Make sure that every child gets to spend time with both their parents
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I'm creating this petition to "celebrate" my birthday. This year, for the 6th year in a row, I will not get to see one of my four children on my birthday, or anytime around my birthday, even though I have a court order that says I do get to see her. Despite the stereotypes, this is not because I’m a bad father. On the contrary, I have custody of her three siblings, including her identical twin sister!
Instead, there are a lot of reasons for this and a lot of people to blame:
- My daughter is a victim of a vicious form of psychological abuse called "parental alienation" at the hands of her mother. This happens when one parent does everything they can do to make their child hate their other parent. This is not just my opinion; it has been formally diagnosed by a forensic psychologist licensed in Virginia.
- The courts don't take parental alienation seriously, so even though my daughter's therapist and the lawyer the court appointed for her recommended that the court change custody, they wouldn't do it.
- The courts don't take their own orders seriously, so even though they did order that I get visitation, they won't make a real effort to enforce it, and won't find my daughter's mother in contempt of court. The underlying reason for this is that judges just don’t think visitation is very important.
- Even though there is a law in Virginia that makes violating a custody order a crime and not just a civil matter, judges won't enforce the law. (I know because I tried.)
- The legal profession is very, very good at making excuses for this state of affairs, for the person who can pay the price.
- State legislators, who are the only people who could possibly fix this, either don't know what's going on or, in too many cases, they profit off it. There's no moneyed interest in this game, and it's almost impossible to get someone in state government even to talk to you about these issues.
This sort of situation is completely unacceptable and tragically common. According to a 2008 report from the US Census Bureau, around 35% of all divorced parents have absolutely no contact with their children. I used to think that was because parents just didn’t care. Having experienced this for myself, I now believe it’s because they are overwhelmed by a hostile former spouse and a system that just doesn’t care. The consequences for a child who doesn’t get to know both their parents are well-documented and severe. This is a welfare issue that affects millions of children.
I believe that there are two, simple, self-evident truths that any reasonable, morally aware person of good will should agree with:
- Every child has a right to have a good relationship with both parents without interference. Or, put from the other perspective, every parent has a right to see their kids on a regular basis unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it would be dangerous for the children to let them.
- When a court orders a visitation or custody schedule, there should be absolutely no tolerance when either parent refuses to comply. Refusing to comply with such orders should be treated as a felony, and prosecuted vigorously.
As a society, we have made enormous strides over the past 50 years in dealing with other family law issues like parents who don’t support their children financially and abuse. This issue matters too, and it’s time that it be fixed. Please sign this petition to let your state legislators know that I’m not alone in believing that this issue needs to be addressed.
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