Thursday, December 30, 2010

State gives lesbian parental rights

Law professor Eugene Volokh endorses a couple of court decisions that give joint child custody rights to non-parents. He says that this is good policy because they apply of the “psychological parent doctrine” and the “best interest of the child” (BIOTCh) standard.

In a N. Carolina case, a mom's lesbian lover had adopted the child, but the court later ruled that the adoption was invalid. Nevertheless, the state supreme court said that because the mom had foolishly let the lesbian lover act like a parent, the mom had relinquished her rights, and empowered the family court judge to do whatever he pleased.

Volokh acts as if there is some sort of justification for this decision because of psychology or child development, but there was no such evidence at all. The court did not make any finding about who was a “psychological parent”, or how the child might actually benefit.

A comment explains what's wrong with this decision by saying, "I shouldn’t ever have to convince the court that my sister is a drug abuser to decide to keep my children away from her."

That's right. The state has a procedure for assigning parental rights to non-parents. It is called adoption. Unless there is a formal court-finalized adoption, then the parents should retain all of the parental rights. The courts are usurping the rights of the parents for the purposes of some grand social experiments, and I don't see any good coming out of it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

California can now jail parents of truant kids

Effective next week, there is a new California truancy law:
Penal Code Section 270.1. (a) A parent or guardian of a pupil of six years of age or more who is in kindergarten or any of grades one to eight, inclusive, and who is subject to compulsory full-time education or compulsory continuation education, whose child is a chronic truant as defined in Section 48263.6 of the EC, who has failed to reasonably supervise and encourage the pupil's school attendance, and who has been offered language accessible support services to address the pupil's truancy, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
A year in jail seems excessive to me. Presumably the legislators will say that they did not intend for anyone to put in jail, but just want the authorities to have some very powerful intimidation tools. But this law is going to be selectively enforced by authorities with personal grudges. This is no law for a free society.

I mentioned this before, when the legislature passed it, and I just got this comment:
You people who think this law is ridiculous and are saying the school districts only want it for the money are silly. I teach in a large urban district and it is very difficult to teach an empty chair. Everyone complains about our low test scores yet how do I raise a child's score who is absent 1 or 2 days PER WEEK?? You people who are always blaming the teachers unions really don't even know the half of what goes on in these schools and how the parents are NEVER held responsible for half of this stuff. I have no control over this yet am held responsible. Absurd.
It is about the money. In my experience with the local public schools, they only teach about half the time. Missing one day a week would be insignificant if they actually taught the other four. Whenever my kids had to miss school for some reason, the school always explained to me that it loses funding of about $40 per day unless I fill out some paperwork or make some token appearance to avoid the loss. As long as they got their $40 per day, they were happy.

I am getting tired of teachers trying to blame parents, as the above commenter does. The teachers are very well paid, and they should do their jobs without blaming the parents. They should think of the parents as their customers. Otherwise, they should let someone else do the teaching. Every time my local school had one of their tenured teachers quit, it was always able to hire a better teacher.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bristol Palin moves to Arizona

The NY Post reports:
Growing up in the frigid climes of Alaska, it’s understandable why Bristol Palin might want to find a warmer home.

So it makes sense that the daughter of Sarah Palin just bought a house in Maricopa, Ariz., where the temperature on Christmas morning was a cool 75 degrees.

Of course, not every 20-year-old woman can afford to slap down $172,000 in cash to buy a nearly 4,000 square foot, two-story home, with five bedrooms and a three-car garage, as Bristol did. ...

“I appreciate the fact that she’s standing up against underage drinking – she raising her own child, and she getting an education, and going out on her own,” Smith said. “I admire her for being 20 years old and doing what she’s doing. It can’t be easy.”
The article does not mention the fact that Bristol's child has a father living in Alaska. Bristol just moved thousands of miles away, and is depriving her child of a father. There is nothing admirable about what she is doing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Teen embarrassment

Family courts sometimes consider the wishes of a teenager about which parent should have custody. They usually do not ask the kid directly, but try to infer the kid's wishes from various subjective reports. The process is foolish.

AP reports:
What embarrasses a teen? Parents
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Mom is not cool in her jeggings and Uggs. Dad's a dork who drives a wreck. Together they're unbearable, singing along in the supermarket to "Do they know it's Christmas?"

No wonder "Mom (or dad), you're embarrassing me!" is heard wherever teenagers are seen in public with their parents.

And yet, parental bad taste is not the true cause of teenage mortification. What's really going on is a normal stage of adolescent development, according to David Sabine, a clinical psychologist in Wichita Falls, Texas.
That's right, a normal stage of adolescent development. If the court tries to avoid such embarrassment, then it is depriving the kid of normal development.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Courts shrinks in old movies

The most popular Christmas movie on TV seems to be Miracle on 34th Street (1947). It is being shown over and over, in color and black-and-white. It is an entertaining and corny Santa Claus movie, if you haven't seen it. It has been remade, but you want to watch the original.

The courtroom psychiatry scenes are particularly amusing. Santa Claus calls the psychologist "contemptible, dishonest, selfish, deceitful, vicious -- and yet he's out there and I'm in here. He's called normal and I'm not." The judge has to rule on Santa's sanity, and he is in way over his head.

Another amusing old movie with a courtroom psychiatric commitment scene is Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Gary Cooper has to deal with greedy relatives, backstabbing lawyers, and schlock forensic psychiatrists. Again, the expert testimony is worse than worthless and you wonder how a court could ever deal with a psychological issue competently.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Preparing the impromptu speech

Mark Twain said:
It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
He is right. It only takes one week to prepare a good prepared speech. My child custody trial continues on Jan. 12. I am going to need a good impromptu speech. I'd better start preparing.

A reader recommended a lawyer to me, so I called him. He seemed like a knowledgeable and sensible guy, but as soon as heard that I was in the middle of a trial, he chickened out. He did not even want to tell me what he fees are, because there is no way that he would step into such a fight in progress. He said that if there is some new action in a couple of years, and I want a lawyer to represent me from the start, then he is interested. Otherwise he would never get a firm enough grasp of the case, and would not want to be responsible for what he might have overlooked.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Perlmutter declares himself incompetent

The most striking thing about psychologist Ken Perlmutter's testimony was how many times that he admitted that he was incompetent. I mean that he was literally using the words "incompetent" and "not competent" to evade questions about his evaluation. When asked the most basic questions about our child custody situation before his evaluation, the reasons for his appointment, the outcome of a previous custody trial, the appropriateness of various parental behaviors, the applicability of psychological principles, criteria for defining abuse, comparisons of parenting abilities, the effectiveness of court orders, standards for denying legal custody, etc, he repeatedly claimed that he was incompetent to answer such questions. Yes, he said that he was literally not competent to answer.

When I challenged his expertise to testify, he had a very hard time argument for his qualifications. He claimed to have training and experience in child custody evaluations, but he was completely unable to explain how he brought any expert knowledge to bear on this evaluation.

After several questions about expert knowledge, he eventually claimed to have some knowledge about attachment theory, as taught by John Bowlby. When asked how this had any relation to the current evaluation, he admitted that there is none, and sounded as if he was just repeating some buzzword that he last heard in grad school. When asked what it was, he said that I could Google it to find out. I replied that I would have, if he had mentioned it when I asked him the same question during the deposition, but he denied any expert knowledge in that deposition. Nevertheless, the judge then said that he was qualified to testify after she heard him say Bowlby's name, and that I could challenge his testimony later.

I don't think that the judge realized that the attachment theory line was total BS. The theory has to do with how toddlers get attached to parents during the first two years of life. None of that has anything to do with my case. But the judge was surely disappointed at how Perlmutter repeatedly declared his incompetence on the most central and important issues of the case.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Perlmutter testifies

We had another day of trial, with Palo Alto psychologist Ken Perlmutter testifying. He testified that he had a mistaken understanding that I had already lost legal custody, but he wrote the order to take away legal and would have done it even if my ex-wife had told him the truth. For many questions, he said that he was not competent to understand the legal history of our case. I post more on his opinions later.

Earlier in the day, I saw the judge lecture a mom about getting the dad into the child's life. Apparently the parents were busted for illegal drugs, and CPS took their baby. CPS put them on a reunification plan where they go into rehab, take parenting, and have regular testing to get the kid back. The mom did it and got the kid back. The left town, and did not see them for 5 years.

Now, 5 years later, the dad wants visitation. The mom says that he never did the rehab or other requirements, and the kid does not even recognize him. He got 3 hours visitation per week, supervised by his parents (the child's grandparents). He got a better deal than I got!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advantages of a lawyer

Readers have been posting messages about the pros and cons of being represented by a lawyer in family court.

I don't have all the answers, but I will make one note. When I ask a dad how he lost custody of his kids, the most common answer is that he went broke paying lawyers. He will say that he fought the system until all of his savings had been depleted, at which point his lawyer convinced him that nothing else could be done. So he gave up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why some court cases are prolonged

A reader comments:
what on earth happened between you and your ex to create such mistrust and hostility? something else must have happened that you are not sharing. seldom to never does someone get themselves into this position while faultless.
I am afraid that this comment misunderstands the legal system.

The recent popular movie The Social Network tells the story of Facebook, and how it has been plagued by lawsuits from former associates who claim to have been cheated based on some oral (and unwritten) understandings. In the end of the movie, the company pays them all off, regardless of the merits of their claims.

But the claims have not been resolved. Just last Sunday on CBS TV News 60 Minutes, the Winklevoss twins were explaining how they think that they have been cheated, and how they want more money in addition to the settlement of $100M or so that they already received.

The movie gives the impression that Zuckerberg made some cold business decisions that were essential for Facebook's success. His associates missed out on one of the biggest booms in business history, and they are unhappy about it.

I have no idea whether there is any merit to the twins' claims. But I do know that, the way our legal system works, it does not necessarily have anything to do with mistrust, hostility, and fault. All of the litigation can be explained by the simple fact that the twins can hire contingency lawyers, and they can keep suing until the courts eventually force them to stop. The twins have nothing to lose by suing, and Facebook has the deep pockets. It is as simple as that.

A reader does not understand the analogy, so I will spell it out.

My ex-wife first demanded sole custody in June 2004. She has occasionally gotten temporary orders in her favor, but all of her claims were ultimately disproved at trials. The only permanent orders have been for 50-50 custody. She continues to ask for sole custody, even tho her own witness acknowledges that he could find no merit to her accusations.

She will continue to make bogus legal claims as long as she can profit by doing so. I have currently been cut off from my kids, and I will continue to bring legal motions to see my kids as long as I am the legal father and I have the legal right to see my kids.

The point of the analogy is that you do not have to understand the merits of the twins' claims in order to understand why the litigation seems to go on forever. And you do not have to understand the merits of my ex-wife's claims to understand why our court case has no end to it. It is a defect in our legal system. I could be the world's best dad or the world's worst. But unless the court is going to make some determination and stick to it, then there can be no end to the litigation.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The root of Assange's rage

The Wikipedia article on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange explains some of his hostility towards govt officials keeping secrets:
In 1989, Assange started living with his girlfriend and they had a son, Daniel. She separated from him after the 1991 police raid and took their son. They engaged in a lengthy custody struggle, and did not agree on a custody arrangement until 1999. The entire process prompted Assange and his mother to form Parent Inquiry Into Child Protection, an activist group centered on creating a "central databank" for otherwise inaccessible legal records related to child custody issues in Australia.
Or, as a London newspaper says:
At around this time Assange split up with his girlfriend, with whom he had a child, and then pursued a long and unsuccessful custody battle which further embittered him towards authority. By the end, his mother says, the strain had turned his hair from brown to white.
My ex-wife has used secret documents to falsely label our kids as abused kids and gain custody of them. She complained to CPS that I was an emotional abuser, and managed to convince the CPS agent of some gripes about my parenting style. But the CPS report and testimony said that CPS was not able to find any specific abuse.

I would post the quotes from the CPS findings that there was no abuse, but my ex-wife managed to get an order from Cmr. Irwin Joseph forbidding me to do that. As a result, our kids are growing up without a father, and everyone in town thinks that they are abused kids.

When govt agencies are allowed to keep secrets, they always use the power to cover up their own incompetence and corruption.

The court-appointed psychologist, Ken Perlmutter, also made a determination that there was no abuse. I am supposed to keep quiet about that also, because Calif. Family Code 3111(d) forbids an "unwarranted disclosure of a written confidential report", whatever that is.

WikiLeaks seems irresponsible and destructive. But so is using govt secrecy to prevent kids from seeing their fathers. I would rather just post all the documents in my case, as they would prove that my kids were not abused.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New film against lying moms

Someone sent me this claim, from
Lancaster, PA, December 8th, 2010 – With only a camcorder, unique strategy and a refusal to back down, Bennett J. Vonderheide single-handedly stood up against false accusations of domestic violence and the system that fuels them. But unlike the millions who tried and failed before he won!

Creating Daddy Justice via his, "Michael Moore on steroids," guerrilla filming style, he inspired the first conviction ever in America for perjury in custody court and much more. Eventually politicians, the district attorney, judges and government agencies took action to correct the anti-male, "status quo," as a result of his expose’. Now this extreme footage is going public for the first time.
This fellow angry dad has a polished film trailer on his site. On it he says, "I am going to film every bit of the process, while they steal my son."

That is the way I feel, in maintaining this blog. Maybe I cannot stop them from stealing my daughters, but at least I can document what they are doing.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Court to consider dads held in contempt

The federal courts avoid family court issues as much as they can, but another one has gotten the attention of the US Supreme Court. The NY Times reports:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether poor people who face incarceration for civil contempt are entitled to court-appointed lawyers.

In a series of decisions starting with Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963, the Supreme Court has held that poor people facing the loss of liberty for crimes must be provided with lawyers. The question in the new case, Turner v. Price, No. 10-10, is whether that right also applies where incarceration is meant to be coercive rather than punitive.

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in March that Michael D. Turner, who was held in civil contempt and sentenced to a year in prison for failing to pay child support, had no constitutional right to a lawyer. The point of the sentence was to make Mr. Turner pay rather than to punish him, the court said. ... As it happened, Mr. Turner served the entire sentence.
If a man is facing a year in prison, then he should have all the same rights of any other defendant who is facing a year in prison.

Monday, December 06, 2010

How I lost legal custody

A reader asks whether I am allowed to see my kids.

I am currently operating under an order written by Palo Alto psychologist Ken Perlmutter, and signed by the acting juvenile delinqency court commissioner, Irwin Joseph, without any hearing. It terminated my joint legal custody, and reduced my visitation to four hours per month, professionally supervised by the court.

Perlmutter did a $26,000 evaluation, and did not find any abuse, neglect, drug use, or any other wrongdoing. He said that my kids love me, and want a relationship with me. He testified that the main reason for the restricted visitation was to prevent my kids from learning that my ex-wife had made unfounded charges of emotional abuse to CPS and the family court.

As far as I know, I am the only father in American history to lose joint legal custody like this. In the cases that I've heard about, fathers only lost joint legal custody if they voluntarily waived their rights, or they had unexplained absences from several consecutive court hearings, or they were convicted of a crime against their kids in either criminal court or juvenile dependency court. None of that has happened in my case. No professional has even accused me of doing any specific wrongdoing. Not even the court-appointed crooks like Perlmutter.

A reader asks, in the comments:
I didn't think that recommendations from a custody evaluation were signed into order without a hearing to review? Did you miss that hearing?
I did not think so either. I also did not think that a juvenile delinquency court commissioner had any authority over the matter. There was never a case in any juvenile court. The case is in family court. No, there was no hearing. I had to make a motion in the family court to ask for a hearing.
What was your timeshare like before the recommendations and new order?
Before the motion that resulted in the Perlmutter evaluation, I had 50-50 joint legal and physical custody of our two kids. During the evaluation, Perlmutter was supposed to make temporary recommendations, but he never did. So visitation was sporadic.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Allowing a court-ordered report as evidence

A reader asks about any specific indications that the judge may be leaning against me.

One minor procedural issue concerned a 2005 report. It was ordered by the court, at my ex-wife's request, but she has been complaining about it ever since. At our current trial, the judge granted motions to prohibit my witnesses from reviewing or commenting on the report. But then the judge granted her motions to let her own witnesses use the report! At the end of the hearing on Tuesday, I said, "Let me get this straight. None of my witnesses can read the report, but [my ex-wife's] witnesses can read the report. Is that correct?"

At that point, the judge reversed herself and said that the report could be entered into evidence so that any of the witnesses could read it and comment on it.

I do not really expect some 5-year-old report to make a big difference in my case, but it was disturbing that the judge was so eager to keep this report from my witnesses. There was just no good reason to block use of the report. It was not that the report was old, because an older report was being used. It was just that my ex-wife was whining about the report.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Seeing All Men as Predators

That is the subject of a NY Times column on moms who refuse to hire male babysitters. Some related stories include this:
Finally, to round out the week, a big brouhaha broke out on my neighborhood’s parent’s Listserv. A number of men playing chess on the stone chess tables inside one of our local playgrounds were given citations by the police. The reasoning? No adults allowed in a children’s playground without a child. (That’s the rule in all city playgrounds.)
It is a sad day when it is a crime for a man to play chess in a public park.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The new face of divorce

Here is divorce news from England:
It used to be the tell-tale lipstick on the collar. Then there were the give-away texts that spelled the death knell for many marriages.

But now one in five divorces involve the social networking site Facebook, according to a new survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

A staggering 80 per cent of divorce lawyers have also reported a spike in the number of cases that use social media for evidence of cheating.

Flirty messages and photographs found on Facebook are increasingly being cited as proof of unreasonable behaviour or irreconcilable differences.

Many cases revolve around social media users who get back in touch with old flames they hadn’t heard from in many years. ...

‘Desperate Housewives’ star Eva Longoria recently split from her basketball player husband Tony Parker after alleging that he strayed with a woman he kept in touch with on Facebook.

An American minister also made the headlines recently when he called Facebook a ‘portal to infidelity’ and insisted that his congregation delete their accounts after revealing that 20 couples attending his New Jersey church had been led astray through the site.

Rev. Cedric Millier, who runs the Living World Christian Fellowship Church in Neptune, New Jersey, said Facebook enabled spouses to reconnect with former lovers, leading to rows and bitterness.

But Rev. Miller was forced to take a leave of absence after his own non-Facebook transgressions were revealed in an admission that he took part in three-way sexual trysts in the past.
I waiting for marriage vows that include a promise to stay off Facebook.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No relief for the falsely accused

The US Supreme Court just denied relief for those falsely accused of child abuse. CNN reports:
Justices rule against couple still on state registry

Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a California couple "living every parent's nightmare" who tried to sue local county officials for damages after failing to get off a database listing known or suspected child abusers.

At issue was whether the database -- known as the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) -- violates the constitutional protection of due process because those on it are not given a "fair opportunity" to challenge the allegations against them.

The justices by an 8-0 vote ruled strictly on the complex, rather dry legal arguments, refusing to offer any sympathetic thoughts on the plight of either the parents in question, or the county. ...

However, a subsequent probe -- which included the family doctor testifying he had examined the girl on repeated occasions and had seen no physical abuse -- found the parents "factually innocent" and they were cleared of all charges.

When they next sought to remove their names from the CACI list, they were told to address their request to the local detective in the case. But they found the detective had been transferred and there was no procedure to challenge their listing. The state and county continued refusing to remove the Humphries designation as "substantiated" child abusers, even after a court order mandated the arrest records be sealed and destroyed. ...

This appeal raised the fundamental question of whether an absence of procedures or accountability amounted to a "policy."
Here is the opinion in LA County v Humphries. The LA Times reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that Los Angeles County does not have to pay attorney fees to a couple listed as child abusers even though they were declared innocent years ago.

Craig and Wendy Humphries were arrested by sheriff's deputies nine years ago after their rebellious daughter accused them of abuse. State courts ruled the allegation was false but they remain on California's Child Abuse Central Index.
This is disgusting. The court is more interested in rights for the guilty and various political causes, then defending the rights of the innocent.

My own situation is similar to Humphries. My ex-wife made false accusations of emotional abuse against me three years ago. Her own psychologist expert witness examined her claims, and testified that he could find no merit to them. And yet I cannot get off that California index either.