A Federal Judge in Detroit yesterday struck down Michigan's 10 year old constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down central provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year, Michigan joins a parade of states where Federal Courts have stricken down similar statutes or constitutional provisions, including Texas. The states, besides Texas and Michigan where gay marriage bans have been struck down are: Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, and Tennessee.
The Michigan decision was particular critical of arguments by the State that gay parents somehow raised children that were "less" than those raised in traditional families, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.
A news story is here.
We always tell our clients to be careful with their social media posts. But we seldom think about what their child might post.
In a non family law case where the parent had won a settlement, the child's post on Facebook days later caused the parent's settlement to be voided.
You see, Patrick Snay, the former headmaster of a school in Florida, had sued the school (Gulliver) for discrimination, and had agreed to an $80,000 settlement. And one of the terms of the settlement was CONFIDENTIALITY or non disclosure.
Such non disclosure provisions are common in litigation; they are also common in Divorce and Custody cases. But that is for another day.
Snay's daughter posted the following to her 1200+ Facebook friends “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Through some of her 1200 friends, the post made its way back to Gulliver's officials and lawyers, who asserted that the post violated the confidentiality provisions of the agreement, and should void the agreement.
And the agreement was set aside by a court of appeals.
So be careful what you tell your child about your personal business--especially if the child is active in social media!
There are potential lessons for a family law case here. The Dallas Divorce Courts' Standing Orders and Temporary Injunctions issued in a divorce or other family law case have provisions that prevent either parent from involving the children in the divorce. The best parents in a divorce rehearse with a counselor how to tell the kids about the divorce, and tell them that the divorce is not about them, that both parents love them, and both parents are committed to make the transition to two households as smooth as possible. And give support to the kids during the process, but not much opinion.
In other cases, one or both parents flame the other parent repeatedly in front of the children because of their anger or other issues that the parent has. many times such bad acts are brought before the Court, and dealt with in ways that are not liked by the flamers. I have seen sanctions all the way to a change of custody. An example of a flame could be: "We can't go to the movie tomorrow because your Daddy spent all the child support money on his [girlfriend][drugs][gambling] [boyfriend] [you pick--you get the point].
The Miami Herald story is here.
You may think that the calls and texts you send and receive from your cell phone are yours and private.
While it is clear that the content of such communications is private–absent a court order--data about to whom, from whom, the duration of such calls, and the facts of the text message's transmission, are NOT private.
AT&T just disclosed that it had honored over 300,000 requests for cell phone information from law enforcement agencies in 2013. This does NOT include the number of requests from civil subpoenas, in cases like divorces or child custody cases.
The data that is clearly NOT private (in response to a subpoena) is the occurance (date, time, duration, and to/from what number) of a call, text, or email. Geotags--location information--may be in a different category. Click here to take read an older post, Think Before You Text, about the risks that text messages and e-mails can pose to clients.
So everyone leaves a digital trail of their cell phone usage that CAN show up in a divorce or custody case.
But there is one potential positive of getting the cell phone records: a case of call spoofing previously discussed in a previous News item here.
A story in PCMagazine about AT&T's responses to law enforcement requests is here
A married couple promises to stick together for better or worse, for richer or poorer. According to a recent study, after hard economic times and the economy starts to rebound, so does the divorce rate.
In a recent story in the LA Times, divorces plunged when the recession struck and slowly started to rise as the recovery began, quoting a study to be published in Population Research and Policy Review.
"From 2009 to 2011, about 150,000 fewer divorces occurred than would otherwise have been expected, University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen estimated. Across the country, the divorce rate among married women dropped from 2.09% to 1.95% from 2008 to 2009, then crept back up to 1.98% in both 2010 and 2011. The National Marriage Project earlier dubbed the drop in divorce "a silver lining" to the Great Recession, arguing that tough times were pulling many husbands and wives closer together. But some couples may have simply put off divorce until they could afford to part, researchers say. The economic uptick may have finally given them the freedom to split."
Food for thought.
Is someone--like your teenager--using Facebook too much? You want to have them quit Facebook? You could try reaching into your wallet.
A research consultant in Boston paid his 14-year-old daughter a $200 fee to quit the social network until summer, according to a post on his blog that has been further reported on tech websites. The consultant, Paul Baier, posted an inage of the "Facebook Deactivation Agreement" he made with his daughter on this Tuesday.
Per the agreement (signed by both parties) the teen promised to deactivate her account on the social network from this past Monday until June 26, 2013. In return, Baier will pay his daughter $50 in April and the remaining $150 in June, at the end of the five months.
The teaching point for parents of teenagers is clear. But for those in a divorce or family law case, deactivating or de-publicizing Facebook or other social media accounts may be a very wise move. Then the "other side" can't get easy access to potentially damaging materials.
This does not mean deleting or terminating the account. The general rule is to deactivate, not terminate. TERMINATION of an account could be viewed as SPOLIATION, or the destroying of evidence. A lawyer in Virginia was ordered to pay $520,000 for his role in his client's DELETIONS from the client's Facebook account. A link to the Virginia Supreme Court case is here.
Today, February 4, 2013 marks the 100th anniversity of the birth of Grier Raggio, Sr. and Rosa Parks. They shared more than just their birthday.
For those who don't remember, Rosa Parks was the courageous black woman who refused to ride in the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. This act led to the Montgomery bus strike, an important event in the sequence leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We are grateful for her courage.
Grier Raggio, Sr. founded Raggio & Rraggio with his wife Louise Raggio in 1956, and the two had a thriving practice in November, 1963. Both Grier and Louise were active in helping develop civil rights; Louise is legend for her work leading to the passage of the Family Code, leading to important rights for married women. Grier believed strongly that everyone had fundamental legal rights, including those accused of grave crimes.
Grier Raggio Sr. was one of a handful of lawyers of the Dallas Bar Association who went down to the Dallas County jail the night of November 22, 1963 to insure that the rights of Lee Harvey Oswald were protected. This contigent of lawyers were assured by the various powers-that-be that night that indeed Oswald was being afforded his fundamental rights.
Then a 9th grader, I remember how I thrashed about, cried, and tried to stop my father from going down there that Friday night. I didn't care about Lee Harvey's rights; I cared about the possible stigma to "us" by my Dad having anything to do with the assasinaion of President John F. Kennedy. But my father was a strong believer that everyone had certain constitutional rights. Even if such belief was unpopular at the time.
I am grateful for the courage my father showed that infamous night.
Grier Raggio, Sr. and Rosa Parks shared more than just a birthday.
Lance Armstrong in his Oprah Winfrey interview has famously admitted that he has been lying for years about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in his career as a cyclist.
More than one client at a hearing in family court has said, “My spouse is lying. S/he is committing perjury. Do something!” What is perjury and how does it relate to a Texas Family Law case?
Perjury is defined in Texas Penal Code roughly as: Perjury: A person commits an offense when he makes a false statement under oath with intent to deceive. Lance Armstrong’s statements in his 2005 deposition shown on the Oprah show were made under oath. What he said last night to Oprah was unsworn. What he said last night is not perjury. What he said in the 2005 deposition may be perjury. To be charged with the crime of perjury, the prosecution of the perjurer must start within two or three years of the date of the perjury. So Lance walks - at least in the legal courts, but not necessarily in the court of public opinion.
What about the lying spouse mentioned above? Everyone when testifying under oath has the duty to tell the truth and can be prosecuted for perjury. The decision to prosecute a perjury case is up to the local county prosecutor. The prosecutor may be overwhelmed with other cases and reluctant to get involved what the prosecutor could perceive as a domestic dispute. The real remedy for perjury in Texas Family Courts is the fact that judges, when they make their ruling in the case, have the ability to “punish” the offender by not granting the relief, or as much relief, as requested by the offending party.
In summary, the “do right” rule remains the same: tell the truth.
A man who donated his sperm so that a lesbian couple could have a child–and with the couple contractually agreeing that he would not ever have to pay child support–has been popped by the State of Kansas for child support, as the mother had applied for welfare. As the sperm donor William Marotta said, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Marotta may wish he lived in Texas. Texas has a specific provision in the Family Code that states:
“A donor is not a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction.”
He would not be the father of the child in Texas.
Texas can rightly claim to have the most progressive parentage laws, including the Uniform Parentage Act which contains the above provision. Texas was the first to adopt the act in 2000. The act has since been amended to cover all variations of ARTS, or assisted reproductive technologies.Texas law even covers what happens with an ARTS child in a divorce. Dallas has a number of medical facilities who help people with assisted reproduction. Dallas family law attorneys are useful to help with the gestational agreements and other paperwork that is necessary to properly set forth and register the agreements-- and to avoid William Marotta’s fate in Kansas.
It is best that couples–including gay or lesbian couples- who are considering adding a child to their family should check with a Dallas family law attorney to make sure they understand what they need to do before they get too far in the process. We can help.
The Kansas man's story is here.