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Showing posts with label REFORM PROPOSALS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label REFORM PROPOSALS. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2019

HOW FATHER'S RIGHTS PEOPLE HAVE IT ALL WRONG WHEN IT COMES TO FAMILY COURT REFORM!

In a recent hearing at the CT State Legislature, father's rights activists demanded that legislators and citizens define the problem with family court as one of parental alienation.  They are wrong, and I will tell you why. 

My introduction to the CT family court reform movement was around 2011 when Keith Harmon Snow, author of "The Worst Interests of the Child", contacted me to discuss the ways in which victims of domestic violence were losing custody to their abusers. Next, on or around 2013, father's rights advocates seized control of the family court reform movement and reframed its agenda.  

Instead of demonstrating concern regarding protective mothers, they insisted that the problem of family court could only be traced back to the celebrated [or debunked, depending upon your perspective,] theory of parental alienation (PA), or parental alienation syndrome (PAS).  This recently culminated in the raised House Bill 7393 [now withdrawn] which proposed either jail or fines for those whom the Court determines have committed it. 

The Bill also included two separate "friendly parent" provisions which would have guaranteed that anyone who reported domestic violence or child sexual abuse would promptly lose custody.  After all, it is most unfriendly to assert that you or your child are the victims of abuse.  [Ok, I know, not funny.  I'm just joking.]

To begin, for those who do not know, what is parental alienation, or parental alienation syndrome?  

For a definition, I'm taking the easy route, and I will simply quote wikipedia. Parental alienation syndrome is, "a term introduced by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985 to describe a distinctive suite of behaviors in children that includes showing extreme but unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent. Observed repeatedly in families involved in child custody litigation, these behaviors result from manipulation or undue influence, typically by the other parent who may be attempting to prevent an ongoing relationship between a child and other family members after family separation or divorce." 

The clincher in this discussion is the statement that comes next, "The syndrome has not been accepted by either the medical or legal communities and Gardner's theory has been criticized by legal and mental health scholars for lacking scientific validity and reliability."  

Yet despite the fact that this syndrome has no scientific validity, father's rights people insist upon embedding it in our laws here in CT and making it a central factor in all custody determinations.  

Again, in doing this, I believe that fathers' rights people have it all wrong.  

Why?  

If you have a problem, then you need to look for solutions.  However, these solutions will not work as long as the problems haven't been defined properly.  When it comes to the broken family court system here in CT, I have been increasingly disgusted with the incapacity of many advocates -- father's rights advocates in particular, the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children (2013 - 2014), members of the legislature and the CT Judicial Branch -- to define the problem in an intelligent manner.  

How can you begin to think of developing policies or crafting bills when you have no idea what is going on?  For me personally, as an advocate, I don't get that approach. 

For instance, blaming the victims. For too long now, starting with the "Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children" of December 2002, experts on family court, i.e. attorneys, judges, mental health professionals -- have placed the blame for the problems of family court on the litigants themselves. In the words of the Governor's report, which were again quoted in the report of the Task Force on the Care and Custody of Minor Children (2014), the problem arises from "a small minority of parents [which] engages in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems, or the force of personality."  

The theory that character flaw or mental illness repeats itself in fathers' rights advocates insistence that the problem can be understood almost solely within the context of parental alienation syndrome.  Also, that the solution should be strict punishments for PAS, i.e. jail and hefty financial fines, as well as forced shared parenting.  But is this true?

For a closer look at this phenomenon, take a look at the hearing which took place earlier this month on February 5, 2019. I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday reviewing the entire video which is a little over 9 hours long.  For at least the first three hours of this testimony, viewers were subjected to lengthy lectures on parental alienation theory.  First came Dr. William Bernat, a parental alienation expert, who broke down the theory to its 17 recognized behaviors and 8 symptoms.  After he had completed his testimony, we were forced to listen to Dr. Steve Miller, a frequent flyer at the CT Legislature, who talked about parental alienation syndrome as an epidemic plaguing our nation.  Once he was done, then we were bombarded with more lectures on parental alienation from Linda Gottlieb, who I've been informed is not a psychologist. She talked more about planting false memories and false allegations in the light of parental alienation. 

Then after that, we were required to hear the testimony of Ms. Joan Kloth-Zenard who runs the organization "PAS Intervention"--she apparently is qualified by an MFT, whatever that is, as opposed to an LMFT which is what we would ordinarily be looking for.  What is interesting about Joan's testimony is that, for an example, she described a case where the mother was stabbed in the abdomen and labia by the father, and yet the father still got custody.  To me, this looked to be a case of domestic violence.  However, this is the very interesting twist on the parental alienation movement in that father's rights people have couched this theory in the language of the domestic violence movement and so many people, including women, have come to believe that parental alienation theory is just another word for domestic violence.  That, in itself, is an entirely, different, but interesting story that I will hopefully touch upon in another blog.  

Let me get back to my point. This is the dilemma that arises when folks define the problem of family court as a mental health problem among litigants, whether you want to define it as parental alienation or some other ailment.  It simply isn't true.  

If you look at the Governor's Report of December 2002, there is one paragraph in that report on that nasty, chronic, minority of litigators who they said cause all the trouble.  After that, you get the 65 page detailed report regarding all the systems malfunctions within the family court system itself which actually cause the problems in family court.  

Likewise, once you plow through the insistent litany in regard to PA or PAS in the first 3 hours of the video of the February 5, 2019 day of testimony, which father's rights people provided as the ideological context for the later citizen testimony, you will find 6 additional hours of testimony from at least 30 victims of family court detailing the many systems breakdowns within the CT Family Court system itself.  In other words, the problem is not PA or PAS.  The problem is a broken family court system.  

One person spoke about the fact that there are no consequences for disobeying orders, a failure to obey the ADA, and judges would not listen to her testimony or look at her evidence. She lost everything, her job, her home, her income.  Here is another person who spoke of the collusion between court actors, the failure to obey the constitution, in chambers hearings where parents are not included, impacts including alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness, bankruptcy, trauma, and PTSD.  Another person spoke of the denial of due process, attorneys hiding exculpatory evidence, having to be in court so often it was like a full time job, his case discussed behind closed doors without the parties present, financial costs of up to $300,000 - $500,000 and even more.  

Again, corruption, collusion, racketeering, slander, perjury, lack of ethics, no checks and balances, absolute immunity for negligent and incompetent GALs and other vendors, failure to adhere to the rules of court or case law, financial and emotional blackmail, hired guns, perverted custody evaluations and psychological evaluations, no oversight, no accountability, false allegations, inexperienced and unqualified court personnel, unnecessary continuances, documents that disappear from the court files, transcripts that are tampered with, and on and on.  This is exactly the same testimony we heard during the daylong testimony on February 9, 2014 and the breakdown of family court here in CT.

Forced shared parenting, punishments for so-called alienation, and for not being "friendly", will not correct engrained and deliberately engineered systems failures which are kept in place for profit.  In fact, given the introduction of harsh punishments, settling disputes over whether one parent did or did not alienate the other, will invite additional corrupt vendors into the courtroom, and exacerbate already existing problems within the system.

These systems problems were originally detailed in the Governor's Commission report of 2002 and, for the better part, they have gotten worse, and not better.  

Parental Alienation theories are about the gender wars taking place in America.  Forced shared parenting is about the Men's Rights movement and the backlash against the Women's Rights movement of the 1970s. It is about ideology, and it is about indoctrination. If you talk to the people who promote PAS theory, you quickly get the idea that these are people who act as though they are in a cult reciting their treasured mantras.  

Ideology is like religion.  If you try to enshrine it in your statutes and laws, it will lead to endless confusion. Thinking we can solve the problem of family court by sprinkling holy water on it in the form of the ideology of parental alienation, I think is a recipe for disaster.  

Instead, if we are serious about resolving the problems of family court, we have to do the hard work of looking again at the system itself.  In other words, we have to investigate the machinery of the CT Family Court system which is operating on a daily basis. We have to examine what works, and what does not. It is a difficult and painstaking job, one which often does not have any easy answers, but it is at least a fairly concrete task from which we can garner measurable results. 

In 2002, every member of the Governor's Commission is notable for being at the center of the corruption and malfeasance in family court which we are looking at today.  The membership list is literally a who's who of legal and mental health professionals who later became famous for exploiting and taking advantage of family court victims.  It is paramount that we make sure nothing like that happens again.  When these kinds of criminal court actors take advantage of Moms and Dads, those parents are not mentally ill, they are victims of corrupt family court practices. 

This doesn't mean that the Commission didn't do a good job of laying the groundwork for future reform in its examination of the family court system. It's just that they immediately ignored the outcome of the report and used the network they estalished doing the work to exploit and harm family court victims.  I  simply believe we need to retrieve that work and use it to continue to make progress here and now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

LETTER SUBMITTED TO JUDGE PATRICK L. CARROLL III ABOUT THE PETITION TO ADD A MANDATORY PARENTAL RESPONSIBIILTY PLAN TO THE AUTOMATIC ORDERS!

April 9, 2018


Judge Patrick L. Carroll III,
Chief Court Administrator
Supreme Court Building
231 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Petition:  Add a Mandatory Parental Responsibility Plan to the Automatic Orders

Dear Judge Carroll:

On behalf of the “Divorce in Connecticut” website, and for the benefit of the people of Connecticut, I am writing to you about the website’s change.org petition on the above referenced matter related to Parental Responsibility Plans in Family Court Matters.  The content of the petition is attached to this letter.

As was noted on the petition, while there are very specific orders in regard to financial behavior during the pendente lite period in a Family Court Matter, there are very few guidelines in regard to the care of children.  I am hoping that the CT Judicial Branch could refine the language of the automatic orders to include a provision that requires that, within 30 days of the return day, the parties submit to the Court a Parental Responsibility Plan, i.e. Form JD-FM-199.  Sometimes parents in Family Court continue on for months without any agreement which results in constant struggles for those parents and children.  These struggles inevitably require continual interventions by family relations and legal professionals which bogs down an already overburdened Court system. 

The advantage of putting a Parental Agreement in place right away is that it would establish proper boundaries between the parties in a divorce and thereby reduce confrontations, arguments, exposure to DV, unnecessary lapses in parental contact, and extra legal expenses.  In particular, each party would know what their responsibilities are in regard to their children, and they would have in place specific parenting time with their children right from the beginning.  This will reduce the unfortunate tug of war situations with children that come up during divorce proceedings due to a lack of clarity. 

It could be that parties will be unable to come to an agreement within the allotted time period, which would simply mean submitting a statement to that effect to the Court, which can then direct the case towards special services for high conflict couples.  In my opinion, you might as well know where you stand right away in a case and get started addressing the obstacles immediately rather than allowing them to fester for months before addressing them..

I have also enclosed signatures from 100 supporters who believe that this kind of provision would significantly reduce conflict between divorcing couples.  I will concede that some of them live in such far flung places as Belgium and Australia, but I believe their wisdom counts as well.  In future, I will restrict petitions to the State of Connecticut since primarily the views of our own citizens are what counts.  However, I believe that common sense and the many CT citizens who did sign this petition indicate that such a provision requiring Parental Responsibility Plans right from the start of a divorce should be put into place.
I would be interested in hearing your perspective on this issue.  It would be valuable to know if others whose opinions you respect have expressed this concern or if the CT Judicial Branch shares some of these concerns as well. Does my solution make sense to you?  I have been unsure whether i should approach the CT Judicial Branch, or my representatives, but just in case I thought I’d approach you first and get your feedback. If you have any suggestions for how I could proceed further, or insights that could assist me in crafting this idea more effectively, I would highly appreciate hearing your thoughts.  Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,



Elizabeth A. Richter, Manager
Divorce in Connecticut Website
P.O. Box 5 * Canton, CT  06019
earichter@aol.com * 860-751-4668

Enclosures

cc:
Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez
Rep. William Tong
Sen. Paul Doyle
Sen. Ed Gomes
Sen. John A. Kissel
Rep. Prasad Srinivasan
Sen. Mae Flexor
Karen Jarmoc, CCADV
Catharine Bailey, CWEALF




Thursday, February 22, 2018

DIVORCE IN CONNECTICUT IS STARTING A PETITION TO IMPROVE PARENTAL COMMUNICATION DURING DIVORCE!


See link below to change.org petition:


DISCUSSION:

There are two areas in divorce which particularly cause problems for divorcing couples. One is the issue of custody, while the other is the division of the marital assets.  These issues are addressed in the automatic orders which are given to both parties when the divorce is filed. See link:  
When it comes to financial issues, the automatic orders does well in Section 3, Item #1 by requiring parties to file financial affidavits within 30 days of the return day.
In contrast, custody matters are handled in a very sloppy manner.  Section 1, Item #3 of the automatic orders tells the parents to, "assist their children in having contact with both parties, which is consistent with the habits of the family, personally, by telephone, and in writing."  The problem with this provision is that it is vague and unclear, which makes it particularly difficult to enforce.  As a result, parents can spend thousands and thousands of dollars hammering out the details of each and every visit as it arises.  When there are problems related to domestic violence or difficulties with parents obtaining access to their kids, this turns obtaining parenting time safely and equitably into a nightmare.
As a result, this petition asks that the Chief Administrator of the CT Judicial Branch recommend that the Branch add a provision to the third section of the Automatic orders in The CT Practice Book to require that parents fill out and submit to the Court a Parental Responsibility Plan JD-FM-199 with 30 days of the return day.  See a copy of this form at the link below:
This requirement will go a long way towards reducing the friction between the parties, cutting back on unnecessary financial expenditures, building bridges, and establishing clearcut and sensible guidelines in regard to how parents will co-parent during the divorce proceedings.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

CREATING A CT FAMILY COURT REFORM MOVEMENT THAT EVERYONE CAN GET BEHIND!

Recently, we all watched the fiasco of SB #1049 go down where rogue leaders of the CT Coalition for Family Court Reform tried to slip a bill through the Finance Committee rather than the Judiciary Committee.  They did this after members of the Judiciary Committee quite sensibly refused to hear proposed bills from The Coalition that were destructive and damaging to women.  

The only thing I can say about the Finance Committee at this point is: "What were they thinking?"  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

JENNIFER SWIFT OF CT MAGAZINE REPORTS ON 7 REFORMS WHICH COULD MAKE CT POLITICS LESS CORRUPT!

The 7 suggested reforms in Swift's article are as follows:

"1. Limit the power of legislative leaders. 

Connecticut’s speaker of the House and president of the Senate have close to absolute power in deciding what pieces of legislation make it to the floor for a vote in the General Assembly. For a variety of reasons, they can and do kill bills that would pass, sometimes by wide margins, if a vote was actually allowed. Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s bill to bring more transparency to state tax breaks (see No. 4) died in the Senate this year because it was never called for a vote despite widespread support. Last year, former Speaker of the House Chris Donovan blocked a bipartisan jobs bill from making it to the floor in retaliation for the Senate’s opposition to a minimum wage bill he was championing. When “roll-your-own” tobacco shop owners funneled illegal campaign cash into Donovan’s bid for U.S. Congress, they did so based on assurances from his staff that the speaker’s office could block legislation that would have increased taxes on their product..."

READ MORE:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

BILL SARNO OF CTLATINONEWS PROVIDES AN UPDATE ON REP. MINNIE GONZALEZ AND CT COURT REFORM!

According to Bill Sarno,
 
"The changes enacted last year as to how the state’s family courts operate appear to be just the first steps in reforming a  system which some critics have described as incestuous, secretive and having greatly distressed some families, both financially and emotionally.
 
While much of the impetus for the changes initially came from the legislature, with Reps. Minnie Gonzalez and Edwin Vargas of Hartford leading the fight for  passage of the reform bill, the state judicial branch now also indicates its increased willingness to improve and streamline  how it treats family matters and is introducing several bills this session.
 
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez (D) Hartford has fought for changes in the family court system or five years.  Photo credit: ctmirror.org
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez (D) Hartford has fought for changes in the family court system for five years. Photo credit: ctmirror.org
 
Gonzalez, who has campaigned for the system’s reform for five years, is also not done.  She also is sponsoring new bills this year that call for additional continued changes in the system with Vargas as her co-sponsor. “I have submitted nine bills this session,” she said, which demonstrates her commitment to overhauling the current system.
 
According to Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, program manager of communications for the judiciary, the reforms called for in  Public Act 14-3, the bill passed during last year’s legislative session, have already been implemented by the family court system as it pertains to them.  The bill required, among other things, that the judiciary establish a code of conduct and a sliding fee schedule for attorneys for minor children (AMC) and guardians ad litem (GAL). The latter are individuals, often attorneys, who the courts appoint to protect the interests of minor children in custody cases, while the former focus on legal issues."
 
For more information on this article, please click on the link below:

http://ctlatinonews.com/2015/01/25/cts-family-court-reform-just-beginning-say-advocates/

Friday, May 9, 2014

NEW PROPOSAL FOR CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURT REFORM!

By Jane Addams

I am writing to you to share with you my ideas about how to improve the Connecticut Family court system and to make the divorce/custody experience a healthier one for everyone involved, and also make it more effective and efficient overall.  I would appreciate any feedback on my ideas or assistance in growing these ideas into a bill. 

1.  We need effective Parenting Education Classes, and we need to encourage parents to attend them.

The current Parenting Education Classes that are required for divorce should be improved and extended.  The classes need more in-depth explanations of the impact that parental conflict has on children and the parents.  I also feel that all parents who are engaged in a contested divorce with children or who are involved in the custody process need to be required to engage in co-parenting therapy.  Such co-parenting therapy should extend into the whole time the parties are engaged in the court proceedings. 

I also feel that the loop holes that allow a parent to opt out of the requirement to take a Parenting Education Class needs to be tightened and monitored closely.  The court should make it a priority to ensure every parent is reminded/educated on the potential impact their legal proceedings can have on them and their children.  This will help motivate and those encourage parents who are able to develop insight through the Classes about the effect of their behavior on their children to do better.  For those who need assistance, it will keep these parents focused on doing what is best for their children and themselves which will minimize the negative impact that conflictual parental court proceeding have on children and parents. 

In the end, good attendance at the Parenting Education Classes will make both children and parents healthier.  This will help the court system operate more effectively and efficiently, saving time and money, because it will be less bogged down by motions and cases where parents are not focusing on what is best for their children and themselves.  

It will help prevent, what is unfortunately too common, situations where parents are tying up the  court by using it for revenge.  I base this recommendation on the simple premise that the natural "normal" and healthy human state allows for cooperation and compromise, particularly in regards to making decisions about children. 

Along the same lines, anytime parents can not communicate and develop an agreement, this is an indication that there are underlying "problems" that need to addressed.  And as long as these root issues are not addressed than the conflict will continue, despite any well meaning court order or GAL intervention, etc.




2.  Children should receive counseling if their parents are engaged in high conflict divorce proceedings. 

Children also be required to receive therapeutic support the whole time their parents are engaged in contested court proceedings.  Whenever there is conflict between parents, a child will be caught in the middle and this will absolutely cause painful feelings that need to be addressed immediately or these feelings will have a residual effect on the child. 

Psychological research has shown that the quicker the support a person with emotional/mental issues receives, the more effective the help.  The therapist who is assigned to support the children is not only a person who helps the children process and manage their feelings, this person can also be an advocate for the child, once again, helping everyone involved keep the child's best interest as a priority. 

I base this suggestion on the simple premise that when a child is experiencing additional negativity in her life, then she needs additional positive support to heal from it and prevent it from becoming a residual issue.




3.  Family Relations Counselors should be required to attend CEU training.

I recommend that anyone involved, working for, or contracted by the Family Court system be required to attend CEU training, particularly in regard to sensitivity/psychology/child development/human service classes, with built-in incentive programs that reward healthy and timely handling of cases to help them also stay focused and motivated to keep children's and parent's best interest as top priority. 

I also recommend some sort of moral boosting stress reduction initiative be implemented in the Family Court system  This will help combat the apathy and corruption that is an epidemic in the Family court system.  It is hard for Family Court workers to do their jobs properly if they are stressed out and disconnected from the consequences of their actions.  

And once again, whatever training they receive during the education is not effective to prevent apathy and corruption from seeping into the system.  They need constant reminders as we all do.  I base this suggestion on the fact that the only way to truly improve interactions between people is to ensure that both parties are getting their needs fulfilled.  Parents need help and support to focus on what is best and so do the workers.  I think this idea will help make the Family Court reforms more palatable to all involved. 

I welcome additional thoughts and responses to this proposal.  Please leave your ideas in the comments section below.