Archive for family court

Black Fathers Matter

This title is the speakers riff on the organization that in 2015 became a media darling, Back Lives Matter.  Despite the fact that proportionally far fewer black men have been killed by police now, as compared to 50 or 60 years ago, this group had been given almost blanket media coverage.

The speaker on this five minute tape, Larry Elder, is one of the most compelling commentators on race relations in America today (I’d love to hear a debate between him and Mr. Obama on the topic).  He notes that in the “bad old days” (one could choose that same 1950-1965 era or even go back to the days of slavery), a black child was as much as ten times more likely to be born into an intact family than he/she would be today.

The New York Times chose to celebrate this year’s Fathers’ Day by pointing out that a foundation had recently come across a few letters that Barack Hussein Obama Sr. wrote to his son.  The Times noted that so far the junior Mr. Obama has shown no interest in the letters.  Unfortunately, this same lack of interest has been demonstrated by him in regard to how one of his main group of political contributors, the trial lawyers, prop up a family court system so prejudiced against fathers that most of them “abandon ship” early. This is one of the main factors leading to a 73% chance, in black families (and a 53% chance in Hispanic ones), that the dad won’t be around when the child is born, which in turn has lead to the 20 trillion dollars in “War on Poverty” spending since 1965.



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Antipodean Child Custody

I probably need to explain the first word of the title to my American audience. I first came across this word two decades ago when I was supervising the foreign staff for a large Japanese training company.  Very soon after being recruited from California, I was told that I should quickly fire two staff members: A “Kiwi” who came to work with a “gloomy face” (ignoring the fact that he came from a close-knit rural family and two of his family members had recently died) and an “Ozzie” who was considered too uppity because he had near fluency in Japanese and therefore was the only “gaijin” in the office who could decode the local staff’s conversations.

Needless to say I fought my bosses on their “Antipodean antipathies” and we all left the company within 18 months.  The experience did help me get reacquainted with a unique culture that I had first encountered with an Aussie college roommate in the 70’s.  The second definition of “antipodes” is “the exact opposite” and that certainly fits in child custody, as it does in many other areas.  Stated simply, the typical Antipodean child custody case should have less conflict than a US one, simply due to demographics: New Zealand is 86% urban and Australia is 89%, making them two of the most urban nations in the world, especially if one excludes Europe and the many small island nations.  What’s more, 32% of Kiwis live in one city, Auckland, and Aussies are concentrated in the southeast corner of the country.  This is crucial because studies have found that four years after separation or divorce, up to 75% of custodial parents move away.  In a very mobile and widely separated nation like the US, this invites deep conflict, assuming both parents desire regular access to their children.

The Antipodes, however are the opposite when it comes to the probability of being involved in an international child custody case.  The above kink is to a Kiwi court case but it’s actually an Irish mother!  Within the article is a link to another Kiwi family court case but this one involves an American dad and his fight to bring his kids to the US to visit their grandparents (maybe the Kiwis haven’t yet discovered this, but in the US this is typically done by posting a substantial bond with the court). These cases will no doubt become more and more common since New Zealand has a very open economy and thousands of foreigners have been lured there by the weak Kiwi currency and the breathtaking scenery featured in the Lord of the Rings films.

As for Australia, I would invite the reader to google “Australia 60 Minutes Lebanese child custody case”.  Apparently this spin-off of the famous US show doesn’t have quite the same high journalistic standards.   The story involves the show paying for kidnappers to abduct her children from their father in Lebanon!  I suppose it was intended to be a mini-version of the compelling Sally Field drama, “Not Without My Daughter(in which an American mother tries to smuggle her child out of Iran in the 1980’s)”.  The show was unsuccessful in pulling off the caper but I would guess that it garnered high ratings down under.

In summary, these cases seem appropriate for a high UN Commission but that organizations track record of spending most of its time, money and energy on issues of political correctness would offer little hope for the unfortunate parent involved in an international child custody case.

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Stereotypes and Equal Parenting Laws


The above link takes one to an impressive 13 minute video which shows how our stereotypes can lead to both Parental Alienation Syndrome and holding back the passage of equal parenting laws.

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The Election and Family Court

Having followed presidential elections since 1960 (my dad drove us to a Nixon rally that year and to Love Field in Dallas to see JFK just a few minutes before his 1963 assassination) and read a bit of history for the elections before then, I’d offer my opinion that this is the wildest presidential election campaign since 1860, in which Lincoln won in a four man race with only 39.8 % of the vote.

The two biggest differences between 1860 and today of course are the more than ten times increase in population (from 31 million to 323 million) and the explosion of mass media. I first encountered the importance of media during the Nixon-Kennedy debates of the 1960 campaign in which television viewers swore that JFK won whereas the radio audience said the opposite.  After eight years of the grandfatherly-like Eisenhower in office, the new TV generation was now much more oriented toward a telegenic personality like Kennedy.

Fast forward to 2016 where the media has gone from radio and three TV networks (with only 15 minutes per day, minus commercial time, of national news) to the 24 hours cable news cycle, talk radio and the Wild West of the Internet). This new media environment has been feasting on what many consider the two most flawed major party favorites in US history, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  The latter in particular has been able to dominate the media, as has no candidate in history: a company called Mediaquant estimates that he received over $400 million in free TV time last month and others have estimated that it’s been over $2 billion for the campaign to date.

Readers of this blog know that equal parenting after divorce is a state, rather than a federal issue, so why the headline to this blog entry?   I might point readers to the 1964 campaign in which Lyndon Johnson switched from his long history as a states-rights segregationist to being a forceful (much more so than JFK had been) advocate of federal laws to supersede segregationist state laws.  He was doing so under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, just as was done in Brown vs. the Board of Education case in the 1950’s. I of course content that this too applies to a child’s right to equal access to both parents after a divorce.

As stated in my last blog entry, I have been following this issue for almost 15 years.  In that time there have been four presidential campaigns and I can only recall the 2008 campaign where it came up as a topic.  In that year both John McCain and Ron Paul responded to an audience question (it was at separate venues, but who knows, it could have been from the same questioner!) and both, as I recall, seemed to give lip service to approving the idea of equal parenting after divorce.

In this year’s campaign I regret that no one seems to have given that question to Mr. Trump, because, with his four children and two divorces,  he could be the poster boy for my contention that family courts around the nation tend to discriminate against fathers and less-well connected mothers.  With his vast financial resources (although Forbes magazine says his net worth is only a fraction of what Trump claims), does anyone doubt that Trump had no problem whatsoever having access to his children after either of his divorces?   A celebrity counter-example would be Alec Baldwin, who had roughly equal financial resources as his ex-spouse Kim Basinger and thus had a very difficult time gaining access to his daughter, as documented in his book, “A Promise To Ourselves”.

At this point I’d like to raise  another topic raised by Trump in a completely different context: waterboarding.  My more psychologically-oriented readers might call this a “loose association”, but bear with me.  Trump, although he disparages George Bush for starting the Iraq war, seems to come to his defense by calling for bringing back waterboarding when ISIS prisoners are interrogated.  This was a very big issue in the 2004-2008 period  and the American public seemed roughly divided on the issue, although world opinion seemed to definitely be against it.

I recall vividly in 2004, when I was only allowed to see my son two to four hours a week that I would gladly undergo waterboarding in lieu of that deprivation.  In fact, my local Johnson Correctional Facility that year stated on its website that 12 hours per week was the optimal child visitation time for prisoners there.  Thus I, like thousands of other parents around the nation, was treated far worse than a violent felon even though I, and thousands of other parents, had completely clean criminal records.  The other point to be made in this regard is that for prisoners in both maximum security US prisons and for those accused war criminals in Guantanamo, solitary confinement is considered the maximum punishment: isn’t that a rough equivalent of only being allowed to see ones child a couple of hours a week?  How about the 14th Amendment on that one?

The California  Supreme Court has at least shown some awareness on how move aways can impact this parental-child access issue.  In the 1990’s custodial parents were given almost carte blanche to move away with their children after a divorce, but shortly after the new millennium, the La Musga ruling set out six criteria for allowing  move aways.  It was cited when the Appeals Court granted me a “trial de novo” after my ex-spouse was allowed by the local court to move to a very remote location.  However, I experienced what many California parents do when the case was retried: La Musga is only window dressing to allow the courts to give themselves an image of fair-mindedness: in a 1,000 page trial transcript reference to the La Musga criteria covered less than a page and I, and my son, lost.

In conclusion, it’s only fair to say a bit about the other party, the Democrats.   On the Sunday talk shows Bernie Sanders was, as my mom used to say, breaking his arm patting himself on the back for winning six of the last seven primaries.  He wasted no time in condemning Mrs. Clinton for her huge financial windfall from Wall Street. What he neglected to mention, as stated in last week’s entry, was that she receives three times as much from attorneys as she does from Wall Street. What percentage of that amount goes to family court attorneys (many of whom are working hard to keep parents from their kids), would be a great subject for investigative journalism, if that still existed in the 21st century.  That little factoid no doubt slipped Mr. Sanders mind because he himself gets a substantial amount of his campaign funds from these same trial attorneys.


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Anglo-Saxon vs. Scandinavian Justice

I began weekly entries for this blog on Martin Luther King Day, 2015.  I chose that day because I’d been part of the 60’s civil rights struggle and I saw numerous parallels between that era and the 21st century fight that thousands of parents have had for equitable access to their children.  I chose “Magna Carta” as its title because it was the 800th anniversary of that document and because child custody and the Magna Carta both involved fundamental human rights.

The above link is to an article from the Toronto Sun regarding an extraordinary child custody case: a 36 day trial, $500,000 spent on attorneys and stretched over more than three years. To lend a personal perspective, my own case just concluded successfully after passing the midway of its 15th year, after three trials, a successful appeal to the California Supreme Court (which changed absolutely nothing) and a personal loss of over $1.3 million in attorney fees, travel expenses and lost wages.

Canada, the US, Australia and the UK can all be considered to be part of the Anglo Saxon legal tradition, probably the world’s oldest.  What an irony that the world’s oldest system of justice denies equal rights to fathers and less-well connected mothers for probably the world’s most fundamental human right, access to one’s children.  Scandinavia, on the other hand, was featured in what I consider to be 2014’s most important documentary film, Divorcecorp.  It shows family courts in, as I recall, Sweden and Iceland, who make it a priority to give children access to BOTH parents after a divorce, sparing both parents and kids the trauma of separation and the financial ruin that child custody cases in Anglo Saxon nations entails.

Another irony is that in Scandinavia the population tends to be very concentrated, making physical access easier and therefore shared custody practices less important than in the A-S nations (this of course is only one factor because in the most concentrated of the four A-S nations, Britain, perhaps the strongest parental justice group has formed, Fathers4 Jusice: famous for scaling monuments to publicize their cause). When population density is lower, move-aways by one parent should be severely restricted, unless the second party has no interest in parenting.

Of the other three nations, this would be least important in Australia, where the vast majority of the nation lives in the southeast corner and second would be Canada, with only three large population centers, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.  My own move-away case was within the state of California, but it was 720 miles.  As I pointed out to the court, this is the same distance as Chicago to Arkansas, New York City to South Carolina or London to Milan, Italy!

In summary, despite finally winning my 15 year struggle for equal access to my son, I will continue to try to help the thousands of parents trying to do the same.  I consider it an international disgrace that this Canadian judge could render such a long, detailed verdict without apparently making reference to the common sense solution to these type of cases: a legal presumption of 50/50 custody after divorce.


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The Duke Lacrosse Case: Ten Years On

The Media Learned Nothing From The Duke Lacrosse Hoax

A few weeks ago I wrote an entry regarding whether or not one should allow their son (or daughter, when it comes to concussions for soccer players) to play football.   Today, I want to talk about how this case could impact the decision on when, where, and even if, one should send their son to college.

I. The Media

Perhaps my favorite all-time phrase I’ve heard on this matter was from a famous radio wag, “the state controlled media”, in reference to the current US media scene.  Speaking of radio, I must give credit to the great Dennis Prager for his perspective on today’s colleges : “left wing seminaries”. Having spent four years under the Jesuits in high school I can verify the similarity in regard to the Duke Lacrosse case in particular.    At Duke in 2006 (see the above link) it seemed that many in both the college and the community seemed to be worshiping the Holy Trinity of identity politics: race, gender and class. The fact that both the local North Carolina and the national media seemed to be “singing from the same hymnbook” harked back to my 1980-2000 extended visits to the Communist nations of Bulgaria, Cuba, China and the Soviet Union and to my exposure the military-controlled media of Guatemala during their long, bloody civil war.

II. Colleges

One of the memes one hears on campuses today is the mantra “white privilege”.  Duke fit perfectly into this one since the school liked to call itself “The Harvard of the South (I began my undergraduate years at SMU in Dallas, which gave itself the same moniker, so one has to wonder how many schools tried that one!) . At roughly the same time as the Duke case, UVA (The University of Virginia) had a similarly hysterical atmosphere for a supposed rape case but UVA went a step beyond Duke in setting up “safe spaces”.  These have become a fixture on many campuses and allows students who feel damaged by what they feel are any violations to the aforementioned PC Trinity.  Here they can soothe themselves with soft, cuddly dolls and Play-Doh as they contemplate their miserable existence, which would be envied by 99% of the planet.  One other recent feature on campuses is anti-Semitism, which is usually hidden under the guise of “Anti-Zionism”.  This was seen recently at my alma mater, UC Berkeley.  A man decided to have a one hour test on this by waving the Israeli flag for 30 minutes, followed by the ISIS flag for the same period of time.  He was shocked to find about a 30-1 negative response to the Israeli flag and about the same ratio POSITIVE for the ISIS flag!  Here too, Dennis Prager has been prominent in speaking out and he says that if he had an 18 year old he would recommend that he/she spend a year abroad or work as a waiter for a year to be able to cut through the PC-BS they’ll encounter on campus.  Since my teenager is half-Jewish I’ve already passed on Prager’s advice and told my son that I won’t pay for college until he’s at least 19.

III. Family Court

Ten years ago a friend and I seriously contemplated having a class discussion on equal parenting vis-a-vis family court.  We thought it could be a good media event to hold it at San Diego State University, which claims to have started the first women’s studies program in the nation.  Needless to say, the atmosphere there, as well as on most campuses, makes it such that one would have to have severe masochistic tendencies to plan, much less carry out such at event in 2016.  In conclusion, I want to mention one other meme that’s become prominent on campus, putting science on a pedestal, especially regarding “global warming (now, in an Orwellian twist, it’s been switched to “climate change”, since the globe didn’t warm nearly as much as the computer models predicted)”.  The hysteria on this topic reached an absurd level this week when a well-funded foundation guru (and no doubt ex-academician) said it is now appropriate to invoke RICO statutes on all climate-change deniers. As they used to say in the 1950’s he’s got the right string but the wrong yo-yo.  The majority of social scientists agree that children need both parents (there’s a bevy of studies showing the correlation between single parent households  and a child having a proclivity for higher crime, drug/alcohol abuse, etc.) but I doubt seriously that this is extensively taught on college campuses and I’m certain that the link between family court and parental non-involvement is not taught.  Maybe it’s time to take those same RICO statutes and apply them to the attorneys who grow rich keeping parents from their kids.  And of course the media could have a field day looking into the fact that, according to a recent Wall Street Journal headline, Hillary Clinton receives three times as much money from attorneys as she gets from Wall Street!


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Equal Parenting Bill in Florida

The above article shows that equal parenting as the default presumption in child custody cases is halfway to being a law.  The author feels that a similar bill will be passed in the Florida House, where it will await Governor Scott’s signature.  This of course is extremely important because Florida is now the third most populous state.

I am a registered independent because I believe that equal child custody should never be a partisan (or a gender issue, for that matter) However, one can’t help but see that the two advocates for the bill are Republicans (and both men), while the one opponent cited is a female Democrat.

As noted in my previous blogs, two of the biggest impediments to a legal presumption of equal parenting are trial lawyers (who profit handsomely in the current adversarial system, and the media, who normally ignore international events, but when it comes to child custody it’s the ONLY cases they cover (see Elian Gonzales/Cuba and the Goldman/Brazil case).

Speaking of the Democrats, a recent Wall Street Journal cover story showed that Hillary Clinton received three times as much money from attorneys as she did from financial firms/investment banks, her second most lucrative source of funds.  Interesting that the media repeats ad nauseum the link between Wall Street and politicians while totally ignoring what politicians are doing for trial attorneys.  Even more interesting when many of the latter are working hard, and being extremely well paid, for keeping parents from their children around the nation.



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