Friday, January 27, 2006


I am back out of town for work so things will likely be quiet here through Feb 6th.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Conference Updates

The parent-teacher conference actually went really well. The teacher is looking at more positive ways to conduce appropriate behavior, more hands on and more physical activity as an outlet for several of the boys in her room.

She even referenced the Newsweek article, The Trouble With Boys, when discussing her intentions. She said some small curriculum changes were being made to help address the issues many teachers were having with boys in their classrooms and that the teachers were invited to further change classroom structure, environnement, rewards, etc in line with this thinking.

She was very interested in activities that he enjoyed so she could try to incorporate them as positives into her room. All in all, I think everyone left the conference feeling pleased with how it had gone and what would be implemented moving forward.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Do Teachers Dislike Boys?

Okay, this is in no manner directly related to divorce or custody. However, once you cross over to joint custody you will have to deal with school issues with your ex. And when things go badly at school the natural tendency can be to try and place the blame with your ex.

This is something we are currently going through. My husband is the father of a bright, articulate, sweet, athletic, high energy boy who is having substantial difficulties with "behavior" in second grade.

I should qualify - most of his problems stem from either talking in class or not being able to sit still. This is not a mean or malicious child - though I believe he did have on incident when he and buddy decided to flush paper towels down the toilet after they claimed the trash was full.

While my instinct is to give you the whole history of this child - including that he has been in daycare since he was two, moved on to pre-school and manipulated kindergarten and 1st grade without such "issues." This is not to say he has been perfect - but until this point all of his instructors have successfully been able to manage his behavior.

I realize that I am biased so my singing the praises of this child will be perceived with a certain degree of speculation. Also, I was the first (when his parents were wringing their hands in the air about how this teacher had for some reason singled him out) to come to the teachers defense. She has 20+ students and needed to have an expectation of order in her classroom.

However, as I sit here trying to think about things my husband should address this afternoon when he and his ex go in for their latest "conference" - I am truly starting to wonder if I was not championing the wrong party.

My husband is becoming very frustrated. They (he and his ex) tried to support the steps taken by the teacher until they felt it was obvious they were not helping behavior and were damaging this child's self esteem. And really, the question has lingered as to how bad this behavior should actually be considered. Not to minimize the teachers standards - but should the inability to always sit still be something the parents can (and should) address daily at home? Further, this is a child who is performing academically at the top of the class. His work has been advanced several times to reflect his abilities and at the last meeting the teacher indicated he was doing the most advanced math in the class and was at the highest reading level (with two other students). He has lots of energy - but could he be bored as well?

Compound this with two parents who are talking to each other and are both saying that they don't have issues like this with the child. And inevitably my husband begins to wonder if this isn't a result of .... at his mothers house. I'm certain his ex has at some point done the same. Maybe the teacher does at well - wonders if his behavior isn't due to the nature of his custody situation.

And I'm starting to wonder if my step-son isn't falling victim to the same problems witnessed around the country with boys in schools. As I was getting ready for work this morning, the Today Show was doing a story about boys in schools and the widening achievement gap between girls and boys. Then I get into work and this article was listed on my home page: Do Teachers Dislike Boys?

From the article:

Jenkins says that she talked to a kindergarten teacher about this recently and was told, "Because some teachers are exasperated with trying to control boys' energy, they [sometimes] recommend holding a boy back until his body catches up with his brain."

This teacher also told Jenkins that if all a young boy hears all day are comments like "Sit down" and "Stop that," he may be labeled as a problem child and his self-esteem could suffer.

I have come to believe that schools need to do much more to adapt to the way boys learn. This belief has been bolstered by the stories of other parents, who tell me that they are being pushed to put their active young sons on Ritalin. "Being a boy is not a disease," one parent writes.

"Our schools," Pollack writes, "in general, are not sufficiently hospitable environments for boys and are not doing what they could to address boys' unique social, academic, and emotional needs. Today's typical coeducational schools have teachers and administrators who, though they don't intend it, are often not particularly empathic to boys; they use curricula, classroom materials, and teaching methods that do not respond to how boys learn; and many of these schools are hardly places most of our boys long to spend time. Put simply, I believe most of our schools are failing our boys."

Read Pollack's book, in particular the chapter "Schools: The Blackboard Jumble," for a detailed analysis of how he thinks public coed schools are failing boys. His most compelling arguments are simply numbers: Research shows that most of the students at the bottom of the class are boys, most of the students in remedial classes are boys, most of the students suspended are boys, fewer boys than girls go to college, and many more boys than girls have serious difficulties with reading and writing.

The Today Show segment was due in part because the latest Newsweek is looking at The Trouble With Boys.


The problem won't be solved overnight. In the last two decades, the education system has become obsessed with a quantifiable and narrowly defined kind of academic success, these experts say, and that myopic view is harming boys. Boys are biologically, developmentally and psychologically different from girls and teachers need to learn how to bring out the best in every one. "Very well-meaning people," says Dr. Bruce Perry, a Houston neurologist who advocates for troubled kids, "have created a biologically disrespectful model of education."

Boys have always been boys, but the expectations for how they're supposed to act and learn in school have changed. In the last 10 years, thanks in part to activist parents concerned about their children's success, school performance has been measured in two simple ways: how many students are enrolled in accelerated courses and whether test scores stay high. Standardized assessments have become commonplace for kids as young as 6. Curricula have become more rigid. Instead of allowing teachers to instruct kids in the manner and pace that suit each class, some states now tell teachers what, when and how to teach. At the same time, student-teacher ratios have risen, physical education and sports programs have been cut and recess is a distant memory. These new pressures are undermining the strengths and underscoring the limitations of what psychologists call the "boy brain", the kinetic, disorganized, maddening and sometimes brilliant behaviors that scientists now believe are not learned but hard-wired.

When Cris Messler of Mountainside, N.J., brought her 3-year-old son Sam to a pediatrician to get him checked for ADHD, she was acknowledging the desperation parents can feel. He's a high-energy kid, and Messler found herself hoping for a positive diagnosis. "If I could get a diagnosis from the doctor, I could get him on medicine," she says. The doctor said Sam is a normal boy. School has been tough, though. Sam's reading teacher said he was hopeless. His first-grade teacher complains he's antsy, and Sam, now 7, has been referring to himself as "stupid." Messler's glad her son doesn't need medication, but what, she wonders, can she do now to help her boy in school?

For many boys, the trouble starts as young as 5, when they bring to kindergarten a set of physical and mental abilities very different from girls'. As almost any parent knows, most 5-year-old girls are more fluent than boys and can sight-read more words. Boys tend to have better hand-eye coordination, but their fine motor skills are less developed, making it a struggle for some to control a pencil or a paintbrush. Boys are more impulsive than girls; even if they can sit still, many prefer not to, at least not for long.

In elementary-school classrooms, where teachers increasingly put an emphasis on language and a premium on sitting quietly and speaking in turn, the mismatch between boys and school can become painfully obvious. "Girl behavior becomes the gold standard," says "Raising Cain" coauthor Thompson. "Boys are treated like defective girls."

I suppose my point with all of this is simply when you have two involved and concerned parents who are having difficulty making headway with any issue involving your children - try and resist the urge out of frustration to point fingers at the other. This is not to say that issues cannot arise because of home life in one setting or another - only that one must try and be as objective as possible. Implicit in this I suppose is trust that what the other parent is telling you is accurate and a true belief in the parenting skills and intentions of the other parent.

I look at my step-son and I see how heavily this school issue is weighing on him. I would hate to see this become further complicated by two frustrated parents who would now prefer to turn on each other than to continue to explore positive options to address these problems.

UPDATE: (As I sit on pins and needles waiting for the results of the latest conference) Dr Helen is talking about this as well and as always her post has generated lots of interesting comments. Boys are Just "Defective Girls"

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Commission aims to make courts more user friendly - NH

Commission aims to make courts more user friendly


A commission charged with making the state court system more affordable and easier to use may recommend that the state develop classes, how-to kits, and a Web site that would help people represent themselves in court without a lawyer.

With nearly 70 percent of Granite Staters already representing themselves in divorce or child-custody cases, providing more aid to those who try to avoid hiring a lawyer promises to be one of the largest challenges for the New Hampshire Citizens Commission on the State Courts.

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Maligning fathers

This is the latest Boston Globe article by Cathy Young. You can always visit Cathy at her blog - The Y Files.

Click on the article title to read it in full.

Maligning fathers


LAST NOVEMBER, I wrote about the controversy about the Public Broadcasting Service documentary, ''Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories," which claimed that male batterers and child abusers frequently gain custody of their children in divorce cases after the mothers' claims of abuse are disbelieved by the courts. The film caused an outcry from fathers' rights groups. In response to these protests, PBS announced a 30-day review to determine whether the film met the editorial guidelines for fairness and accuracy.

Unfortunately, it seems that the review amounted to little more than a whitewash.

On Dec. 21, PBS issued a statement acknowledging that the film ''would have benefited from more in-depth treatment of the complex issues," but also concluded that ''the producers approached the topic with the open-mindedness and commitment to fairness that we require of our journalists" and that the program's claims were supported by ''extensive" research.

Connecticut Public Television, which co-produced ''Breaking the Silence," has supplied me with two detailed reports -- one from producer Dominique Lasseur, the other from Lasseur and George Washington University law professor Joan Meier, the film's lead expert -- on which PBS drew to support its conclusion. To call these reports shoddy and self-serving would be an understatement.

Defending the claim made in ''Breaking the Silence" that children are in greater danger of abuse from fathers than from mothers, Lasseur and Meier point to several limited studies that often lump together biological fathers with stepfathers and mothers' boyfriends (who, statistically, pose a far higher risk). Yet even these cherry-picked statistics show that a significant proportion of perpetrators of severe child abuse are mothers -- which makes the film's exclusive focus on abusive fathers difficult to defend.

Lasseur and Meier profess to be shocked that anyone could see the film as collectively maligning divorced fathers when it focuses only on abusive fathers in contested custody cases. Yet the film clearly suggests that if a divorcing father decides to fight for custody, chances are he's a batterer who's using the custody suit as an abuse tactic -- and that if he's accused of abuse, he's most probably guilty. And that's not prejudicial?

Notably, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler and especially Corporation for Public Broadcasting ombudsman Ken Bode have taken a far more negative view of the film than did the PBS review. On Jan. 4, Bode wrote, ''After close review including discussions and e-mail exchanges with those involved with the program or closely affected by it, I found the program to be so totally unbalanced as to fall outside the boundaries of PBS editorial standards on fairness and balance."

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Kleptocracy in Virginia

This is an article about proposed child support increases in Virginia. Click the article title to read it in full.

Kleptocracy in Virginia


Yet another rigged government panel is groping for any justification to railroad through higher child support, though it already is at punitive levels. Under current guidelines, a father clearing $2,100 monthly, pays $1,137.50 and lives on less than $1,000. Add-ons for health insurance can easily bring it to $2,000. This is how Virginia officials subsidize divorce, plunder fathers and create instant criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

Twice their efforts failed when the chicanery was exposed in this newspaper in 1999 and 2001. Now Richard Byrd, a divorce lawyer, has devised a new excuse: Child support must be increased because of inflation. Never mind that child support adjusts automatically for inflation because it increases with income. This is like saying taxes must be raised due to inflation.

Mr. Byrd hopes to tie child support to the Consumer Price Index, based largely on adult consumption of adult clothing, tobacco, alcohol, taxes and the like. His proposal is an admission child support is not really for children but more for the enrichment of grown-ups. Officials are in open violation of federal law, plus Section 20-108.2 of the state domestic relations code and Senate Joint Resolution 192 specifically requiring them to examine "the costs of raising children in Virginia." Officials claim that study "would cost millions" and have never done it, despite receiving federal funds to do so.

The self-serving economics of child support has been harshly criticized by scholars. Yet the panel only consults "experts" who urge increases. They ignore scholars like Bryce Christensen, who notes "evidence of the linkage between aggressive child-support policies and the erosion of wedlock," and who writes in Society that "the advocates of ever-more-aggressive measures for collecting child support ... have moved us a dangerous step closer to a police state."

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

3 divorce measures hit close to home - Colorado

3 divorce measures hit close to home

This article does not give much insight as to why these measures were suggested. As noted in the article the bills would "include eliminating a 90-day waiting period and a mandatory parenting class" as well as "seal psychological and medical records related to establishing custody."

In terms of the waiting period and mandatory parenting class - both measures would appear to be distinct negatives for the children of these parties. One can only assume that Rep. Lauri Clapp did not appreciate being forced to wait three months and attend a class to help her appreciate how her decisions will affect her children.

Though Rep Clapp claims her goal is fairness - the question must be for whom? Not to the children who will be forever changed by this decision and certainly not to the spouse being left through the on demand McDivorce that will result by eliminating the waiting period.

The waiting period does not require the spouses continue to cohabitate - only that they approach this decision with the reverence it deserves. In the case of a divorce without children - I suppose I wouldn't have too much of an issue with the removal of the waiting period except that it just again demonstrates how temporary our society now perceives marriage.

This quote came from the article, "I always hate it when lawmakers use their own personal experiences to try to change the law," said attorney Harvey Steinberg. "It's aways important to subtract emotion when determining important legal issues. Can you think of anything more emotional than a divorce?"

While "subtracting emotion" may be preferential for purposes of proposing legislation in many cases - it certainly seems much legislation has been born from emotion. Laws that protect children, minorities and public safety issues were likely conceived through a deeply emotional experience. Moreover, I am convinced that much of the population cannot even begin to perceive how difficult a divorce (particularly with children) can be until they find themselves in front of a judge on such issues. The realization of how convoluted, disorganized, and often extremely unfair divorce courts can be has surely brought many people to the cause. In turn, these people have often been integral in proposing legislation to combat such problems. Case in point, the renewal of VAWA (Dec 17th, 2005) came with the following language: NONEXCLUSIVITY - Nothing in this title shall be construed to prohibit male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking from receiving benefits and services under this title.

All in all, I fail to see the positives of these initiatives (outside of sealing records) and they do appear to be largely detrimental to the children of divorce. And none of these bills address the real problems inherent in divorce and custody law, the propensity of the system to turn one parent against another, the damage divorce does to children, the inequity in many child support orders, the level to which government virtually subsidizes divorce, etc.... Unlike other states that are trying to turn to more collaborative solutions, Rep Clapp has suggested legislation that would "punish a party who engages in "unjustifiable conduct," including trying to find out information in a way that causes "unwarranted annoyance" or embarrassment to another party." Sounds like another reason to go to court to me and just as punitive and discretionary as Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO).


Rep. Lauri Clapp, R-Englewood, said Wednesday she learned of problems in the court system while going through her divorce, but she stressed that the bills are not a response to her situation.

"But when you talk to people who have been through the system, you find out there are abuses," Clapp said. "We want to see that people are treated fairly. That's what this is about."

Her bills - which include eliminating a 90-day waiting period and a mandatory parenting class - have lawmakers and divorce lawyers talking.

Divorce attorney Denise Mills, after reviewing the bills, said their passage would be "stepping backward."

But Clapp said a lot of men and women who divorce "suffer because of the system," and her legislation addresses that.

"I think this is pretty straightforward public policy that makes a lot of sense," she said.

The third Clapp bill contains two separate provisions. One would end a mandatory four-hour, $40 program for parents with children under the age of 18 that informs them about the impact of divorce on kids.

"I have a lot of clients who initially object to that," DiManna said, "but I don't think I've had one come back and say, 'That was a waste of time.' "

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New Blogs I Like

Say hello to DADvocate and Dr. Helen.

I found this post on the Dr. Helen site very interesting. At this writing it had accumulated 134 comments on men, women, children and marriage.

Letterman Case Shows Problems with Restraining Orders

This is the latest article by Glenn Sacks and Jeffery M. Leving

Letterman Case Shows Problems with Restraining Orders


A Santa Fe, New Mexico judge recently granted a temporary restraining order against TV talk show host David Letterman for a woman who alleges that Letterman—who works in New York City and whom she has never met--has mentally harassed her through his TV broadcasts. According to Colleen Nestler, Letterman has caused her "mental cruelty" and "sleep deprivation" for over a decade, and has used code words and gestures during his broadcasts to show her that he wanted to marry her and train her as his co-host.

Beginning in the 1970s, restraining orders became a tool to help protect battered women. This is as it should be. However, in the rush to protect the abused, the rights of the accused are being violated on an arguably unprecedented scale. Many if not most domestic violence restraining orders are simply tactical maneuvers designed to gain advantage in high stakes family law proceedings. The Illinois Bar Journal calls the orders "part of the gamesmanship of divorce.”

A recent article in the Family Law News, the official publication of the State Bar of California Family Law Section, explains that the bar is concerned that "protective orders are increasingly being used in family law cases to help one side jockey for an advantage in child custody.” The authors note that protective orders are “almost routinely issued by the court in family law proceedings even when there is relatively meager evidence and usually without notice to the restrained is troubling that they appear to be sought more and more frequently for retaliation and litigation purposes.”

Such orders are generally done ex parte, without the accused's knowledge and with no opportunity afforded for him to defend himself. When an order is issued, the man is booted out of his own home and can even be jailed if he tries to contact his own children. This helps women position themselves as their children’s sole caretakers, which aids them in winning sole (or de facto sole) custody of their children in their divorce settlements. In California and other states, the order itself can be considered a finding of domestic abuse, making the restrained person ineligible for joint custody.

Despite these grave effects, many courts grant restraining orders to practically any woman who applies. District Judge Daniel Sanchez, who issued the restraining order against Letterman, explained "If [applicants] make a proper pleading, then I grant it."

Restraining orders generally only limit the restrained person’s contact with the protected person but not vice versa. As a result, husbands who have reconciled with their wives are being arrested during routine traffic stops for being in the same car with them. In one case, a father was arrested and jailed for three days for breaching a domestic violence order by taking his son to the hospital. The mother had called the father, said their son had been injured in a bike accident, and asked him to take the boy to the hospital. The conviction stays on his record and hurts his job prospects but he can’t get it undone.

Some men have been arrested and jailed after being tricked into violating their restraining orders. In one Seattle case, a man was jailed for three months after returning phone calls from his ex-wife, who showed the police the phone screen with the man’s number on it. The man explained that when he received the messages he worried that something might have happened to his kids. He asks “what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t return those calls?”

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Supervised visitation monitors face little oversight - CA

Supervised visitation monitors face little oversight

I was particularly comforted by this, "The list of monitors from the Superior Court includes a disclaimer that the court "does not select, evaluate, endorse or supervise" those on the list and that they "have not been screened" regarding law enforcement, children's services bureau or personal history." Isn't it wonderful that such people might be involved in YOUR custody case?


The monitors, however, face virtually no oversight, and parents or attorneys with complaints about them have few options.

Some court officials and others say they lack the authority and ability to take any action when parents or attorneys complain about the monitors, and that more oversight and regulation is needed.

Karen Oehme, program director of the Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation at Florida State University, said communities "continue to grapple" with what standards and skills supervised visitation monitors should have, and state lawmakers ultimately will have to make any changes."I think certification and monitoring of supervised visitation programs is definitely the future of supervised visitation," Oehme said. "The thing is, it takes money. It will be a state-by-state issue and will be done legislatively."

A local, outspoken critic of the family courts, however, said increased oversight and regulation will not help and that supervised visitation should be scrapped altogether except in cases of documented abuse."

I think we ought to explode the myth of oversight," said Bonnie Russell, 55, of Del Mar, who started the Web site during her own custody battle and believes more government involvement is not the answer. "There's not enough budget for real oversight, but more importantly, there's not enough interest."

Superior Court judges generally order supervised visitation for noncustodial parents in divorces that involve allegations of substance abuse by parents, child abuse, domestic violence, parents "venting" to kids about their estranged spouses, or parents sending messages to each other through a child, said Superior Court Judge William Howatt, the supervising judge for the family court in San Diego County.

Supervised visitation monitors can be "nonprofessional" ---- family members or friends on which both sides agree who are not paid ---- or "professional," paid monitors. Paid monitors generally charge between $16.50 an hour to $70 an hour, some monitors said. The rate sometimes is based on parents' income.

California adopted criteria in 1998 that all supervised visitation monitors must satisfy, but no regulatory agency exists for the monitors, a state court official said.

Patricia Chavez-Fallon, the director of the Superior Court's Family Court Services in San Diego County, said people who want to be paid monitors submit documentation to the court showing they have attended a training class and meet the other state standards, which essentially require that monitors be 21 or older and free of any legal trouble in the previous 10 years. Chavez-Fallon then adds them to an alphabetical list of supervised visitation monitors that the court provides.

The state standards, however, do not specify how much training someone should receive, and state and local officials do not certify or authorize specific agencies to do the training, officials said.

The list of monitors from the Superior Court includes a disclaimer that the court "does not select, evaluate, endorse or supervise" those on the list and that they "have not been screened" regarding law enforcement, children's services bureau or personal history.

Howatt said that providing the list may give the appearance that the court sanctions or approves the monitors, but it does not. The court's role is just to determine whether the monitors meet the qualifications in the state standards, Howatt said.

Nevertheless, what monitors write about their observations during supervised visits affects decisions judges make, but how much of an effect they have depends on the questions at issue in each case, Howatt said.

Officials at Griffin's company, Hannah's House at Real Solutions Center for Children, said that if someone completes the 40-hour training course the company offers at a cost of $600, Hannah's House is required to give them a certificate that they received training regardless of how much information they retain or what the trainer's impression of that person is.

Dalton said in an e-mail that the court has no legal authority to act on complaints about the supervised visitation monitors and cannot remove monitors from the list.

The court once removed a monitor from the list, but found it did not have the authority to do so. As a result, the monitor was put back on the list, Dalton said.

Chavez-Fallon said unhappy parents can go to a different monitor if they have a complaint.

Making that change is not that easy, however, with parents incurring court costs and attorneys fees to go back to court to get a new visitation order if the parents cannot agree on a new monitor, some familiar with the process said.

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Time to get serious about child visitation

Time to get serious about child visitation


Bitter parents who try to block their formerly beloved's access to the couple's child(ren) following divorce might think twice in New Hampshire, where a proposed bill aims to make life difficult for uncooperative custodial parents.

How difficult? By inviting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate the offending parent for child abuse and neglect.

The idea behind such legislation is that children of divorce should continue to have access to both parents, assuming there's no reason to protect a child from one of his parents. While child visitation orders are taken seriously in theory, the legal process of enforcement is usually time-consuming, laborious and expensive. In practice, the failure to take them seriously leads to an ever-widening, and predictable, trajectory of distance between the child and visiting parent.

Bickford's bill (HB 1585) would make it easier for parents denied visitation to seek remedy, while promising grief for parents who don't cooperate.

First, the non-custodial parent would get an expedited court hearing rather than take a docket number and possibly wait three to four months. Next, if the judge determines that the custodial parent is blocking access for no legitimate reason, then the Department of Health and Human Services would be notified of a possible case of child abuse and neglect.

Common sense tells us what we seem to need studies to demonstrate — that children need two parents and manage divorce best when they have equal access to both.

While family courts are increasingly trying to ensure that children have that access by awarding joint or shared custody, emotionally distraught humans don't always follow directions.

Meanwhile, courts and the state historically have been more effective in enforcing child support than visitation such that we have entire bureaucracies built around support collection tied to federal incentives. For every dollar that states put up to collect child support monies, for example, the federal government matches with two dollars. Other incentive funds are also available to reward collections.

But the proposed bill is not without critics. As with any law related to personal relationships, this one could be tricky to enforce. Imagine a HHS social worker knocking on your door to ask why you didn't let Johnny see his daddy last weekend.

Such well-intentioned laws also could backfire. As one close observer put it in an e-mail exchange, "Getting (HHS) involved is usually the worst thing to do. They usually side with the 'Mom who is concerned about letting the kids go to their father' and, they (investigators) may decide that neither parent is fit. And take custody of the kid(s)."

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on Indiana Senate Bill 0040

I just received the following via email:

Indiana Senate Bill 0040, which requires 90-day notice of relocation to all persons with court-ordered parenting time, passed out of committee today to the floor of the Senate. Presently, Indiana law only requires notice of a move of the "custodial" parent if moving more than 100 miles or out-of-state, and notice only needs to be given to the court (not the other parties) prior to the move. There are many other provisions in the bill concerning filing of motion for hearing, proposed parenting plan changes due to the move, etc. I encourage you to read it via the link below.

Testimony was taken on this bill's behalf by Senator Ford (the bill sponsor, divorce atty from Hartford City), Bruce Pennamped (Indpls atty, non-custodial representative to the Indiana Child Custody & Support Advisory Committee), Drew Soshnick (chairman of Family Law Section, Ind State Bar Assn), and me. Several members of PACE were in the audience in support of the bill, and there was no opposing testimony.

While some suggestions for amendments to the bill were made from the Committee members themselves, no amendments were added meaning that a vote on it could be taken today. The bill passed from the Committee to the Senate by a roll-call vote of 8-0.

I spoke with Senator Bray, the long-time chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, before the meeting began. He is very interested in seeing this become Indiana law. I strongly believe that through his influence, as well as requests that you can make of your Senators and Representatives, that can be accomplished. Please take a few minutes and write a brief letter to your elected Senator and Representative asking for their support. The General Assembly web site provides a means of sending an email to them, but frankly, email is not yet seen as valuable in securing support. I believe it is the casual nature of most emails, as well as the ease of communication, that results in less respect for the medium. If you can write or call, please do so!

More information on this bill and its progress can be found

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Michigan “Lewd and Lascivious Cohabitation” Law

There is an ongoing case in Michigan regarding whether a divorced parent can have their significant other "sleep over" when the children are present.

While I don't necessarily see any need for such "sleep overs" in the presence of your children - I certainly take issue with the state of Michigan dictating who can or cannot sleep in ones own residence.

The case in question involves two children - ages 5 and 7. The thought of a parent going to court in order to be able to have a boyfriend/girlfriend sleep over while the children are staying overnight - I find to be pretty sick. Why would you want to force this on your child? If you feel so strongly about your new "family unit" than legally formalize it. Otherwise, this could as easily result in a different person sleeping over with your kids a few months down the road.

However, I also realize that our society (men in particular) are becoming slightly gun shy about marriage. This case involves a father who is sharing a residence with his girlfriend. Why should the courts be able to force her to leave her home in order for him to have his legal visitation?

All in all I think the law sucks. But I can't help wondering what kind of parent would so forcefully try to bring this into his home - which is obviously also his children's home.

The impetus of the legal action was the man's ex-wife who asked the courts to forbid overnights with both the girlfriend and the children in the home. As noted in the article, mom admitted to cohabitating with dad before they married. Pretty sick, huh?

Here are excerpts from the article:

It's the law that's lewd, not the action

Christian Muller, a divorced father of two young daughters, is challenging a Michigan law passed in l838 that makes it illegal for his live-in girlfriend to remain in his house while his two daughters, ages 5 and 7, are visiting.

Muller shares legal custody of his two daughters with his ex-wife. When he became involved in a committed relationship after the divorce, his ex-wife asked the court to forbid him from having overnight visitation with his children when his girlfriend, Michelle Moon, was present. (In an ironic sidelight, his wife admitted that she and her ex-husband cohabited before they married.)

Michigan made "lewd and lascivious cohabitation" a crime in l838, the same year it made marriages between blacks and whites illegal. In l883, the Michigan Legislature repealed the restriction against interracial marriage, and has recently repealed many other archaic laws. The law on "lewd and lascivious cohabitation" remains; only six other states have similar laws.

While there doesn't seem to have been a decision upholding a criminal prosecution under the law since 1925, this month the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld an order by Oakland Country Circuit Judge Daniel Patrick O'Brien, forbidding Moon from spending the night when Muller's children were present. Court orders against "unrelated overnights" are common in Michigan.

"By forcing the woman that I share my life with to leave our home sends the message that daddy is doing something bad, daddy is doing something morally wrong," Muller said in a statement last month. "This court order undermined my rights as a parent, as an adult, and as an American with the right to choose how to live my life."

"The unfounded restriction they have put on my parenting time has done nothing but cause confusion, resentment, physical and psychological hardship and distrust, which affects the whole family," he added.

Muller and Moon still live together; when the children visit, Moon sleeps in her car or his van or sometimes at her parents' home.

Lawyers for the ACLU are appealing the case in Muller's behalf to the Michigan Supreme Court. According to the ACLU brief, "If courts are permitted to restrict divorced parents from living with both their unmarried partners and their children without evidence that this restriction is justified by the interests of the children, it will either undermine their ability to move toward permanent loving relationships or their efforts to fully include their children in their lives."

If the Michigan Supreme Court agrees to take the case, privacy rights will be key, according to Michael Steinberg, the ACLU's legal director.

In a recent Detroit Free Press article on the case, Thomas W. Blume, a Bloomfield Hills licensed marriage and family therapist and Oakland University professor, points out that society's view of cohabitation has shifted radically in recent years. While cohabitation still offends some religious conservatives, "it is now seen by many [others] in society as a normal way of life and often as a pathway to marriage," Blume said.

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Feminists' Double Standards About Child Care

This is the latest article by Phyllis Schlafly. I tried to make some cuts to keep the post relatively brief - but this is in fact most of the article. Click on the article title to link to the source and read it in full.

Feminists' Double Standards About Child Care
by Phyllis Schlafly


Feminist ideology taught that the duties of the housewife and mother were (in Friedan's words) "endless, monotonous, unrewarding" and "peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls." Society's expectation that a mother should care for her own children was cited as oppression of women by our male-dominated patriarchal society from which women must be liberated so they can achieve fulfillment in workforce careers just like men.

Demanding that husbands take on equal duties in child care, the National Organization for Women passed resolutions in the 1970s stating, "The father has equal responsibility with the mother for the child care role."

n 1972, "Ms." Magazine featured pre-marriage contracts declaring housewives independent from essential housework and babycare, and obliging the husband to do half the dishes and diapers.

Then-ACLU attorney Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her 1977 book "Sex Bias in the U.S. Code" that "all legislation based on the breadwinning-husband, dependent-homemaking-wife pattern" must be eliminated "to reflect the equality principle" because "a scheme built upon the breadwinning husband [and] dependent homemaking wife concept inevitably treats the woman's efforts or aspirations in the economic sector as less important than the man's."

Feminist literature is filled with putdowns of the role of housewife and mother. This ideology led directly to feminist insistence that the taxpayers provide (in Ginsburg's words) "a comprehensive program of government-supported child care."

The icon of college women's studies courses, Simone de Beauvoir, opined that "marriage is an obscene bourgeois institution," and easy divorce became a primary goal of the feminist liberation movement. Three-fourths of divorces are now unilaterally initiated by wives without any requirement to allege fault on the part of the cast-off husband.

As divorces became easy to get, the feminists suddenly did a total about-face in their demand that fathers share equally in child care. Upon divorce, mothers demand total legal and physical custody and control of their children, arguing that only a mother is capable of providing their proper care and upbringing, and a father's only function is to provide a paycheck.

Gone are the demands that the father change diapers or tend to a sick child. Feminists want the father out of sight except maybe for a few hours a month of visitation at her discretion.

Suddenly, the ex-husband is targeted as a totally essential breadwinner, and the ex-wife is eager to proclaim her dependency. Feminists assert that, after divorce, child care should be almost solely the mother's job, dependency is desirable, and providing financial support should be almost solely the father's job.

It is settled law in the United States that parents (note the plural) have a fundamental right to the care, custody and control of the upbringing of their children. But feminists have persuaded the family courts, upon divorce, to acquiesce in feminist demands that the mother typically be given 80 to 100 percent of those fundamental rights that belonged to both parents before divorce.

What's behind this feminist reversal about motherhood? As Freud famously asked, "what does a woman want?"

The explanation appears to be the maxim, Follow the money. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the feminists used their political clout to get Congress to pass draconian post-divorce support-enforcement laws that use the full power of government to give the divorced mother cash income proportional to the percentage of custody time she persuades the court to award, but unrelated to what she spends for the children or to her willingness to allow the father to see his children.

Since the father typically has higher income than the mother, giving near-total custody to the mother enables the states to maximize transfer payments and thereby collect bigger cash bonuses from the federal government. When fathers appeal to the family courts for equal time with their children, they are opposed by a big industry of lawyers, psychologists, custody evaluators, domestic-violence agitators, and government bureaucrats who make their living out of denying fathers their fundamental rights.

It's time for a national debate and discussion of the taxpayer incentives that favor divorce, the anti-marriage feminists, and the resulting exclusion of fathers from the lives of their children.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Chicago Town Hall Forum on Family Law

*This is from an ACFC email*

Dialogue on Sustainable Community will be hosting a Town Hall Forum at the University of Chicago this Saturday afternoon, January 14, 2006 on the issue of family law and its impact on the community. Link to the ACFC for additional details and make plans now to attend this important event.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Indiana Senate Bill 40

Usually I don't blog from home but I wanted to get this up. This is copied verbatim from an email.

Dear Friends of Indiana Families:

Senate Bill 40 increases the requirements on a person who has court-ordered parenting time (including grandparent visitation) and intends to move.

Bill information can be found

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on Wednesday, 1/11/2006 at 9am in room 233 of the Statehouse. It has the backing of the Indiana Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee (a committee of the General Assembly), the Domestic Relations Committee of Indiana Judicial Administration (the "guidelines" folks), the Family Law Section of the Ind State Bar Association,
Children's Rights Council, Parent's and Children's Equality of Indiana and a lot of parents!

In spite of that, I'll tell you that this is the Committee where most family law legislation dies. If you can come to the committee hearing, please do so and let them know of your support by your presence, if not your testimony on its behalf.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Tis the Season for Divorce

Well, divorce is all over the news lately. And for good reason - as pointed out by MIsForMalevolent January is the peak month for divorce.

I do some work with a local agency that is available to parents who would like to try and have a more amicable divorce. It is not a true "collaborative divorce" program as has been described by the media lately. The parties are not represented by their own respective lawyers - though there is always an available attorney to answer points of law. The crux of the program is learning based - understanding how divorce affects children and then the parents go into an unbinding mediation session where they try to come to a resolution on custody. While we will help them to dissolve all of their marital property if they can do so quickly and without much rancor - primarily we deal with issues involving the children.

The success rate of this program is very high but there is a pretty rigid screening process so only those who truly desire to cooperate but are impeded by hurt feelings, etc are accepted. It is almost entirely volunteer - including the advising attorneys and the court approved mediators.

The "traffic" of the agency pretty much dies in December. People become involved in the holidays and often wait to break the news to their spouse after they "get through the holidays." Often their reasoning for this is to not ruin the children's holiday.

But in January we get slammed. It seems the calls start on New Years Day and things don't get back to normal levels until mid February or so. Every year it is this way and we have to turn away even qualified couples due to lack of resources.

So this is a depressingly busy time for me. And for a lot of other people as well.

Soldiers' divorce rates up


Among enlisted soldiers in the U.S. Army, there were 7,152 divorces in 2004, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year and 53 percent since 2000. Among Army officers, the rate of divorce jumped 78 percent between 2003 - the year the U.S. invaded Iraq - and 2004.

A total of 3,325 Army officers were divorced in 2004, more than three times the number that divorced in 2000. The increases are especially meaningful considering the overall number of enlisted military personnel has barely changed over the last five years.

Research has shown that around 20 percent of military marriages end in divorce within two years of one partner's going to war.

Divorce has lasting effects on happiness levels


A study published in the December 2005 issue of Psychological Science shows that divorce leaves a lasting effect on one's satisfaction levels. A person's happiness level drops as she or he approaches divorce and gradually rebounds over time. But the level of satisfaction does not return to baseline (the level of satisfaction felt prior to the divorce).

Putting the children first


For years the national divorce rate has fluctuated between 45 and 50 percent, on the source. Wyoming's divorce rate is 44 percent higher than the national average, according to a national vital statistics report.

Many of these separations involve children. In 2003 alone, nearly 2,500 Wyoming children were directly affected by their parents’ divorces.

The Wyoming Children's Access Network provides parent-education seminars for divorcing, separated and never-married parents. The one-time, 4-hour seminar is offered monthly in Cheyenne, Cody, Gillette, Jackson, Lander, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Sheridan and Torrington.

The seminar provides information on the impact of parental conflict on children and teaches parents skills to help with the difficult transition. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other adults close to the children are welcome to attend as well.

A nominal fee is charged; based on need, the fee may be waived upon request. Pre-registration is required 24 hours in advance. Info: toll-free (866) 726-3700.

Colorado's Restriction of Protections Against Paternity Fraud


On New Year's Day the children and fathers of Colorado got a present courtesy of the state legislature. Effective January 1, a man's right to challenge his paternity of alleged offspring was restricted to the duration of the proceedings of a divorce, separation or child support action.

Once a final order is entered in that proceeding, a new state law says, the putative father is barred from presenting newly discovered evidence of non-paternity -- ever.

State Senate Bill 181, enacted in Colorado's 2005 legislative session, requires that any evidence from genetic testing of parent and child be introduced before the entry of final orders. The new law applies to divorce, child support establishment and enforcement and parentage.

"Women file over two-thirds of all divorces in America," said Richar' Farr, founder of the Internet radio station "And with the increasing number of cases constesting paternity across the nation, this action is simply another example how our elected officials are out of touch with the real needs of the people they are elected to serve. This law benefits no one but the state's treasury," Farr added.

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Subscriber Update

So far the changeover to FeedBlitz appears to be going fairly well. Most of the imported addresses appear to be working correctly and we have added quite a few new subscribers over the past week.

There are approximately, however, twelve subscribers that were imported from Bloglet that are not receiving the new Feedblitz emails. There is very little I can do from this end. I had Feedblitz try to send an update to these addresses twice and both times they were rejected. Interestingly, most of the emails have AOL addresses.

At this point I am just going to delete these addresses from the database. If you have stopped receiving your updates or have any other questions - please feel free to resubscribe or drop me an email.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Judge Spencer announces visitation schedule revision - Ohio

Judge Spencer announces visitation schedule revision


Judge Brett M. Spencer of the Adams County Court of Common Pleas has announced the adoption of a revised Court Rule 16 as it pertains to the visitation schedule with minor children. This revision will replace the previous visitation schedule, and went into effect on Jan. 3 in both domestic and juvenile cases where visitation is an issue.

At the request of Judge Spencer, the Adams County Bar Association formed a committee to review the current visitation schedule and those of surrounding counties. Led by Adams County Bar Association's President Douglas McIlwain, the committee sought to bring the visitation schedule in line with neighboring counties, which have recently increased the amount of time a child spends with the non-custodial parent. Studies have shown that a child's best interest is served by having significant, positive contact with both parents. Towards this end, the revised rule will expand non-custodial parenting time. Copies of this new rule are available from the Clerk of the Adams County Common Pleas Court.

In addition to the revised Rule 16, Judge Spencer has mandated in all new divorce and/or dissolution filings, where minor children are involved, both parents must attend a seminar on custody and parenting issues. The seminar will also be mandatory in all post-decree motions for change of custody and/or visitation, and in juvenile cases wherein custody and/or visitation are an issue.

Bar Association President Douglas Mcllwain, states the revised visitation rule 16 is prospective only, and anyone whose visitation falls under the previous Court Rule 16 will be required to apply to the appropriate division of the court, domestic or juvenile, in order to benefit from the new rule.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Legal Aid Society extending free help - Hawaii

Legal Aid Society extending free help


The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii is extending its free legal services starting today, opening its offices daily and providing help on issues beyond family law in its Courthouse Assistance Project.

The office, open from 8 a.m. to noon, is on the second floor of the Circuit Court in a room adjacent to Family Court Management Services. The legal staff will provide help ranging from counsel to advice on issues such as housing referral, landlord-tenant disputes, Social Security, public benefits and consumer and debt issues.

Legal Aid attorneys can also help draft simple motions, answers and prepare exhibit lists.
Attorneys will continue to provide help on Family Court issues, a pilot program created in 2000 for low-income people with divorce, custody, child support and alimony matters.

Legal Aid will also expand its Family Court project, where attorneys talk to both parties, judges and bailiffs to see if they can reach a settlement before their hearing. If they cannot, the attorneys accompany them to hearings as observers. They also help draft any necessary orders and child support worksheets after the hearing.

For more information on this project, contact the Legal Aid intake hot line at 536-4302.

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A Political Candidate Who Actually Has a Family Rights Platform?

Michael Badnarik ran for President in 2004 as a Libertarian. I highlighted his presidential campaign on this blog as then he had a very similar plank to his platform.

He is now running for Congress in Texas - with family as his first platform plank. Link to his site here and directly to his position on family here.

I am reprinting excerpts from his position on American families below:

Through a simple function of unintended consequences an entire intergovernmental industry has grown up around servicing the remnants of broken families. Tens of thousands of state and county employees and contractors have a vested interest in divorce, custody battles, child-support abuse, and pain.

There has been no counterbalancing force, other than the private-sector activism of victimized non-custodial parents themselves (NCPs), and their advocates. Of course, power goes to the money. With billions of federal aid to support and defend unfair, divisive and destructive policies and biased agencies and courts, there is no rational end in sight. A lot of bureaucrats and otherwise-unnecessary practitioners depend on the continuation of that money, It's going to take some serious money and political power to overcome that.

Millions of parents have been estranged from their children and have lost their homes, families and purposes in life because of what amounts to a federal bounty on broken homes. In recent history, as much as 60% of the costs of administering state agencies that have no incentive to help salvage marriages or keep families together and communicating, has come from the federal government.

Michael Badnarik will work to eliminate all federal welfare to state agencies whose paid function, intentionally or not, is to facilitate the breakup of marriages and act as part of the wedge between parents and their children. And he will work to prohibit any state or county agency who receives any federal funding at all from taking any role in servicing the interests of either parent over the interests of the other.

Divorce must cease being the probable outcome of turning to society for help, and child support must stop serving as the keys to debtors' prison and second-class citizenship.

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