Wednesday, February 08, 2006


The California Supreme Court on Thursday shifted the balance in fights between divorced parents with a ruling that eases the way for a parent with custody — usually the mother — to move away over her former mate's objections. Anthony Yana, a divorced father from San Luis Obispo County, tried to prevent his ex-wife from moving to Nevada with their 12-year-old son, Cameron. The ex-wife, Nicole Brown, who had full custody of the child, had remarried and her new husband had a job in Las Vegas.

Brown, who has two other children with her second husband, argued that Cameron would suffer if he was separated from his half-siblings. She also offered Yana more time in the summer with their son. Yana argued that moving would put the boy in a community with poor schools and more crime. He also moved for joint custody. A lower court ruled that a judge should have held a full hearing on Yana's objections before the mother could relocate.

The high court disagreed, in Brown vs. Yana. The court ruled that a parent who lacks custody, usually the father, would have to show that the move would harm the child before he would be granted a hearing. A hearing "in a move-away situation should be held only if necessary," Justice Marvin Baxter wrote for the unanimous court. A trial court may deny a hearing if "the noncustodial parent's allegation or showing of detriment to the child is insubstantial in light of all the circumstances presented in the case," Baxter said.

The decision limits the impact of a 2002 court ruling that critics had warned would result in expensive legal battles every time a custodial parent attempted to relocate over the other parent's objections. Attorney Jeffrey W. Doeringer, who represented Brown in the case, called Thursday's ruling "a step back" from the 2002 decision. "The Supreme Court has put a little wedge in there and said wait a minute, before you open the door to move-away litigation, there has to be something substantial," Doeringer said. "It is not fair to the parties or the children to go through the emotional and financial strain of this kind of litigation."

Daniel Helbert, the trial attorney for Yana, said the ruling would make it harder for a divorced parent to prevent the custodial parent from moving with their child. "You can't just say that my son is going to be living 1,000 miles away and we won't share the same relationship," Helbert said. "I don't think that is going to be enough to get a hearing anymore."

David L. Levy, who heads the Children's Rights Council, a Maryland-based international child advocacy group, complained that the court created "too high a bar" for obtaining a full hearing to challenge a move. "A child should have easy access to both Mom and Dad," Levy said. "Nobody should have to fight to maintain that relationship."

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A coalition of nonprofits groups, labor unions and business owners on Thursday threatened to boycott any Costa Mesa business that refuses to display a poster opposing the city's immigration-law enforcement plan. "We will not give these businesses the luxury of neutrality," spokesman Nativo Lopez said. "The silent Germans allowed the Nazis to flourish, and there can be no silent Germans on this issue."

The City Council voted 3-2 in December to allow some police officials to check felony suspects' legal status and to launch the deportation process if they are in the country illegally. Officials say it's a tool to get criminals off the street. The council majority insists race is not an issue, but many opponents of the plan don't believe that. The city is 31.8 percent Hispanic, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Costa Mesa businesses expressed mixed reactions to the boycott threat. "We wouldn't put up the sign, because we don't have a stance on this issue either way," said Randy Klein, manager of Coast Jewelry on Newport Boulevard. "We'd put up the sign because we are against this policy based on its (merits), but we don't like anyone trying to force us to do so," said Hooman Yeroushalmi, manager of Persian Treasure Rugs on Newport Boulevard.

Mirna Burciaga, owner of El Chinaco restaurant on 19th Street, supports the boycott. "Businesses on the Westside are already losing customers because people are afraid to come out of their homes, even to buy a glass of milk," she said.

There is a high concentration of Hispanics on the city's Westside. The coalition, Citizens for Constitutional Rights, also called for Costa Mesa residents to practice "non-violent civil disobedience" by refusing to provide police officers with information about crimes.

"I don't believe (Lopez) will be able to mobilize the people of Costa Mesa, because he doesn't understand their needs," Police Chief John Hensley. "I've been out in our community, particularly the immigrant community, and I know (Lopez) does not represent them. Our relationship with the immigrant community is strong."

About 20 people representing groups such as Los Amigos of Orange County and UFCW Union Local 324 attended the coalition's news conference Thursday. Lopez said they will go to each business in Costa Mesa in the next 60 days to offer the signs. The city has about 6,000 businesses. After 60 days, businesses without a sign will be boycotted unless the council has repealed the policy, he said. The group also is planning an April 1 protest in front of City Hall

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