Stephen Kolodny on the International and American Academies of Matrimonial Lawyers

Throughout four decades as a practicing lawyer, I have had the privilege of helping to shape family law into the field that it has become today. In addition to holding certification as a family law specialist since a California program for this area was first introduced in 1980, I played a key role in establishing professional bodies like the American College of Family Trial Lawyers and the Los Angeles Superior Court Family Law Mediation Panel.

Family law has evolved into a complex and multidisciplinary specialty, and I always endeavor to stay up-to-date on scientific developments through my affiliations with groups such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML).

When I received my Juris Doctor at Boston University School of Law in 1965, AAML was only in its third year of existence. By the time I joined the organization in 1981, AAML had grown to become one of the leading professional associations in family law. Because the rigorous membership process considers depth of experience, range of knowledge, and professional participation, AAML Fellows enjoy a reputation as leaders in the field.

The success of AAML inspired the creation of a similar organization to serve the needs of practitioners worldwide, and IAML launched in 1986 with a mission to advance the field of international family law. The two groups promote the highest standards of competence, professionalism, and integrity, and I have gladly contributed my time to both AAML and IAML over the years.

Within AAML, which currently boasts 1,600 members across the United States, I have served as Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Program, member of the Admissions and Attorney’s Fee Committees, and Vice President and President of the Southern California Chapter, among other positions. As a member of IAML, which includes members from 43 countries around the world, I published the organization’s newsletter for several years before serving as President of the USA Chapter and member of the Board of Governors. I have lectured frequently before both organizations on various topics in the field, particularly in my main focus area of complex family law matters, and I look forward to doing so in the future as well.

About the Author:

Recognized as one of the Top 10 Divorce Lawyers in the United States by Town & Country Magazine, Stephen Kolodny currently serves as founding partner of the Los Angeles family law firm, Kolodny & Anteau.

Visitation Rights for Grandparents, Presented by Stephen Kolodny

A leading family attorney, Stephen Kolodny has earned extensive recognition for his work in the field, including being named one of the top 10 divorce lawyers in the United States by Town & Country and Worth magazines. A founding Partner at Kolodny & Anteau, Stephen Kolodny advises clients on a wide range of areas within matrimonial and family law. In the following article, Mr. Kolodny delves into the area of grandparents’ rights.

In the last 40 years, states around the country have changed laws to reflect greater rights for grandparents in the realms of custody and visitation. Though some federal laws might affect the rights of grandparents in child-custody cases, such issues are primarily handled at the state level.

In cases where custody is being determined, such as a divorce, an instance of child abuse, or when a child has been orphaned, grandparents might qualify for court-granted visitation or custody, depending on the circumstances. Family courts generally proceed with the best interests of the child in mind. In some states, the factors determining best interest are set out explicitly, while in others, the courts have more leeway to decide what should contribute to the decision. Some commonly considered factors include the physical and emotional needs of the child, the safety of the child, the wishes of the parents and grandparents, the strength of the relationship between the child and grandparents, and the wishes of the child.

Most states do allow grandparents to seek visitation even if the parents are both alive or still married, though some restrict court-ordered visitation to instances of divorce or parent death. The rules about grandparent visitation and custody were designed to allow grandparents to stay connected with their grandchildren when the court deems such a relationship to be positive.

Contempt Enforcement

By Stephen Kolodny

The parties subject to a court-ordered resolution in a divorce, child support, custody, or visitation dispute generally understand that they must comply with the terms mandated by the judge or face charges of being in contempt of court. While the discussions leading to a legal settlement between the parties involved in such cases are often acrimonious, upholding the provisions of these resolutions sometimes leads to just as much resentment. When it comes to matters of the heart or a person’s beliefs regarding his or her parental rights, many people try to veer from the path ordered by the law, usually in an effort to “get back” at the former spouse or to reclaim something he or she has lost.

By ignoring or even defying a court order, an individual places him or herself in danger of heavier sanctions, penalties, or even arrest and jail time. Some people fail to comply with a court order, such as child support, because of a change in employment status or another often unavoidable situation. In such instances, however, people must inform the court about their change of circumstances; if the court has to come to them, they may find that the judge is not as amenable to their excuses. For those who simply refuse to comply with a court order, courts more often than not utilize penalties, sanctions, jail sentences, and other tools to ensure that such lack of compliance does not recur.

The legal definitions of contempt include a clear delineation between civil contempt and criminal contempt. Civil contempt involves remediation for the victim or the community, while the charge of criminal contempt asserts the authority of the court with a punitive sentence. While in some cases family law judgments and orders may not be punishable by contempt, most fall under the umbrella of contempt. Some parties attempt to circumvent the orders handed down by the court by claiming that such factors as division of property or proceeds from property jointly owned, child support payments, and other similar instructions actually qualify as debts because they require monetary payment. In fact, neither a judgment nor an order constitutes a debt. Instead, these decrees stem from an obligation of marriage or parentage and are thus imposed by the law. As such, contempt serves as a legally permissible mechanism to uphold the power of the court.

The orders that a court may enforce by contempt include those related to property division; court costs and legal fees; support for family, spouse, or child; visitation and child custody rights; protection and restraint; and information about marital property or other requests of the court.

Common-Law Marriage By Stephen Kolodny

In family law, common-law marriage describes a legally recognized relationship between two people in the absence of formal marriage commitments, such as signing a marriage contract or registering in a civil registry. However, individuals engaged in a common-law marriage enjoy many of the same rights as people who have entered into a formal marriage. The treatment and recognition of common-law marriages vary substantially from country to country, with each jurisdiction setting its own requirements and conferring its own set of rights and privileges.

In the United States, the 1877 U.S. Supreme Court case Meister v. Moore established that individuals had the right to marry according to the common law precedents of the state in question. As such, the right to marry existed through common law until the state passed a law that explicitly changed it. Simply put, the Supreme Court allowed states to determine their respective common law contracts for marriage. Although common-law marriage requirements still vary among states, as long as the state recognizes the marriage as valid, the parties involved enjoy all the federal tax benefits associated with traditional marriage.

 

In the majority of U.S. states that allow the practice, a couple qualifies for a common-law marriage as long as the individuals fulfill three requirements: living together, presenting themselves as a married couple, and establishing an intent to become married. In terms of cohabitation, some states, such as New Hampshire, require couples to live together for a certain number of years before they qualify for common-law marriage. However, New Hampshire allows common-law marriage only for probate purposes, ensuring that surviving spouses can inherit without any undue difficulty. To present themselves to others as a married couple, individuals can take the same last name, file a joint tax return, or refer to one another as husband and wife.

 

In English-speaking countries, the term common-law marriage is often colloquially used to refer to a man and a woman who have lived together for an extended period of time. However, cohabitation satisfies only one of the conditions of common-law marriage, and, as such, is insufficient to guarantee a couple the rights enjoyed by traditional spouses. In recent decades, many states and countries have outlawed common-law marriages, claiming the institution promoted fraud and debased the conventional notion of marriage.

 

About the Author:

 

An experienced family law attorney in the Southern California area, Stephen Kolodny specializes in custody litigation issues and complex property characterization. Mr. Kolodny currently serves as a Founding Partner of Kolodny & Anteau in Beverly Hills, a position he has held for more than 15 years.

The International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers By Stephen Kolodny

A professional organization designed to meet the needs of matrimonial attorneys across the globe, the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML) currently represents legal professionals from more than 44 countries. Founded in 1986 in the wake of the successes experienced by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, IAML consists of some of the most accomplished legal professionals in their respective countries. Today, IAML divides its operations among three regional groups: the United States chapter, the European chapter, and the Canadian chapter. In addition to the numerous fellows participating in the 3 primary chapters, more than 80 fellows carry out IAML’s mission in Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, Brazil, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic.

 

IAML sets out to improve the standards of the family law profession throughout the world by promoting legal reform, providing valuable advice and assistance to members of the public, and establishing international networks to support developments in family law. IAML members enjoy access to a number of benefits, including top-quality legal resources and scholarly publications. In recent years, IAML has emerged as a leading reference for individual seeking prominent matrimony lawyers. Similarly, many government officials use IAML membership listings to locate family law specialists in their countries.

 

One of the most valuable resources offered by the IAML, the Journal of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers includes timely articles and keeps family law practitioners abreast of the latest advances in the field. The Journal’s articles discuss a wide range of family law topics. For example, financial dispute resolution in England, the California mediation privilege, alternative dispute resolution in the Dominican Republic, and the state of family law in India are some of the subjects recently included. IAML members also benefit from annual meetings of individual chapters and the organization as a whole, which include diverse educational programming and noteworthy guest speakers. During the meetings, members have opportunities to meet fellow family law attorneys and augment their professional networks.

 

To become members of IAML, candidates must satisfy the membership criteria and submit information for review by the Board of Admissions. The admissions process is a decidedly rigorous one, designed to maintain strong expertise among the group’s members. To learn more about the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, visit the website at www.iaml.org.

 

About the Author

 

A longtime member of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Stephen Kolodny currently works as a Founding Partner of Kolodny & Anteau, a family law firm in Beverly Hills, California. Mr. Kolodny possesses a wealth of experience with a variety of family law topics, primarily focusing on custody litigation issues and complex property characterization.

A Primer on Different Types of Divorce in the U.S.

By Stephen Kolodny

Stephen Kolodny is a family law attorney based in Beverly Hills, California. A Founding Partner at Kolodny & Anteau, Kolodny specializes in high-litigation divorce proceedings. Divorce law across the United States varies, and couples can pursue several avenues to obtain a dissolution of their marriage. Below is an introduction to various types of divorce.
 
1. At-Fault Divorce. Until California introduced the no-fault divorce in 1970s, individuals had to prove that their spouses perpetrated an act that made a marriage irreconcilable. An at-fault divorce is still the term used to describe a divorce in which a spouse commits an act of adultery or something similar.

2. No-Fault Divorce. In a no-fault divorce, one or both spouses can file for a marriage and be granted a divorce because the marriage has broken down and is no longer compatible for any number of reasons. No-fault divorce is now available in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

3. Uncontested Divorce. This term refers to divorces in which both parties come to an agreement on the divorce, property, custody, and support issues and no litigation is required.

4. Collaborative Divorce. In a collaborative divorce, the ex-spouses receive guidance through the divorce process from a legal professional, and enter into an agreement that states that neither party will commence litigation during the process. If a collaborative divorce fails, the attorneys retained cannot participate in the later court proceedings.

5. Summary Divorce. In some places, couples can obtain a summary divorce if they meet certain requirements, including being married for no more than five years, not having children or a mortgage, and having a low income. This is also called a simple divorce, because it is less expensive, less complicated, and often much faster than traditional divorce proceedings.

6. Electronic Divorce. This gives spouses the option to electronically file for an uncontested, no-fault divorce from a non-judicial administrative entity.

7. Mediated Divorce. In a mediated divorce, the spouses talk about their differences and resolve issues with the help of a mediator. This is similar to collaborative divorce, except that a mediator works on behalf of both parties, rather than each party employing their own counsel.

Stephen Kolodny on the International and American Academies of Matrimonial Lawyers

By Stephen Kolodny

Throughout four decades as a practicing lawyer, I have had the privilege of helping to shape family law into the field that it has become today. In addition to holding certification as a family law specialist since a California program for this area was first introduced in 1980, I played a key role in establishing professional bodies like the American College of Family Trial Lawyers and the Los Angeles Superior Court Family Law Mediation Panel. Family law has evolved into a complex and multidisciplinary specialty, and I always endeavor to stay up-to-date on scientific developments through my affiliations with groups such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML). 

When I received my Juris Doctor at Boston University School of Law in 1965, AAML was only in its third year of existence. By the time I joined the organization in 1981, AAML had grown to become one of the leading professional associations in family law. Because the rigorous membership process considers depth of experience, range of knowledge, and professional participation, AAML Fellows enjoy a reputation as leaders in the field. The success of AAML inspired the creation of a similar organization to serve the needs of practitioners worldwide, and IAML launched in 1986 with a mission to advance the field of international family law. 

The two groups promote the highest standards of competence, professionalism, and integrity, and I have gladly contributed my time to both AAML and IAML over the years. Within AAML, which currently boasts 1,600 members across the United States, I have served as Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Program, member of the Admissions and Attorney’s Fee Committees, and Vice President and President of the Southern California Chapter, among other positions.

As a member of IAML, which includes members from 43 countries around the world, I published the organization’s newsletter for several years before serving as President of the USA Chapter and member of the Board of Governors. I have lectured frequently before both organizations on various topics in the field, particularly in my main focus area of complex family law matters, and I look forward to doing so in the future as well.

About the author: Recognized as one of the Top 10 Divorce Lawyers in the United States by Town & Country Magazine, Stephen Kolodny currently serves as founding partner of the Los Angeles family law firm, Kolodny & Anteau.

South Texas College of Law By Stephen Kolodny

By Stephen Kolodny

One of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career remains the time I spent in the great state of Texas working with the dedicated faculty and promising students at Houston Family Law Trial Institute at the South Texas College of Law. This fine association of legal professionals and students remains committed to providing the best representation in the important field of family law. The institute’s location at the South Texas College of Law seems especially fitting because the school itself was founded as part of the educational mission of another stalwart supporter of families, the YMCA.

Considered one of the top trial advocacy law schools in the United States, the South Texas College of Law traces its roots back to 1915. That year, taking on the mission of providing working men with the opportunity to study law while maintaining their day jobs, the Houston YMCA began offering evening law classes taught by H.D. “Guy” Burnett. Although the classes enjoyed some popularity, America’s decision to join World War I put a stop to proposals to establish a formal law school. After World War I, members of the Houston YMCA continued to serve returning soldiers, and by 1923, the YMCA Educational Committee endorsed the formation of the South Texas School of Law. Falling under the umbrella of the United YMCA Schools, the new law school opened its doors to students with classrooms in the YMCA building located at the corner of McKinney and Fannin in downtown Houston. The law school’s Advisory Council modeled its curriculum after that offered by the well-funded University of Texas School of Law, which in 1923 celebrated its 40th anniversary. In fact, classes and programs at the new South Texas School of Law were identical to those at UT Law, with the exception that the South Texas classes were held at night. Thirty-four students, including five women, enrolled for the school’s inaugural semester. Ultimately, only 11 of those students graduated from the four-year program, which cost $85 per semester.

In 1927, the Texas Supreme Court recognized the excellence of the program offered by the South Texas School of Law, as well as the positive addition that its graduates made to the fast-growing Houston legal profession. After rapid growth and a remarkable success rate among its graduates, the South Texas School of Law moved to a new building at 1600 Louisiana Street. Natives and visitors alike view that building, which still stands at the eastern edge of downtown Houston, as a prominent city landmark. Although the school’s graduating classes averaged about 33 students, the administration and alumni expected continued growth; in an effort to more solidly describe the academic rigors of the institution, the school changed its name to the South Texas College of Law in 1945. That same year, the school proved its adherence to its initial mission by creating a unique refresher course to assist men who had interrupted their legal studies to fight during World War II. That fall, the South Texas College of Law experienced an unprecedented enrollment of 99 students, which at the time exceeded the number of students at the state’s largest law school, UT Law. Although much has changed since the inception of the South Texas College of Law, the school continues to serve the needs of students who wish to study law. I feel incredibly fortunate to be associated with the South Texas College of Law.

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