Trouble in Springfield: The Simpsons and Changing Family Structures

Posted June 22, 2015 in Family Law by Lonich and Patton.

The Simpsons has become a symbol of American Television with its hysterical spoofs of current events and iconic characters. After 26 seasons, The Simpsons will be addressing a new topic in its 27th season that has had a steady increase in American life- legal separation and divorce. Executive producer Al Jean told Variety that in its new season, Springfield’s supercouple would be splitting with the appearance of a surprising other woman. “In the premiere [of the 27th season], it’s discovered after all the years Homer has narcolepsy, and it’s an incredible strain on the marriage,” said Jean. “Homer and Marge legally separate, and Homer falls in love with his pharmacist, who’s voiced by [HBO’s Girls creator and star] Lena Dunham.”

The Simpsons separation is not unusual in modern society. In the United States alone, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples divorce and the divorce rate of subsequent marriages are even higher.  In the state of California, the divorce rate per year has grown to every 8 out of 1,000 couples divorcing.  Consequently, these rates have led to a change in the American “family values.”

There are many who still fight for the return of the “good old days” and the traditional two- parent household. However, recent research cast doubt as to whether most Americans agree that a healthy family must have the traditional two-parent household. The “reality is that we live in an era of change and controversy with respect to many kinds of values, including values about family life.” In a survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit New York research group, only two percent of the women and one percent of the men questioned define family values as being about the traditional nuclear family. Additionally, nine out of ten women defined family values as loving, taking care of and supporting each other, knowing right from wrong and having good values, and nine out of ten said that society should value all kinds of families.

In its 27th season premiere, The Simpsons will reflect this indication of changing family values in American society as it is becoming more prevalent in today’s world. But let’s hope that Springfield’s favorite couple reunite.

If you have any questions about legal separation, divorce, or any other issue, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

 

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/10/entertainment/homer-marge-split-simpsons-feat/index.html

Source: http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

Source: http://divorce-laws.insidegov.com/l/5/California

Source: Twila L. Perry, Family Values, Race, Feminism, and Public Policy, 36 Santa Clara L. Rev. 345 (1996).

*Since the writing of this post The Simpsons divorce rumors have been invalidated

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Common Fears about Divorce in California

Posted June 18, 2015 in Family Law by Jennifer Mispagel.

For the longest time, your spouse was your world. Whenever you had an exciting day, an interesting moment or fun experience you couldn’t wait to share it with them. They were your life, and they were enough.

Today, everything is different.

You and your significant other argue – constantly. It’s been like this for a while and it hasn’t been getting better. You wonder how and why it got to this point. Is it you or is it them? Wherever the problem is, it does not seem resolvable.

The decision to divorce can be one of the most difficult and emotional decisions to make. Before seeking a divorce, it is important to consider that there are many reasons to try and save a marriage, especially when there are children involved. Counseling and hard work can make a considerable difference, even if the circumstances seem bleak.

Unfortunately, often one or both parties see divorce as the only way to legally end a marriage which emotionally ended long ago. This is a personal decision for each party involved. Once the decision is made, each step afterwards may be clouded in mystery, especially if the divorce process is new.

Some of the most common questions regarding divorce are:

  • How do I find a lawyer that is right for me?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What steps need to be taken?
  • How do I begin the divorce process?
  • What should I expect as I go through this process?
  • Who gets the kids?
  • What am I legally entitled to get under California law?
  • Is divorce the same for a married same-sex couple?

If divorce is inevitable for your relationship, do not let fear and doubt paralyze you from making the best choice for you. Divorce is hard – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, financially and socially.  It will impact each aspect of your life, from your immediate family to your extended family and friends. Seeking the advice of a professional may not only alleviate fears and doubts about the process, but will also educate you about the process so you can make better decisions for yourself and your family.

If you are considering divorce or have questions about divorce planning, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists (as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complex family law proceedings and offer a free consultation.

Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-l-danois-jd/mistakes-we-fear-well-mak_b_3721696.html

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Domestic Violence and The Rebuttable Presumption

Posted June 17, 2015 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

Acts of domestic violence so often occur behind closed doors. Domestic violence has now been recognized as a “public policy issue with major implications for the health and safety of women and children.” Many surveys have projected domestic violence as the number one cause of injury to women in the United States. Unfortunately, the nature of the criminal justice system makes domestic violence cases harder to prosecute and history has shown that there has been little communication between the prosecutors, police, victim advocates, and the courts. Because of this lack of communication, “the chances are good that some of these problematic cases will slip between the cracks and that battering will continue, sometimes with tragic result.” For this reason, it is not surprising that many victims feel hopeless and decline to report incidents of domestic violence.

Given the faults of the criminal justice system, many victims find themselves without anywhere to turn. Unfortunately, the domestic violence continues and those with children may also suffer. Victims of domestic violence develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, traumatization, or suffer from some other psychological/physiological effect resulting from the abuse. These negative effects of abuse can cause the victim to experience a variety of symptoms that have a direct bearing on the capacity of her parenting. For example, victims may experience emotional numbness or withdrawal from their children, leaving the children to feel even more isolated in an already distressing situation.  Children may feel as though the victim parent does not care about them, when this may be far from the truth. Consequently, these negative effects of abuse compromises the victim’s parenting.

The question then becomes, what happens in child custody cases? The standard used by all family court judges, is the “best interest” of the child rule. However, deciding what is in the “best interest” of the child is often difficult depending on the particular set of circumstances. In a domestic violence situation, where the mother’s parenting was compromised due to years of abuse, but the father has shown that he is still a capable parent- who should be awarded custody? What is in the child’s best interest when an abusive father and an emotionally distant mother seek custody? “Taking custody away from an abused mother seems to penalize her for being the victim of domestic violence, and it discourages other mothers from seeking help or reporting domestic violence for fear of losing custody of their children.” Apart from the effect on the victims, awarding custody to the abusers also teaches children harmful lessons.

The California Legislature has recognized the potential problem that domestic violence can create in the family courts. To address this issue, the California Legislature drafted California Family Code § 3044. For traditional child custody cases, the court is to determine what is in the child’s “best interest” by considering several factors, such as the health, safety and welfare of the child, and the amount of contact that the child has with both parents. In domestic violence cases, the court must also consider any history of spousal abuse. Although the court is given discretion in how much weight they accord each factor, the factors are crucial in helping to guide judges on issues that they should consider in assessing a child’s best interest.

In addition to the factors, the California Legislature did specifically state that domestic violence is detrimental to the well-being of a child. This was codified in California Family Code § 3044. According to this section, if domestic violence is found to have occurred within the previous five years of the custody evaluation, then there is a rebuttable presumption that awarding custody to the abuser is detrimental to the “best interest” of that child. The court must also consider seven factors in determining whether the presumption has been overcome. These factors include, but are not limited to, whether the abuser is restrained by a protective order and has complied with its terms and conditions, whether the abuser has completed a program of alcohol or drug abuse counseling, and whether the abuser has committed any additional acts of domestic violence since the start of the custody case.

Additionally, under this section, a person is found to have perpetrated domestic violence when he or she either “intentionally or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury, or sexual assault, or to have placed a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another. . .  .” It also includes behavior including, but not limited to, “threatening, striking, harassing, destroying personal property or disturbing the peace of another, for which a court may issue an ex parte order pursuant to § 6320 to protect the other party seeking custody of the child or to protect the child and the child’s siblings.”

With the rebuttable presumption, the hope is that victims will triumph in seeking custody of their children as they seek to regain control of their lives.

If you have any questions about this rebuttable presumption or any other issue, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.



Source:    MICHELE C. BLACK ET AL., THE NATIONAL INTIMATE PARTNER AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE SURVEY: 2010 SUMMARY REPORT 54 (2011), http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf.

Source:    Patrick F. Fagan, Anna Dorminey, & Emily Hering, The Effects of Family Structure on Child Abuse, in CHILD ABUSE, FAMILY RIGHTS, AND THE CHILD PROTECTIVE SYSTEM: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS FROM LAW, ETHICS, AND CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING 155, 171 (Stephen M. Krason ed., 2013).

Source:     Alytia A. Levendosky & Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Behavioral Observations of Parenting in Battered Women, 14 J. FAM. PSYCHOL. 80, 81 (2000).

Source:     Cal. Fam. Code § 3020 (West 2000).

Source:     Megan Shipley, Note, Reviled Mothers: Custody Modification Cases Involving Domestic Violence, 86 Ind. L. J. 1587, 1589 (2011).

Source:     Symposium, Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and Child Protection: Understanding Judicial Resistance and Imagining the Solutions, 11 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 657 (2003).

Source:     Cal. Fam. Code § 3011 (West 2013).

Source:     Cal. Fam. Code § 3044 (West)

 Source:     Amy B. Levin, Comment, Child Witnesses of Domestic Violence: How Should Judges Apply the Best Interest of the Child Standard in Custody and Visitation Cases Involving Domestic Violence?, 47 UCLA L. Rev. 813, 826 (2000).

 

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Mom and Dad Have Something to Tell You: Talking to Kids about Divorce

Posted June 8, 2015 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

With forty to fifty percent of married couples proceeding in marriage dissolution, thousands of children experience the stress of divorce each year. While the adults are navigating their own emotions, children are also struggling with their own feelings. Many of these children get lost in the process as their parents often find it difficult to talk to them about divorce.

When parents decide to break the news to their children, it is important to leave any feelings of anger or blame out. Practicing the conversation may be helpful as to release any feelings of anger before talking with them. If possible, parents should also break the news together to avoid confusion. Telling children together also helps to preserve the child’s sense of trust in both parents.

The conversation should also be age appropriate. In other words, “[t]he discussion should fit the child’s age, maturity, and temperament.” It should also always include the following message: “What happened is between mom and dad and is not the child’s fault.” It is imperative to include this message as most children will feel that they are to blame for the separation, when this may be far from reality.

It is also vital to be prepared to handle children’s reactions to the news. For the children who become upset, parents can let them know that they care about these feelings and reassure them that their feelings are understandable. Some children may not react immediately. For these children, parents can let them know that this is also okay and that they will be there for them when they are ready to talk.

While there is no easy way for parents to break the news to their children, there are important things that both parents can do to help guide their children through this challenging time. The following is a list of helpful tips:

·      Be truthful and discuss changes with your children.

·      For younger children, have a simple and to-the-point conversation.

·      Remember to keep legal talk, heated discussions, and visible conflict away from the children.

·      It is important to keep each parent involved in the children’s lives.

·      Try to minimize any disruptions in their daily routines.

·      Restrict negative talk to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside of the home.

·      Encourage children to share their feelings.

·      Remind your children how much you love them.

·      Most importantly, support your child as he or she is navigating through the process.

The Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters.  If you have any questions about helping your children through this process, please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

 

Source: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/help_child_divorce.html

Source: http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/social-affairs/20150530/the-ins-and-outs-of-talking-to-kids-about-divorce

Source: http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-tell-your-child-youre-getting-divorced_3657051.bc

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Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders or ATROs: Positive or Negative

Posted May 22, 2015 in Family Law by Susan Dent.

While there are marriages that end on good terms and amicably, this is a rarity in today’s world. The “ideal” divorce is hard to find and in reality, most marriages do not dissolve so easily, and from the moment a spouse is served, their emotions can get the best of them. They may act out- draining community accounts, cancelling joint benefits, or even threatening to withhold or leave with the parties’ children. This is when Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, or “ATROs” come into play. Unlike a traditional restraining order which protects against other people, ATROs serve to protect the status quo of the marriage.

Specifically, California Family Code § 2040(a), which outlines the contents of ATROs, lists the following that both parties are restrained from exploiting during the dissolution process:

  • removing the minor child or children of the parties, if any, from the state without the prior written consent of the other party or an order of the court;
  • transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, whether community, quasi-community, or separate, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life, and requiring each party to notify the other party of any proposed extraordinary expenditures at least give business days before incurring those expenditures and to account  to the court for all extraordinary expenditures made after service of the summons on that party;
  • cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability, held for the benefit of the parties and their child or children for whom support may be ordered;
  • creating a nonprobate transfer or modifying a nonprobate transfer in a manner that affects the disposition of property subject to the transfer, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court. [1]

As one of the obligations when filing for dissolution of marriage, the Petitioner must file and serve a Summons and a Petition to put the other party on notice that they are being divorced. This Summons, Form FL-100[2] in California, lists the ATROs or the “Standard Family Law Restraining Orders” in their entirety. The ATROs binds both parties and becomes effective immediately upon the service of the Summons.

ATROs impact to main issues in a divorce proceeding: travel with children and finances. ATROs temporary “freezes” both parties financial assets and forbids travel with children outside of the state of California without the prior written consent of the other party, or a court order.

An interesting case involving the effect of ATROs in the marital dissolution proceedings is of John McTiernan, director of big Hollywood films such as Bruce Willis’s Die Hard and his ex-wife, Donna Dubrow. [3] During the course of their dissolution proceedings, McTiernan sold certain community property stocks, which he partially used to pay community expenses. However, ATROs forbids the transfer or disposing of any property, “whether community, quasi-community, or separate, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life.” The court found that although he did not sell these stocks in ill will or maliciously, it was nevertheless a violation of ATROs because he could have consulted his wife or obtained court approval. Since he did neither, the court awarded Dubrow with restitution damages resulting from the sale of the stocks.

Essentially, ATROs protect both spouses and any disruptions to their “financial status, home life, and relationships with children while in the process of dissolving their marriage.”[4] If either party were worried about either finances or their relationships with their children, these items should be prioritized during the process. The concerned party may want to immediately file for temporary custody orders or even reach out to the other party about accounts and assets. In an already upsetting and tense situation, ATROs helps to safeguard a degree of respect between the divorcing couple and may even relieve some of anxiety and mistrust that so often results in the marriage dissolution process. For these reasons, ATROs are an invaluable tool during divorce proceedings. [5]

If you are considering filing for divorce at any time of the year and have questions regarding ATROs, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters.  Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.



[1] Cal. Fam. Code § 2040(a) (West).

[2] http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl110.pdf

[3] In re the Marriage of John McTiernan and Donna Dubrow (2005) 133 Cal. App. 4th 1090.

[4] Dana Warstler, A History of the Automatics TROS in Family Code 2040(A), 11 J. Contemp. Legal Issues 191, 191 (2000).

[5] http://www.more.com/relationships/marriage-divorce/what-divorcing-women-need-know-about-automatic-temporary-restraining-?page=2

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