Domestic Violence

Divorce and Space Crimes

The First Crime in Space! Recent headlines from The New York Times and other prominent news agencies drew in readers stating that the first crime in space had allegedly been committed. The articles went on to discuss the thorny privacy and jurisdictional issues given that NASA was involved and the crime was purported to have occurred on the International Space Station, where astronauts from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada orbit the Earth. At its heart, however, the supposed first crime in space is a bitterly contested domestic relations matter involving income, assets, custody of a child, and de facto parent status.

Summer Worden and Anne McClain (a decorated NASA astronaut who was tapped for the first all-female spacewalk, and is in consideration to be the first woman on the moon) were married in 2014. Ms. Worden has a son, who was born approximately one year before the parties met.

By 2018, the parties’ relationship had broken down, and Ms. McClain, who had no legal status as a parent to Ms. Worden’s son, approached a Texas Court asking for shared parenting rights to the child and “the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.” … Keep reading

For the Love of Pets

I grew up in a family where pets were always present. My dad was known to just randomly show up at home with a new puppy.  At one point in my childhood, I think there were two dogs, two cats, two hamsters and a few fish living in our house.  I have continued to share my home with pets in my adulthood – with always at least one cat (ok, often two). I have had my pets photographed with Santa (it was for charity!). I am known to give birthday cards from my dogs. At least I don’t dress them up in costumes – well, not usually.

Many people – myself included – consider their pets to be much more than property and love those pets almost as much as they love their children. Pets can become non-judgmental friends, companions for long walks, and a shoulder to cry on during difficult times. As my colleague, Andrea Dunbar, wrote in her recent post, pets are considered property in the Probate and Family Court when it comes to who will keep a pet after a divorce.  But, where there is abuse, the Court can give a victim care and control … Keep reading

Depressed WomanHi there,

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Female to male and same-sex violence happens and are just as bad, but often less reported. Many are surprised to hear that men are also subject to domestic violence. In fact many men are reluctant to admit that violence is occurring.

Some Victims Don’t Realize They Are Victims

Abusers start small and follow a cycle that tends to be similar. Anger, denigration, blow up, abuse and apology… followed by penitence and some good times before the cycle begins again. Only worse. As the cycle repeats it becomes harder and harder for the victim to leave. Abusers tend to be highly manipulative and convince their victims that they are worthless, powerless and unable to escape. Some victims become so accustomed to this treatment that it becomes their new version of normal, and they lose an urge to leave.

There are many toxic, abusive marriages where there is no physical violence. However, the victim is subject to such unending, demeaning denigration that he or she becomes stuck in … Keep reading

NFL Sheds Spotlight on Domestic Violence

Hi there,

I wrote a post in July on domestic violence referencing the Ray Rice situation. At that time I had only seen the first video showing the aftermath. The second video is even more shocking (viewer discretion advised). However, viewing the first video left no doubt in my mind as to what had happened in that elevator. I am glad that the Ravens and Roger Goodell decided to penalize Rice for real, but disappointed as to how much it took to get there.

It is good to have this discussion in public, because often it isn’t public. If it weren’t for the casino’s security cameras, I doubt that Mrs. Rice would have done anything in response to her attack. And the next time it happens, or the time after that, there will be very real damage.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As such, and in light of the recent NFL situations, a blog in California recently published some astonishing and scary statistics about domestic violence. Statistics and experience show that it does not occur just against women. And I know anecdotally from 35 years of practice that it is very under-reported by men. We’ve come … Keep reading

Lawyers, Legalese and Latin: Why Lawyers Are Such Language Junkies

Hi there,

I think of myself as a down-to-earth person,  but I unthinkingly use language that is the opposite. I blame this on my law school education, although I think lawyers self-select with a love of language and words.

Last week’s post was titled “Domestic Violence Redux.”  It wasn’t until I was asked for the meaning of “redux” that I realized how arcane the normal language of the law can be. So with no further ado a dictionary, of sorts, of the more commonly used legalese you may hear your attorney using in your divorce or other matters.

  • Redux = revisited
  • Pro se = a litigant is by himself, no counsel
  • Guardian ad litem = a guardian for the purposes of the litigation, commonly referred to as a GAL
  • Propounded, as in “we propounded interrogatories” = “we asked”
  • Interrogatories = written questions to be answered under oath in a set time frame
  • Pro bono = literally means “for good.” Lawyers do a lot of pro bono work for free or reduced fees generally representing folks who can’t afford lawyers, and also when writing briefs for causes the lawyers believe are good
  • Res judicata = already
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Domestic Violence Redux

Hi there,

I’m writing this on a rainy, thundery Monday, and the gloom feels appropriate for the subject of today’s post. Domestic violence is NOT always male to female. Female to male and same-sex violence happen and are just as bad, but often less reported.

All states now have anti-violence protective laws, but a law is only useful if you take advantage of it. It is human nature to not want to recognize the first steps toward disaster in an important relationship. This is a good list of warning signs. If you saw your relationship in that list, leave. The sooner you do the safer you will be. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get out of an abusive relationship. This quick video shows the terrifying progression of one woman’s abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse is not just physical, it often is financial as well. Controlling money is the beginning, and making the legal exit overwhelmingly expensive can be the end. This article paints a good picture of what financial abuse can look like.

Despite the fact that most states have had abuse prevention laws in place for over 25 years, and despite the fact … Keep reading

Parental Alienation: Part 2

Hi there,

Parental alienation in the divorce process may be an unavoidable fact of life.  Bad situations can make good people behave in destructive ways, and, of course, not everyone pursuing divorce is a good person.

As I started to discuss in my last post, there seems to me to be a dramatic increase in the number of divorce cases I see with parental alienation involving children age 10 to 18 (and older). In these situations with this particular age group there seems to be a changed dynamic: Dad is most often the parent with whom the alienated children are allied. With younger children the literature seems to say it is primarily mom with whom the kids ally.

Also in most of the cases I have seen (and there have been too many) there is often more than one child involved. The children also tend to be encouraging each other in the alienating behavior, with the older children pushing the younger into it.

In every case of older children alienation that I have handled, there has been an overlay of either physical violence or severe emotional abuse. In the cases of emotional abuse the denigration of mom by … Keep reading

Depressed Woman

Hi there,

Depressed WomanI hope you all had a terrific Fourth of July!  I also hope that you were not a victim of domestic violence over a long, hot holiday weekend.

I came across some statistics for San Francisco recently which were pretty shocking.  They reflected an increase in domestic violence reporting, due to a local story.  However, the underlying reality of violence is probably pretty much the same everywhere.  I was shocked to see in a variety of sources that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence.  Neither wealth nor celebrity status prevents violence.  In fact, Mr. Charles Saatchi has filed for divorce from his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, complaining that she didn’t defend him when he was photographed choking her in public.

It is not just a crime against women though.  Over the years I have represented numbers of men abused by their wives.  However, I was still shocked to discover that 40% of domestic violence is perpetrated against men.  As a group, they are way less likely to report or even admit that they have been victims.  While women are more often killed as a result of domestic violence, men are more often attacked with … Keep reading

Domestic Violence in the News

Hi there,

Jovan Belcher
Credit: newyorker.com

The news has been full of the sad story of football player Jovan Belcher shooting his baby’s mother 9 times, then driving to the practice field and killing himself in front of his coaches. There has been lots of punditry surrounding football and concussions, guns, drugs and alcohol, and even mental illness, but not so much discussion of what is likely the real issue: domestic violence.  (Here’s a link to a good article I recently found about keeping yourself safe in a  domestic violence situation.)

There were plenty of clues that Belcher had anger issues with the girlfriends in his life, and it appears that the Chiefs were aware of this as they were providing counselling for him.  Professional sports is a very high testosterone universe. I have long believed that the professional sports teams, in an attempt to protect their investment in the players, have long sheltered abusers and quieted victims.  Not the same as Penn State, but not dissimilar either.

On a more positive note in the same area, Massachusetts has passed a pet protection law as part of our domestic violence protection. This is wonderful on so many levels, … Keep reading

Hi there,

I suppose I shouldn’t joke about this, but believe me, you will need to cultivate a black sense of humor to get through the divorce process.

Telling your spouse that you want a divorce is a deeply personal decision and everyone’s circumstances are different.  You may already be having fights where you both threaten divorce.  The “D” word may never have crossed your lips or your spouse’s mind, or your reality may fall anywhere in between these two extremes.  If there is any threat of violence this tip does not apply.

If you are the one planning the divorce and you have the luxury of time, use it.  Don’t telegraph what you are planning until you have your ducks in a row (see tips #1, #2 and #3 to get started).  I am in favor of doing this in the least hurtful, least threatening manner possible, simply because how you begin the process can often curse how the process goes forward.  It is far better to tell your spouse you are done while at a marriage counselor’s office, than to have him/her find out when served with divorce papers at work.

Of course, as in all … Keep reading