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 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:
October 7, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
A lawsuit against the State of New York seeks to overturn a 39-year-old law that appears to blatantly and unconstitutionally discriminate against unmarried fathers. Just when I think I’ve seen everything, something like this crops up.
In New York, mothers, whether married or not have the full panoply of parental rights. Unmarried fathers do not. So if Mom is found to be unfit to care for little Andy or Jenny or is abusive toward them, she can lose her parental rights. The question then becomes, “What happens to the kids?” As the Urban Institute discovered back in 2006, all too often Dad is ignored as a possible placement for the children who go into foster care. That particular scenario was held to be an unconstitutional infringement on fathers’ rights by the 9th Federal Circuit, but unfortunately for New York fathers, the 9th Circuit doesn’t control New York courts.
But that’s far from all. Not only are fathers often ignored as possible placements for children, but, unknown to them, they’re required to pay child support, not to the mother who’s lost custody, but to the state foster care system. Yes, there’s a law requiring them to do that, but there are a few hitches. First, the state never lets them know they’re obligated to pay. Second, the state never lets them know how much to pay, to whom or where. Third, the state never lets them know that, if they don’t pay, they’re considered to have abandoned the child and the state will move to terminate their parental rights.
In New York, lawyers for fathers said that making payments to foster care agencies was not even possible. The agencies do not try to collect the money, they said, and fathers do not know where or to whom to send it.
October 8, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
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. Why? Because Hampton’s mother had received welfare payments and, under California law all child support except the first $50 per month went to the state to reimburse it for those payments.
Now there are two laws awaiting the governor’s signature that would ever so slightly improve child support policy in the Golden State (CalMatters, 9/30/19). The first would direct the first $100 – instead of the first $50 - of each child support payment to the child’s family and still reserve the rest to the state. In other words, the California Legislature still prefers revenue for the state’s general fund over money for kids.
The original bill would have sent all support payments to the children for whom they were intended, but lawmakers eyed the money brought into state coffers from non-custodial parents and capped the amount at just $100.
An earlier version of [Senator Nancy] Skinner’s bill would have gone even further, directing 100% of child support payments to the family. That provision was ultimately removed amid concerns it would be too costly for the state…
California receives about $370 million each year from non-custodial parents who intend it for their kids and it seems lawmakers aren’t about to let the little tykes have it.
Fox News published an op-ed by NPO’s Don Hubin, Ph.D. about the results of our updated Shared Parenting Report Card:
A study just published by the National Parents Organization reveals that most states have a long way to go to improve the lives of children whose are living apart. The good news is that there is a path to that goal—a goal that everyone shares—that is widely agreed on and … it’s free!
National Parents Organization researchers evaluated the statutes of all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the degree to which those laws promote the well-being of children by encouraging to share as equally as possible in rearing their children. NPO then graded the states’ statutes based on 21 factors that encourage or discourage shared parenting.
More than a quarter-century of shows that children of divorced and separated parents do best when both parents share parental responsibilities roughly equally—when children do not suddenly find themselves with one overburdened parent and one “every other weekend visitor.” In light of this research, state legislatures should be doing everything they can to encourage this equal co-parenting. It should be the presumed post-separation parenting arrangement.
Read the rest at Fox News.
October 6, 2019 by Christian Paasch, National Parents Organization of Virginia
What would you do if your child, who had been getting a D- on report cards, brought one home with a C- instead? Would you rejoice and say that’s good enough? Or would you view it as a decent start with plenty of opportunity for improvement?
That is exactly the kind of improved position Virginia is in, thanks to a legislative push from the Virginia affiliate of the National Parents Organization.
As a result of the landmark 2018 HB 1351, which simply requires courts to consider joint physical custody and joint legal custody on par with or equal to sole custody, Virginia has just received a C- in NPO’s 2019 Shared Parenting Report Card. While this is certainly not outstanding, it does put Virginia on the right path toward doing not only what’s been proven best for children and families, but what its neighboring state of Kentucky has already done: Make shared parenting the norm and de facto starting point.
Recently, NPO released its 2019 Shared Parenting Report Card — the latest study to issue each state’s child custody statutes a grade, A through F. This report card provides a comprehensive ranking of states on their child custody statutes, assessing them primarily on the degree to which they promote shared parenting versus sole custody, after divorce or separation.
Thanks to Del. Glenn Davis, Virginia passed its first ever “shared parenting friendly” bill in 2018 — and Virginia’s children and families can thank him for being better off for it. This bill’s success is further underscored by its unanimous, bipartisan passing and Gov. Ralph Northam’s support via a formal signing ceremony for the bill.
Read the rest here.
October 5, 2019 by Linda Reutzel, National Parents Organization of Missouri
Kentucky’s monumental passage of a shared parenting bill last year has been deemed “the most popular vote in the state.”
According to a recent article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Administrative Office of the Courts reported an 11 percent reduction in domestic court cases and a reduction of 445 domestic violence cases under the law. Missouri, the Show-Me State, has clearly been shown.
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 lawmakers will file again in the 2020 session to be a top priority. The policy change starts with a premise that there are two fit parents and provides a judge with discretion to determine otherwise and a built-in mechanism for a rebuttable presumption.
Read the rest here.
October 7, 2019 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Chair, National Board of Directors
What does Saturday Night Live have against dads? It’s hard to say but, apparently, the show’s writers and producers have father issues.
First, there was the “Christmas Dad” sketch last December. This drew fire not only from NPO (here, and here) but also from the Canadian writer Barbara Kay (here), who described the sketch as “an act of vile misandry.”
Now SNL is at it again, but their denigration isn’t aimed only at divorced dads. It’s aimed at all dads.
The sketch titled, simply, ‘“Dad” (9/28/2019), portrays a 1980s dad, portrayed by Woody Harrelson, who is so focused on work he conducts on his brick-sized cell phone that he completely ignores his son’s obvious distress. This leads the son to rap about this paternal neglect, expressing the rejection that tears at his heart.
Sounds funny so far, right?
The son (Kyle Moonie) is joined in the rap by a friend, Colby (Chris Redd), and some awkward dancing, presumably intended to be humorous, ensues.
Then, there’s a moment when Dad appears to have an epiphany: he realizes he’s been so consumed with work that he’s been ignoring his son. The dad joins in the rap and asks “What have I become?”