Tag: child abuse

Child Custody and the Constitution and Some Good Coronavirus Information

With state and local officials entering shelter in place orders, many parents feel they are being deprived of their constitutional rights to child custody. What are a parent’s constitutional rights during a global emergency? There’s also some good coronavirus information.

Constituion Child Custody

There is no instruction book for a pandemic

Happy belated Easter to everyone . . . except residents of Louisville, Kentucky! The home of Muhammad Ali, the Kentucky Derby, and Kentucky Fried Chicken is in the news. That’s because on Holy Thursday, Louisville’s mayor, Greg Fischer, criminalized the communal celebration of Easter.

Our nation faces a public health emergency caused by the exponential spread of COVID-19. This has led many state and local officials to order increasingly tighter restrictions to promote social distancing and prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Can the state go too far? One federal court thinks so. Last week Louisville’s mayor said, it was “with a heavy heart” that he was banning religious services, even if congregants remain in their cars during the service. A Louisville church then filed an emergency motion in federal court to enjoin the mayor, and won.

The mayor noted that it’s not really practical or safe to accommodate drive-up church services taking place but drive-through liquor stores are A-OK!

Notwithstanding the exemptions of some drive-through places, on Holy Thursday, the Mayor threatened church members and pastors if they hold a drive-in Easter service.

The federal judge, noting American history on religious bigotry, said the pilgrims fled religious persecution, slave owners flogged slaves for attending prayer meetings, mobs drove the Latter-Day Saints to Utah; hatred against Catholics motivated the Blaine Amendment, and Harvard University created a quota system to limit Jewish students.

The judge then found the Mayor’s decision to be stunning and “beyond all reason,” unconstitutional.

Florida Child Custody and the Constitution

Like religions, the constitution protects parental rights too. I have written about the intersection of the constitution and marital law before. The United States Supreme Court has concluded that freedom of personal choice in matters of family life is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Florida courts have long recognized this fundamental parental right. The basic proposition is that parents have a legal right to enjoy the custody, fellowship and companionship of their offspring. This is a rule older than the common law itself.

But the parents’ rights are not absolute, as the state has parens patriae authority to ensure that children receive reasonable medical treatment which is necessary for the preservation of life.

So, in Florida the ultimate welfare of the child itself is controlling. While the parent’s interest in maintaining parental ties is essential, the child’s entitlement to an environment free of harm, physical and emotional violence at the hands of parents and caretakers and for medical treatment necessary for the preservation of life.

Because Florida has a compelling interest in protecting all its citizens—especially its youth—against the clear threat of abuse, neglect and death, the constitutional rights can give way.

Kentucky Fried Liberty

Back in Louisville, the court found the city order was not “neutral” between religious and non-religious conduct because it targeted religious worship by prohibiting drive-in church services, but not drive-through liquor stores.

The court noted that the city was pursuing a compelling interest of the highest order through its efforts to contain the current pandemic, but its actions were not even close to being “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.

The court also found that the church was committed to practicing social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines. Cars will park six feet apart and all congregants will remain in their cars with windows no more than half open for the entirety of the service.” Its pastor and a videographer will be the only people outside cars, and they will be at a distance from the cars.

There is no instruction book for a pandemic. The threat evolves. Experts reevaluate. And government officials make the best calls they can, based on the best information they have. You may not agree with the court’s reasons, but the judge saw his role to explain, to teach, and to persuade.

Good Coronavirus News

Speaking of the constitution, to stem the spread of COVID-19, many cities have passed executive orders requiring people to cover their mouth and nose when going out.

Face masks (surgical or homemade) are now being required in public, such as when going to drive-through liquor stores. But do homemade masks work? The science with different types of masks is not conclusive, but this graphic is good information anyway:

COVID 19

In theory, all masks may prevent some sprays of virus-laden fluids from entering your nose and mouth (inward protection). They are also a reminder not to touch your face. And, if you’re sick, they may help keep some aerosols inside (outward protection), to protect people around you.

The U.S. District Court order is here.

 

Indecent Proposal on Child Custody During the Quarantine, and there’s Good Coronavirus News

For divorced parents, child custody can be challenging. Child exchanges these days risk violating local shelter-in-place orders, or worse, exposing a child to the coronavirus. Displaying a Sixth Sense, actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore have developed a work-around: they quarantine together! And there’s more good news on the coronavirus.

Child Custody Coronavirs

Pulp Fiction or Armageddon?

A big part of child custody and timesharing challenges is logistical. Many divorced parents do their exchanges at schools, but schools are closed. Florida, like many states, have cities issuing shelter-in-place orders prohibiting all child timesharing exchanges.

Parents are faced with a stark choice this Passover/Easter season: not have any holiday timesharing with the children, or timeshare with a vengeance:

It may have been almost 20 years since Bruce Willis and Demi Moore divorced, but the pair are as happy as 12 Monkeys and clearly still on good terms. Willis and Moore seem unbreakable, as they spend the coronavirus quarantine together with their daughters.

Ok, it is not for every divorced couple. But, Bruce is proving he is not Expendable, and may even be the Last Boy Scout, by hunkering down with his ex-wife during a quarantine. Demi and Bruce’s daughter Tallulah shared a photo on Instagram of her parents wearing goofy, matching, striped pajamas.

The divorced couple have remained on good terms, so much so they’re even pictured hugging each other while giving the camera a thumbs up.

It’s not known if Willis’ current wife Emma Hemming Willis, 41, is staying with the Willis-Moore family, too. Earlier this month, Moore wished her former husband a happy birthday on Instagram, thanking the actor for her three daughters.

Moore and Willis were married from 1987 until their divorce in 2000. They announced their separation in June 1998. The actress opened up about their split in her memoir Inside Out, writing:

It’s a funny thing to say, but I’m very proud of our divorce. I think Bruce was fearful at the beginning that I was going to make our split difficult, and that I would express my anger and whatever baggage that I had from our marriage by obstructing his access to the kids — that I’d turn to all of those ploys divorcing couples use as weapons. But I didn’t, and neither did he.

The Ghost star went on to admit that the couple felt more connected than we did before the divorce.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 2008, Florida modified its child custody laws to get rid of outdated and negative terminology about divorcing parents and their children to reduce animosity.

Florida law did that by deleting the definitions of the terms “custodial parent” or “primary residential parent” and “noncustodial parent” and creating a definition for the terms “shared parental responsibility, “parenting plan”, and “time-sharing schedule.

Shared parental responsibility, is similar to joint physical and legal custody, and is a relationship in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

But the “best interest of the child” is not an empty slogan. In Florida, how you act during mandatory quarantines and municipal ‘shelter-in-place’ orders can impact a judge’s decision.

In determining the best interest of the child, a court has to consider things like a parent’s facilitating and encouraging parent-child relationships, honoring the time-sharing schedule, and being reasonable when changes are required.

Good Coronavirus News

Some of us are depressed about the coronavirus, but millions of people are rising to the occasion, and there’s a lot of good news mixed in with the bad. The website 80,000 Hours has a listing of some of the positive things we’ve learned:

  • Some countries are turning COVID-19 away at the door, while others are turning the tide of the pandemic. COVID-19 remains mostly controlled in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. Taiwan was barely touched.
  • Italy, Spain and countries that engage in national lockdowns are seeing the rate of new cases level off or decline as we hoped and expected.
  • Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine just estimated that the reproductive rate of the coronavirus in the UK is now below 1, thanks to people mostly staying at home. If that’s correct the number of new cases will level off and then decrease over the next 6 weeks.
  • Testing is increasing rapidly in most countries. The US has gone from testing 350 people on the 7th of March, to 30,000 people on the 19th of March, up to 101,000 on the 1st of April.

It is inspiring to see the world come together to help fight this pandemic, whether they are biologists, statisticians, engineers, civil servants, medics, supermarket staff, logistics managers, manufacturers, or one of countless other roles.

The Yahoo article is here.

 

Child Custody and Punishment

Years of research has shown that spanking children is ineffective and may be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics just announced a new policy that parents not spank, hit or slap their children. With all the new research out there, people are discovery that there is a connection between child custody and punishment.

custody and punishment

New Corporal Punishment Policy

The new AAP policy against spanking reflects decades of critical new research on the effects of corporal punishment and because parents and educators put enormous trust in pediatricians for discipline advice.

When your pediatrician says not to spank, there is a very good chance that parents will listen. The other good news is that it is becoming unacceptable to use corporal punishment.

Some hospitals have a “no hit zone” policy that do not allow hitting of any kind, including parents spanking children. City leaders in Stoughton, Wisconsin made their whole cities into “no hit zones” – similar to no smoking zones.

Florida Custody and Punishment

I’ve written about child custody and punishment before. Florida does not use the term “custody” anymore, we have the parenting plan concept. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.

The best interests of the child are determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

Historically, parents have always had a right to discipline their child in a ‘reasonable manner.’ So, our laws recognize that corporal discipline of a child by a parent for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Harm, by the way, does not mean just bruises or welts for instance. Harm also means that the discipline is likely to result in physical injury, mental injury, or emotional injury. Even if you don’t physically harm a child, your actions could be criminal.

Florida’s parental privilege to use corporal discipline does not give absolute immunity either. Your run-of-the-mill spanking may be protected from charges of child abuse, but punching your child, pushing him onto the floor and kicking him is not.

Keep in mind that lawyers, guardians and judges are watching you, and you don’t want your punishment methods to become an issue in your custody case. While there are some limited privileges for discipline, there are major risks to your custody case, and most importantly, to your children.

Spanking Doesn’t Work

There are practical reasons to stop spanking besides custody. The main one is that it does not work. Numerous studies show that spanking does not make children better behaved in the long run, and in fact makes their behavior worse.

Spanking also teaches children that it is acceptable to use physical force to get what you want. It is thus no surprise that the more children are spanked, the more aggressive or to engage in delinquent behaviors like stealing they may be.

Millions of parents have raised well-adjusted children without spanking. Nothing is perfect, but telling children clearly what you expect from them and then praising them when they do it is the best approach to discipline.

The CNN article is here.

 

Child Custody and Technology

As the Wall Street Journal reports, divorce brings out the worst in parents already bickering with each other. Even an argument about where a kid is dropped off can end up in court. New high-tech tools to ease this stress is where child custody and technology meet.

child custody and technology

There’s an App for that!

Created by divorced parents, divorce and family law attorneys and judges who saw a need to create a better way for families to communicate, these new apps link child custody and technology, and allow parents to document their compliance with the parenting plan.

Some have a check-in feature so parents can prove that they picked up or dropped off their children when and where they were supposed to. Others use artificial intelligence to flag messages written in an aggressive tone, reminding parents to keep their communications civil.

Most have calendars that help both parents keep track of their children’s activities and appointments—no matter whose day it is.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written on Florida’s child custody issues before. In Florida, a Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor children, even when timesharing is not in dispute.

A “Parenting plan” is a document created by Florida statute to govern the relationship between parents relating to all of the decisions that need to be made about their children.

Parenting plans must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and kids. But there are more issues concerning minor children besides who they spend time with. For example, issue about a child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being are also included in the plan.

If the parties cannot agree to a Parenting Plan, a plan will be established by the court. If the plan is approved by the court, it must, at a minimum, describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies to communicate with the child.

Because of Florida’s express embrace of technology in parenting plans, it is no surprise these child custody and technology apps for parents are increasingly included. So, what are they?

Talking Parents

Candis Lewis, a mother of three who lives on a military said the Talking Parents app she was ordered to use eliminated the stress of arguing over whether a text message or email was received. All messages in the app are time-stamped and show exactly when the other parent read them.

Cozi

When they were married, Amy and Jason Cooper began using a family-management app called Cozi, which features a calendar and shopping lists. They stuck with it after they began divorce proceedings, finding it aided their ability to manage their two children.

coParenter

Yaquiline Zarate has been using the coParenter app to improve communication with the father of her son. The app allows them to seek real-time professional mediation when parenting conflicts arise.

The app, co-created by a retired judge, allows parents to text family-law professionals to mediate conflicts, rather than go to court. Earlier this year, when it was her ex-boyfriend’s night to take their son out for a visit, she urged him to let the boy stay home with her because he was sick and it was cold. The father didn’t agree, she said, so he tapped the “get help” button in the app. A mediator convinced him that it was in the boy’s best interest to stay put that night.

High Tech Problems & Solutions

Some parents like the fact that they can silo all communications with their ex. It’s better than having a message pop up in their regular inbox when they’re unprepared to deal with it.

When you get an email from the other side, you want to throw up. Whenever I get an email from my ex I assume the worst and this way I can leave it in the app and look at it when I’m ready. If it comes to my inbox, it can ruin my day.

The apps aren’t a panacea. Stephen admits he doesn’t always respond to the messages his ex sends him in the app. “The court order says we have to use OurFamilyWizard to communicate, but it doesn’t say we have to communicate.”

Whatever the drawbacks, there’s evidence that these apps connecting child custody and technology help the people who need it most: the children themselves.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

Banning Child Marriage

Florida is stopping an embarrassing and ongoing family law problem: legal child marriages. There are more than 200,000 children married in the United States. Last week, a bill to ban the practice passed both houses of the Florida legislature, and has been converted into an act for the Governor to sign.

Florida’s Efforts to Ban Child Marriage

According to the Miami Herald, Florida is poised to put the country’s strictest ban on child marriage into law after a bill — with some narrow exceptions for 17-year-olds — was passed by state legislators Friday.

It is incredible to think that the marriage of children is technically legal in Florida.

Children aged 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with their parents’ consent, and even younger kids if there is a pregnancy.

But Senate Bill 140, which was passed by the House nearly unanimously, eliminates the pregnancy requirement and limits any marriage of minors to 17 years of age and only if they satisfy a series of requirements added by the Senate earlier in the week.

A bill to ban child marriages had been proposed for multiple years in the Legislature to close the loophole allowing minors to marry.

Florida Child Marriages

I’ve written about marriage and divorce before. Many people would be embarrassed to know that Florida actually allows child marriages. Previous efforts always failed, but this year was different.

Our statutes currently say that if anyone seeking a marriage license is under the age of 18, all that’s required is the written consent of the parents.

Even written consent isn’t required if the parent is deceased, or the child was previously married. The problem of child marriages is very concerning:

Between 70% and 80% of marriages involving individuals under age 18 end in divorce and getting married and later divorcing can more than double the likelihood of poverty.

Children are trapped, because they face many obstacles when they try to resist or escape marriages that adults forced into marriage don’t.

Unless a child is legally emancipated – given the rights of an adult – a child has very limited rights, leaving children trapped in a marriage with an adult.

This new Florida bill, if signed by the Governor, will finally end the status quo.

Sherry Johnson: Victim Turned Advocate

Lawmakers credited this year’s passage to six years of advocacy from Sherry Johnson, a child marriage victim who was raped, became pregnant, and was married to one of the men who assaulted her by age 11.

Johnson, who went on to have five more children in that marriage, said a ban on child marriage would have altered her future, even if it would not have prevented her abuse.

After she watched the House vote to send the legislation to the governor, advocate Sherry Johnson thanked bill sponsors Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, center, and Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, outside the chamber doors.

Johnson said she was satisfied with the compromise, though she plans to advocate for similar legislation across the country — and possibly abroad.

My mission is for the world, for the children all over the world. It’s not just Florida. … It’s for the children everywhere.

The Miami Herald article is here.