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.