Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

supervised-visitation.JPGAs discussed in my previous blog, “Supervised Visitation as a Safeguard in Divorce Cases,” a family law judge may order supervised visitation when necessary to protect the safety of a child. A non-professional provider is typically a friend or family member of the parents who provides the supervised visitation services without pay. If you have been selected as the designated non-professional supervised visitation provider, then you will want to become familiar with your role and duties.

Supervising visitation is a very important responsibility and can be difficult. You must be able to not only follow the court order but also to set your personal feelings aside and have adequate time to supervise properly in a structured setting. Essentially, your role is to help contribute to the welfare of the child.

As the supervised visitation provider, your specific duties will include the following:
1) Get a copy of the court order from one of the parents, the parent’s attorney or the Court Clerk’s office. Read the court order so that you know the times, places, restrictions and other conditions of the visitation.
2) Do not allow the parent to discuss the court case with the child 3) Do not allow the parent to make derogatory comments about the other parent to the child.
4) Be present during the entire visit and make sure that you can clearly see and hear all conversations and contact between the parent and child 5) Avoid taking sides with either parent and instead remain a neutral third party 6) Although not mandated by law, you are encouraged to obtain training in identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect and to report any known/suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to the child abuse agency or child abuse hotline.
7) Do not allow any emotional, physical or sexual abuse. This may seem like a no brainer but remember that this includes spanking, tickling too hard, or even just threatening the child.
8) Do not allow visitation to occur when the parents appears to be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol.

supervised-visitation-flower.JPGIt’s imperative that you are strict with setting rules and that you do not let the parent violate any of your rules or stray outside of the court order. Family Code Section 3200.5 specifically requires that “Each provider shall make every reasonable effort to provide a safe visit for the child and the noncustodial party. If a provider determines that the rules of the visit have been violated, the child has become acutely distressed, or the safety of the child or the provider is at risk, the visit may be temporarily interrupted, rescheduled at a later date, or terminated.”

Spending time with a child in the presence of a third party supervisor can be very uncomfortable and awkward for both the parent and the child. However, acting as a non-professional supervised visitation provider can be rewarding to protect the welfare of a child and watch the relationship between a parent and child grow.

If you anticipate supervised visitation orders as part of a child custody battle, it is important to know that a lawyer can help you understand the process accurately. Our team can provide you with the caring and outstanding legal counsel you need and deserve. If you would like to discuss your rights under California’s child custody laws, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
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false-allegations.jpgIn family law, especially cases involving custody and visitation disputes, it can be tempting for litigants to make false allegations in order to get ahead in their cases. However, false accusations have no place in family law and in fact may be severely punished if discovered. San Diego family law judges take allegations of child abuse seriously and tend to err on the side of caution if there is any doubt to an allegation of abuse. There are three main statues which were enacted, in part, to deter the use false allegations of abuse as a litigation tactic by providing the following remedies to the falsely accused.

Supervised Visitation or Limited Custody/Visitation: Family Code § 3027.5 provides that the court may order supervised visitation or limit a parent’s time with the child if the court finds the parent knowingly made false accusations of child abuse against the other parent. In order to prevail on a claim brought under this code section, the accused parent must also show that the accusations were made with the intent to interfere with the other parent’s lawful contact with the child (particularly during the pendency of a custody proceeding). The court will also take into consideration whether supervised visitation or limited custody/visitation is necessary to protect the child’s health, safety, and welfare balanced against the child’s interest to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

false-allegations-child.jpgSanctions: Family Code §3027 provides family courts with authority to impose monetary sanctions upon any witness, party or party’s attorney who knowingly makes false child abuse or neglect accusations during custody proceedings. The amount of the sanctions imposed will be calculated based on all costs incurred by the accused as a direct result of defending the accusation plus fees and cost associated with bringing the sanction request. It is important to note that the court may impose monetary sanctions in addition to (not in lieu of) any additional remedies requested. The requesting party, however, must be sure to bring his or her claim for sanctions within a reasonable time after clearing his or her name.

Mandatory Reconsideration of Custody Order: A parent falsely accused of child abuse or neglect has the option of pursuing criminal charges or a civil action against the accusing parent. If the accusing parent is convicted of a crime in connection with false allegations of child against the other parent, the falsely accused parent may move for reconsideration of the existing child custody order. A parent’s motion for reconsideration of such an order must be granted under these circumstances.

We understand that this is a sensitive situation that could greatly affect your family and your relationship with your children, and our team can provide you with the caring and outstanding legal counsel you need and deserve. If you would like to discuss your rights under California’s child custody laws, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
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supervised-child-visitation.jpgThe state of California has a public policy to promote the best interest of the child when his/her parents have a custody or visitation matter in family court. In addition to promoting frequent and continuous contact with the child, the courts must make sure that the child is safe and protected. Sometimes as a safeguard in order to protect the safety of a child, a family court judge will place limits on the non-custodial parent’s visitation with the child and order what is known as supervised visitation.

Supervised visitation means that a child may only have visitation with the non-custodial parent when a neutral third party is present to supervise the visit. The third-party can be a professional or a therapeutic provider who has experience and is trained in providing supervised visitation. Professional and therapeutic providers typically charge an hourly fee to supervise the visitation. The third-party may also be a non-professional provider, like a family member or family friend who is qualified under specific criteria and agrees to supervise the visitation (typically at no cost to the parties).

supervised-child-beach.jpgA family court judge may order supervised visitation for a variety of reasons in which there is a concern about the protection and safety of a child. For instance, allegations of neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence or child abuse will likely warrant supervised visitation. Supervised visitation may also be ordered when there is a threat of kidnapping or there is a concern of mental illness. Additionally, if the parent has been absent in the child’s life for a significant period of time or there is a lack of relationship between a parent and child, supervised visitation may be necessary to help introduce the parent and child.

A court order for supervised visitation will specify when the supervised visitations will take place and for how long they will last. Sometimes the court order will also specify where the visitations are to take place and who exactly will be the designated supervisor. Depending on the circumstances, a court may even order that the supervised visitation only take place within a visitation facility.

Ultimately, the goal of supervised visitation is to protect the child and to get the family in a position where supervision isn’t necessary. A court will continue to monitor a case to determine if supervised visitation is still necessary or if it can be lifted to unsupervised visitation.
We understand that this is a sensitive situation that could greatly affect your family and your relationship with your children, and our team can provide you with the caring and outstanding legal counsel you need and deserve. If you would like to discuss your rights under California’s child custody laws, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
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domestic-violence.jpgOctober has been recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month since 1987 in hopes of connecting advocates across the nation to help end domestic violence against women and their children. Various activities are held at local, state and national levels including mourning those who have died as a result of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived domestic violence, and offering a toll-free hotline to help provide services and information. In San Diego, the Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-888-DVLINKS (1-888-385-4657). In 1994 a national registry called “Remember My Name” was even created to help increase public awareness of those who have died as a result of domestic violence. Unfortunately, domestic violence between married couples is very real and more prevalent than we would like to think it is. Family Law attorneys often encounter clients who have been or are currently the victim of domestic violence. Family law attorneys can play a pivotal role in helping victims of domestic violence.

California law defines domestic violence as “abuse committed against an adult or minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.” Victims of domestic violence have several legal options to protect themselves from further abuse. Although these remedies don’t necessarily stop the abuser, they do permit the victim to call the police and get the abuser arrested if/when they break the order.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and you are married to your abuser, you will likely be interested in getting a divorce. Domestic violence can be a factor in certain aspects of your divorce case, including child custody and spousal support, so it’s important that you have an experience attorney who can explain your rights to you.

Even if you haven’t filed for divorce from your abuser yet, a San Diego family law attorney can help you file a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. If granted by the Court, a restraining order against your abuser will require your abuser to not do certain things, such as being prohibited from calling, texting, emailing, stalking, attacking, or disturbing you. Your abuser may also be ordered to stay a certain distance away from you. This can be done on an emergency/immediate basis, whereby your attorney will seek a temporary restraining order to protect you while waiting for the court hearing to determine if the restraining order should become permanent for a specified period of time.
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ex-parte-attorney-001.jpgGoing through a divorce (or any family law case) can create anxiety and become consuming for the parties involved. It is easy for family court judges and attorneys to become jaded by the volume of domestic issues they deal with on a daily basis. However, the average family law litigant has little to no experience with the court system. Considering the sensitive nature of family law cases, it is not surprising that litigants become frantic as each new problem or issue arises. Despite the sensitive nature of family law requests, it can be months for a litigant to obtain relief from the court.

In the case of true emergencies, the court offers ex parte hearings, which will be conducted with notice of twenty-four hours or less. However, ex parte relief will only be granted in a limited number of circumstances. Pursuant to the California Rules of Court, the Court will grant relief on an emergency basis in the following cases:

  1. Make orders to prevent an immediate danger or irreparable harm to a party or to the children involved in the matter;

  2. Make orders to help prevent immediate loss or damage to property subject to disposition in the case; or

  3. Make orders about procedural matters, including the following:
    a.) Setting a date for a hearing on the matter that is sooner than that of a regular hearing (granting an order shortening time for a hearing)
    b.) Shortening or extending the time required for a moving party to serve the other party with the notice of the hearing and supporting papers (grant an order shortening time for service) and c.) Continuing a hearing or trial.

ex-parte-gavel.jpgFamily law litigants will often run into court (or insist their attorneys run into court) requesting relief on an ex parte basis. However, as stated above, the requesting party must justify the lack of notice for his or her request with immediate danger, irreparable harm, to prevent immediate loss or damage to property, or for procedural issues. It is important for parties to carefully consider their decision to request emergency relief before filing a motion with the court. Too many unfounded ex parte requests will begin to create a “boy who cried wolf” reputation for the litigant. This means that if emergency relief is really necessary in the case, the court may not take the request seriously.
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spousal-support-flower.jpgIn San Diego and throughout the state of California there are two types of spousal support which can be awarded by a family court judge. The two types of spousal support are temporary (pendente lite) spousal support and permanent (long-term) spousal support. The type of spousal support awarded is dependent on what point in the case the award is made. Often times family law litigants have various questions about spousal support especially after their first spousal support hearing. One of the most frequent questions asked is, “How long will the spousal support order last?”

Prior to entry of Judgment, any spousal support award made by the family court judges will be a “temporary” spousal support order. At the end of a dissolution case, the court will reevaluate the amount of spousal support being paid and make an ongoing “permanent” spousal support order. When parties first separate, one spouse may not have access to community funds and therefore he or she must request a hearing immediately to obtain an order for support. At times, that first rush to judgment can result in a slightly higher or slightly lower amount of support than may be appropriate on a more permanent basis.

In making a “temporary” spousal support order, the family courts in California are not as restricted using discretion than other court systems. For example, many other state court judges are required to apply a specific formula which considers the parties’ incomes and various other factors. In California, although many family court judges make spousal support awards using a default formula, they are not required to. In practice, family court judges often refer to the spousal support amount as suggested by guideline formulas and make awards based on that information.

spousal-support-gavel-001.jpgWhen family court judges make “permanent” spousal support orders, they must consider all of the factors outlined in Family Code § 4320. Most importantly, the court will consider the ability of the supporting spouse to pay support and the need of the supported spouse for spousal support. Family Code § 4320 also lists factors such as the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the health of the parties, and any history of domestic violence. Becoming familiar with these methods for calculating spousal support can be especially helpful for parties’ in settlement negotiations. The measuring stick for any proposal in negotiation is what the judge would likely do if the matter were to proceed to court. Therefore, having that information available can assist the parties with proposing and accepting reasonable solutions.
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phone-harassment.jpgAccording to Fox News, a Florida man called his ex 145 times over the span of a mere 11 hours. Although he has been released from jail on bail, he now faces charges of aggravated stalking. If this situation were to occur in California, would the man’s actions perhaps warrant an order of protection in the realm of domestic violence? Could he face any criminal consequences for his actions?

Unfortunately, divorce attorneys often deal with clients who are being abused by their ex or their soon to be ex and need legal protection from such abuse. Harassment may be considered a form of abuse. If the client and the other person have a close relationship (i.e. they are divorced, separated, dating, use to date, living together, used to live together or closely related) and the client has been abused or harassed by that other person, it falls within the realm of domestic violence. Divorce attorneys will typically assist the client with getting a domestic violence restraining order against the other person.

phone-harassment-teenager.jpgA restraining order, also known as an order of protection, is an order by the court that sets forth what conduct is or is not permitted between a person who has committed threats or violence against another person. Behavior that constitutes domestic violence for purposes of seeking an order of protection can be physical abuse, sexual assault, making someone reasonably afraid of being hurt, or harassing, stalking, disturbing someone’s peace, etc. First, a Temporary Restraining Order must be obtained. Then, the Court will set a date for the parties to return to Court and request that the Restraining Order be made a Permanent Order. Also, according to Family Code 6320(a), “The court may issue an ex parte order enjoining a party from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls”

Depending on the severity of the situation, you can also pursue criminal prosecution against the abuser or harasser. In fact, California Penal Code Section 653m (b) provides that “Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device, or makes any combination of calls or contact, to another person is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device, guilty of a misdemeanor.” So your ex calling you over 145 times during the span of a mere 11 hours, like what recently happened in Florida, could not only warrant an order of protection but may also be considered a crime punishable pursuant to the California Penal Code. Of course, excessive phone calls or electronic contacts that are made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business, would not be punishable under the Penal Code.
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spousal-support-balance.jpgIn a typical California divorce case, spousal support is awarded based on the need and ability to pay of the parties. However, if there is a history of domestic violence in a case, the spousal support analysis is not so simple. Embedded within California Family Code and cases is the public policy disfavoring an awarded of spousal support from a victim of domestic violence payable to his or her abuser. In making a decision regarding long term spousal support the court is required to consider all of the factors outlined in Family Code § 4320 including domestic violence. In addition, the family courts can make support and property orders in a proceeding brought under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Family Code § 4320(i) provides that the court shall consider the following circumstances: “Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in [Fam. Code §6211], between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.” The Family Code also has provisions creating a presumption that a spousal support award should not be made in favor of a person convicted of a crime of domestic violence.

spousal-support-beach.jpgAlthough the law is clear regarding cases where a finding of domestic violence has been made or where one party has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence, what happens if a spousal support hearing is conducted while a domestic violence case is pending? Recently, a California appellate court held that a court may award spousal support in a proceeding brought under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act prior to reaching a conclusion that domestic violence has occurred. Contrary to cases where an alleged domestic violence abuser is requesting support, this recent case addressed the issue of support due to the alleged victim. Domestic violence hearings can get continued out (for months sometimes) for a variety of reasons. The court reasoned that is should not withhold support for an extended period of time just because the domestic violence issues have not been decided.

Domestic violence cases are always emotionally charged and carry significant implications for both parties. It is always important to discuss your domestic violence case with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.
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communication-divorce-attorney-1.jpgDivorce lawyers are notoriously busy bouncing from hearing to hearing while juggling constant client phone calls and e-mails. Family law is one of the most “client intensive” areas of law, meaning the client plays a much larger role in a divorce action than he or she would in other civil matters. Effective and prompt communication is the top factor for clients in determining their satisfaction with their divorce attorneys. Urgent issues can arise on a daily basis in divorces cases if the parties have a dispute over finances, child custody/visitation, or property. Unfortunately, clients generally do not know how responsive their attorneys will be to these issues until an emergency arises.

Family law firms also tend to be much smaller in size in comparison to other civil litigation practices. If a family law firm only has a couple of employees including the lawyer, it may be difficult for the client to get in contact with his or her attorney. With divorce lawyers out of the office frequently for hearings, meetings, depositions, and settlement conferences, office staff is generally left to handle paperwork, client calls, and a multitude of e-mails. Although it is not impossible for small law firms to efficiently communicate with all of their clients in a reasonable manner, many clients are not satisfied with the attention their case receives.

Once a breakdown in communication has occurred between lawyer and client, both parties tend to be angry and frustrated with the situation. Further, switching attorneys or remedying any consequences of inadequate attention to a case could cost the client additional attorney fees and further delay his or her divorce. Considering it is not uncommon for the divorce process to last one to two years, unnecessary delays can be particularly frustrating for clients.

At the Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC we work as a team to ensure that each client gets the prompt and careful attention he or she deserves. When a client retains our firm to represent him or her in a divorce matter, a lead attorney, supporting attorney and paralegal are all assigned to the case. This means that if the client needs any information at least one team member will likely be available to assist them. Further, if both attorneys assigned to the case happen to be out of the office when an urgent matter arises, any other attorney currently in the office will be available to handle emergencies. The variety of staff assigned to a case also allows the lead attorney to delegate work to attorneys or paralegals with a much lower billing rate thereby reducing the overall cost for the client.
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Peter Robbins, voice of the beloved Peanuts character Charlie Brown, was arrested on Sunday, January 20th, on charges of making criminal threats and stalking. Robbins was the voice of Charlie Brown in both “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” television specials. reported that, while the details of the arrest warrant were not immediately available, the charges related to Robbins stalking his ex-girlfriend and making criminal threats against a plastic surgeon. reported that it all started with a breast enhancement performed on Robbins’ former girlfriend, Shawna Kern, by La Jolla plastic surgeon Lori Saltz. Apparently Robbins and Kern were a couple at the time the procedure was performed, but broke up sometime thereafter. After the couple split, Robbins allegedly demanded his money back from Saltz, stalking her and threatening her life if she did not refund the money.

Read more about domestic violence and how an attorney can help

Robbins, a resident of Oceanside, California was arrested while re-entering the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. According to ABC News, he is being held on $550,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing is set for March 22, 2013. further reports that, if convicted, Robbins faces up to 9 years in prison.

According to, Saltz filed a restraining order against Robbins. It is unknown whether Kern has similarly filed a restraining order against Robbins.

We have previously blogged about how the “girlfriend, boyfriend” relationship qualifies a restraining order to be filed in Family Court. We have also previously blogged about the basics of family law restraining orders. A unique fact of this story is the mention of violence by Robbins against the dog he shared with Kern. reports: “[t]he prosecutor said Robbins also admitted to attacking Kern and their dog.”

In cases such as these, Family Code section 6320 authorizes the Court to include a pet on a restraining order in California. The California family code section provides protections for the party, and at the discretion of the court, the code also provides protections to other family members, household members, and even pets on the authority of good cause.

Do pets really need this type of protection? It would appear they do. While California did not initially extend this type of protection to pets, the extension accounts for the fact that over 60% of American households have pets and a majority of women who are in shelters report that their batterer also abused the pets in the household.

This is according to Jennifer Scarlett, DVM and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA as reported by In fact, according to Scarlett, 25% to 40% of women say that they stay in abusive relationships because they are afraid to leave their pet in the household. California is not the only state to extend this protection to pets. Twenty-two states plus the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico have similar legislation.

Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. The divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC are well versed in Family Law in San Diego, with the firm headed by Nancy J. Bickford, Esq.. Ms. Bickford is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), as well as an actively licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), making her the only attorney representing clients in divorce in San Diego with these distinctions. Call today for more information about the consultation process. (858) 793-8884