- In This Issue -

Volume II, Number 2 • January 2012 • Archive of Past Issues
Family Law Home Page

Message from the Chair

To The Los Angeles County Bar Association Family Law Section and the Family Law Community:

As we enter the New Year, I want to congratulate and thank all of you who are involved in the field of Family Law, and who provide crucial, necessary and important services to our community. In my view, there are no other fields of law which require any more of its Judiciary, Bar and participants than does the field of Family Law.

We have already had a very active and successful first half of this Section's term. The Family Law Section presented its annual Child Custody Colloquium in October and it was a major success, due in no small part to the Colloquium Chair, Glen Schwartz. Glen was also awarded the prestigious Family Law Section's Spencer Brandeis Award at the Annual Family Law Section Installation Award and Dinner Dance in late October. The Dinner Dance had a great turnout, including bench officers, colleagues and providers. It was a fun event.

The Section recently conducted a Post Elkins Seminar. This event, moderated by Peter Walzer and including Judges Marjorie Steinberg and Michael Convey, was an exemplary event, providing our legal community with updates on the law and recommendations with respect to the implementation of new statutes.

With the leadership of our Continuing Legal Education Chair, Barbara Hammers, the Section will be conducting an Evidence Seminar on January 28, 2012. On March 31, 2012 the Section will present a Family Law Crossover Seminar, including Probate, Criminal Law, Bankruptcy and International Law. The seminar will include noted practitioners, bench officers and experts.

On May 19, 2012 the Annual Family Law Symposium will take place with the Section's Vice Chair, Seth Kramer, chairing the event. The panels will focus on a wide spectrum of important and relevant areas of Family Law and will, of course, include a wide range of experienced Family Law practitioners, Bench officers and experts.

This year the Section will be renewing its popular, practical and entertaining Family Law Trial Advocacy Course. We are excited that Ron Brot will again chair this program, which will include practitioners and Judicial Officers who will provide their insight and tactical considerations with respect to Family Law Trials.

Further details and specifics as to the Section's continuing educational events will be provided in the near future.

The Family Law Section will continue to be actively involved in legislative issues, mediation, assistance in the non-profit area of Family Law, and outreach to the community.

Successful participation in the field of Family Law in Los Angeles County requires each practitioner's commitment to continuing education in all aspects of Family law. It requires practitioners to stay abreast of the latest changes to the law and maintain open channels of communication with colleagues and the community. This commitment has allowed Los Angeles Family Law practitioners to set the highest standards in Family Law, not only in the United States, but internationally.

As we encounter and confront the numerous changes in Family Law procedure and the presentation of evidence, we are also cognizant of the budgetary constraints with which our courts are confronted. The Family Law Section intends to do all that it can to facilitate the effective practice of law and encourage dialogue between the Bar, Judiciary and our community.

Thank you for being involved in our Family Law Section.

Best Wishes throughout the New Year.


Chair, Los Angeles County Bar Association
Family Law Section

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Message From The Editor

As 2011 comes to a close, I wish to thank everyone for their contributions that has made this publication such a success. As you will see in this issue, the E-News team is continually striving to add relevant and interesting content as an additional benefit to your Los Angeles County Bar, Family Law Section membership.

Our team is always on the lookout for new content, whether it be articles, practice pointers or procedural tips. If you have anything you would like to submit for consideration, please send it to me at Goldstein@EnforceSupport.com.

In closing, I wish each of my colleagues and friends reading this publication a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2012!

Editor, E-News

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A Message from Judge Marjorie Steinberg

As I look back on my ten years in Family Law, particularly the last four in Department 2, I realize how many changes we have all lived through. The Elkins decision came out, a taskforce was formed, a report full of recommendations was published and many of those recommendations were adopted as law or court rule, all in the span of five years. Kind of like the Facebook story – from undergrad idea to major motion picture in no-time, but without the big money or Justin Timberlake. And speaking of big money, the judicial branch has taken unprecedented cuts to its budget. All courts face the loss of many courtrooms and our court in particular has lost over 500 employees. Participating in court leadership, especially in Family Law, has never been more challenging. As much as I will miss those challenges, or to be more precise, as much as I will miss working with court administration and my colleagues on those challenges, there is a sense of relief that I will not face news of fresh disaster or new court forms seemingly every week.

The coming year, 2012, will be even more challenging. With that in mind, I have the following New Year's Wishes for our Family Law courts:

May every judgment package submitted be in perfect order;

May we see the return of Parenting without Conflict;

May every family law attorney volunteer as a Settlement Officer or for the Family Law Mediation panel;

May the civic center park (a project at Mosk for more than a year beneath my window) be worth it;

May every attorney read the Local Rules at least ONCE, especially Rule 5.14;

May the unemployment rate fall to 4% and the state budget show a surplus;

May every house that is underwater come up for air; and

May the Family Law Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court continue to attract the best, brightest and most caring judicial officers and keep them for a long, long time.

Thanks to all of you who have helped our court over the last four years. You made tough times good times.

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A Message from Scott M. Gordon, Supervising Judge

First, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. It has been said that nothing endures but change. As a new year begins we are in store for a great deal of change.

I have the honor of moving to Department 2. My staff and I look forward to working with you to continue to improve the experience for litigants moving through the challenging times accompanying family law litigation. We welcome Judge Hofer to Central and Judge Clay to Norwalk. Both of these fine jurists bring a great deal of experience and enthusiasm to the Family Law Division.

Finally, January 1, 2012, brings with it several important new changes in the law. Changes in Family Code §3042 will make children more in involved in the litigation process. This change will bring with it important information to assist in making appropriate custody and visitation orders. This change will also impose on all of us involved in the family law process the obligation to make the experience of being involved in the court process as positive as possible for child witnesses.

Family Code §2450 introduces Family Centered Case Resolution to the dissolution process. In a time of diminishing resources, we are challenged with the task of making the litigation process more efficient and effective. Family Centered Case Resolution gives us an important tool to use to work toward this goal.

It has also been said that change brings opportunity. This New Year brings with it a great opportunity to continue to improve the Family Law process for the litigants who come into your offices and into the courts everyday.

I look forward to working with you all.

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Thanks From Your DV Project

In 2011,the Family Law Executive Committee graciously agreed to donate to LACBA's Domestic Violence Project $5.00 for each paid attendee participating in the Committee's CLE events. As a result of donations from the 3/19 Evidence program, 5/7 Family Law Symposium, 6/18 Forensic Accounting program, 10/29 Child Custody Colloquium and 12/14 Elkins program, the Committee has generated a total of $5,960.00 in donations to a fund which provides legal services to the victims of intimate abuse. The Committee wishes to extend a warm, gratitude filled thank you to all those in our legal community who have assisted in providing for essential legal services to the poor and under-represented. Our donation is another example of the Family Law Section's commitment to its pro bono project.

The next training seminar is 3/13/12, with guest speakers and workshops. For more information on LACBA's Domestic Violence Project, see www.lacba.org/dvp.

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Hot Listserv Discussions

Without a doubt, the Family Law Section's Listserv is time and time again boasted as one of our Section's best member benefits. The Listserv discussions, delivered by e-mail to your computer, enables Family Law discussions on hot, relevant issues that face us individually, or, collectively as a community, and span the range of newbie to seasoned topics. If you are not subscriber, you are encouraged to do so by sending an e-mail to msd@lacba.org requesting that you be added to the Family Law Section Listserv.

Of the thousands of discussion threads that members enjoyed this year, below are a few of the popular ones seen in just the last three months. For your convenience, you may click on any discussion of interest below, which will take you to a log-in screen, and you will then be automatically redirected to the discussion thread.

Upside Down Real Estate Awarded at Negative Value
Can I file Formal Stip Judgment w/o signature of OC and OP
Death of a Client
Dr Doesn't want to waive psychotherapist privilege
Legal Custody
How to Remove Counsel without SOA
How to File Combined OSC and Motion
Stipulated Judgment / wife backs out, now what?
FL-150 and attorney fee information
Post-Judgment Support Discovery
Gift of Joint Tenancy
Therapist making Custody Recommendations
Division of Disability Policy
Alternating Dependency Exemption
Mentally Ill Client
Ex Parte Notice via eMail
Missing Client

As with all of the Listserv discussions, the above topics may be found in the Archives which may be accessed (and searched!) by clicking here.

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Family Law Dinner Dance

On October 22, 2011, our section enjoyed this year's Installation and Dinner Dance at the Hotel InterContinental, attended by the highest number of guests ever. This year, Glen H. Schwartz, was the well-deserved recipient of the Spencer Brandeis Award. It was a fabulous evening and special thanks to Seth Kramer for the organization of this truly wonderful event. Pictures of the evening may be seen by Clicking Here.

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Inn of Court

The Southern California Family Law American Inn of Court, in the midst of our fifth year, is a chapter of the American Inns of Court, a fast growing, national legal organization which plans and presents programs designed to increase advocacy skills, collegiality and professionalism among its members. Our body of judicial officers and attorneys of all skill levels look forward to your participation. The Inn of Court meets on the first Tuesday of most months and will be holding our next meeting on February 7, 2012, with additional monthly meetings scheduled through June 5, 2012. Our February 7, meeting, as usual, will begin with a reception at 6:00 p.m., followed by dinner and a program starting at 6:30 p.m. At 7:30, and continuing for the remainder of the evening until 8:30 p.m., members will have the opportunity to interact with colleagues and judicial officers. All programs will be held at Matteo's in Westwood, located at 2321 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064, (310) 475-452, www.matteosla.com. Membership dues for the Inn of Court are $525 and include hors d'oeuvres, dinner, and wine throughout the evening. Newer attorneys up to their fifth year of practice may join at the discounted rate of $350. Family law judicial officers may join at no charge.

Membership is limited. If you are interested, please contact David Shebby at dshebby@jssfamilylaw.com for an application and additional information. Don't miss out on this opportunity to educate, to learn, and to socialize with your colleagues.

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Upcoming Events

January 28, 2012
Family Law Evidence: From the Fundamentals to the Nuances

This program will deliver essential information and ideas that can immediately be put to use in your practice regardless of whether you are new to family law litigation or you are a seasoned veteran. The topics covered will develop your evidence skills or hone the skills you already have. You cannot afford to miss this very informative and practical program.

February 10 – 13, 2012

AFCC-CA will hold it's annual conference, "The New Frontier: Exploring the Challenges and Possibilities of the Changed Landscape for Children and the Courts." This year's conference will be held in Santa Monica at the Sheraton Delfina Hotel and, beginning Friday morning, present four institutes concerning effectiveness of particular types of parenting plans, parenting coordination, domestic violence training and child custody. Beginning Friday evening, the conference will present four plenary presentations concerning: recent developments in child studies, laws and rules; risk assessment in family law cases; child and adolescent participation in custody cases; and, on Sunday morning, present a lively roundtable discussion between family law judicial officers from around the state. In addition, the conference will provide 12 workshops concerned with a wide variety of family law topics including the adolescent brain, sexual abuse, cultural complexities, and eliciting information from children in high conflict cases, just to name a few. Presenters include Leslie Ellen Shear, Lyn Greenberg, Alexandra Leichter, Michael Kretzmer, and Judge Thomas Trent Lewis. Click here for more information.

March 2, 2012
Making Family Code 3190 Counseling Orders Work for Your Clients

Bridging the Gap between the Legal and Mental Health Worlds is an upcoming new Continuing Legal Education program brought to you by the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law.

Kids who have to be forced to see a parent; kids who won't talk to or visit with a parent; parents who can't even agree on the day of the week it is; parents who fight about everything including schools the kids go to, exchange sites, parenting styles, clothing ---have you ever had one of these cases?

If so, on March 2, 2012, this afternoon program lead by the well-regarded team of psychologist Dr. Mary Lund and family law Judge Thomas Trent Lewis is for you. The session will cover identifying the problems and persuading the judge and the parties to address them through counseling, preparing an order for counseling that mental health providers can use and the courts can enforce, setting measureable outcomes for use by the court, lawyers, parties and counselors, addressing the logistics and mechanics, finding mental health resources in a scarce economy with or without health insurance, and much more. This is a one of a kind seminar and if you are interested in attending, let us know early: volunteer@hbcfl.org; 213-388-7505 ext 319.

March 12, 2012
Domestic Violence Project Volunteer Training

Last year, LACBA's Domestic Violence Project helped more than 10,000 abused clients, and LACBA volunteers make a difference every day. During the course of a three-hour shift, a volunteer can help as many as three victims seek protection from their abusers. Volunteers interview clients and complete legal documents to obtain restraining orders, a necessary first step in handling domestic violence situations.

The project operates at two Superior Court locations: Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. The majority of the project's funding which enables the Project to provide its services, comes from the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation.

WANT TO HELP VICTIMS? LEARN HOW! The next training seminar will be March 13, 2012. No previous experience in this area of law is necessary.

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It's Not Just Crazy in L.A. - Anecdotes from Across the Country

One of the first four-way settlement conferences I handled on my own ended when the wife demanded of her spouse, "Where do you think I am going to get the money to pay you what you are asking?" My client leaned across the table and said to her in a very low voice, "Do you really want me to say, in front of all these attorneys, where I think you will get the money?" Somehow she found the money.

-Rebecca W. Oettinger, Attorney, Wisconsin

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When I arrived at court to represent a burly, 6'1" plumber in a contempt action, he was dressed as a woman wearing a pink chiffon low cut dress, a blonde wig, white six inch platform shoes laced up over his calves, and had on a push-up bra. This was quite a surprise as he had never dressed as a woman at prior court appearances. The family court corridor was packed, it seemed that virtually every lawyer I knew was there. As I pulled close to hear my client's explanation of his attire, my cell phone rang - - a lawyer friend said, "I just took your picture with your client - - I am sending it to your wife." After a short discussion with opposing counsel, the contempt issue was resolved and we suggested to the presiding judge that we simply submit a consent order, in lieu of a hearing. The judge, a friend of a mind, said, "I hear your client came to court dressed as a woman," which I affirmed. She then said, "I think we need to have a hearing", which we did despite my cautions that courtroom decorum might not be possible. My client sauntered into the courtroom, with his hips swaying side to side. He then propped himself over a chair and said, "I hear you have some questions for me." As you might imagine, the hearing went downhill from there. The agreement was approved nonetheless. At the conclusion of the hearing, five visiting judges were seen with their heads bobbing in the anteroom window, along with virtually every staff member in the courthouse. No further serious business was conducted by any of the judges for the remainder of the day. When I arrived home that night, my dear wife said, "I hear you had an interesting day today--nice photograph." I drank a glass of wine or two, musing to myself, "It's truly amazing that we get paid to have this much fun." You have to love what we do for a living.

-James T. McLaren, Esquire, South Carolina

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We had a family court judge, now retired, who tried to come up with "creative" ways to "encourage" settlement of cases. For that purpose, he set one particularly nasty and contentious case of mine on Christmas eve, and another on New Year's eve.

Nobody blinked. Both cases went into the late evening. As we wrapped up the first, at about 9 p.m., I could not resist the urge to turn back to the no-longer-very-enthusiastic jurist and give him a hearty "Ho Ho Ho .. . . see you New Year's!"

That was the last time he tried that maneuver.

-Marshal S. Willick, Esq., Nevada

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Hands down, the worst mediation of my entire career broke down upon the parties' inability to agree on who got the ashes of their dead cats. At one point, my client was curled up in the fetal position in the mediator's conference room, bawling her eyes out and rocking back and forth -- over the ashes of a cat that passed 5 years prior. In desperation, I asked her if she had a film canister and a fireplace, and if she could just give the other party some ashes and call it good. She SCREAMED that she could never do such a thing.

Needless to say, we did not settle, and I withdrew from the case very shortly thereafter. The mediator and I still count this amongst our craziest cases.

-Misty M. Willits, Esq., Washington

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A true story about high conflict divorce and Christmas. Janey, a mother in a high conflict divorce, attended a parent education class for high conflict families. She attended via a court order. Despite the court order, her ex-spouse did not attend. She stubbornly sat through the first 2 of 6 3-hour classes, before becoming engaged in what we (my colleague and I) were teaching. She listened intently for the remaining sessions. She asked to come back to speak to the next class and has done so for each group of parents for almost 2+ years.

To each group of parents, Janey tells the following story about Christmas: Her three children brought her a gift and excitedly watched as she unwrapped it on Christmas morning. Her children knew how much she loved her children and gave her a collage of pictures of themselves. In each picture, the children were happily celebrating things and playing. After Janey unwrapped it, she quickly placed it behind the couch, noting to her children that she did not want it to get broken amongst all of the other excitement. She had immediately recognized her children and their joy in the pictures, but she did not recognize any of the events. She did not recognize the birthday cake, the pile of leaves, or the place the children were sledding. She instantly felt great sorrow at having missed so many joyous occasions with her children.

Janey tells that she went to view the pictures again that night after the children had gone to bed. The children's father was not in any of the pictures. He was the photographer. After a good, long cry, Janey talks of realizing that the children, who were almost always happy while with her, could also be happy while with their dad. She found a prominent place to hang the photographs in her home - because it was the children's home and she sometimes needed the reminder that she could help the children be happy and their father could too.

At the end of each class, other parents comment about the difference it makes to hear from someone like Janey.

-Bud Dale, Ph.D., J.D., Kansas

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In the category of pet anecdotes, on one occasion, opposing counsel and I - with straight faces - included in an agreement a provision that the dog would wear a life jacket at all times when on the husband's boat.

-Kathy Hogan, Esq., Colorado

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At a hearing on December 22nd, 1988 the parties - in the midst of contentious custody litigation – had, amazingly, settled on every minute detail of their custody order, save one: who got their young offspring on Christmas Eve "this year," 1988, two days hence. One parent lived in Wisconsin and the other in Washington.

Everyone concerned had agreed that the judge would hear evidence only about Christmas Eve, 1988. Opposing counsel and I were chatting as we waited for the preceding docket to get finished, when I flippantly said to him, "We ought to just flip a coin - that's all the judge will know to do." He replied, "Let me ask my client." As he did, so did I. To our surprise, our clients agreed to this procedure. I stopped a trustworthy old lawyer who happened to be passing on down the corridor and gave him a quarter. He agreed to participate and flipped the 2 bits, under the watchful eyes of several young lawyers who were learning about the finer points of family law practice. Thus, in the name of judicial economy and client thriftiness, an unhappy hearing was avoided.

Oh, and we won the toss . . .

-Peter S. (Pete) Lineberger, Esq., Washington

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Federal Tax Changes for 2012
That Will Affect You and Your Law Practice

By Ron J. Anfuso, CPA, ABV, CFF, CDFA, FABFA

There are a few Federal tax law changes for 2012 of which you as a law firm practitioner/employer should be aware. These affect three areas: payroll taxes, employee benefits, and taxes on your profits.

Payroll Taxes

On December 23, 2011, Congress acted to extend the holiday on payroll tax rates for Social Security (FICA) for a period of two months. However, the wage base by which the Social Security portion is determined will increase for inflation by 3.6 percent, up from $106,800 to $110,100. This translates to around $200 per employee for those whose wages are above the wage base. Those of you who are self-employed will see a rise of about $400 to cover Medicare and Social Security, half of which will be deductible.

Employee Benefits

Employers will be able to continue providing employees with most of the recent years' tax breaks. A few tax breaks, however, may increase due to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) and others may decrease due to changes in the laws. For example, permissible contributions to qualified profit-sharing and simplified employee pension plans (SEPs) will increase by two percent. Benefits under pension plans will be allowable up to $200,000, which is a $5,000 increase.

Taxes on Profits

The new cost-of-living adjustments to Federal income tax brackets will allow you to receive more income without being pushed into a higher tax bracket. To compensate for inflation, some deductions, such as the deductible portion of long-term care, the personal and dependency exemption, and the standard deduction, have also been raised.

Unfortunately, however, not all is good news. The amount you will be allowed to deduct the first year for the purchase of equipment under IRS Code §179 has been reduced from $500,000 to $139,000.

Ron J. Anfuso, CPA, ABV, CFF, CDFA, FABFA, focuses his practice on complex marital dissolution cases, business valuations and civil/commercial litigation cases. Mr. Anfuso has testified in court more than 300 times. Several of his articles have been published in Family Law journals and other law-related publications, and he is a frequent speaker at Family Law bar sections and other Family Law study group meetings. Mr. Anfuso may be reached at (310) 378-6606.

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I Went to Pact

By Roberta Murawski

How many times have you sent clients to PACT (Parents And Children Together)? How many times have you, given your client a PACT schedule, reviewed the PACT completion pleading form or looked at the brochure included with the Conciliation Court materials ? Hundreds? Thousands?

How many times have you been to PACT?

It took me until my 20th year practicing law to go to PACT. No, it wasn't for my own divorce, thank goodness. It was simply to satisfy a long-standing desire of mine to experience the program. For years I have been quizzing my clients about PACT so I could pretend to know something about it for my other clients. The feedback I have received has been universally positive. Every so often clients will tell me that they "knew that already," but even those know-it-alls enjoyed the give-and-take of the class.

One month, the stars aligned: some settlements and continuances lightened my calendar, giving me a chance to breathe. During this time I noticed a PACT class scheduled in Santa Monica, where my friend and colleague, Patricia Roback, was acting as the mediator. In addition to working with her over the years in a few cases, I know Pat as a mother from school where our sons are friends and knew I would enjoy seeing her in action. So, I coerced a friend and her law partner to join me and we met in Santa Monica at the 1:30 p.m. starting time. So there we were, three undercover lawyers, sitting and mingling with the people who had to go to PACT.

Even in the informal setting, with smiling presenters and no judge in sight, there was tension in the room. I definitely felt the raw emotions, which surfaced more clearly as the class progressed. Pat then commenced to introduce the class and gave the ground rules: Turn off your cell phones; the bathrooms are down the hall; you have to stay until the absolute end to exchange your evaluation form for the coveted PACT completion form. Then she showed a short video.

The video began with a judicial officer, sitting at her desk, California Reporters lining the wall behind her. She spoke to the participants clearly. Her message: your kids are important to us. They should be important to you, too. You know your kids better than we judges do. Are you sure you want a stranger making decisions about your family? Court is very stressful and expensive. (Scene shifts to a courtroom in which a judge is ruling and tapping numbers into the Dissomaster program.) Try to do what's right by your kids, because that's what we're going to try and do.

For a moment, my clouds of cynicism parted and I felt proud of our Los Angeles County family law system. Most family law lawyers and judicial officers I know truly try to do the right things for our children. If only this video were a magic wand that could cast a spell and ensure that divorcing parents do right by their children, too.

After the video, Pat explained what Conciliation Court was and, if not successful there, what it was like to go in front of the Judge. She hammered home the point that there is no "standard" schedule since every family is different with different needs. She talked about how - in Santa Monica, at least - the term "physical custody" will not be found in the Conciliation Court orders. It would now be "parental responsibility."

After Pat finished discussing the legal process, a guest speaker who works as a social worker and is a divorced mother herself, took the floor. She was big, strong, smart, funny, experienced and full of life. Her focus was on child development, and what kids need at different stages in their lives. Through her personal stories of her own life and the lives of her clients, she consistently emphasized the best interests of the children over the desires of the parents. I hoped she was getting through to any thick skulls in the room. My fingers were crossed.

Questions and answers followed, but our class was fairly subdued and people filled out the Evaluations quickly. I have no doubt that classes can vary widely based upon audience make-up, with broad ranges of emotions being present.

I, too, had enjoyed PACT, even though I "knew that already." Thank goodness I was no longer a "fake" and wouldn't have to pretend to my clients that I knew something I did not! I gave Pat a hug good-bye and exited the court house, wishing for a world in which our family law system received all the funding that it so desperately needs. Bake sales, anyone?

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Selected Case Summaries

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." The case summaries and published opinions are archived from the past 90 days. The summaries below are an incomplete listing of only certain selected cases.

Substantial evidence supported juvenile court's jurisdiction and disposition findings over child where evidence indicated injuries to child had been inflicted intentionally and parents could not be ruled out as perpetrators. Such evidence supported a reasonable inference that one of child's caretakers had injured her, which placed her at a substantial risk of harm due to her parents' failure or inability to protect her. When child welfare agency intends to rely on Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 355.1(a) to shift the burden of production to the parents to show that neither they nor other caretakers caused child's injuries, it must do so in a clear-cut manner.
In re A.S.
filed December 22, 2011, Fourth District, Div. One
Cite as D059706
Full text click here

Probate court was not obligated to refer case to county child welfare agency prior to issuing a guardianship order where mother and father had stipulated to the guardianship after participating in mediation. Probate court was also not required to make a finding of parental unfitness where mother and father yielded custody to paternal grandparents and failed to take prompt legal action to defend their custodial rights. Substantial evidence supported probate court's finding that terminating parental rights was in child's best interests where during guardianship of more than four years, mother and father failed to remedy the problems of substance abuse and anger management that necessitated the guardianship in the first place.
Adoption of Myah M.
filed December 19, 2011, First District, Div. Two
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6859
Full text click here

A jurisdictional finding involving the conduct of a particular parent is not necessary for juvenile court to enter orders binding on that parent once dependency jurisdiction has been established. An appellate court may decline to address the evidentiary support for any remaining jurisdictional findings once a single finding has been found to be supported by the evidence. Father failed to raise a justiciable issue where he did not challenge jurisdictional findings involving mother's conduct since any decision on the allegations involving father would not result in a reversal of juvenile court order asserting jurisdiction.
In re I. A.
filed December 19, 2011, First District, Div. One
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6822
Full text click here

Juvenile court may, on motion of social services agency pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 728, terminate a probate guardianship after finding clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the dependent child or children to do so, in accordance with Probate Code Sec. 1601. There is no requirement that agency, in a case where reunification services have been ordered, move to terminate those services before moving to terminate the guardianship. Termination of guardianship was supported by substantial evidence that it would be in children's best interest where, despite guardian's efforts, children's mental health problems were so severe that guardian could not meet their needs.
In re Xavier R.
filed December 16, 2011, Fifth District
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6791
Full text click here

No limitations period applies to claims brought pursuant to Family Code Sec. 1101(b), except for laches, when the marriage ends though litigation or death. No creditor's claim was necessary for plaintiff to pursue her community property interest. Trial court has discretion to pick a method of apportioning business profits. Substantial evidence showed plaintiff had a community property interest in corporation's increased value during the marriage and supported apportioning that community property interest.
Patrick v. Alacer Corporation
filed November 16, 2011, publication ordered December 14, 2011, Fourth District, Div. Three
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6772
Full text click here

Trial court hearing custody and visitation issues acted within its discretion in disqualifying child's paternal grandfather from representing his son, the father, against the mother of his grandson. Court properly determined that plethora of family entanglements, potential misuse of confidential information, conflict posed by likelihood that counsel would have to testify, and preservation of the integrity of the judicial system outweighed presumption in favor of allowing party to be represented by his counsel of choice.
Kennedy v. Eldridge
filed December 13, 2011, Third District
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6723
Full text click here

Juvenile court had either statutory or inherent authority to enjoin mother of dependent child from contacting employees of social services agency, other than through counsel, based on evidence that she had persistently harassed them and threatened violence. Under Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 281, as construed in In re Malinda S., 51 Cal. 3d 368 (1990), hearsay contained in social worker's declaration--including statement to declarant by therapist that mother had threatened to shoot declarant--was admissible. This hearsay, when combined with other evidence, was sufficient to support injunction. Injunction did not deprive mother of due process or right to free speech.
In re M. B.
filed December 12, 2011, Fourth District, Div. Two
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6689
Full text click here

Trial court did not err in finding adoptive mother's former same-sex partner was a presumed parent of the children even though partner maintained a separate residence. Partner spent three to four nights a week at mother's residence, which served as the family residence; was active in the children's lives, and provided for them financially. Sufficient evidence supported finding that partner held the children out as her own where mother and partner were in a committed relationship during the time in which mother sought to conceive and then adopt; partner was present for birth of one child and told her supervisor why she needed the time off; partner flew out of state to help care for second child after that child was born; partner allowed her name to be used as part of one child's middle name; partner displayed pictures of mother and the children in her cubicle at work for everyone to see; partner brought mother and the children to functions typically attended by family; partner named the children as her beneficiaries; partner went on family vacations with mother and children; partner's parents considered the children their grandchildren and treated them as such; and mother and children gave partner Mother's Day cards year after year. Recognizing partner as a parent did not infringe upon mother's fundamental right to rear her children.
S. Y. v. S. B.
filed December 9, 2011, Third District
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6695
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Reversal of dispositional order was not subject to reversal where rehearing on the orders was not held within the 10-day timeframe mandated by the California Rules of Court, but the delay did not prejudice father.
In re K. A.
filed November 8, 2011, publication ordered December 7, 2011, Second District, Div. Four
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6616
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Superior Court was empowered by Family Law Act to preserve community property pending division between spouses and properly exercised that power when, without requiring wife to post a bond, it quashed writ of execution and enjoined further enforcement against community property of a default judgment that husband's creditor had obtained against him after he and wife separated.
Marriage of Guasch
filed December 8, 2011, Sixth District
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6624
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Sufficient evidence supported trial court's factual finding that absent certain conditions, return of child to Italy pursuant to the Hague Convention would pose a grave risk to his psychological health where mental health professionals' uncontroverted testimony was that child suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and that it would be extremely dangerous for him to return, unaccompanied by mother, to father in Italy. Conditions imposed by the court to mitigate this harm, however, impermissibly hinged on abducting parent's cooperation, and the requirement that father prove mother was not under threat of arrest or prosecution should she return to Italy was beyond father's control.
Maurizio R. v. L.C.
filed December 5, 2011, Second District, Div. One
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6520
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When a dependent minor has a potential tort claim against the county, the juvenile court must appoint a separate guardian ad litem to act on behalf of the minor by overseeing the potential tort action and otherwise protecting the minor's interests prior to the initiation of civil proceedings. A court must also appoint counsel to serve on a pro bono or contingency basis to investigate the tort action and to initiate and pursue the tort action if, after consultation with the guardian ad litem, counsel seems appropriate.
In re Nicole H.
filed November 30, 2011, Third District
Cite as C065981
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By terminating parental rights of mother--whose child was placed in foster care following arrest of father, who had kidnapped child and concealed whereabouts from mother--without finding it would be detrimental to the minor to be placed in her custody, the juvenile court violated mother's constitutional right to due process of law, which is rooted in her fundamental interest in the care, companionship, and custody of her child.
In re Z. K.
filed October 25, 2011, publication ordered November 23, 2011, Third District
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6314
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Where parties checked in at morning calendar call but were not present in court at the start of hearing hours later, it was an abuse of discretion for juvenile court to deny their counsel's request for a two-hour delay to locate them. Mother's claim of possible Indian heritage through her father and deceased paternal grandmother was too speculative for Indian Child Welfare Act to apply, where she could not identify the particular tribe or nation, did not know of any relative who was a member of a tribe, did not provide contact information for her father, and did not mention any other relative who could reveal more information. Erroneous ruling that Indian heritage, for purposes of ICWA, may only be passed through biological relatives did not require reversal where there was a separate ground for holding ICWA inapplicable.
In re Hunter W.
filed August 30, 2011, publication ordered November 21, 2011, Second District, Div. Four
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6273
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To overcome the presumption that a fit parent will act in the best interest of the child, a grandparent seeking visitation has the burden of proof and must show by clear and convincing evidence that denial of visitation is not in the best interest of the grandchild.
Rich v. Thatcher
filed November 14, 2011, Second District, Div. Six
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6108
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Under both Nevada and California law, a bigamous marriage is void from its inception even if it has not been declared void by a court.
In re Marriage of Seaton
filed November 8, 2011, Third District
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 6015
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Terms of a marital settlement agreement in which wife implicitly waived statutory fees superseded wife's entitlement to need-based fees under Family Code Sec. 2030.
In re Marriage of Guilardi
filed November 7, 2011, Sixth District
Cite as H035037
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Constitutionally established presumption that father was acting in the best interest of his children in objecting to court-ordered visitation by maternal grandmother was overcome where substantial evidence supported trial court's finding that father's stated concerns were neither reasonable nor credible, and father admitted that visitation was in the best interest of the children and claimed that he was willing to allow visitation voluntarily. Neither Family Code Sec. 3102 nor the federal Constitution required grandmother to make a request for voluntary visitation as a precondition to filing a visitation petition.
Hoag v. Diedjomahor
filed October 17, 2011, Fourth District, Div. Two
Cite as E050935
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Appeal from judgment of disposition and an order denying a motion to dismiss minor's dependency was not moot after juvenile court later dismissed the dependency. The denial directly impacted exit orders granting custody and denying visitation because they depended upon a determination that the minor was not emancipated. Juvenile court erred in denying the motion to dismiss based on minor's emancipation by marriage and in adjudicating the emancipated minor a dependent child.
In re J. S.
filed October 14, 2011, Third District
Cite as C066908
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Child support services department's decision after hearing on payee's "request for complaint resolution," in which payee alleged that department had under-calculated arrearages, was subject to Family Code Sec. 17803, which provides that such decisions are judicially reviewable only in a writ proceeding. Sec. 17803 was a legally sufficient basis to affirm dismissal of plaintiff's negligence action against department and its director, even though the issue was not argued or ruled upon in the trial court.
L.K. v. Golightly
filed September 27, 2011, Second District, Div. One
Cite as B228426
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Children's alleged biological father lacked standing to bring a parentage action where mother and her husband were raising the children, and husband accepted them as his own. Uniform Parentage Act, in denying an alleged father the opportunity to establish a parent-child relationship over objections of mother and her husband--the presumed father--does not deprive the alleged father of a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Unmarried alleged father failed to demonstrate that the statutory presumption--that mother's husband is the father of her child--deprived him of equal protection of the laws.
Neil S. v. Mary L.
filed September 16, 2011, Fourth District, Div. One
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 5151
Full text click here

Substantial evidence supported juvenile court's decision denying grandmother presumed mother status where grandmother and child both indicated that grandmother was like a mother or acted as child's mother, but grandmother never held herself out in her community as child's mother. Juvenile court abused its discretion in denying grandmother de facto parent status where child was psychologically bonded to grandmother, grandmother had solely raised child since infancy, grandmother was the only adult who had information about child, and grandmother regularly attended juvenile court hearings. Grandmother's failure to make more appropriate short-term childcare arrangements for child was not an abandonment or betrayal of the role of parent in the way sexually or physically abusing a child is a complete rejection of the role of parent.
In re Bryan D.
filed September 13, 2011, Second District, Div. Eight
Cite as 2011 S.O.S. 5106
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Los Angeles County Bar Association
2011-2012 Family Law Section Newsletter
Raymond Goldstein, Editor


Robert C. Brandt
Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein, LLP

Lynette Berg Robe
Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe, APC

Vice Chair
Seth Kramer
Law Office of Seth D. Kramer

Ronald F. Brot
Brot & Gross, LLP

Peter M. Walzer
Walzer & Melcher LLP

Immediate Past Chair
Debra S. Frank
Debra S. Frank, APLC

Section Administrator
Gail Coleman

Andrea Balian
Judy L. Bogen
Ram Cogan
Rose Marie Gallegos
Raymond R. Goldstein
Christiaan Gordon
Richard F. Gould-Saltman
Abbas Hadjian
Barbara K. Hammers
Paula Kane
David S. Karton
Marci Levine
Randy W. Medina
Doreen Marie Olson

Doreen Marie Olson
Parima Pandkhou
Cari M. Pines
Lucia A. Reyes
Claudia N. Ribet
David Shebby
Roslyn Soudry
Joseph P. Spirito
Jeff M. Sturman
Sorrell Trope
Heidi S. Tuffias
Charles Wake
Marshall Waller
David K. Yamamoto

Hon. Marjorie S. Steinberg,
   Supervising Judge, Family Law
Hon. Scott M. Gordon
   Assistant Supervising Judge, Family Law    Departments
Hon. John Chemeleski
Hon. Mark A Juhas
Hon. B. Scott Silverman

Roberta Bennett
Harold J. Cohn
James R. Eliaser
Debra S. Frank
Ira M. Friedman
William J. Glucksman
Lawrence E. Leone
Dvorah Markman
Leonard J. Meyberg Jr.
Glen Schwartz


Noel H. Applebaum, CPA
Tracy Katz, CPA/CFF
David Kuroda, LCSW
Margaret A. Little, Ph.D.
Mary Lund, Ph.D
Paul J. White, CPA