Friday, November 14, 2014

National Parents Organization

State Affiliates Leadership Report of the First Meeting 

To: National Parents Organization Affiliates Leadership
From: Rita Fuerst Adams, National Parents Organization

The first meeting of National Parents Organization Affiliates leadership was held via conference call Thursday evening, November 6th. Forty volunteer leaders from twenty-three states participated to learn about National Parents Organization’s goal to introduce Shared Parenting in Temporary Custody Orders in 2015 and National Parents Organization’s work to grade child custody statutes in every state.

National Parents Organization is asking each of our state affiliates to:
  • Commit to introducing shared parenting in temporary custody orders in 2015. Contact Rita Fuerst Adams NOW if your National Parents Organization affiliate is committed to working with us on this.

  • Participate in rolling our grade for child custody statutes in your state. Our PR consultant, Burton Taylor, will work with you to place Op Eds in your local media. National Parents Organization conducted this study to respond to questions from legislators and to promote the scope of the issue with the media. Again, contact Rita Fuerst Adams NOW to let us know you are ready to participate.

  • Meet, via conference call, to report on our progress, at 6 pm, Eastern, Tuesday, December 16th. In 2015, Affiliate leaders will meet quarterly.
Please note that all materials that you need for introducing shared parenting in temporary custody orders are on Sharepoint. Look in the National Library for the folder Shared Parenting in Temporary Custody Orders. The list of affiliate leaders is there too.  

Summary of November 6th meeting:

Ned Holstein, Chair and Founder, joined the meeting early to welcome volunteers and to speak about the upcoming Divorce Corp. conference. He encouraged our leaders to attend informing us that it is a great opportunity to meet each other and to learn more about our issues. National Parents Organization is hosting a reception on Saturday evening, November 15th. Please let Rita Fuerst Adams know that you are attending Divorce Corp. conference so we know to look for you.

Don Hubin, Chair, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Ohio; and member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization addressed the importance of shared parenting in temporary custody orders and why National Parents Organization is making this our priority. At the early stage of parental separation, children are concerned that they are losing one of their parents. Beginning with an assumption of shared parenting is helpful to our children. Ideally parents should cooperate but we know this does not happen. Children need both of their parents to help them in this adjustment period.

Not awarding shared parenting in temporary custody is a major impediment to not awarding in permanent custody orders. When shared parenting in permanent orders is routinely opposed by judicial organizations, we are told it is because we cannot have a presumption. We cannot have cookie cutter orders. Judges use this to work against us. But, for establishing temporary orders, the court does not know anything about the case. So, the judges cannot go before the legislature and say they need to make the decision in the best interest of the children because they do not have any information to make such a decision. Awarding shared parenting in temporary custody orders provides a testing ground and parents will have to stand up and prove they want it.
  • Alaska is the only state with shared parenting in Temporary Custody Orders
    • Oklahoma used to have such verbiage, but reverted on this, so research WHY it didn’t work in Oklahoma
  • Only 6 states have statutes that say courts CAN award shared parenting in Temporary Custody Orders:
    • Alaska
    • Georgia (National Parents Organization Affiliate)
    • Illinois
    • Kansas
    • Oklahoma
    • Washington (National Parents Organization Affiliate)
  • Only 4 states have statutes that ALLOW a presumption of joint/shared custody in Permanent Orders:
    • Arizona
    • DC
    • Iowa
    • New Mexico
  • Establishing shared parenting in temporary orders is critical to establishing shared parenting in permanent orders

  • Strategic Reasons for Establishing Shared Parenting in Temporary Orders:

  • Judges state that they don’t want shared parenting as the norm, because each situation is different and they want to have the purview to make decisions in the best interests of the children involved. While that may be their intent, the reality is that, during the process of establishing a Temporary Custody Order, judges have no substantive evidence, other than brief statements from each party, on which to base the wording of the Temporary Custody Order.

  • Puts both parents to the test: During the time period that the Temporary Custody Order is in place, judges will see exactly how serious each parent is in being a shared parent for their children and with the other parent.

  • Need to address the issue of domestic abuse and/or violence:
    • DV abuse exception should be allowed only when there is credible and evidentiary proof of said DA/DV.

    • We want to protect our children and other victims, but also guard against false allegations for the purpose of establishing sole custody even during temporary custody orders.

    • For any false allegations made knowingly or recklessly, we need to establish some sort of judicial response, in order to safeguard the judicial process.

    • In Mississippi: If allegations are found to be without foundation, then the party, who made the false allegations, pays all court costs and attorney fees to the other party.

    • Also ensure to award compensating time to the falsely-accused parent, who has lost time with their child as a result of the false allegation.
Matt Hale, chair, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Kentucky, addressed how he has been working in Kentucky to promote shared parenting in temporary custody orders. Matt said that his representative emailed the legislation to his local family court judge. This judge spoke well of it and agreed with introducing shared parenting in temporary custody orders. His bill died in committee because a line was added to it. It spoke to parents having the financial resources, without this could not get shared parenting. He got the line removed and Kentucky has refiled the legislation.

Curtis Vandermolen, member, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of California, spoke to his history of 10 years working with the legislature. Reminded people to be attuned to their states own culture. It can impact strategy. Noted that Matt spoke well about introducing a bill in Kentucky and much of this will work in most states. He reminded people to know the deadline. If you miss deadline may push your work to the following year. Best to have someone in your committee to work on questions. Ok, to say you do not know and get back to the legislator later. Recommended getting. Good to meet with the staff. They are first line to educate. Reminded members to remember the Governor. Still needed even if you have strong voice with legislators.

California has been working for the past year to introduce shared parenting in temporary custody.
  • Good contacts to make in the process of introducing legislation:
    • Your local representatives
    • Judiciary Committee members
    • Other allies: PTAs, School Boards, etc.
Burton spoke about the national grade card and why this is important for our work and our media strategy. It is going live the week of November 10th and is going to key target media.

  • National Parents Organization’s 2014 Shared Parenting Report Card is the first national study to provide a comprehensive ranking of the states on their child custody statutes, assessing them primarily on the degree to which they promote shared parenting after divorce or separation.

  • This study was motivated by the tremendous impact our nation’s family courts have on children whose parents are divorced or separated, and also by recent consensus statements by leading child development research organizations that confirm children thrive with shared parenting following separation or divorce.

  • National Parents Organization evaluated each state’s child custody statute to instances of divorce to determine its grade. In 45 states, the statute also includes custody determination for nonmarital children. This is important to note because, according to recent U.S. Health and Human Services data, nearly 40% of children in our nation are born to unmarried parents.

  • As a result of our research, National Parents Organization found that a majority of states received poor grades on shared parenting statutes.