Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Florida Trial Judge Rules That State's Ban on Gay Adoptions Is Unconstitutional

Today in the news there was yet another interesting development in the world of gay rights, this one in Florida: Florida ban on gay adoptions ruled unconstitutional - MiamiHerald.com.


A Miami-Dade circuit judge Tuesday declared Florida's 30-year-old ban on gay adoption unconstitutional, allowing a North Miami man to adopt two foster kids he has raised since 2004.

In a 53-page order that sets the stage for what could become a constitutional showdown, Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman permitted 47-year-old Frank Gill to adopt the 4- and 8-year-old boys he and his partner have raised since just before Christmas four years ago. A child abuse investigator had asked Gill to care for the boys temporarily; they were never able to return to their birth parents.

''This is the forum where we try to heal children, find permanent families for them so they can get another chance at what every child should know and feel from birth, and go on to lead productive lives,'' Lederman said in court before releasing the order. ``We pray for them to thrive, but that is a word we rarely hear in dependency court.''

''These children are thriving; it is uncontroverted,'' the judge added.

Moments after Lederman released the ruling, attorneys for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced they would appeal the decision to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

California, Arizona and Florida Join Long List of States Banning Gay Marriage

Two more states besides California - namely, Arizona and Florida - have joined the list of nearly 30 U.S. states banning gay marriage, as the result of last week's elections. Although California still has civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, most of the states with bans, including Arizona and Florida, do not have civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any kind of recognition of these relationships. For a basic overview, see this New York Times article about the three state bans, and also read this from the New Hampshire Family Law Blog.

It seems the Northeast, and particularly New England, is exceptional. Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only states sanctioning gay marriage. Vermont and New Hampshire have civil unions and Maine also has a degree of recognition of same-sex relationships through domestic partnerships. New York recognizes same-sex marriages formed in other states, and New Jersey also has civil unions. Outside this, our very tolerant area of the country, only the West Coast states have some formal, legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples: California still has civil unions, while Oregon and Washington have domestic partnerships.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

California Electorate Voted to Ban Gay Marriage; Legislators Try Hail Mary Pass to California Supreme Court

California voters approved the gay marriage ban in that state, by voting for Proposition 8, during their election last week. Meanwhile, Democratic legislators are asking the California Supreme Court to void Proposition 8, in what the manager of the Proposition 8 campaign derides as a "Hail Mary" pass: Democratic legislators ask state Supreme Court to void Prop. 8 - Los Angeles Times. Some gay and lesbian couples have already gotten married in California, between the time the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and the time when the gay marriage ban was approved last week. Their future is unclear.

Meanwhile, it is likely this development will improve the tourism prospects for Massachusetts and Connecticut, as these New England states, now the only states currently sanctioning gay marriage, should have a monopoly on the gay destination wedding market in the U.S.


Reporting from Sacramento -- Forty-three Democratic legislators, including leaders of the California Senate and Assembly, filed a brief Monday urging the California Supreme Court to void Proposition 8.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and incoming President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg signed the friend of the court brief, filed with the state Supreme Court.

No Republican legislator signed the petition, though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, denounced the anti-gay marriage measure over the weekend.

With almost 11 million ballots tallied, Proposition 8 had 52.3% of the vote to 47.7%. Although many ballots remain to be counted, the 500,000-vote spread is viewed as insurmountable.

"The citizens of California rely on the Legislature and the courts to safeguard against unlawful discrimination by temporary, and often short-lived, majorities," the legislators said in the document, written by attorneys at the firm Gibson, Dunn &Crutcher.

"This is a Hail Mary, no question about it," said Frank Schubert, manager of the Proposition 8 campaign.


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New & Improved Child Support Guidelines To Go Into Effect on January 1

New child support guidelines have just been promulgated, and they will go into effect in Massachusetts on January 1, 2009. See the Massachusetts Court System Press Release - November 5, 2008. I am one of the many attorneys, litigants, and other concerned citizens, who have long complained before that our current guidelines are not appropriate for our times, particularly as they are not precise and comprehensive enough to cover enough of our families.

The new guidelines, for the first time, will address some of the longstanding concerns many of us have had. For one, I see the task force has for the first time made it clear how to determine child support when there is joint physical custody. It is good to see that the task force this time included Fathers and Families founder Ned Holstein, as well as many of the usual participants (attorneys and judges and other family law establishment people). After I have time to give it a complete review, I will post my analysis. But right away, after a quick scan, I can already say it is a wonderful improvement over the guidelines that are currently in effect. Have a read for yourself and tell me what you think: http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/guidelines.pdf.

Excerpt from Press Release of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:

Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan today announced the promulgation of revised Child Support Guidelines to be effective on January 1, 2009, based on a comprehensive review of the guidelines by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force he appointed in 2006. The 12-member Task Force was chaired by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.

The report recommended significant, broad-based changes intended to make the guidelines more simple, clear, comprehensive and consistent with economic and societal changes of the last two decades. The report of the Task Force, available at www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport, explains the rationale behind the guidelines to assist attorneys and litigants in understanding and using them.

The recommendations include provisions that place greater value and emphasis on the involvement of both parents in the lives of children; consider the increase in health insurance costs and the requirement of mandatory health insurance in Massachusetts; provide greater guidance relative to when a child support order should be modified; and set forth specific deviation factors for deviation from the guidelines. These guidelines will apply to the circumstances of many more families in the Commonwealth.


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.