Articles Tagged with family law

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custody of frozen embryosArizona is breaking new legal ground when it comes to who gets custody of frozen embryos in a divorce. A new law, which took effect July 2018, allows legal custody of the embryos to go to whichever partner wishes to use them to have a child. The other partner has no legal rights, responsibilities or obligations to any future child, including no duty of child support.

The controversial law has changed the landscape for many divorcing couples in Arizona. In California, what are the challenges facing couples with similar issues related to custody of frozen embryos?  An experienced local attorney can investigate the intricacies of California law with you.

Custody of Frozen Embryos – Case in Point

The first California case dealing with this issue occurred in 2015. It involved Mimi Lee, who was 46 years old and had lived through cancer treatments. She believed she would not be able to have biological children in the future if not for the frozen embryos. Lee’s ex-husband, Stephen Findley, objected to the use of the embryos, and he had a legal document to support his stance:  the couple had signed an agreement that the embryos would be destroyed in the event of a divorce.

The judge was required to wade through emotional testimony, accusations, and unrest, and ultimately ruled in favor of Findley. The embryos were to be destroyed. Her ruling was in line with what judges across the country have determined: One individual’s desire not to procreate outweighs another’s wish to have a child. With no federal regulations to provide guidance, state judges have had to base their decisions on the cases before them.

What Does Arizona’s Law Mean for Custody of Frozen Embryos for Californians?

Because the issues related to custody of frozen embryos are relatively new, precedents are being created with each new law and each new case. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois have all determined that women who wish to use their frozen embryos as a last chance to bear biological children should have a right to do so.  But New York, Tennessee, and New Jersey, among others, have found in favor of the party who wished to have the embryos destroyed. California, like other states, requires fertility clinics to provide consent forms designating the disposition of frozen embryos in the event of a divorce. However, Arizona’s new law puts the power of these consent forms into question. Will other states, like California, follow suite with similar legislation? That remains to be seen. As it stands now, future cases involving the custody of frozen embryos in California could go either way. Courts could choose to enforce previously signed consent forms, or could opt to provide one party the opportunity to procreate. Continue reading →

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pet custodyPet custody in a divorce was not unlike the all too familiar division of property, splitting up the furniture and deciding who gets the car. For some couples, things got significantly more challenging when it came to deciding what happens to the family pets. If you are besieged with this issue, a local divorce attorney can help.

Pet Custody Previous to This Law

In the past, pets have been considered property, to be given to one party in exchange for something of equivalent value. That has been markedly dissatisfying to many divorcing couples as well as to attorneys and judges who have witnessed the emotional strings that are attached to many animals who are truly considered part of the family. One attorney noted that clients have spent thousands of dollars trying to secure a beloved pet, with one woman spending more than $30,000 in a legal battle for custody. The fact of the matter is, judges have struggled with making the right decision in these circumstances, as well.

Methods to Determine Pet Custody

Some of the strategies used in court illuminate just how difficult this decision can be. Some of the ways judges have approached the decision include:

  • Putting the pet in between the divorcing spouses to see which person the pet prefers;
  • If there are two pets, splitting them up and giving one to each partner;
  • Assigning custody arrangements by alternating weeks or months;
  • One person is assigned custody, and the other is given visitation privileges;

Pet Custody and Impacts on the Pet

Divorce can be very stressful, and not just for the humans involved. Animal advocates point out that significant changes can take a toll on any pet’s well-being, leading to depression and other signs of anxiety, including:

  • Excessive sleeping;
  • Declining appetite;
  • No interest in the usual daily activities, like taking walks;
  • Unusual whimpers or cries;
  • Having accidents indoors;
  • Unusual grooming, licking, or self-biting.

AB 2274

Assembly Bill 2274, recently signed into law, takes more factors into account than previous law, which viewed the pet based on its financial value. Now, the animal’s well being, as well as issues related to the care of the animal, will be weighed. Is the animal bonded to children? If so, it may go where the kids go. Are there multiple pets in the home? Are they bonded to one another? What would the impact of splitting them up be?  Who was responsible for the feeding, grooming, and general care of the pet? Who took the animal to the vet? Who has the financial and time resources to provide continued care for the pet? All of these factors may be considered as the pet’s ultimate location is determined. Continue reading →

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questioning my marriageQuestioning my marriage and asking what is the difference between a good marriage and a bad one? While the routines and expectations for every couple is different, one thing is for sure: Even couples in healthy relationships don’t necessarily begin and end every day floating through their relationships unburdened with the weight of questions that haunt those in unhealthy, unhappy marriages:

  • Should I stay or should I go?
  • Is this what marriage is all about?
  • Is this as good as it gets?
  • Are either of us happy?
  • Do I like my spouse?
  • Is this “normal?”

If you are lucky enough to go through every day without asking yourself these questions, or if from time to time some thought is given to such questions but dismissed, then you have already unconsciously made the determination that your marriage is worth it, and you are all in. If, on the other hand, you question whether or not you are in the right place, its time to get honest with yourself.

A Marriage Worth Fighting for

In the event that you are seriously unhappy, it is time to own up to the situation and make some tough choices. Is the life you have created worth fighting for? Is there still a flame there? Do you admire and respect the person to whom you are married? If so, it is possible that you are just in a slump and need to find ways to revitalize your relationship. Experts provide some advice on how to do this:

  • Forgive past mistakes and move forward;
  • Play 20 questions;
  • Plan a getaway;
  • Learn something new together;
  • Schedule a meal with just the two of you on a weekly basis;
  • Be lazy together. Just hang out with movies and junk food to decompress;
  • Show appreciation in new ways:  a note on his windshield, a card mailed to her office, anything novel to bring a smile to your partner.

Questioning My Marriage and Recognizing Things Are Not Going to Work Out

What if you really do not like your spouse? Does the idea of a getaway makes you nauseous, and would you would be far happier working all weekend than spending a day on the couch watching movies together? If you just can not imagine reigniting the flame, or if it was never there to begin with, acknowledging the situation for what it is can feel like a breath of fresh air.  Now, finally, you will begin to see your options.

No One Will Believe it!

You think this will come as a big shock to others. Really? Do you honestly think your kids, your friends, and your family has been fooled all this time? Think about it. Unhappiness is easy to spot:

  • A polite (or not-so-polite) tension hangs over every activity;
  • Snappy tones, eye-rolling, or other telltale signs are clear;
  • That playfulness of the early days has become obligatory civility;
  • There is always an excuse for why you do not show up as a couple;

Continue reading →

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SpyingSpying on your spouse? Angry divorce proceedings often lead individuals to seek proof of wrongdoing. Sometimes the quest for this proof takes the form of spying in order to ascertain whether or not a spouse is cheating, to discover a secret cache hidden away somewhere, or to catch the unwitting spouse in the midst of other activities that might persuade a judge of massive personality flaws that might otherwise go unnoticed. While the temptation to hire a private eye or to actually perform your own sleuthing may be real, such actions are at best misguided, and at worst, illegal. Seeking local legal representation might be a wise choice.

Spying for Proof of Extramarital Affairs

Let us say that you have pictures or other irrefutable proof that your spouse has engaged in extramarital activities that are unseemly. Having this proof in hand will not help you in the divorce settlement. Why? California is a no-fault state, meaning punishments cannot be handed down from the bench for immoral behavior.  Property accumulated during the course of the marriage will be divided in compliance with California’s community property laws, regardless of tawdry behavior by your spouse. The only exception is when domestic violence is a factor in the divorce.

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