KIM KARDASHIAN DIVORCES FROM NBA STAR APPROVED

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According to the Ventura County Star, Kim Kardashian has finally put NBA star Kris Humphries to rest.  Well, she didn’t really put him to rest; she’s just now going to allow him to rest by finalizing her divorce with him.  The marriage, which began as kind of a fairytale type wedding, ended abruptly, through settlement, this past week, when a California judge approved the couple’s divorce settlement after a prolonged legal battle between the former couple. Humphries did not appear in court, but his lawyer did.  His former wife, Kardashian, did appear, looking very pregnant with her boyfriend Kanye West’s child. Kardashian and Humphries were married in a high-profile wedding in August of 2011.  Kardashian filed for divorce later that year.  The Brooklyn Net star had sought an annulment claiming their marriage and elaborate wedding ceremony were but a fraud staged for her reality show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” But she denied the allegations and insisted on a traditional divorce, and, apparently, she won.  Although the judge did advise the court that the divorce would not be finalized until legal papers were drawn up and signed.

CUBA NO REFUGE FOR CHILD KIDNAPPING IN CUSTODY DISPUTE

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So if you’ve got children and maybe you’re gonna go out on your own and take the kids somewhere to hide them from whomever they belong, you’re not gonna want to take them to Cuba.  Too hot a diplomatic potato for that country to handle, which is what a Florida couple has just learned.

According to the Ventura County Star, a Florida couple who last week allegedly abducted their two children in a custody dispute and fled to Cuba by sailboat were returned to the United States and jailed on kidnapping and child neglect charges.  The couple, Joshua Michael Hakken and Sharyn Patricia Hakken, was booked into the Hillsborough County jail in Tampa, where the ordeal allegedly began.  Their 2 and 4-year-old boys were also returned by Cuban authorities, and placed in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Web site, the Hakkens have also been charged with false imprisonment, interference with custody, burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery and grand theft of a motor vehicle.  Additionally, they face charges of fleeing the country to avoid prosecution.  Statements made by the sheriff’s office indicate the father entered his mother-in-law’s Forida house last Wednesday, tied her up and fled with the boys.  The family of four then surfaced in Cuba aboard the sailboat Hakken had purchased 2 weeks earlier.

Although Cuba does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S., Cuban officials appeared intent on deflecting this live grenade as quickly as possible, and they immediately informed U.S. authorities of the country’s decision to turn over the couple and their children.

Last year, Joshua Hakken had lost custody of his sons after a drug possession arrest in Louisiana.  Later, he had tried taking the children from a foster home at gunpoint.  At this point, it is not clear where the children will be placed.  Lousiana is the ultimate decider of where the children will live, and it appears likely they will be placed back with their grandmother in Florida.

Cuba has been known to harbor U.S. fugitives in the past, however, most of those cases date back to the 1960s and 70s, when the island was known as a refuge for members of militant groups.  Dozens of Cuban Medicare fraud fugitives have also tried to avoid prosecution by escaping to the island.  But Cuba has been cooperating with U.S. officials in recent years, and the Hakkens can now attest to this.

CHILD SUPPORT ORDER SURVIVES DISSOLUTION OF TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

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Another important case was recently decided by the California Appellate courts which declared that the trial court’s jurisdiction to make child support orders survives the dissolution of a temporary restraining order.  The facts behind Moore v. Bedard (DCSS) (2013) (Cal.App.4th) are as follows:

Wife requested domestic violence restraining orders to protect her from her Husband who was the father of their three (3) children.  Her request for DVPO’s also asked for child custody, visitation, and child support orders that would modify orders previously entered.  A TRO was entered but never served.  When the matter came on for hearing the parties stipulated to orders that dissolved the temporary restraining order.  The stipulation also resolved child support issues and other monetary issues.

Three years later, the Riverside County DCSS filed a substitution of payee form designating it as the payee of child support.  In 2010 and early 2011, various enforcement actions, including a bank levy, were undertaken and several hearings were held.  Two years after that, Husband filed a request for a hearing to modify child support.  There, the trial court found there were no restraining orders in place and dismissed the case.  Regarding child support, the court referred the parties to DCSS, and it ordered the entire action to be dismissed.

DCSS then moved to vacate the order dismissing the action, noting Husband had taken the position that there was no valid support order because the entire action had been dismissed.  At the hearing, the trial court concluded that it had lost jurisdiction 5 years earlier when the requested restraining order was not issued.  The trial court “voided” the parties’ stipulation and the orders entered the previous year.  The trial court ruled it had lost jurisdiction to make a child support order because it did not issue a restraining order.

Nevertheless, the trial court set aside the order of dismissal on the ground DCSS was not represented at the hearing.  DCSS appealed and it was reversed.  The appellate court ruled it to be an error to dismiss the action for a lack of jurisdiction.  The court had jurisdiction to make child support orders, and such jurisdiction survived the “dissolution” of the TRO.

PARENT’S MENTAL DISABILITY ENOUGH TO WARRANT TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

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A very interesting case recently came down dictating that a father’s mental disability was enough to warrant the termination of his parental rights.  In the case of IRMO P. (Cal.Appl.4th)(CA 2/5 – Opinion filed February 13, 2013), Mother and Father, who were married, adopted a minor child.  Father had suffered mental illness prior to the marriage, but took medication that allowed him to function normally.  Father stopped taking his medication not long after the adoption, and his mental condition deteriorated to the point to where it was seriously impacting his relationship with Mother and the adopted child.  Restraining orders were issued.

Ultimately, after a violent confrontation with Father, Mother filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage and was awarded sole custody of minor.  According to Mother, after she and the minor moved out of state, Father suffered criminal conviction for attempted murder of his mother.

Mother filed petition to terminate Father’s parental rights pursuant to FC § 7827.  A psychiatrist and psychologist were appointed to examine Father and to prepare reports with their diagnoses and prognoses.  However, Mother later agreed with Father to dismiss her petition to terminate Father’s parental rights in exchange for Father’s agreement to undergo treatment and take medication for his mental illness.  Mother then allowed Father to reestablish a relationship with the minor.

Upon entering the stipulation, Father again refused to take his medication and his mental condition again deteriorated, causing Mother to reinstate her petition to terminate Father’s parental rights.  Two psychiatrists and a psychologist were appointed to evaluate Father’s mental condition.  They unanimously reported Father to be mentally disabled within the meaning of FC § 7827, and they said that if he continued to refuse his medical treatment recommendations he would remain disabled for the foreseeable future.  The trial court concluded the best interest of the minor would be served by terminating Father’s parental rights.  Father appealed and the appellate court confirmed the trial courts decision.

CALIFORNIA’S FAMILY LAW COURT RECORDS OUT OF REACH FOR POOR

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In another blow to the little guy, which, let’s face it, is most of us, California courts are threatening to charge $10 for each record search under a proposal included in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget.  And let’s be clear about this:  this is a very bad idea.  It acts to limit the public’s access to public records, and this includes those who go to battle in California’s family courts.  Bad idea.

According to the Ventura County Star, California’s governor, in his proposed budget, included the search fee as one of the ways the courts can raise $30 million a year to offset budget cuts.  Over the past five fiscal years the judicial budget has been reduced by more than $1 billion through cuts and transfers, which has resulted in fewer courtrooms, construction delays and an array of higher fees.

Advocates of good government and media organizations have expressed worry that such a fee would restrict access to files the public has a right to view.  Lawmakers have also expressed concerns about limiting information to those who can afford it.

They fear the big price tag for records could restrict newspaper reporters or members of the public from being able to gain access to public records.  There is currently no charge to search a court file, although courts charge $15 to look up cases that require a court employee to take more than ten (10) minutes to search.  Under the governor’s proposal, a person could search for free for a case in which that person is a party but would be charged $10 for each additional search.

Administrative director of the courts, Steven Jahr, has expressed his support for the fee augmentations “not because we regard them as being sound policy, but out of simple impulse for self-preservation.”  Jahr said court officials would rather see the legislature restore $535 million to California’s court system, which includes 58 trial courts, six courts of appeal and the state Supreme Court.

In the meantime, however, California’s Family Law courts, with their volumes of records, like all of California’s courts, will become a little more inaccessible to the average person.