Teens v Parents, at what age to cut the cord?

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I wrote the following for LinkedIn as an “Influencer”:

I was asked to comment on HLN last week on the story about the young actress (14 years old) from the TV show Modern Family who wants to be out from under her mother’s care. Apparently her mom doesn’t like catching her in bed with boys and is very protective. Well that may be the best evidence of good parenting I have seen in quite a while. But young stars, like most young people, want to spread their wings. But they have more ability, more resources, more money, more friends (her older sister, in this case, took temporary guardianship of her) and more “supporters” making them feel powerful.  But they are kids and need guidance. Soon enough they will have the freedom to make many of their own mistakes, but even though some parents are not great at parenting, the natural parent seems to be the one most likely to want what is best for the child. Sure there are some parents who abuse this situation, but unless it is clear that such is the case, why shouldn’t they be given every chance to guide their child that they brought into this world as they deem best?

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A view on our election, from Mexico

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It is eerie to have landed in Mexico as our U.S. presidential election draws to a close. Whatever your personal beliefs, we are in for a very interesting four years, at least on the family law front. Same sex marriage, assisted reproductive technology, women’s right to choose and many other issues are and will be developing over the next four years. And what if new U.S. Supreme Court Justices are appointed? This election has certainly set us on a definite course. Will congress offset or delay it? Who knows, but this will be an interesting decade. Let’s hope our economy rebounds and our country remains the world leader in the areas it has led in historically, freedom, helping the downtrodden and being the symbol of so many great things human beings can accomplish. Whatever your politics, we are a great nation and stronger for these serious debates and discussions. So many of us are interested. So many care. And in so many countries, people have no voice and are resigned to their status quo. Here’s to our country and to our ability to disagree civilly and to be able to campaign hard, and then work together to make all of us better.

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NY Federal Court holds DOMA unconstitutional

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The following is a copy of my recent post for LinkedIn:

I was interviewed today (October 21, 2012) on CNN about the new Federal Court decision declaring section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional (click here to see the interview: http://youtu.be/TErI_O9nQ6E).  This is another step towards the U.S. Supreme Court eventually addressing it, and in my opinion, declaring sections 2 and 3 to be unconstitutional.  The case was EDITH SCHLAIN WINDSOR, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF THEA CLARA SPYER, – v.- UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The case can be read in full at http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/windsor_2d_cir_opinion_pdf.pdf .

To summarize, the case held that an elderly woman (83 years old), could not be forced to pay over $300,000.00 in federal estate taxes on assets her partner had left to her when she (her long time partner and wife) died. They had gotten married in Canada and lived in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal.

The Court said “Homosexuals have suffered a history of discrimination” and used a  heightened scrutiny test treating gays like other minorities which made it easier to find the law unconstitutional. They said: “[W]e conclude that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection and is therefore unconstitutional”

Here is what Section 3 says:

“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Same Sex marriage licenses are issued in: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia so according to this opinion, the federal government must recognize same sex marriages in these states and thus federal laws applying to married people should apply to married same sex partners.

Will the United States Supreme Court review this case? Who knows?  Perhaps.  But they may want to await a future decision that also raises the constitutionality of section 2 of DOMA, which seems to violate the full faith and credit clause of the constitution by stating that states need not recognize marriages in other states between same sex individuals if such state itself does not want to deem such marriages valid.  But surely this case makes the issue more noticeable and in need of clarification.  And since congress isn’t likely to try to fix this or address the constitutionality (the congress actually paid to defend the law in this case since president Obama would not), it seems the supreme court is where it will ultimately land.

One interesting line from the opinion is: “The law is not concerned with holy matrimony. Government deals with marriage as a civil status–however fundamental–and New York has elected to extend that status to same-sex couples.”  This statement, to me, makes it clear that the legal definition of marriage, can, may and often will differ from the religious, moral and philosophical definitions of marriage espoused by different people, different religious experts and others. But the fact that same sex marriage has been declared legal by some states seemed to carry the day in this case.  This decision stated clearly that the federal government cannot contravene the state’s determination that same sex marriage is authorized and that in this case, the federal law, DOMA which attempts to override state law, is unconstitutional.

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Spyware and Divorce

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(The following is a blog entry I contributed to LinkedIn as one of their “Influencers”):

Gosh the laws are in a state of flux on this topic.   I contributed to a front page story in the wsj a week or two ago and have received a lot of feedback.  Where are we in the electronic age?  Well eavesdropping still seems to be bad.  But is looking at your spouses email really the same as tapping their phone calls? Is it perhaps worse?   It again all comes down to the expectation of privacy that our country tries so hard to protect. The South Carolina Supreme Court just weighed in on the issue saying that looking at your spouse’s email may not be wrong?  See: http://www2.counton2.com/news/2012/oct/15/supreme-court-rules-favor-women-who-hacked-mans-e-ar-4761793/.  But other courts differ.

My real question, is should there be a divorce exception?  It is one thing for a company to steal important information from a competitor, but the desire of a spouse to know whether their companion has been faithful (romantically or even financially) is a hard desire to suppress.   Not that wiretapping or invading privacy should be legalized for divorcing couples, but perhaps the punishment should be lowered?  It is just such a hard urge for mst people to suppress, and while ignorance of the law is no excuse, most do not know they are committing a crime. After all, keystroke and other software is so readily available, and spouses usually feel that they are only “invading” their own computer, since after all, they are married and everything they own, they share, right?

It will be interesting to see what happens next.  I am looking forward to the development of this issue as more cases reach the courts.

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Guess what? You are not the mother, the kids are mine!

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HLN (formerly “Headline News”) recently called me to help them explain/discuss the legal issues in a very interesting case about whether a “surrogate” mother is also a legal mother (To see the interview, click here: http://www.ksfamilylaw.com/tv-and-radio/local-broadcasts/).

The case arose when a woman who could not have kids of her own agreed to have a child with a long time male friend.  They decided to use a donor egg, his sperm and she would carry the baby.   But when she gave birth, she was immediately served with papers saying that he was the only legal parent and would be raising the child with his male lover/partner.   They even obtained a restraining order to prevent her from breastfeeding.  We don’t know what documents were signed (but it was likely a “surrogacy” agreement disclaiming any rights to the child, probably thinking she was merely signing documents needed to get the donated egg), but no matter what, she was devastated.  And the interesting legal point is: Is a surrogate mother a legal mother?  What happened? What did she sign? Was she defrauded? Do the normal rules of contracts (meeting of the minds, absence of fraud) even apply, or should there be a higher standard to meet before the father can enforce such a contract.  As of the time I was interviewed, the father had custody and the woman (should we call her the mother?) was suing to get rights to the children. The original story by ABC is here: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8823108.

So why is this such a new thing? Because artificial insemination is only thirty years old.  Before that there was no possibility of such a problem.  And even then, it was all very controlled.  Now that surrogacy and ART (Artificial Reproductive Technology) is becoming commonplace, this issue, and many like it are arising and challenging us.  Law vs morality.  Social values vs. strict contract terms.  And that is where we as lawyers can help.  Until the legislatures of the states and perhaps of the United States can predict and resolve all such dilemmas in advance, great lawyering and judging will have to get us through.

Posted in Assited Reproductive Technology, Attorney, Child custody, Custody, Discovery, Divorce, Family, Family Court, Family Law, Gay Adoption, gay marriage, High Profile Cases, Judge, Lawyer, Legal, same sex marriage, Uncategorized Leave a comment
 

Family Law Lecture in Hawaii, Yes, Hawaii!

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I have again been fortunate to have been invited to address the Hawaii State Bar Family Law Section as their keynote speaker this Friday.  I have worked very hard on my 3 hour, yes 3 hour presentation.  But this time it’s different.  I will not be speaking about the rules of evidence, or recent caselaw.  Rather, I will discuss how to practice with a passion.  I am lucky to be passionate about what I do.  The rewards are not immediate, but I know I am doing my best to help people, and any lawyer who practices family law should feel that way, IMHO (in my humble opinion) as the young texters say.  This program will cover not only practicing with a passion, but how your passion can help your practice and your life.  And how it can lead to better time management and in fact, the creation of time.  If we can create time by how we practice, we can spend more time focusing on what’s important. Things like our family, our colleagues, and even the big picture of our cases, instead of drowning in the details.  This idea is a work in progress for all of us, but I hope to help the lawyers who attend.  I am nervous and excited.  I hope I merit the invitation.

The program information can be found at: http://www.legalspan.com/hsba/catalog.asp?ItemID=20120802-299250-141330

I am looking forward to this opportunity and already know that I have learned so much, just in thinking about what to say.  Teaching is always a great learning experience.

Posted in alimony, American Bar Association, Attorney, Celebrity Cases, Child custody, Custody, Divorce, Family, Family Court, Family Law, High Profile Cases, Judge, Lawyer, Legal, Prenuptial agreement, Uncategorized Leave a comment
 

Double Duty, Quadruple Duty Family Law Day; Divorce Seminar, Child Abuse Seminar and 2 TV interviews

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Double Duty, Quadruple Duty Family Law Day; Divorce Seminar, Child Abuse Seminar and 2 TV interviews (Kelly Rutherford Custody Case and Paparazzi and Divorce, and yes, it started with the Kate Middleton Story)

On Friday, September 14, 2012, in addition to working on client cases and matters, I had a full, quadruple duty family law day.  I had scheduled a day without trials so that I could present at two very important programs.  The day started out with my presenting as the lead-off speaker at our annual “Nuts & Bolts of Family Law Seminar” sponsored by the State Bar of Georgia, Family Law Section.  I presented on “How to Present Your Case When Time is Short”.  I think I was effective, and at least I finished on time, since going long would have been disastrous, given my topic.  The program agenda can be viewed at: http://www.iclega.org/programs/8025.html

As soon as I finished speaking there, I left to go Chair and speak at maybe the most important seminar I have ever been a part of (there were well over 200 people attending the “Nuts & Bolts of Family Law Seminar”, so I had to try my best to leave discreetly, but that was impossible). The program I then went to was called “Stewards of Children” and it was a training session to teach people how to prevent or help prevent, child sexual abuse.  The numbers of sexually abused children astounded me.  I thought I knew something about children and the issues they face.  I had no idea.  To get an idea, feel free to watch this short video:

http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6300229/k.43F8/Childhood_Stories_Documentary.htm.

 The seminar was a success and everyone who attended was moved by it and motivated to do more.  For information and full brochure: http://www.iclega.org/programs/8030.html

That was the “Double Duty”.  Then came part two.  As we went to break during the second seminar, I received a call from CNN/Headline News.  They invited me to come comment on the Kelly Rutherford Custody case, where her former husband who now lives in France was just awarded custody of their two very young children.  I agreed, studied up, and went over as soon as the “Stewards” seminar ended.  As I walked over, the telephone rang again and it was CNN/Headline News.  I thought perhaps my segment was getting cancelled. Instead it was another department asking if I could appear on the Jane Velez Mitchell Show to discuss paparazzi and celebrities, including Kate Middleton.  I agreed, especially since I was on my way to their studios anyway.  Without getting into much detail, it was a whirlwind of an afternoon.  The bodies of the Americans who had perished in Libya at the Consulate attack had just arrived in the U.S. and Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama each gave speeches right when my segment was scheduled.  Needless to say my segment was delayed for a while.  But I can’t tell you how interesting it is to be there and to watch the news unfold.  This happened once before as I was at CNN to discuss a custody case and right between my two segments, the news broke that Michael Jackson had died.  I tell you, reputable news organizations like CNN/HLN work so hard.  You should see the experts and professionals scrambling to ensure the news is accurate and that it is delivered quickly and professionally.  They have to learn the story and then explain it to the world, all in a matter of moments, and they do and they do it well.  AND IT IS A LOT HARDER THAN IT LOOKS!  Imagine trying to learn all about ten stories you will cover in just one hour.  Stories about the far east, the middle east, medical stories, celebrity stories, politics, weather, sports and other topics.  No one can be an expert in every area, but they become experts in all of it.  But I digress.  I eventually made it from one interview to the next and enjoyed every second of it, including the last second changes, personnel changes and time changes.  The first interview can be seen by clicking here.

So why do I feel good about all of this?  I guess part of it is to be able to accomplish a lot of different things within a day.  But as I think about it, I know I had a chance to help.  On a day to day basis I hope I help my clients (and yes, I spent about four hours in the office on client matters to on Friday).  But on this day, I hope I helped family law attorneys learn to present their cases more efficiently, other lawyers to be able to better help protect children from sexual abuse, and viewers across the country to better understand the custody laws and concepts as well as how travel and international diversity can affect court rulings.  I didn’t do anything complex or change anything or anyone, but I did my little part, using the knowledge I have, to try to improve lives.  And that made the day wholly worthwhile.

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Stewards of Children Training

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I have the honor of being the Co-Chair of the referenced CLE (continuing Legal Education program) scheduled for September 14, 2012 (8:30am-Noon) at the State Bar of Georgia Headquarters.

Stewards of Children Training is a revolutionary, child sexual abuse prevention training program. It is the only adult-focused, evidence-based curriculum proven to increase knowledge and attitudes about child sexual abuse and to change behaviors promoting protective factors.

As a parent and member of our community, I hope that your attorney friends and colleagues will participate and take affirmative action to put an end to this epidemic.  To learn more, watch this short video at: http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6300229/k.43F8/Childhood_Stories_Documentary.htm.

Please register using the link below. As an added incentive, the course fee is substantially less than other CLE seminars.

Information and full brochure: http://www.iclega.org/programs/8030.html

Please share this with any attorneys you know and encourage them to attend.

 

Thank you for your support!

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Humbling, the story in Attorney at Law Magazine

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I was recently honored by being featured as Lawyer of the Month in the Premier Edition of Attorney at Law magazine in Georgia last month. It was truly an honor, especially considering who the next Lawyer of the Month is (Joel Katz, the top entertainment lawyer in the country).   I am grateful for the selection but honestly and humbly know there are so many more deserving potential honorees. They wrote such a flattering article about me that I really was struck (click here for a link to it). I have been very lucky in my career and my life. I am blessed to have a career I love. Being a divorce lawyer has it’s down moments for sure. But more often there is a feeling of being able to help. And that is the most rewarding part of all.

Posted in American Bar Association, Attorney, Celebrity Cases, Child custody, Custody, Discovery, Divorce, Family, Family Court, Family Law, High Profile Cases, Judge, Lawyer, Legal Leave a comment
 

Final thoughts on my year as ABA Family Law Chair

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I recently “passed the gavel” to the new Family Law Section Chair, Maryann Foley of Alaska.  It was a heartwarming ceremony and many of the leaders in family law were there.  But perhaps more important than that ceremony, was our final Council meeting the day before.  While it was the last one I will preside over, it was a meaningful one.  We surveyed the status of our section’s efforts, including our great publications, CLE programs and other endeavors, but what was also nice, was that we reviewed and revised our Family Law Section’s Mission Statement.  While the changes were not extreme, they did force us to again review our Mission Statement and to think about what we do and what we want to do and be, as a section.  So with that, I say farewell as Chair, and leave you with this, the newly revised Mission Statement of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association:

Mission/Goals of American Bar Association’s Family Law Section

The mission statement of the Family Law Section follows:

 The mission of the American Bar Association Family Law Section is to serve as the national leader in the field of Family Law.  To accomplish its mission, the Council has adopted the following seven goals for the Section:

 I.          To improve the family law system.

 II.         To be the pre-eminent voice on family issues.

 III.       To serve our members.

 IV.       To improve public and professional understanding of family law issues.

 V.        To increase the diversity and participation of our membership.

 VI.       To educate the public about family law and the professionals involved in family law.

 VII       To improve professionalism of all participants in the administration of family law.

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Chairing the Family Law Section of the ABA has been an honor

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I have been so fortunate to have been able to serve as Chair of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association for the 2011-2012 term.  I cannot believe the year is drawing to a close.  To have been allowed to lead this section, has truly been an honor and the highlight of my legal career and bar service.  About 15 years ago I served as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.  I have served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Substance Abuse for the American Bar Association and as Chair of the Family Courts Committee of the Family Law Section of the ABA, as well as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association.  This year has really been a culmination for me and I really know for sure now, that being a lawyer, and serving the bar and the community in ways beyond representing clients, is what makes ours a profession worth pursuing.  I have been fortunate enough to meet lawyers and judges from across the world.  And while there are many different personalities in our profession, like any other, there are so, so many people trying so hard to do good and to make the world a better place. 

I recently attended an event for Congressman John Lewis.  He explained how he has been getting in “good trouble” his whole life.  What an inspiration he was and is.  We should all get in “good trouble” and help make positive change in our world.  For me, it is in my limited capacity as a family law attorney, but for all of us there is a way.  My year has had it’s challenges just like any other year, but it has been quite an interesting one for Family Law.  DOMA seems about ready to fall.  Grandparent’s rights are evolving.  International custody issues have been given more attention.  We should all be helping ensure that these issues get the attention they deserve.  Family Law attorneys can and should continue to help legislatures and courts understand the law and the ramifications of poorly drafted statutes or poorly interpreted laws.  We should also help the public understand them.  Knowledge is power and we should all be as knowledgeable as we can about the laws which shape our country.

 Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and hope I can continue to contribute.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be so involved have a duty to continue to help and to ensure that ours truly remains a “profession” and not just a job.  Let’s keep trying to make this world a better place.

Posted in American Bar Association, assisted reproductive technology, Assited Reproductive Technology, Attorney, Child custody, Custody, Divorce, Family, Family Court, Family Law, Gay Adoption, gay marriage, High Profile Cases, Judge, Lawyer, Legal, same sex marriage, support, Uncategorized Leave a comment
 

Video surveillance of spouse in your own home: okay under GA law.

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In the very recently decided Georgia Court of Appeals case of Rutter v. Rutter (July 13, 2012), the court ruled that video survelillance of a spouse, in their own home, even if they were unaware they were being recorded, is allowable - click here for the case video in home caselaw.  While the purpose under the statute is supposed to be for crime detection, the court approved the trial court’s determination that even if the purpose was to possibly catch a spouse committing a crime, which might affect a custody case, the video is allowable and admissible.  This is big news.  The buzzwords we have all lived by used to be “expectation of privacy”.  In other words, if you are in your own home and have a reasonable expectation of privacy, can a videotape of you at your own home be used against you in court? The answer is now yes.  Does this mean spouses will now run to spy stores and buy video recorders to film their spouses doing things, which even if not criminal, may affect the custody case? Maybe.  Does seeing how much a spouse drinks at home count as a crime? Probably not, but could it affect a custody case? Certainly.  This case certainly changes the advice I will give clients as I have always said that I cannot advise them to install such a device and that I think the law used to be unclear, or even may have led to them being convicted for committing a crime.  I am anxiously awaiting the comments of my peers, but for now, this is news and does change what I will tell my clients.  I do not polan to encourage anyone to rush out and record their spouse, but when asked about whether it is okay, my answer will now be different than it has been.

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Tom Cruise and why we should care

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I was interviewed a lot in the last few weeks about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes Divorce (click here for links to some of the interviews)   People Magazine, CNN (CNN International, Headline News, etc.) and others asked me about it.  Maybe I am biased because I know and respect Katie Holmes’ lawyers Jon Wolfe and Michael Mosberg, but I consistently suggested it would be worked out privately and quickly (see my blog posted June 30, 2012).  Not only because there were good lawyers involved, but because frequently, when there is a lot of money combined with potential for a lot of negative public publicity, cases resolve quickly.  They make news when they don’t.  This one reached resolution quickly, and that is of course, beneficial to their daughter.  Bravo to the parties and the lawyers. That’s how cases should get resolved and hopefully this divorce will be a good exmple of why it is good to get it done quickly.

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Tom Cruise Divorce?

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Tom Cruise is getting a divorce?  Why is this news? Why is it interesting?  Because he, superhero extra ordinaire, is going through what so many others have gone through, yet again.  No one is immune.  Perhaps that’s the appeal of the story?  I learned about it Friday when CNN called and asked if I could comment on the “breaking news” that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were getting divorced.  I didn’t have too much to add, except to say that rich or poor, famous or not, everyone should try to reach settlement of their own issues, and I am sure they will do their best to do that.  And the path should be open to them.  Jonathan Wolfe, one of the finest lawyers in the New York area is representing Ms. Holmes and I know he will do his utmost to resolve the matter amicably, while simultaneously representing his client zealously.  And that, is the test of a true lawyer.  To be professional and to obtain good results for his client.  I am hopeful that the next public statements, or at least a future public statement from either party, will reference the efforts each has taken to resolve the matter out of court.  I know good lawyers are crucial to the process and that may be the lesson.  If you can afford one, get a good lawyer.  Their job is to bring peace and resolution.  Yes they are able to do battle when needed, but for good lawyers, that is always the last option.

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Divorce Hotels?

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The New York Times recently ran a story on “Divorce Hotels”.  It’s not such a strange concept.  Click here for the NY Times story ( NY Times Story).  A divorcing coupe stays at the same hotel to ensure the process moves forward. No delays. Lawyers there focus on that case.  Paying attention to a case helps “get ‘er done”. http://nyti.ms/Lvv6F3.  Interesting idea?

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First Test Tube Baby’s Mother Dies

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What a sad day.  The woman who thought she would never give birth to a child, back in the 1970s, when there was no such thing as a “test tube baby” has died. The NY times has published a very nice overview (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/health/lesley-brown-mother-of-first-test-tube-baby-dies-at-64.html).

These days we take artificial insemination for granted.  But the truth is, it is still a tedious, imperfect and very expensive process.  The field has expanded enormously to include frozen embryos, surrogate pregnancy and even the possibility of “designer babies”.  All fascinating ideas and the subject of much discussion regarding morality, ethics and of course, legality.  The entire new field of law, often referred to as ART, for Artificial Reproductive Technology, is fascinating. The Family Law Section on the American Bar Association, which I currently Chair, has seen its membership increase and it’s attendance increase since this issue has grown.  Our seminars and our publications now spend significant time covering these topics, and the professionals in this field, are highly motivated.  They are on the cutting edge.  The entire Family Law Section, the entire American Bar Association, and in fact, the entire country (and yes, the legal world) benefit from the work these professionals are doing.  They are trying to chart courses in previously unnavigated waters.  What a challenge, what a responsibility and what a blessing to have folks motivated to try so hard to get it right, to do the right thing.  They did not invent these issues, but are trying ensure we can all work with them and understand the rights of parents, children and perhaps even rights of embryos. I do not intend to start a philosophical or religious or moral debate, but the absence of any law in this area until our generation makes the work that much more crucial.  I am looking forward to new developments every day, and again thank Lesley Brown and the others who advanced this field and allowed people who otherwise may never have experienced the joy of parenting their own biological child, to do so.

Posted in Adoption, Attorney, Celebrity Cases, Child custody, Custody, Discovery, Divorce, Family, Family Court, Family Law, Lawyer, Uncategorized Leave a comment
 

Presenting to Business Valuation Experts

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On Thursday June 21, 2012 I will be one of the featured speakers at the 2012 Annual Consultants’ Conference.  It is being dubbed the “Superconference”.  Information on the program is available by clicking here. The program is sponsored and hosted by NACVA, the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts.  Not only am I speaking, but more importantly I plan to learn.  The best business valuation forensic experts in the country will be attending and presenting.  I hope to soak up as much knowledge as I can from these industry experts.

The added benefit to me, is that it is in Dallas and gives me a chance to return to the great state of Texas. While the seminars will be educational, I really look forward to getting to know the leaders in this field, after hours, between speeches and at meals together.  Where better to do this than Dallas?  If you will be there, please say hi, and maybe we can share a meal?

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Father’s Day 2012

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I feel like the luckiest guy in the world, just as many father’s do.  Especially since, in my practice, I see so many dads (and moms) who wish they could have more time with their kids.  This year I was honored as “Father of the Year” by the Father’s Day Council and the American Diabetes Association.  Click here (soon, hopefully by July 1, 1012) for links and news articles about the event.  I got to tell a few hundred people how proud I am to be a dad and I got to thank those who were and are important to me.  That was the real gift I was given (aside from a trophy that seems to weight 20 lbs.).

And then on Father’s Day itself, I was able to attend local celebrity DJ and Hawks’ announcer Ryan Cameron’s Daddy Daughter dance with my daughter at the Georgia Aquarium.

 

 

 

 

 

I am lucky and happy to have enjoyed a full weekend focused on my relationship with my daughter.  I hope every weekend is as joyful and wish much happiness and joy to all the fathers out there.

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Social Media Implications in Family Law Cases

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The landscape of evidentiary tools available in today’s divorce cases is rapidly evolving, and the courts in this country are becoming more openly accepting of them. With the advent of social tools like Facebook and Twitter, incriminating evidence has never been easier to obtain. You now must be extremely mindful and filter the information and pictures that are posted to your profile page, because such evidence can be used against you and possibly deal a devastating blow to your divorce and/or custody case.

One recent example of a court ruling in favor of full disclosure of social media profiles comes out of a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania, Zimmerman v. Weis Markets, 2011 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 187. The employer being sued filed a motion to compel disclosure and preservation of the employee’s Facebook and Myspace information on the non-public portions of the websites, which would require disclosure of user names and passwords to the employer. The basis for the employer’s motion and the rationale for the court’s ruling was that because there was evidence contrary to the employee’s claim available on the publicly accessible portions of the websites, it was reasonably likely for there to be other relevant information to the claim on the non-public portions of the pages.

The court granted the motion, reasoning that “no privilege exists for information posted in the non-public sections of social websites, liberal discovery is generally allowable, and the pursuit of truth as to alleged claims is a paramount ideal.” The court agreed that allowing a party to a lawsuit to hide behind privacy controls on a website which enables people to share social information risks depriving the opposite party of access to relevant material and a fair trial. The court also held that such a ruling does not violate any fourth amendment rights, which protects people, not places; further, there is no reasonable expectation to privacy on a social website, and privacy concerns are far less where the objector voluntarily disclosed the information. The court strongly closed their opinion, stating that “any relevant, non-privileged information about one’s life that is shared with others and can be gleaned by defendants from the internet is fair game in today’s society”.

The rationale adopted in this case is yet another example of how litigants should be extremely careful when navigating through social media.   Remember, once you post something, it is extremely likely, if not certain, that such information will be used against you in a family law case.

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An Honor

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I have been very fortunate in my life. I have been given many opportunities to help people. Usually it is as a family law attorney. But very soon, the opportunity comes as an honoree of the American Diabetes Association.  I am grateful for the chance to assist the American Diabetes Association by raising awareness (and hopefully money) as they hold their annual “Father of the Year” event.  While I am one of the honorees, the true goal of the evening for me and the other Fathers being recognized is to help us inch (or maybe more optimistically “mile”) forward towards reducing, and one day curing diabetes. 

If you are able to attend, are able to support, or are just curious about the event or diabetes, please click here for all the information about the June 14, 2012 event and about the American Diabetes Association. Also, if I have done this right, you should be able to open the invite by clicking on the following: 2012 Invitation Proof.  I am looking forward to the event and most importantly, to spending time there with my family and friends, all for a great cause.

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