Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why "Self Help" In Child Custody Cases Is a Bad Idea

    Kelly Cooney, 35 of Lee’s Summit, Missouri has been charged, in Iowa with conspiracy to commit first degree burglary, conspiracy to go armed with intent, and child endangerment.  Kevin Carter, 50, from Raytown, Missouri has also been charged, in Iowa, with first degree burglary, going armed with intent, assault while causing serious injury and carrying weapons.

    Apparently, Cooney and Carter broke into the house of Cooney’s son’s father.  Carter used a stun gun on the father while he was holding the child and Cooney took the child from the father.  Cooney and Carter attempted to flee with the child.  The ex-husband of a neighbor saw what happened and had a valid weapon permit.  He retrieved his gun and fired several shots to deflate the tires of the Cooney and Carter’s vehicle.

    Cooney and Carter are being held in Boone County Jail in Iowa.

    There are some reported custody issues between Cooney and the boy’s father.  It is unclear whether there are existing orders, or whether there are legal proceedings in Missouri or Iowa.

    There are limited, if any, instances in which exercising self help in a family law matter is appropriate.  Even if one party may not be doing anything technically against any rules, self help typically implies a lack of communication and cooperation.  Using the example from above, even though it’s an extreme one, let’s assume there were no custody orders in place and there wasn’t even a case filed.  It would be true that the father had no more custodial rights to the child than Cooney.  Even if she is a perfectly competent mother, she would be hard pressed to find a judge that would be able to overlook the facts (assuming they are true), that she broke into the house, used a stun gun on the child's father, then tried to forcibly remove the child from the father.  At this point, she may be hard pressed to find a judge that will give her anything other than monitored visitation with her child, and that’s after she’s released from jail.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

The majority of domestic violence goes unreported. Only one in four cases of domestic violence will be reported. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, parents or caregivers were physically injured in more than one out of three cases in which children witnessed domestic violence, but less than 2% of the cases resulted in jail time for the perpetrator.

This study included 517 children who had witnessed domestic violence in some form in their household. Three out of four children saw the domestic violence, 21% heard it and 3% saw the injuries later. Incidents of domestic violence was spread relatively equally throughout socio-economic lines. The children were from families of various ethnicities, 53% white, 20% African American, 16% Latino and 11% other races. Three out of four perpetrators were male.

The study found that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, nightmares, teen dating violence and disruptions with school work.  According to the study, these effects are similar to when the children are the victims of the abuse themselves.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Child Support Obligation After Death of the Child

David A. Shane, now 47 years old, was convicted in 1997 of the 1994 murder and feticide of 23 year old Nicole Lynn Koontz who was seven months pregnant with Shane’s co-defendant’s, Robert L. Hicks’, child. Shane is serving a 60 year sentence for the crime.

Shane and his ex-wife divorced in 1990 and have a daughter Ashlie born in 1988. He was ordered to pay $67 per week in child support. Ashlie died in a house fire in April 2006 when she was 18 years old. At the time of her death, Shane was not current on his child support payments and owed some child support arrears. In December 2012, Delaware County child support obtained an income withholding order to recover some of the child support arrears.

Shane earns $0.95 per hour working in the prison laundry and works about 37 hours per week. The Delaware Circuit Court ruled that Shane must continue to pay 55% of his prison wages to pay off the child support arrears because the child support arrears don’t terminate with the death of the child. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld this ruling and found that Shane missed the deadline to appeal the decision by nine days.

In California, the obligation to financially support your children is taken seriously. Failure to pay child support can result in revocation of the driver’s license, or any other licenses or permits issued by the state of California, or even potential jail time. Child support arrears can’t be discharged during bankruptcy and if the paying parent dies, if there are child support arrears, the receiving parent becomes a creditor against paying parent’s estate for repayment of the arrears. While the death of the child would have terminated the current child support order, the arrears were incurred while the child was still alive and the arrears don’t get discharged because the child is no longer living. The receiving parent is still owed the money that he/she should have received as financial assistance from the other parent during that period. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Update on the Pelletier Case

This is a follow up to one of my older blogs about Justina Pelletier, the 15 year old Connecticut teenager who suffers from some psychiatric and physical medical issues. Justina was removed from her parents’ custody while receiving medical treatment at a Boston area hospital and temporarily placed in the custody of the state. 

Last week, Massachusetts Juvenile Court JudgeJoseph Johnston awarded "permanent" custody of Justina to the state. Her parents are not allowed to appeal the decision until summer.
According to the Boston Globe, the Judge found there was sufficient evidence to find that Justina’s parents "were unfit to care for the complex medical and psychiatric needs of their daughter." The state has no immediate plans to return Justina to Connecticut or to the custody of her parents.