July 4, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Opponents of shared parenting are digging their heels in to stop even modest improvements in the time children spend with their fathers post-divorce. Nebraska is the latest battleground.
I’ve reported a lot on the doings in Nebraska. What looked like the last-ditch effort of the anti-dad/anti-kid forces came when their own study of custody cases in the state revealed they have no basis for their opposition. Now, of course we’d known that all along. Less than a year ago, then Bar President Marsha Fangmeyer was reduced to openly lying about the terms of a shared parenting bill before the state’s unicameral legislature. So, many of us figured that, if opponents of fathers seeing their kids are literally down to making up claims that are just a couple of mouse clicks away from being proved false, shared parenting must be on the verge of a breakthrough.
But those opponents had another card up their sleeve. The problem was, they thought it was an ace but it turned out to be the Joker. That card was the analysis of Nebraska custody cases over a 10-year period. My guess is the anti-dad crowd that formed virtually the entire committee that hired the analysts to do the study figured the results would give them something – anything – on which to hang their hats.
They were wrong. The data showed fathers to be separated from their children at alarming rates despite not even being alleged to be child molesters or wife beaters. Neither parental unfitness nor domestic violence nor child abuse were even alleged in more than 10% of cases. And of course many of those allegations were surely found to be unsubstantiated although, tellingly, the study didn’t provide those figures.
So what did that leave opponents of the rights of fathers and the welfare of children? As far as I could see, not much. But then it was my turn to be wrong. What they had – and what they continue to have – is naked political power. With literally nothing of substance to oppose the shared parenting bill that was then before the state Judiciary Committee, the thing died right there. That’s right, it wasn’t even voted out of committee.
That’s about as clear a message as can be sent. It reads “We don’t care about fathers and children; we care about re-election. Threaten that and we’ll do something, but not before.” If any of the good folks in Nebraska want my opinion, I’d tell them that’s exactly what they should do. They should target wrong-voting office-holders for defeat at the polls come next election day. After all, how good can it look on the campaign trail to be dogged by a series of questions about denying children relationships with their dads? Imagine the fliers with the photos of adorable children asking Senator So-and-So why he/she “wont’ let me see my daddy?” Think of the town meetings with three or four shared parenting proponents present one of whom asks the candidate a question about his/her opposition to children seeing their fathers and, when the candidate tries to duck it, the next proponent stands up and demands an answer. We can make life very unpleasant for those who think (and to date, rightly) that they can ignore our very real and important issues.
But until then, proponents of fathers’ rights and children’s welfare in Nebraska have taken a different tack, one I reported on here. They filed a petition with the State Supreme Court demanding that the court make court rules uniform throughout the state when it comes to shared parenting. One of the many revelations of the analysis of custody cases was that a child’s ability to see his/her father depends entirely on what court the dad finds himself in. One court ordered joint custody in some 26% of cases; another ordered it not a single time in 10 years. That radical disparity looks very much like a violation of the state’s constitution that requires that “the organization, jurisdiction, powers, proceedings and practice of all courts of the same class or grade… and the force and effect of the proceedings, judgments and decrees of such courts, severally, shall be uniform.”
So eight people, including two legislators, filed the petition with the Supreme Court in an effort to get courts to at least make a pretense of even-handedness. The result? Much like that in the Judiciary Committee. Here’s a fine article on the subject (Omaha World Herald, 6/29/14).
The petition asked the Supreme Court to set uniform rules for the courts to follow when making parenting time decisions, said North Platte attorney James Bocott, one of eight petition signers who included two state senators.
“Unfortunately there’s not a desire to do that,” Bocott said. “No rationale or reason as to why. You’re left with no information as to what the court is thinking.”
The high court denied the four-page legal petition without explanation on June 17, about 2½ weeks after it was filed. Chief Justice Mike Heavican declined a request to discuss the matter last week.
I think I can give Mr. Bocott a good idea of “what the court is thinking.” Precisely as with the Judiciary Committee, they’re thinking they don’t have to do one thing for fathers until they’re made to.
And, with that in mind, it looks like the eight petition signers intend to do just that.
A federal civil rights lawsuit or a state court appeal on constitutional grounds are two likely avenues that will now be pursued, Bocott said.
“If the right set of circumstances and facts come along, we will absolutely pursue a lawsuit,” he said.
I wish them luck. But in the meantime, there’s an election coming up with plenty of wrong-voting legislators hoping to return to the Unicameral. It’s now time to teach them an important lesson – that advocates for fathers and children are done asking nicely. From now on it’s do the right thing or explain to voters why they voted to deny little Andy or Jenny the right to see the father they so dearly love and who dearly loves them.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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