may eventually have their marriage licenses revoked, even though they followed the law on the books at the time they were married. It ultimately took about three years for the California case to go from the district court to the U.S. Supreme Court. The district court’s decision overturning Proposition 8 was affirmed by the Supreme Court last year in Hollingsworth v. Perry. It is very possible that the Utah case will take just as long to resolve.

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Back in June of 2010, New York became the 50th and last state to pass some form of No-Fault Divorce Legislation, 40 years after that of California.  What with the recent debates over same-sex marriage and, now, polygamy have raised questions about the nature of marriage and how the institution of marriage has evolved over time. Progressives generally favor a more expansive and inclusive definition of marriage, with the institution adapting to changing social conditions. Conservatives warn that there could be negative and unforeseen consequences to these changes, and that therefore we should tread lightly when it comes to modifying such an esteemed human institution.

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However, it is possible that both sides are ignoring a much older and more consequential change to our marriage laws. Since 1969, all the states, one by one, have reformed their family law codes to allow for no-fault divorce. Traditionally, American courts would only grant a divorce after establishing that one party had committed a breach of the marital contract. No-fault divorce, in contrast, is dissolution of marriage that does not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party.

A Brief History of No-fault Divorce

The earliest known examples of no-fault divorces occurred in Russia shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. The decrees providing for no-fault divorce were seen at the time as revolutionary attempts to deemphasize marriage in the Soviet Union. In the United States, the Sexual Revolution, feminist movement, and anti-establishment sentiment of the 1960s helped place the idea of no-fault divorce on the political agenda.

In 1967, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws was tasked with drafting a uniform marriage and divorce code for consideration by state legislatures. The various drafts of the NCCUSL’s uniform code all liberalized the current divorce laws on the books in most states. This code had no binding impact on state legislatures, but was deeply influential on family law statutes from the time it was first drafted.

Two years after the NCCUSL began meeting, the California state legislature passed the California Family Law Act of 1969. The Act was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan on January 1, 1970, and included a provision allowing for dissolution of marriage when one party cited irreconcilable differences. This effectively made California the first state to allow for no-fault divorce and as previously mentioned, 40 years later, in 2010, New York became the last state in the US to pass a no-fault divorce statute.

While there are still some who argue against no-fault divorce, it is now the law of the land in California and the rest of the country. There is no question that it has made divorce easier, particularly for those who lack power or control in their respective marriages. Continue reading →

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Utah’s anti-polygamy law was ruled unconstitutional this month when a federal district court judge in Utah struck down the state’s prohibition of “cohabitation,” perhaps opening the door for the eventual legalization of polygamous marriage. The case continues the recent trend, in courts and in the nation as a whole, toward changing the way we think about marriage and the regulation of personal relationships by the government.

Polygamy Hands

The challenge to the Utah statute was brought by a Utah man (and reality television star) who lives with his four wives and 17 children. The court found that, under the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion, the statute’s language banning “cohabitation” is unconstitutional. The state can still prohibit actual polygamy by not allowing anyone to have more than one valid marriage license. However, the decision may pave the way for the legalization of polygamy sooner rather than later.

Another Significant Change to Domestic Relations Law 

The decision is the latest in a line of cases, from Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 through US v. Windsor earlier this year, in which the federal courts have expanded the right to privacy and limited the government’s ability to regulate private sexual behavior. The Utah court specifically cited Lawrence, which struck down anti-sodomy laws in Texas. In that case, the majority opinion stated that the Constitution protects people from “unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places” and “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.”

The dissent in Lawrence famously argued that the decision would inevitably lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage, polygamy, and other non-traditional familial arrangements and sexual practices. If marriage is nothing more than a matter of choice by consenting parties, reasoned the dissent, then there is no basis for limiting it to opposite-sex couples or to just two people.

In Windsor, the Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, essentially requiring the federal government and state governments to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Once again, critics predicted a “slippery slope” in which anti-polygamy laws would no longer stand up to constitutional scrutiny. If decisions about who can get married belong exclusively to the individuals involved, rather than to the community or government, then any regulation of those consensual decisions becomes intrusive.

The plaintiffs’ attorney in the Utah case, however, disagreed with the dissenting opinions in Lawrence and Windsor. He argued that those cases and the Utah decision ultimately come down to privacy, and to each person’s “right to be left alone as consenting adults.” People should be able to do whatever they want in their own homes, as long as they do not harm others. The government, the attorney argued, should not interfere with what its citizens do behind closed doors.

What to Do if You Want to Enter into a Non-traditional Marriage

Since the Utah decision relied on federal law, it would be equally applicable in California and other states. Continue reading →

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If a separating couple can agree on a parenting plan, the court will usually issue an order reflecting those terms.

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When a married couple with children decides to separate, one of the first steps they should take is to try and reach an agreement regarding how their children will be cared for after the separation occurs. In most cases, if the separating couple can agree on a parenting plan the court will issue a court order reflecting those terms.
The court will make a decision regarding custody and visitation when separating parents cannot reach an agreement.
When a separating couple cannot agree on a parenting plan, a judge will issue a decision regarding custody and visitation. This may take some time, because certain criteria will need to be met before a decision is issued. For example, separating parents are required to meet with a court appointed counselor. In some instances, the counselor will provide the judge with a recommendation regarding the appropriate child custody and visitation arrangement. In addition, the judge may order that some or all family members undergo psychological evaluations.

However, if there are immediate concerns that need to be addressed, the court will issue a temporary order. Circumstances that may require a temporary order include when one parent is moving to another jurisdiction and wants to take the children along or when parents cannot agree on what school their children should attend.
Before issuing a final custody and visitation determination, the judge will consider what arrangement is in the best interest of the child. This determination will be made based on the information gathered through evaluations and other information submitted to the court. In addition, if the children involved are, “of sufficient age and capacity to reason” the court may consider their wishes regarding custody and visitation.
Typically, custody will be awarded to one or both parents. However, if the court determines that awarding custody to either parent would be detrimental or harmful to the child, they may award custody to another adult. There are several types of custody that the court may consider:
Joint Legal Custody: This gives both parents the right and obligation to make significant decisions regarding their children’s health, welfare, and education.
Sole Legal Custody: This give one parent the right and obligation to make significant decisions regarding the children’s health, welfare, and education.
Joint Physical Custody: Children live with both parents, although not necessarily for equal amounts of time.
Sole Physical Custody: Children live with one parent and the other parent has visitation rights.

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Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown signed landmark child custody legislation that expands the authority of California family law courts when it comes to making child custody determinations. The new child custody legislation allows California family law courts to recognize three or more individuals as the legal parents of a child. Accordingly, a court’s child custody orders can require more than two individuals to share physical and/or financial responsibility for raising a child.

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Legislation was authored by Sen. Leno in order to ensure that California law reflected current family dynamics.
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) authored the legislation in order to ensure that California’s family law provisions reflected changes in the way families are structured within the State. Specifically, to recognize the increasing number of same sex couples having children with a biological parents of the opposite sex.
In support of the measure, Senator Leno explained that California’s family law courts should be able to issue child custody rulings which recognize circumstances where multiple individuals act in a parental capacity by providing support and care for a child. He when on to explain that providing judges with the authority to issue rulings that would allow more than two parents to share custody of a child will help prevent situations where a child is forced to deal with separation from an individual they have always considered a parent and is therefore in their best interest.
Senator Leno authored the bill after a 2011 court decision, which sent the daughter of a same sex couple to foster care when both women lost custody. The girl was sent to foster care despite the fact that her biological father wanted to assume custody. The court reasoned that the biological father did not have parental rights.
Conservative groups opposed the legislation, viewing it as an attack on traditional families.
The measure was opposed by a number of conservative organizations who deemed the new legislation as an attack on traditional families. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, responded to news of Gov. Brown signing the new legislation by stating that he was disappointed in the decision. He argues that the legislation was a mistake because it will lead to more complicated family law proceedings that will be detrimental to children in the long run.
Last year, Gov. Brown vetoed a bill similar to the one signed into law on Friday. It is unclear what changed the Governor’s mind on the issue.

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HOW FAMOUS PEOPLE SUCH AS DANICA PATRICK, PAMELA ANDERSON, KATIE HOLMES, MICHAEL JACKSON AND STEVEN SPIELBERG DEAL WITH THE LEGALITIES OF A LONG TERM BREAK-UP

Hollywood.jpg Believe it or not, the odds of a marriage ending in divorce are the same for celebrities as they are for the rest of the population (currently 50%); however, attorneys handling high profile divorce must have the know-how and experience to maintain the high level of privacy necessary for the high profile clients. We at Beck Law maintain that privacy for every client, no matter the circumstance.

While Honey Boo Boo’s parents, June “Mama June” Shannon and Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, exchanged vows in their backyard in Georgia while Shannon sported a camouflage and orange tulle wedding gown (People reports), we find Danica Patrick, one of the most notable Formula, Indycar and NASCAR drivers in the history of American auto racing, ending her marriage to Paul Hospenthal as quietly and privately as possible, given her fame and fortune.

Some high end divorces last, well . . . not very long. For example: here is a link to famously short marriages that includes Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson (4 months), Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker (6 hours), the famous Kim Kardashian marriage of 72 days and the Las Vegas marriage of Brittany Spears and Jason Alexander (55 hours). Further, celebrity divorce can be very expensive: Michael Jordan reportedly had to settle his divorce action for more than $150 million to his wife of 21 years. Steven Spielberg, worth about $3 billion, settled with Amy Irving after four years of marriage for $100 million.

Attorneys handling any divorce, including a high profile divorce, must keep in mind not only attorney-client privacy, but also protection of clients’ personal information as well. Not only must the attorney reach the best divorce settlement, an attorney representing a high profile client, or any divorce client, must consider the client’s image, the client’s wishes, the client’s children and family dynamics and how information in the legal proceedings is being distributed to the public; the attorney must adopt the mindset of a public relations expert to maintain the reputations and public images of all clients, including high profile clients.

Law firms, who handle divorce on a daily basis, should have sensitivity to their clients’ needs, and take extraordinary measures regarding resolving issues surrounding the emotional turmoil of the loss of marriage and the special needs of child custody and child visitation.

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Earlier this year, Jamie McCourt, the former CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers and ex-wife of the Major League Baseball franchise’s former owner, Frank McCourt, filed a petition to overturn the couples’ divorce settlement. The divorce settlement was reached in 2011 when Frank McCourt still owned the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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In the couple’s 2011 divorce settlement, Jamie McCourt gave up her ownership claim to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for $131 million.
The terms of the couple’s divorce settlement provided Jamie McCourt with $131 million in addition to a share of the couples residences. In exchange, Jamie McCourt gave up her ownership claim to the Major League Baseball franchise.
Jamie McCourt argues that Frank McCourt represented that the franchise was worth less than $300 million but sold the team for $2.15 billion just six months later.
In the petition filed earlier this year, Jamie McCourt argued that she agreed to the terms of the divorce settlement because her former husband misled her regarding the value of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise. Jamie McCourt alleged that her ex-husband represented that the Major League Baseball franchise was valued at less than $300 million while under the penalty of perjury. However, just six months after the couple’s divorce settlement was finalized Frank McCourt sold the team for $2.15 billion through a bankruptcy court auction.
A Los Angeles Judge ruled this week that Jamie McCourt did not provide sufficient evident to support her allegations of fraud.
This week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon issued a ruling denying Jamie McCourt’s petition. In his opinion, the Judge reasoned that Jamie McCourt failed to provide the Court with sufficient evidence to prove that she did not have a full and complete understanding of the value of the couple’s assets when she agreed to the divorce settlement. The Judge went on to reason that Jamie McCourt was a sophisticated individual who had familiarity with the business, having served as the franchise’s CEO.
Study reveals that couples routinely hide financial information from one another.

A Forbes magazine article published last year revealed that partners routinely hide assets from each other, both when their marriage is going well and during divorce proceedings. The article cited a study conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education which found that 58 percent of spouses report hiding cash from their partners and 34 percent admitted to lying about their finances, debt, or earnings.
Misrepresenting information in a Financial Affidavit that is filed with the court in a divorce proceeding is illegal and can result in serious penalties. If you believe that your former spouse misrepresented financial information during your divorce proceeding and settlement process, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney will be able to review the circumstances of your case and determine your options for recourse.
Related Blog Posts:

What Happens to Joint Mortgage Debt in a Divorce?

The Pitfalls of Relying on News Sources for Divorce Guidance

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