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.

Japan may succumb to pressure to join the Hague Treaty despite evidence that women often abduct children to protect them

Sometimes public opinion (or outdated research) holds more weight than facts. Too bad Japan is now considering joining a treaty that should be rehauled.

Cabinet to OK on May 20 preparations for joining child custody pact 

Japan has been under international pressure to join the child custody treaty, which would help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan after their marriages with Japanese nationals fail.

Protecting abducted kids: Rethinking the Hague Convention

In 1980, an international treaty was designed to return children who had been abducted by a parent who moved to another country. Back then, the people drafting the treaty thought the typical abductor would be a noncustodial father skipping town with the kids, leaving mom with little recourse to try to get her children back. So what happens, three decades later, when research indicates that 68% of the abducting parents in cases under this treaty are mothers — and that many of them are fleeing abusive spouses?

The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, dubbed the Hague Convention after the place where it was finalized, has been adopted by 82 countries, which are expected to help return abducted children to their habitual residence within six weeks of a parent filing a petition. But Jeffrey Edleson and Taryn Lindhorst, lead researchers on a new study of Hague Convention cases, argue that the treaty is often used against women seeking safety for themselves — and for their children — from violent husbands. “We always thought that child abduction is a bad thing,” says Edleson, a professor of social work at the University of Minnesota. “But in some cases, mothers are taking children to protect them from greater harm.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2036246,00.html#ixzz1MB51Qs6o

Consider writing a letter to the editor at the Japan Times – they’ve covered this issue

Mother’s Day round up

Happy Mother’s Day to all – to those that have children, to those that have lost children, and to those that care for children.

When we hated mom – NY Times article by Stephanie Coontz – provides an historical account of motherhood from a (feminist) sociological perspective. Feminism, Coontz explains, has improved the lives of women (and men) – but, hey, we knew that! Interesting to note, though, society’s disparaging view of protective mothers:

Momism became seen as a threat to the moral fiber of America on a par with communism. In 1945, the psychiatrist Edward Strecher argued that the 2.5 million men rejected or discharged from the Army as unfit during World War II were the product of overly protective mothers.

From the Washington Post, we have an article on racism…onMother’s Day. Granted, I don’t get a home copy of the Post, but this is all I could find in their daily email of headlines. It seems some media outlets would rather celebrate anniversaries (Freedom Riders, David Goldman reuniting with his son) rather than Mothers. I object to racism too, but when can we get national discussions going on sexism? They can even be combined. But, as one writer pointed out, it’s worse to be a racist than a rapist. Both should be despised.

Freedom Riders, 50 years on,  see today’s youth as disconnected from racism

The heartless way Conservatives treat young women who choose to have babies by Amanda Marcotte

Everytime I think the Republicans/Conservatives couldn’t get any worse, they surprise me with their renewed spirit of misogyny. Gotta give it to them for disguising hate with “fiscal responsibility.” There’s always some reason to put women’s issues on the back burner…or to just burn them.

The girls were arrested for holding a sit-in to protest the closing of their school, the Catherine Ferguson Academy, which was established to serve students who are pregnant or mothering.  The school provides day care and parenting classes, and focuses on getting students to college and giving them skills that help future self-sufficiency.  Supposedly “pro-life” conservatives should not only be supporting this school, but demanding that every high school in the country provide these services to teenage mothers.  After all, these girls did what anti-choicers ask of them.  They chose to have their babies.  And now the very same conservatives that wax sentimental about “choosing life” are working to shut down the educational opportunities of young women who did what anti-choicers want, by having their babies.

Don’t forget the women who’ve had injuries or their lives cut short from the men that supposedly loved them and fathered children with them – and, please, don’t forget that it’s more often when these women do the “right thing” that they get injured or killed (far too many people, including feminists, blame the victim for “staying” with an abuser) –

Man charged with ambush slayings of ex, her dad

Orange County prosecutors have charged a 36-year-old man with murdering his ex-wife and her father after they came to his home to take court-ordered custody of the couple’s 7-year-old daughter.

Ex-wife. She left him. They came to take court-ordered custody. Court must have granted dad custody if they came to take her back. It wasn’t enough to kill the ex-wife. He killed her father, too — he shot them both in the backs, the coward.  This 7-year-old just lost her mother (and grandfather) in the week leading up to Mother’s Day. 

Roughly 3 women die every day in domestic violence in this country. This week alone, we’ve lost 21 women, many of whom were mothers.

Candlelight vigil for murdered mother of four

Fresno – Four kids are dealing with the loss of their mother after a murder-suicide in southeast Fresno Tuesday.

The kids were joined about 100 family members and friends Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil.

They gathered on Shields Avenue, the spot where 28-year-old Jennifer Puentes Chatman died, after her ex-boyfriend, 34-year-old Richard Haynes, shot her.

She is the victim of a deadly domestic violence dispute.

This article also ‘blamed the victim’, saying she had chances to leave, but didn’t. But – why didn’t she? Because he threatened to take or kill the kids? Because she feared sharing custody with him or worse, losing custody all together? Because she didn’t have faith in the justice system? Because she feared not being believed? Because women are in greatest danger when they leave?

 Mom with cancer loses custody of kids

This 37-year-old stay-at-home mother lost custody of her 2 children because she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She lives in North Carolina. The father is taking the kids to Illinois. Nice. What a Mother’s Day.

No woman, no cry – Oprah is offering this documentary for free for the next ten days. It discusses death during childbirth.

Mothers rally for fairness in courts

Lori has spent the last eight years fighting the courts for custody of her two children. It began, she said, with her accusing her then-husband of abusing their 3-year-old boy and year-old girl. It ended with him gaining custody and her getting visitation rights.

“He drained me out,” said the 47-year-old Westfield woman, who declined to give her full name for fear it would hurt her future custody chances. She can’t afford a lawyer and has to represent herself after spending more than $100,000 in legal fees over the years.

She was a housewife. He is a lawyer. She has little money. He has lots.

It is a formula that legal experts and advocates say creates a lopsided matchup in the courtroom for custody cases – one in which the mother most often loses.

It looks like HE takes HER to the cleaners – then, why, oh why, does the media portray the opposite?

And, remember, there’s a candlelight vigil tonight from 6-9 pm in front of the White House (see post below).

Happy Mother’s Day to all — Let’s work towards improving the very lives that give us life

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.