Update on Teen Who Sued Parents For Child Support

GEO#1Thankfully some common sense has been injected into the situation between New Jersey teen, Rachel Canning, and her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning. Rachel is the 18 year-old who didn’t like her parents’ house rules, moved in with a girlfriend, and ended up in a courtroom suing her parents, courtesy of her girlfriend’s father, a local Lincoln Park politician and….wait for it…..lawyer!

Rachel obtained a court order on March 5, 2014 that denied her the child support she was seeking, but set up a court process for the matter to proceed to trial with a pretrial hearing on April 22, 2014. It was reported that her benefactor, lawyer John Inglesino, has already spent $13,000 on legal fees on her behalf.

Judge Peter Bogaard’s order also included the suggestions that the parties be encouraged to explore the option of family counselling…no kidding?

Rachel’s lawsuit turned her into an international media pariah, savaged in the court of public opinion, a situation that greatly distressed her parents, who changed counsel after the original hearing.

It cannot be a coincidence that the Canning’s new lawyer, Angelo Sarno, announced yesterday that Rachel had returned home, much to her family’s joy. Mr. Sarno said “(This case) should never have been brought to the court’s attention. It should never have been brought to the public”.

However, after Rachel returned home, her lawyer, Tanya Helfand, ran into court seeking emergency orders to seal the court file and have a guardian appointed for Rachel, telling the court that Rachel was “pressured” to return home by her parents and was waiving her complaint with no promise of financial consideration.

Judge Bogaard denied Ms. Helfand’s application.

So what you have now appears to be a classic legal conundrum. On one side, a lawyer who supports his clients to leave the legal arena before the damage is so devastating there is no possibility of reconciliation between Rachel, her parents and her two younger sisters; matched with a lawyer who apparently wants to continue and even escalate the litigation.

I still don’t understand lawyers who ignore the future ramifications of court actions involving families…one of the reasons why family law matters need to be steered away from court and into mediation or arbitration, if no compromise can be reached.

Not surprisingly, lawyer Inglesino has also been the subject of derision for interfering with Rachel and her parents in a highly personal matter.

It looks like there is only one lawyer in this piece who is wearing a “white hat”…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Teen Who Doesn’t Like “House Rules” Sues Parents for Child Support

A New Jersey judge has shot down teenager Rachel Canning’s application that her parents pay her $654.00 a week in child support. (That’s over $2,600 a month!)

Depending upon who you believe, Rachel, age 18, says her parents kicked her out of their home in October 2013, two days before her 18th birthday. Her father, retired Lincoln Park Police Chief, Sean Canning, says his daughter, who is deeply loved, left on her own after deciding she didn’t like the “house rules”, which included being respectful, abiding by a curfew, and doing her share of household chores.

She now lives with relatives of her best friend and has been financially supported in her lawsuit by a local politician.

Rachel, an honour student who attends private Catholic School, Morris High, also sought her attorney’s fees and reimbursement for tuition owed by her since her parents stopped payments as of December 2013.

School authorities said they will continue her education despite non-payment.

Judge Peter Bogaard ruled that to make such an order would open the floodgates to disgruntled New Jersey teenagers and was “bad precedent”. He did, however, order the Canning’s to retain Rachel on their health insurance and to leave the college savings account intact.

Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, who was not involved in the case, opines on Fox News that our courts have no business interfering with parental decisions and that even dealing with health insurance and college savings usurps parental rights.

There will be a further hearing in April to determine her parents’ legal obligation to fund her college tuition.

Rachel took a drastic adult step in launching litigation against her family. I think she’s getting bad advice!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Wanna Work at Home and Make Thousands? Have a Baby!

IMG_0277In a crass, hard-hitting advertisement from El Paso Texas, lawyer Mark Davis has caught the attention of his target audience.

“Have a baby, get rid of the father and get the money, then spend the funds on “drinking, expensive restaurants and clubs”…..If this sounds familiar to you guys, please do give us a call. It isn’t a fair world, so even the odds and lawyer up!”

Mr. Davis apparently knows of what he speaks as he references a program in Texas where single mothers receive debit cards from the Texas child support enforcement program, the government agency that collects child support for parents in the state.

Davis points out that the debit card is as good as cash in any bar in El Paso or maybe the recipient would rather buy a gift for her new boyfriend. Not a problem.

On a more serious note, lawyer Davis decries overly generous child support orders, characterizing them as nothing more than a “cash grab”. He says he has one non-custodial client who is paying $1,400 per month for his six-month-old child, an amount he says is “impossible” to spend on an infant that young.

“Generally, the idea of child support is a good thing, people need to take care of their kids, but it’s so abused in the state of Texas,” Davis said. “I don’t mean to offend people by putting this poster out, but I do mean to wake people up to pay attention to what’s going on.

Meanwhile, a state representative confirms that custodial parents are issued debit cards and there is no check to determine whether the monies are spent on diapers or dinner out.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Steve Nash’s Child Support Dispute Turns Into PR Nightmare

GEO#1

British Columbia is proud of native son Steve Nash and rightly so. He shines for his athletic prowess, his philanthropic focus, and his entrepreneurship. An NBA all-star, his career has seen him play for Phoenix, Dallas and now, Los Angeles. He has an Order of Canada and received an honourary Doctorate in Law from the University of Victoria.

In 2001, Nash met his future wife, Alejandra Amarilla, in Manhattan. They married in June 2005 and had twin daughters, Lola and Bella, born in 2004, and then a son, Matteo Joel, born in 2010. On the day of his son’s birth, Nash made a statement to the press in which he announced his son’s birth, but called it a “bittersweet moment”, revealing that he and his wife had “lived separately for the past several months” and were “in the process of dissolving” their marriage.

Steve Nash’s marriage breakdown was just another celebrity split-up in an era where divorce announcements are as frequent as birth announcements and garnered a relatively modest amount of media attention.

However, Nash’s polished image is taking a trouncing as celebrity gossip websites announce that he and his former wife, Alejandro Amarilla, are engaged in a dispute about whether she can move with their three children from Phoenix, where the couple lived during their marriage, to Los Angeles, where Steve Nash now lives and works.

Stories circulating in the media include the allegation that Ms. Amarilla only wishes to leave Arizona so she can avail herself of what is described as California’s more generous child support laws.

The media has reported that while the children reside in Arizona, Mr. Nash is not obliged to pay child support and he is only resisting his ex-wife’s move to California so he can maintain the status quo.

Details are scarce and Mr. Nash’s advisors are keeping a low profile, however, it strains credulity to believe that Nash is a “deadbeat dad” as some twitter enthusiasts are suggesting.

What has emerged is that his ex-wife received a mult-million dollar divorce settlement, has her own financial resources, and Mr. Nash pays for the children’s education, medical and related expenses, extracurricular activities and the children’s nanny.

It is more likely that Nash’s opposition to the children’s move is because he understands that children need stability and certainty, which is what they have in Phoenix. Mr. Nash’s parents also live there. Finally, to move the children to follow their father in the waning years of his career may entail further transitions for the children as his playing days come to an end.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

BarristerSo, you’re just a regular guy doing your thing and you happen to come across a Craigslist ad where a lesbian couple want to have a baby and need a sperm donor. Because you’re such a good guy, you figure, what the heck, why not help them out?

They offer to pay you $50.00 but you say “hey, I’m not doing this for the money, keep your $50.00″. Of course, you sign an agreement waiving all your paternal rights so you can’t be on the hook down the road. Your good deed results in a bouncing baby girl.

Fast forward to today, the little girl is three-years old, and the couple have split up. An application is made for health insurance for the child and the Kansas Department for Child and Families won’t approve the application until the name of the sperm donor is provided.

Now our good guy is faced with a lawsuit brought by the government agency for child support of $6000.00 to cover past payments and a claim for ongoing support.

How can that be, you say? Doesn’t the agreement he signed protect him? Not according to the Kansas authorities. Kansas does not recognize same-sex couples as parents unless conception is through a licensed physician or clinic. They say they are obliged by the law to pursue the father for support payments.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

I’ll Just Leave the Country and Pay Nothing!

DSC01152_2 (2)_2One of the most common threats a lawyer may hear from a beleaguered client is the cry that “I might as well quit work, if I have to pay that much to my ex-wife”. Another is “I’ll just leave the country and then he/she will get nothing.”

Usually these threats are spoken out of frustration and rarely are they acted upon, however, from time to time a parent will abandon his or her family, rather than obey a court order that is perceived by them to be onerous and unfair.

In a recent Ontario case, Hans Mills did just that. He left the country to avoid paying his ex-wife, Donna Mills, spousal and child support of $3772.00 per month, $2235.00 for the children and $1537.00 for his wife.

A very bleak situation for Ms. Mills who is caring for a 10-year-old with cancer in remission, a Downs Syndrome 14-year-old, a depressed teen, age 17, and a 19-year-old son on methadone treatment. How did everything go so wrong?

After separating in 2005, the Mills reached an agreement in 2008 which gave Ms. Mills sole custody of the children, and the family home, valued at $1.2 million (with a $600,000 mortgage), in exchange for a payment to Mr. Mills of $175,000. Because she received the lion’s share of the equity in the home, she agreed to forego spousal support. Mr. Mills earned approximately $100,000 per year and would pay child support.

Three years after their agreement, money issues began to simmer and a trial was scheduled to deal with the problems that had arisen, including Ms. Mill’s alleged inability to work. In an interim application before the trial, the Court ordered Mr. Mills to pay his ex-wife spousal support, including retroactive support and court costs, in spite of the fact that she had received two-thirds of the family home.

Recognizing that the interim order was a precursor to worse things to come, Mr. Mills sold his house, cashed in his pension, paid his bills, and moved to the Philippines, a country where he had done business for years and a country that had no support treaty with Ontario.

Ms. Mills had always feared he would just leave and implored the government agency that collects child and spousal support to register a lien against his house and seize his Canadian and European passports, but to no avail. And then he was gone. His email to his ex-wife read:

“The result of the legal instrument which you recently designed and implemented
is that there is no possibility of a comfortable life or a (secure) retirement for me in
Canada at all. Therefore, I have left the country to seek greener pastures elsewhere
and will never return. Well done Einstein. Good luck and good bye.”

Ms. Mills is perilously close to financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual bankruptcy, but says she will not let her children down, despite the dire circumstances.

As for “Father of the Year”, his actions are despicable. His departure was fueled by a court order to pay spousal support, which he now uses to justify his decision to stop supporting his children. He has expressed hope that one day he can reconcile with his children, “but not in Canada, a morally bankrupt state”.

It is Hans Mills that is “morally bankrupt”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ten Signs Your Divorce is “Off the Rails”

Don’t we all like to think that if divorce was in our future, our uncoupling would be civilized, respectful and rational. For many divorcing spouses it can be that way, particularly where there are no children and minimal assets, however, all the best intentions for an amicable parting can quickly dissipate once spouses abandon the high-road for the ditch.

If you are involved in a so-called “amicable divorce”, are there identifiable signs that signal your divorce may be meandering to the low-road? Of course, there are. Be aware of the following:

1. YOU HAVE A NEW PARTNER Often amicable divorces remain that way until a husband begins a serious relationship with a new lady. One of the easiest ways to have your divorce come “off the rails” is to flaunt a new paramour, before your wife is emotionally ready, which in some cases is never.

2. YOU DECIDE TO CLOSE THE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS It is not uncommon for husbands to maintain the financial status quo until they realize their separated spouses’ credit card spending is three times the pre-separation amount. Delicacy is required to rein in the spending, without ruining the convivial settlement discussions. A useful strategy is to terminate all major credit cards except one, which remains available to your spouse, albeit with a much lower credit facility. This can only be done with advance notice to your spouse.

3. YOU TAKE THE CHILDREN ON A VACATION WITH YOUR NEW “FRIEND” You have pleasant post-separation discussions and agree on summer vacation access with your kids, but fail to tell your wife you will be bringing along your 25-year-old girlfriend. Surprises are always dangerous. You are better off to advise your spouse in advance and find a compromise if she adamantly opposes the extra company. Perhaps the girlfriend only visits for a couple of nights or not at all?

4. YOUR WIFE FINDS YOUR PRE-SEPARATION CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS WITH JEWELLERY PURCHASES SHE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT The divorce process always involves the exchange of financial information, including credit card statements. If your wife finds purchases from Tiffany’s or Birk’s, made before the separation and she is not the recipient, watch out. Still worse, are cancelled cheques on your joint account confirming you were paying your girlfriend’s rent before you and your spouse separated.

5. YOUR WIFE FINDS OUT YOU WERE SLEEPING WITH THE NANNY IN THE MARITAL BED The marriage is now over but your wife learns from reliable sources that you were sleeping with the children’s nanny during the marriage. This is a sure-fire way to generate anger and humiliation in your wife, something that usually gets in the way of future courteous communication.

6. YOUR WIFE LEARNS THAT THE “SMALL” MORTGAGE ON THE FAMILY HOME EATS UP OVER HALF OF THE HOME EQUITY Your secret financial dealings during the marriage are now exposed and your wife is shocked to learn that what she thought was a $100,000 mortgage on the family residence is actually $250,000 as a result of undisclosed stock investments made with borrowed monies. It’s even worse if the stock is now worth considerably less or nothing at all.

7. YOU ADVISE YOUR SPOUSE THAT YOU WILL NEVER GIVE UP CUSTODY OF THE FAMILY PET You think everything is settled and leave the conversation about Muffy and Fido to the end, only to realize that neither of you will give up the family pet. Yes, judges now also decide who gets custody of the cat and dog, where the parties cannot agree. This issue can be a deal-breaker.

8. YOU GRADUALLY CANCEL MANY OF YOUR ACCESS VISITS WITH YOUR CHILDREN You tell your spouse you want to remain an active, involved parent, but your weekly visits are now monthly visits and you have failed to show up for some of your visits, leaving your children crying and your ex seething.

9. YOUR SPOUSE MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO SEE THE CHILDREN Parenting time starts off well but disintegrates when your spouse realizes her financial expectations are unrealistically inflated and she now needs leverage to obtain a better financial outcome. What better pawn than the children?

10. YOU TELL YOUR STAY-AT-HOME SPOUSE YOU WILL QUIT YOUR JOB BEFORE YOU EVER PAY HER SPOUSAL SUPPORT You are usually a traditional husband who has no problem paying child support, but believes a 50-year-old wife who worked as a bank teller twenty years ago, should immediately find full-time employment because the children are all in school. What else is she going to do all day?

Negotiating a reasonable divorce settlement can be a minefield if a spouse is not aware of the dangerous trigger points that invite hostility, embarrassment or distrust. A strategic family law lawyer is one who can assist you to manoeuvre the settlement terrain without stepping on a divorce landmine.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang