Hot Topics for Military Legal Assistance: Part 1 - Child Custody and the Feres Doctrine

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 185 minutes
Recorded Date: October 09, 2019
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  • 120 minutes: Good to Go - Interstate and International Child Custody Impacting Military Families
  • 60 minutes: The Feres Doctrine - Restrictions for Servicemember Lawsuits
Runtime: 3 hours
Recorded: October 9, 2019


From this program, you can better identify and apply appropriate actions for family law cases involving military families with international and interstate child custody matters. You will also learn about the Feres Doctrine, so you can recognize its history, expansions, and criticisms regarding restrictions for servicemember lawsuits.

This program is designed for military attorneys working in legal assistance as well as civilian lawyers whose practices involve military-connected clients or issues.

This program was recorded on October 9th, 2019.

Provided By

American Bar Association


Dr. Dwight Stirling

Founder & CEO
Center for Law and Military Policy

Dr. Dwight Stirling is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Law and Military Policy, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to restoring and strengthening the legal protections of those who serve our nation in uniform. Dr. Stirling also teaches law at USC, is a reserve JAG officer in the California National Guard, and is the co-founder of Veterans Legal Institute.

An adjunct professor of law at the USC School of Law, Dr. Stirling is a scholar on military ethics, veterans law, and the National Guard. He is the foremost expert on the Feres Doctrine, the topic of his doctoratal dissertation. In April 2019, he testified before Congress about the Feres Doctrine before the House Armed Services Committee. He is also a national scholar on the National Guard, frequently commenting on current events.

Dr. Stirling's commitment to the country began shortly in December of 2001, when he joined the Army shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He was an active duty JAG officer from 2007 to 2014, where he served as the California National Guard’s senior prosecutor. During his JAG career, he has tried more state courts-martial than any JAG officer in California’s history. In 2009-2010, he deployed to the Balkans as part of a NATO-led international peacekeeping mission. He has received numerous military awards during his military career, including the Meritorious Service Medal.

In 2015, Dr. Stirling founded the Orange County Bar Association's Veterans Committee. In 2016, he was recognized as one of Orange County’s 100 most influential for his co-founding of the Veterans Legal Institute. in 2017, he founded the California Lawyers Association's Veterans Committee. In 2019, he was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times for his courageous work as a whistleblower.

Dr. Stirling holds a Bachelor of Arts (philosophy) from Pomona College, a Juris Doctorate from USC, and a Doctorate in Education (organizational leadership) from Pepperdine University.

Patricia Apy

Paras, Apy & Reiss, P.C.

Patricia E. Apy has developed a practice which is primarily focused on international and interstate family law. She has directed the international litigation of child custody disputes throughout the world, serving clients in a wide range of cases in signatory countries and non-signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Her expertise ranges from crafting enforceable, multi-jurisdictional agreements to managing complex international parental abduction matters, implicating international treaty law and global law enforcement. Among the many countries in which she has litigated, been qualified as an expert witness or served as a consultant on international family disputes, are locations as diverse as the United Kingdom, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Pakistan, Australia, India, Japan, South Africa, Israel, Lebanon and Canada.

Within the United States, she has participated in numerous reported decisions in the United States Courts of Appeals and District Courts. She is frequently sought out by both family law attorneys and litigants nationwide to serve as an expert co-counsel in their own state courts on international matters.

Of note, she successfully represented the left-behind father, David Goldman in the repatriation of his minor son from Brazil, a case garnering worldwide attention to the application of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

As a result of this work, and her consultation to both the United States Department of State, Department of Defense and Members of Congress, she enjoys strong relationships with diplomats and colleagues worldwide who provide additional resource in serving her private clients. She has testified three times before the Congress of the United States, specifically, before subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on proposed legislation regarding international parental abduction; and before subcommittees of the House Veteran’s affairs committee on proposed legislation regarding child custody and military members.

Ms. Apy argued the first case in the United States addressing the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Minors before the Supreme Court of New Jersey in Ivaldi v. Ivaldi,147 N.J. 190, 685 A. 2d 1319 (1996). Her familiarity with that Treaty began with her service on the United States delegation that participated in its drafting. She has served at the Hague Conference in the Netherlands, as both an attorney advisor and a delegate to the United States delegation in 1995 on the preliminary negotiations of the Maintenance Convention involving international agreements for the enforcement of family support obligations. Most recently she returned in June of 2010 to represent the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, reviewing the work of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, with an emphasis on the problems of child trafficking.

She is experienced in the impact and importance of religious law and practice to the resolution of child custody and matrimonial disputes, particularly in the international arena. She has represented clients in which the application of Halakha (Jewish religious law); Shari’a (Islamic personal status law) and the Hindu Marriage Act (India) have been of significant concern in litigation and approaches those concerns with sensitivity, insight and respect.

Ms. Apy is a frequent teacher, lecturer and commentator on the complex legal issues arising from international family law. She serves as guest faculty at the Judge Advocate General School of the United States Army at the University of Virginia; the United States Naval Justice School; and the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General School on issues of advanced family law, treaty law, and the implications of military service. She has authored proposed legislation to amend the child custody law of the State of New Jersey to enhance protections for deployed military parents, for which she received the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Legislative Service Award in 2010.

She has remained an active member of the State and local bar associations, and a leader in the American Bar Association in her field. She served as the chair of the International law and procedures committee of the Family law section of the ABA for over a decade. From 2001 to 2008, she served as a member of the Legal Assistance for Military Personnel Committee of the ABA, and was specially appointed to an ABA Presidential Working Group addressing the unmet legal needs of military members. She has been a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for over a decade. She has contributed articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the Family Law Quarterly of the American Bar Association, the Family Advocate of the ABA and the Georgetown Journal on Fighting Poverty. Her written work has focused on the support of the rule of law and its application to family law around the world.

Ms. Apy’s academic background supports her commitment to approaching each case with scholarship, intuition and discernment. She received her legal education at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland, Ohio, receiving a Juris Doctorate Degree in 1986. She has taken continuing legal education at the Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program on issues of Islamic law and marriage. In addition to her law degree, she holds a Masters Degree in Social Work, with a clinical concentration in Family and Children which she received in 1983 from the University of Missouri – Columbia, School of Public Service. She began her college studies at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oklahoma where she earned a Bachelors Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Community Organization and Human Rights.

Ms. Apy is committed to assisting clients in the preservation of their families and care of their children while they may be facing the challenges of separation and divorce, wherever they may be living. See Ms. Apy’s press coverage.

Gregory Ulrich

Managing Member
Ulrich Law PLC

Greg Ulrich is the Managing Member of ULRICH LAW, PLC, a Michigan based law firm with offices in Grosse Pointe Farms and Northville, Michigan. Virtual law practice allows long distance continuity with clients.

Mr. Ulrich is a business and personal lawyer with a blend of extensive litigation and transaction ability, and a focus on practical solutions. He has over 43 years of legal practice experience. Whether in Michigan Trial Courts, Agencies, or Federal Courts, he can address your legal needs.

He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan's Board of Commissioners, and since 2002, the State Bar of Michigan's Finance Committee, He served in the American Bar Association House of Delegates, and is a member of the American Bar Association Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP) Standing Committee, and the ABA Technology and Information Systems Committee (SCOTIS). He is a licensed Michigan Real Estate Broker with over 49 years experience.

Mr. Ulrich is an Adjunct Professor of Law with the LL.M. graduate program in Corporate & Finance Law at Western Michigan University- Cooley Law School, with courses in: Corporate Compliance, Entrepreneur Law & Practice, and Global & Complex Litigation.

He was a Partner with a large Michigan-based national law firm, heading its Real Estate Group. Earlier he served as an attorney on the staff of the Michigan Supreme Court, overseeing administration of 64 trial courts in Michigan, improvements to District, Probate & Circuit Courts, investigations of Court operations, and as acting Associate State Court Administrator.

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