Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Joint custody could improve state's child support efforts - Michigan

Joint custody could improve state's child support efforts


One thousand seven hundred employees now work full-time in Friend of the Court offices as referees, counselors, clerks, and support staff in all 83 Michigan counties. In addition, many employees of the criminal justice system devote a major portion of their workday to this last vestige of debtor's prison.

So it is no surprise that there was consternation in Lansing over a federal plan that cut nearly a quarter billion dollars in Michigan subsidies for child-support enforcement. But one state legislator,
Rep. Leslie Mortimer, R-Horton, has introduced a bill that could reduce the need for devoting so many resources to child support enforcement.

It would simply amend the Child Custody Act of 1970 to create a presumption that parents who divorce maintain joint custody of their minor children. Both would retain the legal right to authorize medical treatment, have access to school records and so forth. Both would have physical custody of their child(ren) for alternating and substantially equal periods of time.

The legislation makes provision for rebutting the presumption of joint custody -- if a parent is either "unfit, unwilling or unable," or moves residence so far away as to preclude maintaining established school schedules. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, it will simply give defendants back some control over their own fate.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Bills in New York would require courts to treat mom, dad equally

'Shared parenting' seen as custody solution
Bills in New York would require courts to treat mom, dad equally


A.330 in the New York State Assembly would guarantee "statutory presumption of joint custody" in divorce cases "so that both parents can continue to share in the responsibilities and duties of the children's upbringing."

The bill, sponsored by
Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, states that continuing contact with both parents through "shared parenting" is in the best interests of minor children – as well as their parents.

Under the legislation, courts would be required to award joint custody unless something were brought to light to prove such an arrangement would be detrimental to the children. That fact would have to be proved by the party seeking sole custody.

"Shared parenting," the bill states, means "both parents would remain legally responsible and in control of their children so that both parents share in the care and upbringing of their children."

States the legislation: "Currently, there is no preference for shared parenting in New York. The court may award joint custody, but in practice rarely does so."

Weisenberg's bill has been endorsed by the New York City Council and fathers' rights organization
Coalition of Fathers and Families NY, Inc. A companion bill in the Senate is S.291.

Another similar bill pending in the Assembly is A.6670 by
Assemblyman Brian Kolb. One of its provisions is to change state statutory language so the term "visitation" for non-prime custodial parents is substituted with "parenting time."

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Can A Human Wallet Build A Snow Fort?

I saw this picture on NHCustody.org and wanted to share. *Hope they don't mind!*

Can a human wallet help build a snowfort? NO. But, a Dad can...

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Paternity fraud rampant in U.S.

Paternity fraud rampant in U.S.


More than three years ago, a Maine district court judge ruled that Geoffrey Fisher no longer had to pay child support for a child that wasn't his.

But that didn't stop the state from revoking Fisher's driver's license and coming after him for thousands of dollars it says he owes in back payments.

Last year, Maine sent Fisher, 35, a letter seeking $11,450 in child support, even though officials know that DNA tests proved he isn't the father of the child in question.

Fisher had a brief relationship with a woman eight years ago and when she got pregnant and told him he was the father, he believed her. He began paying child support but eventually fell behind.

In the summer of 2001, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services took him to court because of delinquent payments. The court ordered him to pay up, and the state had his license suspended under the "deadbeat dad" law.

That fall the girl, then 3, was placed in foster care. When Fisher pushed for custody, the state ordered a paternity test, which proved he wasn't the father.

At that point, one branch of the human services department told him he could no longer see the girl because he wasn't the father, while another said he owed $10,000 and couldn't have a driver's license because he was the father.

As the nation experiences an unprecedented increase in unwed motherhood, more men are finding themselves named as "fathers," for purposes of child support, simply because of their ability to pay, say several recent studies.

It's called "paternity fraud," and one state that examined the problem found as many as 30 percent of those paying child support were, indeed, not the biological fathers of the children being supported.

The most recent comprehensive study took place in New Hampshire under the auspices of the Commission on the Status of Men.

The commission found that even men who later were able to prove they were paying support for the children of other men were sometimes still forced by courts and state agencies to continue.

Like New Hampshire, California has also established a commission to explore the problem, based on reports that 14 percent are being misnamed as fathers. A report is expected later this year.

Florida is about to pass a new law that would end child support if a man proves he's not the father. Like most states, Florida currently requires that child support – once legally established – continue until the child's 18th birthday, regardless of who the real biological father is. Eleven states have changed similar laws since 1994.

A new state law took effect in Colorado this year that permits men, for the first time, to challenge his paternity of alleged offspring – at least during the proceedings of a divorce, separation or child-support action. However, once a final order is entered, the new law says, the man is barred from presenting evidence of non-paternity.

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Proposed initiative would revamp child custody laws - North Dakota

Proposed initiative would revamp child custody laws


BISMARCK - A proposed ballot measure would revamp North Dakota's laws on child custody in favor of having parents share joint physical custody of their children.

The measure, which was submitted to
Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Friday for review, would also limit child support payments to "the actual cost of providing for the basic needs" of a child.

The measure would establish joint physical custody of children in most divorces, which is defined as having the children spend equal time with both parents. A joint physical custody arrangement would prevail unless one of the parents was judged unfit, the measure says.

Jaeger reviews ballot initiatives to ensure they are in proper legal form, and writes a short description of what the measure does. He must provide the measure's ballot title by March 1.

To place the measure on the November ballot, supporters must gather signatures from at least 12,844 eligible North Dakota voters by Aug. 8.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Phyllis Schlafly and Stephen Baskerville Interview

On February 14, 2006 Phyllis Schlafly and Stephen Baskerville joined together in a landmark interview about the "War Against The Family."

Click here to listen to the interview.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Question of the Day

I'm going to start the "Question of the Day" (hereafter QoD) based upon the search criteria people are using to get to this site. This is not to say there will actually be one every day - but on on days I am posting where I see a common question I will post it and try to answer it.

The question today: "Does child support include income from a new spouse?"

As with many questions involving divorce, custody and support - the answer appears to be state dependent. In my state, I was under the impression that while my income could not be considered in a support order - joint investments certainly could be looked at in a big picture sense.

When my mother remarried and stopped working the court did not look at her husbands income per se but they continued to impute an income to her equivalent to what she made while working.

Personally, we have one joint checking account through which we run joint ventures, investments, etc... However, we both maintain independent accounts through which most of our expenses are paid. Our paychecks are deposited into our individual accounts - household expenses come out of our individual accounts - very little is done through the joint account.


From Free Advice: I'm marrying a man who has children from a previous marriage. He regularly pays his child support. Since I earn more than my fiance, we want to protect my income from any future increase in support payments should the ex- seek more. What are our options?

Some states, California for example, provide that a new spouse with income, cannot be held liable for the support of a step-child except under extreme circumstances. Your State may have similar exemptions. However, for the time being, and for purposes of financial safety, set up and maintain separate savings and checking accounts. That way, your funds do not become commingled with your husband's, and a court, should the question ever arise, will always be able to calculate whose income is whose and where the funds came.

From DivorceNet: Illinois Appellate Court opens the door to include new spouse income in determining child support.

Further, the traditional view in establishing child support obligations or modifying child support obligations is that the financial resources of a new spouse are not to be considered in the calculation or determination of child support. That view took into account the lack of legal obligations a stepparent has towards the financial support of a stepchild.

However, the law on this issue has developed and evolved as stated in a recent Second District Illinois Appellate Court decision, which holds "a trial court may equitably consider the income of a parent's current spouse in determining an appropriate award of child support." In Re the Marriage of Drysch, 2000 WL 815278, (ILL.App2 Dist.).

From DivorceHQ: If one of us remarries, how does that affect child support?

Remarriage is frequently a concern during mediation negotiations, and your mediator will help you plan for changed circumstances. You can negotiate a parenting arrangement with an alternative plan in the event of remarriage, or you may agree to return to mediation if one of you decides to remarry. So long as your children's standard of living can be protected, the courts are likely to go along with your agreement.

If your child support agreement is based on your state's child support guidelines, child support may be subject to modification. If your agreement requires modification on a periodic basis based on the guidelines, in some states this is what might occur:

If you are receiving child support and your ex-spouse has a child in the new marriage, that event could reduce the child support payments because the court takes into account the best interests of all children.

If your ex-spouse pays you child support, and his new spouse's income is available to help pay his living expenses, you may be able to get an increase in child support on the principle that he now has a greater share of personal income available for his own use.

If you are receiving child support and you remarry, in some states your ex-spouse may be able to get a reduction in child support on the same basis- you and the children have the benefit of your new spouse's income for your personal living expenses.

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New Site Addition - Real Family Law

Lisa Scott's Real Family Law site has been added has been added to the links section. From the site:

Lisa Scott is a family law attorney based in Bellevue, Washington. Tired of having her stuff rejected by elitist bar publications and politically-correct newspapers, she decided to start her own website. Co-founder of TABS: Taking Action Against Bias in the System, she has been fighting for equal justice and gender equality in the family courts for years. Lisa hopes you enjoy the humor, satire, absurdity, and occasional seriousness contained on this site. And be sure to give us your contributions on the Blog.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Subscriber Info

In the past day I have been made aware that over 70 subscribers are what Feedblitz calls "undeliverable." This list included my own email address and upon inspection appears to primarily consist of subscribers with Yahoo email addresses.

I am not sure what the problem is but I have tried to address it within Feedblitz. Hopefully, it will resolve itself today. However, if you have stopped receiving updates please email me or resubscribe.

Sorry about the confusion.

Legal line offers free advice Tuesday - Indiana

Legal line offers free advice Tuesday

INDIANAPOLIS -- Free legal assistance is available by calling Legal Line, sponsored by the Indianapolis Bar Association (IBA), 6-8 p.m. Tuesday.

Call (317) 269-2000 to speak with a qualified attorney who will answer questions and give advice on legal matters on a variety of topics including divorce, child custody, child support, landlord/tenant issues, bankruptcy, personal injury, employment law and more.

Callers with more complex legal issues should call IBA's Lawyer Referral Service, (317) 269-2222, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Virginia Support Groups

Fathers United for Equal Rights -- Information about divorce, custody and support proceedings. 559-7090.

Kid Care -- Resource and referral service for parents looking for child care in the Richmond and Tri-Cities area. Training and resources for child-care providers. 282-5993.

Virginia Lawyer Referral Service Monday-Friday, 8:45 a.m.-4:15 p.m. (800) 552-7977.

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Quicker, Cheaper 'No-Fault' Divorces Proposed - New York

Quicker, Cheaper 'No-Fault' Divorces Proposed

ALBANY - New Yorkers would no longer have to prove a spouse cheated or was abusive to get a quick, less costly divorce under a new "no-fault" proposal. New York is the only state lacking some version of a no-fault divorce law. Efforts to make divorce easier in New York have failed, even though supporters argue contested cases extend bad marriages, encourage dishonest court testimony and can be traumatic for spouses and their children.

A state Senator,
John DeFrancisco, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is supporting a proposal that would allow a divorce to go through in 30 days if a couple has resolved all of its economic and custody issues.

"It's not a straight no-fault, but it goes a long way to eliminate court proceedings that are brought just so people don't have to wait a year," the Onondaga County Republican said.

The head of the Assembly's Judiciary Committee, Assemblywoman
Helene Weinstein, said she would consider no-fault divorce only if other provisions were put in place to protect victims of domestic violence and the economic interests of non-working spouses.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sacks, Allred Debate New CA. Supreme Court Move-Away Decision

In relation to the post below, Glenn Sacks debated attorney Gloria Allred last Friday about this case and move away cases in general. What follows are verbatim excerpts from an email. You can visit GlennSacks.com or His Side with Glenn Sacks for more information or to sign up for email updates.


California Supreme Court Rules Against Dad in New Move-Away Decision

From 1996 to 2004 move-away determinations were based on the Burgess decision, in which a custodial mother was allowed to move her two children 40 miles away from their father. Burgess was disastrous for children because it was interpreted by California courts to permit moves of hundreds or thousands of miles. In some cases, courts have even allowed children to be moved out of the country, as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Zaire.

In 2004 the California Supreme Court decided the LaMusga case in favor of the father, Gary LaMusga, who sought to prevent his ex-wife from moving his two young boys from California to Ohio. LaMusga, who is unable to follow his children because he operates a small business and is tied down by weighty child support obligations, had fought the move for eight years. In siding with the father the court explained that "the likely impact of the proposed move on the noncustodial parent's relationship with the children is a relevant factor in determining whether the move would cause detriment to the children."

Soon afterwards a handful of extreme feminists prevailed upon former California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) to introduce SB 730, which would have abrogated LaMusga and given custodial parents almost unlimited move-away privileges. We organized to fight the bill, and generated thousands of calls and letters in opposition, as well as a lot of media attention. To everybody's surprise, Burton withdrew SB 730, and LaMusga was preserved.

Fortunately the new decision in Brown vs. Yana will not have the impact of Burgess or LaMusga--it is more technical and limited in scope, and the father's underwhelming legal effort and behavior hurt him. To learn more about the new ruling, see
Court Rules Parents With Custody Can Move (Los Angeles Times, 2/2/06).

To learn more about California move-aways and the LaMusga case, see my co-authored column
Is a Pool More Important than a Dad? (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/4/04) and read my LaMusga radio commentary here. To read a feminist view of the move-away issue, see Allred's column "Moving Matters in Custody" (Los Angeles Daily Journal, 10/3/02).

I discussed how this issue would be viewed if we switched the genders in my column
California NOW Takes Stand Against Working Mothers (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/23/04), and argued in favor of a current Wisconsin move-away bill in my co-authored piece AB 400 Will Help Wisconsin's Children of Divorce (Wisconsin State Journal, 12/3/05). I clashed with feminist law professor Carol Bruch, who authored the mother's brief in LaMusga, on PBS's Los Angeles affiliate KCET last year--to watch, click here.

Sacks, Allred Debate New California Supreme Court Move-Away Decision

For example, Gloria often says that restrictions on move-aways unfairly restrict custodial moms from moving, while not restricting noncustodial fathers. I answer that in these cases both parents are free to move wherever they want--it is the children who may not be moved if a court determines that it is against their best interests.

Gloria often says that restrictions on move-aways keep custodial parents "held hostage" in their neighborhoods, and that they should be able to "move on with their lives." I respond that both parents retain responsibilities to their children after divorce which are sometimes inconvenient or limiting, and ask "Would we argue that noncustodial parents' responsibility to pay child support holds them 'hostage?' Do we condone the behavior of divorced parents who decide to drop out of their children's lives or stop paying child support because they've decided to 'move on with their lives?'"

Another Bizarre Father Screwing

According to the article
Not guilty, but not off the hook (2/6/06):

"A man who spent 13 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder faces a debt of more than $38,000 in child-support payments that started accumulating while he was locked up...

"A federal judge released Souter last April 1.

"In 1987, before his conviction, [Larry] Souter was ordered to pay $100 a week in his divorce with Christine Souter. He stopped paying when he went to prison in 1992 but didn't ask to have payments suspended until 1995.

"Court documents show that in 1997, he owed $23,000 in back support. As of last month, interest and penalties had pushed it to $38,082.25.

"Federal law prohibits judges from retroactively wiping out such debts...

"David Sarnacki, an attorney for Souter's ex-wife, wrote in a court filing that his client 'has endured the substantial burden of raising her two children without defendant's contribution of child support.'"

I love the quote from his ex-wife's attorney. Yes, he didn't pay child support because he was in prison framed on a murder charge. I guess we should be grateful the lawyer didn't refer to Souter as a "deadbeat dad." That'll probably be next. One would also think that after seeing her ex-husband rot in jail for 13 years for a crime he didn't commit, she would feel so damn sorry for the poor guy that she would back off. I guess not.

In the article
Wrongly convicted man tries to move on after prison (Flint Journal, 1/7/06), Souter had discussed putting his life back together and his plans. Now he may be headed back on the road to jail.

I wrote about California legislation designed to deal with the problem of ex-offenders and child support in my co-authored column Schwarzenegger Should Sign Bill to Reduce Prisoner Recidivism (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/21/05). The Bradley Amendment, under which child support arrearages cannot be retroactively forgiven, is the cause of countless bizarre injustices, and often hurts deployed military personnel. In my co-authored column Laws must protect the rights of military dads (Army Times, Marine Corps Times, 3/28/05) family law attorney Jeff Leving and I wrote:

"[Child] support orders are based on civilian pay, which is generally higher than active duty pay. When reservists are called up to active duty they sometimes pay an impossibly high percentage of their income in child support.

"For example, a California naval reservist who has three children and who takes home $4,000 a month in his civilian job would have a child support obligation of about $1,600 a month. If this father is a petty officer second class (E5) who has been in the reserves for six or seven years--a middle-ranked reservist--his active-duty pay would only be $2,205 before taxes, in addition to a housing allowance. Under current California child support guidelines, the reservist's child support obligation should be $550 a month, not $1,600."

A reasonable reader unfamiliar with the wonders of the child support system would probably think 'OK, but the courts would just straighten it out when the reservist gets back--certainly they wouldn't punish him for something that happened because he was serving.' However, the federal Bradley Amendment prohibits judges from retroactively modifying child support beyond the date which an obligor has applied for a modification. Reservists can be mobilized with as little as one day's notice. If a reservist didn't have time or didn't know he had to file for a downward modification, the arrearages stay, along with the interest and penalties charged on them.

"When the arrearage reaches $5,000--a common occurrence during long deployments--the father can become a felon who can be incarcerated or subject to a barrage of harsh civil penalties, including seizure of driver's licenses, business licenses and passports."

This is a particularly long newsletter so I am going to cut the excerpts here. However, Glenn also discusses child abduction, the campaign against PBS "documentary" Breaking the Silence, Newsweek coverage of The Trouble With Boys, domestic violence laws, Italian custody laws, and female inmates - amongst other topics. Visit his site to read the newsletter here.

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'Move-Away' Parents Get Green Light

This is regarding the recent California Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown vs. Yana. What is so sick here is that while the boy was already living with his father as he was so unhappy living with his mother out of state, the Court still found reasons to make it easier to for custodial parents to move. The experiences of this boy were completely ignored.

'Move-Away' Parents Get Green Light


The California Supreme Court on Thursday shifted the balance in fights between divorced parents with a ruling that eases the way for a parent with custody — usually the mother — to move away over her former mate's objections.

Brown, who has two other children with her second husband, argued that Cameron would suffer if he was separated from his half-siblings. She also offered Yana more time in the summer with their son.

Yana argued that moving would put the boy in a community with poor schools and more crime. He also moved for joint custody. A lower court ruled that a judge should have held a full hearing on Yana's objections before the mother could relocate.

The high court disagreed, in Brown vs. Yana. The court ruled that a parent who lacks custody, usually the father, would have to show that the move would harm the child before he would be granted a hearing.

A hearing "in a move-away situation should be held only if necessary," Justice Marvin Baxter wrote for the unanimous court.

Thursday's decision will not affect Cameron's current custody arrangement. After moving to Nevada with his mother, Cameron decided he would prefer to be with his father, and his mother eventually allowed the child to live with Yana in Santa Maria.

At a court hearing in November, "the boy testified unequivocally how unhappy he was with his stepfather and his mother," Helbert said. "He wasn't doing well in Las Vegas."
(emphasis mine)

The court refused to rule that a child's unhappiness about moving could never be a sufficient reason for changing custody status. The court also said that regardless of custody status, any parent can try to stop a relocation if that parent can make a sufficient showing of potential harm to his or her children.

"Even a parent with sole legal and sole physical custody may be restrained from changing a child's residence if a court determines the change would be detrimental to the child's rights or welfare," Baxter wrote.

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Filing a Complaint Against the Friend of the Court (FOC) in Michigan

Larry Holland at Stand Up Today has an excellent post about the FOC in Michigan and how to go about filing a complaint against them.

I'll be adding a link from my Pro Se post as well

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Monday, February 06, 2006

The Rise in ‘Gray Divorce’: It’s Always Hubby’s Fault

The latest Glenn Sacks and Jeffery M. Leving: The Rise in ‘Gray Divorce’: It’s Always Hubby’s Fault


For one, the stereotype of the husband trading in his wife for a younger model is by and large a myth. The women in the AARP study were 60% more likely to claim that they ended their marriages than the men were, and men were almost twice as likely as women to say that they never saw their divorces coming. In contrast to the Porsche and trophy wife stereotype, the AARP study found that these divorced men had many serious concerns, high among them their fear of losing touch with their children after a divorce.

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Educational Program Addresses Child Custody Issues in Divorce - CT

Educational Program Addresses Child Custody Issues in Divorce


NEWTOWN - The Family Counseling Center offers a parent education program to divorcing couples with child custody issues under Public Act 93-319.

The program is meant to insure that children involved will have as positive a transition as possible.

The curriculum will cover: how children of different ages deal with separation and divorce; negotiation and managing conflict; visitation and new family arrangements; and listening to children and helping them adjust.

The Family Counseling Center is a state licensed and accredited non-profit mental health agency offering counseling for families and individuals in the Greater Danbury and Southbury area.

Those seeking additional information on when classes are taking place may call the center at 203-426-8103, ext. 100.

Registration is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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