Round up of family court cases, new policies

(The following articles come from several sources, including the folks behind sites like Parenting News Network, Dastardly Dads, Justice Posterous…)

Does access trump safety?

Boise man, child who died in
murder-suicide Thursday identified

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/05/20/1656600/boise-man-child-who-died-in-murder.html

Court records indicate Davis and Natasha’s mother were not
married. There was a legal battle over the girl’s custody which was resolved in
2009, according to Ada County court records.

Initially,
Davis said the girl’s mother refused to let him have access to Natasha
following her birth but a visitation schedule was worked out once lawyers were
hired, the documents say.

Davis sued for joint custody and was granted in April 2009,
according to the records, but a 50/50 split was not to occur until 2013. Until
then, Davis had custody certain days of the week.

Read more: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/05/20/1656600/boise-man-child-who-died-in-murder.html#ixzz1N8EqLkd7

Custody battle erupts in gunfire

http://citizensvoice.com/news/custody-battle-erupts-in-gunfire-1.1150096#axzz1N2q4PoFu

In a flurry of gunfire, police said Cooper fatally shot a mother of three and wounded two men before
turning the gun on himself
. His ex-girlfriend and target, Shaundra Langille, 28, survived the shooting rampage by hiding in a closet with the couple’s 9-month-old  daughter and another child, authorities said.

Police  arrived at the chaotic murder-suicide scene around 3:20 p.m. to find Shana Bagley’s body outside the
front door of Apartment 413 in the Hanover Village Apartments, dead on her 25th  birthday.

Read
more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/custody-battle-erupts-in-gunfire-1.1150096#ixzz1N89HDFo4

Family denies custody battle caused deaths

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8251950/grieving-family-denies-custody-dispute

“Both  parents had access to the children and there was no custody battle,” the family said in a statement.

I have an article posted on the  blog that also states access is not a factor when fathers kill (meaning they
don’t kill because they don’t have access, which is what many fathers rights  groups claim) – rather, vengeance often plays a role (and ironically, women are  stereotyped – esp. in family court –as being vengeful).

Records: Barbone admitted to hitting baby; autopsy results in

Neighbors  devastated by murder charge

http://www.localnews8.com/news/27931821/detail.html

The records said that Barbone tried  to quiet his son down when he started crying at 1:30 a.m. Monday. Barbone
changed his diaper and tried to get the baby to fall asleep with him on a  couch. Barbone allegedly admitted to the reporting officer that when the boy would  not quiet down, he struck the baby on  the back of the head with his fist and then elbowed him in the head, according to the records.

When Barbone realized the child was  unresponsive he took him to Portneuf Medical Center from the home he was
staying at on La Montagna Strada, which is less than a mile away from the  hospital. This happened around 7 a.m., according to the records.

Doctors worked to save the infant  for 30 minutes before declaring him dead. They said the infant was most likely
dead before he arrived at the hospital, according to the records.

Barbone had been living with his girlfriend and her two  other children in Sunny Creek Courts on the south part of town, the manager of  the trailer court said. Barbone had moved out after being charged with domestic
battery, but that the family was back together again late last week, and  neighbors saw Barbone and his girlfriend smiling together, the manager said.  Barbone had visitation custody with  the infant, according to court records.

Father charged in slaying of teen

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/father-charged-in-slaying-of-teen/2011/05/21/AFzRYj8G_story.html?wprss=rss_local

I’ve only read the Washington Post article regarding this case – which has “father” in the headlines, but I’ve  seen other that said “man.”  It also says he killed “teen” not daughter. Lastly, the WaPo quotes  that the father had a “sexual relationship” with the the teen – huh?!  Isn’t this molestation?!

It says the girl lived with Mom but visited Dad.

Valrico father arrested after child’s thigh bone is
fractured

http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/valrico-father-arrested-after-childs-thigh-bone-is-fractured/1170540

VALRICO — A 24-year-old man was accused of aggravated child abuse Thursday  after deputies say he pulled his 3-year-old boy to the ground and fractured the child’s thigh bone.

This is what the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says happened:

Matthew Clark was changing his 1-year-old’s diaper at his apartment on N Valrico Road when his 3-year-old came up to him, which aggravated Clark. He grabbed the  3-year-old by the shoulder and pulled the child to the ground.

The child hit the ground with his left knee and fell on his side. Clark heard a  pop. The child cried.

But deputies say the father didn’t seek medical treatment or call 911. About  half an hour later, he dropped both
children off with their mother
. She took them to the hospital. Clark, who lists his occupation as a shift leader at Tijuana Flats, was being held in jail without bail.

Tenn.
Custody bill that seeks to maximize parents’ involvement headed to governor

http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/f2918ebe4e0b4c318432988b26a87bd0/TN-XGR–Child-Custody/

NASHVILLE,  Tenn. — A proposal that would require  judges to consider how to maximize a parent’s involvement in a child’s life  when making custody decisions is headed to the governor for his
consideration.

The measure sponsored by Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga was approved  19-9 by the Senate on Saturday. The House version passed 92-0 last month. Although  not the only factor to be considered, legal experts say the call for “maximum participation possible” could lead some judges to increase visitation time or divide custody 50-50 more often.

Democratic  Sen. Beverly Marrero of Memphis says judges should be given “tools to do what they think is in the best interest of the children of Tennessee.” Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to review the proposal once it reaches his desk.

Australia  is having their problems with Fathers rights, too:

Children, the biggest losers in shared care?

http://www-public.jcu.edu.au/jcnn/makingnews/JCU_079915

“In the Family Court, the Howard Government brought in a law colloquially known as the ‘shared care’ law,”
Overington said. “It essentially requires judges of the Family Court to  consider giving parents a 50-50 or a shared care split of the children after divorce.”

The law represented a radical  change in policy. Judges are now being asked to consider the child’s best interests will be served by an equal relationship with both parents, almost  regardless of the circumstances Overington said.

“They are now legally bound to do  so and, ironically, they are splitting custody between the parents who are least able to share.

“Something like nine in 10 couples reach an agreement themselves before they even reach the Family Court. The cases that do end up in court are the ones where the  couples are essentially at war over even the smallest details of their  children’s lives. Yet they are the ones who are forced to cooperate. That’s why we’ve ended up with the kind of problems we’ve seen.”

Overington outlines an example  where a man and woman have a one-night stand and the woman falls pregnant, reminiscent of a case in New South Wales earlier this year. “The father was not, according to the mother’s testimony, that interested in having a relationship with the child, but very desperately did not want to pay any maintenance,” Overington  said.

“According to the law, the more time you have custody of the child the less you have to pay in maintenance, so the father wanted to have the child 50 per cent of the time.

“So you have a child under the age of one – still on the breast – being shuffled back  and forwards between houses at two-hour intervals so both parents can have  their equal time.

“To my mind, that is not in the best interests of the child. It may be in the best interests of the father, but it’s certainly not in the best interests of the infant.”

New bill on child abuse aims to halt false claims

http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110519/NEWS/105190332

The bill is designed to discourage adults from using malicious allegations of abuse in bitter divorce or child custody cases, supporters say.

And-

Mish said holding people accountable for false reports is “a good thing.” But the bill could  have the unintended consequence of  keeping children trapped in abusive situations because adults are fearful of making a report that, while true, might not be able to be proven, she said.

If they were familiar with current research, they’d know that the vast majority of abuse claims are made in good faith. This punishment can hurt protective parents and children more than it can help innocent men. (And it disregards
the false accusations of being an unfit or unstable mother).

Stepmother of boy accused of killing his neo-Nazi father charged with child endangerment

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/05/neo-nazi-father-killed.html

Two of Hall’s children were from a previous marriage, including his  10-year-old son. According to court records, the boy had a history of  aggression and violence after his parents went through a bitter divorce, with both Hall and his ex-wife, Leticia Neal of Spokane, Wash., accusing each other of abusing and neglecting the
children.

Hall was granted full custody of the children. Last year, Neal filed for custody of the 10-year-old
boy and his 9-year-old sister, saying she was concerned about the children’s well-being because of the father’s affiliation with the neo-Nazi group. Hall opposed the motion, saying Neal had had no contact with the children for six years.

Disabled mom fights for custody of son

http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/relationships-and-special-occasions/parenting/aisha-sultan/article_1873270b-be68-5672-b379-8887a18e02b3.html

And now, with their child in kindergarten, she’s trapped in a yearlong custody battle with her ex-boyfriend, the baby’s father. Currently, the parents share custody, but her ex is seeking full custody. Flynn says her disability is at the heart of the issue.

“Her ability to parent because of her disability will be on trial,” her attorney Jack Cavanagh said. A resulting side effect of the  stroke has been aphasia, a language disorder that makes her struggle to find the words she wants to communicate. Her speech comes in short, halting bursts, and she lost her ability to read.

Shared parenting in the press

Arizona State University researchers found the public favored shared parenting “favored by most fathers’ groups” even when conflict was present. What it didn’t mention is that experts ‘favor’ shared parenting when there is low-to-moderate conflict, not high conflict and certainly not in cases of abuse (domestic violence or child abuse). Access should not be more important than safety, but that seems to be the course we’re on.

Studies: Public favors equal custody for children of divorce

Here’s some links that caution use of presumptive shared custody:

The case against joint physical custody

Debunking the claims about joint versus sole custody

Sydney Morning Herald: Fathers kill their kids to get revenge – not because they’re upset with lack of time with them

I wish there were more articles with women’s points of views, especially in regard to Family Court. Seems we only hear from men on that front. Here’s one discussing fathers who kill their children (take a look at Dastardly Dad’s blog, linked to the right). It’s NOT because they’re upset about not spending enough time with them (as fathers rights guys proclaim) – it’s because they want to get revenge on the ex-wives, girlfriends. (Same fathers rights guys will claim women are vengeful and evil).

Men’s murderous revenge

It’s not angst over custody: fathers kill their children to punish their ex-partners.

Since Arthur Freeman was found guilty of murdering his four-year-old daughter, Darcey, much of the media focus has been on the distress of fathers going through separation and custody disputes. There has been a call for more support for fathers.

However, we must ask ourselves whether we are losing sight of the victims and, more importantly, whether this is the best approach to preventing these deaths from occurring in the future.

While the community understandably struggles to comprehend a parent killing a child, our research shows that these are not inexplicable tragedies. There is a particular type of filicide (the killing of children by parents) that occurs in the context of the separation of the parents.

In these ”spousal revenge” cases – as recognised by the Freeman jury – fathers kill their children to punish their ex-partners. There is usually no prior violence against the children. In fact, they appear to love their children. The act of killing is directed towards harming the child’s mother. The motive is revenge.

In the case of Freeman and Robert Farquharson (found guilty of three counts of murder of his sons Bailey, Tyler and Jai, aged two to 10, who drowned in a dam near Winchelsea), both fathers indicated that they wished to punish their ex-partner. Shortly before killing Darcey, Freeman told his ex-wife to say goodbye to her children and that she would never see them again – clearly to make her suffer. Farquharson told a friend that he would make his ex-wife suffer by taking what mattered to her most – her children.

Contrary to some claims, these cases are not about fathers losing access to their children. The reality is that in both cases, the fathers had access to their children and, in both cases, killed them during it.

In the news: Custody Catastrophes

This case comes from Australia, where they’re having plenty of problems with the Fathers Rights Movement. This case demonstrates how access is becoming far more important than safety:

Girls ordered to spend weekends with sex offender father

A COURT has ordered two young girls to spend weekends with their sex offender father provided he puts a door on their bedroom they can lock.

Judge Robert Benjamin, in the Family Court’s Hobart branch, ruled that the girls “need some protection from (their father), particularly at night”.

However, the risk of sexual abuse was “diminished when they are awake and alert”.

Judge Benjamin said that the father, who was convicted of downloading child pornography, must have an “adult friend” stay with him when the girls stayed overnight.

He added that until the youngest turned 14, the girls must “share the same room so they can have the mutual support of one another”.

A Family Court counsellor said that the girls, aged ten and eight, “are at an age and maturity when awake, dressed and together it would be unlikely the father would act inappropriately toward them”.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/national/girls-ordered-to-spend-weekends-with-sex-offender-father/story-e6frfkvr-1225840653601#ixzz1GWv0gRMU

This case involves an American girl taken to Malaysia by her father. A domestic violence survivors advocate asked: Why wasn’t this mother’s case covered like fathers’ cases are (Goldman, Savoie, etc.) ?
 

PETALING JAYA – An 11-year-old American girl, who claimed she was constantly abused by her Malaysian father, was yesterday reunited with her mother and is set to begin a new life in Indiana, United States.

The girl and her mother, a 28-year-old restaurant worker in Indiana, cried uncontrollably outside the Court for Children here when they were reunited after six years yesterday.

The mother was flown in here by the US embassy after the plight of the girl reached the courts last week.

For the past six years, the mother had been under the notion that she would never be able to see her child again. The girl was listed as “abducted” in the US.

I”ve posted an article before that stated 68% of child abductions involve domestic violence – I’ll repost it again after this article.  

Mothers make case against Hague Treaty

According to the participants, the women talked about their reasons for returning to Japan, and brought their children with them, claiming they made the move because of domestic violence.

After the meeting, one woman told reporters she began to find inexplicable bruises on her child after her ex-spouse’s visitations. She said her child asked to be taken to Japan.

“If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention . . . (my child would) be forced to live with an abusive father and be exposed to violence again,” the woman said. “And I will become a (declared) criminal.”

The Hague Convention aims to promptly return children illegally taken out of their country of “habitual residence” by a parent.

Rethinking the Hague Convention

…research indicates that 68% of the abducting parents in cases under this treaty are mothers — and that many of them are fleeing abusive spouses

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2036246,00.html#ixzz1GWzJxNn5

 

Peter Jamison exposes horrors of family court

Peter Jamison writes an outstanding article detailing the horrors of the family court system:

California Family Courts Helping Pedophiles, Batterers Get Child Custody

Interviews with dozens of parents, activists, lawyers, judges, children, and former family court employees, as well as a review of hundreds of pages of family and criminal court documents, indicate that the system’s methods for assessing whether child sexual abuse or spousal battery has taken place — findings that are critical to deciding whether a parent should retain custody of or visitation rights with a child — fall short of the standards accepted by domestic-violence experts and the criminal-justice community.

And here lies the problem:

Still, advocates of reform say a few widespread problems lead to poor court decisions, such as inadequate procedures for investigating abuse; the use of controversial and potentially dangerous psychological theories about child welfare; and a prejudice toward joint parental custody, even when one parent is clearly violent. Compounding these issues, critics say, is a lack of accountability for judges, attorneys, custody evaluators, and other court personnel, who enjoy immunity from lawsuits even in cases where they make decisions that do obvious harm to children and parents.

And this:

Family courts have no juries, and litigants who lack the money for a private attorney have no right to counsel. (As a result, many parents without financial means must represent themselves.) In the place of the traditional fact-finding apparatus that operates daily in criminal and civil courtrooms — dueling lawyers, and jurors charged with determining the facts of a case from available evidence — family court substitutes a cadre of individuals who make decisions in concert. Foremost is the judge. And it is with the judges, in some ways, that the problem starts.

Few aspirants to the bench relish the idea of refereeing the roughly 20 percent of divorces that are hostile enough to end up in family court. As a result, many assigned to this branch of the judiciary are rookies — paying their dues for a year or two before moving on to the more genteel arenas of civil or criminal law — or lifers without the aptitude to move on. “Family courts are the ugly stepchild of the law,” Oakland family law attorney Kim Robinson says. “It’s considered the bottom of the barrel. Almost no one wants to be there as a judge. The judges come in with a major attitude about it from the get-go.”

Family law judges are aided by a range of subjudicial officials, including psychological evaluators and minors’ counsels, attorneys appointed to represent the children in disputed custody cases. The courts also rely on mediators, who attempt to arbitrate custody agreements between parents. Failing such an agreement, they have the authority in many California jurisdictions to make a recommendation about custody rights.

Complaints about how all these people do their jobs aren’t new, and in light of their high-stakes, high-conflict work environment, some amount of dissatisfaction among litigants is to be expected. But officials in state government have begun to take the sheer volume of those complaints seriously.

Another problem:

While the system’s mistakes affect both mothers and fathers, men are statistically more likely to be the perpetrators of the types of serious crimes that highlight the family courts’ shortcomings — as they are in all the cases, substantiated by criminal convictions, examined in this article. The topic of gender’s correlation with violent crime is hotly debated, but studies have found that only 6 percent of sex offenses and 5 percent of serious incidents of domestic violence are committed by women.

Sound advice:

“The way that the courts have to work is evidence-based, not theory-based.”

And more good advice:

Geraldine Stahly, a psychology professor at California State University at San Bernardino, likewise says that the family courts need to be revamped so as to devote more attention to evidence — as do other courts of law — rather than the opinions of individuals such as psychologists, mediators, or even judges. “I would like to see judges relying a lot less on psychological evaluations and a lot more on the facts of a case,” she says.


Custody catastrophes

Lesbian moms reluctant to report abuse by partner fearing child’s custody loss

and, on the subject of custody…

Child custody expert tied to lewd Web photos 

A prominent Beverly Hills psychiatrist who has helped decide hundreds of child-custody disputes was thrown off one recent case and has been challenged in at least two others after posting lewd photos of himself on Facebook and allegedly promoting illegal drug use, unprotected sex and male prostitution.

Dr. Joseph Kenan, president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, is also being investigated by the Medical Board of California on at least four complaints by parents who hired him to do custody evaluations, according to records and correspondence reviewed by The Times.

Dr. Kenan, president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, was also mentioned in an article posted on a Fathers Rights site: Sexual Abuse Accusations Color Custody Battles  Notice the ads about female sex offenders and women who lie about paternity on the right hand side.

Kenan believes in the discredited idea of parental alienation syndrome, an idea created by Dr. Richard Gardner, who defended child molesters, and promoted by fathers rights groups:

“Parental alienation—when one parent programs a child against the other parent—is one reason for false allegations of abuse by a child: one parent encourages the child to accuse the other. The parent can be subtle in encouraging the child to make sexual allegations by not supporting the child’s relationship with the other parent and by criticizing the other parent in the child’s presence, which can cause the child to adopt one parent’s negative view of the other. However, it is important to avoid jumping to conclusions that the accused parent is guilty, or that the other parent is behind the allegations.”

He seems to think children who repeat themselves are likely to be lying:

“Review the initial statement made by the child or adolescent, if it is available as a videotape, audiotape, transcription, or police report. “The first interview done by police and CPS is often videotaped. If that is available, watch it. The more the child or adolescent repeats the statements, the less reliable the statements are. If you are able to view an older interview, it may be more truthful than your own interview with the child,” he said.”

Kenan is not just one bad apple, he’s one of many child custody evaluators who uses bias and high fees to taint the family court system. It’s nothing short of scary that family court has such little oversight of custody evaluators.

“Father absent households” ignores women and blames them at the same time

Here’s a press release regarding the National Fatherhood Initiative. Notice that single Moms (even gay & lesbian couples) running a household and raising children are now absent themselves and relegated to being “father absent”households. I’m quite surprised Obama is supporting all of this. Can you imagine being referred to as “husband absent” or “boyfriend absent” if you were single?

What about “mother absent” households?

“Father absence” is also used as a proxy to say single moms are the the cause of social ills (instead of things like say poverty, gun laws, drugs, etc.) and the reason their sons are incarcerated. Oh, those horrible single women!!

$150 million – at a time of belt tightening? When programs to help women & children are being cut? If the money went directly to single women – wouldn’t that help these families more?!

Saying fathers hold the key to ridding society of social ills – Why? Because patriarchy has worked so well?!?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 17, 2011
National Fatherhood Initiative Applauds Congress’ Extension of
Fatherhood and Marriage Funding
One-Year Extension Needed to Allow Critical Family-Strengthening Work to Continue

(Germantown, MD) — National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) hails the one-year, $150 million
extension of the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grants program, as passed in
the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.

The grant program, first passed in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 as part of a 5-year TANF
reauthorization, is set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year. NFI applauds Congress’
foresight in passing a one-year extension of the program ahead of an eventual multi-year
reauthorization of TANF and the corresponding fatherhood and marriage funding.
Allowing the funding to continue uninterrupted is a critical step in ensuring that this important
work continues to be carried out by community-based organizations across the country. Since
2005, hundreds of organizations have been able to enhance their family-strengthening work
through funds from this program, administered by the Administration for Children and
Families’ Office of Family Assistance. Additionally, a national clearinghouse for fatherhood and
a national resource center for marriage were funded, providing support for such programs at the
national level, and media campaigns drawing attention to the importance of these issues.

Roland C. Warren, president of NFI said, “At a time of tight budgets and fiscal constraints, this
work is especially valuable, as it produces significant cost-savings on other government
programs designed to deal with the consequences of family breakdown. NFI’s “100 Billion
Dollar Man” study found that the federal government spends at least $100 billion annually
supporting father-absent homes. The relatively small investment represented by the Healthy
Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grant Program serves to help prevent family breakdown,
saving billions down the road. Call your members of Congress to express your support for this
important program.”

Congress’ work in this area reflects priorities expressed by President Obama since taking office
in 2009. The President’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has made
responsible fatherhood one of its four focus areas. The President also formed a Healthy Families
and Responsible Fatherhood Task Force, of which Mr. Warren is a part, to advise the
Administration on how to best approach family-strengthening issues. Finally, the President’s
fiscal year 2012 budget included $150 million in support of these programs.
As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative
(NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their
children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through
FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 5.7 million resources, and
MEDIA CONTACT
Vincent DiCaro
Vice President of Public Affairs
240-912-1270
vdicaro@fatherhood.org
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