Friday, April 30, 2010

Value of two parents

I just stumbled across this study:
The Harvard Mastery of Stress Study was begun in the early 1950s with 126 healthy male Harvard undergraduate students (approximately 20 years old). It was intended as a search for factors in a person's life that would help him deal with stress. It became a forty year search for long-term predictors of health.

Forty years later, in 1993, Dr. Linda Russek and Dr. Gary E. Schwartz, decided to focus upon 28 questions in the original study that must have seemed irrelevant to the medical mind in the 1950s. The young men had been asked to rate their own perception as to how much they had been loved and cared for by their parents while growing up. ...

1. Of those men in the 1950s who rated both parents high in love and caring, 25%, by 1993, had been diagnosed with some form of serious illness. The diseases included cancer, heart problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, and asthma.

2. Of those who rated one parent high in love and caring and one parent low, 50%, by 1993, had been diagnosed with some form of serious illness.

3. Of those who rated both parents low in terms of love and caring, 87%, by 1993, had been diagnosed with some form of serious illness.

The researchers found that these patterns of health were independent of family and genetic history of disease, independent of the death and divorce history of parents, and independent of the tobacco or alcohol history of the men themselves. None of these risk factors could explain the findings obtained. In short, the study showed the most accurate predictor of future health was the perception these young men had of their parent's love and caring.
This is a surprisingly large effect. Note that the fully benefit requires two loving parents.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flaws in abuse registries

ABC News reports:
Combatting child abuse is a cause with universal support. Yet a push to create a national database of abusers, as authorized by Congress in 2006, is barely progressing as serious flaws come to light in the state-level registries that would be the basis for a national list.

In North Carolina, an appeals court ruled last month that the registry there is unconstitutional because alleged abusers had no chance to defend themselves before being listed.

In New York, a class-action settlement is taking effect on behalf of thousands of people who were improperly denied the chance for a hearing to get removed from the state registry.

And the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case this fall arising from the plight of a California couple whose names remain on that state's registry years after they were cleared of an abuse allegation made by their rebellious teenage daughter. ...

"Anybody can call a child abuse hotline and report abuse — anybody, including your ex-spouse who hates you, your landlord who's trying to evict you," Kubitschek said.
That is how I got on the California registry. A bitter ex-wife made an unfounded complaint to CPS, and there is no procedure for getting off the registry.

Here is the federal HHS study that resulted from that 2006 law. They don't want any part of the system until it is reformed.

The above story is also here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Local student dies in crash

The local paper reported:
SANTA CRUZ - Fun-loving, charismatic and a bit of a daredevil, Tim Sullivan lived without regrets, his siblings said.

Sullivan, a 20-year-old graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto and sophomore at UC Santa Cruz, was pronounced brain-dead Monday from injuries suffered in a skateboarding crash.

After a night out, Sullivan was rocketing down a steep hill on Monterey Avenue in Capitola without a helmet just before 3 a.m. Sunday when he fell. The back of his head smacked the ground, authorities said. A friend, who was riding a bike next to him, called 911, according to police.
I had tried to hire his father, Matthew Sullivan, to do a custody evaluation in our court case. He is one of the more respected evaluators around.

My ex-wife had some sort of objection to him that I never understood. She seemed to be claiming that he had some sort of bias towards me because of some personal connection. But I've never met him, and I don't even know anyone who has ever met him. I could not even get him anyway. He seems to have quit doing evaluations, and prefers to being a court appointed parent coordinator (aka special master). That is where the court gets tired of hearing motions, and appoints someone to micro-manage the parents' lives.

Anyway, he and his family deserve our sympathies for this tragic event.

Our evaluation has now been done by someone else, and we are waiting for the report.

Update: I am also told that local psychologist Jay Muccilli has died. He was one of the 3 or 4 psychologists who did custody evaluations in Santa Cruz county, and he had been in poor health.

Kooky psychoanalyst died

A reader sends this obituary:
Alice Miller, a psychoanalyst who repositioned the family as a locus of dysfunction with her theory that parental power and punishment lay at the root of nearly all human problems, died at her home in Provence on April 14. She was 87. ...

All children, she wrote, suffer trauma and permanent psychic scarring at the hands of parents, who enforce codes of conduct through psychological pressure or corporal punishment: slaps, spankings or, in extreme cases, sustained physical abuse and even torture.

Unable to admit the rage they feel toward their tormenters, Dr. Miller contended, these damaged children limp along through life, weighed down by depression and insecurity, and pass the abuse along to the next generation, in an unending cycle. Some, in a pathetic effort to please their parents and serve their needs, distinguish themselves in the arts or professions. The Stalins and the Hitlers, Dr. Miller later wrote, inflict their childhood traumas on millions. ...

The book also stirred the general public, selling more than a million copies. Its central argument was easy to grasp and, for many readers, offered a tempting explanation for their sorrows and failures.

Dr. Miller is often credited with turning the attention of therapists to child abuse, both physical and sexual, but also with encouraging millions of adults to regard themselves as victims.

Daphne Merkin, assessing Dr. Miller’s book “The Truth Shall Set You Free” in The New York Times Book Review in 2002, wrote that Dr. Miller “could be said to be the missing link between Freud and Oprah, bringing news of the inner life, and especially the subtle hazards of emotional development, out of the cloistered offices of therapists and into a wider, user-friendly context.”
Wow, this woman was the missing link between Freud and Oprah, and I had never heard of her!

This woman seems to have been a huge source of bad ideas. Now the daytime TV talk shows are filled with quacks who are trying to turn America into a nation of victims, blaming their parents for their adult problems. I bet she never had any scientific data to support any of her claims.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rebutting Dr. Phil

I posted before about Dr. Phil on the family court, and now Glenn Sacks has posted a
more substantive rebuttal. The whole story is long and complicated, but Sacks makes a strong case that Dr. Phil was promoting bogus accusations.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mom accused of cuddling her child

A UK newspaper reports:
A mother alleged to have 'emotionally abused' her daughter by telling her she was born by caesarean has fled to Ireland with the child.

Fearing that social workers would take her daughter away, Shahnaz Malik smuggled five-year-old Amaani out of the country.

After allegations that included Mrs Malik cuddling Amaani for too long while dropping her off at nursery, social services placed the little girl on a 'child protection plan' and scheduled a child mental health assessment.

But using tickets booked under assumed names, Mrs Malik and her daughter caught a ferry to Ireland from a Welsh port.

Police arrested her husband for obstructing their investigation, and raided their Birmingham home in the hunt for Amaani.

Detectives even removed toothbrushes from their home to obtain DNA, in case the pair had been murdered.

Mrs Malik, who has a masters degree in social policy and has lived in Britain all her life, plans to stay in Ireland with her daughter until the family can raise enough money to start a new life in Dubai, out of the reach of the UK social services. ...

The family are being supported by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who campaigns against abuses in the family courts.

He said: 'This whole case is madness. There is no reason for the state to be involved in this little girl's life in this way.'
Several years ago, I would not have believed this story.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dr. Phil on family court

Someone suggested that I go tell my story on the Dr. Phil TV show, because he is doing a series on family court reform. So I watched the show.

Dr. Phil is a menace. The show made no attempt to give a balanced view of anything. He claims to be some sort of child psychologist, but he did not display any such knowledge. He would just listen to a one-sided story, and say "I get it." His main guest was Katie Tagle, whose story was discussed here last month. Her ex-husband committed a murder-suicide. As the Israelis have learned, it is very tough to avoid suicide-murderers.

The main point of the show was that the family court should do a better job of predicting future crimes.

One of the complainers had been in family court for eight years. No one considered the possibility that family court intervention could have caused the problem in the first place. The closest it came to saying that was to say that court experts make money on conflict, and do not have an incentive to resolve problems.

A lawyer said that criminal accusations belong in criminal court. I agree with that. The family court is ill-suited to deal with an accusation of a crime. If you want to report a crime, call the police.

Update: A reader suggests the Wikipedia article on Dr. Phil, for the sordid details on him. In short, don't rely on his advice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Local court faces cutbacks

The newspaper reports:
The local court branch may lose nearly a quarter of its staff if personnel cuts proposed this week are approved, Santa Cruz County Superior Court administrators confirmed Thursday.

The cost-saving measure could mean 20-30 of the court branch's 140 employees will be laid off before the fiscal year ends June 30, according to Alex Calvo, executive officer of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court system. ...

"It's really kind of a drag," said Criswell, who has worked for the court system for more than four years. "The morale is really bad."
A previous editorial said:
In an accompanying analysis of the compensation records, Sentinel reporter Kurtis Alexander found that top managers in Santa Cruz County government saw their salaries increase substantially, with the 10 highest administrators making, on average, an estimated 11 percent more in 2009 than in 2008. ...

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public employee compensation rose 28.6 percent from 1998 to 2008, compared to 19.3 percent for private workers. In 2009, a year defined by the recession, more than half the states awarded pay raises to employees -- even as deficits grew and services were cut.

Overall in the U.S., government workers make 45 percent more in pay and benefits than people working in the private sector, mostly because benefit packages are about 70 percent higher in government work than private.

California is among the states that allow "double dipping" -- where some public employees retire in their early 50s with lucrative pensions and then take full-time jobs elsewhere, often in the same line of work.

The stark reality is that these costs simply aren't sustainable for state and local governments. It's another reason that in a time of declining tax revenues services are slashed, while governments can't afford to hire new employees. The ones who are hired are often given lesser benefit packages.
I don't know how this will affect the family court, but I do think that the family court is horribly mismanaged. They claim that they are overworked, but they seem to have endless amounts of time to intervene in cases where no intervention is necessary or desirable. I estimate that about 80% of the family court work is completely unnecessary. Maybe the cutbacks will force them to reassess their priorities.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chicago dad can take daughter to church

I reported before on the Chicago dad being punished for taking his daughter to church.

Now the Chicago newspaper reports:
In a divorce case that’s drawn national attention, a Chicago man who claims he has returned to his Catholic roots will be allowed to take his 3-year-old daughter to church, despite the objections of the girl’s Jewish mother, a Cook County judge ruled this afternoon. ...

But Goldfarb said in a written divorce judgment today: “This court does not find, at this time, that it would be in the best interest of Ela to restrict Joseph’s visitation. He can take Ela to church services during his visitation time if he so chooses. This court will also order that Joseph have visitation with Ela every year on Christmas and Easter.”

Goldfarb said her decision to let Reyes take his daughter to church was based on “the best interest of the child.”
The judge is being disingenuous to cite the BIOTCh. The court made no such analysis. This was a family court that unconstitutionally encroached on religious freedom, and the public was outraged. To avoid bad publicity, the court backtracked. That's all.

The judge did not like his fellow judge's opinion being ridiculed, so he lashed out at the dad:
But, in her 30-page ruling dissolving Reyes’ six-year marriage to Rebecca Reyes, the judge also offered a stinging assessment of Joseph Reyes, a 35-year-old law student.

“Joseph, at times, seems to choose what is in the best interest of Joseph, rather than what is in the best interests of Ela,” the judge wrote. ...

The judge also was critical of Reyes’ efforts to publicize his case, ...
The court was eliminating the dad from the daughter's life, and the publicity was the only thing that saved the poor girl. Sure, the judge does not like the publicity because it showed the family court judge to be a malicious bigot.

It is also offensive for the judge to attack the dad for acting in his own interest. Only a family court would consider it a crime for a man to act in his own interest. I hope the dad is taking care of his own interest. If he does not, then he would probably have a psychological disorder.

Update: The court's opinion, as well as the previous opinion, are available on this legal blog.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Evaluator biased against the handicapped

Fellow angry dad Dan writes:
I lost my children largely to the fact that I have been treated for ADHD for the past 8 years.

The custody evaluator in my case, Dr. Edward J Connor of Connor and Associates, claimed that he had a hard time understanding me because of my ADHD. He claimed that my writings were confusing and difficult to follow. Dr. Connor claimed that my ADHD was to blame for the communication problems with my ex-wife. Dr. Ed Connor even suggested that people with OCD are better suited to care for young children that people with ADHD.
In California, the law forbids any parent losing custody because of a disability or handicap. The California supreme court ruled unanimously to that effect in In re Marriage of Carney (1979).

I don't think that ADHD is a significant handicap, but this evaluator is way out of line whether it is or not. If it is not a significant handicap, then he should ignore it. If it is a significant handicap, then the evaluator should be looking for ways to accommodate that handicap, and not using it as an excuse to take his kids away.

It is not the public policy of California to take kids away from disabled parents. If it were, then disabled citizens would be second-class citizens.

This is one of those exceptions to the Best Interest Of The Child (BIOTCH) doctrine. All other things being equal, it would seem preferable for a kid to reared by a healthy able-bodied parent than say, a blind parent. The BIOTCH would be for a parent who can see. But we do not have a policy of taking kids from blind parents.

If they can't take kids away from blind parents, then they certainly shouldn't take kids away from ADHD parents. Having ADHD is barely even noticeable. The fact that the evaluator would complain about something so trivial and irrelevant just shows the bias and incompetence of the evaluator (assuming Dan's blog is accurate).

Friday, April 09, 2010

Chile court rules against lesbian custody

The UK BBC reports:
Chile's Supreme Court has been rebuked for a ruling in which a woman lost custody of her children because she was living with her lesbian partner.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said the ruling was a violation of the woman's human rights.

In 2004, the court ordered Karen Atala to hand over her three daughters to her estranged husband.

The court argued that the girls could be psychologically damaged if they stayed in a same-sex household.
This is another case that sounds like a joke, but is not. One lesbian on the other side of the world loses a child custody case six years ago, and it is an international human rights incident?!

In those six years, millions of men have lost custody for much more trivial and discriminatory reasons.

I read these stories, and I think the world has gone mad. If they think that this particular custody decision was a human rights outrage, what do they think happens in all the other family courts?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

60-year-old support claim in court

The Houston Chronicle reports:
The story began in 1950. Douglas got pregnant and was not married. She insists Grass was the father and that he wanted nothing to do with her. After her son Gerald was born, she said she went to court to get an order for child support because she had no alternative.

No knowledge of order?
Douglas claims Grass, who now lives in Pearland, refused to acknowledge the child and paid no attention to court proceedings. Grass, 82, could not be reached for comment. His attorney in California, Pedram Mansouri, offered a different version of events, saying Grass, then a young soldier, attended one court hearing that produced no child support order and was sent by the Army to Korea before any subsequent hearing. Mansouri claims Grass knew nothing of the order that he pay $50 a month in support.
This sounds like a joke, but it is not. This is a 60 year old support complaint.

If your local bank cheats you out of $50, then you have about 30 days from the date of your monthly statement to make a complaint. After that your bank has no legal obligation.

Your bank would probably honor a claim that was a couple of months stale, but not one
that was a couple of years stale.

Only the family court would try to deal with a claim that 60 years stale.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Santa Cruz court change

The Santa Cruz courts have been reorganized again:
SANTA CRUZ -- Beginning July 1 all criminal matters, except for juvenile matters, will be handled in Santa Cruz as part of a massive consolidation announced Tuesday by county court officials.

Watsonville will host juvenile court as well as family law and dependency court, according to Presiding Judge Jeff Almquist.
Already, the judicial assignments have been changed. Judge Heather D. Morse has replaced Judge John S. Salazar in the family court.

I don't know what this is all about. The complaints seem to be that Watsonville has a new courthouse, and most of the county's criminals, but they now have to come to Santa Cruz for trial.

Every time there is a change in the family court, I figure that it is likely to be an improvement. I haven't heard anything bad about Judge Morse yet.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Marital spat in court and ballot box

Here is another bogus protection order case:
Linda Fischer, 39, filed court documents Friday accusing her husband of grabbing her arms and waist to try to wrestle away her cell phone and of sending her harassing text messages. She said she was so afraid that she has been sleeping in her daughter's room with the door locked.
Notice how ridiculous this is. She is still married to him, and living under the same roof. Wrestling her cell phone away sounds trivial to me. And she is obviously not really afraid, or she would get out of the house.

This is not news so far. It would be just a "dog bites man" story, and they say in the journalism trade. It happens every day. It is news because the woman is a US Congresswoman!

And it is news because his husband is running against her reelection:
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - An eastern Missouri lawmaker is facing an election challenge from her own husband, whom she accuses him of physical violence. He denies the allegations.
He is running as a Republican, and she is a Democrat.
John Fischer, 51, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had a verbal confrontation with his wife in March, but he denied any physical confrontation. He said he has asked for a polygraph test to determine if he is lying.

"I have never abused my wife, ever," said John Fischer, noting that he did not want his comments to be interpreted as a criticism of his wife. He later added, "I have never threatened my wife that she had to fear for her life."
He doesn't want to criticize his wife? After she filed false and malicious court papers against him? I guess the voters will be able to take sides in November.

Update: Fellow angry dad Dan makes a good comment below:
"Dangerous" people do not let a interior door stop them, ...

If someone you believe who may kill you wants your cell phone, give it to them. ...
There is a scene is the movie Gone With The Wind where Scarlett announces that she is going to lock the bedroom door, and Rhett says that no door lock would keep him out, if he really wanted to go in.

And while the Fischers wrestling for a cell phone may sound rude, it proves that she is not afraid of him.

When I have made points like these before, people sometimes argue that the women who need protection are often poor, uneducated, irrational, paranoid, delusional, and/or unstable, and may want protection regardless of the contradictions in her request. Maybe so, but the woman in this story is a US Congresswoman! If she cannot file a coherent complaint to the court about her husband, then surely she is not competent to make laws that apply to all of us.