Husband came to me the day after he had discovered his wife was having an affair. Husband and Wife had been on vacation with another couple and Husband found his wife kissing the other husband. Husband talked to his wife about this, and when all four met for a talk on the last day of vacation, his wife and the other husband confessed their love for each other.
Husband came into my office first thing in the morning having been referred by a co-worker of his. Husband wanted custody of their two sons, age 17 and 11, and to buy Wife out of her interest in the family home, his retirement and his spousal support obligation. He wanted it done right away before his wife changed her mind.
I filed the Summons, Petition, Declaration Under UCCJEA and other papers necessary to open the court case the next day. I had a Marital Settlement Agreement containing all the provisions Husband requested ready for Wife's signature within a week.
Within two weeks of Husband discovering Wife's affair, Wife and Husband had signed the Marital Settlement Agreement and the Judgment was submitted to the court for signature. The Judgment was filed before the parties could be legally divorced 6 months and a day after Wife had been served with the papers.
EASY DIVORCE WITH NO CHILDREN
Wife came to me a year after she and her husband had lived separate and apart. They had been married for 40 years and according to Wife, her husband had a woman in every port. She was tired of her husband's infidelity and ready to divorce. There were no children and wife wanted no support from her husband. I filed the papers needed to open the court case, and drafted the Marital Settlement Agreement Wife wanted. I called Husband up and he came to my office to accept service of the divorce papers and sign the Marital Settlement Agreement. The Judgment was filed before the parties could be legally divorced 6 months and a day after Husband had been served with the papers.
FOSTER PARENTS ADOPT
Husband and Wife had started adoption proceedings through the foster-adopt program in juvenile court. Childless for many years, this Caucasian couple took in 3 Hispanic children, all siblings by the same parents: twins aged 7 (boy and girl) and a 9 year old boy. The parents of these children were both drug addicts and had neglected the children severely. Without going into detail, I will tell you that the children had never had toys and had whiled away their time unsupervised playing with spiders.
The foster adopt parents approached their responsibility to these children full-heartedly buying the children clothes and toys and setting up bedrooms for them, and took them to school, baseball practice, and dancing lessons. They loved the children and the children loved them. But this was a big change for the children and for their adoptive parents. The parents were exhausted with meeting the emotional and physical needs of the children and in a post-adoptive meeting with social services asked for more counseling services.
The social worker who was not white and middle class had noted that the adoptive parents were very materialistic and were complaining about their stress level. The social worker decided to take the children from the foster-adopt parents and put them back in the children's shelter. The children were not allowed to take their new things with them, of course and could no longer attend baseball practice or dance class. The foster adopt parents went into shock. They were not allowed to visit the children. The adoptive parents pleaded with the social worker to allow them to at least take the children to their baseball practices and dancing lessons but no contact was allowed by the social worker.
The adoptive parents, reeling from this tragic turn of events, hired me to "get their children back." I filed a motion in juvenile court for the return of these children to their de facto parents and the tide turned in favor of these loving people who had taken 3 siblings into their hearts and their home. I saw this family years later at a street fair. It was beautiful to see these happy children walking hand in hand with their contented parents.
MOTHER'S 4 CHILDREN RETURNED BY SOCIAL SERVICES
Mother came to me after her 4 children were taken from her by social workers. Mother had 3 children by her former husband and a fourth by another man. While her former husband had been to her home visiting the children, he laced her wine with poison. After Mother laid down the former husband then decided to ensure her death by stabbing her in the heart. This last act of brutality saved her life because it caused adrenaline to rush to her heart. Her children called the police and their father was taken to jail. Mother, however, had to be hospitalized so the children went into foster care for 6 weeks. The children were returned to Mother when she came home, but Mother later had to be hospitalized because her wounds became infected. During this second hospitalization the children were placed in 4 separate foster homes. When Mother was released from the hospital, the social worker did not want to return the children home to her.
Mother tried to get her children back on her own but did not understand the court system and was known for being late for appointments and was seen as uncooperative. She came to me for help. She lived in a one bedroom unit and was dependent on her boyfriend to drive her to meet the children. The children were in 4 separate foster homes in different cities and although she was allowed unsupervised visits every Saturday, coordinating the weekly visit was a logistical nightmare.
Within a week of being retained, I received a notice of a court hearing, for the youngest child, age 4, was placed in the children's shelter because he was not doing well in foster care. The social worker, was a seasoned worker and not at all receptive to Mother's pleas to have her children returned to her. I spoke to the court about what the 4 year old had told his mother and how he yearned to be with her. There was no positive response received in court, but a week later this same social worker called me because she had noticed that Mother visited her 4 year old child twice a week, the maximum time allowed and that she noted that children who are often neglected or abused by the parent thrive in foster care and that this child had not. The social worker asked my permission to observe my client's visits. Mother granted this permission and the social worker observed Mother reading to her child and how close the child sat to Mother and the tenderness between them.
Within 4 weeks of my appearing on behalf of this mother, the social worker who had initially been so unreceptive, recommended to the court that all 4 children be transitioned back to mother's care. You should have seen the look of incredulity on the judge's face! The judge asked the attorney for the minor children for her opinion and the children's attorney enthusiastically agreed.
Before the hearing, when the social worker informed me of her new recommendation, she said that the nine prior social workers had done their job but that no real social work had been done. She said that Mother had done nothing wrong and that she was a victim of domestic violence and although poor, was a good mother.
CUSTODY RETURNED TO MOTHER WHO WENT BACK TO SCHOOL
Mother and Father had never married and established separate homes soon after the birth of their daughter. When the child was 6 years of age Mother realized that she needed to return to school for training and that she would need help from Father in taking care of their daughter. Daughter went to live with Father for 2 years. After Mother completed her education she told Father she was ready to have custody of their daughter returned to her. Father resisted and filed for child support against Mother. Mother filed for a change of custody. After several fruitless hearings, Mother hired me to represent her.
Father was uncooperative in allowing the daughter to visit with her mother, and Mother had to resort to calling the police to enforce visitation. Father started taking the child to a therapist to bolster his case and the judge ordered that the child would only be taken to a therapist that both parties had agreed upon. Father called Child Protective Services on Mother and her new husband several times and nothing ever came of the allegations made by him. Mother persevered in the Family Court system, and through an evaluation. The evaluator recommended that the parents share legal and physical custody on an equal basis and improve their communication skills. Father objected to this Recommendation and the matter was set for trial. At the pre-trial settlement conference, Father was persuaded to accept the Family Court Services recommendations, with a delay of full implementation for a couple of months.
RESPONSIBLE FATHER OBTAINS SOLE CUSTODY
Father was a truck driver and Mother was a nurse. They had divorced some years ago and shared custody even though Father lived in San Jose and Mother lived in Santa Cruz. Their two children, a boy and a girl, were both in middle school when they told their dad that Mom was acting weird and was probably using drugs again and had a creepy boyfriend. Mother had a history of heroin use and Dad was understandably concerned.
Dad hired me and I requested an Emergency Screening with Family Court Services. Mother's attorney stated that this matter could have been cleared up with a phone call. The screener did some checking and was concerned but made no changes to the custody order. Two months later, Mother was arrested for stealing drugs from the hospital that employed her. The same screener said to Mother's attorney, "Everything Father has said has been proven true." Father obtained sole custody of the children.
Years later, Dad called me up to say, "I can't thank you enough for what you did for my kids."
GUARDIANSHIP BY GRANDPARENTS
Mother lived in the Central Valley with two children, a boy and a girl, ages 14 and 10. Mother lived on welfare and started doing drugs. Mother allowed her mother to pick up the children and bring them home to live Santa Clara County.
The grandparents applied for Guardianship and the Probate Investigators recommended that Letters of Temporary Guardianship be granted. Mother appeared at the hearing to contest the Guardianship, saying that she had absolutely no problems herself or taking care of her children. The judge did not believe Mother and the Temporary Letters were issued in favor of the grandparents.
A few months later the son, who was 14, chose to return to his mother because he missed his friends and did not want to stick to his diet (he was obese) but the daughter stayed with her grandparents.
STEP PARENT ADOPTION AT THE REQUEST OF THE CHILD
A man in his forties came into my office requesting to adopt his step-daughter who was 14. He had been married to her mother for about 10 years and had been a part of her life since she was a baby. Her father had not visited her in many years.
He held a letter in his hands and in a voice choking with emotion read the letter she had written to him. She said I know I have been acting a little moody lately and it's because I have been thinking about a lot of things. You've been my dad all these years and I'd like you to adopt me. This step-father wept with happiness.
I filed his Petition, the County Investigator contacted the biological father and obtained his consent to the adoption. At the hearing in the judge's chambers, this young woman confirmed for the judge, with a big smile on her face, that yes, she, too consented to her adoption.
We took plenty of pictures and the happy family went on their way.
THE OPEN ADOPTION THAT BECAME A STEP PARENT ADOPTION
For years this childless couple had wanted to adopt. The husband, who was Mexican American, was asked by his sister to adopt her baby as she was in no position to care for him. The sister lived in Mexico, and her brother, who was still a Mexican citizen was able to adopt him in Mexico very quickly and bring the baby home with him to the States.
Mexico does things very differently than the way we do things here, with the formality of adoption seeming to happen as soon as the ink was dry on the adoption contract. After consulting with the California Department of Social Services I opened the case with California's adoption department on behalf of the husband and the wife as an open adoption. The investigator read the translated adoption contract and returned the file to me to obtain a step parent adoption because in his opinion the Mexican adoption was legal. I then filed the Petition for a step parent adoption on behalf of the Wife and the adoption, with Husband's consent, sailed through the court system. Husband's large extended family came to the hearing and the judge's chambers were packed with happy people. Then everybody went out to lunch to celebrate.
ADOPTION WITH AN UNKNOWN FATHER AND A PRESUMED ONE
Husband and Wife came to see me. Both appeared to be polished professionals. Wife was pregnant with their first child. This was Wife's second marriage and would be her second child. Wife had no children by her first husband, but during her period of separation from Husband No. 1, she had a one night stand and conceived her first child.
Wife had absolutely no idea who the biological father was so we had to explain that to the investigating agency. Husband and Wife wanted to have both their children have the same last names and the same two parents and wanted to take care of this before the daughter started kindergarten.
Husband No. 1 was the presumed father under the law because the child was conceived before their divorce became final. I gave notice of the adoption to Husband No. 1. Husband No. 1, who had been divorced from Wife for 4 years, had remarried and moved out of state. Husband No. 1 did not want to be contacted and when I had finally pestered him sufficiently for his consent he confided in me that he was afraid that if he were to consent to the adoption he would be consenting to paternity of this child. I assured him that this adoption was the best way to ensure that he was never considered the child's legal father. He finally signed the papers and sent them back to me.
By the time we had our adoption hearing Wife had given birth to her second child and of course brought the little brother to her daughter's adoption.
THE VALUE OF A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER
Mother hired me to obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order to protect herself and the children from the violent behavior of her Husband. I applied for this Order without notice to the Father and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order. I had him served personally. The police department was notified of the Order.
The night before the hearing, my client was awakened just before midnight. The police on routine patrol had noticed a car circling a residential block several times. They called in the license plate and learned that the owner of that car was restrained by a TRO and that he had been ordered to stay away from Wife's house.
The police stopped Husband and when questioned, Husband said he had just been out to dinner with Wife. While one policeman kept an eye on Husband, another policeman knocked on Wife's door. Wife came to the door, yawning and in her robe. Wife denied that she had dined with her Husband, told the police about her restraining order and said she had not seen him in weeks. Husband was taken into custody for violation of the Temporary Restraining Order.
Husband did not appear at the hearing the next day, as he was still in custody of the police department. When I explained to the court that Husband was in custody for violating the temporary orders, my client got her Permanent Restraining Order.
The moral of this story is that a restraining order can be enforced when you don't even know that there has been a violation of it.
YOUNG FATHER ASSUMES RESPONSIBILITY AND AVOIDS COURT
A young man of 27 and his wife of 3 years separated for the last time and developed a joint parenting plan of 2 pre-school age children where they each had the children for equal times throughout the week. The problem was, Mother kept asking Father for more money. Father consulted with me and I calculated guideline child and spousal support. It was more than Father wanted to pay, but he was getting tired of Wife's step-father haggling with him over support. It seemed like every time Father saw the step-father, Step-Dad had figured out a new reason for Husband to pay more money to Wife. Wife and Husband were still Facebook friends and Husband could see that Wife was eating out in restaurants several times a week and spending lots of money.
Father gave the printed support calculation to Wife and said "This is what I am going to pay and no more." "But", she said, "I need more money than that and my lawyer says I can get it." Father wished her luck and he has never been subjected to a motion for support, because he stepped up and paid the amount that a court, with those same facts about each party's income, would have ordered.
I highly recommend Jennifer Isensee for her very effective work handling divorces, and for her passionate work handling adoptions. She represented my friend in his divorce. I saw how she tried to reduce conflict to resolve various issues which kept being brought up by the other side, using her skills as a licensed mediator. When attempts to calmly resolve issues weren’t effective, I saw how aggressively and vigorously she fought for her client.
Jennifer is definitely the kind of attorney you want on your side. During her 25+ years of experience in family court, she certainly gained invaluable knowledge on how to achieve the best results for her clients.
From my many conversations with her, I can see how passionate and caring she is when it comes to adoptions. She has a special smile and gleam in her eyes when she speaks of her many success stories.
I recommend Jennifer for family legal matters.
- Anne Walker Citraro. 7/1/2013
Jennifer helped a friend with a custody situation where the mother had taken the child out of state. She was able to succeed even though another lawyer had done nothing but create a huge bill for my friend. After the situation was favorably resolved, my friend told me that Jennifer was able to get justice where the best that could have been expected was "the law." Jennifer is a rare breed of attorney, both extremely competent and compassionate.