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RESOURCES - SINGLE AND DIVORCING PARENTS

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Jim, it is reports like yours that make me even more firmly committed to parenting time orders that are so specific that they have times and dates in them and may be 4 or 5 pages long. A court order that says that the parents will have joint physical custody that doesn't spell out in detail how that time is going to be shared cannot be enforced by the police. The court would have to find her in contempt if your court order said that you are to have the children (for example) on the first and third week in January and in alternate weeks from Sunday at 6 PM to Sunday at 6 PM.

Michigan has a parental kidnapping statute. It is a felony for her to keep the children for more than 24 hours after the order says that they are to be in your custody.

It sounds like your problem is that your court court is not specific enough. This is what happens when people try to draft these things themselves.

I know I'm way late on this, but I just wanted to say thanks for some good information. I'm in the middle of a custody battle with my ex-wife right now. In our divorce we agreed to a joint legal, joint physical custody arrangement which gave us equal parenting time. But since the day she moved out I have yet to get that equal parenting time. I've asked for it, hundreds of times. She has no problem sending the kids away to her parents for a week or so at a time (my parenting time be damned). She regularly drops the kids off late and on one occasion wasn't home when I went to bring them back. 2 hours later she says she has plans and calls the police saying that I kidnapped them. Then she shows up at my door the following morning with her current boyfriend (ie her flavor of the week) in tow screaming (in front of the kids by the way) about how he's going to "pound me" among other choice phrases. After that incident I filed a police report against him and called an attorney and filed for specific parenting time. 6 months later (yes it took that long to get a hearing date and have 2 hearings) the referee that heard the hearings gave his opinion that the best interest of the children doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that she's violated the custody order since the time of the divorce. It doesn't matter that her bedroom has a revolving door on it. It doesn't matter that 2 of her boyfriend's have threatened me (the one in front of the kids). It doesn't matter that I'm their father trying to do what is best for the kids. All that matters is that it was her body that pushed the kids into this world. So thanks for some information and quotes. I know the reality of the situation is that the court favors the mother (no matter how much judges will deny that fact) and I have an uphill battle. But this has at least given me more information to have on hand (along with the video camera I have going every time she does bother to drop them off just in case her next sperm donor decides to do more than just make verbal threats).

Hello Jennifer,

You could not have read in anything I have written that "if a person is good enough to get pregnant by then they are good enough to be a parent" because I do not ascribe to that position.

However, in this imperfect world I will not deny that I have seen judges and referees who hold that belief.

I agree with you that it can be very difficult to protect children from abusive parents.

Jeanne

I agree that in a perfect world the ideal situation would be too have joint parenting time where each parents has equal amounts of time; however, this is not a perfect world. I think that people are forgetting about all the cases where a parent is abusive. I read in a post that if the person was good enough to get pregnant by they are good enough to be a parent. Being ones spouse is not the same as being a parent. I was in a relationship where I went to leave because it was abusive and found out I was pregnant. After speaking to lawyers and finding out that if I left my sons father would have standard visitation I made the choice that it was better if I stayed in the abusive relationship because at least then I could protect my son. If I left, there was no one to protect him. I stayed for 8 years before we split up. His father has closed head injuries, suffers from mental illness, a drug addict, and was abused himself. My biggest fear has been how to protect my son now that I will not be there to protect him. The courts do not like to restrict visitation and attempting to get supervised visitation is an uphill battle with a very low likelyhood. I think people need to remember that there are exceptions to good parents and the system is so difficult already that people are being forced to stay in abusive situations because it is too hard to convince the courts. I do feel that my ex has a right to see his son. I know that he does love him. I also know that my son is in danger everytime he is with him and that does need to be addressed. I can not pull out police records because as I learned calling the police caused more damage than it did good. My point is that the children are what matters in the end, if you make it too hard to protect them out of fear of upsetting the parent you very well may be sentencing a kid to the death penalty.

I want to address "Father's" comments immediately above.

I cannot agree with you more. Children need both parents to be active in their lives. And I especially agree with you that the time spent by a parent and his or her children should be called "parenting time" not "visitation." We visit with friends. We "parent" our children.

What about millions of Fathers who are MIA because of the family court system? Political figures often discuss the welfare of our children but never discuss the problem regarding our family court system, unfair visitation laws and how those laws effective fathers who want to be part of their children’s lives.

There is a Child Support Enforcement agency in every state but not a Visitation/Parenting Time Enforcement Agency. Why?? This needs to be an issue addressed at the federal level and not decided by the states because the system at the state level is not working. Most states call the time Fathers spend with their children as “Visitation” instead of calling it what it is “Parenting time”. Parenting time is a time to be a parent to your child. Visitation is what the family court force on fathers, as they want fathers to become an occasional visitor. Why can’t the family courts grant time to fathers in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong and loving relationship between the child and the parent? The standard visitation which is four days a month is not enough time to be an effective parent to your child. The family courts very, very rarely enforce visitation. Here, the prejudice is against fathers and their parental rights. The congress refuses to acknowledge the "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of denying the love and companionship between a father and their child.

Fathers are systematically eliminated from their children’s lives. Father’s parental rights are systematically terminated by family court judges who have a deep seated gender bias against fathers. Termination of parental rights is both total and irrevocable. Termination of parental rights is the family law equivalent of the death penalty in a criminal case.

The United States Supreme Court has said:
“[w]e have little doubt that the Due Process Clause would be offended “if a State were to attempt to force the breakup of a natural family, over the objections of the parents and their children, without some showing of unfitness and for the sole reason that to do so was thought to be in the children’s best interest.” This was missing from the Obama’s Father’s day speech. What about millions of Fathers who are MIA because of the family court system?

Michigan should look at Georgia as a model for its reforms. Unlike most of the other States Georgia actually requires FULL financial disclosure from BOTH parents instead of the unfair burden almost always placed upon the non-custodial parent. Shared parenting would alleviate a good majority of that. In addition remove the seperation of visitation and Child Support and hold the custodail parents who violate visitation to the same level of prosecution that you hold child support obligors too.

If a NCP doesnt pay child support they are subjected to the full extent of collection procedures REGARDLESS of the reason (Illness, Forced Unemployment,Incarceration)resulting in the NCP feeling as if they have to run and evade because the mounting debt is too much to overcome. If this is coupled with the realitization that a great many of the NCPs who are in arrearers are unskilled general workers with no skills which would allow them to earn much more then minimum wage then the system could actually take into account the real amounts the person is able to pay.

I beleieve a real solution to this problem would also be REQUIRING the CP to show real proof that the monies being paid for child support are being used for the child. Many NCPs feel frustrated that they see no visual benfits to thier children. when they see the CP using the money for his or her own benefit and to support THIER lifestyle choices rather then ensuring that the children recieve all the benefits that the support is supposed to be used for.

For Example: A NCP paying 700 a month for one middle school aged child
The yearly for that child is $8400 post tax dollars burden on the NCP
Lets say for the sake of argument that both parents are fairly even in income levels, say $40,000/annum
Now the NCP is required to maintain health insurance on the child as well (Med,Dental, Vision) and that they pay $400 a month to that end. This also assumes that the NCP has not remarried and has no other children.
That adds up to another $4800 a year that the NCP is paying out. Even if you take out how much they pay to insure themselves (we will say 1/2) thats $2400 a month post tax income they are paying.

Now using the recent study that says it cost 1800.00/month to support a child of that age then the NCP is now paying $12,800 a year for the support of the child. That leaves the CP only responsible for $5200 of the yearly burden that the CP has an addtional Tax free $8400.00 in addition to thier own income to use for thier part of the support required for the child.

Now this is hypothetical of course but it shows the inequity of the current system and the burden on the NCPs to maintain high standards of support with no such onus on the CP. The CP is many cases has the right of conservatorship and will decide what is easiest for THEM regardless of the wishes of the CP. And before anyone starts shooting holes in this post I have 5 children from newborn to 17 so I understand what it takes at all levels. I know its a little more or a little less at all ages but $1800 is a good number.

I have actually seen it myself where the child was not even living at the home of the parent but was being supported by the grandparents and the courts refused to even consider any changes. Yet CP still got all the money to do with as they pleased wiht no oversight.

The NCPs in the system are treated as walking wallets and nothing more in most cases so before you start talking about fairness in shared parenting the inequities in the systme should be addressed first. You start requiring the CPs to show where the money is going then a lot of these issues will go away because they will not be able to treat it like free money any longer.

Also consider this. If the CPs were required to show where the money is going then it would give a much more realistic picture of real needs. And if you want to really be fair a percentage of the NCPs child support could be factored in for food,household bills etc but there are WAY too many cases now where the child support not only goes for the child but supports the CP as well as thier primary source of income. Once the relationship between the CP and NCP is done either by divorce or splitting up it is no longer the NCPs responsibility to contribute to the CPs welfare. The CP needs to be held to the same level of responsibility as the NCP is.

Jeanne,

I am hoping you received my message regarding how the comment I left which was edited down lost its basic arguements. The edited down version sounds like an all out attack on attorneys which is not my intention so I placed my unedited response here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/415340/equal_parenting_rights_are_beneficial.html
so that you can redirect your readers. Thank you for your help in this. Please take care and keep up the great blog.

Angela

I am interested in thoughts about a parenting time schedule where as the non- custodial parent does not facilitate that time but instead assigns it to his family. I am currently in a situation where the non-custodial parent will not allow the childern to participate in activities unless he sets it up, has said on 5 different occassions that the childern could be removed to another state where the FOC denied the motion based on wording in the agreement, and where the non-custodial parent refuses to communicate in any fashion except with profanity and "don't call me again"- although our diviorce order states that we must communicate concerns and activities to the other parent. This is my joint legal custody nightmare. When I bring it up to the FOC- the only resoponse I get is "we can't make him be a good parent". So what good is my court order? what good is a law that is not being enforced in the first place? What is the FOC doing that is in the best interest of our children when they don't even listen to them? I agree with the statement above- the courts are treating the children like parents property-telling them that they do not have a choice till they are 18, and when concerned parents try to make it work,we are denied because the FOC will miss out on their financing. This is a farce and the rights of parents are being taken away because the courts see it as a meal ticket to their pocketbooks.

Jeanne,

You write an excellent blog but I was disappointed to see that you edited my response. I know it was rather long but the arguement I made was lost when you edited it down. Sorry for making it so long. I must thank you again for writing such a wonderful blog - looks great - easy to navigate, etc. I hope meet you someday and am thankful that you are at least attempting to find a middle ground in the debate of equal parenting legislation.

HB4564 is not a cookie-cutter approach! The outdated child custody laws from the 1970s create the cookie cutter results. It was clear from last years HB5267 that the Family Law Section of Michigan was more concerned with the best interests of Michigan's attorney pocketbooks and not the best interests of children. The average person KNOWS this and that is why in poll after poll Michigan's voters are asking for some form of equal parenting legislation.

Congratulations to Craig Feringa and Alex Cave, who are at least looking for some form of a solution to the current problem. The system is broke; anyone with an ounce of common sense and the ability to talk to the average person who has been through the system knows this.

Angela Pedersen, R.N.

Readers: You will find much more information on Angela Pedersen's Blog: Daddyblogger.com http://daddy.typepad.com/daddyblog/mi_hb_4564/index.html
http://www.associatedcontent.com/achildsright

First I want to address Joel. I agree that this bill, HB 4564, should pass because there should be an objective and fair start at where custody disputes actually begin. By increasing the burden of proof necessary to infringe upon the protected realm of parenting the outcome will certainly decrease the frivolous bickering back and forth about "parenting styles" that go on and on and only benefit attorneys and the growing bureaucracies forming around the family court "system."

An increase in the burden of proof also protects the unnecessary reduction in the rights of parents to the privacy, control and upbringing of their own children. Could you imagine if CPS could take a child based upon a subjective "best interests" standard, which really is the same preponderance standard used in traffic cases. The only difference with the status quo is that there are more preponderance factors.

Secondly, it is clear that bills like this are a threat to the status quo that has prided itself on operating under some ideology that the state is the protector of the children and not the parents and under the guise of some moral authority. The system and its participants benefit from using subjectivity instead of constitutional authority and objectivity to arrive at decisions. In order for the State to operate under the previously mentioned ideology, which is beneficial only to its own growth, the rights of both parents should have to be terminated using the highest standard of proof. Any basic law school graduate knows that even a 1% reduction of a protected liberty without due process is no different than a total squashing of such liberty.

It is time to stop using child custody, paternity, and divorce litigation as an opportunity for government intrusion and an elaborate affirmative action like tool that pits parent against parent. If attorneys that specialize in family law are interested in using mediation and arbitration to solve family issues, this law will strengthen that position and allow people to iron on specific parenting plans that will benefit their children in the long run. If two fit, willing, and caring parents are both protected by the Constitution and so are the children, then there should be equal opportunity to equal time, control, and care with minimal government intrusion. Even if parents can't get along this bill has the ability to reduce conflict by limiting contact between parents with each other because school can be used as the pick up and drop off points and the number of exchanges in-person could be theoretically reduced.

This law will actually allow people to focus on parenting instead of conflict between each other unless they have truly relevant reasons for litigating, the cases will be settled completely out of court. If the law went one step further and actually held BOTH parents in contempt for parental conflict, that would pretty much cure the tattle-tale syndrome that has been caused by the courts. We would instantly see a long-term reduction in high-conflict family court cases.

Lary Holland
laryholland.com
getoffthebench.tv

Ms. Hannah you have posted in the past that you believe that the current system of assigning sole custody to one parent in the super majority of custody disputes is not serving the best interests of our children but yet you don't come up with a way to fix our state's broken system. From the comments that you and the other lawyers posted it would seem that you think 6-days a month is adequate time to properly parent children and that this was the amount of time that non-custodial parents spent with their children prior to the divorce. The fact is that the court, lawyers and FOC do not look out for children's best interest they look to push families through the system to extract money and create a federal funding mechanism. Only 10% of cases are ruled on by judges so it is obvious that it is not so important to have judges decide what is best and even you allude to this in your posted comments. The majority of cases if not all cases atleast start the process of a custody evaluation but only half make it to the end with the super majority resulting in sole mother custody FOC recommendation which is COOKIE-CUTTER. The Divorce Industry uses coercive tactics that force most working parents to settle prior to getting to the judge or even completing the custody evalution so come up with something please better then Winner/Loser Custody because most people know that the Divorce Industry is failing our society and is causing long term harm. Presuming that parents are equal then requiring them to work together to parent their children is what is best for our children so that they are not denied a significant relationship with either of their fit parents. Remember that this bill allows parents to agree to other arrangements and that the support formula is not changed.


When considering HB 5464, we must consider the fairness of the current system in the courts, and with that it's important to recognize their financial conflicts of interest when handling child custody and parenting time.

The friend of the court gets most or all of its funding under federal government under US Code Title 42, Section 655) and US Code Title 42 Section 658a. Much of this money depends on the number of children in single parent homes, and the number of dollars collected, which is also maximized by single parent homes.

Also, single payer parents benefit courts by falling behind more often and more deeply. If parents fall behind, the court wins, because it can charge them arrears which goes in its own pocketbook.

Michigan's provisions for parenting time enforcement in the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act (MCL 552.642 Sec 42) are almost universally ignored in Michigan courts. Almost no court automatically orders makeup parenting time equal to that which was lost and at the time of the aggrieved parent's choosing.

This is due in part to the fact that when the state collects federal dollars under US Code Title 42 Section 669b Grants to States for Access and Visitation, those dollars are awarded on a noncompetitive basis in Michigan, and they all go to supervised visitation centers. I'm sure that no judge ever selects a visitation center on the basis of how much it's contributed to his campaign, or no judge encourages more supervised visitation to generate more money for his friends at the center.

It is because of these problems and because of their love for their children that Dads and Moms of Michigan and others have worked to support Michigan House Bill HB 5464, which would instruct judges to prefer joint custody unless there is clear and convincing evidence that it won't work.

Please contact your Michigan House Rep and support HB 5464.

If you don't like HB 5464, then come way with some other way to fix these conflicts of interests that are harming Michigan's families!

Joel,

I agree that it's important for children to have both fit parents involved in their lives. And I agree that judges should not necessarily be the arbiters of which parent will do the majority of the hands-on parenting. In fact, I recently heard a judge tell two parents "Why would you come to this court and ask me -- a person who barely knows you and your family -- to make this most important decision?" When parents can agree about what the parenting time order should look like, that's a good thing.

But when parents disagree, I strongly believe that the rights of children should come ahead of the rights of parents. Contributing DNA doesn't make a parent a fit parent.

Interesting story. I wonder though how it is that a judge can read a few documents about a family, and then make a value judgement as to what is in the best interest of a child. I can only think of two people that can make that decision -- the parents. When both parents want to be substantially included in the life of a child, why should anyone have a right - which BTW they don't according to our US Supreme Court - to say who stays and who goes. It is a right of the children as well to have both parents substantially in their life, and they are ill equipped to decide otherwise until they are well into their adult life, like so many of us have learned in our own lives.

The best interest of a child is served by equal shared parenting. The parent that fight hard to keep that from happening, should just give up their time for not working in the best interest of their child. If a parent is good enough to go to bed with, to have a child with, then they are good enough to have the time with their child.

Money aside, children deserve to have both parents. Money not aside, it is the reason it doesn't happen today. Both parents have the same opportunities in this country. They both need to take advantage of them when their children are with the other parent, so they can support themselves and their lifestyle.

Good luck, I hope this bill passes and sends a strong message about how the State supports the health and well being of children.

Thank you for not making your story a gender issue.

Joel Johnston
USSharedParenting.com

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