No Gender Bias in Family Courts Says Irish Academic

GEO CASUALA key finding in a new report on gender bias in family courts declares there is no indication of gender bias in contested cases about where a child should live.

The May 2015 report authored by Dr Maebh Harding, from the University of Warwick and
Dr Annika Newnham of the University of Reading is based on a document analysis of a retrospective of 197 case files from five county courts in England and Wales over a six month period in 2011. Of the 197 cases, 23 were custody disputes between a parent and another relative, usually a grandparent.

In the “two parent cases”, fathers initiated 70% of the applications, whereas only 30% of the cases started with an application by a mother.

The most common type of court application was for an order to allow contact or access, making up 41% of their sample. Fathers brought 96% of all access applications. The majority of these applications were made in order to initiate or restart contact.

Applications which sought a sole residence order made up 43% of the sample. Similar numbers of applications for sole residence were made by fathers (32) and mothers (30) but their reasons for going to court differed.

Joint custody and joint residence applications amounted to only 7%.

Notably, in 2011 there was no presumption in the British law that the involvement of a non-resident parent would further a child’s welfare. In 2014 this presumption was added to the governing statute, the Children Act 1989.

In my view, the analysis of the data in the report suffers from the absence of real-life experience in the family law trenches. Let me give you some examples:

1. The authors discovered that in 51% of cases the father had been cut off from contact with the child and that in almost half of the parent cases (86 out of 174) mothers had made allegations of domestic violence against fathers. However, in only 45 of the 86 cases was their sufficient evidence of family violence.

The report reads “Court investigations into the truth of domestic violence allegations were rare and took place in only 21 of the 86 cases in which allegations of domestic violence were made.

Where fact-findings were held, few ended in a clear determination on the alleged facts. Instead, the question of domestic violence tended to be reconceptualised as being primarily about reducing the risk to the child and facilitating as much contact as was possible in the circumstances.”

In other words, even unproven domestic violence was used to minimize a father’s role in parenting.

THESE FACTS ACCORD WITH MY EXPERIENCE THAT MANY FATHERS ARE MARGINALIZED AFTER MARRIAGE BREAKDOWN AND ALLEGATIONS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ARE USED AGAINST GOOD FATHERS TO THWART A CHILD/PARENT RELATIONSHIP.

2. The authors found that many of the cases took two years to resolve but expressed little concern about the delay saying:

“Time taken in the court process should not always be viewed as unnecessary delay. Cases need time to build trust between the parties and reach a workable child-centred conclusion ensuring contact was safe.”

THE REALITY IS THAT IF FATHERS BRING MOST OF THE APPLICATIONS FOR RESIDENCE OR ACCESS AND A RESOLUTION IS TWO YEARS AWAY, THE STATUS QUO CARRIES ON TO THE DETRIMENT OF THESE FATHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN.

3. The authors opine that going to court did not amplify or entrench the conflict between the parties finding that the vast majority of cases were resolved by consent orders. Only 25 of the 174 parent cases ended in a contested final hearing.

THE NAIVETY EXPRESSED IN THE AUTHOR’S FINDINGS ABOUT CONSENT ORDERS IS DISAPPOINTING. THE TRUTH IS THAT FATHERS ARE COMPELLED TO GO TO COURT TO OBTAIN RESIDENCE OR CONTACT ORDERS, AND MANY FATHERS SETTLE FOR WHAT THEY CAN GET AFTER YEARS OF FAILED NEGOTIATIONS WITH ADVICE FROM THEIR LAWYERS THAT FAMILY COURT JUDGES WORSHIP AT THE ALTER OF THE STATUS QUO.

Perhaps if academics conferred with family law lawyers when analyzing court data they would gain insight into the dynamics between feuding parents; understand the nuances and strategies employed by parents who seek to discount or eliminate the other parent; understand that children need both parents in their lives; and resist the attraction of the “primary parent” philosophy that is no longer relevant in today’s world.

The report is titled “HOW DO COUNTY COURTS SHARE THE CARE OF CHILDREN BETWEEN PARENTS?” and can be found at http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


Mr. No-Pay: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Family law lawyers now have access to information that can transform a case from an up-hill battle to a slam-dunk, and it’s all thanks to the internet.

Case in point: I have a client whose ex-husband, a venture capitalist, stopped paying his child support about one year ago. Exhibiting the patience of a saint, my client bided her time, hopeful her ex would reinstate his payments and make up the arrears. Didn’t happen.

She then contacted my office and the legal process began. Her ex was obliged to provide the usual financial documents including income tax returns and corporate financial statements. His tax returns showed nominal income and gosh, darn, he said that all of his businesses were insolvent so he hadn’t bothered to have his accountant prepare financial statements.

With a little help from the internet, we learned he was selling his home with an asking price of just over $900,000.00. After the usual land title searches, we found out he had already purchased a new home in another community. He said he was downsizing. He paid about $850,000.00 for his new home. It was a lovely estate property, larger than his last home, in a less expensive rural area.

Next stop was his Linkedin page and from there we simply googled his name and the names of his corporations. Here’s what we found.

Earlier that year, he made an offer of $25 million to purchase a golf course/housing development project that was very close to his new home and in financial trouble. Press releases abounded announcing the pending acquisition and his superior business acumen.

Several years earlier he had been a finalist for an entrepreneur of the year award. He was on the Board of his local Chamber of Commerce and associated with at least two consulting firms touting his business expertise. His allegations of insolvency were not born out. His only business debt was related to a wine store he operated. He was paying $1000.00 per month to pay down the $40,000.00 debt, $1000.00 more than he was paying for his two kids!

With this information and his feeble explanations, he no longer looked as broke as he said he was. My client got her happy ending when a judge ordered Mr. No-Pay to pay up asap!

It’s not always this easy, but his “high profile” doomed any chance of a judge buying what he was selling. And don’t get me started on the gems you can find on Facebook!

You can run, but you can’t hide from the internet!

Father Walks to Highlight the Abuse of Parental Alienation

BarristerPatrick Glynn is on a mission. He wants the world to know that parental alienation is rampant in North America and that he is just one its many victims.

Emotionally and financially spent after his divorce, Patrick’s website, walkforlostkids.com tells his story. As a working father Patrick was not his children’s primary caretaker, but he never dreamed he would become an occasional father.

With the financial pressure of paying for two households he was forced to move and take a job 300 miles away from his children, nonetheless, he drove ten-hours roundtrip every weekend to see them. Worst of all was that the game played by his wife meant he had to prove he was a worthy father, a cunning ploy that saw his wife and her lawyer convince the Court to curtail his visits to six weeks a year.

He says:

“I went from being an involved, hands-on dad to the courts relegating me to seeing my two daughters for six weeks a year, all because my wife wanted a divorce”.

To gain attention to the harm of parental alienation and the despair of its victims, Patrick began his “Walk for Lost Kids” last Fall by walking from Boston to Washington D.C, a 400 mile trek. Along the way he was joined by moms and dads who suffer like he does from a family court system that is out of touch with social science research on parenting and the evils of abusive spouses who use their children to inflict punishment on their spouses.

Writing on his blog, Patrick says:

“Meanwhile, smart, compassionate parents are endlessly stuck in their own cycles; unable to escape family courts and punished with financial and court harassment for years on end. Reasonable, solution-based people eventually realize their limited options at getting out of the abusive never-ending spiral:

Homicide
Suicide
Walking away from their own kids (which won’t stop the court harassment)
Fighting in court against their will, while being financially drained with little hope since the system is slanted
Accepting — in most instances — at least a decade of abuse while the kids are minors with little to no understanding from their peers.”

If this sounds overly dramatic be assured that it is reality for thousands of parents, many of whom have passed through the doors of my law office. And if you think this is a father’s rights issue, you’re wrong. It affects mothers as well as fathers, but it is the children who are scarred for life.

Back on the road, Patrick has just embarked on his second walk this month, a trek that will take him 549 miles from Sacramento to Los Angeles and end in late May. If you see him on the road, walk with him, and let him know you agree the family law justice system needs reform and needs it now. His Walk schedule is posted on walkforlostkids.com.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Second Attempt to Reform Spousal Support Crashes and Burns

GEO CASUALIt almost happened in 2013 as proponents of alimony reform in Florida heralded what they believed was the forthcoming passage of new laws eliminating lifetime spousal support and introducing other significant changes in alimony laws. However, women’s groups and divorce attorneys convinced Governor Rick Scott to veto the new law and the hopes of overburdened spouses were dashed.

Fast forward to 2015 where two separate alimony reform bills were introduced to legislators. Florida’s Senate embraced a bill that would end life time spousal support and provide a calculation for the amount and length of support based on the length of the spouses’ marriage and their respective incomes. Not content to focus on alimony reform, it also contained a provision mandating 50/50 shared parenting.

Meanwhile, a similar but separate bill was the subject of debate in Florida’s House where it handily passed.

While the Senate bill raised the heated controversy surrounding equal parenting, the House bill merely added a policy statement that
a child’s interests are usually best served by having both parents involved in his or her life. The bill did not seek to introduce a presumption in favor of either parent for time-sharing, relying as it did on a policy of maximum contact with each parent.

Florida media outlets reported that Senator Tom Lee stood in the way of the Senate’s acceptance of the House bill because of an alleged grudge he held related to his own divorce 15 years earlier, an allegation denied by Senator Lee. Lee was a vocal proponent of 50/50 parenting and would not vote in favour of the House bill’s “watered-down” version.

Nonetheless, the House and Senate’s decision to mix shared parenting with spousal support reform was a significant factor in the demise of alimony reform.

It appears the philosophy of reformers is to try to fix all the perceived ills of family laws in one fell swoop, a strategy that has backfired in other jurisdictions. Pundits say that had the bill dealt strictly with alimony it would likely have passed.

As it is now, lifetime alimony remains and it may be another two years before a further attempt is made. My suggestion? Deal with alimony and get that law passed. Phase 2 can then focus on shared parenting, however, laws that are “extreme”, such as a strict 50/50 formula or retroactivity are less attractive to major interest groups, including family law lawyers and women’s rights groups, who hold significant sway over public opinion.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

One in a Billion: Twins are Actually Half-Brothers

GEO#1If you ask most people they will say that twins must have the same father, but that’s not actually true. There have been several recent cases where a woman had sexual intercourse with two men within a few days of the other, and when her twins arrived they were nothing like each other.

Charlotte Hilbrandt of Denmark was divorced from her husband and jumped back into the dating game. She met a man she fancied and they were sexually intimate. Meanwhile her ex-husband never gave up the notion they may reconcile and a few days later, on New Year’s Day, the couple reconnected and ended up in bed together.

Some weeks later Charlotte discovered she was pregnant and would have twins. Deciding honesty was the best policy she told her husband Michael and her new boyfriend Tommy of the situation and admitted she did not know who the father of her twins was. Michael was delighted hoping that the addition of twins to the family would cement a reconciliation and Tommy had longed to be a father and was equally receptive to the prospects of fatherhood.

The healthy twin boys were born 48 minutes apart in 2005 and to her surprise, one strongly resembled Michael and the other her boyfriend Tommy, however, the whirlwind of new twins delayed any DNA testing.

Charlotte, Michael and Tommy were shocked when the DNA results showed each of them was the father of a twin! Charlotte was told that her situation was a one in a billion scenario and that her odds were far better of winning a lottery. She was also told that her twins were only the third known incident of twins being genetic half-brothers.

Fast forward to New Jersey in 2015 where yesterday Judge Sohail Mohammed of Passaic County Superior Court ruled that as a result of DNA testing, Mr. A.S. would pay child support for one of two twins as he was not the biological father of twin #2.

The twins’ mother, T.M. had applied for government benefits for her and the children and as is routine, social workers asked her to identify the father of her children so they could bring a court application to obtain child support from him. T.M.was in a relationship with A.S. and named him as the father. However, later she advised the court that within the same week she had sexual relations with another man.

Expert witness Karl-Hans Wurzinger, the laboratory director of Identity Testing Division at Laboratory Corp. of America, testified at the trial noting that in an article he published in 1997 he estimated that one in every 13,000 reported paternity cases involved twins with separate fathers. He obviously did not agree the odds were one in a billion.

Wurzinger also commented that although there is no central registry of births related to the phenomenon, the incidence of twins with separate fathers is believed to be on the increase, due to assisted reproductive technologies, medical stimulation of ovulation, and promiscuity.

If Mr. Wurzinger’s statistics are accurate, there must be many fathers of twins who are not aware only one of their twins is biologically related to them. Interesting?

Family Law Nightmare: Alienated Teens Disappear, Mom Says She Knows Nothing

GEO CASUALLegal experts say that most spouses settle their matrimonial differences consensually despite resentment and hard feelings that linger, yet for the sake of their children and their sensible desire to avoid court proceedings and the enormous costs, life carries on and the family makes the necessary adjustments.

However, law books and judicial dockets still abound with high conflict cases where extreme positions rule and one or both parties’ hatred and anger escalates to crisis levels.

A family in Minnesota now enters Lawdiva’s “Family Nightmares” Hall of Fame. As is typical, the divorce between Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and David Rucki got off to a bad start after the first court orders Sandra obtained in May 2011, including full custody of their five children and $13,000 a month in child and spousal support, were set aside as fraudulent.

In September 2011 Judge David Knutson ordered a new trial ruling there was “sufficient evidence showing that Ms. Grazzini-Rucki defrauded Mr. Rucki and the idea that the father would agree to those divorce terms was “beyond belief””. Apparently, Ms.Rucki obtained the earlier orders by alleging her husband agreed to them.

From there it grew even uglier. Ms. Rucki now alleged that her husband had abused their two eldest daughters ages 13 and 15, who were living with her, pending the new trial. In preparation for the fresh trial Judge Knutson ordered the daughters to see psychologist Dr. Paul Reitman. In 2012 Dr. Reitman recommended the girls be put into foster care. His report to the court highlighted the mother’s tragically successful parental alienation. He wrote that the girls were “depressed and browbeaten” and required “deprogramming”.

In October 2012 Judge Knutson ordered Ms. Grazzini-Rucki to leave the family home and the girls were ordered to reside with their aunt, Nancy Olsen, who was to share temporary custody with Mr. Rucki’s sister, Tammy Love. Neither parent was to contact the children.

In April 2013 Ms. Rucki’s sister, Ms. Olsen, advised the court she was no longer able to take care of the girls and Judge Knutson ordered them to reside with their father’s sister in the family home. On April 19, 2013 the girls arrived back at the family home for several hours before they escaped from the basement of the home, never to be seen again by the court or their father.

In November 2013 the court granted full custody of the children to Mr. Rucki with supervised visitation to Ms. Rucki, necessary because “the court was concerned she would abduct the children if she is allowed unsupervised parenting time with them.” Judge Knutson found that Ms. Rucki had intentionally alienated her two eldest daughters from their father and her testimony at court about their whereabouts was “uncooperative and obstructionist”.

Mr. Rucki described the disappearance of his daughters as “worse than death” as he cares for the three youngest children on his own.

The media reported that an independent witness saw the girls get into their mother’s car after running from the family home. The girls also contacted a local television station saying they were afraid of their father. Ms Rucki continues to deny knowledge of the children’s disappearance or their current location.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki portrays herself as the victim of a corrupted court system. Blog “Carver County Corruption” describes her dilemma:

“Since then Sandra has lost all custody of her children, her home, vehicles, assets, even her personal belonging were awarded to her ex husband. She has not been allowed to see her children in almost a year for reasons unknown. Her two oldest daughters are runaways since April of 2013 due to severe abuse by their father, therapist and court appointed custodial guardian. Judge David Knutson has violated all of Sam Grazzini-Rucki`s constitutional rights and refuses to remove himself from this case due to obvious bias to the ex husband and his lawyer.”

The girls, now 15 and 17 years old, have been gone for two years. To date, no criminal charges have been laid. As I have said repeatedly, parental alienation is the worst form of child abuse. Ms. Rucki: How on earth could this be in your children’s best interests?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Canadian Couple Sue Georgia Sperm Bank for Misrepresentation

DSC00507 (2)An Ontario couple were over-the-moon with delight when their first child was born. Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson of Port Hope Ontario had purchased sperm from Xytex Corp. in Atlanta, who touted the sperm donor as an overachiever with a 160 IQ, working on his PhD in Neuroscience Engineering.

The couple received their donor’s photo which showed an attractive man, only later did they learn the photo had been photoshopped.

Seven years after the birth of their son, Xytex inadvertently released the name of the anonymous donor to Ms. Collins and Ms. Hanson. That was when they discovered their child’s father was schizophrenic ex-convict, James Christian Aggeles, a college drop-out who had fathered 20 other children through the services of Xytex.

The couple’s lawsuit reveals that if they had known the truth about the donor’s background and medical history they would have declined. Their lawyer, Nancy Hersh, said the couple love their child but want to ensure they have the funds to properly evaluate and care for him if he is diagnosed as schizophrenic. Ms. Hersh is representing 15 other mothers in the same situation as the Ontario couple.

Collins and Hanson say they have suffered emotional and financial damages and are suing for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, and unfair business practices.

According to John Hopkins Medical School, research data shows that schizophrenia affects about 1% of Americans. If a parent has schizophrenia, there is a 10% chance their child will be similarly afflicted.

Canadian couples are forced to use offshore sperm banks as Canada has only one national sperm bank, Toronto’s Institute for Reproductive Medicine, and they have only 51 active donors. Two small clinics in Quebec have several donors but only operate locally.

It is reported that there is a need for donor sperm for more than 5,500 inseminations per year in Canada, 3,000 of those for lesbian couples.

Spokesperson, Wendy Kramer, for the American non-profit “Donor Sibling Registry” says there is little regulation or oversight in the sperm bank industry allowing donors to get away with saying whatever they want about their personal and medical histories.

With the number of women requiring donors, it surely is time for proper protocols to be legislated to protect vulnerable women, eager to have a child.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang