Monday, February 25, 2013

Divorce Parties

It doesn't have to be all bad.  According to an article in today's Freep, divorce parties are on the rise, thanks, of course, to the celebrities that have started throwing such events.

Take Detroit's Jack White, for example.  He celebrated his sixth wedding anniversary and his divorce to model Karen Elson.  The lesson here is that, if you can manage it, stay friendly with your ex-spouse.

Once upon a time, our law firm even considered chartering a yacht for a moonlight cruise on the Detroit River for our divorce clientele.  For a variety of reasons, it never happened.  Bet we could have filled-up the yacht though.

Then there's the web site.  Divorce Party Supply invites you to send them your crazy divorce pics to include in their [still under development] photo gallery.  I think I'll pass.

Adopting a positive attitude to cope with one of life's more negative experiences is a good thing.  Staying positive in the aftermath of divorce will get you into the next phase of your life sooner.

The trick is to learn from your mistakes and move on.  And try not to repeat the same mistake twice.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Intersection of Family and Criminal Law

Oscar Pistorius faces a judge at a bail hearing.

We have only to look to the recent and utterly tragic Oscar Pistorius premeditated murder case to know that sometimes our emotions get the best of us when it comes to love and romance.  While we are in no way convicting Mr. Pistorius before his day in court, it is simply a very sad reminder that domestic violence exists in more homes than anyone cares to admit.

Particularly in these trying times, the highly emotional process of divorce has a tendency to bring out the worst in the best among us.  We are all human; thus imperfect.

Divorce is unpleasant for everyone involved even on a good day.  Unfortunately, family law matters have the potential to devolve into a criminal case.

Professionals in the family law community must be vigilant in observing and recognizing signs of potential domestic abuse situations.  When signs of abuse are manifest, there is an opportunity to connect the potential victim to local resources to defuse a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.  The best results occur when an inchoate threat is avoided by proper counseling, resource sharing, and planning.

For the family law bar, it is also important to counsel clients to “keep their cool” while undergoing the tumult of a divorce.  At times clients feel like they can garner a tactical advantage by reporting a spouse’s behavior to law enforcement.  Sometimes this occurs in the heat of a custody battle; one parent thinks that repeated Child Protective Service calls will help them get an evidentiary “leg up”.

Or a spouse elects to manufacture an incident that gets reported to the local police in order to have the other parent removed from the household; buttons are pushed until a physical incident occurs.

These are not valid child custody coping mechanisms.  A good family law attorney that has her client’s best interests in mind will vigorously counsel against such tactics.  Not only do contrived allegations hurt the parties, but they waste precious resources and take the focus away from those who really need the help.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sophisticated Cohabitation May Not Result in Child Custody

Dr. Jonathan Sporn & Leann Leutner
This is a sad tale, yet a sign of our times.  The case illustrates how, despite the oft-progressive status of our modern family laws, and the family law bar, there remains a stubborn bias in the family court that favors the bloodlines of a traditional family unit.

In New York City, Pfizer executive Dr. Jonathan Sporn (54), a divorced man, was in a committed relationship with Ms. Leann Leutner (40), also divorced.  A couple since 2010, the two were inseparable and intent upon starting a family.

According to a petition Dr. Sporn filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the couple resorted to in vitro fertilization following difficulty conceiving; they met with success by using donated sperm for fertilization.  Their baby, Lincoln Sporn, was born last July.

The family law dispute arose, however, when Ms. Leutner, a New York City lawyer and Yale Law grad, retreated to an apartment in New Jersey following an acute bout with postpartum depression.  She discharged herself early from the Mount Sinai Hospital, where she underwent psychiatric treatment, and committed suicide on New Year's Day by jumping to her death from the 14th floor apartment.

Dr. Sporn's custody petition alleges that Ms. Leutner, long-afflicted with mental illness, had stopped taking her prescribed Prozac at the time she was beset with acute postpartum depression.  Ms. Leutner also made prior unsuccessful attempts to take her own life according to the custody petition.

This grim Manhattan custody battle now pits Dr. Sporn against Ms. Leutner's sister from Illinois, who is also seeking custody of Lincoln.  At present, the infant has been placed into foster care somewhere in Gotham in accord with the applicable statute which characterizes the parent-less child as: "destitute".

Like every same-sex couple that splits-up, Dr. Sporn occupies the same position as the partner that lacks any biological connection to the child.  Without that connection, traditional family law says, "you lose" in the inevitable custody war following the split.

Next month, Justice Laura Drager must decide which custodial environment is better for infant Lincoln: the Upper West Side with "Dad", as Dr. Sporn refers to himself, or in Illinois with Lincoln's aunt.  The case is expected to be remanded by the appellate court to the family court for an evidentiary hearing; meanwhile, months will grind by and the infant will become a toddler while in the foster care of strangers.

We here at the Law Blogger wonder, if the aunt was not contesting Dr. Sporn's custody petition, whether he would nevertheless be engaged with a custody battle with the New Jersey Child Protective Services. 

Also, is the aunt's claim thwarting a potential adoption bid for Dr. Sporn?  If so, what a shame.

The case has been tagged here at this Blog, and we will report the outcome.  Let's see just how progressive our family courts can be...