Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “February 2, 2020”

The Sham Of The “Best Interests of The Child”

Being an advocate, it is hard to turn off the “ping” that goes off, triggering a call to respond to something that goes against an issue that you fight for.  Before I begin, I must state for my trolls…


I was doing what I often do, helping one of my daughters in determining what courses she should take for next year.  This particular daughter, has some big eyes.  She wants to do and take everything.  Initiative.  You have to admire that.  Once she has expressed everything she is interested, in an effort to help her whittle her list down to a more manageable and doable schedule, she still found herself in a bind with one or two courses that she wanted to take.

Admittedly, you probably will not find many kids who are willing to take on extra classes, just because.  But as I helped my daughter to prioritize what was important to her, I asked her what she felt especially strong about, passion.

I was about to present an option to her that I know she was completely unaware of, but I did.  Her school district offers after school courses, which, two of her choices that she was looking to enroll in, were actually available outside of school.  Meaning?  She could take the courses that would make the difference academically, and the extra courses she could take to help her decide if that is what she really wanted to do, without wasting valuable credits.  I have her curiosity and we are currently working on that situation.

But it is what I found on one of the pages of the brochure of the community education provided by the school district, that is what triggered me.

This is a snapshot from the brochure, and I have intentionally scratched out the instructor’s name, coincidentally, a family court lawyer.

Now unless you have been through the process of custody, you have no idea the what it is like to have the rush of bile into the throat upon seeing this.  If you have never gone through a divorce and are about to, you see it as an opportunity how to DIY (do it yourself) with important information such as the “sixteen factors” which do exist in the state’s law, but the “tools that can be used to aid in presenting your case to the court?”  I have a problem with that.

The timing of this class is unfortunate as well.  This was taken from the Fall brochure, but as I researched, the instructor is teaching another one of these courses in the Spring, so, in spite of the hope that lies ahead, it seems that at least someone is teaching “business as usual” instead of the great news of the new process that will hopefully be coming.

You see, the state in which this is occurring, is one of the latest, and one of the last, to recognize the rights of both parents in a declaration of 50-50 shared legal and physical custody.  For many, we still cannot understand why this is not a guarantee for all states, and still there are some that have not begun the process to legislate this.

Many states have approved, and more are in the process of approving, laws that guarantee the rights of both parents (when applicable) to legal and physical custody.  Prior to this, in spite of the “sixteen factors,” if both parents  met those factors equally, one parent still was likely to be given an award of full or primary custody.  Full meaning just that, primary meaning that children would get to spend overnights with the other parent, visitation if you will.

Back in the 1950’s, mothers were stay at home, so courts often ruled against the fathers for custody, simply because they were never around, BECAUSE THEY WERE WORKING!!!.  They were penalized for being the only one bringing in money, by not being considered for custody of their children.

I will spare the chronological progression through the decades, but needless to say, in the 21st century, it is more the rule than the exception, that in a two-parent family, both parents work.  So it would make sense then, that perhaps there should be an adjustment to the assumption of custody.  Only in recent years, have states begun the process of giving both parents equal rights of custody.

In Florida, also one of the states lagging behind correcting this injustice, in December of last year, the legislature filed a bill that would give equal custody to both parents, presumed, not by way of contesting and objections.  In the state where this “course” is being taught, the bill was filed back in May of 2019, still yet to be passed into law.

I will get to the opponents of the position of equal custody in a moment.  But first, the obvious argument to which their can be no objection to.  I challenge you to find a reason why equal and shared custody should not be presumed.  And here is the example.

Husband and wife, a.k.a. father and mother, never have any negative history in their family in regard to their parenting.  Both work.  Both play an active role in their childrens lives.  No history of domestic issues.  Regardless of what the current status of any laws in any state, if something happens to one parent, such as a debilitating illness or even worse, death, the surviving (or healthy) parent would then assume 100% custody of the children.  Why?  Because that person is the parent.  So, if that parent is to be assumed capable of taking over custody in the event of a tragedy, why should that parent not have the equal right to the children when both parents are capable?

You cannot argue that.  If that parent is good enough when “forced” into full time single parenting, that parent is just as good to have the right to be the parent with equal time shared with the other parent.

This is the exact scenario that is being argued and states are in the process of passing laws in favor of, making this thinking the presumed situation.  Or as advocates for shared custody would call it, literally, “the best interests of the child.”  And this is in agreement with psychological professionals as well, that as long as both parents exist, it is in the best interests of the children to have equal time with both parents.

There are two main groups that will be very vocal against this.  The first of course, will be the lawyers.  They argue that the children risk being exposed to domestic violence if the children are not given to one particular parent until the situations are completely researched.  In other words, assume the worst of one of the parent, until that parent can litigate their rights for equal custody.  And yes, children do need to be protected from abusive situations.  But not at the innocent expense of a parent and children.  Especially when there is no known evidence of any kind of domestic abuse.  The cynic in me will go one step further and say of course the lawyers will not support a bill like this, because financially, they have everything to lose.  Imagine, parents being given equal custody means no more lengthy drawn out and expensive court filings and modifications.  For the parents, this is a win because of all the money saved that can be used for the children.

And of course, the other group are the bitter spouses/parents.  The ones who feel entitled (i.e. only a mother can take care of children), filled with vengeance for a relationship ending in break-up, and a phenomenon called “the baby mama” (ones who get pregnant for the purposes of collecting court determined and ordered child support).  Obviously it is called that, as the male cannot get pregnant, and only the mother has full control of the situation.  Just looking at the descriptions of the above and tell me what you see missing.  The relevance of what role the children have in these selfish behaviors… NONE!  How is this in the best interests of the children?  It is not and everyone knows it.

Another group does exist, and is definitely for the best interests of the children, and that is advocates against domestic abuse.  We all know these situations exist.  We have also heard the nightmares of children services not responding or doing enough to protect children in harms way.  But to throw a blanket over the whole custody issue claiming domestic violence as the reason for presuming less than shared custody, to protect the child, then other children are harmed by being denied the opportunity of equal time with both parents, who are not exposed to that violent environment.  In other words, being punished for something they did not do.

We all experience this type of situation at one time or another in our lives.  We get punished as a group for something someone or some group has done.  An entire class gets extra homework because someone was talking during class.  Yes, that will teach the innocent ones.  All employees lose extra “break” time because a supervisor has an ax to grind with one employee.  Instead of the supervisor dealing with the employee, the boss makes all employees pay a price, which he hopes will result in those employees “correcting” the offending employee.

Do you see how awful this thinking is?  Punishing someone for something that they did not do?  Remove the parents from the equation, leaving only the children.  How is restricting a child from one of their parents, whom they have known the entire time that their parents were married, never witnessed any violence in the home against the other parent or themselves, with both parents more than capable of taking care of the child, in the best interests of the child?  It isn’t.

That is why, like the two states mentioned above are in the process of doing what so many have already corrected, and others need to come to the realization, in the families where children have two parents, that in the ending of that relationship, the children need both parents… EQUALLY!

I wonder if that lawyer is teaching that in the class.  Or does she follow the lead of the temperament of the “students” simply looking for less expensive advice, emotional support and “understanding” of their situation, and lead those how to follow the path if they feel sole custody is what matters and how to get the system to order that?

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