As of mid-October, we have the latest analysis of the Family Bridges workshop that seeks to repair the relationships between severely alienated children and their targeted parents. Previous studies of Family Bridges strongly suggested positive results of the program along with positive attitudes of its participants. The latest study is larger and a more comprehensive examination of both.
It must be noted that the study was conducted by Prof. Richard Warshak who originated the concepts put into practice by Family Bridges. That said, Warshak has had no professional, legal or financial connection either to Family Bridges itself or to the professionals who conduct its workshops.
National Parents Organization’s groundbreaking study of Ohio’s domestic relations courts’ standard parenting time guidelines has provoked a response for the Ohio Association of Domestic Relations Judges (OADRJ).
Normally, it would be appropriate to thank the judges for reviewing the NPO Ohio Parenting Time Report, judiciously weighing the points made in the report, and thoughtfully responding. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the judges actually read, or at least read carefully, the NPO report. Indeed, there is clear evidence that they didn’t read, or at least didn’t understand, the report.
The case of Teagan Batstone may come to a close soon. Teagan was the little Canadian girl who was killed by her mother, Lisa Batstone, back in December, 2014. Lisa Batstone was apprehended when she backed her car into a ditch and Teagan’s body was found in its trunk. The child was eight years old.
Just why it’s taken almost four years to bring Lisa to trial is anyone’s guess. Mental health professionals said she was fit to stand trial shortly after her arrest, but so far no trial has taken place. The latest proceeding is a one in which the judge must determine whether Lisa’s statements to various people at the scene and at the hospital later are admissible in her trial for Teagan’s death (Abbotsford News, 10/16/18).
#BelieveTheWoman took another body blow recently (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/17/18). As many recall, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, D – MN, was accused back in August by his former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, of physical and emotional abuse against her. He denies her allegations, but they spurred the Star Tribune and Alpha Media to seek records from his divorce from his wife Kim in 2012. Presumably, both media outlets sought information to the effect that Ellison is an abuser.
Both Ellison and his ex-wife opposed unsealing the divorce file (why was it sealed in the first place?) citing privacy concerns. But a judge ordered its contents made public. What they revealed is that it wasn’t Ellison, but his ex who was the abuser.
Yesterday’s piece ended by asking why opponents of the shared parenting bill currently before Italy’s Parliament seek its defeat. In that piece I detailed the usual tired claims by opponents that were faithfully reiterated by Washington Post writer Anna Momigliano (Washington Post, 9/18/18). As usual, none of those arguments withstands even casual scrutiny and Momigliano mentioned not a single reason to support shared parenting. Her piece was 100% negative.
But of course she gave plenty of space for opponents to make their claims. The question though becomes, why do they oppose shared parenting. The answer, it turns out, is both entirely predictable and utterly quixotic, at odds with even the interests they pretend to promote.
Is it possible that, with all that’s been written and said about shared parenting in so many parts of the world, that it will be Italy that leads the way? It is. Indeed, it appears likely.
Now, this Washington Post article about the bill that’s pending before the Italian Parliament is little different from the usual claptrap published by those who oppose children maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents when the adults split up (Washington Post, 9/18/18). That of course means that it’s simply wrong on several fronts and misleading on the others. Plus, writer Anna Momigliano tosses in a rich disregard for Italian mothers in her zeal to mischaracterize the bill, its probable effects and its supporters.
It’s like reading the history of a defeated army retreating but fighting rear-guard actions along the way (Psychology Today, 10/10/18). I refer of course to Professor Edward Kruk’s description of the tactics used by anti-shared parenting advocates over the years as, one by one, their justifications for their opposition fell before the advance of science and sound reasoning. And now, they’ve come up against the impassable river, the unscalable mountain. They’re stuck, hemmed in on every side by the onslaught of scientific achievement.
According to Kruk, there’ve been three waves of justifications advanced by opposition forces against shared parenting. The first wave consisted of three smaller ones.
Here’s a case that’s sadly not uncommon (U.S. News, 10/9/18). So why write about it? Two reasons that I’ll get to later.
A case manager for the Iowa Department of Human Services has been found to have lied under oath and otherwise fabricated evidence in order to strip a mother and father of their parental rights to their four children.
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.
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.
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.
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.”