While the cartoon is meant to make light of the Family Court debacle – there is a huge amount of truth in the message.
In many cases throughout the state and country we have heard stories of parents being ripped away from their children by our courts. These are parents who are solid citizens, who have no background of drug or alcohol abuse. No history of mental illness. They do have a love for their children and fight for them when things appear wrong.
For this they are often punished. Take for instance the case of Dalton v Dalton which went before the Supreme Court of Maine. With this case the lawyer actually represented the client – and fought for Sarah Dalton. The opening brief slammed the Guardian ad litem and the Family Court Judge on the case (it should be noted that the ‘judge’ in question went on to get a promotion back in April. This promotion is not related to this case). The brief sited case law as to why the court was in error. In the end it came down to aggressive lawyering on the part of Sarah’s lawyer as being bad. The complaint on the GAL and ‘judge’ was wiped clean and the mother who was fighting for her children was punished as was the lawyer.
We heard from a mother who earns at the poverty level – pays the GAL bill and pays child support to her ex (who it should be noted allegedly works for a family business and is paid under the table. He has managed to purchase a brand new truck and lives in a house that cost over $350.000.00. The reportedly earns in the neighborhood of $5000.00 - it is amazing that someone in an income this low would be given the credit needed for the house and truck). She went back to court to try and get some relief from the crushing financial burden she has been encumbered with. The 'judge' (who it should be noted is one of the four worse in the state told this mother that because she earns more than the father she is responsible for payment. To add insult to injury the 'judge' took even more time away from the little she has with her kids. It should be noted that the mother is still struggling to make ends meet.
Then there is the father who has fought for his son against all odds. He is up against one of the worst judges in the state (this judge is different than the one mentioned above but is one of four who are the worst in the state). He has no history of mental illness nor does he use or abuse drugs or alcohol (it should be noted though that his ex does). Yet he has had to go through a battery of mental health and parenting tests – his ex has not - at a huge cost to him. He has been stripped financially and is working two jobs to meet the child support requirements - his ex does not work. He is living as close to poverty as one could without actually being in poverty. To add insult to injury he has had his son all but stripped away from his life – to the point where on the few occasions he has had contact with his child – the child cries because he misses his father.
The list – and the pain – goes on. Every parent should have the opportunity to be a part of their child’s life. Every divorce should start off with the idea that the custody is going to be 50/50 and that one or both parent(s) will lose or gain from there. If one side suggest the other needs testing – then both parents should be tested. There should be an equitable balance between the two halves of the divorcing family. It is not a game to be played out with the children as the prize. The only reason why a child should have limited and tempered time with one parent or another if there is cause for that. This should be based not on some ambiguous and ill-defined standard such as “the best interest of the child” standard. But on a standard which can be measured and tested – we like the term “is the child safe”. Is a child safe in the house of a drug addict with mental health issues? Or with a parent who holds down a job and contributes to the family? Is the child safe in an ever changing environment? Or one where a parent has lived for years?
In 2015 we hope that there will be more even-handed division of a child's time of divorcing families between their parents. A child needs the wisdom of both parents and their families. Not to be limited to one. That will only come about if the current family court changes or goes away.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thank you for following us on Facebook and out blogs. Please feel free to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or call us at 207-370-9801 (ME). We hope you can join us in 2015 to bring about legislative change. Thank you.