Combating Parenting Time Interference When a noncustodial parent doesn"t comply with a child support order or a restraining order, he or she can be arrested. Yet custodial parents continually flout court orders regarding parenting time (a.k.a. "visitation') with impunity. Many noncustodial parents are forced to grind through long, expensive court processes in the hope that the court will hold a custodial parent in contempt--and even then change is often slow, if it happens at all. We plan on introducing a bill into the California legislature in February that would add a new family code to read:
"Any person who violates an order issued by the family court relating to child custody may be in contempt of court and subject to imprisonment, a fine, or both imprisonment and a fine...a court may take other action within the scope of its authority regarding custody and visitation.'
Curbing Alimony Abuses Family courts are rife with abuses and injustices in awarding alimony/spousal support and in dividing divorcing couples" assets. Fathers and Families helped pass one alimony reform bill this year, and we plan to introduce a series of alimony and asset protection bills in several states in 2011. These include:
• Protecting high income earners who also own businesses from alimony "double dipping' and "triple dipping.' Currently spouses often receive a sizable monthly income from the profits of a business, are awarded half the business in a divorce, and also get spousal support based on the obligor"s earnings from the business. Our legislation will curb these practices and ensure fairness for business owners. • Limiting court-required payout of assets in marriages of less than 10 years in which one person provides the lion"s share of the couple"s wealth • Setting caps on how much alimony courts can order obligors to pay and for how long • Expanding the provisions of our successful SB 1482, which allows some alimony obligors to obtain court orders requiring vocational examinations for their exes. SB 1482 also mandates that judges follow the exams" findings when determining spousal support levels. • Requiring that the party receiving alimony must make every attempt to improve their own earning potential through education and other opportunities
Combating False Accusations of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Requiring a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Advisement As prominent members of the Family Law Executive Committee of the State Bar of California have previously noted, restraining (a.k.a. "protective') orders based on false claims of domestic violence are frequently used as custody maneuvers in divorces, and they are often very effective. Many fathers are hit with these orders by surprise, and receive little due process from the court system. Commonly confused and without money for legal representation, these fathers sometimes agree to restraining orders as a way to make peace or to end proceedings, not knowing that their assent can cause problems with their child custody rights, parenting time, and employment, as well as landing them on domestic violence registries. Fathers and Families plans to introduce a restraining order advisement bill that would mandate that before a respondent can agree to a restraining order, he or she must first receive a advisement from the judge as to the possible implications of his or her agreement. Removing the Innocent from Child Abuse Registries Accusations of child abuse are also often used as weapons in custody battles. Many of the accused are eventually found to be factually innocent or the claims against them are ruled unfounded. Incredibly, many states" child abuse registries do not provide a process by which innocent people can be removed from the index. To pick one horrible case among many, according to a recent Associated Press story, "Craig and Wendy Humphries of Valencia, CA were arrested in 2001 after their daughter, then 15, accused them of abuse; their younger children were placed in foster care. State courts ruled the allegation was false but they remain on the list...' In other cases, the state government bureaucracies--which receive federal funding based on the number of cases in the system--are throwing up roadblocks to removing the innocent. Many people are also incorrectly put on the registries because they have similar names to those accused of child abuse. Fathers and Families plans to introduce a bill into the California legislature to address this terrible injustice.
Making Child Support Fair Interest on Arrearages Child support obligors often fall behind on support due to employment problems or inflated imputed incomes, and when they fall behind, high interest rates can keep them in arrears for decades. In Massachusetts this year, Fathers and Families helped knock down interest on overdue child support by 50%, though the rate remains too high. We are now working to further reduce interest rates on child support arrearages in Massachusetts, California, and other states. Helping Those Trapped by the System Get Their Lives Back Fathers and Families will be sponsoring legislation to expand the Compromise On Arrears Program (COAP) which allows obligors saddled with artificially-inflated arrearages owed to the state to settle those arrearages for an average of about 11 cents on the dollar. Moreover, we"re involved in designing and implementing cutting-edge solutions to solving arrearages owed to the custodial parent.
Battling Paternity Fraud Protecting Minors from Paternity Fraud In many states, minors are allowed and encouraged to sign paternity declarations without parental consent or legal counsel. This runs completely counter to public policy, since in practically no other situation can a minor sign a legally binding document or contract. This problem is symptomatic of the many abuses in the child support and paternity establishment system. Fathers and Families will be introducing bills in California and other states that prohibit any agency from asking a minor to sign a paternity declaration without the presence of a parent, legal guardian, or legal counsel. Helping Defrauded Fathers Get Justice Building on previous successes in this area, Fathers and Families plans on sponsoring legislation to make it easier for fathers trapped by false paternity judgments to get those judgments set aside.
Protecting Those Who Serve Because of problems in the family court system, divorced or never-married military parents deployed overseas often face the possibility of losing their custodial arrangement and their relationship with their children. Fathers and Families and its legislative representative Michael Robinson have been at the forefront of this issue, successfully working to help pass military parent legislation in dozens of states. In California in 2010 we passed one of the strongest military parent protection bills in the country (AB 2416), and in 2011 we will be introducing similar legislation in other states.
Combating Parental Alienation Powerful, well-funded organizations such as the National Organization for Women and the Center for Judicial Excellence are waging a legislative campaign to drive recognition of Parental Alienation out of our family court system. The system is already too slow to recognize and prevent PAS--the NOW/CJE legislative offensive will make this problem far worse. In 2010 we helped defeat two NOW/CJE California bills (AB 612 and AB 2475), but these bills and similar ones will be re-introduced in February. Fathers and Families will be helping lead the fight against them.
Why Give to Fathers and Families? For four decades our political opponents have employed fulltime staff inside state capitols to pass legislation and mold the family court system their way. By contrast, our side has been absent or manned by part-time volunteers. Given this huge imbalance of forces, it"s not surprising that our side often lost, just as any political or business entity without legislative representation inevitably loses. These losses are losses for our children. Fathers and Families is changing this. We are the only family court reform organization committed to engaging in the political process on a professional level. Recent years have shown that the Fathers and Families model works. However, we can only go as far as our funding takes us--please give generously. Legislative reform is like an electoral campaign--it costs money. We depend on you to fund us--please give via check or go to our secure site at www.fathersandfamilies.org/give to make your contribution today! Together with you in the love of our children, Glenn Sacks, MA Executive Director Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. Founder and Chair of the Board P.S. If money is tight now, please consider making a small monthly gift by going to www.fathersandfamilies.org/give. We also accept PayPal.