Posts Tagged ‘Family court’


Interesting case in Iowa in which Father was granted sole legal and physical custody of the parties children after Mother posted on Facebook how Father was a bad parent and sent Father a threatening email.  The case is In Re Marriage of Bates, which can be read here.

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It really cannot be said enough, if you post it on Facebook, it can and will be used against you in a custody battle.


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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.

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.


A group of parents demonstrating on Courthouse Square Friday morning across from the Lackawanna County Administration Building at 200 Adams Ave., Scranton, said they feel the county’s family court and guardian ad litem are the focus of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Olyphant resident Cherie Matassa said guardian ad litem Danielle Ross, who is supposed to represent her two children in a custody battle that began in March 2010, has not listened to their own wishes.  Ms. Matassa claims that Ms. Ross forced her to provide visitation for her children claiming that her ex works for the Lackawanna County government despite the children not wanting to visit with him.  The ages of the children were not stated.

Dawn Lewis of Scranton claimed that her father-in-law’s working relationship with a current county judge prevented her from keeping full custody of her now-7-year-old son after his father died from cancer in 2010.  Ms. Lewis claims that her son, age 5 at the time, was seen by Ms. Ross two times for a total of 22 minutes and then decided that her son should spend three out of five days with his grandparents.  She has been trying for over 18 months to get another court date.  She believes that the FBI is looking into the finances of family court and that it “is only the tip of the iceberg.

Another woman from Blakely also feels she was treated unfairly by the county’s family court system. She said Ross, her children’s court guardian, gave custody of her children to a man with whom she had a prior relationship.  That man was charged Sept. 28 with rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual assault of a child, indecent assault of a person under age 13, corruption of minors, and contact with minors involving sexual offenses, according to court records.

The FBI is not stating why the Family Court is being investigated.   It is not often that you hear of this happening.  Hopefully things will work out for these families.


Just when you thought you were paying more in spousal support than you thought was fair, along comes this story from Australia.  As a high-earning professional, the husband took home almost $2 million, including a six-figure bonus, in the last year.  After their split he moved out of the $2.7 million family home and into another property worth more than $1.1 million, which he bought without his wife’s knowledge before their separation.  Hmm, here we call that a fiduciary duty to disclose, but I digress.  It was intended as an investment property if the marriage lasted; instead, he lived there with his children as their primary care-giver.

His former wife hoped to earn up to $50,000 annually working in community services and wanted him to support her financially for two years while she obtained her qualifications.  He objected, arguing that she was employable and could return to her former career as a legal secretary or personal assistant, earning up to $75,000 annually. Her choice of occupation was effectively ”a luxury she cannot afford and which would be at his cost”, he said.

But Justice Fowler noted that the woman ”says she has had enough of the law and lawyers for the time being”.  She told the court the distress of the marriage breakdown and subsequent litigation have made her averse to ”having anything further to do with employment in the legal profession”.  More than two years after the couple separated, after costly proceedings in the Family Court, a judge made parenting orders for the care of their children.”  Given the history of this matter and its attendant costs, one can understand from her point of view that she would wish to distance herself from that profession,” Justice Fowler said.  Her decision not to pursue her former career was not unreasonable, he said, and he ordered the husband to pay her $1000 a week for two years while she retrained.

Now, I agree that the husband makes great money and the wife is probably entitled to spousal support, although there is no indication of how long the marriage was, but I think this is a little over the top.  At $4,000 a month for 2 years, she will receive $96,000 in spousal support and will get to go back to school to boot.  So, next time you write that spousal support check, just think, it could be worse.

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A jury on Thursday rejected a claim by billionaire real estate mogul Donald Bren‘s two adult children for $134 million in retroactive child support.

The unusual case was a high-stakes contest between one of the nation’s richest men and the children he fathered during a 13-year affair with Jennifer McKay Gold, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of her children when they were minors.

Christie Bren, 22, and her brother, David Bren, 18, pursued the case when they became adults.

Jurors deliberated two hours before siding with the 78-year-old Irvine Co. chairman, whose attorney argued that no family court would have given the children more than the millions he already paid.

The suit sought $400,000 a month for each of the children in retroactive support from 1988 to 2002. Their mother testified she received a total of about $3 million for them during that period.

“My children are going to stand up for what they believe in,” she said. “We will definitely appeal.”

Lawyer Hillel Chodos, who represents the children, said he would specify in his appeal brief what was kept from the jury.

Donald Bren, who has a penchant for privacy, stepped into the court’s public spotlight to testify that he never loved Gold and never planned to be a parent to the two children. He said he provided enough for them to live a privileged life and agreed to pay for their education.

“I felt an education at the university level, at the graduate level is perhaps the best gift a parent can give a child,” he testified.

His lawyers have claimed he paid $10 million in support over the years, including the educations.

“They are not here because they didn’t have enough to live on,” he told the jury in closing arguments. “They are here because they were deprived by Donald Bren of their birthright. … They had the right to share in his standard of living.”

That standard, Chodos said, included two California homes, a Sun Valley ranch, New York apartment, private planes and yacht. Attorney John Quinn, who represented Donald Bren, said the estimate of the real estate mogul’s liquid assets was exaggerated.

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