Family Court Reform and Parental Rights
Messages Sent So Far
Our family courts are expected to operate in the ?best interest of the children" in cases brought before family court judges.
?But it is not traditionally the sole criterion-much less the sole constitutional criterion... ?The best interests of the child? is not the legal standard that governs parents' or guardians' exercise of their custody: So long as certain minimum requirements of child care are met, the interests of the child may be subordinated to the interests of other children, or indeed even to the interests of the parents or guardians themselves.? -- Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993)
Millions of Americans who have been through a contested divorce or custody proceeding in the family court systems across the US are acutely aware that injustice is served at the whims of the attorneys and other "profiteers" of the family court system. Unfair custody and parenting time, lifetime alimony, child support calculations based on income rather than actual need, paternity fraud, parental alienation, false allegations with no repercussions, complex legal processes and rules, and numerous other issues not only violate the Constitutional and civil rights of the unfortunate litigants, but serve to contribute to the further denigration of families and leave parents and children emotionally, spiritually and financially damaged for many years into the future.
The US Supreme Court has gone so far as to assert:
?We have little doubt that the Due Process Clause would be offended ?if a State were to attempt to force the breakup of a natural family, over the objections of the parents and their children, without some showing of unfitness and for the sole reason that to do so was thought to be in the children's best interest.?? -- Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978)
?More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.? -- Parham v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979)
Furthermore, experts in child development agree that in the absence of substantiated abuse, shared parenting is better for children:
"There is a consensus that neither the discretionary best interests of the child standard nor sole custody or primary residence orders are serving the needs of children and families of divorce. There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents." -- Edward Kruk, Ph.D., First International Conference on Shared Parenting, May 2014
Yet every day in courtrooms across the US, the rights of parents and children are violated by unconstitutional orders and unfair judgments due to unnecessarily complex and costly adversarial processes that make divorce not only more difficult than necessary, but also create long term financial and emotional impacts on parents, children, and society as a whole.
The divorce process and the accompanying pain and suffering that many families endure is something we don't often like to talk about and taking a stoic and dismissive attitude toward those who feel slighted in the process is perpetuated by a society that fails to recognize the long term and sometimes life-long impact of the dissolution of a family unit. Even less talked about is the role that some attorneys, legislators and other agents of the court take in perpetuating these problems, sometimes unknowingly, but often purposefully to increase their own personal profits or organizational revenue.
These policies and practices are not only unethical, but violate the very oaths taken by attorneys, legislators and other agents of the court to uphold the Constitutional rights of those they are hired to serve. Fortunately however, there are protections built into our system that if invoked will better protect the rights of parents and families of divorce. We The People call upon Congress to take action to reform family courts across the US by investigating and addressing the following issues:
1. Conduct an investigation into the policies and practices conducted in the family courts across the US and by the American BAR Association. Individuals found to be in violation of their oaths of service shall be reprimanded or removed and recommendations shall be made for long term reform. Of particular concern are abuse of judicial discretion, failure to provide equal protection and due process, failure to adjudicate cases in a timely manner, and failure to uphold Constitutional rights of parents to determine what is in the best interest of their own children.
2. Conduct an investigation into child custody laws, practices, and long term impacts. Provide recommendations for updates to state law that are consistent with Supreme Court rulings that uphold the rights of each parent to have essentially equal, ongoing, and meaningful relationships with their children. True 50/50 equal and joint custody and decision making should be the default in all states unless a parent is determined to be unfit or agrees to another arrangement.
3. Conduct an investigation into child support and alimony (spousal support) laws and rulings. Advise and direct courts to develop new policies and practices that adequately provide for the basic financial needs of children being cared for by one or both biological parents not living in the same household, without violating the inalienable financial or property rights of either biological parent. True 50/50 financial responsibility for children based on USDA national guidelines on the cost to raise a child should be assumed unless otherwise agreed upon by the parents.
4. Conduct an investigation into the impact of The Violence Against Women Act, it's effectiveness, and how gender discriminatory policy impacts practices, policies, and judicial decisions in family court and the American justice system. Federal and state laws and programs must be consistently and fairly written and enforced to provide equal protection under the law for both men and women in family court and in programs intended to protect families and children from domestic violence.
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