Family Law

Family Law Section April 2014 Newsletter

Greetings Family Law Section Members,

On behalf of the steering committee, we would like to thank you for your continued support during the 2013-2014 bar programming year. We are very excited about upcoming events and programs that are intended to enhance your knowledge and expose you to various aspects of family law and related areas of law. Remember to check your email and the D.C. Bar website for dates, times, and locations of upcoming events.

We encourage you to utilize our section Listserv email list to seek guidance or ideas from your family law colleagues and to participate in community service and/or pro bono service. Pro bono opportunities will be highlighted in every newsletter.

If you would like to be more involved in the section, please sign-up to serve on a subcommittee by sending an email to the subcommittee chair. You can locate their contact information on the D.C. Bar website. The subcommittees and chairs are as follows:

  • Abuse/Neglect and Juvenile Subcommittee- Rebecca Goldfrank
  • Domestic Violence Subcommittee- Sarah Connell
  • Paternity and Support Subcommittee- Allison Miles-Lee
  • Domestic Relations Subcommittee- Sheila Kadagathur

During this bar year, it is our goal to publish at least two newsletters. We invite section members to submit short articles, book reviews, and practice tips to the steering committee if you would like to participate in the development of the newsletter. If you have a suggestion for materials to be published in the newsletter, please let us know.

To show our appreciation for your dedication and commitment to improving the lives of District families, each section member will receive a D.C. Bar Family Law Section mug! Please remember to redeem your mug at the D.C. Bar office during business hours or at an evening event hosted at the D.C. Bar. Note: one mug per Family Law Section member. The mugs will be available for pick-up at the Domestic Relations Bench Bar on April 23, 2014 and at the Domestic Violence Bench Bar on June 11, 2014. Please register for these events so that we can ensure that your mug is ready for pick-up!

There is excitement in the air in anticipation for another great year. Your attendance and participation is welcome.

Your 2013-2014 Co-Chairs,

Tanya Jones Bosier

Sara Scott
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Please visit the Events Calendar for additional information on upcoming programs.
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Family Law: Children of LGBT Parents
In September, 2013, Professor Nancy Polikoff served as the presenter for the Family Law Section's first event of the new bar year. She shared her expertise and knowledge about an area of family law that is evolving on a daily basis: changes in the laws impacting children of LGBT parents.

Professor Polikoff began her discussion by putting the local and national demographics of same-sex families with children into perspective with respect to their socio-economic status, level of education and communities. Next, she reviewed District laws which create a parental presumption for same-sex couples who are in registered domestic partnerships and for parents of children born by donor insemination. She reviewed the ways in which the parental presumption could be rebutted within a prescribed time frame. Professor Polikoff shared the evolution of how the parental relationship is created when a child is born by alternative methods. Did you know that in the 1970's a husband would have to adopt a child born during his marriage if he and his wife agreed to conceive a child through donor insemination? My, we have come long way. The presentation highlighted other ways same-sex couples may obtain custody or parental rights of children such as Third-Party custody or De Factoparents.

Not withstanding these positive changes in the law to recognize same-sex, de facto parents and third-party custodians, there are some areas of the law that have not caught-up to these changes. Professor Polikoff shared an experience in a neglect case where a child was removed from the mother's same-sex partner and the partner was not appointed legal representation because she was not recognized as a parent or acting in the role as a parent.

This brown bag highlighted the expansion of the parental and custodial status to same-sex couples and exposed areas of family law where there is still work to be done.
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Family Law Section Social Hour
On September 24, 2013, the section hosted a social hour at the Beacon Bar & Grill, in Washington, D.C.. Many practitioners, new, seasoned, government, non-profit and private attorneys exchanged contact information, war stories and words of encouragement. Section members enjoyed delicious appetizers and expressed appreciation for receiving their mug.
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International Parental Kidnapping Investigations
"Can a parent kidnap his or her own child?" This question was answered during a brown bag lunch event entitled "International Parental Kidnapping Investigations". Special Agents Lisa Hill and Ed Moschella of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) discussed the procedures to initiate a parental kidnapping case when the child has been taken out of the country or across state lines. Special Agent Hill thoroughly detailed the standard set in the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993, 18 U.S.C. §1204 and the Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution A, 18 U.S.C. §1073. Both of these federal laws govern the procedure for prosecuting parents who unlawfully take their children out of the United States. Special Agent Hill discussed coordination efforts between the FBI, the local Assistant United States Attorney, and INTERPOL.

Special Agent Moschella discussed procedures implemented when parental kidnapping occurs within the U.S. He also discussed typical warning signs the abductor exhibits before he or she kidnaps the child. Special Agent Moschella also provided the attendees with a list of documents that are helpful to assist local authorities to investigate the events surrounding the kidnapping and the location of the abductor and children.
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Judicial Reception
In October 2013, the section hosted its annual Judicial Reception in honor of Judge Jennifer Di Toro at Arnold & Porter, LLC. The event was well attended by judicial officers assigned to the Family Court, as well as senior judges and former Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King. Section members and other guests mingled while enjoying decadent appetizers and desserts.

When receiving her honor, Judge Di Toro graciously accepted the warm words given by Sara Scott in her introduction. Judge Di Toro thanked her mother, who was present at the event, for instilling strong values and passion for education and to help others.
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Fourth Annual Family Court Abuse and Neglect Branch Bench-Bar Dialogue
The Family Law Section hosted the Fourth Annual Abuse and Neglect Bench-Bar Dialogue event on Tuesday, November 19, 2013. As always, the event provided a wonderful forum for attorneys and judges to engage in conversation about a variety of topics of interest. The event was well-attended this year, and we would like to thank all who attended and made it a success. We would especially like to thank the Courts, Lawyers and Administration of Justice Section who co-sponsored the event with us. We look forward to hosting the Fifth Annual Abuse and Neglect Bench-Bar Dialogue this fall!
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Brown Bag Presentation with Professor Joan Meier
On December 12, 2013, we were thrilled to have Professor Joan Meier of The George Washington University join us for a Brown Bag presentation on vicarious trauma entitled "Occupational Hazard: The Personal and Professional Impact of Work with Trauma Survivors". Professor Meier's presentation examined how work with victims of trauma can affect our personal and professional lives and how we can learn to recognize the signs of vicarious trauma and minimize its impact. The presentation was enlightening and engaging for all professionals who work with clients who have endured trauma in any capacity and provided practical tools for managing such challenges. We are so grateful to Professor Meier for sharing her expertise and insight with us.
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Holiday Party
Section members, judicial officers and guests enjoyed Louisianan cuisine at Acadiana Restaurant while bringing in holiday cheer. D.C. Superior Court Judges Zoe Bush, Milton Lee and Jeanette Clark received recognition for their tireless commitment to the Family Court. The honored judges will be assigned to non-Family Court calendars after December

The section sponsored a hat, glove and scarf drive for 600 children residing at the DC General Family Shelter. Over 100 items were donated to the children. Ms. Parchelle Brooks, the shelter director, received the items on behalf of the children and thanked the section for giving back to the community. Section members who donated entered a raffle drawing to receive free admission to a section event.

Pictured above are Brooks and Michael Johnson of the D.C  General Family Shelter along Sarah Connell and Trisha Monroe, members of the Family Law Section Steering Committee

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Working with a Child Witness
On January 23, 2014, the Family Law Section of the D.C. Bar sponsored a brown bag presentation entitled: "Working with a Child Witness". Speakers were Jennifer White, Chief of the Juvenile Section of the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, and Cindy Bridgman, LICSW, Clinical Services Director, Safe Shores -- The DC Children's Advocacy Center.

Ms. Bridgman addressed issues that may arise during the initial interview of a child victim of abuse. She explained that disclosure is a process that may take time and trust, and she spoke to the issues that may impact a child's ability and/or willingness to disclose abuse, such as the impact of trauma on a child's memory. She also provided useful tips and strategies for interviewing children, and stressed the importance of using open-ended questions.

Ms. White provided useful suggestions on ways to communicate with a child victim of abuse during the initial contact, while preparing for court, and while in a court hearing. She emphasized the importance of preparing a child to testify by arranging for the child to visit the courtroom beforehand, if possible, and allowing the child to practice speaking from the witness stand. She also stressed the importance of asking short questions during a direct examination, and taking breaks as needed during the child's testimony.

We are grateful to Ms. Bridgman and Ms. White for bringing their expertise and compassion to this program!
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Digest of Recent Cases
For a digest of recent notable Family Law cases, read So Ordered.
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