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 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.
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.
This continues the case of Alma S. whose parental rights to her two children were terminated by the ruling of the Arizona Supreme Court. The trial court ruled in favor of termination, but was reversed by the Court of Appeals that was in turn reversed by the state’s highest court. Therefore, as things stand now, the children will remain separated and be adopted. Without intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, Alma S. is out of luck.
The opinion by the Court of Appeals reveals a shocking abuse of power by the Department of Child Safety. From the appellate court’s description of the Department’s behavior, it appears plain that railroading the children into foster care and then into adoption was the plan all along. Put simply, the evidentiary basis relied on by the DCS and the trial court was woefully inadequate to support termination of Alma’s rights. Worse, DCS handpicked experts to opine in favor of termination and then restricted the information those experts received for the purpose of enhancing the prospects of terminating Alma’s parental rights.
At some point, Alma was living with a man who’d fathered one of her children. The other father was in prison. She went to work one day and left the kids with him. When she returned, it appeared one of the children had been on the receiving end of physical abuse. The next day, Alma asked her sister to take the kids to the doctor to ascertain whether abuse had occurred. She did so, the doctor reported the matter to DCS and the children were taken into care.
I can’t be sure from this article, but it looks like the Arizona Supreme Court may have made a big mistake (AZ Central, 9/17/18). The article is well done, but I need to read the SC decision and that of the Court of Appeals before I can be sure what happened.
Suffice it to say that, if writer Mary Jo Pitzl is correct, this case should be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With divorce rates on the rise in India, it’s time our lawmakers gave serious thought to amending the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act to alleviate the trauma that children of estranged parents undergo during the divorce proceedings and the custodial battle.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. The linked-to article goes to bat for a presumption of shared parenting in India (Hindustan Times, 9/12/18).
At present, courts are empowered to grant a child’s custody to either parent depending on the child’s overall interests and well-being.
So it appears that Indian courts don’t have the authority to order shared parenting, even if they want to. That said though, they’ve done so in the past.
It’s not just the camel’s nose that’s inside the tent; now the whole smelly beast is living with us. It’s eating our food and drinking our wine. How long before it asks us to leave our own tent? How long after that will it be before it simply shoves us out?
I refer of course to child protective authorities. What began as a laudable effort to protect children from abusive parents has become a multi-billion dollar industry that grows larger every year. To do that, it’s had to identify an ever-increasing number of parental behaviors that qualify as abuse. Or neglect. Or the risk of abuse. Or the risk of neglect. Or emotional harm. Or the risk of emotional harm (The Guardian, 9/14/18).
Amazingly, Forbes has allowed itself to become the vehicle for some truly misleading claims by British writer Lauren Coulman (Forbes, 9/12/18). Her subject is the earnings gap between men and women. Unable to produce figures or facts indicating the gap’s being the result of anti-female discrimination, Coulman resorts to verbal legerdemain.
The campaign against recognizing parental alienation continues in this article (BBC, 9/12/18). The writer, “education editor” Branwen Jeffreys should consider educating herself before writing such a piece. The nut of the matter according to Jeffreys is that the very existence of PA is “controversial” and so any claim that it’s occurring should be looked at askance.
Recently I wrote a piece, once again pointing out the profound ignorance of British former family lawyer, John Bolch. His blog post was about child support and, as is always the case with Bolch, contained many smug assertions that don’t bear even casual scrutiny. But I find I was too kind.
Bolch tossed off the usual boilerplate about child support. In answer to the hypothetical question of why a non-resident parent should have to pay child support, Bolch responded with this, assuming the truth to be self-evident:
NPO's Ohio Parenting Time Report is getting a lot of media attention in Ohio, with journalists in different counties asking how their county fared and how things can change. Research shows that children do better when they have plenty of time with both parents, and this report is leading those in Ohio to ask, "how can we do better?"
"Report Reveals "Mad Men" Approach to Child Custody in Ohio" Public News Service
"Report Shows Child Custody and Visitation Policies Vary Among Ohio Counties" 90.5 WCBE
"Report Reveals "Mad Men" Approach to Child Custody in Ohio" Public News Service
"Report Shows Child Custody and Visitation Policies Vary Among Ohio Counties" 90.5 WCBE