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fathers’ rights

fathers’ rights

Can I bring my significant other or children to my court hearing?

This is often a question that clients ask us. The simple answer is no, we advise against it. But you may be wondering why? We advise bringing a significant other or your children to your court hearing for a multitude of reasons. For one, children are often the subject of the hearing and it would be inappropriate and unfair to the child to be witness to the hearing. If the child is not subject to the hearing, we still advise against having them accompany you because you need to give your full attention to your attorney’s and the hearing. We further suggest that that boyfriends and girlfriends are left at home. Again, in contentious cases there are often accusations thrown about regarding your significant other, to have said person present would potentially lead to more conflict and distraction. So remember, as much as we want our clients to have support, it is better for your case if the crowd of supporters is restricted.

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Celebrity’s courtroom antics may have damaged his custody case

The custody trial involving media celebrity Alex Jones ended with the father of three losing physical custody of the children to his ex-wife. It’s a rather dramatic turn-around, given that his ex-wife has had only occasional supervised visitation for the last two years. We’ve previously discussed the question of whether or not the bombastic star of “Infowars” could lose custody of his children due to his on-the-air antics. His attorneys effectively dealt with the question of what their client was really like by trying to distance the man from the media persona he’d created. They were successful at keeping most of the media clips from “Infowars” from being shown in court. What they couldn’t control was their client — his own actions in court may have been the undoing of his defense and destroyed what seemed like a solid footing against his ex-wife’s custody case. When first divorced, Jones had enjoyed the support of a slew of professionals. They had declared his ex-wife’s “emotional dysregulation” a danger to the children, stripping her of most of her time with the children. Somehow, the fact that Jones was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, a serious mental health issue, escaped notice. His ex-wife’s current legal team focused on the media star’s disorder and his determination to keep the children and their mother apart. They said that previous experts had missed the classic signs of parental alienation syndrome, where one parent engages in actions designed to encourage the children to disrespect, loathe and even

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Could ‘Infowars’ broadcaster’s custody rights be in jeopardy?

Judges in custody cases have a pretty wide latitude to consider virtually anything that they consider relevant to the child’s best interest. That could be bad new for Alex Jones, the fiery host of the broadcast show “Infowars.” The hyperbolic conspiracy theorist has promoted some widely-debunked claims, like the idea that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was just a hoax and the “Pizzagate” rumor, which suggested Bill and Hillary Clinton were running a pedophile ring through a Washington D.C. pizza place. His rhetoric is often vile, volatile, and openly suggestive of violence. His ex-wife thinks that this is a bad thing for the kids to be around and wants the court to award her (preferably) sole custody of their three children. His attorney says that “Alex Jones the performance artist” is just a persona spouting the rhetoric he supposedly endorses on his show. Alex Jones, the father of three, is supposedly a totally different person. His ex-wife disagrees. She states that his rantings aren’t just about ratings — that they prove he’s both unstable and unfit as a parent. His ex-wife has cited numerous examples of his inflammatory behavior that she feels are indicative of his mental state, including things like challenging actor Alec Baldwin to a fight and alleging that former President Obama founded the Muslim terrorist group ISIS. While the judge in his case has said that she wants to keep the focus on the children and not on “Infowars,” she is allowing clips from the show

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Rape victims can be forced into family court to defend custody

It seems like something that should be impossible, but it isn’t: A woman is raped and conceives a child during the rape. The rapist is convicted of the crime and the woman, whose religion prohibits abortion, gives birth to the child — then has to fight her rapist for custody of the child. This is the reality that is facing at least one woman in Massachusetts. While this victim has gone public with her plight, there are likely countless others quietly facing the same trauma in the state’s family courts. While research is limited, studies indicate that more than 70 percent of rape victims who conceive eventually choose to give birth rather than abort the pregnancy. Laws regarding rape victims who become pregnant during the assault vary widely from state to state. Some offer no protection to victims at all, while a few outright bar a convicted rapist from custody. Many states, like Massachusetts, fall somewhere in between. The current law in Massachusetts was passed in 2014, and it appears to give women more protection than some other states — however, it isn’t without its critics because it actually provides rapists a clear forum that they can use to continue to harass and traumatize their victim. The law allows a rapist to seek visitation and requires the judge to make a determination on the issue. The judge has to consider whether or not the child is of suitable age to have visitation, agree to the visitation, or visitation is in

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Are you the victim of a malicious co-parent?

Divorce and custody battles can get heated and bitter. However, some parents take extreme actions to get revenge on their spouse by turning their children against him or her and in some cases even physically harming the kids. This behavior is often called “Malicious Parent Syndrome,” and in some circles, Malicious Mother Syndrome even though both men and women can be guilty of it. It’s not considered to be a mental disorder, but rather a type of behavior displayed by parents who seek to punish their former spouse or partner at the expense of their children. Parents are determined to have Malicious Parent Syndrome when they display the following behavior in the absence of a mental disorder: — Lie to their children about the other parent. — Deny communication or visitation with the other parent — Seek to alienate their children from their other parent, sometimes using others or even the courts to help them. Malicious Parent Syndrome can include such things as failing to tell the other parent about a child’s game or performance and then telling the child that his or her parent wasn’t interested in attending. Often these parents engage in this kind of alienation on a regular basis. In some cases, the acts are more extreme and even against the law. Parents have been known to deny their children food and tell that their mom or dad was providing enough money to buy it. In a particularly heinous case in 1983, a divorced man set fire

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Mandatory co-parenting classes may be spreading

Learning how to co-parent your children with your ex after a divorce is in many ways like learning how to be a parent all over again — particularly for fathers who may find themselves spending more time alone with their kids than they did during the marriage. If you and your ex have a strained relationship after you’ve gone your separate ways, parenting can be even more challenging. Children are the ones who often pay the price when their divorced parents aren’t able to work together to be the best parents they can. Both physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse, increase in children of divorce. Some states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, mandate that divorced couples take co-parenting classes. Now another New England state may be following suit, if a Rhode Island man is successful in his efforts. The Providence resident says he hopes to speak before the state’s General Assembly next month. He’d like them to form a commission that would study the advantages of requiring divorced parents with kids under 18 to participate in these classes. He’s gotten the support of a number of town managers, mayors and town council presidents. That state has some opportunities for parents who choose on their own to have counseling. However, there aren’t many. He’s hoping that private and public entities can work together to change that. He says he wants the state to provide a “robust marketplace of offerings to help divorced parents co-parent, communicate and collaborate

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Tips for co-parents facing their first holiday season apart

Many Massachusetts parents are facing their first holiday season since their break-up. If you already have a parenting plan in place that outlines how your children will divide their time between their parents, that’s helpful. However, if you haven’t yet started the divorce process, making a holiday schedule can be challenging — particularly if you and your ex aren’t on good terms. The most important thing to remember throughout this season is to minimize stress and uncertainty for your children. They likely already have enough of both. Focus on helping them enjoy the season. Organization is key. The sooner that you and your co-parent can get a plan in place (with the input of the kids, if they’re old enough), the more reassured they will be. Kids are flexible, but they want the security of knowing where they will be spending the holidays. Their friends will all be talking about their plans, and they’ll want to join in. Of course, making plans is just step one. It’s essential to stick to those plans unless unforeseen circumstances arise. Children need to be reassured early on that their parents will keep their word, show up to pick them up when they’re supposed to and return them as scheduled. It’s important to set reasonable expectations for your children. They may have a fantasy that their parents will be together for Christmas and maybe even reunite. If they’re going to be splitting time between homes, emphasize the positives (two Christmas trees, for example). Don’t

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Can legal marijuana use cost you custody of your child?

One of the measures on the Massachusetts ballot Nov. 8, Question 4, concerns marijuana. Specifically, it would legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults. Massachusetts is one of five states voting on legalizing recreational marijuana this month. If the measure passes, it would take effect on Dec. 15. However, marijuana retail outlets may not open until 2018. Some child welfare advocates are concerned about a provision in the measure that says that parents’ use of marijuana can’t be used as the primary basis for losing custody or visitation of their children without “clear, convincing and articulable evidence that the person’s actions related to marijuana have created an unreasonable danger to the safety” of a child. The rationale is that many people use marijuana responsibly, and, just as parents aren’t at risk for losing their children if they have an occasional drink, they shouldn’t face that risk if they use marijuana to relax instead. Those supporting that language in the measure point to Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012. People had their marijuana use used against them in child custody cases. One of the authors of the Massachusetts measure says, “Canna-bigotry in custody matters needs to end.” The state Department of Children and Families says that the language of the measure “could limit a social worker’s ability to consider any substances, including marijuana, as a factor for child custody. However, other child welfare advocates argue that social workers can take into consideration any factors that they believe are endangering

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Parental alienation versus child abuse: Getting to the truth

In some contentious divorces, one or both spouses are so consumed with hate that they turn their child against the other parent by lying to the child about that parent, sometimes saying that the he or she doesn’t love them. In some cases, children are even convinced to say that a parent has abused them when they haven’t. This goes beyond saying unkind things about your ex in front of a child. It’s known as “parental alienation” because it turns children against a parent for no valid reason and destroys their relationship with a parent. Too often, that parent doesn’t understand the reason for the child’s animosity. Naturally, parental alienation can be highly damaging to a child well into adulthood. However, charges of parental alienation can also allow real child abuse to continue. Family court judges overseeing cases where one parent is alleging abuse and the other parent is claiming parental alienation have to determine who is telling the truth. One law professor notes that unfortunately, when one parent accuses the other of abuse, the parent bringing the charge can actually lose custody, leaving the child in the hands of an unfit or abusive parent because the judge believed that the accuser was guilty of parental alienation. That’s why it’s essential that if you accuse your co-parent of abuse, you have evidence to back it up. Psychologists may be called in to talk with the child. Witnesses may be brought in to testify on both sides. Some experts believe the

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Drug and alcohol testing requirements in child custody agreements

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that over 24 million people are married to an alcoholic or drug addict. Many of these marriages, not surprisingly, cannot endure a spouse’s substance abuse. It’s estimated to be the cause of more than 7 percent of all divorces. When a couple has children, it’s essential to take steps during your divorce to ensure your children’s safety. Of course, in many cases, it’s preferable for children to maintain some type of relationship with the parent who’s an addict or alcoholic. Therefore, specific protections need to be included in the custody and visitation agreements to ensure that your children are not endangered emotionally or physically by that parent. A crucial element of any agreement involving an alcoholic or addict is mandated participation in a drug and alcohol testing program. A well-designed program can help reduce the chances of your ex drinking or using drugs when he or she is with the children. Companies like Health Street have testing programs specifically designed for custody and visitation agreements. The agreement can be written in any number of ways. It can mandate that the parent be tested prior to, during and/or after any visitations with the children. Results can be reported to the two parents, the attorneys, and/or the court. The agreement should also designate what can happen if a parent tests positive. He or she could lose visitation rights or potentially all parental rights if a pattern of continued use is found. Your

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