August 16, 2019 by Don Hubin & George Piskor
On June 7, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law Senate Bill 318, a shared parenting bill to take effect in January, 2020. Initially, there was some skepticism about how significant this achievement was. The bill, as signed, adds just one clause to Oregon’s parenting plan laws. It says:
“In developing a parenting plan under this subsection, the court may order equal parenting time. If a parent requests that the court order equal parenting time in the parenting plan, the court may deny the request if the court determines, by written findings, that equal parenting time is not in the best interests of the child or endangers the safety of the parties.” ORS 107.102(4)(c)
The first sentence does not grant Oregon family law courts any power that they didn’t already have. The significance of the new law rests on the second sentence.
August 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
My Daughter’s Keeper is the true story of Mark Winkler’s rocky road through family and dependency courts in New York.
When Mark Winkler says, “I didn’t win,” he couldn’t be more right. Yes, he eventually got primary custody of his daughter Kisha and yes, he seems to be the type of father we’d want every kid to have. But the heartache and anguish he had to endure to get custody, the long hours in court, the sleepless nights wondering what misadventure would come next mean he “won” nothing. Everything he now has cost, if not blood, then certainly sweat and tears.
In fact, no one won. His little daughter didn’t win. Several years of her young life included witnessing emotional abuse between her parents. That time would have been shortened had Winkler not been so scared of family court. He’d heard the horror stories and hung onto a relationship with Kisha’s mother that he otherwise would have abandoned years previously. Then Kisha spent two months when she never saw her father. That was followed by countless visits from and to the child-protective agency (OCFS), mental health professionals, lawyers and courtrooms. The little girl’s life became a whirlwind that started with parental conflict and broadened into the whole panoply of family and dependency courts and everything they entailed.
Kisha’s mother didn’t win. Although she was entirely to blame for ending up with only minimal visitation, she went through as much heartache as anyone.
The taxpayers of New York didn’t win either. Mark Winkler is a thoroughly decent father, not without flaws, but unquestionably suitable to care for his daughter whom he loves to distraction. But proving those facts to a couple of judges and numerous caseworkers, supervisors, lawyers, therapists, etc. took an outrageous six months in one trial alone, plus other hearings, meetings, mediations and the like. How much that cost the State and City of New York, is anyone’s guess, but whatever the figure, the taxpayers didn’t win either.
August 14, 2019 by Ginger Gentile
Everyday I am contacted by parents who are suffering greatly because they cannot see their beloved children after divorce or separation. For some, it has been months. For others, decades. Finding the family courts to be of no help and few resources, they are desperate for their story to be heard. In an attempt to capture attention, they often start their stories with the same words:
“My Parental Alienation story is the worst you ever heard.”
As a documentary filmmaker (www.ErasingFamily.org) I have seen parental alienation stories end in suicide, murder, murder-suicides, and worse (don’t ask). Trust me, you don’t want to be in the competition for worse story.
By making each story exceptional, we fail to effectively communicate that these stories share many factors: histories of family trauma being played out in custody battles, the failure of the family courts to intervene, lack of resources, and societal pressure to “lawyer up” and “protect what’s yours”. When we fail to communicate what the stories have in common, we are unable to effectively push for legislative reform-default shared parenting-and moving away from an adversarial family court system. Politicians, academics and family court professionals aren’t moved by an exceptional case, they are moved by data and patterns.