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Thyden Gross and Callahan LLPCounselors and Attorneys at Law

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FATHERS’ RIGHTS
NOT JUST EVERY OTHER WEEKEND

This is about fathers' rights law, and protecting the best interests of your children. It provides information, news and comments on laws, cases and strategies for life as a single father and winning your custody, access or child support case.

Archive for the ‘Custody’ Category

How to Lose Your Child Custody Battle

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Anthony Zappin, a 30 year old patent lawyer, who graduated from law school in 2010, married Claire Comfort, who is also a patent lawyer. They had one child together. They filed for divorce in New York in 2013. The custody trial is scheduled for November. Zappin, representing himself, is showing us things NOT to do in a child custody battle:

  • Insult the judges. Zappin told one judge that she was lying. He wrote a note to another that said “You’re pathetic!”
  • Alienate the child’s attorney. Refuse to pay half her fees as ordered. Create a web site in her name. Call her “a very sick and greedy woman.”
  • Alienate the child evaluation expert. Zappin filed a complaint with the state against the psychiatrist the child’s attorney hired to evaluate the child.
  • Sue in other courts during the divorce. Zappin sued his wife in New York County Family Court; sued his wife, her family and her lawyers in federal district courts in the Southern District of New York and the District of Columbia; and brought proceedings against judges in his case.

Justice Cooper has ordered Zappin to pay $10,000 for his actions in the case. Zappin said he intends to appeal.

Parents Spend Two Million Dollars Fighting Over Custody

Monday, April 27th, 2015

“How much will my custody case cost?” is a question I hear over and over.  I don’t know is the answer.  If things go well, if both parents and attorneys are reasonable, and you are lucky, the cost may be below my initial retainer of $5,000 and you will get a refund. If you get into litigation, your fees could be two or three times that, or even more.  The sky really is the limit.

Witness the Toronto case known as M. and F.  The mother alleged that the father was not entited to overnight visits with their six year old son because he had been violent toward her.  That made him, according to the mother, unsafe to be alone with the child. The mother owns a successful insurance brokerage.  The father is a lawyer.

The trial lasted 34 days. Then the case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal.  In the end, the father won.  The court ordered the mother to pay $540,000 of the father’s legal fees.  The total amount of legal fees spent by the two parents was over two million dollars.

Appeals Court Reverses Custody Award to Mother

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

In 2014, a judge in Talbot County, Maryland, gave custody of a 14 year old girl to Mrs. Hostetter, writing in his memorandum opinion that as “an adolescent female, this may be the most important time in her life to have a solid relationship with her mother.”

What’s wrong with this decision?

While the judge may have been correct about the importance of the mother-daughter relationship, he was wrong about the law.

In an unreported opinion in March of 2105, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the decision as contrary to state law and cases.

In 1974, Maryland abandoned by statute the maternal preference doctrine, under which children were presumed to belong with their mother.

And in 1998, the Maryland Court of Appeals, held that the state’s Equal Rights Amendment prohibits custody determinations based on gender.

The Maryland legislature is currently considering a bill that would create a rebuttable presumption in favor of joint physical custody.  Sponsors of the bill say such a presumption is necessary to prevent a latent preference by judges to award custody to mothers rather than fathers.

Medical Pot And Custody

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Jeanette Daggett and Dustin Sternick became involved in a custody struggle over their daughter after Jeanette decided she wanted to move from Maine to Florida.

There was evidence at trial that the father used medical marijuana which is legal in Maine.  Of the 20 states that have legalized medical marijuana, Maine is one of the few that say a parent’s custody and visitation rights cannot be denied based on his or her use of medical marijuana unless their conduct is contrary to the best interests of the child.  The trial judge ruled in favor of the mother and the father appealed.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court that the use of medical marijuana, and whether it impairs the ability to parent, could be considered in determining the best interests of the child.  The father’s appeal was denied.

Better Relationships with Children Ups Child Support Collections

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Emily DeVoe at WECT.Com describes the success of a program in New Hanover County, North Carolina, called Partnership for Fatherhood.

“We found out that a lot of fathers weren’t paying their child support–they didn’t have a relationship with their children–and so we said, ‘If they have a relationship with their children, maybe then they will pay their child support because they will have a relationship and be committed to their child,'” Angelina Bernard of the Department of Social Services said.

One of the program’s goals is to build better relationships between fathers and their children.  It also provides employment and educational services to non-custodial parents.  Child support payments have increased by 34 percent since the program started in June of 2013.

Enforcing Visitation Schedules

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

If a parent is withholding visitation in Maryland, DC or VA, and there is a custody order in place, we have to file a motion to show cause why that parent should not be held in contempt of court.

Many clients have noticed the disparity in the enforcement of child support orders and visitation orders by the courts.

Oklahoma has passed a new law that says a parent who denies visitation to a parent who is current on child support can face fines and be held responsible for attorney fees, mediation costs and court costs.

There is a court form available at the clerk’s office and a hearing must be held within 21 days.  The non-custodian can be awarded make-up time.  One or both parents may be ordered to counseling or parent education classes.  The judge can even order a change in custody if appropriate.

Custody of Children

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Guest post by David Williamson

Mothers Obtain Child Custody More Often than Fathers

In 82% of cases, mothers get custody of the children.  One reason for this may be, that On a purely statistical stand point, mothers are the primary up-bringer of the children (data:  2009). Even in cases where both parents work, statistics show mothers spend twice as much time engaged in primary childcare responsibilities than the fathers with mothers at 12.9 hours a week and fathers at 6.5 hours.

Court Involvement in Child Custody

In terms of how courts involve themselves in the custody process, a mere 4% of cases are actually litigated.  The vast majority of cases are settled long before trial.    In 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed on their own that the mother should have custody.

  • In 29 percent of custody cases, there was no third party involvement.
  • In 11 percent of custody cases, the parties agreed during mediation that the mother should have custdoy.
  • In 5 percent of custody cases, the issue was resolved after a custody evaluation.

Only 4 percent of custody cases went to trial.  Even of that 4 percent, only 1.5 percent completed custody litigation.  Fathers won about half of those litigated cases.  Approximtely 91 percent of child custody cases are decided outside of court.

Child Support

When it comes down to child support post settlement, there is another gender divide. In 2009, mothers would get on average $5,997 in child support, whereas fathers would only get $5,601. The problems for fathers doesn’t end there, however, as only 30% of custodial fathers receive any child support, compared to 55% of custodial mothers. To put this in perspective, then, 91% of total child support dollars are given to custodial mothers, and 9% to custodial fathers.

These statistics seem to show a stark difference between male and female custodial experiences. The figures show an average, however, so it would be unwise to lean to heavily on this picture when considering how your situation might unfold. Should you require further information and an informal discussion regarding your individual circumstances, get in touch with one of Coles-Law Solicitor’s Family Lawyers for expert advice.

States Consider Shared Parenting Laws

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Arkansas passed a law last year providing for “approximate and reasonable equal division of time” of children between parents in divorce proceedings.

The Connecticut General Assembly has created a task force to study family law issues, including whether the state should have a presumption in law that shared custody is in the best interest of children.

The Maryland General Assembly created a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making last year.

Florida pass a shared parenting bill last year, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Minnesota passed a bill in 2012 that would have increased the minimum amount of custody from 25% to 35%, but it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Bode Miller Custody Battle

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Bode Miller, 36, Olympic skier, met Sara McKenna, 27, former marine, through an online dating service in April, 2012.  They dated briefly and she became pregnant with his child.  They were both living in California at the time.

Miller married someone else, and McKenna, seven months pregnant, decided to move to New York to go to college at Columbia University on the G.I. Bill.

In November 2012, Bode filed a “Petition to Establish Parental Relationship” in California, checking the box on the form to say he was the father of “a child who is not yet born”.

The baby was born in February 2013.  Two days later, McKenna filed her petition for custody in the New York Family Court.

There is a uniform law that governs child custody cases between the states which provides that the child’s “home state” has jurisdiction.  Since the baby was born in New York, that state should decide custody.

But the family judge in New York sent the case back to California saying she appropriated the child while in utero, which was “irresponsible” and “reprehensible”.  He gave custody to Miller and his new wife.

Then that order was overturned by a New York appeals court and the baby was returned to McKenna.  The cases continues as the two sides try to work out a parenting plan.

Needless to say, it is spurring controversy among fathers’ rights and mothers’ rights activists regarding the right to relocate if you are pregnant.

Ready, Fire, Aim

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

“My client was shocked to learn that your client has enrolled their 5 year old son in the swim team at the community pool,” the letter from the mother’s divorce lawyer started.

The father’s lawyer scanned it to the father by email.  By the next day he had received three drafts of a four page letter from the father explaining all the benefits of swim team.  The father wanted the lawyer to send the letter to the mother’s attorney.

“Wait until I speak with her,” the lawyer told the father.

“Why?” asked the father.  “I want her to know, for the record, that I’m not the bad guy here.   And I didn’t do it just because my new girlfriend is the coach of the swim team.”

“First of all,” replied the father’s lawyer, “she won’t believe you.  Second, there is no record.  Third, I don’t try my case in letters.  And finally, I don’t know why, but my intuition and experience tell me to wait until I speak with opposing counsel.”

Five days later, the mother’s attorney called.  The mother was concerned that she had been left out of the decision making process.  She wanted to know how many lifeguards were on duty, their ages, and what training they had.  These were easy to provide and the problem was solved. The father’s letter was put in the file and never sent.

 
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