September 2007 Archives

September 20, 2007

Same-Sex Marriage Loses in Maryland, Integrity Wins in San Diego

Maryland court prohibits same-sex marriage. On Monday, Maryland's highest court upheld a state law prohibiting same-sex partners from marrying. As reported in the Washington Post, Tuesday's decision overturned a 2006 lower court ruling that struck down the law limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The judges on Tuesday said that limiting marriage to a man and woman supports the state's interest in fostering procreation--not an unusual argument against same-sex marriage, but rather a ridiculous one when you consider that people well beyond childbearing years are not prohibited from marrying, nor are heterosexual couples quizzed about their childbearing intentions before marriage licenses are issued.

San Diego Mayor supports same-sex marraige. At the other end of the spectrum, the Mayor of San Diego did a sudden about-face on Wednesday when he reversed his earlier opposition to same-sex marriage and agreed to sign a City Council resolution supporting a challenge to California's same-sex marriage ban. In an emotional press conference, Mayor Jerry Sanders (a Republican and a former police chief) said that his adult daughter is a lesbian, and that he has come to believe that the separate-but-equal status of civil unions and domestic partnerships do not offer true equality to same-sex couples.

Speaking of his daughter and other gay and lesbian community members, including some of his staff, the Mayor said: "I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones -- for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back; someone with whom they can grow old together and share life's experiences. And I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law. In the end, I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship -- their very lives -- were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife Rana."

A politician standing up for what is right, probably at the risk of his job -- always a nice thing to see.

To learn more about same-sex partnerships and their legal implications, read A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples, by Attorneys Denis Clifford & Frederick Hertz, and Emily Doskow, legal editor.

September 17, 2007

Unpaid Child Support Means No Passport

PassportBehind on child support? Don't expect to leave the country until you've paid up. New passport rules mean good news for the kids who are owed the approximately $96 billion in court-ordered child support that goes unpaid every year in the United States. The Passport Denial Program keeps parents who are behind on child support grounded in the U.S. by denying them new or renewal passports.

As Kevin Freking reports in the Seattle Times, two changes in passport rules are increasing collections of unpaid child support. First, the threshold for collection actions went down from $5,000 to $2,500, which increased the number of cases submitted to the program by 400,000. But more significant were the rule changes that require air travelers to and from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and South America to have passports.

By a conservative estimate, the Passport Denial Program has collected at least $22.5 million so far this year. It took all of 2006 to collect that much under the old passport requirements. Cool, right? Still, it doesn't take a math whiz to see that $22.5 million is not much when nearly $100 billion is outstanding. And in addition to the hardship they cause their children, deadbeat parents cost the federal and state governments $1 for every $4.50 collected.

Child support is not a joke--and unpaid child support is a huge problem. If you owe support and you really can't pay it because you've lost your job or suffered an illness, go to court right away and get the support amount reduced. Until you do, it will continue to accrue. Otherwise, pay up! Your kids need you. Need more info? Check your state's child support enforcement office

September 15, 2007

What Is Divorce Mediation, and Why Should You Use It?

You've probably heard horror stories from friends and acquaintances who've had ugly divorces, right? Maybe you've also heard from some who feel better about the process because they didn't go the slash-and-burn route, but used divorce mediation instead.

Divorce mediation is a process in which a neutral third person, called a mediator, sits down for a series of meetings with a divorcing couple to help them reach an agreement about things like property, custody, and support. Most couples arrive at agreements they can live with--which means they don't have to fight it out in court. Mediation offers many advantages over court battles.

Unless you're one of those fortunate divorcing people who can negotiate directly with your spouse with a minimum of acrimony to come to an agreement about dividing property and parenting your children, divorce mediation may be a great option for you.

Generally, mediation is voluntary, although some courts will require you to go to mediation if you can't agree about child custody. Otherwise, you will use mediation only if you and your spouse both agree to it. You can go to mediation at any point in your divorce, even if you've already hired lawyers. Divorce mediation has an extremely high success rate--the vast majority of cases that go to mediation get settled there.

To find out more about mediation and how to get through a divorce amicably, try reading Divorce Without Court: A Guide to Mediation & Collaborative Divorce, by Attorney-Mediator Katherine E. Stoner (Nolo).

September 13, 2007

About This Blog

Welcome to Nolo's Divorce, Custody, and Family Law Blog. This blog will cover many aspects of family law, including marriage, adoption, parenting, divorce, child custody, and child support.

Emily DoskowThe blog is written by Emily Doskow, a practicing family law attorney and mediator. Emily is also a Nolo editor and author of Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce and co-author of several Nolo books, including A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples and Do Your Own California Adoption: Nolo's Guide for Stepparents and Domestic Partners.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Nolo, its clients, or its partners. This blog provides legal information, not advice. Consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance regarding how the law applies to your situation.

September 13, 2007

Divorce Can Be Hard on Extended Family, Too

We all know that divorce is a stressful event for the couple involved, and for their children. But it's not only the people who are directly involved who suffer. A recent New York Times article by Mireya Navarro discusses the book Your Child's Divorce: What to Expect....What You Can Do, by Marsha Temlock, which addresses the issue of adult children's divorce, from their parent's perspective. The Times article notes that parents today are more involved in their children's lives and are themselves living longer and more active lives, and thus it's becoming more common for adult children to have parents to whom they're very much connected--and who thus are very much affected by the divorce of a child.

Parents of divorcing children may find themselves incurring debt to help their children financially, or putting on hold plans to travel, play golf, or simply enjoy their families. Or their lives are turned upside down when a son or daughter needs to move back home, or when they find themselves without recourse when their grandchildren are torn from them in custody battles.

As always, the best thing that a divorcing couple can do is try to keep their divorce as low-conflict as possible. (Divorce mediation is a great option for parents who want to minimize stress and drama.) Children do better if their parents can cooperate. And so do those children's grandparents.

To learn more about how to help your kids through the trauma of a divorce, check out Always Dad: Being a Great Father During & After Divorce, by Paul Mandelstein (Nolo), and Building a Parenting Agreement that Works: How to Put Your Kids First When Your Marriage Doesn't Last, by Mimi E. Lyster (Nolo).