One Mom’s Emotions Almost Canceled Out Father’s Rights

In England, a family judge found that a mother would be unable to cope with the father seeing their two daughters, ages nine and six after she broke down in court and said the thought of it made her feel exhausted.  A psychologist supported her view but the court appointed child advocate disagreed.  The judge banned the father from having any direct contact with his children, except for cards, letters and gifts once a month.

The father’s lawyers appealed the judge’s decision, saying it had been based on a momentary display of emotion from the mother in the witness box.

Father’s Rights and the Best Interest of the Child

The Court overturned the family judge’s order, acknowledging that it was “a very big ask” for the mother to accept that her children’s best interests lay in having two parents, not just one.  “Where, however, it is plainly in the best interests of a child to spend time with the other parent then, tough or not, part of the responsibility of the parent with care must be the duty and responsibility to deliver what the child needs, hard though that may be.”

The court urged all separated parents to see the bigger picture and consider the harm that legal disputes cause children.  It said mothers and fathers had a responsibility and a duty to help children maintain contact with the other parent. Mothers rights and fathers rights are equally important.

Source: Article by Tim Ross, Political Correspondent, The Telegraph

Two Mothers and Father’s Rights

In 2011, a young girl in California had two mothers. One went to prison. The other was hospitalized.  The girl’s father tried to assert his father’s rights to gain custody of the child. The state appellate court ruled that he could not be the legal guardian of the girl because California law allows a child to have only two parents. Custody was given to the state.

Sen. Mark Leno, (D) San Francisco, has introduced a bill to amend the law in California so that a child can have more than two parents if it is in the best interests of the child.  Leno said, “There are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today.”

Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia all permit a child to have more than two parents.

Under the proposal, families with three or more parents would share custody, financial responsibility and visitation for the child, based on a judge’s determination of each parent’s resources and time with the child.

Benjamin Lopez, legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition, said Leno’s bill is just  a new attempt to “revamp, redefine and muddy the waters” of family structure in the drive to legalize gay marriage.

Do you fight with your spouse in front of your children?  I never saw my parents fight.  They told me later when I was an adult that they did have fights, but they had agreed never to have them in front of me and my brother.

I know they did this for our own good, but sometimes I think it might have been helpful for me to actually see people arguing and fighting and resolving conflicts as I was growing up.  That way it wouldn’t have come as such a shock to me when I encountered it later in the real world.

As it turns out, a 2009 study by University of Notre Dame psychologists, cited in this article, showed that children can actually learn something good from parents fights, as long as the fight is resolved properly. The researchers found that children were stressed if they witnessed part of a fight but never saw or heard about the resolution.

Father’s Rights for a Sleepover?

Dorene and Richard Ward of Georgia were divorced in March of 2007 and Richard was awarded primarily physical custody of the parties’ two children.

In 2008, Dorene filed an action to obtain sole custody of the children.  She lost and the court amended her visitation to provide that she “shall not have any overnight male guests while the minor children are present.”

Dorene appealed contending that this provision was overbroad, because on its face it prohibits her from having her father, a brother, a new spouse, or even the children’s father spend the night at her house while the minor children are present.

The appeals court agreed.  It said a trial court has discretion to place restrictions on custodial parents’ behavior that will harm their children.  While the trial court could limit visitation if it finds that the children would be adversely affected if any boyfriends of Dorene spent the night with her, the restriction against “any overnight male guests” would prohibit Dorene from having visitors with whom she has no romantic relationship and for whom the record does not support a finding of any harmful effect on her children.

Ward v. Ward, No. S11A0437 (Georgia Supreme Court, May 31, 2011)

Father’s Rights Limited Related to Child Support

Fatemeh and Thomas entered into a marital settlement agreement in 2006, which required Thomas to pay $1200 per month in child support for three years and then $750 an month into a college educational account for the children.

Shortly before the three years was up, Fatemeh filed a petition to modify child support claiming the provision converting the $1200 monthly child support payment to a $750 payment into a college educational account was void as against public policy.

The court said the provision would have violated public policy if it relieved Thomas entirely or permanently from his duty to support his minor child.  A parent may not waive or otherwise contract away their child’s right to support.  But that does not prevent parents from making contracts or agreements concerning their child’s support so long as the best interests of the children are served.  Since the payment was directed into an account for the benefit of the child, there was no public policy violation in the provision of the settlement agreement requiring the child support payment of $750 to be deposited into a college educational account.

Laussermair v. Laussermair, No. 4D09-4823, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D448
(Florida District Court of Appeal, Fourth District, March 2, 2011)

Equal Father’s Rights and Mother’s Rights

In a new study at Arizona State University, researchers gave three hypothetical child custody cases to participants and asked them to be the judge.

In one case vignette, the mother was the primary care giver 75 percent of the time.  In another, the father, and in a third they divided child care equally.  In each case, neither parent wanted equal custody, but were each requesting as much living time with the children as possible because each now genuinely feels the children would be better off mostly in their care and not so much in the care of the other parent.

Surprisingly, most decided that timesharing should be equally divided in all three cases.  However, when asked how a real judge would decide, most said that the mother would get more time with the children than the father.  This indicates that the public perception is that courts are unfairly biased toward mother’s rights over father’s rights in custody cases.

The Reasonable Father’s Rights

I am thinking about Charlie Sheen’s custody case. If I were his lawyer, I think I would start by giving him the book “Ethics” by Aristotle (384 to 322 BC).

Aristotle catalogues and describes various virtues and vices, such as boasting or humility, and argues that the best way to behave is by finding the mean between the two.

It does not seem too different from the reasonable man test I learned in law school a couple of thousand plus years later.

I am all for “Do not be ordinary” as Robin Williams said in Dead Poet’s Society. And while I do not want my tombstone to say “Here lies a reasonable man”, I would advise Charlie Sheen that judges are more influenced by Aristotle and tend to favor the parent that seems to be the most reasonable.

Let’s Call a Truce in the Father’s Rights Versus Mother’s Right Battle

Custody battles can get pretty ugly. People do and say things they normally wouldn’t because the stakes are the highest they can be, namely, the children. Father’s rights and mother’s rights are often pitted against each other.

But the highest correlation to a child’s stability and well-being after a divorce is the health of the parent’s relationship.

So let’s call a truce to hostilities until the New Year. Put aside your disputes and differences for the sake of the children and let them have a conflict free holiday season.

The best holiday gift you can give them is to let them know they are loved by their mothers and fathers.

A Blog for Father’s Rights

It’s not only men who fight for father’s rights.

A comment on yesterday’s post sent me to a nicely designed blog called Women for Fathers Rights.  It is for a “wife, sister, mother, friend or any other woman looking to help a man in your life with his child custody and father’s rights issues.”

The blog plans to cover custody arrangements, tips and techniques to assist your man with his battle in the courtroom, and even common questions and answers that arise from being the woman in their lives battling for their rights to be a dad.

Here’s a quote from the blog: “A child with their father in their lives is the best possible outcome of any divorce.”

LeBron James said last night that he asked his mother, Gloria James, for advice while he was making up his mind to play basketball for the Miami Heat.

In the meantime, Leicester Bryce Stovell, 55, was filing suit in the U.S. District Court in D.C., claiming that he is LeBron’s father and asserting father’s rights.  Stovell is a lawyer in private practice, formerly with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 22 page, 95 paragraph complaint alleges Stovell met Gloria in a Washington bar in 1984 and goes through the history of their relationship.  Stovel is suing both LeBron and Gloria for $4 million for fraud, defamation, misrepresentation, breach of oral contract and tortious interference with contract.