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Lexi and the Indian Child Welfare Act

22 Mar

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 to protect the breakup of the Native American communities by ensuring Native American children were attempted to be placed within the tribe before adoption or foster placement outside the tribe occurred. 

Unfortunately, this act has become a reality for a foster family of a six year old little girl in Santa Clarita. Lexi, age 6, has been living with her foster family since the age of 2.  Lexi’s family was in the process of trying to adopt Lexi when they lost a court hearing which found in favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Yesterday, Lexi was removed from her home and will be placed into the custody of extended family of her fathers in Utah. 

Lexis foster family is expected to file a motion for stay in the Supreme Court. 

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/03/20/family-fights-to-keep-foster-daughter-after-court-ruled-in-favor-of-indian-child-welfare-act/

25 Tips for Dealing with a Child Custody Case

21 Oct

25 Tips for Dealing With a Child Custody Case

(Parents Advice from your Lawyer)

  1. Follow the court order completely, regardless of any violations of the order the other parent may be committing. Just because the other parent is not following the terms of the order does not mean that you are now able to violate as well. Talk to your attorney about a way to handle the violations by the other parent.
  2. No Negative Comments. Do not talk bad or in a negative tone about the other parent in front of the minor child(ren) or within hearing distance of the minor.
  3. A major factor that a Judge will look at in a custody determination is which parent is better able to share the children with the other parent. Make sure that you have done everything in your power to ensure your children go on each of the other parent’s visitations. Do not withhold the children from visitation or encourage them not to go.
  4. Visiting Parent. If the children do not currently live with you, exercise all of the time available to you, keep requesting more time. Keep a calendar of all the time that you are requesting visitation and whether it was granted or denied.
  5. Journal. Nothing is more helpful to your attorney then a detailed journal of what has been going on in your custody dispute. Keep a detailed diary or calendar of the specific days each child was with you and with the other parent, with notations the times of pick up and return of the child.
  6. Support. If you are paying child support, keep records and do not pay in cash. Keep copies of all checks that are given to the other parent for the support of the children. Cash is untraceable.
  7. Exchanges. It is important that you are the one doing the exchanges of your child(ren). Having someone other than your self routinely doing the drop offs and/or picks ups will lead the other parent to argue before the Court that the time you do have with the child(ren) is not even being spent with you.
  8. Significant Others. If the separation from the other parent is recent, it is a better idea to not include your new significant other with the visitation with child(ren). Your children are already going through such drastic changes that a new significant other immediately being introduced may do more damage then good. Further, involving your new significant other in exchanges with the other parent can cause unnecessary friction.
  9. Make sure that your child(ren) are always being driven by a licensed and insured driver, including yourself.
  10. Always be certain that the children use seat belts. Car seats must always be used until your child is eight (8) years old, and weighs eighty (80) pounds.
  11. While in a situation outside of the courtroom may seem normal, certain activities can lead one parent to arguing about claims of sexual misconduct with your children. These include bathing with the children, letting them sleep in your bed, and being nude with the children.
  12. Make sure your home and other places you take the children are safe and child-proofed, according to your children’s ages.
  13. Make sure that your alcohol consumption is kept to a minimal amount when around your children. Neither parent should be so intoxicated that they cannot care for the child(ren) while in their care.
  14. Witnesses. Get to know your children’s teachers, doctors, school counselors, scout leaders, coaches, etc. Make sure that you attend school functions and parent conferences.
  15. Discourage your child from calling persons other than the other parent “mom” or “dad.” You do not want to do anything that appears like you are trying to take the child away from the other parent or to replace him or her in any way. This is an important one! Only biological parents should be referred to as “mom” or “dad.”
  16. Do not change the name of the minor child(ren) in any fashion, including utilizing your new spouses last name.
  17. Corporal punishment such as spanking, slapping, or hitting a child, must stop immediately. Judges do not like to hear of these methods being used and you must find another way to discipline your children.
  18. Keep in contact with potential witnesses so that they can easily be contacted they are needed to testify. Make sure you have current addresses and telephone numbers.
  19. If you are seeking a change from a prior custody order after your divorce has become final, the testimony may be limited to events that have occurred after the last custody order. You should concentrate on a change of circumstances since the last order.
  20. Do not make any threats of taking the children away so the other party cannot see them.
  21. Spend as much time as possible with your children. Do not drop children off with your relatives when it is your visitation weekend. Be prepared to testify regarding the activities you and the children share.
  22. Unless necessary for work, do not put very young children into day care facilities.
  23. Do not discuss the contents of the litigation with your children, or expect them to testify on behalf of one parent. This can be traumatizing for young children especially.
  24. If you cannot communicate in person with the other parent look into utilizing email or text message. There are also programs out there such as talking parents or ourfamilywizard. These programs are designed to help parents communicate.
  25. Make sure that you involve the other parent in major decisions regarding the child(ren). Unilateral actions regarding the child(ren) will not look favorable to the court.

For further assistance with your child custody case, give our office a call (424) 703-3416

Shared Custody. How to Deal From a Lawyer Mom’s Perspective

20 Oct

As a mom, I completely understand my clients when they tell me “I can’t imagine not seeing my child everyday.”  It was not too long ago that I had that same thought and fear. However, over time and with the blended family I have now I understand it from all sides. My oldest child is a stepson who we have full custody over. My youngest two (twins) are ones my husband and I share.  My middle child is my son from a previous relationship. It is this child that I worry about almost every Friday. 

When my ex left the house it took awhile for him to get situated in his life and get a place to live so the thought of a custody schedule did not hit me immediately. Although being a family lawyer I knew it was coming. Eventually, a custody agreement was written up by the lawyers and every other weekend I say good bye to my son for two days. 

The first time my son went to his fathers for an overnight visit I dropped him off and drove home in tears. It is a day I will never forget. The emotions that ran through me are remarkable. I barely slept and paced around the house. I couldn’t just go into his bed and lay with him or go give him one more kiss goodnight. I used to call to say goodnight in his fathers time but anymore it has just caused friction. 

So how do you deal with your child being gone? 

1. Don’t be alone. It is very hard as such a powerful and strong person to admit that I just simply couldn’t be alone. Call your friends and spend time with them. It is at this moment that you will need to be surrounded by love and support. Don’t just sit at home and worry because I promise you it I’ll eat away at you. 

2. Find a hobby. You are going to find yourself with a lot of free time. Well t least I did until I had my twins, now time is lacking. However, if your “shared child” is your only child you will find that you have a lot of time to kill. Find a hobby to fill that time with. Enroll in a class, join the gym. For me it was work. I poured my heart and soul into work. Either way find something to fill your time. 

3. Get out of the house. Your house is a constant reminder of your child. Their things are everywhere. I promise you in the beginning if you just stay in the house you will have a breakdown. Get out and go do something. 

These are the top three (3) ways to deal with shared custody of your child. Now if you have a new family it becomes even harder. Going through events and holidays with only “part of your family” will always be a little bit sad. You will always have a little feeling of incompleteness. I wish I could say this gets better but you cannot fill something that is missing in these major life events. What you can do is try your best to coparent or at least be civil enough to parent together so your child can be a part of both lives as much as possible. 

Sharing a child is not easy but it should be where the child feels that they have to choose. I still miss my son every time he goes. I still feel sadness when he leaves. However I can only imagine what my son feels when he only sees his dad everything other weekend. 

Remember it’s about your kids.  

 

Man Found Guilty of Throwing Daughter Off of Rancho Palos Verdes Cliff After 15 Years

21 Sep

After 15 years and 3 trials, Cameron Brown has finally been found guilty of throwing his 4 year-old daughter off a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2000. The first two trials saw both juries unable to agree on whether Brown intentionally threw his daughter Lauren off the cliff or whether her death was accidental. The jurors in the third and final trial found Brown guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to a life in prison without the possibility of parole.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-cameron-brown-verdict-20150513-story.html

Child Custody: Alternatives to Child Testimony

26 Aug

It is my opinion, as a family lawyer, to avoid having minor children testify in a courtroom.  Especially when their testimony is going to involve a decision regarding custody over the.  In reality, what child wants to sit on the witness stand, staring directly at the counsel table where their parents sit on opposite ends and argue over where that child should live.  No child!! Arguably no child ever should be placed in this position.  Parents should never want to put their children in this position.  Too often do I have a client or an opposing party who wants their child to testify but for the wrong reasons.  Too often the children are coached and the testimony is not reliable.

California Rule of Court 5.250 provides: “…children’s participation in family law matters must be considered on a case by case basis.  No statutory mandate, rule or practice requires children to participate in court or prohibits protecting the child, the statutory duty to consider the wishes of and input from the child, and the probative value of the child’s input while ensuring all parties’ due process rights to challenge evidence relied upon by the court in making custody decisions.”

So where is that balance of protection: How far do we go as the advocate for parent to also protect the child? As family lawyer we are held to the standard of doing what is  best for our client but also what is best for the minor child’s interest.  Sometimes these roles conflict.

ALTERNATIVES TO CHILD TESTIMONY 

  1. Parenting Plan Assessment: In Los Angeles courts, the least intrusive means would be to hold a Parenting Plan Assessment, commonly referred to as a “PPA.”  These are generally one (1) or two (2) day hearings.  During one of these, the parents and the child(ren) are interviewed by a court appointed licensed marriage and family therapist.  The evaluator will review the court file, any documents brought by the parents and will attempt to contact any references provided the time limits.  The evaluator also speaks with both parents alone and with the child, as well as speaking to the child alone.  At the end of the evaluation, the evaluator will make a recommendation as to a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child. If the parties agree to the recommendation then a stipulation is entered. If the parties do not agree then a hearing is held for further evidence.
  2. Minor’s Counsel: The next level is a PPA is not sufficient would be to appoint minor’s counsel.  Minor’s counsel is an attorney who’s sole purpose is to represent the minor child.
  3. 730 Evaluation: An evaluation that takes place under Evidence Code Section 730.  It is similar to a PPA but much more extensive.  It is an outside expert who will prepare the report and does much more investigation into the situation, as there is often more than just a day or two to conduct the evaluation.  A 730 evaluation becomes necessary when the best interest of the child is in questions.  These evaluations are often used where there are allegations of: (1) bConcerns about child abuse, (2) Substance abuse, (3) Mental health problems, (4) One parent wishes to move out of state and the other parent objects, (5) Questionable parenting practices  that could have a negative impact on a child, (6) The parents are unable to agree on the custodial arrangement, or (7) There is a question about the child’s upbringing.
  4. Chamber’s Interview: The last option would be to have the minor child interviewed in the Judge’s chambers. This would allow the Judge to speak with the child and obtain the information that the requesting party is seeking to prevent but avoid the traumatic experience of testifying before the parents.

In sum, if a child’s testimony in open court can be avoided, it should be.  There are plenty of alternatives.

The Ideal of “SuperMom”

24 Aug

A working mother is almost common place in today’s society.  Women have come a long way from the days of our society where a woman’s role was to stay at home and raise children.  Whether it’s a four hour administrative position or running a corporation, women work! Despite this change in society women are still held to the old ideals: cook, clean, care for the kids.  As I gear up for soccer season with two of my four children, I reflected on this concept and what is now common place for most mothers.  Out of this insane amount of things that women are now expected to do the concept of a “SuperMom” was born.  The reality is the ideal of a “SuperMom” is just a facade.  No individual can ever live up to this ideal.  No one is perfect, and I say that as someone who handles an insane amount of “tasks” on a day to day basis.

However, this concept of being a “SuperMom” really does intrigue me, how long do we continue to strive for this unattainable perfection? What is this new idea of what a mom is doing to women in general?  Perhaps, there is more to reflect on this topic as the time passes.

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Judge Approves Force Feeding Inmate

25 Aug

Judge Approved the force feeding of an inmate on a hunger strike. 

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/23/exclusive_as_judge_oks_force_feeding

Currently, San Quentin Death Row inmates are on a hunger strike. Please keep them in your thoughts.