Sunday, September 17, 2006

PBS TV show

I watched Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse. It was supposed to balance out a very biased show from last year. I don't think that it did that very well. It did give some arguments for and against shared parenting.

The first half of the show had various divorce and custody anecdotes, with various self-serving comments from mediators. One family court judge (Commissioner Marjorie Slabach) acted like she was a mind-reader, who could tell who was telling the truth and who was causing conflict. She said that it was wrong to ask a child for a preferred parent. A mediator named Sanchez said that he could accomplish the same thing by indirectly asking the same thing and using trickery.

Nobody explained how these mediators act with their own interests in conflict with those of the kids.

It was unclear whether these characters realize how much damage they are doing.

A social worker mentioned a sad story about how one particular pair of parents with restraining orders had to hand off their kid by letting him walk across a parking lot at 11pm to another car. All agreed that the child shouldn't have to do that, but no one made the obvious suggestion that such restraining orders should be eliminated. Instead, they just recommended some other building instead of the parking lot.

The second half of the show was a debate on shared parenting.

An Iowa family court judge named Robert Blink was against shared parenting because he wants to have the "freedom" to award custody however he wants. Making the courts predictable would result in "cookie cutter justice", he says.

He then said, "The ability to coparent effectively after a divorce is the exception, rather than the rule."

Divorce mediator Steve Sovern was against shared parenting, because domestic violence might make it inappropriate. He specificly mentioned domestic violence even when there have never been any such complaints. He did not explain.

There was a creepy-looking Canadian named Peter Jaffe who was against shared parenting. He said that a presumption of shared parenting was good for society, but not good for the courts because it coerces couples into shared parenting settlements.

Hofstra law prof. Andrew Schepard said that a presumption of shared parenting is wrong for moral reasons. He said that previous laws which had a presumption against shared parenting did not work, and therefore presumptions are bad.

He admitted that all the research indicates that two parents are best for kids, but he is troubled by the idea of the public being told that the law has such a presumption.

He complained that some angry dads are "challenging the legitimacy of the court system". Yes, we do challenge the legitimacy of any court that follows his advice.

Jaffe complained that domestic violence has been ignored. I don't know about Canada, but California gives grossly exaggerated importance to domestic violence in family court.

Isolini Ricci said, "people are coming to the courts because they don't know how to have a relationship and to resolve disputes" and suggested education for everyone as the only solution.

This is idiotic. It is like saying that banks repossess cars because bankers and car buyers don't know how to resolve disputes. No, banks take action because borrowers fail to make payments. And when they goto court, the judge just enforces the contract, and doesn't send the case out to mediation.

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