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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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The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been drafted by Senator Pat Leahy's, (D-Vt.) Senate Judiciary Committee.  The organization Stop Abusive and Violent Environments was kind enough to send me a copy and it looks much the same as what we've had since VAWA's inception.  What changes the bill does make are for the worse. Now, as many readers are aware, that's not because people haven't tried to educate the senators on the committee about the many flaws in VAWA.  Indeed, less than two months ago, the committee held hearings at which many people testified about things like the entire lack of accountability for funds, the fact that its mandatory arrest provisions likely make domestic violence more dangerous not less and the fact that restraining orders don't protect people who are actually in danger but serve as a weapon in the hands of those who aren't.  For that matter, S.A.V.E. has lobbied members of Congress about all those things.  It's also tried to get the language of VAWA to be made gender-neutral and to include sanctions for false allegations that clog up courts and DV shelters. So what did Leahy come up with?  A proposed bill that would retain all the bad policies of the existing bill and actually make them worse, that's what.  For example, right there on page 69 of the 125-page bill, is the requirement that colleges and universities adopt the standard of proof in sexual assault cases foisted on them by the Department of Education - preponderance of evidence, the lowest standard in American jurisprudence.  Up to now, that requirement has been nothing more than a rule put in place by a single attorney in the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.  As such, it could be overturned by order of her immediate superior.  Under Leahy's bill, it would become the law of the land. It's not as if S.A.V.E. hasn't gotten a lot of good feedback on its campaign to make federal law regarding domestic violence sane, effective and fair.  Indeed, the congressional staff members they talk to welcome their input and honestly consider what they're saying. It's also true that Republican members of the Judiciary Committee like Charles Grassley, (R- Ia.) are rightly concerned about spending half a billion dollars on a program for which there are no safeguards on how the money's spent.  Given that the most recent audit of 22 recipients of the federal largesse coming to them via VAWA found serious deficiencies in 21, Grassley's got a point.  But it's a point lost on Leahy who, in this era of never-before-seen federal deficits, can't think of a reason to make recipients of VAWA money explain what they're doing with the money and why.  Amazing. But for now, there's a slight hitch in Leahy's git-along.  He clearly drafted the proposed reauthorization of VAWA without the assistance of common sense, the concept of fairness or much concern about the taxpayer's money.  That's clear enough from the bill he's proposing.  But he also drafted the a bill without any input from his Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee.  And that is where S.A.V.E. wants to attack this wasteful, ineffective and misandric bill.  So S.A.V.E. wants you to contact your senator and urge him/her to reject this bill in favor of a more sensible bill that corrects the current law's many shortcomings.  To do that, just dial 1-202-224-3121. More importantly, contact the Senate Judiciary Committee members directly and demand that they stop this dreadful bill and replace it with one that will deal effectively with DV as it's understood by the science on the problem. Here's the contact information for the Senate Judiciary Committee.  From there you can easily contact individual members. The game is afoot!

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In Pennsylvania, money from inheritance raises the recipient's child support obligations.  That's true even if the person receiving the money has already spent it in ways that benefit the child.  Read about it here (FindLaw, 4/1/2000).  It's an old case, but it's worth knowing about. It seems that the father of a 16-year-old girl received an inheritance from his mother of $83,000.  He had a family who lived with him, so he bought a house with the money he received from his mother's estate.  The new house presumably was a good thing for his daughter whom the article describes as living with "an adult relative." But when the "adult relative" found out about the dad's inheritance, she went to court to get a piece of the pie.  And the court said 'yes.'  It increased the father's child support obligation "substantially."
 The law defines "income" for support purposes as including all ordinary income as well as "other entitlements to money or lump sum awards, without regard to source, including lottery winnings, income tax refunds, insurance compensation or settlements, awards and verdicts and any form of payment due to and collectible by an individual regardless of source." Also included is "income from an estate or trust." Pennsylvania courts have long based support obligations not just on a parent's actual earnings but also on his or her earning ability and financial resources.
Now, the dad argued that what he received wasn't "income from an estate or trust."  That is, what he received was the principal from the estate, not income.  If he'd invested it in, say, municipal bonds and received periodic payments of interest, that interest would be "income from an estate."  But that's not what happened.  In fact, he reinvested the money in a non-income producing asset, i.e. a residence. And the court agreed that the money he received was not in fact income from his mother's estate.  But no dad gets off that easy.  The court ruled that what the father had received from his mother qualified as "other entitlements to money... without regard to source."  So it raised his monthly obligation to reflect his receipt of the $83,000. Never mind that he no longer had the money.  Never mind that he spent it responsibly by buying a better house for his family and his daughter when she visits him.  And above all, never mind that the payment was a one-time thing, but child support payments go on every month, every year.  And finally, never mind that his actual income from which he pays his child support didn't go up a penny. No, all of that must take a backseat to his obligation to support his child with whatever comes to hand. But wait.  He was already supporting his child and no one argues that he wasn't or that he was doing so insufficiently.  The girl's "adult relative" received what the court ordered and there's no indication that it wasn't sufficient to meet her needs.  So if child support is really about, well, supporting the child, the dad was doing that. And yet, when he receives a windfall, suddenly his child's needs miraculously increase in lockstep.  Again, the money is gone, invested in his residence, so where he's going to get the wherewithal to pay the increased amount is anyone's guess.  But irrespective of that, it seems painfully obvious that Pennsylvania law and the court's action have far more to do with Mom support than they do child support.  As I said, the girl was supported well enough before he received his inheritance, so why not afterward. Worse, like most inheritances, his was a one-time-only event.  To the extent the state can pretend it's income, it only happened in one year.  But his child support obligation doesn't end in that year; it goes on and on until the child becomes 18 or 21.  So, if he can pay the increased amount, and my guess is he can't (again, the money he receives to pay his bills hasn't increased a bit), he'll be doing so month after month, year after year because the court decided his income had all of a sudden increased by $83,000. That will happen, that is, unless he spends still more money next year to hire a lawyer, go to court and explain to the judge that he hasn't received another inheritance and his "income" has once again declined to what he receives from his employer. In other words, a colossal waste of time and money to do what should have been done in the first place - recognize that the money had already been spent, that the child benefits from the expenditure and that the father's actual ability to pay hasn't increased at all. This silliness would all be solved if state legislatures would take a less punitive, less misandric and more commonsense approach to child support.  That would mean setting amounts for child support that reflected what's actually needed to support a child - I'm not talking some bare-bones, spartan existence, but something reasonable - and letting it go at that. The idea that Pennsylvania's approach has something to do with a child's needs is plainly at odds with the truth.  The increase in this case was about supporting Mom, not the child who was already sufficiently supported in the first place. My guess is that there's something else at work as well.  The notion that any Mom gets a big chunk of anything extra that Dad takes in impacts family dynamics in another way; it tends to keep the child in Mom's custody.  In the case in question, the child in question was 16 years old.  In most states, that's well old enough for her to have gone to court and told the judge with which parent she wanted to live.  And by that age, the judge will pretty much go with the child's wishes absent some indication that she's motivated improperly. An improved living standard on Dad's part, brought about by a better job, an inheritance, a new wife with strong earnings, might just be enough to convince a teenager to move in with him.  And we can't have that, now can we.  So legislatures and courts are at pains to take any little extra Dad may receive, give Mom a share and pretend it has something to do with supporting an already-supported child. That's life in family court. Thanks to Ned for the heads-up.

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In New Zealand, fully 79% of all parents with child support orders are behind on their payments.  Read about it here (TVNZ, 10/23/11). I recently wrote about the State of Ohio in which about 70% of parent with child support orders were delinquent.  Well, it turns out that New Zealand is actually worse off.  But as the article makes clear, the reasons are essentially the same; support levels are set unrealistically high in the first place, they're almost impossible to modify downward in case of a lost job or other change in circumstances, and penalties for non-payment that are supposed to encourage timely payment actually do the opposite.
Figures released to the Sunday Star-Times show that of the 179,500 people liable for child support, 141,464 (79%) are behind...
"It's just the amount that causes resentment," [Hamilton Budgeting Adviser Claire Mataira] said...
Parents who did not pay their child support on time were charged the greater of $5 or 10% of the unpaid amount. On top of that, they faced a $1 or 2% penalty on the total overdue amount - including incurred penalties - every month.
Just to make sure you got that last, New Zealand charges 7% on all overdue amounts.  Then it compounds that interest by charging 7% on penalty amounts.  My guess is that it's at least fairly common for a father to pay what the order says he owes and still fall further behind during the month he made the payment.  Resentment?  You bet. Into the bargain, New Zealand child support authorities have powers those in the U.S. don't, at least not yet.  Those include the power to obtain warrants for the sale of personal or real property to satisfy the indebtedness.  The latter apparently have never been used, but the former are not uncommon.  So if Americans think having your license to drive taken away is both bad and nonsensical, understand that in New Zealand authorities can take your car. Not surprisingly,  when parents get behind on their payments and penalties kick in, they tend to discourage paying.  The reaction in many cases is to try to avoid the obligation altogether or in part by hiding income or emigrating to Australia.  A surprising number of New Zealand child support cases are administered by Australian authorities.
"Although penalties play an important role in encouraging parents to meet their obligations, if they are excessive they can discourage payment," [Revenue Minister Peter] Dunne said. "Reducing penalty rates in certain circumstances, combined with other effective enforcement measures, will help parents resume payments."
All of that is pretty familiar to Americans.  What's decidedly less so is that the New Zealand government has decided to do something constructive about its child support debt crisis.  Read about it here (New Zealand Herald, 10/23/11).  For months, the government has been taking comments on the existing system and seems about ready to make new laws and regulations governing divorced parents with children.  Those will take effect in April of 2013, which seems like a long time just to refigure how child support and penalties for non-payment will be administered. And I suppose it goes without saying that the reported fix won't do nearly enough to treat non-custodial parents in ways that ensure payment of reasonable support amounts with reasonable ways of modifying support orders.  Only in a fantasy world would that happen and New Zealand doesn't qualify no matter how many Tolkien dramas were filmed there. Still, I'd argue that the fact that New Zealand is backtracking on the most draconian of its child support regulations is a step in the right direction and one I wouldn't be surprised to see the rest of the world emulating in the near future.  Face it, child support laws in the English-speaking world are unjust and unreasonable in many different ways.  Plus, they affect an enormous number of people.  That's a situation that's ripe for change.  So we may well attend to what New Zealand does and what effects it has.
An overhaul of child-support payments will reduce the cost for part-time parents who spend just 28 per cent of the time with their children - two nights a week.
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne, who announced the changes, said they would recognise parents as "shared carers" of children if they had the child for 28 per cent of the nights down from 40 and would give greater consideration of both parents' incomes when determining payments.
So parents who have their children two nights out of the week will see their support levels drop.  So will non-custodial parents whose exes work and earn.
Dunne said the proposed changes to the child-support formula would apply from April 2013, and changes to payment, penalty and debt rules would be introduced the next year. It would mean that some parents would receive lower payments but it would be a "fairer" system.
Now, that 28% care threshold contains a catch; most non-custodial parents have the usual every other weekend order meaning they have only half the parenting time required to qualify for the reduction.  So that particular change may sound good, but the truth is that it just won't affect that many parents.  Somehow I'm not surprised. 
Union of Fathers president Allan Harvey welcomed the overhaul but said changes could go further. Fourteen per cent of nights in one parent's care should qualify as "shared care" status - the equivalent of every second weekend.
"It's not usual for children to be in one parent's care every weekend." Harvey also said family household income, when one of the former partners took a new partner, should be taken into consideration, rather than an individual parent's.
So the new rules in New Zealand are far from the type of sensible, fair approach to child support that we might wish.  But it's a step toward rationality.  More important, it's not more of the same - the ever harsher, ever more punitive approach we've come to expect.  And in that way, it may be a harbinger of things to come.  Some day we may look back on these relatively modest changes and see that this was the time the tide turned.

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Actor Ben Davies (right), one of the fathers in 'Courageous'"][/caption] Longtime Fathers and Families member Steve S. Sommer, MD, PhD, says the new movie Courageous underscores the importance and wisdom of fathers. Steve writes:

Courageous is a movie about five men, four who have integrity and display courage.  These men range from reasonable to non-involved fathers. The dynamics of their interaction help them focus on their roles as fathers.

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A new survey shows that one in seven families in the U.K. has a stay-at-home dad. Read about it here (Daily Mail, 10/25/11).

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The following was written by Sophia Van Buren. She's the non-custodial mom I wrote about here back on September 14th. I write daily about the plight of non-custodial fathers, so it's good to remember that, in many ways, the family court system is an equal opportunity abuser. Non- custodial mothers are a small minority of parents, but their experiences with family courts often look a lot like those of non-custodial fathers. Here's Van Buren's website.

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Fathers and Families has joined with Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence in a joint letter to protest an advertisement from the luxury shoes, clothing, and bags company Jimmy Choo Ltd.

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No way out but one movie posterThe Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, and Boston Magazine are unwittingly promoting the Holly Collins child custody hoax via their glowing coverage of the new documentary film No Way Out But One. The Boston Magazine piece ‘No Way Out But One’ to Unveil at MIT says the film "will open your eyes to a stunning injustice."

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It's been a while since I've written about maternal gatekeeping, but this case pretty much demands it (Washington Post, 10/21/11).
Police said a former criminology professor fatally shot her 7-year-old son and then killed herself on Friday as police waited outside with her estranged husband, who was there to pick up the child after receiving court-ordered custody.
Less than an hour before the shooting, a jury granted Rodney McCall, 42, of Wylie, sole custody of Eryk Hayslett-McCall and terminated the parental rights of 43-year-old Karen Hayslett-McCall, The Dallas Morning News reported.

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Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is trying to make child welfare a law-enforcement issue. Read about it here (Arizona Republic, 10/27/11).Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is trying to make child welfare a law-enforcement issue.  Read about it here (Arizona Republic, 10/27/11). As I've reported before, Arizona Child Protective Services has come under fire from a number of quarters for its failure to protect children.  And that criticism is richly deserved.  For example, in the past 11 months, four children who were known by CPS to be at risk in their custodial environment, have died there. 

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We asked our members to call Jimmy Choo Ltd to protest. Your response has been overwhelming, and we're pleased to report that Jimmy Choo Ltd has now agreed to remove the offensive ad from all of their stores, all print media, and their website. They emphasize that they did not mean to offend, and they apologize.Fathers and Families joined with Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence this week in a joint letter to protest an advertisement from the luxury shoes, clothing, and bags company Jimmy Choo Ltd. The ad, which depicts a woman stepping on a man's head as he lies prone on the floor, appears on their website, in print ads, and in many of their storefronts. We explained:

Unwittingly, your ad both trivializes domestic violence and makes it appear that partner abuse is acceptable. The man in the photo appears to be in fear and possibly in pain or even dead, and the woman pictured seems to be about to put her full weight on the man"s skull.

We also asked our members to call Jimmy Choo Ltd to protest. Your response has been overwhelming, and we're pleased to report that Jimmy Choo Ltd has now agreed to remove the offensive ad from all of their stores, all print media, and their website. They emphasize that they did not mean to offend, and they apologize.

We commend Jimmy Choo Ltd for understanding our concerns and acting so quickly.

Our original letter can be seen in its entirety here.

With best regards,
Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director,
Fathers and Families

Toni K. Troop
Director of Communications Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

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Jimmy Choo Ad

Update (10/27/11):  Your response to our call to action has been overwhelming, and we're pleased to report that Jimmy Choo Ltd has now agreed to remove the offensive ad from all of their stores, all print media, and their website. They emphasize that they did not mean to offend, and they apologize.

We commend Jimmy Choo Ltd for understanding our concerns and acting so quickly.

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director,
Fathers and Families

Toni K. Troop Director of Communications
Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence


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As bad as child protective agencies can be, they're even worse toward native American families, particularly in South Dakota. This fine article tells why (NPR, 10/25/11).

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New Hampshire Judge David G. LeFrancois has abetted the fraud and perjury of Kristin Ruggiero. Yesterday, LeFrancois dismissed the attempt by Kristin's ex-husband, Jeffrey Ruggiero, to get custody of his his daughter.

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