- In This Issue -


Volume 3, Number 1 • October 2012 • Archive of Past Issues
Family Law Home Page

Message from the Editor

I am excited to present our first edition of the 2012 - 2013 term which, in addition to our usual collection of announcements, events, and case summaries, presents four special pieces: A scholarly article by Judge Hank Goldberg discussing the settlement of cases brought under the Domestic Violence Protection Act; a historical observation of the Los Angeles Family Law Court by Judges Mark Juhas and Scott Gordon; an article by Igor Zey of White, Zuckerman, Warsavsky, Luna & Hunt, LLP, discussing the considerations that should be given to life insurance policies during dissolution proceedings, and; a summary of recently enacted legislation.

These articles are representative of the original content we endeavor to provide our readers and we encourage you to submit or recommend pieces you believe would be of interest to the family law bar for future editions.
As always, do not hesitate to contact me with your comments or suggestions.

Raymond R. Goldstein
Editor, E-News
Goldstein@EnforceSupport.com



Message from the Chair

Dear Members of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Family Law Section:

It is my pleasure to serve as Chair of the Family Law Section and the Family Law Executive Committee during the coming 2012-2013 term. The Executive Committee term began on July 1st, but this is the first issue of the Family Law E-News for this term, and my first opportunity to write a message.  Our officers for the coming year are Chair-Elect Seth Kramer, Vice-Chair Peter Walzer, Secretary Ron Brot, and Treasurer Judy Bogen.

Our Annual Family Law Installation and Dinner Dance is coming up on October 20, 2012.  It will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Century City in a newly refurbished ballroom.  The purpose of our Dinner Dance is three-fold.  Besides offering an opportunity for camaraderie and socializing within our Family Law community, it is the installation and swearing in of the officers noted above for the coming year and the giving of the Spencer Brandies Award, when there is a worthy recipient.  The Spencer Brandeis Award this year is awarded to past chair Roberta Bennett who has served the Family Law community in a myriad of ways.  She is truly deserving of the most prestigious award we have to offer.  The Spencer Brandeis Award is given to honor an individual who has had an extraordinary impact upon the advancement of Family Law by way of creative legal advocacy and commitment to the service of the Family Law community.  So, please sign up for this festive and enjoyable occasion. Click here to sign up! 

As you know, we are practicing law at a monumentally challenging time.  Our court has undergone extreme financial cuts with the subsequent closing of courtrooms and loss of personnel.  Fortunately, we have excellent administration at Stanley Mosk, with Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon, Assistant Presiding Judge David S. Wesley, and our Family Law Supervising Judge Scott M. Gordon.  They have been creative and proactive in meeting this perfect storm hitting our legal system, wave after wave.  The Executive Committee aspires to lead the Family Law Section in helping to maintain and promote the practice of Family Law at a high level and to support our Courts in whatever way we can in confronting the harsh reality of the funding shortage.  We all must work together to ensure justice for our Family Law litigants.

I want to acknowledge the superlative job done last year by Chair Robert B. Brandt.  Bob’s  intelligence, organization, and equanimity characterized his very successful term.  The continuing education programs under his tenure were remarkably good and well-attended.  He also provided important leadership as changes occurred in the court with the closure of three courtrooms this spring, and the establishment of the new Home Court system and trial-setting procedures.  In conjunction with the court, to help deal with the changes being driven by the budget crisis, Bob organized our 5 new and ongoing “Attorney Working Committees,” that parallel the same 5 “Judicial Working Committees.”  I will write more about those later.

I also want to acknowledge and thank Seth Kramer, our Chair-Elect.  Seth is a trusted advisor and all-around mensch.  He is always ready to pitch in, whatever the task, whether it is promoting Section activities on the listserv, chairing the Dinner Dance committee, serving as our liaison to the LACBA Board of Trustees and the Save the Courts Committee, or conferring as to the various issues that come up in regard to the Family Law Section.     

Our Family Law Section Bylaws have a number of mandates for the Executive Committee that we try to achieve each year.  We are to provide knowledge and information to Section members, encourage ethical conduct in Family Law Practice, develop and improve standards of practice in Family Law, among other purposes.  In order to accomplish those goals, the Bylaws also establish certain “Standing” Committees to carry on the Section’s work, and then we have additional committees that may vary from year to year, depending on the needs of the Section at the time.  Following is a list of our current committees and the chairs for the coming year: 

1.  Annual Child Custody Colloquium.  This popular CLE full-day event was held September 29, 2012, and as he has done in the recent past, Glen Schwartz ably chaired this event.  Next year, 2013, Glen will step down, and Heidi Tuffias, Esq. and Susan Thrall, MFT, director of the FCS court mediations, will be the co-chairs for 2013.

2.  Annual Family Law Symposium.  Peter Walzer will chair this popular all-day program, which will be held on April 27, 2013, next Spring.

3.  Continuing Legal Education.  David Shebby and his committee will determine the other 4 programs for the Section besides the Annual Child Custody Colloquium and Annual Family Law Symposium.  We will be posting information as soon as planning has been completed for those programs.

4.   Court Liaison/Family Court Services.  The chair of the Family Law section is always chair of this committee which deals with communications from the court and serves as intermediary for the section with the supervising judge, Judge Scott Gordon.  The immediate past chair, Robert Brandt, and the chair-elect, Seth Kramer, also serve on this committee.

5.  E-News Editor and Website Development. Raymond Goldstein will continue to do his excellent work in this area.

6.  Forms and Court Rules.  Richard Gould-Saltman and his committee will review and comment on new forms and court rules as well as proposing new ideas for rules.

7.  Legislation/Amicus Briefs.  Our tour de force, Raymond Goldstein, who also has been serving on the State Bar FLEXCOM, will bring his expertise in legislation gained there to assist our committee in identifying important legislation and writing letters of comment.

8.  Membership, Outreach, and Development.  Joe Spirito has taken over this committee this year, and, among other activities, the challenging task of monitoring our listserv comes under his and this committee’s purview.  Out daily listserv monitor will continue to be Ellin Palmer, who is a member of this committee, and we thank her for her patience and steadfastness in performing this difficult task.

9.  Mediation, ADR/CDR.  Cari Pines has taken the reins of this busy committee.  Debra Frank will continue to be in charge of the Daily Settlement Officer Program, and Dvorah Markman supervises the 4th Thursday Dual Mediation program in Dept. 2.  Heidi Tuffias serves as Liaison to the Court ADR committee.

10.  State and Local Bar Liaison.  New Ex Comm member Steve Mindel will chair this committee in interfacing and sharing information with the family law sections of other bar associations and organizations around the State and Los Angeles County.

11.  Judicial Profiles.  David Karton is heading up this committee, trying to keep up with the changes in the Family Law Judiciary to provide us with information about every judicial officer to post on the LACBA website.

12.  Minor’s Counsel.  Rose Marie Gallegos chairs this committee as the role of minor’s counsel is in the flux of change after new court rules and legislation.

13.  Dinner Dance.  David Shebby and Seth Kramer are co-chairs of the 2012 Dinner Dance, and Cari Pines and Tracy Katz will be co-chairs for next year, 2013.     

14.  Diversity Awareness Liaison Committee.  This is a brand-new committee this year.  It is the goal of chair Abbas Hadjian and his committee to raise consciousness as to diversity issues and to promote cultural competency in Family Law in various ways, including through continuing education programs.

15.  Veterans and Active Military Pro Bono Project.  Another new committee, a response to the increasing need of our many returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The chair is Adam King, and he is working on a list of attorneys who would be willing to volunteer some time being educated as to issues involving the military and veterans in order to provide assistance at special workshops at the Self-Help Center at Stanley Mosk.  We hope to hold these once or twice a month.  Adam is currently creating a list of attorneys who want to volunteer for this work, so if you are interested in helping vets or active military with their family law matters, please contact Adam at:  aking@phillipsjessner.com

Working Committees:

We also have established five Working Committees, working in tandem with parallel judicial working committees.

1.  Trial Readiness Standards.  Chair Judy Bogen led this committee to establish in a short time recommendations for the new trial readiness standards.  Most of this committee’s recommendations have been incorporated into the standards now being provided to litigants at their trial readiness conference.

2.  Self-Represented Litigants.  Co-chaired by Lynette Berg Robe and Roberta Bennett, this committee has established twice-a-month clinics being conducted by attorney volunteers at the Los Angeles County Law Library, across from the court at the corner of First and Hill Streets.  This was in response to a need identified by Judge Scott Gordon that the self-represented in contested cases had difficulties in understanding how to bring their case to trial.  This committee is working in conjunction with the Self-Help Center at the Court.  Spanish-speaking clinics are to be launched in January.  Anyone who is interested in volunteering to conduct a two-hour clinic a few times a year in either English or Spanish should contact either Lynette at Portia1000@aol.com or Roberta at RB@bennetterdman.com.

3.  Local Rules Changes.  Claudia Ribet is the chair of this committee which is waiting for recommendations from its judicial counterpart.

4.  Solution-Focused Evaluations, Evaluations, and other FCS Services.  Heidi Tuffias is heading this committee coordinating with the court, in an area that has unfortunately lost personnel and funding due to the budget cuts.

5.  District Issues:  Joe Spirito is chairing this committee.  He is co-ordinating with the district courts, who are having to make changes as well to address the budget cuts.

The economy went South, the State’s revenues went down, and now we are dealing with the most drastic cuts in history to our legal system.  We can’t change those facts, at least not in the short term.  As the Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”  So, as the changes continue to come, all we can do is to meet the difficulties with as much creativity as we can muster.

I am looking forward to serving as Section Chair for what is projected to be a very active, productive, and challenging year for the Section.  Please join your Family Law Section in seeking positive solutions to what confronts us.

Best regards,

Lynette Berg Robe
Chair, Family Law Section

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Message From Gail Coleman, Program and Event Administrator

The Family Law Section produces many successful programs during the year to keep Section Members informed on issues of importance to the practice of Family Law. It has been my pleasure to work with the Family Law Section for more than twelve years. As the Program and Event Administrator for the Section, I work closely with each Chair on the development and execution of programs, including arrangements with the venue, preparation of brochures, and planning the strategy for publicizing programs. On the day of the program, three other Program and Event Administrators on my team, Fatima Jones, Brendan Tarnay, and Danielle Jones, provide assistance onsite to handle registrations, payments, and speaker check-in and other logistics.

Since many of you also belong to other Sections, you may know some of these administrators who are involved in the programs produced by our other Sections. Assistance is also provided, behind the scenes and at programs, by Erica Leon-Gabela, our very talented administrator who handles the details required to provide CLE credit for the attendees and speakers. Al Vasquez, Supervisor of Audio-Visual Production, and Alex Acosta, Coordinator of Audio-Visual Production, provide invaluable support for our audio-visual needs.

Terrina Scott, Supervisor, Event Operations, is responsible for overseeing all of the logistics involved to produce programs and also supervises many other operational procedures to ensure that our department can efficiently support our sections. Terrina is our "go to" person when we have questions or problems to solve. Cecilia Gomez is Manager of our department and Tom Walsh is our Director. Other LACBA departments support our efforts to produce programs and handle administrative tasks for our sections. Our Member Services Department is staffed by two knowledgeable agents, Shirleen Yorke and Tawny Gonzales, who handle phone registrations for programs and respond to general membership inquiries, and our Finance Department staff who process registrations and payments received for programs in the mail and online.

Please feel free to contact me at GColeman@Lacba.org whenever you have questions or concerns. Be assured, if I do not have the answer, your questions will be referred to the appropriate members of my team for response and resolution.

Gail Coleman

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Upcoming Events

The LACBA Family Law Dinner Dance takes place October 20, 2012. This year the event will be at the newly remodeled InterContinental Hotel Los Angeles/Century City, 2151 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067. At the event the following section officers for the 2012-2013 term will be installed:

Lynette Berg Robe, Chair
Seth D. Kramer, Chair-Elect
Peter M. Walzer, Vice-Chair
Ronald F. Brot, Secretary
Judy L. Bogen, Treasurer

In addition, the evening will include the presentation of the Spencer Brandeis Award, which is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the practice of Family Law. This year's award will be presented to Roberta Bennett. Roberta has been practicing law for 33 years and is a past Chair of the LACBA Family Law Section. Among her many accomplishments, Roberta has been--and is-- a tireless advocate on behalf of appropriate funding for the Court System and continued access to justice for all.

As always, members of the Los Angeles County Family Law Bench will be in attendance. This is an excellent opportunity for the Bar and Bench to interact at a social, non-adversarial event. This truly is the standout event of the year for the Family Law community.

All payments—along with entree selection (Osso Bucco, Sea Bass, or Vegetarian)—should be mailed to the attention of Gail Coleman at the Los Angeles County Bar Association, with all checks made payable to LACBA and identified as "Family Law Dinner Dance, event code: 011567." The check should be mailed to the Los Angeles County Bar Association, 1055 West Seventh Street, Suite 2700, Los Angeles, CA 90017, attention: Gail Coleman. For more information, please contact Gail Coleman at 213-896-6548 or gcoleman@lacba.org.

Individual tickets are $150 apiece. To the extent possible, all seating requests will be honored. Or a group of people can purchase a table. There are ten seats at each table. The cost for the table is $1,500. You have the option of filling all ten seats or you can fill only eight seats and leave the other two seats available for assignment to a judicial officer and guest.

Seth D. Kramer, CFLS

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Upcoming MCLE

Save the Dates!   This term we will present four CLE programs in addition to our annual Symposium and Child Custody Colloquium:

On Saturday, December 8, 2012, we will present a half-day program on complex valuation issues;

On Saturday, January 26, 2013, we will present a half-day program on selected custody issues;

On Saturday March 2, 2013,  we will present a full day evidence seminar;

On Saturday June 15, 2013 we will present a half-day program on a topic TBD.


Locations and speakers will be announced shortly.
If you have any suggested topics or questions, please contact David Shebby at dshebby@jssfamilylaw.com

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Committee Reports

Membership/Outreach/Listserve Committee: We are exploring a possible list serve party for some time after January. We are hoping to be geographically central to most members. If you have suggestions as to an appropriate venue, please feel free to e-mail me. We continue to monitor the Listserve balancing the right of free speech with asking members to adhere to our guidelines which are regularly posted. ListServe Guidelines can be found by clicking here. I will be meeting with Lisa Pandolfini, Membership Director of LACBA to learn more about what opportunities exist for expanding our family law membership. Stay tuned. Joseph P. Spirito, Jr., Esq.

The Mediation Subcommittee:


The Mediation Subcommittee is committed to offering the parties, both self-represented and those represented by counsel, the opportunity to avoid the unnecessary emotional and financial expense of litigation by providing various methods of consensual dispute resolution.  Such methods include the Daily Settlement Officer program in the Central District as well as the various other panels the Court provides.  Our Subcommittee is working with the bench officers, the ADR office and our exemplary team of volunteers to ensure that there are both available settlement officers as well as ample workload to keep them busy.  In light of the many changes in the structure of the Central District and now in our branch courts, there has never been a more critical time to make this resource flourish.  Please consider reaching out to assist the Court by adding your name to the Daily Settlement Officer list of volunteers or the other panels that LASC offers.    In particular, we are in need of volunteers to serve on our Spanish-speaking panel as well as our forensic accountant panel for the Daily Settlement Officer program.

Please note my new email address - cari@pineslaurent.com

Cari M. Pines, CFLS

Diversity Awareness Liaison Subcommittee (DALS):

The DALS sub-committee is comprised of Judge Mark Juhas and committee members Lynette B. Robe, Esq., Dvorah Markman, Esq., Dr. Gitu Bhatia, Rose Marie Gellagos, Esq., David Yamamoto,  Esq., Randi Medina, Esq., Warren Shiell, Esq., and Abbas Hadjian, Eqs. (Chair).

On August 29, 2012, DALS, in association with the Iranian American Lawyers Association (IALA) and the University of West Los Angeles (UWLA), presented a sold-out program discussing issues regarding Foreign Marriage and Divorces and Pre-Nuptial Agreements in California practice. The panelists were Hon. Judge Michael Convey (Van Nuys), Alexandra Leichter, CFLS, and Abbas Hadjian, CFLS, and Steve Zand, CFLS moderated the program.        

In the upcoming year, DALS will conduct a series of seminars titled Cultural Competency in Family Law Practice.  These programs are designed to address cultural issues in family law practice, including:

Impact of language, oral and body gesture, on litigation, especially in Domestic Violence cases; 
Role of third-parties impacting marital relationship, during and upon termination of marriage;
Discovery, authentication, translation, interpretation, and admissibility of foreign documents;
Considering and limitations on implementing and enforcing foreign marriage and divorces; Managing expectations and educating culturally influenced litigants about California law.  

 Abbas Hadjian, CFLS

District Issues Committee:

Our attorney working committee prepared a questionnaire and disseminated it to our community. I provided our feedback to the Judicial working committee headed by Judge Convey in Van Nuys. He will be digesting and analyzing the information and will be reporting his committee findings to Judge Gordon.

Joseph P. Spirto, Jr., Esq.

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An Update From Levitt & Quinn

Dear Family Law Community,

I joined Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center less than a year ago and in that time I have been fortunate enough to meet many members of the family law community and have been honored by their support for Levitt & Quinn. I am proud to be leading such a well respected organization and never more so than on Saturday night when more than 300 members of the family law bar gathered to honor Judge Thomas Trent Lewis as he received the Ethel Levitt Award for humanitarian service. I thank each and every one of you for your support of Levitt & Quinn and for its cause that no one should stand alone in a family law courtroom.

When presenting Judge Lewis with the award, Assembly Member Michael Feuer described Judge Lewis’ many achievements and outstanding reputation. He described Judge Lewis as “the epitome of what Levitt & Quinn stands for. He is widely recognized for his skill. Thom was a lawyer’s lawyer and he is a judge’s judge. He has that rare ability to make a litigant feel comfortable in his courtroom and that person comes away feeling that he or she was treated fairly.”

When accepting the award, Judge Lewis shared his values— civility, candor, courage, competency, compassion, creativity, connectivity and commitment. Both Honoree Judge Lewis and Assembly Member Feuer spoke of the importance of legal representation for low income families. Judge Lewis asked those present whether we will tolerate a society where fairness, access, justice and equity are simply inscriptions written in lifeless stone.
Levitt & Quinn’s Stand for Justice Video was premiered at the event and it was a wonderful moment for Levitt & Quinn when Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon stated “It is a great comfort to the Judge to have someone like Levitt & Quinn in the case. You feel so much more secure about the information that you’re getting, and more confident that you’re going to make the right decision.” If you would like to view the Stand for Justice video, you may do so by visiting our website or clicking here.

Assuring that those in need do not have to stand alone is Levitt & Quinn’s cause and it is only through your support that the work is possible. Thank you for making this the most successful fundraiser in Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center's history

Tai Glenn
Executive Director

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What's New For You at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law?

Coming January 2013 in time for MCLE certification- Ethics Seminar taught by Ellen Peck, Esq. Date and time TBA.

Form by form narrative and instruction essentials found in our user friendly, experienced -based practice book, Family Law Basics; perfect for new attorneys and paralegals. To purchase Family Law Basics, click here.

Network and bring your family to our Buhai Brunch 2012 at the Conga Room, LA Live, October 21, 2012. To purchase tickets visit our website by clicking here.

For more information on law student and volunteer opportunities, visit our website by clicking here.

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LA Law Library Benefits for LACBA Members

There has been some discussion on the listserve about the library and its services, so I posed some questions to Marcia Koslov, the library's ED, and this is what she replied:

All LACBA members can easily register for a free LA Law Library borrower card.  (The $140 deposit fee has been waived for LACBA members.)   This campaign is for new borrowers only.

As an LA Law Library card holder, LACBA members are eligible to borrow books from the Law Library’s extensive collection of California, State, Federal, Foreign & International materials.  Borrowers also have online access to the Law Library’s catalog and briefs collection as well as on-site legal research databases including Lexis® and Westlaw®.  The borrower card can also be used for copies, document e-Delivery and book delivery services.

The LA Law Library also has a Members Program directed at members of the bar.  Participants in the Members Program are provided both onsite and remote access to various legal databases, discounted e-Delivery services, priority reference assistance via phone and chat, enhanced borrowing privileges and the use of a “Members Study” while at the main library location in Downtown LA.  The annual fee to become a member is $395 plus a $140 deposit fee.  However, in conjunction with the LACBA borrower campaign, this $140 deposit is waived.

For the Members Program, attorneys can call, email or walk in.  They get a tour, information and often a free day pass to the Members study to try it out. 

Parking is available to participants in the Members Program.  There are 25 spaces that are made available on a 1st come, 1st served basis.  (Not everyone gets in all the time and there are some restrictions so everyone gets a fair shot at a request to park.) 

LACBA members can register online or come to the library to register for the Borrower card.   LACBA receives the request for the Library card when the attorney returns his/her form, and LACBA forwards the name and email addresses to the library.  The library will contact the person via email and there is a short registration process to go through, including agreeing to the Borrower rules.  All of this is done online.  Following their online registration, the new borrower card will be mailed shortly thereafter.  

Judge Mark Juhas

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The Ill-Fated Voyage of the Schooner J. Wiley

Judge Mark Juhas & Judge Scott M. Gordon

The year 1898 was one of some import for the 156,000 residents of the sprawling region that comprised Los Angeles County. That year Charlie Ebbets would take the helm of the far away Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers.  The city’s first permanent orchestra was formed at the Orpheum Theatre.  In February the USS Maine exploded in the Havana harbor, ushering in the Spanish American War, and Los Angeles benefactor Col. Griffith J. Griffith would donate his land holdings to the City of Los Angeles which would become the park named in his honor.  It was also the year that saw Mr. Homer Norman of Los Angeles, standing at the corner of Spring and Temple Streets on what had once had been called Poundcake Hill. 

The downtown streets were still rough and full of wagons and coaches pulled by huge work horses.  It was only a year before that Los Angeles had seen the first commercially available automobile built by Mr. J. P. Erie, though its first freeway was still 40 years in the future.   Mr. Norman stood at the base of a rather imposing stone staircase looking up at an equally imposing building.  Mr. Norman climbed the stairs, loosened his starched and too tight formal collar, and approached the entrance of the Los Angeles Courthouse, then known as the “Red Sandstone Courthouse.”

Mr. Norman arrived at the court that morning to have his family law case heard by Superior Court Judge M.T. Allen.  The same Judge Allen who would later garner public notoriety as the judge who would rock Los Angeles when he “Freed Mrs. Griffith J. Griffith from her husband, Col. Griffith.”1  Mr. Norman arrived at court with hopes of learning that his marriage to Ms. Janette Thomson was valid.  It seems that during one of the hot, sticky days of August 1897, Norman and Janette travelled through the growing city of Los Angeles to a small, unincorporated area known as Long Beach.  Once there, they met Captain W.L. Pierson, captain of the seventeen-ton schooner the “J. Wiley.”  They boarded the sleek schooner in an attempt to bypass the law and become man and wife on the High Seas.  As the soon-to-be Normans boarded the J. Wiley, Janette was fifteen years old, well under the legal age to wed, and Homer was nearly twenty-two.  The J. Wiley pushed off and after traversing nine miles of ocean, Captain Pierson tied the knot.2

If Mr. Norman were preparing for his family law matter today he would find that a great deal had changed since his nuptials onboard the Schooner J. Wiley.  The only thing he would recognize from the Red Sandstone Courthouse would be the huge clock that adorns the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.  Instead of one Judge hearing family law matters, he would learn that there are 22 judicial officers assigned to Family Law in the Mosk Courthouse alone, some of whom are women.  Throughout the County there are 46 judicial officers who are assigned to hear the thousands of new family law matters filed each year.3

As Mr. Norman made his way to the courtroom assigned to hear his case, he would note other changes and challenges.  As he walked into the courtroom he would find it crowded with lawyers and litigants.  His case would be one of the 25 to 30 heard by the judicial officer that day. 

As he sat and waited for his case to be called, Mr. Norman would note that while the facts of the cases were familiar - parents seeking custody and visitation orders, property issues, child support issues and divorces - he would note a number of cases that simply did not occur when he sought to have his marriage to Jeanette affirmed.  Mr. Norman would witness Domestic Violence Restraining Order hearings, Domestic Partnership Cases, fights over premarital agreements, no-fault dissolutions and same-sex marriage cases. 

Mr. Norman would no doubt be taken by the diversity of those around him; he would note that a substantial number of the cases on calendar involved interpreters.  He would no doubt hear cases in which the litigants’ primary languages were Spanish, Korean, Armenian and Russian, among many others.   He would find that many of the parties were not represented by lawyers while others would approach the Bench surrounded by teams of highly experienced litigators who were towing carts overflowing with copies of freshly filed pleadings.

It would no doubt surprise Mr. Norman to learn how the family structure had changed over the years, as had the litigant’s expectations.  As Los Angeles’ population and demographics have changed, so have the social attitudes and laws governing the adjudication of family law issues.

When Mr. Norman stood before Judge Allen, he did so in a time when there were certain fairly clearly established assumptions about family and the dissolution of marriage.  The law presumed that it was the husband’s duty to support his wife upon divorce. It was generally assumed that the mother of the children should be awarded custody.  As Mr. Norman watched a calendar being called in one of our modern Los Angeles Family Law courts he would note that these presumptions and social assumptions no longer apply.

Now, as then, the families that appear in family law court don’t fall into neat categories.  They represent every social and economic combination.  But, the notion of one of the spouses or partners automatically receiving support no longer exists.  The notion that one of the spouses presumptively should be the custodial parent does not exist.  With less clear cut expectations comes more need for due process protections.  The challenges facing the Family Law trial courts of California in allowing the parties access to justice were recently recognized by the California Supreme Court.4

As Mr. Norman walked through the crowded halls containing the family law courts he would no doubt notice the extra resources needed to assist family law litigants move their cases toward resolution.  He would no doubt be shocked to pass through a security screen to enter the court, and he would make note of the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department assigned to work in these emotional and turbulent courts.  He would see the lines of litigants waiting to receive assistance at the Court’s Family Law Self-help Centers.  These centers provide essential assistance to family law litigants, helping more than 850 people each day across Los Angeles County.  As he looked for his particular courtroom he would also see the child waiting room where parents receive free child care while their cases are being heard, the Family Law attorney volunteer mediation program and the busy professionals in Family Court Services who provide Conciliation Court services, conduct child custody evaluations and perform child interviews in many of the most high conflict cases in the nation.

On that fateful day in 1898, Mr. Norman learned that his marriage to Janette was void as she was under age.  In today’s family law courts he would probably find the same result.  So it is, in a way, as Alphonse Karr put it when he said, “the more things change, the more they are the same.”  But Los Angeles County has changed significantly since the days of the Red Sandstone Court house.  Los Angeles has become a huge urban sprawl of nearly 11 million residents.  Each year more than 100,000 of them will bring some of their most important problems before the 47 judicial officers of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Family Law Department.  With the growth of the county have come dramatic changes in diversity, social demographics and the economy. 

We are in a time of great change and great challenge.  The court that Mr.Norman entered is different than the court of today.  As we navigate these times of change, the court that we know today will undergo great change.  Unlike the changes the Mr. Norman of 1898 would have witnessed in today’s court, the coming changes will occur at a much more rapid pace. 

Change brings fear and anxiety.  It upsets routine and the norm.  As we work together through this time of great change we might do well to try and keep in mind the words of Sir Winston Churchill:

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

1. The Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1904.

2. See: Norman v. Norman (1898) 121 Cal. 620

3. In 2007, the new Family Law filings for the Los Angeles Superior Court consisted of: 38,439    Dissolutions, Nullities and Separations
6,002      Paternity Actions
2,056      Other Family Law matters
17,069    DVPA Restraining Orders
914         Minor's Contracts
43,947    Dept. of Child Support Services cases
108,427  Total New Filings

4. "We are aware that superior courts face a heavy volume of marital dissolution matters, and the caseload is made all the more difficult because a substantial majority of cases are litigated by parties who are not represented by counsel. (See Judicial Council of Cal., Rep. on Statewide Action Plan for Serving Self-Represented Litigants (2004) Exec. Summary, p. 2 [80 percent of the cases have at least one unrepresented party by the time of disposition].) In its 2006 report, the Judicial Council estimated that "although family and juvenile cases represent 7.5 percent of total filings, they account for nearly one-third of the trial courts' judicial workload …" Elkins v. Superior Court (2007) 41 Cal. 4th 1337


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Settling Domestic Violence Matters in Family Court

Judge Hank M. Goldberg

Judges and practitioners often wonder what options are available in settling Domestic Violence Protection Act (DVPA) matters.  At first blush, it may seem that there are few settlement possibilities regarding a DVPA matter—the abuse either happened or it did not.  In fact, there are a number of settlement alternatives.  But before we get to these options, why should the family law practitioner consider settlement very carefully regarding DVPA matters?  What are the risks of such litigation? 

THE RISKS OF DVPA LITIGATION MUST BE CAREFULLY CONSIDERED
A DVPA matter can often be characterized as “high stakes” litigation.  That is, the matter’s resolution may have a profound impact on the case and on the parties.  First, and foremost, is the safety issue.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of women and about one in ten men in the United States have experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their life.  Of these victims, about one in four women and about one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence.  In short, domestic violence is a widespread phenomena and a significant percentage of cases lead to severe consequences for the victims.  Just as public safety is the court’s top concern, the practitioner’s top concern should be the safety of their clients and their client’s children.  This must be the guiding principle behind any consideration of case settlement in such matters.
           
There are other risks involved in such litigation.  An abuse finding is part of the abuser’s criminal record.  It may be devastating to one’s reputation and even have an impact on one’s job prospects.  An abuse finding will trigger a rebuttable presumption against sole or joint legal or physical custody of the children to the abuser under Family Code, section 3044 (all code citations are to the Family Code unless otherwise stated).  Abuse is a key factor in making child custody orders under section 3011(b).  Upon issuing orders at a DVPA hearing, the court must consider ordering that any visitation to the abuser be supervised or suspended.  (Section 6323(d).)  An abuse finding against either party may have a dramatic effect in changing or eliminating a spousal support order under sections 4320(i)(documented domestic violence, 4320(m)(domestic violence conviction), 4325(presumption against support to spouse with qualifying domestic violence conviction). 

A finding that a party made a willfully false allegation of abuse is sanctionable conduct under 271.  (See IRMO Tharp (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1295, 1320-1321 (among other things, trial court erred by not considering false representations as basis for sanctions).  It is improbable that a judge would find that any attorneys fees expended in the presentation of a willfully false abuse allegation (or a willfully false defense thereto) to be “reasonably necessary” under sections 2030(a)(1).  Hence, the court’s finding in the DVPA matter may have a profound impact on both need based fee issues and sanctions. 

The risks associated with DVPA litigation are magnified where the alleged abuse was perpetrated against the parties’ minor child.  A finding of serious child abuse is likely to be dispositive of the custody issue under section 3020(a), providing that the child’s safety is the court’s top concern.  False allegations of child abuse are subject to number of severe consequences under sections 3027.5(b)(knowingly false sexual abuse allegation may lead to supervised visitation) and 3027.1(monetary sanctions for willfully false child abuse or neglect allegation).  The judge may believe that maliciously instilling in a child a false belief that the child was abused is in itself a form of abuse.  (See generally IRMO Nadkarni (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 1483, 1497-1498 (willfully destroying mental or emotional calm may constitute “disturbing the peace” and hence “abuse”).

Family law judges clearly understand that people often make mistakes, including serious mistakes.  But the family law attorney should keep in mind the universally recognized principle that there is a big difference between a person who makes a mistake and takes responsibility for it, and one who refuses to accept such responsibility.  In criminal cases, the Rules of Court specifically recognize early acknowledgement of responsibility as a mitigating factor.  (CRC 4.423(b)(3).)  This derives from the commonsense notion that those who acknowledge mistakes are much less likely to repeat them. 

A finding that a witness presented willfully false testimony about the presence or absence abuse could also have a profound spillover impact on seemingly unconnected issues.  This is because a witness who lies on one material point may be distrusted in others (i.e. “You lied about the abuse so I also don’t believe what you said about your gross monthly income”).  (CACI 107.)  In short, in addition to the obvious safety issues and the litigation costs, there are significant risks that both sides face in DVPA litigation. 

OPPORTUNITIES FOR SETTLEMENT

Because of these risks, the family law practitioner must carefully consider a DVPA claim’s strengths and weaknesses and consider opportunities for settlement.  To emphasize, in selecting the right approach, providing for the client’s and their children’s safety should be in the forefront of the practitioner’s mind.  The options below are generally organized in order from least beneficial to the alleged victim (best for the accused) to most beneficial to the alleged victim (worst for the accused).  Therefore, in general, the more compelling and serious the case is the lower down on the list one might go in determining the appropriate solution, and visa versa.  

FIRST DETERMINE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

First, the settlement officer and attorneys should determine what the parties stated goals and objectives are in seeking or resisting such an order.  For example, the primary concern could be safety, or it could be child custody, or the impact on support, or curbing distressing communications between the parties.  There may be a concern about the impact on one’s reputation or job.  Once the goals are known, a mutually satisfactory agreement can often be reached.  For example, suppose the party seeking the orders says “I just want the harassing e-mails to stop.”  Then he is asked, “are you trying to get any advantage in terms of child custody or support?”  He answers, “Oh, of course not.”  Based on these responses, the settlement officer now has the basis for settling the matter—all the alleged victim really needs is an order to stop the improper e-mails.  Such an order can be made pursuant to the court’s ability to make child custody related orders (assuming there are children and assuming there is an underlying non-DVPA case in which to make the orders).  The authority to make custody and visitation orders “implicitly authorizes the court to make collateral orders…that are reasonably related to the custody and visitation orders.”  (In re Chantal S. (1996) 13 Cal.4th 196, 203-204 (dependency case, but reasoning equally applicable to family court); Section 3022(court may make order related to custody that “seems necessary or proper”); and IRMO Hartman (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 1247, 1251 (court can order parents not to make disparaging comments in child’s presence and family court has some authority to restrict speech to provide for child’s welfare).)

AGREEMENT NOT TO PROCEED WITH PREJUDICE

The alleged victim may agree to take the matter off calendar with prejudice.  This might be done in exchange for a stipulation that the other side not seek any attorney’s fees or sanctions relating to the domestic violence matter.  Of course, this solution would be used in cases where the alleged victim realizes that proceeding would be very risky and unwise.

AGREEMENT NOT TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

The matter may be taken off calendar without prejudice.  This would preserve the option of re-filing the matter at a later date.  As part of such an agreement the parties could also agree as to any requirements for re-filing the matter.  For example, it could be agreed that that matter may only be re-filed and orders issued if the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that a new act of abuse occurred between the present date and the date of the re-filing.  This option would be most applicable to cases where the victim’s showing is weak and/or the alleged abuse is comparatively minor. 

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A NON-CLETS ORDER?

Can the parties agree to a non-CLETS order?  Often attorneys and judges talk about agreeing to “non-CLETS orders.”  CLETS is the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, commonly known as a “rap sheet.”  A non-CLETS order would be one that is not entered into CLETS.  However, the Family Code mandates that a DVPA order be made on a Judicial Counsel form, (Section 6221(c)), and entered into CLETS (Section 6380 et. seq.).  Therefore, some judges believe that so called “non-CLETS orders” violate the Family Code.  However, as just discussed, the court has the authority to make a variety of collateral child custody orders, including orders regulating the parent’s communications with one another and orders related to the manner, time and place of the custody exchange.  A variety of counseling orders, including for domestic violence, may be made under section 3190, which is not part of the DVPA.  Therefore, many of the same types of orders that would be contained in a DVPA order can also be contained in a child custody and visitation order.  This, of course, assumes that there is an underlying case—such as a paternity or dissolution case—in which such orders can be made.   Assuming an underlying case exists, there is an opportunity to make these orders without ever making any finding of abuse and without using the judicial counsel forms for restraining orders.

AGREEMENT TO JUDICIAL FINDING OF ABUSE WITHOUT A RESTRAINING ORDER

It does not follow that every judicial finding of abuse must result in issuing restraining orders.  Even if there is abuse, section 6340(a) requires the court to consider whether the failure to make an order may jeopardize the petitioner’s or children’s safety.  Therefore, the parties could stipulate to a judicial finding of abuse and then agree that no restraining orders are necessary.  The advantage to the accused party is that no CLETS order (see above description) will be made and no restraining order will issue.  The advantage to the alleged victim is that the judicial abuse finding will still trigger the section 3044 presumption (against sole or joint legal and physical custody to the abusive parent) and might also be considered “documented” domestic violence for spousal support purposes under section 4320(i).  This solution would probably be applicable mostly in cases involving solid evidence of comparatively minor abuse. 

“INFORMAL PROBATION” OPTION

The parties could agree to a procedure that functions somewhat the same as information probation in a misdemeanor case.  They would agree (with the court’s consent) to continue the DVPA hearing for a significant time period, typically about six months.  During this time the temporary orders would still be in place.  Additional orders could also be added, such as the requirement of completing a counseling program etc.  For example, the parties could even agree that a live in residential drug or alcohol program must be completed before the continuance date (this must be pursuant to agreement since the family court cannot order live in programs under section 3190).  If the agreement’s conditions are met and the parties stipulate or the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there are no further violations between the current date and the continuance date, the DVPA hearing will be dismissed with prejudice.  This option requires that the parties waive their right to a timely hearing and agree to continue the matter to the continuance date.  Time waivers should be taken.  This option gives the same benefits of a DVPA order without any abuse finding.  No adverse presumptions would be triggered against the accused party.  This option would be best suited to cases where there is a good reason to believe that abuse may have occurred but the outcome is unpredictable and both sides desire to minimize their exposure.

MUTUAL RESTRAINING ORDERS

In some cases the parties may agree to mutual restraining orders.  Be sure to include the mandated waivers and advisements contained in Monterroso v. Moran (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 732 (trial court required to advise victim of section 6305’s requirement that both parties act as primary aggressors to issue such an order).  Carefully read section 6305 for the requirements and limitations for such orders, particularly that both sides act primary as aggressors and neither primarily in self-defense.  This option should be considered where both sides may be involved in abuse and recognize the need to stay away from each other.

AGREEMENT AS TO ACT(S) OF ABUSE

The parties may agree to an order based on a finding of certain acts of abuse, but not others (i.e.  “I’ll admit I sent those harassing e-mails if you agree I did not punch you”).  In such cases, the parties would probably want the minute order or order after the hearing to reflect exactly what acts were admitted.  This option would be most applicable where the court will likely determine that at least some abuse occurred and the accused party desires to limit their exposure. 

AGREEMENT AS TO ORDER’S TERMS

The parties may agree to the various terms and conditions that will go into an order.  This option should be considered where it is highly likely that the court will find that abuse occurred and that restraining orders are indicated.  Consider:

--The order’s length.
--Will there only be a conduct order?  Will there also be a stay-away order?   
--Will there be a move out order? 
--A child custody order?
--An order for counseling?  What type?  Batter’s treatment, child abuse counseling, anger management, private psychological counseling, parenting, alcohol or drug counseling?  Would the parties agree to the ordering of counseling instead of proceeding with the hearing?
--Will restitution be ordered?
--Will attorney’s fees be ordered?

 
AGREEMENT AS TO THE ORDER’S EFFECTS

The parties may agree to the effects of an order.  For example, they may stipulate that the presumption in section 3044(against the abuser receiving sole or joint legal and physical custody) has been rebutted.  They may stipulate that the abuse is immaterial to the spousal support issue.

CONSIDER A “PACKAGE DEAL” WITH CRIMINAL MATTER

Some DVPA actions also involve companion criminal proceedings arising out of the same or similar events.  Settlement of the family matter should be carefully coordinated with the settlement of the criminal matter with the participation of all counsel involved in both cases.  Lack of coordination often produces poor results.  It is common to see family law matters where the family law judge is unable to make any child custody and visitation orders only because the appropriate boxes were not checked off on the criminal restraining order.  It is now hypothetically possible that a pending criminal and family law matter could be coordinated for settlement purposes in front of the same judge. 

CONSIDER REQUESTING A TENTATIVE DECISION
           
What should the accused party do when they are facing very compelling evidence of significant abuse and the other side won’t negotiate?  In criminal cases, the defense can request an “indicated sentence”-- the court may indicate what sentence it is inclined to impose if a given set of facts is confirmed.  (People v. Turner (2004) 34 Cal.4th 406, 419.)  The civil counterpart would be a “tentative ruling.”  (CRC 3.1308.)  The request might go something like this:  “Your honor, we want to consider all of our options.  If the abuse allegations are found to be true, what orders might be made?”  Of course the judge is not obligated to answer and may request an explicit agreement to discuss settlement to avoid any disqualification from hearing the matter.  In considering this option keep in mind the value of early acknowledgement of responsibility previously discussed.

AGREE HOW TO LITIGATE THE MATTER

As with any matter, assuming the parties cannot agree to anything else, they may agree as to how the dispute will be solved.  Usually where credibility is at issue the court itself will desire some live testimony.  However, will the parties agree to certain restrictions regarding live testimony?  Will they stipulate to the admissibility or authenticity of certain evidence?  Etc.

CONCLUSION

Not all matters can or should settle; and some DVPA matters legitimately need to be litigated.  Given the risks involved, DVPA matters demand great care and skill.  That skilled representation involves not only litigation skills but also careful consideration of settlement as an option. 

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Life Insurance Options in Divorce

Igor A. Zey, MSFS, CFP, CLU, ChFC, CAP, AEP

Financial and Insurance Planning issues do not stop with divorce. More often than not, they become more acute. In light of current statistics of more than 50% divorce rate it is not hard to imagine that most of the divorces involve minor children, thus, spousal and child support issues and even more esoteric special needs like mental or physical disabilities must be addressed in concrete and meaningful manner.  In those situations, it is nearly universal that in the settlement the income earner will carry life insurance to ensure the liabilities are paid in the event of his or her premature demise.

There are many issues to be covered:

•Appropriate owner and beneficiary designations

•Transfer for value issues with existing policies

•Gift and income tax issues

•Valuation of existing policies 
 


All of those issues are important. However, the most important issue once you addressed the above are the emotional morass and the cost.

Almost invariably, due to the finite number of years or by specific term of the settlement agreement, the type of insurance purchased is term, usually 10, 20 or 30 year types.
            
Even though term insurance is generally inexpensive, the spouse paying the costs generally has an emotional aversion to paying the bill because he/she is dictated to by the court or is forced to agree to it in a settlement. Also life insurance cost even under congenial circumstances is often viewed as “pure expense”, “waste of money”, etc. As is, most divorces are fairly acrimonious.  Asking to provide insurance on his/her life for the benefit of the ex-spouse could prove to be a daunting task.

There are a few ways to “sweeten the bitter pill”:

RETURN OF PREMIUM TERM INSURANCE

One of the most effective ways to mitigate the cost of term insurance in the context of divorce is to employ a so called Return of Premium Rider (ROP).
The name of this rider is self-explanatory. Most will very much like the idea of getting the premiums they were forced to pay back at the end of the term.
            
Assume the traditional; the husband is the bread winner, has $1 million of insurance coverage, and is 45 years old. The cost for a traditional 20-year level term ranges between $1,188 and $1,305 per year with 4 different insurance companies. The same contract with the ROP Rider would range between $3,792 and $4,930. At the end of 20 years with the ROP product, the client will have a tax free amount of ALL premiums paid back to him.  At the end of 20 years with regular term, the client gets back zero.   Does it make sense to pay that much more now? Taking the difference in premium and investing in the investment of your choice, you would have to earn a guaranteed rate of return of between 3.83% and 4.12% net every year or 7.49% before tax.

1. INCOME TERM LIFE INSURANCE:  

Income term is attractive to divorcing couples to continue spousal or child support obligations. Instead of providing a lump sum death benefit, this type of insurance provides a death benefit in the form of a guaranteed monthly income designed to last for the designated period of time. This type of coverage provides significant cost savings compared to traditional lump sum death benefit term insurance.

2. SINGLE DEPOSIT INSURANCE:  

The most cost effective way to purchase long-term insurance coverage (>15 years) is Universal Life insurance. As a broad stroke example, take the example above.  A 45 year old purchases a $1,000,000 policy with a single sum of about $100,000. 15 years later he gets all his monies back, plus about 10%, GUARANTEED. No premiums to pay every year, he controls the asset, very simple. From the purely economic perspective, the “cost” of coverage is what he is not earning on the $100,000 if he kept it in the bank at whatever the modest rate he could earn in the today’s world. Generally speaking, this strategy is about 20% more cost effective than buying pure term insurance policy for the same period of time. Additionally, the emotional strain of paying premiums is favorably absent.  There are also some additional tax benefits associated with this strategy.

Summary - the above strategies of using life insurance as a tool to help clients going through a divorce are not major technological breakthroughs.  However, you can use them as a potent negotiating tool to get your clients to do what is right and economically important.

Igor A. Zey, MSFS, CFP, CLU, ChFC, CAP, AEP
WZWL&H Advisors, LLP

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Recently Enacted Legislation

Raymond R. Goldstein, Legislative Chair

Below, you will find summaries of some of California’s newly enacted legislation relating to family law. Largely omitted are newly enacted laws regarding juvenile dependency proceedings. The short bill descriptions provided do not include or reflect all aspects of each enacted bill, but full bill text and legislative analysis may be found by simply clicking on the bill number. Most bills are non-urgency in nature and as such, they become effective January 1, 2013.

AB 1217 – Requires surrogate mothers and intended parents to be represented by independent counsel prior to executing an assisted reproduction agreement. Also permits an action to be filed to establish parent-child relationship before birth.

AB 1337 – Requires, in an action to determine father/child relationship, that notice to be given  to child’s relatives to 2nd degree and to person with physical custody.

AB 1354 – Requires party objecting to discovery based on privilege/work product to provide facts in the response so the other party can evaluate the merits of the objection.

AB 1406 – Requires service of preliminary declaration/disclosure of assets within 60 days of, or concurrently with, filing petition and response, respectively. Eliminates the requirement that the court, upon determining custody/visitation, consider a child's appointed counsel's statement of issues and contentions. Would also, in custody/visitation proceedings, require the court to look at disparity of funds when one a party has requested payment of attorney’s fees who is acting in pro per.

AB 1522 – Expands law so that a court, in considering an award of spousal support to the victim of a sexually violent felony committed by the other spouse, consider the felony sexual abuse. The injured spouse would also not be required to pay out of his/her separate property attorney fees for the abusing spouse.

AB 1674 – Provides professional standards for supervised visitation providers.
 
AB 1807 – Prohibits the court from ordering a child custody evaluation as part of its review of a temporary custody order unless party opposing reversion to prior custody order makes a showing that reversion is not in child’s best interest. Also provides that, during deployment, a child’s absence from the state or nondeploying parent’s relocation during a parent’s deployment would terminate the family court’s jurisdiction while a temporary modification is in effect. Also prohibits a party’s deployment from being used as a basis for asserting that the state court is an inconvenient forum for custody orders.

AB 1875 – Limits a deposition of non-experts to 7 hours of total testimony unless otherwise stipulated to by the parties. Court would be required to allow additional time if necessary or if the deponent or another person impedes or delays the exam.

AB 2094 – Would raise the minimum payment fee from $400 to $500 for a person granted probation for a domestic violence crime; if court finds defendant does not have the ability to pay, it must state its reasons on the record for reducing/waiving the fee.

AB 2209– Prohibits placement of child, with any person who is not a parent, outside the US prior to a finding that is in the best interest of the child by clear and convincing evidence. Agency requesting placement outside of the US has burden of proof.  

AB 2292 – Requires a court, before ordering the return of a minor child to the physical custody of his parents in dependency/wardship proceedings, to hear testimony and consider evidence.

AB 2365 – Family court must consider, in determining the best interest of the child in custody proceedings, either parent's habitual or continual abuse of prescribed controlled substances.

AB 2393 – Would increase from $1,000 to $1,500 the net disposable monthly income threshold for triggering the presumption that the obligor is entitled to a low-income adjustment to a child support calculation/obligation.

SB 991– Authorizes county supervisor to solemnize marriage if he/she meets requirements similar to those placed on elected mayor for solemnizing marriages.

SB 1048 – Authorizes the court to join to a juvenile court proceeding any gov’t agency, private service provider, etc. which has failed to meet its obligation to provide services to a child or nonminor which is the subject of a dependency proceedings

SB 1064 – (1) Allows a child, during pendency proceedings, to be placed with a parent, guardian or relative regardless of their immigration status; (2) Allows court to extend review hearing to terminate parental rights if parent has been put on immigration hold or deported; (3) Requires DSS to provide guidance on best practices to exchange information among counties regarding communications with foreign consulates for locating parents and obtaining documentation.

SB 1082 – Requires that victims of domestic violence or stalking and reproductive health care providers, employees, and volunteers to be domiciled in California in order to apply for enabling state and local agencies to respond to requests for public records without disclosing their address.

SB 1140 – Provides that marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil (not religious) contract and an authorized person of religious denomination shall not be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to their faith.

SB 1206 – TRO upon commencement of dissolution proceedings restrains parties from applying for new or replacement passport without consent of other party.

SB 1407 – Prohibits psychotherapists, who know a child has been removed from a parent in dependency proceedings, from releasing a minor’s mental health records based solely on an authorization signed by a parent unless authorized by the juvenile court.

SB 1425 – Requires the court to order a hearing on proposed modification on reunification if it finds that the best interest of the child would be met by the proposed change. Would also require the court to modify an order finding that unification services were not necessary when a party has moved for an order terminating parental rights. This bill would take effect immediately as an urgency statute.

SB 1433 – (1) Requires the court, prior to issuance or denial of a protective order in a DVPA, to determine whether the subject has a registered firearm; (2) Peace officer must ask that subject possessing firearm immediately surrender it before serving protective order on subject.


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Case Summaries

Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Trial court did not abuse its discretion by applying Family Code Sec. 4325 and terminating temporary spousal support award to husband convicted of domestic violence; regardless of court's awareness of the conviction at the time it made the award, wife was not required to show "changed circumstances" to have a temporary award set aside. Trial court erred in concluding that it was precluded from amending its original child and spousal support awards, when it specifically reserved jurisdiction to determine certain issues relevant to those awards.
     In re Marriage of Freitas
     filed October 3, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D060281
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012
Juvenile court may terminate reunification services to one parent while continuing them to another.
     In re Katelynn Y.
     filed September 28, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D061670
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Absent a stated basis for an objection, a party's utterance of the word "objection" is an exercise in futility. Trial court's failure to make an express finding that visitation would be detrimental before curtailing visitation was not reversible error where the facts and circumstances overwhelmingly indicated that visitation by father, who was incarcerated and not due to be released until three months after dispositional hearing, would be detrimental to his children. This issue could have been easily addressed at trial and was forfeited by father's failure to raise an objection. Father's argument that jurisdiction over one child could not be based on the abuse of two other children who had a different father was similarly forfeited.
     In re E. A.
     filed August 27, 2012, publication ordered September 26, 2012, Second District, Div. Eight
     Cite as B237684
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Monday, September 24, 2012
Denial of parents’ Welfare & Institutions Code Sec. 388 petition, whereby they sought reunification services that had been denied on the ground that they had "resisted prior court-ordered treatment" for alcoholism, was not an abuse of discretion where alleged change in circumstances--father’s belated participation in alcohol abuse treatment--was found inadequate based on father’s long history of relapsing after brief periods of sobriety. "Beneficial relationship" exception to termination of parental rights under Sec. 366.26 did not apply where parents' alcohol abuse had caused them to neglect child and expose him to domestic violence, prior reunification failed because parents promptly relapsed and denied the extent of their alcohol abuse and its negative impact on their ability to parent, and both parents missed multiple supervised visits and numerous court hearings because of their alcohol abuse.
     In re Marcelo B.
     filed September 24, 2012, Second District, Div. Six
     Cite as 2012 S.O.S. 4838
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Monday, September 24, 2012
Grandparent, even if a de facto parent, lacks standing to object to a lack of notice under the Indian Child Welfare Act unless grandparent qualifies as an "Indian custodian." Contention that visitation order unlawfully delegated to social services agency the decision whether grandparent would be allowed visitation was forfeited where the issue was not presented to juvenile court despite counsel having opportunity to present it and was not so important as to justify an exception to the forfeiture rule--and where the court had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter, even if the order was void as appellant contended.
     In re Michael A.
     filed August 27, 2012, publication ordered September 24, 2012, Third District
     Cite as 2012 S.O.S. 4842
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2012
Prospective adoptive parents have no statutory or constitutional right to appointed counsel in dependency proceedings.
     R. H. v. Superior Court (San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency)
     filed August 21, 2012, publication ordered September 14, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D061609
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2012
Defendant in paternity action did not have a constitutionally protected privacy interest in his DNA that would have given him the right to select a private facility to conduct paternity test. Because defendant’s privacy interests were protected by statute and county had a compelling interest in selecting a laboratory to make an accurate paternity determination, trial court properly ordered that test take place at laboratory with which county had an ongoing contractual relationship.
     County of San Diego v. Mason
     filed September 14, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D060412
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Juvenile court acted within its discretion when it concluded that it would be detrimental to dependent child to place him with father, when evidence showed that father was a registered sex offender and that authorities in state in which father lived would not accept responsibility for supervision.
     In re B.S.
     filed August 16, 2012, publication ordered September 12, 2012, Second District, Div. Three
     Cite as B237034
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 361.5(b)(15), which provides that reunification services can be denied when a "parent or guardian has...willfully abducted the child...from his or her placement," did not apply to circumstances in which mother moved with child--who had been placed with her by the court--to another state and did not conceal child from authorities.
     A.A. v. Superior Court (San Diego County Health And Human Services Agency)
     filed September 12, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D062114
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Juvenile court improperly considered Supplemental Security Income benefits in determining a parent's ability, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 903.1, to pay for legal services rendered by an attorney appointed to represent the parent and the parent’s minor child in a juvenile dependency proceeding.
     In re S. M.
     filed September 5, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D060733
     Full text click here

Family Law
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Declaration of domestic partnership was void where one of the partners executed the declaration but died before it was filed. Putative spouse doctrine did not apply where person claiming to have been a putative spouse had no expectation of receiving spousal benefits prior to execution of domestic partnership declaration.  Assuming that requirements for entering domestic partnership declaration violate right of equal protection on the ground that they are more cumbersome than requirements for entering into marriage, petitioner was not entitled to her proposed remedy--an order allowing her to receive her deceased companion’s CalPERS survivor benefits--where there was no showing that the legislature would prefer that remedy to the alternatives.
     Burnham v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System
     filed August 31, 2012, Third District
     Cite as 2012 S.O.S. 4577
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012
Juvenile court's invocation of dependency jurisdiction over two children was supported by substantial evidence when one child was physically and sexually abused by father, mother denied the abuse, and father's conduct and mother's denials placed both children at risk of future abuse.
     In re D.G.
     filed August 30, 2012, Second District, Div. One
     Cite as B235755
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012
Spousal support did not terminate where the supported ex-spouse participated in a religious ceremony that resembled a valid remarriage, but where there was no intent to legally marry and no marriage license, and where the couple purposely did not carry out the legal requirements of marriage. Voluntary participation in ceremony that was misrepresented to guests and others as a marriage ceremony did not estop ex-spouse to deny that she had remarried. Continuation of spousal support beyond one-half the length of the marriage was not an abuse of discretion where trial court expressly considered the length of the marriage and supported ex-spouse’s cohabitation, but found there was no competent evidence that ex-wife could be self-supporting, and ex-husband had been slow to pay her the amounts of community property that he agreed he owed her but still had under his control.
     In re Marriage of Left
     filed August 23, 2012, Second District, Div. Two
     Cite as B230768
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012
Order to redact confidential documents from father’s juvenile court file offered as evidence in child custody proceeding was appealable as a collateral order. References to father’s juvenile record in expert’s reports were not inadmissible under confidentiality statute where court’s review of the reports revealed that the authors did not secure or view confidential juvenile court records but based their comments on public records and interview with father. Experts’ reports were not themselves juvenile court records, so rule governing destruction of such records did not apply.
     Smith v. Smith
     filed August 22, 2012, Third District
     Cite as C066792
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Indian Child Welfare Act requirement that an Indian child in foster care be placed in "the least restrictive setting that most approximates a family...within reasonable proximity to his or her home" is mandatory and is not merely one of several factors to be considered in placement, but "reasonable proximity" must be defined on a case-by-case basis considering the child's needs and family's circumstances. Finding that parents' home in Riverside County and foster home in northern San Diego County were in reasonable proximity was unsupported by substantial evidence when child was an infant and arrangement would have required that he spend 10 hours in a car once a week for visitation. Child's removal from tribe's preferred placement would not infringe on tribe's inherent sovereign authority over tribal members and domestic relations.
     In re Anthony T
     filed August 22, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D061309
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Trial court was not required to select "tribal customary adoption" under Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 366.22(c)(1) as child’s permanent plan simply because tribe elected such a plan, but in the absence of a finding that tribal customary adoption would be detrimental to the minor, court erred in failing to select such a permanent plan.
     In re H. R.
     filed August 20, 2012, First District, Div. Three
     Cite as A134137
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Monday, August 20, 2012
Evidence was sufficient to support juvenile court's jurisdictional finding minor was at substantial risk of sexual abuse within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 300(j), and removing him from parental custody based on findings child was at substantial risk of sexual abuse by the father, who had sexually abused child’s older sister. Evidence of abuse of female child may support a finding that male child is at risk where male child was exposed to the abuse, and expert testified that male child was at risk. There was substantial evidence to support dispositional order removing child from his mother's custody where mother accused abused daughter of lying and was persistent in her attempts to challenge daughter’s disclosure of sexual abuse by the father, thus showing she would be unable to protect son against the risk of being sexually abused.
     In re R. V.
     filed August 20, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D061391
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Husband's choice not to disclose evidence of his financial circumstances, despite three separate discovery orders and sanctions, "disentitles" him to appeal order requiring him to pay attorney's fees incurred by wife.
     In re Marriage of Hofer
     filed August 13, 2012, Second District, Div. Six
     Cite as B228461
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012
The statutory presumption of parentage in favor of a second parent is not rebutted as a matter of law whenever the child who is the subject of the parentage petition was adopted by his legal parent through a single parent adoption decree.
     L. M. v. M. G.
     filed August 2, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D060409
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Where termination of mother’s parental rights was contemplated, social worker was not required to inquire into a mother’s Indian heritage or the names of her biological parents after mother and her adoptive father both specifically informed the court that they did not know this information. Social worker did not need to find out if mother's tribal affiliation was still available in adoption records. It was incumbent on mother to make an application requesting such information and then provide it to the social worker.
     In re C. Y.
     filed July 11, 2012, publication ordered July 31, 2012, Third District
     Cite as C070098
     Full text click here

Family Law
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Limitations on access to dependency files, as set forth in Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 827, did not apply to social services agency’s use and dissemination of evidence from an unrelated dependency case involving an unrelated adult who lived in the mother’s home. Hearsay statements in social workers’ report regarding mother’s drug use were sufficiently corroborated where another adult resident of mother’s home testified that mother smoked methamphetamines while the children were home; the father of one of the children stated that mother was anxious during visits, lost a lot of weight rapidly, and had sores on her face; and mother tested positive for methamphetamines once and missed two drug tests. Where mother claimed that her grandfather belonged to Indian tribe, notice to tribe--which identified mother and children by name and address but did not include any information regarding mother’s grandparents, nor the locations of mother’s or the children’s births--failed to satisfy Indian Child Welfare Act, particularly where agency failed to provide any further information, despite its being available, after receiving a letter requesting more information from the tribe.
     In re Christian P.
     filed July 23, 2012, Second District, Div. Three
     Cite as B236528
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Child’s claim of sexual abuse by father, although subsequently recanted, was sufficient to support court’s finding at jurisdictional hearing that such abuse had occurred, where child made multiple, detailed statements as to how such abuse had occurred, and claim was corroborated by other evidence, including mother’s testimony that father had recently lost interest in sex with mother and that he had visited incest-related Web sites and exhibited other strange behavior. Evidence establishing that father had sex with one of his children on multiple occasions was sufficient to establish, for purposes of jurisdictional hearing, that his other children, both male and female, were at risk of sexual abuse.
     In re I. J.
     filed June 29, 2012, publication ordered July 24, 2012, Second District, Div. Eight
     Cite as B237271
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The "stable placement" provision of Family Code Sec. 3041--which permits the court to find that granting custody of a child to his or her parent would be detrimental to the child if this would require removing the child from a "stable placement" with a person who has assumed on a day-to-day basis the role of the child’s parent, and has fulfilled the child’s physical and psychological needs for care and affection for a substantial period of time--is not dependent on the child first being abandoned with the nonparent.
     Guardianship of Vaughan
     filed July 18, 2012, Third District
     Cite as C066705
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Juvenile court erred when it denied petition by children’s biological mother--who had stopped visiting and contacting the children four years earlier--to vacate its finding that stepmother was the children's presumed mother under Family Code Sec. 7612. When a natural mother has first assumed and later appears to have abandoned her parental rights and responsibilities to her child, the appropriate mechanism for a stepparent to gain parental rights is through a stepparent adoption proceeding.
     In re D. S.
     filed July 18, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as D060730
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Friday, July 13, 2012
Juvenile court erred in ruling that Guatemalan Protocol pertaining to victims of human sexual trafficking was equivalent to an international treaty that deprived it of jurisdiction to protect child who had been abducted in Guatemala by her father, who brought her to the United States, repeatedly sexually abused her, and allowed others to do so. Guatemalan Protocol is not a treaty, and federal laws pertaining to children who are the victims of human sexual trafficking do not preempt state dependency law. Where child was sexually abused by her father in California, and her mother was under investigation in Guatemala based on her possible involvement in her abduction, child was entitled to the protection of state dependency system. It was an abuse of discretion for juvenile court to dismiss petition based on a conclusory finding that repatriation to Guatemala was required. Denial of petition to terminate father’s reunification services was an abuse of discretion in light of the severe sexual abuse of child.
     In re Y. M.
     filed July 13, 2012, Fourth District, Div. One
     Cite as 2012 S.O.S. 3447
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Juvenile court erred in denying reunification services under Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 361.5(b)(10)--which authorizes such denial where another child was previously removed from parent's custody, and parent subsequently failed to reunify with that child--where the prior removal was pursuant to law of another state, and not "pursuant to Section 361" as the statute expressly requires.
     Melissa R. v. Superior Court (San Francisco Human Services Agency)
     filed July 10, 2012, First District, Div. One
     Cite as A135044
     Full text click here
 
Family Law
Posted: Monday, July 9, 2012
Support order in connection with paternity judgment terminated upon the parties' marriage, so obligor was liable for arrearages accruing before marriage but not during period of separation prior to divorce.
     In re Marriage of Wilson and Bodine
     filed July 5, 2012, Fourth District, Div. Three
     Cite as G045728
     Full text click here

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Los Angeles County Bar Association
2012-2013 Family Law Section Newsletter
FAMILY LAW SECTION eNEWS
Raymond Goldstein, Editor


SECTION OFFICERS EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Chair
Lynette Berg Robe

Chair-Elect
Seth Kramer

Vice Chair
Peter M. Walzer

Treasurer
Judy L. Bogen

Secretary
Ronald F. Brot

Immediate Past Chair
Robert C. Brandt

Program & Event Administrator
Gail Coleman

Blum, Stephanie I.
Brauer, Laurel B.
Cogan, Ram
Gallegos, Rose Marie
Goldstein, Raymond
Gould-Saltman, Richard
Hadjian, Abbas
Hammers, Barbara
Kane, Paula
Karton, David S.
King, Adam N.
Levine, Marci
Medina, Randy W.
Mindel, Steven A.

Olson, Doreen Marie
Pandkhou, Parima
Pines, Cari M.
Reyes, Lucia A.
Ribet, Claudia
Shebby, David
Shiell, Warren R.
Spirito, Joe
Sturman, Jeff M.
Trope, Sorrell
Tuffias, Heidi S.
Waller, Marshall
Yamamoto, David
JUDICIAL OFFICERS PAST CHAIRS PARTICIPATING ON THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Hon. John Chemeleski
Hon. Scott M. Gordon
Hon. Mark A Juhas
Hon. Thomas Trent Lewis
Hon. B. Scott Silverman

Roberta Bennett
Robert C. Brandt
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

LIAISONS

Tai Glenn
Tracy Katz, CPA/CFF
David Kuroda, LCSW
Margaret A. Little, Ph.D.
Mary Lund, Ph.D
Phillip J. Monahan
Irwin Nachimson
Paul J. White, CPA