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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.  

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August 26, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The National Parents Organization is looking to catch a wave. For some years now, NPO has been the largest, strongest and most effective organization in the country and possibly the world for family court reform. As the arguments in favor of shared parenting grow ever more numerous and stronger, and those against it become weaker and less coherent, NPO believes the wave will continue to grow. Every year, up to half of state legislatures consider bills to make parenting time more equal between mothers and fathers. This past year we saw Kentucky pass the first ever presumption of equal parenting time. Other states, like Arizona, Utah and Missouri have passed less explicit laws that still move us toward equal parenting.

In short, it looks like the momentum for shared parenting will only continue to increase. And of course NPO will be leading the charge toward more just and equitable family courts across the country.

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August 24, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In this case, it’s taken one mother and two courts in separate countries to deny a child a relationship with her father (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 8/22/18). It looks to have been hard work, but they managed the feat. And of course, the ever bland and gob-smackingly dense John Bolch agrees. Where would we be without Bolch to pillory in the internet town square to the delight of the crowd that actually knows something about family courts and children’s well-being? John, it’s good for a man to have a purpose in life and that appears to be yours.

An American man and a Latvian woman seem to have been married in England and had a daughter in October of 2015. They separated about three months later.

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August 23, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a bit of good news (IFS, 8/16/18).  And indeed it is just a “bit.”  But good news is good news, even if there’s not a lot of it.

The rate of out-of-wedlock childbearing is declining.  It’s dropped to under 40% of all births, the first time that’s been the case since about 2004.  It rose steadily from 1960 to about 2008 and has declined until 2015, the last year for which we have full data.  The declining trend is the more remarkable because adults of childbearing age are getting married later than ever and the incidence of cohabitation is greater.  Those two things would tend to militate in favor or greater non-marital childbearing, but instead the rate is coming down.

Needless to say, this is good news that I hope will continue.  Children born to and living with single parents tend strongly to do worse than children living in intact families.  The evidence for that has been developed over decades and is overwhelming.  But at some point in the late 60s and early 70s, we as a society got the bright idea that fathers were expendable, that all children really needed was a single primary caregiver.  Unsurprisingly, that person was all but invariably Mom.

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Robert Franklin, Member of our National Board of Directors, has an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle you can read here. It highlights how surveys and polls around the nation have shown that Americans overwhelmingly support shared parenting and that laws need to be enacted to reflect the will of the people. 

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August 22, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We can now add New Hampshire to the list of states whose child welfare agencies are performing abysmally (Union Leader, 8/17/18). There it’s so bad that the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families failed in all seven categories considered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services as necessary to a functional child protective agency. That’s right, every single one.

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August 20, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Returning to the California Supreme Court case begun yesterday, the allegations of Bianka M. are worth remembering.  She claimed that her father, Jorge L. was violent to her older sisters and had abandoned her, i.e. failed to act as a father to her despite being able to do so.  Now, those claims didn’t relate to her request for a court order establishing a parent-child relationship between her and Gladys M. who everyone seems to agree is in fact her mother despite not having been in her life for seven of its first 10 years. 

No, those claims relate to Bianka’s “SIJ” (special immigrant juvenile) petition.

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August 19, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In one of the most astonishing and disturbing opinions in a long time, the California Supreme Court has ruled that a father’s custodial rights to a child can be voided by a court without even minimal due process of law. Do I overstate the matter? You be the judge.

Jorge L. and Gladys M. lived together unmarried in Honduras. They had four children of whom Bianka, born in 2002, was the youngest. In 2005, Gladys moved to the California. In 2012, Bianka traveled to California to be with her mother.

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August 16, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The State of Arkansas has finally wised up (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 8/11/18).

Nearly 10,000 people whose driver's licenses are suspended for failing to pay child support will get their licenses back if they reach agreement to resume payments under a new program this month.

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August 17, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This article is about as good as it gets on child support (St. Louis Public Radio, 8/15/18).  It’s a conversation with two St. Louis attorneys, Stephanie Lummus and  Michael-John Voss, both of whom do their best to defend non-custodial parents behind on their child support.  It should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the everyday realities of those parents and the child support system.

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August 15, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It looks like the State of New Hampshire is again going to pay out large sums of money due to its failure to contact a father when his daughter was in dire jeopardy (Union Leader, 8/14/18). Almost three years ago, Katlin Paquette murdered her daughter Sadee. She pled guilty to second-degree murder for which she’s serving a 21 – 42 year sentence.

Sadee’s father, Christopher Willott has sued the state due to its Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) ignoring the danger Paquette posed to the child and its own protocols, all of which allegedly resulted in the 21-month-old’s death.

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National Parents Organization of Virginia Chair Christian Paasch has an op-ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. This op-ed connects the child separation issues at the US-Mexico border with the separation of families that occurs every day in our family courts. 

Christian writes: 

A growing uproar in this discussion highlights the inconvenient and uncomfortable truth that the policy of forced separation has existed and been applied to American children for decades in our family courts. Obviously in certain circumstances, whether at the border or in families across the country, there may be instances where children should be separated from parents for their own safety, but those are in the minority of cases and are not what we are talking about here.
Read the article here.

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August 13, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

August is Child Support Awareness Month, so let’s all be aware of child support, shall we? Yes, let’s. Now, to be aware of child support, one might read this article or one similar (This Week News, 8/11/18). After all, it’s Child Support Awareness Month, so there are plenty of articles on the subject. But if you do, don’t figure you know all there is on the subject. You don’t. Indeed, the linked-to piece and the others tend to avoid mentioning many salient (and often uncomfortable) facts about child support.

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August 12, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Proceeding with Trinder, et al’s 2013 study of British family courts and their approach to applications by non-resident parents (86% were fathers) for enforcement of contact orders.  Transparently, it was the authors’ goal to find that courts were doing an acceptable job and that little or no changes need be made.  That’s made all the clearer by the fact that the authors failed to notice the clear implications of their own findings.

Most notably, in the 205 cases studied, not one judge either ordered a change of custody or simply handed the child to the non-resident parent for a period of time to make up for the refusal by the resident parent to comply with the visitation order.  The authors break down the judges’ orders into five categories, none of which includes those methods of enforcement.

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August 10, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The study linked to in this blog is dated 2013. I write about it now because it’s emblematic of the pushback family court reform advocates receive from some quarters. It’s a British study and transparently an effort to convince readers that family courts are generally doing a fine job, ergo, no change is necessary. Here in the U.S., we get the same claim about shared parenting from family lawyers who sometimes stoop to say that we don’t need new laws because hey, courts are already ordering shared parenting without them. The fact that there’s no evidence for the proposition and plenty to rebut it hinders the anti-reform crowd not a whit.

Seeking to succeed where the Yanks have failed, the British study is an effort to manufacture evidence where otherwise there is none. It’s fails miserably.

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August 8, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Trump administration is urging Congress to “overhaul” child support enforcement practices (Washington Examiner, 8/7/18). The linked-to article is short on specifics, but, from what I can gather, the White House looks like it intends to address some problems, just not those that need addressing.
The White House has called for an overhaul of federal child support enforcement to shift more responsibility for children's welfare from the government to parents, part of the administration’s larger welfare reform agenda.
In a previously unreported report to congressional Republicans, White House officials recommended requiring parents to cooperate with child support enforcement in order to be eligible for government benefits, including for programs that do not currently have such requirements, such as food stamps and housing aid.

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August 6, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

There’s a lot to this article (Good Men Project, 7/28/18). Much of the anguish fathers feel on losing huge swaths of time with their children following divorce comes through loudly and clearly. Those raw emotions are there in every line.

But there’s more, and that’s what I want to focus on.

The writer, John McElhenney first learned that his wife was leaving him after she’d already consulted a lawyer. Needless to say, things didn’t go well for John.

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August 5, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I’ve written often about unsubstantiated claims of child abuse or neglect made to children’s welfare agencies around the country. By 2015, the Administration for Children and Families reported that, of about 3.2 million reports of suspected abuse or neglect received by state agencies, fewer than 700,000 were substantiated. About 80% were not.

And of course I’ve said time and again that, since CPS is an organ of state power, all of our constitutional rights apply to it and caseworkers’ actions. But I don’t think I’ve ever written about the use of the power of those agencies to anonymously harass parents.

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August 3, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The ever excellent Dianna Thompson is using her status as Executive Director of Family Reunion to go to bat for shared parenting (Family Reunion). Thompson has for many years been one of the staunchest proponents of family court reform. Put simply, she knows whereof she speaks. Everyone who cares about the impact family courts have on children should take heed.
Children are born with two parents. Children want, love and need both. No child should be separated from a parent or reduced to a mere visitor to a parent unless the court finds an important reason (e.g., child abuse).) And yet courts, out of mere expedience, allow judges to pick a winner and a loser in child custody arrangements.  By doing so, it only guarantees that the child will be the loser, because that child walked into court with two parents and walked out with only one.

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August 2, 2018 By Donald C. Hubin, Ph.D., Chair, Ohio Executive Committee and Member, National Board of Directors

Ohio has recently enacted into law the most extensive changes in its child support laws in over a quarter of a century. Ohio news media is filled with stories highlighting the changes. As the leader of the Ohio Chapter of NPO, a member of the 2005 Ohio Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee, and a member of the 2001 Ohio Child Support Shareholders Committee, I have had more than a passing interest in this legislation.

From the time the legislation was first introduced in the form of Senate Bill 125, and throughout the legislative review process, Ohio NPO has analyzed the legislation, pointed out both positive and negative features of it, and taken a stand on its passage. For details of NPO’s position on this legislation, see the links at the bottom of this post. Here, I want to highlight just a few of the changes to Ohio child support laws that are coming and why NPO gives the legislation a very mixed review.

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August 1, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Under the too-watchful eye of Governor Paul LePage, the Maine system of child protection has gone from one of the nation’s best to one that typifies the dysfunction of child welfare agencies generally (Bangor Daily News, 7/29/18). That appears to have come in response to the deaths of two children at the hands of their parents. As I said last time, tragic cases frequently result in ill-thought-out changes to CPS agencies and Maine is no exception.

Current policy de-emphasizes family reunification and makes temporary placement with children’s blood relatives more difficult. The result of all that is more kids being taken from families, more kids in foster care, higher caseworker turnover, too few foster parents and a reliance on the infinitely malleable term “best interests of the child.”

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July 30, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

If anyone thought that North Carolina was the only state failing to learn from the mistakes of Texas and Arizona regarding its child welfare policies, he/she should think again. Maine is, if anything, failing even more miserably than North Carolina, whose latest tribulations I wrote about here (Bangor Daily News, 7/29/18).

Like North Carolina, Maine has decided that the way to improve the lives of children at risk for abuse or neglect is to demand that child protection caseworkers do more with less. The reason for the change in policy is that caseworkers weren’t doing a very good job of keeping up with their caseloads, so the LePage Administration’s “fix” has been to place a greater burden on them.

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July 29, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This is about as stark and hard-hitting an article on family court reform as I’ve read (Lincoln Journal Star, 7/26/18). It’s author, Dr. Les Veskrna pulls no punches.

Veskrna of course is the one who went to court to force the Administrator of Courts in Nebraska to divulge the materials used to train the state’s judges in matters of custody and parenting time. The documents were damning. Not only did judges receive claims that outright contradicted the overwhelming weight of known science on those matters, the skullduggery that preceded that training would have humiliated more scrupulous public figures.

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After 26 years, Ohio has passed a new law that will overhaul its child support system. In this article in the Toledo Blade, there is a summary of the changes to the law and interviews with those affected by these changes. 

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July 27, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Another state is going down the wrong road regarding its child welfare agency (Daily Advance, 7/15/18). This time it’s North Carolina and the wrong road it’s travelling is named “do more with insufficient resources.”

It seems that the legislature passed a bill last year that sets performance standards for the Division of Social Services that’s part of the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s appropriate to get nervous when lawmakers start micromanaging services like those provided by DSS. They don’t know what they’re doing and passing a law that’s equally applicable to every DSS unit in every county in the state is presumptively a bad idea. Face it, the law they passed isn’t flexible, but not all counties are alike.

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