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FATHERS’ RIGHTS
NOT JUST EVERY OTHER WEEKEND

This is about fathers' rights law, and protecting the best interests of your children. It provides information, news and comments on laws, cases and strategies for life as a single father and winning your custody, access or child support case.

Archive for April, 2006

Taking Off the Training Wheels

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

It’s another beautiful Sunday here in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and the bike path for Rock Creek Park is just across Jones Mill Road. It’s a big day today because we are taking the training wheels off my son’s bike.

It brings back memories of that day when my dad took the training wheels off my Schwinn. He ran down the street beside me and yanked me by the back of my shirt collar whenever I almost tipped over.

For my son, however, we are going to try something new. I heard if you take off the training wheels AND THE PEDALS so that kids have to push with their feet on the ground, it is easier for them to learn to balance the bike. We’ll give it a try and I pass the tip along to other fathers out there who are taking off the training wheels.

NY Shared Custody Bill Fails in Committee

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

The Children and Families Committee of the New York Assembly has voted 12 to 4 against a bill that would have enacted a shared parenting presumption for children of divorcing spouses. Fathers’ rights organizations supported the bill and the National Organization for Women lobbied against it.

No More Guardians Ad Litem in Maryland

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

The Maryland Court of Appeals held in Fox v. Wills (2006) that an attorney appointed by the court as Guardian Ad Litem in a case had no special immunity and could be sued by one of the parents. The court said in a footnote that the term “Guardian Ad Litem” is not in the rules or statutes of Maryland. Bills were then introduced in the legislature which passed but provisions granting immunity were stricken.

Now the Maryland Rules Committee is considering rules which would allow the court to appoint the following:

Best Interest Attorney to protect the child’s best interests, which may not be the same as the child’s wishes;

Child Advocate Attorney to provide counsel to the child; and

Child’s Privilege Attorney, to assert or waive any privilege of the child.

This tracks the recent recommendations of the American Bar Association to replace the Guardian Ad Litem designation to avoid confusion and clearly set forth the role of the attorney in court orders involving appointments for children.

If You Think You Are the Father, You Probably Are

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Ken Barnhart, an attorney in our law firm, called my attention to this interesting study by the University of Oklahoma. Men involved in paternity disputes, who strongly believe that they are the father of the child, are correct more than 98% of the time. On the other hand, men who doubted that they were the father and contested paternity were correct only about 30% of the time. The other 70% of the time, men who doubted paternity actually were the father.

Increase in Sole Custody for Fathers

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

There is a growing trend in the past five years of decisions awarding sole custody to fathers according to a survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. 21% of respondents mentioned this trend while no member saw a rise in decisions awarding sole custody to mothers. The survey also indicated a growing trend toward joint custody awards.

My Children or Ours

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

P.M. Price makes a lot of good points in her column yesterday about her divorce. She has been told to say “our children” and not “my children” in court. Otherwise, as she says, the judges get ticked off and think you are already trying to cut the other parent out. Good advice.

His Ex Is a Judge

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Talk about trouble. Kieran Crowley reports in today’s New York Post Online that Kenneth Jaffe’s ex is Dana Mitchell Jaffe, a Judge for the Nassua County District Court.

Kenneth has filed a motion against his ex for interfering with visitation with their 11 and 13 year old sons.

“I am thoroughly disappointed in Ken’s claim that I have used my position as a District Court Judge to obtain preferential treatment and to intimidate him. This could not be further from the truth,” says Judge Jaffe.

She says that cancellations of visits were due to ill health or other social obligations of the boys.

She also said the boys were uncomfortable with her Ken’s girlfriends sleeping over during visitations.

Paternity Fraud

Friday, April 14th, 2006

More and more fathers are challenging paternity fraud in cases across the country. Under the common law, a married man is presumed to be the father of a child born during the marriage. And even if you are not the biological father of the child born of the marriage, the courts in a majority of cases will hold you to be the legal father of that child and require you to pay child support. And this is true even if you present DNA evidence that you are not the father.

So what do you do if you are tricked into paying child support by the mother for a child who is not your own? A Michigan man paid $80,000 in child support over 15 years to his ex-wife, despite DNA evidence that he was not the father. The father sued and, after a long court battle, finally settled with the ex-wife and had his child support canceled.

Some state legislatures are looking at the problem of paternity fraud and enacting laws to give some relief. Colorado passed a new law allowing men to challenge paternity during a divorce, separation or child support action. Florida is considering a law that would terminate support if a man proves he is not the father. And Michigan is looking at a bill to require the courts to end support in such a case. Other states have also made similar changes to their paternity laws to allow men to challenge paternity, including Alabama, Maryland, Georgia and Ohio.

There is a model law, which has been adopted in Delaware, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, which permits genetic testing within the first two years of a child’s life. If the test shows the father is not the biological parent, then he has the right to disestablish paternity. The idea is that this is better for the child than letting anybody sue anytime.

Of course the court is trying to look out for the child and certainly terminating child support is not in the best interests of the child, especially when the real father cannot be found. There is also the trauma to the child of finding out the parent he thought was his father is not. We do not want children to be fatherless. Nevertheless, a California court threw out a child support order when a construction worker proved he was not the father, saying “[W]hen a mistake occurs in a child support action, the county must correct it, not exploit it.”

Some men are bringing suits against the biological father to recoup the cost of raising a child who turns out not to be theirs. In New Jersey, a man recently won the right to sue the biological father for over $100,000. He found out the child was not his some 30 years after the birth.

A Taxing Time

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

This year the IRS uses the term “qualifying child” to determine whether you are entitled to certain tax benefits, namely:

The exemption for the child.

The child tax credit.

Head of household filing status.

The credit for child and dependent care expenses.

The earned income credit.

For divorced or separated individuals filing separate returns, these benefits go to one or the other parent. In other words, you and your ex cannot agree to divide these tax benefits between you.

Divorce Class for Kids

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Family Law Commissioner Michael Evans in Utah has come up with a divorce class for children, ages 9 through 12, whose parents are going through divorce.

A couple of psychologists have volunteered to talk to the kids. They are finding that the kids feel like they cannot talk to their parents about what is going on and courtrooms scare them. Some children feel that they are contributing to the divorce, especially if they hear their name mentioned by parents who are arguing.

Evans says it is important to let the children know it is not their fault, and reassure them they are not the only ones going through this and lots of other kids have the same feelings and concerns. The response, Evans says, is overwhelming.

 
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