Supporting Fathers’ Rights for Recently Imprisoned

The District of Columbia has launched a new pilot program to support fathers’ rights for dad who are recently imprisoned. The program will help fathers returning from jail become better parents. The Fathering Court will help fathers obtain drug treatment, parenting classes and job training.

The initial class of 45 noncustodial fathers will be provided with a needs assessment, case management, and community resources. Participants will have mandatory fathering classes, employment training, family and parental educational classes and mandatory drug testing.

“The Fathering Court is a unique effort to help fathers returning from prison become better parents—financially and emotionally—to their children,” said Family Court Presiding Judge Anita Josey-Herring. “[W]e will be able to help them find gainful employment, slowly increase the amount of child support they owe, and to develop meaningful relationships with their children. Custodial parents will get the child support they are due, fathers will have a chance to meet their support requirements, and the relationship between parent and child will be about more than just money.”

D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer agreed.

“Parents coming out of prison have many strikes against them, and this program is designed to give them a fighting chance to be a parent to their child or children,” she said.

Domestic Relations Rule 68 of the District of Columbia Superior Court Rules provides that a defendant or counter-defendant can make an Offer of Judgment at any time more than ten days before the trial.

You offer to allow judgment to be taken against you for money, property or to the effect specified in the order.

The plaintiff then has ten days to accept the offer by serving written notice on the defendant.

If the offer is accepted, the Court will enter the judgment, unless it finds that the provisions with respect to custody, visitation or with support are not in the best interests of the child.

If you reject the offer, and the Court finds that you did not get a better trial outcome than the offer, then you have to pay the other side’s attorney fees incurred after the offer was made.

So let’s say your husband sues you for child custody. You make an Offer of Judgment before trial that says you get custody. He is going to reject it because that is what he sued you for in the first place. If the court grants you custody, then Rule 68 may require him to pay your attorney fees for trial preparation and the trial.

Child support cannot be modified retroactively. This is the so-called Bradley Amendment, one of the provisions of 42 U.S.C. Section 666(a)(9) that Congress required each state to adopt in 1986 or forfeit significant federal funding. The Maryland legislature enacted the provision as follows:

Family Law Section 12-104. Modification of child support award.

(a) Prerequisites. – The court may modify a child support award subsequent to the filing of a motion for modification and upon a showing of a material change of circumstance.

(b) Retroactivity of modification. – The court may not retroactively modify a child support award prior to the date of filing of a motion for modification.

The law was intended to keep parents from running up large child support arrearages and then having a sympathetic judge forgive or erase them.

Fathers don’t like it because it means that if they are laid off, are sent to Iraq, become disabled, spend time in jail or just have a cash flow emergency, they must move to modify child support. If they don’t, the meter keeps running on child support and it cannot be set back.

Mothers don’t like it because they can’t get child support increases back to when there income goes down or the father’s income goes up, if they are slow to file their petition with the court.

Fathers’ Rights on the First Day of School?

School is starting and around the country, many fathers, step-fathers and father figures are taking children to school on their first day. They are part of a national movement called the Million Father March that encourages people of all races, but particularly black men, to be active in children’s educational lives according to a story by Kelly Starling Lyons.

Phillip Jackson, director and founder of the Black Star Project in Chicago, says the goal is to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap. The way to do this is to encourage parental involvement, Jackson says. One key, he believes, is the commitment of dads.

Dads taking kids to school on their first day – is partly inspired by the Million Man March and partly by a South American practice of dads thanking principals and teachers on the last day of school, says Jackson.

The story goes on to report:

Father participation matters, according to a 1997 NCES report titled Fathers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools. Children from two-parent families and single-father homes who had fathers highly involved in school were more likely to get As and enjoy school, the study found. Children with involved nonresident fathers also fared better than peers with less involved dads. They were more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, and those in grades 6-12 were less likely to be suspended, expelled, or repeat a grade.

“It’s clear that when both parents are involved, kids do better,” says Channell Wilkins, Director of the Office of Head Start. “There’s more support, better language skills, more help to develop that child’s understanding of the environment around them.” At Head Start, dads who become involved in one program often join others. “It opens the door and lets them know how valuable they are to a child’s life,” Wilkins says.

In the case of children, having a resolution process is extremely important. All of us require a certain amount of continuity and certainty in our lives. Our psychological health requires some fundamental security and regularity.

It is difficult for children if their parents can’t agree on a doctor, for example. Imagine that one takes eight year old Theo to Dr. Big, while the other takes him to Dr. Small. The question becomes which doctor has more authority, rather than whether Theo really should have his tonsils removed.

A mediator or parenting coordinator might help the parents to agree that Dr. Big will be the regular doctor but for any questions involving surgery, a second opinion will be sought from Dr. Small. If they disagree, Dr. Mid will consult.

Then Theo won’t have to suffer chronic sore throats and colds because his parents are deadlocked about his care.

Thanks to the Librarians at Southern Illinois University for making my book, Fathers’ Rights, This Week’s Featured Book on Law Dawg Blog.

TMZ.Com reports that Larry Birkhead filed a lawsuit Friday against his former attorney, Debra Opri, who represented him in the child custody case over his daughter with Anna Nicole Smith.

Birkhead claims that Opri promised to represent him for free for the publicity. Then she pocketed money he was supposed to get from his appearances of television. Finally he fired her when she wouldn’t turn over the money and then she sent him a bill for legal services saying he owed her more than $62o,ooo.

The lawsuit claims fraud, conversion and malpractice.

Here’s a website call A Kid’s Guide to Divorce that explains divorce in helpful language from a child’s point of view. Divorce can be a scary thing to grownups so imagine how children feel about it. They are filled with feelings of fear, guilt and anxiety. There are sections titled “Kids Can’t Cause a Divorce!” and “Kids Can’t Fix a Divorce”. The page has English and Spanish versions.

Fathers’ Rights (A Legal Guide to Protecting the Best Interests of Your Children) by James Gorss, published by Sphinx Publishing.

There is much demand for information about father’s rights out there, and little available. The stakes are high, emotions are tense, and confusion abounds.

So I wrote my book for the average dad, who is trying to find his way through a child custody case, and do what is best for his kids.

I will also try to explain the law of fathers’ rights on this blog, clearly and concisely, in plain language, with a little humor and wisdom thrown in as well. I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.