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Anne in CA

I am in too much shock to find the old thread. My friend just lost custody of her children. UPDATE and Prayer Request in last post.

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It is easy to look at a case from the outside (and only through the eyes of one party) while forgetting that the judge sits in a neutral position, listens to all parties/evidence, and is viewing the evidence presented in an impartial manner. 

 

Have you ever been through the Family Court? You sound rather idealistic. Judges are allowed to have their own biases and are not obligated to pay any particular attention to evidence. 

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Have you ever been through the Family Court? You sound rather idealistic. Judges are allowed to have their own biases and are not obligated to pay any particular attention to evidence. 

 

Nothing I said idealistic.  Judges do get decisions wrong, either due to error or bias.  More often they do the best they can dealing with difficult cases.  FTR, I have not been through family court as a litigant but I do have family court experience.

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Nothing I said idealistic.  Judges do get decisions wrong, either due to error or bias.  More often they do the best they can dealing with difficult cases.  FTR, I have not been through family court as a litigant but I do have family court experience.

 

I think if they were really doing their best, they'd have made it their business to understand personality disorders, domestic violence and trauma. These are not new ideas any more.

 

I daresay most of them mean well, but meaning well is not nearly good enough.

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I tend to want to stick up for the law a little bit too. This decision might-very-probably be wrong and unjust -- but people expect the wrong things from family court. They expect an evaluation of 'good people' and 'bad people' where the 'bad people' don't get custody.

 

In my jurisdiction, there is no law that prevents 'bad people' from having custody of their own children. Being a liar is not legal grounds for removing kids from a parent. The legal grounds for removing kids from parents are fairly clear and specific -- people need to seek to substantiate one of *those* or forget about making a case for sole custody. Any judge who ruled, "You lied in my courtroom, therefore you can't have custody." -- would be acting *on* bias, and against the law.

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I think if they were really doing their best, they'd have made it their business to understand personality disorders, domestic violence and trauma. These are not new ideas any more.

 

I daresay most of them mean well, but meaning well is not nearly good enough.

 

It depends on what you mean by "understand" them.  Judges rely on the testimony of experts, and judges have to be careful in regards to bringing in outside information not presented to them as evidence.  A judge deciding that litigant "X" has a personality disorder without basing that on testimony provided would be committing an ethics violation.  From their experience on the bench many judges do take into consideration how trauma and domestic violence can affect actions/testimony, but again they have to be careful as to how they apply that knowledge to a given case.

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Spending money on a case she can't win means she won't have enough money left to try later when the kids are old enough to be listened to, when she will have a chance of winning.

I have to agree with this, even while it's heartbreaking to consider.

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Although, if the father lied in court and was proved to have lied, I would think at minimum his word on other matters would have less weight.   I could understand the judge wouldn't want to deny the father all custody of the kids because of the lies, I would expect the judge to be more hesitant to give full custody to the liar.   For the OP here, I got the impression that the father had full custody.  

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I tend to want to stick up for the law a little bit too. This decision might-very-probably be wrong and unjust -- but people expect the wrong things from family court. They expect an evaluation of 'good people' and 'bad people' where the 'bad people' don't get custody.

 

In my jurisdiction, there is no law that prevents 'bad people' from having custody of their own children. Being a liar is not legal grounds for removing kids from a parent. The legal grounds for removing kids from parents are fairly clear and specific -- people need to seek to substantiate one of *those* or forget about making a case for sole custody. Any judge who ruled, "You lied in my courtroom, therefore you can't have custody." -- would be acting *on* bias, and against the law.

Having seen several moms lose primary custody because they had stayed at home with young children and therefore were making far less than their husbands, it seems like being poorer is legal grounds for losing custody. Having your child every other weekend and being required to pay half their private school tuition is a pretty big price to pay for taking 5 years off to be home with a kid with medical issues and scheduling your work schedule to match their school schedule once they're in kindergarten.

 

And the belief that moms who lose primary custody are bad moms doesn't help, either. Nor does the fact that often your friends when you're a SAH mom are other moms.

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And the belief that moms who lose primary custody are bad moms doesn't help, either.

Amen to this!

 

I was going to say more, but yes. Just, yes.

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I think the move towards the default of 50/50, deviating from that only because both parents want it otherwise, or else for good cause (good cause being along the lines of one parent has been abusive or neglectful) is a good thing.

 

Giving a kid to one parent after years of the child being primarily with the other by agreement, just because the parent trying to yank away custody has more money and/or has remarried and thus has a more "traditional" situation for the kid? That's shitty reasoning of what "best interests of the child" mean, especially when you consider that in other contexts, not disrupting a child's situation unnecessarily is held as extremely important in "best interests" analysis.

 

 

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Clearly this judge did not care about the kids at all. That is the most worrying thing. The father is clearly abusive. One of the lies he was ***CLEARLY*** caught out on was stalking my friend more than two hundred miles to try to catch her drinking at a bridal shower she was attending. He had accessed her email illegally and knew about it. When she caught in him in the parking of her hotel he reframed it that she had followed him, but it was conclusively proven that he chased her (email trails and she was with friends), but the judge didn't care that he lied about her following him and he followed her. Makes no sense at all. That was not he said/ she said. He stalked her in a very invasive way across two hundred miles and state lines. The judge did not care at all???? 

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Clearly this judge did not care about the kids at all. That is the most worrying thing. The father is clearly abusive. One of the lies he was ***CLEARLY*** caught out on was stalking my friend more than two hundred miles to try to catch her drinking at a bridal shower she was attending. He had accessed her email illegally and knew about it. When she caught in him in the parking of her hotel he reframed it that she had followed him, but it was conclusively proven that he chased her (email trails and she was with friends), but the judge didn't care that he lied about her following him and he followed her. Makes no sense at all. That was not he said/ she said. He stalked her in a very invasive way across two hundred miles and state lines. The judge did not care at all????

Anne, my sister's ex got custody last April. This man has spent time in jail for child abuse of the eldest child. There's just so much that makes no sense.

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Clearly this judge did not care about the kids at all. That is the most worrying thing. The father is clearly abusive. One of the lies he was ***CLEARLY*** caught out on was stalking my friend more than two hundred miles to try to catch her drinking at a bridal shower she was attending. He had accessed her email illegally and knew about it. When she caught in him in the parking of her hotel he reframed it that she had followed him, but it was conclusively proven that he chased her (email trails and she was with friends), but the judge didn't care that he lied about her following him and he followed her. Makes no sense at all. That was not he said/ she said. He stalked her in a very invasive way across two hundred miles and state lines. The judge did not care at all????

That's not something the judge is supposed to care about. I'm surprised he even let the court spend any time on it at all. Married people don't lose custody of children by hacking, stalking or abusing adults. Divorced people don't either. The law isn't written that way... at least here it's not. Edited by bolt.
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It depends on what you mean by "understand" them.  Judges rely on the testimony of experts, and judges have to be careful in regards to bringing in outside information not presented to them as evidence.  A judge deciding that litigant "X" has a personality disorder without basing that on testimony provided would be committing an ethics violation.  From their experience on the bench many judges do take into consideration how trauma and domestic violence can affect actions/testimony, but again they have to be careful as to how they apply that knowledge to a given case.

 

Oh, I know judges are only allowed to consider evidence put before them. I also know that the evidence put before them by experts does not have to be true or comprehensive. It's very easy for an expert to write a report saying there is no evidence that party A has any disorder when they didn't test them for it. It's very easy for an expert to write a report saying it is the party B's fault they couldn't diagnose them with anything, because they wouldn't co-operate. 

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Although, if the father lied in court and was proved to have lied, I would think at minimum his word on other matters would have less weight.   I could understand the judge wouldn't want to deny the father all custody of the kids because of the lies, I would expect the judge to be more hesitant to give full custody to the liar.   For the OP here, I got the impression that the father had full custody.  

 

Not if the expert witnesses agree with him. 

 

Appearances matter. If you appear to be terrified of someone without being able to prove to anyone's satisfaction that you are right to be terrified, you look like a nutter.

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That's not something the judge is supposed to care about. I'm surprised he even let the court spend any time on it at all. Married people don't lose custody of children by hacking, stalking or abusing adults. Divorced people don't either. The law isn't written that way... at least here it's not.

 

Yep. People who abuse their partners can be good parents.

 

 

I'm not sure how often that is true, especially when being witness to domestic violence is considered a form of domestic violence according to parts of the government that aren't the family court, but that's how it is.

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Oh, I know judges are only allowed to consider evidence put before them. I also know that the evidence put before them by experts does not have to be true or comprehensive. It's very easy for an expert to write a report saying there is no evidence that party A has any disorder when they didn't test them for it. It's very easy for an expert to write a report saying it is the party B's fault they couldn't diagnose them with anything, because they wouldn't co-operate.

This happened to my sister. An "expert" testified against her, claiming all sorts of (non-existent) mental issues. He had NEVER met my sister prior to the trial.

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Aaaand... I'm stepping out of this thread, as it has me all riled up. (No one's fault. It's just that I found out this morning that my sister's ex has filed two criminal charges against her. They are absolutely trumped up, ridiculous charges ("she called me and my girlfriend loons in front of one of the kids") and completely retaliatory in nature, but still...

 

Just carry on without me. Anne, I'm very sorry for what has happened.

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Aaaand... I'm stepping out of this thread, as it has me all riled up. (No one's fault. It's just that I found out this morning that my sister's ex has filed two criminal charges against her. They are absolutely trumped up, ridiculous charges ("she called me and my girlfriend loons in front of one of the kids") and completely retaliatory in nature, but still...

 

Just carry on without me. Anne, I'm very sorry for what has happened.

 

 

:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

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That's not something the judge is supposed to care about. I'm surprised he even let the court spend any time on it at all. Married people don't lose custody of children by hacking, stalking or abusing adults. Divorced people don't either. The law isn't written that way... at least here it's not.

He stalked her with the kids in the car and threatened them not to tell her they had been there. Again, that is not he said/ she said, that is fact. He was stalking someone for a long distance with two kids in his car. Freak.

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This happened to my sister. An "expert" testified against her, claiming all sorts of (non-existent) mental issues. He had NEVER met my sister prior to the trial.

My friend's ex's expert who had never met her claimed my friend has Bi Polar disorder. My friend then spent $$$ on more reputable professionals to say she does not, but the judge still believed the "expert".

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Appearances matter. If you appear to be terrified of someone without being able to prove to anyone's satisfaction that you are right to be terrified, you look like a nutter.

 

I just referenced this phenomenon in another thread.

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He stalked her with the kids in the car and threatened them not to tell her they had been there. Again, that is not he said/ she said, that is fact. He was stalking someone for a long distance with two kids in his car. Freak.

To be honest with you, the law is not written such that being a freak is reason to lose custody. If they were still legally married even if separated, this would not be stalking in many states.

 

A friend has an ex who is a registered sex offender and still has joint custody. The law is that if he didn't molest his own daughters then it doesn't follow that he is a "bad parent".

 

Local case: four year old whose mother went on to serve five years for a mail box bomb - couldn't pay her supplier so thought she'd off him - never severed her parental rights because she had not been abusive to the child or it had not been proven. 30 days out of prison she was given custody of him, and within in 90 days she beat him to death. Just another day in family court.

 

American law is not designed to protect children. Not.at.all. Parental rights reign supreme and by that I mean the rights of the parent with the most money to hire the meanest attorney.

 

OP your friend should take time to regroup and save a lot of money so she can get a better legal team.

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Oh, I know judges are only allowed to consider evidence put before them. I also know that the evidence put before them by experts does not have to be true or comprehensive. It's very easy for an expert to write a report saying there is no evidence that party A has any disorder when they didn't test them for it. It's very easy for an expert to write a report saying it is the party B's fault they couldn't diagnose them with anything, because they wouldn't co-operate.

Not sure what you really expect out a judge at that point.

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Not sure what you really expect out a judge at that point.

 

No, the judge can't do much at that point. There should be ways of holding the experts accountable, though. 

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Liking in solidarity, not in happiness.

 

:grouphug: :grouphug: :grouphug:

 

Rosie, Kinsa, Anne.

 

I hear you. The system is a wreck.

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He stalked her with the kids in the car and threatened them not to tell her they had been there. Again, that is not he said/ she said, that is fact. He was stalking someone for a long distance with two kids in his car. Freak.

Yes, that was a huge, traumatic, abusive, and totally unacceptable form of behaviour.

 

The judge is still obligated to ask: "If a married man or widowed-dad had done that (with his kids in the car) for some other reason -- perhaps against a sister or his mother -- would it be legal grounds to remove his children and place them in foster care?"

 

The law doesn't allow for the removal of children from freaks, just on the basis of generally being an a-hole... you have to actually act against the children. When I worked in DV, we had to bang the drum on this message night and day because it's so counter-intuitive for everyone (and more so for women fleeing abuse).

 

Many judges here are biased in favour of women, especially with DV that can be substantiated -- but the women still needed to focus their remarks on the smallest things that the abuser did that endangered the child instead of the massive offences and crimes against themselves and/or evidence of general scum-bag-ness. Even judges who *want* those men to never see their child again need a legally relevant reason to make that ruling.

 

I can't imagine what it would take to convince a judge that had already prejudged a woman, or was biased in favour of the man.

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A dad I know of who got shared custody actually did act against a child - by putting his hands around her throat and 'pretending' to squeeze. Only problem was, kid was too scared to talk to police and make a statement. She did talk to and describe what happened to her GP, but that wasn't enough and it actually backfired on the mom who was now accused of priming the child to accuse the father.

 

Of course, the father also emotionally and financially abused/abuses the mother, but apparently abusing the mother has no effect on the best interests of the child!

 

There needs to be a complete reform of Family Court, imo.

Edited by StellaM
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Family Court sucks.  Especially if there is any DV.  Especially if the father has significantly higher earnings.  Especially if he has NPD and goes after custody.  If he goes after sole custody, even with DV, there's a good chance he'll get some custody.  "A mega analysis of various surveys of custody evaluators found that approximately 40% say that they typically recommend sole legal and physical custody to mothers who are victims of domestic violence, while 47% typically recommend joint legal and physical custody to both parents" 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-adams/can-family-courts-protect_1_b_9195844.html

 

"According to one study, male evaluators (though not most), and particularly those with patriarchal beliefs, are more likely to believe that domestic violence is not important in child custody determinations, and to believe that mothers, more often than fathers, fabricate allegations of domestic violence. Biased evaluators (of both genders) are also more likely to judge abused mothers harshly. Evaluators appear to prefer their victims to be meek as opposed to angry or defiant. Rather than seeing that a mother’s anger is an understandable response to abuse, uninformed and/or biased evaluators sometimes see the mother as being vindictive and guilty of ‘alienating’ the children against the father."

 

 

I also recommend Lundy Bancroft's writings.  

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Family Court sucks.  Especially if there is any DV.  Especially if the father has significantly higher earnings.  Especially if he has NPD and goes after custody.  If he goes after sole custody, even with DV, there's a good chance he'll get some custody.  "A mega analysis of various surveys of custody evaluators found that approximately 40% say that they typically recommend sole legal and physical custody to mothers who are victims of domestic violence, while 47% typically recommend joint legal and physical custody to both parents" 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-adams/can-family-courts-protect_1_b_9195844.html

 

"According to one study, male evaluators (though not most), and particularly those with patriarchal beliefs, are more likely to believe that domestic violence is not important in child custody determinations, and to believe that mothers, more often than fathers, fabricate allegations of domestic violence. Biased evaluators (of both genders) are also more likely to judge abused mothers harshly. Evaluators appear to prefer their victims to be meek as opposed to angry or defiant. Rather than seeing that a mother’s anger is an understandable response to abuse, uninformed and/or biased evaluators sometimes see the mother as being vindictive and guilty of ‘alienating’ the children against the father."

 

 

I also recommend Lundy Bancroft's writings.  

 

Mothers being accused of alienating the children from the father seems to be endemic. I suppose in some cases they are; mostly, however, it seems to be part of the catch-22 I outlined above.

 

 

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That's not something the judge is supposed to care about. I'm surprised he even let the court spend any time on it at all. Married people don't lose custody of children by hacking, stalking or abusing adults. Divorced people don't either. The law isn't written that way... at least here it's not.

 

This is one of the problems.

 

When one parent has, documented, a pattern of abuse against the other, coparenting is not going to be successful.

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I am so sorry!

 

My parents divorced when I was a teenager. I was in the courtroom and listened to all the lies and ugliness that both sides threw at the other. They both lost custody of me because I refused to side with either one of them or live with either one of them after what they drug me through. I am 50 years old and my parents still wonder why i don't have a relationship with them. But it was the best thing for me. I hope your friend's children are able to get therapy and support and that they may see the truth.

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No, the judge can't do much at that point. There should be ways of holding the experts accountable, though. 

 Lawyers and judges often have inadequate training in how to, on the one hand, cross-examine, and on the other, objectively evaluate, expert witnesses.

 

An expert should NEVER be allowed to diagnose a person they have not examined from the witness stand.

 

Explain what a diagnosis means or how it might explain behavior? Yes. But not actually diagnose.

 

Expert testimony of someone who has EXAMINED someone is different, as it is testimonial expert opinion and should have sufficient factual basis in actual observation.

 

A big part of the problem is that there is no clear rubric for how to weigh one expert vs. another. Fuzzy reasons like they "sound more professional" or are familiar from past trials can influence/bias a finder of fact to give more creedence to one expert over another, especially when there is not a good cross-examination to show what bollocks it was.

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They are lawyers. They have qualifications in law.

 

They don't have qualifications in education, psychology, neuroscience or...

 

 

And "the best interests of the child" is a piece of jargon that the inexperienced think means "the best interests of the child."

 

Uggg!  I want to "like" this so badly!

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Family Court sucks.  Especially if there is any DV.  Especially if the father has significantly higher earnings.  Especially if he has NPD and goes after custody.  If he goes after sole custody, even with DV, there's a good chance he'll get some custody.  "A mega analysis of various surveys of custody evaluators found that approximately 40% say that they typically recommend sole legal and physical custody to mothers who are victims of domestic violence, while 47% typically recommend joint legal and physical custody to both parents" 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-adams/can-family-courts-protect_1_b_9195844.html

 

"According to one study, male evaluators (though not most), and particularly those with patriarchal beliefs, are more likely to believe that domestic violence is not important in child custody determinations, and to believe that mothers, more often than fathers, fabricate allegations of domestic violence. Biased evaluators (of both genders) are also more likely to judge abused mothers harshly. Evaluators appear to prefer their victims to be meek as opposed to angry or defiant. Rather than seeing that a mother’s anger is an understandable response to abuse, uninformed and/or biased evaluators sometimes see the mother as being vindictive and guilty of ‘alienating’ the children against the father."

 

 

I also recommend Lundy Bancroft's writings.  

 

Again, our legal system does not (and should not) revoke parental rights due to a criminal act.

 

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Again, our legal system does not (and should not) revoke parental rights due to a criminal act.

 

 

You say "parental rights." Would you mind clarifying? Over here parental rights, parental responsibility and custody are three different things.

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You say "parental rights." Would you mind clarifying? Over here parental rights, parental responsibility and custody are three different things.

Same here, but rights are linked to custody. A criminal offense is generally not enough to severe legal rights or joint custody in most states.

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 Lawyers and judges often have inadequate training in how to, on the one hand, cross-examine, and on the other, objectively evaluate, expert witnesses.

 

An expert should NEVER be allowed to diagnose a person they have not examined from the witness stand.

 

Explain what a diagnosis means or how it might explain behavior? Yes. But not actually diagnose.

 

Expert testimony of someone who has EXAMINED someone is different, as it is testimonial expert opinion and should have sufficient factual basis in actual observation.

 

A big part of the problem is that there is no clear rubric for how to weigh one expert vs. another. Fuzzy reasons like they "sound more professional" or are familiar from past trials can influence/bias a finder of fact to give more creedence to one expert over another, especially when there is not a good cross-examination to show what bollocks it was.

 

Experts also have their own biases. For example, the court appointed psychiatrist for my friend's children was appalled that her then 4 year old was still breastfeeding, and considered it borderline abusive. This 'expert' evidence was not grounded in fact or theory; it was a personal bias which colored the way he viewed and assessed his clients and their relationship with their mother. 'Smothering' was mentioned.

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Same here, but rights are linked to custody. A criminal offense is generally not enough to severe legal rights or joint custody in most states.

And yet often a parent with no criminal record who has joint legal custody can be effectively stripped of his role as father if the mother gets physical custody and then moves away. Fighting that is so expensive and overwhelming that my Dh could not manage it.

 

The system is wacked I tell ya. It worked for me. it worked against Dh.

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No, the judge can't do much at that point. There should be ways of holding the experts accountable, though. 

In the case of my friend the "expert" was reported to state boards that are supposed to see these people on other cases and nothing has been done. This person has been reported 17 times for unethical/ dishonest practices. Nothing has been done. The person continues to ruin lives. 

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Again, our legal system does not (and should not) revoke parental rights due to a criminal act.

 

I do believe that certain criminal acts should come with a loss of liberty and should not be free to ruin their children. 

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Anne, my sister's ex got custody last April. This man has spent time in jail for child abuse of the eldest child. There's just so much that makes no sense.

 

I liked this but...I really wanted somewhere to say that I HATED THIS.  

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I do believe that certain criminal acts should come with a loss of liberty and should not be free to ruin their children. 

 

Certain criminal acts can, but it is not automatic and shouldn't be.

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And yet often a parent with no criminal record who has joint legal custody can be effectively stripped of his role as father if the mother gets physical custody and then moves away. Fighting that is so expensive and overwhelming that my Dh could not manage it.

 

The system is wacked I tell ya. It worked for me. it worked against Dh.

 

And what fixes that issue if you are blaming the system? Barring parents with joint legal/physical custody from moving? Which would of course ignore the reality of today's job market and isn't even a little bit realistic.

 

The reality is that when parents split and decisions have to be made about where children will live, odds are someone will be really pissed off at the outcome.

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My friend has spent yesterday on the phone with various lawyers in her state and come up with two that have the best win records in this case. She is contacting both of their offices today. She only has 30 days from Monday to file an appeal. The good news is that the judge did TWO unconstitutional things in his decision, so it is constitution law and will be interesting to review, so she has a good chance of getting an appeal heard. The bad news is that the best case scenario is that this will take a year. A year. Wow. 

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And what fixes that issue if you are blaming the system? Barring parents with joint legal/physical custody from moving? Which would of course ignore the reality of today's job market and isn't even a little bit realistic.

 

The reality is that when parents split and decisions have to be made about where children will live, odds are someone will be really pissed off at the outcome.

I wasn't so much offering a solution as I was commenting on the fact that a man who is convicted of a crime even a horrible one does not lose his parental rights. But a good man who has the misfortune of being divorced by the mother of his children can effectively be stripped of his ability to father his children .

 

My husband was divorced nine years ago. Since that time there is a trend that seems to keep both parents from leaving the school district of their children. Also 50-50 split of time between both parents is much more common now

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I wasn't so much offering a solution as I was commenting on the fact that a man who is convicted of a crime even a horrible one does not lose his parental rights. But a good man who has the misfortune of being divorced by the mother of his children can effectively be stripped of his ability to father his children .

 

My husband was divorced nine years ago. Since that time there is a trend that seems to keep both parents from leaving the school district of their children. Also 50-50 split of time between both parents is much more common now

Parents still sometimes have to move and when they do those agreements change.

 

I guess I just fail to see where the system fails when a parent needs to move.

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Each situation is different of course. However I often feel that the moving parent does not actually "have to" move. Certainly in the case of my husbands ex-wife that was the case . She did not have to move.

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Each situation is different of course. However I often feel that the moving parent does not actually "have to" move. Certainly in the case of my husbands ex-wife that was the case . She did not have to move.

 

I don't think a custody agreement should anchor someone to a location by default.

 

But going back to main point, the system did work in your husband's case.  It just wasn't a favorable outcome.

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My largest issue is that we have a pay to play system here. Many people truly can't afford lawyers in family court. There is very limited low cost or pro bono legal assistance available in most jurisdictions. Expanding access to competent legal assistance to families in crisis is a crucial need, and the lack of it poses a problem with no easy answers.

 

I've seen the commissioner (here they aren't even actual judges in most cases) overrule the recocmendations of the court appointed and paid licensed social worker. For no really well defined reasons. And I've seen the kids suffer. The courts aren't trying to get it wrong and they don't always get it wrong but the chances of a bad outcome seem to increase when one or both parties can't afford a lawyer and when well documented domestic violence and addiction is overlooked or minimized.

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