If you have been “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” on television, you will be interested to know that Kris Jenner filed divorce papers against Bruce Jenner yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences.

The couple have been married for 23 years.  It is the third marriage for Bruce and the second for Kris.  They had no prenuptial agreement.

The split appears to be amicable and the parties have agreed on joint physical and legal custody of their only child who is still a minor, Kylie Jenner.  Neither is asking for alimony.

If a parent is withholding visitation in Maryland, DC or VA, and there is a custody order in place, we have to file a motion to show cause why that parent should not be held in contempt of court.

Many clients have noticed the disparity in the enforcement of child support orders and visitation orders by the courts.

Oklahoma has passed a new law that says a parent who denies visitation to a parent who is current on child support can face fines and be held responsible for attorney fees, mediation costs and court costs.

There is a court form available at the clerk’s office and a hearing must be held within 21 days.  The non-custodian can be awarded make-up time.  One or both parents may be ordered to counseling or parent education classes.  The judge can even order a change in custody if appropriate.

Dmitry Rybolovlev, one of the richest people in Russia, is about to set the record for most expensive divorce.  A Swiss judge has ordered Dmitry to pay his ex-wife Elena a $4.5 billion divorce settlement.  Dmitry became a billionaire by privatizing a fertilizer plant in Russia.  His net worth is estimated at $8.8 billion.

The judge also gave Elena ownership of real estate in Switzerland worth $145 million and custody of their 13 year old daughter.  Elena and Dmitry met as students and had been married since 1987.

The previous record is held by Rupert Murdoch.  Rupert paid $1.7 billion to his ex-wife Anna in 1991 in cash and Newscorp stock.

Guest post by David Williamson

Mothers Obtain Child Custody More Often than Fathers

In 82% of cases, mothers get custody of the children.  One reason for this may be, that On a purely statistical stand point, mothers are the primary up-bringer of the children (data:  2009). Even in cases where both parents work, statistics show mothers spend twice as much time engaged in primary childcare responsibilities than the fathers with mothers at 12.9 hours a week and fathers at 6.5 hours.

Court Involvement in Child Custody

In terms of how courts involve themselves in the custody process, a mere 4% of cases are actually litigated.  The vast majority of cases are settled long before trial.    In 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed on their own that the mother should have custody.

  • In 29 percent of custody cases, there was no third party involvement.
  • In 11 percent of custody cases, the parties agreed during mediation that the mother should have custdoy.
  • In 5 percent of custody cases, the issue was resolved after a custody evaluation.

Only 4 percent of custody cases went to trial.  Even of that 4 percent, only 1.5 percent completed custody litigation.  Fathers won about half of those litigated cases.  Approximately 91 percent of child custody cases are decided outside of court.

Child Support

When it comes down to child support post settlement, there is another gender divide. In 2009, mothers would get on average $5,997 in child support, whereas fathers would only get $5,601. The problems for fathers doesn’t end there, however, as only 30% of custodial fathers receive any child support, compared to 55% of custodial mothers. To put this in perspective, then, 91% of total child support dollars are given to custodial mothers, and 9% to custodial fathers.

These statistics seem to show a stark difference between male and female custodial experiences. The figures show an average, however, so it would be unwise to lean to heavily on this picture when considering how your situation might unfold. Should you require further information and an informal discussion regarding your individual circumstances, get in touch with one of Coles-Law Solicitor’s Family Lawyers for expert advice.

Father’s Rights and Moves to Another State

Bode Miller, 36, Olympic skier, met Sara McKenna, 27, former marine, through an online dating service in April, 2012.  They dated briefly and she became pregnant with his child.  They were both living in California at the time.

Miller married someone else, and McKenna, seven months pregnant, decided to move to New York to go to college at Columbia University on the G.I. Bill.

In November 2012, Bode filed a “Petition to Establish Parental Relationship” in California, checking the box on the form to say he was the father of “a child who is not yet born”.

The baby was born in February 2013.  Two days later, McKenna filed her petition for custody in the New York Family Court.

There is a uniform law that governs child custody cases between the states which provides that the child’s “home state” has jurisdiction.  Since the baby was born in New York, that state should decide custody.

But the family judge in New York sent the case back to California saying she appropriated the child while in utero, which was “irresponsible” and “reprehensible”.  He gave custody to Miller and his new wife.

Then that order was overturned by a New York appeals court and the baby was returned to McKenna.  The cases continues as the two sides try to work out a parenting plan.

Parenting Plans Need to Respect Father’s Rights and Mother’s Rights

Needless to say, it is spurring controversy among fathers’ rights and mothers’ rights activists regarding the right to relocate if you are pregnant.

Justin Steen, a divorce lawyer, woke up without an alarm every morning at exactly 5:00 am.  After his workout routine, he arrived at his office at 7:00 am and start organizing his day.  The phone rang at 9:00 a.m.

“Mr. Steen, it’s Julie Palmer,” said the caller, “You’ll never believe what my husband did now.”

“What did he do, Julie?”

“He booked our twelve year old on a ski trip without even telling me!”

“That’s outrageous.  I’ll call his attorney right now and follow up with a strong letter.  Don’t worry.  This will work against him when we get to trial.”

As soon as Justin hung up with Julie, the phone rang again.

“Hello, Mr. Steen, this is Ken Stevens,” said the caller.  “My wife has our daughter stuck in a day care center which is boring and just a glorified baby sitter.  I want to enroll her in a horseback riding program for the summer and my wife is against it.

“Why that’s outrageous.  I’ll call her lawyer right now and follow up with a strong letter.  Don’t worry.  This will work against her when we get to trial.”

A Story of Balancing Mother’s Rights and Father’s Rights

“My client was shocked to learn that your client has enrolled their 5 year old son in the swim team at the community pool,” the letter from the mother’s divorce lawyer started.

The father’s lawyer scanned it to the father by email.  By the next day he had received three drafts of a four page letter from the father explaining all the benefits of swim team.  The father wanted the lawyer to send the letter to the mother’s attorney.

“Wait until I speak with her,” the lawyer told the father.

“Why?” asked the father.  “I want her to know, for the record, that I’m not the bad guy here.   And I didn’t do it just because my new girlfriend is the coach of the swim team.”

“First of all,” replied the father’s lawyer, “she won’t believe you.  Second, there is no record.  Third, I don’t try my case in letters.  And finally, I don’t know why, but my intuition and experience tell me to wait until I speak with opposing counsel.”

Five days later, the mother’s attorney called.  The mother was concerned that she had been left out of the decision making process.  She wanted to know how many lifeguards were on duty, their ages, and what training they had.  These were easy to provide and the problem was solved. The father’s letter was put in the file and never sent.

Police have ordered DNA tests to determine whether Ariel Castro is the father of Amanda Berry’s 6 year old daughter.  He is accused of kidnapping and raping Berry and two other women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for years.

Many will find it hard to believe that a person convicted of such awful crimes would be able to assert any parental rights such as custody and visitation.

But Maryland, DC and Virginia are among the majority of jurisdictions that do not have laws terminating parental rights upon conviction of rape of the birth mother. So is Ohio.  If Castro sues for custody and visitation, the judge will have to decide based on what’s in the best interest of the child.

In 1978, Robert Swain divorced Nancy Swain because of her adultery.  She did not deny it.  In fact, she was living in an apartment with another man she intended to marry.

What Robert objected to was the order giving Nancy custody of their minor daughter.  His position was that exposure to an adulterous relationship inevitably causes detriment to the morals and welfare of a child of impressionable years.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals disagreed.  It said there are no presumptions that adultery makes you an unfit parent.  Adultery is relevant only as if it actually affects the child’s welfare.  There is no presumption of harm.  Adultery will not tip the balance against a parent in a custody case.

Swain v.  Swain, 43 Md. App. 622; 406 A.2d 680 (1979)

Someone asked today for the Maryland case that prevents a parent from relocating to another state with the minor children before a custody order is entered.

Surprise!  In Maryland, there is no case and no law against it.  Some lawyers and some judges will disapprove of this tactic, especially in the middle of a school year, but it is not illegal.

Until there is a custody order, both parties have joint legal and physical custody of their children under the common law.  That means either parent can take them anywhere.

It is then up to the parent left behind to go to court and try to get an order for their return.