November 18, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I’ve written about Ray Keiser before. He’s a Nebraska activist for family court reform and one of the best-informed, plainest-speaking people I’ve encountered. Keiser tells it like it is, and that’s nowhere more apparent than here (Grand Island Independent, 11/17/16). His theme: the Nebraska Supreme Court is openly biased against fathers. Keiser makes a good case.
In August 2016, the Supreme Court agreed with a trial court that rejected a fit father’s attempt to remove his two teenage daughters from the custody of their mother and new stepfather, a registered sex offender who served four years in prison for molesting a teenage stepdaughter from a previous relationship. Before marrying the stepfather, the mother had a live-in boyfriend who molested another of her teenage daughters.
The court reached this result despite a law that presumes it is not in the best interest of a child to live in the same home as a registered sex offender. This decision was heavily criticized all around the world, including by newspapers throughout the United States, England and Australia.
I wrote about that case here. It’s far more outrageous than Keiser, in his small allotted space, can fully demonstrate. To be brief, the Supreme Court affirmed a trial court finding that, despite a clear legislative preference for keeping sex offenders out of children’s lives, the offender in question posed no significant risk of harm to the children. As I made clear, it did so despite the fact that there was no competent evidence to support that proposition. Then, the Supreme Court simply overruled its own precedent of only three years previously that would have forced it to reach a different conclusion than it desired.
But the Supreme Court didn’t stop there. As I wrote just this past August, according to the Court in Hopkins, any evidence will do to thwart the clear intention of the state legislature regarding sex offenders living with children. The court said,
[T]he credibility of [the mother]’s evidence should not impact its rebutting effect. “[T]he determination that a [party] has met its burden of production . . . can involve no credibility assessment.
To which I replied,
That’s right; whether a witness’ evidence has any credibility whatsoever has no bearing on whether the presumption is rebutted. Forever afterward, in Nebraska courts, in rebutting a presumption the elected officials of the state deemed important enough to write into the statute books, literally anyone can say anything and, as long as it “tends to prove” no significant risk, then a sex offender can remain living with children.
Justice Connolly, in dissent, thought the same.
In short, courtesy of the Nebraska Supreme Court, the intention of the state legislature regarding sex offenders living with children is null and void. And it was apparently all done just so a father wouldn’t get custody of his kids.
Keiser goes on.
In September 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the recommendations of the Child Support Advisory Commission to lower Nebraska’s child support guidelines. The Advisory Commission found that our guidelines are among the highest in the entire United States and far higher than justified by our cost of living. The Advisory Commission recommendations tried to correct this mistake by making our child support guidelines more consistent with Nebraska’s cost of living and guidelines in surrounding states.
It’s hard to understand why the Commission was even appointed if the Court was going to ignore its recommendations. But it’s another instance in which the Court voted against fathers with little reason for doing so.
So Keiser moves on to paternity fraud. Unsurprisingly, since paternity fraud victims are men, the Supreme Court cares little for victims’ suffering or rights.
In May 2014, the Supreme Court issued the latest in a series of paternity fraud cases. Nebraska is in a small minority of states that deny defrauded men the ability to recover when they are falsely told they are the father of a child. Most states that have addressed this issue, including Iowa, reached the opposite conclusion and give defrauded men the ability to recover money that was stolen from them.
This latest paternity fraud case was especially bad because the child was removed from the mother and placed with the real biological father. As a result, the defrauded man must pay child support to the real biological father. Even though these facts were undisputed, the Supreme Court made the defrauded man pay child support for a child all parties agree isn’t his.
Then there’s the most important issue of all – custody and parenting time. Predictably, the Court opposes any improvement of children’s ability to maintain meaningful relationships with their dads.
In January 2013, the Nebraska Administrative Office of the Courts published a study on child custody awards in Nebraska. This study found mothers were awarded sole or primary custody in 72 percent of cases, while fathers were awarded sole or primary custody in 13.8 percent. Joint custody with shared residence was awarded in only 12.3 percent of cases.
The study also found noncustodial parents have access to their children about 17 percent of the time on average, which is only half the minimum parenting time recommended by mental health research.
In response to this study, a group of attorneys and state senators asked the Supreme Court to address these issues by adopting uniform, statewide parenting time guidelines. The Supreme Court rejected the group’s petition less than two weeks after it was filed.
The Nebraska Court isn’t just anti-dad, it makes no effort to conceal the fact. The instances Keiser cites are blatant in their anti-father/anti-child bias. Of course, that’s in line with a variety of studies indicating anti-father bias on the part of family court judges in other states.
Of course not all the justices seem as virulent in their opposition to fathers and kids as others. Still, they’re subject to a retention vote every six years. Nebraskans might want to remember that.
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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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