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Fathers Day 20th June 2015 PDF Print E-mail
(2 Votes)
Written by B.Ramakrishna Rao   


Child custody: High court to consider counsellors PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Rosy Sequeira   

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday said it will consider a suggestion for evaluation of a child by a trained counsellor before granting custody in matrimonial disputes.

The suggestion was made to a division bench of Justices P B Majmudar and Anoop Mohta by advocate Meena Doshi. She said the practice of calling children to the judges' chamber to ascertain their wish is insufficient.

Doshi said a trained counsellor can consider a child's willingness or not to go with either parent. "Have trained child counsellors find out the psychological makeup of the child before granting custody. That element cannot be considered by judges, as they are not experts," Doshi said. She said the court can consider taking the help of trained counsellors from institutes such as Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The judges welcomed her suggestion and said they will consider it in future. "We'll keep it in mind," said Justice Majmudar.

Doshi, who said she usually doesn't appear in matrimonial cases, made the suggestion in a case where the mother of a teenager was opposing his father who wanted to take him for vacation. The family court had granted the wife a divorce last year and allowed husband access to their son once a week. The husband appealed in high court against the order and after it was filed, the father was allowed overnight access.

The wife's advocate argued that the boy does not want to go with his father. She also alleged that in his earlier marriage, he has a daughter but is not bothered about her.

"Nowadays everyone wants boys. Even TV serials are showing this discrimination," said Justice Majmudar. The boy, who had accompanied his mother, was called before the entire courtroom. The judges then decided to ask him in their chamber if he is willing to go with his father. After interviewing him, they allowed the father to take him outside Mumbai from May 14 to 21. The wife also gave her consent.

In custody battles, grandparents suffer most PDF Print E-mail
(8 Votes)
Written by Karthika Gopalakrishnan   

Karthika Gopalakrishnan, TNN Oct 2, 2011, 12.32AM IST

CHENNAI: In the crossfire of a divorce battle between their children and respective spouses, grandparents often suffer the most when denied access to their grandchildren, lawyers say. Taking a look at this spillover effect of divorces on the occasion of International Elders' Day, advocates say that in the absence of legal provisions, there is no room for grandparents to seek remedy from courts in this regard.

"I often get calls from grandparents saying they are not able to see their grandchildren at all. It's especially hard if a divorce has happened within a joint family set-up. Mothers take their children away and do not allow grandparents to visit. A parent who has moved away knows that this would hurt grandparents the most," said Sheila Jayaprakash, a reputed family court lawyer.

Increasing Numbers of Single Fathers Gaining Child Custody PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Myburgh Law, P.C.   
Data from the 2010 Census show a significant increase in the number of families led by single dads, reflecting a shift toward greater gender equality in child custody decisions.

September 23, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Data from the 2010 Census show a significant increase in the number of families led by single dads in the U.S. The statistics reflect a relatively recent shift toward greater gender equality in family law, giving dads more equal footing in child custody decisions.

More Families Headed by Single Fathers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of American families with single, male heads of households increased by 27.3 percent from 2000 to 2010. Single fathers accounted for 8 percent of U.S. households in 2010, reports Bloomberg news, which is an increase from 6.3 percent of American households in 2000 and just 1.1 percent in 1950.

Two kids reunited with mothers in separate incidents PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by TNN   

TNN Sep 11, 2011, 06.20am IST

CHENNAI: Two young boys were reunited with their mothers in separate incidents in the city on Friday and Saturday. While three-year-old Vignesh (name changed) and his father were nabbed on arrival from Singapore at the Chennai airport, P Suresh and his father's family were caught before they could take a flight out of the city.

Following a lookout notice issued by Central Crime Branch (CCB) officers of the Greater Chennai Police, immigration officials in Singapore intercepted Vignesh, his father Sivakumar (name changed) and Sivakumar's parents as they were about to board a flight to the US and sent them to the Chennai airport where CCB inspector D Umapathy and sub-inspector P Shanthi Devi were waiting. Vignesh was later united with his mother Hansika (name changed).

A case was registered against Sivakumar and the matter forwarded to the counselling centre in the anti-dowry cell at the commissioner's office.

The police said Sivakumar, a green card holder in the US, married Hansika five years ago. Vignesh was born in the US. Last October, they returned after Hansika's visa expired. Sivakumar promised to send her a dependant visa but had been stalling since then.

After coming to know that Sivakumar had secretly come here for Ganesh Chaturthi, Hansika, who lives with her parents in Velachery, went to her husband's house in Adyar on Wednesday and saw Vignesh with her mother-in-law. She approached police commissioner JK Tripathy who forwarded the complaint to the CCB. The police rushed to Adyar but Sivakumar and his family had left for Singapore en route to the US.

The Singapore Consulate in the city was informed and a lookout notice issued.

"We are investigating to see why Sivakumar wanted to leave his wife and why he didn't take steps to get a dependant visa for her," a police officer said.

In the second case, the police said, Srija (33) of Alwarpet and Parthasarathy (35) of Velachery, software engineers, got married in 2007 and settled in the US. They have a son named P Suresh. Two years ago, Srija returned here, alleging torture by her husband and his mother. Later, she tried to get her son back but failed. On Saturday, the police nabbed Parthasarathy and his family at the Chennai airport around 4pm. "We reunited the child with his mother after counselling," a police officer said. The couple have been asked to appear again for counselling on Monday.

Virtual Visitation Helps Maintain Strong Parent-Child Relationships PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Barnes & Diehl   
Virtual visitation is great way to stay connected with out-of-state children.

July 05, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Online video calling services and social media sites have greatly increased Americans' connectivity to family, friends and colleagues. While most find these services a convenient way to keep in touch, for non-custodial parents that live in a different state than their children, video calling and social media are essential tools for staying connected to their kids and maintaining strong parent-child relationships. This type of communication is known as virtual visitation, and awarding such visitation is an increasingly popular child custody stipulation.

What Is Virtual Visitation?

Virtual visitation is a wonderful way for out-of-state, non-custodial parents to maintain close relationships with their children. Often, geographical distance between parents and children strain this important relationship. According to statistics from the National Center for State Courts, 25 percent of the 35 million children with separated, divorced or single parents have a parent that lives in a different city. As a result, 10 million children do not get face time with their non-custodial parent.

In the late 1990s, family law courts started awarding non-custodial parents virtual visitation. Virtual visitation rights entitle non-custodial parents to video calling and social media contact with their children. Currently, six states have virtual visitation laws in effect -- Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin -- and 22 others are considering such legislation.

When a family law judge awards virtual visitation rights, he or she will also outline how frequently these visits will occur and how long they will last. Most virtual visitation laws also include protections for children to help prevent abuse and harm. Like other child custody decisions, virtual visitation decisions are made in the best interests of the child.

How Does Virtual Visitation Strengthen Relationships?

As some out-of-state, non-custodial parents have experienced, reduced visits and time with children often erodes relationships with kids, making infrequent visits awkward. Virtual visitation allows non-custodial parents and children to share in everyday joys and sorrows like they did before the parents separated. Children can share report cards, soccer game scores and problems with friends or school with their parent on a video call or through social media. Keeping non-custodial parents in the loop helps enrich the relationship between parent and child.

Parents that live apart from their children should seriously consider pursuing virtual visitation rights. If you would like to learn more about how virtual visitation works in Virginia, please contact an experienced Richmond family law attorney.

Mother arrested after leaving five-year-old son to gamble at casino PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Daily Mail Reporter   

A mother wanted on counterfeiting charges has been accused of leaving her five-year-old son alone in a hotel room so she could gamble.

Xiao Xu Wu was charged on Wednesday with risk of injury to a minor after her son called 911 and said he was left alone at a Mohegan Sun Casino in New York.

Police said the 38-year-old Wu had pending immigration charges and was wanted in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on counterfeiting charges. She also was charged as a fugitive from justice and held on a $200,000 bond.

As CBS News reports, the five-year-old boy did not know where his mother was when he woke up from a nap to find himself alone, and called 911.

The dispatcher gently questioned him about her whereabouts and determined his mother was absent.

Police say the woman left her cellphone number on the nightstand with instructions not to open the door for anyone, but the boy said he could not read the note.

The state Department of Children and Families has taken the child into custody.

The mother was arrested and charged with risk of injury to a minor. The Courant reports Wu was also wanted on immigration charges.

According to the network, she told prosecutors she 'felt that there was nothing wrong with what she had done' by leaving her boy alone in the hotel room. 

In a statement to the newspaper, the casino said: 'Here at Mohegan Sun we do everything we can to provide the opportunity for all guests to act responsibly.

'When it comes to child care, we have multiple options available for guests including Kids Quest and Cyber Quest facilities. We have a no tolerance policy for things of this nature and are cooperating fully with all authorities on this matter.'

The case was continued to February 24.

It's not known if Wu is represented by a lawyer.

Census Bureau: 35% of Children of Divorce Have No Contact with Non-Custodial Parent PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Robert Franklin   

Thirty-five percent of children with separated parents had no contact with the non-custodial parent.  That was one finding of a 2008 report by the United States Census Bureau and referred to in this article (Durango Herald, 9/22/11).

It’s a good article in a number of ways.  Principally, it eschews the usual excuse for why non-custodial parents don’t have contact with their kids, i.e. dads don’t care about their children.  Having done so, it’s free to take a (cursory) look at some real issues, like the many institutional and individual barriers between fathers and children.  (Has the author been reading this blog?)

C. J. Wood will tell you that being a father is about answering questions, going fishing and wearing out the swings at the local playground.

But sometimes, a father’s willingness to do those things does not guarantee an ability to do them.

Wood is among a number of parents fighting for access to their children. A 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report found more than 35 percent of children whose parents live separately had no contact with their noncustodial parent in 2007. However, advocates and state researchers said it’s impossible to know how many of those cases involved parents who were denied access to their children.

Notice that the non-custodial parent is assumed to be Dad.  That of course is accurate.  About 84% of non-custodial parents are fathers, so it’s appropriate to illustrate non-custodial parents with dads.

But according to sociologist Susan Stewart who studied non-custodial parents, mothers in that role are as likely to become “Disneyland Parents” as are fathers.  That strongly suggests it’s the system of custodial/non-custodial care that’s at fault for separating children from one parent post-divorce, not the parents themselves.

Locally, though, “it’s extremely common for us to get calls from fathers who want to be in their children’s lives more than anything, but someone, or something, is stopping them,” said Eve Presler, director of Advocacy for La Plata, an organization that helps at-risk families and operates a fatherhood program aimed at helping dads increase their parenting time and comply with child-support agreements.

“Someone or something is stopping them.”  That puts it in a nutshell.  The “someone” is the custodial parent, usually the mother, who interferes with visitation knowing full well that the “something” - the court - likely won’t lift a finger to stop her.

But that “something” does far more to separate children from fathers than just non-enforcement of visitation.  Daily, thousands of times a day, it looks at fit fathers and consigns them to the role of visitor for the rest of their children’s lives as minors.  It does that time and again all the while waving the banner of the “best interests of the child” even though mountains of data on child well-being show it’s that very separation that harms children.

One of the ways that “something” goes about separating fathers from children is by accepting allegations of abuse or domestic violence when made by mothers virtually at face value.  It’s one of the most common stories we hear: Mom levels an allegation of abuse or violence at Dad for the first time in a custody case.  Little or no evidence of actual abuse or violence is required for a no-contact order to be issued, and so one duly is.  Dad is separated from his kids for the duration of the divorce case at the end of which time he’s consigned to the role of visitor.  Fathers know this all too well.

For Bret Burrows, who began working for the fatherhood program at Advocacy for La Plata a year ago, the situation is alarming and somewhat repetitious.

“It’s almost like every story is the same with a few details changed,” Burrows said.

He sees parents fighting over support payments and dodging visitation schedules. Some even have kidnapped their own children, leaving the other parent to fight for months or years just to see their children…

“It’s painful,” Wood said of the children’s absence. “They’re growing, and I’m missing it.”

Burrows said he sees both positive changes and old stereotypes playing out in courtrooms as the families sort through their concerns. Though the laws try to ensure equal rights and responsibilities for both parents, there still are times when “a knee-jerk reaction” in the mother’s favor is apparent, Burrows said. “Fathers are not only having to fight mom for access to their kids, but they’re having to fight the system, too,” Burrows said.

That’s pretty much the size of it.  And let’s not forget that the “system” Burrows refers to includes state legislatures, parts of the federal government and the news media that too seldom do what the Durango Herald did in the linked-to article - tell the truth about what it’s like to be a father in the family court system.

Let’s be clear.  There are over one million divorces a year in this country.  Millions of children have divorced parents.  The fact that 35% of them have no contact with their non-custodial parent is far beyond disgraceful.  It indicts the entire system of the way we handle divorce and child custody.  More than anything I can think of, that one fact fairly screams that what we are doing is morally wrong and destructive of the legitimate needs of children and fathers.

Children need both parents.  Our system of family courts and family laws resolutely accomplishes the opposite.  That must change.

Unable to pay child support, poor parents land behind bars PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Mike Brunker   

Judges can jail alleged defaulters — who are not covered by the presumption of innocence — without a trial

It may not be a crime to be poor, but it can land you behind bars if you also are behind on your child-support payments.

Thousands of so-called “deadbeat” parents are jailed each year in the U.S. after failing to pay court-ordered child support — the vast majority of them for withholding or hiding money out of spite or a feeling that they’ve been unfairly gouged by the courts.

But in what might seem like an un-American plot twist from a Charles Dickens’ novel, advocates for the poor say, some parents are wrongly being locked away without any regard for their ability to pay — sometimes without the benefit of legal representation.

Randy Miller, a 39-year-old Iraqi war vet, found himself in that situation in November, when a judge in Floyd County, Ga., sent him to jail for violating a court order to pay child support.

He said he was stunned when the judge rebuffed his argument that he had made regular payments for more than a decade before losing his job in July 2009 and had recently resumed working.

“I felt that with my payment history and that I had just started working, maybe I would be able to convince the judge to give me another month and a half to start making the payments again,” he told “… But that didn’t sit too well with him because he went ahead and decided to lock me up.”

Miller, who spent three months in jail before being released, is one of six plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in March that seeks to force the state of Georgia to provide lawyers for poor non-custodial parents facing the loss of their freedom for failing to pay child support.

‘Debtors’ prisons’?
“Languishing in jail for weeks, months, and sometimes over a year, these parents share one trait … besides their poverty: They went to jail without ever talking to an attorney,” according to the lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Southern Center of Human Rights in Atlanta.

While jailing non-paying parents — the vast majority of them men — does lead to payment in many cases, critics say that it unfairly penalizes poor and unemployed parents who have no ability to pay, even though federal law stipulates that they must have “willfully” violated a court order before being incarcerated.

They compare the plight of such parents to the poor people consigned to infamous “debtors’ prisons” before such institutions were outlawed in the early 1800s.

“I try very carefully not to exaggerate, but I do think that’s an apt comparison,” said Sarah Geraghty, the attorney handling the Georgia case for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

“And I think anyone who went down and watched one of these proceedings would agree with me. … You see a room full of indigent parents — most of them African-American — and you have a judge and attorney general, both of whom are white. The hearings often take only 15 seconds. The judge asks, ‘Do you have any money to pay?’ the person pleads and the judge says, ‘OK you’re going to jail,’” she added.

The threat of jailing delinquent parents is intended to coerce them to pay, but in rare cases it can have tragic results.

In June, a New Hampshire father and military veteran, Thomas Ball, died after dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself ablaze in front of the Cheshire County Court House.

In a long, rambling letter to the local Sentinel newspaper, the 58-year-old Ball stated that he did so to focus attention on what he considered unfair domestic violence laws and because he expected to be jailed at an upcoming hearing on his failure to pay up to $3,000 in delinquent child support, even though he had been out of work for two years.

The ability of judges to jail parents without a trial is possible because failure to pay child support is usually handled as a civil matter, meaning that the non-custodial parent — or the “contemnor” in legal terms — is found guilty of contempt of court and ordered to appear at a hearing.

He or she is not entitled to some constitutional protections that criminal defendants receive, including the presumption of innocence. And in five states — Florida, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina and Ohio — one of the omitted protections is the right to an attorney.

Randall Kessler, a family law attorney in Atlanta and chairman of the American Bar Association’s family law division, said states have a great deal of leeway in family law, which includes child support cases.

“The main reason states are patchwork is because family law is a local idea,” he said. “It’s very infrequent that the federal government gets into family law, except for international custody every now and then and violence against women. ... Each community’s laws are different in the way they treat child support collection, and the right to a lawyer and the right to a jury trial varies.”

He noted, however, that the ABA last year approved a resolution urging "federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low-income persons in ... adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody."

Supreme Court: No right to a lawyer
The child support program currently serves approximately 17 million U.S. children, or nearly a quarter of the nation’s minors, according to a recent study by Elaine Sorensen, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.

Critics of incarceration without representation had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would end the practice in its ruling in Turner v. Rogers, a case involving a South Carolina man who was repeatedly jailed for up to a year after failing to pay child support.

But the court ruled 5-4 in June that poor parents are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer when facing jail for non-payment of child support. Instead, the justices said, states should use “substantial procedural safeguards” to ensure that those who have no means to pay are not locked up.

That is likely to force the states that don’t guarantee the right to an attorney to tighten their policies, said Colleen Eubanks, executive director of the National Child Support Enforcement Association, which represents state agencies. “Obviously they’re going to have to look at changing the rules,” she said.

Ken Wolfe, a spokesman for the federal Administration for Children and Families, which imposes some rules on state child support enforcement agencies in exchange for funding, said the agency expects to issue guidance to the states next month regarding the Turner case. He declined to provide any details.

But Libba Patterson, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former director of the state Department of Social Services, said the Supreme Court ruling provides “very weak protections” for poor parents and is unlikely on its own to solve the problem of wrongful incarceration of poor parents.

“It depends on the extent to which the court is truly interested in making a full inquiry on the ability-to-pay issue and on the resources the court has and the amount of judicial time,” she said.

Even in states where the non-custodial parents do have the right to a lawyer, those without the financial resources to meet their child-support obligations still frequently land in jail.

A 2009 study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank in Washington, D.C., found that only half of the child support debtors in California prisons had reported income in the two preceding years. And the median net income of the others was a mere $2,881.

65 percent of paycheck taken
Geraghty, the Southern Center for Human Rights attorney, said part of the problem is that courts often order poor parents to pay too much for child support in the first place, increasing the likelihood that they will fall behind on payments.

“One of my former clients worked at the Piggly Wiggly (supermarket) and they were taking 65 percent of her paycheck,” she said. “It left her in a position where there was simply no way that she could survive on the amount that she had left.”

No one can say how many parents are jailed each year for failing to pay child support, because states typically do not track such cases.

But an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics in 2002 by the Urban Institute’s Sorensen suggested that approximately 10,000 parents were jailed that year for non-payment of child support, representing 1.7 percent of the overall U.S. jail population.

Most observers believe that number has risen as a result of the troubled U.S. economy.

In fiscal 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Child Support Enforcement program saw child support collections decline for the first time in the history of the program, dipping 1.8 percent, the GAO reported in January.

At the same time, payments collected from unemployment insurance benefits nearly tripled, and the number of cases in which children were receiving public assistance also rose.

Military veterans, who often struggle to find work when they leave the service, appear to be particularly at risk.

Lance Hendrix of Adel, Ga., an Army veteran, said he fell behind on child support for his 4-year-old daughter after he left the service and couldn’t find work.

“I was arrested and I went to jail and they asked me all sorts of questions,” said Hendrix, who also is a plaintiff in the Georgia lawsuit. “I was never told I was under arrest. And I was never read my rights. So I did not know what rights I had. Of course, I’ve seen all these movies, but half that isn’t true.”

Not having a lawyer in a civil contempt hearing increases the likelihood that the parent will be jailed, even if he or she is not guilty of “willfully” defying the court’s order, say critics of the policy.

‘Wrongfully imprisoned’
“In the absence of counsel … it appears that the opportunity to raise the defense is often missed, and large numbers of indigent parents are wrongfully imprisoned for failure to meet child support obligations every year,” according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the Turner case by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

The deck is further stacked against the delinquent parent because the state often acts as the plaintiff, seeking to recover the cost of providing public assistance to the child, Geraghty said.

Officials of Georgia’s Child Support Services agency declined to comment on the state’s child support enforcement policies or the lawsuit.

But Seth Harp, a retired Georgia state senator and former member of the state’s Child Support Guidelines Commission, said the state’s judges use incarceration sparingly.

“The methodology to put someone in jail requires that the person be taken to court before a judge and there they have to be found in willful contempt — someone who actively refuses to seek work or is hiding assets, something like that,” he said. “Judges don’t want to put people in jail. … The whole purpose is to get these people to support their children.”

Harp said he’s seen the tactic work repeatedly in his long career as a family law attorney.

“You can’t get blood out of a turnip, but you can put the turnip in the cooler,” he said. “And in 34 years of doing this, it’s amazing, you put someone in the cooler and the money seems to come.”

Judge Janice M. Rosa, a supervising court judge in New York’s 8th Judicial District and a board member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said the system in her state adequately protects non-custodial parents by guaranteeing them a court-appointed lawyer if they cannot afford one and carefully determining that they have the ability to pay.

“No one here is going to jail when a factory closes down and you’re one of hundreds looking for a job,” she said. “… Every state has said that debtors’ prisons are illegal, and you have to give these people a way out. You can only put them in jail if they have money and won’t pay.”

Attempt to assist both parents
Eubanks, the National Child Support Enforcement Association official, said state programs in general are doing a better job in recent years of ensuring that the poor aren’t unfairly locked up by instituting programs to help non-custodial parents improve work, life and parenting skills.

“Five to 10 years ago, the program was pretty much about enforcing support. But now it’s moving to the understanding that if parents are going to support their children, they need assistance,” she said. “Our philosophy is to provide whatever tools we can to both parents to support their children.”

She also said the recent Supreme Court decision prompted the association to conduct training and outreach to ensure that state agencies are aware of the issue and have adequate safeguards in place to prevent indigent parents from being wrongly jailed.

That is no comfort to Miller, the Iraq war veteran who was jailed for three months. He said jailing parents who fall behind on their payments is counterproductive and should be reserved for only the most egregious violators.

“I feel like it’s more unfair to the kids, because now not only do the kids not get any money, nor do they even get to spend time with their fathers once they get locked up,” he said. “The closest you can get is visitation, and who wants their kids to see them behind bars or behind glass.”

Wife can seek maintenance on behalf of major child: Bombay HC PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by PTI   

PTI Sep 1, 2011, 05.26pm IST

The Bombay High Court has held that an estranged wife can seek maintenance from her husband for and on behalf of her major daughter or son so long as the child is dependent on her.

"A daughter may have attained majority but so long as she is unmarried and dependent on mother, she is entitled to maintenance from her father's earnings," ruled Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice R Y Ganoo.

The ruling was delivered on August 26 on an appeal filed by Vijaykumar Chawla, a businessman, against a family court order which ordered him to pay Rs 40,000 per month to his daughter, Shraddha, who was staying with her mother and undergoing a pilot's training course.
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