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.
December 4, 2019 By Don Hubin, PhD, Chair, Board of Directors
Last September, NPO released the 2019 NPO Shared Parenting Report Card. This was the first update to the research that NPO pioneered in 2014 to review the child custody statutes of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and evaluate them on the degree to which they promote shared parenting.
Unfortunately, we missed a key provision of Arkansas law. In both the 2014 Report and the 2019 Report (as released in September). Arkansas statutes state that “[i]n an action for divorce, an award of joint custody is favored in Arkansas” (ARK. CODE ANN. § 9-13-101(a)(1)(A)(iii)). And, furthermore, Arkansas statutes define ‘joint custody’ strongly: “the approximate and reasonable equal division of time with the child by both parents individually as agreed to by the parents or as ordered by the court” (ARK. CODE ANN. § 9-13-101(a)(1)(A)(iii)(B)(5)).
These are important provisions of Arkansas law that should serve to promote shared parenting and, reflecting these changes, NPO has changed the grade for Arkansas’s shared parenting statutes from a ‘D-’ to a ‘C+’.
That’s a significant improvement, to be sure. But there’s plenty of room for the lawmakers in Arkansas to take further steps to promote shared parenting. The language of “favoring” shared parenting amounts only to a policy statement. It does not create a rebuttable presumption of substantially equal shared parenting. And, because of its vagueness, courts are not interpreting the statutory language as creating even a legal preference for shared parenting.
Ginger brings a broad range of talents, skills, and knowledge as well as a deep understanding of the problems that NPO is addressing. Her personal experience and her work as a film director and documentary maker, not only of Erasing Family but also of the earlier film Erasing Dad (Borrando a Papá), have given Ginger a deep and personal understanding of the trauma many children face when one of their parents is erased from their lives--trauma that often follows them far into adulthood.
In her brief time working with NPO so far, Ginger has helped establish new NPO affiliate chapters in Florida, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Alabama, Colorado and Texas. She created a series of webcasts to educate both advocates and the general public and she oversaw the rollout of the 2019 NPO Shared Parenting Report Card, including organizing a press conference at Rockefeller Center announcing it which was covered by US News & World Report, Fox News, and Yahoo!
Welcome aboard as our Executive Director, Ginger. We look forward to working with you to change laws, practices, and, perhaps most importantly, attitudes and expectations so that children won’t be deprived of a loving parent just because the parents are living apart.
Chair, National Board, NPO
December 2, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The problem of domestic violence allegations has bedeviled family courts for decades. Family lawyers have long said that those allegations are often made to gain an advantage in child custody matters. Judges have to figure out if the claims have merit and, if so, what to do about them. Often they’re trained to err on the side of believing the complainant, i.e. to issue restraining orders in the absence of much real evidence for the claim. That of course means the targeted parent, usually the father, can be removed from his place of residence and denied contact with his children, among other restrictions.
I’ve written about this a good bit lately regarding Australian family courts. There, accused parents may wait for many months before they even get a hearing on a DV claim, all the while being subjected to a restraining order that was granted in a matter of days or even hours.
What’s given rise to my posts about the situation in Australia is the welter of articles defending the status quo. Those pieces typically assume that only men commit DV and only women are its victims while going on to claim that women never lie about in their complaints.
U.S. courts aren’t quite as extreme as Australian ones, but the fact remains that claims of DV continue to be used as a tactic for gaining custody of children.
So it’s useful to know the facts about DV, facts that many who oppose shared parenting are happy to keep under wraps.
As we approach the season of giving, I hope everyone who reads the NPO blog will give what they can to help us in our mission to reform family courts. That mission is, in my mind, the most important of all social causes. Ensuring that family courts and laws stop separating children from parents is vital to kids’ well-being both now and long into the future. Keeping both parents actively involved in children’s lives helps children, parents and society generally by reducing the many psychological deficits that trouble children without a mother or a father.
The National Parents Organization is by far the leader in this vital movement for reform. We have the national scope and strategy to address the need for change from across the country. In the past year, we’ve accomplished great things, including the anniversary of the first-ever presumption of shared parenting law in Kentucky. We now boast 23 active state affiliates and our Shared Parenting Report Card brought national attention to the shocking disparity among states in their approaches to shared parenting. Every day, on the NPO website, social media and in newspapers, we spread the word about shared parenting and answer those who would continue the dysfunctional status quo.
The future looks bright for NPO. Our new Executive Director, Ginger Gentile, is enthusiastic, energetic and knowledgeable. Our Board of Directors is more active than ever. Our affiliates are staffed with the best, most dedicated volunteers we’ve ever had. We’re poised to be the most effective we’ve ever been.
But of course, we can’t do it without funds. Expanding our capabilities to meet the needs or our affiliates and to battle the opposition takes money. Giving Tuesday comes on December 3 this year. If you give on that day, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 and every dollar counts.
Please consider making your tax-exempt donation to the National Parents Organization. You can do so here:
I know you value NPO’s work because you read our blog and follow our activities. Won’t you help make us even better and more effective than we already are? Children and parents across the country will thank you for doing so.
November 25, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
It's a victory for Johnson who can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing she fought the system and finally, won.
But is it a victory? Did Jean Johnson “win?” If so, it’s a Pyrrhic one.
Jean Johnson’ son Lance was married to a woman who goes unnamed by this article (News4, 11/13/19). They had two children, but Lance’s wife had an affair with another man and gave birth to his child. She and Lance divorced and he was ordered to pay child support for his two children. DNA evidence cited by the court proved Lance to be the father of only those two.
Documents obtained by News 4 show the courts have confirmed the child in question was fathered through a relationship the child's mother had with another man years ago, while she was married to Johnson's son.
Lance seems to have paid the support he owed for his two kids, but the state child support enforcement agency, the Child Support Enforcement Division, decided he owed for all three children. It therefore began calculating arrears based on his non-payment for the child who’s not his. Lance moved out of state, but his mother, Jean, began a fight with the CSED to rectify its mistake and stop dunning Lance for money he didn’t owe.
On our most recent Facebook live chat, Deputy Executive Director Ginger Gentile spoke with Collaborative Attorney and Author Ashley Nicole Russell, Esq. about how to de-escalate conflict in divorce, put the kids first, and why #sharedparenting is so important. As a child of divorce, Ashley-Nicole presents first-hand knowledge of how the current family law system creates conflict and how collaborative law can make the divorce process smoother and lessen the trauma contentious divorces can inflict on children. Ashley-Nicole is the author of The Cure for Divorce Culture and recently wrote a post for our blog on how to successfully co-parent during the holidays. This video got over 1,400 view and presents new opportunities for shared parenting advocates and professionals involved in family law to come together to reform current practices that hurt kids.
You can reach Ashley-Nicole Russell, Esq at:@anrlaw on social media
November 22, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Well, that didn’t take long. I’ve been writing about the reaction, by those who apparently want fathers marginalized in their children’s lives, to the latest review of family law in Australia. Their claims have little basis in fact and are best viewed as efforts to maintain the status quo in family courts.
Their main point is that judges routinely ignore mother’s claims of domestic violence and child abuse in order to hand over child custody to abusive fathers. Of course, in many cases judges rule against mothers who claim abuse because there’s insufficient evidence of it or, sometimes, the claims are deliberately fabricated. But according to the likes of Zoe Rathus and Jess Hill, mothers apparently never lie about abuse. If Mom says it happened, it happened. Such seems to be their basic assumption.
Indeed, the headline to the Rathus article was “Parental Alienation: the debunked theory that mothers lie about violence is still used in court.” Never mind that that’s not what PA is and never mind that PA has never been “debunked” and in fact is coming to be more and more understood by legal and mental health practitioners. The key to the Rathus piece (and others) is the assumption that mothers don’t lie about violence or abuse. It’s patent nonsense, but that’s their claim.
Now, hard on the heels of those scurrilous claims, comes a case out of Nebraska that demands an answer from those who claim that, when a mother claims abuse, it’s always the truth. What do they say to every judge in the case and every witness, expert and non-expert alike, who testified under oath that the mother in the case was not only wrong in her claims of abuse, but obviously so? What do they say to the clear evidence that what Mom did in the case was itself abusive of her daughter? Facts are stubborn things, so I’d be interested in their response.
This three-part series is written by Ashley-Nicole Russell, an author, speaker, and attorney, who is a child of divorce and a divorcee. She is an expert in divorce culture and shared parenting techniques. Through this series, she will explain what divorcing parents need to keep in mind during the holiday season as they work through separation, divorce, and/or life after divorce.
Part 1: Pledging to Co-Parent
I’m sure you and your spouse never thought divorce would be in your future. While your lives will significantly change, your child’s life doesn’t have to be significantly impacted. The holiday season is full of excitement, magic, and wonder. You and your spouse must come to agreement that you both don’t want your divorce to change your child’s perception of Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, or New Year’s celebrations.
As a Collaborative Law divorce attorney, I believe in co-parenting and shared parenting agreements rather than court ordered custody agreements. If you’ve never heard of it, the Collaborative process is a legal alternative to court proceedings for couples facing divorce. This type of divorce is similar, yet different from mediation. During a Collaborative Law divorce, you have an attorney who can give legal advice. Each spouse must have their own attorney as they are separately represented. In mediation, a third-party is tasked with negotiating settlements with neutrality. This third-party cannot offer legal advice and represents neither of the spouses during the process.
When children are involved, a Collaborative process if often favored by most parents because child custody agreements are handled out of the court system. Children are not meant for the environment of a volatile and traumatic courtroom. There are dozens of studies that show the lasting impact a traditional divorce proceeding can have on children. As researched and cited in my recently published book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, children of the traditional litigation divorce model commit suicide 30% more, are addicted to substances and alcohol 18% more, and divorce at an alarming rate or do not get married at all. A 35-year longitudinal study shows children are broken from the conflict of divorce. I believe this conflict begins in a large part with primary and secondary parental titles.
November 21, 2019 by Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian
Area lawmakers will introduce bills for the 2020 state legislative session addressing everything from shared parenting to texting while driving.
Lawmakers can pre-file bills beginning next month.
State Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, said his top priority is to pass a shared-parenting bill. It would create a “rebuttal presumption” for parents in child-custody cases to receive equal time with their children, he said.
He introduced similar legislation last session, but it failed to pass.
“This is going to be a big push for me,” he said. “Most fatherlessness is created by outdated court systems, not abandonment, so I want to get that corrected.”
State Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, plans to offer a similar bill in the House. The goal, she said, is to force judges to start with the premise parents should be granted equal time with their children unless there is evidence showing such a move is not warranted.
Read the full article at the Southeast Missourian
November 21, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Augusto Zimmerman’s article in The Spectator summarizes his recommendations to the new Joint Committee on Australia’s Family Law System (The Spectator, 11/11/19). Zimmerman is a heavyweight in the Australian family law community; among other things, he’s a law professor and former commissioner of the Law Reform Committee of Western Australia. His words damn the system of domestic violence restraining orders from start to finish.
It’s a truism about human nature that, whenever we give power to any group of people, there’s a substantial likelihood that some of them will abuse that power. The recognition of that truism explains why there are so few monarchies left, why we have a system of “checks and balances,” a Bill of Rights, etc. It’s why we audit financial statements of businesses and monitor (ideally via the press) the doings of governmental officials. It’s why we have elections.
And so it is with domestic violence and the restraining orders that Australian judges hand out like so much candy to children. Those who claim victimization and seek restraining orders are placed by law in a position of power. Most of them don’t abuse that power, but altogether too many of them do as the truism predicts.
It is that system of granting astonishing power to one person at the expense of others that Zimmerman so effectively excoriates.
On November 14 Deputy Executive Director was joined live on Facebook by Kenya N. Rahmaan, the author of The Child Support Hustle (N.K. Clark) and the Founder of The Reform Child Support NOW! Movement. She joined NPOto discuss the child support system, how little of the money collected actually goes to kids, and how it creates modern day debtors' prisons. Ms. Rahmaan recently wrote a blog post for NPO about a man, Richard Scotti, who was denied a modification of his child support order when he found his earnings dropping with the decline of printing industry and now faces jail time. She let us know that "Dead broke should never mean ‘Deadbeat’ and it is not a crime to be poor." This video has gotten over 3,000 views on Facebook and opened up an important conversation around child support and shared parenting.
November 19, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors
The shoddy screeds written by Zoe Rathus and Jess Hill in an effort to convince Australian governmental authorities that mothers are ill treated by fathers and judges in family courts are predictably short on facts and intellectual scruples and long on indignation. They and others who oppose kids maintaining real relationships with both parents following divorce or separation routinely cite bad “science,” ignore good science, misrepresent other science and fabricate definitions of parental alienation. That’s apparently what you do when you don’t have anything of substance to contribute to the conversation.
But there are other people, reputable people, scrupulous people who are talking as well and it’s high time we paid attention to them. One is Augusto Zimmerman. He’s a heavyweight in Australian family law. Here’s how this article describes him (The Spectator, 11/11/19):
Dr Augusto Zimmermann was a Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia from 2012-2017. He is currently Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan College, Perth, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia Sydney campus. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA).
Now, one of the claims/strong suggestions made by Rathus, Hill, et al is that mothers don’t lie about abuse. Hill and American academic Joan Meier avoid saying so explicitly, being content to let their readers draw the desired conclusion. Rathus is more frank; the headline of her recent piece in “The Conversation” reads “Parental Alienation: The Debunked Theory that Women Lie about Violence…” That makes the matter plain; she wants us to believe that the theory that women lie about violence has been debunked.
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.