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●   Volume I Number 3   ●   March 2010  ●    Archives of Past Issues   

Message from the Editor

Dear Members, 

It is not too late to join the Southern California Family Law American Inn of Court. Three presentations remain on the calendar for this year, including the annual Judicial Officers’ Q and A. The Family Law section is a chapter of American Inns of Court, a fast growing national legal organization with programs designed to increase legal excellence, collegiality, and professionalism among its members, including judicial officers and attorneys of varying experience. We look forward to your participation.

The Inn’s remaining meeting dates this year are:
March 2, 2010: Death and Debt—When Probate and Bankruptcy Cross Over into Family Law.
May 4, 2010: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire—Imputation of Income Using Discovery Tools.
June 1, 2010: Judicial Officers’ Q and A—The Unique Inn of Court Way.

All meetings start at 6:00 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner and a one-hour program at 6:30 p.m. After the program, spend some time interacting with colleagues and judicial officers. All programs will be held at Porterhouse Bistro in Beverly Hills and include fine food, wine with dinner, information, and fun.

Please visit the Web site at or e-mail our Membership Committee for more information at

Peter Walzer  

In This Issue

View All Family Law Events 

  • March 20, 2010: Family Law Trial Advocacy Training Program:
    How to Conduct A Custody Trial.
  • May 8, 2010: Family Law Symposium.

    Harriet Buhai – Upcoming Events
  • March 26, 2010: Military CLE with Robert Fairfield.
  • June 3, 2010: 25th Annual Theater Benefit honoring Judge Mitchell Beckloff with the Zephryr Ramsey Award and David Ettinger (from Horvitz and Levy)
    with the Harriett Buhai Community Service Award.

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Practice Tips

Robin’s Revelations on Handling Custody Evaluations.
Counsel your clients before they start a custody evaluation to meet their children's teachers, doctors, and friends. Educate your clients to become informed about their children's educational, social, and healthcare needs, and to exert influence on decisions that affect their children's well-being. Encourage them to seek guidance from service providers how they can do a better job helping their children master developmental milestones and manage transitions between two households with minimal anxiety. When parents seek advice from knowledgeable specialists and attempt to follow through on sound advice, it indicates that they are open to self-examination and that they understand that parenting is on-the-job training. Not only will this reflect well to the custody evaluator, it is good parenting.

Robin Drapkin, Ph.D.
Office Phone: 310-473-5700

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Some of you may recall Judge Marjorie Steinberg's admonition in October to all List Serve subscribers to "fasten your seat belts" regarding December judicial moves. Judge Lou Meisinger moved to Van Nuys to take Judge Wendy Kohn's courtroom, Department K. Judge David Cunningham replaced Judge Meisinger in Department 22; Judge Kohn left family law to take a civil assignment. Judge Patricia Nieto moved to a criminal assignment and Judge Teresa Baudet replaced Judge Nieto in Department 2B. Commissioner Steff Padilla moved to Van Nuys to take over Judge Carlton Seavers, Department L. Judge Seaver has moved to Burbank to take over Department C from Judge William Stewart who left family law to take a civil assignment. Judge Randy Pacheco replaced Commissioner Padilla in Department 6. Commissioner Stephen Lowry replaced Commissioner Pacheco in Compton, Department M.

Due to the continuous movement of family law bench officers throughout the county, family law practitioners should be proactive in knowing a little about the judicial officer they are appearing before. To this end, the Judicial Profile Committee of the Family Law Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association is working hard to provide our family law community with insight on our judicial officers. During the past year we have profiled the following Judicial Officers: Judge Wendy Kohn; Commissioner Robert Axel; Judge Elizabeth Feffer; Commissioner Glenda Veasey; Judge Hank Goldberg; Commissioner Nori Anne Walla; and Judge Elia Weinbach. You can access these profiles on the LACB’s Web site. For further information, please feel free to contact me at

Case Summaries
Selected Cases from Fall and Winter, 2010

Find more case summaries in
LACBA's eBriefs.
To review only Family Law cases, 
first go to
LACBA's eBriefs
and then go to:
Search by Key Word/Subject Area 
and select "Family Law."

Family Law
Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
Where employed spouse was a member of a CalPERS retirement plan that provided both an annuity funded by member contributions and a pension funded by employer contributions, and employed spouse used community funds to redeposit contributions that had been withdrawn by a former spouse, his right to redeposit the contributions was his separate property, so it was error for trial court to assume that community--employed spouse and subsequent spouse--had acquired a share of the service credit earned during the previous marriage equal to the share of the contributions redeposited using community funds. Trial court abused its discretion in assuming that the community, by redepositing member contributions under Government Code Sec. 20751, had any entitlement at all to the pension component of employed spouse’s retirement benefit arising from service years during employed spouse’s prior marriage. Trial court should instead have apportioned to the community only a pro tanto share of member-funded annuity. While tracing community’s contributions--and accumulated interest thereon--in the annuity component of CalPERS retirement allowance would satisfy "reasonable apportionment" standard, it is up to trial court, based on the evidence, to determine whether that it is the appropriate approach in specific case.
     In re Marriage of Sonne--filed February 22, 2010
     Cite as 2010 SOS 891
     Full text
click here 

Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Probate Code Sec. 1516.5(a)--which provides that if a guardianship is in place, a proceeding to terminate parental rights may be brought if "[o]ne or both parents do not have the legal custody of the child," the "child has been in the physical custody of the guardian for a period of not less than two years" and the child will "benefit from being adopted by his or her guardian"--was not unconstitutionally vague because it granted adequate notice of its meaning and was rendered reasonably certain by reference to other statutory provisions and judicial decisions that defined joint and sole physical custody. Assuming, without deciding, that the rights of the parent to counsel in a Sec. 1516.5 action also extend to counsel for the minor, no error occurred where trial court considered whether minors needed representation by independent counsel and appointed counsel for the entirety of the remaining proceedings before trial commenced. Investigator’s report, as required by Sec. 1516.5(b), was incomplete as a result of investigator’s inability to locate and interview parents before trial and the resulting lack of any definitive recommendation for disposition of the matter. Error was harmless where the omitted information was thoroughly presented and considered at trial. Evidence amply supported termination of parental rights where, during guardianship of four years, mother failed to successfully remedy the problems that necessitated the guardianship in the first place. Case did not present exceptional circumstances warranting the taking of additional evidence from either party as to Indian Child Welfare Act claim, but limited remand was required where court failed to comply with act’s inquiry provisions. If parental rights are terminated in an action pursuant to Sec. 1516.5 as a prelude to contemplated adoption, the juvenile court does not have authority to order continuing visitation by the birth parents. Court erred in granting visitation where no definitive agreement for visitation was reached, no terms for visitation were delineated, no written agreement was submitted to the court, and no understanding or express consent to terms of a visitation order was conveyed by the guardians.
     In re Noreen G.--filed February 9, 2010, First District, Div. One
     Cite as 2010 SOS 812
     Full text
 click here 

Family Law
Posted: Monday, February 8, 2010
Voluntary dismissal of mother’s federal court petition for relief under Hague Convention did not render moot her appeal from trial court order granting father custody. Neither Hague Convention nor International Child Abduction Remedies Act precludes state trial court from exercising control over its own proceedings, including dismissing a petition for failure to prosecute.
     Bardales v. Duarte
     filed February 8, 2010, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as 2010 SOS 766
     Full text 
click here 

Family Law
Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010
Trial court committed reversible error in failing to rule on request for accommodation of a disability under Rule 1.100(a)(3) of the California Rules of Court by defendant--who sought the assistance of a neuropsychologist due to a neuropsychiatric impairment affecting his short term memory, organization, executive functioning, and concentration--where request made more than five days before hearing included a description of the accommodation and the impairment requiring it, and there was no evidence suggesting the accommodation would create an undue financial or administrative burden on the court or necessarily alter the judicial services the court provides to the public. Trial court erred in awarding condominium to defendant's wife as separate property by default judgment in dissolution proceedings where wife's original and amended petitions for dissolution did not identify the condominium as her separate property.
     Biscaro v. Stern
     filed January 28, 2010, Second District, Div. Eight
     Cite as 2010 SOS 516
     Full text 
click here  

Family Law
Posted: Friday, January 22, 2010
Trial court did not err in denying motions to relieve and substitute counsel for mother where motions came late in hearing that had already been continued, and records did not show substitute counsel was prepared to proceed without a continuance; the court’s inquiry into the mother’s complaint allowed mother to express herself as comprehensively as the circumstances reasonably permitted and mother failed to convincingly argue counsel rendered ineffective assistance; and court found, at least in part, that breakdown in relationship was due to mother’s voluntary conduct. Mother’s failure to raise issue of compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act’s notice requirements did not bar the issue on appeal, but information that children’s great-grandmothers were of Indian ancestry did not suggest children were members of a tribe or eligible for membership as children of a member, and did not trigger duty to notify tribes. Even if error occurred, judicial notice of documents showed that no tribe was prejudiced.
     In re Z.N.--filed December 29, 2009, publication ordered January 22, 2010, First District, Div. Two
     Cite as A124843
     Full text 
click here 

Family Law
Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2009
Trial court erred in concluding it lacked jurisdiction to award child support for parties’ minor child on basis that child’s home state was Japan where there were no proceedings addressing issue of support in Japan. Jurisdiction over support orders is not limited by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
     In re Marriage of Richardson--filed December 2, 2009, Second District, Div. Four
     Cite as 2009 SOS 6889
     Full text
click here 

Family Law
Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2009
Family court erred in concluding automobile that former wife purchased during the marriage with her separate property funds and gifted to her then-husband was transmuted from community property to husband’s separate property by virtue of the gift under Family Code Sec. 852(c) absent a declaration in writing because automobile was not a "tangible article[] of a personal nature." Former wife had a substantive right to reimbursement for the contribution of her separate property funds to buy the automobile under Sec. 2640(b) where it was undisputed that automobile was bought entirely with her separate property and that she did not sign a document waiving right to reimbursement.
     In re Marriage of Buie and Neighbors--filed December 1, 2009, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as 2009 SOS 6891
     Full text
click here  

Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Family Code Sec. 2251(a), which provides for the division of quasi-marital property--property acquired during a void or voidable marriage that one or both parties believed to be valid--as if the marriage were valid, is applied without regard to whether the party seeking property division knew that the marriage was not valid.
     In re Marriage of Tejeda--filed November 25, 2009, Sixth District
     Cite as 2009 SOS 6833
     Full text
click here


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Los Angeles County Bar Association
2009 to 2010 Family Law Section Newsletter
Peter Walzer, Editor

Roberta B. Bennett

Melvyn J. Ross

Debra S. Frank

Lynette Berg Robe

Robert C. Brandt

Immediate Past-Chair
William J. Glucksman

Section Administrator
Gail Coleman


Andrea Balian
Judy L. Bogen
Ronald F. Brot
Gary Fishbein
David H. Friedman
Raymond R. Goldstein
Christian J. Gordon
Barbara K. Hammers
Paula Kane
David S. Karton
Seth Kramer
Hon. Susan L. Lopez-Giss

Connolly Oyler
Cari M. Pines
Lucia A. Reyes
Claudia N. Ribet
Rachel K. Rothbart
Glen H. Schwartz
Roslyn S. Soudry
Joseph P. Spirito
Jeff M. Sturman
Jon S. Summers
Evan T. Sussman
Sorrell Trope
Heidi S. Tuffias
Charles K. Wake
Peter M. Walzer
David K. Yamamoto


Judicial Liaison, Commr. John Chemeleski
Judicial Liaison, Commr. Scott M. Gordon
Judicial Liaison, Hon. Mark A Juhas
Judicial Liaison, Hon. Maren E. Nelson 
Judicial Liaison, Hon. Marjorie S. Steinberg

Liaison, Noel H. Appelbaum, CPA
Liaison, Tracy F. Katz Esq., CPA
Liaison, David Kuroda
Liaison, Margaret A. Little, Ph.D.
Liaison, Mary Lund Ph.D.
Liaison, Susan V. Thrall, LMFT
Barrister Liaison, Kelley Finan
Past Chair, Harold J. Cohn 
Past Chair, James R. Eliaser 
Past Chair, Ira M. Friedman
Past Chair, Dianna J. Gould-Saltman 
Past Chair, Dvorah Markman 
Past Chair, Leonard J. Meyberg Jr.  



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