February 20, 2006
National Research Project
"The ABA's Child Custody Pro Bono Project is a joint project of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and Family Law Section, and is administered by the ABA Center for Pro Bono. . . . The Project has researched child custody representation laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Researched issues include when attorneys are appointed, the role the attorney plays in the case, qualifications for the attorneys, and how such representation is funded. Summaries of the results are available for divorce cases and adoption, guardianship, and unmarried parent cases. In addition, the project has researched the laws of all jurisdictions regarding cases in which domestic violence issues are raised, where custody or safety of children is an issue. Summaries are available for General Domestic Violence Statutory Provisions, Domestic Violence Raised in Custody Cases, Civil Order of Protection Cases, and Domestic Violence Definitions in Statutes Other than Custody." By ABA Pro Bono & Public Service Child Custody Pro Bono Projecct Link to Webpage (last visited 2-19-06 NVS)
Teaching Teenagers About the Challenges of Marriage
"Half of all mariages end in divorce. People blame financial pressures, job problems, child care challenges. But the real problem isn't the stress. It's how a couple handles it -- what they expect from each other, how they communicate, how they resolve conflicts. When poor skills ignite with explosive issues, divorce begins to look like th only opion. But it is no panacea. Divorce brings with it problems of its own. Alimony payments and child custody disputes are just two of the more obvious.
That's why PARTNERS for Students was designed: to give high school teenagers a first-hand understanding of the challenges in a marriage before they marry. It teaches the relationship skills essential to creating a lasting partnership. The PARTNERS goal is to help people realize that when couples work together to build a healthy relationship, the joys and benefits of marriage will prevail." By ABA Section of Family Law Link to Webpage (last visited 2-19-06 NVS)
Schwab Essay Contest
"The Section of Family Law is now accepting applications for the annual Howard Schwab Memorial Essay Contest. Eligible law students may submit an essay by April 15, 2006." By ABA Section of Family Law
Link to Article (last visited 2-19-06 NVS)
February 19, 2006
Case Law Development: California Appeals Court Rejects Michael Jackson’s Bid to Uphold Termination Order
California's 2nd District Court of Appeals refused to uphold a parental termination order between Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe in which she had agreed not to contact their children following their divorce in 2000. She later gave up her parental rights. However, in 2004 Ms Rowe persuaded a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to overturn the order terminating her parental rights.
Jackson argued that because he did not stipulate to terminate Ms. Rowe’s parental rights, did not sign any document agreeing to the termination, did not attend the hearing on her motion to terminate, and did not have any advance notice she intended to move to terminate her parental rights, that the public policy calling for rejection of stipulated agreements in termination cases was not applicable. The court, however, said that it found “substantial evidence” in the record supporting the trial court’s finding that the termination hearing was a stipulated proceeding.
The court said that the termination order exceeded the trial court’s jurisdiction and contravenes “the public policy favoring that a child has two parents rather than one.” It also said that a court cannot enter a judgment terminating parental rights “based solely upon the parties’ stipulation that the child’s mother or father relinquishes those rights. . . . Where the welfare of children is involved as in divorce cases, parents cannot by contract so bind themselves as to foreclose the court from an inquiry as to what that welfare requires.”
The court also said that even if Mr. Jackson was correct, and he did not effectively stipulate to terminate Ms. Rowe’s parental rights, the result would be no different if based solely on her uncontested motion to terminate her parental rights. The reason for this is that the trial court had granted the requested termination without first ordering an investigation of the children’s circumstances by the Department of Children and Family Services or other appropriate agency as required by Family Code. It held that Ms. Rowe’s collateral attack on that order was not precluded by California law. Source: BBC News, bbc.co.uk. Please click here for the complete news story (last visited February 19, 2006, reo). Download here the slip opinion of the California Court of Appeals, Second District, In_re_Michael_Jackson.pdf (reo)
Missouri Trial Court Rules State may Not Deny Foster Parent Licensure Because of Sexual Orientation
A Missouri Circuit Court ruled Friday in Lisa Johnston v. Missouri Department of Social Services that Missouri’s actions were “arbitrary and unreasonable” when it denied a foster parent licensure request based upon sexual orientation. The state had argued that while no one disputed that Lisa Johnston was well qualified, she lacked “reputable character” because her sexual relationship with another woman broke state law. Therefore, the state denied the license. However, Jackson County Judge Sandra Midkiff ruled that Missouri’s law against same-sex sodomy between consenting adults is unenforceable, citing Lawrence v. Texas. The state plans to appeal the ruling. Source: Joe Lambe, John Shultz, Kansas City Star, kansascity.com. Please click here for the complete story (last visited February 19, 2006, reo).
Case Law Development: New Hampshire Court says Telling Wife Three Times “I Divorce You” Did Not Initiate Divorce Proceeding
On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected the argument of Samer Ramadan that he had initiated divorce proceedings in Lebanon by telling his wife three times, “I divorce you” and calling an attorney in Lebanon and declaring over the telephone to two witnesses that he had divorced his wife. The ruling arose out of a dispute involving a couple who married in Tripoli, Lebanon in 1986 and have three children. Prior to their marriage, the wife, represented by her father, entered into a “marriage contract” promising a deferred “dower” payment of 250,000 Lebanese liras. The husband was, at the time, a resident of the United States, and the couple settled in Massachusetts. During the marriage they lived in Texas, Lebanon, Egypt, and settled in New Hampshirein 1999.
The husband claimed that one day before his wife filed for divorce in New Hampshire in 2003 that he initiated a divorce under Islamic law by declaring, “I divorce you” three times in succession in her presence. He also claimed that he telephoned an attorney in Lebanon on the same day and declared, with two witnesses listening, that he had divorced his wife. In October he traveled to Lebanon to see his attorney and sign the necessary divorce papers.
In rejecting the husband’s challenge to the New Hampshire divorce decree, the court said that the record showed that the parties were both domiciled in New Hampshire when the divorce action was commenced in October, 2003 by his wife in that state, and had been so for at least three years. It went on to explain that although the trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over the parties’ divorce, this alone would not preclude another forum from doing the same. However, under New Hampshire law, “a divorce obtained in another jurisdiction shall be of no force or effect in this state . . . if both parties to the marriage were domiciled in this state at the time the proceeding for the divorce was commenced.” Consequently, because the parties had been domiciled in New Hampshire for at least three years when the divorce action was commenced by the wife, the Lebanese divorce decree proffered by the husband had no force or effect in that state under its family law statute, RSA 459:1, regardless of its validity in Lebanon. You may download the New Hampshire Supreme Court slip opinion, In_re_Ramadan.pdf here (reo).
Pop Quiz on Marriage
"Everyone agrees that marriage isn't what it used to be, and everyone is quite right. But most of what "everyone knows" about what matrimony used to be and just how it has changed is wrong. How much do you really know about marriage? Find out by answering the true or false questions." By Stephanie Coontz, NYTimes.com, Editorials/Op-Ed Link to Quiz (last visited 2-19-06 NVS)