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Monday, December 19, 2011

Vanessa Bryant Files for Divorce

VANESSA FILES FOR DIVORCE

Inside Edition, December 19, 2011

Was it a photo of actress Sanaa Lathan at Kobe Bryant's side at a Jay-Z and Kanye West concert last week at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that led to the end of his marriage?

Lathan and Bryant were reportedly seen flirting and dancing together in the VIP suite.

But a spokesperson for Kobe is squashing the reports, saying "There was no flirting. There's nothing there."

And Lathan denies her having an affair with Kobe, tweeing, "I'm not, never have been, involved with Kobe in any way."

Another report is linking the basketball star to yet another woman, Carla Dibello. Get this - she's Kim Kardashian's best friend! Dibello has been a fixture on the sideline at Laker games for several years.

In the divorce papers obtained by INSIDE EDITION, Kobe's wife Vanessa cites "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split.

They've already agreed to joint custody of their kids, Natalia and Gianna and because there's no pre-nup - the couple is expected to split everything down the middle.

Family Law Attorney, Kelly Chang Rickert, told INSIDE EDITION "He is going to have to pay alimony, which is a monthly obligation based on earnings. But whatever he earned during the marriage, any rights that he acquired, all endorsements can also be half of Vanessa's."

Kobe is worth an estimated $140 million - so that's $70 million each. Vanessa keeps their $5 million Los Angeles mansion. And she also gets that $4 million so called make-up ring that Kobe famously bought her after he was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel concierge in Colorado in 2003. Kobe was acquitted at trial.

It was Kobe's alleged serial cheating that ended the marriage. A close friend of Vanessa's quoted as saying:

"She's been dealing with these incidents for a long time and has been a faithful wife, but she's finally had enough."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yet another Murder-Suicide Caused by Divorce


50 YEAR OLD MAN BEATS WIFE TO DEATH, SHOOTS TWO CHILDREN, COMMITS SUICIDE - WHILE DIVORCE WAS PENDING









Not even a week after the Seal Beach shootings (the murderer was involved in custody battle with ex-wife), comes another tragedy in Westchester, NY. Sam Friedlander (age 50), in the midst of divorce proceedings, beat his wife Amy (age 46) to death with a piece of furniture - a table leg. Sam then shot his two children (ages 10 and 8) to death, before he shot himself to death in his basement.

There are rumors about Amy being verbally abusive, emasculating Sam, for several years leading up to the tragedy. Sam was known to be a peaceful, no one could ever have predicted this.

Why does this happen? For an insightful article, see Why Do We Hurt the Ones we Love, by my dear friend Diana Mercer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Custody Battle and Its Victims


HUNTINGTON BEACH – Neighbors of a house searched late Wednesday in connection with the deadliest shooting in Orange County history said one thing stood out about the man who lives there: His total devotion to his son.

Police identified Scott Dekraai as their suspect in the midday shooting at a Seal Beach beauty salon that left eight people dead; he was being held on suspicion of murder. Court records show he has been fighting his ex-wife – who colleagues said worked at the salon – for custody of their son since 2007.

They were in court together Tuesday, the day before the shooting, for a routine hearing, records show. His ex-wife's attorney said Dekraai had been seeking full custody of their son, but a court-ordered report issued last week had recommended against that.

"His demeanor was always very controlled, almost serene," attorney John Cate Jr. said. "In my dealings with him, I never saw him get upset, get agitated." He described Dekraai as "monotone."

Cate said he believes his client was one of the first killed in the mass shooting at Salon Meritage on a busy Wednesday afternoon. Police have not released a list of the victims, and the Register is not naming the ex-wife without official confirmation.

Dekraai, who turns 42 next week, had worked for some time as a tugboat operator. He badly injured his leg in 2007 when he rushed to help another crew member after a tow line snapped, according to a Register report at the time.

His next-door neighbor, Stephanie Machow, 29, said he sometimes grumbled about his ex-wife, saying their divorce case began shortly after his leg injury. Machow waved to him Wednesday morning as she left for work, and assumed he was returning home after dropping off his son at school.

"Never could I imagine him doing this," she said. "I thought he was the nicest guy ever. ... The only reason I could imagine him flipping out is because of some kind of argument over his son. He was everything to Scott."

Several neighbors identified a photo of the suspect as the man they knew as Scott.

Dekraai lived in a single-story gray house on Melody Lane in Huntington Beach, which police blocked off with yellow tape Wednesday evening. Neighbors said they often saw Scott walking his white Lab or playing baseball with his son.

Jake Rennison, 17, said Scott once asked him to teach his son to skateboard. Jake said he taught the boy how to kick flip. "He was totally devoted to his son. Totally," Jake said. "I can't believe this happened. The only thing I can imagine is with the custody battle. His son was his life."

Dekraai married the woman who is now his ex-wife in Clark County, Nev., in early 2003, records show. He filed for divorce in Los Angeles County in 2007, a month after his tugboat accident, court records show.

His attorney at the time, Don Eisenberg, said Dekraai gave him "no reason to suspect a thing." Another attorney has since taken the case, and Eisenberg said he hasn't heard from Dekraai since 2009.

"I know they had a difficult relationship," he said of Dekraai and his ex-wife. "But that's nothing that would foreshadow a tragedy life this."

–Register staff writer Ron Campbell contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3777 or dirving@ocregister.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top Custody Complaints and My Advice

TOP THREE (3) CUSTODY COMPLAINTS (AND MY ADVICE)

Kelly Chang Rickert, Esq., CFLS**

** California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist

Law Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation

Copyright 2000 - 2012






If you are going through a divorce or a paternity case with children, and you absolutely hate your spouse/partner, I strongly urge you read this article.

First, as a custody lawyer, if there was ONE trait I could wish on all my clients, it would be MATURITY. That’s correct, 95% of nasty custody battles happen because one, or both parties, are incredibly immature. So, the first piece of advice I give to those entrapped in these battles is: GROW UP. Seriously, GROW UP!!!!!! I understand that sometimes it’s your SPOUSE/PARTNER that is immature. But as a famous Judge once said on the bench: “Mother Theresa does NOT marry Hitler”. Your complaints reflect more about YOU as a person than the other person.

Below please find a compilation of the top 3 custody complaints my firm (and ALL family law judges) hear, ALL THE TIME.

1. He/she doesn’t really want joint custody. He/she is only requesting that so he doesn’t have to pay as much child support.

Even assuming this is true, barring any drug and alcohol dependency/addiction/domestic violence/psychological issues, or a moveaway, the Courts will assume that a joint custody parenting plan is in the best interests of the child. It COULD be true: California’s child support formula (Family Code section 4055) and TIMESHARE is a huge factor. So, if your spouse/partner is well-versed with Dissomaster and the Family Code, potentially, this could influence things. But, if there is a history of regular bonding with both parents, it will be very difficult prove that one party is requesting custody to simply avoid payment of child support

MY ADVICE: Work it out. Go to mediation to work out a good parenting plan. If there are no drug dependency/addiction/domestic violence/psychological issues, or if there isn’t a pending MOVE across an ocean, JOINT legal and JOINT physical custody will be preferred and awarded, especially in a case where the child(ren) have had times of appropriate bonding with both parents. Joint custody is not necessary 50/50, just as quality isn’t necessarily quantity. If you are willing to put the children first, knowing their schedules can help you figure out a good parenting plan. BE REASONABLE.

2. The children can’t live without me. I raised them on my own. He/She was never around. They need to be with me, it’s in their “best interests”, so I should have full custody.

I generally hear this complaint from mothers of very young children (typically under age 5). It is somewhat true that young children (under age 5), generally spend more time with their moms – this is especially true in households where only one parent (typically the father) works. However, times have changed: nowadays, both parents do work. As such, it is natural to assume the child spends an adequate amount of time during the day away from both parents. Lesson? CHILDREN ADJUST.

Sometimes the children DO spend more time with one parent, particularly if only one parent works. However, in most divorces and/or separations, THINGS CHANGE. The law will NOT punish a working parent. If you are father that frequently travels for his job (i.e., 280 days of the year), you may need to get a new job in order to bond with the children. If you have historically been absent, there may be a period where you gradually “step up” to your eventual role as a “present parent”.

If you are the stay at home parent, the award of joint custody may be shocking at first. But it may be an opportunity for the other parent to step up, and really be the parent you always wanted him/her to be. In addition, I have been informed by several of my at-first reluctant clients that after the initial shock and adjustment, they actually prefer the shared custody because they now “get a break from the kids”.

MY ADVICE: Work it out. Accept this reality: divorce splits a home. Every child will need to go through an adjustment period. They may have seen mommy, or daddy, every single night of their lives. But now there are TWO homes, and there will be times where they will not see you. This is the harsh reality of divorce. But understand that as long as the co-parenting is peaceful, the times without the children will not harm their development. You may miss them, but they are with their father (or mother). It is GOOD, and what the Legislature intended – that the child(ren) maintain “frequent and continuing” contact (NOT “every single second and none to the other parent”) with BOTH parents. Remember, you and your spouse/partner are going through the divorce/separation, NOT the children.

3. He/she is an “unfit parent”. He/she does not cook, does not discipline, does not help them with their homework, does not dress them warmly, is dating an ex-convict/prostitute; does not take them to the doctor,_______________ (insert complaint), etc, etc, etc.

Co-parenting is tough, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE TOGETHER. I am a co-parenting mother. In our home, you will frequently hear accusations of this sort flying back and forth:

“You are late picking up our daughter, again!”

“No, do NOT feed her McDonalds AGAIN for dinner.”

“Can you not hover over her? She needs to breathe!”

“WHY is she watching Princess movies again when I just bought three (3) books for her?”

“It is 80 degrees out, and you dressed her in a sweater. What is wrong with you?”

“It is 50 degrees out and you dressed her in a T-Shirt. What is wrong with you?”

“Uh, she has 103 fever!! You were with her all day, didn’t you THINK about calling the doctor, or ME?”

Oh, and, I am happily married (most of the time). Imagine co-parenting with someone you hate? EXPONENTIALLY more difficult.

MY ADVICE: Enroll in parenting classes and individual counseling. Why parenting classes? Duh. Why counseling? Because sometimes, it is EASIER to learn how to teach, feed, educate a child, than it is to learn patience and understanding of the other side’s parenting style. Let’s face it, someone is always going to be the more attentive/considerate parent. But that does not necessarily mean the other side is “unfit”. In my experience (both professionally and personally), once the more critical parent lets up, the other side will step up. Once the critical parent relinquishes control, the other side can feel un-judged, and assume responsibility. Individual counseling can greatly help. And, if you are the parent suffering criticism, enrolling in parenting classes can do wonders for your relationship! It may seem ridiculous and absolute surrender to a control freak, but I assure you, taking a parenting class once in a while is super worth your time. Even the world’s most perfect parents can use it one in a while.

Obviously, my article is geared towards custody disputes which do not involve child abuse, drug/alcohol addiction, domestic violence, and other demons which do clearly exist out there. When one of more of the above-mentioned factors are present, you are no longer able to deal with REASON. As such, a professional evaluation may need to be performed, and treatment applied before joint custody can be granted. However, having handled divorce and custody matters for over a decade, I can assure you: most divorcing/separating couples with children do NOT need court intervention. And those who tragically took that route will tell you that after hundreds of thousands of dollars, even after their children become adults, their situation has NOT improved. Learn from their lessons. Take my advice.

**Kelly Chang Rickert founded the Law Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation. She is a Certified Family Law Specialist, and her firm specializes in Divorce and Family Law, and handles all areas of Divorce, Annulment, Spousal Support, Child Support; Modification, Child Custody and Visitation, Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements, Adoptions, Property Division; Restraining Orders; and Family Law Mediation. She has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Ms. Chang Rickert is married with children.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Divorce is Costly for Women


From supermarket tabloids to the New York Times, the financial costs of divorcing are widely publicized with every celebrity split-up. Now a scholarly study has documented divorce’s significant impact on women’s economic security.

Kenneth Couch, an economics professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who studies the economic effects of unexpected lifecycle events, has presented the results of an unusually long-term study, covering 40 years in the lifespan of more than 2,000 women, showing that “family structure matters a lot” for their economic well-being.

In short, marriage has such a significant economic benefit for women that even divorcees who develop their own careers can’t match it.

The study, developed in collaboration with the Social Security Administration, analyzes the economic impact on about 600 women from the time of their divorces in the 1970s – when divorce in the U.S. was at its peak – into their retirement, as late as 2008.

It shows that economic pressure forced many divorced women into the job market. This created large jumps in their personal income at first, since many of them had reduced or given up their jobs while they were married, perhaps in anticipation of having children or because they were expected to expand their care-giving roles.

Seventy percent of divorced women in the U.S. remarry, however. When they do, their job status and personal income again drops, going back to what it would have been if they had been married all along.

The divorced women in the study who did not remarry maintained their careers and higher personal earnings to the end of their working years. “They really ramped up their work effort for the rest of their life,” Couch says, giving them a larger individual Social Security benefit at retirement.

But at retirement, the households of the married women who had earned less money during their working lives collected more in Social Security benefits because of the extra boost from their spouse’s benefit. Where divorced women who never remarried had an average monthly benefit of around $1,000, the figure more than doubled, to $2,231, for continuously married women who enjoyed the combined effect of their husband’s benefit, too.

Divorced women who remarried had a similar advantage compared with those who did not: Their benefit, combined with their spouse’s, came to more than $2,000 monthly.

In the long run, staying married, or remarrying after a divorce, translates into greater economic security for women.

“It seems like most people understand there are advantages to forming durable relationships and staying in them,” Couch says.

Still, while divorce rates have fallen since the early 1980s, divorce “remains a high probability life cycle event” with a significant impact on women’s earnings and Social Security benefits, according to the study.

Divorce and poverty

Recently released U.S. Census figures on divorce rates tend to confirm the economic advantage of marriage for women. In 2009, during the recession, women who divorced in the previous year were more likely to receive public assistance than men, and they reported lower household income. They were also more likely to be poor than recently divorced men.

Couch’s study was presented at a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco “Conference on Unexpected Lifecycle Events and Economic Well-Being” that he helped organize last spring. The collected papers, edited by Couch and Mary C. Daly of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, will be published by Stanford University Press, with chapters on the economic impact of unexpected changes in family structure, health, and job loss.

The basic research can be used to inform government policy responses in areas such as unemployment benefits, or how divorce law addresses financial assets and child support, Couch says.

Couch is well known for studying what happens to people when the unexpected event of job loss occurs. When the recession hit, he was asked by the SSA to work with its staff, analyzing the impact of the job losses that have occurred during the current recession as well as the effect of changing family structure on the well-being of Americans. He has spent part of the past two years in Washington, D.C. working with the SSA.

His co-authors on the divorce study – “Impact of Divorce on Women’s Earnings and Retirement over the Life Course,” are Christopher R. Tamborini, an SSA research analyst; Gayle L. Reznik, an SSA economist; and John W.R. Phillips, a health scientist administrator at the National Institute of Aging.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring


One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring

Cynthia Daily and her partner used a sperm donor to conceive a baby seven years ago, and they hoped that one day their son would get to know some of his half siblings — an extended family of sorts for modern times.

So Ms. Daily searched a Web-based registry for other children fathered by the same donor and helped to create an online group to track them. Over the years, she watched the number of children in her son’s group grow.

And grow.

Today there are 150 children, all conceived with sperm from one donor, in this group of half siblings, and more are on the way. “It’s wild when we see them all together — they all look alike,” said Ms. Daily, 48, a social worker in the Washington area who sometimes vacations with other families in her son’s group.

As more women choose to have babies on their own, and the number of children born through artificial insemination increases, outsize groups of donor siblings are starting to appear. While Ms. Daily’s group is among the largest, many others comprising 50 or more half siblings are cropping up on Web sites and in chat groups, where sperm donors are tagged with unique identifying numbers.

Now, there is growing concern among parents, donors and medical experts about potential negative consequences of having so many children fathered by the same donors, including the possibility that genes for rare diseases could be spread more widely through the population. Some experts are even calling attention to the increased odds of accidental incest between half sisters and half brothers, who often live close to one another.

“My daughter knows her donor’s number for this very reason,” said the mother of a teenager conceived via sperm donation in California who asked that her name be withheld to protect her daughter’s privacy. “She’s been in school with numerous kids who were born through donors. She’s had crushes on boys who are donor children. It’s become part of sex education” for her.

Critics say that fertility clinics and sperm banks are earning huge profits by allowing too many children to be conceived with sperm from popular donors, and that families should be given more information on the health of donors and the children conceived with their sperm. They are also calling for legal limits on the number of children conceived using the same donor’s sperm and a re-examination of the anonymity that cloaks many donors.

“We have more rules that go into place when you buy a used car than when you buy sperm,” said Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College and author of “The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.” “It’s very clear that the dealer can’t sell you a lemon, and there’s information about the history of the car. There are no such rules in the fertility industry right now.”

Although other countries, including Britain, France and Sweden, limit how many children a sperm donor can father, there is no such limit in the United States. There are only guidelines issued by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a professional group that recommends restricting conceptions by individual donors to 25 births per population of 800,000.

No one knows how many children are born in this country each year using sperm donors. Some estimates put the number at 30,000 to 60,000, perhaps more. Mothers of donor children are asked to report a child’s birth to the sperm bank voluntarily, but just 20 to 40 percent of them do so, said Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry.

Because of this dearth of records, many families turn to the registry’s Web site, donorsiblingregistry.com, for information about a child’s half brothers or half sisters.

Ms. Kramer, who had her son, Ryan, through a sperm donor, started the registry in 2000 to help connect so-called donor families. On the Web site, parents can register the birth of a child and find half siblings by looking up a number assigned to a sperm donor. Many parents, she said, are shocked to learn just how many half siblings a child has.

“They think their daughter may have a few siblings,” Ms. Kramer said, “but then they go on our site and find out their daughter actually has 18 brothers and sisters. They’re freaked out. I’m amazed that these groups keep growing and growing.”

Ms. Kramer said that some sperm banks in the United States have treated donor families unethically and that it is time to consider new legislation.

“Just as it’s happened in many other countries around the world,” Ms. Kramer said, “we need to publicly ask the questions ‘What is in the best interests of the child to be born?’ and ‘Is it fair to bring a child into the world who will have no access to knowing about one half of their genetics, medical history and ancestry?’

“These sperm banks are keeping donors anonymous, making women babies and making a lot of money. But nowhere in that formula is doing what’s right for the donor families.”

Many of those questions were debated in Britain shortly after the birth there, in 1978, of Louise Brown, the first baby born using in vitro fertilization. In 1982, the British government appointed a committee, led by Mary Warnock, a well-known English philosopher, to look into the issues surrounding reproductive health.

The groundbreaking Warnock Report contained a list of recommendations, including regulation of the sale of human sperm and embryos and strict limits on how many children a donor could father (10 per donor). The regulations have become a model for industry practices in other countries.

“It is quite unpredictable what the ultimate effect on the gene pool of a society might be if donors were permitted to donate as many times as they chose,” Baroness Warnock wrote recently in an e-mail.

Without limits, the same donor could theoretically produce hundreds of related children. And it is even possible that accidental incest could occur among hundreds of half siblings, said Naomi R. Cahn, a law professor at George Washington University and the author of “Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Markets Need Legal Regulation.”

Sperm donors, too, are becoming concerned. “When I asked specifically how many children might result, I was told nobody knows for sure but that five would be a safe estimate,” said a sperm donor in Texas who asked that his name be withheld because of privacy concerns. “I was told that it would be very rare for a donor to have more than 10 children.”

He later discovered in the Donor Sibling Registry that some donors had dozens of children listed. “It was all about whatever they could get away with,” he said of the sperm bank to which he donated. “It is unfair and reprehensible to the donor families, donors and donor children.”

Ms. Kramer, the registry’s founder, said that one sperm donor on her site learned that he had 70 children. He now keeps track of them all on an Excel spreadsheet. “Every once in a while he gets a new kid or twins,” she said. “It’s overwhelming, and not what he signed up for. He was promised low numbers of children.”

The fertility industry has long resisted regulation, but the explosion of related half siblings may change that. Dr. Robert G. Brzyski, chairman of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine ethics committee, had been skeptical that there could be donors with more than 100 children. But now, he said, it is time to take another look at donor limits.

“In the past, when decisions were made about how many children should be attributed to a donor, it was based on estimates of the risk of unintended consanguinity between brothers and sisters who could meet and marry,” Dr. Brzyski said. “I think those models were very limited in their vision when they were created. Now I think there needs to be a reassessment of the criteria and the policies regarding the appropriate number of offspring.”

Because there is so much secrecy surrounding sperm and egg donations, Ms. Kramer said, it has been difficult for families of children born via sperm donation to step forward with their concerns. Some heterosexual couples never tell a child that he or she is the product of a sperm donation.

Ms. Daily, the Washington social worker, said that other parents in her son’s group had been secretive because of fears that their children would be stigmatized. She and other donor parents are coming forward, she said, because they “need to start advocating for some regulation.”

Experts are not certain what it means to a child to discover that he or she is but one of 50 children — or even more. “Experts don’t talk about this when they counsel people dealing with infertility,” Ms. Kramer said. “How do you make connections with so many siblings? What does family mean to these children?”

****

For more information on sperm donors and paternity rights, see our blog entry at http://divorcefamilylaw.blogspot.com/search?q=sperm+donor

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Buy the Cow...


More Unwed Parents Live Together, Report Finds

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who have children and live together without marrying has increased twelvefold since 1970, according to a report released Tuesday. The report states that children now are more likely to have unmarried parents than divorced ones.

The report was published by the National Marriage Project, an initiative at the University of Virginia, and the Institute for American Values, two partisan groups that advocate for strengthening the institution of marriage. The report argues that the rise of cohabitation is a growing risk for children, and that their lives are less stable in such families.

The report cites data from the Census Bureau as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and includes work from 18 researchers who study family issues.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, part of the Centers for Disease Control, 42 percent of children have lived with cohabiting parents by age 12, far more than the 24 percent whose parents have divorced.

The numbers also suggest a correlation with class. Americans with only a high school diploma are far more likely to cohabit than are college graduates, according to the report.

“There’s a two-family model emerging in American life,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. “The educated and affluent enjoy relatively strong, stable families. Everyone else is more likely to be consigned to unstable, unworkable ones.”

Cohabiting parents, Mr. Wilcox said, are more than twice as likely to break up as parents who are married.

The increase in unmarried couples cohabitating and having children swept poor communities beginning in the late 1960s, Mr. Wilcox said, citing data from the National Survey of Family Growth, and now has moved into working class and lower-middle-class families.

Out-of-wedlock births among white women with a high school diploma rose more than sixfold in recent decades, the report said, jumping to 34 percent in the late 2000s, from 5 percent in 1982. In contrast, the rate for white college graduates stayed flat at about 2 percent.

While births to white women in cohabiting relationships rose by about two-thirds from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, the proportion jumped by about half for black women and nearly doubled for Hispanic women, though that increase was affected by a large influx of immigrants, said Sheela Kennedy, a research associate at the Minnesota Population Center, which conducts demographic studies and whose work was cited in the new report.

“There’s growing evidence that families that would be unstable anyway are just skipping marriage,” Ms. Kennedy said.

The report cited studies in the Journal of Marriage and Family, and in Sociology of Education, asserting that children in cohabiting families tend to perform worse in school and be less psychologically healthy than those whose parents are married.

It also cited a 2010 report on child abuse by the federal Department of Health and Human Services that found that children living with two married biological parents had the lowest rates of harm — 6.8 per 1,000 children — while children living with one parent who had an unmarried partner in the house had the highest incidence, at 57.2 per 1,000 children.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Husband Files for Divorce, Wife Cuts Off His Penis


HUSBAND FILES DIVORCE; WIFE CUTS OFF HIS PENIS
By DENISSE SALAZAR / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER



GARDEN GROVE – A woman is behind bars after police say she poisoned her husband, cut off his penis and threw it in the garbage disposal because he "deserved it."

At about 9 p.m. Monday, officers went to a condominium in the 1400 block of Flower Street after a woman called 911 and reported a medical emergency, Garden Grove police Lt. Jeff Nightengale said.

The woman, Catherine Kieu Becker, met officers at the door and told them her husband was in the bedroom, Nightengale said. Becker also told officers that he "deserved it," he said.

Officers found a 51-year-old man tied to the bed and bleeding profusely from his groin, he said. The man, who has not been identified, underwent emergency surgery at UCI Medical Center in Orange and was listed in serious condition.

Becker, 48, is accused of using an unknown poison or drug in her husband's food to make him sleepy, Nightengale said. She then tied him to the bed and, as he woke up, she cut off his penis with a 10-inch kitchen knife, Nightengale said.

"He woke up right before she cut off his penis," he said.

She tossed the penis in the garbage disposal and turned it on, Nightengale said, adding that pieces of penis were recovered and taken to UCI.

The victim told detectives that he believed there was something wrong with the food Becker prepared for him, Nightengale said, adding that detectives took the food to be tested.

The couple married on Dec. 29, 2009. The victim filed for divorce in May, citing "irreconcilable differences," according to court records. The couple have no children.

Nightengale said there is no record in Garden Grove of domestic violence between the couple.

Becker was arrested on suspicion of aggravated mayhem, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, administering a drug with intent to commit a felony, poisoning and spousal abuse, Nightengale said. She is being held at the Orange County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

"We have not been able to interview him and she is not talking," Nightengale said. "The motive is unknown other than the divorce proceedings."

The investigation is ongoing.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3709 or desalazar@ocregister.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bifurcations

BIFURCATIONS IN DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS
by Veronica Blangy

Sometimes parties in dissolution action want to bifurcate their case and seek a judgment on certain issues. California policy encourages parties in a dissolution action to bifurcate trial whenever it might expedite settlement or simplify the determination of other contested issues. See Marriage of Wolfe, supra, 173 CA3d at 893–894, 219 CR at 340; Marriage of Macfarlane & Lang (1992) 8 CA4th 247, 257, 10 CR2d 157, 163–164.

Generally, the courts will bifurcate a dissolution action for one of the following reasons:

1) Status- only
The court may sever and grant an early and separate trial on the issue of dissolution of marriage status (“status only” judgment), expressly reserving jurisdiction for later determination of all other pending issues (including division of the community estate). Family Code § 2337(a) & (f); see Marriage of Wolfe (1985) 173 CA3d 889, 894, 219 CR 337, 340 (citing text); Marriage of Bergman (1985) 168 CA3d 742, 755, 214 CR 661, 669. A bifurcated proceeding is particularly appropriate where the parties want their marriage terminated as soon as legally possible (e.g., so they will be free to remarry) but substantial time will be required to resolve complex property, support and/or custody issues. The bifurcation allows a judgment of dissolution to be entered (“status only” judgment), reserving jurisdiction to resolve the contested issues thereafter (see Fam.C. § 2337(f)—judgment granting status only dissolution “shall expressly reserve jurisdiction for later determination of all other pending issues”).

2) Bifurcation of issues for separate trial
On a noticed motion of a party, the parties’ stipulation, or the court’s own motion, the court may bifurcate any one or more issues to be tried separately before other issues are tried. CRC 5.175(a).

3) Determination of “pivotal issues”.
Bifurcation is also recommended in “pivotal issue” cases—i.e., where resolution of the bifurcated issue(s) is likely to simplify the determination of, or lead to settlement of, other issues in the case. CRC 5.175(c); Marriage of Wolfe, supra, 173 CA3d at 894, 219 CR at 340–341; Marriage of Macfarlane & Lang, supra, 8 CA4th at 257, 10 CR2d at 163.
For instance, where the central dispute focuses on a particular asset (such as business goodwill), an immediate (bifurcated) trial resolving the focal dispute may then prompt a settlement of the balance of the case, eliminating the need for a protracted trial of other issues.
Specifically, CRC 5.175(c) offers these examples of issues that may, in some cases, be appropriate to try separately in advance:
• The validity of a postnuptial or premarital agreement. (The outcome of this issue may be dispositive of all other property issues in the case.)
• The date of separation. (Because accurate identification of the date of separation can be dispositive of critical property characterization and valuation issues, yet is often intensely fact-driven and hotly contested, separation date disputes are particularly suitable for an early separate trial.)
• The date to use for valuation of assets.
• Whether one or more assets are separate or community property. See Marriage of Lafkas (2007) 153 CA4th 1429, 1432, 64 CR3d 100, 101 (whether H’s interest in partnership established before marriage, but that was the subject of a new partnership agreement executed during marriage, was H’s SP or partially CP).
• How to apportion the increase in value of a business.
• The existence or value of business or professional goodwill; or the value of a major asset.

There are many reasons to seek a bifurcation, however, the majority of the time, parties seeks a bifurcation to obtain a “status only” judgment. In a status only judgment, the parties will be classified as divorced, meaning back to single status, however, the remaining issues are reserved in the case. The tough part is that the court can impose various conditions on the grant of a “status only” bifurcation so as to protect the other spouse’s entitlement to certain benefits that attach only to marital status.

Parties seeking to bifurcate their dissolution case must obtain the bifurcation through a noticed motion. Preliminary declarations of disclosure with completed schedule of assets and debts, Fam.C. § 2104, must be served along with the § 2337 bifurcation motion.

Status only judgment are favored by public policy because it furthers the legislative intent that marriage dissolution not be postponed simply because issues relating to property, support, custody or attorney fees are not ready for decision. Marriage of Fink (1976) 54 CA3d 357, 363–364, 126 CR 626, 630] As such, the propriety of a “status only” bifurcation is deemed to be an issue of law. Gionis v. Super.Ct. (Gionis) (1988) 202 CA3d 786, 790, 248 CR 741, 744.

The moving party need only present “slight evidence” in support of a “status only“ bifurcation request: i.e., generally, the supporting declaration need simply allege reconciliation is not possible; that, for reasons stated, it would be in the parties’ best interests to dissolve the marriage without delay (e.g., so as not to complicate characterization of postseparation acquisitions, so as to free the parties to remarry at the earliest possible date, so as to alleviate “emotional strain and pressure” and help facilitate settlement on reserved issues, etc.); and that the other issues (support, custody, property division, etc.) would require a lengthy trial. Gionis v. Super.Ct. (Gionis), supra, 202 CA3d at 788–790, 248 CR at 743–744.
In contrast, the opposing party’s evidentiary burden to defeat a “status only” bifurcation motion is far heavier. Since denial of the motion would contravene public policy, the opposing party must present “compelling reasons” in opposition—i.e., a showing of some actual prejudice that would result. Procedural objections are not themselves “compelling reasons” (indeed, procedural defects may be cured by amending the motion). Gionis v. Super.Ct. (Gionis), supra, 202 CA3d at 789–790, 248 CR at 743–744—trial court erred in denying H’s bifurcation motion on ground that he failed to make compelling showing of need where W, in opposition, showed no prejudice.

Because of the statutory conditions on “status only” bifurcations, Family Code amendments postdating Gionis, supra, implicitly raise the possibility that the moving party’s burden may now be far more onerous, and in some cases perhaps nearly impossible to meet. This is because of a vast array of financial conditions that the court may impose on the granting of a “status only” bifurcation motion and entry of a “status only” dissolution judgment Fam.C. § 2337(c) & (d)).


COURT’S POWER

A judgment of dissolution effectively terminates a vast body of rights and benefits attaching to marital or domestic partnership status. Courts are therefore empowered to impose various conditions on the granting of a “status only” bifurcation motion and entry of a “status only” dissolution judgment that will protect the other party against losses that would result from such adverse consequences. Fam.C. § 2337(c) & (d).

In the event of the moving party’s death, whatever § 2337 conditions are imposed by the court will also bind his or her estate; and “shall be enforceable” against any assets (or proceeds thereof) as to which the § 2337 obligations would have been enforceable before the moving party’s death. Fam.C. § 2337(c) & (g).
The potential status only bifurcation conditions are extensive and have significant economic impact; they may cost the moving party a lot of money up front before the community estate is fully divided by a final judgment. It is therefore important that counsel for both sides (whether making or opposing the status only bifurcation motion) be thoroughly conversant with Fam.C. § 2337. In particular, it is imperative that counsel for the moving party discuss the potential § 2337 conditions with the client and advise him or her (both orally and in writing) of their economic impact. A party considering making a § 2337 bifurcation motion may ultimately conclude the financial exposure is simply too steep and that, on balance, it would be best to forego the early termination of marital/domestic partnership status.

The court “may impose” upon the moving party any of the following conditions on granting the status only bifurcation motion (Fam.C. § 2337(c)):
(1) Tax liability indemnification: That the moving party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any taxes, reassessments, interest and penalties payable by the other party in connection with division of the community estate that would not have been payable if the parties were still married when the division was made. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(1).
(2) Continued health care coverage and indemnification: Until judgment is entered on all remaining issues and becomes final, that the moving party maintain all existing health and medical insurance coverage for the other party and any minor children as named dependents, so long as the moving party is eligible to do so. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(2).
Further, if at any time during this period the moving party is not eligible to maintain that coverage, he or she shall, at his or her sole expense, provide and maintain health and medical insurance coverage that is comparable to the existing coverage to the extent it is available; and, to the extent it is not available, the moving party “shall be responsible to pay, and shall demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction the ability to pay” for the other party’s and their minor children’s health and medical care to the extent that care would have been covered by the existing insurance coverage but for the dissolution of marital status, “and shall otherwise indemnify and hold the other party harmless” from any adverse consequences resulting from the loss or reduction of the existing coverage. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(2) (emphasis added).
For purposes of § 2337(c)(2), “health and medical insurance coverage” includes any coverage for which the parties are eligible under any group or individual health or other medical plan, fund, policy or program. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(2); see FL–347, item 5.b.
(3) Indemnification re probate homestead and family allowance: Until judgment is entered on all remaining issues and becomes final, that the moving party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences to the other party if the bifurcation causes the other party to lose (i) the right to a probate homestead in the residence in which the other party resides when the status only bifurcation is granted, and/or (ii) the right to a surviving spouse probate family allowance. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(3) & (4).
(4) Indemnification re retirement benefits: Until judgment is entered on all remaining issues and has become final, that the moving party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences to the other party if the bifurcation causes the other party to lose rights with respect to any retirement, survivor or deferred compensation benefits under any plan, fund or arrangement, or to any elections or options associated therewith, to the extent the other party would have been entitled thereto as the moving party’s surviving spouse. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(5).
(5) Indemnification re social security benefits: That the moving party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences if the bifurcation causes the other party to lose rights to social security benefits or elections to the extent the other party would have been entitled thereto as the moving party’s surviving spouse. Fam.C. § 2337 (c)(6).
(6) Maintaining other party as beneficiary of nonprobate transfer: That the court enter an order (as authorized by Prob.C. § 5600(b)(3)) requiring the moving party to maintain a beneficiary designation for a nonprobate transfer, as described in Prob.C. § 5000, for the other party for up to one-half of or, upon a showing of good cause, all of a nonprobate transfer asset until judgment is entered with respect to the community ownership of the asset and until the other party’s interest therein has been distributed to him or her. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(7)(A). Absent a showing of good cause, the above condition does not apply to:
(7) Assignment/transfer of CP interest in IRA: That one-half or, upon a showing of good cause, all of the community interest in any IRA, by or for the benefit of the party, be assigned and transferred to the other party pursuant to IRC § 408(d)(6), in order to preserve the party’s ability to defer distribution of the IRA upon the other party’s death. Fam.C. § 2337(c)(8) (also stating, “[t]his paragraph does not limit the power granted pursuant to subdivision (g)”.
(8) Security interest: Upon a showing that circumstances exist that would place a “substantial burden” on enforcement of either party’s CP rights or that would eliminate the surviving party’s ability to enforce his or her CP rights if the other party died before the division and distribution or compliance with any court-ordered payment of any CP interest therein—including, but not limited to, situations in which federal preemption applies to a party’s asset, or purchase by a BFP has occurred—the court “may order a specific security interest designed to reduce or eliminate the likelihood that a postmortem enforcement proceeding would be ineffective or unduly burdensome to the surviving party.” Fam.C. § 2337(c)(9) (emphasis added).
The security interest orders may include, but are not limited to:
—if a retirement plan is not subject to an enforceable order for the payment of spousal survivor benefits to the other party, an interim order requiring the moving party to pay or cause to be paid, and to post adequate security for the payment of, any survivor benefit that would have been payable to the other party on the moving party’s death but for entry of the status only dissolution judgment, pending entry of judgment on all remaining issues (Fam.C. § 2337(c) (9)(E)).
(9) Miscellaneous. “Any other condition the court determines is just and equitable.” Fam.C. § 2337(c)(10).


JOINDERS REQUIRED
Court’s usually require certain conditions to be implemented on entry of “status only” dissolution judgment, such as a Joinder of retirement/pension plan where the moving party’s retirement or pension plan “shall be joined” as a party to the dissolution proceeding unless joinder is “precluded or made unnecessary” by ERISA (29 USC § 1001 et seq.) “or any other applicable law.” Fam.C. § 2337(d)(1).

If a plan is not covered by ERISA, such as Federal government plans, the court may require an interim order. “An interim order preserving the nonemployee party’s right to retirement plan benefits, including survivor and death benefits.”

MILITARY/ FEDERAL SPECIAL AREAS WHEN REQUESTING BIFURCATION
When there is a federal government plan involved such as military retirement or federal employees, commonly known as FERS, the plan falls under the federal preemption and makes the request of a bifurcation trickier. It is no longer strictly governed by the California state laws.
Special problems may arise for former spouses in a bifurcated dissolution proceeding. When a judgment of dissolution is obtained before the property division, the now-single employee spouse might retire before the court issues a QDRO and elect to take a life annuity consistent with ERISA; the former nonemployee spouse cannot prevent this election, insisting instead on a joint and survivor annuity, because no longer married to the employee and not yet having the protection of a QDRO. In effect then, the former spouse’s property rights could be “conclusively determined” by the trial court’s decision to bifurcate its judgment.

There is no federal question jurisdiction over community property division of military retirement pay. State courts are bound to follow procedures under the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA, 10 USC § 1408) for enforcing support and property division orders against military “disposable retired or retainer pay.” But those procedures do not create independent “federal question” jurisdiction over the division of marital rights in military retirement pay. Steel v. United States (9th Cir. 1987) 813 F2d 1545, 1548; Marriage of Mansell (1989) 217 CA3d 219, 228–229, 265 CR 227, 231–232, cert.den. (1990) 498 US 806—USFSPA preemption requires state courts to defer to federal law in characterizing military pay but does not withhold state court subject matter jurisdiction; see also Marriage of Babauta (1998) 66 CA4th 784, 787–788, 78 CR2d 281, 282–283—state court jurisdiction to divide military voluntary separation incentive pay not preempted.
To fill this gap, the trial court is empowered to subject the granting of a “status only” bifurcation and entry of “status only” dissolution judgment to various conditions designed to ensure the nonemployee spouse’s right to pension benefits, elections and/or survivor benefits will not be forfeited or prejudiced by the early termination of marital status before those rights can be adjudicated. Fam.C. § 2337(c) (5) & (d). The optimum way to protect the nonemployee spouse is to secure an interim QDRO re survivor benefits as a condition to entry of a status only dissolution judgment. Fam.C. § 2337(d)(2) (B).
Federal employee benefits—limited federal preemption
State community property law claims against federal employee deferred compensation benefits are preempted by federal law only to the extent conflicting community property law would do “major damage” to “clear and substantial” federal interests. Hisquierdo v. Hisquierdo (1979) 439 US 572, 581, 99 S.Ct. 802, 808; see also Marriage of Schofield (1998) 62 CA4th 131, 135, 73 CR2d 1, 3—“California courts may apply community property principles to federally created benefits so long as the result does not frustrate the objectives of the federal legislation” (internal quotes and citation omitted).
Extensive federal law has eradicated most “wholesale” preemption of community property rights in federal employee benefits.
Military retirement pay—Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act: Effective February 1, 1983, the historical preemption of state law community property treatment of military retirement pay (McCarty v. McCarty (1981) 453 US 210, 232–235, 101 S.Ct. 2728, 2741–2742) was completely nullified.
Pursuant to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA, 10 USC § 1408), state courts are fully empowered to divide military retirement pay as community property; and state court domestic relations community property division and support orders are fully enforceable against the military. Marriage of Smith (2007) 148 CA4th 1115, 1120, 56 CR3d 341, 344.
The USFSPA completely eradicates “all vestiges” of McCarty preemption retroactive to the date McCarty was decided (6/26/81) and applies to all cases not final as of the Act’s 2/1/83 effective date ... without regard to whether the pension rights accrued before or after June 26, 1981. Casas v. Thompson (1986) 42 C3d 131, 140, 228 CR 33, 38—noting USFSPA’s “express intent to erase McCarty’s impact on all cases ... ”; Aloy v. Mash (1985) 38 C3d 413, 421, 212 CR 162, 167—“no case within our memory has received less retroactive application than McCarty.” Unless the court reserved jurisdiction, the USFSPA expressly prohibits reopening pre-McCarty (pre-June 25, 1981) final judgments in order to divide unadjudicated military retirement benefits. 10 USC § 1408(c) (1); Marriage of Curtis (1992) 7 CA4th 1, 14, 9 CR2d 145, 153; see also Marriage of Olsen (1994) 24 CA4th 1702, 1705–1707, 30 CR2d 306, 307–309.

Retirement pay is affected—state court jurisdiction reaches only 50% of “disposable retired pay”: Although the USFSPA grants state courts the power to divide military retirement pay, its language is still preemptive regarding the limits of state court jurisdiction. State court authority to treat military retirement pay as community property extends only to the military member’s “disposable retired pay” as defined by the Act. 10 USC § 1408(c)(1); Mansell v. Mansell (1989) 490 US 581, 588–589, 109 S.Ct. 2023, 2028–2029; Marriage of Smith (2007) 148 CA4th 1115, 1120, 56 CR3d 341, 344. Further, of the “disposable retired pay” subject to the court’s jurisdiction, only a maximum of 50% can be ordered payable for support and a property division. (The court’s order cannot exceed the 50% limit even with the member’s consent.) 10 USC § 1408(e)(1).

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Dangers of Family Law





Grim reminders of the dangers of family law

by Karen Sloan



At 9:20 a.m. on June 2, Carey Hal Dyess walked into the converted single-story house that served as Jerrold Shelley's law office in Yuma, Ariz.

Dyess, 73, instructed an office administrator to move out of the way and then shot and killed the 62-year-old lawyer, who had been in the process of packing up his office and retiring.

The attack wasn't random. Shelley had represented Dyess' ex-wife in a bitter divorce in 2006. He was one of five victims of a rampage that lasted six hours and ended only when Dyess turned the gun on himself.

Family law attorneys reacted to the news of Shelley's death with sadness, but not surprise. At least five family law attorneys have been killed or violently attacked by clients' ex-spouses since February 2010, and the recent deaths have highlighted the safety risks they face. In addition to Shelley:

• Redmond Coyle, 61, was shot and killed outside his office in Pickens, S.C., on Feb. 3, 2010, in front of his wife and child. His killer was Jerry Crenshaw, the ex-husband of a woman Coyle had represented in divorce proceedings. After shooting Coyle, Crenshaw killed himself.

• Terri Melcher on June 11, 2010, was stabbed nearly 30 times in her law office outside Minneapolis by the ex-husband of a woman she represented in a child custody case. Melcher was able to persuade her attacker to stop the assault and survived. The attacker, Sheikh Nyane, turned himself in to police.

• Judith Soley, 65, was shot and killed on Feb. 16 alongside her client at a restaurant near Fresno, Calif., while on court recess in the client's divorce. The assailant was the client's estranged husband, who later killed himself.

• Criminal defense attorney Emmett Corrigan, 30, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Walgreens outside Boise, Idaho, on March 11 — one day after he had filed divorce proceedings on behalf of the attacker's wife, who was one of his employees.

It's difficult to gauge whether these incidents are on the rise because major legal organizations, including the American Bar Association, don't track statistics on crimes committed against attorneys because of their work. But family law is seen as a riskier practice than most, because people in the midst of divorce or facing the loss of their children tend to be highly emotional and may direct their anger at their estranged spouse's lawyer.

"There's a saying that in criminal court, you have bad people at their best," said Texas Supreme Court Judge Debra Lehrmann, who spent more than 20 years as a family court judge. "In family law, you get good people at their worst. In criminal court, dangerous people are in handcuffs. In family court, you don't have any idea who is dangerous."

Family court judges helped push for improved courthouse security measures after numerous shootings during the past two decades, many of them perpetrated by participants in family law cases, Lehrmann said. But metal detectors and security guards in courthouses can do little to protect attorneys in their homes and offices.

'EVERYONE HAS A STORY'
"It's not uncommon," said Linda Lea Viken, a family law practitioner in Rapid City, S.D., and the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "I've talked to women lawyers who have had guns pulled on them. I've talked to a lot of lawyers who were threatened. It seems like everyone has a story."

Viken has had her mailbox smashed and a golf ball sent through her office window; she suspects that both incidents were instigated by estranged husbands of clients. The only time she felt truly frightened for her safety, however, was when a man against whom she had obtained a protection order for a client followed her home from her office one night two years ago.

"We have a security system at our home now," she said, but many family law attorneys are solo practitioners or work in small offices and don't have the budget for elaborate security measures.

Todd Scott, vice president of risk management and member services for Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., began looking in 2010 for safety advice that he could pass on to his attorney clients and was surprised to find few formal resources. "I would go to these attorney panels and seminars, and almost everywhere I spoke, there was a local story about someone getting attacked or killed, and family law is at the top of the list," Scott said. "There are some blind spots in our profession, and I think this issue of safety is one of them."

Viken agreed that colleagues rarely discuss safety openly. "There's a concern among attorneys that they don't want to give anyone ideas about doing things and create copycats," she said. "And for some people, it's embarrassing when they are threatened or harassed. They think, 'How did I let this happen?' I guess it's not something we talk about, but maybe it should be."

Scott plans to fill that void with an online seminar in July titled "Safety and Security in the Law Office." He suspects that lawyer attacks have become more frequent in recent years as more attorneys have hung out their shingle as a result of the hiring slowdown at large firms.

SECURITY TRAINING
Security consultant Jonathan Lusher has visited law firms with virtually no security beyond a receptionist, he said. He recommends that receptionists receive security training and have a plan in the event that a problem arises. Access to law offices beyond the reception area should be restricted, possibly through a buzzer system, Lusher suggested. Adding impact-resistant glass is another smart move for law offices, and attorneys should communicate with colleagues about their schedules and who is expected in the office, he said.

In Canada, the Ontario Bar Association formed a task force on lawyer safety in 2003 and later issued a personal security handbook with numerous recommendations, including that attorneys meet with potentially volatile clients in an open space or in a conference room with windows if the matter does not involve personal or privacy issues. The handbook also recommends brushing up on visual clues that someone might act out, such as clenching a fist or jaw and flushing of the face.

One way to reduce the likelihood of violence would be to make family law less adversarial, Lehrmann said. The legal community has been moving toward more collaborative approaches, she said.

Last year, the ABA launched its Fam­ilies Matter initiative, which encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution in family disputes. "The idea is to reduce the negative impact that the process can have on a family," she said. "The process itself can make a situation more dangerous, so it's best if you can defuse things before they ever get to that level."

Even the way that lawyers draft letters and court filings can set the tone for how their adversaries view them, Viken said. She always takes pains to preface any allegations recorded in documents with, "My client advised me that…".

"Family lawyers have to choose their words carefully," Viken said. "People in a divorce situation are not in their right minds. They are ratcheted up and they can strike out. The worst thing a lawyer can do is buy into that anger. I try to keep a calm attitude with my clients and keep them involved and informed. You can engender hatred and anger in how you handle a case."

Returning phone calls in a timely manner is also key, since people who feel they are being ignored may grow angrier over time and lash out, she said. It's also a smart idea to have a code word that will alert colleagues to emergencies. "Sometimes there is no way to tell how scary a former spouse of a client really is," Scott said. "And some lawyers just don't think anything like this will ever happen to them."

Karen Sloan can be contacted at ksloan@alm.com.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Man Dies from Spousal Abuse

SPOUSAL ABUSED LEADING TO MURDER: MAN PUSHED OUT OF WINDOW AND FALLS TO HIS DEATH
Josh Hilberling, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pound former football player, died after he plunged 17 stories from his Oklahoma apartment building, an alleged victim of spousal abuse. Tulsa police say Hilberling, 23, was pushed out of his 25th floor apartment window at the University Club Tower on Tuesday by his wife, Amber Michelle Hilberling, 19, who is being charged with
first-degree murder. "We taught him to never hit a woman, but what we didn't think to teach him was to get away," his mother, Jeanne Hilberling, told ABC's affiliate KTUL. "We just will never forget him. He's one of a kind." "Anybody that knows Josh is going to miss that smile, but no one more than his proud military parents who wanted the world for son," she said. The couple had been married only a year, according to his parents, but just last month their son went to
Domestic Violence Intervention Services looking for help. It had been hard, they said, for him to admit he was a victim. They said Josh, who was in the Air Force, didn't leave because Amber was eight months pregnant with their first child.

"Most of the time you have a homicide similar to this and typically the woman is the victim," said Officer Jason Willingham, spokesman for the Tulsa Police. "I don't recall any situation that is similar in recent history, for sure." But Amber Hilberling's lawyer said that she is the victim of domestic violence. "This is a tragedy for everyone involved and what it wasn't --was a crime," Jason Corns told local television station KRMZ. Police received a call Tuesday afternoon from
witnesses who reported a suicide at the apartment tower, according to Willingham. Hilberling had fallen from the 25th floor to an eighth- floor parking garage. When paramedics arrived, police questioned witnesses and those who knew the couple, determining that Josh had been "pushed out the window, breaking the window and causing his death," said Willingham. "It was a heck of a fall." At first Amber Hilberling was arrested on second-degree murder, but later police changed it to first-degree when they looked at the evidence. "It tipped the scale," he said. So far, no charges have been filed, according to Susan Witt of the Tulsa District Attorney's office.
"Tulsa police are still investigating," said Witt. "When their investigation is complete, reports will be forwarded to the district attorney's office for review and a decision about charges."
Willingham said the couple had a history of domestic violence and there had been protective orders "on both sides." Tulsa police said that investigators found a protective order that that Josh Hilberling requested in May because he said he wife hit him on the head with a lamp and he
needed 21 stitches. The order was dismissed when the couple did not show up in court. "I can say we have seen absolutely no criminal evidence of wrong doing by Mrs. Hilberling," said Amber Hilberling's lawyer Corns, who said Josh was the aggressor.
An estimated 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey. About 37 percent of all domestic abuse victims are men, according to Denver clinical psychologist Jeanne King, who is author of "Abused Men." She co-founded the education advocacy group, Partners in Prevention.
Battered Men Don't Report Crimes

"They are silenced because men don't speak about it," she said. "It's two-fold. One is the shame – it's greater for men than women. There are also less resources available to men…Try to think about where a center is for abused men and you scratch your head."
Researchers began looking at husband battering cases in the 1970s. One study a Boston University described scenarios where women struck out at their husbands for just talking loudly.

Others said that after being in the house with children who would "get on my nerves" all day long, they got mad and hit their spouses. One woman said she became violent just because her husband was "such a bore."

"I was trying to wake him up, you know," she was quoted as saying in the study. " He was such a rotten lover anyway. So I'd yell at him and bit him to stir him up."

Other studies have shown that women are more apt to throw things or kick their husbands. Violence is also associated with sexism, lack of self-control and mental illness.

As for Amber Hilberling, she was released from jail Thursday on a $250,000 bond and will appear back in Tulsa County Court on June 15.

She is required to wear an ankle monitor and surrender any passport she owns while the murder investigation continues.

As the Hilberling family plans a private funeral service, they are broken-hearted over their son's violent death.

"I want people to remember who Josh was, not how he died," said his mother. "I want them to remember the kind compassionate friend who would do anything for anybody."

Josh Hilberling's father told ABC that the day his son died, he had been trying to leave the relationship for good.

"That's the only thing people need to know is that when you're trying to leave, it's the most dangerous time," said Jeanne Hilberling.

"You bet," said psychologist King. "Abuse is fundamentally about control and violence will escalate when a person feels they have lost control. There is no greater sense of loss than to see the victim walk out the door."

To find help for male spousal abuse, go to Partners in Prevention.