Testimony Supports Less Need for Court Ordered Professionals

The SPC advocates amendments to Connecticut’s HB 5505 to reduce conflict by giving each parent an incentive to support the other parents. This implements CT’s 2005 law – other states (MA, MD and others) are implementing shared parenting. Here are the proposed amendments:

Purpose: establishing the presumption of behavior encouraging parental involvement

Sec. 4. Section 46b-56 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (j) as follows (Effective October 1, 2015):

(new) (j) In cases involving an existing Parental Responsibility Plan (PRP), or any existing custodial order, statutory factors (6) and (7) of Conn. Gen. Sats 46b-56(c ) shall determine the resolution of any dispute. A pattern of noncompliance with existing custodial orders, or with an existing PRP provides evidence of unwillingness to foster a good parent-child relationship (violation of factor 6) and/or manipulative or coercive behavior (factor 7). Such pattern of noncompliance will result in a finding in favor of the other  parent.

Note: the relevant factors:

(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;

(7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute.

Rationale: to reduce litigation by establishing the primary role of behavior fostering a good relationship with the other parent.

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Government Agencies Deal with Excessive Child Support Orders

On Friday, June 27, 2014, Connecticut’s Department of Social Services (DSS) sponsored a one-day conference. This conference focused on the relationship between child support and effective parenting. It emphasized the importance of co-parenting and of father involvement with their children. The judicial branch, Support Enforcement Services (Charisse Hutton) and Family Support Magistrates Division (Norma Sanchez-Figueroa) emphasized the importance of parental involvement and the negative influence of excessive support orders.

  • The keynote speaker was Vicki Turetski, Commissioner, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement.
    • She emphasized that regular child support payments increase with parental involvement.
    • She lauded the Fatherhood Initiative, a federal program that began in 2000.

Brief Summary of Conference Themes
The themes of the conference centered on the connection between parental involvement and financial support for children living with one parent. Even in cases with past domestic violence, a structured program and a commitment to change behavior can lead to successful co-parenting. There was general agreement that parental time and decision making responsibility are at least as important as child support dollars. The dollars can interfere with parental involvement when support orders are unrealistic or when arrearages build up due to illness, unemployment of incarceration. The conference proposed specific remedies such as in-kind child support payments and easy ways to reduce support orders after illness or unemployment. Child Support Guidelines in Connecticut are unrealistic at low income levels, but currently the Commission has failed to appreciate the damage this does.

Possible conclusions with respect to root causes of excessively high child support orders
The root cause of the problem addressed by the Conference is, in my opinion, the economic studies used to justify excessively high support orders. The studies are flawed in many ways, including: 1) The assumption that percentages should be based on an intact family; 2) the assumption that only one parent, the “custodial parent,” is capable of making financial decisions on behalf of children.

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Testify for Shared Parenting, GAL Reform and Alimony Reform on Monday, March 31

When: Monday March 31, preferably near 8am, but any time after that is OK.
Between 8am and 10am you sign up for a lottery number. After that you sign at the bottom of the list of speakers. Expect to compete with many people testifying.
Where: Legislative Office Building, Second floor. Driving directions:
http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/DrivingDirections.asp. If the Parking Garage is full (which is likely), there’s a pay garage in a commercial building on Oak Street opposite the entrance to the Appellate Clerk’s office.
What: Bill 6685 – shared parenting; RB 494 -GAL reform; Bill 5524, alimony reform

If you can’t attend, submit written testimony by email: JUD.Testimony@cga.ct.gov . You can even submit written testimony through Tuesday, April 1.

Please testify to any of the following points that agree with your thinking and experience:
• Most of the problems – alienation, excessive cost, and experts trying to substitute their opinions for the parents’ – could be solved if judges, family relations officers and others simply asked repeatedly: which parent is more likely to provide “frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact” between the child and the other parent?
o The courts need to clearly send the message that each parent must promote frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent.
o Of course there are exceptions in cases with proven violence, neglect or abuse.
• Guardian Ad Litems (GALs) need to be carefully supervised as specified in RB494. Here is a link to the full text: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/TOB/S/2014SB-00494-R00-SB.htm
o RB 494 will be hotly contested by professionals who are making lots of money on the existing family court system.
o The Shared Parenting Council supports RB 494 as a step in the direction of much needed reform.
• Modify RB 494 to require GALs to promoting active involvement by both parents.
• Alimony requires guidelines for judges to follow. This will ensure consistency across courts in Connecticut.
• Absent abuse, neglect and domestic violence, children have the constitutional right to have both parents equally involved in their lives.
• There’s no oversight or accountability of the court appointed professionals such as GALs, AMCs, Psychological Evaluators. This opens the door to a few who want to exploit the system. Only in very rare circumstances should a judge appoint a GAL or any other individual to a family absent proven abuse and neglect.
• Absent findings of abuse or neglect the judge should be required to tell counsel and parties that we have a presumption of shared equal parenting time. If the parents disagree about the amount of time, then the burden of proof is on the parent who is not agreeing to up to 50% time for the other parent.
• The judge will enforce the laws and then sanction parents who lie to the court or mislead the court in an attempt to seek more parenting time. Sanctions need to be monetary and/or in the form of community service.
• Parental alienation: a Judge needs to be alerted in an emergency hearing that a child about potential alienation. DCF will be called in. Hopefully this will be a detergent for any alienator in their early stages of abuse.

We had a tremendous turnout in January, and as a result the Judicial Branch is beginning the process of reform.
Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in these major changes in Connecticut law.

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Testimony in Hartford supports presumed shared parenting – click for shared parenting plans

Over 50 people attended a hearing of Connecticut’s Custody Task Force at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Thursday, January 9, 2014.
Almost all spoke in favor of the presumption of shared parenting as a starting point. If shared parenting were presumed by the court, then parents would realize that they are wasting their time and money when they fight for control and time. Of course, shared parenting would be subject to review if there is substantial evidence of abuse or neglect,
The crowd enthusiastically supported many speakers who testified about excessive legal costs associated with custody issues. Several talked about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal costs.
Would you like a model plan for shared parenting? It gives details of shared parenting time and decision making responsibility. Just leave a comment below specifying your interest.

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Lobby the Connecticut legislature to stop parental alienation

We want to sponsor legislation in January 2013 for the presumption of equal parenting time and to penalize alienating behavior. If you support this idea, leave a comment by clicking on this post.

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False Allegations of Child Abuse Punished in Oregon — by $750 Fine!

Oregon recently passed a law making false allegations a class A crime — but the punishment is $750, and that requires proving “the intent to influence a custody, parenting time, visitation or child support decision (419B.016 Offense of false report of child abuse).”

It is not much, but then again, most states make no effort to punish false allegations.

As a lawyer, Jeanne M. Hannah points out: “These false allegations can not only make the family law case much more difficult and lead to terrible injustice, they can ruin parent-child relationships and change lives forever. I find myself hoping more states will enact such laws and wondering whether the law will make a difference.” Good thinking Jeanne.

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‘Ask Amy’ (Amy Dickinson) supports shared parenting

Amy writes: “The assumption that the child belongs with the mother with paternal ‘visitation’ is an outmoded model, and I think the courts are moving slowly to recognize this. It is in the best interest of the child to spend as much time as possible with both parents, when both parents are committed, loving and involved — as you obvioiusly are.”

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Pew study shows that absent fathers much less involved with kids

The respected Pew Research Center found that 69 percent of those questioned said they believe a child needs a father in the home to grow up happily. But 27% of dads surveyed live separately from their children, up from 11% in 1960.
Here is a link to an article about the Pew study: http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/06/15/fathers.pew.study/index.html?iref=obinsite

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What are the “Best Interests of the Child?”-Click Here to leave a comment

Child custody decisions are based on a legal concept of “the best interests of the child,” but interpreting this phrase has been left to individual judges and family relations staff. In 2005 Connecticut passed a law that redefines “the best interests” to include (but not limited to) substantial involvement by both parents. Click here for more on the new law.

But two years later the case of Tauck v. Tauck illustrated how far Connecticut is from protecting the children’s interests. A scorched earth legal battle for custody was waged, largely as a result of Mrs. Tauck’s decision to allege child abuse – an allegation undermined by evidence that Mrs. Tauck had planted false evidence on her husband’s lap top computer. In her final ruling on the case, , Judge Abery-Wetstone said “This case represents not a victory for either parent, but a tragedy for everyone involved.” For more information on the Tauck case, click here:
The evidence shows that the Tauck case is an extreme example of a pattern that is all too common in Connecticut. The Shared Parenting Council of Connecticut obtained data from the Judiciary website on 17,433 cases, over half the cases have been in the courts for over one year; well over 20% have been in the system for over 5 years.

Click below to add your comment.

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