Recently in Domestic Violence Category

False Allegations of Child Abuse - Penalties for the Accuser

December 15, 2014

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 Visitation as a Safeguard in Custody Cases

December 8, 2014

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 Awareness Month: How a Family Law Attorney Can Help You

December 1, 2014

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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What does the Court Consider an Emergency?

June 30, 2014

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:
  4. 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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Types of Spousal Support

May 23, 2014

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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Is Phone/Email Harassment a Basis for Restraining Order Against Ex-Spouse?

May 15, 2014

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 and Domestic Violence - Do Victims Have to Pay?

May 11, 2014

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 With My Divorce Lawyer - What Can I Expect?

April 21, 2014

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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The voice of Charlie Brown charged with stalking, death threats


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.

ABCNews.com 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.

nbcsandiego.com 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. ABCNews.com further reports that, if convicted, Robbins faces up to 9 years in prison.

According to nbcsandiego.com, 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. nbcsandiego.com 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 sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com. 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

www.BickfordLaw.com

Ariel Winter's Emotional Abuse

November 27, 2012

Domestic violence and child abuse are not limited to physical violence, but also include emotional abuse. Modern Family actress, Ariel Winter, has recently been named a victim in an emotional abuse scandal with her mother, Chrisoula Workman. Although Ariel's claims of physical violence were unsubstantiated by the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), DCFS did find evidence of emotional abuse. As a result of the DCFS findings, on November 20th, a judge ordered Ariel to remain in the custody of her adult sister, Shanelle Gray.

The DCFS report also contained recommendations for the 14-year-old Ariel's future care. According to DCFS, it is in Ariel's best interest for Ms. Gray to be awarded permanent guardianship. Workman's attorney, Anita Gumm, vehemently opposed the idea that Gray be awarded temporary or permanent guardianship of Ariel. Gumm argued that 34-year-old Gray is too young to act as guardian despite being old enough to have a family of her own. Due to Ariel's well-known role on the popular television show, Modern Family, Gumm also suggested that Gray was seeking guardianship over her for individual gain. Apparently the judge disagreed with Gumm's representation of Gray's motives since he awarded her temporary guardianship. A hearing on permanent guardianship has not been set.

In a case such as the Ariel Winter's case, the adult who becomes the guardian of an abused child does not necessarily need to be a family member. Any family member, friend, or other adult who knows the child may ask the court to become his or her guardian. Because Gray is Ariel's sister, the two girls likely share a close relationship that will make Ariel's transition away from her mother much easier.

As Ariel's guardian, Gray now has a number of important responsibilities. Guardians are responsible for the health care and education of the minor child. This means that, as guardian, Gray has the ability to make medical decisions for Ariel. Additionally, Gray may choose where Ariel attends school. This may be a complicated decision considering that Ariel is an actress on a hit television show. Although guardians have the right to make decisions for the minor child, the child's parents still remain responsible for financially supporting that child. If the guardian wishes to further sever ties between the child and his or her parents, the guardian may choose to provide financial support without help from the parents.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Domestic Violence and Spousal Support in San Diego

October 25, 2012

440262_arguing.jpgIn San Diego, domestic violence can have a tremendous impact in divorce proceedings, especially in cases involving spousal support. As we have previously blogged, spousal support can be classified as "temporary" or "permanent." Two different standards are used to determine support based on its duration. Temporary support is usually determined using the guideline spousal support formula and permanent support takes into consideration the Family Code section 4320 factors. The role domestic violence plays in an award of spousal support is dependent on the type of support.

Temporary Spousal Support: In an award of temporary spousal support, the Family Code section 4320 factors are normally not controlling. However, there is one statutory exception to this rule. The trial court must consider 4320(i) in setting temporary spousal support. Section 4320(i) states that the court must consider, "documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, 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." Despite this clear exception, the code is ambiguous as to the terms "domestic violence" and "documented evidence." Due to public policy concerns against requiring a victim of violence to provide financial support to his or her abuser, the court will consider violence amongst the parties even when making a temporary order.

Permanent Spousal Support: Like in a temporary spousal support situation, the Court must consider the 4320 factors in deciding the issue of permanent spousal support. Also like in a temporary spousal support situation, the court must consider any documented evidence of a history of domestic violence.

Documented Evidence of a Conviction of Domestic Violence: Family Code section 4325 provides, "In any proceeding for dissolution of marriage where there is a criminal conviction for an act of domestic violence perpetrated by one spouse against the other spouse entered by the court within five years prior to the filing of the dissolution proceeding, or at any time thereafter, there shall be a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof that any award of temporary or permanent spousal support to the abusive spouse otherwise awardable pursuant to the standards of this part should not be made." Although section 4320 permits the court to consider "any documented evidence of a history of domestic violence" and does not require a criminal conviction, section 4320 only permits the court to consider the evidence. Section 4325 has a much more powerful effect because it creates a presumption that an award of spousal support should not be made to an abusive spouse. One policy motivation behind this distinction is the hope that more victims of domestic violence will pursue criminal convictions against their abusers.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Child Protective Services Visits Honey Boo Boo

October 4, 2012

Child protective services ("CPS") recently visited the seven-year-old star of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Alana Thompson. The controversial show depicts the life of a young child on the pageant circle. However, despite the glamorous style of a pageant princess, Alana's family is always cutting corners to make ends meet. While many viewers criticize the show as "offensive" and "exploitative," it managed to garner 2.2 million viewers. The show caught the attention of CPS with "go go juice." Go go juice is a concoction created by Alana's mother, June. It consists of Mountain Dew, and Red Bull. While under the "influence" of go go juice, YouTube videos surfaced of Alana dancing on a table at a bar for dollar bills.

June defended her daughter's behavior by saying "at least it [the bar] wasn't one of those sleazy ones." The child abuse charges were eventually dropped after the court appointed June an attorney. Although it is not unusual for children in the rural part of Georgia, where the Thompson family lives, to consume road kill or eat junk food exclusively, CPS was concerned about Alana dancing on a bar table for money. Neighbors scrutinized the Thompson lifestyle long before Here Comes Honey Boo Boo aired; however, the visit from CPS really raised eyebrows in the neighborhood.

Fortunately, in Alana's case, the court found no reason to continue investigating the Thompson family. Under California Family Code section 3020, "the legislature finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state to assure that the health, safety, and welfare of children shall be the court's primary concern when making any orders regarding the physical or legal custody or visitation of children." The overriding concern of the family court system is the best interest of the child and any domestic violence in a household where a child resides or child abuse is detrimental to a child. Under California Family Code section 3027, the court has the ability to take temporary steps to protect children while further investigation is conducted. Not only does the court have the ability to issue restraining orders but also it may request that the local child welfare services agency conduct an investigation.

Judges are not the only people who can engage child welfare services to investigate the welfare of a child. In San Diego, any person can call the child abuse hotline and provide a referral to a Hotline social worker who will do an immediate assessment of the referral. If this social worker determines that a child is at risk, a social worker is assigned to investigate the situation. In particularly dangerous cases, the social worker and/or enforcement officer may visit the home within a few hours of receiving the referral.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Dallas Cowboys Rally for Teammate Accused of Domestic Violence

August 21, 2012

This July, Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Dez Bryant was arrested in Texas as the result of an incidence of violence that occurred between Bryant and his mother. According to the police report, Bryant slapped his mother with a baseball cap on her face and pulled her hair. It seems as if this athlete is not receiving any special treatment. He is facing up to a year in jail and discipline by the National Football League (NFL) under the personal-conduct policy. Texas may also impose a $4,000 fine, although that is not likely to deter a successful professional football player.

Although Bryant's mother, Angela Bryant, initially called the police on her son, she is now requesting that charges against him be dropped. In a criminal case such a request does not automatically mean that the case will be dropped. However, it may be more difficult for the prosecution to obtain a conviction without the assistance of the victim. In San Diego, the Office of the City Attorney of San Diego has the authority to decide whether to prosecute a case of domestic violence, not the victim. This is likely due to recognition of the cycle of domestic violence. Victims often return to their abusers for various reasons including fear, the safety of others, and out of love. Thus, if victims decided whether or not to prosecute cases of violence against them, fewer violent perpetrators would be put behind bars.

The details of the altercation between Bryant and his mother are still debated. However, Bryant has received the support of his teammates. Fellow Dallas Cowboy Tony Romo has stated, "the one thing I know is that Dez knows I have his back" and "Dez knows I'll be there for him. Dez knows that I'm going to stick up for him." If Bryant does receive jail time, he will be putting his teammates in a tough situation. Bryant is a valuable player and will be unable to fulfill his obligations to the NFL if placed in jail. Romo also mentioned that Bryant had a difficult life and upbringing possibly hinting that a self-defense claim may be brought.

Under Texas laws, Bryant was charged with "family violence." In California, he would likely be facing charges of domestic violence. Domestic violence is not only recognized in romantic relationships but also in various other situations. Under the California Family Code section 6211, domestic violence is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons: (a) a spouse or former spouse, (b) a cohabitant or former cohabitant, (c) a person with whom the alleged abuser is or has dated or been engaged to, (d) a person with whom the alleged abuser has had a child, (e) a child of a party or a child, and (f) any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree. Thus, in the case of Dez Bryant and his mother, due to the close familial relationship, he would likely be charged under domestic violence statutes in California.

Any situation involving domestic violence is dangerous. Please contact us if you have questions regarding the effects of domestic violence on child custody or divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Elder Abuse Charges Against Mel Gibson

August 3, 2012


Elder abuse is a crime that often goes unnoticed and unreported in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. However, thanks to local organizations such as the H.O.P.E. team and the San Diego Family Justice Center, elderly victims of abuse have community resources to turn to for help. In recent news, infamous actor and director, Mel Gibson, has been accused of elder abuse. The alleged victim is Teddy Joye Hicks Gibson, Gibson's stepmother. Seventy-eight year old Teddy claims that Gibson spat in her face and threatened her. As a result of the incident, she is seeking a restraining order against Gibson.

In addition to the physical attacks and threats, Teddy alleges that Gibson has waged an emotional and psychological assault on her. She asserted that Gibson has contributed to the final breakdown of her marriage to Gibson's father and that he is trying to force her out of her home. The home is currently owned by a charity over which Gibson has significant control. Gibson's ninety-three year old father recently filed for divorce but Teddy says this is a product of Gibson's interference. She bases this claim on a love note recently given to her by Gibson's father, evidencing the intent to remain married. The judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order in favor of Teddy. Alternatively, the judge decided to set a date for a full hearing on the matter.

Elder abuse can appear in many forms just like domestic violence. The definition of domestic violence includes all forms of abuse such as physical abuse, mental/emotional abuse, and financial abuse. Common forms of elder abuse include physical and financial abuse. Because the elderly are in a vulnerable position both physically and financially, they are often the targets of such abuse. Additionally, those paid to care for elderly patients may continue to collect their pay yet neglect the needs of the patient. This type of abuse forces elderly patients to live in inhumane, unsafe, and filthy environments. Although incidents of elder abuse are drastically underreported, the number of reports has risen in San Diego County. According to the office of the District Attorney the elder abuse hotline receives 10,000 calls per year. Of these calls, approximately forty percent involve claims of financial elder abuse.

Ninety-five percent of incidents of elder abuse occur in the home. The groups of these in-home offenders include the most trusted individuals in an elderly person's life. For example, the largest group of abusers are related to the victim. The second largest group is comprised of caretakers, neighbors, and friends. The remaining five percent of incidents occur in nursing homes. The offenders in these cases most often include trusted financial planners.

Any situation involving domestic violence is dangerous. Please contact us if you have questions regarding the effects of domestic violence on child custody or divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Temporary Restraining Orders - More Than Just Paper?

June 5, 2012

Twenty-two year old Sophia Ortiz obtained a temporary restraining order issued to protect her from the father of her children Julio Martinez. The couple's two young children are only ages one and two. After the restraining order was issued, Martinez blatantly disobeyed it by appearing at Ortiz's apartment twice. Each time Ortiz called the local police and by the time they arrived Martinez had fled the scene. The police continued to search for Martinez while he made his way back to the apartment and succeeded in breaking in.

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According to authorities, upon entry into the apartment, Martinez brutally murdered Ortiz in the presence of his two children. When the police arrived back at the apartment, they discovered Ortiz in the bedroom with a carving knife still in her back; she died during surgery early the next day. The children were physically unharmed and Martinez was apprehended. He is currently being held on one million dollars bail.

Many are outraged by the lack of protection provided to Ortiz by the judicial process, especially the temporary restraining order (TRO). Unfortunately approximately 11% homicides committed throughout the United States between 1979 and 2002 were attributable to domestic violence. Considering this statistic, it is estimated that 3,300 children lose a parent every year to domestic violence related homicides in the United States. However, it is important to note that the TRO was never served on Martinez. Any relationship involving domestic violence can be dangerous for both parties at all times, particularly when the victim attempts to end the relationship and leave his or her abuser. A TRO can provide the victim with the power to have his or her abuser arrested if they violate the stipulations of the order.

In San Diego, an estimated one out of every four children, like Ortiz's children, is directly exposed to domestic violence either has a victim or a witness. Regardless of whether a child is physically abused, domestic violence will have an enormous impact in many other areas of his or her life. According to the American Psychiatric Association, children merely exposed to domestic violence are at risk for a variety of developmental problems, difficulty in school, aggressive behavior problems, psychiatric disorders, and low self-confidence. In addition to behavioral, developmental, and social consequences to children, children who witness domestic violence may have a resulting impaired educational attainment.

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