Articles Posted in Children

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staying togetherHow many times have you heard unhappy couples say that they are putting off divorce until the kids get older so as to avoid traumatizing them? Staying together for the sake of the children is commonly cited as a reason to avoid the split. Just how healthy a choice is it?

Facing Reality

Suffering an unhappy marriage leaves one with several choices:

  • Stay in the relationship and be miserable;
  • Stay in the relationship and fix it;
  • Get out of the relationship.

Taking a hard look at options can help you to make the right decision for you and your family.

Children of Divorce

In one study of adult children whose parents divorced during their early years, four out of five came through the experience emotionally healthy. The study indicated that many of these children were stronger and more balanced than children whose parents did not divorce.

On the other hand, parents should be aware of the fact that any divorce, no matter how amicable, is going to rock their children’s universe. Their lives will be dramatically altered, and pretending otherwise will not benefit anybody. Experts say two key factors impact the emotional well being of children when their parents call it quits:

  • Parents should continue to parent. It is important that children do not get swept up in adult matters that should be confined to the adult world;
  • Children fare best when they continue strong relationships with both parents.

Although any divorce will be painful, children whose parents handle the situation with calm and balanced emotions themselves do not generally have children who face long-term psychological issues. When children are protected from conflict and drama, they can survive the disruption of divorce.

Staying Together in a Low-Conflict but Unhappy Marriage

Many studies, in fact, indicate that the children of people who are unhappily married grow up feeling unhappy themselves. The constant exposure to conflict, or even to indifference, can weigh heavily on the young psyche.

Furthermore, children often grow up to replicate the relationships they have experienced and observed. What parent wishes for a mediocre or unhappy marriage for their children?

What about staying together and waiting until the kids are out of the house before splitting? Consider the fact that children might face serious guilt when they realize their parents sacrificed their own happiness and satisfaction for the sake of the kids.

Teach by Example

The question of divorce is complicated under any circumstances, and the best interest of the children is surely one of the most important considerations. If you are wavering on the issue of staying together or to move forward with plans to divorce, ask yourself some key questions:

  • Am I willing to give my marriage a real shot in order to create the robust, loving example I want my children to see and experience?
  • If divorce is likely going to be the ultimate outcome, am I fooling myself by thinking that staying together is better for the kids even if they grow up watching an unhealthy relationship?

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Child Support EnforcementChild Support Enforcement in California. When a judge officially finalizes your divorce—approving any settlement agreements, issuing orders for child support or spousal support, and legally dissolving your marriage—you may feel a sense of relief that your legal battles are over. Unfortunately, too many parents will find themselves back in court to address issues that arise regarding their agreements. One issue in particular that leads people back into the courtroom is child support enforcement.

Child support orders are based on specific formulas that take into consideration the respective incomes and expenses of both parents, as well as the basic needs of any children in question. For this reason, the majority of child support determinations in California are considered to be fair and to reflect the responsibilities of both parents to financially support their children. However, simply because a court issues an order—and even if that order is fair—does not mean that the parent ordered to pay child support is going to comply with the court order.

Because most parents rely on child support payments to cover the major expenses of raising one or more children, it can have a serious effect on your living standards if the other parent falls behind on payments. For this reason, many parents seek to legally enforce child support orders.

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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

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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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Primary custody being sought by Usher Raymond’s ex-wife following the near drowning of Grammy winner Usher Raymond’s 5 year old son. Usher Raymond’s ex-wife Tameka Foster Raymond sought and was granted an emergency hearing in order to request custody of the former couple’s two children. The couple were married in 2007 and divorced two years later. Following a lengthy child custody battle, Mr. Raymond was awarded primary custody of both children.

The former couple’s son nearly drowned after being caught in a pool drain.

According to police reports, the couple’s son fell into the pool and was caught in the pool’s drain while under the supervision of Mr. Raymond’s aunt. A housekeeper tried to free the boy from the drain, but was unsuccessful. A contractor who was working on Mr. Raymond’s property was finally able to free Mr. Raymond’s son from the drain and perform CPR in order to revive the boy.

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The boy’s mother alleged that the children are not adequately supervised under Mr. Raymond’s care and that he does not keep her informed of who is taking care of the children when he is away.

Ms. Raymond’s request alleged that her son suffered from a near-death accident after being left unsupervised at the singer’s home while he was out of town. During the court hearing, which was held at the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Georgia, both parents took the stand and testified before the presiding judge. Ms. Raymond testified that her ex-husband does not keep her informed of the children’s whereabouts and whose care they are in when Mr. Raymond is out of town. However, testimony revealed that Mr. Raymond’s aunt was sitting poolside watching both children play in the pool. In addition, Mr. Raymond was not out of town, but rather at a music studio just an exit away.

Ms. Raymond’s request was denied, but the Court advised Mr. Raymond to keep her informed of who is taking care of the children when he is away.

The Court denied Ms. Raymond’s request for temporary primary custody, as well as decision making authority. The Judge reasoned that the testimony and other evidence submitted to the Court did not suggest that anything could have been done to prevent the accident. However, the Judge did advise Mr. Raymond to keep his ex-wife abreast of his whereabouts and who is supervising the children when they are not in his care.

California courts allow individuals to make emergency requests regarding visitation and custody orders in certain circumstances.

California also allows individuals to make an emergency request to the court to issue new custody or visitation orders or to change existing custody or visitation orders. This may be done in situations in which circumstances have occurred or may occur, such that it is in the best interest of the child for the court to modify their existing custody or visitation arrangements.

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Surprised.jpgPresident Obama gave a Father’s Day speech in which he called for reforming child custody laws in order to allow fathers to become more engaged in their children’s lives. During divorce proceedings, fathers often feel disadvantaged when it comes to courts’ child custody determinations. These feelings are not always unwarranted.

Mothers receive primary custody in 70 percent of divorce cases.

Until the 1970’s, courts generally favored the mother when determining child custody arrangements. However, since then, the standard for determining child custody has been changed such that the ruling is based on what is in the best interest of the children. Despite this shift, the National Center for Health Statistics estimates that mothers are awarded primary custody of their children in approximately 70 percent of divorce cases.

Fathers often face hurdles such as, false accusations of child abuse or neglect. Moreover, during child custody proceedings, fathers often face false accusations of child abuse or neglect which they are forced to defend themselves against. Such allegations result in both emotional and financial strain. Defending against false accusations of child abuse or neglect can result in prolonged legal proceedings. In addition, fathers facing false accusations of child abuse or neglect are subject to limited and supervised visitation with their children.

In determining what is in the best interest of the child, courts consider which parent has the greatest involvement in the children’s day to day activities.

In order to determine what custody arrangement will allow the children to maintain the greatest level of normalcy during the divorce transition and thereafter. In addition to looking at whether a parent is financially capable of taking care of the children, courts will also look to see which parent had the greatest involvement in their children’s day to day activities.

Courts consider a number of factors when assessing each parent’s role in their children’s day to day activities and who served as the primary caretaker. These factors include: which parents helped the children get ready for school, which parents prepared meals for the children, which parent assisted the children with their homework, and which parent accompanied the children to their various activities.

California law requires couples to participate in mediation, providing an opportunity for parents to come up with their own agreement with the help of a mediator and their attorneys.

Under California law, parents are required to participate in mediation before a divorce proceeding can take place. This serves as an opportunity for parents to address child custody concerns and come up with a custody arrangement which they can both agree on with the help of a mediator, rather than having a custody arrangement imposed on their family by the courts.

Related Blog Posts:
The Pitfalls of Relying on News Sources for Divorce Guidance
Mental Illness Can Lead to Termination of Parental Rights

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Termination of Parental Rights and Mental Illness.jpgThe California State Bar Newsletter recently reported a child custody case concerning a parent with a mental illness. In February, a local court decided that “parental rights can be legally terminated when a parent poses a danger to his child, even if the danger results from a treatable mental disability.” This ruling could have significant impact for parents in California who are currently involved in custody disputes.

Implications of California Family Code § 7827 on Mental Disability

In this recent case, a married mother and father adopted a child. Before the parents were married, the father had a diagnosed mental illness but managed his condition with medication, which “allowed him to function normally.” After the parents adopted the child, the father stopped taking his medication, and his “mental condition deteriorated” so substantially that it “seriously impacted his relationship with his wife and child.” In fact, the negative effects of his mental state led his wife to file for a restraining order.

Ultimately, the mother filed a divorce petition, and the court awarded her sole custody of their minor child. In addition, the mother filed a petition to terminate the father’s parental rights because of his mental disability.

Under California Family Code section 7827, a parent’s rights can be terminated when he is classified as “mentally disabled” according to law. In order to be mentally disabled under the statute, the parent must “suffer a mental incapacity or disorder” that leaves him “unable to care for and control the child adequately.” According to the statute, a parent’s mental disability can only lead to the termination of his parental rights when he is both mentally disabled and is “likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.”

The court ruled against the father. In terminating the father’s parental rights, the court determined that the father had a mental disability that left him unable to adequately care for his child. In addition, the court reasoned that his disability was likely to prevent his adequate care for the child in the foreseeable future despite the possibility that he could be treated with medication. In other words, the court found that it was in the best interest of the child to terminate the father’s parental rights.

Do Mentally Disabled Parents Face a Courtroom Bias?

California is one of many states in which mental illness can lead to a loss of custody or the termination of parental rights. According to Mental Health America, on average, when parents with mental illness face custody issues in court, between 70 and 80 percent lose their parental rights. Further studies show that in families where one parent suffers from a mental illness, in more than two-thirds of those cases, the minor child is not being raised by the parent with the mental disability.

Last year, a USA Today article reported that certain barriers still exist for parents with mental illness, and that our legal system “is not adequately protecting the rights of parents” who suffer from certain disabilities. The article cited a report by the National Council on Disability, which indicated that parents with disabilities, both physical and mental, are “more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce,” and that they face substantial difficulties with biases in the courtroom.

Often, caseworkers worry about child abuse and neglect when minor children are being raised by a parent with a serious mental illness. However, certain disability advocates argue that instead of focusing on the “best interest of the child standard” alone, the courts should take into account that support for mentally disabled parents “may be all that’s needed to eliminate risks or lessen problems.”

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Time.JPGKidnapping victims often face challenges when reuniting with family members.
Earlier this week three women who were kidnapped over a decade ago and held in a Cleveland, Ohio home were able to escape. These women are currently reuniting with their families after long periods of isolation. According to psychologists, reintroducing individuals who have been held captive to people they knew before can be a very difficult process.
In response to news of the women’s escape republished a 2009 article discussing the reunification of two children with their parents after being kidnapped and held captive for extended periods of time.
One of the children featured in the piece was Richard K. Wilfong Chekevdia who was six years old when his mother abducted him in violation of a court order granting joint custody to both parents. The boy was forced to live in seclusion for over two years before he was discovered.
Military personnel also report that reunification with family members after deployment is the most stressful aspect of separation.
A survey of military spouses of deployed Army soldiers with young children also reveals that families experience challenges when reuniting after a stressful or traumatic experience. Of the military spouses interviewed, 75 percent of respondents said that the return from deployment was the most stressful stage of separation for the family. The military spouses described family members as having conflicted emotions.
Experts believe that children involved in custody disputes are susceptible to stress and anxiety when reuniting with a parent they have not seen for a period of time.

According to experts, in some cases, children who find themselves in the midst of their parents’ custody dispute may face similar challenges as kidnapping victims and military personnel when reuniting with a parent they have not seen for a long period of time. While children who are involved in custody disputes usually don’t experience the same level of severe isolation and trauma as these group, children who are involved in custody disputes are sometimes encouraged to develop feelings of hate or resentment against a parent. At times, the parent who is teaching their child to hate their other parent may employ extreme tactics.

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Health Insurance.jpgHealth insurance is a hot topic these days, spurred on by the passage on March 23, 2010, of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. The primary purpose of the PPACA is to reduce the number of uninsured Americans while reducing overall medical costs. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the PPACA in the case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. With all the recent developments in this area, it is important to know how health insurance coverage plays out in the divorce process.

If both you and your spouse are employed and maintained health insurance coverage through your respective employers, then maintaining that arrangement should be addressed during divorce negotiations and specifically stated in the marital settlement agreement or divorce decree. If, however, you maintain health insurance through your spouse’s employer, once the divorce is finalized, you will no longer be eligible for coverage. Address the issue early on so that you do not end up with a gap in coverage, which could jeopardize your eligibility for health insurance.

There are several options available. If your spouse’s employer has more than 20 employees, then you are eligible to apply for continued health insurance coverage under the federal law known as COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act), passed by Congress in 1986 to provide for the continuation of group health coverage that might otherwise be terminated. A divorced spouse may elect COBRA coverage for a maximum of 36 months, but be warned: COBRA is usually more expensive. Under COBRA, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the premium plus two percent (2%) for administrative costs.

If your spouse’s company has fewer than 20 employees, a second option in the state of California is to elect coverage under the California plan know as Cal-COBRA, which is basically an extension of the federal COBRA law for California residents who do not qualify for federal coverage. Cal-COBRA is “a mini COBRA health insurance plan set up by the California government.” See You may elect Cal-COBRA for a maximum of 36 months, but it too is expensive. Under the plan, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the premium plus ten percent (10%) for administrative costs. Given the cost and time limit associated with COBRA and Cal-COBRA, you may want to check into private plans, which may be cheaper and more permanent. If you are employed, a third option may be to obtain health insurance coverage through your employer.

If children are involved, it is important to keep in mind their health insurance coverage issues, including which parent will provide coverage and who will pay the co-pays and other out-of-pocket medical expenses. Such issues should be raised during divorce settlement negotiations and made part of the marital settlement agreement or divorce decree.

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