While the current session of the 2016 Indiana General Assembly begins today it marks the tenth year that I will have been engaging in the legislative process in an effort to bring equanimity to Indiana’s child custody and support orders. While I am the most steadfast and active participant I don’t want to maintain that designation nor do I yearn to be unaccompanied in my efforts. I want you to help me lobby for needed reforms. I offer the following suggestions although I make no claim that they are the best, right, or effective way to get this done.
~ You are a person and you represent people
I begin with this because it differentiates us from other lobbyists. We are not seeking a financial gain, we don’t represent a business interest, we are not trying to control people, and we are not asking for a special exemption or favour for ourselves. We are seeking ways to improve the outcomes for all children and parents engaged in child custody matters.
At some point throughout the year I manage to see nearly every legislator, in-person, if only for a brief moment. Ideally though with some legislators I am able to engage in conversations about children, parents, myself, and their lives. We may greet each other with hugs and I may ask about a personal matter they have or their hobby. We relate to each other as people talking about people.
~ Children are the beneficiaries
Rid your legislative vocabulary of phrases such as “I want”, “I deserve”, or “I am entitled” because these go nowhere. Keep in mind that the legislators to who you are speaking either wrote or haven’t changed the statutory language of child custody law which finds its basis in the best interest of the child. By statute what you want or think you are entitled to doesn’t matter. Focus on how desired legislative action will impact the best interest of the child.
~ Father’s rights
The spoken words we use lose much of their impact when reduced to a cold transcript. What follows will not convey the meaning implied until I put it into context.
Legislator to me: “Are you a father’s rights guy?” Merely an information seeking querry? Well, here it is with the inflections spelled out. “Are you some guy down here to bitch about how you got screwed over in your divorce and now you want me to change the law to correct your mistake?”
“Father’s rights” carries a stigma with it so ingrained that I implore everyone to avoid mention of it altogether. Instead, regardless of your birth sex, you are a person or parent -- man or woman -- who is seeking to advance the best interest of the children.
In The reasons that men, especially fathers vying for child custody, should be supporting feminism I wrote;
Feminism sought to create parity in opportunity and responsibility for people regardless of birth sex. Opponents of the feminist doctrine have perpetuated a patriarchal power structure largely through the guise of an appealing Gender Victimization model. Feminists were essentially 'bought off' from pursuing the feminist agenda. In the realm of child custody and child support policy the patriarchal approach dominated for quite sometime. The “maternal preference” standard which was pervasive in culture, rule and law held that children should, by nature, be placed in the care and control of the mother following divorce. This standard, established prior to no-fault divorce, was rooted in anti-feminism. The primary objective was to keep women out of the workplace – from invading the sanctity of the male dominated business, political, and legal culture. Thus, “spousal maintenance,” high child support payment orders, and custody awards were liberally granted to women.
What I am saying there is that men created the “maternal preference” and placed the responsibility of child rearing on women. Women gladly accepted the role of sole parent because of the lucrative financial windfall resulting from high child support and spousal maintenance orders. For men to cry foul now is disingenuous -- save for the fact that it was their grand fathers and great-grand fathers who bore responsibility for those offenses.
~ Know the opposition and familiarize yourself with pushback
Knowing that the purpose of legislation is for the control and exclusion of others helps one to understand the motivations of people involved in the process. Most business regulation is for the purpose of excluding competitors. It may seem counter intuitive but large airlines, Wal-Mart and other super-corporations seek increased government regulation. This is because their compliance costs to sales ratio is lower thereby making it more difficult for start-up competitors to price compete.
It is necessary to understand why legislation you favour would be opposed not just the reasons opponents state. Don’t erect a wall between the opposition but mingle with them. Understand their motivation and their reasoning. If possible participate in their position forming. Be aware of the basis for which they plan to attack and prepare to counter.
~ Be patient and unselfish
If you want to involve yourself in the legislative process to affect change in your case then stop now. Wait until your case is no longer active and come back to the process then and apply your wisdom from having passed through the experience. Legislators will ask or discern an advocate’s motive. Those who do so for selfish means are quickly discarded. In writing law we look to encompass the typical or common events while leaving the exceptional to be administered on an individual basis. Your unique or extraordinary circumstances will not be addressed by legislation. Be objective in both your desired outcome and motivation. The legislative process is deliberately slow and difficult for the precise reason that laws that may affect the many people for a long period of time should not be put into place by a knee-jerk reaction to a particular event.
HERE you may see the ideas and legislation which I have proposed to legislators this year.
I may have painting a daunting image of the process but if you anticipate participating in the process I want for you to go informed and will realistic expectations. Over the years of my involvement I have watched numerous “advocates” come and go, often following the course of their personal litigation. Their lack of commitment to the general population, greater than their personal circumstances, hinders the effort to make effective change. Those who were revealed to have only been seeking legislative relief for their personal circumstances have created a presumption against every other advocate that comes before the legislature seeking relief. Laws can be changed and ordinary citizens can do it but their efforts must be rational, persuasive, and unselfish.
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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.
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