Unbelievable Story but it is True

This is a true story and in this case, I represent the maternal grandmother in Los Angeles Dependency Court:

My client’s daughter was killed by her husband who is the father of their three kids. Rather than allow the maternal grandmother and her husband to provide care and support for the kids while their father stayed in jail pending trial, the Department of Children & Family Services, (hereinafter DCFS) opened a case against the father and the Judge refused to allow the mother’s family to take the kids out of LA County to live with the maternal grandmother with whom they have a very close bond. This is not a case where there are close paternal grandparents and they are both fighting to have the kids.

The paternal side of the family, cleaned the house where the murder occurred and boxed up the mother’s belongings without letting the maternal grandmother or maternal relatives get her personal belongings, such as her jewelry, clothes and pictures. The paternal relatives said they were going to sell the items for the kid’s support.  They are also potential witnesses at the criminal trial.

Then, the kids were placed with a paternal uncle and his girlfriend who did not have a close bond with the children and who were not married and had their own children. The kids only lasted 6 – 8 months at this placement until they were again moved to other paternal relatives in Los Angeles.  They had to start visiting these relatives on weekends to create a bond.

Meanwhile the maternal grandmother and her husband tried for over a year to get the children to be moved by DCFS to Northern CA to their custody, knowing that they would be a permanent home for the kids and would be adopted by the maternal grandmother and her husband.

My question is why did DCFS have to get involved in the first place? Of course, when there is serious criminal activity and children are involved, the police are mandated to contact CPS. However, when there are responsible family members, DCFS does not have to get involved and can oversee the relatives taking the children and putting them in safe homes. DCFS does not have to open cases on every family. That is the definition of big brother. 

And, because of strict Federal Funding issues, once DCFS is involved, relatives have to be approved and go through training much like foster families. It takes DCFS 6 to 8 months to approve relative placements in Los Angeles and Orange County.  Because of the lengthy time it takes to approve relative homes for the minors, foster families are bonding with the minors and trying to keep the minors in their custody if they are not able to return to their parents’ custody. I have been fighting these issues in numerous cases and it is heartbreaking for the family’s who cannot raise their grandchildren or nieces and nephews.

In the case I am describing, there were no safety risks posed by grandmother or any of the maternal relatives and no reason that the kids had to stay in Los Angeles. My client who lost her daughter to murder, now faces losing her grandchildren. DCFS is trying to get the kids adopted by the paternal relatives in Los Angeles rather than let the children move to Northern CA. Don’t let this become the new rule – the government takes over the case and they decide who gets children often siding with foster parents or relatives who did not have a bond with the kids when the case began.

Please like this story if you are as morally outraged as I am.

Limited Scope of Representation

What is Limited Scope of Representation?

  1. It is when an attorney appears at your court hearing on one issue and may appear at the next court hearing on the same issue if requested, or
  2. It can also include work outside of court on one issue, for example child support, so that the matter does not need to proceed to a court hearing and if necessary appear at a hearing to enforce settlement or argue the matter before the court.

Issues involving Limited Scope of Representation include:

  • Child Custody issues that do not include the need for expert witnesses or trial;
  • Los Angeles County Child Support Court Cases;
  • Guideline Spousal or Child Support petitions;
  • Requests for visitation and paternity petitions; and
  • Guardianship and Adoption petitions or contracts (not in dependency court.)

So if you were served with a Summons and a Request for Order for a hearing in Family Court, and you don’t want to spend $5000.00 to $10,000.00 on a retainer for an attorney specializing in family law, one alternative is to have an attorney assist you in filing the necessary response or petition paperwork and then having them appear at your court hearing  but not stay on the case for any other issues like sale of residence, business or any financial settlements.

Call my office if you want an attorney to appear at your hearing for Limited Scope of Representation.

Family Law Court – How Women Get Abused Again by the System

I am a family law attorney and have represented both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.   Depending on which court system your matter is filed in (i.e.: Criminal, Dependency or Family) makes a difference in how both the victim and the perpetrator are treated.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and the perpetrator was arrested and charged with a crime, you should be protected against the abuser by the criminal court system, either by having the perpetrator arrested and/or charged with a crime.  You should also get a restraining order which precludes perpetrator from having any contact with you in person, by phone, e-mail and other electronic media avenues.  The threat of spending additional time in jail usually persuades a batterer not to re-offend during the criminal case.

However, if you file a restraining order in family law court, you don’t get the same protections, and the perpetrator, can and usually will, make accusations against the victim.   In addition, the domestic violence incidents may not carry the same weight as they do in criminal or in dependency court.  There are only a few legal protections in family court and the victim often has to endure additional abuse by the perpetrator in family court.   See for example, the article entitled Key Differences Between the Family Court and Criminal Court Systems written by Women’s Justice Center which can be found at www.justicewomen.com.

What about the women who are in abusive relationships but have never called the police.  These women have no legal documentation of past abuse and most likely have no physical evidence of the abuse unless pictures were taken and witnesses are available to corroborate  Sometimes there are no visible injuries but the abuse occurred.   Often these women are embarrassed and feel a great deal of shame for the abuse and do not want to file charges against their spouse or partner.

Similarly, women who are married to police officers or other men with power, and suffer physical and emotional abuse, see that their spouse is rarely prosecuted.  Even when these women called the police, because of their abuser’s profession, they were able to talk their way out of a fellow officer filing a police report and forwarding the charges to prosecutors.  Often these victims are pressured not to report the abuse because it will ruin the abuser’s career and therefore the financial status of the couple.

Additionally, a lot of women also find themselves in emotionally abusive relationships which are very close to crossing the line into physical abuse.  Some women in dysfunctional and emotionally abusive relationships may think that leaving the abuser will solve the problem.  Little do they know that leaving an abusive and controlling spouse does not end the abuse when the couple has children.  The abuse continues in family court where the abuser can launch his own accusations against the victim.   In these cases, victims leave the abuser and then fight a bruising custody battle in family court.  Allegations of abuse are more common in family law cases and judges rarely see the abuse as seriously as a criminal court judge.  Especially when there are no police reports or restraining orders documenting the prior abuse.

Unfortunately, if you choose to leave an abusive marriage with no documentation of past abuse, you get abused all over again in family court.  You are forced to prove to the court that the other person is abusive and that it is in the best interest of the children that you have sole custody.  If the mother was a stay at home parent and the perpetrator was the bread winner, the father has all the power in the divorce.  These men can make the divorce last years and file motion after motion to reduce spousal and child support.  The abusive spouse again has all the power and can drag the victim through the mud, so to speak.

Currently, in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, judges are not ordering the breadwinners, to pay their spouse’s attorney fees.   This puts the victim in a power struggle all over again and forces the victim to defend themselves from allegations made by the perpetrator.  Even after these couples are divorced and custody has been decided, the abuse continues because the perpetrator may continue to try and control the mother of their children by dragging them back to court to fight ongoing custody and support disputes.

Father’s rights groups and current social beliefs may incorrectly think that women are equal to men in their education and earning capacity, however; as stated in numerous studies and by the government, women on average earn 17% to 30% less than men earn.  Typically, women who work outside the home, also do more tasks in the home than the fathers that work do.

Despite the above, family court treats each party equally even though the parties are not on equal footing financially.  White men still make more than any other segment in this society with minority men behind them and white and minority women on the bottom.  Judges used to order the breadwinner (usually the father) pay the other parties attorney fees.  Now, the courts rarely order one party to pay the other party’s attorney fees unless there is a big discrepancy.  Divorces for middle class couples who are contesting custody and support issues can run anywhere from $50.00 to $100,000 or more.  How is a mother without a career, or a mother who earns less than their spouse, supposed to be on equal footing with a spouse who was the breadwinner and whose wages are his separate property after the date of legal separation?

I am writing about these issues because I have personal experience with some of these issues in my own divorce and I have close friends who have gone through this as well.  I believe the family court system needs to be overhauled and the courts, attorneys and government employees need more education on these issues.

Please contact my office if you need assistance in family, criminal or dependency court.  I can assist you with filing a Restraining Order and in fighting for custody of your children.

Low Cost Criminal Defense & Traffic Tickets

I am an ex-public defender which means that I know all the possible defenses to crimes and I know how to defend them.  As a private lawyer, I can give your case more attention.  I will work with you to make my representation affordable.  I know times are still tough for most people, especially if you are in an area where the economy has not caught up yet.

For Traffic Tickets:  I charge $500.00 to appear at both the arraignment and trial.

For Misdemeanor charges: I charge $500.00 to attend either your arraignment or pre-trial hearing and will work to resolve the case quickly.  If your case needs further discovery motions and/or further investigation, I will charge an additional $500.00 to prepare the motion and an additional $400.00 to attend the hearing and argue the motion.  If you then decide to go to trial, I would charge an additional $1,000.00.

For Felony charges: I charge $2,500.00 for most felonies.  This fee includes preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions such as motions to suppress evidence, and further investigation but does not include the cost of experts reviewing the evidence pre-trial and for trial and this cost does not include the cost of going to trial.

Usually criminal defense attorneys will charge you one fee even if they settle the case at the arraignment or pre-trial hearing.  I am willing to break down the costs of defending you in a criminal case so that it is more affordable and understandable.  Additionally, I can give you all of your options, whether that means setting the matter for trial in the hope of getting a better plea deal on the day of trial or actually going to trial.  Or whether there are defenses available and facts to support filing a motion to suppress evidence, suppress a confession, etc.

Child Protective Services & Why Grandparents lose kids to Foster Care Families

If you have a family member that suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, be careful before you call the police and child protective services.  Make sure to take appropriate legal steps ahead of time to safeguard your grandchildren and/or nieces and nephews to make sure they will never be taken into foster care.  The LA Times newspaper has written numerous articles about the problems with foster care and how children have been abused by foster families after being taken from their parents due to abuse or neglect.

Once you get the police or child protective services involved, the matter is out of your control and you may not be able to take custody of your grandchildren or nieces and nephews due to several factors if they apply to your case.  This is because under federal and state laws, child protective services is required to do criminal background checks on all adults that live in the potential caretakers’ house.  If anyone living in the house has any arrests or convictions, they must get an exemption approved before they can have the children placed with them.

If a grandparent had a history with child protective services, it usually means they will not be granted an exemption and they will not be able to take custody of their grandchildren.   The family can apply for a probate guardianship and while they still have to have a background check and prove that they are safe, because there are no federal funding issues, the background check is not as stringent as the dependency court.

This is because of federal law, AFSA, (Adoption and Safe Families Act) requires states to incorporate AFSA to receive federal funding.  I’ve seen perfectly suitable grandparents lose custody of their grandchildren because one of the grandparents had a 30 year old criminal conviction which included violence.  Since that conviction, the grandparent had no other criminal arrests or convictions, however, the children could not be placed with them and the kids were split up and adopted by different families.  I realize this is an extreme example, but I’ve seen it happen numerous times.

If you have a relative that leaves their children with you from time to time due to their inability to adequately take care of their children, but who refuses to give you legal rights for medical or school decisions, be prepared to go to court to get legal guardianship of the children.

A probate guardianship is the best choice for children of parents who suffer from addiction.  If the parents agree to the legal guardianship with a relative of their children, the probate court does not need to report the parents to child protective services.  Otherwise, the probate court is required to report the neglect or abuse of children to CPS and CPS decides if they are going to investigate and take the case over.