Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Since July 2018, a shared parenting law, signed by Governor Matt Bevin in April, is being enacted in the state of Kentucky. The law has been

Trails and Landscapes in Kentucky (GoodFreePhotos)

vetted by the Kentucky chairman of the National Organization of Parents, Matt Hale, and has received the support of lawmakers across the aisle.

The Kentucky Fathers’ Rights Movement has all the reasons to celebrate the signing into law of House bill 528, which disposes of the two-tier status of parents, custodial and non custodial, common in so many US states. Fathers will not be doomed anymore to be non-custodial parents. Firstly, if you have been a primary caregiver and financial supporter of a child under three years of age – and one year of a child over three years of age-  you are a “de facto custodian.” Secondly, section 2 states that joint custody and shared parenting are in the best interest of the child. I can’t wait for such a statement to be the preamble of New York State family laws.

Perhaps the popularity of the shared parenting law in Kentucky owes to the ability of its promoters, like Senator Robin Webb, to present it as “an evolutionary process that can be tweaked in the future if needed.” Senator Webb is correct: The success of a law undoubtedly hinges on how it is enforced and accepted, that is, how well judges and practitioners adapt to it; these very judges and practitioners have been in the habit of enforcing laws that leaved children fatherless in the name of the best interest of the child.

The Kentucky shared parenting law is to be followed carefully.

It may seem quite parochial and unsensitive to talk about family laws and one’s problems with them when there are much more dramatic human problems making the news, such as children put in toddlers facilities when their parents are awaiting deportation somewhere else in the US. On this topic, Sonia Nazario wrote in the New York Times an excellent piece entitled “The End of Asylum” where she describes the unraveling of the US asylum system in the hands of the Trump administrationhttp://iht.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/iphone/homepage.aspx#_articlea4e1405a-0545-4abc-ab3a-95e931ee0680

Trump could care less about human rights and the example he sets in the world has given legitimacy to the policies conducted by the despots of this world, the Putins, Netanyahus, DuTertres.. All over the world, the questioning of basic democratic values and principles is so pervasive that Zeid Al-Hussein, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called upon the UN to forcefully condemn human right violations ://www.timesofisrael.com/un-rights-chief-leaves-post-with-no-regrets-rejects-anti-israel-bias-claim/.

All right. Let us not have the noise the man produces on a daily basis cover issues that are important to us nevertheless.

One issue that mattered to me these last couple of months was to stop paying child support by July 1 2018 after my youngest daugher had turned 21. I did not trust one bit New York State Child Support Collection to stop garnishing my wage after this date. I was wrong. To my surprise, the garnishment of my wage ended on July 1st.

Had I known that, I could have saved myself the fee I paid a lawyer to represent me in family court..and one more year of child support payments until the end of June 2019. On May of this year, I filed a court order to terminate child support. On June 19, in Manhattan family court, my lawyer informed me that there was a major bug in my divorce agreement: unless the girls were emancipated, child support obligations were said to run until the girls were 22! I was so eager to get over my divorce that I signed this, and many other dumb clauses.

According to my lawyer, this is a standard business- of -usual clause that attorneys typically add to divorce agreements in New York State. One has to love lawyers. In New York State, which demands that non-custodial parents (fathers) pay child support until children are twenty-one, lawyers add to the aggravation by requiring one more year of child support from them. Reason: children are in college until they are twenty-two and cannot earn an income, therefore they need financial support. It does not cross these brillant legal minds that paying for a child education and all that comes with it is to be agreed between a parent and a child, and not to be conceived as an obligation to parents no matter what.

In any case, while in court, my lawyer had to inform ex, which had forgotten all about it, of the child-support-until- 22 clause. I tried to plead with her that since the girls did not want to see me, they would not mind either freeing me of child support bondage altogether, or adjust it to 17 percent of my gross income (support for one child) instead of 25 percent. Ex’ reply: Nope. I am paying alone for the girls’ college tuition, you are responsible for child support until our youngest one is 22. Just a minor detail: ex adamantly refused to even tell me the girls’ plans for college, arguing that she would encroach on their privacy, for she knew that involving me meant I would discuss these plans with them. And for ex, the idea of any contact between me and the girls is intolerable.

The morale of all this: carefully check out your divorce agreement to limit bullying.

I never understood why New York State has this usurped reputation of being a “liberal” state. It has one of the most biased family laws in the country, which mandate fathers to pay child support until their children are 21. I am just realizing it is a real ordeal to put an end to it.

My youngest daughter will turn 21 in June. My oldest daughter is 23 and half. I have not seen them since September 10, 2005, yet I have been paying child support so far since I separated from my ex-wife. New York State could care less about that, but one would assume notwithstanding that if the non-custodial parent has kept up with child support payments until kids are 21, he/she should be automatically be declared “child support free” with a simple check on the children’s dates of birth. It should not be rocket science for Support Collection Unit (the folks located in Albany that garnished your wage with the monthly child support you owe, employed or not, dead or alive) which has all the data it needs to do so: social security numbers of your kids, yours, court orders, employers, etc.  A basic data management issue. But that would be too simple.

We are all been fed with the platitude that technology will make us free.  It is wishful thinking in a coercive and reactionary state like New York State.

A few weeks ago, I went to Manhattan Family Court to file a petition to end child support. I had not been there for eight years.

The visitor can almost be duped by a seeming glow of progress, as  you are now invited to file your petition on a computer provided by the court. When you are in my “lucky shoes” of filing a petition to terminate child support, it should be that if the system had your data, knew how to use it for the purpose it has to be used, you would not even have to file this petition. The system would simply tell you that you are done paying child support. No arrears. Thank you. You are done.

Instead, at the end of the day I learnt that the first hearing appearance in court is scheduled for June 19. More court time. In  Manhattan Family Court, progress is like in the NYC MTA train system. Trains are as scarce and late as ever, but you now have boards on the platform to monitor your time waiting.

 

 

Protesting

We live in difficult and uncertain times. It is good to find out that the youth will not remain idle…

Hat Tip: Laura Martinez

Somewhere in West Harlem (Photo Laura Martinez)

Non-custodial fathers like me pay attention to these kind of things: A father paying exclusive attention to his daughter in a restaurant; besides her dad, the little girl has all the teddy bears that matter for her.

I don’t know anything about these two but my guess is that this moment is intense. It looks it goes well. It better does, because such moments could be scarce if not. Fatherhood does not have many second chances in New York State.

Good luck to you folks!

 

Lady Justice in Johannesburg (Photo Rowan Pybus, Faith47’s website)

More than ten years ago, as a father immersed in a fight with ex and the Manhattan Family Court to regain my meager weekends with my girls, I excoriated the languid pace of US family justice and its biases against fathers. I have never gotten my weekends back, and I still have child support garnished by New York State Child Support Collection Unit which does not care one way or the other if I see my children, and gee, was I right: Family justice is slow, painfully so. Yet if there is very little progress going on in the US, things are happening elsewhere.

Consider this: By the end of 2017,  UK Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory Service) is touting a “groundbreaking initiative” to tackle parental alienation, arguing that “parental alienation is a feature of many of our cases” (no kidding!). In the Spring of 2018, “guidelines will be issued to help social workers to deal with suspected cases of parental alienation.” An alienating parent could loose custody if convicted of demonizing the other parent with one’s children.

My children have been the victims of parental alienation, which the Manhattan Family Court judge dealing with my case acknowledged, but whose ruling aggravated its effect instead of correcting it. Hence I cannot but salute the Cafsass “initiative,” hoping that one day sleepy New York State justice system might want to emulate it. I want here to point at idiosyncratic US factors that may render this initiative ineffective if it were put in place..

Take the US idiosyncratic dysfunctions between the public players (judges, lawyers etc..) and private ones (supervisory businesses that deal with the visits of sole custodial parents and their children).  In my case, It only took a couple of supervised visits for the social worker to figure out that mom was demonizing me and sabotaging my supervised visitations. The social worker wrote a letter to the judge, which went nowhere, for the next trial date was month apart, and the law guardian in charge of my case was as awake as Ben Carlson in the 2016 Republican debates. My point: Guidelines are not going to help much if roles in the chain of decisions are not clear, and again, if nothing is done to remedy the excruciating slow pace of rendering justice (in the US).

23 !!!  I think of you.  And I am introducing myself to you at this age.

Let's Get Honest! Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?' (See March 23 & 5, 2014). More Than 745 posts and 45 pages of Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.