Posts tagged ‘legal system’

New Law Would Help Keep Dads in the Picture

Representative Gerald Mitchell’s pro-child House Bill 2491 easily passed the House of Representatives in a landslide vote of 77 to 23. This legislation can help many fathers remain an active part in their children’s lives, as it would allow non-custodial spouses (who are generally fathers) the right to object to the other spouse’s removal of the children of more than 100 mils away within the state. Such a bill is important as many child relocations are motivated by hate and parental alienation, thereby leaving child causalities throughout the state.

Bill 2491 tells me that our legislators may realize the psychological benefits to “children of divorce” in having two parents instead of one. Our legal system, which allows parents to divorce the children from the “other” (non-custodial) parent. The future of our society depends on it, as the United States is now the world’s leader in fatherless families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers. That means we have 17.4 Illinois children growing up without full-time fathers or who are completely fatherless. The bottom line is fathers are vanishing from the social landscape and as demonstrated by the following facts outlined in my new book, “Fathers’ Rights”, the importance of pro-child legislation is necessary to protect our society.

+ Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and higher rate of chronic asthma and speech defects;
+ Seventy-two percent of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers;
+ Eight percent of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes;
+ Three of four teen suicides occur in single-parent homes;
+ The absence of a biological father increases by 900 percent a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. (Often these assaults are committed by stepfathers or the boyfriends of custodial mothers).

Too many children are effectively cut off from relationships with their fathers due to causes beyond their control and understanding. It is to be hoped that these causes are not beyond the control of our legislature.

Any measure that strengthens the father-child relationship or that enhances a child’s God-given right to two natural parents is a step in the right direction.

I applaud House Bill 2491 and all that it stands for.

Loop-based attorney Jeffery M. Leving, a specialist in asserting the legal rights of fathers, is also the author of “Fathers’ Rights” (Basic Books).

March 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

Reforms: Seeds Sown For Change in Illinois Family Courts

By Josh Hoff
Ideally, every child grows up in a home where the parents co-exist in harmony and provide fertile ground in which the children can thrive.  Often times, however, this is not the case.  When a marriage dissolves, children are frequently caught in the middle of an adversarial legal system.  Typically, these cases end up in family court, where children are subjected to the trauma inflicted by a prolonged trial.

In the state of Illinois, reforms have been established and are underway to mitigate the impact of trials on children.  The statewide reforms have three components:

In July 2006, all parents in custody and visitation cases will be required to undergo four hours of education involving how to lessen the impact of custody disputes on children.
Lawyers appointed to represent parents in custody cases will be required to attend continuing education programs.

Beginning January 1, 2007, all custody disputes must first go to mediation prior to a court hearing to attempt to resolve the dispute before it goes to court.

“The reforms are intended to focus the guardians and the court on the children,”
explains Madison County Associate Judge Barbara Crowder, who presides over the family court division for the Third Judicial Circuit in Illinois.

In past cases, disputes have sometimes taken up the majority of a child’s life.  As a result, the child becomes surrounded by chaos.  Sometimes, when children are interviewed by judges, they curl up in a fetal ball.  In some instances, they will cry about not wanting to see their mother or father.  In fact, judges observe an entire range of children, from the angry to the withdrawn.

Once the custody case reaches the actual courtroom, various members of the extended family are brought in, which frequently proves divisive and undermines the cohesiveness of a family unit.  The reforms are intended in part to lessen the trauma of such conflicts.

“Two attorneys might swear that two parties could never see eye to eye,” Judge Crowder elaborates, referring to the trial process.  “By the time that they go to mediation, they are able to get past some of the conflict.”

“People are more open to possibilities,” adds Judge Crowder. The seeds were sown for change when the Supreme Court of Illinois appointed a special committee and requested that members address matters relating to custody – more specifically, the court wanted to address the need for cases to be handled in an expeditious manner and in the best interest of children.

“We were asked to draft some rules for circuits that do not yet have mediation,” says Judge Elizabeth Robb, who serves on the Eleventh Circuit and is the chair of the conference of chief judges.

Ultimately, the primary objective of these reforms is to send a strong statement to parents, lawyers, and judges that Illinois’ courts put the needs and concerns of children first.  Otherwise, children are put underfoot in a messy legal proceeding.

“The overall effect of mandatory mediation, parent education, and continuing legal education will be to emphasize that everyone in this process must do everything possible to minimize the emotional damage to children that accompanies child custody disputes,” Judge Crowder said in a written statement.

March 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment