2 More F & F Bills Pass CA. Senate Judiciary Committee;

MA. Shared Parenting Bill Clears Next Hurdle

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2 More F & F Bills Pass CA. Senate Judiciary Committee; 
MA. Shared Parenting Bill Clears Next Hurdle
May 11, 2010
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Fathers & Families Is 5 for 5 so far in Current California Legislative Session

Fathers & Families has co-sponsored and/or been instrumental in introducing and working for the passage of five family court reform bills in the current California legislative session. Our bills address child custody reform, child support reform, protection from family court financial abuses, and others. Below is our progress:

1) SB 1188–Passed Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous consent

2) SB 1355–Passed Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously

3) AB 2416–Passed Assembly by unanimous consent, passed Assembly Judiciary Committee by unanimous consent

4) SB 578–Passed Senate Judiciary Committee

5) SB 580–Passed Senate Judiciary Committee

These victories did not happen by accident. They are the result of months and years of planning and lobbying by Fathers & Families' legislative representative Michael Robinson and assistant legislative representative Nicole Silverman.

As we've repeatedly seen, California family law has an enormous impact on the laws of other states--California victories are national victories. F & F is creating real, tangible family court reform today, but our deep, professional involvement in Sacramento requires money–contribute to the organization which fights for you by clicking here.

Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families

Melissa Hodgdon
Deputy Director, Fathers & Families

F & F Bill to Protect Disabled Parents' Child Custody, Visitation Rights Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Fathers & Families' mission is to protect children's right to the love and care of both parents after divorce or separation. We often hear from disabled or partially parents who have been driven to the margins of their children's lives because the other parent has used their disability/partial disability as a pretext to deny them custody or visitation with their children. While some disabled people are truly unable to care for their children, many are not.

California Senator Rod Wright's (D-Los Angeles) SB 1188 will address and help solve this problem. Fathers & Families has joined with the American Retirees Association in co-sponsoring SB 1188, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 4 by unanimous consent. Moreover, it has been put on the consent calendar for the full Senate.

Fathers & Families has helped garner the support of disabled rights groups, the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and others for SB 1188.

Existing California family law codes do not address the issue of disabled parents, leaving the door open for unnecessary and often expensive litigation, even in cases where the disabled parent had been successfully parenting the children for many years prior to the separation or divorce.

SB 1188 will add Section 3049 to the Family Code. It will read:
3049.  In any proceeding to determine child custody or visitation under this part, in which at least one parent is disabled, the disability of that parent may not form the basis for an order granting custody or visitation to another party, or for an order for imposing any condition or limitation on an award of custody to or visitation by the disabled parent, unless there is a finding by the court that  a grant of custody or visitation to, or a condition or limitation on custody or visitation by, the disabled parent would not be in the best interest of the child. This section applies to any proceeding regarding custody or visitation, including, but not limited to, a request for a modification of an existing order for custody or visitation...
SB 1188 shifts the burden of proof onto the parent who raises the disability as an issue, serving as a deterrent to a parent seeking to raise the issue as a way to cause unnecessary litigation. It also reduces disabled parents' litigation costs and helps reduce court calendar time and costs at a time when California is struggling with budget woes.

If you are a disabled parent, we want to hear from you–please fill out our form here. If you have a family law problem or feel that your disability has been used against you, please also fill out the last two boxes of the form.

F & F Child Support Reform Bill SB 1355 Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously

The current child support system can be a nightmare for noncustodial parents, particularly during the recession. Hard-luck parents are often saddled with inflated and erroneous child support obligations and arrearages, and face heavy-handed enforcement action when they're unable to comply. Sometimes abuses within the child support system make it very difficult for noncustodial parents to function as fathers and mothers to the children who love them and need them.

Fathers & Families and its legislative representative Michael Robinson are currently involved in legislation and other remedies to hack away at the child support system's many problems and reform it for the benefit of children and families.

California Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles) has long been a leader in working for a balanced family law system, and has three child support reform bills pending this year. Fathers & Families, in cooperation with the Department of Child Support Services, the Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar, the Public Defenders Association, and others, has been instrumental in introducing and working for the passage of child support reform bills in the California 2009-2010 legislative session.

To date, all three have passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, including SB 1355, which was passed unanimously on May 4. The three bills are:
SB 578 (Wright): Currently the interest rate on child support in California is a whopping 10%, and at least a third of California's staggering $14.4 billion child support debt is interest. Particularly in the recession, this interest saddles hard-luck child support obligors with huge paper arrearages they can't possibly pay. This sets them up for abusive enforcement action or drives them underground, making it difficult for them to function as parents for their children.

Currently child support obligors who do manage to make their monthly child support obligations still fall behind because interest keeps accruing on their arrearages. Under SB 578, the Department of Child Support Services cannot charge a child support obligor any interest in any month where they have made their normal monthly payment–an important bread and butter reform for many child support obligors.

SB 580 (Wright):  SB 580 will ensure that noncustodial parents aren't saddled with an unreasonably high percentage of their children's medical care costs and will bring California into compliance with federal law.

SB 1355 (Wright): A Department of Justice study on reducing prisoner recidivism focuses on an important but little-mentioned problem child support obligors face—the crushing child support debts which accrue while they were behind bars. Since interest accrues rapidly, many former prisoners struggle under a staggering debt they will never pay off. Some return to jail because of nonpayment of child support. Others are re-incarcerated after turning to illegal activity to support themselves, because at low wage lawful jobs, 50% or more of their paychecks are garnished to pay the debt.

These debts often make it impossible for ex-offenders—many of whom are young fathers who were incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses—to play a meaningful role in their children's lives. Prisoners pay for their crimes with their time behind bars—these debts often amount to a punishment artificially extended beyond their sentences.

Wright's SB 1355 will address this problem by mandating that "the obligation of a person ordered to pay child support is suspended for the period of time in which the person ordered to pay support is incarcerated or institutionalized. This effectively takes existing law that entitles an unemployed obligor who had lost their job the right to modify and order and applies it to incarcerated or institutionalized persons." It's a common-sense solution in an area where common sense is often lacking.  This provision does not apply to an incarcerated or institutionalized person where it is determined that they do have assets. To read Fathers & Families' official support letter for SB 1355, click here.
We have also worked with Wright and California DCSS on the groundbreaking Compromise of Arrears Program, which allows parents who are unfairly saddled with inflated, unpayable child support arrearages to settle them for modest cash payments. We are currently involved in efforts to expand the COAP program and simplify the application and approval process.
Massachusetts Child Support Action Alert
Are you a Massachusetts parent who's paying interest on child support arrearages? If so, please tell us your story by filling out our form here.

Also, Fathers & Families will be attending the Massachusetts Department of Revenue's hearing on child support interest on Thursday, May 21. If you are interested in attending, please contact Deputy Director Melissa Hodgdon via email or (617) 542-9300.
Massachusetts Legislative Update
MA. Shared Parenting Bill Clears Next Hurdle, Is Extended by Judiciary Committee


The Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature has again extended our Shared Parenting bill (HB 1400). In March, the bill was given an extension until May 7th. At that point, the committee either needed to report the bill out favorably, give an extension, or send it to a study which would mean the bill dies.

Since the first extension, our members have been writing, calling or meeting with their legislators to discuss the importance of shared parenting.  Other members, like Greg Sabine (pictured with Sen. Thomas Kennedy and Rep. Christine Canavan) have not only met with their legislators but also spent time writing to local papers about the issue.  These efforts have clearly paid off.  We now have another two months to make sure this bill makes it out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote.

Through Fathers & Families' efforts, over one-quarter of the Massachusetts Legislature has expressed clear, public support for our shared parenting bill, many of them signing on as co-sponsors. We gathered thousands of signatures to place shared parenting on the 2004 Massachusetts ballot and led a successful campaign for its passage, winning 86% of the vote. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the Legislature that if they pass our shared parenting bill, he will sign it, and F & F recently met with Patrick.

Through our efforts and the efforts of our allies, shared parenting was the most-requested plank in the Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the most popular issue on the Governor's website in 2009.  Shared parenting was endorsed in principle by the editorial board of the Boston Globe in 2008.
What's Happening
Syndicated Advice Columnist Amy Alkon Criticizes NOW's Opposition to Recognizing Parental Alienation

Fathers & Families Praises Kellogg's Company for 'Weathering Rain Together' Rice Krispies TV Ad


Fathers & Families has sent a letter to Kellogg's CEO A.D. David Mackay praising the company for its recent TV ad entitled "Weathering Rain Together." In the ad, a father and his two children spend a rainy day making Rice Krispies treats and enjoying the day together. The ad shows a loving, caring father who enjoys spending time with his children.... Read more here

A Mother's CPS Nightmare: Canadian Mom Lisa Kirkman Still Separated from Son

FL Passes Law Against Parental Child Abduction - Or Does It?

Divorced Father Pays $7,241 to Keep Children's Home out of Foreclosure; Child Support Enforcement Suspends His License 

Mothers' Day Rally to Bring Home Noah Kirkman 

DV Charges Dropped Against Grandmother, 73 

Part I: For New Yorker's Malcolm, Trees Just Don't Make a Forest 

Part II: Janet Malcolm Finds 'Iphigenia' in Her Own Mind 

Senate Committee Grapples with Foster Care, but not Father Care 

In Finland a Familiar Story: Child Welfare Agencies Choose Foster Care over Father Care
Are You a Disabled or Partially Disabled Parent?
If so, Please Let Us Know
Fathers & Families has joined with the American Retirees Association in co-sponsoring the disabled parents bill SB 1188, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 4.

If you are a disabled or partially-disabled parent, please fill out our form here. Your participation helps build our political strength and ability to make family court reform.

Join Fathers & Families
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Fathers and Families is a family court reform organization with a comprehensive strategy, an impressive history of legislative and fundraising success, and the largest reach of any advocacy group of its kind:

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Volunteer Testimonial

"Every child deserves a nurturing, loving environment and protection from hostile parenting and alienation. I have seen first-hand the effects of the emotional turmoil created by unfit parents. As a grand-parent, It is especially heart-breaking to see your child victimized by both an angry parent and then again by a misinformed family court system. I became involved with the National Parents Organization, because the focus is advocacy for the children."

By Paula Cuesy, Member, California Executive Committee