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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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April 23, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Sometimes it seems family courts are biased against fathers.  That’s true anecdotally, but it’s also revealed by half a dozen studies of judges and the lawyers who practice before them.

Well, here’s another of those anecdotal cases (TapHaps, 3/15/20).

Mark Athans and Charity (foreboding name) Parchem married in 2018 in South Dakota.  Athans already had a son who was 16 and had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  Athans is the boy’s sole caregiver. 

Autism or not, to Athans’ son, something about Parchem didn’t feel right.  So he started doing some online research on her and found that she was not only already married, but to two men.  Athans made three.  So, five months into the marriage, Athans filed for an annulment of the marriage.

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April 22, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Ten years ago this month, Australian Laura Garrett abducted her four daughters from their father, Tommaso Vincenti, and their home in Italy.  With the illegal help of the Australian embassy in Rome, she took the girls, then aged 9 – 14 to Australia and, with the help of her mother, went into hiding.  Eventually, she was located and her husband, still in Italy, filed a lawsuit under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seeking their return.  It would take three years for the Australian courts to do what should have been done in a few weeks, but eventually the children were ordered back to Italy to be with their father.

Australian television news showed the girls screaming and resisting when the police forced them to board a flight to Rome.  For all the world, it looked like child abuse, kids terrified of an abusive father.  After all, that had been Garrett’s claim from the first and the news media reported it without question.  The Australian government paid Garret $900 per month in compensation as a “victim of domestic violence.”  Eventually, though, it was revealed to be a sham. 

Now, a decade later, the girls have come clean (Kidspot, 4/14/20).

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April 21, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Every day for at least two weeks now, there’s been a large number of articles in a vast array of publications about how to handle the COVID-19 quarantine in child custody situations.  The overwhelming majority of those articles say that, unless there are other extenuating circumstances, the parents are to abide by whatever court order is in effect. The virus alone is not a change of circumstances sufficient to alter the status quo regarding parenting time and custody.  Countless lawyers and judges are repeating the same advice.

But there’s always the odd outlier (The Atlantic, 4/8/20).

Writer Deborah Copaken tells the story of her, her ex and their 13-year-old son. They’re divorced and seem to have shared time fairly equally until COVID-19 raised its ugly head.  They live about an hour apart in New York City. Sensibly, the two grappled with what to do with their parenting arrangements during the restrictions on activity designed to reduce transmission of the illness.

But then,

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April 17, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

There’s bad news on the child protection front (KSAT, 4/13/20).  In Texas and across the country, calls to child protective agencies during the COVID-19 crisis have sharply decreased.  By 20% in Texas, by 50% in Wisconsin and elsewhere, reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped precipitously.

And CPS officials aren’t happy about it.  Not one bit.

A perfect storm — that’s what some child abuse prevention advocates are calling the coronavirus pandemic.

For a month now, children at risk of abuse and neglect have been locked in homes with parents ill-equipped to deal with the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of the virus. Some worry the longer this crisis continues, it will lead to another epidemic of child abuse and neglect cases.

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April 16, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Director

I recently posted a piece lauding courts for generally continuing to enforce whatever custody and parenting time orders are in place during the time restrictions on human interaction are in place due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.  This case is a rare exception (CNN, 4/13/20).  It’s also an opportunity to explore some of the reasons why the virus must not be used as an excuse to limit children’s time with one parent or another.

Dr. Theresa Greene is an emergency room physician in Florida.  She’s been divorced from her ex-husband, Eric, for two years and the couple have a young daughter.  The two have, until recently, shared parenting time equally. 

But Eric went to court to request that Theresa’s time with their daughter be stopped for some period of time, presumably until the risk of contracting the virus abates.  Judge Bernard Shapiro’s order includes make-up time for Theresa when the emergency is over and daily Skype time with her daughter.  So, whatever its other shortcomings, the order isn’t as bad as it might be.

Understandably, Theresa is appealing the order on the ground that it discriminates against her as a divorced parent.  She makes a good point.  As she says in the video interview that accompanies the article, if she were married, no one would tell her not to go home to her family every night, even though she’d worked at the hospital all day and been exposed to COVID-19.  That’s true and there’s no coherent argument to be made for treating divorced and married parents differently, certainly not in Greene’s situation.

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April 14, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

With the massive changes brought about by COVID-19, the question that’s in the back of a lot of people’s minds is “How does this affect existing court orders for custody and parenting time?”  After all, we’re supposed to limit contact between individuals and children traveling between homes means more exposure for all involved.  So perhaps the answer is for whoever has the kids to keep them until restrictions on contact are loosened.

But, from my vantage point, I see courts uniformly instructing parents and lawyers that, whatever order is in effect remains in effect until modified.  In other words, as far as parenting time orders go, there’s been no change, virus or no virus.

I maintain multiple Google Alerts for a wide variety of topics, including terms like “shared parenting,” “non-custodial parent,” “child’s best interests,” and the like.  I receive scores of articles every day and, since the advent of the virus, a huge number of them have been about what happens to parenting time and parent-child contact orders during lockdown or otherwise restricted contact.

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April 10, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Dr. Linda Nielsen has written an important and necessary book.  Entitled Improving Father/Daughter Relationships: A Guide for Women and Their Dads, it’s based on Nielsen’s many years of research into father-daughter dynamics as well as the work of other established social scientists.  It’s scientifically based, but written for lay people.  It’s a book for any father or daughter who’s concerned about their relationship with the other.  It’s for any father who’s expecting a daughter or already has one of any age.  It’s for any daughter in her mid-late teens or older.  And, although the title doesn’t mention it, it’s for mothers with daughters.

Improving Father/Daughter Bonds is scheduled for release in June.  The book can be purchased here.  And here it is on Dr. Nielsen’s website.  

As a professor and researcher in adolescent psychology, Nielsen asks fathers and daughters who believe they can improve their relationship with each other to familiarize themselves with the applicable research first.  That’s because there’s a welter of mis/disinformation about fathers which it’s essentially impossible to avoid.

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April 9, 2020 by Linda Reutzel, National Parents Organization of Missouri and Ken Goins, Esq., Director, Protecting American Families

According to CNBC the Federal Government estimates that job losses could total 47 million and the unemployment rate could hit 32% because of the Covid 19 pandemic.  Currently, the historical impact on the economy has had a drastic effect on the daily lives of most families.

Our society has a deep heart-felt empathetic understanding that many single-parent families are hit even harder by layoffs, hiring freezes, furloughs, reduction in hours etc. In response the government has said it’s going to send money to every adult earning less than $100,000.  However, this monetary help will not be sent to the families of obligor-parents who are late on support payments. So in the middle of record unemployment which is a direct indication of needing help, our government will not provide the same help to the families of obligor-parents late in payments.  This is stereotyped-bias, illogical and destructive to the children. This focus on punishing all obligor-parents hurts their children because that money will not get to the child[ren] thru either parent. See Eternal Verities in a time of Change by NPO’s Robert Franklin, JD.

When it comes to single-parent families where the parent is an obligor for support payments, our society has difficulty recognizing the hardship the loss of income has on that family.   This is because of an offensive gender-based stereotype peddled by many that is based on an incorrect assumption that obligors are all potential absent deadbeats and not really part of the family.

Our message to obligor-parents is this:

  1. Once the obligor-parent has a loss in income the obligor should consider immediately filing a request for a downward modification with the administrative agency and a request in court. The Missouri Supreme Court has a website with fill-in-the-blank documents that those without attorneys can use to file for downward modifications in court. https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=38397 and for help with understanding the basic steps this webpage has information -https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=38396
  2. Also, every parent should complete a Missouri Form 14 that can be found on the internet to calculate your monthly obligation after the reduction in income.http://www.freeform14.com/ and/or http://form14.teamlex.com/

Our current laws incorrectly assume the obligor-parent has an ability to pay and does not require the agency/courts to order a downward modification when there is a loss/reduction in income. In fact, in Missouri our agency/regulations require:

  1. A notarized application that alleges at least a 50% reduction in income that exists for at least 3 MONTHS and will continue for at least another 6 MONTHS. So 49% is NOT enough.
  2. Even then, the agency is not required to seek a downward modification, but simply has the obligation to review and can refuse a downward modification request for any or no reason.
  3. The agency’s standard notice to obligor’s incorrectly states that it can refuse a request for a modification made for an order less than three years old and routinely denies modification requests simply because the order is less than 3 years old regardless of the obligor’s loss of income or (in)ability to pay.
  4. Our courts/agency place those on probation or enter into payment arrangements that require 1.5 times the original amount the obligor could not pay originally, without helping them obtain downward modifications.

The attorney for the agency, defended this practice saying that obligor-parents should have saved and anticipated the loss of income and their failure to anticipate the loss is an intentional failure to provide for their children.  In the real world, most families live paycheck to paycheck so it’s quite difficult to save for a rainy day.  Most obligor parents share custody so child support is more than just financial.  But loss of job might force the obligor-parent to sell the family-car, family-refrigerator, family-stove and other family-necessities to meet the financial obligation to the children.  This actually forces families of the obligor-parent who cannot afford the monthly payment to take out a loan to make the payment.  So our courts are actually encouraging the use of payday loans!  Finally, the courts/agency even assume that every obligor-parent is a finance expert who can predict the economy and layoffs and furloughs (and pandemics!).   In fact, until last year all obligor-parents in Missouri were legally defined as absent.

In a federal court constitutional challenge to its suspension of licenses without assessing (in)ability to pay, the agency very clearly used the incorrect assumption(stereotype) in the first line of its defense:

Plaintiffs are noncustodial parents who have failed to financially support their children, as legally required.

Our courts/agency fail to acknowledge that every obligor-parent is not an absent selfish deadbeat. Our courts/agency fail to establish the ability to pay as the legal criteria for how much if any amount should be paid to the other parent when most parents are sharing custody.  We all know a mother or father who are not meeting their responsibility, but when we begin to prejudge all parents and change our legal structure to reflect this bias, we are harming the families, especially the children. 

Visiting the support-agency website, you clearly see how to file for services, but there is no easily locatable tab labeled “modifications”.  Cases are established at the field offices throughout the state, but modifications are given less priority and only handled in the central office. 

With a loss of income, you MUST get the monthly obligation lowered so you can pay it or else the balance will accrue and you will be treated as if you had the money and were simply too selfish to pay it. There are groups that provide basic free information on child support.  You should reach out and visit them and if they charge a modest fee it is money well spent.

The bias against the families of obligor parents who fall on hard times is real and not warranted.   Most parents love and want to raise their children.  It is shameful that in this epic crisis our government officials would choose to ignore the suffering endured by the families of obligor-parents, especially their children.

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April 8, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

As I said here, the federal stimulus plan to combat the economic ravages of the COVID-19 virus contains an insidious exception.  Everyone who earns under $75,000 per year will receive a check from Washington in the amount of $1,200 - everyone, that is, except non-custodial parents who’ve fallen behind on the child support payments. 

Yes, if you’ve stiffed the government on your student loans, you still get a check.  The same is true if you’ve refused to pay income taxes.  No matter, you still get a check.  But if you’re too poor to pay your child support, you get nothing.

As I pointed out, that is nothing but punitive.  It accomplishes nothing except to punish parents (about 90% of them fathers).  It sends not a sou to kids.  And of course it diminishes the impact of the stimulus.  If handing money to individuals helps the economy, and it does (although to what extent I can’t say), then withholding it from poor parents serves only to make the stimulus less effective.

And of course the parents this affects are overwhelmingly poor.  The Office of Child Support Enforcement has for many years (at least since 2006) reported that those who don’t pay child support are the poorest of the poor.  So keeping them from receiving the checks looks to be doubly mean-spirited.

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April 7, 2020 by Indiana Lee

No one enters into a marriage expecting it to end. Anyone who has been through a divorce knows that it is one of the most traumatic events you will ever face.

But as difficult as it may be for you and your soon-to-be former spouse to accept the dissolution of your marriage, consider how much more painful it can be to your children. The fact is that your children may be frightened, confused, depressed, or even angry about their parents’ divorce, but they may not have the ability to express or even to adequately understand their feelings.

This is why the protection of your child’s mental health is of paramount importance as the divorce process proceeds. But it is not only your child’s psychological well-being that must be preserved.

Moms and dads, too, need mental healthcare as the family makes this difficult transition, not only for their own sake but for the sake of the children. An important strategy for supporting the entire family’s mental health during the divorce process is to incorporate a family-wide mental healthcare plan into custody negotiations.

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April 6, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

The Australian government is currently conducting a review of family law.  The last time it did so was three years ago.  Why such a quick repudiation of the previous review?  Because it was astonishingly badly done, relied on mythologies about family court at the expense of facts, misrepresented the science on shared parenting, etc.  In short, it needed to go.  Time will tell if the review now under way will be any better.

But the domestic violence establishment in Australia generally liked the previous review because it did away with the need for judges to even consider shared parenting as an arrangement for kids when their parents divorce.  The DV industry has long been, along with divorce lawyers, a reliable opponent of kids retaining meaningful relationships with both parents when the adults split up.  The excuse they offer is that, when a mother claims a father is abusive, he is.  That is, mothers never lie to gain an advantage in custody proceedings.  As a corollary to that, mothers never engage in parental alienation, which, in any case doesn’t exist. 

Such are the D.O.A. notions of DV industry stalwarts.

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April 2, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

‘Tis a season of change, a time of upheaval.  It’s an era in which everyday life has been turned upside down and things we thought of as givens now aren’t.  Do you need to go to the hardware store for a part for the leaky valve in the sink?  You can’t.  Thought you had a stable job?  You were wrong.  Some things are known to be certain as a matter of cliché, but now even taxes won’t be collected at the usual time.  Death?  That’s another matter.

So in this time of crisis and uncertainty, where it seems nothing is predictable, it’s “good” to know that at least one of life’s eternal verities remains.  I refer of course to sticking it to poor parents for child support (NBC News, 3/27/20).  That, my friends, continues to be public policy, even now.

As we all know, the federal Treasury will soon be mailing out checks to individuals who reported under $75,000 in income on their tax returns last year.  And pretty much all of those people will be getting them - except for those owing child support.  So, for example, Sarah may be behind on repaying her student debt, but she needn’t worry.  She’ll get her check in due course.  So will Jason even though he owes the Internal Revenue Service a hefty amount in back income taxes.  The government is empowered to collect those debts and could withhold Sarah’s or Jason’s check and credit the amount toward their indebtedness.  But it won’t do that.  For them, the check’s in the mail, and this time, it really is.

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March 31, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Here’s a case out of Nebraska that’s noteworthy both for what it is and for what it’s not.

Jesse Coffman and Marcy Nichols were married and had three children, currently aged 12, eight and five.  They divorced and, during the pendency of the litigation, Nichols had primary custody of the kids.  Coffman received the usual every other weekend visitation.  The court found that, generally, both parents are perfectly fit and loving parents and that the children are thriving.

During the divorce process, there was conflict between the parents, albeit not of an extreme nature.  However,

“This is the third paternity action commenced by the Mother.  The prior actions were dismissed at her request.”

That’s the trial court’s terse way of saying that Nichols misused the judicial system to try to harass and inconvenience Coffman.  Now, why he didn’t file his own countersuit so that, if she dismissed hers, his would still be in place and go forward, I don’t know.  Still, when they want to, judges can say a lot with a few words and the judge in Nichols v. Coffman did just that.

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March 27, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Here’s an excellent blog by Suzanne Venker who’s one of the best observers of contemporary male-female relationships (Suzanne Venker, 3/25/20).  Her topic this time is role reversals in marriage and whether they’re likely to work.  Put simply, they aren’t.  The reason is unsurprising.  Particularly once children come along, couples tend to opt for traditional sex roles of Mom the caregiver to kids and Dad the provider of resources.

“There was a time (not that long ago) when few women would entertain the thought of marrying a man who lacked career aspirations. But things have changed. Today, women make their own money. Ergo, the idea that a woman would assess a man’s financial prospects seems unnecessary, and a little, well, archaic.

But it isn’t…”

Indeed it’s not.  One of the most persistent behaviors among women is hypergamy, i.e. the tendency to “marry up.”  It’s less so now than it used to be, but still, women often respond to ancient evolutionary motivations that find them most attracted to the best resource provider.  During most of our evolution, that made sense.  Female hominids tended to seek out members of the dominant male hierarchy with whom to mate.  Doing so tended to mean a better chance of survival for them and their offspring.  And, like most of our evolved biology, that tendency on women’s part is a tough one to ignore, even now when it’s not strictly necessary.

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black and white boy child childhood 208106 2March 26, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

With good reason, I’ve often criticized family lawyers.  And why not?  They routinely stand in the way of needed, salutary reform of family courts and laws.  Worse, they do so to ensure that their paychecks don’t get cut even a little bit.  Worse still, they trot out the most tired and shopworn excuses for doing so.  Their claims long ago failed to stand up to even minimal scrutiny, a fact they all but certainly know.  But they keep saying the same things over and over.  And worst of all, they do all that in spite of what’s good for children.  Yes, fathers and mothers suffer the slings and arrows of the family law bar, but children take the brunt of it.  Time and again, the lawyers tell us all that kids don’t need both parents in their lives.  Oh, they don’t say it in those words, but what everyone in the reform movement knows is that standing against shared parenting stands in favor of poorer lives, poorer outcomes for kids.

So I criticize family lawyers.  They richly deserve it.

But not all of them do.  A few, like NPO’s Ashley-Nicole Russell, stand for what’s right and put self-interest where it belongs – second to the well-being of children, second to the welfare of parents and second to improving the judicial system.

Now comes Nevada family lawyer Marilyn York who gave this Tedx talk that’s about as perfect as it’s possible to be in 14+ minutes.  York doesn’t beat around the bush; she nails point after point after point.  Every state legislator in the land should watch the linked-to video.  So should every judge who hears child custody cases.

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March 25, 2020 by Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, National Parents Organization

As of Tuesday, March 24, far more men than women had died from Covid 19. Yet this has barely been mentioned in the public discourse on the pandemic, and comprehensive data on the subject could not be obtained by CNN reporters.

In almost the only public airing of this issue, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, stated at the White House press briefing last Friday, “From Italy we’re seeing another concerning trend, that the mortality in males seems to be twice in every age group of females.” CNN reached out to Dr. Birx for further comment, but without response to date.

Such a sex difference is very large and carries crucial implications for control of the pandemic. For instance, based on Chinese data, the overall case fatality rate  --  the probability of dying if one contracts the virus  --  is 14.8% among those in their 80’s and older. This statistic has been widely reported and has assumed central importance in discussions on how to control the pandemic.

According to my calculations, this overall number masks a huge sex difference that has been ignored. The case fatality rate for women in their 80’s must be about 8%, while that for men in their 80’s must be about 26%  --  more than three times higher. The risk of death for men in their 80’s who contract the virus is thus considerably higher than the risk of death for people with heart attacks who make it to the hospital.

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March 24, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, Board of Directors

I’ve been known to bemoan the fact that there’s so little hard data on custody outcomes in family courts.  What we have is a patchwork of different studies using different methodologies in different states, each of which of course has different laws.  And we have the data maintained by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Now, all those point in one direction.  They all suggest that equal parenting time orders are pretty rare, that mothers are far more likely than fathers to get meaningful time with their kids and that how kids are treated in court depends to a great degree on where they live.  As an NPO study of family courts in Ohio demonstrated, a child in one county may have a good chance of seeing his/her parents equally post-divorce, but the child’s friend three miles away in another county has almost no such chance.

What’s needed is a larger study done in several states with differing laws, differing demographics, differing political inclinations, etc.  As a practical matter, such a study would take a lot of money to conduct because it would require a lot of people pulling and coding a lot of files in family courts.

Still, until such a study is conducted, we make do with what we have, which brings me to this data from Wisconsin Fathers for Children and Families.  All in all, it’s pretty encouraging.

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March 20, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Having misled her readers about the incidence of fathers getting custody of their children in U.K.’s family courts, Guardian editor Sonia Sodha stumbles on to the topic of parental alienation (The Guardian, 3/5/20).  Predictably, she’s no more factual with it than with her previous subject.

Recall that Sodha linked to a study by Harding and Newnham to attempt to buttress her theory that family courts are as likely to give custody to fathers as to mothers (Nuffield Foundation, 5/2015).  The remarkable fact of course is that it does the opposite.  The two researchers were very clear that, overwhelmingly, when fathers got some form of child custody, it was because the mothers with whom they were involved were so deficient as parents that social services organizations all but ordered the dads to seek custody. 

It also shows that, in over half the cases studied, the judges ordered that the fathers should have no overnight time with their children at all.

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March 19, 2020 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Chair, National Board of Directors

Parents around the country are struggling with the disruptions to life caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Increasing numbers of schools and daycare facilities are closing—many for the duration of the school year. This poses unprecedented challenges for all parents of young children. And these challenges are magnified when there is only one parent actively involved in the children’s day-to-day lives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 more than 60% of families with both parents living together were ones where both parents worked. More than 55% of such families with children under 6 years old were dual income families. This means that, in the majority of such cases, there isn’t the “reserve capacity” of one stay-at-home parent to take on the additional tasks of full-time child care.

These families are scrambling to find ways to manage the novel challenges facing parents around the world. In some cases, these parents will now be working from home which will allow (require!) these parents to juggle child care and work. But many are engaged in work that cannot be done from home. In these cases the juggling of responsibilities presents even greater challenges.

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March 17, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

This continues from my previous piece on Guardian editor Sonia Sodha’s, article claiming that it’s a “fallacy” that fathers aren’t treated equally by British family courts.  To that threadbare claim she attempts to recruit a 2015 study conducted by Profs. Maebh Harding and Annika Newnham.  Her effort fails miserably on many counts as I described last time.  It also fails when Sodha tries to convince readers that, even when DV is proven against fathers, they still get custody.

Harding and Newnham examined 174 divorce and custody cases in England and Wales.  In a grand total of nine of them did a father who was found to have committed DV get custody.  Is that shocking?  Outrageous? 

Nope.

For one thing, the study’s definition of domestic abuse is, to use its word, “broad.”  It includes physical violence, but also “allegations of any controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour including physical violence, sexual violence, and emotional abuse.”  So “domestic abuse” can mean almost anything.  Did Dad try, on more than one occasion to get Mom to spend less?  To refrain from spending so much time with the heroin addicts down the street?  If so, he’s abusive.

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March 16, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

When I first opened this article, at the bottom of the page there appeared a highlighted box with the title “When Disinformation is Rampant…” (Guardian, 3/5/20).  To me it read like the punchline to a good joke; I literally laughed out loud.  Of course the box is The Guardian’s way of trying to drum up donations for its rapidly declining brand, but, given the article that preceded it, it was hilarious.  That article, by Guardian editor Sonia Sodha, is as good an example of disinformation as you’re likely to find.  Sadly, the box – and the punchline - now seem to be gone.

The title says it all – “The idea that family courts are biased against men is a dangerous fallacy.”  After that, those of us who toil in the family court reform vineyard know what’s coming, and Sodha doesn’t disappoint.  First she denies that family court outcomes disproportionately treat fathers worse than mothers.  More on that later.  Next she claims (of course she does) that, when mothers allege domestic violence by fathers, the fathers are given custody.  And finally we’re informed that parental alienation syndrome is “junk science.” 

In short, Sodha repeats the usual talking points the anti-dad crowd have been relying on for years.  Nothing new here.

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March 11, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

As two equal parenting bills make their way through the Florida Legislature, this article came out against reform of child custody and parenting time (Sun-Sentinel, 2/28/20).  And guess what.  It’s written by a family lawyer.  Of course it is.  Mark Sessums is the President-elect of the Florida chapter of the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers.  That means he gains pretty close to all his income from family law cases, which in turn means he profits from clients who fight.

Unsurprisingly, Sessums has nothing new to say about child custody or parenting time.  All his arguments are retreads and not a one of them withstands even casual scrutiny.

First, he trots out the tired old claim that existing law is all about the best interests of children, but HB 843 puts parents first. 

What utter nonsense.  Let’s take the first part of his argument first.  It’s true that Florida law, like that of every other state, requires judges to act in the best interests of children when deciding custody and parenting time.  The problem is that they don’t do it very often.  Why?

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dadand daughter

March 9, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

The Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled that a father’s consent to the adoption of his child is not necessary if he has missed as much as a single child support payment, or even a partial one.  In so doing, the majority of the court ignored the plain wording of the applicable statute, a fact noted by two dissenting justices.

The child’s father and mother divorced in 2013.  She received sole custody and he was ordered to pay support for the child who’s identified only as A.C.B.  In 2015, the mother married another man who wanted to adopt A.C.B.  The stepfather filed a petition to do so, alleging that A.C.B.’s father’s consent to the adoption wasn’t necessary.  The salient portion of the applicable Ohio statute requires the father’s consent unless a court

finds by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has failed without justifiable cause to provide more than de minimis contact with the minor or to provide for the maintenance and support of the minor as required by law or judicial decree for a period of at least one year immediately preceding either the filing of the adoption petition or the placement of the minor in the home of the petitioner.

Apparently, the “de minimus contact” part of the law wasn’t at issue.  So the only question was whether the father had provided support for the child within the year preceding the filing of the petition for adoption.  And that question was answered in the affirmative.  In fact, the father had made a child support payment within the week prior to the petition’s filing.

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March 6, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an 8,100-word essay in The Atlantic (The Atlantic, 3/2020).  In response, the Institute for Family Studies sponsored a symposium to discuss Brooks’ work (IF Studies, 2/10/20).  There were eight respondents, including Brad Wilcox, Kay Hymowitz, Andrew Cherlin and others.  All put together, their responses totaled more words than Brooks’ original piece.  Then Brooks took about 1,000 words to respond to the symposium’s responses to his article (IF Studies, 2/24/20).

With that small blizzard of words, you might think the august writers would have covered the waterfront.  You might think that they’d have pretty well exhausted Brooks’ thesis that “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake.”  But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.  Completely wrong.

That’s because not a single one of those nine, highly intelligent, highly knowledgeable people noticed the proverbial elephant in the room.  Oh, they know plenty about the sociology of the nuclear family and something about its history and their writings are well worth reading.  Plus, some of the symposium members agree with Brooks and some, like Hymowitz and Wilcox, pointedly do not.  So, taken all together, the original article, plus the symposium, plus Brooks’ response produced a healthily wide range of thought and opinion.

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