Thursday, August 22, 2013

Must Be Nice

Tim Duncan recently finalized his divorce in a private hearing held at his attorney's office.  Yes, the judge left the courthouse -- on his lunch hour -- to grant Duncan his divorce in private.   His ex-wife's attorney was there so clearly it was okay with her.   No notice of the hearing appeared on any docket.   Must be nice to be able to get a judge to give up his lunch hour to grant your divorce.

Now, there are good reasons for this.   The media scrum at the courthouse might have been pretty bad if the hearing were made public.   But, on the other hand, court proceedings tend to be open for a reason -- so the average Joe and Jane can see the justice system works.   That nothing is hidden.   Hearings like this lead people believe there is one system of justice for rich folks like Tim Duncan and one for the rest of us.   I work for the rest of us.   I represent folks who going to the courthouse and spending time even in court for even a simple uncontested divorce means time missed from work.   Unpaid time missed from work.   Believe me, I wish I could get the judges to have hearings in off hours so my clients don't have to miss work.  But it's not going to happen.   First, Judges deserve their lunch hours too and shouldn't miss it just because someone wants a divorce.   Second, because the judges are at the courthouse, we go to them, they don't come to us.

Now, Tim and the former Mrs. Duncan are to be commended.   They apparently went about getting divorced with minimum fanfare and fuss.   They apparently reached an agreement and the divorce hearing today was uncontested.   This is great.   More people should do this.   Fighting over every little thing doesn't save the marriage, it just makes the end of it that much harder on everyone and means the animosity will linger longer.   Agree where you can.   Be reasonable at all times.   The sooner you reach a settlement (without being a doormat, of course) the sooner you can move on with your life.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Update -- And Custody Goes to the Cousin

The judge has ruled in the custody case for child in the Belcher-Perkins Case.   After listening to testimony and at least one expert witness, the judge decided that the cousin of the child's mother should have permanent custody.   He felt that both the paternal grandmother and the cousin would be good guardians but the cousin was better.

He also stated all those involved should remain involved in the child's life.   However, it's not clear from the news report whether this is formally in the Order.   If it is not, I foresee lots of trouble ahead.   If there is no Order to at least allow the other family members -- especially Jovan Belcher's -- access to the child, the cousin can simply deny any and all acess.   One hopes she won't do that.   However, it happens far too often in contested custody cases.   If one person has all the control over access, then they go power hungry.

This is more likely in this family considering the cousin will have to put aside her personal feelings about the family of the man who murdered her cousin.  I hope she can for the child's sake.   The child needs to know both sides of her family -- regardless of the circumstances that led to her being orphaned.

The other good news in the case is that no family member controls the very large trust fund.   A corporate trust company is managing the funds.   This will ensure (hopefully) that there is money left when the child turns 18.   And reduces the need to control access over money fights.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Probably should have done a post on Mother's Day too.   Oh well, this blog covers family law issues in the sport world.   The sports I cover have mostly male player, so, Father's Day gets more attention.   Which is unusual.

Good knows we talk enough about fathers here.   Especially the ones who don't pay their child support.   I don't care how many kids you have -- pay your child support.

I don't care how difficult the moms are, take every second of your court ordered visitation.   There is NO excuse for not spending time with your kids.   Fine, being a professional athletes doesn't exactly lend itself to every other weekend visits.   Do what you can.   You don't have to go that party in Miami.   You don't have to go to that other sports's championship game(s).   Spend time with your kids.   Or hey, bring your kids.   They would love it.  

Two tweets (god I hate that word, someone give me an alternative PLEASE) gave some really good advice this Father's Day.  

Wanna say Happy Fathers Day to all the good dads out there. Wanna change the world? Starts w/the man in the home. Raise your kids!

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." - Theodore Hesbur

On that last, you don't have to be married to the Mom or living with her.   But you damn well better treat her with respect -- no matter how she acts.   And you better not bad mouth her to your kids, or let your kids see by any of your actions how you truly feel about her.   This is the mother of your children.   Without her, you would have a reason to celebrate Father's Day.   Got it?  And I don't want to hear about that she doesn't do the same.   Two wrongs don't make a right.   Be the better person.   Set a good example for your kids.   That is the best gift you can get for Father's Day, knowing your kids will grow up to be good, respectful productive members of society.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who Gets the Kids -- When Mom and Dad Are No Longer Around

Custody is usually decided between Mom and Dad.   After all that is the point of a custody order -- to decide with whom the kids will live when.   If Mom and Dad are living together, there is no custody to decide.   If only one parent is available for some reason such as hospitalization, incarceration or sadly, death, then that parent gets custody.

Grandparents have few rights to get custody of kids.   If Mom and Dad are both around, they have almost no chance.   Even if one parent is gone, the parents of the missing parent do not just step into the void created and act as the other parent.   The surviving available parent is sole custodian of the children.   With all the rights to determine who sees the child when as before.  

Grandparents can get custody but there are some hurdles to overcome.   In Maryland you have to show extraordinary circumstances and unfitness of parents.   These two actually go hand in hand.   If the parent is unfit, there are extraordinary circumstances.   If there are substance abuse issues or incarcerations, the parents are not fit to have custody.   Usually in those situations, the child has been left with a grandparent anyway.   The grandparent then is really just getting the court to recognize legally what the situation actually is.  The grandparents are the primary caregivers of the child, making all the decisions for the child.  

But what happens when both parents are gone?   That situation is playing out in a Missouri Courtroom beginning June 11.   The underlying facts are as follows:   Jovan Belcher of the Kansis City Chiefs shot and killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his child last fall.   He then drove to Arrowhead stadium and killed himself in front of his coaches.   This left a little girl with no parents.  His mother was present for the shooting.   In the immediate aftermath, she began caring for the child.   She allowed the parents of Perkins to take the child to Texas for her mother's funeral.   The Perkins family then refused to return the child.  The child is currently being cared for by a cousin of Perkins.

It is up to a judge to decide which family it is in the child's best interest to live with.   He will have to look at a lot of factors, not the least why this child is an orphan.   He will also have to evaluate whether the requests to care for the child are motivated by true love and affection for the child or money.   You see the child is quite wealthy.   There is insurance money as well as a fund set up for her.  Whoever gets custody will most likely get control of the money.

Of course, the court could craft a compromise.  Physical custody with one family, visitation with the other.   Although until the child is old enough to travel alone (which won't be for years, she is only 8 months old now), the families will have to meet.   How do the families meet knowing that a member of the Belcher family killed a member of the Perkins family, leading to the current situation?   As for the money, both grandmothers could be appointed joint trustees with a requirement for agreement on any spending.  That should keep any one family from exploiting the child.  

This is one of the hard ones.   Deciding custody between two fit parents is hard enough.   Add in a murder and it becomes the stuff that keeps judges awake at night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

NCAA and Custody

Last week was National Signing Day.   Normally I don't care where high schoolers are going to college (unless related to me).   This blog is about professional athletes and their family law problems.   College students -- even pre-college students -- are not technically professional athletes.   But hey, the schools will make millions off the sweat of these kids and this is too good a story.

Alex Collins a star player in Plantation, Florida went to his high school to sign his NLI.  He wants to go to Arkansas (soooey).   His mom wants him to go to Miami (uh yeah whatever they say there).   She took his Letter of Intent and left the building.  The obvious solution is "Get another Letter."   Apparently it is not that easy.   Although some of these high schoolers are 18 and will most likely be 18 by the time they play for their chosen school, the NCAA apparently requires a parent to co-sign.

So end of story unless Alex can talk him mom around right?   Well, Alex did what we all did when we were kids.   Mom said no, so he asked his Dad.  They got  a new letter and signed it the next day with Dad co-signing.

Mom retaliated by hiring a lawyer.  She is exploring her legal options.   Not sure what they are with regards to forcing her son to go to a school he doesn't want to go.   He's going to play football, it's not like she has to pay for his education.

But she might have grounds to challenge the legality of the NLI.   Alex's Mom and Dad are not married.   Presumably there is a custody order.   Custody takes two forms -- physical and legal.   Physical is where the child lays his head at night.   Where does Alex sleep (or supposed to sleep, there are indications he actually lives with his coach) on a regular basis?   Physical custody won't mean anything in this mess.

Legal custody is the big one.   Legal custody is the big life decisions about a child.   What religion is he raised in?  Does he attend public or private school?   Do we allow him to play football?  And the big one -- who can legally sign documents on the child's behalf.

Legal custody can be joint or sole.   If joint, the parents must consult with each other and reach shared decisions about the child.   If sole, only one parent makes the decisions but should keep the other parent informed.

If Alex's Mom had joint custody with Alex's Dad, it may be determined that either parent could sign the NLI just as if there were no custody order.   If Alex's Mom had sole though, Dad might not have had authority to sign it.   If Dad had no authority, the signing is void.   Which means Alex is back to persuading Mom to let him cut the aprons strings and move away from home.

I am going to keep watching this to see if anything actually happens from Mom retaining a lawyer.