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.
The living arrangements of children in the U.S. seem to have become pretty stable in the past 18 years or so. That’s the takeaway from the linked-to piece by Wendy Wang who is director of research at the Institute for Family Studies and a former senior researcher at Pew Research Center.
So, for example, about 65.3% of all kids under the age of 18 now live with both of their married biological parents. That’s down from 68% in 2000, so not a lot of change. Just 3.6% live with both parents who aren’t married and 4.2% live with one of their parents. Both of those are down from 2000, but not greatly so. Overall, since 2000, living arrangements for kids have generally stabilized after 30 years of declining rates of marital childcare.
The new front in the family law wars appears to be here (BuzzFeed, 10/5/18). It’s a longish article that makes but a single point – that a woman who’s been the victim of her husband’s domestic violence shouldn’t have to pay him alimony when she divorces him. Now, readers will note my gendered language that appears nowhere in the article itself. But, whatever the wording, the gist of the article is clear – that domestic violence is almost exclusively a gendered phenomenon and so the issue of whether alimony should be paid by a victimized spouse is also gendered.
Indeed, of the article’s half-dozen or so examples of a victimized spouse paying alimony to a perpetrator, all of them are women paying men. And there’s this:
The latest news out of Canada is that girls are more likely than boys to physically abuse a dating partner. That’s news of course only because the survey was recently conducted. But the fact that girls are more likely than boys to be violent toward a date has been known for decades.
Here’s one article on the Canadian survey (PJ Media, 10/7/18). In it, the august Warren Farrell recalls his research for one of his books published in the 90s.
For decades now, we’ve seen claims about children’s risk of abuse/harm/abduction/etc. ballyhooed by the press and popular culture. During that time, many people understandably formed the impression that children were in constant danger, that a killer lurked behind every tree, in every family, school, public park, and on and on.
Submerged deep beneath the overblown verbiage was the fact that children have literally never been safer. Countless datasets show children to be healthier and safer from abuse and crime than at any time in our history. The hysteria about child sexual abuse in pre-school environments ran its course, but not before many adults had their lives destroyed by, among other things, district attorneys keen to make a name for themselves at the expense of justice, decency and common sense.
It seems that many of the problems U.S. parents experience when dealing with child welfare agencies aren’t unique to this country. Norway is now reporting some of the same difficulties (Science Nordic, 10/1/18).
There as here, it’s mostly the poor who find themselves confronted by child welfare caseworkers.
The Kansas case, In re Adoption of C.L., that I’ve written about the last two days, demonstrates the abysmal awfulness of putative father registries. In so doing, it makes the points about them I’ve made many times before – that (a) far from enhancing fathers’ rights, they do the opposite and (b) they place the burden of finding out about a pregnancy on the wrong party, i.e. the father.
Kansas law today is much like that of all states prior to the advent of PFRs. In order for a court to dispense with the father’s consent to the adoption of his child, those seeking to finalize the adoption must prove that the father abandoned the child. Kansas adds another possible ground for doing so – that, once the father learned of his child, he took no reasonable steps to support it, establish a relationship with it, etc. That of course is much the same as abandonment.
I’ve criticized states many times for their reliance on putative father registries to facilitate adoptions. Amazingly, those laws place the onus on unmarried men to, in some way, figure out if they’ve fathered a child and, if so, and if Mom places it for adoption, to take the necessary steps to assert their parental rights to stop the adoption and gain custody of the child. No requirement is placed on the mother to inform the father about his child, even though she’s the one who knows about it.
Plus, he’s required to file a form with the state’s PFR even though, few states make any effort to let men know (a) that it is, (b) what it is or (c) its potential impact on their parental rights. More amazingly still, PFR states have the gall to claim that those statutes exist to “allow unmarried fathers to assert their rights,” when in fact the registries exist for one reason and one reason only – to remove fathers from the adoption process.
This continues the case of In re Adoption of C.L.
Biological parents have parental rights that are supposedly protected by the Constitution. That is far from a mere legal technicality. It is also of the most vital interest to parents and children alike. That is not true just because the science on children’s wellbeing demands it, although that would be reason enough.
If the “best interests of children” were all important (i.e. there were no parental rights or they were inferior to the BIC standard), then children could become nothing more than property subject to ownership and possessory rights.
This would be a pretty run-of-the-mill case except for one thing (Daily Mail, 10/4/18).
We’ve seen countless like it before: a man is contacted by his state’s child support agency telling him he owes some enormous sum of back child support, but he knows for a fact that (a) he has no children or (b) the child in question isn’t his because he never had sex with its mother. The trials and tribulations suffered by those men are legion and fairly well publicized. Gabriel Cornejo of Houston is one example. The State of Texas ordered him to pay $65,000 in child support for a child who isn’t his.
Now, in many of those cases, the state sent a letter to the man claimed to be the father, telling him to show up in court, but the man ignored the letter reasoning that, since the child isn’t his, the state can’t possibly tag him with support. Bad move, very bad move.
How many times have I complained that state child protective agencies operate in all but complete secrecy? In many states, a child has to die before the press or the people are entitled to get a look at what CPS did or didn’t do in the case.
The excuse for that secrecy is that, if a child has been abused or neglected, the trauma would only be made worse with publicity. That of course is putting out a match with a fire hose. If we’re truly concerned about the child’s welfare, why not just forbid the press from reporting the child’s name, its parents’ identities and any other information that could identify the child. That would provide information about the case and CPS’s actions without jeopardizing the child.
This is a good article on joint custody and child support (Fatherly, 10/1/18). It’s good not least because it relies on the highly knowledgeable Molly Olson for much of its content. That’s always a good thing. Needless to say, Olson has at least one very good suggestion regarding child support for divorcing parents.
The article first has Olson explain the basics - legal custody, physical custody and parenting time.
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
Back in August, NPO’s Don Hubin, with the assistance of two other researchers, issued NPO’s Ohio Parenting Time Report. The Report analyzed and compared the standard parenting time guidelines of each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Its stark findings include the fact that those guidelines are radically different from county to county. In one county, a child can rely on the guidelines to help him/her to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents, while a child in county four miles away is faced with a standard order for 4 – 5 days per month with one parent and the rest with the other.
The report rightly calls into question why children in adjoining counties should be treated so differently. It also points out that one county actually makes it explicit that the non-custodial parent is to be the father. Yes, it actually uses sexist language in that way.
Since its release, the Report has had some positive effects that Hubin has detailed in blog posts and in our newsletter. Put simply, it’s had a measurable and positive effect in a short period of time.
NPO is proud to announce a new direction for its Kentucky chapter. The team is bringing in two young shared parenting advocates with exciting plans for the future. Matt Hancock, current vice-chair, will be taking over. Jason Griffith, minority outreach director, will become vice-chair. Matt Hale will be stepping down as state chair to focus on national messaging and strategy while offering the new team his experience as a teammate. Alexandra Beckman will remain as women’s outreach director.
Hancock brings youth and energy to the chair position. He is a member of the “Kentucky Heroes” who helped pass the nation’s first shared parenting presumption in permanent custody orders. He has expertise in team building, relationship building with lawmakers and a calm demeanor. He has been assuming more responsibility over the last several months including media appearances.
Here’s an informative piece for the men of Tennessee. It’s a blog post by Tennessee attorney Kent T. Jones about how unmarried fathers are treated by the state’s family laws and how unmarried mothers are. It’s not a pretty picture.
The Tennessee child custody statutes support the mother in cases where the parents of a child are not married. An unmarried mother’s name on a child’s birth certificate is sufficient proof of her custodial rights; however, it is not the same for an unmarried father. Even if he’s named on the birth certificate, this only proves his relationship to the child; it does not assign any custody rights. A mother’s right to custody is automatic under Tennessee law, whereas the unmarried father must initiate juvenile court proceedings in order to gain custody rights.
To no one’s surprise, the Nebraska Supreme Court has done it. It’s produced a rule under which materials used to train judges who rule in divorce, child custody and parenting time cases may be withheld from the public. From now on, Nebraskans aren’t permitted to know how their judges are trained.
How does that square with the ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court in Veskrna vs. Steele that those very records are public under the Nebraska Public Records Act? The state’s highest court sided with Dr. Les Veskrna who wanted to know what education family court judges are receiving. Well, I’m not sure.
After all, the Nebraska Legislature long ago enacted the Public Records Act that unambiguously supports the public’s right to know regarding a very wide range of governmental behavior. The law plainly promotes openness and discourages secrecy. The public’s right to know is, generally speaking, the policy of the state and has been for a long time.
Will wonders never cease? As part of the recent short-term spending plan recently passed by Congress, the Family First Prevention Services Act appears to make progress in combatting states’ tendency to take children from parents, place them in foster care and then have them adopted.
That of course came about as a result of the 1998 passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act that allowed Washington to pay states for every child taken into foster care or adopted out of it. As former South Dakota state senator Bill Napoli told NPR back in 2011, “When that money came down the pike, it was huge. That's when we saw a real influx of kids being taken out of families.”
The Oldham Era in Oldham County, Kentucky has two articles in its pages on the first in the nation shared parenting law in Kentucky. The first is an op-ed by Chair of the Kentucky Chapter Matt Hale, who had worked on the shared parenting bill since 2012. Read it here. The second article is about the law's roots in Oldham County, where Matt Hale is from. It is also the area where the sponsors of the bill Rep. Jason Nemes and Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, represent in the Kentucky legislature. The law had bipartisan support and has been popular among those in Kentucky. The hope is that this law's popularity will convince the rest of the nation to pass shared parenting legislation.
Dan Deuel of National Parents Organization of Utah has written an op-ed in the Standard-Examiner for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month on the increased risk of suicide in divorced men and how changes in family law and parenting time could help. A highlight: "The University of California, Riverside conducted a study examining marital status and suicide. They found that the risk of suicide among divorced men was more than double that of married men. And divorced men are as much as eight times more likely to kill themselves than divorced women, overall." Read the full op-ed here.
Here’s a good article about Dianna Thompson’s new organization, Family Reunion (KGET, 9/25/18). Thompson of course is one of the truly fine advocates for shared parenting, reform of paternity fraud laws and family court reform generally. She’s been at this longer than most of us and done more to raise awareness of the many issues confronting fathers, mothers and children when they take the perilous step into family court.
Family Reunion, to its credit, advocates for shared parenting. The linked-to piece offers a brief comparison of two young people, one of whom (Ryan Rust) was raised by parents who shared parenting about equally post-divorce and another (Monisha Hossain) who was stuck with the usual primary maternal custody arrangement.
Many people who struggle with a mental health disorder can trace their internal struggles back to a childhood event. For some, being bullied at school can affect someone’s future mental wellness. For others, a traumatic event such as a death in the family can lead to depression or another mental illness.
However, sometimes it’s not so much one singular event as it is the family structure in which a child grows up.
Researchers at the Lincoln Prairie Behavioral Health Center in Springfield, Illinois, reviewed 154 patients who were 12 years old and under who were admitted to the center’s preadolescent unit between July and December of 2012. The study was published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, and the results show that children from disrupted families are more likely to have mental health issues.
From this article, it’s easy to see that James Millar is a sincere on the issues of paternal involvement in childcare (Huffington Post, 9/14/18). But there’s so, so much he just doesn’t grasp.
Millar understands that pop culture militates against respect for fathers.
For the first time in the history of the State of Maine, prosecutors and their enablers are being forced to pay money to one of their victims. In this case, that victim is Vladek Filler although, the way Filler turned the tables on his tormenters, it’s hard to know who’s the victim.
I’ve written about Filler many times before. During his divorce and child custody suit, his wife Ligia leveled charges of rape against him. Her claims were false and plainly intended to wrest custody from him and marginalize Vladek in his children’s lives. The police were happy to assist Ligia in her lies, withholding exculpatory evidence, among other things. That brought to center stage ADA Mary Kellett who seems to have never heard a claim of sexual assault she didn’t believe. She took the case to trial and won a conviction until it was overturned due to her outrageous and unethical behavior. Undeterred, she brought a misdemeanor charge of assault against Filler for allegedly splashing water on his wife. Yes, she really did that.
This is the final post on the Arizona Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Alma S. vs. Department of Child Services.
Justice Bollick agreed with the majority holding that the evidence at trial was sufficient under the applicable law to warrant terminating Alma’s rights. In his written opinion however, he slams both the state’s highest court and Arizona law as in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
This continues the case of Alma S. vs. Department of Child Services of Arizona, this time at the state Supreme Court level. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, greenlighting the termination of Alma’s parental rights and the placement of her children for adoption.
In a nutshell, the Court of Appeals held that the evidence was insufficient in the court below for a finding of parental unfitness. It detailed that evidence that seemed somewhere in the range of thin-to-non-existent. The Supreme Court disagreed, saying there was sufficient evidence to uphold the trial court’s ruling.
Now, in attacking the appellate court, the justices of the Supreme Court stooped to framing the issues in some pretty dicey ways.