The Mysterious Phenomenon of Human Chimeras

GeorgiaLeeLang016Perhaps one of the most shocking parental discoveries is when a father finds out that contrary to what he has been told and believed, he is not the biological parent of a child he is raising. Many devastated fathers have terminated their spousal relationships unable to cope with such fundamental deceit.

Recently a father in Washington State was flummoxed when he learned he had no biological connection with his infant son. Since he and his wife had undergone in vitro fertilization he immediately contacted the fertility clinic to let them know of their gross error: they must have mixed up his sperm with another client. When the clinic denied the allegation, the couple went to Dr. Barry Starr, a geneticist at California’s Stanford University.

Dr. Starr’s testing determined that while he was not the child’s father, he was the child’s uncle. More confused than ever, he listened as the doctor described a rare genetic phenomenon know as chimerism. Most people have two sets of DNA, one from their father and the other from their mother. However, human chimeras have extra DNA, typically from an unborn twin, called a “vanishing twin”, whose DNA they absorbed in their mother’s womb.There are also cases where extra DNA is absorbed as a result of a blood transfusion or organ transplant.

The adoption of the name “chimeras” derives from Greek mythology, where the chimera was a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal. It was usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that might end with a snake’s head.

Reported cases of chimerism are rare as many people are not aware of this anomaly, however, Lydia Fairchild almost lost her two children when she was required to take a blood test as part of her application for public assistance. The DNA test confirmed the children’s biological father, but revealed she had no biological connection with the children. She was accused of illegal surrogacy and welfare fraud.

Fortunately, around the time of the criminal investigation, an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the case of another chimeric woman, named Karen Keegan. When Karen’s doctor suggested her three sons be tested to determine if one of them could donate a kidney to her, she learned she was not the children’s biological mother, despite carrying them to term and giving birth to them.

Ms. Fairchild’s lawyer arranged additional screening for his client and it was determined that Ms. Fairchild was a tetragametic chimera, meaning she carried two strands of DNA, the result of two sperm implanting with two eggs.

There is no question that the human body is “fearfully and wonderfully” made with all its complexities, including the mysterious phenomenon of vanishing twins.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Brainwashed and Alienated Teens Found on “Underground” Farm

B9316548187Z-1.1_20150314202542_000_GFTA6A1QO.1-0In April 2015 I wrote about the deception and lies that Sandra Rucki engaged in when she divorced her husband David Rucki in 2013. It began with a fraudulent one-sided consent order that she alleged her husband had agreed to. Once the order was overturned by the  Minnesota Court it escalated into despicable false allegations that father, David Rucki had sexually abused his two daughters, Gianni and Samantha, ages 13 and 14, and the spin-off of parental alienation.

The Court ruled there was no credible evidence to support Ms. Rucki’s claims and the girls were removed from their mother’s custody. David Rucki received custody  of them, but as the girls refused to see him, other family members would provide residential care.

The Court’s order provided a measure of hope to Mr. Rucki that his daughters could be de-programmed once they were removed from their mother’s influence. Instead what happened is that the girls, with their mother’s assistance, fled their new home,  although Sandra Rucki denied any involvement in her daughters’ disappearance.

In the summer of 2015, with the girls on the lam for over two years, the police arrested Ms. Rucki who was extradited from Florida to Minnesota after witness, Dale Nathan, a suspended attorney and longtime critic of the family courts, provided information that placed Ms. Rucki with her daughters at the time of their escape.

She has been charged with three felony counts of deprivation of parental rights and is being held  in Ramsey County workhouse on one million dollars bail.

Police advised the media that evidence seized from the home of  Dede Evavold led them to White Horse Ranch in Minnesota, where the teens were found. Ms. Evavold is a supporter of an organization called “Protective Parent”, a movement that  supports the notion that the family courts are broken and frequently award custody of children to abusive parents. It is believed to be part of an underground network of family court critics.

The website for White Horse Ranch describes it as a non-profit Christian organization that helps abused children heal with equine therapy.

Interestingly, Ms. Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald,  recently campaigned for election as a Minnesota Supreme Court judge. Her campaign manager? Oh, that was none other than Dede Evavold. Ms. MacDonald said she had no knowledge of Ms. Evavold being involved in the Rucki girls’  disappearance. Attorney MacDonald was also quoted in the media saying:

“I am in disbelief,  I hope [the girls] are reunited with their mother and brothers and sister, and even their father.”

Funny how she adds “their father”, almost as an afterthought, yet he is the custodial parent. I have said it before and I will say it again: parental alienation is the worst kind of child abuse.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

Will Wife’s Shoe Collection Determine Court’s Jurisdiction?

GeorgiaLeeLang057We often hear politicians speak of our “global community” to describe the people or nations of the world being closely connected by modern telecommunications and being socially, economically, and politically interdependent.

One area where the phenomena of global connectedness is ever more apparent is  in the area of family law. Only a few decades ago cases in family court typically involved a divorcing couple who lived in the same city or town and they usually remained there after their divorce was finalized.

Now it is commonplace for family law cases to involve several jurisdictions. The scenarios are varied. It may occur where a couple own real estate outside of their country of residence, or one of them wishes to move away with the children to another country. Child abduction is on the increase world-wide as couples separate and engage in high conflict litigation, sometimes marked by one parent’s non-consensual departure from the home country.

Couples that have  domestic situations involving multiple jurisdictions now also analyze where the law is most favourable to them and seek to bring their court cases to that jurisdiction. It’s called forum-shopping.

Great Britain is seen as a very friendly jurisdiction for women in large property cases and there have been many recent cases where one party sought to persuade a British court to take authority over their case, while the other stridently resisted. In middle eastern countries where sharia law governs, women have few legal rights and even with the limited rights they have, they often find themselves waiting years to obtain justice, if it ever arrives. If another jurisdiction is available they will go there.

There is no doubt that family law has become more complex as a result of the global community that is now our world. In a recent case in New York City, Swiss businessman, Maurice Alain Amon and his wife, Tracey Hejailan, had homes in Manhattan and in Monte Carlo. Mr. Amon argued the Monte Carlo court was the proper jurisdiction to hear their case. Not surprisingly, Mr. Amon had received advice that the family law system in Monaco did not include a division of property based on the fact of marriage. In Monaco ownership of property is conclusive. In other words, if you own it, you keep it.

In support of his argument that the couple’s primary residence was in Monaco, Mr. Amon submitted evidence of the size of his wife’s shoe collection, along with her walk-in closet in Monte Carlo, suggesting that where she stored most of her extensive shoe collection and designer fashions is where they lived.

Mr. Amon was no doubt motivated to make his jurisdictional argument when he learned his wife was going after his valuable art collection on the walls of their New York home, property she would have no interest in under Monacan law.

Somehow I think it’s going to take more than Jimmy Choo’s and Manolo Blahnik’s for Mr. Amon to succeed.

 

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

Gay Couple Need Adoption Annulled In Order to Marry

GeorgiaLeeLang009
In the not-so-distant past it was not unusual to hear about gay couples who arranged for one to adopt the other to gain rights of inheritance and other family benefits. I recall a case I handled 20 years ago where a wealthy, elderly gentleman adopted his younger partner, much to the distress of the adopting partner’s other biological children.

A gay couple in Pennsylvania did the same thing, convinced that during their lifetime the law would never recognize or legalize their relationship. But to their delight the United States Supreme Court did, a happy event that was marred by the realization that as father and son they faced a hurdle to become lawfully wedded spouses.

Nick Esposito, age 78, adopted his partner, Drew Bosee, age 68, in 2012, two years before same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. The couple had been together for over 40 years. They determined that they would not allow the adoption to stop them from their goal of marriage and filed a Petition in Allegheny County seeking to annul the adoption. They learned that judges in other states had granted such orders in situations like theirs.

But Allegheny County Judge Lawrence O’Toole ruled that state law barred him from doing the same. He ruled that while same-sex partners could marry, parents could not marry their children. Of course, that makes sense, except that Mr. Esposito and Mr. Bosee were never really parent and child; the adoption was intended to ensure that upon death family benefits would be available to them. Judge O’Toole suggested that it would take a higher court to rule on the issue and provide guidance to lower courts.

The couple have appealed and are also finding political support from Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator Bob Casey who has written to United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to intervene in the case.

I expect that along with an inevitable surge in same-sex divorce, attorneys will be kept busy obtaining orders for the annulment of same-sex adoptions.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Husband Sues Wife’s Divorce Lawyers for Fraud

GeorgiaLeeLang025Statistics suggest that 98% of family law cases settle out of court. For the unlucky few who can only obtain finality and closure with the aid of lawyers and judges, the journey is long, tortuous, and expensive.

Kenneth Felis of Vermont found himself engaged in divorce court proceedings that drained him emotionally and financially.

The parties had one child and a family estate worth between $12 to $15 million dollars, made up of cash, real estate and business interests.

HIs wife, Vicki, retained the law firm of Downs, Rachlin Martin to represent her in the court action. They, according to Mr. Felis, escalated the conflict by implementing a strategy that generated exorbitant legal fees and was intended to “harass and injure” him.

He sued the law firm for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty for “pursuing unreasonable legal positions, demanding extensive and unnecessary discovery, promoting and claiming outrageous asset valuations, raising claims without proper foundation . . . and billing excessive time.”

The firm had retained business valuators Gallagher, Flynn and Company on behalf of Ms. Felis, who were also named as defendants in Mr. Felis’ lawsuit.

Felis argued that at the outset of the multi-year litigation the “red fee-building flag went up” when Vicki Felis’ lawyers twice asked the court  and obtained  large distributions of cash to fund her lawyers and the business valuators.

Many jurisdictions permit family law litigants to request advances of cash or assets to enable them to pay for their litigation. It is only recently that British Columbia’s family law legislation was amended to permit these applications as well.

Mr. Felis was particularly incensed by his wife’s claim that he had “wastefully dissipated” millions of dollars from the family assets. To respond to the allegations, Felis’ lawyer was compelled to review and produce copious, detailed financial records and accounting documents, a process that required extensive time and generated additional legal fees.

The Court found Ms. Felis’ allegation of dissipation of funds to be without merit and dismissed her claim.

As for the business valuators, Mr. Felis argued that after years of discovery and production of all relevant documents, Gallagher, Flynn and Company “intentionally and wrongfully put up false expert testimony in an attempt to influence the court to improperly value [plaintiff’s] business assets and achieve an exorbitant and outrageous property distribution for Ms. Felis that was not grounded in the law.”

Mr. Felis also alleged that his wife’s lawyers submitted a false financial affidavit that incorrectly identified her debts, in an effort to gain increased child support.

By the time the divorce proceedings were finalized Ms. Felis’ lawyers’ bill was over $800,000 not including the business valuators’ bill of $248,000, all of which would be paid from the parties’  family assets, meaning that Mr. Felis was on the hook for one-half of over a million dollars in legal and valuation fees.

Regrettably for Mr. Felis, both the trial and appeal courts held that his wife’s lawyers owed no “duty” to him on which he could base a claim of breach of fiduciary duty. The law firm’s duty was to their client, not their client’s spouse. They also held that Felis had not alleged or  proven the requisite elements of fraud and thus, that claim failed as well.

The simple fact is that spouses may choose the lawyer they wish. Some divorce lawyers approach all their cases as a full-scale battle and unfortunately, unsophisticated clients tag along for the ride, while more discerning clients put a stop to strategies that only increase the conflict.

Mr. Felis’ complaints may have been legitimate  but there is no basis in law for the  courts to intervene.

GUEST POST: TIPS FOR SEPARATING PARENTS

No couple imagines that the vows they once exchanged would cease to ring true one day. But we are all human, and things happen. Relationships dissolve. Divorce is hard for every couple that has to go through the process, especially those who had children together.

At the end of the day, you both want what is best for your children, but often that can get lost in the hurt and anger that surrounds the separation. However, with hard work and patience, you can have a healthy relationship with your ex, and you both can be happy with the new arrangement.

Blended families work best when a divorce happens and small children are involved. You both need to be on the same page parent-wise, while also moving on with your lives in other aspects. Despite what you may think, this can be done.

Working toward a happy arrangement with your ex, and each other’s future spouses, creates a happy environment for everyone. Plus, your kids will be relieved that you aren’t at each other’s throats. A happy divorce happens when the separated couple can at least speak to each other in a civilized manner while sharing custody and a role in their children’s lives.

Jumpstart the process to a happy divorce with these steps:

  1. Visualize Your Goal

Think of how you wish the relationship to be with your ex. This could means anything from interacting cordially when dropping the kids off, to vacationing together. Make a realistic goal for your circumstance.

  1. Create a Pause

Before interacting with your ex, gauge your emotions and what you expect would be your emotional reactions when you see him or her. Identify your problem areas and what you believe you need to work on. Calm yourself before the face to face, and teach yourself certain tricks to stay cool and collected, rather than blowing up out of anger. Preparing yourself on what to expect and how to react will help you to remain calm when it is actually go-time.

  1. Think Positively

Positive thinking can go a long way. Every conversation will probably not go smoothly, but, with a positive outlook, you will be able to better work toward your goal of achieving a happy divorce.

  1. Persistence

Along with your positive mindset, you will need persistence. There will be tough times and obstacles, but you cannot let that get you down. Also, try not to let your ex’s personal actions get to you.

Perhaps they seem to be moving on faster than you, or have had a better success at bouncing back financially. Don’t let these insignificant things trigger your ugly side. You don’t want your kids to witness an altercation, nor do you want to disrupt the mutual arrangement to strive for a happy medium.

  1. Keep the End Goal in Mind

Remember that, in the end, this is all for your children. Never take your eyes off that prize. You two are the adults here, so suck it up and work hard to set good examples for your kids. Divorce isn’t what greatly affects children – it’s the way the divorce was handled.

 Guest Post from Atlanta, Georgia family law boutique firm Naggiar & Sarif

Naggiar and Sarif LLC focuses exclusively on  Family and Divorce Law litigation. They provide unparalleled and personalized legal counsel to those facing family law  issues and have earned numerous awards and distinctions.

Judge Says “NO” to Grandparents Who Want to Take Their Grandchild to Church

They say it “takes a village to raise a child” but the law is clear in Canada that a child’s parents or guardians are the sole arbiters of who in the “village” may participate and what a villager can say or do with their child.

This week a Vancouver judge refused to permit the grandparents of a 4-year-old child to take their grandchild to church (Kingdom Hall) or discuss religion with their grandchild. (AR and BR v. MW and LR 2015 BCPC 0285)

The child’s mother had a brief sexual encounter with the grandparent’s son, who apparently neglected or ignored his legal and moral obligations to his infant baby and was never in a relationship with his child’s mother. However, his parents pursued a relationship with their grandchild with the agreement of the child’s mother and eventually had their grandchild stay in their home 2 or 3 days a week.

Early on it came to mother’s attention that her child’s paternal grandparents were taking the child to church with them and showing her videos about their faith. Initially, mom was reticent to voice her concerns, but later she told them she would prefer they not take the child to church.

Instead of complying with the request, they continued to proselytize and take the child to church. This caused the child’s mother to disallow the grandparents to have contact with the child on church days and later, mother reduced the grandparent’s contact to one supervised visit per month.

At this point the grandparents hired a lawyer and brought a court application to be permitted to take their grandchild to church and discuss their faith with the child. Their first mistake was alienating the child’s mother by ignoring her requests. The second was filing a court action to obtain what mother would not agree with.

While we hear the public and media talk about “grandparent’s rights”, the truth is they really have no rights at all. Although the Family Law Act in British Columbia and the federal Divorce Act allow for “persons” to apply for access or “contact” as it is called in BC, without willing parents the applications usually fail.

Why do they fail? Because of the way judges have interpreted the laws allowing grandparents to apply to have a relationship with their grandchild. Some of the longstanding legal principles that are used to oust grandparents from a grandchild’s life include:

1. It is the right of the child to have a relationship with a grandparent, not the right of a grandparent;

2. Parents and guardians are the only parties who have the “responsibility” (notice I didn’t use the term “rights”) to make decisions for their children;

3. There is a presumption in law that in the absence of clear evidence suggesting otherwise, parents and guardians are presumed to know what is in their child’s best interests and are entitled to implement or terminate certain activities.

4. The very fact there is a dispute between a parent and a grandparent is often sufficient in and of itself to limit or bar access to a grandparent on the theory that such a conflicted relationship will destabilize the child and is not in his or her best interests.

5. Religious freedoms enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides no assistance to shut-out grandparents, as the Charter does not apply to private disputes.

So what can a grandparent do? In cases where the grandparent’s child is the biological parent of a grandchild, it is only through their influence on their child that their views may be expressed and again, only if their child agrees with them. Most cases are like this one, however, and involve situations where the grandparent’s child is not on the scene or has abdicated parental responsibility. In these cases it is useless to buck the remaining parent or guardian’s views, unless they can be shown to be potentially harmful to the child and not in the child’s best interests.

If grandparents want to maintain a relationship with a grandchild, they must often “bite their tongues”, put on a “happy face” and take comfort in the knowledge that children are influenced by their grandparents, even if church and faith discussions are not allowed…and children turn into independent adults.