Attorneys are required to complete Continuing Legal Education courses each year. Here are some highlights from the course that I recently attended on family law:
“Flexibility” has become the new buzzword in family law with respect to custody of minor children. Gone, it appears are the days of the primary custodial parent (historically the mother) telling the father that he can only see the kids on the days listed in their court order. As one family law expert stated, “We are entering the era of ’21st century parenting.’ ”
The new case of In re Marriage of Melville (2004) 122 Cal.App 4th 601, sets forth the current thinking of the Court of Appeal, that trial judges in the family courts are supposed to follow. The justices in the Melville case said that the primary custodial parent should not only follow the court order regarding visitation, but must also be flexible. The lesson here: Don’t deny your ex-spouse some extra time with the kids if you receive reasonable advance notice of the request. Of course, there may be exceptions, – such as cases involving domestic violence, substance abuse and cases that require monitored and supervised visitation for one party. If you’re not in one of those categories, you may want to consider being flexible when it comes to sharing the kids. If you can’t agree with your ex-spouse, the court order controls until modified.
Grandparent visitation rights survive in California. The California Supreme Court says that Family Code section 3104, which provides grandparents with visitation rights in divorce cases, is constitutional and is not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of a few years ago in the Troxel case. Still, grandparents have an uphill battle for visitation with their grandchildren.
Spousal support may include money for savings. In Marriage of Wittgrove (2004) 120 Cal.App. 4th 1317, the Court of Appeal said it was okay for a trial court to use a history of savings as part of the status quo when determining spousal support. In that case, father argued that mother’s spousal support needs didn’t include savings. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal disagreed.