The Delaware Family Court decides custody and visitation actions based on the best interests of a child. To make that determination the Court must consider specific factors listed in Section 722 of Title 13. In addition, the Court may consider any other relevant information. What is relevant is a case-by-case analysis. For public figures like Alex Jones public statements or their public persona could be relevant. A recent post by Aaron Weems, a Partner in our Blue Bell, Pennsylvania office, examines the nexus between public personality and custody cases in more detail.  It is well worth reading.

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leslie_SpoltoreLeslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

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For many children the best part of summer is summer camp. Camps can provide the opportunity to learn everything from computer skills to surfing.  And, as the saying goes, summer camp is the place where strangers become friends and friendships last forever.

For many divorced or separated parents, planning to send a child to summer camp requires additional consideration in order to coordinate schedules.  To that end, many custody orders provide timelines for discussing plans or selecting contact weeks.  Under the current Delaware Contact Guidelines,  the parent whose choice it is to select contact weeks over the summer must give the other parent written notice of his/her summer week selection between March 1st and April 1st.  Although April 1st is rapidly approaching, it is not too late to consider summer camps.  One helpful resource is The News Journal, which has published a list of summer camps in Delaware.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

 

 

The date of the filing of a petition for modification of a custody order can be important for many reasons.  For example, it sets the burden of proof.  It can also provide parameters for the arguments at trial.  Consider the recently decided case of  Newman v. Newman, No. 119, 2016 (Nov. 29, 2016).

Michael Newman and Sarah Newman are the parents of two children.  After their divorce in 2010 the Newman’s were party to a series of child custody orders. These orders include a stipulation entered on January 26, 2011, a stipulation dated August 7, 2012 (“2012 Order”) and an order dated March 20, 2013 (“2013 Order”), which was entered after a hearing on the merits. The 2013 Order provided that the parties would have joint legal custody and shared residential placement of their children.  A short time later, on August 27, 2014, Mr. Newman filed a petition to modify the 2013 Order.  The Family Court held a hearing on his petition.  Both parties appeared for the hearing and provided testimony. In addition, the Court interviewed the children. In its twenty-six-page opinion dated February 15, 2016 (“2016 Order”), the Family Court denied Mr. Newman’s petition. Mr. Newman appealed the 2016 Order.

AppealIn his appeal Mr. Newman raised two arguments.  First, he appeared to argue that the Family Court erred in its ruling because it did not enforce a provision of the 2012 Order.  The Supreme Court dispatched that argument concluding that “[a]ny issues related to the 2012 custody order are moot … because the 2012 judgment was superseded by the 2013 order and the 2016 order, which is currently before the Court on appeal.”      Id. at *3.

Mr. Newman also argued that with regard to the 2016 Order the Family Court erred when it did not accept his evidence that Ms. Newman had been evicted from several properties, her utilities had been cut off with some frequency, that she was causing the children stress by making false allegations in custody proceedings and that the children’s grades were declining. Id. at *3. This argument was similarly unsuccessful.

The Supreme Court noted that because Mr. Newman’s petition was filed within two years of the entry of the 2013 Order Delaware law provides that the Family Court “shall not modify its prior order unless it finds, after a hearing, that continuing enforcement of the prior order may endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair his or her emotional development.” Id. at *3 – 4.  The Supreme Court was mindful that based on the evidence presented at the hearing the Family Court found that,

 

[a]lthough [Ms. Newman] had moved several times in a short period, she had never been homeless or subjected the Children to inappropriate housing arrangements. The court noted that, while both parties cared for the Children, their joint conduct contributed to the Children’s feelings of anxiety and their fluctuating grades. In ordering the parties to maintain joint custody with shared residential placement, the Family Court gave great weight to the Children’s expressed wishes to continue the existing custody arrangement so that they could spend equal time with both of their parents.

Id. at 5.

The Court held that the Family Court’s findings were supported by the record. Further, the Court held that the Family Court properly applied the law to the facts of the case in reaching the conclusion that Mr. Newman did not meet his burden to establish that continued enforcement of the March 2013 Order endangered the children’s physical health or significantly threatened their emotional development.

The decision may be read in its entirety here.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

 

I often hear parents express a belief or a fear that the law is biased in custody cases.  Most often I hear concerns that the Delaware Code presumes that mothers are better parents.  Perhaps this fear comes from talking with parents in other states where this may occur. For example, a recent article in Southeast Missourian noted that prior to an amendment in that state’s law the standard custody arrangement in Missouri typically allowed for a mother to have primary placement and for a father to have a visitation.

Delaware residents can take comfort in the fact that Delaware law has long prohibited gender based presumptions in custody cases.  Section 722(b) of Title 13 specifically provides,

The Court shall not presume that a parent, because of his or her sex, is better qualified than the other parent to act as a joint or sole legal custodian for a child or as the child’s primary residential parent …

Section 722 directs that decisions regarding the custody and residential placement shall be determined in accordance with the best interests of the child or children at issue.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

The topic of international custody disputes has garnered significant media attention in recent months.  Most recently, Madonna and Guy Ritchie have added fuel to the media fire on this issue.  According to an article in New York Post Rocco, their 15-year-old son, recently refused to board a plane and return to New York.  The dispute landed the parties in a New York court yesterday where Guy Ritchie argued that Rocco wants to live in London with his father.  Though it appears there is no final resolution, a New York court has ordered that Rocco return to New York for now.  According to the report “The Manhattan judge said Rocco would also have a court-appointed attorney in the New York custody case, where the teen could tell the judge whether he wants to live with mom or dad.  But first he must come to New York and face his mom, the judge said.”

As noted in past posts, international custody disputes can be lengthy, complex and expensive.  In our increasingly mobile society it is important to consider these complexities when entering into relationships that may result in international litigation.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

giftThe holiday season can be the most magical time of the year. For divorced or separated families the holiday season can pose some challenges. Those challenges, however, do not need to eclipse the holiday spirit or spoil the fun of the holiday season.  Some helpful tips to managing the season can be found in an article entitled “Custody and visitation tips for the holidays.” With a little planning you can keep the season bright!

 

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

The topic of international custody disputes has garnered significant media attention in recent months due to the ongoing case between actress Kelly Rutherford and her former husband, Daniel Giersch.  A recent post by Jennifer Weisberg Millner, a Partner in our Princeton, New Jersey office, examines the challenges of these cases.  As she notes, in our increasingly mobile society it is important for individuals to consider these complexities when entering into relationships that may result in international litigation.  Her post entitled “Difficult and sometimes perplexing International Custody issues in the news – Again!” may be found here.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

A new school year is almost here.  While many parents enjoy the structure the school year brings, other households struggle with the added stress of homework.  According to a recent article published by CNN’s Kelly Wallace those feeling the stress may have a good reason.  The article entitled “Kids have three times too much homework, study finds; what’s the cost?” notes that homework levels have increased above the standard levels endorsed by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association.  Those Associations endorse a “10-minute rule” for 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night.  As Ms. Wallace points out, a recent study shows that in some instances children are getting significantly more homework.  Understandably, this can place increased stress on children, their parents and the entire household.

Homework

What can parents do to address the problem?  The article provides recommendations and insight on what parents can do to make the homework experience less “anxiety-producing.” For example, if homework is taking too much time parents may want to examine where, when and how their children are doing homework.  If there are environmental distractions, discuss eliminating them. And if it is not already clear, the article recommends that parents present “clear expectations at the beginning of the school year about the homework getting done and ending up in the teacher’s hands.”

These solutions may be helpful but they may not always be easy – particularly for parents who are involved in custody litigation.  Implementing these suggestions requires discussion and agreement.  It may be necessary for parents to agree upon and establish similar homework routines in two separate households.  Difficult as it may be, sorting these issues out early may reduce everyone’s stress in the long run.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com

 

 

The dispute between actress Kelly Rutherford and her former husband, Daniel Giersch, has placed a spotlight on international custody matters.  A number of past posts on our Pennsylvania Family Law Blog and New Jersey Family Law Blog and this blog have explored and examined international cases and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”).  Our past posts include:

Parent-childChild Abduction: Capital Anonymity.  A True Story about the Hague Convention

Parent’s rights under the Hague Convention Upheld

The Tangled World of International Custody; The Hague Convention

International Custody Disputes and the Hague Conventions

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com

A recent Washington Post article explored the issue of “sharenting.”  Essentially, “sharenting” occurs when parents share (or overshare) the events of their children’s lives through social media.  It is a trend that appears to be sweeping the nation.  The article points out that “A new national survey from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that more than half of mothers and a third of fathers acknowledge that they share the ins and outs of raising their children online. We’re talking everything from cute photos and anecdotes to pleas for help raising their little monsters.”  All of this exposure is not without a potential cost.  The sharing, or over sharing, could be embarrassing to a child.  Even more troubling, posting a child’s photos, habits and whereabouts can presents security risks.

Presumably, when parents live together each has access to the other’s social media pages and can agree on what should or should not be shared about their children.  The same openness, dialogue and agreement may not be possible for separated or divorce parents.  If parents cannot agree on how much sharing is appropriate will the Court be called on to address “sharenting” in custody or visitation orders?  Only time will tell.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.