Posts Tagged ‘family law’

As I was looking through my news feed on Facebook today, a video of attorney Gerald Curry popped up.  Many of you probably don’t even know who Gerald Curry was, but he became headline news about 11 years ago when he was chased down and shot by a man who was fighting a court-appointed trustee over money that he claimed the trustee was withholding from his injury settlement trust fund.  Mr. Curry represented the trustee in the litigation.   Mr. Curry survived his injuries and continued to practice until his death in 2012.  The video of this shooting follows.

Violence is not uncommon against attorneys (even their staff), from not only their own clients, but by the opposing party.  As can be gathered from the information regarding Mr. Curry’s shooting, even attorney’s who are not in Family Law can be victims of violence. It amazes me that the American Bar Association has not updated its article done in the mid-90′s, “Lawyers in Harm’s Way.”  This article revealed that 60 percent of family lawyers had been threatened by opposing parties, and 17 percent have been threatened by their own clients.  I believe that these percentages have probably increased since the mid-90′s, given the recent rise in violence in our world.

In June 2013, in California Lawyer magazine, a well written article by Wendy L. Patrick titled “The Dangerous Client,” talks about the increasing violence in our nation and an attorneys ethical duties a lawyer has to their clients and to the public.  For those of you interested, you can read this article here. As we all know, violence in the workplace has increased and it is a concern that I am sure many people have.  I know that I think about this almost everyday as I head off to work, especially working in the Family Law arena.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I am proud to have my good friend and colleague Eric G. Young, who is a retired California attorney, as my guest blogger on this personally important subject.  Eric formerly handled family law matters and is a tech/social media enthusiast.  

An Event Of Significance – Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By:  Eric G. Young, Guest Blogger

These days, every month – if not every week or even every day – has one or more events associated with it.  Although they are not holidays in the traditional sense, these events include national or state-recognized advocacy events, commemorative or historical celebrations, and annual education or fund-raising efforts. Some are recognized by special legislation; others are just quirky, highly individualized events (of every kind and type) devoted to a group’s interest.

October is “Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” so this month is no exception.  Sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Awareness Month had its origins in 1981 as a “Day of Unity,” to organize and empower abused women and their children.  Subsequently, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in 1987.  In 1989, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress. The “Day of Unity” is celebrated on the first Monday in October.

Because so many annual events are recognized, one might find himself or herself anesthetized to yet another commemorative event.  Unfortunately, this may be particularly true when the event highlights something we would all rather not talk about, or from which we would rather look away.

When we consider an event focusing on eradicating violence, however, we are considering something entirely unique.  Violence against a spouse, children, parents, significant other or even companion animals are criminal acts that shatter families.  As a childhood survivor of domestic abuse, I can attest, first-hand, that such acts thrive in the shadows of secrecy, humiliation and fear.

Events like October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month seek to dispel these shadows, enlighten society and empower victims.  For that reason, it is not just another event.  Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an event of significance we can all agree is worth marking and remembering, speaking out and writing about, listening to and advocating for.  Domestic violence will continue to exist if and only if we convince ourselves not to talk about it, divert our eyes and ears, or let others bully us into submission.

Because of its potential to reach even the most remote parts of our globe – coupled with an ease of using a variety of media in its approach – social media continues to play a prominent – if not pivotal – role in combating domestic violence.  For example, CopyRanter recently ran an article that graphically – and provocatively – illustrated social media’s ability to educate and empower.

Here are a few clips from the article.  We strongly encourage readers to check out the full article here, however, as each of the entries are well worth taking a look.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  I thought I would share it and say thank you to all of you who followed me in 2012.  Hope to see you in 2013!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Senate Bill 1476 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, crossed its last legislative hurdle Wednesday, when the Senate approved it on a concurrence vote of 21-13.  Under SB 1476, a judge could split custody, child support or visitation rights among three or more people who had acted as parents to the child.  To read my previous blog on the bill, here is the link.

It has now gone to Governor Brown for signature, after approval by the Assembly on August 27, 2012 and the Senate on August 29, 2012.  To read the bill waiting for signature, go to the link here.

 

I read an article recently where a New York attorney discussed ways to minimize attorney fees in your divorce case.   I have mentioned how to reduce your costs in a previous post, but thought that it bears repeating.

1.  Read your attorney fee agreement and understand how your attorney charges you.  Most attorneys charge in increments (usually six minute increments), so if your attorney (or even his/her paralegal) pick up the phone to speak with you, you will be charged a minimum time.  Attorneys also charge for the time they are working on your case, whether it be reviewing the file for court, preparing documents on your behalf, or talking with the opposing counsel, you will be charged.

2.  Using email to communicate with your attorney and staff.  Let the attorney and his/her staff know when you retain the attorney, that you prefer email communication.  This means that you will check your email regularly and respond as quickly as possible to your attorney’s or his staff’s email.  I can’t tell you how many times a client will tell our office that they prefer email communication, and then they never check it or respond.  This then entails calling the client to let them know an email was sent and a response is required.  The client is then charged for both an email and a phone call, which defeats the purpose of email communication.  Also let the attorney know that you prefer to receive any documents filed or received in your case by email in pdf format.  This saves time, paper and postage, which means less cost for you if your attorney charges for postage and copies.

3.  Keep track of the time you spend talking to your attorney and his staff and review your bill promptly.  Let your attorney know immediately of any questions or disputes you have with your bill.   Some fee agreements require your billing questions in writing and attorneys cannot charge you for questions on your billing statement.  Don’t wait for several months and then question the bill, it becomes time consuming to go back and review the billings in question, which takes away from the time the attorney or the staff have for working on your case.

4.  If your attorney or the staff request documents from you, promptly provide them.   This saves you money by not receiving multiple calls from the attorney or his staff for the information needed in your case.  If you can, scan and email the documents to your attorney, this saves time and cost to you as well.  Some attorneys charge for each copy in your case, and you might be charged for their staff time.

5.  It is ok to check in with your attorney if you have not heard from him/her in a while.  Attorneys get busy with trials, hearings and some are even lucky enough to take a vacation.  Attorneys usually have staff members who you can contact as well to check in on the status of your case.  I would recommend copying the paralegal working on your case with any email communications to the attorney.  In the event the attorney is in trial or out of the office, the paralegal can respond to your email promptly.

6.  Yes, you can contact your spouse to discuss your case as long as there is not a restraining order preventing you or your spouse from doing this.  Unless your attorney advises you otherwise, there is no reason you cannot discuss things with your soon to be ex.  Just be sure to let your attorney know what you are discussing so that any agreements can be discussed with your attorney.  Don’t fight over the little things, like who will get the large punch bowl and who will get the set of Henkel knifes, even if your spouse is.  Take the high road and let it go.  The cost of fighting over these items is just not worth it.

7.   Pay your bill on time.  Attorneys have bills to pay just like you do.  They have staff to pay as well.  Be sure you understand that the initial retainer you paid is just that, a retainer.  No attorney can predict what the cost of your case will be.  It is determined by many factors, such as how litigious your case becomes, and how cooperative you and your spouse are in negotiations regarding your case,, etc.  The more you and your soon to be ex can agree, the less cost it is for each of you.  This does not mean that you should settle for less than what you are entitled to, just to save attorney fees.  Your attorney is there to advise you of what the law says you are entitled to.  A good attorney will let you know whether it is cost effective for you to file a motion, or even go to trial.

These are just a few ways to help keep your costs down in your family law matter.  Be sure to talk with your attorney about other ways you can reduce costs in your case.

On August ,8,2012, it looks like AB 1476, the new Family Law Parentage bill, was approved by members of the Assembly in an 11-5 vote.  For more detail on this bill, see my previous post here.   For details on who voted yes and no, I have included the information below.   On August 15th, it was ordered to its third reading .  If you would like to follow this bill, you can do so here.

Measure: SB 1476 (Leno): Family law: parentage.
Location: Asm Appropriations
Date: 08/08/12
Motion: Do pass.
Result: 11-5 (PASS)

Ayes – 11

Blumenfield, Bradford, Campos, Davis, Fuentes, Gatto, Hall, Hill, Lara, Mitchell, Solorio

Noes – 5

Donnelly, Harkey, Nielsen, Norby, Wagner

Absent, Abstention or Not Voting – 1

Charles Calderon

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In an article in the JD Journal today, it was reported that the SB 1476 Bill proposed in California by Senator Mark Leno, offers the chance of radical social engineering and reform. The modifications sought in Family law and proposed, wants the statute to establish that a child may legally have more than two parents – thus altering prevailing notions of a family. Leno told the Sacramento Bee “The bill brings California into the 21st century.”

This bill is to amend Sections 3040, 7601, and 7612 of, and to add Section 4052.5 to, the Family Code, relating to parentage.   In existing law, a man is conclusively presumed to be the father of a child if he was married to and cohabiting with the child’ s mother, except as specified. Existing law also provides that if a man signs a voluntary declaration of paternity, it has the force and effect of a judgment of paternity, subject to certain exceptions.

This bill would authorize a court to find that a child has 2 presumed parents notwithstanding the statutory presumption of parentage of the child by another man. The bill would authorize the court to make this finding if doing so would serve the best interest of the child based on the nature, duration, and quality of the presumed or claimed parents’ relationships with the child and the benefit or detriment to the child of continuing those relationships.

The Uniform Parentage Act defines the parent and child relationship as the legal relationship existing between a child and the child’s parents, including the mother and child relationship and the father and child relationship, and governs proceedings to establish that relationship.  This bill would provide that a child may have a parent and child relationship with more than 2 parents.

Existing law establishes an order of preference for allocating child custody and directs the court to choose a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interest.   This bill would, in the case of a child with more than 2 legal parents, require the court to allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including stability for the child.

Under existing law, the parents of a minor child are responsible for supporting the child.  Existing law establishes the statewide uniform guideline for calculating court-ordered child support. The guideline directs a court to consider the parents’ incomes, standard of living, and level of responsibility for the child.  This bill would, in the case of a child with more than 2 legal parents, direct authorize the court not to divide deviate from the statewide uniform guideline when dividing child support obligations among the parents using the statewide uniform guideline . The bill would instead direct the court to divide the child support obligations among the parents based on the income of each of the parents and the amount of time spent with the child by each parent, as specified. f a child with more than 2 legal parents, require the court to allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including stability for the child.

According to Leno,  “Most children have at most two parents, but some children have more than two people in their lives who have been a child’s parent in every way.” And according to him confining parenthood only to two persons neglects the emotions and contributions of other persons who, in a modern world, should also be held in equal status with parents.

Not everyone is happy about this new two-and-more parent family concept and hold that parenthood in a family as a social unit is not amenable to “the more the merrier” concept.

I can see good and bad in this bill.  In reading the proposed new Family Code Section 4052.5, the court may deviate from the statewide uniform guideline and divide the child support obligations based on each parents income and the time spent with the child.  One of the biggest problems I see in this new section, is going to be the allocating of child support and the enforcement of the same.  Then again, this could be a good thing in both of the non-custodial parent’s views, as they will not be paying as much in their child support obligation as they would be if there was not another non-custodial parent in the picture.

This is one bill I will continue to watch, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.  What do you think about this proposed bill?

I previously wrote about the California dad who threw his son off of a tour boat in August 2011 and was arrested for child endangerment.  See the post here.  He was convicted of child endangerment and was sentenced to 3 years probation, 1 year in a child abusers treatment program and 180 days in a Veteran’s Administration residential treatment program.

No jail time for California father who threw son off boat – CNN.com.

If you have a family you might want to pay attention to some of the new laws in California beginning in 2012.

California Gay Bullying Law (Seth’s Law)

Combats bullying of gay and lesbian students in public schools by requiring school districts to have a uniform process for dealing with gay bullying complaints. Mandates that school personnel intervene if they witness gay bullying.  Law effective July 1, 2012.

LGBT Equality and Equal Access in Higher Education Law   

State universities and colleges must create and enforce campus policies protecting LGBTs from harassment and appoint employee contact persons to address on-campus LGBT matters. The law includes community colleges statewide.  Law effective 2012.

Domestic Partnership Equality Law

Corrects inequalities between domestic partnerships and heterosexual marriages, including domestic partner health benefits sharing.  Law effective 2012.

Protection of Parent-Child Relationships Law

Allows courts to consider the relationship between a child and a non-biological parent when considering child rights cases involving birth parents, adoptive parents, and gay or lesbian guardians.  Law effective 2012.

LGBT Equal Benefits Law

Requires an employer with a state contract worth more than $100,000 to have non-discrimination policies in place for LGBT workers and their partners.  Law effective 2012.

Gay Divorce Law

Provides that if a gay couple got married in California but lives in a state that won’t grant them a divorce, the California court will have jurisdiction to grant them a legal divorce. The case will be filed in the county where the gay couple got married.  Law effective January 1, 2012.

California Gay History Law

Governor Jerry Brown signed the Gay History Law, which mandates that school textbooks and social studies include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender accomplishments.  Law effective January 1, 2012. 

The following law goes into effect on January 1, 2012.  Many children are not going to be happy with this one!  Get ready parents to the whining and crying of those boys and girls who finally thought they were old enough to sit in the seat of the car like everyone else!  This one will cost a bit too, $475 for each child not secured and a point on your record.  Ouch!

Children *MUST* be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint (safety seat or booster seat) IN THE BACK SEAT OF A VEHICLE until they are at least 8 YEARS OLD or 4′ 9″ in height.

These are just a few of the new laws you should all be aware of.  Happy New Year to all of you!  May it be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for each of you.

Judge Kevin McCormick, a Sacramento judge who sits at the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse where Civil and Criminal matters are heard, is under investigation after his wife’s former husband filed a complaint with the California Commission of Judicial Performance.  In the complaint, Jeffrey Moore claims that Judge McCormick has made his 2008 divorce from the former Lori Moore, now Mrs. McCormick, expensive and difficult.

Mr. Moore claims that Judge McCormick appeared at hearings, a settlement conference with Lori Moore, sat at the counsel table at her trial, went into the judge’s chambers with his attorney and the judge and assisted Lori Moore in closing down a Yoga studio which was listed as community property and then opening another studio in the judge’s name only, with Lori Moore as the acting manager.

The California Code of Judicial Ethics forbids a sitting judge from using the “prestige of judicial office … to advance the pecuniary or personal interests of the judge or others.”  The code also prohibits a judge from practicing law, with the exception of self-representation.   Judge’s are allowed to provide “moral support” for a family member in court, but the California Judicial Conduct Handbook says “it is improper to appear or advocate on their behalf, identify himself … as a judge, or use the judicial title or seek special treatment in such a circumstance.”

Judge McCormick issued a statement that he accompanied his future wife to proceedings at the courthouse to provide moral support only, not as her legal representative.  You can read the full article in the Sacramento Bee.