Sent to these legislators with attachments on 1-25-18. Copy, Paste, and Modify to fit your desires AND SEND IT TO YOURS!
Senator George Amedore
20 Park St., Fonda NY 12068
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara
2550 Riverfront Center, Amsterdam NY 12010
Dear Senator and Assemblyman:
January 25, 2018
I am writing as your constituent to obtain your assistance in securing legislation which will benefit families in NYS.
Most states and the Federal Government have failed to move with the times and have lagged in updating and modifying their laws, policies, and procedures to stay with current trends of two working parents, often unmarried and living apart, yet both actively involved in the raising of their children. Unfortunately, NYS is worse. New York’s “standard visitation order” is stuck in an outdated sexist and biased system from the 1950’s of a stay at home mother and a working father. The presumptive order of a “custodial” mother and a “Non Custodial” visiting, child support paying father is the norm with almost no deviation from this “one size fits all” model.
Worse, NY Courts are biased against men and fathers. As far back as 1986 a NYS Office of Court Administration study of bias against women in the courts found not only bias against mothers but also extreme bias against fathers concerning child custody and support payments. Studies, Commissions, and revues over the years bear this out, yet nothing is done to correct the problems. False allegations and perjury are an accepted norm, fostered by attorneys with “a wink and a nod” coaching their clients to “win”.
Long delays in court are the norm, most people can’t afford the attorney fees to navigate it and end up going Pro Se (especially men and poor people). Our nine tiered court system is widely recognized as antiquated and confusing, even to those who work within it, yet court restructure and reform remains elusive and undone to the detriment of NY citizens. Family and Supreme Courts operate with no oversight, a virtual star chamber, which seems to serve no man, woman, or child with balanced blind justice. This made worse when you don’t have adequate legal counsel.
To correct this I am calling on you both to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation which would:
- Legislation for proper terminology by replacing “visitation” with “Parenting Time”.
- Legislation to make shared parenting and equal parental rights and responsibilities
the law of this state.
- Legislation to provide mediation and/or collaborative law as an option to litigation.
- Legislation to secure Court restructure and reform.
- Legislation to remove the “star chamber” under which family courts now operate by opening courts to the public (unless a finding for closure is on the record), mandating electronic court recording, and allowing the parties to individually record ALL court proceedings.
- Legislation to provide for access enforcement of parenting time by law enforcement agencies for clear violations of a court order.
- Legislation to modify Child Support consistent with parental involvement and direct expenditures to ensure payments don’t restrict parenting time or result in a child having reduced standards of living with one parents household versus the other.
- Legislation to ensure both parents have access to child’s to records health care, education, and welfare unless restricted by court order.
- Legislation to mandate at birth DNA testing for out of wedlock births to determine paternity and allow for DNA evidence of false paternity to be introduced at any time and false paternity shall relieve the person from mandatory parental obligations.
- Legislation to establish a fathers parental rights at the time of paternity establishment.
- Legislation to mandate that the OTDA conduct quadrennial reviews as required by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act and that stakeholders input include organizations which represent parental, children, and family rights during the review process.
Terminology changes. We need look no further than the 2010 Review of the New York State Child Support Guidelines (2010 Review”) to find support for terminology change. Not only does it propose to eliminate the negative term “visitation” it also proposes to eliminate the term “custodial” and “non custodial” as not descriptive of todays social norms. Long proposed by parental rights advocates, it is high time this piece of legislation passed into law.
Shared Parenting. A cornerstone of family rights and children rights advocates is enactment of shared parenting as the law of the land. Although hiding behind the excuse of “judicial discretion”, NY now currently employs a default “visitation schedule” ironically referred to in the NY Courts as “the standard NY order” of visiting every other weekend and one mid week visit of 4 hours. This denial of one parents access to children has been shown to be detrimental to a child’s health and well being. In effect the “standard NY order” is NOT in the best interest of the child. And in cases where there is cause Judges could still restrict a parents access. The 2010 Review of NYS Child Support Guidelines recommends shared parenting be the norm.
Mandatory Mediation and/or Collaborative Law. The cost of divorce/separation and settlement of child custody and support issues is now a very expensive endeavor which removes assets which could better be used for the child. The adversarial “winner” mentality of court has parents focused more on not losing their children (rightfully so) and less on the needs of the child. Mediation and/or collaborative law has been shown to reduce animosity between parents and result in reduced litigation and increased compliance with orders post legal action. It reduces burdens on the court as the only issue which have to be litigated are those where agreement can not be found between the parties.
Court Restructure and Reform. Has bipartisan support and is supported by the Judiciary. As it requires Constitutional changes reform enacted this cycle will have to be considered in the next cycle. As the Constitutional Convention is not being held I call upon you to get this done.
Open Courts and recording of ALL actions before the court. While certainly there are situations where the court of its own volition, or at the parties mutual consent, where the courts would restrict all, or some, public access for cause. This does not negate the right of the parties themselves to have accurate video and/or audio recordings of all proceedings. In any minor traffic infraction we require the proceedings be recorded to protect the rights of the individual, yet when litigating family matters we ignore the rights of individuals to a true and accurate accounting of the facts? Let’s secure legislation to end these star chambers.
Access Enforcement. Right now there is NO access enforcement for parents save for a costly return to court which after the fact results in the parent losing time with the child even when it was ordered by the court. It is criminal contempt in the penal law to violate the order of a court yet law enforcement agencies will not enforce custody orders. Just as we have mandatory arrest for violating an Order of Protection we should have equal mandatory arrests for violating custody orders of the court.
Child support reform. The 2010 Review calls on modification lowering percentages for higher income brackets. Additionally, it reports that deviations from base amounts, currently authorized by law, are not being used by lower income brackets, most likely caused by the lack of legal representation and also the systems not adequately explaining the guidelines and deviations to people. I encourage you to work with OTDA to enact reform to correct this.
Access to official records. Right now schools and other institutions tend to view the designation of “non custodial” parent as removal of parental rights. Many parents report difficulties in accessing their child’s records. While the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guarantees a parents rights to school records I encourage you to put forth state legislation which guarantees that parental rights not be infringed based upon a label or designation and unless the parental rights are specifically restricted, applying strict scrutiny, and removed by the court.
At birth DNA testing. And false paternity is a fraud perpetrated on both the man and the child. Responsible Fatherhood starts with identifying the biological father and a child has a right to know who his real father is. Unfortunately over 30% of DNA tests of men identified as fathers find out that they are not the biological father of the child. And once a man signs on as the father he can not challenge the fact even if DNA later shows he has been daddy duped into thinking he was the father. I encourage you to put forth legislation which mandates mandatory at brith DNA testing for all out of wedlock birth’s and additionally to put forth legislation removing a man’s responsibilities to children found not to be his by DNA testing regardless of the length of time he had been duped.
Paternity AND parental rights establishment. Paternity establishment is one of the federal reimbursements under Ttitle IVd SSA. 80% of out of wedlock fathers are at the hospital at the time of the birth of their child and were already willing to admit paternity. Unfortunately, in addition to the problems with false paternity, the signing on as a father makes him financially responsible but does NOT secure his parental rights. I believe the OTDA should be mandated to aid and assist a father obtain his parental right in addition to securing his financial responsibility and ask for legislation to do this. Child support is BEING THERE and I believe we should all work to ensure a child has both parents.
Quadrennial Reviews timely and to include father participation. To my knowledge NO father or “non custodial” parent has ever been invited to submit comment for a review. Nor has an electronic forum ever been provided to collect their views. Simply, how is it that OTDA can address the issues of men/fathers if they do not bother to ask what they are? They can’t, and they haven’t. The recent review for 2010 was completed in 2017 and to my knowledge has never been up to date. Outdated information excluding the needs, wants and desires of men/fathers and “non” custodial parents is sure to produce policies and laws which do not meet their current needs and this is the current system that we have. Let’s get up to date, and include fathers views.