Friday, August 27, 2004

PA Bill Proposes New Custody Standards

State Rep. Tom Stevenson, R-Mt. Lebanon, "has proposed legislation saying that "joint physical and legal custody" would be the new standard for Pennsylvania judges to use in ruling on custody battles. He said 30 states already use some form of the joint custody rule, also called shared custody."

Of course there was opposition: "Camp Hill family law attorney Maria Cognetti, representing the Pennsylvania Bar Association and some women's rights organizations, complained that Stevenson's proposal could have negative results on children." - Geez, women and attorney's do not want a presumption of joint custody? Why on earth not? Oh, oops, that would largely eliminate child support and outlandish attorney fees in divorce cases. Right. I forgot.

Read the article at the

Contact Tom Stevenson to show your support through the Pennsylvania House website .

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'Family Rights' Radio Network Begins Broadcast

A new radio network has emerged - and it's one worth checking out...

Mens News Daily


Mother Who Tried to Bribe Judge Pays Price....

Esther Weitzner, one of the parents who paid money to a mediator in order to swing her custody case, subsequently lost custody of her three children. This was from the case in New York concerning mediator Nissim Elmann and Judge Gerald Garson. Charges were also filed against clerk Paul Sarnell and court officer Louis Salerno. Salerno and Sarnell are now on trial while Garson awaits trial.

In my opinion this is a pretty crappy article - the author pretty much provides this woman a soap box to whine about how she was wronged. From the article:

"Weitzner said she regrets breaking the law but acted out of desperation and not disrespect for the law.

"The bribe was wrong, and I would not encourage anyone to do it," she said. "Out of desperation you do stupid things.

"I feel that just because I tried to protect my children and gave money to this mediator to help me win custody, the judge is getting back at me. He belongs to the 'black robe club.' All judges are friends with each other."

"Elmann approached my father and said the only way to win the court case is by bribing," Weitzner said."

However, only briefly mentioned in the article is the fact that Mrs. Weitzner had also at time denied her ex-husband his court ordered visitation with the children. - But don't hold your breath, this author makes no comment on this.

And for a final thought - (and this is speculative) but I understand why even a good father might attempt to bribe a judge (not that I think they should, or that they should not be harshly punished if they do...). However, I have to think for a mother to consider using a bribe, she is probably a pretty lousy mother if she is really afraid she will lose the case. So all in all, it seems that the kids were meant to be with dad... Just don't expect this reporter to say anything AT ALL about that...

New York Daily News

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Why Co-Parenting Works

I was going to put a link (and I still will) but I decided just to copy this from the site as well. What follows is verbatim form the Monterey County Herald:

"Why co-parenting works"

"Q: My soon-to-be ex and I both want to spend a lot of time with our children and we're trying to work out custody plan that both of us think is fair. A couple we know that got divorced are co-parenting their children. But other people have told us that sharing custody causes problems for everyone. Who's right?

A: The best way to maintain a strong relationship with your children is to spend as much time with them as you possibly can. Joint physical custody provides the best guarantee of regular contact with your kids. In most states, joint physical custody is defined simply as ''frequent and continuing contact,'' which covers everything from equally splitting expenses, decision-making, and time with the kids to arrangements that are basically indistinguishable from sole mother custody with occasional visitation by the father.

So pursue as much physical custody as you can reasonably manage. This is probably going to be somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, don't shoot for more than 50 percent: your children need their mother just as much as they need you and your ex needs them just as much as you do. Why go for co-parenting? Simply put, because it's the best thing for everyone.

• Parents like it. Former couples who share physical custody of their children are happier with their custody arrangements than those who don't. They fight less and are generally more satisfied with the overall outcome of their break-up.

• Fathers like it too. Co-parenting dads are ''more likely than nonresidential fathers to share in decision making about their children and to be satisfied with the legal and physical custody arrangements,'' says researcher Margaret Little.

• Judges like it. Parents who co-parent are half as likely to go back to court to settle their disputes as sole-custody parents.

• Kids feel more secure. Seeing their parents break up can make children feel frightened and out of control and, perhaps, unloved. And if one parent disappears -- or almost disappears -- these feelings get worse.

• Everyone wins. ''At its best joint custody presents the possibility that each family member can 'win' in post divorce life rather than insisting that a custody decision identify 'winners and losers,''' writes social policy expert Ross Thompson. ''Mothers and fathers each win a significant role in the lives of their offspring and children win as a consequence.''

• It increases father-child contact. Fathers who share physical custody of their children have far better visitation records and keep in much closer contact with their children than dads who don't have as much time with their kids.

• It nearly eliminates child-support default. The US Census Bureau found that over 90 percent of men with joint physical custody pay their entire child support obligation on time. Compliance goes up even further when adjusted for unemployment, underemployment, disability, or other legitimate inability to pay. (Not sure why a dad w/ joint custody - unless much less than 50% would pay support)

• It promotes flexibility. In the early stages of co-parenting, some kids may find it a little confusing. But it usually doesn't take them long to get used to the idea. Co-parented children quickly learn to cope with and accept the different ways their parents do things.
Most experts now agree that co-parenting is the best option. But they also agree that there are times when it just won't work and shouldn't be implemented -- such as when the parents are constantly at each other's throats or live too far apart.

Armin Brott's most recent books are ''The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, Second Edition'' and ''Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change.'' You can reach him through his Web site at

Co-parenting works best if you and your ex...

--Live near each other. Even though they're moving back and forth between two homes, your children should be able to keep going to the same school and participate in the same extracurricular activities.

--See each other's value to the children. You and she must recognize how important it is for the other to have a healthy relationship with your children, and how important those relationships are to the kids themselves.

--Can cooperate. You need to be willing to shelve your personal differences in the interests of working together. This means trying to come up with a set of common rules for behavior, discipline, and parenting style. And if you can't agree completely, at least accept and respect each other's choices.

--Don't fight in front of the children. Experts have found that the single most accurate predictor of children's long-term adjustment and well-being after divorce is the level of conflict between the parents.

Co-parenting won't work if you and your ex...

--Are constantly at each other's throats. Even supporters of co-parenting agree that it's not a good idea in cases where the parents are verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive to each other in front of the children. Realistically, though, this is pretty rare. Although about 25 percent of divorces fall into the ''high-conflict'' category, only 10 percent of them -- 2.5 percent of all divorces involving children -- show any kind of correlation between joint custody or frequent visitation arrangements and poor child adjustment, says John Guidubaldi, a commissioner with the United States Commission On Child & Family Welfare.

--Put your kids in the middle. Too many parents use their children to carry messages back and forth and to inform them of the other parent's activities. Researchers Christy Buchanan and her colleagues found that adolescents with higher feelings of being caught in the middle were more likely to experience depression and anxiety and engage in more deviant behavior such as smoking, drugs, fighting, stealing than adolescents who experienced more cooperation between their parents."

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The Betrayal Of The Military Father

This is a Glenn Sacks article, possibly I have posted it previously, but considering the reach of our current military it's focus still resonates...

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Psychologists play large role in child custody battles

This is a link to an article discussing the use of child psychologists in custody battles...

While it does call attention to some of the problems associated with these evaluators, it does precious else. Apparently this author took the title of reporter in the most literal sense, there is virtually nothing indicating whether these evaluations are necessary or just outside of a resigned sense of "well, what else can we do."

I'll tell you what you can do - stop assuming that there has to be a "primary parent" and allow children to have equal access to both parents. Christ, if only this wasn't some a novel concept for people - 2 Parents Before A Divorce Means There Are 2 Parents After Divorce - WHY ON EARTH SHOULD ONE BE RELEGATED TO BI-MONTHLY VISITS!? DOES THIS SOUND LIKE IT WOULD BE TO ANYONE'S BENEFIT OUTSIDE OF THE ONE ON THE RECEIVING END OF THE SUPPORT CHECKS?

Sorry about the caps - don't know how else to scream online...

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Ohio Legal Aid

Free legal aid is available to Ohio residents in Muskingum County who meet certain income standards.

"The clinic is open to residents who are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, Mann said. The financial guidelines are based on gross household income and household size. For a four-person household resident in 2004, this would mean their total gross income must be at or below $28,275 to qualify to receive the legal advice. Mann said this amount will change every year as the federal poverty guidelines change."

"The clinics are held on the third Thursday of each month -- except for December -- at the domestic relations court, 22 N. Fifth St. The next clinic will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday. Registration and screening is from 5 to 6 p.m. "

The full article is available

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John Burton Withdraws Bill!

Directly from the ACCAMA:


Victory! Burton Pulls SB 730 in Face of Enormous Opposition
August 16, 2004

We have just received word that California Senate President John Burton has decided to withdraw SB 730--the bill to abrogate the LaMusga decision and create unrestricted move-aways.

Thanks to the thousands of you who responded to our campaign and supported us. Today the bonds between tens of thousands of California children and their noncustodial parents have been preserved.

Usually our side loses the battle in the media, which helps precipitate a defeat in the legislature. This time was clearly different. The Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways garnered a ton of press attention, most of it quite favorable. To learn more about ACCAMA's impact, visit ACCAMA in the Media.

However, please remember that our opponents will be back next year, probably in January. There will be a different sponsor and a different bill number but they will be back. The Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways will fight any bill which disregards the loving bonds between children and both of their parents.

Below is the compilation of recent news on the fight against SB 730 which I had intended to send out today.

Best Wishes,Glenn SacksAlliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways

There have been many positive developments for our side in the past week:
Numerous professional organizations have come out against SB 730. These include: the California Judge's Association; the State Bar of California, Family Law Section; the Los Angeles County Bar, Family Law Section; the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists; the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts - California Chapter; and the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers - Southern California Chapter.

Psychologists Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D. and Sanford L. Braver, Ph.D. released a statement this week urging the legislature not to pass SB 730. See Mental Health Professionals Condemn SB 730. Warshak and Braver co-authored a brief filed on behalf of the LaMusga children which was signed by over 50 mental health professionals. To read that brief, click here.
ACCAMA has now been endorsed by over 50 mental health and family law professionals. To see the list of ACCAMA endorsers, click here.

Governor Schwarzenegger has issued a statement condemning "gut and amend" bills like SB 730 and expressing his aversion to signing them. A recent Los Angeles Times article, Last-Minute Legislation Challenged (8/13/04), described such bills as legislation which "shows up seemingly out of nowhere and gets rushed through the Assembly and Senate without much public scrutiny." The article mentions SB 730 specifically, and one of Schwarzenegger's spokespeople said: "A gut-and-amend is not going to be looked upon favorably unless there is a compelling public interest."

ACCAMA offers a special thanks to Assemblyman Tom Harman, Vice Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and his legislative director David Weaver for their assistance on SB 730.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

MA Vote

"BOSTON -- During this November election, voters in Somerset, Swansea and several other neighboring communities will be asked whether they support joint custody of children after divorce.

The non-binding petition to appear on the ballot will basically ask voters their opinion and gauge support. It will not become law.

Approximately 750,000 Massachusetts voters in 36 House districts and one Senate district will be asked their opinion. The question is the result of a statewide signature-gathering process by Fathers and Families.

Locally, it will appear on the ballots in Somerset, Swansea, Dighton, Rehoboth, Taunton and Norton. It will not appear on the Fall River or Westport ballots."

You can read the entire article at The Herald News.

While I believe this is a good initiative, my concern is that the general public does not fully understand the enormity or consequences of this issue. If the general ballot does not provide support for a more equitable division of custody, how will any legislator be able to bring such an issue to a vote?


Thursday, August 05, 2004

ACCAMA update on Burton's Bill

I found a few spare minutes and I got the following in an email so I am simply going to paste it verbatim:


Revised Draft of SB 730--Watered Down, but Still a Step in the Wrong DirectionAugust 4, 2004
A draft of the revised version of SB 730--the anti-LaMusga move-away bill now in the California legislature--has just been released. In part because of the efforts of the
Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways in organizing large scale opposition to this bill, the bill has been watered down significantly from its original.

To read the new draft of SB 730, click here. To read the original, in which custodial parents were to be granted the right to move without even obtaining a court order, click here.

Nevertheless, even the revised version of SB 730 is still a significant step in the wrong direction. LaMusga is a very moderate opinion. LaMusga still puts the burden of proof on the nonmoving parent, and would still allow most custodial parents to move with their children. The revised SB 730 abrogates LaMusga, and makes it even more difficult for nonmoving parents to block a move.

As previously mentioned, SB 730 will reportedly be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on August 10. For up to date information on the LaMusga bill and information on how to take action, click here.

Chronology of events regarding SB 730 and LaMusga

August 4, 2004Revised draft of SB 730 released. To read it, click here.

July 27, 2004Letters to Sacramento by ACAAMA supporters total over 1,000.

July 26, 2004Opponents and proponents of SB 730 meet with Anthony Williams, principal consultant to California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton. Several endorsers and supporters of the Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways speak, including Garrett C. Dailey, who represented Gary LaMusga in the California Supreme Court, and family law attorney Peter M. Walzer. Dailey presents Williams with 600 letters from ACCAMA supporters expressing their opposition to SB 730.

July 25, 2004California Supreme Court denies petition to rehear LaMusga.

July 24, 2004Over three dozen family law attorneys and mental health professionals endorse ACCAMA. For a list of endorsers, click here.

July 20, 2004 Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlesinger, an outspoken opponent of the 1996 Burgess decision, endorses ACCAMA's campaign on the air. See Dr. Laura Joins Campaign Against Unrestricted Move-Aways (MND Newswire, 7/23/04).

July 13, 2004Over 300 ACCAMA supporters write to California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton. Burton's principal consultant Anthony Williams invites ACCAMA representatives to discuss the anti-LaMusga bill.

July 11, 2004Los Angeles radio talk show host Glenn Sacks announces the formation of the Alliance for Children Concerned About Move-Aways, and calls his listeners to action.
June, July, 2004Prominent California family law attorneys write letters to Burton opposing anti-LaMusga bill. To read the letters, click here.

June, 2004Draft of SB 730 is leaked. Draft states "the custodial parent has a presumptive right to change the residence of the child and does not need a court order allowing him or her to do so." Draft is available here.

April 29, 2004California Supreme Court decides In Re: Marriage of LaMusga in favor of the father, Gary LaMusga. See: LaMusga opinion at [PDF], "Is a Pool More Important than a Dad?" (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/4/04) and Court: Closer scrutiny in custody case moves (Sacramento Bee, 4/30/04).

February, 2004Burton introduces SB 1367, which instructs courts that a custodial parent's request to change residence cannot be "frustrated by undue delay." See California Senate Leader to Family Courts: Don't Consider Children's Best Interests (Daily Breeze [Los Angeles], 4/6/04) Burton later pulls SB 1367 in favor of SB 730.

October, 2003In his last days in office Governor Davis signs SB 156, which reaffirms the Burgess decision. See New California Move-Away Law Hurts Children of Divorce (Long Beach Press Telegram, 10/18/03).

June, 2003Arizona State University professors Sanford Braver, Ira Ellman and William Fabricius release a study which finds that move-aways are correlated with damaging long-term consequences for children. See Relocation of children after divorce and children's best interests: New evidence and legal considerations and New Study, Case May Help California Children of Divorce (Pasadena Star-News & Affiliated Papers, 6/5/03)

August 28, 2002California Supreme Court agrees to hear LaMusga. Read all briefs from all sides here.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Lack of Posts

Just wanted to say hello and let everybody know that I have been out of the country and not able to do much work on this blog. I will be back on August 9th so hopefully things will get back to normal shortly after.

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