Author: Corona & Peabody

Parents can lose custody of troubled children despite no finding of fault: California Supreme Cour

In an appeal involving a teenage girl who repeatedly ran away from home and gave birth to two children, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that juveniles can be removed from parental custody, even if there’s not a failure to supervise the child or no finding of neglect.

A California law allows children to be placed in state custody if it’s found that they’re at risk for serious harm as a result of the failure of their parents to supervise and protect them, the Associated Press reports. The unanimous ruling by the state supreme court found it doesn’t matter whether the parents neglected their children, or are to blame for not protecting them.

According to the opinion (PDF), the child, identified as R.T., was born in 1996, and started running away from home at the age of 14 and would not attend school. She falsely reported that her mother, identified as Lisa E. abused her. R.T. gave birth to one child when she was 15 and eventually had a second child, the opinion states.

R.T.’s mother sought help from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and law enforcement, according to the opinion, and later arranged for R.T. to live with her maternal grandparents. The grandfather previously worked with troubled youth, the opinion notes. R.T., who according to the opinion struggled with anger management issues, threw a chair at her grandfather.

The state in 2014 filed a petition to take custody of R.T., who was then 17. The court granted the petition and R.T. were initially placed elsewhere before going back to her grandparents’ custody. Her mother appealed, and an appellate court ruling upheld the lower court order.

“In arguing that dependency jurisdiction over R.T. was not warranted, the mother insists she was not at fault or blameworthy because she did everything possible to control R.T.‘s incorrigible behavior. We do not disagree — the record reveals her concerted (and at times desperate) efforts to protect and discipline R.T.,” the supreme court opinion states.“The record supports that R.T. faced an ongoing risk of harm based on her increasingly self-destructive behavior, behavior that mother simply could not control.”

Writer’s ‘awful’ prenup experience actually shows value of lawyers, law prof says

For Abby Mims, a prenup agreement was a humiliating experience that was still helpful because it gave her fiancé reassurance that his money would be protected.

Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet has another take on the agreement. Though Mims failed to appreciate her lawyer’s work, he protected his client by insisting that the agreement be changed.

“For lawyers,” Lubet writes in the Chicago Tribune, “it is better to be blamed now than cursed later.”

In her Modern Love column for the New York Times, Mims says the prenup experience was “nothing short of awful.” She was embarrassed to disclose her meager financial situation to her lawyer, and didn’t want to change the agreement when he suggested it.

Mims had only $3,500 in savings and a Toyota Yaris on which she still owed $4,000 when her fiancé, Matt, asked her to sign a prenup. Matt had a career in finance and had “saved and saved, amassing an amount that he hadn’t disclosed to anyone,” Mims reveals.

Mims was happy with the agreement. “The agreement was essentially California law on paper if we ever left the state, which I understood to mean that if we were to divorce, we would leave the marriage with what we had brought into it and divide the rest,” Mims writes. “That seemed fair to me. We were in our 40s, not our 20s, and he was the one with assets to lose.”

But the lawyer had an objection to a clause that would bar Mims from getting her fair share if they were to sell their house. She confesses she was beginning to hate her lawyer as he rattled off figures. “When I left the lawyer’s office that day, I felt miserable and unmoored,” Mims says. She was sobbing when she called Matt and told him what happened.

Matt suggested they forget about the lawyers and just sign the agreement. Mims called her lawyer and told him their plans. “He advised against,” she said, “citing the troublesome house-sale clause.” The lawyer later negotiated a change in the language.

Mims ultimately saw the process as helpful because it removed money conflicts from their relationship. Lubet, however, is more skeptical of Matt, suggesting that his encouragement to sign the agreement “was disingenuous at best.”

“Abby and Matt have now been married for two years,” Lubet writes. “It seems that they no longer argue about money, with Matt having sequestered his personal funds and Abby trusting that the whole ordeal will turn out to have been unnecessary. …

“But if things ultimately do implode, well, Abby will at least get half of the house,” he writes.

Jailed Fathers Must Be Allowed to Participate in Release Program

Incarceration is no good for families. For parents, one of the worst parts of a prison sentence is being separated from one’s children. For kids, incarceration can lead to stress, developmental delays, and financial and emotional trauma. In such situations, incarceration can injure the families of offenders “as much as, and sometimes more than, offenders themselves,” according to studies.

Recognizing the problems caused by incarcerating offenders with minor children, California created an Alternative Custody Program in 2010. California’s ACP program allows participants to spend a portion of their sentence outside of prison, maintaining contact with their children. The program, previously limited to mothers, must now be made available to all eligible inmates, a federal court has ruled.

Spanking Is Not Child Abuse, Court Rules

Is spanking a child, even with a shoe, child abuse? Not always, according to the California Court of Appeals, which recently reversed a juvenile court’s finding that a mother’s sandal-aided spanking was physical abuse. The categorical view that “hitting children with shoes” is forbidden physical abuse and “not a proper form of discipline” isn’t supported by the law, the court found.

But don’t get out the belt just yet, disciplinarians. The court’s ruling is hardly an invitation to spank your children with impunity. Here’s why.

When a Client Divorces, Who Walks Away With the Retirement Benefits?

As family law practitioners know, dividing property during a separation is rarely a straightforward matter. Things become significantly more complicated when there are pensions and retirement benefits involved. The prolonged process of splitting up retirement assets requires a complex kind of calculus, one that can frustrate even the most seasoned practitioners.

Thankfully, you don’t have to handle these tricky issues alone. The Rutter Group’s upcoming Dividing Pension and Retirement Benefits program is there to help you navigate these complex issues.