Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, June 11, 2018

Couple Who Insisted Stuffed Animal Was Their Lawyer Lose Child Custody

 

From Newsweek:

A couple from British Columbia in Canada lost custody of their child after insisting to have a stuffed animal act as their lawyer during the trial.

Inside the bizarre courtroom, the couple—who have not been named to protect the identity of their daughter—consulted with a stuffed lion that they believed was transmitting the advice of God, reported the Vancouver Sun. The pair refused normal legal assistance and instead referred to the small toy for guidance.

The Provincial Court of British Columbia declared in November that the couple’s daughter—who was one at the time—needed protection and placed her in provincial custody. The parents appealed the decision to the British Columbia Supreme Court, claiming the judge was discriminatory towards them as Christians, violated their Charter rights and made procedural blunders.

Read more here.

June 11, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act Passes Senate

From Senator Susan Collins:

Today, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA) celebrated the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S. 1091), which would create a federal task force charged with supporting grandparents raising grandchildren as the opioid epidemic increases their numbers. The U.S. House of Representatives must pass the legislation before it becomes law. The bill is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 15 senators and supported by a wide array of child welfare and aging organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and AARP.

Approximately 2.6 million children are being raised by their grandparents and experts say this number is rising as the opioid epidemic devastates communities across the country. Senators Collins and Casey, who are both members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act last year after an Aging Committee hearing during which witnesses testified about the need for grandparents to have easy access to information about resources available to assist them.

Read more here.

June 10, 2018 in Adoption, Child Abuse, Current Affairs, Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

When Living Your Truth Can Mean Losing Your Children

From New York Times:

The questioning went on for days. Did she allow her children to watch a Christmas video? Did she include plastic Easter eggs as part of her celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim? Did she use English nicknames for them, instead of their Hebrew names?

This grilling of Chavie Weisberger, 35, took place not in front of a rabbi or a religious court, but in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, during a custody battle with her ultra-Orthodox Jewish ex-husband after she came out as lesbian and decided to leave the ultra-Orthodox fold. The stakes could not have been higher. In fact, the judge, Eric I. Prus, eventually ruled that she should lose custody of her children, largely because she had lapsed in raising them according to Hasidic customs.

Ms. Weisberger’s case, which was reversed on appeal in August, is still reverberating through New York courts that handle divorce and custody matters for the state’s hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Read more here.

May 29, 2018 in Current Affairs, Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Former Playmate Kills Self, Son, in Custody Battle

From The New York Post:

A former Playboy Playmate killed herself and her 7-year-old son in a murder-suicide leap from a Midtown hotel penthouse Friday amid a bitter custody battle with her estranged husband, sources told The Post.

The bodies of Stephanie Adams and her son, Vincent, were found on a second-floor balcony area by a guest at the Gotham Hotel, police said.

Adams, 47, had been battling with her husband, Manhattan chiropractor Charles Nicolai, in court, and the dispute had heated up Tuesday when he filed a motion for sole custody of the boy, said his lawyer, William Beslow.

Read more here.

May 24, 2018 in Child Abuse, Current Affairs, Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds), Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Who Gets Embryos In Divorce?

From AZ Today (part of the USA Today Network):

State law may soon dictate who has the right to their own frozen embryos, regardless of what the potential parents think.

In cases of divorce, Senate Bill 1393 would require courts to give frozen embryos to the spouse who "intends to allow the embryos to develop to birth."

If both adults want to use the embryos to have a baby, the court would have to give them to the one who "provides the best chance" of successfully doing so.

The bill, which has passed the Senate and now just needs a final vote in the House before going to the governor, would override any agreements or contracts that the couple previously had on the matter, and would ignore either person's current objections or concerns. 

Read more here.

March 13, 2018 in Alternative Reproduction, Current Affairs, Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Judge Gives Grandparents Custody of Transgender Teen

From CNN:

A Hamilton County, Ohio, judge on Friday gave custody of a transgender teen to his grandparents rather than his parents, allowing them to make medical decisions regarding his transition.

The parents didn't want the teen, a 17-year-old who identifies as male, to undergo hormone treatment and refused to call him by his chosen name, triggering suicidal feelings, according to court testimony. The parents wanted custody in order to make medical decisions for the teen and prohibit the treatment that his medical team had recommended.
 
Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon had instructed that the family's names not be released.
 
Read more here.

February 22, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sperm Donor Denied Parental Rights

From USA Today:

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — A married same-sex Chemung County couple can rebuff an effort by a sperm donor to exert parental rights on the daughter born as a result of the arrangement.

A midlevel New York appeals court ruled in favor of the couple, suspending a decision by the Chemung County Family Court that originally ordered a paternity test to determine the donor's parental rights.

In a 19-page decision released Thursday, the New York Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, said the lesbian couple has the same parental rights as a traditional couple in a sperm donor arrangement. The mother and wife are the presumed natural parents, the court ruled, and the donor has no specific legal right to be a part of the rearing of the child no matter how the child was conceived.

Read more here.

February 11, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans), Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Japanese Supreme Court Upholds Refusal to Return Children

From International Family Law Firm:

The Osaka High Court has just issued a decision in a case under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”) that provides strong support for the claim that Japan does not comply with the terms of the treaty and that is, indeed, in violation of its treaty obligations.

It has not been possible until now to analyze the decisions of the Japanese courts in cases brought under the Hague Convention since they are unpublished and confidential.  Such secrecy has precluded Japanese lawyers from reporting on specific cases, and has frustrated scrutiny of court decisions.  However, the author has now obtained a copy of the shocking decision of the Osaka High Court in the case of Arimitsu v. Cook, issued on February 17, 2017.

This author has long asserted that the law by which Japan brought the Convention into Japanese law -- Act No. 48 of June 19, 2013, which is identified as the “Act for Implementation of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” (the “Implementing Act”) – contains provisions that inappropriately and excessively expand the so-called “grave risk exception” to the treaty. The author has also long expressed serious concerns that return orders issued by the Japanese courts would not be effectively enforced in Japan.

Read more here.

January 15, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pending Legislation Will Significantly Change Michigan Child Custody Laws

From The National Law Review:

Late this spring, members of the Michigan House of Representatives introduced House Bill No. 4691, the Michigan Shared Parenting Act. The proposed legislation stands to fundamentally change Michigan's child custody law. Some of the major changes include creating a presumption of joint legal custody and equal parenting time, and reducing the distance a parent may relocate without court permission from the current 100 miles, to 40 miles.

Joint legal custody means that the parents share decision-making authority as to important decisions affecting the child. A legal presumption would require judges to enter an order requiring joint legal custody in all cases, absent one of the parents establishing that a child's health, safety, or well-being would be materially compromised. The current law only requires the court to consider an award of joint custody based upon the best interests of the children. From a practical standpoint, most judges tend to order joint legal custody despite the fact that there is not a legal presumption. However, in cases involving domestic violence, abuse and neglect, judges do not always award joint legal custody.

Read more here.

January 13, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Contact With Parents Not Always Best

From The Guardian:

Children brought up by extended family members should not always have contact with their parents as it could harm their mental health, according to new research.

Interviews carried out for the charity Grandparents Plus examined the effects of parental contact on the increasing number of children being cared for by relatives other than their parents .

It is estimated that more than 180,000 children in the UK are being raised by a family member – often referred to as kinship caring. More than half of the children (51%) live with a grandparent, 23% with an older sibling, and the rest with other relatives.

Read more here.

November 29, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grandmother Fights Without Lawyer For Custody of Grandchild

From BuzzFeedNews:

A grandmother who wanted to care for her grandchild had to fight a local authority with no lawyer after a social worker recommended that the baby be put up for adoption.

As the parents were unable to look after the baby, the paternal grandmother – who cannot be named to protect the child’s identity – put herself forward to be the special guardian, similar to a foster carer.

The case, heard in Gloucester’s family court last month, could not be reported until now because Gloucestershire County Council was demanding anonymity. After this was challenged by BuzzFeed News, The Guardian and the BBC, a judge ruled on Monday that they should be named and that the grandmother’s account of her experience should be made public.

Read more here.

November 11, 2017 in Adoption, Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mexico and Utah Sign Child Custody Agreement

From Deseret News Utah:

SALT LAKE CITY — The consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City signed an agreement Monday with the Utah Department of Human Services, updating the consulate's extensive role in assisting parental custody cases for minors with Mexican citizenship.

Javier Chagoya, the consul of Mexico in Salt Lake, was joined for a signing ceremony by Ann Williamson, executive director of the Department of Human Services, and Tonya Myrup, acting director of the Division of Child and Family Services. Their signatures were met with applause by custody case workers and others in attendance.

Williamson lauded the agreement as an important step "to advance our shared commitment to children and families thriving safely in their homes, schools and communities." She said the consulate of Mexico fills an integral role in assuring that Mexican children involved in custody cases in Utah are provided with as many potential positive solutions as would be arranged for any other child in the state.

Read more here.

May 31, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Judges Issues Tri-Custody Agreement

From CNN:

An unconventional family produced a child before becoming tangled in a lengthy custody battle that ended last week when a New York judge awarded shared custody of the boy to his dad and two mothers.

The boy in the case is the biological child of a man and one of his neighbors. Both the man and his wife had a longstanding, intimate relationship with the birth mother, according to court documents.
 
The father, identified as Michael M., and his wife, Dawn M., had struggled to become pregnant. Dawn M. had suffered a miscarriage before the couple met the neighbor, identified as Audria. The three later began to "engage in intimate relations," the records state.

Read more here.

March 25, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Complicated custody battle between a child's adoptive parents and birth father

From ABC News:

Braelynn Dalsing is like any 3-year-old growing up in South Carolina. She’s fascinated with backyard chickens, loves the movie “Zootopia” and is attached to her mom and dad at the hip.

But really, Braelynn isn’t like most other girls her age at all. She’s at the center of a complicated custody battle, one that could have implications for adoptive families all over the country.

Braelynn is adopted. In December 2016, her adoptive parents were told that their adoption had been vacated and that, with conditions, the state intended to return their daughter to her biological father.

“It breaks our heart. Braelynn is the one at the middle of this,” Ed Dalsing, Braelynn’s adopted father, told ABC's “Nightline.”

Read more here.

March 8, 2017 in Adoption, Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Transgender woman denied contact with her ultra-Orthodox Jewish children

From The Guardian:

A transgender woman has been denied direct contact with her five children on the basis they would be shunned by their ultra-Orthodox Jewish community if she were allowed to meet them.

The woman will be allowed only to send letters to her children, after a judge concluded there was a real chance of “the children and their mother being marginalised or excluded by the ultra-Orthodox community” if face-to-face contact were permitted.

Mr. Justice Peter Jackson stated that he had reached the conclusion with “real regret, knowing the pain that it must cause”. The transgender woman – identified only as J – had brought the case seeking to have contact with the children.

As a result of the ruling, her contact with each child will be limited to letters four times a year, with the suggestion that these could be sent to mark three Jewish religious holidays – Pesach, Sukkot and Hanukkah – and the children’s birthdays.

The judge noted his concerns over the clash between the ultra-Orthodox faith and transgender rights, saying: “It is painful to find these vulnerable groups in conflict.”

In his judgment, Jackson wrote: “These children are caught between two apparently incompatible ways of living, led by tiny minorities within society at large. Both minorities enjoy the protection of the law: on the one hand the right of religious freedom, and on the other the right to equal treatment.”

He added: “Despite its antiquity, Jewish law is no more than 3,500 years old, while gender dysphoria will doubtless have existed throughout the 120,000 years that homo sapiens have been on earth. Both sides of the question must therefore receive careful attention.”

According to the court judgment, the woman had fought for contact with her children since leaving the home in 2015, asking that she “should be sensitively reintroduced to the children, who should be helped to understand her new way of life”.

Read more here.

February 3, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pets Will Be Treated Similarly to Children in Alaska Divorce Courts

From The Washington Post:

Divorces can be messy. Leaving aside the very raw emotions involved, there is the matter of splitting property.

Who gets the house? Who gets the couch? Who gets the dog?

If one of those items seems different to you, that’s probably because you, like many Americans, consider pets to be more like family members than furniture. But courts do not. In the eyes of the law, animals are property. So although pet custody battles are often passionate and sometimes truly wacky, courts think of them more prosaically: as part of the “property distribution” in a divorce.

That’s why an amendment to Alaska’s divorce statutes, which took effect last week, is making waves in the world of animal law. It makes Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets. In a blog post, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the well-being provision “groundbreaking and unique.”

“It is significant,” said David Favre, a Michigan State University law professor who specializes in animal law. “For the first time, a state has specifically said that a companion animal has visibility in a divorce proceeding beyond that of property — that the court may award custody on the basis of what is best for the dog, not the human owners.”

Read more here.

 

January 28, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Locked up and in limbo: Mother takes immigration, child custody battle to court

From The Washington Post:

From the day he was picked up three years ago by Border Patrol agents in Texas, Dora Beltrán’s son has cycled through shelters and detention centers in five states as his mother fights to bring him home.

The family’s immigration standing is not at issue: She is a legal permanent resident and an immigration judge decided he would not be deported.

Yet the teen remains locked up as his mother and the government battle over when federal officials can keep a parent from her troubled child.

The rare and complicated case is set to be heard this week in federal court in Northern Virginia where Beltrán is challenging the role of federal officials in child custody matters.

Her son had lived with her in Texas for years but was a runaway when he was spotted by agents at age 14 near the Mexican border. Before Beltrán could get to her son, authorities detained him as an unaccompanied minor.

Even after an immigration judge determined that the boy did not have to be deported, federal officials decided he should remain in a detention center. They said his history — with the teen describing himself as a runaway, drug user and associate of criminal gangs — raised questions about his mother’s ability to supervise him and keep him safe.

But Beltrán’s lawyers say that once an immigration judge closed out her son’s case, he should have been released to her.

On Thursday, her lawyers will argue that she is entitled to a formal custody hearing similar to what she would receive in a state or local child welfare system.

Read more here.

November 11, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New York Expands the Definition of Parent for Unmarried Couples

From Nolo.com:

On August 30, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision in In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C. As a result, New York now recognizes that children may have a second parent not related to them by blood, adoption, or marriage.  

The Brooke S.B. case involved Brooke and Elizabeth—unmarried partners in a lesbian couple—who were engaged to be married in 2007. In 2008, Elizabeth became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to a baby boy. Brooke had no legal or biological ties to the child, but she maintained a close, parental relationship with him for years, which included giving him her last name and raising him jointly with Elizabeth.

The couple separated in 2010, and in 2013, Elizabeth began restricting Brooke’s contact with the child, so Brooke filed for custody.

Read more here.

October 12, 2016 in Adoption, Alternative Reproduction, Cohabitation (live-ins), Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In Lebanon, a Tangle of Religious Laws Govern Life and Love

From The Atlantic:

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- When May Omari, now 45, tied the knot at age 23, she married a secular man in a secular marriage in New York City. As a formality, and to appease their Lebanese families, they later held a brief religious ceremony in Beirut. A Sunni Muslim mufti, or religious leader, came to her house, the couple signed a few papers, and she put them in a drawer.

After 18 years of married life and a move back to Lebanon, they decided to divorce. At that point, her religious marriage came back to haunt her. Although her husband had never shown a hint of piety in the past, she says, the prevailing interpretation of sharia family law in Lebanon granted him custody of the couple's two sons. And when he took them -- along with all the furniture -- there was nothing she could do.

 
Read more here.

October 11, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Court of Appeals finds parents unfit, affirms termination of parental rights

From The Indiana Lawyer:

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Monday a decision to terminate parental rights after both parents failed to show evidence that allowing them to maintain their rights would be in the best interest of the children.

T.B. was born to the mother and father in 2009, then the mother gave birth to a second child, R.K., who had a different father who is now deceased, in 2010. After being convicted of multiple drug charges, the mother was incarcerated in 2013 and has not seen the children since. T.B. and R.K. were placed in the father’s care shortly thereafter.

After father reached out to the Department of Child Services for help in 2014, the department filed a children in need of services petition on behalf of T.B. and R.K. — as well as the father’s two older children — and the court found that the children could remain in the father’s care as long as a safety plan was developed.

A well-child check in May 2014 found R.K. with second-degree burns on his feet, which prompted his and T.B.’s removal from the home and placement in foster care. The children were subsequently adjudicated CHINS, and the father was ordered to participate in visitation, Fatherhood Engagement and individual therapy.

However, father was often vocal about his distrust of DCS and refused to participate in the department’s services. The mother was limited in her ability to participate in DCS services due to her incarceration.

In February 2016, the Tippecanoe Superior Court entered an order terminating the mother’ s parental rights to T.B. and R.K. and the father’s parental rights to T.B., prompting both parents to appeal.

Read more here.

October 1, 2016 in Child Abuse, Custody (parenting plans), Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)