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'Functional Meth Users' Lose Custody, Court Rules

Richard was a good father, except for one problem: he used meth four times a day.

Still, he pleaded with the court, he had held his job for 27 years, provided for his family, and ensured his children had healthy food, a clean home, and a good education. He just wanted them back together again.

Not good enough, the trial judge ruled. In re. Alexzander C., the California Second District Court of Appeal agreed.

Court: Attorney's Computers 'Necessary for Life' in Dividing Divorce Debt

In everybody's not-seriously favorite lawyer movie, Jim Carrey's movie wife explains how divorce insulated her from his personal life.

"That's the magic of divorce," she says to the chronic liar-lawyer in "Liar Liar."

If only it worked that way in real life when it comes to community debt in divorce court. Attorney Grant Brooks tried, but it was a flop in Direct Capital Corporation v. Brooks.

Sperm Donor Must Pay Child Support

There are two words a sperm donor does not expect to hear: "Hi, Dad."

But that's about what a California appeals court said while interpreting the Family Code in County of Orange v. Brian Jeffrey Cole. The appellate panel said Brian Jeffrey Cole could not escape child support because he acted like he was the father -- except around his wife who knew nothing about his relationship with the child's mother.

"The statute does not require that Cole hold out the child as his own in every situation and it does not protect fathers who lead double lives," the court said.

Cal. Supreme Court Says 'No-Fault" Parents Can Lose Custody

The California Supreme Court said dependency judges may take children away from parents who cannot supervise or protect their children -- even if the parents are not to blame.

Settling a split of authority in In re. R.T., the court ruled the state's Welfare and Institutions Code authorizes dependency jurisdiction without a finding that a parent is at fault or blameworthy for a failure or inability to supervise or protect a child.

"When that child's behavior places her at substantial risk of serious physical harm, and a parent is unable to protect or supervise that child, the juvenile court's assertion of jurisdiction is authorized under section 300(b)(1)," Justice Goodwin Liu wrote in a concurring opinion to invite the Legislature to revisit the issue.

As family law practitioners know, dividing property during a separation is rarely a straightforward matter. Things become significantly more complicated when there are pensions and retirement benefits involved. The prolonged process of splitting up retirement assets requires a complex kind of calculus, one that can frustrate even the most seasoned practitioners.

Thankfully, you don't have to handle these tricky issues alone. The Rutter Group's upcoming Dividing Pension and Retirement Benefits program is there to help you navigate these complex issues.

Surrogate Mom Threatened by Birth Father Sues in California Court

A woman has brought suit in a California court to avoid having one of three babies aborted in utero. Yes, you read that one right.

The case shines a rather troubling light in that area of the law generally known as surrogacy law: contracts having to do with the births of children. It goes to show you just how far contract law can apply -- the very limits of decency.

California Court Rejects Teen Mom's Habeas Corpus Estoppel Theory

A California Appellate Court has rejected a San Diego teen mother's appeal to overturn a lower court's decision which finally put an end to her parental rights.

The case is the latest in a series of unfortunate developments that first started years ago when Kemper gave birth at 16 years old. Only days after her child's birth, the baby was taken away and she was deemed unfit as a mother.

Is spanking a child, even with a shoe, child abuse? Not always, according to the California Court of Appeals, which recently reversed a juvenile court's finding that a mother's sandal-aided spanking was physical abuse. The categorical view that "hitting children with shoes" is forbidden physical abuse and "not a proper form of discipline" isn't supported by the law, the court found.

But don't get out the belt just yet, disciplinarians. The court's ruling is hardly an invitation to spank your children with impunity. Here's why.

Right-To-Die Lawsuit Rejected by California Appeals Court

The Associated Press reported yesterday that a California appeals court rejected a lawsuit brought by Christy O'Donnell and two other terminally ill patients who sought to legalize the procedure for doctors to prescribe them fatal medication.

The court ruled that current law would criminalize physicians who helped patients commit suicide. The news comes as a blow to the patients in light of this month's signing of the California's physician-assisted suicide law. This is ironic because O'Donnell's face has become synonymous with California's freshly legalized right to drug-assisted suicide.

Incarceration is no good for families. For parents, one of the worst parts of a prison sentence is being separated from one's children. For kids, incarceration can lead to stress, developmental delays, and financial and emotional trauma. In such situations, incarceration can injure the families of offenders "as much as, and sometimes more than, offenders themselves," according to studies.

Recognizing the problems caused by incarcerating offenders with minor children, California created an Alternative Custody Program in 2010. California's ACP program allows participants to spend a portion of their sentence outside of prison, maintaining contact with their children. The program, previously limited to mothers, must now be made available to all eligible inmates, a federal court has ruled.