Tuesday, February 1, 2011


      Hollywood's leading family law expert, DEBRA OPRI (www.DebraOpri.com) – renown for Anna Nicole Smith & David Caruso custody case victories – is the ultimate analyst on today’s heated battles between household name celebrities engaged in contentious for control of their children.
      “A child’s life is in play right now.  This should not be a tug-of-war between two strong-willed personalities.  In the interest of their child, her/his two parents should be sitting down and working out what’s best for the kid.  Instead, it’s turned into the SuperBowl of all family law battles, an epic custody war,” summarizes OPRI.
      Padma Lakshmi and Halle Berry are both fighting to keep their baby daddies away from their young kids.  According to OPRI, “Paternity filings are common when a parent wants a relationship with his natural child.  In these particular cases, the fathers [of each child] in filing paternity actions are asserting their parental rights for a presence in their child's lives.  The courts will enforce these rights -- unless there are threats to the health safety and welfare of the child.
      It is very common that IF the court finds that if negligent care of the child did exist, mandatory parenting classes are the norm.  Additionally, there must be very serious circumstances for a parent not to have parental rights, which could include drugs, alcohol and/or child abuse."
      Addressing specificity on why Berry has gone so far as to pull out of a film to concentrate on fighting Aubry’s request for joint custody, "If Aubry filed on Dec. 30, there are strict deadlines for responding in court.  If I were Halle's attorney, I would tell her she must be present to assert her concerns and her presence.  If the child has been prior in the father's custody while Halle was out of town for any duration, and the child was not with her/nanny on location, this is something she would have to explain to the Judge.
     Halle cannot argue it both ways.  She cannot state that she trusted Gabriel enough to have an agreement for him to have the child while she was 'working' or otherwise not available for the child.  So, to retain either primary OR full custody, Halle had to pull out of the movie. If something happened to the child while in his care, the severity of the incident will be looked at by the court once it assumes jurisdiction [ie., a paternity filing/case no or if a prior written agreement has already been filed as part of a mediated settlement at time of the breakup].  Further, if the incident is serious enough to warrant an independent third party evaluation, the court will assign a ‘730 evaluator’ to conduct interviews of the parties, and any witnesses [ie., nannies].  This scenario would take time, and clearly, both Halle, her ex [Gabriel Aubry] and their child –Nahla— would end up in the vortex of the Family Law courts.  This is a long journey which should clearly be avoided," explains OPRI.
      In regard to Padmav Lakshmi going to court with multimillionaire Dell over his request for increased visitation, according to OPRI, "Courts are very liberal with father's rights today to the point where the goal is a 50-50 custody split.  This is not uncommon.”
      Addressing the rights of non-married dads (who are not a threat the health & welfare of their kids)….”50-50 equal time with the child is usually mandated so that the child has the benefit of both parents in their life.  This is the direction the courts specializing in family law are most often heading," emphasizes OPRI.    
      “There are bi-lateral benefits for these kids to having relationships with their fathers, who obviously want to spend time with them,” says OPRI.  In fact, "family law courts and the legislation deemed it beneficial that the child has the full benefit and presence of both parents.  This is something that is encouraged."
And why are these moms specifically fighting so hard to keep the dads at a distance?
     OPRI concludes, "As with everything, it comes down to control.  When a relationship is over, the custodial parent usually wants to cut the cord of involvement with their ex’es.  While it may get ‘messy’ with future relationships by having an ongoing presence with their baby’s daddy in the child's life, parents need to understand that once the child is brought into this world, both parents have equal rights to the care and raising of their child.  Control does not include cutting off a parent's rights.  That's why more and more paternity actions are. being filed, because one parent deems it appropriate that the child's life not include an ex-relationship of a natural parent.  This is ‘control issue’ must, unfortunately, be dealt with by the courts until societal norms evolve to include both parents as a matter of right whether they are married to each other or not.  We are close but old ways die hard."

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