Thursday, July 23, 2009

Divorce too close to home...

Recently, a close family friend has confined in us that she thinks her husband has cheated on her with someone at work. O.K., it happens alot, what does she know. Without giving specifics, it something akin to "womens intuition. When asked why she thinks this, she says "well, some woman answered the phone at his work and her tone of voice wasn't very nice to me. I think she has something going on with my husband." Are you kidding me? What about that cashier last week that said "thank you, have a nice day" down at the local grocery? Does she have something going on with your husband? "Well, a woman's gut tell's her, it must be true." So its a feeling now? Really? Then, one day out of the blue she packs up their child and leaves without telling him. Not only that, she leaves the state and makes him think it is because of something "that woman" at work said to her. She lied to him. The irony of this is that she is the close friend to us. Not the husband. However, the husband called us to let us know and for us to take care of her if she came to Tennessee. She didn't. Thank God. I would have probably escorted back to her home. The long and the short of it is this: she wanted out. She now tells of how her husband didn't do all the things she needed (affection issues and chores around the house type of stuff). However, she admits she never raised these as issues with him. Over the last few weeks when she did, his response was simply I'm sorry, I did not know you felt that way and I will change. Afterwards, when he would do those things, she would respond "you're only doing that because I caught you in an affair." The bottom line is she wanted out for her own unknown (to us) reaosns. Fine. Handle it like an adult. Sit down and talk with your spouse about what you are feeling and let them know what is really going on. Don't pack up the child and leave while your spouse is at work and unable to stop you. Why is it that some parent's think of a child as mine? That child is not "yours", the child belongs to both parents. In fact, a child needs both parents to be well rounded and have the best chance at being a successful parent themselves. Anyway, I say all of this because I have realized this same type of scenario playing over and over again in my practice. The woman, after many years togather, just decides she wants out and when she does, she remembers every dish the husband left out for her to clean, or every time he forgot to take out the trash, or remember all those Monday nights when all you wanted to do was watch some football? All these things along the way were never such a big deal. But once she decides its over, she can do some quick math and add it all up!

So having rambled through that, let me make some suggestions for a happy marriage. Men, do the little things. Maybe not everytime, but often enough it is appreciated. You know, take off the trash in a timely manner, help with dishes, for that matter, help with supper. Pick up your own clothes and help with a load or two. I promise, it will not kill you. Go hunting, fishing, drinking golfing or whatever with the guys a little less and suggest to your wife that she go out with the girls (and no, don't make her take the kids with her). Buy some roses for no reason, maybe some chocolate. Be thoughtful. If you live near a Melting Pot Restaurant, take her for a romantic evening once in a while. Let her know she is just as special to you today as she was the day you were married. If you need more ways, contact me and I'll help.

For women, well, its easy ... give us ... sex, right? That's what you are expecting me to say aren't you? Well, o.k., yes. But it's more than that. When your man actually does do somthing you have been wanting him to do, express sincere gratitude. Don't make a big deal out of it, don't call the neighbors over to witness the event. Just let him know what it means to you. help your man learn what you need. Don't just take it for years and then decide you can't take it anymore. Communicate. Train your husband, if he wasn't already, in the ways of romance. Show him what you expect by example.

We all know that in the traditional family the woman does more of the housework. In older times when just the man worked, the woman did it all, she cooked, cleaned and took care of the children. In modern times, however, we now know that a man is capable of doing housework. Let them do it. But when they do, remember to show appreciation and to never accuse them of cheating on you with the cashier at the local Wal-Mart jsut because she was friendly to him!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Divorce Mediation

What is all the buzz about mediation these days? Well, its simple. Some people have finally realized that spending tons of money on divorce attorney's simply isn't getting them the results they want. Sure, they get results in the courtroom, but its what happens down the road where people realize that they need to have a solid relationship with the mother or father of their children. Or perhaps, simply to preserve the marital estate, they understand that letting their spouse have more value is better than both having less value after the lawyers are paid. Understand, this is coming from one of those "divorce lawyers" who has made a living on people fighting over the smallest of details.

The move in Tennessee began in divorce cases involving minor children. The idea was that if people could utilize the mediation process and learn how to effectively communicate with one another, that it would be better for the children down the road. The fact is, this is absolutely true. The state got this one right! But this is not the only area that mediation can provide results. Divorce cases where children are not the issue can also greatly benefit from the mediation process. Obviously, in divorce cases without children or assets, there isn't much to mediate and it probably isn't for these cases. However, for those cases with even modest assets mediation can work. The parties can learn to effectively communicate about their needs and desires and how to best preserve the marital estate rather than paying lawyers, like me, to fight over every spoon, fork and dish towel. If you are reading this post and know of someone who is soon to be or now in the divorce process, encourage them to consider starting with mediation. It may save them loads of cash. If you are an attorney like me reading this, fight the urge to keep the cash to yourself and actually provide real help to your clients by suggesting to them the divorce process. If you have any questions or need further information go to my sites or for further details.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Steve McNair Tragedy

As you no doubt know by now, Steve McNair was discovered dead yesterday, our nation's Independence Day. As a fan throughout his professional career, both with the Titans and the Ravens, I was particularly saddened by his untimely death. As such, I have spent the last 24 plus hours soaking in every source of information I could. If you are like me, you have been frustrated by the seeming lack of information coming forth at this point (the time of writing this blog is approximately 8:00 p.m. cst July 5, 2009). An even greater source of frustration, however, has been the quick leap to pronounce McNair dead of an "obvious murder suicide". Before I go further, you should know that I am merely a criminal defense attorney and not a criminologist, nor do I have any inside sources within the Metro Davidson Police Department. Rather, these are my observations from afar, based purely on media reports at this point.

First, the facts as they have been reported. It appears that McNair and Sahel Kazemi started dating sometime after the first of this year. Apparently, McNair met Kazemi at Dave and Buster's restaurant and game lounge inside Opry Mills mall. They may have been dating a few months. A few weeks ago, McNair opened his restaurant, Gridiron 9, near the TSU campus on Jefferson Street. Since that time, McNair appears to have purchased a 2007 Cadillac Escalade as a gift for Kazemi. The vehicle was titled in both their names. McNair reportedly frequented her apartment complex in Hermitage and Kazemi reportedly frequented the condo rented by McNair, the same condo in which the pair were found dead. In the early morning hours this past Thursday, Kazemi was pulled over on Broadway in Nashville for suspicion of drunk driving. She refused the breathalyzer stating that she was not drunk, rather, she was "high". McNair was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the stop. He was not allowed to drive the vehicle from the scene reportedly because he had been drinking. According to the Tennessean coverage, Kazemi's previous boyfriend, Keith Norfleet, stated that Kazemi contacted him to pick up the Escalade. McNair later bailed Kazemi out of jail. It was this event that appeared to prompt Kazemi to inform Norfleet about her relationship with McNair. Norfleet claimed to be concerned for Kazemi because she was involved with a married man. Witnesses place McNair arriving at his condo somewhere between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. the morning of July 4th. Later that day (some reports indicated around 7 a.m. and another report states 1:00 p.m.) McNair's roomate or co-renter, Wayne Neely, entered the condo and found the bodies. He phoned another friend of McNair's and described the scene to him. That friend, Robert Gaddy, is the person who called 911 to report the scene. Residents at Kazemi's apartment complex report having heard Kazemi and Norfleet arguing at times, although exact dates and times were not printed. Norfleet claims that Kazemi came to his apartment "early Saturday morning" and knocked on his door but she had left before he could answer it. Norfleet further stated he "spent most of Saturday afternoon looking for Kazemi and trying to find out if she was the woman who died with McNair." Police reports indicate that McNair died of two gun shot wounds to the head and two gun shot wounds to the chest. He died sometime early Saturday. McNair was found sitting on the couch with Kazemi in the floor. There was a semi-automatic hand gun under Kazemi's body. Kazemi had one gun shot wound to the head. They both were fully clothed. The condo was reportedly securely locked when Neely arrived. Police have yet to report on whether Kazemi's cause of death was murder or suicide. McNair's wife reported that she had not had any contact for a couple of days prior to his death.

I am writing this article in response to the many media report's that this was an apparent murder-suicide. Let me be clear about this, based on the reports thus far, it may have been a murder suicide. But to state such publicly is a rush to judgment and can only serve to harm the investigation. There may be many scenarios that could have resulted in McNair and Kazemi being found dead yesterday.

It could have been the roomate and friend. It seems a bit bizzare that a person could find two dead bodies and instead of calling 911, he calls a friend to come over and call 911 after viewing the scene. Most normal people in that state of shock would have immediately call the police and got out of the condo. Having said that, one report suggested that these two individuals had been thoroughly interrogated and released. It seems the police may have cleared them.

What about the wife? All reports indicated that she was very distruaught upon learning of the death of her husband and the father of her children. The police seem mostly convinced that she was not involved. It is, however, one the ususual starting points of an investigation in the case of a murdered spouse who was reportedly involved in an affair. If McNair was cheating on his wife, it stands to reason that she would have been, at some point, very upset about this. Maybe that point was months ago, maybe that point was some time after Thursday morning when Kazemi was arrested while driving the jointly titled Escalade. Who knows? I am not saying she was involved, nor do I wish to cast aspersions on her and her family during this horrible time. I am simply saying there are other possibilities out there and that a quick rush to judgment claiming this as a murder-suicide is an injustice to McNair's and Kazemi's lives. Let the police do their job. Once they have made a determination, then report on the facts. Clearly, the claim that this was a murder-suicide by Kazemi has already caused her family great heartache, the same heartache the McNair would suffer if the claim was that he committed murder-suicide or that his wife killed them both.

And what about that boyfriend? Have you looked at his myspace page? Seriously. Look at it Look at that tag line "never let anyone or anything come in between you and the one you love because when you do you lose everything." He clearly is distraught about losing Kazemi. Check out his Soundclick page. Listen to the music he chooses. On his myspace page he claims his occupation is robbing people. Yes, I know people often just make stuff up to be funny or sound big and bad. Look at his pictures. Oh, wait, he made his pictures private today. I viewed them yesterday, nothing but thuggery. The guy wants to be a rapper. He claims to have just learned about the relationship no more than 48 hours of their deaths. He claims Kazemi came to his house in Hermitage sometime Saturday morning, the same morning they turned up dead. He had access to the Escalade and Kazemi's keys. Keys to the condo? Was there a gun in the Escalade? Why haven't the police identified the gun and who it belonged to? They do state today that they want to talk to him. Too many bizzare coincidents here. I mean, really, does this guy look like the type of person who would be concerned merely because she was dating a married man? It does not look like he is the religious type, you know? Again, I am not saying Norfleet did anything here. It's just that this is a potential suspect and theory of how this crime was committed. Until it is ruled out, it is at least as likely a scenario as murder-suicide.

If you pay attention to Don Aaron's statements, it is clear that they do not want to say that murder-suicide is how they are leaning. They just identify the relevant facts. These facts, at this time, may seem to suggest murder-suicide, but let's not jump to conclusions. After all, suicide by gun involving a woman is far less likely. Of course, gun shot residue tests would have been performed at the scene, but even if there was evidence that Kazemi held a gun that fired a bullet, this could have been postmortem and could explain the multiple gunshots to McNair. What did the gun shot would to Kazemi look like? Was there starring and gun powder? What was the trajectory of the bullet. Was there blood splatter on the weapon? Too many questions left unanswered at this early stage. Law enforcement will tell you that one of the best places to look in murder cases are scorned lovers. This could be Mrs. McNair (unlikely based on police reports) or Norfleet. He seems like a very likely candidate. Again, I am not saying this is fact or that I gurantee he did it. To the contrary, it could have been a random robbery made to look like murder suicide to cover it up. It could have been someone who thought they had a score to settle with McNair. The possibilities are endless at this point. Let's wait for the investigation to be completed before we cause any more harm to the victims families.

Finally, I have read many comments to multiple media reports by readers who blast McNair for having an affair and stating that he got what he deserved. First of all, I have very strong religious beliefs and I do not condone anyone having an affair. Especially in the case with children. However, I do not know enough about the circumstances here to make any kind of judgment call, much less judge McNair and Kazemi. Maybe the divorce was to be final soon, maybe they were just friends without benefits. Who knows but God. For any of you to say that they were killed because of their sins does not promote Christianity. Judge not, lest ye be judged first. Save for Christ himself, no one has ever been sin free. Sins are not distinguished by levels. If we are all sinners, why don't we all die because of our sins? Are you telling me that everyone who dies does so because of sin? Explain those courageous children sitting in St. Jude's hospital fighting for their lives. Is it due to sin? Perhaps each of you making these claims would be better served to look inward at your own heart and find a better way to bring the masses to Christ. Just a thought.

My prayers go out to the entire McNair and Kazemi families and those close to them. May God ease your pain.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Custody battle looms for Michael Jackson children

The recent passing of icon Michael Jackson and the resulting media coverage makes it clear that a child custody battle will likely loom for the children he leaves behind. Unfortunately, this will not be a simple custody battle. No, this will be quite complicated.

Under normal circumstances, the surving parent would be the parent that would, by default, be the custodian of any minor children. In this case, news reports indicate that the mother of the two oldest children had terminated her rights to the children after birth. Then, according to reports, later petitioned the courts (during Jackson's criminal trial for molestation) to have her rights re-instated. Apparently, the court did re-instate her parental rights, according to sources. If so, it seems that she has considerable legal leverage when it comes to custody of these children. However, Jackson's family seems poised to fight for custody rights of the minor children based on their long standing close relationship to them. An additional complicating factor is the news report that Jackson himself may have left the children's long term nanny as guardian in his Last Will and Testament. Of course, his will, in and of itself, will not create a binding precedence before the court. It may be a factor to be considered, however, the court's are charged with doing what is in the children's best interest.

It should not be forgotten that any party wanting to fight for custody before the court must have some legal standing. Since I am not a California attorney, I will venture to guess how the court's there will handle this. It is, however, a factor that will likely come into play.

Next, one news report today indicates that the biological mother of the two oldest children is stating that Jackson did not father the children. This brings to mind several questions. If Jackson was truly not the biological father of these children, why did she purportedly terminate her parental rights? Money, perhaps? Was there no DNA testing in that termination proceeding? Perhaps not since it was an uncontested proceeding. However, I have to think that the judge would have been somewhat skeptical of the situation and would have had the ability to require that a DNA test be performed before the termination occured. Why didn't he/she? Why was a termination allowed if there was no mother standing in her shoes to replace her? The result was the court took two kids who had two parents and reduced that to one parent. Why? What was the compelling reason? Celebrity benefits? Then, upon asking the court for re-instatement, why wasn't the parentage issue raised? Why weren't DNA tests performed then? If her rights were re-instated, and DNA shows he was not the biological father, the court is likely required to return the children to their biological mother. But what relationship can exist then? What relationship should exist? If this mother gave up (sold) her parental rights to Jackson, and if she has not been actively involved in their lives, is she fit to now be a parent? I am sure those are the types of issues that will be raised by the Jackson family in the days and months to come.

Finally, the youngest child may be the wildcard in all of this. Come reports indicate that this was a surrogate pregnancy situation leaving the birth mother with no parental rights. This is the step-sibling to the older two. Courts typically like to keep all of sibilings together if at all possible. This may have a big impact on what happens moving forward. What if there is a court determination that the two oldest children are not Jackson's, but the youngest child is. As a result, the court would likely have to award the biological mother, if fit and her parental rights are intact, custody of the two oldest. However, she may not have any standing to take custody of the youngest child. If she is not fit, it seems to be clear that Jackson family would have an argument for all three. However, if the oldest two are not Jackson's, that means that there is a biological father out there who has parental rights to these children (assuming this is not a sperm bank situation). If Jackson has any fortune, or any insurance money set aside for the children, the ultimate custodian of the children may find himself/herself considerably weathier now. Onesad part of this is that the possible fortune involved will create a number of wolves standing ready to fight for these children. Some with good and wholesome intentions and some not so much.

I truly feel for these kids. Regardless of the impending legal mess, thes kids have lost the most important figure in their life. No legal title will change who they have known as daddy to this point in their lives. I hope that this mess can be resolved quickly and quitely so that these kids can begin to have some normal semblance of a life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I am dispensing justice on a family law matter in court today. Why is that parents use access to the children as a means of hurting the other parent? Jason

Thursday, June 25, 2009


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