Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sacks, Allred Debate New CA. Supreme Court Move-Away Decision

In relation to the post below, Glenn Sacks debated attorney Gloria Allred last Friday about this case and move away cases in general. What follows are verbatim excerpts from an email. You can visit GlennSacks.com or His Side with Glenn Sacks for more information or to sign up for email updates.


California Supreme Court Rules Against Dad in New Move-Away Decision

From 1996 to 2004 move-away determinations were based on the Burgess decision, in which a custodial mother was allowed to move her two children 40 miles away from their father. Burgess was disastrous for children because it was interpreted by California courts to permit moves of hundreds or thousands of miles. In some cases, courts have even allowed children to be moved out of the country, as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Zaire.

In 2004 the California Supreme Court decided the LaMusga case in favor of the father, Gary LaMusga, who sought to prevent his ex-wife from moving his two young boys from California to Ohio. LaMusga, who is unable to follow his children because he operates a small business and is tied down by weighty child support obligations, had fought the move for eight years. In siding with the father the court explained that "the likely impact of the proposed move on the noncustodial parent's relationship with the children is a relevant factor in determining whether the move would cause detriment to the children."

Soon afterwards a handful of extreme feminists prevailed upon former California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) to introduce SB 730, which would have abrogated LaMusga and given custodial parents almost unlimited move-away privileges. We organized to fight the bill, and generated thousands of calls and letters in opposition, as well as a lot of media attention. To everybody's surprise, Burton withdrew SB 730, and LaMusga was preserved.

Fortunately the new decision in Brown vs. Yana will not have the impact of Burgess or LaMusga--it is more technical and limited in scope, and the father's underwhelming legal effort and behavior hurt him. To learn more about the new ruling, see
Court Rules Parents With Custody Can Move (Los Angeles Times, 2/2/06).

To learn more about California move-aways and the LaMusga case, see my co-authored column
Is a Pool More Important than a Dad? (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/4/04) and read my LaMusga radio commentary here. To read a feminist view of the move-away issue, see Allred's column "Moving Matters in Custody" (Los Angeles Daily Journal, 10/3/02).

I discussed how this issue would be viewed if we switched the genders in my column
California NOW Takes Stand Against Working Mothers (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/23/04), and argued in favor of a current Wisconsin move-away bill in my co-authored piece AB 400 Will Help Wisconsin's Children of Divorce (Wisconsin State Journal, 12/3/05). I clashed with feminist law professor Carol Bruch, who authored the mother's brief in LaMusga, on PBS's Los Angeles affiliate KCET last year--to watch, click here.

Sacks, Allred Debate New California Supreme Court Move-Away Decision

For example, Gloria often says that restrictions on move-aways unfairly restrict custodial moms from moving, while not restricting noncustodial fathers. I answer that in these cases both parents are free to move wherever they want--it is the children who may not be moved if a court determines that it is against their best interests.

Gloria often says that restrictions on move-aways keep custodial parents "held hostage" in their neighborhoods, and that they should be able to "move on with their lives." I respond that both parents retain responsibilities to their children after divorce which are sometimes inconvenient or limiting, and ask "Would we argue that noncustodial parents' responsibility to pay child support holds them 'hostage?' Do we condone the behavior of divorced parents who decide to drop out of their children's lives or stop paying child support because they've decided to 'move on with their lives?'"

Another Bizarre Father Screwing

According to the article
Not guilty, but not off the hook (2/6/06):

"A man who spent 13 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder faces a debt of more than $38,000 in child-support payments that started accumulating while he was locked up...

"A federal judge released Souter last April 1.

"In 1987, before his conviction, [Larry] Souter was ordered to pay $100 a week in his divorce with Christine Souter. He stopped paying when he went to prison in 1992 but didn't ask to have payments suspended until 1995.

"Court documents show that in 1997, he owed $23,000 in back support. As of last month, interest and penalties had pushed it to $38,082.25.

"Federal law prohibits judges from retroactively wiping out such debts...

"David Sarnacki, an attorney for Souter's ex-wife, wrote in a court filing that his client 'has endured the substantial burden of raising her two children without defendant's contribution of child support.'"

I love the quote from his ex-wife's attorney. Yes, he didn't pay child support because he was in prison framed on a murder charge. I guess we should be grateful the lawyer didn't refer to Souter as a "deadbeat dad." That'll probably be next. One would also think that after seeing her ex-husband rot in jail for 13 years for a crime he didn't commit, she would feel so damn sorry for the poor guy that she would back off. I guess not.

In the article
Wrongly convicted man tries to move on after prison (Flint Journal, 1/7/06), Souter had discussed putting his life back together and his plans. Now he may be headed back on the road to jail.

I wrote about California legislation designed to deal with the problem of ex-offenders and child support in my co-authored column Schwarzenegger Should Sign Bill to Reduce Prisoner Recidivism (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/21/05). The Bradley Amendment, under which child support arrearages cannot be retroactively forgiven, is the cause of countless bizarre injustices, and often hurts deployed military personnel. In my co-authored column Laws must protect the rights of military dads (Army Times, Marine Corps Times, 3/28/05) family law attorney Jeff Leving and I wrote:

"[Child] support orders are based on civilian pay, which is generally higher than active duty pay. When reservists are called up to active duty they sometimes pay an impossibly high percentage of their income in child support.

"For example, a California naval reservist who has three children and who takes home $4,000 a month in his civilian job would have a child support obligation of about $1,600 a month. If this father is a petty officer second class (E5) who has been in the reserves for six or seven years--a middle-ranked reservist--his active-duty pay would only be $2,205 before taxes, in addition to a housing allowance. Under current California child support guidelines, the reservist's child support obligation should be $550 a month, not $1,600."

A reasonable reader unfamiliar with the wonders of the child support system would probably think 'OK, but the courts would just straighten it out when the reservist gets back--certainly they wouldn't punish him for something that happened because he was serving.' However, the federal Bradley Amendment prohibits judges from retroactively modifying child support beyond the date which an obligor has applied for a modification. Reservists can be mobilized with as little as one day's notice. If a reservist didn't have time or didn't know he had to file for a downward modification, the arrearages stay, along with the interest and penalties charged on them.

"When the arrearage reaches $5,000--a common occurrence during long deployments--the father can become a felon who can be incarcerated or subject to a barrage of harsh civil penalties, including seizure of driver's licenses, business licenses and passports."

This is a particularly long newsletter so I am going to cut the excerpts here. However, Glenn also discusses child abduction, the campaign against PBS "documentary" Breaking the Silence, Newsweek coverage of The Trouble With Boys, domestic violence laws, Italian custody laws, and female inmates - amongst other topics. Visit his site to read the newsletter here.

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