CUSTODY TO UNRELATED COUPLE:
In this case a mother had started using the Plaintiffs (an unrelated couple) years ago for babysitting of her infant daughter. The relationship started with the mother leaving her for weekends but progressed to where the daughter was left, on one occasion, for five years. During that time, the Plaintiffs enrolled the child in school, obtained medical care for her and raised her as their own child. The mother then came back into the child’s life and took her away from the Plaintiffs. There never had been a motion for custody by the Plaintiffs even though they had, at one time, retained an attorney who apparently did not do anything.
During the three years after the mother removed the child from the Plaintiff’s home, the Plaintiffs had no contact with her. When contact began again the child told the Plaintiffs of incidents including numerous involvements of the mother with various men, hitting of the child by the mother, possible drug abuse in the home, placement of the child with other persons (including the mother’s alleged “step-father” in another state) and also placement with the child’s alleged “father” — a person the child did not know. None of these “placements” worked out. Other information developed leading to evidence that the mother had assaulted someone, was convicted of an offense and was on probation for the assault but was allegedly violating probation by spending time in bars which was prohibited. Other information also indicated that the mother had threatened to kill herself and one of her children. Plaintiffs wanted to try to get custody of the child from the mother even though they were not related and had not had the child with them for a number of years.
Our firm prepared a motion for temporary emergency custody, a motion for the appointment of a guardian ad litem, and a motion to keep the mother from having contact with the child or the Plaintiffs. After an emergency hearing the court granted the Plaintiffs’ request for emergency custody and ordered a local police department to remove the child from the home where the mother was residing. The police removed the child from the home and delivered her to the Plaintiffs. The child was placed with the Plaintiffs and, after an investigation by the guardian, and a meeting with the mother and the biological father, a resolution was reached where an agreed order was issued granting custody to the Plaintiffs with only supervised visitation to the mother in the presence of a counselor. Now, a number of years later, the child is currently living with the Plaintiffs and is enrolled in school where she is doing very well.
The client came to us after she was recommended by another firm. She had been consulting with another attorney in attempting to structure a settlement of property, debt and child support issues so that the settlement could be incorporated into a separation agreement and dissolution. The major issue at the time was valuation of the marital interest in a business and the marital home. The former attorney for our client was apparently recommending that she settle with her interest being valued at approximately $800,000.
We obtained an expert for valuation of the business. The expert had experience in both valuation of this type of business and in actually working for this type of business. After analysis of the business, and lengthy intense negotiations as well as an appraisal of the marital residence, we were able to obtain approximately $1,200,000 as a value for the client’s interest, in addition to substantial spousal support and child support payments.
CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AGENCY’S PAYMENT OF ATTORNEY FEES TO OUR CLIENT:
Our client had, for a period of approximately seven years, been receiving information that he was allegedly in arrears on his child support and that child support payments were missing. Our client informed the case worker that he was, in fact, current and provided evidence to the case worker. He also informed CSEA that the arrears must be for a different person of the same name. Two years after being first informed of his alleged arrearage he was informed by CSEA that he was allegedly in arrears $13,000. He again contacted the agency and again informed them that he was not in arrears and that the person they were after had a different middle name. About four years later he was notified that he had defaulted on his child support obligation. He filed an objection and a hearing was held at which time the hearing officer found that the CSEA had confused two different accounts, that funds had misapplied to the wrong account and that the client owed $301.23.
We arranged for the filing of an objection and requested a hearing and then filed a motion for repayment of funds not properly credited to the client’s account and also a request for attorney fees. After this an agreement was reached with CSEA acknowledging that the client had actually overpaid his support and that his former wife should pay him $100 per month until the overpayment was reduced to zero.
In relation to the attorney fee motion the magistrate found and the court also found that the CSEA acted frivolously in pursuing any action against the client for arrearages and that he provided ample evidence of the mistake of identity. The magistrate and judge found that the agency’s actions in continuing to pursue the client and in failing to correct its records were clearly frivolous conduct justifying an award of attorney fees. An award of attorney fees was granted.
CUSTODY TO FATHER (CHILD RELOCATED FROM JAPAN):
In this case, we were contacted by an American father who lived in Tokyo, Japan. He was married to a Japanese citizen and had been residing there with her, doing business from Tokyo, through a company registered in Ohio, for approximately eight years. The family was splitting and the Father wanted to have an American court rule on custody- of their 3 year old daughter, as opposed to a Japanese court where the Father did not think he would do well.
We advised the Father to come back to Ohio (where he was also still a resident) and to bring the child with him (due to the fact that we believed that the child would be exposed to danger if left with the Mother in Japan). After the Father arrived in Ohio we filed an action getting emergency temporary custody of the child for the Father in Ohio with other emergency orders preventing the Mother from taking the child out of Delaware County Ohio and mandating that she only see the child with supervision. Eventually we obtained service on the Mother and started a divorce action. The Mother obtained counsel and consented to a divorce with supervised parenting time arranged for her and the child. We wrote into the decree that the Father would supply the Mother with a computer and web camera so that the Mother and child could communicate on a daily basis and see and hear each other. We also incorporated into the order that the child’s American and Japanese passports would be deposited with the Court and only released by court order so that the child could not be taken from the United States (copies of this order were filed with the State Department and appropriate Embassies.).
RETRIEVAL OF CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN TAKEN FROM STATE AND HIDDEN FROM FATHER:
The Father and Mother were divorced in Franklin County, Ohio. Soon after the divorce, the Mother apparently met a gentleman on the internet and decided to move to New York state with him to live with him at his parent’s house. The Mother took the children and left Ohio without telling the Father where she had gone. The Father completely lost contact with the children and could not find them. The Father retained an investigator who tracked the mother down in up-state New York in a rural area. Soon after this the Mother re-located again to the Virginia Beach area. The Father’s investigator began consulting with this office about what could be done and we instructed him to have the Father instruct his attorney to obtain an emergency order of custody to be served in Virginia. The Father’s attorney obtained the order but, when the Father and the investigator were in Virginia, attempting to serve the order on the Mother with Virginia authorities, the Mother returned to Ohio and obtained a dismissal of the Order.
Our firm was retained to get the emergency order back in force, which we did. The children were then temporarily returned to the Father pursuant to the order. We then proceeded to have depositions of witnesses conducted in New York state regarding the plight of the children and the way the Mother treated them when they were in New York and eventually tried a lengthy action for custody, obtaining custody of the children for the Father. The children are now living in central Ohio with the father and are doing well.