Spring Meeting Recap
The FLS Spring Meeting in Chicago, a joint meeting with the American Psychological Association, was a huge success thanks to the hard work of the organizers, speakers and of course, our staff. In addition to productive business meetings, the CLE presentations were first class and the social events, highlighted by an evening at the Art Institute of Chicago, were fun and well attended. Not only did the weather cooperate, but the Cubs even let the Brewers take two out of three at Wrigley Field. (Yes, I'm from Milwaukee!)
The highlight of the meeting was the joint programs with the APA. The practice of family law is inextricably linked with the practice of psychology. Much of what happens in divorce and paternity relies on working with clients and protecting their children. Sometimes it feels that we are doing more psychology than law. Undoubtably, psychologists who counsel people going through divorce or evaluate parents and children feel the reverse.
As a result, joint programs between the ABA Family Law Section and the American Psychological Association make a great deal of sense. Our spring meeting was just one part of developing an ongoing relationship. There are seven working groups, each comprised of lawyers and psychologists, which met in person during the Chicago meeting, reported on their work to date and developed plans to continue working together in the future.
The highlight of the CLE was a special program on the legal and psychological aspects of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints issue in Texas. Despite being a late addition to the conference schedule, this program was standing room only and the panelists did a great job discussing the complex and unusual issues from both legal and psychological perspectives. (Read more about this program below.)
For a successful conference, many people have to do a lot of work. Thanks go to all of the sponsors, but particularly to the Elite Sponsor, Schiller DuCanto and Fleck LLP. I would also like to thank our Social Event Sponsor, Berger Schatz, for the Evening at the Art Institute, and our Networking Reception Sponsors, Grund & Leavitt, P.C., and U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. Thanks are also due to the host committee co-chairs, Joy Feinberg and Don Schiller. As always, the section staff worked hard and diligently--thanks to Paula, Alissa, Carrie and Hilary. Whereas Maryann Foley did the lion's share of the CLE preparation for the fall 2007 meeting in Memphis, David Hofstein's work for this conference was truly "above and beyond the call of duty". Thank you, David.
Gregg Herman, Chair
Couldn't attend the conference? See Member Benefit column at far right for information on ordering materials.
The Litigation over the Children of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
On April 3, 2008, Texas Child Protection Authorities began removing over 400 children from the Yearning For Zion Ranch; extensive litigation continues to determine whether the children should be returned to their home environment or continued in foster care placement.
As close to 600 lawyers and psychologists arrived in Chicago at the end of April for the joint program of the American Bar Association Family Law Section and the American Psychological Association: "Reconceptualizing Child Custody: Past, Present and Future--Lawyers and Psychologists Working Together," it became apparent that this issue was one of considerable interest from an interdisciplinary perspective. A forum was quickly arranged to be presented at the joint conference.
Moderated by FLS CLE Co-Chair David N. Hofstein, the panel consisted of noted psychologist Mary Connell, Ed.D., Child Advocate Ann Haralambie, Esquire and, via webcam, Lenore Knudtson, Esquire, a lawyer and former psychologist who represents many of the Church's children in similar cases in Arizona. Materials hastily but expertly put together by Professor Donald Duquette of the University of Michigan framed the discussion.
Among the issues addressed were:
1) Does the law or psychological practice require individualized decisions as opposed to a group decision or do some circumstances warrant a group decision because of common facts and risks?
2. From either a legal or psychological perspective, how does one determine whether the children are in immediate danger?
3. Is it legally or psychologically permissible to balance the risk of harm for children remaining with their parents against the risk of harm removal might bring?
4. Would a less drastic measure, such as removing the danger rather than the children, sometimes be warranted? In this case, would it have been reasonable to consider asking some or all of the adult males to leave the compound while the investigation was conducted?
5. Was the precipitous removal justified in order to try to avoid another Waco?
6. Ultimately, from both legal and psychological perspectives, what processes should be utilized to determine whether a child should be removed from parental custody?
Audience participation was active and diverse, with comments ranging from support for parents' rights to decide how their children should be brought up to those arguing that this was a "no-brainer"; abuse is abuse and if you force an underage child to have sex, all children including siblings should be removed.
As a result of the interest generated by this program, the ABA Family Law Section will sponsor a teleconference for CLE credit on July 9 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. For more information, see Calendar of Events in the middle column.
David N. Hofstein
Section Submits Recommendation to ABA HOD
The Section of Family Law will submit a recommendation to the ABA House of Delegates at the Annual Meeting in August 2008 that urges the U.S. Senate to give its advice and consent to the ratification of the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (the "Child Support Convention"). The recommendation also calls for the ABA to urge Congress to enact the necessary implementing legislation.
Absent a treaty, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to enforce child support obligations in cross-border cases when the custodial parent and child live in one country and the non-custodial parent lives in another. The United States is not a party to any multilateral child support convention. All of the prior child support conventions are outmoded and fail to address many of the problems facing parents and child support workers in these cases.
The subject of the Recommendation--the Child Support Convention--provides for a uniform, comprehensive system of cooperation between child support authorities of Contracting States, establishes uniform procedures for the recognition and enforcement of foreign child support decisions, and requires effective measures for the prompt enforcement of maintenance decisions.
The Family Law Section's International Law Committee presented the recommendation to the FLS Council, which approved it on April 30, 2008.
Other ABA Sections, Divisions, and Forums have been asked to co-sponsor the Recommendation and Report, including the International Law Section; Dispute Resolution; General Practice, Solo and Small Firm, Government and Public Sector Law; Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants; Young Lawyers; State and Local Government Law; Judicial Division; Individual Rights and Responsibilities; and the Commission on Youth at Risk.
The Section would like to thank Mary Helen Carlson, Attorney Adviser, Office of the Legal Adviser for Private International Law for her assistance and expertise in drafting the Recommendation and Report.
Read the Recommendation, Report, and Executive Summary
The Indian Child Welfare Act Handbook, Second Ed.
B. J. Jones, Mark Tilden, Kelly Gaines-Stoner
Product Code 5130150
Now completely revised and updated, The Indian Child Welfare Act Handbook is a one-of-a-kind guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). This book examines evolving case law from federal and state courts as well as new federal laws that have changed the legal landscape in the area of child welfare practices involving Indian children and the courts. This is an invaluable and much-needed update of a topic that affects a surprisingly broad range of practitioners: ICWA is not an issue confined to reservations and their border towns.
Social workers, counselors, and others whose professions and interests involve them with Native American children will also gain much from this book.
To order today, call the ABA Service Center at 800-285-2221 and request Product Code 5130150 or order online.
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Best of the List Serve
This month's Best of the FamLawEsq includes questions about introducing personal web pages into evidence; resources to help clients understand the deposition process; and an informational posting about problems with using the MMPI 2 scoring.
Read more about this month's topic. (You will need to log in to the ABA website.)
Not on the list? All of our lawyer members are encouraged to join this popular discussion list. Read more about How to Join FamLawEsq in the Members Only section of our website.
We have 2 courses coming up in June and July; the first satisfies your ethics credit, while the latter deals with issues raised by the recent litigation in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints case in Texas. (The FDLS case is but one example that will be discussed.) Read more below and register early!
June 18, 2008
Communication Ethics in Child Custody Cases
The faculty will discuss ethical issues regarding appropriate limits of confidentiality and appropriate disclosures when representing adults or children in child custody cases.
Please note that this teleconference will take place from 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Eastern time (i.e., 11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. Mountain, 9:00 a.m. Pacific)
More details/register online
July 9, 2008
Removal of Children from Their Parents: Balancing Individual Rights and Child Protection
If you couldn't attend the ABA-APA meeting and missed out on the added program "The Litigation over the Children of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," you're in luck. We have scheduled a special teleconference for CLE credit which will examine the laudatory but frequently conflicting goals in dependency proceedings of seeking family reunification, determining the best interests of the children and balancing parents' rights to raise their children and individual liberties. Registration is not yet open; more information will soon be available from the Family Law website linked below.
Please note that this teleconference will take place from 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Eastern time (i.e., 11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. Mountain, 9:00 a.m. Pacific)
Family Law website
Last Chance for Discounted Registration (May 30th): Family Law Annual Meeting
Family Law Annual Meeting
August 8-10, 2008
Westin Times Square
New York, NY
Friday, May 30, is the cut-off date for early-bird registration. If you haven't registered for the Annual Meeting yet, don't wait, secure your discounted rate today!
You won't want to miss out on celebrating the Section's 50th Anniversary; see where we've been and where we're going. You can also earn CLE credit with presentations on electronic evidence and child abuse/neglect (dependency) law, plus the popular Hot Tips program. Remember to select your Family Law special events, when you register. Visit our Annual Meeting website for more information.
Save the Date for Fall CLE Conference
Family Law Fall CLE Conference
October 1-4, 2008
Come for the CLE, stay for the golf and spa facilities!
Program topics will include: alternative dispute resolution; bankruptcy; collaborative law; elder law issues; reproductive and genetic technologies; retirement benefits; taxation; and trial practices and techniques. Mark a few extra days on your calendar so you can enjoy relaxing among the cacti and the mountains. The Family Law website will soon have more information about programming and how to register, so keep an eye out and check back soon.
Unable to attend a teleconference or a Section CLE conference? Not to worry, you can learn on your own time when you purchase the CLE materials.
See a listing of available CLE materials
Parenting Plan Technology
When you hear the term "timeshare," you might first think of real estate or condos in Las Vegas. But in the realm of family law, timeshare often refers to the time a child spends with each parent. In his "Tools of the Trade" column in Family Advocate (Vol. 20, No. 3), Stephen J. Harhai wrote, "The fundamental problem in working out time-sharing issues is that it is hard to visualize or calculate the effect of a given plan without a lot of grunt work. We have spent untold hours marking calendars, counting days, writing explanations, and generally driving ourselves crazy getting a handle on complicated time-sharing arrangements." Though written in 1998, Harhai's words still ring true today; however, now there are more technological advances at your disposal to assist with managing the schedules of separate households.
This category of software creates parenting plans based on agreed-upon or court-ordered visitation schedules, and also calculates percentage splits. Central to these programs is a calendar that displays visitation schedules as well as activity, holiday and vacation schedules on a daily, weekly or monthly basis with annual and monthly reporting features. This is essential because in many states, support is calculated based on the amount of time that each parent spends with a child. These programs make it possible to record and consequently measure parental time as well as scheduling changes.
While these tools can help family lawyers create compliant parenting plans for their clients, they may also be used by parents and mediators. Several have been developed specifically for collaboration between parents and caregivers and can serve as a means of record keeping for changing or gaining custody.
Following are some options available to navigate the complexities of custody and visitation agreements.
Parenting Plan Software for Attorneys
Custody Keeper, formerly ChildShare, offers a collaborative option for parents and caregivers as well as benefits to attorneys. Custody Keeper helps present a clear schedule that everyone will understand to facilitate joint or shared custody. It enables you to track or plan time spent with children, as well as track expenses, events, incidents, support payments, and allows you to keep daily comments. The multi-year calendar includes U.S., Canadian, and custom holidays; you also have the ability to print calendars and reports (for yourself, your clients, or the court) and export your schedules and reports in PDF format.
Custody X Change is a software package for managing child custody and maximizing timeshare for one party (or the other). Initially designed for family lawyers who wanted a tool to win more time for their clients without having to manually re-compute every option, it is now also available to parents. The software includes the ability to print out calendars and reports; you can also download a free trial version from the website.
Kidmate, created in 1996 to meet the need for creating visitation schedules and calculating percentage splits, was one of the first computer programs for negotiating custody between separating parents. Kidmate's Timesharing Organizer creates timesharing and visitation schedules. In the event of an adversarial custodial matter, the Record Keeper module can help you document the history of the timesharing/visitation schedule. Kidmate's patented Percentages and Day Counter feature analyzes schedules four different ways (Overnights, Total Time, Quality Time, and Day Counter) and displays all results on the screen for comparison. The Day Counter is used in many states for calculating child support and shows the cumulative number of days that children spend with each parent per year. (Note: Kidmate was reviewed by Stephen Harhai in Family Advocate , Vol. 20, No. 3.)
OurFamilyWizard is an online tool that enables parents to coordinate schedules, share information, make adjustments to the parenting plan and track shared expenses. Features include a detailed calendar where activities, events and other scheduled items can be viewed generally or in detail, including drop-offs and pick-ups. Journals can be set as shared or private and are color-coded for each family member. The OurFamilyWizard professional account has case management features that allow family law practitioners to create parent accounts, manage client databases, store important client documents online (judgment and decree, court orders, etc.), enable communication with clients, create client to-do lists, and more. An OurFamilyWizard account provides the ability to review case status by linking information to parent accounts.
Parenting Time Calendar by PCGreeting was written by a programmer and a family law legal assistant specifically for lawyers to generate parenting time schedules. It includes holidays for Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Three versions of the Parenting Time Calendar are available: Single Year Standard, Single Year Deluxe, and 2 Year Deluxe. The Single Year Deluxe performs quality time calculations based on user-defined pickup and dropoff, and the 2 Year Deluxe allows the creation of two-year parenting plans.
Shared Ground is shared parenting calendar software that distributes time equitably between two primary caregivers. Defaults may be used or a custom-designed parenting plan may be created. The calendar can be synchronized with a Palm™-compatible PDA or exported to Microsoft Outlook. Shared Ground's Percentage Calculator displays how much time children are with each parent and can be viewed monthly or examined as an annual distribution report. Shared Ground also includes sample parenting plans and defaults that can be customized. The Shared Ground Enterprise License was designed for divorce and family law attorneys and others involved in developing parenting plans for clients.
To encourage collaborative parenting and promote parental communication and cooperation, several vendors offer tools that enable the parents to develop their own parenting plans and visitation schedules. The plans can be presented to the court and stand a better chance of being approved when created by the parents.
Parental Collaboration Tools
KidsFirst! is a web-based parenting time tracker that can be used to develop parenting plans and visitation schedules. Parents have the option to share one account and answer the questions together, or create separate accounts and provide separate answers, which can be kept private from the other parent. If both parents have agreed to share answers, KidsFirst! compares the answers of both parents to show where the parents are in agreement or need to agree.
Shared Ground provides a Co-Parenting License or two-user single license designed to accommodate two primary Residential Parents (co-parents) or caregivers. This license entitles you to a single software key and two copies of the software program available for downloading from the website. It allows one single Parenting Plan to be created, edited and managed on two separate computers. It can be shared with extended family members, if they have a View-Only License.
The OurFamilyWizard® Parent Account provides access to private and shared family calendars with notifications and reminders, an expense log, journal, and message board along with online access to important documents (My Files).
Additional Parenting Time Trackers
OPTIMAL™, the Online Parenting Time Information Manager and Access Log, is an online tool that tracks parenting time and monitors custody compliance. OPTIMAL is designed primarily for parental record keeping; it enables parents to keep detailed records for scheduled parenting time and actual time, visit type (regular, denied, late, missed) denied and partial visitation, mileage and expenses. It also counts and displays overnights and provides time-stamps for use in court. A host of other features are also included.
—Tonya Johnson, ABA Legal Technology Resource Center
Tell Us! Have you or your clients used any of the above programs? Or do you know of another one we haven't mentioned? Tell us about it! We may use your feedback in a future edition of the eNewsletter. If there's some other technology you would like us to investigate, just e-mail email@example.com. Keep the Tech Corner working for you!