Collaborative Divorce: An Alternative to the Traditional Adversarial Divorce

Those of you who know me know that I am particularly interested in family law.  Through my experiences learning about and observing the practice of family law, I have become convinced that our adversarial system is, more often than not, a poor way to resolve divorce.  This is especially true where children are in the picture.

So what’s the alternative?  I don’t know, but I did learn about a relatively new process that was created to avoid litigation in these cases called Collaborative Divorce (CD).  The CD process involves both parties to the divorce voluntarily signing a contract called a “Participation Agreement”.  The participation agreement states that each party agrees to work toward a negotiated resolution and will not litigate the case.  To me, it sounded like a good possible solution for people who don’t want to be dragged into litigation.  But, the more I looked into CD, the more I realized it couldn’t be for everyone (or even most individuals) who are going through a divorce. (more…)

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The Problem with Wisconsin’s Parental Power of Attorney Law

Late last year, the Wisconsin legislature passed Wisconsin Statute section 48.979, which allows parents to delegate their parental rights to third parties by simply filling out a “Parental Power of Attorney” (PPOA) form.

Section 48.979 essentially allows parents with legal custody of their children to designate any third-party adult with nearly full decision-making power over a child’s life. What troubles me about this new law is that it does not allow for any oversight.

Section 48.979 requires absolutely no court or child protective services approval for PPOAs. I would imagine that some parents who might use a PPOA are people who have some difficulties in their own lives and, in turn, in raising their children. There is a long-standing Constitutional presumption that parents know what is in the best interest of their children and will act accordingly. Should we take that Constitutional presumption to mean that parents who might not be able to adequately care for their children should have the power to decide with whom their children should be placed and who should make decisions about their lives?

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Love and Violence: Valentine’s Day Edition

On Monday, February 6, Florida couple Joseph Bray and his wife Sonja got into a fight because, she says, he failed to wish her a happy birthday.  According to the arrest affidavit, the fight escalated; Joseph Bray pushed Sonja Bray onto their couch, grabbed her neck, and raised his fist to hit her, although he did not strike her.  Joseph Bray was arrested and when he appeared in court on a domestic violence charge, you can be sure the judge issued appropriate sanctions.

Or not.

Judge John Hurley ordered in lieu of posting a bond that Joseph Bray get his wife flowers and a birthday card, take her to Red Lobster for dinner, then take her bowling.  And he ordered the couple to see a marriage counselor.  (more…)

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The Many Faces of Adoption

Recent news reports describe a new twist in adoption practice. According to the reports John Goodman, a wealthy Florida man, has adopted his 42 year old girlfriend, apparently in an attempt to protect some of his assets against possible losses in a wrongful death action filed against him. Goodman is alleged to have been drunk at the time he ran a stop sign, resulting in an accident that killed another man. Prior to the adoption of his girlfriend, Goodman had set up a trust for his two minor children, which the girlfriend may now share in as an adopted child, and news reports say that, under Florida law, the parents of the deceased man could not claim wrongful death damages from that trust.

When most people hear the word “adoption,” they picture what I often call the “Little Orphan Annie” model. You will recall in the Broadway play “Annie,” and before that in the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip, Annie was only an infant when she was abandoned on the orphanage steps by her poor parents. After many adventures, Annie was adopted by Daddy Warbucks, a kind man with the emotional and economic resources to provide Annie with a real, forever home. Similarly, many people think of adoption mainly as a procedure for bringing babies and young children into forever families who will love and protect them. Although adoption takes that form for many people, in fact adoptions of older children and of stepchildren (adopted by second spouses to one of the children’s birth parents) are becoming more and more common.

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Your Children’s Ultimate Weapon: Suing You for Emotional Distress?

In what surely must be one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” stories comes the news that two siblings, one 20 and one 23, sued their mother for intentional infliction of emotional distress from “bad mothering.”

In 2009, Steven Miner II and his sister Kathryn Miner sued their mother, Kimberly Garrity, for emotional distress due to her alleged bad parenting and requested $50,000 in damages.

Although the Miner children grew up in Barrington Hills, Illinois, in a $1.5 million home, they apparently felt deprived of a proper mother.  (more…)

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