'... Lawyer Bruce Christensen confirmed that the author has never met the boy, but denied that the youngster has expressed an interest in seeing his dad or is suffering from his absence.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about this,” Christensen said. “When a child never had a father, how would he know what to miss?
“This is no different from the hundreds of thousands of other children who have to live without a parent.”'
GOVERNOR PROPOSED SUBSTITUTE INSTEAD OF APPROVING:
APPROVED BY GOVERNOR:
Divorce/separation not affordable for Bay-area lawyers, other professionals, so here's what they do:
Bay area couples who separate or divorce are increasingly sharing a home for economic reasons, Amy Graff writes in SFGATE. The example she leads with includes a lawyer in private practice. For actual separation to be affordable, at least one parent would have to move so far away that caring for, and transporting, the children would be unworkable. And this arrangement is actually optimal for the children, when the parents can remain civil with each other, she says after looking at several couples who are doing this.
SF Gate, May 8, 2018
"There shall be a presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child. If a deviation from equal parenting time is warranted, the court shall construct a parenting time schedule which maximizes the time each parent or de facto custodian has with the child and is consistent with ensuring the child's welfare." ...
"When determining or modifying a custody order pursuant to Section 1, 2, or 4 of this Act, the court shall consider the safety and well-being of the parties and of the children. If domestic violence and abuse as defined in KRS 403.720 is alleged, and the court finds that it has been committed by one (1) of the parties against another party or a child of the parties within three (3) years immediately preceding the custody hearing in question, the court shall not presume that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child."
2018 Va. family law legislation: Alimony, court reporter reform, abuse prevention, child support, inheritance, violence, legalized adultery?
UPDATED APRIL 10, 2018
MODIFICATION BY THE GOVERNOR
- HB 1351 Joint legal or physical child custody; custody and visitation decisions, communication to parties. Governor added: In any case or proceeding involving the custody or visitation of a child, to enable the child to apply for a state or federal benefit and upon the request of any party, the court shall make any finding of fact required by state or federal law in order for the child to receive such benefit. The existing language, which the Governor did not change, is: "The court shall consider and may award joint legal, joint physical, or sole custody, and there shall be no presumption in favor of any form of custody." The bill's original text, completely replaced as it went through both houses, was, "The consideration of "joint physical custody" means the court shall consider custody and visitation arrangements that are reasonably constructed to maximize a child's time with each parent to the greatest extent possible in the child's best interests." At least the statute still says, "The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children."
ENACTED, SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
- HB 613 Child and spousal support; access to case files.
- SB 101 Erin's Law, having schools educate children to recognize, resist and report molestation
- SB 78 Trust decanting; authorized fiduciary must be disinterested, may be appointed by court, majority of trustees may act
- HB 743 Judges; maximum number in each judicial district and circuit
- HJ 132 Judges; election in circuit court, general district court, etc. [Governor has no role in this]
- HB 754 Elective share claim; calculation of the augmented estate, role of "separate property"
- HB 1142 Qualification of fiduciary without security; asset or amount with no monetary value, tightens bonding requirement that previously allowed $25,000 minimum. [Senate passed, but with amendments -- went into Conference Committee, both houses approved Conference Committee revision]
- SB 540 Spousal support; modification when person reaches retirement age.
- HB 262 Protective orders; cases of family abuse, cellular telephone numbers or other electronic device.
- HB 746 Wills and revocable trusts; eliminating certain inconsistencies so that living trusts, like wills, can be reformed by a court to achieve their intended goals in changed circumstances.
- HB 1360 Child support; guidelines for determination of obligation, child support orders.
- HB 1361 Child support; calculation of obligation, multiple custody arrangements.
- SB 545 Court reporters; prohibited actions, civil penalties: Regulates court reporters' dealings with lawyers and litigants [CONFERENCE COMMITTEE resolved differences between versions, both houses approved conference committee substitute]
- SB 614 Spousal support; modification. -- Makes it easier to change alimony. Any new agreements setting a nonmodifiable alimony amount must say, "The amount or duration of spousal support contained in this [AGREEMENT] is not modifiable except as specifically set forth in this [AGREEMENT]."
- SB 615 Spousal support payments; employer withholding allowed.
- SB 426 Victims of domestic violence; list of local resources. [House committee approved with an amendment removing lines 578, 579, and 580; Senate approved House amendment]
KILLED (incl. passed by, stricken, tabled, continued to next year ...)
- HB 599 Child support; nonpayment, amount of arrearage paid, suspension of driver's license.
- HB 1223 Erin's Law, having schools educate children to recognize, resist and report molestation
- HB 661 Assault and battery against a family or household member; enhanced, penalty. [Passed house, passed senate with substitute, each house insisted on its own version, time ran out for Conference Committee]
- HB 411 Assisted conception; gender-neutral as to same-sex.
- HB 998 Parental or legal custodial powers, temporary delegation of; child-placing agency. [Passed House, continued to 2019 in Senate committee]
- HB 807 Custody and visitation agreements; best interests of the child, violent abuse of other family members
- HB 412 Marriage-related criminal laws; gender-neutral terms, adultery repeal, penalty.
- HB 413 Adoption; gender-neutral as to same-sex.
- HB 414 Same-sex marriage; marriage laws, gender-neutral terms.
- HB 478 Domestic violence-related misdemeanors; enhanced, penalty.
- HB 1237 Assault and battery against a family or household member; first offense, enhanced penalty.
- HB 149 Child support order payee; change in physical custody of child, orders involving DSS.
- HB 1331 Child support; review of guidelines federal compliance.
- SB 64 Custody and visitation decisions; communication to parties required in writing.
- SB 70 Custody and visitation; rights of parents with a disability.
- SB 178 Parental or legal custodial powers, temporary delegation of; child-placing agency.
- SB 596 Victims of domestic violence, etc.; firearms safety or training course.
- SB 603 Same-sex marriage; gender-neutral terms.
- SB 612 Assisted conception; parentage presumption.
- SB 727 FOIA; exemptions for courts of record, courts not of records and Office of the Executive Secretary
- SB 938 Child support; withholding of income, contracts with an independent contractor.
- HB 216 Guardians, licensed physician, etc.; annual reports to include medical examination.
- HB 383 Missing-heir search firms; void contracts.
- HB 406 Guardianship; protects communication between incapacitated persons & others, notification of relatives.
- HB 406 Guardianship; communication between incapacitated persons & others, notification of relatives.
- HB 1403 Electronic wills; requirements.
- HB 1565 Presumption of death; missing person reports.
Compiled by John Crouch, updated by John Crouch and Sarah Araman
Father lost visitation for trying to stop psychotic torture of child in #Munchausen by proxy case. Which part of that story is the most shocking?
You may have read about Christopher, a Dallas-area 8-year-old who has been, without exaggeration, sadistically tortured his whole life, completely robbed of a normal life, in an extreme case of "Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy." A dashing and lighthearted name for a horrible, sadistic form of lifelong child abuse; they really should give it a name as serious and awful as it is. It has many vague and forgettable official names, none of which are remotely as ghastly as they ought to be.
Christopher’s mother treated him as if he was deathly ill from his birth until she was arrested last week: feeding tubes, oxygen tubes, heart tubes, hospice, do-not-resuscitate orders, wheelchairs, 13 surgeries, hundreds of hospital visits. She tried to subject him to a lung transplant. But actually, he was always completely healthy, except for life-threatening blood infections from the tubes.
But what's really more shocking: that there are a few psychotic child-torturers out there, or that the family courts and the medical system protect and enable them, even when the children's fathers discover the truth and try to rescue them?
When Christoper was three, his father went to family court to make her stop, and instead, he lost all visitation. He says the judge refused to look at evidence and condemned him for his refusal to accept that Christopher was dying. Here's what the local paper says now about his court battles:
For years, Crawford said he tried to convince Dallas County family court judges that his son was not sick but they believed Bowen, who would eventually claim that their son was dying, initially from a rare genetic disorder and later from cancer.
Crawford said a Dallas County judge even blocked him in late 2012 from visiting his son, who was then 3.
“It was always the same story: Christopher is dying. The father doesn’t need to be around because he doesn’t know to take care of him,” a tearful Bowen would tell the judges, according to Crawford. “... Every time I went to court, they made me feel like I was the worst human ever.”
The 34-year-old woman is in Dallas County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bond. Her court-appointed attorney did not return a message seeking comment Friday but Bowen denied the allegations last month to CPS investigators.
Crawford said he is grateful that Bowen stands accused of wrongdoing, but remains frustrated that it took so long.
“It’s horrible for my son, or any kid because obviously my son is not the only one that has had to go through this type of torture,” Crawford said. “The system has to be exposed — all the weaknesses that are in the system — because the kids don’t deserve that.”
The allegations against Bowen fit the model for what is known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a person exaggerates or creates medical symptoms to gain attention.
Convincing family court judges that a mother may be medically abusing her child is often a challenge, experts say.
Even in 2017, such medical child abuse is still relatively unknown when compared to other types of maltreatment and “so many court judges are inexperienced in this realm,” said Dr. Marc Feldman, an Alabama psychiatrist who is a national expert and author on Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
“I encounter tone-deaf family court judges a lot,” Feldman said. “They, like most members of the public, can’t let themselves believe that an apparently-loving mother could engage in medical child abuse.
“They are used to seeing gross evidence of physical or sexual abuse — bleeding, bruising, broken bones — and don’t seem to respond to the more subtle indications of medical child abuse.”
Feldman said such judges also tend to treat doctors as “gods who are incapable of error, not realizing that these abusive mothers doctor-shop until they find someone who will acquiesce to their demands.”
Crawford said he recognizes he made mistakes during his fight in the family courts.
Several times, he represented himself — something he now regrets. He said while Bowen seemed to draw on the judge’s sympathy with her claims and tears, he only angered them with his insistence that Bowen was lying.
“I’m not a criminal. I’ve never been before a judge for anything. Of course, I’d seen “Judge Judy” but I thought Judge Judy was fake,” Crawford said. “To see real life Judge Judys, that was something new to me. I’m like, they’re allowed to talk to me like this?”
Though he had court-ordered visitation initially, Crawford said Bowen would frequently cancel at the last minute, claiming Christopher was too sick. She’d tell judges that Crawford didn’t know how to properly care for their seriously ill son, further delaying his visits until he could take court-ordered classes in things like CPR and G-tube care.
Until recently, Crawford’s last visit with his son had been Dec. 7, 2012, when he took the boy’s great-grandmother to Kaylene’s Dallas apartment to see Christopher.
“We went to court two weeks later and Kaylene told the judge that Christopher went into cardiac arrest due to my visit,” Crawford said.
He says at a subsequent hearing, [the judge] said she was taking away Crawford’s visitations with his son since he refused to believe the boy was dying.
“She asked Kaylene, ‘Would you mind if his father sees him one more time before he passes away?’ but Kaylene said no,” Crawford said. ...
In January 2014, he hired a new attorney and filed for custody of Christopher.
When they went before [the judge], Bowen cried and claimed Christopher, then 4, was in a coma.
“ [The judge] immediately stated she’d heard this case and she can’t believe we would drag Kaylene back to court when the child is dying,” Crawford recalled. “She wouldn’t hear the new evidence that included doctor reports that Christopher was not ill.”
... More than three years later and even after Bowen’s arrest, Crawford is still fighting — this time trying to get Christopher out of foster care and home with him.
He said CPS has expressed reservations about moving the boy out of foster care because Christopher doesn’t know his father very well. Never mind, Crawford points out, that Christopher doesn’t know his foster family well either.
“That’s taxpayer money. Why spend all that extra money when he has a father that has been there from day one, that’s been fighting for this?” Crawford said.
The author of "What’s the best Christmas contact arrangement for children?"is a wise man, that's for sure. His slogan is, “Mediation is the fence at the top of the cliff, not the ambulance at the bottom.” I share his recommendation for mediation, or using your parenting coordinator if you have one, or even picking one or more neutral-ish friends to consult together to help resolve such issues. I used to know a judge who got in trouble for flipping a coin to decide the issue the parents put before her -- who got which half of Christmas vacation which year -- but I think what she did was precisely appropriate to the nature of the dispute, and made the point that the question should never have been in court at all. Here's how to do better:
OK, not the whole truth, but the wholest truth I've ever seen in one place in a child custody case, is in the guardian ad litem report (via Michigan international family lawyer Jeanne Hannah; may no longer be online) These GAL reports are generally not made public, but any damage from that is minor compared to what all members of this family have inflicted on themselves for the past five years.
[UPDATE: The court later did exactly what the GAL report, and this blog post, suggested! Here's the latest: "Dad in bitter divorce wants mom blocked from contact", Detroit News, 9/9/15]
The GAL report DOES NOT recommend jailing the children. It recommends a far simpler and more direct solution: immediately giving the father visitation with each of them separately, one on one. Supervised, but reluctantly and only to protect the father from accusations. The court in this case has imposed endless￼ shows of governmental force and therapy on these children, who were not impressed by any of it. But in my experience, what really works is placing them directly with the other parent, and in many cases, changing custody permanently. Many children in divorces will go to extremes to do what they think pleases and aligns with the parent who appears to have the power and control. And when that control changes, they can turn on a dime.
Almost every experienced family lawyer has had several cases like this. Something to remember when we are told that the government and society should not care whether a marriage can be saved.
(There has been a lot of very informed discussion on family lawyers' discussion forums, including very prominent leaders in the profession, and they almost all sympathize with the father although they don't support jailing the kids. I "red shirted" this posting while I got permission to quote some of the best comments from the lawyers' listserv. But that effort has languished what with new family law news coming along, and a whole lot of work on an upcoming custody trial, an appeal brief, a book revision and preparing materials for a continuing-ed seminar. I hope to post them in the future the next time this is in the news.)
Meanwhile, Maryland family lawyer and family law professor Dawn Elaine Bowie, an early local advocate of Collaborative Divorce, makes a similar point, but not exactly the same, in wonderfully brief and to-the point fashion:
By Dawn Elaine Bowie, Owner and Managing Partner, Maryland Family Law Firm, L.L.C. -- Sep 6, 2015
Study: 50-50 custody far less stressful for kids than sole custody. Here's why, and how to make it work.
"This Divorce Arrangement Stresses Kids Out Most", by Mandy Oaklander in TIME Magazine, summarizes a new study: Based on national data on almost 150,000 12- and 15-year-olds' psychosomatic health problems, including sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches and feeling tense, sad or dizzy; "Kids in nuclear families reported the fewest psychosomatic problems, but the more interesting finding was that students who lived with both of their separated parents reported significantly fewer problems than kids who lived with only one parent."
Study author Malin Bergström, PhD, said: “We think that having everyday contact with both parents seems to be more important, in terms of stress, than living in two different homes.” “It may be difficult to keep up on engaged parenting if you only see your child every second weekend.” Having two parents also tends to double the number of resources a kid is exposed to, including social circles, family and material goods like money. “Only having access to half of that may make children more vulnerable or stressed than having it from both parents, even though they don’t live together.”
Based on my 20 years of work in divorce and child custody, another major reason also seems obvious to me. All the inconveniences of "shuttling" between two homes, as real and bothersome as they are for many kids, are trivial compared to the disadvantages, pain and insecurity that comes from losing one parent from a fully parental role in the child's life. And when one parent take a lesser role, "he that hath little shall lose what little he hath," as the separated parents' competing employment needs, relocations and new relationships increasingly conflict with, and take priority over, co-parenting.
That is why I support 50-50 joint custody when it's possible. I don't think it's necessarily the best, most enjoyable, day-to-day arrangement for most children: in our current social arrangements, in the U.S., most mothers "naturally" do more of the parenting and are more attuned to the children's needs. But in my own experience and in the statistics, so many divorces lead to a parent completely disappearing from the child's life, and many more see one parent marginalized, vilified, infantilized, and/or disempowered. And children perceive that loss of a parent who can actually act as a parent, and of course it causes major stress for them. I think the 50-50 form is probably the most stable because, in it, neither parent assumes they have the unilateral power to make the changes which in turn make it practically necessary to reduce the other parent's role -- such as moving to a different school district or a faraway state.
But I am repelled by anyone who gushes that 50-50 joint custody, or any other custody arrangement, is just wonderful for kids. Any custody arrangement is a poor substitute for an intact family.
The study is Fifty moves a year: is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children? (28 Apr 2015) by Malin Bergström, Emma Fransson, Bitte Modin, Marie Berlin, Per A Gustafsson, and Anders Hjern. J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2014-205058
But it still takes work. "9 Rules to Make Joint Child Custody Work" by Kate Bayless on parents.com gives really good, tough-minded advice that would have prevented a lot of my clients' problems. Most of it is about how to act when working out a custody agreement, not how to implement it. Excerpts of each of the 9 Rules:
- "Badmouthing the ex will be internalized by the child because they are made up of both you and your ex."
- The divorce was about you, but custody is about the kids ... not about getting exactly what you want, or even demanding equity at any cost. ... "what is best for the child is not always what feels good for you as a parent."
- Be realistic about your own schedule and commitments.
- Choose a custody arrangement that accommodates your children's ages, activities, and needs.
- A bad spouse doesn't equal a bad parent. Almost always, "it is unquestionably best for children to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents."
- Find a method of communication that works for you and your ex.
- Pick your battles. "School choices, vacations, and parenting time are worth the fight. Things like food choices ... are not worth the fight." Save your energy and good will with your ex and the courts for those things that do matter.
- Let your children feel heard. But also make the best decision for their well being.
- From time to time, review the arrangement and adjust as needed.