Divorce

The system drives noncustodial parents out of their kids’ lives

Posted on December 15, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , |

The Boston Globe – Dec. 13th, 2014

RUTH GRAHAM discusses one part of a much larger problem: a broken family law system (“Broke, but not deadbeat”). Graham’s focus on fathers who are poor is commendable. However, it misses the larger problem of one parent — usually the father — being driven out of the lives of his children because the laws, the courts, the lawyers, and the government all have a financial stake in extracting as much money as possible from the noncustodial parent, the best interests of the children be damned.

If both parents continued to be involved in their children’s lives, as numerous studies over several decades have shown to be best, it wouldn’t be nearly as lucrative for those other so-called stakeholders. The better solution, for parents who are rich, poor, or in between, is shared parenting, which should be a presumption, not a mandate, in every child custody action, even so-called preliminary rulings.

In 2004, 86 percent of Massachusetts voters supported a presumption of shared parenting in a nonbinding referendum, and yet the Legislature has ignored or blocked the issue year after year.

The solution: Take the profit out of the system, and stop urging parents to fight over sole custody. Even poor fathers are more likely to financially support their children if they are fully involved in their lives.

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Mother Loses Custody After Preventing Father From From Seeing Child

Posted on December 15, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , |

Family Law Express December 1st, 2014 | Written By: Kay Dibben

Selfish separated parents who try to stop their children having a relationship with their former partners are having the kids taken off them by courts.

A judge recently took the “drastic step” of ordering that a girl, eight, who had lived with her mother since her parents separated when she was 13 months, instead live with her father.

Changing the child’s primary carer from the mother to the father was the only way the girl could have a meaningful relationship with both parents, Judge Evelyn Bender decided.

The mother had for years interfered with her daughter’s court-ordered time with her father, who did not see his child for months at a time.

“The mother tells (the child) that her father is going to take her away and not allow her to ever see her mother again,” Judge Bender said.

The anxious little girl had told a Court family consultant it was her dream to be able to “love Mummy and Daddy at the same time”.

Brisbane family law specialist Deborah Awyzio said it was only in extreme cases that a child was taken away from one parent and put in the care of the other.

“This is a warning that parents need to be child-focused in every parenting decision they make and not self-focused,” Ms Awyzio said.

“People think it is extreme when a child is removed from the carer they have been with, but the focus is on the child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.”

In the recent case the court heard the couple, who separated in 2007 after five years together, had been in ongoing litigation over their daughter’s living arrangements.

The court heard the mother’s unremitting campaign to undermine her child’s relationship with her father distressed the child, who loved both parents.

Judge Bender said if the girl lived with her father she would be “allowed to be a child”.

She gave the father sole responsibility for the child’s health and education and allowed the mother to spend time with the girl on alternate weeks and during holidays.

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Pope Francis: Children have right to a mother and father

Posted on December 15, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , |

Ann Schneible Nov 17, 2014

Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that “the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.”

The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at the opening of the three-day international, interfaith colloquium entitled The Complementarity of Man and Woman, currently underway in the Vatican.Also referred to as the “Humanum” conference, the gathering is being sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

“To reflect upon ‘complementarity’ is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all creation,” he said. “All complementarities were made by our creator, so the author of harmony achieves this harmony.”

Complementarity, which is at the core of this gathering, “is a root of marriage and family,” the Pope said. “For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living.”

Although the family often leads to tensions – “egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals” – it also provides “frameworks for resolving such tensions.”

Pope Francis warned against confusing complementarity with the notion that “all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, he said, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children – his or her personal richness, personal charisma.”

“Marriage and family are in crisis,” he said, with the “culture of the temporary” dissuading people from making the “public commitment” of marriage.

“This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Pope Francis noted the evidence pointing to the correlation between “the decline of marriage culture” and the increase of poverty and other “social ills”. It is women, children, and elderly persons who suffer the most from this crisis, he said.

The Pope likened the crisis in the family to threats against the environment. Although there has been a growing awareness of ecological concerns, mankind has “been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church.”

“We must foster a new human ecology,” he said.

“The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation,” the Holy Father continued, stressing the importance of marriage in the raising of children.

“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged the participants in the Colloquium to especially take account of young people. “Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.”

He also warned against being moved by political agendas. “Family is an anthropological fact, he said, which cannot be qualified “based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history.”

Pope Francis concluded his address by confirming his participation in the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia, USA, in 2015.

Following the Holy Father’s remarks, CDF Prefect and moderator of the colloquium’s opening sessions, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, spoke at length on the central themes of the gathering.

At the core of the Colloquium which has gathered representatives from diverse religious traditions, is the question of the import of man and woman’s complementarity “for the relationship between the human person and God”.

Recounting the Genesis account of the earth’s creation, followed by that of man and woman, Cardinal Mueller said in his intervention the “difference between man and woman, both in the union of love and the generation of life, concerns God’s presence in the world.” It is man’s calling “to discover [this] in order to find a solid and lasting foundation and destiny for our life.”

“In sexual difference,” the cardinal went on, the man and the woman “can only understand him or herself in light of the other: the male needs the female to be understood, and the same is true for the female.”

It is therefore the the aim of the colloquium, Mueller concluded, “to explore the richness of sexual difference, its goodness, its character as gift, its openness to life, the path that opens up to God.”

Later that morning, keynote speaker Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks opened his intervention by telling “the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one.”

The Rabbi explored the evolutionary development leading to the human family, from which emerged “the union of the biological mother and father to care for their child.” Then, with the development of cultures came the normalization of polygamy: “the ultimate expression of inequality because it means that
many males never get the chance to have a wife and child.”

“That is what makes the first chapter of Genesis so revolutionary,” he said, “with its statement that every human being, regardless of class, colour, culture or creed, is in the image and likeness of God himself.”

Rabbi Sacks spoke at length about the development of family within the Jewish tradition, noting how the Jews were “became an intensely family oriented people, and it was this that saved us from tragedy.”

From the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D through centuries of persecution, he said, “Jews survived because they never lost three things: their sense of family, their sense of community and their faith.”

“Marriage and the family are where faith finds its home and where the Divine Presence lives in the love between husband and wife, parent and child,” he said.

In an interview with CNA, President for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, reflected on the fundamentals of complementarity, beginning with the first chapter of Genesis.

“We have this very beautiful idea, an image that the relationship between man and woman is an image of God,” he said. “In this sense, in the Catholic Church, the marriage between husband and wife is a Sacrament. This Sacramental issue is very important for us.”

Citing the interfaith character of the Colloquium, Cardinal Koch, who served as moderator for the afternoon sessions he stressed the need to give witness about complementarity “first of all in an ecumenical way.”

The chance to “give witness about family and marriage in an inter-religious dimension is a very beautiful opportunity,” he said.

David Quinn, director of the IONA institute and newspaper columnist, was among the participants in the colloquium. “The conference is obviously an extremely major international gathering about the importance of marriage between a man and a woman,” he told CNA.

“It’s probably the most significant gathering of its kind to date that’s been organized by the Church, and specifically by the CDF.”

“The loud and clear message for me,” Quinn said, “is the importance of the complementarity of men and women, and particularly the right of a child to be raised by their own mother and father whenever that is possible.”

Citing Ireland’s upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, set to occur in 2015, Quinn said “this is obviously a loud and clear message that people need to hear. That the sexes are complimentary.”

“This is imbedded in the very nature of marriage itself. You deny the nature of marriage if you deny the importance of the complementarity of the sexes, and above all if you deny that mothers and fathers should raise children together.”

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The Rise of Daddy Daycare

Posted on December 7, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , |

Even though the burden of cultural expectation still generally falls on mothers, fathers now spend almost five more hours on childcare each week than they did in 1965.

What scene comes to mind when you envision a dad left in charge of his kids for the day? Is it a room with fresh crayon marks all over the walls, kids with food-smeared faces—nothing short of general chaos? While those tropes might be funny, they probably aren’t all that accurate, especially nowadays, when more and more men are pitching in at home.

In fact, fathers now perform 4.6 more hours of childcare and 4.4 more hours of housework each week than they did in in 1965, according to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors. And dads say that involvement with responsibilities on the home front, particularly involving children, is increasingly important, as is finding a career and employer that will allow them to devote a significant portion of time to their family. In a study from the Boston College Center for Work and Family, 60 percent of the 1,029 fathers polled said that employer-provided, paid paternity or parental leave was important to them. This figure was significantly higher among younger men, with 93 percent of Millennial dads indicating that paid paternal leave was important to them.
Still, while opinions and priorities may have seen some cultural shifts, the balance between work and home is still a difficult one to strike. The vast majority of fathers surveyed for the Boston College study took only two weeks off for the arrival of a new baby, a period of time that correlated strongly with the amount of paid paternity or parental leave provided. When asked how much paternal leave they thought was appropriate, the majority of men said somewhere between two and four weeks, with younger dads erring towards longer leave. And some men choose not to take the maximum amount of time off from their jobs, fearing that they’ll fall too far behind, or be seen as less dedicated employees.

“I would be working just for someone else to watch my kids and it just didn’t make sense.”
While some fathers find themselves trying to create work schedules with additional flexibility, more fathers are assuming the role of primary caregiver. The number of stay-at-home dads has risen from 1.1 million in 1989 to 2.0 million in 2012, according to Pew. Why? For some fathers, they found themselves in the role due to circumstance: Temporary unemployment or disability can make dads the most logical option for childcare. But some fathers are home by choice, and because of a shift in labor dynamics as women reach higher educational and career attainment.
For Chris Tecala of Centerville, Virginia, who worked full-time in the audio visual field for a hospitality company, the question of who should stay home with the kids was an easy one to answer. “My salary equaled the cost of the yearly daycare of two, non potty-trained infants, which was about $40,000 a year,” he said. “I would be working just for someone else to watch my kids and it just didn’t make sense.”

According to Pew, 24 percent of married women earn more than their husbands. The study also found that for married couples with children, women were the primary breadwinners in 37 percent of households. As women earn more and seek higher positions in more competitive fields, the decision of who should leave work to care for a sick child, or stay home altogether, has become less clear.

Now Tecala, who stays home during the week to watch his twin two-year-old boys, strikes a balance by working part-time for the same company during the weekends. Even once his boys are old enough to attend school, Tecala says he plans on continuing with a part-time schedule so he can “be there for them every step of the way.”

The decision to remain active in the professional world, albeit in a scaled-back fashion, is fairly common, says Will Culp of the National At Home Dad Network, especially for those who plan to reenter the workforce after the kids get older.

Dan Baldwin, a stay-at-home dad from Baltimore says that his family’s decision to rely on him as the primary caregiver was driven partially by finances, but also because of the lack of schedule flexibility at his former job. Baldwin used about seven weeks of paid leave thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act, but afterward, when he tried to discuss creating a more family-friendly schedule for his urban planning job, he said his employer offered up the equivalent of two days off per month. For his family, it simply wasn’t enough, he said.

So Baldwin stays home to care for his son, David. He says he plans on returning to the working world, once any children he and his wife may have are old enough to attend school, but even then, there will still be a focus on flexibility so he can do things like attend field trips and soccer matches. “I think that going into a new job, that would be one of the things I would look for—that would weigh heavily on my decision about where to end up,” he said.

“I think the bias against pro-paternity policies in the workplace starts with the notion that mothers are genetically better-suited for childcare,”
Though they are the primary caregivers in their families, both Tecala and Baldwin make sure to note how involved their wives, both employed full-time, are in child rearing. “By the end of the day when she gets home, I like to have that break,” Baldwin says. “She’ll feed him dinner, give him a bath, and put him to bed. And that’s when I’ll get some cleaning done.” Tecala describes a similar scene in his home.

But despite this scene of domestic bliss and cooperation, it still seems as if a large portion of Americans don’t see stay-at-home dads and stay-at-home moms in the same light. Another to Pew poll reported that, 51 percent of respondents felt that kids were better off with a mother who stayed home, and only 34 percent said that kids were just as well off if their mom worked. Those numbers change dramatically when you switch to the idea of a stay-at-home father. Only 8 percent of respondents said that children would be better off if their dad stayed home, while 76 percent said they’d be just as well off if their dad worked.

Culp says that these views, that deem that mothers are better suited to take care of the kids, contribute to flimsy pro-paternity leave policies at many organizations. “I think the bias against pro-paternity policies in the workplace starts with the notion that mothers are genetically better-suited for childcare,” he said. “As long as employers see involved fathers as an impediment to productivity, any change toward more progressive paternity leave policies will be met with resistance.”

While Baldwin and Tecala said that most people were positive about their decision to act as their child’s primary caregiver, both had stories of odd looks or curious reactions that they had gotten from strangers, mostly women. Tecala described a look of confusion that he gets occasionally when he carts his twin boys around the supermarket. I asked him if that type of reaction upset him. “At first it bothered me, but now I just kind of shrug it off and laugh,” he said. “I like to think that they’re just jealous that they don’t have a guy who’s willing to look after the kids like I am.”

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Donald Hubin commentary: Shared parenting needs to be the goal

Posted on December 7, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , |

 Dec. 5th, 2014           The Columbus Dispatch by Donald Hubin

Most people have a common-sense understanding that children are better off when both parents are fully involved in a child’s upbringing and care, but Ohio’s child-custody laws and court practices fail to recognize this obvious truth.

While Ohio isn’t the worst state in this regard, a recent study gives the state’s child-custody laws a C- when it comes to ensuring that both parents remain engaged with their children following divorce.

In a groundbreaking report published within the past month, National Parents Organization released its inaugural Shared Parenting Report Card, the nation’s first study to grade the states based on child-custody statutes. The report found that most states are performing poorly in terms of encouraging shared parenting and parental equality. The nation as a whole scored a 1.63 grade-point average, and Ohio is in the middle of the pack, receiving a C-.

These findings make it clear that Ohio legislators must act to raise the state’s grade for the benefit of our children, and legislators can get to work by addressing the fact that Ohio statutes:

• Contain no preference for or presumption of shared parenting.

• Do not explicitly provide for shared parenting during temporary orders.

• Do not mandate that a court award shared parenting even in a case where the court finds that the submitted shared parenting plan is in the best interest of the children.

• Have not been significantly revised in light of the 2001 recommendations of the task force set up by the Ohio legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court to recommend reforms to family law in Ohio.

The report’s examination of statutes in Ohio and elsewhere show it’s typical for one parent to be marginalized when parents separate. This happens routinely, even when both parents are fit and loving and want to be fully involved in their children’s lives. It happens because of obsolete laws and outdated assumptions about parents.

Is diminishing the role of one parent the unfortunate price we pay to promote the best interest of children? Some have thought so, but the evidence is against them. And the evidence is now overwhelming. Over the past three decades, there has been a growing consensus among social scientists that in the vast majority of cases, when parents separate, children are best off when their parents are equally involved.

Just this year, three different groups of child-development researchers and practitioners endorsed shared parenting in most circumstances. In one instance, a report by prominent psychologist Richard Warshak, titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” and published by the American Psychological Association, concluded that shared parenting should be the norm. The conclusions of this research were endorsed by 110 researchers and practitioners who added their names to the published paper — an extraordinary event in the social sciences.

Despite the weight of scientific evidence, shared parenting is in place just 17 percent of the time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There are many reasons why this harmful practice continues. Some judges seem not to have noticed that we are no longer living in theMad Men era, when mothers stayed at home with the children and fathers were relatively uninvolved in child rearing. Some parents see the decisions about raising their children after divorce as a contest where one parent wins and the other loses — losing sight of the fact that, in such a contest, children are the real losers. And our adversarial approach to divorce and custody disputes encourages this winner-take-all attitude. Some judges favor shared parenting in principle but will not order it unless both parents agree to it, thinking that if the parents cannot agree to shared parenting, they can’t cooperate under a shared parenting plan. However, the research proves this false.

While the causes of what some have described as ‘parent-ectomy’ are many, there is no doubt that legislatures share some of the responsibility. Across the country, and certainly in Ohio, legislators have a responsibility to make common-sense statutory changes that will better ensure that our children, regardless of whether their parents live together, experience a childhood filled with the love of both parents.

Donald Hubin, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University, is chairman of the Ohio Executive Committee and a member of the National Board of National Parents Organization and is one of the principal authors of the National Parents Organization 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card.

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How ‘deadbeats’ can still be good dads

Posted on December 7, 2014. Filed under: Divorce | Tags: , , |

Child support needs to catch up to reflect new roles for fathers, say experts

Dec. 5th, 2014 by Ruth Graham

ONE KIND OF FAMILY is the one in an old greeting-card picture: two parents, one or more kids, all under one roof.

But another kind of family has become more and more common over the last several decades. We tend to call it “single parenting,” but it is really better described as an unmarried mother and father living apart, their children, and the government whose laws regulate their relationship.
That set of laws is the child-support system, and it covers 17 million American children—about a quarter of them. But that system is nearly 40 years old, established during a different economy, and built on an old model where the mother was the caretaker and the father simply brought home the bacon. Today, a group of critics is saying the system needs an update, not only to be fair to adults but to avoid hurting the children whose interests it is supposed to serve.

These critics are particularly focused on the role of fathers, who make up the vast majority of noncustodial parents. Fathers are overwhelmingly the target of the current system’s narrow focus on collection and enforcement. And for middle-class and high-income men, it may make sense to require simply that they pay up or else.

But 29 percent of families in the system have income below the federal poverty line, and many more have great trouble making ends meet. Since the system was first put in place, out-of-wedlock births have become less stigmatized and more common, while devastating wage stagnation has hit male workers. As a result, there are legions of low-income fathers far less able to hold up their end of the deal. They may find themselves unable to pay child support, and yet caught in a system that expects nothing else from them.

“Child support is a remnant of the days when we used to think that dads didn’t matter,” said Kathryn Edin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who has spent years researching the ways poor American men cope with unmarried parenting. “With our right hand we’ve pushed these men away; we’ve said, ‘You’re worthless.’ With our left hand we’re picking his pocket….That’s how it feels to him.”

Today, Edin is one of a growing number of academics and policy makers looking at struggling families in the 21st century and concluding that the child-support system needs to do better. They envision a system that would more closely link providing and parenting, and would take a more pragmatic view toward the ability of disenfranchised men to come up with money they simply don’t have, while still benefiting the children the system is designed to serve. What exactly would that look like—and what would it take to make it a reality?

If forced to choose between child-support payments and buying diapers and winter coats, many fathers will go for the option that looks more like parenting than taxation.

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THE CHILD-SUPPORT SYSTEM as we know it dates to the 1970s. It was originally a bipartisan policy reform, designed primarily to serve a population of parents who were divorced and steadily employed. Divorce meant there had been a marriage in the first place, and that custody agreements had likely been worked out. Steady employment meant the system could garnish wages directly from a parent’s paycheck if necessary.

Today, however, the lives of many low-income parents look dramatically different. Marriage rates among the poor have plummeted, so there often is no divorce to provide a formal structure for parents’ responsibilities. And employment prospects for men with low education are dismal. “We have a 1970s narrative about a 2010s reality,” Edin said.

A central character in that narrative is the “deadbeat dad,” a figure who emerged in American culture in the 1980s. One moment served as a catalyst: In 1986, Bill Moyers interviewed a New Jersey father of six named Timothy McSeed for a CBS report titled “The Vanishing Family: Crisis in Black America.” McSeed bragged on camera about his “strong sperm,” and cheerfully admitted he didn’t support any of his children financially because “I’m not doing what the government does.” Editorial columnists seized on the shocking interview, and the segment went viral in a time when that meant more than a few easy clicks: Requests for the tape poured into CBS, including an order for all 7,500 schools in the California public school system. CBS News said it was the largest-ever demand for one of its products.

With this cartoonish bogeyman looming over the cultural and political landscape, the child-support system focused on collection and enforcement. Shortly afterward, Congress passed a law forcing states to be stricter about collecting past child-support debts. The approach was bolstered intellectually by a 1979 book by a University of Michigan law professor, “Making Fathers Pay,” which argued that aggressive enforcement measures, including incarceration, could corral deadbeats into complying with child-support orders. In 1996, President Clinton’s welfare reform act again strengthened the government’s enforcement powers against noncustodial parents.

There have always been, and will always be, some fathers who are not interested in fathering, and who would never help out if the law didn’t force them to. But recent research by sociologists and others who work with low-income fathers suggests that is far from typical. For their poignant 2013 book “Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City,” Edin and coauthor Timothy Nelson conducted wide-ranging interviews with 110 low-income fathers in and around Philadelphia over the course of seven years. They found the majority of men were thrilled to become fathers, even though the pregnancies were rarely planned and their romantic relationships and employment situations were often unstable.

Overwhelmingly, Edin and other sociologists have reported, 21st-century fathers do intend to provide for their children. Many of them fail, in the financial sense. But what Edin found, encouragingly, is that with few opportunities to succeed financially, many have crafted new definitions of what exactly it means to be a good father: emotional availability, consistent commitment, and direct fulfillment of their children’s concrete needs and desires. As one father told Edin, “That’s what kept me going in prison, knowing that I had to come out and be there for them.” Although low-income fathers remain much less studied than mothers, other researchers have found similar enthusiasm for parenting. In her 2002 book, “My Baby’s Father: Unmarried Parents and Paternal Responsibility,” Maureen Waller, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, interviewed both men and women who agreed that a father’s economic support was necessary but insufficient to qualify him as a good parent.

If forced to choose between child-support payments and buying diapers and winter coats, many fathers will go for the option that looks more like parenting than taxation. That may be particularly true in cases where a mother is on welfare, because then the father’s child-support payment typically goes directly to the state, sometimes with a token amount “passed through” to the mother and child. “Dads talk about that conundrum,” said Ronald Mincy, a professor of social work at Columbia University and coauthor of the forthcoming book “Failing Our Fathers: Confronting the Crisis of Economically Vulnerable Nonresident Fathers.” “They have to choose between meeting the formal order on the one hand and meeting the child’s informal needs.” If they choose the latter, they become “deadbeats” in the eyes of the law.

Yet researchers say that both mothers and fathers tend to prefer informal agreements, all things considered. If their relationship crumbles—trust is often low to begin with—or if the father gets distracted by a new family, informal agreements can disintegrate, so the formal child-support system is a crucial safety net for mothers and children. But it’s also a system that can alienate fathers from their children, sometimes by literally putting them in jail. Even the burden of debt can be enough to drive a wedge: Waller’s ongoing research suggests that men with outstanding child-support debts have less contact and involvement with their children.

Though mothers undoubtedly have benefited from the child-support system, there’s also a case to be made that they are its victims in a way, too. Unlike parents themselves, the formal system assumes that the custodial parent is the only one with real authority. “If we give in to the notion that the mom ‘owns’ the child, if that’s the default position, then the mom is also responsible for the child,” Edin said. “Moms just end up holding the bag for everything, and men are cast out of society. That is a very bad deal for women.”

OVER THE YEARS, the child support system has improved in one measurable way: enforcement. “The reach of the child-support program, it’s stronger than the IRS in some ways,” said Jessica Pearson, who directs the Center for Policy Research and has been studying child-support policy since the 1980s. The Federal Parent Locator Service draws on national databases to track down noncustodial parents and enforce payments; in fiscal year 2013, state (and tribal) programs collected $32 billion in child support, and the amount distributed has been steadily rising for years.

That’s good news for the families who have received this money. But more than $100 billion in child-support payments are still in arrears, and research suggests that most of that is essentially uncollectible because the fathers simply do not have the money. (About a quarter of that money is owed to the government.)

Would a more enlightened system—one focused less on enforcement, and more on involvement—do a better job of keeping eager fathers involved with their children? If so, it would mean broadening the state’s approach from one that is primarily punitive to one that works with fathers, presuming that most of them want to be good parents.

Some small signs of progress seem to be on the horizon. Last month, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement began circulating a 41-page list of proposed new regulations to modernize the child-support program. (Child support programs are administered by states, but the federal government influences state policy and how it is implemented.) The new rules would make changes like allowing states to spend federal child-support dollars on employment and training programs for fathers. Crucially, they also encourage states to take into account a man’s basic cost of living before making child-support calculations.

Scholars who work with low-income families all have their own favorite ways they would like to see the system change. Waller mentions limiting retroactive debts and revising policies on how states handle interest payments. Mincy would like to see the Earned Income Tax Credit extended more generously to noncustodial parents. Job training for fathers is another big focus: Small studies in New York and Texas have shown that if the state provides training for men who haven’t been able to pay child support, they are likelier to begin to comply. And almost everyone laments the fact that some states treat incarceration as “voluntary unemployment,” so child-support debts often balloon while men are in prison.

Experts also have ambitious ideas about how the system could help incorporate fathers into the lives of their children. Some would like to connect child-support and visitation agreements for never-married parents, the way that divorce court does. Some jurisdictions have experimented with versions of “coparenting court” to help unmarried parents negotiate a more complex agreement that covers more than just check-writing.

And language matters, too. Edin bemoans the widespread use of the term “single mother,” and the way that many government poverty programs are oriented solely around mothers and children. In fact, mothers who are truly single are vanishingly rare: In one way or another, fathers and boyfriends are almost always integral parts of the picture, and those relationships are assets we would do better to strengthen than ignore. She’d like to see researchers and policy makers adopt another phrase, one she hopes would remind us how many lives are at stake in all these arrangements. The term she prefers: “Complex fragile family.”

Ruth Graham, a writer in New Hampshire, is a regular contributor to Ideas.

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The Unintended Effects of Divorce on Kids

Posted on November 30, 2014. Filed under: Divorce | Tags: , , |

  November 25, 2014

It’s long been known that children can suffer when their parents divorce — and new research has found the fallout to be surprisingly powerful, with effects ranging from poor test scores to the onset of eating disorders. But the good news, according to Resolution, the U.K. organization behind the survey, is that it’s the level of angry fighting, and not the divorce itself, that appears to cause the most fallout.

“It’s not so much the fact of parental separation, it’s the conflict,” Resolution director Jo Edwards tells Yahoo Parenting. “A lot of it is the way that parents manage their conflict.

The organization of 6,500 family lawyers, mediators, and therapists in England and Wales is one that believes in a non-confrontational approach to divorce and other family conflicts. It surveyed 500 young people ages 14 to 22 about the effects of divorce, and discovered, among other findings, that one in five said that the split negatively impacted their GCSE scores (similar to SAT scores here). One in eight, meanwhile, said they tried or newly considered trying drugs, and one in three noted having a change in eating patterns and the possible beginnings of an eating disorder. In addition, nearly a third of respondents reported that one parent had attempted to turn them against the other; one in four said parents tried to involve them in their dispute; and almost a quarter said they found out on social media that one of their parents had a new partner.

“We were surprised and quite shocked by the extent of some of the findings,” Edwards notes, particularly when considering the impact of the 230,000 people in England and Wales, many of whom are parents, who divorce each year. That number is even larger in the more highly populated U.S., of course, which sees more than 800,000 divorces annually. “Many think that court is the only way” to hammer out the details of custody and visitations during a divorce, she says. But when both parents use mediation or therapy, and agree to go through their divorce in “a more civilized way, focusing mainly on the good of the family,” she says, children fare better.

“It’s the hostility and anger that so often puts kids in the middle — and young kids, in particular, blame themselves,” Ken Neumann, a child psychologist and founder of the New York City based Center for Family and Divorce Mediation. “Then they believe they’re bad and incorporate that belief into their lives, which leads to low self-esteem, doing poorly in school, eating disorders, drugs.”

The trick, he notes, is to not ever put your kids in the middle, and to “never fight in front of the kids — not even over the phone.” Further, Neumann advises, “Don’t empower them to make decisions, like, ‘Do you want to spend the holiday with me or your dad?’ Children don’t feel taken care of if they’re given the choices. They want to see their parents in charge and making decisions, which makes them feel safe.”

Barbara Rothberg, a New York­–based divorce coach and family therapist, takes a particular tack when it comes to helping parents keep their anger at each other away from the kids. “I try to help them separate out the two roles, and to remind people that they are divorcing as spouses, not as parents,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “I try to redefine it as a business relationship of parenting.” Because, she explains, unless there is abuse, the goal should be to help both parents be good parents. “Kids do very well if parents do not put them in the middle — if you don’t use them, do not express anger in front of them, don’t ask questions like ‘who was daddy with last weekend?’ That’s not to say you’re not furious, but you keep that separate. If you really care about your kids, you need to do this.”

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Guest Post: Spousal Support: Heads She Wins, Tails He Loses

Posted on October 7, 2014. Filed under: Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

Posted on September 22, 2014

I have been a fan of Ontario lawyer/writer KAREN SELICK (karenselick.com) for many years and appreciate her “tell-it-like-it-is” approach to some of Canada’s absurd laws. Karen wrote the piece below on spousal support seventeen years ago in the November, 1997 issue of “Canadian Lawyer”, when the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were nothing more than a law professor’s dream. Enjoy!

“The law of spousal support has become so repugnant to me lately that I often ponder giving up the practice of family law altogether.  It’s almost impossible to feel good about what you’re doing.  If you act for wives, you have to inform them about the kinds of claims they can make—including claims which I consider to be unjust or downright ridiculous.  If you act for husbands, you have to be prepared to be on the losing side most of the time.

It seems that no matter what course a couple’s married life took, the wife can always find some reason to claim spousal support.   If she  worked outside the home and supported her husband while he became a brain surgeon, her claim is for “compensatory support.”  If she did just the opposite, sitting around eating bonbons while the brain surgeon supported her, her claim is for  “developing a pattern of economic dependency.”

I’ve even seen cases where the wife has claimed both grounds in the same action, oblivious to the possibility that the bonbon-eating lifestyle she enjoyed in the later years of marriage has already more than compensated her for whatever work she did in the early years, or to the idea that if she was such a great provider in the early years, there was nothing stopping her from maintaining her lucrative career throughout the marriage.

In fact, the only common thread running through most support orders is this: males pay.

I remember reading once about the peculiar notion held by some eastern philosophy that if you rescue a person from impending death, you become responsible for him for the rest of his life.  Canadian courts seem to apply a similar prescript to support cases.  Once a man has kindly provided a woman with a higher standard of living than she could reasonably have hoped to achieve on her own, he’s stuck with providing it for years to come—maybe even the rest of her life–regardless of how she has behaved toward him or the reason they separated.

The Divorce Act enshrines this principle.  It tells judges to alleviate any economic disadvantage arising from either “the marriage or its breakdown.”   That “or” is a powerful word.  Suppose the marriage gave the wife an advantage rather than a disadvantage: a more affluent, leisured lifestyle than she would have earned on her own. Then, obviously, the termination of the marriage constitutes a disadvantage.

If a man genuinely caused his wife some disadvantage during the marriage, he pays for that reason.  But if instead he bestowed an advantage upon her, he pays for having stopped.  Heads she wins, tails he loses.

Another objectionable thread woven through both the legislation and the case law is the notion that if a woman can’t support herself after separation, the courts should make her ex-husband support her rather than see her go on welfare.  Maybe the legislators and judges who came up with this idea thought it would placate opponents of welfare. If so, they’ve misunderstood the nature of the objection to welfare.

Welfare is objectionable because it is coercive and one-sided.  It’s not like charity, which is voluntary.  It’s not like a contract, from which both parties benefit.  No, welfare simply forces some people to hand over money to others whose predicament they didn’t cause and who have provided no value in exchange.

The same could frequently be said about spousal support.  Take, for instance, the recent Ontario case, B. v. B.   The trial judge accepted the husband’s evidence that this was a marriage “made in Hell.”  The wife, whose IQ was only 68, didn’t work outside the home, but also didn’t do housework.  She watched a lot of television, while the husband assumed responsibility for cooking and cleaning, in addition to being the sole breadwinner.  They argued a lot, and she was occasionally violent towards him.

The trial judge awarded her only time-limited support, saying “…this husband started to pay for this marriage about three months after it occurred, and then he paid for the next 15 years, and I am not prepared to make him pay for the rest of his life.”

On appeal, the Divisional Court removed the time limit on the wife’s support, stating explicitly that the burden of the wife’s support should fall on family members, not on taxpayers.  Why?  What principle of justice or morality warrants making Mr. B. pay, as opposed to some unrelated taxpayer? Neither of them caused the wife’s need for support. Neither of them ever received any benefit from her existence.

In fact, we’ve thrown out just about every principle there ever was—from the notion of contract to the notion of fault—that made matrimonial law rational, comprehensible, predictable, controllable or just.  While some people may feel that no-fault support has been a liberating event, it’s clear that for others, it has meant nothing but grief and involuntary servitude.

It’s about time we re-examined the unfashionable idea of marital conduct to see whether justice can ever again form part of matrimonial law.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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How Splitting Up Made Us Better Parents

Posted on September 5, 2014. Filed under: Divorce | Tags: , , |

8/19/2014 by Jessica Woodbury (Huffington Post)

My husband and I both come from families with parents who’ve been married for decades. Deciding to separate and then to divorce meant taking our children into a world we’d never experienced ourselves. More than anything else, we’ve both worried about them and how this will affect their lives.

The funny thing is that it hasn’t turned into the giant fiasco you might expect. It helps that our kids are still young and don’t think to ask us why. But what’s helped the most is that taking this step has made us into more involved and more centered parents, even if we’re no longer parenting together.

1. More Me Time. Before, I had a husband who worked long hours and no support system. I was more than a primary parent, I was a 99 percent parent. Splitting up and setting up a custody schedule has us both carving out just-for-kids time and just-for-me time. Now that I have Friday nights to myself I have the break I always craved as a stay-at-home parent.

I get three nights a week of undisturbed sleep. There are no errands to run. I can meet a friend for brunch without having to line up a sitter or order a kids meal for a small companion. Last week I even got a pedicure in the middle of the day just because I could. I pick the movies and the TV shows I watch. I can lay in bed and read all day.

It’s actually an adjustment to learn to live with a couple of days of open time. You can start up old hobbies. You can connect with friends.

But best of all, when you see your kids again a couple of days later, they are more beautiful and more precious than they were at the end of a long week. My energy is renewed, my patience is restored, and we’re all ready to enjoy each other.

2. Less Stress. I do all my parenting alone now, which is harder in a lot of ways. I won’t say it’s easy. Sometimes I don’t get to eat my own dinner until 10:00 p.m. But getting through those difficult hours after school and before bed are not so tough when you’re not already on edge.

I hadn’t realized just how much my misery in my marriage was weighing on me. There was always the question of when my husband would get home, what mood he’d be in, how we’d manage dinner, how we’d wade through the evening’s battles with the kids. If my husband was home, instead of managing something myself I would feel resentful if he wasn’t there to immediately step in and assist. I was causing a lot of my own pain and frustration.

Taking that out of the equation means a lot. After the kids go to bed I don’t have to deal with any anger or resentment at my spouse. I don’t have to face stony silences. We don’t avoid each other. There are no fights. It’s just a quiet evening for me to relax or clean up or take a bath. And it’s weird how much easier it is to get through a rough evening solo.

3. More Working Together. Now that there isn’t all this extra baggage of our own arguments and grudges, parenting together is a lot easier. We can talk about it clinically instead of getting upset in the heat of the moment. We can email back and forth. There aren’t any spontaneous blow ups. There isn’t any finger pointing or blaming.

If I notice the pack of diapers he bought isn’t the right size, I can just include a note about it in a weekly email about what’s going on, what the state of the laundry is, how they’ve been sleeping, etc. It’s a lot less loaded than the conversation would be if we had it together at the end of an exhausting day.

We’ve started to talk about disciplining strategies for our 5-year-old. We’re setting out a short list of rules we can consistently follow with consequences we’ve agreed upon. Dealing with these big issues has never been so easy.

Parenting alone may not be ideal but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Right now, I’m still working on finding my single parent mojo, but it’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

This post originally appeared on Scary Mommy. See more of Jessica’s essays on Parenting & Divorce with Young Children.

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Lack of justice for fathers one of biggest scandals of our time

Posted on June 18, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , |

Lorraine Courtney

Published 16/06/2014 (Irish Independent)

Last Friday Fathers’ Rights Ireland held a public stunt outside the Four Courts where they used a medieval pillory to symbolise the legal torture dads can be put through when relationships with their children’s mother turn sour.

Here in Ireland, a father needs to be married in order to get automatic guardianship of his children. When a couple isn’t married, the mother remains the sole legal guardian until the father looks for guardianship.

However, if the mother objects to this, the father must apply to his local district court to be made a guardian.

It’s an all too common scenario now since 33pc of all children born in Ireland are to unmarried parents.

Married men are entitled to guardianship of their kids but this can all change horribly when marriages fall apart.

A father might believe he has rights but then can find that he’s expendable and faced with a horrendous and expensive legal battle on separation. A father has to fight bitterly to get what is automatically awarded to mothers.

And if he doesn’t have the cash, he doesn’t get to see his children. But even fathers who can afford it are stripped of their assets by costly legal battles and then might be told that they can’t have their child to stay overnight because their humble bedsit isn’t suitable.

In more unpleasant separations, a man might be falsely accused of all kinds of physical or sexual violence so that the court case drags on unnecessarily while this is investigated.

Just take a look at the many fathers’ rights websites and you’ll soon see that men today tend to be victims of an unjust system that benefits the mum as opposed to the dad when it comes to children.

In fact, judging by messages left on the websites, false allegations are rampant and our court system separates too many innocent fathers from children.

Family law researcher Roisin O’Shea observed 493 judicial separation and divorce cases in 2010 which are ordinarily held in private.

She didn’t find a single case where the wife was ordered to pay maintenance for children or a spouse and had only seen the courts order joint custody in two cases.

Tina Rayburn, co-author of ‘I Want to See My Kids! A Guide for Dads Who Want Contact with Their Children After Separation’, writes: “Until people acknowledge the current system is flawed and has an overriding female bias, it will be difficult to see anything changing. There are two core problems. I don’t think the courts recognise a child can live happily in two homes and they are loath to take a child away from its mother. There is still a perception that these guys have done something wrong and they don’t deserve to see their children.”

It seems that both women and men are more comfortable aligning themselves with campaigns to help the sisterhood, whereas nobody wants to be seen siding with the brotherhood.

Over the past few decades we have quite rightly been tackling issues like making sure that women have an adequate income after separation and patriarchal abuses like domestic violence. But doesn’t it seem like the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction?

Meanwhile, the father’s rights movement continues to be politically marginalised. But women aren’t the only “natural” caregivers and men can and should play an equal role in raising their children. The horrible injustices suffered by many dads and their children go by without as much as a whisper.

The lack of justice for fathers is one of the biggest social scandals of our time.

We have a legal system that is utterly out of touch with the way we live now in a world where dads change nappies, push buggies and spend hours cuddling their children in exactly the same way that good mothers do.

Irish Independent

– See more at: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/lack-of-justice-for-fathers-one-of-biggest-scandals-of-our-time-30356806.html#sthash.QrMU49qG.dpuf

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Co-Parenting After Divorce

Posted on January 4, 2014. Filed under: Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , |

The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

by Edward Kruk, Ph.D.

I offer the first installment of a three-part series examining (1) the impact of parental alienation on children, (2) the effects of parental alienation on parents, and (3) programs, services and interventions that combat alienation and seek to reunite estranged parents and their children.

What children of divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents, and to be shielded from their parents’ conflicts. Some parents, however, in an effort to bolster their parental identity, create an expectation that children choose sides. In more extreme situations, they foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In the most extreme cases, children are manipulated by one parent to hate the other, despite children’s innate desire to love and be loved by both their parents.

Parental alienation involves the “programming” of a child by one parent to denigrate the other “targeted” parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with that parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child. Such denigration results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the life of the child. Psychiatrist Richard Gardner developed the concept of “parental alienation syndrome” 20 years ago, defining it as, “a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.” Children’s views of the targeted parent are almost exclusively negative, to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil.

As Amy Baker writes, parental alienation involves a set of strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent. In my own research on non-custodial parents who have become disengaged from their children’s lives (Kruk, 2011), I found that most lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation. Constructive alternatives to adversarial methods of reconnecting with their children were rarely available to these alienated parents.

Parental alienation is more common than is often assumed: Fidler and Bala (2010) report both an increasing incidence and increased judicial findings of parental alienation; they report estimates of parental alienation in 11-15% of divorces involving children; Bernet et al (2010) estimate that about 1% of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

There is now scholarly consensus that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala, 2010), and it is a largely overlooked form ofchild abuse (Bernet et al, 2010), as child welfare and divorce practitioners are often unaware of or minimize its extent. As reported by adult children of divorce, the tactics of alienating parents are tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment of children, including spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness (Baker, 2010). For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous and unworthy parent. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented; low self esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. Self-hatred is particularly disturbing among affected children, as children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent, are led to believe that the alienated parent did not love or want them, and experience severe guilt related to betraying the alienated parent. Their depression is rooted is feelings of being unloved by one of their parents, and from separation from that parent, while being denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent, or to even talk about the parent. Alienated children typically have conflicted or distant relationships with the alienating parent also, and are at high risk of becoming alienated from their own children; Baker reports that fully half of the respondents in her study of adult children who had experienced alienation as children were alienated from their own children.

Every child has a fundamental right and need for an unthreatened and loving relationship with both parents, and to be denied that right by one parent, without sufficient justification such as abuse or neglect, is in itself a form of child abuse. Since it is the child who is being violated by a parent’s alienating behaviors, it is the child who is being alienated from the other parent. Children who have undergone forced separation from one of their parents in the absence of abuse, including cases of parental alienation, are highly subject to post-traumatic stress, and reunification efforts in these cases should proceed carefully and with sensitivity (research has shown that many alienated children can transform quickly from refusing or staunchly resisting the rejected parent to being able to show and receive love from that parent, followed by an equally swift shift back to the alienated position when back in the orbit of the alienating parent; alienated children seem to have a secret wish for someone to call their bluff, compelling them to reconnect with the parent they claim to hate). While children’s stated wishes regarding parental contact in contested custody should be considered, they should not be determinative, especially in suspected cases of alienation.

Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child. Alienated children are no less damaged than other child victims of extreme conflict, such as child soldiers and other abducted children, who identify with their tormentors to avoid pain and maintain a relationship with them, however abusive that relationship may be.

In the second installment on parental alienation, I will examine the effects of parental alienation on targeted parents, and suggest a range of strategies for preventing and intervening in these cases in the third.

 

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Divorce Corp- The Divorce Industry Exposed

Posted on January 4, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

A shocking exposé of the inner workings of the $50 billion a year U.S. family law industry, Divorce Corp shines a bright light on the appalling waste, and shameless collusive practices seen daily in family courts. It is a stunning documentary film that anyone considering marriage or divorce must see.

DON’T BE LEFT IN THE DARK ABOUT DIVORCE.

Nearly every household in America is affected by Divorce and sadly too many families fall victim to divorce court. Whatever the causes or reasons for divorce it’s vital to have all the information. Here we provide a user friendly resource for navigating the complex US family law system.

Find Divorce statistics, divorce how to’s, divorce self-help and essential information on child custody, child support, alimony/spousal support, custody evaluators, divorce lawyers, divorce reform and much, much more. Search for a divorce topic or browse the blog entries below.

*If there is a topic you would like to see covered that is missing please contact us here.

Our goal is to reform the outdated family law system and give you clear and unbiased resources so you can make the healthiest decisions possible. We are not divorce lawyers or family law professionals. We are concerned citizens who want to see divorcing families find peaceful solutions to one of life’s biggest challenges.

http://divorcecorp.com/media/

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Healing divorced families one story at a time

Posted on August 14, 2013. Filed under: Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , , |

Jontie Hays and Sarah Ulmer have written 12 books (Monkey in the Middle) to help children understand the emotions and feelings that parents experience during divorce.  Jontie talks with Jill Egizii of Family Matters about her book and her work as a social worker.  Click the link below to listen to the show:

monkey-in-the-middle-talks-with-family-matters

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Things Japan can learn from Moracco about the Hague Convention

Posted on March 8, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention | Tags: , , , |

Japan and Morocco are quite similar in some ways. Morroco took some steps recently to become a Hague signatory. It would be wise if Japan followed their lead. Of the 146,408 divorces in Japan in 2009, only 3.6% involved both parents taking part in child rearing. Japan’s system seems to favor sole-custody, but Morocco had a very similar system that valued one parent, usually the mother, under Shari’a law. Although Morocco allowed the father to make important decisions about the child, such as where the mother and child could live and whether the child could travel abroad, all decisions regarding daily functions and routine care were left to the mother, essentially creating a sole custody system, similar to that of Japan. Both systems included matrifocal tendencies. While Japan’s Civil Code typically breaks custody into shinken and kangoken, the Moroccan Code of Personal Status similarly divides custody into hadana and wilaya. Morocco successfully uprooted its custody system and allowed joint responsibility to be established among parents, as one parent was given hadana and the other wilaya. In Japan, the same ideology should be adopted. Instead of granting one parent parental rights and physical custody, efforts should be made to grant shinken to one parent and kangoken to the other to allow for increased responsibility for both parents and bring about an understanding of joint custody.
Second, Japanese courts, or the Japanese Diet, need to establish visita- tion as a fundamental right. One of the key reforms Morocco made to join the Hague Convention was to establish visitation rights. However, these rights were already inherent within the Moroccan system as such meas- ures were implied when Moroccan mothers were prohibited from moving away from the father so that the father could have access to the child. Similarly, in Japan, an understanding of the psychological benefits of visitation on the child is already taking root. Courts have even granted visitation rights in some cases, but have made the rights extremely limited. It is time for Japan to push this notion and make visitation rights funda- mental within the constitutional system.
Third, Japan needs to dissolve its current registration system, or at the very least, modify the system. Allowing a child to be taken off a father’s register when a mother changes her name after divorce, resulting in the loss of parental rights for the father, is abhorrent. The registration system should be discarded completely or altered so that the child’s name will remain under both parents’ registers, regardless of the marital status of the parents. Such changes will bring Japan one step closer psychologically to joint parental responsibility.
Fourth, in order to comply with the Hague Convention, services must be available to ensure the return of children to their habitual place of residence. Like Morocco, Japan should implement law enforcement mechanisms to find abducted children and return the children safely. Fortunately Article 226 of the Japanese Penal Code is already in effect to return abducted children. The Japanese government needs to force Japanese law enforcement officers to comply with Article 226 to ensure abducted children are returned home.
Lastly, before signing the Hague Convention, Morocco entered into specific bilateral agreements to resolve familial disputes with neighboring countries to promote collaboration and global cooperation. In an effort to ease global tension, Japan would be strongly urged to do the same with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada, as these four countries have repeatedly called on Japan to increase efforts to prevent parental abduction.

To read the full article click: Hague Moracco vs. Japan

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Hostile Parenting Symposium with Linda Gottlieb and Brian Ludmer

Posted on February 16, 2013. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , |

symposium PAl

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Dr. Warshak & Wendy Archer Talk about Parental Alienation on Divorce Rescue Radio

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , , |

Widner Family Law deals with divorce. They have a radio program called “Divorce Rescue Radio” which is on every Sunday night. During this episode they spend a lot of time talking about Parental Alienation.

Dr. Richard Warshak is on this program. The show is full of great information from some very knowledgeable people. You can listen to the program clicking on the link: http://divorce-rescue-radio-talk-show

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The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes on Family Matters

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , , |

Tara Eisenhard is a child of divorce as well as an ex-wife and previous partner of a divorced dad. From these life experiences came her beliefs that a marriage shouldn’t survive at the expense of its participants, and families should evolve, not dissolve, through the separation process.

 

Tara considers herself a student of divorce and is passionate about sharing her vision with others. She’s the author of the book The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes and the blog Relative Evolutions. Additionally, she has written for Divorced Women OnlineSince My Divorce and Stepmom Magazine.

Click on the link to listen to the show: http://Eisenhardblogtalkradio

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LITA FORD – & NEW SONG ON FAMILY MATTERS BLOG TALK RADIO

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , , |

Lita Ford has a song on her new album that helps her express how she feels about family, travel, the geographical distance that makes or breaks families and in general, her new music.


Living Like a Runaway is her first CD since she began to manage life on her own. Her life changes prompted her comeback release Wicked Wonderland. Her latest work is closer to the music she wants to create.

But one track, called Mother, is a personal message to her children. Reflecting on her situation, Ford says the biggest lesson she’s learned was that: “If you ever get angry at your spouse, don’t take it out on your kids. Keep them out of it. They don’t need to know. Just let them be kids.”

In this episode you will hear the songs, MOTHER, PLAYING WITH FIRE, STILL WAITING AND GOTTA LET GO.

Click on the link to listen to Jill and Judge Michelle talk with Lita Ford: http://Litaford blogtalk

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Japan Timesに私の記事が掲載されました。 多くの人に分かってもらいたいのは 「誰でも私のようになるリスクがある」

Posted on January 12, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , |

Japan Timesに私の記事が掲載されました。
多くの人に分かってもらいたいのは
「誰でも私のようになるリスクがある」
ということです。
日本人は「穢れ」の観念が強く、被害者を見ると距離をとり、そして「自分はあいつらとは違う」と思いこもうとします。
たしかに、目を背ければ、そのリスクを考えることなく穏やかな生活を送れます。
しかし、司法を正さない限り、そのリスクは決してなくなりません。
目を背け続け、ある日突然家に帰り子どもがいなくなってから、そのリスクに気づいても遅いのです。 
以下、Japan Timesの記事の訳です。
困難な子の親権問題における不正義の是正
司法の硬直的な考え方が改まらなければ、ハーグ条約批准によっても親による子どもの拉致(parental abduction)を止められないだろう
伊藤聖美記者
2010年5月6日、総務省の官僚である渡邉泰之氏が家に帰ったところ、妻と2歳の娘が服などとともに消え去っていた。
彼の妻はゴールデンウィーク直後に娘を連れ去った。彼がゴールデンウィーク中に娘をハイキングに連れて行ったり、地元のお祭りに連れていったりして楽しんだ数日後のことだった。
現在、栃木県那須塩原市の副市長である渡邉氏(40)は、その当時のことを思い出し、娘を背中にしょって娘が寝付いて寄り掛かるまで一緒に歌を歌っていた時のことなどを詳しく語った。
彼の人生は、その運命の日を境にして完全に変わってしまった。娘は先月で5歳になってしまった。
「子どもたちが両方の親の愛情を感じて育つことほど重要なことはありません。特に、子どもたちが成長していくときには。私の娘は私に捨てられたと感じていると思います。私が娘をもはや愛していないから姿を消したのだと。」と渡邉氏はJapan Timesに語った。
日本において、夫婦間の諍いののちに子どもとの関係を引き裂かれた親は数多くおり、渡邉氏はその一人に過ぎない。日本という国は単独親権制度を採用しており、親権は通常母親にわたすことにしている。そして、子どもと引き離された親に対して、子どもたちと、たとえ会えるにせよ、非常にわずかな頻度でしか会えなくする慣習を有している。
この日本の残酷な現実は、外国人にも広く知られている。その外国人の中には、日本人の配偶者により子どもを海外から日本に連れ去られ、引き離されている在外の者も含まれる。
これらのいわゆる親による子どもの拉致(abduction)の問題が、国境を跨いだ子どもの誘拐を防止するためのハーグ条約を日本が批准するよう求める要求が増大している背景にある。
「これらの二つの問題は、実際には非常に密接に関連しています。なぜならば国内の問題も国際の問題も状況は全く同じだからです。自分の子どもがある日突然誘拐され、会うことすら許されないという状況は全く変わりません。」と渡邉氏は言う。
娘の誘拐後に妻との長期間の裁判所で闘い続け、現在も離婚手続きを進める渡邉氏は、こう続ける
連れ去られた当初妻は彼を娘に数回会わせたが、その後、妻が彼を虚偽の配偶者暴力(DV)で訴えるという仕打ちをし突然会えなくなったと言う。
渡邉氏の妻は、妊娠中に渡邉氏が大きなハサミを突きつけて脅したり、彼女が駅のホームの傍にいる際には喜んで突き落してくれるヤクザの知り合いがいると語ったと主張して裁判に訴えた。しかし、その配偶者暴力の訴えは後に取り下げられた。
「『DV』の訴えにより裁判所への出頭命令書を受けとること程、おそろしい経験はありません。私は(それを受け取った際)完全に取り乱しました。しかし、裁判官は、妻の主張の大半には疑問があることを認め、妻には虚偽の申立ての罪が科される恐れがあると警告しました。そこで、妻は、判決が出される直前になり訴えを取り下げたのです」と渡邉氏は言った。
にもかかわらず、彼の妻は子どもの監護権を求める裁判を訴え、そして、再度、暴力の訴えを出してきたのである。
昨年の2月、千葉家裁の裁判官である若林辰繁氏は、渡邉氏の娘の監護権を「継続性の原則」を利用して妻とし、更には渡邉氏が配偶者暴力を犯したと認定した上で、娘を引き渡すよう求めていた彼の訴えを退けた。最高裁は9月にそれを追認する決定をした。
渡邉氏は、法廷での闘争を続けつつ、国会議員にこの問題に取り組むよう要請し、彼の事件は国会でも取り上げられた。
渡邉氏は、自らの立場から、当初は匿名で訴え続けることを望んでいた。しかし、彼の状況について多くの人たちの支援を得るため、彼は自らに起こったことを報道機関に伝える道を進むことにした。
「私は『DV夫』という烙印を押されてしまった。その裁判官は、私の件について完全に事実と法を無視したのです。私は立ち上がり(裁判官と)闘う以外に残された選択肢はなかったのです。」と渡邉氏は語った。
渡邉氏は、裁判官である若林氏を罷免させるため、国会議員からなる裁判官訴追委員会に助けを求めた。
日本に居るいわゆる「置き去りにされた親」たちの数多くがこの若林氏に対し激しい憤りを募らせているが、特に2011年に「『継続性の原則』よりも子どもの利益を優先すべき」と国会で答弁した江田五月法務大臣(当時)を非難したことは激怒させた。
「同様の状況におかれた人たちは非常に多くいます。私は、その人たちのためにも諦めることはできないのです。これは、私と娘だけの問題ではありません。全ての子どもたちとその親のための闘いなのです。」と渡邉氏は言う。
家裁による調査によると、子どもを連れ去った親から子どもを引き渡すよう求める親による裁判は2001年には409件であったが、2011年には、子どもを戻すよう求める親の数は1985件にまで跳ね上がった。しかし、その数は、家裁が公式に受けた「置き去りにされた親」により法的に訴えられた事件しか反映していない。専門家は、それは氷山の一角でしかないと推測する。
早稲田大学の家族法の教授である棚村氏は、日本における単独親権制度や通常母親に監護権を渡す現在の司法の仕組みなど、様々な要因が親による子どもの拉致が増加している背景にあるという。
「時代は変わっているのです。父親も子育てに一層関わるようになり、単独親権制度を含む法的な仕組みが子どもを巡る争いをより起きやすくさせています。日本の司法の仕組みのこの部分については時代遅れになっていると考えます。」と棚村教授は言う。
日本の司法体系を独特なものにする(他国との)もっとも大きな違いは、日本において最初に子どもを連れ去った親の行為は犯罪とみなされないという点である。そのため、離婚のおそれが生じると、片方の親(通常は母親)が子どもをその親の実家に連れ去ることが当たり前となってしまうのである。
しかし、もし置き去りにされた親が、その後、家から消え去ってしまった子どもを取り返そうとすると、その行為は誘拐とみなされるのである。
棚村氏は、子どもから引き離された親が子どもを取り返そうとして誘拐犯とされる事件では、取り返そうとした親が自分の行為が誘拐にあたると気づいていない場合が数多くあると主張する。彼らからすれば、単に離婚の争いの一環と考えていたか、または、子どもを虐待環境から助け出そうとしただけなのだと。
「親による誘拐をすべて違法とするのは困難ですが、同時に、ダブルスタンダードになっている事件も数多くあるのです。最初に母親が子どもを連れ去るのは問題なくて、父親が子どもを取り返そうとしたら違法とされます。これは、長い間、子どもは母親の所有物と考えられてきた考え方が根底にあります」と棚村氏は言う。
別居後に子どもが両方の親に会う機会を奪われることを防ぐため、民法の766条が2011年に改正され、裁判に持ち込まれていない離婚手続きの中で面会交流や養育費その他について決定するよう明記された。そして、その際には子どもの利益を最優先に考慮するようにも規定された。
しかし、このような改正は渡邉氏のような人たちを救うことができなかった。渡邉氏の事件は当該改正後に判決が出たのだ。「この改正は子どもの養育について離婚する際に合意することを目的とするものです。しかし、この合意は全く強制力をもつものではありません。」と棚村氏は言う。
棚村氏や他の専門家は、日本が「国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関するハーグ条約」に署名すれば、日本の司法の仕組みは根本的に変わることになり、そして、多くの人々の考え方も根本から改められるに違いない、さもなければ、この条約への加盟は失敗に終わる、との意見で一致する。
最近設立された日本人と外国人の置き去りにされた親やその支援者等から構成される団体である「絆・親子再統合」の代表であるジョン・ゴメス氏は、子どもは両方の親に会う権利があると主張する。また、日本国内の監護権についての今の一方的な仕組みを残したままハーグ条約に加盟しても何も解決しないのだから、置き去りにされた親たちは協力しあうことが必要だと強調する。
「国際的なケースも国内のケースも根っこは同じ原因を抱えています。それは日本の家族法であり、日本の裁判所です。」とゴメス氏は言う。
「この拉致問題は、日本にいる全ての人に影響を与えます。母親であろうと父親であろうと。そして、日本人であろうと外国人であろうと。」
ハーグ条約は、国際間の親による誘拐を防ぐため、片方の親が「常居住地」である国から違法に連れ去られた子どもを迅速に返還させることを目的としている。G8の中で、この条約に署名していないのは唯一日本だけである。
日本は、米国、英国、カナダなどを含む加盟国からこの条約に加盟するよう圧力を受け続けてきた。しかし、強い国内の反対勢力、特に、配偶者暴力から身を守るために子どもを連れて日本に戻ったと主張する日本人の母親たち(の圧力)により、日本政府は全くやる気を見せなかった。
しかし、国際社会からの激しい批判を受け、日本は、ついに条約への署名の宣言とハーグ条約関連法案を、野田総理の民主党が多数を占める前国会に提出した。しかし、政治家たちは、国内問題に関連する国内の権力闘争に明け暮れて多くの時間を費やし、ハーグ条約を再び隅に押しやったのである。
そして、この問題は自民党による新政府下において解決の方向に話が進むか不透明な状態にある。
政府の官僚は一度審議が始まればハーグ条約関連法は可決されるだろうと自信をのぞかせる。しかし、日本人の妻と別居し娘と会うこともままならないまま日本に長期間滞在するゴメス氏のような親たちは、ハーグ条約加盟は正しい方向に向かう単なる一里塚に過ぎず、問題解決の決定打にはならないと言う。
ゴメス氏は、法的に親による誘拐は止めさせなければならず、面会交流権は強制力を有するものとし、そして、共同親権制度が導入されるべきと説明する。しかし、新しいルールが遵守されることを確実にするためには、これらの変化による利益を多くの人々が理解しなければならず、多くの人々が制度改正と同時に気付くことも必須であるとも加えて主張した。
「ハーグ条約は単なる一つの道具です。我々の究極の目標は、日本の社会的・法的な変革です。人々の考え方や行動の完全な変革です。」とゴメス氏は言い、続けて「日本人も外国人も同様であり、社会的・法的な変化は日本社会と子どもたちにとって良いことであり、生活の質の向上につながるものと我々は固く信じています。」と語った。

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Child custody injustices hard to fix Joining Hague may curb parental abductions if legal mindset evolves

Posted on January 11, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention | Tags: , , |

にほんごで
Friday, Jan. 4, 2013
By MASAMI ITO

On May 6, 2010, Yasuyuki Watanabe, an internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, came home to find his wife and 2-year old daughter gone, along with their clothes.

Playing catchup: Yasuyuki Watanabe, deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, speaks during an interview at a Tokyo hotel on Dec. 11. SATOKO KAWASAKI
His wife had spirited away their daughter near the end of Golden Week, just days after he was enjoying the holidays taking her on hikes and to local festivals, recalled Watanabe, 40, now deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. He recounted how he carried his daughter on his back and how they sang songs together until she fell asleep, snuggling against him.
His world was turned upside down that fateful day. Last month she turned 5.
“It is so important for children to feel loved by both parents, especially when they are growing up, and I think that my daughter feels abandoned by me, that I left her because I didn’t love her anymore,” Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview in Tokyo. “The most painful thing about my situation is when I think about how my daughter must be feeling.”
Watanabe is one of many parents in Japan who have been torn away from their children after a falling-out with their spouse in a nation that grants only sole custody, usually to the mother, and where it is customary for parents not living with their offspring, to have little, if any, contact with them.
This has also been a widely reported harsh reality for foreign parents, including those living overseas whose children have been taken to Japan by estranged Japanese spouses.
These so-called parental child abductions are behind growing calls for Japan to join the international Hague treaty to prevent such cross-border kidnappings.
“These two problems are actually closely related because the domestic and international situation is the same — your children are abducted one day out of the blue and you are forbidden from seeing them,” Watanabe said.
For Watanabe, what followed was a long legal battle with his wife, and divorce proceedings, which continue.
Initially his wife let him see their daughter a few times, but that stopped abruptly when he was slapped with domestic violence charges — which he branded a lie.
His wife alleged he had threatened her with a large pair of scissors while she was pregnant and told her he knew yakuza who would be willing to help him out with the situation by pushing her off a station platform in front of a train. The violence charges were later dropped.
“There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an order to appear before the court over ‘DV’ allegations. I was completely distraught. The judge, however, recognized that much of her claims were questionable and warned she could be charged with false accusations, so she dropped the charges the day before the ruling was to be made,” Watanabe said.
But his wife then filed a lawsuit, demanding custody of their child and, again, adding allegations of abuse.
Last February, presiding Judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi at the Chiba Family Court granted Watanabe’s ex-wife custody of their daughter from the viewpoint of “continuity,” ruled that Watanabe had committed domestic violence and rejected his demand that his daughter be returned. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in September.
While his legal battles dragged on, Watanabe asked lawmakers to address the issue and his case was deliberated on in the Diet.
Given his public profile, Watanabe originally wished to remain anonymous. But to garner public support for his situation, he recently came forward to tell his story to the press.
“I’ve been labeled a DV husband, and the judge completely ignored the facts and the law in my case. I had no choice but to stand up and fight,” he said.
Watanabe has solicited the help of a special group of lawmakers who are trying to get Judge Wakabayashi fired from the bench. Among the so-called left-behind parents in Japan, Wakabayashi has spurred widespread ire, especially when in 2011, he criticized then-Justice Minister Satsuki Eda for telling the Diet that priority should be placed on the welfare of the child rather than the “principle of continuity.”
“There are many people in similar situations. I cannot give up for their sake. It is not just about me and my daughter. This is a battle for all children and their parents,” Watanabe said.
According to data compiled by family courts, there were 409 parents seeking the return of their offspring from an estranged spouse in 2001, whereas by 2011, there were 1,985 parents seeking to get their kids back. The numbers, however, reflect only the legal cases filed by left-behind parents that were officially accepted by the nation’s family courts. Experts speculate they constitute only the tip of the iceberg.
Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law at Waseda University, said various factors are behind the increase in parental child abductions, including Japan’s sole custody principle and the current legal framework that generally grants that right to mothers.
“Times have changed — fathers are more involved in child-rearing, and the legal system — including the principle of sole custody — makes battles over children more likely to happen. I think this part of Japan’s legal system is outdated,” Tanamura said.
One major difference that makes Japan’s legal system peculiar is that when an estranged spouse initially takes a child, it isn’t considered a crime. This is because it is common for an estranged parent, generally the mother, to take the children to her parents’ domicile if a divorce is being contemplated.
But if the left-behind parent then subsequently tries to retrieve the offspring spirited away from their home, the action is considered kidnapping. Tanamura claimed there are many cases in which parents who spirit offspring away are unaware such action could be construed as abduction. From their point of view, they are merely considering a divorce or fleeing an abusive environment.
“It is hard to label all parental kidnappings as illegal . . . but at the same time, there are many cases that could constitute a double standard. It’s OK for mothers to first take the children away, but when the fathers try to get them back, this is illegal,” Tanamura said. “This is based on the longtime concept that children belong with their mothers.”
To prevent children from losing access to both parents after a separation, Article 766 of the Civil Law was revised in 2011 to specify that visitation rights, child-support payments and other matters be determined during nonlitigated divorce proceedings, and that the welfare of the child be considered first.
But even this change can’t help people like Watanabe because his case was ruled on after the amendment. “The aim of the revision is to promote forming agreements (over child care) when getting a divorce. But there is nothing that guarantees compliance,” Tanamura said.
Tanamura and other experts thus agree that if and when Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it must at the same time institute fundamental changes in the legal system, and the public mindset must also be overhauled, or joining the convention will lead to naught.
John Gomez, chairman of the recently founded Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, friends and supporters advocating the right of children to have access to both parents, emphasized the need for left-behinds to cooperate because simply joining the Hague Convention will not solve anything in Japan if it continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights.
“The problem of international cases and in-country cases has the same root cause — Japanese family law and the courts,” Gomez said.
“The abduction issue affects all people in Japan — mothers as well as fathers, Japanese as well as non-Japanese.”
The Hague treaty aims for the swift return of children wrongfully taken out of the country of their “habitual residence” by a parent to prevent cross-border parental kidnappings. Of the Group of Eight countries, Japan is the only nation yet to sign the convention.
Japan has been under pressure from member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, to join the convention, but it has been reluctant, given strong domestic opposition, especially from Japanese mothers who claim they fled to Japan with their children to protect themselves from abusive ex-spouses.
Facing severe criticism from the international community, however, Japan finally reached the point of submitting a bid to sign the treaty and Hague-related legislation to the Diet during the last session presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan. But the politicians instead spent most of their time bickering over internal power struggles related to other domestic issues, pushing the Hague Convention to the sidelines once again.
And it remains unclear whether the issue will move forward under the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party.
Government officials have expressed confidence that once deliberations begin, the Hague bid will be approved by the Diet. But parents, including Gomez, a longtime Japan resident who himself is separated from his Japanese wife and is having difficulty seeing his daughter, say joining the Hague treaty is only a step in the right direction, not a silver bullet.
Gomez explained that on the legal front, parental kidnappings must be stopped, visitation rights made enforceable and the idea of joint custody introduced. But he added that public awareness must also be raised at the same time so the public understands the benefits of the changes to ensure the rules are followed.
“The Hague is only one tool. The ultimate goal for us is a social and legal transformation of Japan . . . a complete transformation in terms of mindset and practice,” Gomez said. “We firmly believe, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, that the social and legal transformation is for the betterment of Japanese society and children and improvement in the quality of life.”

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Parental Alienation Leads Court to Call Father a “Wallet”

Posted on November 26, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , |

Lawdiva’s Blog   –   Canadian Lawyer  Georgialee Lang – Her recent story on Parental Alienation

There are many divorced fathers in Canada who believe they are nothing more than a “wallet” in their children’s eyes. It is rare however, for a judge to confirm that status in Reasons for Judgment, but that is exactly what Mr. Justice Gray did in his recent decision in Veneman v. Veneman 2012 ONSC 6324.

Mr. and Mrs. Veneman separated in 2004 after 11 years of marriage. Mr. Veneman left the family home but maintained the financial status quo and enjoyed a good relationship with the children, ages 8 and 11.

The apparent bliss of separation disappeared, however, when Mr. Veneman commenced a personal relationship with a woman he met on the internet. His ex-wife’s reaction was venomous as revealed in vulgar emails from her to Mr. Veneman where she called his girlfriend an “internet whore”.

At about the same time, Mr. Veneman decided that after two years of separation, the parties should reorganize their financial affairs. He closed the joint account that his wife and he shared since the date of separation and began paying voluntary child and spousal support.

Ms. Veneman’s campaign of abuse against Mr. Veneman was quickly adopted by his two girls who also began writing mean-spirited and disrespectful emails to their father. The children were particularly angered by their father when he brought his girlfriend to a birthday party for one of the girls hosted by the girl’s paternal grandparent. This was the first occasion they had met her, although Mr. Veneman told his children about her and their relationship.

As time went on, the girls also sent emails scolding their father for failing to provide sufficient funds to their mother. The Court found that Ms. Veneman liberally shared her views about his girlfriend and his financial contribution, all actions which eventually led to the termination of any father/daughter relationship.

Eldest daughter Maggie described her father in an email to him as “selfish, greedy, lying, back-stabbing, neglecting, blackmailing, bribing, idiotic, mean and just overall a stupid person”. This kind of poison most often originates from a parent who cannot see that their attitude is severely harming their children.

Despite the difficulties, Mr. Veneman continued to make every effort to reconnect and appease his children but all overtures were rebuffed by them.

With his older daughter approaching the age of nineteen and attending Queen’s University, Mr. Veneman brought an application to court asking for an order that his obligation to pay child support cease upon her birthday.

Several years earlier, he had agreed to an order that he pay 75% of his children’s post-secondary education costs, but he now argued that her termination of any relationship with him was cause for the court to reconsider his child support obligations.

Mr. Veneman relied on several cases where courts noted that an adult child’s unilateral and unreasoned abandonment of a parental relationship could lead to a termination of support. Other cases, however, were cited where the proposition was accepted that “estrangement, even at the sole instance of the child, should not be relevant”.

Judge Gray, however, did not need to grapple with which authority was correct as he was able to decide the case by finding that the father had not shown a material change in circumstances, which was the required test to vary a child support order. The judge held that when Mr. Veneman agreed to pay post-secondary expenses in 2009, he had no relationship with Maggie, and had no relationship now.

He declared that Mr. Veneman “was nothing more than a wallet” and said the blame for the alienation must be assumed by both parents.

It is here where I part company with the judge’s findings. It is startling to suggest that the clumsy, perhaps even insensitive, introduction of a new partner to one’s children who are 10 and 13, after two years of separation from their mother, constitutes conduct that is blameworthy.

In my view, Ms. Veneman’s immature behavior is the reason her children have ousted their father from their lives. I hope when the girls figure it out, which they will, they will clearly understand their mother’s role in a tragic family situation the judge called “irrational and avoidable”.

Interesting that if you are part of an intact family you can decide how much you want to contribute, if any, to your child’s education, but if you are separated or divorced the State decides.

Equally interesting is the absence of any reference to “parental alienation”. I guess if you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist.

 

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Documentary about parental abduction by Bryan McGlothin

Posted on November 20, 2012. Filed under: Child Abduction, Divorce | Tags: , , , , , , |

Bryan McGlothin is working on a documentary about parental abduction. Bryan was abducted by his father when he was 2 years. His father moved around to prevent Bryan’s mother from finding him. Bryan was told (by his father) that his mother did not love him and did not want to be in his life. When Bryan became an adult and escaped his father’s grip he began searching for his mothers grave, since his father told him that his mother had died. Instead of finding his mother’s grave, he found his mother. But it was not the fairy tale story that everyone hopes for. You can read his book or listen to his interview on Family Matters Blog Talk Radio with Jill Egizii the president of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization. Bryan’s book, “Have You Seen My Mother: A True Story of Parental Kidnap.”, is a gut wrenching.  Bryan’s documentary will raise awareness about a subject that has been off the radar for too long. Please think about donating to this cause. You can find more information at:

http://www.indiegogo.com/preventparentalkidnap

http://www.preventparentalkidnap.org/index.html

About the Documentary
It’s estimated about 250,000 children are abducted by a parent or family member every year in the United States alone. Parental abduction is also a major international problem.
As these children are used a pawns in toxic relationships, the abuse they endure is ignored. Abuse, many of us have to deal with for many years, well into adulthood…
We examine this abuse from the child’s point-of-view by interviewing adult survivors of this abuse.
We are also looking to film in Canada, Australia and the UK. Parental abduction to Japan is one of the largest issues in international parental abduction.

Where the Money Goes
As you can see, we need several thousand to cover travel expenses. With the $30,000.00 we also expect to be able to accomplish preliminary editing (post production), but we are working on grants to pay for the final editing. Anything we can raise over our goal will help us complete the documentary, pay for marketing, etc. and any extra money goes to the non-profit Prevent Parental Kidnap, Inc.

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Things the court should consider when one parent wants to move away from home

Posted on November 20, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

By GeorgiaLee Lang http://lawdiva.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/no-au-revoir-for-halle-berry/

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will not be allowed to move permanently to France with her four-year-old daughter Nahla Ariela Aubry, a ruling made on Friday by a California judge. Nahla’s father, Gabriel Aubry is a Canadian actor and model who lives and works in Los Angeles.

Ms. Berry has battled Nahla’s father since the couple separated in 2010, pulling out the usual grab-bag of custody tricks, including her refusal to pay child support to him, later rectified by a judge who ordered that she pay $20,000 to Mr. Aubry as a joint custodial parent. There was also a failed attempt to suggest that Mr. Aubry has been “physical” with Nahla’s nanny. After a complete investigation, accompanied by a period of supervised access for Mr. Aubry, the allegations were thrown out.

When a parent applies to the court to move permanently with a child to a jurisdiction far away from home and the child’s other parent, there are a number of considerations that come into play. Is the move in the child’s best interests? The factors include:

1. Will the child be able to maintain a relationship with the left-behind parent?
2. Will the quality of the relationship with the left-behind parent be sufficient to continue the parental bond?
3. How far will the child and left-behind parent have to travel to maintain their relationship?
4. How much will it cost for the left-behind parent to travel to visit the child and who will pay the expenses?
5. Will the change in the child’s permanent residence impact on the involvement of extended family in the child’s life, such as maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?
6. Will the move enhance the child and moving parent’s quality of life in regards to better opportunities for financial security?
7. Is the motive for the move an attempt to minimize parenting time to the other parent?

Ms. Berry’s rationale for the move is that she did not want her daughter growing up around paparazzi and the tabloids, arguing that she could provide more privacy, and a greater sense of security for her daughter in France, where coincidentally, her latest boyfriend lives.

Ms. Berry must have forgotten that Princess Diana’s death was attributed to overzealous paparazzi in Paris and that Kate Middleton’s recent nude photos were taken in France, by a local celebrity photographer. I’m sure Mr. Aubry’s lawyer remembered.

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Child care left undecided in divorces

Posted on September 15, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Less than 50 percent of divorcing couples have planned for such matters as child support and visitation rights since the revised Civil Code was implemented in April, which requires couples with small children to do so, according to the Justice Ministry.

As local governments accept divorce applications without making couples declare such arrangements, the effectiveness of the revision has often been questioned.

The ministry collected its first statistics on the issue during the first quarter since the revision came into force. The results reflect the difficulty couples face in reaching an agreement on child-related matters.

In tandem with the implementation of the revised code, the ministry in April added items to the divorce application form asking couples with young children to verify they have come to an accord on certain issues. This includes whether they have agreed on visitation arrangements for the noncustodial parent and how child support will be handled.

According to the ministry, 32,757 couples with young children mutually consented to file for divorce from April to June. Among them, 15,622, or 48 percent, indicated they had made arrangements regarding visitation for the noncustodial parent, and 6,843, or 21 percent, had not. The remaining 31 percent did not check any boxes.

Concerning payment of child support by noncustodial parents, 16,075 couples, or 49 percent, had made a decision on the matter, while 6,316, or 19 percent, had not. The other 32 percent left the boxes blank.

In 2011, about 235,700 couples got divorced, with about 90 percent of them doing so by mutual consent. Still, there have been many problems concerning the handling of these child-related matters after divorce.

“It’s necessary for couples to reach an accord [on such matters] for their children’s sake,” said Noriko Mizuno, a Civil Code professor at Tohoku University.

“In Western countries and South Korea, couples are not allowed to get divorced unless they agree on a plan to raise their children and the plan is approved by the court. In Japan, it’s not sufficient to simply check whether parents have come to an agreement on such matters. We must also create a system to verify their decisions really serve the best interests of the child and enforce them if so.”

(Sep. 15, 2012)

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Divorce and Child Custody Issues in the Japanese Legal System

Posted on February 7, 2012. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Domestic Violence (DV), Hague Convention | Tags: , , , , , |

American View- US Embassy

Colin P.A. Jones
Professor, Doshisha University Law School

Introduction

Professor Colin P.A. Jones
(Photo by Shinchosha)

Japan has developed a growing reputation as a haven for international parental child abduction. Major media outlets in the United States and other countries have brought attention to a number of recent cases of children being unilaterally removed by a Japanese parent from the United States before or after divorce, often in violation of American law and court orders.

Attempts to achieve the return of children taken to Japan through the Japanese legal system tend to be unsuccessful. As a result, some children who were born and raised in the United States have lost all contact with an American parent and other relatives, American friends, and the American part of their heritage as a consequence. The apparent lack of legal remedies for abduction in Japan is due to a number of factors that are discussed in more detail below.

Child abduction as more than just an “international” problem

From the outset it is important to understand that most of the factors which prevent the return of children taken from other countries also affect cases arising entirely within Japan, including some involving Americans married to Japanese nationals and living in Japan, and even the occasional case where both parents are foreign residents of Japan. In these strictly domestic cases also, marital breakdown all too often results in parents losing all contact with their children, notwithstanding the involvement of Japanese courts.

In other words, even though international cases tend to receive more publicity, they merely reflect structural issues in the Japanese legal system which have the effect of limiting the legal remedies of Japanese and non-Japanese parents alike. Thus, just as U.S. and other diplomats have sought change in the way cross-border abductions are dealt with by encouraging Japan to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, a variety of Japanese parents’ rights groups have been seeking better protection of the parent-child relationship after divorce by lobbying for amendments to Japanese family law.

Despite the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 and subsequent nuclear crisis in Fukushima, there are encouraging signs that Japan will soon move towards ratifying the Hague Convention. In May of 2011 the Diet also made encouraging amendments to its domestic laws relating to visitation after parental separation. Since these amendments have not yet taken effect (and may have a limited impact), this article will discuss both the law as it was – and had been for decades, as well as the nature of these changes.

The role of law in Japan

The Japanese legal system is based heavily on foreign models – German and French codes and institutions in many instances, but the United States as well in the case of its constitution and many areas of business law. Indeed, it is possible to describe Japanese family law and how Japanese courts resolve child custody issues in terms that make it seem quite similar to the United States or other Western countries. However, the law in Japan is much more “top down” than it is in the United States, where many important doctrines have been built through the ground up through litigation. By contrast, in Japan the law is more likely to be a medium for expressing and exercising authority, and judges (authority figures themselves) are less likely to question the exercise of that authority. The top-down character of Japanese law can be seen in statutes and procedural regimes which preserve maximum flexibility for judges and other government officials in terms of what they may do, while limiting the range of things that they must do.

Is parental child abduction a crime?

U.S. citizen parents whose children who have been abducted to Japan are likely to be told by Japanese officials that under Japanese law it is not a crime for parents to “abduct” their own children. However, there have been instances of Japanese and foreign parents being arrested, even convicted – for kidnapping their own children. Article 224 of the Japanese Penal Code describes the crime of “abduction of a minor” in very sparse terms: “[a] person who kidnaps a minor by force or enticement shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not less than 3 months but not more than 7 years.” An American lawyer reading this would probably seek more information on how the terms “kidnap,” “force,” and “enticement” are interpreted and would probably look to case law for guidance. But court precedents are not likely to be as useful for interpreting statutes such as this, at least not to the same degree as they would in the United States.

As a result, both the characterization of parental abduction as a non-crime and the arrest of some parents for criminal abduction can co-exist as “correct” interpretations of Japanese law. An abduction which disrupts public order (a father grabbing his children off the street) may be treated as a crime, while those which do not (a mother getting on a plane or a train with her children to go live with her parents, or merely refusing to return to the United States after a visit to Japan with the children) probably will not. Japanese law enforcement authorities have a basic policy of not getting involved in “civil disputes” but also wide discretion in deciding if a particular dispute is a civil one or not, meaning that the most important determination about whether a particular case of abduction is a crime or not may be made at the police station rather than the courthouse.

Custody determinations as an administrative disposition

Similarly, with respect to decisions regarding parental authority, custody, and visitation involving children in divorce, there are no statutory guidelines which a court must follow, such as the principle found in U.S. law that frequent and continuing contact between a child and his or her parents after they separate is presumed to be in a child’s best interests. Furthermore, since there is also no Japanese constitutional jurisprudence establishing a fundamental interest in having and raising children or otherwise recognizing a constitutionally-protected dimension to the parent-child relationship, decisions about children made by Japanese judges are essentially a form of administrative disposition made in the absence of law. As discussed below, many of the most important decisions a judge may make about children are likely to be rendered in the form of “decrees” following non-public, non-trial proceedings.

Japanese family court judges thus have tremendous discretion when it comes to making decisions about children and may do so by, for example, completely reversing a foreign custody, refusing to award any visitation to a non-custodial parent, awarding visitation for only a few hours once a year, or ordering the custodial parent to send a few photographs of the child every year in lieu of visitation.

Divorce and child custody as part of a consensual process

In Japan, both divorce and what happens to the children afterwards are presumed in the first instance to be determined through consensual arrangements. Japan’s Civil Code provides for divorce by agreement with judicial divorce being available only when the parties cannot agree and a limited range of grounds for divorce are applicable. Furthermore, unlike in the United States where even a consensual divorce involves court filings and possibly a judicially-approved parenting plan or separation agreement if children are involved, a Japanese cooperative divorce is accomplished by simply filing the relevant paperwork with a local government authority which will reflect the change in marital status and allocation of parental responsibility in the parties’ family registry. Since approximately 90% of divorces are accomplished through this process, courts only become involved in the small minority of cases where parties cannot agree on a cooperative divorce or where there is a dispute over children or other matters arise after divorce, including situations where one parent abducts the child or refuses to allow visitation after divorce.

Under Japanese law, parties seeking a judicial divorce or other judicial relief relating to child custody must first attend family-court sponsored mediation. Mediation sessions take place in a family court mediation room in front of a mediation panel composed of a judge, two mediators chosen by the court, and court personnel. Mediation continues at a pace of about one session a month until the parties agree on a result or the judge decides that further sessions are pointless. Although the court takes the lead in administering the mediation, its primary purpose at this stage is to encourage the parties to agree on a result.

Approximately 8% of Japanese divorces – most of those which are brought into court – are achieved through the mediation process. The remaining 2% are either judicial divorces resulting from litigation commenced after mediation has failed, or divorces by settlement after such litigation has commenced but before a divorce judgment. Therefore, one aspect of divorce proceedings that may be confusing is that there are a variety of procedures which vary depending upon the scope of the court’s involvement and responsibility. There are cooperative divorces which involve no court action whatsoever, mediated divorces and divorces by settlement where the court is involved but not responsible for the result, and judicial divorces where the court is involved and responsible for the final result (technically there are two additional types of divorce which are rare and not discussed in this article). Judicial divorces account for only about 1% of all divorces. These differing procedural regimes are also relevant to child custody proceedings.

Because Japanese law provides for court proceedings which in many cases lead to a result for which the court is not responsible, there may be a significant gap between what U.S. citizen parents expect from family courts and what family courts consider their role to be. A party seeking the return of or at least visitation with a child usually wants the court to “do something” as soon as possible. Since most cases are going to start with mediation, however, the family court may view its role primarily as one of encouraging the parties to agree upon a mediated result. Furthermore, since at the mediation stage the court is supposed to be playing only a supporting role, it may be reluctant to provide interim remedies (including ordering the handover of the child) unless they are clearly in the best interests of the child.

Other aspects of Japanese family law may also come into play at the mediation stage. Although divorce is exceptionally easy in Japan so long as both parties agree to it, obtaining a litigated divorce unilaterally over the objections of one party is exceptionally difficult and time consuming. In addition, just as there is little formal law specifying what should happen to children after their parents separate, Japan’s Civil Code is similarly sparse when it comes to providing for property distribution, alimony, and child support. Accordingly, courts have developed a variety of doctrines to protect the financially weaker party from being divorced on unfavorable terms.

A number of amendments to the Civil Code were made in May 2011, though it is unclear what effect they will have on current family court practice. First, the amendments make it easier for public authorities to temporarily suspend parental authority in cases of child abuse and neglect. Under prior law the only remedy was permanent termination of parental authority. Second, under the amended law, parents seeking a cooperative divorce will be required to provide for visitation arrangements and other forms of contact as well as allocate child-rearing expenses, in each case giving priority to the welfare of their children. If they are unable to do so then a family court may make the determinations in their place. While it may seem a minor change, the fact that visitation is now even mentioned in the Civil Code could be said to represent significant progress, since before this amendment it was nothing more than a judicially-created disposition.

However, it is not clear that courts (as opposed to parents) are required by the new law to make decisions in the best interests of children, or that visitation is presumed to be good for children. Combined with the addition to another part of the Civil Code which imposes upon all parents a statutory duty to act in the best interests of their own children, it is not clear whether family courts will regard the new amendments as being anything other than a codification of their existing practice.

Parental authority and custody

Although determinations relating to children are generally made in the context of divorce proceedings, an important procedural difference emerges if mediation fails. To understand this, however, it is necessary to briefly review the concepts of parental authority and custody. Under Japan’s Civil Code, married parents jointly exercise parental authority over minor children. Parental authority includes both the rights and duties of the parent relating to the care and upbringing of their children, but also the management of the children’s property and the taking of legal actions (such as applying for a passport) on their behalf, or even consenting to the child’s adoption. Because parental authority can be relevant to commercial transactions and dealings with government agencies, it can be confirmed through the family registry system. An extract from a child’s family registry may be required for passport applications or other dealings where proof of the parent-child relationship and the parental authority of the person making the application are required.

Under the cooperative divorce regime, parents simply make a notation on the divorce form as to which parent will retain parental authority over which children after divorce. One significant limitation, however, is that Japanese law does not allow for the formal continuation of joint parental authority after divorce even if both parents agree to it.

Procedurally, court involvement makes custody and parental authority more complicated. This is because it is possible for courts to separate the “care and custody” element of parental authority from the property management/legal representative aspect and award them to different people. Thus, a mother could be awarded custody over the child, who she would live with and raise, while the father would be awarded parental authority (minus the custodial element), which though being reflected in his family registry, would be limited to only the authority to manage the child’s property and engage in legal acts in the child’s name. In reality, this type of split custody is rare. The true significance of a court’s ability to deal with these two elements of parental authority separately is more important for procedural purposes rather than the end result.

Judicial determinations of parental authority are generally only made (or changed) by courts at the time of a judicial divorce following a trial. If divorce mediation fails, the onus is on one of the parties to proceed with divorce litigation. If neither does so the parties will simply remain married under the law but live apart. Parental authority will nominally remain with both parents.

However, with respect to matters relating to the custody portion of parental authority ( i.e., who will live with and raise the child, visitation, child support payments, and whether a taken child should be returned), if mediation fails the court will automatically proceed with making a determination, even if neither party proceeds with divorce litigation. These determinations may also be made (or changed) by courts after divorce, in the case of disputes over visitation after a cooperative divorce, or when a child is abducted to Japan after a divorce has taken place in the United States or elsewhere.

Procedurally this is significant because to the extent they are decided by a judge at all they are likely to be decided through the issuance of a judicial decree after mediation fails. Decrees are issued through “non-trial” proceedings, with very loose procedural and evidentiary requirements. Accordingly, what for most parents is the most important part of the proceedings – the part in which the fate of their children is decided – involves a process which seems like a trial (since there is judicial involvement) yet lacks many of the procedural or evidentiary protections that the average person is likely to expect from a trial.

Decrees can be appealed, and if the case advances to divorce litigation, a judge granting a judicial divorce can also make decisions relating to children ancillary to the divorce. In reality, however, it is probably unlikely that judges will second guess a prior decree on custody issues absent blatant mistakes or a change in circumstances.

Limited enforceability

In cases involving child abduction or interference with visitation, even a complete “win” in court may prove meaningless. Japanese civil law struggles with the enforcement of judgments in many contexts, but it is a problem that is particularly evident in disputes over children. Japanese courts lack marshals with police-like powers that can facilitate enforcing civil judgments. Similarly, Japanese judges do not have broad powers to sanction or imprison recalcitrant parties for contempt of court. Nor is there a mechanism for courts to require the police to become involved in such cases.

The first step in enforcement of a family court decree may be for a family court to issue a “compliance recommendation.” This may involve further inquiries by a family court investigator to confirm the circumstances behind the refusal of the parent having custody to cooperate with visitation. Even if a compliance recommendation is issued, however, there are no sanctions for non-compliance. In fact, compliance recommendations are considered to be a form of casework that is an extension of the courts’ role as a social welfare institution rather than a judicial one. As such, they have no legal force whatsoever.

In terms of actual legal remedies for enforcement, Japanese civil law does not contain any provisions which deal specifically with enforcing orders relating to the compulsory transfer of a child from one parent to another. One remedy is for the court to impose a non-penal monetary fine on a party who refuses to comply with a court order to return an abducted child or cooperate with visitation. However, this type of “indirect enforcement” may be of limited efficacy against parties who do not have a regular income or identifiable assets subject to forfeiture.

In the case of a court order for the return of a child who is young enough that they can be deemed not to have the capacity to form their own intent, it is also possible to seek “direct enforcement” of the order. This involves a district court bailiff attempting to physically accomplish the return of the child. Although the bailiff may request police accompaniment if there is a fear that the abducting parent may become violent, the police will not get involved if there is no crime. The bailiff himself does not have the power to arrest a non-cooperating parent. Thus, although direct enforcement is sometimes successful, it can also sometimes be frustrated by a taking parent through the simple expedient of stubbornly refusing to let go of the child or even just hiding.

Failing any of these remedies, the final arrow in the judicial quiver is habeas corpus. Based on the ancient common law remedy for unlawful detention by government officials, habeas corpus in Japan is used to order an abducting parent to bring the child to court for an inquiry into why they have been “detained.” A parent who refuses to follow a habeas corpus summons and bring an abducted child to court may be subject to imprisonment and/or penal fines. It is thus the only remedy for abduction available to the judiciary where there is the possibility of criminal sanctions for non-compliance.

While it is not uncommon for left-behind parents to immediately file for habeas corpus for children who have been taken to Japan, there do not appear to be any cases where a Japanese court has found the detention of a child to be “significantly unlawful,” even if it involves the violation of a foreign court order or has resulted in criminal proceedings in that country. There have been a number of cases where Japanese courts have both recognized the validity of a foreign court order awarding custody to the foreign parent while refusing to grant habeas corpus relief.

Domestic violence, legislative amendments, and the Hague Convention

The Japanese government is often criticized for appearing to drag its feet on adopting the Hague Convention. As the above discussion shows, however, meaningful implementation of the convention would involve significant amendments to Japanese domestic law. That this process may require a wide-ranging debate is understandable in a democratic society such as Japan.

In the course of the debate over the Hague Convention, one concern that has been expressed repeatedly is how to deal with situations where a Japanese mother residing abroad unilaterally returns to Japan with her children out of fear of domestic violence in the United States or other countries. While domestic violence is a legitimate policy concern, it is also an issue that can be assumed dealt with adequately through the legal system of the United States or other Hague Convention signatories. While it would be easy to view the concerns about domestic violence as primarily reflecting a lack of faith in the judicial systems of potential treaty partners, domestic violence is also controversial in strictly domestic custody cases. Japanese law defines “domestic violence” in exceptionally broad terms and it is often interpreted even more broadly so that not only physical violence, but verbal abuse, psychological “violence,” and even “economic violence” is sometimes included.

It has been suggested by some in Japan that the Hague Convention be signed, but with implementing legislation providing for exceptions that would prevent the return of children in cases involving domestic violence or abuse. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has gone further in proposing that any legislation implementing the Hague Convention, if adopted, not only prevent return in such cases, but also if the taking parent would be subject to criminal prosecution if they returned with the child. Given the expansive definition accorded to domestic violence and abuse, it seems possible that virtually any instance of a child being taken to Japan could be characterized so as to fall into this exception. But this involves speculating on legislation that does not yet exist.

Going forward

As noted in the introduction to this article, recent events in Northeastern Japan will have dramatically shifted the focus of policymakers in Japan. What can be expected in the immediate future in terms of the Hague Convention and further changes to Japanese family law remains to be seen. But natural disasters notwithstanding, Japanese people will continue to get married, have children and, in some cases, get divorced. So long as no changes are made, Japan will also continue to be regarded as a haven for abduction. This would be a sad thing since it is ultimately children – the ultimate resource in Japan, the United States, and everywhere else – who will continue to suffer.


Colin P.A. Jones is a Professor at Doshisha University Law School, a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and has been admitted to the bar in New York, Guam and the Republic of Palau. He received his A.B. from the University of California at Berkeley, an LL.M. from Tohoku University, as well as a J.D. and LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.

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Put the best interests of children above pride and prejudice

Posted on November 8, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Divorce, Domestic Violence (DV) | Tags: , , , |

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011  Japan Times

I have written about my story previously to The Japan Times, but this most recent article from Richard Cory (“Left-behind dads take desperate measures,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 4) spurs me to write again.

I am an American parent who, in 1994, abducted my children away from their Japanese father because I could not get any protection from domestic violence (against me, not the children) in Japan. In fact, the general response of the legal system was to ask what I was doing to provoke my husband and to suggest that perhaps I needed to seek therapy.

I was also advised by attorneys that it was highly unlikely that I could obtain custody of the children, despite his abusive behavior and late-stage alcoholism, and ultimately I could find no options other than fleeing Japan.

Leaving the only home they had ever known, as well as the total separation from their father, was a terrible shock for my two daughters, and has affected them into adulthood. To this day I mourn the life we lost, and wish that there had been an alternative.

My preference would have been to stay in Japan, where I had lived for 17 years and felt deeply connected, but this was not possible. Without the protection of an order granting me primary custody, and without support from law enforcement to protect us from violence, we had no way to safely stay in Japan. Sadly, my husband died two years later of his alcoholism, never having been reunited with his children.

What I find most ironic is that in the eyes of the Japanese legal system, I would be viewed as having kidnapped my children (at one point, our local consulate informed me that I could be “detained” if I returned to Japan with the issue unresolved), while a Japanese mother who fled back to Japan with her children would be viewed as having done the necessary thing.

It is time for the Japanese legal system to join the 21st century and start to put the needs of these precious children ahead of prejudice and national pride.

KATHERINE CHIBA

Portland, Oregon

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October 16th, 2011 Demo for Joint Custody in Tokyo

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

On October 16th, 2011 there was a demo in Tokyo for joint custody and the Hague. Kevin Brown, the co-founder of Children First (www.childrenfirst.jp), cycled from Kumamoto to Tokyo to raise awareness about child rights. It took him 31 days to reach Tokyo. Along the way he recieved help from other left behind parents. He stayed one to three days with fellow left behind parents in Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Okazaki, Hamamatsu, and Tokyo. Kevin, like most left behind parents has little access to his child. Like all left behind parents, he wants to see his child more than once a month for 4 hours, the average time awarded by Japanese Family Court Judges. Kevin would like to see Japan adopt a joint custody system similar to that in most western countries. Japan is the only G-7 country without joint custody. And Japan is the only G-8 country not to sign the Hague. Kevin stopped at 15 prefectural offices during his cycling tour. He spoke about joint custody and other issues affecting the well being of children.  You can see about 1 minute of the demo if you click on the link: October 16th demo in Shibuya

The Japan Times published Kevin’s story: Dad seeks visitation reform

as did the Asahi Shimbu (nihongo): asahi shimbun

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Summary of my bike tour from Kumamoto to Tokyo

Posted on November 4, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , , |

Here is a summary of my 30 day cycling tour. My goal was to raise awareness about child rights, especially the right for children to see both parents after divorce/separation.

Kilometers cycled, 1500
Diet members met, 2
Times in the paper, 3 (Asahi Shimbun and Kobe Shimbun and Japan Times via Kyodo News)
Times on TV, 1 (NHK Oct. 31st)
Left Behind Parents I stayed with, 9
Left behind parents I met before reaching Tokyo, 14
Left behind parents I met in Tokyo, numerous
Child Welfare division that I spoke to (prefectural offices), 15
Questionnaires given to Child Welfare Offices, 15
Parades/Demonstrations attended, 1 (with a big welcome in Shibuya)
Everything on behalf of Childrenfirst

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Joint Custody Challenge by NHK

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Japanese Family Law | Tags: , , , , , , |

NHK does a very nice job with their short piece on Joint Custody. Professor Tanase, a specialist in child development does a great job. She talks about what needs to be done and what is best for the kids. Click the link to watch the short program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZjsrgoiGF4

 

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Japanese held in U.S. over child custody

Posted on October 30, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Hague Convention | Tags: , , |

 

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011
Staff writer

A Japanese woman was arrested in the United States earlier this year for allegedly violating parental custody laws and is currently undergoing judicial proceedings, the government said Friday.

In an unusual case highlighting the complications in parental rights laws in international marriages, Japanese media reported that the 43-year-old woman had been wanted after taking her 9-year-old daughter to Japan without prior consent from her ex-husband, a Nicaraguan residing in the U.S.

An official at the Foreign Ministry’s Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division said the woman was arrested April 7 in Honolulu — apparently while on a visit to renew her green card — and was transferred to Wisconsin on April 30, where she is currently being held.

The official declined to reveal further information, saying the woman’s family asked that her private information not be disclosed.

Citing the woman’s lawyer, media reports said the woman’s 39-year-old husband filed for divorce in Wisconsin in 2008 and won sole custody of the child in 2009, the same year the divorce became final.

However, the woman brought the girl to Japan amid the divorce proceedings in 2008 and has been wanted in the U.S. for contempt of court and violation of parental custody laws.

After returning to Japan, she filed for custody of the child at the Kobe District Court and was granted custody this March. The court also allowed the child’s father the right to see his daughter in the U.S. However, both parties immediately appealed the ruling and the case is before the Osaka High Court, according to reports.

Japan has been under pressure from other countries to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a treaty that sets procedures for settling cross-border child custody disputes as a result of failed international marriages.

The government decided in May to sign the treaty but has yet to officially endorse the international pact which so far has been joined by 86 nations.

An official at the Foreign Ministry’s Humanitarian Affairs Division said the woman’s arrest may have been prevented if Japan had already ratified the Hague treaty.

U.S. authorities would probably have advised the man against reporting the woman to the police — a move that could hurt his chances of retrieving his child — and ask him to proceed with the case based on the provisions of the treaty.

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