Posts Tagged ‘family law’

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.


I have not commented on the former governor’s announcement about his son with the former housekeeper because I felt there was enough out there about it already.  However, this week I read an article in the CEB blog written by Julie Brook, Esq., that I would like to share a bit of with you.

Ms. Brook reminds us that California law has a “conclusive” presumption of paternity for children born to a married woman.   There are four elements that must all exist at the time of a child’s birth to trigger application of this presumption under Family Code Section 7540.  They are:

  • The mother is in a valid marriage;
  • The mother is living with her husband;
  • Her husband is not sterile; and
  • Her husband is not impotent.
If all of these elements are in place when the child is born, the child is presumed to be that of the mother’s husband. Any rebuttal of the presumption through a motion for blood tests must be made within two years of the child’s birth per Family Code Section 7541.
It appears that the mother and her husband were living together at the time of the child’s birth and no paternity action was filed within the two year’s after the child’s birth.  Assuming that the husband was not sterile or impotent at the time of the birth, the child is the legal child of this marriage and the mother’s former husband is the legal father of the child pursuant to California law.
This happens in California more than people realize.  Children are born into a marriage and the husband may not be the biological father but he is the legal father unless an action is filed within the two year time period from the child’s birth.  This is in my opinion an antiquated law and I have seen this law destroy families and children’s lives leaving the children with a legal father who has absolutely no relationship with the child and the biological father who has no obligation to support, nurture or acknowledge their child.

Family Law attorney Judith Soley, 65, and her client were gunned down at a Bass Lake restaurant Feb. 16 by the client’s husband, who later turned the gun on himself.  Ms. Soley and Sandra Williamson, 65, her client, were leaving a restaurant during a break in court proceedings when Williamson’s estranged husband, James, began beating Soley, who was in her van at that time, and then shot her in the head.  He chased his wife into the kitchen of the restaurant, where he shot her in the head, before fleeing in a pickup.  Officers later found Williamson in his home, where he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ms. Soley was the first woman president of the Fresno County Bar Association, and was active in both legal and community circles and was one of the first women to be certified as a family law specialist by the State Bar.  Ms. Soley became a lawyer when women didn’t frequently join the profession and she built a successful practice and, as a single mother, raised her daughter, who became her law partner. Judith Soley, Esq.

Ms. Soley used a wheelchair all her life, but traveled the world, including visits to the Great Wall of China, Russia, England and Hawaii, as well as stints in Italy and Mexico to perfect her language skills. She graduated from UCLA and received her law degree from Boalt Hall, beginning her practice in 1971.

Ms. Williamson was a labor and delivery coach for 15 years and Mr. Williamson was a retired Los Angeles firefighter.  Friends of the couple said that Mr. Williamson was manic depressive and refused to take his medication, per reports to them by Ms. Williamson several years ago.  The parties’ divorce was an on again, off again action for the last seven years.  The initial divorce was filed in 2004 and the couple reconciled only to separate in 2007 when Ms. Williamson obtained a restraining order for domestic violence.  In 2010, she tried to have the restraining order renewed but was unable to locate the whereabouts of Mr. Williamson and was unable to have it served.

Sandra Williamson

There was also a civil action between the parties in which Mr. Williamson obtained a loan after he forged his wife’s signature on a deed to gain sole possession of the family home.  Ms. Williamson later had the deed voided in court — but not before Williamson took out a $942,000 bank loan based on the forged deed and transferred the money to a joint account he had with a nephew.  The civil suit was still pending at the time of the divorce proceeding.  This was by no means a simple divorce.  You can read the trial brief here prepared by Ms. Soley, which details the many alleged actions of Mr. Williamson.

Family Law can sometimes become very volatile when dealing with very emotional issues and those of us in family law are aware of the dangers that sometimes occur in divorce and custody matters.  If you talk to a Family Law attorney, you will no doubt hear of some opposing party who has become angry with the soon to be ex’s attorney, and has made some threatening comment or threatened some action against that attorney.

Working in family law, I have witnessed many times when this has occurred and have had to call in police assistance to escort the opposing party out of the law office during heated moments.  One former attorney I worked for has had to be escorted along with the client, from the courthouse to their vehicles by the bailiff, after being threatened in the hallway during negotiations with the opposing party, his counsel and the client.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Soley’s family and staff and Ms. Williamson’s family and co-workers.

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While this blog is not really about Family Law, it is about family and recognizing when our children make you proud, no matter what age they are.

Misty and her Father's beloved Harley

My son Dale and his other half, Misty, recently went on a Poker Run in Plumas County.  If you are not familiar with a Poker Run, participants meet at a pre-arranged point, and pick up details of their route and the stops they need to make. Each participant is given a score card which will be filled in as they progress along the route. At each designated stop, the participants draw a card at random (or are dealt a card, depending on the event rules). The card drawn or dealt is recorded on each participant’s score card, and the winner of the event is the participant who makes the best five card poker hand at the end of the event. Events usually end with some entertainment at the designated “last stop” of the route, along with the awarding of the prizes. The organizers raise their funds by charging a set amount to participate.  In this case, the run was all about Hospice, which was near and dear to both Dale and Misty.

Misty lost her father to cancer on Father’s day two years ago and shortly after that her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away within that same year.  When her mother was diagnosed, Dale and Misty moved their family from the town they lived in, leaving behind friends and family to move in and care for Misty’s mother through her illness.

Both of Misty’s parents were cremated and their wish was to travel on the bike that Misty’s father owned, even after their death.  Dale and Misty inherited her father’s bike and they have been on many runs with her parents since their death.  You might wonder how this is possible? Well, a little bit of her parents ashes are carried in a small flask inside the saddle bag on the bike and no matter where they go, Misty’s parents are always with them.

Mom and Dad riding on their Harley

I am proud of Dale and Misty for giving up all they gave up to make sure that Misty’s mother was taken care of and when it came time for Hospice, both of them were able to work with them and they have honored Misty’s parents last wishes and have made sure they keep riding their beloved Harley to this day.

Dale and Misty on the Poker Run

Dale and Misty, in case I haven’t told you before, I am proud of both of you.  I know it has been a struggle for them and during the toughest of times when Misty’s mother was hospitalized at the end of her life, Dale lost his job and the economic slump hit and they have been struggling to keep things afloat ever since.

When Dale contacted me yesterday to tell me that their story was written in Thunder Roads Norcal Magazine, I had to check it out and let the world know as well.  I also had to let everyone know how proud I am of them too.  For more information on this story and many others in the magazine, see the link above.

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In 2009, there were several cases that were decided by the California Supreme Court, the appellate courts and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that issued important decisions during the past year that affect family law. Some of those are listed here.

A trial court that failed to consider the factors in Family Code sections 2030 and 2032 erroneously issued an attorney fee order in a custody matter, and made an error of law in issuing a second order in the same proceeding that reduced appellate costs that already were owed to a pro se litigant (In re Alan S.(2009) 172 CA4th 238, 91 CR3d 241);

A nonparent seeking to obtain custody of a child lacks standing to initiate or be joined in a custody proceeding under the Uniform Parentage Act (Scott v. Superior Court (2009) 171 CA4th 540, 89 CR3d 843);

A California court that initially awarded sole legal and physical custody of a 5 month old child to his father acquired exclusive and continuing custody jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and did not lose jurisdiction despite the child’s and parents’ residence in Pakistan and the parents’ various actions and litigation in Pakistan and California over a 6 year period (Marriage of Nurie (2009) 176 CA4th 478, 98 CR3d 200);

In a dispute between two parents having joint legal custody over where their child would attend school, the court is not required to apply a “strict scrutiny” constitutional analysis (Enrique M. v Angelina V. (2009) 174 CA4th 1148, 94 CR3d 883;

A custody order issued as part of a domestic violence proceeding is not a “final judicial custody determination,” and therefore a parent who seeks modification of that order need not show “changed circumstances,” but rather what is in the child’s best interest based on all the circumstances (Keith R. V. Superior Court (2009) 174 CA4th 1047, 96 CR3d 298);

Although it is improper to impute income formerly earned to a supporting party absent evidence demonstrating the party could still earn it, evidence of present earning capacity in present employment creates no basis to ignore those earnings (Marraige of Berger (2009) 170 CA4th 1070, 88 CR3d 766);

A disabled support obligor who provides proof of eligibility for or receipt of Social Security Disability Income payments is exempt from levy under Family Code sections 17450-17460 (Marriage of Hopkins (2009) 173 CA4th 281, 92 CR3d 570);

A post-separation agreement regarding the distribution of community property is void and unenforceable unless it is in writing or made by oral stipulation in open court (Marriage of Dellaria & Blickman-Dellaria (2009) 172 CA4th 196, 90 CR3d 802);

“Disturbing the Peace,” as used in Family Code section 6320, may include accessing, reading, and publicly disclosing a person’s confidential e-mails; allegations of physical violence are not required to support an application for a restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (Marriage of Nadkarni (2009) 173 CA4th 1483, 93 CR3d 723);

A trial court may not reduce spousal support on the ground that the supported spouse has become eligible to access, without penalty, his or her share of retirement accounts that were awarded to that spouse in a marital dissolution (Marriage of Dietz (2009) 176 CA4th 387, 97 CR3d 616).

There are many more cases that were decided and I will add them at a later date.

Maybe some of you don’t know what a Family Law Paralegal does. Did you know that a paralegal can do everything an attorney can do, except give legal advice and represent you in court? The following is just a bit of what a paralegal does in a Family Law office.

Client Intake – The paralegal can be the first person you speak with when you call an attorney’s office, depending on the size of the firm. The paralegal will usually speak with the client to get a little more information on what the case is about, such as divorce, custody or visitation. The paralegal is not being nosy, they need to know what is going on so they can determine how much time you will need when you meet with the attorney. They also need to know if there is an upcoming court date, as that will determine how quickly you need to see the attorney. Answering the paralegals questions as thoroughly as possible helps immensely.

Managing the Client File – The paralegal makes sure that all documents prepared or received are updated in the client file, this also means that the paralegal usually opens the file and makes sure all of your contact information is updated so that the attorney and the paralegal can contact you when necessary. It is important that you notify your attorney’s office of any changes to your address, phone numbers and even your e-mail address if that is your preferred method of contacting your attorney’s office.

Preparing the Documents for Your Case – The paralegal takes the information you provide and incorporates it into the documents needed to file with the Court. It helps the paralegal to have all of the information needed before the documents are completed. If your attorney or the paralegal requests information, such as a client questionnaire and requests specific information or documentation from you, it is helpful to get this to them quickly to avoid repeated requests and additional cost to you for the repeated requests. Remember, you are not the only client that the attorney or paralegal is working with and if your information is not provided, the paralegal will be unable to complete the documents for you in a timely manner.

Contacting the Court – The paralegal is usually the person who contacts the Court or responds to calls from the Court regarding your documents. The paralegal usually has a good business relationship with the judge’s judicial assistants, (JA’s) which is helpful to the attorney and to the client if documents become lost or take longer than usual for approval. The paralegal also prepares the documents for Court filing and makes sure that the opposing counsel or other party is served with the documents in a timely fashion as required by statute.

Client Communication – As stated above, the paralegal is usually the person you, the client, will speak with when you contact the attorney’s office. Anything you say to the paralegal is treated as attorney-client privilege and will never be divulged except to the attorney. This means what you tell the attorney or paralegal stays in the attorney’s office and is never talked about to anyone else outside of the attorney’s office. Maintaining client confidentiality is essential and the best paralegals know this.

So, the next time you talk to your attorney’s paralegal, remember that what they do for you, they are also doing for the rest of the attorney’s clients. If you have any questions about your case, just ask the paralegal. A good paralegal will always take the time to answer your questions or if they can’t at that very moment, will tell you when they can have the answer for you and get back to you with it.

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You thought your attorney fees were high! Frank and Jamie McCourt‘s divorce could become one of the costliest splits in California history, with attorneys and accountants commanding as much as $19 million in fees — more than the Dodgers will spend on their starting infield this season.CEO and Owner of the Dodgers, McCourt

Frank McCourt has estimated his “divorce-related expenses” at $5 million to $10 million, according to court filings. Jamie McCourt has estimated her expenses at $9 million — and asked that her estranged husband be ordered to pay them.

Although records of salaries and statistics are omnipresent in baseball, specific information about divorce costs is largely unavailable. The Times consulted with several family law experts, none of whom could recall a divorce costing $19 million.

“I’m pretty sure there’s not been any litigation in a California divorce where they’ve spent so much on attorneys’ fees,” said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney who represented Meg Ryan in her divorce from Dennis Quaid.

Soodik said it was “very unusual” that each of the McCourts has retained multiple law firms. Seven lawyers appeared in court last month for a hearing on whether to postpone the trial date, on the same day other lawyers in the case were said to be conducting a deposition of Jamie McCourt.

Connolly Oyler, another Santa Monica attorney with experience in celebrity divorces, said a total cost of $5 million would be “consistent with most high-profile cases.”

Even though we are talking a high profile case here, the amount of attorney fees might seem high for even this case. However, when you look at the fact that Mr. McCourt owns over 33 entities with countless financial documents to review, one can see how quickly the fees might add up. In Southern California where the jurisdiction for this divorce is located, attorneys charge from $250 and hour to $700 an hour and a “simple” divorce can run $10,000. Britney Spears recent divorce from Kevin Federline is reported to have cost $835,000 and we all know how contentious that case started out.

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In October I posted that the Elkins Family Law Task Force was asking for the public’s comments and suggestions on the recommendations in their report.  To review the report click here.  To make your comments, please click here.  For more information on the task force, click here.

If you have ever wanted to make a recommendation or comment on how you think things should be run in California when it comes to Family Law, this is your chance.  Don’t let it pass you by!