Friday, February 11, 2011

Bill aims to force more children into joint custody with abusers (Minnesota)

Supporters for mandatory joint custody continue to cite the same old discredited studies about "active involvement" by both parents as necessarily benefiting the children. Actually the studies don't show this "definitively" at all. And children DEFINITELY don't benefit by being forced into a lock-step joint custody plan that's against their interests (e.g. with a parent who is violent, addicted, or mentally ill).

Notice that for all the belly hollering about "discrimination" against the menz, there is no evidence of any such thing. In fact, notice that Minnesota dad JOHN OLSON in fact GOT joint custody--DESPITE a history of death threats against the mother and their daughter. Two years later, he murdered the little girl.

In reality, countries like Australia that have already experimented with mandatory joint custody have seen the results: which indeed include an increase in the number of murdered children. Why do we have to try out the same tired, discredited policies?

In addition, check out the following cases just from Minnesota. If you're seeing a pattern, it's not a pattern of custody discrimination against fathers. It's a pattern of blatant disinterest in the welfare of children and their mothers.

Dad accused of killing ex-wife while kids watched wants visitation in jail (Burnsville, Minnesota)
The fathers rights people have been telling us for years that Daddy's criminal record is irrelevant to his "rights" as a father. And this is where that ideology gets you. A father like JOEL MARVIN MUNT. A daddy who is "accused" of murdering his ex-wife in front of his children actually having the freaking nerve to ask for visitation while he's in jail. Disgusting. And I fail to see why the parents of this scumbag should have any custodial rights as grandparents either.

Drunk dad leaves 4-year-old son in minivan while he goes to the movies--apparently during visitation (St. Paul, Minnesota)
Whatta prince dad DOMINICK DAMOND MILLER is. Since he's not married to his son's mother, or even "in a relationship" with her, it seems this little escapade took time during some sort of visitation time. Guess Daddy had consumed a few adult beverages and felt like going to a movie--without his 4-year-old son. So he left the boy in his minivan, which he left parked in the fire lane in front of the theater. When police caught up with Daddy later, he was apparently trying to steal a minivan out in the parking lot (were we confused?). Seems Daddy had also peed in his pants and still smelled of booze. Note that he lied to the cops about how he had the kid, claiming his (non-existent) "wife" dropped him and the boy off at the movies.

In reality, Mom didn't even know Dad was going to the movies.

This is one of those few occasions where you see the father actually held accountable for his behavior, with the child protected from further neglect. So kudos to the authorities for actually doing the right thing.

"Drunk enough" dad charged with child endangerment--apparently during visitation (St. Paul, Minnesota)
The fact is kind of buried, but notice that all this apparently took place during Daddy LENZIE L. GEORGE's visitation with his 7-year-old daughter and HER 2-MONTH-OLD SISTER. Who in the hell thought that it was a good idea to let this boozer have visitation with a baby that young? Or the older girl for that matter? Thank goodness the little girl kept her head and carried the baby home safely. But she shouldn't have had that responsibility thrust upon her, just so this boozer could have his father's rights. What was the domestic abuse no contact order about anyway? No word about that either.

Violent father murders mother during court-ordered visitation (Mankato, Minnesota)
Dad JOEL MUNT is a special kind of abuser--the kind who seeks out a foreign bride because he knows that women who don't speak fluent English and are foreign to U.S. culture are easier to abuse with impunity. But his wife resisted his abuse, and eventually filed for a domestic violence order of protection. Not to worry for Daddy though, because he sounds like a master of manipulation (the kind who seek out foreign brides often are). He countered by filing an order of protection against HER--just to muddy the waters, you know. Plus, he was successful in finding idiotic social workers and therapists who happily smeared her with vague "anti-social personality" accusations--the kinds of accusations that are easily explained by Russian cultural differences, poverty, stress, and trauma. For a while he even got temporary custody. But finally the various "experts" figured out a little of what was going on--at least enough to determine that the mom wasn't the "monster" that Dad made her out to be. In fact, serious questions were now being raised about Daddy's "lack of empathy" around the children, and the children's "anxiety" about being around Dad. Nevertheless, Dad still got joint legal custody and weekend visitation--until he refused to return the children to their mother after a visit. Then Mom was awarded sole custody and Dad got 2 hours of visitation a week.But ANY visitation with an abuser is too much. What Dad managed to do was turn the visitation into an opportunity to gun down and murder his ex-wife--while their young children--ages 7, 5, and 4--were in their mother's car. Daddy apparently forced the mother's car off the road, smashing his own SUV in the process. Daddy then hijacked a second SUV at gunpoint and took the kids with him. When he was arrested the children were with him in the vehicle. At least in this case, it was clear to even the casual neighbor that Daddy had a few loose nuts. Sounds like the neighbor did a better job of sizing up Daddy than the parade of clueless therapists, social workers, and other assorted court morons associated with this case.

Dad flips out over 4-year-old's blue shirt (St. Paul, Minnesota)
Dad KENNY T. JACKSON was allegedly high on drugs when he flipped out because his 4-year-old son was wearing a blue shirt--the color of a rival gang. So he ripped the shirt off, hit the boy, abused two other children present, and started "destroying the house" where the stepfather lived. Gee, hard to tell why the mom left Jackson and married someone else, isn't it?

And this isn't even BEGINNING to go into all the Minnesota women and children abused or killed BEFORE a custody/visitation agreement was in place.

Bills aim to reset child custody rules
by Paul Demko
Published: February 9,2011
Time posted: 3:33 pm

"I'm a firm believer, and the studies show, that kids need the active involvement of both parents in their lives. That's not happening in the state of Minnesota." - Rep. Peggy Scott Rights, responsibilities of divorcing parents are being vigorously debated by legislators this session

Rep. Torrey Westrom began Tuesday’s meeting of the House Civil Law Committee with an unusual admonition. He asked audience members to refrain from booing, clapping or sighing during testimony. Westrom also noted that security officers would be stopping by to monitor the hearing room in the State Office Building.

“We know this is a very concerning issue to many people,” said Westrom, R-Elbow Lake. “Emotions can run high … We want to keep order in this room tonight. We want everybody to be respected and to be heard.”

The topic eliciting so much emotion was a bill establishing joint physical custody as the presumptive outcome in child custody disputes. While that might sound like a legalistic discussion, battles over custody of children - whether in a courtroom or at the Legislature - are notoriously acrimonious. Advocates wearing stickers that read “JPC Now!!!” filled the hearing room. Supporters of the legislation filled their allotted 90-minute testimony period.

Kathy Kleve told legislators that her husband has been battling the family court system for more than a decade to have equal access to his twin sons from a previous marriage. Currently, she said, he has not seen his children in 16 months. “My husband has run out of options,” Kleve, a Maplewood resident, told the committee. “If the courts won’t do their job, who will? He lives with the fear every day that he will never see his boys again.”

Todd Harris, a Maple Grove resident, testified that his relationship with his 18-year-old son suffers because he has been denied equal parenting rights. “I am angry, disgusted, embarrassed, humiliated and bitter at how our court system is run,” he said. “In the courts, fathers are guilty until proven innocent.”

Debates over child custody rules are nothing new at the Legislature. Much of the discussion is rooted in a belief among some advocates that men repeatedly receive unfair treatment in custody cases. In 2006, legislation was passed changing the presumptive custody portion to a minimum of 25 percent. Last year Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, introduced legislation that would have set joint physical custody as the presumptive standard, with each parent permitted at least 40 percent guardianship. But the bill never made it out of committee.

The latest version of joint physical custody legislation, introduced by Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, would require that parents share time with their children equally, with each receiving guardianship rights at least 45 percent of the time. This presumption could only be ignored by the courts if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that a child would be in imminent harm if placed in a parent’s care.

“I’m a firm believer, and the studies show, that kids need the active involvement of both parents in their lives,” Scott said. “That’s not happening in the state of Minnesota.”

Mahoney is one of 12 co-authors on the bill. He believes that changes are needed to make custody disputes less acrimonious. The combatants in these fights “could be the nicest people in the world on a regular basis, but at the time of a divorce they get irrational,” Mahoney said. “We shouldn’t be fighting that battle with kids. Kids should have time with their father and time with their mother.”

Most observers believe that legislation to change child custody rules is likely to get a more sympathetic vetting with Republicans in control of the House and Senate. Scott’s bill is not the only proposal in this area that has been introduced. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has authored a similar bill that would establish joint custody as the de facto standard. It has yet to get a hearing.

In addition, Rep. Diane Anderson, R-Eagan, has introduced legislation mandating that parties in custody cases agree to a “parenting plan”laying out the terms under which each parent would have access to his or her offspring. If the parties cannot come to an agreement on a plan, then a judge would intervene and draft such a document. The bill passed out of the Civil Law Committee earlier this week.

But advocates for victims of domestic violence are strongly opposed to Scott’s proposal. “We absolutely reject the bill in its entirety,” said Liz Richards, director of programming at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. “There’s layer upon layer of problems with the bill.”

Specifically, she believes that the legislation will endanger children by placing them in homes where parents have a history of physical violence, mental illness or substance abuse problems. Richards points to one passage of the bill as particularly troubling: “In no instance may the court limit parent and child contact absent compelling necessity to prevent substantial and imminent harm to the child,” it reads.

“That’s a pretty wild standard,” Richards said. “I’m going to have to produce evidence that right now my child is [facing] imminent harm.”

Advocates for victims of domestic violence point to the murder of Mikayla Olson in 2004 in St. Paul as evidence that the court system already lacks adequate safeguards against violent parents. Mikayla’s father, John Olson, was given joint legal custody of his daughter despite repeated threats to kill her and his wife. Two years after their divorce was finalized, he murdered Mikayla during his parenting time. Richards said: “I don’t think that we lightly sound the horn… that people may end up dead because of this, but it is a real concern.”

Richards is also opposed to the parenting plan legislation, but for a very different reason. She argues that such documents are complicated (often running 40 pages or more) and points out that roughly 70 percent of individuals going through a divorce in Hennepin County do not hire lawyers.

Richards also says the courts cannot afford it. “We’re going to be taking our limited court resources and have somebody in the court system doing these parenting plans?” she asks. “This is not a useful way to use limited court resources.”

Tuesday’s hearing on Scott’s legislation was merely informational. Westrom indicated that he expects to take a vote on the bill on Monday. (So far, there is no companion measure in the Senate.)

But Scott is optimistic that the bill will advance. She says she hears constantly about the issue from her colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“I haven’t talked to a single one of them that hasn’t had a story from at least one constituent,” she said. “There’s much more of a climate for it now.”