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When is a Parent Considered Unfit for Joint Custody?

One of the major aspects of divorce is the question of child custody. There was time when custody was awarded solely to the mother, especially if the child or children are still very young. The presumption is that as the primary caregiver, mothers are the “better” parent to provide the care needed. However, this presumption has been lifted and in most cases in California, courts prefer to give parents joint custody. Advocates of this default decision argue that the child or children have a better chance of getting through the disruptive force of divorce if both parents remain an active presence in their lives. It is also claimed that joint custody reduces conflict between parents.

But not all divorced parents are of this view. In many cases, both parents want sole custody of the child or children for a variety of reasons, but primarily because one considers the other an “unfit” parent.

In California, joint custody may mean one of two things: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health and welfare. Joint physical custody means that the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents, usually split evenly. To remove the rights of one parent for either type of joint custody is not at all easy unless it can be proven that one parent is unfit to take care of the child or children.

There is no clear definition of what makes a parent unfit, although the following factors may be considered as a given:

  • Past domestic violence
  • Physically or emotionally abusive behavior
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sexual offense conviction

Some parents argue that since the other parent has a full-time job, it makes him or her unfit because of physical absence. Unless the work requires prolonged absence from the home or extended hours, mere employment is not proof of being unfit and may not be used as a basis for termination of custodial rights.

Iowa Laws and Dram Shop Liability

If you are in Iowa and having a good time drinking with your friends, it is easy to go a little overboard with the liquor. Don’t take offense if the barmaid or bartender cuts you off; the law requires it.

Dram shop laws in Iowa are pretty much representative of the dramshop laws all over the US. A dramshop is any establishment which serves liquor, wine and any alcohol beverage onsite. In colonial times, a “dram” is a liquid unit of measurement used by drinking establishments – called shops – to measure out liquor.

Dram shop laws are a carry-over from the mid-1800s during the Temperance movement. Modern applications of the statutes are designed to pressure establishments that sell alcohol to exercise more care in who they serve. The principle behind the law is that those who profit from selling alcohol should also be responsible for the consequences.

According to Iowa Code § 123.92, a person injured in a car wreck caused by someone driving under the influence of alcohol can also make a claim against the dram shop that supplied the alcohol “when the licensee or permittee knew or should have known the person was intoxicated, or who sold to and served the person to a point where the licensee or permittee knew or should have known the person would become intoxicated.” Those holding liquor licenses or permits are required to show proof of liability coverage.

Iowa is one of the states that also penalize anyone who serves alcohol to minors even if they are not a licensed seller of alcohol. If a minor is injured or harmed as a consequence of their intoxication, the minor has the right to make a claim against the person who supplied the alcohol provided that person knew that the claimant was under legal age. If you or someone you know was involved in a car wreck because of drunk driving in Iowa, consult with an auto accident lawyer conversant with the dram shop laws of the state.

The Beginnings of Personal Injury Law

Levinson AxelrodPersonal injury law as it is known today is a relatively new type of tort law that is said to have originated in the UK in the 19th Century. In the US, personal injury law became established in the 20th century, and really gained strength in the 1970s.

Personal injury laws evolved primarily from court decisions and rulings that served to gradually establish the foundation of what is commonly referred to as a “duty of care,” which in turn is cited whenever a case of negligence is brought up.

The first personal injury case that made use of the term “duty of care” is Donoghue v. Stevenson brought before the House of Lords in 1932. The incident, widely known as the Paisley snail case, involved the discovery of a dead snail in the bottle of ginger beer being consumed by the plaintiff, Mrs. Donoghue in 1928. The defendant, David Stevenson, was the manufacturer of the ginger beer. The counsels for Mrs. Donoghue were George Morton KC and William Milligan, making them the first personal injury lawyers in modern legal history.

The term “duty of care” was introduced by Lord Atkin during arguments in the House of Lords. He stated that “a manufacturer of products, which he sells in such a form as to show that he intends them to reach the ultimate consumer in the form in which they left him…and with the knowledge that the absence of reasonable care in the preparation or putting up of the products will result in an injury to the consumer’s life or property, owes a duty to the consumer to take that reasonable care.” It was 3-2 decision in favor of affirming that Mrs. Donoghue had a cause of action.

The case was important because it established the legal basis for a personal injury claim; that is, duty of care. It set a precedent which a personal injury lawyer could cite for subsequent cases. Ironically, Mrs. Donoghue did not actually win her claim in court. By the time the case could be brought before the Court of Session, which would decide if damages would be awarded or not based on the evidence, Mr. Stevenson had passed away. Mrs. Donoghue eventually settled with Stevenson’s estate.

If you or someone you know was injured in some way by a manufacturer’s negligence, you and your personal injury lawyer can thank Lord Atkin for establishing that you have a cause of action.

The Temporomandibular Joint and TMD

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) was until recently a widely unknown problem affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It was unknown mostly because the symptoms seemed to indicate some other problem, and unless the doctor knows what to look for and to ask the right questions, a diagnosis of TMD is unlikely to occur in the initial consultation.

There is a wide range of TMD symptoms which may easily be mistaken for some other disorder. These include:

  • Changes in occlusion
  • Clenching of the teeth
  • Clicking sound of the jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Limited mouth opening
  • Localized pain in the neck, back and head area
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Pain or ringing in the ears for no discernible reason
  • Soreness in the jaw area, pronounced in the morning or late afternoon
  • Teeth sensitivity with no gum problems
  • Tingling or numbness of the fingers

The only way that a neuromuscular dentist will be able to diagnose TMD is to take a careful and detailed patient history as well as a thorough physical examination of the TMJ. The neuromuscular dentist will look for symptoms of TMD, and may order a panoramic X-ray to confirm it. The X-ray will also show if the teeth could be causing the problem. Other tests that may be done, though rarely, include computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

If your neuromuscular dentist determines that you will need surgery to correct the TMD, a maxillofacial surgeon will be referred to you. In most cases, however, a less radical solution is indicated. These may include:

  • Diet modification
  • Ice and hot packs
  • Orthopedic appliance or mouthguard
  • Pain relievers
  • Physical therapy
  • Posture training
  • Resting the TMJ
  • Stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Splints

TMD can be a real hindrance, and can significantly reduce the quality of your life. If you suspect that the medical problems you have been having may actually be symptoms of TMD, consult with a neuromuscular dentist as soon as possible.