Friday, July 21, 2017

Prosecuting Domestic Violence against children: Two recent Lebanon Indiana cases

Domestic Violence is a crime that falls into a special class based upon an uncommon dynamic between the perpetrator and target. Similarly, there are criminal or ethical violations which receive special consequences when the relationship is between a medical provider and patient or school teacher and student. This is because offenses within the confines of these relationships are a breach of trust and the parties have accepted responsibility of the relationship roles.

When a perpetrator targets or uses his or her child in a violent manner to achieve the ends of a Domestic Violence agenda then that crime should be dealt with in the harshest manner. Two Domestic Violence cases which occurred in Lebanon, Indiana in this month exemplify this point.

On 17 July 2017 Fox 59 News reported that a Lebanon man is facing two felony counts of domestic battery for allegedly striking his wife and son.

The wife complained that on 10 July her husband struck the boy twice with a charging cord to an electronic device and then began hitting and kicking her when she intervened to protect the child. She said that this was the most recent event of her husband's physical abuse toward her and their son which has been ongoing for multiple years.

This incident was apparently prompted by the child, who is age 3, wanting to play with his tablet which was not charged. The boy was told that he couldn't because it was being charged. That is when he expressed his impatience by getting upset and pulling the charging cord from a wall.

This apparently enraged the husband who, according to court documents, “became angry and took the charger from (the boy’s) hands and then struck (the boy) twice,” as if it were a whip. He then directed his attack toward the wife by hitting and kicking her.

The wife indicated that she never contacted police because her husband threatened to take the child and leave for Mexico, and she would never see him again.

You likely didn't hear the story of a similar incident which occurred on 15 July 2017 which was allegedly perpetrated by a Lebanon woman.

That involved Elissa Summers, the embryonic host and birth parent to a boy who is eight months of age, allegedly attempting to physically attack the child's father in the child's presence at their home and harming the child during that attempt.

Her first attack of the day occurred away from the residence when she repeatedly struck Father in the back as witnesses looked on and encouraged her to stop the assault. The subsequent incident occurred at Father's house where he cohabited with Ms. Summers.

This happened as a Lebanon City Police Department officer was attempting to get a statement from her in regards to the earlier attack. When Father arrived home Ms. Summers became enraged and spewed forth a verbal tirade laced with obscenities toward Father and another resident. As witnesses looked on she tried to push her way past the officer.

According to witnesses I spoke with, as she was being restrained by the officer she threw the baby to the ground, apparently to divert the officer's attention by having him check on the welfare of the infant. As Ms. Summers attempted to again physically attack Father the officer attempted to restrain her. She then battered the officer who called for back-up and she was subsequently placed under arrest. This was not before she snatched the baby off the ground, fled into the house and proceeded to destroy items for use by the baby along with smashing jars of baby food against the walls.

At this time she is being held in the Boone County Jail without bond. A Domestic Violence Protective Order has been issued on behalf of Father. Additionally, the prosecutor has issued a No Contact Order against Ms. Summers on behalf of the baby and Father.

It was not uncommon for police to be at the residence as there had been three previous police responses in the recent past upon her request. There was an open CHiNS case at the time of this latest incident based upon an allegation Ms. Summers made against Father two weeks earlier. However, that allegation was determined to be unsubstantiated when a Lebanon City Police Department officer heard one of Ms. Summers older children make a statement contradicting what he said while in her presence. After further investigation it was determined that Ms. Summers had coached the children to lie.

The Boone County Department of Child Services has placed the boy with his father and is recommending that Ms. Summers parental rights be terminated along with the two older children she has by a different father. The Termination of Parental Rights proceedings will be quite familiar to her as she has already lost custody of four other children in four previous actions.

These incidents both convey the severity and trauma of Domestic Violence. Here, it is the use of children and infliction of physical harm toward them to coerce a trusting target into complying with the desired objectives of the perpetrators.

This is a crime that has victims. People are harmed both physically and psychologically. This is not a status offense such as those proscribed in the marijuana trade where no victim exists. Consequently, society would be better served by resources being devoted toward remediation of Domestic Violence offenders.

That young boy learned to defy his mother and yank the charging cord out of the outlet from someone near him. He also learned that when someone doesn't do as you wish then the appropriate response is to physically attack that person. In both incidents violence was directed toward small children. I have previously written about violent parents in Societal Acceptance of Domestic Violence Against the Most Vulnerable.

I am not an advocate of punishments. I find that case specific consequences are more effective that static punishments. In these cases both perpetrators should face jury trials. The common fare of plea bargains to probation is not appropriate. Society benefits by the jurors personal exposure as well as the potential media coverage. The perpetrators are forced to confront their actions and must attempt to defend against what has no defense.

If convicted they are under the coercive control of the court as well as Child Protective Services. They should be removed from the environment in which they caused the harm and the people whom they harmed. These restrictions should remain in place until such time, if ever, that they can demonstrate a high likelihood that a similar offense would not occur again. Violation of those conditions may warrant incarceration or termination of parental rights.

I have expressed these sentiments to our county prosecutor. The next step is up to him. These alleged offenders may face a jury or these alleged perpetrators can be told it's no worse than speeding; pay a little money to the state and all is well.

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©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Notice of [incorrect] Income Withholding - Marion County Prosecuting Attorney

I am often the recipient of the rants of parents proclaiming their denial of due process, unfair judgments, various other rights violations, and the manifest corruptness of the judicial system. Nearly ubiquitous in this onslaught is the common thread of parents who are impatient agitators. However, I have received a piece of mail that, after an initial chuckle, led me to wonder; is Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Terry Curry actually this stupid.

It came from a rare gem of a parent who patiently endures the litigation process. Subsequent to a petition to modify child support payment obligation of $83.00 per week a hearing was held and Father's obligation was "hereby modified to $0.00 per week, effective April 4, 2017." Additionally, "Arrearage is set at $16,438.44 as of May 3, 2017." Finally, "the noncustodial parent will pay $35.00 per week toward the arrearage."

"Approved and Ordered: Date: June 15, 2017".

For quick review, current support was ordered reduced to ZERO DOLLARS on 15 June 2017 but $35 per week was to be paid toward an arrears.

A copy of the ORDER was sent to Father by the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney. The PA also sent a copy of Notice of Income Withholding dated "June 15, 2017". That should be a familiar date to you by now.

That Notice of Income Withholding is directed to the "SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION" who is "ordered to withhold: . . . $83.00 per week, plus . . . $35 per week for the additional past due amount . . ."

Father may contest this order based upon either or both of two reasons provided under 45 C.F.R. 303.100(c)(2) being either an error in the amount of current or past support due or that he is not the named individual to whom the order applies.

May first though about the second reason of not being the person to whom it applies is SO WHAT. This notice would get the same treatment as would a notice delivered to me from Rent-A-Center indicating that my neighbour is past due on her couch rental. I am not going to waste my time with it.

However, in this case the ordered withholding amount is clearly $83 above what was ordered by the court. That may merit some consideration for contesting. Alas though, because the prosecutor - who is such a moronic imbecile who doesn't track with simple mathematical story problems - chose to direct the withholding order to the Social Security Administration, who is not the employer of Father, it is rather moot.

Maybe 45 C.F.R. 303.100(c)(2) should be amended to include a third option: "The idiot prosecutor directed the income withholding order to an entity to which you are not an employee."

In all seriousness though an income withholding order that exceeds the court ordered amount should be contested if the money is withheld. Generally, overpayment of a child support payment obligation is considered a gratuity [Brown v. Brown, 849 N.E.2d 610, 615-16 (Ind. 2006)] unless it is pursuant to an income withholding order which is contested [Drwecki v. Drwecki, 782 N.E.2d 440].

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©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Achieving Willpower and changing your Child Custody arrangement

Likely you have been exposed to the concept of willpower through medical discourse. Unlikely is that you have been engaged in a child custody strategy that invokes a basis in willpower. Child custody matters are generally directed based upon legal precepts or concepts of parental fitness. However, that limited focus may greatly inhibit, prospectively possible or rightfully due, positive outcomes. The antecedent to those I contend is willpower.

In explaining this proposition I will begin by examining closely the concept of willpower. Willpower simply defined is "control exerted to do something or restrain impulses." In common usage willpower is assigned to the mental exercise of accomplishing a goal through tenancy - pushing on even when one doesn't feel up to it or resisting the temptation of an immediate desire.

The assignment of blame or causes to obesity provides a model that embodies the application of willpower. Geneticists have now demonstrated to us that contrary to common perceptions that genetics -- heredity -- is to blame for obesity that body weight is actually controlled by willpower.

Numerous studies have clearly demonstrated a link between weight and genetics. This includes mono-zygotic twins separated by adoption who, although raised by different non-genetically linked parents, exhibit similar body fat measures. This is not causal though. People who may have resistance to Leptin -- a satiety hormone -- may perpetually feel a sense of nutritional hunger. This hunger does not reflect an actual nutritional or caloric deficiency. Their bodies will still react in the same to the weight maintenance equation of calories processed less calories expended equals calorie balance. Thus, they have a predisposition to obesity. Some people will insist that obese persons who have Leptin deficiency do not lack willpower but are instead the victims of genetics. This clearly violates the definition of willpower. Willpower includes the tenacity to suppress an urge. For those who have Leptin deficiency the urge to eat does not shut off thus the willpower to overcome that must be greater than it is for those without that genetic error.

The necessary willpower for these people to overcome the incessant urge to eat could seem daunting and an exercise in futility. If attention was refocused to awareness of nutritional sufficiency and willpower was directed to understanding biofeedback, such as the relationship between confusion or aggression and nutrient deficiencies, then weight could more successfully be modulated.

This is the manner in which parents can improve their child custody positions. An essential strategy using willpower is to modulate impulses. It is the impulses which usually undermine a child custody case. None moreso than when the impulse acted upon leads to violence or threatening actions.

Traditional methods of coping using willpower come from the admonitions to "count to ten" or "bite your tongue" of which both are often ineffectual. A better approach using that methodology is to do some mathematical calculations or ask yourself "what next? if the impulse is expressed. These actions take brain activity from the amygdala - the emotional center - to the cortex - the control center where rational thought prevails.

Through cognitive behavioural therapy it is the emotional response which can be modulated thereby undermining potential emotionally triggered outburst. This is where willpower takes on a significant role.

In If this offends you then your child custody case may have a problem I have previously written about the lack of objectivity in what is offensive. There I said, "Similar to the aphorism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder the same holds true for offensiveness. The infelicity of an expression lies entirely with the listener." That is to say that an act or expression can only be perceived as such if the observer has chosen to find it offensive. The bases for the perception may be ones culture, station, or experiences which colour the lens of perception.

Whether one chooses to analyze these factors and account for their contribution to an emotional inducement is taking an action. The decision to not act is an action just as its positive counterpart. This is why the excuse "my emotions got the best of me" is invalid. Emotional responses are based upon the decision to have that response. If emotions controlled us then we would nearly all be dead save those of us who effectively thwart an attempt or are set upon by an incompetent attacker. One study on homicide revealed that 98% of the randomly selected participants recalled at least one specific incident of wanting to kill someone of which many included planning thoughts. I think 2% had a memory dysfunction or couldn't recognize the impulse.

Imagine that you are being told, "You suck at parenting!". Examine your feelings or emotions in response to this. Now imagine it is the other parent of your child saying that in response to your decision concerning medical treatment of the child. Rate your emotional response. Likely you experienced a change in your response.

Now imagine that you are reading a magazine article about education in which the author quotes an advocate who says, "to those parents who don't insist upon their children that homework is completed I say this to them; 'You suck at parenting!'." Rate your emotional response to that. Again, you likely experienced a change in your response. I suspect that this time it was modulated downward.

This is because context was applied to the statement. Within the context is a value component. That is, we generally apply a value to the statement based upon the complete source of the utterance. The greater the value assigned to that source the higher the degree of our emotional response.

When one high conflict parent allows the other parent to elicit an adverse reaction through an emotionally charged utterance this is generally a paradox. By and large high conflict parents are embattled in conflict because they have devalued the need for or contributions of the others parent. Yet, high value is often attributed to their utterances which then elicit a charged reaction. If that person is not valued then why are the opinions of that person given greater weight?

Primarily it is because one has not elected to change his or her internalized reactions to or scale of emotional triggers. With a former spouse or similar partner this is compounded through the emotional baggage or the residual emotional effects of the relationship. An example of an internalized trigger can be found in some low or common cultures where males are expected to defend their honour. If one male challenges another as not exhibiting the traits of manhood the challenged male may puff up high chest and engage the other in hostile banter which may escalate to a physical altercation. Conversely, a high culture challenged male may simply dismiss the remark as coming from a low culture imbecile and go about his business. However, that response may be internalized from a high culture upbringing although it can be learned.

While behaviourism postulates that behaviour is determine by one's culture I feel that it is clearly not absolute as Biological Determinists contend. In all aspects of life there is an element of free will. Free will is scaled across domains and from person to person. One common area in which I counsel people is the domain of diet which provides a good example of behaviourism's elements.

A person born into a family that consumes garbage masquerading as food will likely internalize dietary habits that favour unhealthy choices. This person would have a great degree of free will to choose between hot dogs or bologna. The free will to choose between a sandwich of a processed meat product on white bread made from bleached flour topped with a slice of cheese food or to choose a fresh garden salad topped by sliced almonds, blueberries, and chicken strips would be expressed to a lesser degree. Further down the line would be if this person descended from a society that had little opportunity to hunt animals and only recently adopted farming techniques may have a penchant for sweets. He would be more biologically determined to appreciate high calorie sugary foods than low calorie vegetables.

This person could be satisfied with and appreciate an optimal diet consisting only of food. However, it would take him or her a greater degree of willpower than it would for someone raised on a diet modeled after the FDA's food pyramid which was politically constructed to favour the meat and dairy industries.

While the basis of the will to consume an optimal diet is the goal of attaining wellness the basis of the will to get a better child custody arrangement is parcel to the goal of attaining a healthful outcome for your child.

There are numerous facets to the willpower exerted that will be necessary to achieve this outcome. I am not going to explore each of these in depth here but instead am going to provide a brief synopsis of each.

Acceptance of the circumstances - You may not have been the party who initiated delegating decision making authority regarding the upbringing of your child to the state but if a court is involved then that is the way it is. There are numerous ancillary players in this venue who may provide input to the state regarding you and the well-being of your child. Their opinions may carry greater weight than yours. Accept it.

Tenacity - The pursuit of a healthful outcome for your child is a lifelong commitment whether that be at the personal level or through the intermediaries of the state. You involvement does not end when you pass on your records and evidence to an attorney. Nor when a final decree is issued [modification is built into the law for a reason]. Nor when your child is emancipated. The commitment to achieving a healthful outcome for your child is lifelong.

Pride is a demon - Suck it up. What you may feel is just, your personal authority, or respectful to you carries little, if any, weight in a court. Here is an axiom of law; the person who goes into court to prove a point loses. A child custody conflict nearly always requires a change in attitude and shedding some of the internalized concepts of parental authority.

Cooperation - This is not, in simplistic terms, following the rules or orders. An operation involves the steps to attaining a result. While preparing a meal is an operation let me use the common reference to operation as a surgical procedure to exemplify this point. Surgery is a cooperative effort among an array of actors in the process. While each is assigned a particular domain and is practiced in his or her processes they do not perform their tasks in rigidly defined roles or sequences. They each ply their skills as the circumstances warrant in conjunction with the others in the operating room. They cooperate without contention over job description, compensation, or their personal feelings for each other in an effort to attain a positive outcome for the patient.

Mindfulness - Mindfulness is raising awareness. To be mindful is to be aware of one's environment, feelings, and actions. It is attributing cause to actions preemptively. A mindful eater does not walk past a candy dish and grab a few pieces and plunk them into his gullet. A mindful eater first asses whether his body has a particular nutrient deficiency, whether that deficiency would be relieved by the specific candy and in what amount, whether there is a better way to achieve the same result, and what psychological impetus drives the arm to reach for the candy. Actions pertaining to the child custody action involving your child should be viewed in the same manner. A mindful person does not pick up her child at 6:00pm for parenting time because the court order and guidelines say to do so. She does it for much deeper reasons.

Theodore Roosevelt articulated a bit more verbosely that nothing worth doing is easy. I contend that quite the opposite is true. Again I will exemplify a point using food. Nearly every client that I have coached regarding diet has quipped to me that it is difficult to eat well. That fallacious opinion changes when eating is given the appropriate context. Eating well is incredibly easy. It does not involve pausing while climbing stairs, being irritable, having memory and focus problems, making and going to medical appointments, financial burdens of drugs, medical providers, and prolonged absences from employment, lethargy, loss of use of primary organs, amputation of a foot, and what I feel is most important - continuing to be a loving, supportive parent after premature death.

It takes tremendous willpower to perpetuate a feud to no end, to focus on catching every peccadillo committed by the other parent, to document, marshal evidence, strategize, and continue to pump out money to attorneys for the next battle in an ongoing war, to analyze every act or utterance by the other parent to determine whether it can be viewed as an affront to one's dignity or rights, and to shove to the recesses of one's mind that the child is suffering the consequences of these selfish actions.

It's not that most people don't have the willpower. I think I have illuminated that here through the few examples of the exhaustive efforts and tenacity people have demonstrated to achieving their will be it eating garbage made to appear as food or trying to punish the other parent. What is often needed is for that will to be redirected toward more positive outcomes.

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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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©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spurious claims, accepting responsibility, and high conflict child custody cases

When I encounter a parental archetype that relates to child custody, especially who not to be, I endeavor to share anecdotal accounts so you may contemplate the outcome of his or her experience. By not having to learn from personal experience but, instead, by example you and your children may benefit from those shortcomings of others.

For this latest example it is helpful that you have a working understanding of the personality of this character. I will first provide an account of the encounter and then a situation that should encapsulate the psychological make-up of the parent.

Midday Friday I set up camp with a book buyer in the parking of a book distributor who was having a sale the next day. Of the thousands of people who attend we managed to be first in line. That evening we were joined by some of the ten other people he employs to assist him. That evening during the course of general conversation a man so employed mentioned something to the effect of gender bias in the application of Indiana's Civil Protection Order Act.[en1]

His claims ran the usual gamut of long ago dispelled notions. This included that the DVPO was unconstitutional, that it transferred property without hearing or due process, that the exclusion of an owner of property from the real property was the criminal act of conversion[en2] , that men are ordered to pay child support -- even if they go to prison -- and can't get out of it, that women never have to pay child support, and, of course, that parenting time should be 50/50 and deviations from that are an unconstitutional abrogation of a father's rights. The claim that the 13th Amendment was unconstitutional and we don't legally have to pay federal income tax was probably in there too.

My arguments to the contrary were met with broad disputations not on point to my claim but rather generalized to a constitutional argument such as the "general welfare" clause[en3] or that the "corrupt courts" were biased against fathers.

Two things occurred to me at this point. The first being that it was highly probable that he has not watched child custody or DVPO proceedings in at least 50 different courts throughout Indiana. Secondly, and more notably, this is the guy to which the book seller has occasionally mentioned over the past three or more years as a friend who is "going through a horrible custody battle" and could use my assistance.

At this point I should have painted a clear image in your head of this person. The one who broods about his situation, attributes fault to others, and may post on Facebook ad nausea about his case. It's a personality trait which is considered a deficiency in the wellness schema for fit parenting.

Here is how the book sale goes. We go into a pen that houses a grid of about 200 crates containing 500 or so books each. Our group spreads out in a preplanned course in pairs or trios. There is a picker, such as me, who decides which books to purchase. Then there is a packer who receives the books or is told to pull them from the bins. This person or another may act as a runner who takes the books to a check-out area and then returns with another empty packing box.

The particular parent who is the subject of this posting mostly acts as a picker but floats as needed. After accumulating about 2000 books [80 boxes] we were done and all proceeded to check-out. Well not quite all. One person wasn't there.

During the frantic rush as we pour over these books each of us comes across a few titles that we want for ourselves. For efficiency those get tossed in with the books for the book seller. Well, instead of being at check-out with the others, someone was off at a staging area sorting through about 10 boxes which had not been taken to checkout to be tabulated.

While nine employees stood by idly the book seller complained to me that he needs to get those 10 boxes to check-out and we will sort through them at the shop. So I go tell our dear protagonist to get the boxes to check-out so we can get going. Further, that he will be able to retrieve his titles at the shop when we sort them there.

The response to me was simply put, "No, I am not going to do that. That doesn't work for me. You can just wait, I am going to get my books out here." The result is that the book seller is paying 10 employees an hourly wage for the time this guy picks out his books.

Well, I have never been to a hearing involving this guy. I have never seen the custody order, the petitions, or the CCS. I don't even know who the mother is or anything about her. I haven't been contacted by him for his necessary counseling.

But there is one thing I do know about the case. That this custody case, which began in the womb, continues to this day because he insists that it do so.

At this point, if you have observed my previous admonitions, you can imagine the proceedings and identify the major contributing factor to the ongoing high conflict. This man is a child parading as a parent who when he doesn't get his way is going to take his toys and go home. But the "toy" in this case is a child under the jurisdiction of the court. What that means is that court procedure is applied and done so [or supposed to be] according to statute and applicable case law.

It is the absence of a judicial officer conducting the proceedings according to statute and applicable case law -- as is supposed to be the case -- which perpetuates the conflict. That is the perception of this father as I have observed. However, his position that the general welfare clause is applicable to protection orders and that he hadn't heard of Lambert v Lambert[en4] relating to child support payments being reduced for incarcerated parents demonstrates his misapplication, misunderstanding or ignorance of law.

What doesn't go over well in these proceedings is the proposition that the judicial officer is a conspirator in a vast anti-father scheme, that there is a constitutional mandate to order 50/50 parenting time, that the court acts criminally, and that this is not a matter for a court to decide. All made without supporting evidence or historic reference.

The reason I long ago expanded from providing just trial strategy assistance and appellate preservation to providing cognitive behavioural therapy directed toward child custody proceedings in because underlying perceptions direct behaviour. That is, you act according to your thoughts.

If an argument is to be made in court regarding the custody or parenting time of a child then it should be valid and comport to established procedure and law. Courts are a venue for logic and law to be applied. Thinking otherwise is the foundation for behaviours destructive to a case. Philosophical arguments to the contrary should be saved for another venue like the legislature, academia or less formal popular culture. And while on the subject of philosophy our protagonist may be well advised to examine Heidegger's proposition that we are engaged in the world.

1] IC 24-26-5 et seq
2] IC 35-43-4-3 A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person commits criminal conversion, a Class A misdemeanor.
3] Article I, section 8 of the U. S. Constitution grants Congress the power to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States."
4]  Lambert v. Lambert,. 801 N.E. 2d 1176, 1180 (IN. 2007) Prior to Lambert, Indiana was one of the states that held the position that commission of a crime was a voluntary act which resulted in imprisonment and as such was voluntary underemployment. Thus, support payment orders should not be modified to reflect the reduced earnings during incarceration. The Lambert decision held that the decision to commit a crime was so far removed from intent to get child support reduced that it was therefore improper to base child support payments on anything other than current incarceration income.

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Make a suggestion for me to write about.

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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©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A cognitive schema for seeing what is before your eyes

At age 48 it has now been about eight years since I noticed deterioration in my vision. It was 10 years ago when people began to mention to me the pitfalls of growing older and how at around age 40 a marked decline will become apparent. Whether a truism or a self-fulfilling prophecy, sure enough some gray hairs appeared on my head, my cycling speed was down from 20 years earlier and . . . I started going blind.

It was clearly my perception that my vision had deteriorated significantly. Texts that had once been clearly legible at a half foot from my face were still blurry at twice, now thrice, that distance.

Obtaining corrective lenses has been relegated to the level of importance near that of getting draperies for my windows. It would be an admission that my body is deteriorating which is something I vigorously resists. Nonetheless, I have pledged that by age 50 I will succumb to admitting that the forces of nature have bested my will to the contrary and will relent by using eyeglasses.

Towards that end, last week when presented with an opportunity for a free eye screening conducted by members of the Lions' Club I availed myself. I quickly rattled off the first six lines of letters accurately until encountering some ambiguities among the characters on the seventh line. When all was said and done my right eye showed a deficiency on the near-sighted screen registering 20/30. All others were 20/20.

This revelation sparked a thought about self-perception and why so many parents get blindsided in a child custody case.

Essentially, parents perform their own fitness analysis as I had done with my eyesight. This leaves them susceptible to their bias which may find its roots in culture, upbringing or personal experience.

When my son was in elementary school he participated in the regional science fair. As we were walking through the exhibit hall I spotted a display that would be of interest to him. I read the title and pointed it out. Repeatedly! As we walked toward it from four aisles away he was finally able to see the title which I referenced. That was at a distance of one aisle. When we returned to home I replicated the scenario using various texts. I could read at a distance four times greater than him.

I quizzed him about various aspects of sight and behaviours which revealed that he was accommodating his visual deficiency. His accommodations includes actions such as choosing to sit near the front of the classroom or looking out the side windows of the car rather than the front.

He had no indication that his eyesight was deficient as it was the only vision he had ever known. He indicated that his eyesight had not deteriorated and that he assumed everyone else saw as he did. It was after I mentioned it to his mother, the custodial parent, that an objective analysis was performed by an optometrist and eyeglasses were obtained.

In child custody cases parents may be subjected to the same type of cognitive deficiency. The social comparison theory postulates that we have an internal drive to objectively evaluate ourselves in relation to others. This laudable goal suffers from a few psychological pressures and thus is impractical. First, is that our social network tends to be reflective of ourselves. We tend to live among, work with and socialize with people who have similar values and demographic characteristics as ourselves. That is we seek similarity and avoid conflict. Then we must confront that the tendency to compare oneself to another person decreases as the difference between their opinions and abilities becomes more divergent. In other words, if someone is much different from you, you are less likely to compare yourself to that person. Also, the self-esteem pressure, which may be heightened during a custody battle, can lead to downward social comparisons; "at least I don't beat my child."

But there is no objective evaluation method of parental performance that calculates fulfillment of parenting objectives. Certainly there are statutory requirements but those are limited to proscribing neglect. CPS/DCS has a broader parenting rubric but again, it serves the same goal. In child custody proceedings, and parenting generally, it is serving the best interest of the child which is the objective. How that is to be measured is still highly subjective and controverted though.

I could -- although I haven't and won't -- compose a list of objectives for parents that serve the best interest of the child which would bring one into better favour with the presiding judicial officer on the case. However, that would suffer from multiple dynamics. Foremost is the individuality of the child. To demonstrate this I will use "provide a safe living environment" as one of the best interest items.

In rearing my son I removed any of the electrical outlet covers, door latches, or other "safety devices" that his mother had installed which were usually employed in the child warehousing environment where she worked. This is because those devices do not provide a safe environment. They are only obstructions to hazards. The safe environment is one in which he is knowledgeable about the hazards. Thus, his safety is transient -- it goes with him.

I demonstrated to him what was appropriate to plug into an outlet and the polarization of current. Likewise, I demonstrated what was inappropriate by creating shorts resulting in startling sparks and bangs. I also demonstrated on myself the effects of lye and why he should not mess with household chemicals. This may seem to some to be expecting cognition beyond the ability of a child under age three years but this is a guy who since that time never put anything in a VHS/DVD/CD player that was not an appropriate medium. Nor has he handled the media in a way that would render playback less than optimal.

So, as you can see, the objective "provide a safe living environment" is not an objective measure because of the subjectivity in its application. This presents the problem; can an objective formula of analysis for parenting behaviours be constructed?

I postulate that there is a measure of parenting behaviour although aspects of it may be difficult to attribute to a particular parent. The ultimate objective of parenting is to rear the child to reproductive maturity with the skills, knowledge, and general well-being sufficient to subsequently provide the same to his or her progeny.

To this end it is necessary to provide the child with a sense of security across a range of applications. These include food, housing, physical well-being, and the ongoing presence of trustworthy caretakers which may be referred to as emotional well-being .

When a child is in want of any of these domains then the result is anxiety. Anxiety can be expressed through a broad spectrum of behaviours or symptoms. Being knowledgeable about the manifestations of anxiety can provide a report to a parent, or any other evaluator, as to whether the child is receiving care by fit parents. Filtering the data can point to whether the deficiency in care is by a particular parent.

While there do exists objective measures for eyesight it was not facilitation of those devices which led me to discover the vision deficiency of my son. Rather, it was observation and detection of the symptoms. Similarly, when a child is deficient in proper parenting, symptoms will be present. Although it is unlikely that typical parents will be able to evaluate and draw accurate conclusions from the symptoms expressed by the child they shall nonetheless be able to document them. A third-party professional will be able to interpret the data and offer a platform of strategies to be employed by either or both parents to effectuate a reduction in the level of anxiety experienced by the child.

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