Thursday, December 30, 2004

Checking out the fruitcake shrinks

I started looking into the court-recommended therapists. One of them is Judy D. Zappacosta. She specializes in sandplay therapy. I had never heard of it, and found this description from the developer of the concept:
The client is given the possibility, by means of figures and the arrangement of the sand in the area bounded by the sandbox, to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form and a pictorial world comparable to the dream experience. Through a series of images that take shape in this way, the process of individuation described by C. G. Jung is stimulated and brought to fruition. ...

"Sandplay" is the method I use in therapy both with children and with adults in order to gain access to the contents of the unconscious. As the name suggests, it consists in playing in a specially proportioned sandbox (approximately 19.5 x 28.5 x 2.75 inches; floor and sides painted with water-resistant bright-blue paint). Boxes of dry and moist sand are provided. Clients also have at their disposal a number of small figures with which they give formal realization to their internal worlds. The figures from which they can choose should represent as complete as possible a cross-section of all inanimate and animate beings which we encounter in the external world as well as in the inner imaginative world: trees, plants, stones, marbles, mosaics, wild and domesticated animals, ordinary women and men pursuing various activities, soldiers, fairytale figures, religious figures from diverse cultural spheres, houses, fountains, bridges, ships, vehicles, etc.
So I am accused of letting my kids run loose in Kids R Us, and the court orders me to see a crackpot shrink to play in the sand?! These people have gone mad.

Another recommended shrink describes her practice this way:
I have had a mixed practice for 30+ years; working with men with emotional and intimacy issues, adults with relationship problems, anxiey and /or depression issues, and couples communication problems. I also specialize with suicidal adolecents and young adults and work with children 9-years and older. 20%-30% of my practice is of a Forensic nature for Family Court as an Evaluator, Expert Witness, Consultant, Co-parent Counselor, and Special Master. I also am the Psychologist Consultant for San Jose PD's Domestic Violence & Stalking/Threat Center.
My kids are aged 5 and 7, and they are definitely not suicidal.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Child visits strip club

A reader sends this North Carolina story:
Cary Dad In Trouble For Taking 4-Year-Old To Strip Club

CARY, N.C. -- A Cary man could be charged with neglect for taking his 4-year-old son to a strip club.

The boy's mother said her son went to Pure Gold in Cary on Christmas Eve while in his father's custody.

Child Protective Services and the Cary Police Department are investigating.
I am not sure what to make of this. It sounds odd and inappropriate, but I do not think that it is criminal neglect. Child neglect laws are designed to make sure that kids get necessary food and shelter. They aren't written to punish odd behavior.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The evil of court psychologists

I am thinking about writing as essay that explains all the things wrong with the way the family courts use psychologists. There are lots of books and articles that explain what's wrong with the family courts pretty well, but I haven't seen any that explain the evil of using psychologists.

For a court to ask a psychologist how I should raise my kids is about like asking an economist how I should spend my money. The supposed experts may have plenty of academic knowledge, but that knowledge says little about the choices ordinary people make every day.

Court psychologists have become like judge and jury. This article says:
You're only going to get ONE chance to do well on the Parenting Evaluation. Once the parenting evaluation is over, it's over. Evaluators almost NEVER go back and change the final recommendations in the evaluation report. To do so would open up all the previous reports they've done to reinterpretation, as well as all the future reports they're going to do.
If that's true, why do we have lawyers and judges?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Innocence Is No Defense

Bob sends this Reason magazine article with horror stories about how the laws against deadbeat dads are abused. Here's one:
That’s how a man like Taron James could be slapped with a support bill for thousands of dollars from Los Angeles County in 2002, and continue to be barred from using his notary public license, even after producing convincing DNA evidence and notarized testimony from the mother that her 11-year-old son, whom he’s seen exactly once and looks nothing like, is not his child and that she no longer seeks his support. James says his name was placed on the child’s birth certificate without his consent while he was on a Navy tour of duty; then the mother refused to take blood tests for eight years, and he became aware of a default order against him only when the Department of Motor Vehicles refused to issue him a driver’s license in October 1996. By that time, James had missed all the relevant deadlines, the court was unimpressed with his tale of woe, and he has since coughed up $14,000 in child support via liens and garnishments.
I think that all those deadbeat dad laws should be repealed. In fact, I am suspicious about anyone who even uses the term deadbeat dad.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A generation of risk-takers

A reader named Bob forwards this message:
Subject: We Who Survived

TO THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O. K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no internet or internet chat rooms.......... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little league had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives 'for our own good.'

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!
The court-appointed custody evalutators do not seem to understand this message at all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Paying for non-existent child

I have heard of fathers paying child support for someone else's child, but this New Mexico story tells of a man who paid for a child that doesn't even exist!
After Barreras was hauled into court, peppered with threats and demands for money for a child he adamantly denied fathering five years ago and even paid out $20,000 to support, his ex-wife was under a judge’s order to produce the child.

So last week, Viola Trevino picked up a 2-year-old girl and her grandmother off the street, promised them a trip to see Santa Claus and $50 and took the girl to court, alleging it was her daughter. ...

The elaborate ruse stretched over five years and involved fake DNA evidence, a forged Social Security number and birth and baptismal certificates, court records show.

Last week, state District Judge Linda Vanzi ruled the child did not exist.
If a man committed fraud like that, he'd be in jail. She was only able to commit the fraud because she had the assistance of state agencies who were eager to punish men based on flimsy evidence.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Feminist wife can be ticking bomb

The Feminasty blog starts with a good essay about how a woman who first marries in her thirties becomes a ticking bomb. It sounds like he speaks from bitter experience.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Wife cancels vacation just to spite me

I just called my father-in-law, and he confirmed that my wife and kids cancelled their Florida visit and Caribbean cruise. He was mad. He accused me of ruining their Christmas, as he had bought tickets for all his 4 kids and 8 grandchildren. He said that she couldn't go because I wouldn't sign the papers. I told him that I had signed the papers, and he said that he didn't believe it. Then he said, "I hope that she doesn't treat you the way that you have treated her", and he hung up on me.

I am stunned. I expected my wife to go, whether she had a signed agreement or not. She had gotten the kids very excited about the trip, and their were counting down the days.

All I wanted was the opportunity to take our kids on a trip to visit my relatives. The court order provides for splitting the Christmas vacation 50-50, so don't know why she might object to that. She never even gave me an answer, so I don't really know if she objected or not. I called her several times on Friday evening, and left messages on her home answering machine and cellphone voicemail, telling her that I had a signed agreement waiting for her.

My father would say that she cut off her nose to spite her face.

My father-in-law is not entirely innocent in this matter. He was the one who paid the legal fees associated to my wife's motion for "sole legal custody" of our kids. That was the single most destructive act in our whole divorce court mess. Up until that point, he had always been good to me. I made one attempt to explain to him the damage that he was doing, but he wouldn't hear of it, and just told me to go get my own lawyer.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A military punishment story

A reader named Bob tells a story about an American soldier with an attitude problem. He was assigned to stable-cleaning duty, and he was doing fine until he got caught with the colonel's 14-year-old daughter. So he was court-marshalled. At his trial, he bragged about not only doing the colonel's daughter, but also his wife and his horse, and that the horse was the best of the three. Instead of finishing the trial and sentencing him to a military prison, they just told him to go away and not come back.

I found this story inspiring, in a odd sort of way.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Vacation permission

My wife wants to leave with the kids on vacation tomorrow, but she has so far failed to get an appropriate amendment to our custody schedule signed. She refused to deal directly with me, and turned it over to the lawyer.

Her law firm sent this about 3 days ago:
Mr. AngryDad: AngryWife informed Jennifer Gray that she provided you with an itinerary for the Caribbean cruise this morning. Ms. Gray has drafted a proposed stipulation and order that she would like for you to review. Please review and contact Ms. Gray as soon as possible with your comments. Thank you.
I responded:
Here is my counter-proposal.

This is an agreement between George AngryDad and AngryWife AngryDad to modify a court-ordered custody schedule.
AngryWife has been planning a vacation for over a year. On Dec. 6, she told George that she intends to take the kids on a trip from Dec. 11 to 20. That conflicts with a week of school and with five days of George's scheduled access to the kids. On Dec. 7 AngryWife finally sent George her itinerary, which include a Caribbean cruise to the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize, and Tampa. AngryWife gave no explanation for not informing George and the court earlier.

George consents to the trip, on the condition that he is also allowed 10 days with the kids on dates of his choosing. The remaining portion of the Christmas holidays is to be divided equally.
My wife's lawyer, Ms. Gray, sent these responses yesterday and today:
Mr. AngryDad:
I received your proposed stipulation. I have not had an opportunity to review the contents of the proposal with Ms. MaidenName. I will not be going to court this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. to seek an emergency order from the court allowing Ms. MaidenName to go on vacation with your daughters. As of this e-mail, based on your objection, Ms. MaidenName and the children are not permitted to travel on December 11, 2004, unless you both agree to a stipulation in writing.

Mr. AngryDad:
As you know, the two of you may agree in writing to modify the present custody arrangement to allow Ms. MaidenName to travel with the children. You assisted in obtaining birth certificates for the children in November, in preparation for this trip. You did not voice any objection to the trip until this week. As a parent, you understand why the trip is important for the children because you took the girls to visit with your family earlier this year. The children will miss visiting with their grandparents and extended family. We offered alternatives for making up any time you miss with the girls.
At this time, the decision to cancel their trip arises out of your actions. If you wish to remedy the situation for the benefit of your children, you will need to contact Ms. MaidenName and advise her that she may go on the trip. Otherwise, she will stay in Santa Cruz and the present schedule remains in effect.
I sent the following, and got no reply:
Ms. Gray, I am disappointed that you continue to tell lies in an apparent effort to sabotage AngryWife's trip.

It is not true that I voiced an objection to the trip this week. I never voiced any objection, except to point out the necessity of complying with the court order.

It is also not true that you "offered alternatives for making up any time [that I] miss with the girls."

It is also not true that any decision to cancel the trip would arise from my actions. The only impediment to her trip is the Nov. 16 court order that you and AngryWife supported. I vigorously objected to that order, and I refuse to take any responsibility for it. If you don't like the order, then I wish that you'd complain to the court about it, and stop complaining to me about it.

In spite of your tactics, I have attempted to make the trip possible by proposing a reasonable agreement that AngryWife and I could sign. You acknowledged receipt of it, but you have refused to say whether or not the proposal is acceptable.

I have already advised AngryWife that you have been lying to her, and that she can easily take the kids on the vacation by just bypassing you and signing an agreement with me.
Her scheduled flight is 10 am tomorrow. I don't know what she is going to do.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

California law specifies equal custody

A reader named Bob thinks that he has a solution to some of these family court problems. He says that when two people get married, they should agree to a contract that governs the dissolution of the marriage, including child custody. Then the family court would just have to apply the contract.

But we have that system already. Marriage is just a standardized contract, with the terms spelled out by the state. Couples are free to sign some pre-nuptial agreement, if they wish to modify that contract.

The California Family Code states:
3010. (a) The mother of an unemancipated minor child and the father, if presumed to be the father under Section 7611, are equally entitled to the custody of the child.

3020. (b) The Legislature finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy ...
So the California marriage contract already specifies that child custody will be divided equally in case of divorce. The trouble is that the family courts refuse to take this language seriously, and use all sorts of crazy arguments to sabotage equal custody.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Modifying a court schedule

My wife successfully got a court-ordered custody schedule to her liking about 3 weeks ago, and now she has discovered that it conflicts with her long-planned Carribbean cruise. She has tickets to leave this weekend.

She first realized her problem on Monday evening, and tried to get me to give her permission over the phone. I had to explain to her that under the order she advocated, she has to give me an itinerary in advance, and to execute a signed agreement modifying the schedule. The next day she talked to her lawyer. She refused to send me an itinerary, and the lawyer tried to schedule an emergency court hearing to get some judge to approve the vacation.

I tried to tell my wife that we can get out from under the court order if only she is willing to settle the case. She said no.

I insisted on an itinerary, and my wife finally sent one yesterday. She plans to go on a 10-day trip, including a cruise out of Tampa to Grand Cayman, Mexico, and Belize. She and her lawyer have finally admitted that their court order can only be modified by a written and signed agreement. Her lawyer finally drafted a proposed agreement and emailed it to me at 3:27 pm. By 4:00, my wife was already complaining that I hadn't signed it yet.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Good book on fatherhood

I just started reading Warren Farrell's book, Father and Child Reunion, and it looks quite good. I'll have more comments later. I was published in Jan. 2001, but I just got a copy.

It paraphrases Norman Mailer as saying:
You never know your wife until you meet her in court.
Yes. I already knew that she was capable of betrayal, but her court actions have really stunned me.

(According to some net sources say, the actual Mailer quote is, "You don't know anything about a woman until you meet her in court.")

Monday, December 06, 2004

My daughter should act her age

A couple of days ago, my 7-year-old daughter said:
The problem with [my sister] is that she acts like a 10-year-old. She should act her age. She is only 5 years old, and she should act like a 5-year-old.
I didn't tell the kids, but this is actually an extremely serious problem for them. Both kids do indeed behave with a high level of maturity that is very uncommon for kids of those ages. It seems like proof of good parenting to me. But to the court-appointed psychologist, it is proof of my "unorthodox" parenting, and just another reason to send me off to a re-education camp. In other words, I must be punished and the kids must lose a father, because they are too well behaved.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Defining eating disorders

This NY Times article describes how wacky psychologists struggle with definitions of eating disorders:
Imagine a 20-year-old woman who refuses to eat anything except carrots and toast because she is afraid of gaining weight, even though she is 5-foot-8 and weighs only 99 pounds. She exercises to the point of exhaustion five mornings a week because, though she is bone-thin, she thinks her thighs are too flabby. Her periods are irregular, but she has never gone more than three months without menstruating.

Another woman, who is also 20 and also 5-foot-8, has an opposite eating pattern. She goes without eating all day, and starting at 6 p.m. she eats nonstop, whatever she can get her hands on. Her favorite pastime is to sit in front of the television with a gallon of mocha-chip ice cream. She maintains a normal weight of 130 by occasionally forcing herself to vomit. But purging is not always easy in her college dormitory, with four young women sharing a single bathroom, so she ends up vomiting, on average, about once a week.

Everyone can agree that these women have some sort of disordered eating.

But psychiatrists would say that neither one falls into the strict definition of anorexia nervosa, the most severe eating disorder, or its relative, bulimia nervosa. According to the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, anorexia must be accompanied by cessation of menstrual periods for at least three months in a row, and bulimia must involve vomiting or other forms of purging at least two times a week, on average.

Instead these women, and thousands like them, would fall into a category that doctors have been relying on for years, a vague nondiagnosis known by the acronym Ednos: eating disorder not otherwise specified.
My court-appointed psychologist thinks that I have a "vegetable of the month" disorder. I don't see it listed in the manuals anywhere.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Contradictory professional advice

I talked to a psychologist today about my case. He said that I made a serious blunder by admitting that my parenting practices were "unorthodox". He said that the court hates anything unorthodox, and will surely use that as an excuse to take my kids away.

Then I talked to a lawyer. He said that my biggest problem is that I refuse to admit that I am a bad father. He said that I should have just confessed, gone to parenting classes and psychological treatment, and plead for mercy. He told me about how he used to counsel prison inmates serving life sentences, and what they'd have to do to get favorable responses from parole boards.

This is crazy. I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. I am not accused of any crime, and my own lawyer wants me to confess like a convicted felon. Meanwhile, it is also clear how even the most minor admission can be extremely damaging.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Shrinks trying to be judge and jury

I just learned that psychologists doing custody evaluations commonly revisit past criminal accusations, and come to their own conclusions that might be different from the justice system's.

That is, a father might have been arrested for domestic violence or drunk driving or something else, get his day in court, get acquitted, and still have some custody evaluator later decide that he was really guilty. The evaluator will do his own review of the evidence, and use his finding to exact some sort of punishment against the father.

So evaluators are not only acting as judge and jury, they sometimes use their power to override what the judge and jury has already determined.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Convicted Murderess Can Get Custody but Decent Fathers Can't

Glenn Sacks writes:
Clara Harris, a Texas woman who was convicted of murdering her husband in March, was just granted joint custody of her twin five year-old boys. The ruling validates what fathers' and children's advocates have been saying for years--when it comes to children, many courts believe that mothers can do no wrong.
Wow. And I lose custody of my 5-year-old because I don't brush her hair well enough.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Keeping evaluations secret

I can understand divorcing parties wanting to keep court info off the internet, but I was just shocked to learn that some custody evaluators favor keeping info away from the parents!

Philip Michael Stahl is a leading authority on custody evaluations. He wrote the leading book on the subject, Conducting Child Custody Evaluations. His expert opinions were extensively quoted in the recent California supreme court LaMusga (move-away) case.

Stahl's book says:
I have found that there are several ways to respond to this issue that can ensure the confidentiality of all family members while at the same time helping the attorneys to do theirjob to their utmost and honoring the client's right to know. When local court rules permit, I believe that a copy of the evaluation should be sent to the court and to each attorney, but that the attorneys should be prohibited from giving a copy of the report to their clients. This will enable the attorneys to have the information they need to do their job, while providing a measure of confidentiality for their clients. I tell parents that they have not waived confidentiality with respect to each other, so I do not believe they should have access to the complete report. I am always willing to share the information with each individual client about herself, especially the psychological testing information as it applies to her. In this way, however, I maintain confidentiality the best I can, the court continues to hold the privilege, I have respected the confidentiality of the children and their needs, and yet I can provide each adult with the informa¬tion that the individual or the attorney needs to understand my observations and recommendations. In the jurisdictions in which I work, I have found that this is the most useful style.

In one particular situation, however, greater care must be taken than in my other. This is when one or both parents are acting as their own attorneys md thus would have the same right to access that a licensed attorney would beve in preparing for the case. In that situation, I either look to the court for direction (because sometimes the court is very clear about whether or not a report is to be open under such circumstances) or I explain the dilemma to The parents at the beginning. Sometimes parents will waive confidentiality with respect to each other and then both parents can have a copy of the report. My preferred practice is to be a bit more vague in my report in order to respect everyone's right to confidentiality. ...

As a therapist, I am generally not in favor of maintaining family secrets, but I certainly do not believe that reading information in a custody evaluation report is a healthy way for children to discover them. In fact, it is my experience that only damage can be done by having children inadvertently or otherwise read the reports that we provide to the court. Thus, in order to safeguard the children, prevent abuses in sharing information, and uphold the sanctity of the evaluation and the process, I strongly urge the parents do not get copies of the report.
This is crazy. He wants to take kids away from their parents and rip families apart, and deny them the right to read the accusations against them.

Stahl also advocates the use of Rorschach inkblot tests. So someone could get in a custody dispute, get one of the leading authorities as a court evaluator, and end up losing because of secret hokey inkblot readings.

Online court records

A Wired magazine article says:
Court records are presenting a tricky challenge for open-government types and privacy advocates. In most parts of the country, people can drive to a courthouse to view all types of records. But should those same records -- which include medical histories, divorce records, arrests -- be online in the age of omniscient search engines and identity thieves?
Divorce records can be embarrassing, but I think that the main fault is with the court for collecting the sordid details in the first place.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Some evaluator quacks use inkblots

I thought that my child custody evaluator was a total fruitcake, but I am now learning that the entire field is overrun with quacks. There are a bunch of them who use the Rorschach Inkblot Test! That is, they show the parents some meaningless-looking inkblots, ask them what it looks like to them, and try to use the answers to decide who is a better parent. It is about as scientific as using horoscopes.

If you happen to get one of those quacks using inkblots, be sure and check out the classic inkblots, so you'll know what answers give a favorable response.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

After multiple complaints, I cut my hair! Actually, I let my kids cut my hair for me.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Looking for positive spin

I am basically an optimist by nature, and I always try to look at the positive side of everything. So I am trying to find something positive out of the judge's custody decision against me. After all, what seems like a major setback can be a good thing in the long run.

I have assured the kids that I will do my best to make sure that everything works out fine.

If it weren't for the adverse ruling, I would probably still be under the delusion that I could get a fair hearing and an opportunity to persuade the judge using rational arguments. I thought that I would just stand up in court, show the judge that the psychologist's report is garbage, give compelling arguments as to why I am right, and persuade the judge.

Now, at least I have a better idea what I am up against.

The federal domestic relations exception

A lawyer writes:
I read the following from a booklet by Dr. Stephen Baskerville published by the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Footnote 46: Federal courts do not exercise constitutional review over family law cases due to a rule known as the "domestic relations exception" established in the 1992 Supreme Court case of Ankenbrandt v. Richards. This decision excludes from the federal courts cases "involving divorce, alimony and child custody." This blanket rule has been vigorously enforced, denying access to federal courts for parents questioning the constitutionality of state laws and procedures regarding child custody, support levels and visitation rights of noncustodial parents.
At face value if this is true it would prevent the type of case you are considering, which is also the basis for the nationwide class action. However I took a quick glance at the Ankenbrandt case here here (and here) and it appears that Baskerville has greatly overstated the "domestic relations exception" - it appears to be only an exception to the diversity jurisdiction of federal courts (i.e., cases that are filed in federal court only because the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of different states). But diversity jurisdiction is not relevant to your case or to the nationwide class action; both would assert "federal question" jurisdiction - claims arising under the U.S. Constitution.

I can't find this particular article online but here is another booklet.
I am sure federal judges don't want to hear domestic disputes, and will find excuses to avoid it, but there must be some point where denials of constitutional rights will get their attention.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Being punished for exercising a right

I am trying to get over my adverse court ruling. I have a constitutional right to due process, and according to the US Supreme Court, I have a fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing of my kids. According to California law, I have the right to cross-examine an expert witness against me. But Judge Kelsay is depriving me of my parenting rights because I chose to exercise my right to rebut the supposedly-expert testimony against me.

That is just wrong. I shouldn't lose my kids just because I choose to reserve my rights as a parent.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Screwed by the court

I just got out of Judge William Kelsay's court. We usually just have one family court judge in this county, but he must be on vacation or something, because Kelsay said that he was filling in for 6 weeks.

The reason for the hearing was that the court had just received a custody report from a court psychologist. I informed the judge that I filed a written objection to the report. Kelsay gave us a big lecture about how he has presided over family court more than all the other local judges put together, and he has never seen a custody trial that turned out well. Then he admitted that he hadn't looked at the report.

My wife's lawyer asked that the psychologist's recommendations be ordered. Kelsay then took a couple of minutes to skim the report. He then said that he was accepting the recommended custody change, as well as some boilerplate orders that he said was "just common sense". He said that my objections show that I am "not buying into the process", and therefore I was not acting in the interests of the children!

I really didn't think that the judge would act on the court psychologist's
recommendations, because California law says that I am entitled to rebut any such evidence, and I have not yet had the chance.

I protested that the psychologist didn't even say that any immediate change was needed, but to no avail.

I pointed out he was changing the timeshare, even thoough he just lectured us that timeshare doesn't matter. Kelsay said, "I am not going to have you throwing my words back at me."

Kelsay scheduled a hearing for 9:00 am on Jan. 21. He demanded that someone pay witness fees for the court psychologist. I assumed that my wife and I would split them, but Kelsay said that I'd have to pay the entire fees because I was the one who objected to his report. That seemed unjust to me, because a much more sensible rule would be to make parties pay for their own witnesses. But as injustices go, this was a minor one.

I am beginning to understand why Kelsay has never seen a custody trial that turned out well.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Should I lie to protect the kids?

Janie thinks that I should avoid telling the kids anything about the family court, and instead pretend that my wife and I agreed to all of the court orders. She writes:
To tell them what "each parent wanted," and "what the court ordered," is to say to them: Your Dad is a victim. Mom and the Court screwed him over, and he had no control. He had been going along doing everyting right, everything he was supposed to do, eating his vegetables, following the laws, working hard, being a good husband and good father, treating his wife with love, adoration, respect, and generosity as all husbands should do. Despite all that - despite the fact that I've been perfect and done nothing wrong, your evil Mom and the evil Court screwed me over, and now you don't get to see me as much as I want, or you want. Isn't the world a SCARY FU**ING PLACE??!!?
Yes, the world is a scary place. Sooner or later, my kids will learn the truth.

Forced mental health screening

I just talked to someone who is all upset about the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. It just issued a report recommending that schools do mental health screening. It does sound like a plan with a lot of potential harm.

But it doesn't compare to the forced mental health abuses that are already in widespread use in family court. Judges are turning are turning cases over to supposed psychological experts who are actually malicious quacks. Those quacks in turn arrange to have parents ordered to get psychotherapy from their buddies. It is a billion-dollar scam, and it is an attack on fundamental American rights.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The phony child abduction story

I just talked to another lawyer, to possibly represent me. I showed him a sampling of the allegations against me. He didn't think that they were any big deal until he got to the one about me letting the kids run loose in Costco. He said:
The one about Costco is serious. There are child abductions in Costco. My wife was in Costco when a kid was abducted. The parent got the store to seal the exits. They searched the store, and found the child in a stall in the men's room, with a different set of clothes and a disguise.
I tried to tell him that it was an urban legend, and that it never happened. He looked me straight in the eye, and told me that his wife was in the store at the time. He seemed to think that I was a lunatic for disputing him on this point. Furthermore, he said that I was going to lose if I dispute conventional wisdom, whether I am right or wrong. He was clearly sizing me up as a difficult client with an attitude problem.

I may still hire the guy. I don't think that he (or his wife) was lying. Nearly everyone has fallen for a urban legend at least once. His wife probably came home one day and said, "Guess what happened in Costco today ...". She had gotten the story from someone who said that it came from some very reliable friend. That is the way these urban legends spread.

I just can't believe that I am in danger of losing my kids because of gullible people who believe a stinking urban legend.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Objecting to the evaluation

I just objected in writing to my child custody evaluation. I was reminded of what one playwright once said of a commie rival:
Everything she writes is a lie, including "and" and "the". [Mary McCarthy, on Lillian Hellman]
Yes, I object to every word of it. I hope that someday I will be able to prove that it is biased and incompetent.

Divorce joke

A father walks into a book store with his young son. The boy is holding a quarter. Suddenly, the boy starts choking, going blue in the face. The father realizes the boy has swallowed the quarter and starts panicking, shouting for help. A well dressed, attractive and serious looking woman, in a blue business suit is sitting at a coffee bar reading a newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. At the sound of the commotion, she looks up, puts her coffee cup down, neatly folds the newspaper and places it on the counter, gets up from her seat and makes her way, unhurried, across the book store. Reaching the boy, the woman carefully drops his pants; takes hold of the boy's testicles and starts to squeeze and twist, gently at first and then ever so firmly. After a few seconds the boy convulses violently and coughs up the quarter, which the woman deftly catches in her free hand. Releasing the boy's testicles, the woman hands the coin to the father and walks back to her seat in the coffee bar without saying a word. As soon as he is sure that his son has suffered no ill effects, the father rushes over to the woman and starts thanking her saying, "I've never seen anybody do anything like that before, it was fantastic. Are you a doctor?" "No," the woman replied, "divorce attorney."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

California trends

Here is a good article by Wendy McElroy:
This week, California became a flash point in the drive to amend child custody laws across North America.
Some sneaky politicians were trying to make it easier for mom's to move kids away from their dads. We need fathers rights groups to monitor this.

Fatherhood groups protest

There must be millions of dads who are as angry with the family court system as I am, and I've wondered why they don't get more publicity. Here are a couple of groups in the news today.

This AP story says:
Fatherhood Activists Protest TV Ad
Tuesday, November 09, 2004

NEW YORK — A TV ad showing a computer-illiterate father getting chided for trying to help his Internet-savvy daughter with her homework has roused the anger of fatherhood activists, who are calling on Verizon to take it off the air.

"Leave her alone," says the wife/mother in the Verizon DSL ad, ordering her befuddled husband to go wash the dog as the daughter, doing research on the computer, conveys a look of exasperation with her father.

"It's really outrageous," said Joe Kelly, executive director of the national advocacy group Dads and Daughters.

"It's reflective of some deeply entrenched cultural attitudes — that fathers are second-class parents, that they're not really necessary," Kelly said. "To operate from the assumption that dad is a dolt is harmful to fathers, harmful to children, and harmful to mothers."

John Bonomo, a Verizon spokesman, said Tuesday the ad has been running for several months. But only a few days ago did it come to the attention of Glenn Sacks, a commentator who hosts a weekly radio show aired in Los Angeles and Seattle that is sympathetic to the fathers' rights movement.

After watching the ad, Sacks began urging listeners of "His Side" to protest to Verizon — contending that the company would not have commissioned a comparable ad with the parents' genders reversed. He said more than 1,100 protest e-mails had been sent through his show's Web site to Verizon within the first two days of the campaign.
This NY Times story says:
The first real flicker of fame for Fathers 4 Justice came in May, after two legislators hurled condoms bulging with purple flour at Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons, setting off major security jitters at Westminster.

Then, in July, came the raid on the gothic York Minster cathedral. Disgruntled fathers, cloaked in cardinal red robes and vicars' smocks, burst in, commandeered the pulpit and unfurled a banner on the roof that read, "In The Name Of The Father."

But it was Batman, feet carefully planted on a Buckingham Palace ledge until well after the start of the 6 o'clock news on Sept. 13, who catapulted the group's renown and international appeal. ...

Using these stunts of civil disobedience, the divorced and separated fathers who belong to Fathers 4 Justice say they hope to accomplish one thing: ensuring they get a fair shake at equal custody of their children in court. ...

There are great hopes for the movement in the United States, where fathers have filed identical class-action suits in 41 states this year pushing for equal custody. Some 27 states in the United States have already changed their laws to make it easier for fathers to win shared custody of their children, and Florida in particular is considered a model.
If I just have to dress up as Batman to help the cause, where do I sign up? Obviously these are desperate men trying to cope with a system run by loonies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Parents do have some constitutional rights

I just found some encouragement from a 1982 US Supreme Court decision. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982), ruled 5-4 that the way New York state was terminating parental rights was unconstitutional. NY had said that only a "fair preponderance of the evidence" was needed. The court said:
Today we hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment demands more than this. Before a State may sever completely and irrevocably the rights of parents in their natural child, due process requires that the State support its allegations by at least clear and convincing evidence.
I have a court appearance on Tues. morning, and I guess this means that the judge cannot terminate my parental rights at that hearing. There is no clear and convincing evidence of anything, except that my wife wants to abuse the system to get more money out of me.

You might say that this case doesn't apply to me, because I just have a routine custody dispute, and the State is not terminating all my rights. The State shrink says that I can still have 2 weekend visits per month. But my wife's pending motion is for "sole legal custody". That sounds like a termination of my rights to me. It seems to me that once there is a motion to terminate my rights, then I have all the due process rights of that 1982 Supreme Court decision.

A reader thinks that I should look more like this Burt than Burt Reynolds. Maybe I should just hire a good-looking female lawyer.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Crazy people also lose in court

Someone pointed out that I could lose custody if I am crazy, even if I never committed a criminal act. But no one is accusing me of being crazy.

The closest thing to such an accusation is that my wife asked the court:
At this time, I believe the court will need to set temporary custody and visitation orders, along with support and refer the matter out to a Full Evaluation, including a Psychological Evaluation of Father.
She supported this by saying that I have an "addiction" to my computers, and by providing an "illustration of his psychological state". That consisted of accusing me of telling our kids that she is suing for custody, and that I had refused to assume some of her debts. She was, in fact, suing for "sole legal custody" of the kids. I guess that she didn't want them to know what she was doing.

In papers to the court shrink, she said:
5. Suggested solution: George attends parenting classes to develop skills to appropriately supervise and parent the girls. He should also attend counseling to address his computer addiction.
That is what the shrink ordered, more or less.

What she calls my "computer addiction" is what I call working for a living. I am a computer programmer. I earn a living by sitting at a computer for long hours and writing computer programs. It is bad enough that she devalues my parenting, but she belittles everything that I have done to support the family. She wants me to stop working, and still find the money to pay her thousands of dollars in child and spousal support. And she convinced the shrink that I am the one who needs psychological counseling!

A lawyer has just advised me that angry people also lose in court. He says that the courts make a lot of people angry, but judges hate anyone who shows any anger and they go out of their way to punish it. He advises his clients to act like docile lambs in the courthouse.

Another reader writes:
Doesn't he also advise them to get a haircut and shave????

Going into court looking like you do seems like a self-defeating act to me. Or are you consciously trying to fit your appearance into the picture of a lunatic that your wife has painted for you?

Hey, this isn't a clean fight, so go for every advantage. Shave, get a haircut, wear clean clothes, and act like a normal, clean-cut Silicon Valley geek!

Think "I'm going to play Mr. Nice Guy, not Burt Reynolds, at my next court appearance!"
Yeah, my kids even tell me to shave my beard. It is on my to do list.

When the Soviet Union sentenced Natan Sharansky to the Siberian gulag, did you argue that he just needed to trim his unusually long sideburns?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Re-education orders

A reader suggests that the court shrink is just a bureaucrat exercising his authority, and that he is not evil or malicious.

I cannot accept that. The shrink has proposed ordering the kids ripped from their homes, and my contact reduced to Wednesday visits and two weekends per month.

The shrink also wants to order me to attend 6 months of parenting classes and 6 months of psychological counseling from one of his looney colleagues. I must also waive confidentiality, and have "progress" reports submitted to the court. He says that even those occasional visits to my kids should be reduced "if Father is not willing to commit to the suggested interventions and truly demonstrate he will improve these issues".

If I do complete the 6-month re-education and the court approves of my progress, then I am to be rewarded by substituting 2 Thursdays (afternoon and evening) for the 2 of the Wednesday afternoons every month! That's all. Six months of torture for only a couple of extra evenings with my kids every month.

If you've just started reading this blog, you must be wondering what sort of monster I must be. I may not be perfect, but his report found no abuse, neglect, domestic violence, criminal behavior, drug use, or anything like that. His interview of the kids showed that they wanted to be with me half time. All indications were that the kids were doing well.

So what justifies the court shrink's radical order? His report said:
It appears that he is exhibiting denial that suggests, at the very least, a stubborn resistance to admitting fault and a resistance to looking at learning healthier parenting skills.

His dismissal of Mom's concerns as trivial shows a real blind spot and perhaps points to the problems ... [the evidence] suggests he runs things in his own way, on his own time, and may not take new input well with regards to the children's best interests.
Keep in mind that although the shrink conducted what the county calls a "full investigation", he did not visit my home, talk to teachers or other witnesses, assess what I have done for the kids, or anything like that. His reasoning is essentially this: Mom has gripes; Dad doesn't confess; give Mom the kids; and send Dad to a re-education camp.

This is not just some misguided bureaucrat trying to do his job. His graduate education in psychology did not teach him to go around punishing people who do things their own way. He does not draw on any research or expertise for his conclusions. He is actively going around ruining people's lives.

Some of the worst abuses in the old Soviet Union was sending political dissidents to forced psychiatric treatments or re-education camps. This is worse. I am guilty until proven innocent. But I cannot prove my innocence because I am not even accused of anything criminal. Until now, I would not have believed that this is possible in the USA.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Ordering dubious parenting practices

Dr. Bret K. Johnson is a child psychologist for the California courts, and he frequently makes official recommendations that become court orders for parents. Apparently he routinely includes these boilerplate orders:
17. Derogatory Remarks: Parents shall not make, nor permit others to make, derogatory remarks regarding the other parent or the other parent's friends and loved ones to the children nor within the hearing range of the children.
18. Fighting: Parents shall not argue with, threaten, or insult one another nor allow others to argue with, threaten, or insult the other parent in the children's presence.
19. Discussion of Court Matters: Neither parent shall, or allow anyone else to, discuss or allow the children to read information regarding Court matters of custody, visitation, or support, in the presence of the children.
What happened to free speech? Normally, people have a First Amendment right to express any opinions they want, and there can be no prior government restraint on those expressions. Surely, every parent has a fundamental right to tell his own kids the facts that dominate their lives!

He also includes this:
21. Corporal Punishment: Neither parent shall use, nor allow any other person to use, corporal punishment on the children.
Reasonable corporal punishment (such as spanking) is entirely legal, and most parents think that it is sometimes necessary. There is no proof that such punishment causes any harm to anyone. What possible justification for such an order could there be?

Here are some more outrageous boilerplate clauses:
14. Safety: At all times, the children shall be in appropriate car safety restraints, kept from harm's way and kept in the immediate eye shot of the supervising parent or an assigned caregiver.
15. Supervision: At all times, Father, Mother, and all care providers shall ensure and oversee the children's appropriate supervision, hygiene, safety, and general care. In general, the children shall not be left alone without appropriate adult supervision.
You'll think that Safety and Supervision are good things, of course, but there are hardly any kids in America (or the world) that are really raised within the eyeshot of a supervisor at all times. Talk to any mom with more than about 3 kids, and she'll tell you that it is not even possible. Nor is it even particularly desirable. Most people consider independent play a good thing.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Bad report

I just got the report. It is bad. It confirms all my worst fears about the family court system. I will post more later.

Still waiting for the evaluation

The court-appointed evaluator promised his report by Nov. 4. So either it is in the mail, or he need more time to sift thru all my wife's gripes!

Right now, I just hope he does his homework, reads all the paperwork carefully, and limits his conclusions to what can be justified based on facts and research.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act

Prof. Stephen Baskerville has been an excellent advocate of parents rights. His recent essays are Strengthening Marriage Through Divorce and Custody Reform and The Fatherhood Crisis: Time for a New Look?.

Now he is pushing for a new federal law called the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act (PRRA) of 2005. He says:
The Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act affirms that parents’ rights to direct the upbringing of their children are fundamental rights which the government can curtail only under conditions of “compelling interest.” It stipulates that “No federal, state, or local government, or any official of such a government acting under color of law, shall interfere with or usurp the right of a parent to direct the upbringing of the child of the parent.”
A similar bill was introduced in 1996, except that I think that proposal excluded the rights of noncustodial fathers. It was strenuously opposed by leftist lobbying groups like the ACLU and People For the American Way, and the Nat. Org. of Women.

Actually, the US Supreme Court has always held that parents have a fundamental constitutional right to control the upbringing of their children. Here is a good summary of decisions:
The Supreme Court of the United States has traditionally and continuously upheld the principle that parents have the fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. A review of cases taking up the issue shows that the Supreme Court has unwaveringly given parental rights the highest respect and protection possible. What follows are some of the examples of the Court’s past protection of parental rights.

In Meyer v. Nebraska,1 the Court invalidated a state law which prohibited foreign language instruction for school children because the law did not “promote” education but rather “arbitrarily and unreasonably” interfered with “the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life...” 2 The court chastened the legislature for attempting “materially to interfere… with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” 3 This decision clearly affirmed that the Constitution protects the preferences of the parent in education over those of the State. In the same decision, the Supreme Court also recognized that the right of the parents to delegate their authority to a teacher in order to instruct their children was protected within the liberty of the Fourteenth Amendment. 4
I don't think that Baskerville's new PRRA has a Congressional sponsor yet. I'm trying to find more info about it.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Divorced Mich. fathers sue for equity

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

The suit claims the state's family courts have violated fathers' civil rights by awarding mothers custody and reducing them to visitors. The suit was filed when noncustodial parents in 43 other states filed similar suits, and when fathers are seeking similar parental equity in Europe and Canada.
Here is info on the class action lawsuit. The article goes on:
Father's role is vital

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

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

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

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

"They make the decision on what is best for the children," said Mills, who opposes presumed joint legal custody.
Note that the psychologist says that the father's role is vital, but it is the lawyers who are against a presumption of joint custody. Why? Follow the money. Family court lawyers make most of their money by preparing nebulous arguments about the best interests of the child. The more subjective and arbitrary the custody decisions, the more money to the lawyers. They have desperate clients who will do anything to win custody. If there is no presumption and it is all up to the discretion of the judge, then they can take their clients' money and have a chance of winning with a terrible case.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Non-Custodial Parental Rights Petition

This petition explains the gripes of non-custodial parents. It says:
I could give you countless examples of fathers who have been victimized. I’m not referring to the “deadbeat dad” types who leave their ex-wives and children living in the streets. I am talking about hard working, tax paying, child-loving fathers who live for their children. The ones who had their children stripped from them for the simple reason of their ex-wife deciding that she just no longer wanted to be married. The ones who are allowed to see their children for 4 days a month. The ones who are allowed to see their children for a few weeks over the summer. The ones who are required to pay astronomical amounts of child support, often putting themselves in a situation where they barely can afford to live. These are the fathers that are relying on the judges, lawyers, and Legislators to help reform the system. This system has created a society of fatherless children and childless fathers. This system has created its own life through a judicial system that exists on misery to feed itself.

This system violates their Constitutional Rights to Due process, Equal Protection under the Laws, and Privacy.
Almost 7000 people have signed it.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Federal courts may have jurisdiction over some custody issues

I am looking into the possibility of federal court jurisdiction over custody issues.

A helpful reader writes:
I forwarded to you a news item about a federal lawsuit challenging the way child custody decisions are made by state family courts.

The lawsuit alleges that the practice of awarding sole custody to one parent violates the federal constitutional rights of the non-custodial parent (NCP).

The lawsuit is sponsored by a group of NCPs whose website is here.

The sponsors have prepared a model lawsuit which they hope to file in each state, led by a named plaintiff resident in that state (I think they have 41 so far). Then they hope to merge the separate suits into a single national class action. ...

The lawsuit was written by non-lawyers, and it shows. It's hard to see how even the most sympathetic judge could find a valid cause of action buried in there. Even if the lawsuit lacks any legal merit, however, it could still help focus public attention on the injustices being done in custody courts.

The lawsuit assumes that the U.S. Constitution recognizes and protects the right of parents to the custody of their children, and to direct their upbringing. Such a right has been mentioned in a handful of Supreme Court decisions but it is not well defined, to say the least. Robert Bork criticized the creation of this right, saying it was analogous to Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade.

The most recent case asserting this right is Troxel v. Granville (2000). (Also here.)

This was an oddball case with a fractured court: Scalia and Thomas were on opposite sides, and O'Connor and Kennedy were on opposite sides.

Troxel v. Granville holds that state courts cannot award custody or visitation to a non-parent against the wishes of a child's only parent (absent a finding that the parent is unfit). In that case, the child had only one surviving parent.

What the NCPs seek is a holding that parents, assuming both are fit, have an equal right to custody and state courts cannot deprive either parent of his or her equal right to custody.

It seems to me that the only hope of establishing that principle would be to invoke and extend the decision in Troxel v. Granville. I have not read the Troxel case closely enough to see if that is feasible. ...

I forwarded to you from LEXIS the federal class action, Nicholson v. Williams, 203 F.Supp.2d 153 (March 18, 2002). The decision was by Jack Weinstein, a notorious judicial supremacist and lover of class actions who once tried to hold the entire gun industry liable for gun injuries.

What is useful about this opinion is several pages of discussion about the source of federal law over family custody and the basis for federal court jurisdiction over state court decisions.

The decision is now on appeal to the 2nd Circuit which "certified" a question of state law to NY state courts. With the recent response from NY, the 2nd Circuit will now proceed to its decision.

None of these cases involve splitting custody between two fit parents but it would seem to be a short step from the relevant principles.
Judge Weinstein summarized the Troxel case:
"It cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their [**218] children." Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S. Ct. 2054, 147 L. Ed. 2d 49 (2000).

In Troxel, the Court struck down aWashington statute which allowed state courts to rule on petitions by nonparental persons for visitation rights by reference to a court determination of the "best interests of the child" without necessarily considering the parent's position. Id. at 67. A plurality of the Court held that " [HN30] the Due Process Clause does not permit a State to infringe on the fundamental right of the parents to make child rearing decisions simply because a state judge believes a 'better' decision could be made." Id. at 72--73. Because the "sweeping breadth" of the statute furnished sufficient grounds to find it unconstitutional, the Troxel Court explicitly left undecided the question of whether the state was required to show harm or potential harm to a child before overcoming a parental decision on what was in the best interest of the child. Id. at 73.
I am not an NCP. Not yet, anyway. If I become one, then I may want to join this federal lawsuit.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Paternity: Innocence Is Now a Defense

A California appellate court ruled that Manuel Navarro could stop paying child support because a DNA test proved that he was not the father.

This Wash Times story says:
Fathers' rights groups cheered a state appeals court ruling for Manuel Navarro as a victory for "paternity fraud" victims, but their celebrations may be short-lived. The Los Angeles County child-support agency has asked for the appellate court ruling to be "depublished," or omitted from official records, so no other man can use it to overturn his child-support order. ...

Mr. Navarro said he was never properly served child-support papers and was assigned child support in absentia. He recently underwent a DNA test that proved he was not the father of the boys.

When he went to court with his proof, however, the trial court ruled that Mr. Navarro still had to pay the child support because he did not protest it in time.

Mr. Navarro appealed and, on June 30, the appellate court handed him a victory, reversing the trial court decision and declaring that Los Angeles County "should not enforce child-support judgments it knows to be unfounded."
So the Los Angeles County child-support agency wants to continue fraudulently gouging non-fathers for child support, and hide the court decision that would get the innocent men off the hook! (In spite of the agency's request, the decision was published.)

There is currently a proposed California law (AB 252) that is intended to supercede the Navarro decision. The law would authorize a court to set aside a voluntary declaration of paternity under certain circumstances, unless it determines that denial of such action is in the best interest of the child.

Apparently there is case law that says that there is no way to take any action, criminal or civil, against the mom who deliverately lies about who the father is for the purpose of false collecting child support.

Basinger wins custody over Baldwin's daughter

Movie stars Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger had a widely publicized divorce and custody fight earlier this year. They both seem like nut cases to me, but the outcome was very unfavorable to Baldwin. This says:
Baldwin has agreed to see an anger-management therapist and take a series of at least eight classes "which emphasizes the development of children between the ages of 6 and 8."

Baldwin also agreed to put a phone line in his daughter's room at his expense, and then to only call the little girl between 7 and 8 a.m. and between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Basinger has agreed to teach the child how to use the phone and get her messages from a voice mail system. Baldwin also agreed to only call Basinger in case of an emergency.

When he visits his daughter, who lives with her mother in L.A., Baldwin has agreed to limit his visits to the third weekend of each month, during which he can see her for dinner on Friday and the period of noon to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

If he wants to pay a visit to Ireland's school, he must notify Basinger by email at least one week in advance.
It sounds like a vindictive Basinger found a man-hating evaluator.

NY court limits removing children

The NY Times reports:
New York State's highest court ruled yesterday that child welfare authorities cannot take children from parents and place them in foster care merely because they have been exposed to domestic abuse at home.

The court formalized specific standards for removing children from homes where domestic abuse occurs, requiring that authorities exhaust alternatives and insisting that the possible threat to the child's health or welfare be imminent.

... the Court of Appeals ruled that a parent's inability to prevent a child from witnessing domestic abuse did not amount to formal neglect, a standard used for taking a child into foster care. To conclude that a mother had been neglectful, the court held, the authorities would have to prove that the mother had failed to exercise a basic level of care in shielding the child as best she could from the scenes of abuse.

The court ruled that there could be no "blanket presumption" favoring removing a child who had merely witnessed a parent being abused.
The case resulted from a federal class action lawsuit on constitutional grounds. I am surprised that such an approach would do any good. Apparently NY city was routinely removing children from homes with spousal abuse, even tho the children were not abused and the parents objected. Furthermore, it was usually done by govt social workers who claimed to have emergency powers, and removed the kids without any court order.

The NY court says that the city has to clean up its act. The city says that its practices are already "nuanced", and that they could just ignore the court ruling.

I guess that the court's theory is if the dad is beating the mom, then it is unfair to the mom to seize the kids. But why would anyone think that spousal abuse has anything to do with child abuse or neglect anyway?

The spousal abuse should be none of anyone's business, unless some victim wants to file a criminal complaint. The the perp should get his due process, including a jury trial and appeal, if necessary. But why punishing the kids?

What's going on here? Is the city trying to go around busting up marriages?

Maybe some busybody neighbor anonymously calls in a domestic violence complaint. City social workers visit, but no one makes a complaint. So the city social workers threaten the mom to take her kids away, unless she makes a complaint. She thinks that she be able to tell the judge what a good mom she is, but the social workers takes the kids away anyway without anyone seeing a judge. To get her kids back, she has to either kick her husband out, or have him prosecuted for spousal abuse.

Is that what is going on here? Social workers trying to correct marital relationships by seizing kids?

I'll have to do some more research on this. It is hard to believe that NY city social workers could be so evil. But it is also hard to see how anyone could justify so many emergency child removals when there isn't even any abuse or neglect of the child.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Tommy Lee arrested in 1998

I just saw rock drummer Tommy Lee on TV. I didn't know that he served 4 months in jail for beating his ex-Baywatch beauty wife, Pamela Anderson Lee. She had a broken fingernail and some redness on her back.

I am not condoning wife-beating, but the punishment seems to be far in excess of the crime. Pamela Anderson was a millionare with thriving career, and she could have left him at any time. A broken nail is trivial compared to the sacrifices that husbands and wives routinely make to support a marriage.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The ugly facts of father absence

This pro-fathers site supports the Mass. advisory referendum on encouraging shared custody in the courts. It also says:
The ugly facts of father absence

Fatherless homes account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of homeless/runaway children, 85% of all children with behavioral problems, 71% of high school drop outs, 85% of youths in prison, and well over 50% of teen mothers.

Fatherless boys are 63% more likely to run away and 37% more likely to abuse drugs. Fatherless girls are 2 ½ times as likely to get pregnant and 53% more likely to commit suicide. Both fatherless boys and girls are twice as likely to drop out of high school, twice as likely to end up in jail and nearly 4 times as likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. (March 1999 Health and Human Services report)
Some of this fatherlessness is caused by evil policies of the family court that devalue fatherhood and alienate children from their fathers.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Paternity Disestablishment

I looked at some cases on paternity disestablishment and I am astounded at what I found. There are apparently lots of men paying child support for kids even when a DNA test proves them not to be the father.

Here is a case from the Illinois supreme court within the last month. It turns out that Congress forced the states to make it difficult to men to prove non-paternity:
In 1996, changes in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act restricted challenges to voluntary paternity to within 60 days of the time a child support order is established, and required that "a voluntary acknowledgment may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof on the challenger." (42 U.S.C. §666(a)(5)(D)(ii-iii) (2000))
Illinois passed laws to conform to the feds, and then in 1998 passed a law that:
"allows a man who has been adjudicated the father of a child pursuant to the presumption that he is the father due to the marriage, if there is a DNA test discovers that the man is not the natural father, then the orders involving custody, visitation and child support can be declared null and void." (Emphasis added.) 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, April 1, 1998, at 10.
Nevertheless, the Illinois supreme court ignored the 1998 law, and forced the man to continue to pay child support for the kid that a DNA test proved that he did not father.

Up until now, I had assumed that the evil of state paternity laws was based on states being slow to adapt to DNA technology. But apparently there are much more insidious forces at work. States are making non-fathers pay up just because they don't want to jeopardize some federal funding. The feds have no business messing with paternity laws.

The laws are fundamentally biased and unfair. They are biased because there are no constraints on women challenging parentage decisions. A woman can use a DNA test at any time to eliminate any support obligations that she might have. But a man cannot.

Some of these paternity decisions include in their reasoning a statement that a false paternity should be maintained because it is in the best interests of the child. Recognizing a DNA test might bastardize the child, and the child might benefit from child support payments to the mother. But it is also grotesquely unfair to make a husband pay for his wife's adultery.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Lawyer Who Fought Pledge Assails Courts on Custody

This NY Times story says:
In a passionate, rapid-fire speech that lasted more than an hour, Dr. Newdow described problems with the family-law system, which makes custody decisions based on the "best interests of the child."

But that is "a meaningless standard which you can't fight," Dr. Newdow said. Which is best for children, he asked, to teach them to be generous or to teach them to be stingy? To spend time on Shakespeare or on baseball?

"Which is better? We don't know," he said. And there are no valid studies that answer the question of what is best for children, he said. Instead, judges simply impose their own biases about what they think is best, with no checks or balances. ...

Dr. Newdow stressed that he believes the government has the obligation to protect children from harm. But absent abuse or harm, he argued, the government should not impose conditions on parents who are before the court that it would not impose on intact families, like telling parents where to live or how to behave.

The solution Dr. Newdow proposes for many of these problems is a presumption that parents should share custody evenly.
Newdow is exactly correct. The article goes on:
That proposal is popular with fathers' rights groups, which are trying to have it adopted by courts and legislatures around the country, arguing in part that it is better for children to have both parents involved in their lives.

Psychologists generally agree in cases where the parents can cooperate, but raise concerns about joint custody's effect on children where the parents are engaged in constant strife. And some experts warn that parents who insist on a strict division of custodial time are less interested in what is good for children and more interested in lowering child support payments or in controlling their former spouses.

In New York, court decisions have held that joint custody is inappropriate in so-called high-conflict cases.

But Dr. Newdow argued that the fundamental unfairness of current custody law increased the conflict.
Again, Newdow is correct. My wife and I are actually quite civil to each other, and agree on most child-rearing issues. But you'd never know it from her 50 pages of gripes that she submitted to the court. Apparently her lawyer has advised her that in order to destroy joint custody and get primary custody, she has to portray our situation as a high-conflict case. Then psychologists and judges mistakenly think that it is better to give custody to the mom.

Shared Custody on the Ballot in Massachusetts

Family law issues affect millions of people, and a lot of them are very unhappy about it, but it doesn't become an election issue very often. Here is an exception:
A ballot question, sponsored by The Fatherhood Coalition will ask voters in many state legislative districts if their representatives should support joint custody as a standard in divorce proceedings.
The Libertarian Party candidate for President has taken a stand for parents' rights:
The default presumption in any divorce proceeding must be for joint custody of minor children.
Badnarik has some goofy ideas about getting the courts to recognize fathers rights as a matter of constitutional rights. I doubt it, but I'm glad that someone is addressing this major issue.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Deadbeat dads given chance to prove their innocence

In California, a man can be sued for child support without ever being served papers, and ordered to pay child support without ever appearing in court. It gets worse:
Mr. Riddick said he was assigned a child support payment by default after a woman he knew named him the father of her child. The 1994 payment grew over time to $1,400 per month for the past four years.
Mr. Riddick said he found out he wasn't the father in 1996 after he was arrested as "a deadbeat dad." The criminal-court judge ordered DNA testing for Mr. Riddick, the mother and the child. "It showed I had a 0 percent chance of being the father of this child," he said.
The criminal-court judge threw out the charge, but when Mr. Riddick tried to get his child- support order overturned in civil court, state officials refused.
"They said the criminal court case had nothing to do with the civil case and I would still have to pay child support for 18 years," Mr. Riddick said. "And I've never even seen this kid."
The consequences have been severe.
"Lost my home, ruined my marriage," he said, adding that the "real victims" are his biological children, whom he has been hard-pressed to support.
The Wash Times article says that:
Last week, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill to allow men to challenge the paternity of children for whom they owe support.
All of the above horrors can still happen, but at least the deadbeat dads will have a window of opportunity to prove that they are not even dads.

The family court is still a Mickey Mouse court. If it were a real court, then the alleged deadbeat dad would be entitled to its day in court, and the plaintiff would have to prove its case. He should be innocent until proven guilty.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Evaluation delayed

I just got this message from my wife's lawyer:
I received a message from Dr. [name omitted] yesterday that he will need additional time to prepare his evaluation in this matter and asked that the court date be set some time after November 10th. Will you be available on November 16th for court?
So I guess I'll have to wait another week or two. I'd like to believe that the shrink is using the time in order to do an extra-careful job. I'll reserve judgment until I get his report.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Waiting for the evaluation

The court-appointed psychologist promised the judge a written evaluation "on or before October 19", so as to be ready for the Oct. 26 hearing. So maybe it is already in the mail to me. I don't know.

I've never seen one of these evaluations, so I don't know what to expect. Since it cost me $1600, I am guessing that the shrink will write 10 pages or so to justify the money. Whatever he says, it will likely be taken as dispositive by the judge. There are just too many minor allegations for the judge to cope with, so he'll just take the supposed expert opinion as the best action. I can contest his recommendation, but I am told that it is nearly impossible to convince a judge to go against what the shrink recommends.

The scary part is that the shrink only talked to me for an hour. He also talked to my wife for an hour, and to the kids for about 20 minutes apiece. Maybe he liked me; maybe he didn't. It seems like such a crap-shoot. I don't know accusations she might have made against me in her interview, and she doesn't know what I said about her. In a real court, I'd have the constitutional right to face my accusers.

The shrink seemed like an honest and sincere fellow, but he has an impossible task. He cannot know what is best for the kids. He should not be judge and jury for domestic violence allegations. He cannot possibly have the proper context to properly interpret a few stray comments from a 5-year-old or a 7-year-old. All I can do is to sit back, and hope I get lucky. And prepare to hire a lawyer, if I am unlucky.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Lawyers act in their interests

I got some suggestions about hiring a lawyer. I will almost certainly need one if we get to a trial.

One thing to keep in mind when hearing a lawyer, or when hiring any professional, that the lawyer's interests do not always match the client's interests. First and foremost, the lawyer wants to make money for himself. He needs to have satisfied clients, but the clients are rarely in a good position to evaluate how good a job that the lawyer really did. I will probably be unhappy with the court, but I won't know whether it was my lawyer's fault, or if he got the best deal under the circumstances.

Some lawyers like to very aggressively attack the other side. Other lawyers like to build a reputation of being reasonable and conciliatory. I don't know which strategy would be more effective in my case. If I hire the wrong kind of lawyer, then it will be bad for me even if he is the best lawyer in the world at what he does.

Thus I cannot hire a lawyer just because he comes highly recommended. And even if I somehow manage to find the best lawyer available for me, I cannot trust him totally. Only a fool would.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Interrogatories and subpoenas

My wife's lawyer just bombarded me with 20 interrogatories, and 8 pages of subpoenas. I don't know why she is going down this route. A year ago we signed a marital settlement agreement with the following clause:
XIV. DISCLOSURES: Each party has made a full and honest disclosure to the other of all current finances and assets, and each enters into this agreement in reliance thereon. Each warrants to the other and declares under penalty of perjury that the assets and liabilities divided in this agreement constitute all of their community assets and liabilities.
Some of the requests are a little wacky. Eg, here is one request:
22. Membership cards or documents identifying participation rights in any country clubs, key clubs, private clubs, associations, or fraternal group organizations during the last year of the marriage, together with all monthly statements.
I don't know what this is about. Does she want to join my health club? I don't even belong to any clubs.

She is opening a can of worms with this one:
15. Claims of Reimbursement. Do you claim the legal right to be reimbursed for any expenditures of your separate or community property? If your answer is yes, state all supporting facts.
I wasn't going to make an issue out of it, but I paid her $80,000 debt from her law school student loans. I paid it with my separate (pre-marital) property. I was just going to write it off as a loss. But now, this interrogatory pretty much forces me to make an issue out of it.

Now I know what you are thinking -- how could I be so foolish? If I paid for her to become a slimy shark lawyer, then why should I be so surprised when she turns on me after becoming a slimy shark lawyer? I don't know what to say. Yes, I thought that she was different. I am trying to learn from my mistakes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bill O'Reilly is sued

Here is the sexual harassment lawsuit against FoxNews's Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly says that it is extortion.

Whether or not the claims against O'Reilly have merit, it does sound like extortion to me. The claims are titillating, but not substantial. For example, the former employee threatens to reveal that O'Reilly wife has a vibrator.) The main purpose was an exorbitant confidential settlement. Conventional wisdom says that extortion is legal if it is done by a lawyer, but the law doesn't actually read that way.

People think that Bill O'Reilly is a conservative, and he is on some issues, but he also suffers from the liberal delusion that courts, lawyers, government social workers, teachers, and other do-gooders can be relied upon to look out for the interests of children. On Oct. 3, 2002, he said:
That's one thing that Hillary Clinton got right -- everybody's gotta be looking out for the kids because sometimes the parents are not.
It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit changes his worldview.

At one point in my wife's divorce lawsuit, her lawyer offered to keep the charges against me confidential. She was very careful not to make the offer in writing. She hinted about how I could be embarrassed by publicity from the case, and from the accusations that my wife was going to be making. She promised to file a motion to ask the court to seal the court records, but then refused to do so.

In retrospect, I was foolish to take her position at face value. She was using standard code words for an extortion attempt. Had I been represented by a lawyer, he would have advised me to respond with a confidential settlement offer. Her lawyer figured that I would be willing to pay a lot of money in order to keep her accusations secret.

But lawyers are almost never punished for extortion. (An isolated exception is cited on Volokh's legal blog.) The lawyers who were trying to extort Bill O'Reilly will just say that they were just trying to get a remedy for their client's grievances, and that they were even ethically bound to advance their client's interests in any way possible. My wife's lawyer would say something similar.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Corrupt judge and no one cares

A New York family court judge is on trial for taking bribes to fix cases. But this NY Times story says that nearly all of the victims cannot get their cases reopened. The article explains this by saying:
It is a truism among those who deal professionally with divorce courts that litigants are seldom satisfied with the outcome of their cases.
People are unhappy with family court because the system is fundamentally unfair and broken.

Medical paranoia

My wife just called and complained that we don't have enough emergency epinephrine injectors, in case our kid has a life-threatening allergic reaction to something. I told her that I've bought 4 at her request, but she thought that we should have 6. I explained to her that they cost about $40 apiece, and are labeled to expire in 1 year. She left 1 of our 4 injectors with a preschool 4 months ago, and she hasn't bothered to pick it up.

The child has had a couple of nasty allergic reactions, but they have all been caused by my wife's neglect. I simply avoid exposure to the 2 things for which she has an allergy, and carry an epinephrine injector just in case. I don't expect to ever have to use the injector.

My wife then threw a tantrum when she found out that 2 of our 4 injectors are 6 months beyond the labeled expiration. I told her that they would probably still be good in case of an emergency, and that we have 2 fresh injectors anyway. She wasn't happy with that. She is probably writing up a complaint for the Court about it now.

Here are her previous complaints to the Court about my medical care:
19. Even though our schedules alternate daily, if the children require medical attention, I am responsible for their care. Recently, our younger daughter was ill and required medication. I instructed Father about the administration of the medication, especially because our ill daughter was experiencing difficulty sleeping due to the symptoms from the illness. Father refused to give her the medication. I later learned that our elder daughter gave the younger one her medication, without Father's knowledge. Thankfully, she gave her the right dose.

20. Father has extremely strong opinions about medical attention for our daughters. Every time I am concerned about their health and want to take them in for a check up, he argues vehemently against medical attention. An example of this occurred when our elder daughter became quite ill with a sore throat, fever and difficulty breathing. I had to take the younger daughter to a skating competition and asked Father's assistance in taking the elder daughter to see a doctor. We argued at length. I elected to take our younger daughter to the competition and intended to take the elder daughter to the doctor upon my return two hours later. Upon my return, I eventually tracked Father and our elder daughter down at the [local]Medical Clinic. He stated the tester "allegedly" indicated she had strep throat, as I suspected. The doctor also expressed concern about her tonsils and future ability to breathe if not treated. Father did not believe the diagnosis was accurate. I insured that our daughter took the necessary medication.
Note that in both cases, the child got exactly the medical treatment that my wife wanted her to get. In the latter case, our daughter got penicillin for the (alleged) strep throat, but also got an allergic reaction to the penicillin.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bogus domestic violence programs

A California paper has this domestic violence story:
I´m ushered in to see Rose, the director of domestic violence services for this $1.6 million budgeted savior of sorts organization. She, founder Dee O´Brien and a team of 40 people, operate the center by offering a wealth of resources to about 700 women a year in the domestic violence program ...

“The statistics are that one in two women will be abused at some point in her life,” Rose says. “So it´s really you and me. And you got a taste of that today. It could be any of us at any time.”
The way this organization defines domestic violence, I am surprised that they don't find that 100% of women are abused. Their definition includes me asking my wife to leave the car keys in the car when she parks the car in the garage, so I won't have to hunt for them when I need the car.

A similar organization has provided my wife with a domestic violence advocate who accompanies her every time she goes to court. Until now, I assumed that such organizations were genuinely helping women in need. They are using tax money to sabotage marriages and judicial processes. They make a mockery of the term "domestic violence". They have convinced my wife that she is a victim of domestic violence because I once stood in a doorway talking to her and "refusing to budge".

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Class action lawsuit for more equitable custody

This CNN story tells of a class action lawsuit in behalf of noncustodial parents. It says:
Generally, children's advocates and family lawyers say, courts find it is in the child's best interest to give physical custody to the primary caregiver. Living with one parent minimizes shuttling a child -- especially a younger one -- between homes. The "noncustodial" parent is ordinarily the breadwinner, still frequently the man, who spends more time away from the child.

The lawsuits seek $1 million in damages for any plaintiffs who may sign on to each class action, meaning the potential damages run into the trillions nationwide. But what the groups really want are changes in the laws, such as a bill being proposed for Pennsylvania by state Rep. Thomas Stevenson.

Stevenson's bill would set a "presumptive standard" that physical custody should be split 50-50 unless one parent can prove that there's a good reason for a different arrangement. Legal custody, which gives both parents a say in issues such as religion, health and education, can be shared equally even when physical custody is not.
A family court lawyer is quoted as being against it, saying:
"And why do they want 50-50 (custody)? Some people want it because they know they can reduce the support they pay to their wives" as a result.
Yes, let's look at financial incentives. Courts pretend to ignore financial incentives, because they say the best interests of the child are more important. But that's hogwash, and everybody knows it.

The family court lawyers and experts have a very strong financial incentive to encourage contested custody disputes. Presumptive 50-50 custody would wipe out most of their income, because most of the family court expenses go into the determination of factors that influence custody, and those factors are impossible to determine.

Custodial parents (usually the mothers) also have very strong incentives to fight 50-50 custody, because they get more money that way. I believe that my wife's attempt to break our 50-50 custody arrangement is driven mostly by greed. She could get a lot more child support that way.

Presumptive 50-50 custody would reduce custody court actions that are motivated by greed.

The CNN article also says:
And they say the deck is stacked because the time a wage-earner spends making money to feed, clothe and shelter children isn't given equal weight to time spent with the child, even though it's just as necessary as nurturing.
This is indeed a peculiar anti-father bias in the law. If a father works like a dog to earn money to support his family, he is blamed instead of credited. The court says that he is spending less time with his kids, so the mother is entitled to custody, increased child support, and possibly the right to move away and permanently estrange the kids.

That is backwards. The time he spends working to support the family is just as important as reading nursery rhymes or changing diapers. In some cases, the mom is not even spending that time with the kids, but using the dad's money to put the kids in day care. The whole family court system is evil and destructive.