California Considers Revising Methodology Behind Custody Determinations

California has an interesting child custody bill pending.

Proponents of the bill would leave more of the burden of putting forth evidence on custody directly on the parties – and more of the burden of determining custody on judges, based on that evidence.

First, the bill aims to limit the use of formal custody evaluations by professional custody evaluators, typically therapists of some kind.

Second, the bill explicitly prohibits use of the much-debated and criticized term “Parental Alienation Syndrome” – and the word “alienation” – in custody evaluations.

Interestingly, opponents of the bill include several psychological associations – and the California Bar’s section of family law members.

I have posted several times about parental alienation syndrome and the debate raging over its legitimacy:

  1. One Parent’s Parental Alienation is Another Parent’s Protection of Their Child
  2. Aftermath of Parental Alienation: Children Grown Up
  3. Parental Alienation Syndrome: Fact or Fiction?

One California evaluator points out that some evaluators tend to find alienation in almost every case – and others rarely, if ever, find alienation. Unfortunately, the basis for their conclusions may have less to do with the case at hand than the expert’s point of view.

Many women’s groups contend that alienation claims have led to custody awards to abusers.

Many men’s groups contend that alienation claims have damaged, if not destroyed, their relationships with their children.

Sadly, there is truth in both positions.

And even some psychologists admit that often it is not possible for evaluators to tell whether alleged child victims of alienation are in fact victims of abuse – or coaching.

Read more in this San Bernardino Sun article: Bill wades in to custody battles.

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IN: Don’t Fall Behind in Paying Your Child Support

One area of the law where states differ dramatically is in child support enforcement.

An Indiana man accumulated $120,000 in child support arrearages.

That’s a felony in Indiana, for which he was charged with three counts.

That man was sentenced to nine (9) years in prison for non-payment of child support.

To be followed by 15 years of probation.

Indiana likely has a much higher rate of compliance with child support orders than Florida does.

Read more in this WSBT TV article: Man $120,000 behind in child support gets 9-year sentence in South Bend.

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Another Columbine Averted in Daytona Beach, Florida

Three Florida children were caught a week ago in the alleged planning stages of a school shooting incident such as at Columbine. The three thirteen year olds were reportedly arrested yesterday for conspiracy to commit murder, a felony.

The plot was uncovered through electronics: text messages, webpages, etc.

According to her sister, one of the kids tried to commit suicide a few days earlier, over her boyfriend’s breakup with her.

All three teens’ mental health was evaluated under Florida’s Baker Act.

The alleged ringleader was angry over being teased by peers. Although he was angry at two particular students, he posted on a website that he wanted to kill as many students as possible – and then themselves.

It has not yet been announced whether the teenagers will be tried as juveniles or adults.

Read more in this Daytona Beach News Journal article – Police: 3 DeLand school teens plotted murder and this Orlando Sentinel article: Fla. 7th-grader arrested for planning school shooting.

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Likelihood of Divorce Among US Residents Based on Religious Affiliation

More marriage and divorce statistics.

According to the Pew Forum, among US residents, of all religions, followers of Hindu are the most likely to be married and the least likely to be divorced.

However, the sampling of Hindus was the smallest, so that was where the greatest margin of error existed.

Next least likely to be divorced were Jews, Muslims and Mormons, all coming in four percent higher than Hindus.

Next were Catholics, at one percent more likely to be divorced.

Read more in this India West article: U.S. Hindus Least Likely to Divorce: Survey.

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FaceBook As Evidence in Divorce: Coming Soon, Predict UK Attorneys

UK attorneys are looking slightly into the future to predict that evidence collected from social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace will be admitted in divorce cases.

Absolutely. Just as happened with e-mails and online chats before social networking sites sprang up.

The value of the type of evidence likely to be developed will vary between so-called no-fault states / countries like Florida and fault-grounded states / countries.

But consider this UK case. A man was barred from any contact with his wife.

The man signed up on a social networking site. The social networking site sent an automated “friend request” to everyone on the man’s e-mail list – including his wife.

The man was sentenced to ten days in jail based on that “friend request”.

Could make the friendliest person think twice about approving “friend requests” …

Read more in this UK Citizen article: Solicitor warning over Facebook flirting.

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MS Judge Faces Contempt of Court Over Non-Payment of Child Support

The place is Mississippi.

A local man, a judge and city attorney, reportedly faces contempt of court for failing to pay past due child support of $1,500.

The man contends that he can’t afford to pay it and that it is an unreasonably high amount of child support, more suited to a Hollywood celebrity than a local judge and attorney.

The man may think that the judge who presided over his divorce is biased against him. That judge awarded custody of the man’s baby to its mother.

The man expects to be jailed for contempt.

On the other hand, the judge who originally drew his case recused himself.

All concerned are awaiting appointment of another judge to hear the case.

In an interesting side note, the mans’ wife and her cousin were arrested for allegedly stealing computer disks from the man’s law office.

Read more in this Jackson [MS] Clarion-Ledger article: Judge recuses himself from colleague’s child support case.

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Military Divorce Rate Steady Overall But Military Women’s Divorce Rate High and Rising

According to the Pentagon, only 3.3% of military couples divorce. The military attribute this to large amounts of support that the military provides to military couples.

Some find the numbers surprising considering the currently prolonged, stressful separations during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Others find the numbers misleading in that they fail to reflect the number of couples who hit the skids in the military but who don’t actually divorce until after discharge.

Others challenge the numbers because the army does not actually follow the same couples over time, but counts how many military couples are married each year.

And, of course, the military doesn’t count unhappy couples.

Going against the tide of this report, military women are now divorcing at a much higher, and rising, rate of about 8%, compared to 2.6% for military men.

Read more in this Forbes article: Military Divorce Rate Holding Steady.

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India Makes Divorce Court More Convenient

No more is it true that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. No need. At least in India.

Now, if an Indian living abroad wants easier options, he’s got them.

A Delhi court has agreed to allow a New Jersey resident to appear at his divorce hearing(s) via video conference.

This could simplify and speed up about twenty percent of divorce cases in India where one party doesn’t live in the country – or near the city where the divorce is taking place.

One perk of divorce by videoconference is that the fallen-out couple don’t have to come face to face again.

On the other hand, that is also a negative in that last ditch reconciliations won’t be inspired either.

Read more in this IndiaTimes InfoTech article: Want divorce? Go high-tech.

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Domestic Violence Fought With Educational Theater

Nothing else has stamped out domestic violence yet.

One relatively recent, creative approach established in Massachusetts: educational theater.

Theater with a message. Plays depicting different types of domestic abuse (sexual, violent, verbal, etc.) – and targeting different audiences (civilian vs. military, adults vs. children, etc.).

The rationale is that an engaging story carries more impact than a thousand lectures.

The programs educates both victims and “bystanders” in a position to help, highlighting warning signs and illustrating how to be part of the solution.

Performers lead discussions after each performance.

Read more in this Woburn [MA] Daily Times Chronicle article: Fighting domestic abuse through theatre and the Deana’s Educational Theater website.

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Florida Youngster Killed Despite Numerous Reports of Abuse

The Florida Department of Children and Families receives about 1,000 reports of abuse per month in Lee County that must be investigated.

Investigations must begin within twenty-four hours, three if a child is believed to be in imminent danger.

An investigation takes at least 4 hours of interviews with the child, the person reporting the abuse, family members, neighbors, teachers, etc.

Investigators typically investigate two reports per day.

Background checks of every adult in the home are par for the course.

Investigators are college-educated and receive ten weeks of training plus substantial oversight and mentoring.

And still children die of abuse or neglect.

One six year old child recently died – after three separate reports of abuse, including one from his school.

DCF investigated but concluded that the child was not at risk and, later, at low risk.

That child was later killed by his stepfather, who now faces criminal charges.

Too little, too late.

Read more in this News-Press guest editorial: DCF needs community’s help protecting children and this WXTX Fox 4 News Team Coverage piece: Jenkins Case File.

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