Articles Posted in Child Custody

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17%, or about 12.5 million, of the nation’s children and teens are obese. Since 1980, according to CDC statistics, obesity rates have nearly tripled.

Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids’ weight? An article by Dr. David Ludwig in the Journal of the American Medical Association answers in the affirmative, and joins ranks with others who believe the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases and that putting children in foster care may be better and more ethical than obesity surgery.

Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese and though most are not in any imminent danger, many have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, according to Dr. Ludwig.

Since Americans both divorce and move in significant numbers it is no surprise that move-away and relocation issues between divorced parents arise frequently.

The consequences of a move-away case can profoundly impact both the parents and their children and the cases are far more conflicted than the typical high-conflict child custody dispute where the parents fight over the amount of time each will have with the children. The children, caught in the middle of their parents’ battle, often feel pressured to choose between their parents, and even when there is not such a choice, the children’s relationship with the non-custodial parent is often changed forever.

In 1996, the California State Supreme Court in Burgess v. Burgess made it much easier than it had been for primary custodial parents to move-away. In Burgess, the mother wanted to move with the couple’s two children to a town about 40 minutes away. After winning in the Superior Court and losing in the District Court of Appeal, the wife successfully convinced the California State Supreme Court that the trial judge made the right decision in allowing her to move with the children.

A recent California Court of Appeal opinion upheld a grant of visitation to a grandparent over a father’s objection.

Child custody and visitation issues often give rise to the most high conflict disputes in a California divorce. If parents can’t agree about living arrangements, vacation schedules and the best educational environment for their child or children, these decisions may very well be made by a family court judge based on his or her assessment of the best interests of the children and the parents’ capabilities.

A recent California Court of Appeal Opinion in Hoag v. Diedjomahor considered a less common scenario: the court’s grant of visitation to a grandparent over a parent’s objection. The maternal grandmother filed for visitation following the death of her daughter, the mother of couple’s daughters. The parents had lived at the grandmother’s home, as had the mother and children alone during a period of legal separation. After the parents reconciled, the grandmother moved in with the family.

Until now, the law in California regarding a child’s ability to address the court in his or her parents’ custody case has been very limited, and rarely are children able to testify. Courts have typically heard the child’s perspective through reports, or from third parties, such as the court-appointed mediators or sometimes therapists.

The California legislature has approved amendments to this process under Senate Bill AB 1050. The new law, which amends California Family Code §3042 is effective January 1, 2012, modifies the rules about children speaking to the court and give children a greater voice in their custody preferences.

“If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation,” states Amendment (a) of AB 1050.

Sorting out and establishing visitation or co-parenting schedules for the holidays can be stressful and unpleasant, but it does not have to be. If it is stressful and unpleasant for you, it is probably also for the kids, and that is not what most parents want for their kids any time, and in particular during a season that is supposed to highlight our better natures.

Hopefully, the following tips will help.

1) Establish a standard that works for all – Alternating holidays every year works well for some families. If the other parent has the kids for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, next year will be your turn turn. A regular plan can be helpful in eliminating conflict.

Talk to your children about what is happening

Only a minority of divorcing parents sit down with their kids and explain that the marriage is ending and encourage them to ask questions. Some say nothing, surely leaving the kids totally confused and fearful. It is so important to talk to your kids, because almost without fail, they know something is wrong, they just don’t know what and that creates a great deal of anxiety. Tell them as simply as possible, what is happening and what it means to them and their lives. When parents don’t communicate this to the children, the kids feel anxious, upset and fearful and have a much more difficult time coping with the separation and divorce.

Be sensitive and thoughtful

We just got a new puppy, a 3 month old Australian Shepherd and while there is no separation or divorce pending, it made me think about what that situation might look like. For many couples who choose to forego having children, their pets become an increasingly important part of the family. But even in many families with children the pet is often almost another child whom all are very attached to. However, the family law system in California and most states provides few options to divorcing pet owners.

In California and most states the law regarding human children is intended to protect the best interests of children in divorce and thus provides for shared custody and support. Pets, however are classified as personal property. Some have advocated for additional recognition and status of companion animals, but legislators have yet to show that type of vision or thoughtfulness, so there is currently no legal distinction between your dog and your sofa when it comes to divorce and no basis in the law for treating the dog any differently than the sofa. (This article assumes the pet is community property) The Court of Appeals Iowa in ruling on an award of a dog to the husband in a dissolution held that a dog is personal property whose best interests need not be considered. In re Marriage of Stewart, 356 N.W. 2D 611 (Iowa Ct. App. 1984)

VALUATION

Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif), U.S. House member from California on Tuesday introduced legislation that would bar discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in adoption cases.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act, HR 3827, which has 33 original co-sponsors, would restrict federal funds for states that allow discrimination in adoption or foster care placement based on the sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity of potential parents — as well as LGBT children seeking homes.

Some states recently have taken steps to inhibit potential LGBT parents from adopting. Last month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed legislation that would give primary consideration in adoptive placement to opposite-sex married couples. Additionally, Virginia’s State Board of Social Services recently rejected adding protections against discrimination in adoption cases on the basis of sexual orientation as well as other statuses.

Hallelujah! Sometimes courts get it right and the Baby Vanessa case is one of those cases. This is hopefully the end of a three year custody battle over a two-year-old girl that involved the rights of adoptive parents, fathers’ rights and the best interest of the child. Vanessa’s birth mother, Andrea Conley, placed Vanessa for adoption with Stacey Doss without the knowledge or consent of the infant’s father, Benjamin Mills, in violation of his parental rights.

Conley and Mills had a long and problematic relationship that produced two other daughters who live with Mills’ mother, their foster parent. All of Mills four children live in foster care. Mills, who has multiple domestic violence convictions, assaulted Conley before Vanessa’s birth. Prior to the birth of Vanessa, Mills was arrested for beating, strangling and dragging Conley by the hair while she held one of their other children. Mills had been jailed in the past for domestic violence and child endangerment. Conley, for what appears to be good reason, did not want Mills to know about Vanessa and supported Vanessa’s adoption by Doss throughout the process.

And this has been a lengthy complicated legal process involving not simply a contest between the biological and adoptive parent, but jurisdictional issues between the state of Ohio where Mills lives and California where Doss lives. Doss, a self-employed single parent paid for all of her legal costs whereas taxpayers in both California and Ohio are footing the bill for Mills’ legal costs.

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