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.
November 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Last time, I wrote about an article by Australian lawyer Zoe Rathus (The Conversation, 11/7/19). The purpose of her piece was to try to cast doubt on the upcoming governmental review of family law and court practices. That review is very much needed and very much feared by those who view with alarm the prospect of children maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents when the adults split up.
The tactic of choice among those advocates is to cast aspersions on the very idea of parental alienation. Since the facts that PA exists, is fairly widespread and constitutes child abuse are quite well established in the reliable scientific literature and the experiences of lawyers and judges, the task at hand for Rathus and others isn’t an easy one. Having little-to-nothing with which to support their claims, they predictably (and all but invariably) resort to misleading their readers.
In the case of the Rathus article, its “honesty” fails to last past the fifth word of its headline which reads, “’Parental alienation’: the debunked theory that women lie about violence is still used in court.”
The problem being of course that parental alienation has never been debunked. Indeed, it’s to be found in the DSM-V, albeit under another name. Many, many researchers around the world are investigating all aspects of the matter and have produced much fine work, some of which was captured in Dr. William Bernet’s tome on the subject entitled “Parental Alienation: The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals.” The book is relatively new, but our understanding of PA is not. As Linda Gottlieb-Kase reported, research into what we now call PA dates back to the 1950s.
Plus, evidence of PA is routinely admitted by American courts under the most stringent standard for admissibility of expert testimony, known as the Daubert standard.
National Parents Organization is interested in hosting more screenings, especially for lawmakers and family court professionals. Contact your local affiliate if you want to get involved.
November 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
I’d like to think we’re just watching the end of a bad horror flick from the 50s. You know the type – the grainy black-and-white footage where the monster finally meets its end after destroying much of, say, Tokyo. Amid roars and hisses and the thrashing of its tail, it sinks beneath the turbulent sea waters, never to be heard from again. Or will it? Stay tuned.
That’s the image that’s come to my mind when, in the past few weeks, I’ve read article after article all aimed at the same thing – casting doubt on the latest Australian governmental review of family law and courts in the Land Down Under. Those who oppose children having full, meaningful relationships with their fathers post-divorce don’t like the new review for the simple reason that they fear the truth may at last come out. Their shockingly hateful and misleading remarks put me in mind of that horror film monster gasping its last.
The previous review was much more to their liking. It called for even the modest requirement that family judges “consider” shared parenting to be scrapped. The anti-dad crowd in Australia considered that just the thing to keep mothers in control of custody outcomes and therefore maintain the flow of funds from fathers to mothers, but not the other way around.
Veteran's Day is a day when we acknowledge the sacrifices veterans have made for our country. Frequently, veterans are asked to put themselves in harm's way to protect our country and our way of life. Since there hasn't been a draft since the '70s, most of our soldiers volunteered for service. Almost all veterans are happy and proud to have served. It is because of their sacrifice that the American life as we know it is possible.
ALL of our freedoms come from these brave individuals standing up to protect every American. Your American way may mean starting with bacon and eggs for breakfast, playing frisbee in the afternoon, or dancing all night. Other citizens have the freedom to live the way they feel is best for them. It's the way our founders envisioned American life.
According to the VA, there are approximately 18 million veterans in the US (about 7.6 percent of the population). To give you a visual, it would take around 338 football stadiums filled to capacity to hold all of our living veterans.
Most of these veterans return to civilian life and become productive citizens and live the American dream. But what about the rest? Have you ever stopped to put yourself in their shoes to capture the emotions that they are feeling or to realize the different struggles that they may be facing?
Have you ever stopped to ask WHY ARE WE LOSING AN AVERAGE OF 22 of these warriors EVERY DAY to suicide?
Have you taken a moment to ask, “What can I do to help those who have helped me without ever asking for anything in return?”
November 12, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
When I practiced law, I never had a judge find me or a client in contempt of court. I never had a judge say this to me or a client:
I can no longer find [you] to be credible in any way,” Jack said. “It’s shameful … You all cannot be relied upon for anything. Period.
You have created a crisis. You are trying to fix it and blame it on somebody else.
I’ve never had a judge accuse a client of lying under oath, threaten to put a client in jail or reprimand me or a client for lack of appropriate courtroom decorum.
But then I never represented the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services either. Federal Judge Janis Jack did all that to TDFPS officials during a recent hearing on whether the state had complied with court orders.
November 9, 2019 By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian
State Rep. Kathy Swan and state Sen. Wayne Wallingford are pushing legislation for shared parenting in custody cases.
The two Republican, Cape Girardeau lawmakers met recently with shared-parenting advocates in Cape Girardeau.
A documentary, “Erasing Family,” was shown Oct. 29 at The Concourse event center. The film explores the trauma experienced by children “when a loving, fit parent is erased from their lives due to separation and divorce,” said Linda Reutzel, who chairs the Missouri chapter of the National Parents Organization.
“Parents going through divorce should not fear losing significant parenting time with their children and, even more importantly, children should not feel abandoned by one of their parents,” she said in a news release.
November 7, 2019 by Kenya Rahmaan
Richard M. Scotti was always a dedicated father and provider to his children and paid his child support on time and in full for years. It wasn’t until the printing industry, largely in part due to the age of the Internet, began to suffer that Scotti was forced to sell his business in order to pay off debts accrued while he was fighting to hold on to his company. Almost overnight, his six-figure income decreased to the low five figures. While he scrambled to repair his life, he did as he was advised and filed immediately for a downward modification of his child support order. He has since been living a nightmare which worsens as he awaits the jail sentence looming over his head.
Yes, jail. The issues began when the state of New York failed to adhere to the guidelines concerning when child support modifications were appropriate. According to FindLaw, the court may modify an order of child support where there has been a change in either party’s gross income by fifteen percent or more since the order was entered, last modified, or adjusted. The judge denied Scotti’s modification request, ignored income documentation proving the decrease in income, and used imputed income as justification for denying the request. These denials were a violation of child support policies and resulted in unpaid child support and arrears increasing at an alarming rate.
November 6, 2019 by Lori Grover, NCM, Chair of Rhode Island NPO and Divorce Mediator
When I made the decision to get divorced, I was determined to separate the problems I had with my husband from the co-parenting relationship our daughter needed us to have. But within the legal system, the well-being of our daughter was never a concern. This discovery led me to become a mediator, open the only practice dedicated exclusively to divorce mediation in the state of Rhode Island, and to now start a chapter of the National Parents Organization in that state, one of only two states to get an “F” in the Shared Parenting Report Card.
During our divorce, my husband and I had numerous conversations with our attorneys about dividing our assets, but neither of them ever asked about our daughter or our plan for co-parenting; It was assumed that I would have placement and my husband would have visitation. When I asked about our daughter having more time with her father, my lawyer told me whatever time they had together in addition to the Court order was at my discretion. This was the last straw, and it’s when I convinced my husband that it was in all of our best interests for us to take control of our divorce.
My divorce experience and the one-size-fits-all adversarial nature of the legal system is why I became a lawyer and then a mediator. I saw how divisive and financially focused the system can be, setting up both parents and children for failure. Over the past thirteen years, I have worked hard to reorient the way parents approach divorce. In my mediation practice, how a couple divides material possessions is second to building the foundation for a respectful co-parenting partnership after divorce. This approach has changed the minds of many parents and benefited many children over the years.
November 6, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The State of Ohio has made some changes to its child support guidelines. Some of those are much-needed and right egregious wrongs. Others fail to correct long-term flaws in a deeply flawed system.
The good news includes the fact that parents paying child support will now be permitted to retain a minimal amount of their income. That’s called a “self-sufficiency reserve,” and should be an integral part of every state’s child support calculations. As we’ve seen elsewhere, judges can find remarkable ways of getting around the clear intent of a state’s legislature when it established such a reserve. Still, having an SSR on the books is far better than not having one.
The new law also deals better with cases in which a payor parent is subject to more than one child support order at a time. Plus, it caps the amount of money an obligor parent would have to contribute to daycare expenses and it allows for administrative review of deviations from the guidelines where circumstances that gave rise to the deviation remain in place. That latter provision will save parents the time and money involved in returning to court.
November 5, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
In the U.S., it’s still the case that a man who’s not a child’s father can be made to pay child support for that child. Yes, genetic testing is common, but its use sometimes fails to connect fathers and children. Two recent cases remake the same point we’ve seen made countless times.
In the first, a Florida man signed the child’s birth certificate in the honest belief that he was the father (NBC Miami, 10/20/19).
Joseph Sinawa told NBC affiliate WTLV-TV that he signed the birth certificate because he did truly believe he was the father…
That of course means that Mom mislead him about the facts of the child’s paternity, a matter that goes unmentioned by the article. The woman knew that she’d had sex with Sinawa and another man at or near the time of conception. But she didn’t tell Sinawa about the other man and apparently either didn’t tell the actual father about the child at all or told him it was Sinawa’s.
Exactly how Sinawa came to believe that the child isn’t his remains a mystery, but at some point, he took a DNA test that demonstrated his non-paternity. But, under orders from the state, he’s still paying. Why? Because the state’s child support enforcement officials refuse to do the obvious and right thing.
Eric Carroll and Chris Gannon of Dad Talk Radio interviewed NPO Deputy Executive Director Ginger Gentile about her documentary, Erasing Family. First talking about how her first film, Erasing Dad, got laws changed in Argentina, Gentile further explains how we can all change our messaging to get more states to pass legislation that promotes Shared Parenting by following the lead of NPO chapters like Kentucky and using the shared parenting report card released by NPO.
November 1, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The State of Texas is up to its old tricks again (Dallas Morning News, 10/23/19). That is, it’s stonewalling a federal judge who’s ordered it to make extensive reforms to its child protective system. Four years ago, Judge Janis Jack found that Texas Child Protective Services routinely violated the civil rights of the children in its care.
That finding plus an earlier audit that found stratospheric levels of caseworker turnover and individual horror stories of children dying in foster care while caseworkers struggled with caseloads up to five times industry standards finally embarrassed lawmakers into making long-needed change.
Specifically, the State of Texas spent money. I know that’s hard to believe, but the state raised average caseworker salaries by $12,000 per year, no small sum. That was in an effort to keep enough of them on the job to actually protect kids. No word yet on how that’s working, but I suspect it’s having an effect.
Still, according to a Motion for Contempt filed by plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, the state is resisting other important changes ordered by Jack.
October 31, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed one bill that would have sent more child support to children and another that would have reduced the interest burden on child support arrears (ABC10, 10/16/19). I first wrote about those bills here, shortly after they’d passed the state legislature.
In the Golden State, if a custodial parent receives welfare benefits like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the non-custodial parent pays child support, the custodial parent only receives $50 of the child support. The rest goes to the state to reimburse it for its expenditure of welfare benefits. Last time I mentioned the case of Ronnell Hampton.
When he was growing up, Ronnell Hampton’s father wrote a check every month for $600 for child support. But because Hampton and his mother lived in California, they only ever saw $50 of that per month.
October 29, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Alimony in Canada has gotten out of hand. This article, for example, informs us that, if a marriage lasts just three years, the payor spouse can be required to pay the payee spouse alimony for 15 years (Financial Post, 10/8/19). Seriously.
The specific raison d’etre for the article is a discussion of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines which, as the name implies, are not mandatory, but which judges consult when issuing support orders.
What the SSAGs make clear, although the article does not, is that almost all cases in which one spouse earns more than the other result in an award of spousal support. The guidelines call for judges to calculate the difference between the gross earnings of the two spouses. They then take between 1.5% and 2% of that difference and multiply the result by the number of years of the marriage.
So, if John earns $10,000 per month and Jane $2,000, and the two have been married for 15 years, then John ends up paying Jane between $1,800 and $2,400 per month for the next 7.5 - 15 years. Taking the upper end of that range, Jane would have provided the couple $360,000 during their marriage, but would take away $432,000 in spousal support over the same period of time. During the term of their marriage of course, Jane’s standard of living would have been vastly higher due to John’s earnings than had she alone supported herself. But neither Canadian law nor the SSAGs credit John with having done so much to increase his wife’s standard of living.
It gets worse if there’s a child. Here’s one of the examples offered by the SSAGs themselves:
Senator Wayne Wallingford and Representative Kathy Swan, with National Parents Organization, invite you to attend a screening of the documentary Erasing Family, that explores the trauma experienced by children when a loving, fit parent is erased from their lives due to separation and divorce.
Listen to Senator Wayne Wallingford and Rep. Kathy Swan, enjoy a reception and stay for the screening.
The Wallingford-Swan legislation changes current law to the premise that there are two fit parents, provides a judge with discretion to determine otherwise, and additionally, provides a built-in mechanism for a rebuttable presumption.
Reception and discussion start at 5:30 pm, screening starts at 6:30 pm. Located in the Concourse Building at 529 N Broadview, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.
Deputy Executive Director Ginger Gentile and Chair of our Board of Directors walk you through using our Shared Parenting Report Card to create change in your state in the video from our live chat on October 10, 2019.
October 15, 2019 by Linda Reutzel
Kentucky’s monumental passage of a shared-parenting bill last year has been deemed the most popular vote in the state.
According to an Aug. 30 opinion piece in the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Administrative Office of the Courts has issued a report that shows a reduction in domestic court cases by 11% and a reduction of 445 cases of domestic violence since the full law took effect. Missouri, the Show-Me state, has clearly been shown.
Two key and influential Missouri state lawmakers, Sen. Wayne Wallingford and Rep. Kathy Swan, are continuing to rise to the challenge in making effective change on this issue here at home. The two Republicans planned to kick off a viewing of the powerful and gripping documentary “Erasing Family” in Cape Girardeau this month. The documentary explores trauma experienced by children when a loving, fit parent is erased from their lives because of separation and divorce. The documentary’s launch in Missouri is fittingly in their corner of the state. Additional screenings will continue as the documentary goes on the road.
More and more Missouri elected officials are turning their attention to the critical and frequently intertwined issues of social justice and criminal justice, and this provides every opportunity for legislation that these lawmakers will file again in the 2020 session to be a top priority in the Missouri Legislature. The legislative change they seek simply starts with a premise that there are two fit parents, and judges should be allowed discretion to make child-custody arrangements that award equal or approximately equal parenting time to each parent if doing so is in the best interests of the child.
Some progress has been made.
Read the rest here.
October 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
We’re back to Jess Hill’s thoroughly scurrilous article in The Guardian, about which I wrote last time. Now, in my last piece, I tried to hit the high (or low) points of Hill’s article, but there was no way I could cover all its many defects.
Like other articles we’ve seen, Hill’s main point is that family courts routinely hand custody to abusive fathers. Given that, fathers should have even less contact with their kids than they now do. Indeed, that seems to have become the excuse du jour of those who would deny children healthy relationships with their fathers. And as ever, lacking any facts to support that excuse, people like Hill resort to simply making some things up and ignoring the many facts that contradict their thesis.
So, for example, Hill makes the remarkable assertion that those of us who advocate for family court reform are actually demanding “laws mandating equal shared parenting.” That of course is entirely untrue. I’ve been going to bat every day for the last 11 years for equal parenting and never seen a single bill in any state or nation that “mandated equal shared parenting.” Not one. At most, those bills would have established a rebuttable presumption that equal parenting is in children’s best interests, assuming fit, non-abusive parents.
Most of Hill’s piece is her recounting of what she says is the history of shared parenting advocates to influence the Australian Parliament. Some of that, like the short-lived requirement that parents promote the child’s relationship with the other parent (a.k.a. the “friendly parent” provision), she actually gets right. But, in tracing the history of the reform movement, Hill leaves out a fact that many would consider germane to the issue, i.e. that none of the efforts by reform advocates actually improved fathers’ chances of either getting custody or enforcing their “right” of access to their kids. Yes, the law changed somewhat over the years, but there’s absolutely no indication that any of it helped. To admit such a fact would obviously undermine Hill’s sense of grievance, so she leaves it out.
Nataly Antar, founder of Amazing Moms without Custody and New York National Parents Organization Chapter Member was on Dad Talk Today talking about how gender fighting gets in the way of putting kids first in the Shared Parenting Movement. You can follow AMWOC here.
October 14, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
If Jess Hill’s screed in The Guardian weren’t dated October 2, 2019, I’d have guessed it was a blast from the distant past – the mid-90s, perhaps (Guardian, 10/2/19). That’s because it traffics in the same frankly false and misleading sorts of claims and the virulent misandry that we so often saw back then regarding fathers, children and child custody. It’s astonishing to read such nonsense in 2019.
As I reported in my last piece, Hill was spurred to write the article by the Australian government’s announcement that it’s going to review child custody laws. The latest such review was so badly done, so obviously biased and so clearly at odds with known facts and science that it richly deserves to be replaced. But that upcoming replacement is what has Hill in a lather. The nut of her article is that Australian family courts routinely give custody of children (or at least access) to abusive fathers.
Since numbered lists of things have long been the rage, here are six things we can “learn” from Hill’s Guardian piece:1.Men perpetrate domestic violence and women don’t.
Throughout her article, Hill invariably refers to perpetrators as men and victims as women. And that’s not just the case with the Guardian piece. Hill’s written a lot about DV and it’s always the same. Nowhere does she cite any data for the proposition of course since all the reliable information on DV shows women making up at least 50% of those who initiate family violence. Indeed, source after source tells us that lesbian relationships are the most prone to violence of all, but those facts don’t fit Hill’s narrative, so they don’t appear in her article.
October 11, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Writer Jess Hill gets a lot wrong in her article here (The Guardian, 10/2/19). I’ll say more about that later, but about the Australian government’s new inquiry into the family law system, we can only hope she gets this much right:
It is, I believe, a deliberate move by the government to bury the findings of the two [previous] inquiries it commissioned.
If only it were true. I wrote about the most recent of those efforts by the Australian Law Reform Commission here, here and here. To put it mildly, the ALRC’s document was so shoddy, so entirely lacking in balance and indeed basic facts that burial is the best that can be hoped for.
Here’s what veteran Aussie journalist Bettina Arndt told me about the ALRC’s review of family courts:
The terms of this enquiry had over 200 references to violence and no mention at all of enforcement of contact orders, parental alienation or any of the other relevant issues. They were bombarded with submissions from women’s groups arguing that children need protection from violence fathers and of course most of the cases that make it to court include violence orders, because this is now the major tactic mothers use to gain power in family law disputes. The recommendations reflect that bias and the success of the orchestrated campaign from feminists to wind back Australia’s laws supporting shared parenting.
Ms. Arndt, you’re too kind. I won’t go into the many flaws of the Commission’s report, but will try to summarize. As Arndt pointed out, it was almost entirely a product of input from those who oppose shared parenting per se and who believe that the worldwide movement on behalf of children maintaining real relationships with both parents following divorce is nothing but a ruse to hand over kids to abusive fathers. If anyone else provided input to the Commission, its report failed to present their views or complaints.
October 10, 2019 by Jennifer J. Harman, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Colorado State University
“High-conflict” is a label assigned to many parents who have on-going conflict after their separation or divorce. As an associate professor who has researched and published on the topic of intimate relationship dynamics for nearly 20 years, this label never quite sat well with me. When we think about conflict, the old adage “it takes two to tango” often underlies assumptions of the parties involved. Attributions of blame are regularly placed on “high conflict” parents, as if they are both responsible for the continued strife that repeatedly leads them back to family court for intervention. Exasperated legal and mental health professionals throw their hands up in the air and tell the parents “why can’t you two just get along?!” This assumption that both parents are equally responsible for conflict is naïve and reflects a poor understanding of the role of power in family violence.
Research on domestic violence has identified two basic forms: