Articles Posted in Fathers and Custody

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Opinion Date: March 12, 2024

Areas of Law: Family Law, Mental Health Law

This case involves an appeal against a judgment from the Montana Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, which committed the appellant, G.M., into the custody and care of the Montana State Hospital (MSH) for involuntary mental health treatment. The key issue at hand is whether the District Court erroneously found that G.M. was unable to adequately care for her own basic needs and safety based on hearsay statements made by her husband through the testimony of a court-appointed professional.

G.M., aged 66 at the time of the petition for involuntary mental health commitment in 2021, was alleged to be suffering from a diagnosed psychotic mental disorder. G.M.’s husband’s statements, along with her own behavior and assessments from mental health professionals, were the basis for the court’s decision. G.M.’s counsel repeatedly objected to the court-appointed professional’s testimony regarding her husband’s out-of-court statements, but these objections were overruled.

G.M. testified on her own behalf, denying having a mental disorder or requiring treatment. Despite this, the District Court found that due to her diagnosed schizophrenic and delusional mental disorder, G.M. was “substantially unable to provide for her own basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, health, or safety.”

On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Montana affirmed the judgment of the lower court. The court found that the lower court’s decision was not clearly erroneous and was supported by substantial admissible evidence. The court stated that the hearsay statements of G.M.’s husband were admissible under the rules of evidence to explain the underlying rationale for the court-appointed professional person’s expert opinion. The court also noted that the judgment was independently supported by the professional person’s personal observations and opinions on G.M.’s condition and ability to care for her own needs and safety.

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I have included below most of the text of the amended Illinois SB 4113, which seeks to establish a rebuttable presumption that an award of equal parenting time to each parent is in the best interests of the minor child(ren) in a divorce case.

For many years, my firm has represented Fathers in complex child custody cases, and in many cases  my Dad clients were rightfully awarded the primary custody of their children.  I have fought vigorously to level the playing field for my Dad clients through the years, some who faced false allegations, false OPs and other challenges in their divorce cases. These cases can be battles, but with the right strategy and management, the right decisions can be reached in these cases. Equally so, I have fought for women, in their own custody cases, some facing false allegations of parental alienation from a narcissistic husband.  My goal has always been to develop strategies for both my male and female clients to combat parental alienation, false allegations, and to create outcomes that serve both my clients and the true best interests of the children.

So with SB 4113, the question becomes whether this legislation will, in and of itself, create that level playing field for parents?  I note that many of the more vocal Bar associations have opposed this bill, and I can say that some judges with whom I have discussed this do not favor the bill. But, the idea of such a bill has a lot of favor, especially with men and women who, for too long, have been impacted by a legal system that oftentimes does not serve the best interests of children fully.  Will SB 4113 create that foundation so that the court is required to factor in a presumptive 50/50 allocation of time to both parents?  I am hopeful that SB 4113 perhaps undergoes some revisions that might make its passage more palatable.  I note that a 50/50 presumption is a satisfying idea, but that in many cases, many judges and clinicians do not believe that a 50/50 time allocation is appropriate in most circumstances and with most families.  An equalization of time is beneficial where the parents live proximate to each other, where the parents both share positive parenting traits, work schedules can accommodate 50/50 time, the age and circumstances of the kids favor shared time, and myriad other factors that can benefit a true shared parenting environment.  I believe that a shared parenting bill could be written that might be more dense, more detailed and more fleshed out that might give a solid and detail-rich shared parenting bill a real likelihood of passage.

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I represented this year a Father who was facing what is called a “termination of parental rights” in court, due to actions that the Mother of the children had taken. Sometimes, if one parent neglects the child or children, both parents can be found to be jointly responsible and the courts can take action to terminate the rights of the parents.

I was told at the outset of the case that the State’s Attorneys never lose these cases; in a sense, once the boulder starts to roll, there is no way to stop it. A week before the trial, I met my client at the courthouse, and I told him that I wanted to fight this termination case. I felt it was wrong to deprive a good Dad of his rights as a Father, only due to the failures of his partner in parenthood. I had been warned by many, including lawyers watching the case, that the State never loses these kinds of cases.

I told my client at our meeting that I wanted to take the case to trial. I wanted to resist the efforts of the State to terminate his rights. My client, a good man and a good Father, agreed to fight. He knew the downsides if he fought and lost, for at that point the court would adjudicate him as having lost his parental rights. He could agree to sign away his rights, and hope to get some visitation rights, but to go to trial meant adjudication.

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1. Fight as hard as you can to get the most time possible from the very start. Whether you want the kids to live with you (as primary residential custodial parent) or you simply want to have an “aggressive” visitation access schedule, be clear about your goals and push for what you want. If you want equal time (or any decent amount of time), you need to push for more from the very beginning of the case.

2. Find an attorney who gets it. (Blog Author’s Note: Illinois Attorney Michael F. Roe “gets it!”) Many divorce lawyers just don’t understand why dads want more access time. You are dealing with a system that has historically favored mothers’ custody wishes, and is only now very slowly changing.

3. Do not bring child support issues up in custody conversations. Period. Many people — even some lawyers — will assume you want more time with your kids because you want to pay less child support, even when faced with facts that you are the more nurturing parent. While some states tie access time to pro rata support (like New Jersey), some, like Illinois, do not.

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Fathers in many countries suffer the loss of their parenting rights with their children. In Illinois, we have laws and procedures that allow an aggressive lawyer to achieve full parenting rights for Fathers. No matter where a Father may be fighting for his parenting rights with his child or children, having experienced and aggressive representation is important. No Father should have to suffer what Vincent, whose story is told below, suffered with the complete loss of contact with his child.

The Hell of Japan’s Divorce Laws

10/11/2012 By Vincent Poirier

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Every so often a study or article comes along that reaffirms what my practice has known to be true for many years: there are increasing numbers of primary custodial fathers in society. I was fortunate being selected as one of the original directors of Responsible Single Fathers, a national group founded by Vince Regan to inform, educate, and be of support to single and custodial Dads. Through my divorce and custody practice, deserving Father/Clients have been awarded primary custody of their children, and in cases where is it appropriate, I fight for shared parenting orders so that my Dad clients enjoy the same rights, responsibilities and parenting time as the Moms do. Unlike some other states, Illinois has not adopted presumptive Shared Parenting, so the crux of some of my work is in achieving for my clients (both Dads and Moms) a positive custody result that the Illinois statutes don’t award.

The Single Dad is Rising Fast: by the National Post

“While eight in 10 lone-family households are headed up by women, the growth in single-households led by males was more than twice as strong between 2006 and 2011. “Men are taking on a much more intense role in child-rearing across all families, so it makes perfect sense that we’re going to see an increase in fathers as head of single-parent households” as married couples divorce or common-law couples split, said Ms. Spinks. “I think we still see that group as an anomaly,” said Janice Keefe, professor of family studies and gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University. “It’s not a huge proportion, but it’s moving up to 3.5% [of all census families].” Women, by comparison, account for 13% overall.”

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The article below appeared in a recent Huffington Post. The article explores a study investigating patterns of father-child contact following divorce. Left out of the study seems to be the inclusion of fathers who benefit from a shared parenting agreement, whereby father and mothers share the parenting of the children and agree to live reasonably proximate to each other. In my practice, shared parenting agreements are primary goals of my approach to managing custody cases for fathers. In other cases, I am seeking outright primary custody for my Dad clients. Good and devoted fathers must have the same rights as good mothers in divorce. The study below, however, adopts some stereotypes of nonresidential fathers , but the study itself is interesting and worth reporting here:

By: Robert Hughes, Jr., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor of Human Development

The general assumption about fathers following divorce is that they gradually have less and less contact with their children. Everyone seems to know some exceptions, but most generally think this is what happens. But what really is the case?

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If you are a single parent, or a parent involved in a pre-divorce or a divorce process, consider spending some time with, the home site for Responsible Single Fathers. I was one of the original directors for this organization, at the invitation of Vince Regan, who created and was the driving force behind, RSF.

Today, David Cisco directs RSF, and the site has a significant amount of information for single and newly divorced Fathers. The site has a forum where single Dads share information and legal topics. Here is a summary of the original mission of RSF:

“The development of Responsible Single Fathers allows fathers the ability seek support from others through one of four message boards at the site. We expect this forum alone will serve thousands of U.S. Fathers as they adjust to living the single life, while still loving, nurturing, and supporting their children.” Regan continued, “Another section of the site allows experienced single fathers to share their tips with others by submitting their own single father articles for publication on the site. The world is full of experts on a number of subjects, but single fathers who have lived through the turmoil of divorce and the resulting conflicts have a wealth of positive information to share with fathers who are just beginning down that same road.”

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I found this article via Twitter. It highlights the life of a Malaysian man who shares his life experience after being legally separated from his wife and kids.

Saturday, July 18, 2009 Is there life after divorce? Depends…

A subject that not many would want to dwell upon but which is a sad reality affecting many all around the world.

In today’s materialistic world, many couples live a strained life devoid of true love and compassion.As a result, domestic squabble and violence takes place almost daily in the life’s of couples who got married not due to love but circumstances.

A marriage of convenience. A marriage born out of pity. A marriage due to forced pregnancies. A marriage that is arranged. A marriage to strengthen family or business ties.All kinds of marriages take place today and when such marriages turn sour, the ones who suffer most are the children from such hasty unions.

When we speak about divorce, many suffering spouses fear to cross that line because they have become so dependent on their beaus to such a stage that they can’t imagine living life all alone?

Some spouses abuse their partners so much that they resort to physical abuse such as assault and battery. Some drive their partners nuts to such an extent that the suffering victims border on the verge of a mental breakdown and turn insane! I myself lived through such a marriage before and I confess to almost losing my mind myself due to the tremendous pressure and mental agony that only those who are in similar situations can imagine how it feels to live a life full of delusions and false pretenses.

In our Asian society, suffering couples often put up a show that all’s well when in reality raging tempests drive them nuts within the walls of their homes.

When I divorced, custody of my two children, a son and a daughter went to their mother. I also surrendered whatever little property I had to them and started a new life from scratch. I came to KL with just a given shirt on my back.

For almost a year, my tears would stream down my cheeks whenever I saw children who resembled my own. I yearned for them and missed them like hell.I was not allowed to speak to them and lost all contact with them. I only got to see my daughter when we attended the funeral of my niece who passed away due to a doctor’s botched prescription for her health condition.
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