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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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Dr Torri J Omar Epps Julio Jones Ginger Gentile Miami Event

NPO is honored to be a sponsor of FATHERLESS to FATHERHOODhosted by The Fatherless Generation Foundation Inc. & Dr. Torri J.in partnership with All Pro Dad.This live event will be on February 1 in Miami at the Superbowl LIV Miami Experience. Our Executive Director Ginger Gentile will be on a panel with actor Omar Epps, pro football player Julio Jones, advocate Mark Merrill, and Dr. Torri J discussing the impact of children growing up in fatherless home and solutions. Some topics will be: 

-Struggling with how to be a father because you did not have one?
-Challenged by how to maintain proper relationships because you did not see one demonstrated in your household growing up?
-Covering up childhood wounds with success? 
-Struggling on how to raise your children in the absence of their father?

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Missouri Rebuttable Presumption bill HB 1765 will have a hearing January 28 at 6 pm and SB 531 will have a hearing January 29 at 8 am.  These bills are identical to the ones from last session. We are very excited that these bills will be heard so soon in session.  Representative Swan and Senator Wallingford both are making these bills a priority this year, so hopefully we can finally get them to the Governor for his signature! Click here to fill out a witness form for the Senate bill hearing and click here to fill out a witness form for the House bill hearing.

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Are we learning?  Is it possible that we’ve experimented with abandoning the two-parent, intact family, found the results wanting and are starting to return to sanity?

Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies analyzed the latest data from the American Community Survey for 2018.  What he’s found is a bottoming out of the trend toward single-parent childrearing and even a slight trend in the opposite direction.  From 2014 – 2018, the percentage of children living outside of the traditional two-biological-parent household actually dropped.  From 2001 to 2011, it remained stable.

[S]ince 2014, the share of children living with two married parents has risen ever-so-slightly, from 61.8% to 62.3% in 2018, and data from early 2019 in the Current Population Survey suggest that 2019 will show further improvement. The period from 2011 to 2019 is the longest period of stability or improvement in children’s living situations since the 1950s.

Obviously, a half-a-percentage point increase isn’t much, but it comes after a fairly long period of stable numbers.  Is all that a precursor to greater positive change?  Hang around for the next half century and I’ll let you know.

Needless to say, the changes in family structure over the past 60 years have been one of our society’s most remarkable features.  In 1960, about 13% of kids lived outside a traditional family.  By 2000, that number had ballooned to about 35% and the trend was worsening.  But then in about 2010, it evened out and began to reverse.

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January 24, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

In Virginia, there’s a bill, HB 1500, that deserves support.  If enacted into law, the foundations of civilization won’t quake, but it will make a modest improvement to the status quo.

In 2018, Congress changed the Tax Code to make spousal support a nullity for tax purposes.  That is, spousal support is no longer income to the recipient and no longer deductible by the payor.  Each is a reversal of what had gone before.

How Congress came up with that brilliant idea, I assume I’ll never know.  After all, in most cases in which income is transferred from one entity to another, the recipient is required to report it as income.  And in some of those cases, the payor may deduct the amount transferred from his/her taxable income.

As to spousal support, that’s no longer the case.  That of course constitutes a significant windfall to recipients and a further blow to the pocketbooks of payors. 

So the Virginia bill seeks to ameliorate that situation, at least a bit.  It does so be simply reducing the amounts called for in the state’s guidelines for spousal support.  In so doing, it would decrease the amount paid and received in what approximates the increases caused by the new tax law.  In short, it tries to get Virginians back to where they were before Congress acted.

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The Netflix film MARRIAGE STORY about a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal extremes, has gotten over six Academy Award nominations. This hit film is a great tool to promote default shared parenting as it shows a couple that loves each other, thinks the other parent is a great at taking care of their son but still spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a custody battle. Key scenes highlight how lawyers fuel conflict and the overburdened family courts encourage fighting instead of helping families heal.

Watch NPO's Executive Director Ginger Gentile on a Facebook Video discussion how to reference heartbreaking scenes to promote family court reform. If you want to be part of the solution, join your local chapter of NPO today!

https://www.facebook.com/nationalparentsorganization/videos/182601042942303/

Watch the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHi-a1n8t7M

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

A British Columbia psychologist has been disciplined (sort of) for her role in a contentious child custody case (CBC, 1/14/20).  Dr. Cindy Hardy committed multiple ethical violations that resulted in the child’s father being prohibited from seeing his son for over a year.

The origins of the case are obscure and none of the family members have been named either in the linked-to article or the findings of Dr. Lynn Zutter, panel chair of the Health Professions Review Board.  Suffice it to say however, that, from this far remove, it appears as if Hardy actively participated in a campaign of parental alienation on behalf of the mother against the father.  It further appears that, despite being found to have committed ethical violations, neither the College of Psychology of British Columbia nor the HPRB punished her behavior in any meaningful way.

In ways unexplained, the custody and parenting time matters were, in early 2016, being heard simultaneously in two courts, one in Alberta and the other in British Columbia.  The child’s mother retained Dr. Hardy to assess the child, informing her that he feared spending time with his father.  Hardy had little or no experience conducting forensic psychological evaluations, but did so anyway.  She did so without a word to the father and indeed, throughout the entire case made no effort to contact him.  Needless to say, she failed to obtain his informed consent to evaluate his son, a clear violation of professional ethics.

But it seems that Hardy was more interested in assisting the mother than in scrupulous compliance with ethics.  Her initial approach to assessing the child was to have him complete the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Third (BASC-3).  That’s a very standard way to begin, but, remarkably, she allowed the child to take the assessment tool home and complete it there under the watchful eye of his mother.

So situated, the child answered one question to the effect that he had contemplated self-harm.  Hardy interpreted that to mean that he did so because of his concern about going to spend time with his father.  There was nothing to make that connection but the mother’s say-so, but Hardy made it anyway.  Later, when the child re-took the BASC-3 and answered the same question the opposite way (i.e. that he didn’t contemplate self-harm), Hardy announced that the results of the tests were invalid and couldn’t be used to assess the child.

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January 17, 2020 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors

In my last piece, I criticized Danish historian Mikael Jalving’s piece in Quillette entitled “Scandinavia: Can the New Parental Team Replace Marriage?” (Quillette, 1/2/20)  I did so because of his strange conclusion that shared parenting (and the scientific evidence supporting it) is dangerous because it encourages divorce.  Needless to say, he cited no evidence for the proposition.

Nor did he mention that, in the U.S. at least, we know from Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen’s work that it’s precisely the prospect of sole parenting that encourages divorce.  The two researchers found that women tend strongly to file for divorce because they know that the sole-parenting custom by judges means they know they won’t lose their kids.  If anything, that suggests that equal parenting would tend to discourage divorce filings. 

As I said in my last piece, people divorce, whether Jalving likes it or not.  Given that, surely public policy should be informed by the science on children’s welfare when their parents split up.  And that science points directly to shared parenting.  It’s an obvious point that Jalving missed due to his antipathy for government interference in families.

I of course share that antipathy, at least to an extent, and Jalving makes some important points about the relationship between families and governments.  I’ve been studying and writing about families, children, parents and family law for over two decades now and my strong take on the subject Jalving raises is that governments are poor substitutes for parents.  They prove it every day.

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

Shared parenting is once again under fire, this time from here (Quillette, 1/2/20).  It’s a curious piece, part inexcusable ignorance and part pithy questions about the uneasy interface between the state and the family.

Danish historian Mikael Jalving has read Malin Bergström’s book, Divorcing with Children: Parents in Two Homes.  The problem seems to be that, as to shared parenting, that’s all he’s read.

Bergström of course is one of the most important researchers into family structure and child well-being.  Her massive studies of Swedish families indicate that equal parenting is the second-best arrangement for kids, the first being intact biological families.  The good news is that, as other researchers have shown, Swedes are taking to equal parenting like no other parents in the world.

“In Sweden, [Joint-Parent Custody] has become as common as living mostly with the mother after parents separate. The proportion of Swedish children in JPC was about 1 percent of children with separated parents in the mid-1980s, but is now between 35 percent and 40 percent. Of all children between 12 and 15 years of age, 1 in 10 are in JPC…Indeed, for 3-year-old children, JPC is nearly twice as common as SPC [Single-Parent Custody], at least among Swedish-born and well-educated parents…”

I call that the good news because clearly Swedish parents, partly in the spirit of gender equality and partly for the good of the kids, have embraced equal parenting.  But it’s not good news to Jalving.  Why?  He’s suspicious of equal parenting arrangements because, according to him, they encourage divorce or what he calls “guilt-free” divorce.  He of course offers no support for his claim.  Has the divorce rate gone up after the inauguration of shared parenting legislation in Sweden?  If it has, he doesn’t mention it.

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January 13, 2020 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors

An Idaho court has ordered a woman, Kaytlyn Ann Graefe, 21, to pay child support for two children who aren’t hers (Idaho Mountain Express, 12/27/19).  The reason?  She killed their mother.

It seems that Idaho has a statute requiring anyone who commits vehicular manslaughter of an adult with minor children to pay child support for those children until age 18.  And that’s what Graefe did.  Her story is particularly disgusting because she had a lengthy record of driving while intoxicated, together with lenient, non-custodial sentences by courts.  She’d been placed on probation several times conditioned on her not driving while intoxicated.  She did so anyway until finally she killed Georgina Ubence, 37.

During an emotional sentencing hearing in Blaine County Magistrate Court, Javier Ubence—the husband of Georgina Ubence, 37, who was killed in the accident—told the court during his victim’s impact statement that the judicial system had failed him and his dead wife by repeatedly giving Graefe suspended jail sentences and continuing to put her on supervised probation, which she regularly violated, for previous misdemeanor drug and driving offenses.

This time Graefe spent 348 days in jail awaiting trial, unable to afford bail.  But, as an aside, I can’t help but mention this:

Graefe, of Shoshone, pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanors on June 24 and was sentenced on July 10…

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

This is that rarest of birds, an editorial that doesn’t take a stand (Japan Times, 12/21/19).  Generally speaking, editorials are supposed to argue in favor or against a particular issue.  That’s what sets them apart from news articles that, supposedly, present “both” sides of every story.  So it’s strange to see an editorial that reads like a news piece.  It’s even stranger that the editorial in question so carefully takes a “this, but also that” approach as to be close to meaningless.

Still, we can glean certain facts from it.

Japan is about to embark on a journey to decide whether to abandon sole custody of children in favor of shared custody.  Whether that means legal custody, physical custody or both, the article doesn’t say.  But what’s clear is that Japanese parents are not happy with the current status quo.  A group of them have sued the government for negligence in the way it handles child custody cases.  Such a suit would be legally impossible in this country, so it’ll be interesting to learn how this one turns out.

What the article also carefully ignores is the fact that, in Japan, an overwhelming percentage of custody cases result in sole maternal care of children.

Understandably, the sole-custody status quo has consequences that likely weren’t intended when the law mandating sole custody went into effect.

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

Is the Texas state agency charged with protecting children – the Department of Family and Protective Services, that oversees CPS – in line for a shakeup?  This article strongly suggests that it may be (The Hill, 12/24/19).

Writer Andrew Brown of the Center for Families and Children at the Texas Public Policy Foundation argues for three initiatives to make the DFPS more accountable to parents, children and the law.

First, lawmakers must clarify statutory procedures and strengthen the evidentiary standards DFPS and the courts rely upon when making the decision to remove children [from their parents]. Under current law in Texas and several other states, all it takes to remove a child is evidence sufficient to believe that a child is in danger. This is an incredibly low standard.

That’s putting it mildly.  For the most part, children, like the rest of us, are in danger frequently.  Crossing a street can be dangerous as can sitting in a school classroom.  But parents allowing children to cross a street or attend school aren’t placing them in danger of imminent harm,which is more like what the standard should be.

But more importantly, the Texas Supreme Court has held that any action by state officials that interferes with the parent-child relationship “can never be justified without the most solid and substantial reasons.”  Needless to say, CPS caseworkers ignore that requirement as a matter of course.

Brown gives as an example of their doing so the case of Drake Pardo, age four.  Drake had difficulty getting enough nourishment, so his parents, Daniel and Ashley Pardo, took him to a doctor who said that a feeding tube inserted into his stomach might be required.  CPS caseworkers managed to distort the Pardo’s interest in such a feeding tube into a charge of medical abuse by them of their son.  Not content with that, they represented to a judge that the matter was an emergency that required Drake to be taken immediately from his parents.

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December 30, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Back in October, the Australian Institute of Family Studies published its study of some 6,000 families who’d divorced.  Its focus was on the choices made by the parents during that process and the outcomes they achieved, mostly in custody and parenting time.  Nothing in the report is earth-shattering, but still it’s instructive.  One of the many problems with family laws and family courts is paucity of hard data we have on just what those outcomes are.  It takes money and time to go to courts and read, analyze and tabulate the information in the files.  Unsurprisingly, few people do it.

So those studies that do are to be valued, however limited they may be.  And make no mistake, the AIFS study is quite limited, but it still has a lot of interest and value.

Perhaps the most significant datum from the study is that 97% of divorcing couples avoid family courts altogether.  They decide between themselves what arrangement they want and either get a court to rubberstamp their agreement or simply proceed with no court order at all.

I’d love to have heard the reasons parents gave for detouring around courts and the family law process, but alas, the AIFS study didn’t ask.  My guess is that people have a variety of reasons for avoiding court.  One surely is that lawyers cost too much, so why involve them when the couple can sort things out for themselves free of charge?  Plus, at least some lawyers thrive by exacerbating the inter-parental conflict that already exists during divorce.  That makes feelings more conflicted and costs higher.

And that very chance of making a bad situation worse is likely another primary reason for parents not going to court.  There are far too many horror stories in the news about divorce and child custody to not frighten a large percentage of divorcing parents away from the court system.

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December 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

My last two pieces have taken to task, first the New York Times and then National Public Radio for soft-peddling the ill effects of single-parenting on kids.  Those two articles are far from the first times those two media giants have done so and I’m sure they won’t be the last.

So it’s with considerable interest that Pew Research has published this piece on the children of single parents worldwide (Pew Research, 12/12/19).  Perhaps the most important fact is that, among all the countries in the world, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in the percentage of its kids who live with a single parent.  An astonishing 23% of our children under the age of 18 do.  The rest of the countries combined have only 7% - less than one-third the U.S. rate - of children living with a single parent.  Just four percent of China’s children, 5% of India’s and 7% of Japan’s live with a single parent.

Now, it must be said that many countries have low rates of single-parenthood in large part because the kids are living with extended families.  So Mom may not live with Dad for whatever reason, but she doesn’t live alone with the kids.  Instead, she lives with her mother and father, and/or her sister, her brother, their husbands, wives and children, etc.  Whatever the exact makeup of those families though, extended families are better for kids than are single-parent ones.  They tend to be better off financially and provide more social capital than a single adult can.  Plus of course, the children are familiar with their relatives, so making a home with them isn’t quite the strange and alienating experience living with a single parent can be.

The Pew data also give the lie to the claim, so often taken for granted in this country, that Dad’s absence is due to his callous disregard for his children’s welfare, a.k.a. his status as a “deadbeat.”  After all, how can it be that fathers in, say, India, are almost five times as “responsible” as are those in the U.S.?  It doesn’t make sense.

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December 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

In my last piece, I quoted sociologist Dr. Brad Wilcox thus:

For those who doubt that family structure denialism is a thing on the Left, one need only open the pages of The New York Times this week for yet another effort “to minimize or deny the importance of marriage and family structure.”

The NYT article he referred to was published on December 9.  Well, here it is December 18 and NPR’s “Morning Edition” offers more of the same (NPR, 12/18/19).

The gist of the piece is that a child’s chance at a good life is strongly influenced by the neighborhood in which he/she grows up.  Although NPR reporter Pam Fessler never mentions his name, her piece relies almost exclusively on economist Raj Chetty’s work on neighborhoods with high levels of opportunity and those with low.  Here’s my piece on his interesting but oddly flawed research (Men’s ENews, 7/31/19).

My point was that, whatever the effect on a child of his/her neighborhood, I couldn’t see how Chetty’s information could inform public policy.  After all, if a child lives in an area of low opportunity, what’s anyone going to do about it?  If his/her parents could move into a better neighborhood, wouldn’t they have done so?  Chetty’s is interesting information but of limited utility.

Surprisingly, the NPR piece answers that question and in the strangest possible way.  Put simply, since Muhammed can’t come to the mountain, NPR wants the mountain to come to him. 

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On December 17, Stephen Meehan (NPO PA Chair) and NPO Executive Director Ginger Gentile gave us Pennsylvania updates on the sub-committee hearing that had the room packed with supporters. Watch the video and learn why the only real opposition is coming from lawyers who admit "we don't look at evidence in family court."

Find out how your state ranks on the NPO #SharedParenting report card (Pennsylvania got a D!!!) at www.sharedparenting.org

Want to join an affiliate or start one in your state and be part of the change? www.nationalparentsorganization.org

Text of the bill: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/billInfo/billInfo.cfm…

Proposed House Bill 1397 removes the definitions “primary physical custody” and “partial physical custody” and replaces them with “equal parenting time.” The proposed Bill creates a presumption that there will be equal parenting time, which is defined as, “as close as practicable to 50% of time spent with each parent, but in no case exceeding 60% of time spent with either parent.”

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December 20, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Dr. Brad Wilcox is not happy (IFStudies, 12/12/19).  And I’m with him all the way.

On December 9, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Dr. Cristina Cross entitled “The Myth of the Two-Parent Home,” that sought to convince readers that growing up without a father isn’t as important a detriment for black kids as for whites.  Of course the idea that fatherlessness is a problem for kids is far from a “myth.”  Indeed, it’s one of the most persistent findings in all of the literature of social science.

Even Cross admitted that fatherlessness is an important problem to all fatherless children, but still tried to downplay its importance in educational attainment.  I wrote about her piece here.  Now it’s Wilcox’s turn.  He doesn’t mince words.

For those who doubt that family structure denialism is a thing on the Left, one need only open the pages of The New York Times this week for yet another effort “to minimize or deny the importance of marriage and family structure.”…

[O]ne need only look at the literature to see that the article amounts to a particularly egregious exercise in cherry-picking, drawing on only two studies to make the argument about family structure and black children. In fact, Cross completely passes over a finding from her own study that showed the link between family structure and college enrollment was not lower for African-Americans.

Was that what it took to get the Times to publish her piece?

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Ashley Nicole Russell

This three-part series is written by Ashley-Nicole Russell, an author, speaker, and attorney, who is a child of divorce and a divorcee. She is an expert in divorce culture and shared parenting techniques. Through this series, she will explain what divorcing parents need to keep in mind during the holiday season as they work through separation, divorce, and/or life after divorce.

Part 3: Supporting Family Structures

The holiday season is often filled with family traditions. For your family, things are probably different than in years past. Your family structure has changed, however as we discussed in Part 1 and Part 2, your child’s holiday season doesn’t have to be impacted negatively because of separation or divorce. Just as your family structure changed, new family structures may be formed. Oftentimes, new people are introduced to children during the holiday season. This could be your co-parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend, your new boyfriend or girlfriend, and/or the families of those new significant others. I don’t have to explain to you how difficult this might be for your children. It may also be difficult for you as an ex-spouse.

If you are a parent who is introducing your children to a special someone and/or that special someone’s family, I want you to be mindful of the entire situation. It may be beneficial to have a private conversation with your co-parent before you even tell your children that you are dating someone. To maintain a strong shared parenting relationship, you need to show your co-parent respect in this process. Understand that it may not be the news they want to hear. Speaking of, just because you’re excited about your new relationship, it doesn’t mean your children are just as excited. Your children are still learning how to form their own relationships and they don’t have an adult perspective of what your new relationship means. As you enter back into the dating world, be aware of how your children will model this behavior in the future. Don’t be the type of parent who jumps from relationship to relationship. If your children observe that, it will make an impact on how they date, maintain relationships, and process feelings in the future. I know that sounds raw, but it’s an important topic that should be considered.

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Ashley Nicole Russell

This three-part series is written by Ashley-Nicole Russell, an author, speaker, and attorney, who is a child of divorce and  a divorcee. She is an expert in divorce culture and shared parenting techniques. Through this series, she will explain what divorcing parents need to keep in mind during the holiday season as they work through separation, divorce, and/or life after divorce.

Part 2: Committing to Communication

Your ex may be the last person you want to talk to in the entire world… especially ahead of a holiday season.  

As a divorcee, I get it. As a Collaborative-focused divorce attorney, I want you to look past it. When your children are involved, you and your former spouse need to put them first and commit to a communication plan that is effective. If you choose a collaborative divorce attorney, they’ll help you stay focused with this communication goal and will even help outline plans for situations like holidays, birthdays, and vacations.

I tell my clients that they’ll be a better person and a better parent by the time they’re done with their Collaborative divorce. This can be achieved by learning conflict management types, understanding your co-parent and your children, and developing a new perspective.  Think about your communication plan as the game of chess. Instead of being a piece on the board, you want to place yourself above the board with an overview. With this perspective you will develop awareness of the circumstance of divorce and as a person in the divorce. 

In my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, I go into detail on how this communication mindset can be achieved based on psychology and sociology. This book also explains how your communication plan can impact your children in the way that children mirror the behavior they grow up around and what they experience. That being said, a considerate communication plan is important not only for you and your co-parent, but also so your children can learn by example and treat others with respect. 

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December 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Not long ago, I wrote about a case out of New Zealand in which a European mother had abducted her daughter.  It took Dad three years to locate her and file a suit for the child’s return. 

In that case, New Zealand courts did exactly what they’re not supposed to do under the applicable international law.  Instead of ascertaining the child’s country of habitual residence (in that case, it was clearly the European country in which the family had resided for years) and then returning the child to that country for disposition of whatever legal issues existed, the New Zealand courts decided to act as surrogate family courts.  They decided the issue that family courts decide – the child’s best interests – and kept her in New Zealand, giving a judicial stamp of approval for the mother’s wrongful action.  The remarkable thing about the case was that the appellate court admitted in no uncertain terms that its decision and that of the lower court were wrong under the Hague Convention to which New Zealand is a signatory, but did so anyway.

Now comes a case out of the U.S. that demonstrates how such a case should be handled (Cleveland.com, 12/10/19).

An American woman, Michelle Monasky, married an Italian anesthesiologist, Dr. Domenico Taglieri, in Italy.  Soon enough, they had a child, A.M.T.  But when the little girl was just eight weeks old, Monasky abducted her to Ohio near where her parents live.  Apparently Monasky had filed for divorce in Italy and claimed Taglieri was abusive.

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December 16, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, National Board of Directors

Here’s an interesting piece on parental alienation by psychologist Dr. Stanton Samenow (Psychology Today, 12/9/19).  It’s of course meant for clinicians, but presents an issue lawyers and judges will also want to consider.

That issue can be roughly stated as “Is an alienating parent being malicious or does she/he actually believe their allegations?”  Of course one answer is that the alienator may be doing both.  Mental illness doesn’t preclude malice.

Still, Samenow has a point; what motivates alienating behavior is all-important for understanding and changing it.

He refers pseudonymously to two former clients of his, “Marcia” and “Donald.”

Marcia contended that Donald, her husband, posed an extreme danger to her and their three children. She provided a vivid account of her husband’s emotionally and physically abusive behavior. Specifically, she alleged that Donald had thrown their five-year-old son down the stairs causing him to suffer head trauma.  She reported that her husband kicked open a basement window, entered the marital home, then terrorized her and the children with a knife.  Alleging that Donald had been attempting to poison her and the children, she continued to fear for their lives.

And there was more, much more.  Marcia reported all this to doctors and other emergency room personnel.  She went to the police.  She had her lawyer ask the court for sole custody of their children.

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December 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Sigh.  What to make of this New York Times op-ed (New York Times, 12/9/19)?  Is it really as confusing and wrong-headed as it seems?  You decide.

First, the headline (and sub-headline) not only don’t accurately describe the article and they don’t get close to describing the underlying study on which the article is based.  Here they are:

The Myth of the Two-Parent Home

New research indicates that access to resources, more than family structure, matters for black kids’ success.

But of course the article says nothing about the two-parent home being a “myth.”  On the contrary, author Dr. Christina Cross is at pains to say this:

Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that the two-parent family is bad for children of any race or ethnicity. Indeed, scholars have noted its wide array of benefits for children, parents and communities, especially those from middle-class backgrounds.

So, far from being a “myth,” Cross acknowledges the “wide array of benefits” for everyone that arises from two-parent households.

As to what “matters for black kids’ success,” Cross didn’t analyze that.  “Success,” after all is an astonishingly broad term and not something we’d expect to be examined by a single study.  No, what Cross looked at was first, kids’ likelihood of graduating from high school on time and, second, their likelihood of enrolling in college.  Those two specific considerations were all she studied.

In short, the article’s headline has little to do with the article.

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December 12, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Children do well when both parents participate actively in their upbringing and work to provide consistent attention, affection, and discipline, as well as meeting their material needs. This is easiest to achieve when the parents are married and living together. 

That’s psychologist Nicholas Zill writing here (IFS, 12/4/19).  In my last piece, I summarized some of his findings.

So Zill clearly understands the fact that children do better with both parents in their lives than in any other situation.  But here too is Zill:

While married fathers of today are playing a more active role in their children’s lives than married fathers of yesteryear, many fathers who don’t live with their kids are doing little either to support their children or even interact with them. The trend data reviewed in this essay suggest that the situation is not improving.

That’s to be found under Zill’s heading “No Substitute for Responsible Fathers.”  As such, Zill suggests that the problem of fatherless or “under-fathered” kids stems from the failure on the part of the men to take up their responsibilities as dads.  It’s a common claim, particularly among those on the right of the political spectrum.  The theory seems to be that if men were somehow to become better people, the problem of fatherless kids would vanish.  The claim is terribly misguided.  Worse, it’s an excuse for failing to do the hard work of not only reforming laws, but changing the cultural narrative on fathers.  After all, if the problem is the fathers themselves, what can you or I do?

But for decades now we’ve known that the irresponsible dad trope is mostly nonsense.  Of course there are men who flee their parental responsibilities, as do some women.  But there’s plenty of social science that finds them to be in the minority.  Even the poorest and least educated men want to play a real role in their children’s lives, as the many, many studies conducted using the data produced by the Fragile Families and Child Well-being longitudinal survey demonstrate.  Two decades ago, Sanford Braver gave the lie to the claim that men don’t care about their kids.

Unfortunately for all of us though, this culture tells fathers, at every turn in the road of a child’s life, that they are unwanted and unneeded, that they’re at best superfluous and at worst a danger to children and mothers alike. 

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December 11, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Nicholas Zill has had a long and illustrious career as a research psychologist.  Anyone who’s studied issues related to families, fathers and children over the last 30 years or so has run into his work.  He’s now a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies.  Here’s his most recent article (IFS, 12/4/19).

There’s nothing earth-shaking in the piece.  He’s simply reporting on child support figures and raising issues about what they mean for kids.  He rightly points out for example that the child support enforcement system works just fine for parents who’d be paying anyway, but does a lousy job if the parents are poor.  We know this because the Office of Child Support Enforcement has been letting us know for well over a decade.

More importantly,

[M]y examination of child support data from the Census Bureau reveals that the new fatherhood (i.e. fathers spending more parenting time) is not benefiting the children who need it most. (parenthetical mine)

That is, whereas married and more affluent fathers are spending greater amounts of time with their kids than did fathers of past generations, poorer and less well-educated fathers aren’t.  Now, I’m not sure that, as Zill suggests, kids of poor parents need their fathers more than do those from more privileged backgrounds, but Zill has a point: there’s a divide in American society between those with actively engaged fathers and those without.  Those without tend to be poorer, not incidentally because they don’t have fathers in the home.

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December 10, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Once again, a court has ignored the plain meaning of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  Once again, a child is left in the custody of an alienating mother.  Once again, a fit father is removed from his child’s life.  Once again, the very courts that are supposed to discourage international child kidnapping in fact endorse it.

This time the mother’s destination was New Zealand and the child’s country of habitual residence was somewhere in Europe (the article doesn’t say which country).  But, as in so many other cases, the result is the same – Mom managed to elude authorities long enough so the courts ruled that the child’s “best interests” can only be served by leaving her in the custody of an abuser and effectively removing the father from her life.

Such is the way of the Hague Convention that was written to prevent exactly that from happening.

This highly informative article tells the tale (New Zealand Herald, 12/2/19).

Five years ago, the mother abducted the child from Europe to New Zealand.  The girl’s father tried for three years to locate her and, only through dumb luck, eventually succeeded.  He immediately filed a suit under the Hague Convention for return of the girl to him and her home country. 

At that point, the Hague Convention intends that the court in the country to which the child is abducted ask the question, “What is the child’s country of habitual residence?”  In other words, was the child taken from her home by an abductor or to her home from an abductor?  Clearly, the European country in which she’d been born and lived all her life was her country of habitual residence.  Therefore, according to the Convention, the girl should be returned home and any legal proceedings occur there.

But the family court in New Zealand wrongly refused to issue an order requiring the girl’s return to her father in Europe.  I know that to be wrong because (a) the Convention is very clear on what a court is to do and (b) the New Zealand Court of Appeal said so.

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