Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lobbying for Joint Custody - IN Statehouse

Organization Day
18 November 2008
Indiana Statehouse

The Indiana General Assembly returned to the Statehouse today to welcome new members and implement some of the organizational framework for the upcoming session. The Assembly will reconvene in earnest on 06 January 2009.

I connected with Mike McCormick of the American Coalition of Fathers and Children who came in from Washington D.C. for the event. In the morning we met with a few key Representatives. Phyllis Pond, who represents a portion of Allen County, and Cindy Noe, who represents portions of Marion, Boone and Hamilton Counties, are both strong supporters of Shared Parenting who discussed PD3329 with us. I also introduced Mike to Jeff Thompson, who represents portions of Boone, Hendricks and Montgomery counties, another of our strong supporters of Shared Parenting.

We then had a wonderful lunch in the Rotunda with Cindy Noe and continued to discuss PD3329 and other issues. The House session convened at 1:00pm and the Senate at 1:15pm. Each lasted for about 45 minutes. Following the close of those sessions the hallways in the Statehouse made ‘Organization Day’ appear as an oxymoron with the complete chaos going on. So, we went to the House floor and made that our impromptu meeting room. There Mike met with the House leadership and I had additional discussion with Phyllis Pond and briefly spoke with Jim Buck, who is now a State Senator representing a portion of Boone County among others, before he was whisked away to another obligation.

We closed out our day making plans for future action and getting pledges of support from additional Representatives and Senators. The General Assembly will reconvene the first week of January. A bill on Joint Legal Custody will likely be set for hearings in late January. I was asked to present testimony to the legislature at that time. Members of the public are also invited to attend. Anyone wishing to present testimony then should contact me. Watch for additional updates on the progress of the Joint Legal Custody Bill.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

FBI assistance sought in arson fire

FBI assistance sought in arson fire
The saga over Stuart Showalter’s attempt to hold public officials involved in a child sex ring accountable has taken a dramatic turn with a fire set on Showalter‘s property shortly after town officials were sued.
Showalter first brought the sex ring to public attention with a sign in the window of his home, which Thorntown Town Council President Gary Jones* (326 S Vine, Thorntown) had the town sue him over. After a one and a half day trial Superior Court II Judge Rebecca McClure (1210 N East St, Lebanon) ruled that Showalter had no constitutional right to display signs in the windows of his home and assessed nearly $25,000 in penalties.
Showalter later revealed audio tapes by a school official admitting to a sexual battery and describing how Judge Steve David (1740 N US 421, Whitestown) played a role in his pressuring children. Judge David has also assessed nearly $4,000 in penalties against Showalter for filing a public records request with the prosecutor Todd Meyer (104 Ulen Dr, Lebanon) seeking records of his involvement with a girl, aged 15 years, while at the Boone County Jail.
Showalter had statements from young girls who were in detention at the United Methodists Children’s Home in Lebanon. One, who has alleged she was sexually violated said she was specifically told by a counselor to not have contact with Stuart Showalter. Judge David placed a No Contact Order on another girl housed there barring her from contacting Showalter. On October 13 of this year Stephanie M. Rogers of Anderson, a former UMCH employee, pleaded guilty in Madison Superior Court I to a Class B felony of sexual misconduct for having sex with a child from the UMCH.
Showalter has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against over a dozen public officials in the Thorntown area. Judge Sarah Evans Barker recently ordered that process of the Complaint and Summons be made upon the defendants. Late in the evening on Sunday November 2 the fire was set on Showalter’s property but quickly extinguished by the Thorntown Fire Department. Since evidence in the federal lawsuit was set on fire the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been contact to aid in the investigation.

*Recently Gary Jones’ son, Caleb, was arrested at his home over an altercation involving a knife about an apparent sibling incest incident. The police report may be viewed here-
http://www.boonecountyfathers.org/images/0946_Caleb_Jones.pdf

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why now may be the time for a Modification in Child Support Payments or Custody

Why now may be the time for a Modification in Child Support Payments or Custody
18 October 2008
by Stuart Showalter

Although much of this article focuses on Indiana law it is generally applicable to all states and can be conformed through application of the various state statutes. Although most parents do care about and love their children there are some who can’t or won’t provide a loving and nurturing environment to their children and require special consideration not applicable to this topic.

The United States and the world is in what will likely be a prolonged recession and it now appears that the general population knows it. Government officials are even starting to hint at it also. In October 2008 the University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Survey fell from 70.3 to 57.5 even as fuel prices were retreating. [Any reading below 100 indicates that consumers have a negative feeling about future economic activity] Consumers were especially bleak in their outlook for employment and inflation.

What does this mean for Parents, both the Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) and Custodial Parent (CP) as it relates to existing court orders? If you haven’t already, you likely will face a change in circumstances, primarily employment, that is continuing and substantial enough to justify a modification in support payments or custody. Your former spouse may change jobs, take on a second job or lose employment. Relocation will also become probable as companies consolidate or merge to save costs. This can affect not only income but also place of residence, time of day scheduled to work, daycare and/or babysitting.

Child support payment and custody orders that are based upon two working parents with a child in a daycare may require modification. The child reaching school age is the most obvious when cost of daycare has been made a part of the child support payment order. This is a change in circumstances that often goes unnoticed or challenged but can cost $1000’s per year to a NCP not seeking a modification. Additionally, a remarried parent in a two earned family that suddenly becomes a one earner family can produce a significant change.

If the NCP loses a job and the parents live in close proximity then the NCP could provide child care services for the parties children. This is mandatory in Indiana where the NCP is to be given first right-of-refusal to provide childcare services when the CP or a family member cannot. This can be a cost savings for both and also give the child more interaction with the NCP which is a benefit to the child.

Similarly, if the CP loses employment and can provide care for the child then daycare expenses would be eliminated.

Either parent losing employment is going to have an effect on child support payment calculations. If it is you who is paying then naturally it is in your best interest to run straight to the courthouse and ask for a modification. If the CP loses employment then the NCP may want to offer to help alleviate some of the costs and stress associated with child rearing. This could be taking the children to practices and events, keeping them in the evening and feeding them. This will give the other parent a chance to look for employment and get a break from some of the expenses. Ultimately it benefits the children and both parents should be receptive to this.

It economically stressful times neither parent is going to want to spend a considerable amount of money on attorneys. This can be beneficial to your children in that if you are a NCP seeking more time or a CP seeking to have the NCP have the children more and have lost your job you have the upper hand. Such as life is that would be the time to take advantage. With a little help you don’t need to hire an attorney.

The parent who has a job knows that the other likely can’t afford to pay attorney fees and would be stuck paying them. A prolonged battle will only be had by the most vindictive of parents. Instead I suggest that if you are the NCP who has hit upon hard times that you request greater custody and a corresponding reduction in child support payments. If your are the CP who has hit upon hard times and are wanting the NCP to have more involvement then you can request that the NCP spend more time caring for the children. In exchange you offer not to seek to have support payments modified upward since you lost your job.

In a time of economic crisis the “me” culture always resorts back to family and community. There is no better reason to do this than for the benefit of your children. Regardless of your relationship status with your child(ren)’s other parent there is one thing that will never change: You both have the responsibility to set aside your differences and work together for what is best for your children.

To read more about why I believe a strong economic downturn is best for children please read my theory by following this link:
http://www.boonecountyfathers.org/economicdownturngood.html

Stuart Showalter is the Legislative Liaison for Indiana Shared Parenting, a lobbying association seeking to reform Family Law Courts to provide parents with more access to their children and reduce litigation amongst parties. Mr Showalter is also the Executive Director of Boone County Child Advocates, an advocacy group that seeks to promote greater parental involvement in children’s lives and the best interest of the family. As an experienced litigator in Child Custody and Support Payment issues Mr Showalter has successfully ensured that children get the care and attention they need from both parents and that the parents spend less time in the courtroom and more time with their children.

* * * * *

Use these links for additional information -

Child Custody:
http://www.boonecountyfathers.org/thelawsandthecourts/indianaparentingtimeresources.html

Child Support Payments:
http://www.boonecountyfathers.org/thelawsandthecourts/indianachildsupportresources.html

Legal assistance, including mediation and unbundled legal services:
http://www.boonecountyfathers.org/stuartllc.html

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indiana Legislature to Hear Joint Custody

15 October 2008
The Indiana Child Custody and Child Support Legislative Advisory Committee met for the final time this session and addressed a number of issues. The main issue that the committee heard was about a directive from the federal government regarding Title IV-D.

Currently under Indiana law in a paternity action the Non-Custodial Parent is required to pay at least 50% of the cost of the delivery of the child regardless of income. Federal Title IV-D guidelines, however, require that orders for financial support of the child, which includes reimbursement of medical care expenses for the child’s delivery, be based upon the parents income. The federal government didn’t provide any guidance on how to meet their directive.

The committee placed the responsibility of drafting a proposal on the state director of the Title IV-D program. The title IV-D agency will have to work quickly though as the State of Indiana is currently working on the four-year review of the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

The subject of Shared Parenting was again raised. Testimony had been presented on this subject at the previous meeting by a variety of members of the community. The Committee decided to pursue presumptive joint legal custody of children of divorce during this legislative session.

The Committee heard testimony from one member of the community during this meeting. Stuart Showalter, Legislative Liaison for Indiana Shared Parenting, presented testimony of the subject of domestic violence and child custody. Mr Showalter presented written materials to the committee members and then spoke briefly about that issue. His testimony included personal accounts of his experiences as a victim of domestic violence and also the false allegations made against him.

During the discussion period some members acknowledged that attorneys use false allegations of domestic violence as a divorce strategy to gain custody of the children. There was agreement that the use of protective orders based on false allegations is widespread and that judges issue these with no evidence. Judge Vorhees noted that when she sees a protective order application prepared without the assistance of the victim’s advocate she approaches it with doubt because that generally suggests that the victim’s advocate did not feel it had merit. Mr Showalter suggested that there be a third-party filter prior to any petition for an ex parte order reaches a judge.

There was clear agreement among the Committee that the issue of false allegations of domestic violence needs to be addressed and that those who use that strategy be punished. One concern raised was how does the Indiana Legislature amend their laws to meet these needs but still stay in compliance with federal mandates such as VAWA. Mr Showalter was asked to further study that issue and to keep pursuing a remedy for this problem.

Please visit www.IndianaSharedParenting.org for additional information.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Strong Economic Downturn - Best for Children and Families!

A strong economic downturn, recession, depression or however it ultimately becomes labeled, will benefit the cause of protecting children. Assessment, blame, accusation and more will be made throughout this paper however, this paper is not intended to attack any particular gender, social or economic class of people or particular programs.

What harms children?

In analyzing how children will benefit we must first look at what harms children and then what is at the root of that. Statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services show that children born to unwed parents, children of divorced parents and children in foster care are subjected to the greatest harm from those situations in descending order.

When we realize what the motivation that leads to most of those situations is then we can analyze how a strong economic downturn could benefit these children. It is not only those three situations that bring harm to children, obviously. Other situations will also be touched upon and as you will see a strong economic downturn will ultimately benefit families and children.

Motivations that harm

That primary motivation is control. Control of people and control of money. The phenomenon of unwed parenting is a complex one. Nothing has so many factors as this and a valid assessment cannot overlook these. There is no single overriding motivation to unwed parenting. So, these are addressed in no particular order.

Young lust is one we have all likely been through. Recklessness in general is just part of the process of maturity. In the evolutionary scale this allows those persons whose brains do not form in a manner consistent with that necessary to raise offspring to maturity to die off prior to parenting. Recklessness now is often manifest in unintended pregnancies. It would be useless to attack this problem through a cost-consequence approach. After all, that is what recklessness is all about; not foreseeing the consequence.

Instead an economic downturn could have an effect on this through unintended consequence. Young lust plus opportunity is what often leads to these pregnancies among unwed teenagers. Take a parent out of the workforce and you may have less opportunity. Additionally, there is an opportunity for many of those young girls who are just seeking affection and attention to get it from a parent rather than a hormone filled sex machine. Take the automobile away from that teen because you can’t afford it and there is less opportunity there.

Society has now made it acceptable for adults to be unwed parents. Many excuses are offered like so many people get divorced anyway so why get married. There are women who will intentionally get pregnant while unmarried for the sole purpose of collecting child support. That number is few though and although significant to the guy who was duped it is not significant for discussion here. Another factor is that neither wants to give up some control over their personal life which is a necessity of a successful marriage.

Harm does come to children from the lack of stability that married parents provide. The equal availability of jobs to both genders has made separate residences for nearly all adults feasible. The former mandate that a woman find a husband out of economic necessity no longer exists. With a strong economic downturn it will become necessary for parents to again live together and be wed to take advantage of favorable tax laws. As men are much more often to be stay-at-home fathers now this trend will also continue.

CPS/DCS

Any government agency has a budget procedure based upon the use-it-or-lose-it principle of accounting. Government is the most wasteful of all employers based upon this simple accounting procedure. So expect Child Protective Service and the Department of Child Services to be no different. If any agency’s funding should be based strictly upon need then this is it. Unfortunately those who profit by it will always label anyone who seeks to alter their financing scheme to be against the welfare of children.

The financing scheme of CPS/DCS requires that children be removed from the home in order to receive federal reimbursement dollars. CPS/DCS could spend all their money on parenting education classes, public awareness campaigns or other similar programs but those don’t get reimbursed by the federal government. The State would have to pay for it all. Do you want to be the governor of a state who is not bringing in money from the feds? Your state director of CPS/DCS is going to tell the counties to take more children out of their homes.

Did the rate of child abuse and neglect double in Kentucky in one year? No, but the governor saw this is as a way to help the state budget. Money is brought in and distributed to foster families who then buy more in the local community. A strong economic downturn would logically lead to more cries for reduced taxation and local control of government. However, logic is often far from the minds of people convinced by power brokers that they are facing imminent doom.

Divorce

Many factors lead to divorce but undeniably money is the primary factor as reported by those surveyed. Women are the overwhelming winners in divorce who, not always, but, often get 100% of the assets, no debt and child support payments to fund a lavish new lifestyle. Admittedly a strong economic downturn is going to lead to more financial discord in married households but it will also lead to cooperative resolution as the prospect of financial gain from divorce evaporates and the cost of divorce becomes prohibitive.

One way lawyers keep themselves employed is to perpetuate animosity amongst litigants. Most people that went through a divorce and had attorneys representing them will tell you that they get along much better once the lawyers are out of the equation. A strong economic downturn should reduce the divorce rate but even among those intent upon divorce will find that they cannot afford an attorney or attorneys will not represent them because they see no possibility of getting paid through the liquidation of non existent assets.

Many will be forced into representing themselves in court. If already out of work this task will be made simpler. The fear of self-representation will be overcome by many and lawyers will have a much more limited role in society. The lack of resources to devote to prolonged litigation should lead to more agreements on the terms prior to going to court. A parent who knows that he or she won’t be able to get child support money is going to be more likely to want Shared Parenting. This has been shown to be the best situation for children save being in a home with two married parents.

Reducing or eliminating lawyer fees and staying out of court will ultimately leave parents with more money for their family obligations including the children. A strong economic downturn that gets lawyers, judges and social workers out of the business of micro managing families will do nothing but have a positive impact on children overall.

How wealth harms children

You may first think that wealth improves the quality of life. Our many cultures, religions and scientific data tell us otherwise. Wealth can buy medical care while poverty may eliminate the need for medical care. Wealth can buy us convenience while at the same time giving us disease. In short the old basis rules apply; money can’t buy you love, for every action there is a reaction and all the others you know but may not truly adhere to.

Assets are disappearing as more couples file for bankruptcy protection or have homes repossessed. The typical two earner household is going to be reduced to one. The wealth factor may be disappearing. Those who gain control through wealth want you to be scared but you should see this as a positive opportunity. Loss of general wealth is going to have a dramatic impact on the welfare of children and families in many ways. Some are subtle and some more obvious. Here are a few.

~ Childhood Asthma
One of the most subtle ways that economic prosperity harms children is through childhood asthma. If you haven’t already thought of this don’t be surprised, few have. Two earner families and single parenting essentially requires each parent to have a car and drive. This releases more pollutants into the air in a macro sense. Most are often pressured for time and will use the drive thru at a restaurant or convenience type household cleaning products that emit harmful vapors. This pollutes the air these children breathe in a micro sense. Few cars on the road and good old fashioned bleach and water instead of spray and walk away cleaners will provide cleaner air for children to breathe.

~ Full-time parenting
Leave it to Beaver was never reality and we would be foolish to think that a strong economic downturn is going to place us all into a blissful television created lifestyle. However, there is some reality to it. There are many benefits to full-time parenting which will be covered under other point here but one is that you get to spend more time with your children.
Studies have shown that children who are raised in daycare centers are more likely to be on behavioral medication, have discipline problems and anxiety issues. It is appalling to think that there are couples out there consciously deciding to subject their children to this in exchange for the freedom to pursue a career, an expensive automobile, plasma tv and fast-food dinners but it happens with great regularity.

~ Childhood Obesity
Food
Long ago I read a study that I believe was promoted by the American Heart Association that addressed the issue of wealth and heart disease. The surprising conclusion was that wealthy people were more likely to suffer from heart disease than the poor. The explanation for this contrarian view was that even though the wealthy had access to better medical care they were much more likely to eat red meat and unhealthy convenience foods that the poor cannot afford.
Similarly, I find the same things when looking at childhood obesity. Most of what I have read points to those same factors in addition to sedentary lifestyle. Two earner or single parent households are more likely to use unhealthy convenience or fast foods as their children’s primary source of caloric intake. On top of that restaurant foods prepared in excessive amounts of fat, including hydrogenated oils, and salt have become family dinners for many. A strong economic downturn would go a long way to eliminating these sources as home cooked meals would become favored again.
Exercise
I have found that wealth contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Wealthier children are often entertained through expensive video game systems, TV shows, computers and other primarily non-cardiovascular activities. If we look to those that do participate in sports we find that in the U.S. there has been particular favor to sports such as Baseball and Gridiron Football. Although both are relatively sedentary the latter actually encourages obesity. Basketball is one American sport that does involve an intense cardiovascular workout.
In studying Latin American youth who have emigrated to the U.S. we find that childhood obesity rates have shown similarities to those of American youths. However, the Latin American youth in their native countries have very low rates of childhood obesity. The wealth factors attributed to Americans are not available in these poor countries. Another distinction is the popularity of World Football which is by far the predominant sport in Latin America. This is a cardiovascular sport where the clock rarely stops and play is continuous. Fortunately it is catching on in America and is very inexpensive to play.

~Education
Currently there is a strong push by lobbyist for the teacher’s unions and corporations to mandate 14 years of childhood education. Equally strong is the push for post high school education. This has nothing to do with imparting knowledge on your children but more on how they are socialized and what they are taught to believe.
As recently as 1858 the Indiana Supreme Court said it was the duty of a father to educate his children. Property values are going down. School systems who rely upon property taxes are going to get less as homeowners have their home’s value reassessed. Financial necessity may again require that parents educate their children more. This will increase the bonding and trust between parent and child necessary to establish a well developed individual.
Pharmaceutical companies aggressively try to get educators to recommend drugging children as a means of behaviour modification. Is this who you want your children exposed to? Do you want a government institution making the reproductive decisions for your daughter? This is going on now. When you are out of a job will you want the government to take more of your money to tell your children what their moral beliefs should be?
Government education institutions should be limited to the basic academic challenges without inflicting government sponsored social, political and moral beliefs upon our children through either direct programs or use of selective photos and carefully constructed text in textbooks.
Slashing educational budgets would be a very positive step for children.

Conclusion

This paper is in no way intended to be comprehensive or to fully examine every aspect of how a strong economic downturn will benefit families and children but hopefully has provided to you some insight into what the general results may be. Even if this hyped economic collapse doesn’t occur and the US Senate saves us by eliminating the tax on children’s wooden arrows you may be able to find some incentive to make beneficial changes in your life that are not necessitated by economic reasons.

~ Stuart Showalter, Executive Director
Boone County Child Advocates

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thorntown sued for Civil Rights Violations

Stuart Showalter v Thorntown et al, 1:08-MC-1283

In what amounts to round five of the ongoing battle between a town resident seeking access to public records and town officials who refuse to disclose them, the resident filed a complaint against those officials in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The complaint, alleging that officials conspired to violate his civil rights, was filed with the Court on 24 September 2008, exactly two years after the town sued him for publicly disagreeing with a policy.

The complaint alleges five causes of action including "Violation of Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment" and "Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights". Showalter alleges in part:
"Upon information and belief, Defendants met with each other to plan a way in which they could work in concert to deprive Mr. Showalter of his constitutional rights by initiating legal proceedings against him without cause while allowing other residents to engage in similar activities who express viewpoints not opposed by the Defendants."

Although the town argued that Showalter's signs were a danger to the public because they could be seen from drivers on a state highway no lawsuit has been filed by the town against others with signs. Showalter has particularly complained about six locations including Stookey's restaurant. There 31 signs are visible from the roadway, some with printing as small as you are reading now.

The complaint cites as some of its factual basis;
"On 06 August 2006 Defendants Mike Leffler and Pat McPeak came upon Plaintiff’s property with a Thorntown Police Officer while he was working on a display and asked him what he was doing. They were then ordered off the property and went directly to Defendant Vaughn‘s house."
"On 07 August 2006 Mr. Showalter sent to the Town Council a No Trespassing Order 'against any and all elected officials, employees or agents of the Town of Thorntown barring them from entering upon the real property located at 725 West Main Street, Thorntown, IN without a written writ or order by a court of competent jurisdiction.' and copied such to the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office."
"At approximately 2300 [on 24-08-06] Defendant Officer Duane Lewellen, acting at the request of the Town and while in uniform, entered upon the property at 725 West Main Street and asked Mr. Showalter to remove the sign during the festival, which was occurring at that time, because the Council did not approve of the message although he stated that he personally didn‘t disagree with it."
"Officer Lewellen informed Mr. Showalter that he has a constitutional right to have the sign there and there was nothing against the law about it."

Showalter made an audio recording of the visit by Lewellen but never got a chance to play it since the suit was dropped. Mr Showalter has 120 days from the date of filing to serve the complaint on the defendants. Armed with the power of federal subpoena and enforcement authority Showalter will now be able to seek the records he has previously requested and have the assistance of U.S. Marshall's to obtain them if the town continues to refuse disclosure.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Four stories on law and children

www.blogger.com strictly forbids the use of hyperlinks. Stories must be viewed by pasting the address provided.

Indiana Adopts New Code of Judicial Conduct for 2009

"The Indiana Supreme Court is adopting a new Code of Judicial Conduct based on the 2007 national model of the American Bar Association. The rules will become effective Jan. 1, 2009.

Indiana is the second state after Hawaii to adopt new rules based on the ABA's model. The new code provides more concrete guidance for avoiding 'the appearance of impropriety,' which has often been criticized as being too vague; includes ethical principles for judicial candidates to use as guidance; imposes clear requirements for public disclosure of income, reimbursements, and gifts; and other updated or new rules."

We do not think this will do much to change the frequency of judges ruling over cases in which they have a vested interest in the outcome. The new rules are available here
http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/jud_conduct/jud_conduct09.pdf


Teens share stories about Juvenile Justice System

Stories from Indiana teenagers involved in the Juvenile Justice System are shared here. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/html/detail_page.asp?content=1823


Divorce Gene

Is there a gene that makes you more prone to divorce? Researchers say the “divorce gene” plays a role in determining how the brain responds to a chemical that is central to the bonding process between a man and a woman.

Men with a variant of the gene tended to score badly on a questionnaire designed to assess how well they bond with their partner and were more likely to report having suffered marital difficulties.

The discovery raises the highly speculative possibility that scientists could one day develop drugs to target the gene in an attempt to prevent marriages from falling apart.

Mr Walum stressed that the gene could not be used to predict with any real accuracy how someone is likely to behave in a future relationship.
But he added: "The fact that the corresponding gene has proved important for similar behaviour in voles makes our findings even more interesting, and suggests that the thoroughly studied brain mechanisms that we know give rise to strong bonds between individual voles can also be relevant to humans."

The complete story can be viewed here
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/global/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/global/2008/09/03/noindex/scidivorce101.xml&DCMP=EMC-exp_03092008


Indiana Court of Appeals issues opinion on shared custody

The Court stated that it cannot agree that splitting physical and legal custody of children is “unworkable”. The Court’s opinion and analysis is available here.
http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/09120801ewn.pdf

Sunday, September 14, 2008

BCCA Testimony to Indiana Supreme Court - 18 July 2008

On July 18, 2008 the Domestic Relations Committee of the Indiana Supreme Court heard testimony as part of their mandate to review and adjust the Indiana Child Support Payment Guidelines every four years.

Individuals and representatives of organizations from around the state were each given about five minutes to present their views. There was virtually unanimous consent among the speakers on a variety of topics. That the guidelines place an amount to pay that cannot be met. That judges are using the calculator without examining the particular circumstances of the individuals that make the presumptive amount unreasonable. That incarcerating someone who can't pay does nothing to help that person pay. Also, that support should serve to benefit the children.

Robert Monday of the Children's Rights Council spoke of the need to ensure that children are being supported. The testimony of Stuart Showalter may be read here [http://www.boonecountyfathers.org/images/Child_Support_presentation_July_18.pdf]

Use this link to view the proceedings:
http://mediaserver.ihets.org/vod/supremecourt%5Cwmv%5Cchild_support_07182008.wmv

Here is the time-line of the proceedings:
11:05 Hearing begins with introduction by Judge William C Fee.
12:20 Committee members introduce themselves.
14:30 Robert Monday - Children's Rights Council.
23:00 Donald Beatty - Parent.
27:55 Donna Lynn Frazier - Parent.
32:20 Stuart Showalter - Boone County Child Advocates
39:20 Tom Frohman, attorney - Indiana Legal Services
1:00:30 Gregg Keesling - Workforce, Inc.
1:14:00 Melissa Avery, attorney
1:18:10 Cheryl - Commissioner Indianapolis Paternity Court
1:21:05 Closing statements - Judge William C Fee

BCCA Testimony Indiana Legislative Child Custody Committee - 11 Sept 2008

Stuart Showalter, Legislative Liaison for Indiana Shared Parenting spoke to the Indiana Legislative Committee on Child Custody and Support at their 11 September 2008 meeting. Mr Showalter was questioned by members of the Committee following his presentation. His prepared text follows:

Madam Chairwoman and members of the Committee. I thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. I come to you today with what has been historically considered a Father's Rights issue because of the disproportionate custody arrangements based upon gender. However, I consider this more of a Parent's Rights or, more accurately, a Child's Rights issue.

Our Indiana Code is permeated with references to "the best interest of the child" but it provides no guidance as to what that is. I have worked with parents on cases throughout the state, before many different judges yet find no continuity among them as to what is considered the best interest of the child. I propose that the problem is that the language "best interest of the child" is a fallacy in that it treats the child as an autonomous unit which a child clearly is not. This has already been established through statute that mandates a parents responsibility to provide support to their children until the age of majority.

So can I define what is best for the children? Individually, no, that still needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis but collectively I propose that it is what is best for the family. That is both fit and loving parents having meaningful and regular contact with their children. Which, coincidentally, has been determined by our Supreme Court to be the right of the children. Currently there is nothing in our family law code that ensures what is called the best interest of the children. Indiana has provided nothing more to children than hollow words to feel good by. I assure you that it does not feel good for the children.

Just last week I was here in Indy with a concerned father at a CHiNS case where the FCM reported that the only food in the mother's house was what had been spilled on the floor, was infected with bugs and was being eaten by the toddler. That the adolescent girls report that the mother's boyfriend regular observes them in the bathroom, that the oldest child had run away and that all children feared living in that house. Yet this is what a judge had determined was in those "children's best interest".

I wish this was something that shocked me, was unusual or was an outrageous failure by the system. But none of that is so. This is common and statistics continue to show that children are neglected and abused more often when living in a maternal sole custody situation, then paternal sole custody, a Shared Custody arrangement and finally with married parents, in that order.

Our Indiana Supreme Court has recognized and promotes that children need Shared Parenting and that it is in their best interest. However, while that is being put into law and practice in other states Indiana has failed to do so and our children are being neglected because of it. Had the judge who ordered those children into the neglectful situation I saw last week instead been instructed, through statute, to submit findings as to why Shared Parenting would not have been best for these children then they likely would not be in that situation.

While other states have passed or debated Shared Parenting bills Indiana still has not although the need for this has clearly been recognized. Generally these statutes require family law judges to presume that both biological parents interacted with, provided for and supported their children. Instead of the parents having to show that they have done this, so custody can be awarded to them, the State would have to find that a parent had not done this before depriving the children of access to that parent.

I have provided to you along with my written testimony a proposal to amend Indiana's child custody laws in favor of Shared Parenting, statistics on the effects of single parenting and what some prominent people have to say about Shared Parenting. I anticipate seeing you in the future and hope it will be while we are working towards giving children what is truly in their best interest, what is best for the family.
-Stuart Showalter