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Family Law Blog

California recognizes August as child support awareness month

On Aug. 1, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. officially recognized August as child support awareness month in California. As part of the initiative Governor Brown took the opportunity to remind parents of the importance of remaining involved in the lives of their children.

According to a 2013 U.S. Census Bureau study, almost two-thirds of noncustodial parents are not actively engaged with their children. In fact, the study found that parents without custody maintained little and sometimes even no contact with their children.

California child custody law regarding international abduction

Divorcing couples with children are sometimes unable to reach a consensus regarding child custody and visitation rights. Generally, when that happens, the court will order both parents to attend a meeting with Child Custody Recommending Counseling Services. This agency is located near the Hayward Courthouse in Alameda County. The services are offered at no cost to either parent and are designed to provide the court with a neutral, third-party assessment as to which parent should receive primary custody, visitation rights and other related issues. The court will then consider these recommendations when formulating child custody determinations.

Unfortunately, some parents decide that they are unhappy with the court-ordered child custody arrangements and flee with the child to another country. California shares its southern border with Mexico, and Canada is only two states away to the north. What can a parent do if the child's other parent has engaged in international abduction?

What is a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

If parents are married when a child is born California law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother. When a child is born and the parents are unmarried, the parentage of the child needs to be legally established. A Declaration of Paternity is one of the ways to do this. The Declaration of Paternity says who the legal parents of the child are. Hospitals are required to provide to any unwed mother and attempt to provide to the man identified by the mother as the biological father a voluntary Declaration of Paternity.

Former TV talk show co-host caught in complicated divorce

On July 14, reports surfaced that the former co-host of a popular daytime talk show is embroiled in a complicated divorce and legal action involving a child born with the aid of the surrogate. The former member of "The View," Sherri Shepherd, recently filed for divorce in New Jersey in response to a California filing for legal separation by her husband of three years.

Under California law the petition for legal separation filed by Shepherd's husband, Lamar Sally, will be converted into a divorce once his requirement for residency is fulfilled. According to his court filings, Sally is seeking to legally separate from Shepherd and he wants full legal and physical custody of a surrogate child which is scheduled to be born July 28. Sally also once told the court to invalidate a prenuptial agreement between the couple which would grant full custody of the child to Shepherd after its birth.

Involving your kids in child support debate

California parents who are divorced or estranged from their child’s other parent may be familiar with the difficulty of putting your child through legal proceedings related to child custody. However, financial and family experts say that exposing your kids to the legal process related to child support can add proverbial illness to injury for your kids. This is especially true for protracted legal battles that continue over child support for many years – involving your kids too much could have a deleterious effect on your relationship with them.

The woman in one case said that her ex-husband went tens of thousands of dollars into the arrears because he failed to pay a significant amount of child support. She could not support her youngsters effectively without that child support, so she was forced to take her ex to court on several occasions. The man was even threatened with jail time because of his non-compliance with court orders.

Can the police enforce the visitation schedule that my ex and I have been operating under if it is not a Court order?

No. There are many cases where separated parents have children and have established a visitation schedule for their child(ren) among themselves. This informal schedule may work for months and even years without any disagreement between the parents, however, the problem arises when the parents disagree about whose day it is or when one party withholds the child(ren) from the other parent. If the police are called there is no way for the schedule to be legally enforced. Therefore, when parents are able to reach an agreement without the need for court intervention, it is extremely beneficial to spend your resources to have an attorney prepare a Stipulation and Order (formal agreement) memorializing the agreement. A Stipulation and Order will become an enforceable court order once it signed by the Judge and filed with the Court.

California actor skips child support hearing

Columbus Short is an actor who lives in California, known for his part in "Scandal". The name of the TV show is fitting, as he has now been involved in a number of domestic incidents, including one dispute during which his estranged wife says that he told her he was going to kill her. They had been married for eight years in 2013, the year in which she decided that it was time to file for divorce.

Things did not get better for the two. Short was given a restraining order, which he reportedly broke half a dozen times. He was then told that he had to take all of his belongings out of the house that the two shared. In the wake of that order, he apparently broke into the home. He has now been told that he cannot go near his estranged wife until the end of next month.

Baby abandoned outside fire station may raise child custody issue

A recent incident that occurred at a Rocklin, California, firehouse brings up an important issue regarding child custody laws. Currently, under California law, "anyone with lawful custody can surrender a baby confidentially and without fear of prosecution." Obviously, the Safely Surrendered Baby Law has the goal of preventing unwanted babies from being killed or abandoned by its parents. The SSBL tells an anxious new parent that there is another path available to them. However, what happens when a parent does not actually hand the child over to a person?

According to the Rocklin Fire Department, one of their Battalion Chiefs recently discovered a baby left outside of their facility. The firefighter had woken during the night to get some cereal when he heard noises that he believed belonged to cats fighting outside. He later realized that the sound was that of a baby crying. When he say a small arm protruding from a box, it confirmed his suspicion that someone had left a baby outside of the firehouse.

Frankie Valli prevails in divorce case involving life insurance

California is a community property state, which means that assets acquired during a marriage are split 50/50 in the event of a divorce. This law may seem pretty clear-cut, but what happens to assets such as life insurance policies? Singer Frankie Valli recently set a new precedent when the California Supreme Court recently ruled in his favor regarding a life insurance policy he purchased for his then wife.

Valli, age 80, and his wife were married for 20 years before their separation in 2004 and subsequent divorce. They had three children together. After suffering heart problems, Valli bought a $3.75 million life insurance policy for his wife. Even though the life insurance policy was in his wife's name, Valli still owned half of its value. In 2004, it was worth $365,000.

County agency withheld child support money

An audit conducted by the acting Los Angeles County, California Auditor-Controller says that the county's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) neglected to transfer approximately $1.8 million dollars worth of child support and other payments to former foster kids after they became adults. In a report to the county Board of Supervisors, the auditor also says that the DCFS has roughly $7.2 million held in reserve which they should have spent on the needs of foster kids.

The auditor says that DCFS has known about the issue since 2002, yet never fixed the problem. According to the report, parents of children placed into foster care pay child support to the California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) based on how much that agency estimates the DCFS will spend to care for the child. Any portion of those monies which DCFS does not use is then placed into a trust fund established for foster kids to draw from as they leave the foster care system. Presumably this was intended to help them obtain an apartment, buy a car, enroll in school, and basically help launch them onto adulthood. The audit says there is perhaps $1 million dollars which was placed in the Child Support Trust Fund instead of being given to its 430 intended beneficiaries. Some of the former foster care kids have been owed that money since 1998. It's estimated that money has accrued interest of $800,000.

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