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Exposed: Mass Discrimination in Massachusetts?


Every once in awhile in the murky world of family law a light appears offering a glimmer of hope. On the flip side, Grandpa used to say: “Just make sure the light at the end of that tunnel isn’t a train.”


Divorced father and ACFC supporter, Terry Brennan, arrived recently bearing such a light. Part of the last few weeks have been spent reviewing whether Terry’s light is indeed a glimmer of hope or a train wreck in the making.


So what has Terry offered as a public service to the people of the great state of Massachusetts, and more importantly, why should anyone care? Very simply, Terry has spent the last six months quietly collecting data from officials around the state on the workings of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. He has now assembled that data and released the first three volumes of what is likely an eight volume collection. The subject matter of the three volumes are; I) Guardian Ad Litems, 2) Perjury and 3) Inmates. (these are large files, may take time to download)


In this article, we take a look the data from Volume III. Terry’s volume header cuts right to the chase. It reads: “96.2% of Those Incarcerated by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court are Male and “Justice” is Implemented Very Unevenly.” Terry then provides 35 pages of analysis and documentation proving the assertion. In the interest of full disclosure, the data does not demonstrate whether those incarcerations emanated from child support cases, protection order violations, or exactly what specifically led to the incarceration. Terry is following up with original information sources requesting clarification. Regardless of cause, the gender disparity is undeniable.


One of the points which caught our attention is the number and corresponding percentage increase in male incarceration during the years 2005 and 2006. This is precisely the same time period when an earlier re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was underway. VAWA re-authorizations are critically dependent on identifying growing populations in need of services. A proven strategy to demonstrate need is by raising arrest and conviction rates. Rising numbers of victims bring greater dollars to service providers as demonstrated in the VAWA re-authorization signed by President O’Bama last week. VAWA spending increased to over $600 million per year.


As Terry notes, not only do the actual numbers of incarcerations raise significant questions of discrimination, but so too do the rates of incarceration across counties. For instance, one in every 18 contempt case hearings results in an incarceration in Berkshire County, whereas there is only one incarceration for every 182 contempt cases heard in Essex County. Such a disparity among the courts of differing counties lends credence to failed application of evenhanded justice charges.


The information, correspondence and analysis within these volumes make for fascinating reading. Beyond that however, it should spur action on the part of elected officials to initiate thorough investigations of Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. Volume III alone raises enough questions to justify a full inquiry. Coupling the information from Volume III with that of the initial two Volumes on GAL’s and Perjury leads one to wonder whether these courts should be reformed or, in the best interest of children and families, be dismantled entirely.


We fully expect the Massachusetts Governor's Working Group on Child Centered Family Laws to take notice of Terry’s information as they go through the process of reevaluating the state’s courts. And likewise lawmakers, it is to their benefit.


Thanks for your public service Terry, we look forward to future volumes. Let’s hope the light you’ve shined is a train wreck for the family courts. It’s certainly a light of hope for the citizens of Massachusetts and an inspiring reminder of what happens when even one person speaks truth to power.

Meet The Center for Parental Responsibility

ACFC delivers the shared parenting and family law improvement messages through a network of affiliated organizations. This issue focuses on The Center for Parental Responsibility (CPR).


Located in the twin cities area of Minneapolis, CPR has been leading the charge for Shared Parenting for the past 13 years. Led by Molly Olson, CPR's influence in the family law improvement arena is widely recognized.


CPR was at the forefront of family law legislative activity in 2012, being primarily responsible for the creation and generation of support for HF322, a bill setting a minimum residential time sharing schedule for both parents at 45.1%. HF322 passed the House by a substantial margin.


Moving to the Senate, the bill was watered down to 35% time sharing, which still represented a 40% increase in the standard Minnesota time sharing award. With those changes the bill passed both chambers of the legislature and was forwarded to the Governor for signature. Governor Dayton, against the legislature and against the interests of children and parents, vetoed the legislation.


This year various interest groups are meeting in an effort to reach consensus on legislation to be offered next year. Rest assured CPR continues to lead the way in this effort. If you would like to volunteer and support CPR contact Molly at jpceffort@cpr-mn.org, visit the website at www.cpr-mn.org.


Legislative Updates


Bills positively impacting family law are moving around the nation. Here's a brief summary of what ACFC affiliates and supporters are doing.


Shared parenting legislation has been introduced in Wisconsin and Michigan. Wisconsin legislation calls for equally shared parenting.


In Arizona a temporary custody orders bill has passed the Senate and is on the floor of the House. The bill requires hearings for temporary orders to take place within 60 days of motion filing.


Hearings are expected soon in Illinois on a bill which overhauls that state's entire divorce code. Legislation is much more family friendly.


A vote is expected shortly on Shared Parenting legislation in Nebraska.


Maryland has held hearings on the establishment of a study committee on child custody. A committee vote is expected shortly.





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Thank You



Family Law Factoid:


Last week President O'Bama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Funding has been increased to over $600 million per year.


False allegations of abuse remain a significant problem in the family courts.






ACFC needs volunteers to become actively engaged in changing the way the courts (mis)treat children and their parents. If volunteering interests you please send an email to ACFC Executive Director Mike McCormick. Please include a brief description of any particular skills you have and areas of interest.





For the past 17 years ACFC and its national network of affiliated organizations have worked to educate the public, policy makers, legislators, judges, agency and family court personnel on the importance of two parent involvement in children's lives.


Check for additional updates and like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/acfcorg

Visit the website at www.acfc.org

Thanks to our friends at Illinois Fathers for generously supporting ACFC's enews.

The American Coalition for Fathers and Children (ACFC)

1718 M. St. NW #1187

Washington, DC 20036


ACFC is America's shared parenting organization. Through a network of affiliated organizations we are changing family law. If you need assistance please click here. You will be taken to a page on our website with free resources to help you understand the current family law system. Volunteer, become engaged. The keys to changing the current system of family law are in our hands.

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