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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

May 20, 2015

The California chapter of National Parents Organization has your back. It has been following activity in the California Legislature relative to family law, and it has developed the following comments and recommendations concerning various bills that could affect you.

If you are interested in helping out in this effort, send a brief email to [email protected]

AB 225 (Melendez) — Gun violence restraining orders: offenses.
Summary:
This bill would change the misdemeanor violation for filing a false gun violence restraining order to a charge of felony perjury.
Recommendation: Support.
Location: Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Reasoning: The creation of the “gun violence restraining order” last year opened a new opportunity for unscrupulous actors to use false accusations to influence custody decisions. While it is unlikely that any/many of these false accusations will ever be charged with perjury, enhancing the penalty for this kind of harassment should be supported as a positive step.

AB 267 (Jones-Sawyer) — Criminal procedure: disclosure: felony conviction consequences.
Summary: This bill would require judges to inform defendants that being convicted of a felony may result in consequences, including loss of licenses, ability to own or possess a firearm, and ineligibility to enlist in the military. (4/7 amendments remove the requirement related to accepting a plea)
Recommendation: Watch.
Location: Senate Public Safety.
Reasoning: When this bill required notice when the defendant first appeared for arraignment, I had a tentative “Support” position because early notification can help the person to make an informed decision. Often, by the time the person is before a judge and ready to accept a plea, the feeling is that it is too late to change his/her mind. Domestic violence charges are felonies under federal law, unless plead to a lesser misdemeanor.

AB 297 (Lackey) — Child custody: preferences of the child.
Summary: This is a “spot bill.”
Recommendation: Watch.
Location: Introduced.
Reasoning: This bill does not yet contain a substantive change to existing law.

AB 365 (Garcia, C.) — Child custody proceedings: testimony by electronic means.
Summary:
This bill would require courts to allow telephone, video, and other electronic communications in lieu of a personal appearance — only in cases where deportation or detention by Homeland Security effect his/her ability to appear. (as amended 3/11)
Recommendation: Watch.
Location: Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reasoning: With the narrowing of this bill to only affect immigrant/deportation issues, I think it takes the bill in a direction that affects a small number of people on an issue that NPO is not prepared to address. Accordingly, the recommendation has changed to “Watch.”

AB 439 (Bloom) — Protective orders: batterer’s program.
Summary: Existing law allows courts to require a restrained party to participate in a batterer’s intervention program (BIP). This bill would require a person who is subject to this requirement to register for the program by a date specified by the court, or within 30 days if no date is specified. This bill would also require the person to sign consent to release specified information regarding the program to the court and the protected party. (as amended 4/8)
Recommendation: Support.
Location: Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reasoning: NPO needs to maintain a strong stance against domestic violence. While we should be working to revise the circumstances for which protective orders are issued, once issued it is important that these orders serve their intended purpose — to protect victims of domestic violence. In most existing cases, if the BIP registrant stops attending or fails to register, he/she is reported to the probation department and then returned to jail for failure to comply with the conditions of his/her release. This bill is an accountability measure that provides for strict and obvious guidelines, and provide a measure of security for protected parties. Most often, violations of protective orders where the restrained party is subject to a BIP occur when the restrained party has stopped attending the BIP classes. This bill will inform the court and the protected party, who can request intervention if necessary.

AB 494 (Maienschein) — Restraining orders: protection of animals.
Summary: This bill would allow a court to issue a protective order for an animal.
Recommendation: Oppose.
Location: Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reasoning: With the abuse of protective orders that already exists in family court, and the oppressive restrictions on individual freedom associated with those protective orders, it is an unreasonable expansion of this authority to cover animals. One could argue that evidence of a threat to a person’s pet is evidence of danger or threat to the owner of that pet which should be sufficient to justify a personal protective order. As such, the restrained person would be disallowed from going near the protected person’s house, car, work, and other locations, as specified in the order. Additionally, there is “blank space” on the current order which would allow the court to specify protection of the animal as well. A person wanting to protect his/her animal should be required to show sufficient evidence that would case the court to issue a personal protective order under the current authority.

AB 536 (Bloom) — Domestic violence: protective orders.
Summary: This bill would create additional hurdles and required forms when a mutual order of protection is requested. (as amended 4/8)
Recommendation: Watch/Oppose.
Location: Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reasoning: California re-opened the opportunity for parties to request a mutual protection order in the 2013-14 Session. Courts are still discouraged from doing so, but prior to this new authority it was nearly impossible to obtain a mutual order of protection. With evidence showing that more than half of domestic violence is bi-directional, mutual orders is a necessary step toward recognizing that fact and ensuring that bi-directional abuse does not prejudice custody cases. When a request for a protective order is filed, a response form is sent to the respondent. This bill would provide that filling out the response form and attaching a pleading is not sufficient to request a mutual order — a separate form must be filed for that request. This will unfairly disadvantage low-income and those with less education who may not understand the requirement.

AB 545 (Melendez) — Domestic violence.
Summary:
This bill would require a person who is convicted on a second, or subsequent, offense for domestic violence to have mandatory imprisonment of 48 hours if a previous conviction included corporeal injury resulting in a traumatic condition. (as amended 4/23)
Recommendation: Support.
Location: Assembly Floor.
Reasoning: NPO needs to establish and maintain “bona fides” to support our position that shared parenting is only presumed where there is no evidence of abuse. This bill specifically relates to DV convictions — cases prosecuted in Criminal Court — and, therefore, also supports our desire to move DV accusations away from Family Court as much as possible and practical.

AB 610 (Jones-Sawyer) — Child support: suspension of support order.
Summary: Existing law suspends the obligation to pay child support for a person incarcerated for more than 90 days. This bill would ensure that the suspension occurs and that no arrears are accrued, and provide that the obligation resumes on the first day of the first full month after release. Amendments on 4/8 add the requirement that neither the obligor or obligee objects to these provisions. These provisions would sunset in 2020.
Recommendation: Support if Amended.
Location: Senate.
Reasoning: This bill will ensure that those who do not have a means to earn income are not subject to the accrual of child support arrears. While we want to make sure that all parents are supporting their children to the best of their ability, studies show that a large amount of child support debt can be a factor in creating “deadbeat” parents. The amount of child support arrears may also be a factor in hiring decisions, which also affects the individual’s ability to support his/her child. The addition of provisions which allow the obligee to object essentially nullify the benefits of the bill. While there may be a small number of cases where this occurs, it defies reason that most recipients of child support will voluntarily give up that money.

AB 1519 (Judiciary Committee) — Judiciary omnibus: family support.
Summary:
Among other clarifying provisions, authorizes the Judicial Council to convert 10 subordinate judicial officer positions to judgeships in the 2015-16 fiscal year if those conversions result in a judge being assigned to a family law or juvenile law assignment previously presided over by a subordinate judicial officer.
Recommendation: Watch.
Location: Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Reasoning: The overall effect of this bill is unknown. The bill was discussed on the April Executive Committee conference call with substantive arguments on both sides.

SB 68 (Liu) — Minor parents: reunification services.
Summary:
Existing law outlines 16 reasons why the court can terminate the parental rights of an individual, thereby denying reunification services. This bill would instead require the court to order reunification if a parent who was denied reunification for one of these reasons was a minor at the time that reunification was denied. Amendments on 3/26 limit the types of reunification that may be ordered.
Recommendation: Support.
Location: Senate Appropriations Committee.
Reasoning: One of the basic principles of NPO is that all children deserve the opportunity to be supported and loved by both parents. This bill creates opportunity for juvenile parents to reunite with their children at some point after they have “grown up”. This bill could help to “break the cycle” and build stronger parent-child relationships, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

SB 307 (Pavley) — Restraining orders.
Summary: This bill updates the law regarding protective orders for those convicted of specified crimes to include mandatory supervision under AB 109.
Recommendation: Watch.
Location: Assembly Public Safety.
Reasoning: At this point, the bill does not have a measureable impact on NPO policy objectives. Amendments should be scrutinized.

SB 316 (Mitchell) — Dependency proceedings: counsel.
Summary: This bill would prohibit a counselor representing a child or nonminor dependent from having a caseload greater than 77 cases, or 188 cases if the counselor has a part-time assistant.
Recommendation: TBD
Location: Senate Appropriations Committee.
Reasoning: Unknown whether the limits imposed by this bill are sufficient. To the untrained, 188 cases for each counselor seems excessive — that is an average of two days per case, per year, including weekends and holidays. This bill should be reviewed by members who are more knowledgeable in case management.

SB 594 (Wieckowski) — Child custody.
Summary:
Prohibits a child custody evaluation, investigation or assessment, and any related report, from being considered by the court if that evaluation, investigation or assessment is conducted in accordance with minimum requirements, as specified.
Recommendation: TBD
Location: Assembly.
Reasoning: This bill could have a negative effect on noncustodial parents who are attempting to prove through evaluation that allegations of abuse, or other reasoning provided by the opposing party, are false. However, a measured standard of evaluation could create an even footing for both parties to use evaluations and assessments to the benefit of noncustodial parents.

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