IF YOU, or SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT, IS HAVING PROBLEMS related to divorce, custody, child support, paternity fraud or domestic relations in general, click here...
American Coalition for
Fathers and Children
Shared Parenting - Children Need Both Parents
Many Items of Interest, Making Progess
(for those reading this archive version of the email, many links to the state statutes referenced below are not functioning, however you can go to the referenced state website and search the bill number to locate.)
Much has transpired around the nation since our last newsletter. There are numerous positives to report, along with some setbacks, however the overall momentum for improving family law continues in the right direction. Help spread the word by linking and forwarding to a friend.
Next Wednesday, April 6th, in New York, the Foundation for Male Studies will be holding its second annual conference. Conference organizers are offering a reduced rate for ACFC members and newsletter readers who would like to attend the event either in person or via a live internet streaming feed. This is a great opportunity for you to see and hear one of the leading researchers in the area of fatherhood, Dr. Gordon Finley. To learn more about male studies, take advantage of this offer and be a part of this unique gathering visit www.malestudies.org/acfc.html.
News, Near and Far
As legislative sessions progress around the nation there are a number of items to report. In no particular order here are some of the things that are happening. If at anytime while reading this newsletter you want to contact your state legislators, you will find their contact information at this link.
Iowa. Iowa Fathers reports HF345, a shared parenting bill, has successfully passed the Iowa House and is now in the Senate where opposition is increasing. Bryan Iehl, head of Iowa Fathers is calling on citizens to contact their legislators, in particular the head of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Fraise and educate the Senator on the benefits of and need for Shared Parenting. Iowa Fathers is a long time ACFC affiliate and has been actively seeking to improve family law in the state for many years. If you have friends or family in Iowa who are interested in these issues connect them with Iowa Fathers.
Illinois. We are pleased to report progress on the Steve Watkins Bill. This bill deals with visitation interference and applies many of the sanctions available in non-payment of child support cases to those of visitation and access interference. This bill gives judges authority to levy fines, suspend driving and professional licenses, require surety bonds and incarcerate parents who continually frustrate the other parent's access to their children. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with an 11 - 0 vote in favor. Earlier this week the House passed the bill on a vote of 78 - 36. Now the bill goes to the Senate for consideration.
There is an increasing level of opposition to this bill led by a consortium of groups. The Family Law Section of the Illinois Bar Association is joining with the Illinois Coalition of Domestic Violence to oppose the bill. The Secretary of State's office is concerned about an increase in paperwork when the bill passes.
Yesterday Senator Mattie Hunter facilitated a meeting which included the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Interested stakeholders on all sides of the issue engaged in a frank discussion of concerns. Illinois Fathers did an outstanding job representing the interest of parents experiencing access interference. Volunteer to be a part of Illinois Fathers. Contact your state Senators and let them know what you think about the need to improve enforcement of the visitation and access components of custody orders. Read more about the meeting.
Illinois Fathers also continues to be fully engaged in efforts to bring about Shared Parenting for the state's citizens.
Texas. Another Shared Parenting bill has been introduced in the state of Texas. There are now 2 bills in the House, HB1229 and the latest HB2554, and one in the Senate, SB522 which mirrors HB1229. The Texas State Legislature meets every other year. The emphasis in Texas right now seems to lie much more in how to separate parents from their money rather than keeping child/parent relationships intact. It's time kids in Texas have a full relationship with both parents. If you would like to participate in efforts there please contact David Cary at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Tolbert at email@example.com. There are a number of good people working for family law change in Texas, reach out to Dave or Michael and get plugged into the effort. At the least, give your legislators a call and let them know your thoughts on how the Texas courts are doing.
Alabama. ACFC is pleased to welcome the Alabama Family Rights Association as a new affiliate. Our friends and colleagues have been working for many years to improve Alabama's family courts. Their efforts are showing promise as Senator Paul Bussman has introduced an excellent equally shared parenting bill called the Alabama Children's Family Act. The bill enjoys broad support on the Senate side while stirring up the usual hornet's nest of opposition. This past Monday morning I debated the bill with Dale Jackson, on WVNN. Dale didn't have a whole lot to say about the bill, except that he didn't like it. It's time for you to get involved. Contact ALFRA and volunteer. As with the above states, contact your representatives and educate them on the need to improve family law and preserve children's relationships with both parents.
Wisconsin. Steve Blake of Dads of Wisconsin reports their Shared Parenting bill, AB-54 will be heard at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 6 in room 415NW at the Capitol in Madison. Now is the time for you to be contacting members of the Children and Families committee to educate them on the benefts of Shared Parenting. Four years ago a similiar bill passed the Assembly but failed in committee on the Senate side. We'll keep you posted.
Minnesota. Molly Olson of Center for the Parental Responsibility is still working to move HF322. If you can volunteer for the effort contact Molly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Since the first hearing on February 8, there have been efforts to revise the bill to address the concerns of various stakeholders. Hearings may be held as soon as next week. Email or call the House Civil Law Committee and express your thoughts on equally shared parenting.
South Dakota. Several weeks ago we reported that South Dakota's shared parenting bill, HB1255, had passed out of the House and was headed to the Senate for consideration. The bill passed out of committee on a 4 -2 vote then went to the Senate floor for debate. Unfortunately the bill fell several votes short on the Senate floor, with the final vote coming in at 13 - 20 against. This bill was one step from the Governor's desk for signature. The sponsors and supporters of the bill are going to run it again next session and feel confident they can pick up enough votes to get it passed. We applaud their diligence and efforts.
Oregon. Yesterday there was a hearing on HB3064, a measure that deals with joint custody and parenting time at the temporary custody order stage. As many readers know the old legal adage that "there's nothing more permanent than a temporary order" absolutely applies to family court. How many have agreed to a temporary custody order thinking they'd bring some calm to the situation and be able to get their side out at trial, only to learn at trial that the 'evidence' didn't matter and the temporary order was made permanent? What a disaster for parent/child relationships, HB3064 will help address these situations.
Maryland. The Maryland Senate held a hearing on SB909, Maryland's equally shared parenting bill on March 23. SB909 is the Senate version of HB1132. At the hearing the usual opponents to full parental involvement testified, including the domestic violence coalition, custody evaluators, the state bar association, various lawyers and a judge. Several Senators questioned the opposition closely, appearing to know full well that Maryland families receive a raw deal in the state's courts. The sponsors of these bills are asking state residents to call their legislators today and let them hear your opinion on these bills. The bills will come for a vote soon, the committee vote counts are very close. Staffers tally constituent calls in favor or against legislation, your call makes a difference.
A Follow Up
Last month we brought you the story of Comedian Carl LaBove. Carl is on the hook for $188,000 in a past due child support case where DNA has proven he has zero probability of being the father. His court hearing was Tuesday, he was seeking to have the support order vacated and the arrearage set aside. Today we report to you that the judge said Carl was about 12 years to late to contest the order. To quote the judge: "Biology is trumped by social policy." Not unlike many others in this situation, Carl has lost his drivers license, passport, etc. We want to hear from others who are paying support for children they did not father. Please send us your story via email to email@example.com. Please include your contact information in the email.
Save Services has launched a campaign calling for the removal of a state prosecutor who appears to be more than a bit 'overzealous' in carrying out her duties. This particular prosecutor appears to be the kind of individual who views a bar card as a license to rape, pillage and plunder. "War of the Roses" is a walk in the park on a sunny afternoon compared to what's going on in this Maine case. There are any number of ways you can help. At a minimum please take a moment and sign the petition.
We appreciate all of you actively working to improve family law systems around the nation. In every one of the above states we have worked to support family law improvement, both visibly and behind the scenes. Academic research shows the trendlines are moving in the direction of more Shared Parenting. We need your help to continue these efforts, please click this link and make a contribution. Thanks again for your support for ACFC and for your involvement in these efforts.