07-07-07, Divorce Rates and Upcoming Charity Events!

This past Saturday was 07-07-07 of course, and all around the world, couples in love were tying the knot at a frenzied pace hoping to gain an extra lucky edge for their marriage.  According to Theknot.com, a popular wedding site, the number of marrying couples was estimated to be 31,000 in the U.S. alone which is twice as high as the average summer Saturday.  While this type of “insurance” against failure may strike some as grasping at straws, it might not be a bad idea given the relative frequency of divorce in this society.  After all what can it hurt?

Related to this, how many times have you heard that “50% of marriages end in divorce!”  This idea has become so commonplace, it’s practically accepted as The Gospel now.  There’s no doubt many marriages do fail.  However, statistically it’s not as simple as that.  It’s better to compare the annual rate of divorce in a population over time to get a truer picture.  The National Center for Health Statistics determined that for 2005, the divorce rate in the United States was 3.6 per 1,000 members of the population with forty-six states and the District of Columbia reporting.  The same agency reported that the marriage rate for the same year was 7.5 per 1,000 of population.  This is the source of the popular 50% statistic cited above.  However, it is erroneous to conclude the divorce rate is 50% because the people getting married are not the same people getting divorce in the vast majority of cases.  Although these two figures seem related, and our mind wants to “connect the dots” they cannot be used together to calculate the divorce rate.  In 2003, the divorce rate was 3.8 divorces per 1,000 so in fact, the incident of divorce has dropped slightly.

I was curious whether California’s average was higher or lower than the national average but unfortunately the Golden State is no longer reporting it’s divorce information to NCHS.  The last year data is available for is 1990 when the rate was 4.3, only slightly higher than the current national average.  By far, the state with the highest divorce rate is Nevada where the rate is 11.4.  I suspect a transitory population lured by the promise of plentiful jobs and relative high wages in the booming Las Vegas area and high incidence of substance abuse and gambling addiction factor into this astonishingly high number.  Surprisingly, the state with the lowest rate was New Jersey coming in at 3.0 per 1,000.  If you can stand the urban decay, smog, grime, toxic contamination and toll roads, and you want something more concrete to maximize your chances of marital success than “777”, move to the “Garden State.”  A chart based on Census data that compares the divorce rate in all states can be found here.

If you already know are one of the “unlucky” ones and wish to get out of an unhappy marriage, please contact me.  I can provide you with solid representation in your divorce matter at a reasonable cost.  I have been practicing in the area of family law for nearly fifteen years in the greater Sacramento area.  My cases have ranged from simple “no contest” cases to complex matters with couples that were highly conflicted over custody, support or property division issues.


Looking for something to do?  Here are some fund raising events for worthy causes coming up soon in the Sacramento area:

Saturday, July 14, 2007 at Raley Field — Swing for the Cure to benefit Susan G. Kormen.  Bring out your business or organization to help raise money to find a cure for breast cancer.  Part of each packet sold goes to the Sacramento affiliate.  This is sponsored in part by Chevron.

Saturday, July 21, 2007 at the American River Parkway — Eppie’s Great Race to benefit Sacramento County Therapeutic Recreational Services (TRS).  This annual event gives you the chance to run (5.82 miles), bike (12.5 miles) and paddle (6.35 miles) from Sacramento to Rancho Cordova.  It’s advertised as “The World’s Oldest Triathlon.”  There’s also a Kid’s Duathlon at 10:00 a.m. sponsored by Kaiser Permanente.  TRS provides training in leisure, social, community and independent living skills to individuals ages five and up with mental, physical, developmental, emotional and sensory impairments or special needs.  Even if you can’t race, there’s opportunities to help with the race including setting up, paperwork, working in refreshment stands and more.  Contact the TRS at 916-381-0255 or via e-mail at saccotr@sacparks.org for more information.

Saturday, July 28, 2007Chefs for Charity “Sip & Savour” Event to benefit the Virginia Tech Foundation.  Local area chefs with big hearts are sponsoring this function.  The evening will consist of a tapas recipe challenge, gourmet food and wine tasting reception, live cooking demonstration and silent auctions with a truly impressive assortment of good including limited artwork, entertainment and sports collectibles, designer jewelry and ladies accessories, exotic getaways and more.  Live music will be provided courtesy of Sacramento’s “Inner Soul Band.”  Tickets cost $30.

— Michael

Michael W. Crosson, Attorney at Law
Family Law, Bankruptcy, Small Business Matters & Intellectual Property
Representing clients in the greater Sacramento area, including Placer, Yolo & El Dorado Counties

Parentage by Estoppel & Tips to Stay Cool

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::: Stay Cool! :::

I hope everyone is staying cool in the midst of this record breaking heatwave in Sacramento.  Man, this is almost as bad as living in Arizona, where I grew up!  Here’s some tips from the SMUD website to help keep you cool and save money on summer energy bills.  (For those of you out of the area, SMUD is our local electric utility!)

  • Keep windows closed during the heat of the day.
  • Draw blinds and draperies during the day to keep the heat out.
  • Set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher in the summer. You will save about 5 to 10 percent on the operating cost of your air conditioner for every two degrees of cooling you’re willing to give up.
  • Give appliances a break during hot summer afternoons and evenings. Many appliances create added heat and moisture making your air conditioner work harder. Limit the use of ranges and stoves, dishwashers, dryers, washing machines and other heat-producing equipment during midday. Use them in the early mornings or late evenings when the temperature is cooler.
  • Avoid keeping unnecessary lights turned on.
  • Prepare cool meals such as salads and sandwiches. If you must cook a hot meal, wait until later in the evening when it’s cooler.
  • Adjust ceiling fans to turn counter-clockwise in the summer, Usually this means that the switch on the fan should be in the “down” position.
  • Change your air filter regularly. An air conditioning unit with dirty filters can use 5 to 10 percent more energy than necessary.
  • If you have a refrigerator or freezer in the garage that is not full, consider getting rid of it. These appliances tend to be older and therefore less energy efficient causing them to run continuously in very hot environments.
  • SMUD’s Shade Tree program offers free shade trees for customers whose homes have an eastern, western or southern exposure that heats up during the summer.

SMUD also reminds us that the best way to keep your home cool is to not let it heat up in the first place.  Caulking, weather stripping, good insulation and generous use of things that provide shade (trees, overhangs, awnings and blinds) make a big difference.

The SMUD site is worth checking out every once in awhile, even if you are not particularly interested in energy issues or paying your bill online.  As an example, right now, you can get a coupon for $5.00 off the Great International Soccer Match at Raley Field on July 26, 2007.


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::: Parentage By Estoppel :::

Sometimes in family law cases, the issue arises of what a man’s responsibilities are as far as support, in situations where it is discovered, somewhere down the road (and we are talking years here), that he is not a child’s father.  It may surprise some of you to learn that under the doctrine of parentage by estoppel, in some situations, the court may find an individual to be the legal father even when genetic testing conclusively proves otherwise.  If this happens, the man is on the hook for child support just like any other father.  Other these type of cases are initiated by the local child support agency when the mother requests public assistance benefits.

The leading California case for this proposition is Clevenger v. Clevenger, 189 Cal. App. 2d 658, (1961).  In a nutshell, the court laid out a policy that a husband owes a duty of support to his wife’s “illegitimate” child “when the husband from the date of birth accepts the child into his family, publicly acknowledges the child as his own, and treats the child as if it were legitimate.”  To support this finding, the husband must have represented to the child he was the father, the husband must have intended the child to accept and act upon this, the child must have relied upon the representation and treated the husband as his or her father and gave his or her love or affection to him and the child must have been ignorant of the true facts.  The court also added the representation must be long enough to frustrate any realistic opportunity of discovering the natural father and truly establishes the paternal relationship of the father and child.  In underpinnings of this policy were rooted in morality and the deep injury the child would suffer if the husband were permitted to walk away from the situation.

Earlier this week, the Appellate Court handed down an interesting decision related to the parentage by estoppel doctrine.  In County of San Diego v. Arzaga, 2007 SOS 4332, the doctrine discussed above was applied by the trial court to a situation where the Husband truly believed himself to be the child’s father and only stopped acting as such when he received the DNA test results.  The trial judge entered an order that Arzaga pay $959 a month child support and provide health insurance coverage for the minor, Karen.  Karen was born in 1989.  The trial took place in late 2005.

In this instance, for many years, Arzaga behaved toward the child “like her father” and Karen called him “Papi.”  Evidence included family photographs and cards as the child was growing up and Arzaga even sent the mother checks with notations that said “For Karen” and “Karen’s support” in the memo field.  Arzaga’s relationship with the mother ended in 1995, but he continued to have contact with Karen.  He stopped visiting when she was 14 but sent her $1000 for her Quinceanera, a traditional Mexican celebration when a girl turns 15.   Karen testified that Arzaga never told her he was not her father, “always tried to be like a father” and was comfortable being close to him and physically hugging.

Nonetheless, some interesting contradictions came out during the trial.  When the child was born, Arzaga testified that the Mother “made it known like I was the father” but Arzaga told her, “she’s not my daughter, because that goes back months.  But I saw her and she was a good little kid.”  Also, during the time the parties lived together, at one point the mother requested Arzaga to change Karen’s last name to his.  Arzaga described this as “funning around” and testified, “… I knew she was not my daughter.”  Arzage requested a blood test and the mother told him it was not necessary, because “You are the papi…”  Arzaga said he “got a good heart and went along with it.”  Despite this testimony, the trial court made a puzzling finding that it was, “clear that Arzaga truly did not know that he was not the biological father.”

In reversing the order of the lower court, the appellate court latched onto this finding by the trial judge and noted that “it would be unfair … to apply the doctrine to an individual whose conduct was based on his mistaken belief that he actually was the child’s natural father.”  Despite his testimony highlighted above, the higher court found that Arzaga was “not apprised of the facts” at the time he made the representations to Karen and held himself out to be her father. 

This case just goes to show how unpredictable trial results and appeals can be.  If you need assistance with divorce, paternity or child support issues, please contact me!

— Michael

Michael W. Crosson, Attorney at Law
Family Law, Bankruptcy, Small Business Matters & Intellectual Property
Representing clients in the greater Sacramento area, including Placer, Yolo & El Dorado Counties