Saturday, October 31, 2009

Texas law allows parental sex education

AP reports:
DALLAS — A 1970s-era Texas law that allows parents to show "harmful material" to their children has come under fire after a prosecutor said he couldn't file charges ...

"Our hands are tied. It's not our fault. I have to follow the law," [County DA] Farren said Thursday. "The mother of the victims in this case was less than happy with this decision, which I understand. ..."

The law apparently was meant to protect the privacy of parents who wanted to teach children about sex education, ...

The girls' mother, Crystal Buckner, wants her ex-husband to be jailed. She said she was stunned to hear from prosecutors and police that nothing can be done. ...

"I want people to know about this. I want parents to be mad and say, 'No!"' she said. "I understand in the '70s everybody wanted the government to stay out of their homes. I don't want to stop parents from having that right to teach sex education, but there's a big difference and there's a line you should not cross when teaching."
So there is a Texas law that says that parents can teach their kids sex education as they see fit, and there is a bitter ex-wife who is trying to put her ex-husband in jail based on a her opinion that the law ought to be changed so as to draw some line on what can be taught, and to jail parents who cross the line. I say that Texas has a good law, and the govt should not meddle in such private matters.

If you read the whole article, assume that her allegations are true, and imagine the worst, then you will probably disapprove. But consider the ramifications of a change in the law. I know parents who disapprove of school sex ed classes. Some parents let their kids listen to sexually explicit rap music, and some don't. Some tightly control TV watching and some don't. Some like nude beaches and some say girls should always wear veils. I just don't think that the govt should be micromanaging these decisions, and certainly not when it is all driven by a vindictive ex-wife, as in this case.

The ex-wife sounds a little crazy to me. I think that there is something seriously wrong with a woman who would carry on a crusade like this. In my opinion, she is the one who crossed a line here by going to the police with a minor complaint about his parenting style.

If they pass a law to criminalize "insensitive father showing inappropriate video to his minor child", then I hope they also criminalize "crazy bitch making reckless and destructive accusation".

Friday, October 30, 2009

Film criticizes California family court

I watch the film, Family Court Crisis: Our Children at Risk. It was billed as an "award-winning documentary".

The movie was about some disgruntled Marin County parents, just north of San Francisco. Their main poster girl was Jonea Rogers who first got joint custody in a divorce. She made some abuse allegations, but she had no substantial evidence. She kidnapped the daughter and they lived as a fugitive for 3 years. Rogers was caught, put on trial, and acquitted by a jury. She now has supervised visitation.

Rogers complains about the unfairness of the family court, and that her daughter lives with her alleged abuser. She argues that her jury acquittal vindicates her suspicions about her ex-husband.

The film was made by people who seemed to have no concept of being innocent until proven guilty. I am sure we all agree that child abusers should not get custody, but there was no proof that the dad had abused anyone. The mom was a kidnapper, and kidnappers should not get custody.

It doesn't take much to convince me that the family court is horrible. I know lots of examples. But I really wonder how people could make a film with such a weak case against the family court. What do they want, a system where kidnappers win custody?

The film was very pro-mother, but it was not backing mother custody. One of the complainers was a father.

The people who made this film obviously thought that they were making a very strong and persuasive statement for reform of the family court. But I couldn't figure out what reforms they wanted. All I got out of it was that there were some people in Marin County who are unhappy with the family court.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

San Jose family court activist meeting

A reader tells me about this meeting tonight of the Center for Judicial Excellence:
Upcoming San Jose Forum
Thursday, October 29, 2009
6:00pm - 9:00pm
Roosevelt Community Center
(901 E. Santa Clara Street,San Jose)

Featuring special guest, Assemblymember Jim Beall Jr., author of AB 612 - (Junk Science), as well as local experts and advocates.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Is Your Brain Without Dad

The WSJ reports:
Conventional wisdom holds that two parents are better than one. Scientists are now finding that growing up without a father actually changes the way your brain develops.

German biologist Anna Katharina Braun and others are conducting research on animals that are typically raised by two parents, in the hopes of better understanding the impact on humans of being raised by a single parent. Dr. Braun's work focuses on degus, small rodents related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, because mother and father degus naturally raise their babies together.

When deprived of their father, the degu pups exhibit both short- and long-term changes in nerve-cell growth in different regions of the brain. ...

Their preliminary analysis indicates that fatherless degu pups exhibit more aggressive and impulsive behavior than pups raised by two parents. ...

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. "So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal's brain when it's raised in an impoverished environment ... should be very similar to what happens in our children's brain," Dr. Braun says. ...

Still, the prevalence of single-parent households has researchers looking at possible consequences for children. An OECD report found that just 57% of children in the U.S. live with both parents, among the lowest percentages of the world's richest nations.

The report, which sparked some controversy when it was released in September, found that children in single-parent households have an increased risk of delinquency and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as well as poorer scholastic performance.

The OECD also analyzed data from 122 separate studies and found that there was variability in the negative effects on children of living in a single-parent home; on average, the OECD found, the magnitude of the impact was relatively small. On a standardized intelligence test with a median score of 100 points, for example, a child in a single-parent family would be about 3.5 points worse off than a similar child in a two-parent family, according to Dr. Chapple, who co-wrote the report.
Normally I am skeptically about animals evidence, but in this case it explains and corroborates a huge body of evidence in humans. Courts give the kid to the mom, and kid's IQ drops by 3.5 points because of abnormal brain wiring.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yelling is the new spanking

The NY Times reports:
For Some Parents, Shouting Is the New Spanking

“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.” ...

Professor Rohner noted that while spanking is considered taboo by the major medical and psychological associations, there are still some religious and conservative groups who support it as an effective disciplinary tool, believing that the Bible explicitly allows it.

But, he said, “There is no group of Americans that advocate yelling as a parenting style.”

“My bottom-line recommendation is don’t yell,” he said. “It is a risk factor for a family.”
This article was in the Fashion section, where trends are identified with a snowclone like pink is the new black.

The study is on psychological aggression by American parents. It says:
the definition of psychological aggression used for this research: ‘‘Psychological aggression is a communication intended to cause the child to experience psychological pain. The communicative act may be active or passive or verbal or nonverbal’’ ...

In principal, to be legally or administratively classified as abusive requires that the behavior exceed a level of severity and chronicity that a caseworker or criminal justice official believes puts the child at risk of injury. In practice, an injury needs to have actually occurred and needs to be attributable to the psychological aggression. This is very difficult to demonstrate in an individual case and, as a result, few cases of psychological aggression meet the legal or administrative criteria to be judged serious enough to confirm psychological abuse.
So they have defined yelling so broadly that it could include not saying anything, in some cases. And they have declared it to be bad but they cannot show that it is harmful.

All I get out of this is that there are a bunch of silly psychologists who are trying to tell parents what to do, but they have no useful data to back up what they say. So they try to pick something that no one will oppose, and legal authorities won't do anything about it either.

Monday, October 26, 2009

California court computer boondoggle

The Sacramento Bee reports:
An effort to create a centralized computer system for California's state courts, originally conceived as a modest upgrade in a few counties, now faces total costs approaching $2 billion and is years away from large-scale implementation, an investigation by The Bee has found.

The project has ballooned in scope and costs since its 2001 inception without the scrutiny other state computer systems face because the state Administrative Office of the Courts is not bound by the same project review requirements.
The article says that the system is a boondoggle because the judicial branch is run by incompetents who resist any oversight on what they are doing.

We used to be able to get minute orders, names of court reports, and other such things by looking up cases on a web interface. But those features do not work anymore.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another attempt to avoid an evaluation

My ex-wife has been stalling since Jan. 2008 on doing a court-ordered evaluation. Her latest tactic is to keep making motions to "clarify" the order. Her last motion was rejected in its entirety on July 30. I just got another such motion from her, to be heard on Dec. 2. Here it is:

In this motion, Petitioner Julie AngryMom (referred to hereinafter in the first person, "I") requests the Court to clarify the terms of the Appointment Order of January 11, 2009 2008 to remove any imaginable ambiguity that exists upon which George preys. (See attached FOAH, partial transcript and Appointment Order for January 11, 2009 2008 hearing.) I request this because Respondent George AngryDad (hereinafter, "George") continues to interpret and represent the terms of the Appointment Order to evaluators as requiring a "full custody or visitation evaluation" even though the box for such an evaluation is not marked. George explains that Commissioner Joseph must have forgotten to mark that particular checkbox. However, George will not make a motion to the Court to modify the terms of the Appointment Order to reflect his interpretation. George believes that since the Appointment Order is asking for recommendations regarding custody and visitation, then a full custody or visitation evaluation must have been intended.

I point out to evaluators that the Appointment Order specifically does not mark the box for a "full custody or visitation evaluation" and the Appointment Order and its scope is consistent with the history of our case. See the attached FOAH and partial transcript (page 2010, line 26) for the January 11, 2008 court hearing. Additionally, this Appointment Order has been challenged and affirmed at the Appellate Court level and has been the subject of many a trial court status conferences, without changes being made. I believe that it is unlikely that Commissioner Joseph just forgot to checkmark a box.

However, somehow George convinces the evaluators that indeed, Commissioner Joseph forgot to checkmark a box and that he meant that a full custody or visitation evaluation be performed. Unreasonably so, George wants me to stipulate to undergo a full custody or visitation evaluation, and claims that my refusal to do so is a lack of cooperation in finding an evaluator. Additionally, and as I've pointed out to George, I don't have the authority to change an order of the Court by merely stipulating to a change. The Appointment Order was not mine or George's idea to begin with. Neither one of us has the authority to decide how we are going to change the terms of the Appointment Order.

We have already had a full custody or visitation evaluation (2004) in which it was recommended that I be the primary custodian pending George attending counseling, etc. We both have also undergone psychological evaluations (2005). In November of 2007, CPS substantiated emotional abuse towards the children by George. In January of 2008, the trial found George's behavior towards the children to be emotionally abusive. The California Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's decision.

A Full Custody or Visitation Evaluation Two Years After the Fact Would be Unreasonable and Unjustifiable
It has been two years since George was found to be abusive. He has visited with Mary and Jenny approximately 4 times in the last two years. He has had self-imposed minimum phone contact with Mary and Jenny. The subject and some of the contents of George's abusive behavior described in the court papers and that were the subject of the 2007 CPS investigation and 2008 court trial rest in the mind of a then six and eight year old, who are now ten and twelve years old. I do not believe that the intent of the Appointment Order was to dredge up incidents from a child's mind's eye that are four years old and to re examine them. I believe that the intent of the Appointment Order was to try to discover what is making George "tick" and to try to affect a modification in his behavior so that he may at some time in the future enjoy a healthy relationship with Mary and Jenny.

I respectfully assert that the intent behind the Appointment Order was to focus on George's behavior and mental health and methods of modifying his behavior. Given George's in-court and out-of-court documented misbehavior, it seems untenable and entirely unreasonable that I would have to undergo a psychological evaluation as well as be the focus of a full child custody evaluation and assessment. The stress and emotional strain that would be put upon myself and Mary and Jenny, who are healing, in undergoing yet another "full custody or visitation evaluation" is unjustifiable, given the circumstances.

George has created confusion amongst evaluators willing to take on the case as to the terms of the Appointment Order. George ignores the history of the case and proceeds on the basis that this is a "full custody or visitation evaluation" in which he gets to retry his case once again before an evaluator, and then ultimately undergo another trial before yet a third presiding judge. I do not want to keep being brought back to court for trial after trial. How many times does one get to retry the same issues? Again, I respectfully request the Court to, at the very least, clarify the Appointment Order to remove any imaginable ambiguity that exists upon which George preys.

Respectfully submitted,
Julie AngryMom
October 22 23, 2009
I am not preying on any ambiguity. I have just been asking psychologists to do the evaluation as in the written order.

She complains that I have not made a motion to change the order. I guess that she realizes that she looks bad by bringing silly motions to change the order.

I do agree with her that we have had too many evaluations and trials. It has been going on for six years already, and there is no end in sight. However, she is the one who is refusing to obey the court orders and refusing to let me see my kids. The court actions will continue until she complies.

Update: I got the above document in the mail from a process server, but my ex-wife now tells that it was not filed with court. She says that she will send me a corrected version. I guess that she is going to attempt to clarify her motion to clarify. Maybe she was influenced by the comments here that her motion was incoherent.I am glad she told me, as I was about to send a response to the court.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do not call 911

Seattle news:
How the Cops and Courts Turn Abused Spouses Into Voiceless Victims
The “enlightened” approach to domestic abuse has left women passive and powerless.
By Nina Shapiro
Published on October 30, 2007 at 8:45pm

Andrea Rich-Bell waits anxiously in a hallway of Seattle Municipal Court, her heavily pregnant frame wrapped in a bulky black jacket. She's due to give birth in three weeks, but the baby feels like it might drop any minute. It isn't lightening her load that her husband, a construction worker named Roy, is in the "tank," the courthouse's basement holding cell. Nor that prosecutors are proceeding with a domestic violence case against Roy over her ardent objections. ...

According to the police report, two 911 calls were made ...

She says she told the arriving officers that he didn't do anything to her. "They said, 'OK, we'll take him to jail for being intoxicated.'" The next thing she knew, he was being charged with assault in the fourth degree and harassment.

The court also imposed a "no-contact order" that prohibits her from seeing her husband while the case is pending—a period during which she is likely to give birth to their child.

At 9 a.m., Roy's public defender arrives. Rich-Bell smiles gamely at her, greeting her as an ally. The attorney then goes into a small conference room where prosecutors and defenders discuss possible deals. A short while later, the attorney returns to debrief Rich-Bell on the options. Prosecutors are willing to ask the judge to lift the no-contact—but only, ironically enough, if Roy pleads guilty to assaulting her. If he insists on a trial, the order stays.

"So they're not going to give him a temporary release for the birth of my child?" Rich-Bell asks.
Here is another such story, also from Washington state. A woman describes how the cops arrested her husband without any complaint from her:
I scoffed, telling him it was my fault, that I had walked into traffic, my husband was only trying to help.

“That’s what all abuse victims do,” he responded. “They blame themselves.”

I insisted. My husband is the mildest man I know. He’s a mathematician who wears reading glasses on a chain and celebrates the birthday of Gauss. He will not do well in jail.

“Listen.” The guy, huge and bald, adjusted his belt. “You’ve got to get it through your head, this guy does not love you. He controls you. Even if you were a great homemaker who kept the house spotless, he would hurt you. Even if you were taller and blonder, he wouldn’t stop.” ...

To her credit, the judge considered. It was clear she was pained by this matter and wanted to let it drop. But after excusing herself to ponder she returned to impose the order. I was to have no contact with my husband, in person, by phone or email, until some yet undetermined court date that could happen as late as early 2010.

I left, unable to speak to J or let him know that I was leaving. He had a brand-new job. He’d done nothing wrong (except forget to unlock a trailer). He’d just spent 23 hours in the county lockup.
Robert Franklin comments here. I don't see how a ban on phone and email contact could ever be justified, no matter what he had done. Even if he were a convicted murdered, she should be able to communicate with him by phone and email. Apparently spammers and Nigerian scammers can email her, but not her husband.

The obvious lesson here is to never call 911 for domestic violence or for anything that might be misconstrued as domestic violence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Balloon parents may lose kids

Some people are really upset that they got tricked by the recent Colorado UFO balloon hoax. Here is one story:
The lawyer for a man accused of tricking media and emergency officials into thinking his son was trapped in a runaway balloon, says his client expects to be charged and is willing to co-operate with police. ...

The parents, Heene and his wife Mayumi, are expected to face misdemeanor charges for filing a false police report, but could also face felony charges for conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and attempting to influence a public servant.

"We understand all three of the children knew about (the hoax). They are six, eight and 10 years old." Collins said.

"They are not going to be facing any charges. They are quite young and it's clear to authorities the parents were the ones orchestrating this whole ordeal and the children will not face any charges or punishment."

However, she said child protection agencies are involved in the investigation, and it's possible the parents' custody rights could be in jeopardy.

"It isn't uncommon for parental rights to be terminated when a crime is committed and parents are in on it," Collins said.
The news media should be embarrassed that they got fooled so easily. Any idiot could see from the video that the balloon had no kid in it. The balloon flopped around like an empty plastic bag blowing in the wind.

But I was shocked to see two experts on Fox News say that CPS should take the three kids away from these parents.
Bill O'Reilly: Should the authorities take the kids away?

Lis Wiehl: Absolutely. The kid was not just hiding in a cellar for six hours, he had been put in the cellar by the parents. And you know that I have been very hesitant to take kids away from their parents. Remember the 300-pound kid, I said that the woman needs help, she doesn't need her child taken away from her. But they premeditated this, they worked on this together, the mom and the father, and it looks like some other people as well. Why, Bill? Why? So they could get a reality show.

O'Reilly: So it is a heinous situation. If you take the kids away, the kids are going to suffer unbelievably in the system.

Wiehl: Yeah, yeah.
What? This is crazy. It was a juvenile prank. No one was hurt. If the parents committing a misdemeanor crime of giving false info to the police, then they should be punished for that. I didn't know that "attempting to influence a public servant" was a crime in Colorado, but how would that justify taking their kids away?

How is this worse than the single mom with the 300-pound kid? That single mom was obvious doing a bad job of parenting, and the poor kid is going to suffer for a long time as a result. But these balloon kids are not suffering at all.

They can only take kids away for serious physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, or child neglect. The balloon kids have suffered none of these things.

Lis Wiehl used to be a federal prosecutor. I am inclined to say that means she should know better, but maybe her view is typical of prosecutors, I don't know.

What struck me the most was that Wiehl (and O'Reilly and the other guest) seemed mainly to want to use CPS to punish the kids as a way of punishing the parents for their attitude. It wasn't that she thought that the parents were unlawfully abusing the kids or that CPS could help the kids. It was that she was offended at how bold and outrageous parents' plan was.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More on Elkins 1-5

I probably won't submit detailed criticisms of the Elkins Task Force recommendations, but the report is really disappointing. Consider the issue of live testimony which led to the Elkins decision in the first place. The Task Force recommends:
Good Cause Exceptions. A finding of good cause not to receive live testimony should be made on a case-by-case basis.
That is lame. The Calif. supreme court said that the family court had to hear live testimony according to the rules of civil court. How complicated is that? Why make some new rule that lets the judge exclude live testimony whenever he feels like it?

Recommendation no. 2 is to throw more money at attorneys. They want more lawyers, more govt funding for lawyers, more encouragement for people to get lawyers, and more court orders to pay lawyers. It reads like it was written by the lawyer lobby.

I think that lawyers make the system worse. The more this recommendation gets adopted, the worse the system will be.

Recommendation no. 3 is for better Caseflow Management. This would be good if it had meaningful time limits on decision-making. Instead it makes vague recommendations like:
Rules and procedures should be adopted that efficiently allocate judicial resources in a manner consistent with the substantive and procedural complexities of each case to enable parties to resolve their family law matters in a timely manner with appropriate assistance.
Yeah, I am all in favor of efficiently allocating judicial resources, but how is that going to happen?

A couple of pages later, it gets to recommendation 3.12, where it actually makes a recommendation in the spirit of the Elkins charter. It says that delaying tactics in the family court should be subject to fines just like the civil court.

Recommendation 3.15 says:
Time standards. There are currently no time standards for family law matters other than a limitation that the parties to a dissolution cannot be restored to the status of single persons until six months have elapsed from the date of service. ... realistic goals for reasonable case completion by the courts might include these: ...
• Ninety percent of cases should be resolved within 18 months from petition to judgment.
Again, this is lame. If civil and criminal court can have time standards, why can't family court? Why just a goal of 90% within 18 months? It could be 100% within 6 months.

If someone tries to get a restraining order against you, you have a right to a hearing and a decision within 3 weeks. If someone accuses you of being a child abuser, you may not be able to get a decision within 18 months.

Recommendation 4 says, "The rules should be written in plain language and organized logically." I agree, but there are no substantive suggestions. The state did reorganize the rules more logically 5 to 10 years, and I am sure that the authors think that they already did what can be done. Without some concrete suggestion, I don't see how any good will come of this recommendation.

Recommendation 5 says:
Upon deciding to take the testimony of a child, the judicial officer should balance the necessity of taking the child’s testimony in the courtroom with parents and attorneys present with the need to create an environment in which a child can be open and honest.
Again, this recommendation is not directed at giving family law litigants the protections of civil court. It is the opposite. They don't take backroom testimony from children in civil court. Honesty in a child should not be equated what the child is induced to say in the parents' absence.

A civil court litigant has the right to be present during all testimony, and to be able to ask his own questions. It should be the same in family court. I thought that was what the Calif. supreme court was trying to say, and what the Elkins Task Force was supposed to help implement. It appears that they spent two years undermining that goal.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Elkins Task Force comments

The California Elkins Task Force has posted recommendations for public comment, as explained below. I have drafted some comments that I intend to submit. I welcome feedback, and urge you to submit your own comments.

The Elkins Task Force has many recommendations, but very few of them are directed at its main purpose -- to propose measures that allow family court litigants to get the protections that are ordinarily available in civil court. The California Supreme Court ruled in Elkins v Superior Court (2007) that family court trials should be governed by the rules of civil procedure in civil cases, and no new legislation or funding should be required to abide by that decision. Some of the recommendations seem to be even contrary to the Elkins decision.

My comment is that the Task Force should focus on concrete recommendations that will bring civil court protections to the family court. I propose measures in three particularly important areas, hearsay, finality, and court-appointed witnesses.

The Family courts are extremely sloppy about hearsay, and the recommendations threaten to make it worse. For example, section 5 recommends allowing child hearsay that would never be allowed in civil court. I propose:

No one should be allowed to report on a child interview, unless the interview is recorded and the parents are each able to conduct interviews under similar circumstances.

No family court should accept any documents or other communications, unless submitted by a party in connection with a scheduled hearing, and served on the other parties.

No expert opinion should be accepted or considered, unless it meets the conditions below.

Civil courts are entirely focused on working to a final judgment, which is then enforceable or appealable. Even juvenile dependency court is usually able to come to a conclusion within a year on whether a parent is fit or not. But family court cases can go on for years, without ever resolving anything with any finality.

I propose that any allegation of unfitness must be proved within 6 months, or else the child custody would automatically revert to whatever permanent status was held before the allegation. If there was no permanent order, then custody would revert to 50-50 joint custody.

In particular, no order requiring that visitation be supervised should ever last more than 6 months.

Expert witnesses.
Family courts frequently appoint an Evidence Code 730 expert witness to recommend outcomes for a case, and then rubber-stamp the witness recommendations. In effect, the courts are delegating their decision-making power to the witnesses. For example, a psychologist might decide which parent should get legal and physical custody.

A civil court might also appoint an EC 730 expert witness, but the witness's role is only to help resolve some factual issue in dispute. For example, a physician might testify about whether an xray showed a tumor, but would not give an opinion about monetary damages.

I propose new rules that would limit family court experts more narrowly within their expertise, as civil court experts are limited.

No 730 witness should be appointed unless there is a scheduled hearing within 3 months, and the court has enumerated specific factual issues under dispute at that hearing.

No 730 witness should give any opinion on a conclusion of law, such as legal custody of a minor.

No court should act on any 730 recommendations without opportunity to depose the witness, have a court hearing with testimony from the witness, and have opportunity for rebuttal testimony.

No hearing should be delayed because of the inability of the court to appoint a 730 witness.

No 730 witness should be appointed with a boilerplate form, as such a form fails to specify the “purpose and scope of the evaluation”, as required by Rule 5.220(d)(1)(B)(ii).

No 730 witness should given any written opinion in a report unless that opinion is admissable under the Frye rule, as required in civil court, and that report documents how the report meets the rule requirements. In particular, the report must cite sources for any generally accepted knowledge.

My proposals here are influenced by my own situation. I had 50-50 joint legal and physical custody by final order of the court. After an ex parte request, Cmr. Irwin H. Joseph sent the cops to seize my kids and give my ex-wife temporary custody. After hearing accusations of emotional abuse, he declared that my setting the alarm clock for 7:00 am was “indicative” and “representative” of the charges, and delegated the case to a psychologist without another hearing being scheduled. The Santa Cruz court uses a boilerplate form for such delegations. The psychologist refused to take the case, and Cmr. Joseph refused to appoint a replacement. The upshot is that there is no finding that I have ever done any single thing wrong, and yet I have not been able to see my kids for two years. There is no end in sight, until my kids reach age 18.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Books on family court

People often suggest that I write a book on my experiences in family court, as told on this blog. The sad truth is that my story is not that unusual, and similar stories have already been told in books that are better written than my blog.

The two most important recent books on the subject are reviewed here:
Has the American Family Court System Become Totalitarian?
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.

A Promise to Ourselves:
A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce
Alec Baldwin
St. Martin’s Press, 2008; 240 pages, $24.95

Taken into Custody:
The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family
Stephen Baskerville
Cumberland House, 2007; 368 pages, $24.95
Baldwin's story got a lot of publicity because he and his wife were big movie stars. Baskerville's is a more thorough and academic attack on the system.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Commissioners want to be judges

The former Santa Cruz family court commissioner, Irwin H. Joseph, was on the Elkins Task Force. I have wondered what he could possibly contribute to the task force, as much of the purpose of the task force is to reform the bad practices of judges and commissioners like him.

Perhaps he wrote this recommendation:
14. Family and juvenile court assignments. The task force is aware of the Judicial Council’s established policy to ensure that judges, rather than subordinate judicial officers (SJOs), hear family and juvenile cases. For the long-term improvement and enhancement of the family law assignment, the task force supports the policy of encouraging judges to hear these matters. In each of the last three fiscal years, the Legislature has authorized the conversion of 162 SJO positions to judgeships in 25 courts. The conversions are capped at 16 per year and occur only upon vacancy in the SJO position. Legislation was introduced in 2009 (Assem. Bill 942 [Assem. Com. on Judiciary]) to allow up to 10 additional annual conversions of SJO positions to judgeships in eligible courts if, as a result of the conversion, a judge will be assigned to hear family or juvenile cases that prior to the conversion had been assigned to a commissioner. The task force recognizes and appreciates the depth of experience and expertise that many SJOs assigned to family and juvenile law have provided to the courts and litigants over many years. Therefore, the task force encourages experienced subordinate judicial officers who hear family law to seek judicial appointment. [p.74]
He has been just a commissioner for several years, and has been repeatedly passed over for promotion to a real judge. Maybe he thinks that this recommendation will get him that judgeship that he has always wanted. (The minutes do not show who pushed for this paragraph.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

California math scores among the lowest

The SF CA newspaper reports:
(10-14) 09:25 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Thank goodness for Mississippi and Alabama.

If not for the two southern states, California students would be at the bottom of the national heap in mathematics, according to the 2009 Nation's Report Card released Wednesday.

The abysmal standing, which reflects in part the state's diverse population, hasn't changed much over the years. California consistently has ranked among the lowest-scoring states in the biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally mandated assessment of a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders across the country.
No, the problem is not the state's diverse population. Here is Si Valley, the best students are the first-generation Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese students.

My kids attended a grade school where the teachers hate math. They use lousy textbooks and they do not know how to teach it. Some of them cannot even do do simple 3rd-grade arithmetic without a calculator.

CPS agent Sally Mitchell thinks that teaching math to a girl is child abuse. She complained about it six times in her report against me. I would quote her here, but I am under court orders not to, because it would embarrass her and the court.

I am allowed to quote Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph. After hearing the testimony, here was his main argument in favor of me emotionally abusing my kids:
He does not understand how it makes them feel when he proposes that one enter a contest that she is unqualified because of her age or grade level to enter and she knows it, but Dad insists that she do it anyway.
About 80% of the kids in California are unqualified to do math at their grade level. I chose to do something about it. For that, Cmr. Joseph took my kids away.

All I did was to enroll my kids in a County-sponsored math contest for grade-school students.

Thousands of Asians families around here know that the schools don't teach math adequately, and they supplement their kids' instruction. If I had been Asian, I probably would have been given a pass because CPS would have thought that academic achievement was some sort of cultural quirk. Instead I got some dumb white woman who thinks that teaching math to a girl is child abuse, and some idiot commissioner judge-wannabe who does not even know the legal definition of child abuse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do not send self-addressed envelope

My ex-wife is complaining that she did not get a copy of a court document that I mentioned getting here on this blog. Here is the story.

Cmr. Joseph said to submit a court order for the court to sign, with an explanatory letter. He said that we could avoid another court appearance that way. So I did that, with a self-addressed stamped envelope. I also sent a copy to my ex-wife, who sent an opposition letter to the court.

I got this form letter response in my self-addressed stamped envelope:
Title of documents returned: ORDER APPT CHILD ASSESSOR

Reason for return:
_ Original Signature or date is missing.
_ Missing or incorrect filing fee. Correct fee is:
_ Clerk cannot enter default or judgment for the reasons stated below under "other."
_ Proposed judgment or order requires signature of opposing counsel approving as to form per California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1312
_ You must obtain leave of court to file this document.
_ Execution issued on is still outstanding.
_ Jurisdiction or final date is incorrect. Correct date is:
_ You are required to have a stipulated agreement pursuant to Family Code Section 4065, Child Support Guidelines.
_ Order does not conform to minutes (see attached).
_ Substitution or withdrawal of attorney must contain the name, mailing address and telephone number of the new attorney or party in pro per and be served on all parties.
Local Rule 2.7.01.
_ Document does not conform to California Rules of Court, Rules 2.100 2.119.
X Other:
Meanwhile, the court apparently accepted my ex-wife's letter, and put it in the court file!

Apparently the court policy is that it is more likely to accept a submission if you do not enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Confusing to have two kinds of motions

Here is one Elkins Task Force recommendation:
Simplify forms for motions. In family law cases there are currently before the court: a notice of motion and an order to show cause. almost interchangeably. In other counties, they are used for distinct intended differences are not written and may not be accessible attorneys who do not regularly practice in the county. [p.49]
I must admit, I have brought both kinds of motions, and I have had both kinds of motions brought against me, but I have never figured out the difference. They have slightly different forms and service procedures, but they all get heard together and they seem interchangeable to me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Elkins Task Force recommendations

The Californa Elkins Task Force has announced:
As of October 1, 2009 the Elkins Family Law Task Force has released over 100 draft recommendations for a two-month public comment period. For more information, see the press release (PDF).

The comment period will continue through December 4, 2009, 5:00 p.m. Comments are welcome and encouraged. Public comment on the draft recommendations is vitally important and will help to improve and refine the final work product of the Task Force. Draft recommendations (PDF)
The Task Force was created by the courts after a pretty good California state supreme court ruling requires the family courts to follow the rules of civil law.

Unfortunately, the task force consisted of just family court judges, commissioner, lawyers, and other insiders and bozos. No members of the public were appointed. Their recommendations are disappointing.

The site is an unofficial critical site.

The recommendations do have the potential of doing some good. I intend to study the 75-page document and submit my comments. I urge others to do the same. I will also post my comments here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Montana court redefines parenthood

Montana news:
The Montana Supreme Court just made it a whole lot harder to be a parent, and a whole lot easier to become one.
Let's review the travesty of Maniaci v. Kulstad, decided on a 6-1 vote in an opinion released on Oct. 6 (hereinafter known as Black Tuesday).
The court affirmed a Missoula District Court ruling by Judge Ed McLean that Michelle Kulstad had earned the right to be known as a parent to two children because she had "shacked up" with the children's adoptive mother during the time when they were adopted.
That's a crude way of saying they were living together, but don't be misled by any grandiloquent claims of "civil rights" that attach to this case because Kulstad and Barbara Maniaci were engaged in a homosexual partnership prior to their 2006 breakup. There is nothing "civil" about what the Supreme Court did, and nothing "right" about it either. ...

The Montana Supreme Court has thrown all that on its head. Because by awarding parental rights to Michelle Kulstad, they have in essence changed the playing field for all parents. From now on, it is not the state alone which will have the power to determine custody, but each and every parent. Every time a parent invites another adult into the home as a partner (even should no sexual relationship at all exist) there is a chance that the "partner" may eventually sue for custody of the children in the house.
There is certainly nothing stopping them from doing so because the Montana Supreme Court has ruled inexplicably that parental rights may be abridged or abrogated even with no finding of unfitness on the nominal parent's part. This completely reverses the constitutional principle which had prevailed in all previous Montana case law that "a natural parent cannot be denied custody of his or her child absent termination of that person's parental rights for abuse or neglect."
This is another attack on parental rights.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Custody evaluator attitudes

In the process of hunting for a child custody evaluator, I talked to a bunch of them. I have had eight evaluations done on me for the court, altho not all of them made child custody recommendations. I have called about fifty of them on the telephone. So I know a little bit about the process, from the parent's view. Here are my observations about the evaluators.

They like to play god. Besides the obvious cash benefits, they do what they do because they like to tell other people how to live. They view parents as incompetent morons who cannot run their own lives, and who need some shrink to tell them what to do. The evaluators are more dictatorial than a parent telling a three-year-old to goto bed. Differing child-rearing philosophies are not even open for discussion, as the evaluator is overly-opinionated and always thinks that he knows best. If you express a different view, then the evaluator will recommend counseling until you conform to his own particular prejudices.

They are extremely insecure about their work. Unlike other professionals, they are unwilling to show examples of their work. When they can get away with it, they hide their reports from anyone who might disagree. They will even try to give a report to just the judge, without the parents seeing it. It is as tho they live in fear that they will be exposed as incompetent, or that another will testify against their opinions.

They have no respect for the legal process. People accuse me of having low respect for the courts, but I think that the evaluators have even less. They have no regard for what the court might have decided, and they don't care to even learn about the relevant legal processes. They don't think that judges should have any role except to order recommendations from experts. They don't think that lawyers should be advocates for their clients.

They do not understand the role of attorneys. Some of the evaluators refuse to take a case unless the parents are represented by lawyers. They will explain that they have to do this because the parents are not objective, apparently not realizing that the lawyers are even less objective.

They fake reliance on tests. The psychologists will pretend that their process is made objective by doing standardized psychological tests, but it is all for show. They never actually use the test results to influence their recommendations. The evaluator uses the tests like the way a stage magician uses a pretty girl to distract the audience.

They have no concept of evidence. A scientist or a lawyer will collect evidence that is relevant to demonstrating whatever they want to demonstrate. The evaluators will collect lots of info, but they don't seem to understand what sorts of evidence would support what sorts of conclusions. They seem to think that they can just rely on their intuition, and the actual evidence will not matter.

They cannot describe what they do. They can describe the procedural formalities, such as the appointments and the fees, but the real object is the recommendation. They are unable or unwilling to describe how they do that. They cannot even articulate their guiding principles, if they even have any.

I should emphasize that these are generalizations based on talked to dozens of evaluators, and do not apply to all of them. For example, some of them do not seem threatened by the idea that someone else might give contradictory testimony. Some of them are probably able to describe what they do, but they just don't want to describe it for me. It is possible that those psychological tests are useful in 5% of the cases, but they don't seem to have any bearing on the vast majority of the cases.

But they all come from a mindset that says that a family court can intrude on parents' lives at any time, and use the flimsiest excuses to dictate how they will rear their kids.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

You cannot beat CPS

A Dallas newspaper reports:
This much of the story is simple: On Aug. 10, 2004, in Dallas, a woman named Tracy Rhine gave birth to a daughter who tested positive for cocaine and the hallucinogenic drug PCP.

Six days later, Child Protective Services removed the baby and sought to terminate Rhine's parental rights.

From there, things get complicated. Whenever the state takes a child from a parent, it has a one-year deadline to either terminate parental rights or return the child. A six-month extension can be granted, which occurred in the Rhine case.

When the state and Rhine went before a judge in January 2006 to decide whether she met conditions to be a good parent, the judge decided she had substantially complied with the requirements.
The mom won her court case, but did not get her child back. CPS conspired with the foster parents to file a new lawsuit in another county, where the mom would not get a free lawyer to defend herself.

This sounds like Double Jeopardy to me. The state should not be able to bring a case against a parent for being unfit, lose, and then bring the same case again under different pretenses.

That one-year deadline is just a federal monetary incentive. The feds pay the state $5k or so for each child adopted within the time limit. It gives CPS a financial incentive to take children away.