Articles Posted in Family Law

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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.

Judge and Gavel

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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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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Marilyn Monroe image.jpg“You know why divorces are so expensive? They’re worth it.” Willie Nelson

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together” Marilyn Monroe

Although painful, divorce can be a chance to experience a brand new life with many hidden opportunities. Sometimes couples don’t realize just how miserable their lives have become because the misery has gone on far too long. In this case, their divorce can be a very good thing that offers many gifts for growth and happiness. The new possibilities are sometimes hidden from view but the positive challenges that lay before them are actually fantastic chances to become the person you were always meant to be. Divorce can be a positive experience for children as well, provided the parents remain good friends. For children, having two parents who care about the family, during and after the divorce, provides a sense of security that the world is safe around them.

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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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The California Supreme Court recently denied a bid to stop same sex marriages within the state while it considers a petition arguing that the ban on same sex marriage is still valid in all but two counties within the state. For same sex couples, the right to obtain a marriage license, which was banned in November 2008 with the passing of Proposition 8, was recently reinstated based on a decision issued by the United States Supreme Court.
Recent United States Supreme Court ruling reinstated same sex couples’ right to marriage.
In the recent United States Supreme Court ruling, the country’s highest court determined that the sponsors of Proposition 8, which led to the 2008 ban on same sex marriages in California, lacked the legal authority to challenge a federal trial judge’s ruling which found the ban on same sex marriages in violation of the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian California residents.
Petitioners argue that the Supreme Court’s ruling should be interpreted such that it only applies to two counties within California.
Proponents of the petition, which is currently being considered by the California Supreme Court, argue that a companion directive order issued by the trial judge, which required the governor, attorney general, and state public health director to cease enforcing Proposition 8 thereby lifting the ban on same sex marriages, was limited in jurisdictional scope. They argue that the directive order only applies to the two couples that sued to overturn Proposition 8 and to the counties in which they applied for marriage licenses, namely Alameda and Los Angeles counties.

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California Supreme Court requested additional written arguments.
The California Supreme Court will have to determine whether it will take on the case at all. In order to make this decision, the California Supreme Court requested that additional written arguments be submitted by the first of August. At least 24 county clerks have submitted briefs arguing that state officials should guide actions with regard to issuing marriage licenses. They reason that guidance from state officials would ensure that marriage laws are consistent throughout the state.
Bid to cease same sex marriages in the interim was made by the County Clerk of San Diego County.
The request to stop same sex marriages while the California Supreme Court decides whether or not it will take on the petition was made by County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg Jr., an elected government official responsible for issuing marriage licenses in San Diego County. Dronenburg, a Republican, was elected as San Diego County Clerk in 2010. He is widely known for his position on tax issues and his views on the authority of the governor, state attorney general and state officials who oversee marriage records.

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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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