Monday, November 22, 2004

Appeals Court To Hear Child Custody Constitutionality Issue

The United States Court of Appeals is set to hear a case pertaining to the dismissal of a constitutional challenge to the State of New York child custody laws.

I'm not going to do a synopsis because it is a pretty info intensive article. Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan 6, 2005.


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Friday, November 19, 2004

I'm A Woman And I Think NOW Sucks

I just visited this NOW site and I have a couple things to say. Why do you have to be a Democrat to believe in women's rights? I believe women should receive equal pay, be free from sex discrimination and harassment - but I'm an independent. I think we should all be Independents as you should vote based on your feelings of the positions of each candidate. Neither of the two main parties provide platforms that I unilaterally agree with.

Does this make me a bad woman?

Moreover, I am staunchly opposed to NOW's general take on custody cases. On this site there is a page called: Demand Justice for Mother's & Children. (You can get to it from the home page under DEMAND JUSTICE, right column, towards the bottom of the page) My favorite parts from this page are the following:

As many as 50% of divorces involve family violence--and 70% of the men who abuse women abuse their children as well.

Furthermore, the vast majority of fathers who contest custody rulings are men who are abusive.

Umm, bull shit. Just so you know the first statistic came from: An analysis of the Canadian Violence Against Women (1) survey. The citation at the end lists no date. Who did they survey - only victims of abuse, reported victims of abuse, or did they cold call women? And I'm not sure who did the analysis - if it was NOW that definitely seems like a conflict of interests. Further, the statistic says 50% of divorce involves family violence - it does not qualify which party was violent. There is no direct link to back up the other two claims so...


What does all that mean exactly?

The most frightening of the Father's Rights groups are not content with returning to an era when it was believed that "father knows best." Rather, they seek to turn the clock back on women's rights, including their reproductive freedom, rescind the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which grants women the right to vote, and force women to return to a subservient role in the family. Janet Normalvanbreucher

Rescind the 19th amendment!! Did you all hear that - I am doing this because I no longer wish to have the right to vote and I want to stay home, make cookies and rub my husbands feet while he watches the news after dinner. Damn it - they figured me out!

This is the kind of crap I hate. Dads want to be dads to their kids - they have no interest in any of those other things, but in order to get women riled up we have to scare them that unless they resist these groups they stand to lose all of their rights and return to a barefoot and pregnant state. Many people want to overturn Roe v. Wade - they include men and women, Republicans and Democrats. Some people think abortion is murder - that is their position - and it is not because of a genetic predisposition.

Finally - and this may be the most atrocious, scrolling at the top of this site are articles like this: Man Gets 3 1/2 Years for Rape of Girl, 12. I've got a news flash for NOW - people suck! This is not gender specific either! There are bad people of every gender, race and creed.

I could use this blog to highlight all the horrific things mothers have done to their children. In fact, just looking through today's news I could cite the following:

Children starved in home filled with food - Room littered with beer cans; Kent woman had blood-alcohol concentration of 0.40 percent

Mom charged with failing to protect boy

Mom pleads guilty to caging twin sons

Teen 'divorces' mom after being sold for sex (since they cited Canada, I figure I can use Australia)

Mom gets life for starving girl

All of these articles were published in the last 24 hours.

So, I could make this blog a vendetta against women and try to utilize stats and news articles to show how cold, selfish and horrible they can be. But I don't because sadly enough there are members of both genders that could be described in that manner. I am not trying to eviscerate women - I am woman!

I am a woman from a divorced family and married to a divorced man. My own experience with my father is more than enough to show me how important a dad is - I simply cannot imagine my life without seeing my dad regularly and eventually moving in with him - as did my siblings. Witnessing what my husband has had to go through in the custody battle for his child just reinforced this for me. I don't know why this has to be a gender war. Women should have equal rights - AND SO SHOULD MEN.

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Children should be focus of divorce laws, court

I am going to reprint this entire article but you can see it at the source: Concord Monitor Online

In my opinion, at first this sounds like a move in the right direction - but upon reflection really appears to be just another vague use of language guaranteeing very little. There is no mention of the right each parent has to PARENT their child - though there is a reference to "substantial involvement" by each party. How do you quantify substantial involvement unless you equalize the parties?

Children should be focus of divorce laws, court Legislative group seeks a cultural shift

By KATHARINE WEBSTER The Associated Press

The state's divorce laws and new family court system should focus on children's needs instead of parents' rights, a legislative task force says.

The Task Force on Family Law issued a report Nov. 1 advocating a major cultural shift from the present adversarial divorce and child custody system, which focuses on preparation for trial, to a cooperative model that emphasizes mediation, parenting plans and parent education.

The state's recent decision to set up a separate Family Court system provides lawmakers and the state Supreme Court an opportunity to make radical changes that put the needs of children first, the report says.

"The emotional costs of the current process on children have been clearly documented," the report says. "The best interest of the child should be our first and primary consideration."

The report culminates two years of work by the panel of legislators, lawyers, judges, domestic violence experts, men's and women's rights advocates, childhood experts and ordinary citizens who are "experienced consumers" of the state court system.

It dovetails with recent reports on the future of the state court system and help for people who don't have lawyers, recommending the courts employ case managers who can quickly inform parents about alternative dispute resolution.

A report by another legislative task force on child support and custody is due Dec. 1.

Now, only 10 percent of divorce and custody cases end up going to trial, but the courts start scheduling cases from the beginning as if trials are "inevitable," the report says.

Instead, lawyers, the court system and social service agencies should help parents make decisions on their own, with trials serving as a last resort.

Courts are "intruding into the inner workings of the family"rather than "empowering family members to learn to resolve their disputes," the report says.

One early step the report recommends is requiring parents to attend classes on the impact of divorce on children. Another is requiring parents to file "parenting plans" with the court specifying who will make certain decisions and the schedule for each parent's time with the children.

When parents cannot agree on a plan, case workers should schedule temporary custody hearings immediately, the report says.

Parents, the courts and lawyers must recognize that children do better when both parents are "substantially involved" in raising them - while taking into account factors such as child abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, and incarceration.

The report even suggests eliminating words such as "custody,""support" and "visitation" because they are "value-laden terms which denote concepts of ownership and denial." Instead, the family courts should focus on how each parent's rights and responsibilities affect children.

The task force recommends the Legislature give judges the power to order parents into mediation or neutral evaluation, because mediation can improve parental communication, save money and result in agreements that are more likely to hold up.

Mediators help both sides articulate their concerns and arrive at solutions. Neutral evaluators are lawyers who tell both parents about the laws applying to their case and the likely outcome if it goes to trial.

The report also recommends the use of "collaborative law," in which parents and their lawyers sign contracts agreeing they will try to resolve all their disagreements without a trial. If one parent later requests a trial, the collaborative lawyers must resign; they cannot represent the parents in adversarial proceedings.

Concord lawyer Peter McGrath said Tuesday most family law attorneys agree with the report's recommendations, but they're worried the state courts don't have the resources to implement them.

"Where are you going to get the money? Where are you going to get the manpower? How are you going to find the time?" he said.

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Fathers 4 Justice - You Can't Say They Don't Make Headlines

Jolly Stanesby, a British father and a member of Fathers 4 Justice, handcuffed himself to Minister for Children Margaret Hodge at a conference in Manchester. It took a 1/2 an hour and a set of bolt cutters to release her. Mr Stanesby said it was a citizens arrest.




Parents Involved in Non Custodial Lawsuits

This is a good article to personalize the non custodial lawsuit. It highlights two fathers who are involved and the story behind how they got there.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

BIC- So Lacking Occasionally Even Moms Get Screwed

This is an article about the Colorado Supreme Court SEVERELY overstepping their jurisdiction using BIC (best interests of the child) as their crutch. Just another reminder of how a "judgment call" cannot translate into a constitutionally correct and enforceable law.

BTW, this article still has faults. I love how no mention is made ANYWHERE about what happened to the father of this child. Also, how impossibly ridiculous it is that these people (completely unrelated to the child) are petitioning for custody and not adoption - thereby leaving the biological mom as mom. As if this is all she is after - the freaking title.

Court lets Arvadans keep baby, for now U.S. justices refuse adoption challenge
By Howard Pankratz Denver Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 -

An Arvada couple raising a baby they hope to keep were elated Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a Colorado court decision that allows the baby to stay in Colorado - for now.

"Our clients found out about it before we did," said Dan West, a lawyer representing the couple. "They were very happy and very relieved."

The child's birth mother, an unmarried woman who lives near St. Louis, gave birth to Alex on April 18, 2003, and had agreed to the adoption.

But a few weeks after Alex came to Colorado as part of a preliminary placement, the woman, now 28 years old, changed her mind. Six months after the Colorado couple started raising Alex as their own, a Missouri judge ordered the boy returned to his biological mother.

The case participants' last names have not been made public.

After the Colorado couple went to court seeking to keep Alex, Jefferson County District Judge Stephen Munsinger said he had no jurisdiction in the case and ordered the Arvada family to return the baby they had raised since he was 2 days old. However, the child remained with the couple while Munsinger's ruling was appealed.

In April, the Colorado Supreme Court overruled Munsinger. The justices said Colorado judges can hear custody disputes when judges in other states fail to take into consideration the "best interests" of the child when determining custody, as they said the Missouri judge failed to do.
The ruling meant that Alex could stay in Colorado until Munsinger holds a trial to determine who should receive custody based on the "best interest" rule.

Eric Samler, the birth mother's lawyer, filed voluminous briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming the Colorado justices ignored a federal law.

Samler said Monday the federal act requires that "one state has to give full faith and credit to the custody determination of another state."

Samler said the U.S. Supreme Court decision not to intervene was not a victory or loss for one side or the other.

"I just want to make it clear that the U.S. Supreme Court, by denying (to hear the case), did not make a decision on the merits of the case," Samler said. "All it means is that they are not going to get involved."

He said the U.S. Supreme Court usually doesn't get involved in family-court matters, but he thought they'd make an exception here because the federal law is so clear.

The birth mother visited 19- month-old Alex in August and September but not in October.
Munsinger will now decide where to place the child after a two-day hearing.

Tom Beltz, another lawyer for the Arvada couple, said his clients are not seeking legal adoption but are requesting permanent custody of Alex.

Under that arrangement, Beltz said, the Arvada couple would be Alex's "custodians" and the birth mother would remain the child's mother.

"We brought a custody action saying that Alex's best interests would be served by my clients being custodians," Beltz said. "And the birth mom can remain as his mother. So we are not asking for adoption at this point."

Staff writer Howard Pankratz can be reached at or 303-820-1939.

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New Child Support Rules in Tennessee

There will be new rules regarding child support in Tennessee. These rules will go into effect on 1/18/2005.

Among other things, child support payments, which are now calculated as a flat percentage of the non-custodial parent's income, will now be calculated in part based on both parents' income. The new regulations also will take into account any children a parent may be responsible for, but who are not receiving court-ordered payments. The amount of time a child spends with a parent will be considered. And there are provisions for families who split custody of two or more children.

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PAS: Psychobabble or a legitimate, legal basis for child custody

This is a pretty decent article about Parental Alienation Syndrome - it does a good job showing proponents and detractors from each side.

My personal feeling is that PAS may exist - but in very few cases. This is not to say that parents do not try (with varying degrees of success) to turn a child against another parent - I think that happens frequently - sometimes blatantly, sometimes more insidiously. However, true PAS which would qualify for APA inclusion - I believe does not occur terribly often (just my opinion). For reference try Parental Alienation Syndrome:How to Detect It and What to Do About It , The Parental Alienation Syndrome:An Analysis of Sixteen Selected Cases or The Parental Alienation Directory.

Since the Daily Herald only makes articles available for seven days, I am copying the entire article below:

Psychobabble or a legitimate, legal basis for child custody
By Charles Keeshan Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted 11/14/2004

The first time Norma Perez learned she was being accused of "parental alienation syndrome," she shrugged it off.

The idea that one parent could turn a child against the other might be true, the Elgin resident figured, but it certainly did not apply to her.

A year later, a DuPage County judge ruled otherwise.

Declaring that the mental, emotional and physical health of her 10-year-old daughter was endangered by her mother's behavior, Judge James J. Konetski stripped Perez of custody and handed the girl over to her father without giving her a chance to say goodbye to mom.

"I'm not a perfect person, but I know I didn't do the things they said I did," Perez said.

"I fought for my daughter," she said. "If we don't, we risk losing our children, and if we do, we're called alienators."

Robert G. Black, the attorney for Perez's former husband, R. Edward Bates, said the label fits in this case.

"The evidence showed she did not foster a close loving relationship between the child and father," Black said. "In fact, she totally alienated the child from her father."

Perez is just one of many mothers across the suburbs, and hundreds nationwide, to lose custody of their children based on parental alienation syndrome, a theory that stirs passionate debate in the mental health and legal communities almost two decades after its advent.

The concept, proffered by New Jersey psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985, holds that in some cases a custodial parent can poison a child's mind against the other parent, causing that child to have a disrespectful and antagonistic relationship with the other parent.

Gardner's work has launched intense arguments both pro and con in psychological publications, legal journals and courtrooms across the country.

Some dismiss the theory as junk science or pop psychology that lacks research to support it. Others say Gardner's work is not only valid but a long-overdue examination of an insidious form of child abuse.

That debate took place most recently within the Illinois Supreme Court, where justices hearing Perez's case were asked to decide whether testimony about the syndrome belongs in state courtrooms.

The court provided no clear answer to that question in an Oct. 28 decision. But in denying Perez's request to regain custody of her daughter, justices encouraged more challenges of the syndrome's legitimacy.

"We note that PAS is now the subject of legal and professional criticism, and our holding in this case does not foreclose further challenges to the validity or general acceptance of that concept," Justice Thomas L. Kilbride stated.

Discovery and debate
Gardner was working as a professor of child psychiatry at his alma mater, Columbia University in New York, when he began documenting cases in which children in the midst of a custody dispute began showing hostile behavior toward a parent with no clear reason, according to his biography.

He declared the behavior "parental alienation syndrome" and established a set of eight symptoms, including denigration of the alienated parent, lack of guilt over cruelty to that parent and unflinching support for the other parent.

Before his suicide last year, Gardner wrote at length on the subject and testified about it in hundreds of divorce cases across the country. One of those cases was Perez's, in which he issued a finding of parental alienation syndrome despite never interviewing Perez or her daughter.
His self-published 1992 book, "The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Legal and Mental Health Professionals," is considered the definitive guide to the theory.

His ideas launched a legion of followers in the legal and mental health professions.

Among them is Douglas Darnall, a Youngstown, Ohio, psychiatrist who wrote a book on the issue called "Divorce Casualties." He also operates a Web site, found at
Darnall said cases of parental alienation syndrome are rare but real.

"It should be used in court because it does describe a legitimate pattern of behavior that does have an impact on a child and a parent/child relationship," he said. "Most judges want to listen to the evidence, and most judges accept it."

But for all the followers Gardner's ideas have spawned, they have created at least as many critics.

One of them, Dr. Paul Fink of Temple University's School of Medicine, called the theory dangerous.

"It was made up by one guy who spread it around," said Fink, who is past president of the American Psychiatric Association. "No investigation was done, there was no research, and it's hurt a lot of women and children."

Detractors note Gardner's work is not recognized by the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the Bible of the psychiatric profession.

"It has generally been denounced," said David Finn, a counselor from Rolling Meadows who performs court-ordered child custody evaluations. "It's never been accepted as a valid syndrome, and the research has not been there to support it.

"The presumption is that the alienation is because of the parent," Finn said. "While that may be part of the reason in some instances, it is not an evaluation of all the reasons why it might exist."
Critics of the theory say one parent can cause resentment in a child toward the other parent. But those feelings are usually temporary and never rise to the level of a syndrome or mental disorder, as Gardner claims.

Darnall, however, believes the theory may soon get APA recognition. New research, he said, indicates Gardner's findings may be more correct than many critics believe and could get it into the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Fink scoffed at the suggestion.

"It won't be in there, I guarantee you," he said. "Since there has been no verification, no research, it's not getting in there."

From an idea to court
Gardner's theories have yet to receive official recognition in the industry, but family law attorneys have been using them for years, most often on behalf of fathers hoping to gain custody.

Annette Zender, a Woodstock resident who lost custody of her daughter three years after a Lake County judge sided with alienation claims against her, likens it to legal kidnapping.
"When they can't find any other excuse, they come up with parental alienation and it works," she said.

Since losing her daughter, Zender has built a network of suburban women who share similar stories. So far, she said, the group numbers more than 70 from Lake, Cook, Kane, McHenry and Will counties.

While groups like Zender's want to see the syndrome, known as PAS, barred from the courtroom, fathers' rights organizations support Gardner's work, saying it can provide balance in a family court system that assumes mothers should always get custody.

"Parental alienation occurs, unfortunately," said Michael McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. "We have seen parental alienation be adopted in numerous courtrooms across the country as a valid science."

Whether that should be the case is something people on both sides thought the Illinois Supreme Court would answer in the Perez case.

While that did not happen, Perez attorney Paul Feinstein said the court's offer to hear more cases on the issue is a promising sign for PAS opponents.

"They weren't impressed with it and that's why they invited more challenges to it," Feinstein said. "I think this is pretty much the end of it."

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Friday, November 12, 2004

Why I Hate the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers released a press release on Nov 10th saying:

1) BE IT RESOLVED that the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers supports the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples and the extension to same-sex couples who marry and their children of all of the legal rights and obligations of spouses and children of spouses.
2) BE IT RESOLVED that the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers encourages the United States Congress and the legislatures of all states to achieve the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples and the extension to same-sex couples who marry and their children of all of the legal rights and obligations of spouses and children of spouses.

Hmm, they support more marriage which will inevitably mean more divorce... How mind blowing.


"We believe this is a fundamental issue of equality, that the U.S. Constitution protects one's legal right to marry as a fundamental right and that there is no reason to deny same-sex families the legal rights and obligations arising from marriage," said Richard F. Barry of San Rafael, Ca.,who served as the Academy's president the past year and who presided over the group's policy-making Board of Governors, which approved the resolution.

Of course we are not, however, in support of the Constitution protecting your rights to parent your child. That would result in LESS litigation and we simply cannot have that!

Just so you know:

The Academy was formed . . . "To encourage the study, improve the practice, elevate the standards and advance the cause of matrimonial law to the end that the welfare of the family and society be preserved."

The welfare of the FAMILY, did you get that? All I can say is - Are you kidding me!? Divorce lawyers working for the "welfare of the family"- right.

Read the entire press release here.

I have covered almost the exact same rant in this post. The Bar Associations response to the Iowa joint custody law is always a fun read!

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Mass Ballot Initiative

Recent news on the fallout after the Mass non-binding ballot initiative for presumed joint custody.

Mass Representative Collen Garry has a bill pending before the legislature that would require judges to automatically award shared custody unless there is a history of abuse or one parent is declared unfit. Contact Rep Garry to show your support through her website or at

Also contact Ned Holstein, president of Fathers & Families, in support of this legislation.

Berkshire Eagle

Sentinel & Enterprise

Weston TownOnline Letter to the Editor

Weston Town Crier

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Update on Deployed Moms

This an update to this post.

It looks like the judge in one case used some common sense, in the other I am inclined to say not so much. However, we do not know all the details...

Detroit News

Michigan women soldiers heading to Iraq deal with custody issues

JACKSON -- Before leaving to serve in Iraq, two Army National Guard reservists had to deal with separate custody battles on the home front.

Sgt. Wendy Fowler of Michigan Center and Spc. Julie Guenther of Jackson were among 37 members of the Jackson-based 1461st Transportation Company who were departing Thursday for training at Fort Riley, Kan., and eventually Iraq.

But before they left, a judge had to decide their unresolved custody issues.

“I have spent a few nights crying my eyes out,” Guenther, 32, a data entry and imaging clerk for the Jackson County Register of Deeds, told The Jackson Citizen Patriot. “It’s been very stressful.”

In cases of being deployed, all National Guard members are required to have family plans in place that outline care and custody issues. And with more women and mothers serving, custody matters have become more complex.

In the cases of Guenther and Fowler, their children’s biological fathers wanted full custody while the women are deployed. To further complicate matters, the children involved also are part of larger blended families.

“Blended families are an issue in the military because they are an issue in society,” said Capt. Dawn Dancer, spokeswoman for the Michigan National Guard. “We have not heard of a large number of these kinds of problems, though.”

Guenther and her former husband, Charles Snitchler, have joint custody of their 2-year-old son, Jacob Snitchler. Guenther remarried last month and preferred that the arrangement continue with her new husband caring for the child during her part of the “50-50” arrangement.
But at a Probate Court hearing Wednesday, Judge Susan Vandercook gave Snitchler sole physical custody of Jacob, while Guenther serves in Iraq.

“That’s what I assumed the judge would do,” Snitchler said afterward. “I’m pleased with the outcome.”

Fowler’s dispute involved her 13-year-old son, Nicolas Gorney, who is the oldest of four children, including three from a subsequent marriage.

The teen’s father, Troy Linden, lives in the Flint area and sought full custody for Fowler’s tour of duty. But Fowler preferred that all four of her children remain with her parents, David and Ruth Gorney of Michigan Center.

“With me being gone, the younger kids are going to need him (Nicolas) as much as he’s going to need them,” said Fowler, who works as an office manager for DMG Services in Jackson.
The judge agreed and ruled Wednesday that Nicolas will stay with his grandparents during her tour of duty, which could last up to two years. Linden will continue to have supervised visits, she said.

Linden, 34, said he admires the sacrifices Fowler is making for her country but said he is devastated by the ruling.

“I’m his father,” the tool-and-die maker told The Flint Journal. “If one parent is not available, the child should go to the other parent. I wasn’t proved to be unfit.”

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Friday, November 05, 2004

I have posted about this site before but I want to make sure that this information is easily accessible, so I am going to talk about it again. To that end, I will be putting a permanent link to the site under links.

If you are in any stage of the divorce/custody process, particularly if it is contentious, this is a wonderful place to visit. What it contains is a series of questions that both you and your spouse (ex or otherwise) fill out in regard to the care of your children. I will warn you now, it is a lengthy process. But it will help you sort out some of the contentious feelings you are having and help you to focus on what is most important - your child or children.

If you are just beginning this process this can be a wonderful asset to help try and put the breaks on too much litigation, etc before it starts. But it will help refocus and center you, whatever stage you may find yourself in. Encourage your ex to fill it out on their own. Hopefully they will, but even if they refuse, you will be better for the time you spent. After you have both filled it out, try to have a civil conversation about what you have accomplished. Share it with any mediators or evaluators you are seeing, talk to your family about your experience...


We do a lot of talking here about unfair laws, fathers rights, abuse of the system, etc.... At the end of the day, however, the true goal is to help kids get through divorce with as little conflict as possible and to have equal access to both of their parents after a split.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Kansas Workshop

"Families in Transition," workshop to help children dealing with parents' divorce, 6-10 p.m. Nov. 15. Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas, Suite 3105, 555 N. Woodlawn. Cost: $35 per person. Approved by the 18th Judicial District of Sedgwick County, Family Law Division. To register, call 685-1821.

Wichita Eagle

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Mass Nonbinding Custody Question Results in a Resounding YES!!

A nonbinding question "which asked if citizens want their state representative to vote in favor of legislation that would create a presumption in favor of shared legal and physical custody of children in divorce cases" was included on Massachusetts ballots (Nov 2, 2004). The results came back significantly in favor of shared custody.

The question appeared in approx 30 of Mass 159 districts. "The statewide totals were 557,615 "yes" votes and 90,708 "no" votes."

Article at Berkshire Eagle Online. Older info on how this got started available at His Side with Glenn Sacks.

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Fed Pays States for Child Support Collection

It's been quite a long time since I talked at all about child support - that is generally not the gist of this site. However, for those of you who still don't understand that the states receive funds dependent on how successful they are at collecting child support, you will probably want to check this out:

Study of the Implementation of the Performance-Based Incentive System

This is a report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to Congress. You can view it either as a PDF (you will need Adobe Reader) or on the Office of Family and Children web site.

It's time we all wake up and realize that the government has turned divorce and the allocation of children into a very lucrative business!

I talk a bit about this in a previous post you can view here.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Michigan Non Custodial Lawsuits

There is an article in the Detroit News covering the non custodial lawsuits. Look it over, it is a pretty decent article. You can contact the author through the info below... (Seeing as the Detroit News only makes their articles available for 7 days, I am reprinting it below)

Detroit News

You can reach Kim Kozlowski at (313) 222-2024 or

Divorced Mich. fathers sue for equity in child custody
Class-action lawsuit seeks to make joint custody the first option judges consider
By Kim Kozlowski / The Detroit News

TROY - Michigan fathers seeking to make joint custody the norm in divorce cases are suing the state in a class-action lawsuit they hope will stop the courts from marginalizing their role in their children's lives.

The suit claims the state's family courts have violated fathers' civil rights by awarding mothers custody and reducing them to visitors. The suit was filed when noncustodial parents in 43 other states filed similar suits, and when fathers are seeking similar parental equity in Europe and Canada.

"What I wanted was for my kids to have as normal of a life as possible," said Troy resident Michael Ross, the primary litigant, whose court order grants him parenting time with his three children every other weekend and a few hours during the week.

"This lawsuit is not about me but what is best for them: substantial time with their mother and substantial time with their dad."

The lawsuit is the latest attempt by Michigan's noncustodial parents, who are overwhelmingly fathers, to force courts to presume that joint custody is in a child's best interest at the outset of a divorce. Judges still would have the authority to decide what's best for the child, but it would reduce some of their discretion. Currently, judges base their decision on what they consider to be best for the children, but fathers argue that those decisions are rooted in cultural stereotypes that mothers are better parents.

Physical custody has long been disproportionately awarded to mothers. Out of the state's 19,108 divorce cases involving children in 2002, mothers were given physical custody in 64 percent of the cases and fathers in 10 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Joint custody was awarded in 23 percent.

Additionally, for couples who never marry, Michigan law grants custody to mothers, bolstering fathers' argument that the system is unfair.

Experts say the reason mothers are more often awarded custody of children is because of the cultural history of women being the primary caretakers, said Leighton Stamps, a University of New Orleans professor who has studied the decision-making of judges in child custody cases.
"A lot of the judges' attitudes depend on their age," Stamps said. "Older judges tend to be more traditional. Younger judges tend to be more egalitarian."

However, custody laws like Michigan's, which rest on the best interest of the child, give judges a lot of latitude, Stamps added.

"A judge can pretty much pick out any aspect of the family situation in making these rulings," Stamps said.

Fathers have lobbied the Michigan Legislature twice in the past eight years and have launched a petition drive to get equal parenting rights, efforts that have been largely unsuccessful.
However, some observers argue that joint custody is not a viable option in many cases because there are some fathers unable to accommodate the arrangement either because of their job or because they live in another state.

There are other fathers, too, who don't want to be a part of their children's life. And there are situations when the mother and father just can't get along.

"You can't force a joint custody situation on two people who are not capable of getting along, because what will happen to the child?" said Debbie Kline, executive director of Association for Children for the Enforcement of Support. "It takes a lot more cooperation between the two adults, and many divorcing parents can't get along."

Dads demand equal time
Often the animosity of a divorce fuels disagreement between moms and dads when it comes to the children, especially when they are trying to split parenting time. When parents can't agree, the court steps in and typically defaults to a parenting plan that involves every other weekend and some time during the week.

But fathers say that's not enough time to raise their children.

"Just because a family dissolves doesn't mean that it's no longer a family," said Michael Lane of Farmington Hills, who had monthly visits with his now-adult son.

"It's just a family of a different nature. Both parents have responsibilities toward the children and toward one another."

Though the number of joint custody awards has been slowly increasing, which some observers believe is a sign that times are changing, some fathers say they are not being awarded enough. They also say it doesn't always mean they will have equal time with their kids.

Joint legal custody allows parents to play equal roles in making decisions for their child's upbringing such as education, religion and health care. But for some fathers, it doesn't always mean equal time to raise the child.

"It's just unbearable," said Daniel Gee of Novi, who has custody of his 16-year-old son but not his 12-year-old son, whom he sees every other weekend. "This stuff is emotionally devastating, and you go to the courts and they are callous. It's an unacceptable way to treat a parent."

Father's role is vital
Psychologists say children who don't spend enough time with their fathers can develop emotional problems such as low self-esteem, depression and feelings of abandonment. Fatherless children are more likely to act out at school, develop truancy problems and develop unhealthy perceptions about relationships, said Michael Brooks, a Kalamazoo psychologist.

"Both parents bring unique characteristics and aspects to parenting the children," said Brooks, who is a member of the state's Friend of the Court Advisory Board. "But it's difficult to be a parent two days out of 15."

Brooks said a court-ordered parenting plan that only includes every other weekend and a few nights a week could be construed as a situation that creates a fatherless child. This is why he supports the movement that courts should initially presume joint custody for divorcing couples, unless one of them is shown to be unfit.

John Mills, chairman of the family law section of the Michigan State Bar, said mandating a presumption of joint custody would take away the discretion of judges, who are considering each individual case.

"They make the decision on what is best for the children," said Mills, who opposes presumed joint legal custody.

Lawsuit marks new approach
The move for equal parenting time has been under way for some time. In 1996 and 2001, fathers' rights groups got parity bills introduced into the state Legislature, but neither went very far.

Earlier this year, Dads of Michigan sponsored a petition drive to get the issue onto the ballot, but the group couldn't get enough signatures. The class-action lawsuit, filed last month, is attempting to seek change through another avenue that so far has not been explored.
Attorney General Mike Cox, who has earned a reputation for cracking down on parents who don't pay child support, is seeking to dismiss Ross' case on grounds that the state can't be sued in federal court, where the case was filed.

Since the suit claims Michigan has broken laws by violating its citizens' rights, the state is not immune from being sued, said Torm Howse, president of Indiana Civil Rights Council, which is coordinating the lawsuits in all the states, including Michigan.

"This is not about trying to help abusive parents," Howse said. "It's about restoring the equal right of every fit and equal parent to joint or shared parenting."

Ross, the Troy father who filed the lawsuit, says it goes beyond that.

"This," Ross said, "is about a force that is taking place in our culture that is very bad for our society overall."

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New Link Addition

I will be adding a link on the right to Still A Dad. It is a resource for divorcing fathers including online support groups.
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