Parents who are sharing custody of their children should treat this crisis as an opportunity to co-parent and work together to do what is in their children’s best interests and safe for their families, rather than taking advantage of the other parent. Here are four guidelines for parents sharing custody during the crisis.


Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines for staying safe and healthy. If any family members show symptoms of the virus such as coughing and high temperature, they should follow local health orders and quarantine. It goes without saying that in this situation the usual parenting plan should be suspended until everyone is safe and healthy. However, we know from experience as family lawyers that some parents still selfishly insist on “their time” even when their children have a fever and are too sick to be transported. Remember that time can always be made up. Parents should be reasonable and exercise compassion and common sense. It is important for parents to keep each other informed about any symptoms of contagious illness of a parent, children or other household member.


You can be informed and stay calm at the same time. While children are resilient, protect them from your anxieties and fears. Don’t leave the news on 24/7. Provide them with age-appropriate information. For children and adults alike, the pandemic of 2020 will leave lasting memories. Hopefully those memories will be of families pulling together.


This crisis is an opportunity to co-parent. In many jurisdictions, there are orders from the family court administration that custody orders remain in full force as if school remains in session. [Click her to read here the standing Order from Ventura County Family Court]. The idea is that parenting plans should, as a rule, not be changed. Generally, if there are two healthy households there is no reason why custody exchanges should not take place as normal as long as the custody exchanges are safe and comply with local health orders. There may be circumstances that mandate a change, for example, if an Order requires a custody exchange in an enclosed public place that would violate a local or state order. There may also have to be adjustments if an existing order requires supervised visitation.  If parents agree to make a temporary change to their parenting plan, they should reduce it to a written agreement.  Parents should note that for the duration of the crisis, most Court systems are closed or operating on a limited basis. If there is a dispute, parents may have to resort to other forms of dispute resolution such as mediation or private judging.


Everyone’s lives have been disrupted. Stay in place orders, the closure of schools and public places and increased financial burdens on families will require parents to be flexible and make accommodations. Parents should act with compassion and in the best interests of their children. Parents should communicate with each to discuss whether they need to make changes. Would it be a good idea to have more virtual visitation using platforms like Zoom or facetime? If children are home from school, should they follow a parenting plan which is more similar to a vacation schedule? What accommodations should be made for financial hardships suffered by parents paying or receiving support. Any such adjustments should be reduced to a written agreement and, preferably, filed with the Court.  Family court judges expect reasonable accommodations in highly unusual circumstances. After this is all over, judges may make decisions about your parenting plan based on how you acted in this crisis.

© 2020  Warren R. Shiell.  Warren R Shiell is a Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law attorney.  This is for informational purposes only and shall not constitute legal advice. For more information visit www.la-familylaw.com

Testifying remotely in the Johnny Depp trial in the English High Courts of Justice.


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We talk to Los Angeles attorney and English barrister Alexander Rufus-Isaacs about his role in securing and managing Los Angeles witnesses to appear remotely in the 2020 defamation trial that took place in the English High Court of Justice in the case of Johnny Depp and News Group Newspapers. For more information, please contact Mr. Rufus-Isaacs at www.rufuslaw.com or Mr. Shiell at www.la-familylaw.com.



COVID-19 Family Law Resources
The Law Office of Warren Shiell extends its deepest sympathies to everyone affected by the COVID crisis particularly those in the medical professions and other essential workers. While our mission to help families in times of crisis has not changed, the practice of family law has changed for the time being. Family law courts are closed for most family law cases. To protect our current clients, potential new clients and staff, we are offering over the phone consultations as well as Zoom video conferences. The practice of family law is constantly evolving in response to the crisis and it is important to stay current with local and State orders. We have found the following family law resources to be particularly helpful.

The Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles (LASC)
The LASC News Center has a dedicated COVID-19 News and Resource Center which includes local and Statewide judicial orders affecting the practice of family law in Los Angeles.

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
The premier interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. AFCC members are the leading practitioners, researchers, teachers and policymakers in the family court arena. Their web site contains an excellent COVID-19 Recourses and Information area. https://www.afccnet.org/Coronavirus

Family Law Section of the Los Angeles County Bar
LACBA has made available several free webinars that address the effect of the pandemic on family law. https://www.lacba.org/connect/sections/family-law/family-law


Diacritical Musk and Grimes Baby

Bar Code

The great thing about family law is that there is always something new to learn.

This week I learned the word “Diacritical.” Probably because I was never much for learning languages.

Diacritical is defined in Wikipedia as “A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter or basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek διακριτικός (diakritikós, "distinguishing"), from διακρίνω (diakrī́nō, "to distinguish"). Diacritic is primarily an adjective, though sometimes used as a noun, whereas diacritical is only ever an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute ( ´ ) and grave ( ` ), are often called accents. Diacritical marks may appear above or below a letter, or in some other position such as within the letter or between two letters.” Many languages have diacritical words and names.

I have Elon Musk and Grimes to thank for reportedly naming their new baby “X Æ A-12” for learning the word Diacritical. But can he do that?

Since the baby was born in California, we look at what California will do. California’s naming laws are fairly relaxed compared to some countries. For example, Sweden has strict naming laws and baby names such “Metallica” and “IKEA” have not been allowed. My favorite is a couple in New Zealand who were prohibited from naming their twins Fish and Chips.  

California’s Office of Vital Records will only record “the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language with appropriate punctuation if necessary.” The Office explicitly prohibits “pictographs, ideograms, [or] diacritical marks” (including “ ´e,” “ ˜n,” and “¸c”).  

In 2014 California rejected a bill changing the ban on diacritical marks as names due to its high cost.  Therefore it is likely that Musk and Grimes (which itself sounds a bit like laddish aftershave that Guy Richie might wear) fill out the name “X Æ A-12” on the baby’s birth certificate at the hospital, it will most likely be rejected by the California Office of Vital Records because it contains diacritical marks.

The couple could sue and argue that parents have a constitutional unfettered right to name their children. Several Federal cases have struck down state laws naming rights based on substantive due process rights. The Supreme Court in the “Troxel” case which recognized the right of grandparent visitation, held that the “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children.” Justice O’Connor stated, “is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” An argument of this kind might be used if Musk were to challenge any decision by the California Office of Vital Records not to allow “X Æ A-12.”

Analysis Paralysis

image from upload.wikimedia.org

"During World War II, Winston Churchill, after hearing that the landing craft designers were spending the majority of their time arguing over design changes, sent this message: "The maxim 'Nothing avails but perfection' may be spelt shorter: 'Paralysis.'"

Yesterday LACBA hosted a webinar with a panel of family court judges on Alternative Dispute Resolution now the courts for the most part are temporarily closed. In discussing the dynamics of settlement (and negotiating generally) one of the judges referred to the concept of analysis paralysis from behavioral economics that impairs rationale decision making choices. Is is a perspective that really applies to any situation where we make difficult decisions in life. For more https://lnkd.in/die54_R.

New Release from Los Angeles Superior Family Court April 16, 2020

More details from Judge Riff about LA Superior Court’s Family Law Division during the emergency:

Dear LASC Family Law Community:

Judge Brazile and I would like to supplement the webinar presentation of last Friday with some further family law-directed information and answers to questions. A fair amount here; sorry for the length.


Q: How does Judge Brazile’s new General Order of April 14, 2020 affect Family Law operations heretofore conducted under Judge Brazile’s March 23, 2020 General Order?
A: Not at all. The key point for FL is that the LASC’s period of closure/essential functions is extended to May 12, 2020. The essential functions of the FL Division remain as they have been: we are open to (1) consider ex-parte applications; (2) process restraining order applications; (3) conduct restraining order hearings where parties do not agree to a continuance and/or justice requires the hearing go forward; and (4) certain Hague Convention (international kidnapping) proceedings.

Q: What happens on May 12?
A: This will depend on public health advisories and directives from other entities, state and county, as to the extent to which stay-at-home orders remain or are modified. We think there is a good chance that our court closure/essential function period may be extended beyond May 12 and we will not know for sure until we are close to May 12.

Q: What is the June 22 date?
A: It is the date that Judge Brazile and our Covid Task Force have asked judicial officers and staff to assume is the date we will recommence standard operations. All of our planning in the FL Division is based upon that date for now. We again advise that “standard operations” will be far from standard as we expect, whenever we reopen, to be accommodating social distancing and other non-standard conditions.

Q: How does new Emergency Rule 12 promulgated by the Judicial Council and made effective today affect Family Law?
A: It pertains to electronic service and applies to proceedings under the Family Code. There are specific rules and we recommend you should read it. Note well that civil harassment, elder abuse and workplace violence restraining order do not fall into the definition of “general civil case” (CRC 1.6) nor do they arise under the Family Code even though they are heard in the Family Law Division. DVRO matters arise under the Family Code.


Q: What is the process for the FL Division to set, continue and repopulate calendars? Less abstractly, when will I know when my matter will be heard?
A: Judge Brazile has approved a ramp up plan for the FL Division which is based upon the priority of the relief requested. I earlier mentioned that we will start with those matters where the relief requested involves physical safety and the provision of resources for food and shelter. Every judicial officer in the FL Division is, as of today, undertaking a process of placing every matter now on calendar into a priority categorization scheme with the goal of being able to set or continue matters thoughtfully on calendars per the priority scheme. There are many, many (many) thousands of such calendar matters to be triaged. In addition, new matters are being filed daily that also need and will need this triage.

Judicial officers and staff will begin the process of setting new dates and notifying litigants. This is going to take time; at least some weeks.

Q: What about continued dates between April 16 and May 12? And between May 12 and June 22?
A: Unless they relate to restraining order hearings, you can expect a further continuance.

Q: It sounds like it could get confusing with so many continuances.
A: Agreed. It will be confusing and for a while, it will be less than clear. Our goal is for dates set after June 22 to be “real” dates but there will no doubt be some continuances of those as well.

The Family Law Division has now implemented the use of “Resource Accounts” for litigants to electronically file by email ex-parte applications and oppositions, and to pay required fees (if any). This modality is offered only during the current period of court closure/essential function. The Court will be releasing a Notice to Attorneys shortly; this modality is now available and we advise of it now as its use may enhance our social distancing initiatives.

Accordingly, parties and counsel need not appear to present ex-parte applications and oppositions. Persons wanting to be available in the event of a hearing on such applications may attend the court session by CourtCall.

Parties will attach their papers to a completed Judicial Council Form MC-005 (including payment information if applicable) and transmitting those papers to the Resource Account. No fees need be paid if the litigant has previously been granted a fee waiver.

Ex-parte papers must be submitted to the Resource Account no later than the filing deadlines set forth in LASC Local Rule 5.3. Nothing changes rules concerning notice. Parties are encouraged to electronically transmit their ex-parte papers to the other parties and to state in their papers that they did so.

Litigants should include the Court's case number and case name (in that order) on the "subject line" when transmitting papers for filing via the resource account.

Parties should expect the clerk will serve the Court’s order on the ex-parte application upon the moving party within one court day of the Court’s ruling using the same resource account. Parties should expect the Court to order the moving party to transmit the order on all other parties forthwith by electronic means and to file a proof of service thereafter.

Listed below are the Resource Accounts assigned to the districts in which the Family Law Division has court operations.

Antelope Valley Courthouse
[email protected]
Chatsworth Courthouse
[email protected]
Compton Courthouse
[email protected]
Long Beach Courthouse
[email protected]
Pasadena Courthouse
[email protected]
Pomona Courthouse
[email protected]
Santa Monica Courthouse
[email protected]
Stanley Mosk
[email protected]
[email protected]
Van Nuys - East
[email protected]
[email protected]


The Court is continuing to test the use of WebEx for hearings in restraining order matters during the period of court closure/essential functions. Presently, there are two departments set up to hold such hearings, Department 18 and Department 22 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. If a RO hearing must go forward during our closure/essential function period, and one or more participants cannot attend in person, a WebEx hearing set in one of these two departments is a solution.

We have specific directions as to “How to Participate in Your Restraining Order Hearing Through WebEx”. I have forwarded a PDF to Mr. Yamamoto and Mr. Brot and I hereby ask them to arrange for posting on the LACBA FL list serve.

The judicial officer presiding over your restraining order will have the discretion whether to permit or to order a WebEx hearing which hearing will be set on reasonable notice to the parties.


Q: Where should we file non-emergency filings—in the district where the case is venued or Central?
A: Non-emergency filings should still be filed in the designated filing location. Acceptance of filings is not restricted due to court closures, and fax filing, drop box or mail options are available for all our family law courthouses.

Q: Is the Court requiring a 12 advance filing for telephonic appearance requests per FL-679?
A: No. We do not want folks coming to court during our closure/essential function period but we also want to hear from litigants who are not coming to court so we know their intentions concerning their case. Our departments open CourtCall lines and will engage with litigants on the telephone. Whether the hearing will proceed via CourtCall is a discretionary call for the judicial officer.

Thanks to all. Have a nice weekend.

Judge Riff

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College financial aid: How divorce can complicate the application process

Article from Fox Money. The parent with custody of the student should fill out the FAFSA," Pentis said. "In the words of the Department of Education, the custodial parent is the one that the student lived with for the majority of the year before filing the FAFSA. If the student spent equal time with each parent, the parent that provided the most financial support over the past 12 months should be the one to complete the FAFSA.