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Florida National Parents Organization Backs Shared Parenting, Alimony Reform

March 4, 2015

Troy Matson

Troy Matson, Chair, Florida
Executive Committee

Congratulations to the National Parents Organization’s Troy Matson. His op-ed here strikes a blow not only in favor of shared parenting in his home state of Florida, but promotes SB 1248 that’s backed by NPO (Florida Times-Union, 2/27/15).

As followers of the National Parents Organization know, last year we graded every state’s laws regarding shared parenting. Each state received a grade of A — F reflecting the extent to which its laws encourage parents to equally share custody post-divorce. The results were not good, as Matson details in his fine editorial. Florida, that received a grade of C, did better than most.

Meanwhile, SB 1248 seeks reform of alimony laws in the state. Two years ago, the Sunshine State’s legislature passed significant alimony reform only to see the bill vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. So pro-reform forces are back this year with a bill they hope to see enacted into law.  Matson, of course, has been instrumental in lobbying for its passage.

SB 1248 would do many things, but, in a nutshell, it would limit alimony payments in amount and duration. It sets out a detailed formula for each calculation giving a range of possible amounts paid and years of payment. Judges would be able to deviate from the guidelines in cases of unique need such as the disability of the recipient, but would be required to make detailed written findings of fact by clear and convincing evidence.

The bill also limits the combination of alimony and child support to 55% of the payer’s net income. It also urges the denial of alimony awards for marriages of two years or less.

To read Matson’s complete article, click on the link above.

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Detroit Man Pays to Support Son Dead 24 Years

March 4, 2015

We’ve all heard about Detroit’s Carnell Alexander who’s been ordered to pay $30,000 in child support for a child everyone acknowledges isn’t his. Now we have Detroit native Lional Campbell who’s being forced to pay support for his son Michael who died 24 years ago at the age of three.

If that’s not surprising enough, there’s the fact that Campbell has demanded three separate audits of what he supposedly owes and each audit came up with a drastically different figure. The first figure was about $43,000, the second came in at a little under $20,000 and the latest is about $6,400.

Campbell has another son by the same woman, and for years he thought he was paying off arrearages owed for him. But he finally figured out that something seemed amiss, so, in 2011, he took Michael’s death certificate to the appropriate authorities. That was when they told him he still owed $43,000.

Now, for a child who died at age three, it’s all but impossible to run up a bill of $43,000. The average child support order for non-custodial fathers is about $6,000. If Campbell had never paid a dime, he’d only owe $18,000 plus interest. How the Friend of the Court came up with the figure $43,000 is a mystery, one that’s fortunately moot.

Campbell reached out to 7 Action News and while a spokesperson for the Friend of the Court could not talk specifically about Campbell’s case because of privacy issues, they did tell us that surcharges drastically raise the amounts owed by non-custodial parents.

One court official likened the surcharges, that ended several years ago, to "loan sharking".

The addition of fees and interest that for years ran as high as 12% per year in some states did indeed up the price of child support for many non-custodial parents. Before downward modifications of interest rates, it was not uncommon for non-custodial parents in arrears to pay the amount of the order each month, but fall further and further behind. That appears to be what happened to Campbell.

Read the rest of the story here (RTV6 ABC, 3/1/15).

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CPS: Meitivs ‘Responsible’ for ‘Unsubstantiated’ ‘Child Neglect’

March 4, 2015

Alexander and Danielle Meitiv’s case has been closed by Montgomery County, Maryland Child Protective Services — for now. The Meitivs of course are the “Free Range” parents who allowed their two children, ages 10 and six to walk home from a park about a mile from their house. The kids were picked up by the police who alerted CPS. That was back on December 20th. Two months later, CPS issued its findings in the case.

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

How a person can be found “responsible” for “unsubstantiated” “neglect” is not reported, but the consequences are.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

For now, the Meitivs say they’ll continue to raise their kids according to their free-range principles.

The parents say they will continue to allow their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter Dvora, 6, to play or walk together, and won’t be swayed by the CPS finding.

“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv, who said she and her husband plan to appeal and worry about being investigated again by CPS.

As practiced by the Meitivs, free-range childrearing meant carefully monitoring their children’s capabilities and gradually allowing them more freedom and responsibility. They’ve been doing this for years and it’s worked well, with the children experiencing no untoward incidents.

Montgomery County CPS doesn’t comment on individual cases, but spokeswoman Paula Tolson explained some general concepts.

Tolson said as a general practice, CPS officials in Maryland reach one of three possible findings after neglect investigations: ruled out, unsubstantiated or indicated.

An unsubstantiated finding is typically made when CPS has some information supporting a conclusion of child neglect, or when seemingly credible reports are at odds with each other, or when there is insufficient information for a more definitive conclusion, she said.

So far, no one has explained what the Meitivs did or failed to do that constituted “neglect” of their children.

Read the latest here (Washington Post, 3/2/15).

Here’s a link to my piece that ran on Lenore Skenazy’s blog, Free Range Kids.

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Utah Legislative News Digest

March 3, 2015

Parent-time Bill Creating Optional Schedule Moving Through Legislature

HB35 Parent-time Schedule Amendments would create an optional minimum parent-time schedule of 145 overnights by enacting U.C.A. 30-3-35.1. The bill has passed the House and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

National Parents Organization of Utah supports this legislation sponsored by Rep. V.L. Snow (R) as it is in a child’s best interest to have frequent, meaningful, and continuing access to each parent.

We encourage members to support the bill by finding and contacting their legislators through le.utah.gov. Please support family law reform by increasing your involvement in National Parents Organization of Utah.

Alimony Bill Being Considered by Legislature


HB244 Alimony Support Amendments would add being a stay-at-home parent in alimony considerations by the court. The bill is currently under consideration in the House.

National Parents Organization of Utah opposes this legislation sponsored by Rep. K.J. Stratton (R) for several reasons. These include creating perverse financial incentives for stay-at-home parents to separate and divorce as well as giving stay-at-home parents a pass to not work and financially support their child.

We encourage members to oppose the bill by finding and contacting their legislators through le.utah.gov.

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Michigan Judge ‘Outraged’ in False Paternity Case; Guess at Whom

February 25, 2015
BY Robert Franklin, Esq., Member of the Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

A Michigan judge has pronounced herself “outraged” at Carnell Alexander’s case. Alexander is the Michigan man whom the state is dunning for $30,000 in back child support for a child all acknowledge isn’t his. Way back in the early 90s, a woman who had a child received federal benefits under the aid to Families with Dependent Children program. That meant she was required to name the child’s father. She named Alexander despite her admission that she knew at the time that he wasn’t the dad.

So the state brought a legal action against Alexander to repay it for the benefits paid the mother, plus child support. But Alexander was never served with notice of the suit against him. The process server signed an affidavit saying he’d served Alexander at a particular residence, but Alexander can prove he didn’t receive it. How? Because Alexander was in jail on the date he was supposedly served with notice.

Based on those two lies – the first by the mother, the second by the process server – the state entered a judgment for child support against Alexander, in his absence and without his knowledge, that it’s been trying to collect ever since.

It’s in that context that Judge Kathleen McCarthy said she was “outraged” last week.  The kicker is that she’s not outraged at the mother for lying to state child support authorities, although doing so violates the law. Nor is she outraged at the process server for swearing to the court that Alexander had received notice of the action against him, which is also against the law. No, Judge McCarthy is outraged at Alexander!

“I am outraged that Mr. Alexander for two and a half decades failed to take this matter seriously,” McCarthy said during her decision on Tuesday, according to KFOR.

Yes, apparently blaming the victim is just fine as long as the victim is an impecunious man with an eighth-grade education like Alexander. Just how McCarthy expects Alexander to have known about the lawsuit or the child, she didn’t explain.

But apparently her outrage doesn’t stop with Alexander, but extends to the news media across the country that have excoriated her court for its abuse of an innocent man. That of course would include the blog for the National Parents Organization that, on more than one occasion has pointed out that the most basic concept underpinning due process of law is that one has the right to be notified of a claim against one. So basic is that concept that a court like McCarthy’s has no personal jurisdiction in any case in which the person has not been served with process. Without jurisdiction, the original order is now and always has been null and void. That is black-letter law.

By the way, McCarthy is not just any old judge, she is the number one family court judge for Detroit. But apparently knowing basic law is not a requirement for the job.

McCarthy could better direct her pique at the child’s mother, the process server and the numerous lawyers who, over many years, have wasted everyone’s time and money trying to browbeat a man into paying support for a child he had no part in bringing into the world.

As an aside, the mother well knows who the true father is and the man has played at least some role in bringing up the child. All the state needs to do is dismiss the case against Alexander and bring suit against that man. Justice in this case is literally as simple as that.

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National Parents Organization’s Tso Instrumental in Parents Bill of Rights Passing CO Senate

February 18, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Gilbert Tso

Gilbert Tso, Chair, Colorado
Executive Committee

National Parents Organization continues to make strides in the State of Colorado. Our Gilbert Tso once again testified before the Senate Education Committee in support of Senate Bill 15-077, also known as the Parents Bill of Rights. The bill was approved by the committee by a 5-4 party-line vote and has now passed the full Senate 18-16.

Here’s how Tso describes the bill:

This bill was introduced and first read in the Senate Education Committee; its sponsors in both the Colorado Senate and House sought to remedy the growing intrusions by state agencies and schools into parents’ fundamental right to raise their children according to their beliefs and principles, to opt-out of certain state-directed education, mental health-care and medical practices involving their children. 

Establishing a Parent’s Bill of Rights in Colorado or any state is significant. Why? A Parent’s Bill of Rights in conjunction with the relevant articles and amendments existing in the Colorado State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States of America, places the burden of proof squarely on the state to show a legitimate cause before the state may intervene in a custody dispute and substantively reduce or revoke a parent’s right to equal shared custody when equality, as in 50/50 shared parenting, is the point of contention. Currently, litigants have to justify before the state why equal or substantially equal shared parenting should be the status quo under the Best Interest of the Child guidelines. A parent’s bill of rights, subject to its scope, may be just enough to remove the burden of proof from the litigant and place it squarely upon the state.

As with any parenting bill, the usual suspects oppose the Parents Bill of Rights Bill. Tso again:

[T]he Colorado Bar Association, and allied special interests would rather kill any bill protecting the fundamental rights of parents to a private and inalienable relationship with their children; they seek to kill any bill that sets a limit and condition on the state’s ability for intervention when revoking a parent’s fundamental right to parent their children. Indeed, these special interests consistently oppose any bill declaring that absent a justifiable cause for state intervention, a parent’s right to parent their children is a fundamental right and liberty interest, and the state’s ability to intervene, deny and/or revoke those rights would require the highest degree of evidentiary standard, that being strict scrutiny, under due process!

Yesterday, Colorado parents and supportive legislators in both houses won the first round in the battle to establish a Parent’s Bill of Rights; this is a small but substantial step toward the goal of shared parenting post-divorce or separation. Next steps include additional readings and a vote on the floor of both houses."

Good work Gilbert, as usual!

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Alimony Reform Making Headway Across the Country

February 18, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Alimony reform continues to make headway across the country. In Massachusetts, alimony became a reality due in large part to the tireless work of Steve Hittner, with whom the National Parents Organization has recently teamed up to push for further family law reform. Now South Carolina and Florida seem on the brink of following suit.

In Florida, a bill has been written with the approval of parties usually opposed to each other in the effort to reform alimony law. One of those interested parties called the bill “the most progressive alimony reform bill in the nation.” The bill would end permanent alimony, provide guidelines judges would be required to use, crack down on recipients who cohabitate and prohibit increases to a payers’ income from increasing the amount of alimony paid. Read more about it here (Tampa Bay Times, 2/14/15).

In South Carolina, groups are moving to end permanent alimony in the state. As the law stands, a payer’s last payment will come on the day he or his ex dies and not before. Other people are entitled to retire and relax during the last years of their lives, but not alimony payers. For them, retirement is not an option; they must continue to work and earn to pay alimony to a former spouse.

“Alimony currently in South Carolina, permanent alimony is the only debt that can never be satisfied without the death of the payer or the death of the receiver,” Melissa Cash said.

Cash is a member of the South Carolina Alimony Reform group. She got involved with the group as her husband of seven years is one of the many that pay permanent alimony to a former spouse.

“It affects our life to a very great degree. We have to balance and ration everything we do,” Cash said.

Her husband has paid alimony for 15 years and they said enough is enough.

“He’s approaching the end of his career, but he can never end his career, because we are supporting someone else as well,” Cash said.

Read more about it here (Fox Carolina, 2/11/15).

The efforts in South Carolina and Florida mirror similar initiatives in Connecticut and New Jersey.

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Texas: Reform of Child Protective Agency Underway

February 18, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In Texas, efforts to improve child protection may be bearing first fruit. In the past, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has been plagued by underfunding, caseloads over twice the industry standard and a whopping 26% annual turnover rate for caseworkers. That’s resulted in cases of children known to be at risk falling through agency cracks while less urgent ones receive caseworkers’ attention. Agency rules, regulations and policies are so cumbersome, and paperwork so time-consuming that a report last year revealed caseworkers spend only about 26% of their time on the job with families in need. Here’s what My Fox Austin reports:

The agency officially started their "Transformation" back in August. Part of that was to get feedback from staff. There has traditionally been a lot of turnover rate. Caseworkers had said they were overloaded and bogged down with paperwork. Some of them have as many as fifty cases. And an independent report blamed that for the reason higher priority cases had fallen through the cracks…

Last month a legislative committee proposed ninety-seven changes to the agency most of which deal with how the department is governed, "The bill has been filed and basically there was a process with Sunset Commission of looking at those statues and we propose they ask us to go through Sunset and ask us for as many deletions in the Family Code," [DFPS head John Specia] says.

There has also been other legislation filed to help better protect kids. One bill proposes to cap case loads for workers at around 15 — another would enforce the child safety alert checklist.

Additional reforms would include increasing press access to the workings of the agency, the better to inform the public.

Read more here (My Fox Austin, 2/13/15).

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Massachusetts, You Made a Difference!

February 13, 2015


CHILD CENTERED FAMILY LAW
– Co-Sponsors –

Benjamin Franklin

Due to your efforts Senator Anne Gobi was able to introduce our Bill with 46 Co-Sponsors signing their support.

This is Huge!

There were actually 2 Bills filed. One from the Senate, filed by Senator Anne Gobi, and the other from the House sponsored by Rep. Paul Brodeur. The Bills are identical. However, we only found out about the House Bill at the last minute so it did not receive any attention from us.

The work you did in educating your legislators about the Senate bill collected 43 Co-Sponsors.

The House Bill without your efforts only received 9. (Three of them also Co-Sponsored the Senate Bill.) In other words, your calls matter big-time!

You can see the results in the charts below. If your Senator and Rep. are on both charts, you are very good. If only one of your legislators is a Co-Sponsor, you did ok. If none of your Legislators are on the charts, we need to talk.

It is imperative that you call Steve and he will help you get them to agree to support the legislation when it requires a vote in the House or Senate.

Please see the charts below.

SENATE Docket, No. 1061 Filed on: 1/16/2015


An Act relative to Child-Centered Family Law.
_______________
PETITION OF:

Senate or House Name  Party District/Address
Senator
Lead Sponsor
Anne M. Gobi Dem Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex
Senator Sal N. Di Domenico Dem Middlesex and Suffolk
Senator Jason M. Lewis Dem Fifth Middlesex
Senator Anthony W. Petruccelli Dem First Suffolk and Middlesex
Senator James E. Timilty Dem Bristol and Norfolk
Senator Walter F. Timilty Dem 7th Norfolk
 
Senator Viriato M. DeMacedo Republican Plymouth and Barnstable
Senator Richard J. Ross Republican Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex
 
Representative James Arciero Dem 2nd Middlesex
Representative Michael D. Brady Dem 9th Plymouth
Representative Thomas J. Calter Dem 12th Plymouth
Representative Josh S. Cutler Dem 6th Plymouth
Representative Marjorie C. Decker Dem 25th Middlesex
Representative Diana DiZoglio Dem 14th Essex
Representative James J. Dwyer Dem 30th Middlesex
Representative Carolyn C. Dykema Dem 8th Middlesex
Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante Dem 5th Essex
Representative Carole Fiola Dem 6th Bristol
Representative Colleen M. Garry Dem 36th Middlesex
Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. Dem 16th Middlesex
Representative Danielle W. Gregoire Dem 4th Middlesex
Representative Jay R. Kaufman Dem 15th Middlesex
Representative Mary S. Keefe Dem 15th Worcester
Representative Peter V. Kocot Dem 1st Hampshire
Representative David Paul Linsky Dem 5th Middlesex
Representative Paul McMurtry Dem 11th Norfolk
Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch Dem 14th Norfolk
Representative Denise Provost Dem 27th Middlesex
Representative Jeffrey N. Roy Dem 10th Norfolk
Representative Theodore C. Speliotis Dem 13th Essex
Representative Benjamin Swan Dem 11th Hampden
Representative Paul Tucker Dem 7th Essex
Representative Chris Walsh Dem 6th Middlesex
 
Representative Donald R. Berthiaume Jr. Republican 5th Worcester
Representative Shawn Dooley Republican 9th Norfolk
Representative Kimberly N. Ferguson Republican 1st Worcester
Representative Paul K. Frost Republican 7th Worcester
Representative Sheila C. Harrington Republican 1st Middlesex
Representative Bradford Hill Republican 4th Essex
Representative Randy Hunt Republican 5th Barnstable
Representative Shaunna O’Connell Republican 3rd Bristol
Representative David T. Vieira Republican 3rd Barnstable


HOUSE Docket, No. 3021 Filed on: 1/16/2015

An Act relative to Child-Centered Family Law.
_______________
PETITION OF:

Senate or House Name Party District/Address
Representative
Lead Sponsor
Paul Brodeur Dem 32nd Middlesex
Representative Brian M. Ashe Dem 2nd Hampden
Representative Christopher M. Markey Dem 9th Bristol
Representative Jeffrey N. Roy Dem 10th Norfolk
Representative Angelo M. Scaccia Dem 14th Suffolk
Representative Benjamin Swan Dem 11th Hampden
Representative Chris Walsh Dem 6th Middlesex
 
Representative Shawn Dooley Republican 9th Norfolk
Representative Sheila C. Harrington Republican 1st Middlesex
Representative Randy Hunt Republican 5th Barnstable
 
Senator Jason M. Lewis Dem Fifth Middlesex

We can do this and get you the rights you so surely deserve.

We cannot do it alone.

You must participate.

You must get to know your Senator and Representative.

We made a great start, however now the real work begins.

You will be receiving notifications of Town Hall Meetings throughout the State. Go to the meetings and tell the legislators there to vote for the Child Centered Family Law. Do it for your kids and do it because it is your one big chance to make history.

Your next two chances to make a difference:

An evening meeting with Senators in Lawrence on February 23.

An evening meeting with Senators in Braintree on Februay 25.

Mark these on your calendar right now. We will send you more information in the days to come.

Ned Holstein, MD, MS
Founder and Acting Executive Director

Steve Hitner
National Parents Organization
Consultant
stevehitner@nationalparentsorganization.org
508-335-0069