Does equal parenting rights legislation create cookie-cutter results in child custody determinations and family court? The outdated child custody laws from the 1970s in Michigan create the cookie cutter results. It was clear from last years HB5267 that the Family Law Section of Michigan was more concerned with the best interests of Michigan's attorney pocketbooks and not the best interests of children. The average person KNOWS this and that is why in poll after poll Michigan's voters are asking for some form of equal parenting legislation.
Congratulations to those who are at least looking for some form of a solution to the current problem. The system is broke; anyone with an ounce of common sense and the ability to talk to the average person who has been through the system knows this.
To the attorneys that are so concerned about "the best interests of the children" while keeping a close eye on their pocketbooks - you may want to embrace an equal parenting bill! In Denmark, effective October 2007, equal parenting became the norm via legislation and it has created a BOOM in business for lawyers helping those who were denied the right to EQUALLY love, guide, nurture and educate their child/children.
A judge, referee or FOC caseworker may think they are making decisions that are in the "best interests of the children" but there is no possible way to make this determination in the very short amount of time that they skim through the court documents. The feedback from society is that despite their best intentions they have failed miserably.
Some in Michigan have argued that, "Courts are already obligated by statute to give each parent sufficient time to promote a strong relationship." This is almost laughable. Surely you do not mean Michigan? 4-6 days a month is sufficient enough to promote a strong relationship? If you are given what is truly cookie-cutter, 4-6 days a month, it makes it very difficult to do so despite even the best of efforts.
MOST parents disagree during a divorce and the sad fact is they drag the kids into this time of conflict and pain. If both parents are fit and willing, remove the children from the tug-of-war, and let them argue over who gets the house, boat or the dog. You can still rack up enough time to bill your clients plus sleep soundly at the end of each night. Parents bargain under the current shadow of the law and that means if only one of them disagrees on the parenting plan that all hell will break loose.
Joint physical custody is not given preferential treatment in Michigan. The only requirement is that both parties must be advised of joint custody and nothing more! Nothing more! The current FOC child custody evaluations are not sufficient at best and oftentimes are seen as just going through the motions for the appearance of being fair, but the sad fact is that one parent (typically mom) gets the majority of child custody time. I am not stating that FOC child custody evaluators have bad intentions, only that they are ill prepared to complete such an important task. Many have bachelor degrees in criminal justice and the amount of time they are given to complete such an important task is criminal in my opinion. Many are only allowed one hour to observe a parent with the child or children. Are they really given the proper amount of time to truly be an advocate for the "children's best interests"?
Perhaps this blog discussion would not be occurring if the other fit and willing parent was not given the usual cookie-cutter parenting time with their children? The research is crystal clear that the best parent after a divorce is both fit and willing parents. Allocating only 4-6 days a month to a fit and willing parent is essentially court sponsored child abuse. Even those who have worked in the industry for many years are now starting to speak out about it as seen in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M7cEi61W24 Carol Rhodes is not the only one.
Judges are also placed in a very difficult position oftentimes having to make a decision about child custody in a few hours. Society is outraged over the current state of affairs in Michigan family law. The current fallacies of the "best interest factors" and "judicial discretion" have failed families, parents and children. Judicial discretion can never be perfect to all parties, but when it fails at such a massive level society will demand change. Remember the "judicial discretion" of the United States Supreme Court which ruled in favor of slavery?
Title IV-D federal incentives have also created a situation in which states, and even our local county level court systems, have become addicted to the lucrative monies being sent by the federal government. This creates a situation in which federal Title IV-D federal incentives and NOT the "best interest factors" drives judicial discretion. An excellent summary of this is given by national Title IV-D expert Lary Holland in this article: http://www.northcountrygazette.org/articles/022806SSAndCustody.html
You can also review this graph to follow the flow of Title IV-D monies back to the local county level court systems: http://www.fightfoc.com/serendipity/uploads/FollowtheMoney1-29-2007.pdf
I am amazed, especially with how negative Michigan's public opinion is of attorneys in general, that the Michigan Family Law Section is opposing legislation that the majority of Michigan residents are demanding. Follow the money? It is nice to see that some can recognize the massive failure to families, parents and children such as this Michigan Chief Judge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpWQokcinLg
Many will continue to term bills such as HB4564 as "cookie cutter" and they would be correct only if viewed like so: One size fits all - EQUALITY!
This very wise Judge said it best:
"Although the dispute is symbolized by a 'versus' which signifies two adverse parties at opposite poles of a line, there is in fact a third party whose interests and rights make of the line a triangle. That person, the child who is not an official party to the lawsuit but whose well-being is in the eye of the controversy, has a right to shared parenting when both are equally suited to provide it. Inherent in the express public policy is a recognition of the child's right to equal access and opportunity with both parents, the right to be guided and nurtured by both parents, the right to have major decisions made by the application of both parents' wisdom, judgement and experience. The child does not forfeit these rights when the parents divorce." Judge Dorothy T. Beasley, Georgia Court of Appeals, In the Interest of A.R.B., a Child, July 2, 1993
It is INEVITABLE that equal parenting legislation will pass someday. This will occur even if the Family Law Section of Michigan continues their stance of denying children the fundamental right to be loved, guided, nurtured and educated by both fit and willing parents after a divorce. This issue will not go away because equal parenting legislation will simply be reintroduced year after year until it does pass.
Don't think of those demanding change as being hostile because they are only attempting to help fix the longstanding record of failures that "judicial discretion" and "best interest of the children" factors have created. Some try to label equal parenting legislation as being about "father's rights" which is a great term to use if one is hoping to divert attention away from the fact that this is really about more than fathers! More and more grandparents are experiencing the pain that they see their own son (or daughter) go through when a child is denied the right to be equally loved, guided, nurtured and educated by that fit and willing parent. They are starting to speak out in droves! Many step-mothers (step-fathers) are speaking out because of the pain they see their spouse and step-children going through. Children are coming forward, at the age of 14 in this example, by creating their own website in support of equal parenting: http://www.billsarena.com/
The clear track record of failures and hypocrisy of the current system, coupled with the way an entire ½ of a child's family tree is essentially severed from them, will cause the system to essentially self-implode and change despite all efforts to stop such change. Michigan voters already support equally parenting legislation and with the release of an upcoming documentary movie this support will become even more prominent.
All About Kids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZBMi9AjP_8
Divorce Is Ugly Business: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWGVSTvgAN0
The only thing cookie cutter is the way children are torn from one of their fit and willing parents after a divorce. The only thing cookie cutter is the typical 4-6 days a month that a child gets to spend with the other fit and willing parent. Children have a fundamental right to be loved, guided, educated and nurtured by both fit and willing parents after a divorce. Have faith...equal parenting legislation is inevitable whether now or in three years because far too many families, parents and children have suffered under the decaying roof of "the best interest factors" and "judicial discretion". Ronald Smith says it best - we are no longer asking - we are demanding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QHZWxOYqRw