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Friday, December 28, 2012

Fathers MIssing from families Washinton Times

Missing dads is a problem 
not only in poor 
homes Many wealthy parents 
are married to careers Comment(s) By Luke Rosiak - The Washington Times Thursday, December 27, 2012 Daniel Patrick Moynihan The inner cities, where only 1 in 10 black children live with both parents, and the wealthy suburbs, where many fathers spend more than 60 hours a week on the job, have more in common than meets the eye, family advocates and faith leaders said. They made the comments Thursday after The Washington Times published an analysis this week of U.S. census data that provoked concern for children from widely disparate camps. Welfare policies among the poor have put government in the role of the father and equated fatherhood with a monthly check, said Glenn T. Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. This has left many fathers free to walk away from their children knowing they will not starve thanks to programs that provide cash assistance to single mothers in proportion with the number of children they have, he said. For fathers who are physically present, it sends a message that a few hundred dollars is a sufficient role. "I think it would be difficult to overstate the significance of a welfare check replacing a marriage," though a committed relationship between a man and a woman — even if the man provides only the same modest income that welfare payments would — "rivals maybe a college education as a path" to upward mobility, Mr. Stanton said. But if single mothers on welfare are married to the government, others said, the frantic and competitive lives of many men in the upper-middle class have wedded them to their jobs and relegated fatherhood to a role more centered on financial support than emotional guidance. "I don't strictly believe it's an inner-city deal," said Hugh Cunningham, pastor of the Sojourn Church in the Dallas suburbs. "A lot of suburban men are married to their work. What they bring home is leftovers." Although those wounds may be hidden under better clothing, the lack of two emotionally available parents crosses cultural and demographic lines. "I don't think there's anyone who hasn't been shaped either by a father's affirmations or the wound of their absence," Mr. Cunningham said. "There isn't a whole lot of a difference between so-called Christian families and secular families when it comes to unsuccessful families or families that malfunction." No matter how much money is poured into entitlement programs — or how much a father makes — "you spell love T-I-M-E," which is something the government cannot provide, said Joel Garcia of Latino Townhall, a Las Vegas-based charity whose mission is to provide education, mentoring and coaching to Hispanic youths. "A dad is much more than an on-time, reliable paycheck. He's a human who contributes in very unique ways, and it's also the relationship between the father and the mother," Mr. Stanton said. Moynihan revisited The Times' in-depth analysis of millions of data points, which attracted thousands of comments online and requests for data and maps from community nonprofits, found that the rates of two-parent households have decreased markedly in every state over the past decade, especially in the South, a traditional bastion of purported family values. It found that 32 percent of white families with children below the poverty line have two parents, while the rate was 41 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for poor blacks. But the problem is concentrated among blacks regardless of economic status. Most black children above the poverty line also live with only one parent, compared with 22 percent of whites. That reality has academics revisiting a nearly 50-year-old report that explored the impact of government assistance and family situations on the black community. The 1965 report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan — at the time an assistant secretary in the Labor Department, who would later become a Democratic senator from New York — examined why rates of government dependence increased among blacks even as employment opportunities widened and brought a backlash from members of his own party. In the ensuing decades, policies focused on propping up single mothers economically rather than addressing fatherlessness, with programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children food program all geared toward single women, especially those with multiple children. "We said, 'How do we build the resources for single mothers to be able to compensate for absent fathers, instead of equipping families to remain intact?'" said Kenneth Braswell Sr., director of Fathers Inc. in Albany, N.Y. "We ignored the core of the Moynihan report, which was pay attention to the black father, because that guy is the one that's going to determine the outcome." Fifty years and few answers An analysis looking back on the report found that many factors tied to the presence of male role models among poor blacks have only worsened. The Urban Institute and Mr. Braswell's group, in preparation for a Feb. 22 event, found that the percent of black women who are married declined from 53 percent to 25 percent over the past half-century, compared with a drop from 65 percent to 52 percent for white women and a 67 percent to 43 percent drop for Hispanics. "Now you have an increased number of black researchers who are saying 'Whoa, this guy was on point. I may not like the way he went about it, but in terms of his numbers, they can't be disputed,'" Mr. Braswell said. Black men were 5 percent more likely to be working than black women in 2011, the groups said, and black women were more likely to hold jobs than white women for most of the past decade. Last year, that number was about equal. "What we did in 1965 is misdiagnose the issue. It's like catching a cold and saying the issue is you have a runny nose," he said. "That's just a symptom. We went right at healing the runny nose, and the bacteria were popping up all over: guys having children by multiple women, not feeling obligated to stick around." The Moynihan report did not provide a prescription. "He said, 'Here's the data, it's now your job to figure out where to go with this,'" Mr. Braswell said. Even with nearly 50 years to reflect on the findings, solutions are not clear-cut. "We're also not going to provide any recommendations" this month, he said. To Mr. Cunningham, the pastor, a clue is provided by a half-century of money-intensive government payments that accompanied only the further decline of families. "The government doesn't have the power to fill" the role of parental guidance and love, he said. "We'll throw money at it, but it's not a money problem," he said. Tight budgetary times could provide an impetus. "I think there's phenomenal hope because I don't have an expectation that the government can do it; they're running out of money themselves. The feds are going to drop it down to the state and they'll drop it down to the local level, and then the communities will have to rise up." Churches, community groups and neighborhood volunteers with youngsters' ears will do the grunt work, he said, engaging in non-monetary substitutes for parenting such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The incentive to act is there, Mr. Braswell said. "If it was a travesty in 1965, what is it now?" © Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission. Read more: Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Discipling your children

The Wall Street Journal HEALTH & WELLNESS December 24, 2012, 12:23 p.m. ET Smarter Ways to Discipline Children Research Suggests Which Strategies Really Get Children to Behave; How Timeouts Can Work Better By ANDREA PETERSEN When it comes to disciplining her generally well-behaved kids, Heather Henderson has tried all the popular tricks. She's tried taking toys away. (Her boys, ages 4 and 6, never miss them.) She's tried calm explanations about why a particular behavior—like hitting your brother—is wrong. (It doesn't seem to sink in.) And she's tried timeouts. "The older one will scream and yell and bang on walls. He just loses it," says the 41-year-old stay-at-home mother in Syracuse, N.Y. Mike Right What can be more effective are techniques that psychologists often use with the most difficult kids, including children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Approaches, with names like "parent management training" and "parent-child interaction therapy," are backed up by hundreds of research studies and they work on typical kids, too. But while some of the approaches' components find their way into popular advice books, the tactics remain little known among the general public. The general strategy is this: Instead of just focusing on what happens when a child acts out, parents should first decide what behaviors they want to see in their kids (cleaning their room, getting ready for school on time, playing nicely with a sibling). Then they praise those behaviors when they see them. "You start praising them and it increases the frequency of good behavior," says Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. This sounds simple, but in real life can be tough. People's brains have a "negativity bias," says Alan E. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center. We pay more attention to when kids misbehave than when they act like angels. Dr. Kazdin recommends at least three or four instances of praise for good behavior for every timeout a kid gets. For young children, praise needs to be effusive and include a hug or some other physical affection, he says. image image Jason Greene for The Wall Street Journal Heather Henderson of Syracuse, N.Y., plays Legos with son Archer, 6. She has tried various tactics to discipline her sons but 'we're always at a loss.' According to parent management training, when a child does mess up, parents should use mild negative consequences (a short timeout or a verbal reprimand without shouting). Giving a child consequences runs counter to some popular advice that parents should only praise their kids. But reprimands and negative nonverbal responses like stern looks, timeouts and taking away privileges led to greater compliance by kids according to a review article published this month in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. "There's a lot of fear around punishment out there," says Daniela J. Owen, a clinical psychologist at the San Francisco Bay area Center for Cognitive Therapy in Oakland, Calif. and the lead author of the study. "Children benefit from boundaries and limits." The study found that praise and positive nonverbal responses like hugs and rewards like ice cream or stickers, however, didn't lead to greater compliance in the short term. "If your child is cleaning up and he puts a block in the box and you say 'great job,' it doesn't mean the child is likely to put another block in the box," says Dr. Owen. But in the long run, regular praise does make a child more likely to comply, possibly because the consistent praise strengthens the parent-child relationship overall, Dr. Owen says. The article reviewed 41 studies looking at discipline strategies and child compliance. Parents who look for discipline guidance often find conflicting advice from the avalanche of books and mommy blogs and the growing number of so-called parent coaches. (In 2011, 3,520 parenting books were published or distributed in the U.S., up from 2,774 in 2007, according to Bowker Books In Print database.) "Many of the things that are recommended we know now to be wrong," says Dr. Kazdin, a leading expert on parent management training. "It is the equivalent of telling people to smoke a lot for their health." image image Jason Greene for The Wall Street Journal Heather and Jay Henderson with their two boys, Archer, 6, and Heath, 4, spend time together at their home in Syracuse, N.Y. Parents often torpedo their discipline efforts by giving vague, conditional commands and not giving kids enough time to comply with them, says Dr. Verduin, who practices parent-child interaction therapy. When crossing the street, "A bad command would be, 'be careful.' A good command would be 'hold my hand,' " he says. He also instructs parents to count to five to themselves after giving a child a directive, like, for example, "Put on your coat." "Most parents wait a second or two," he says, before making another command, which can easily devolve into yelling and threats. The techniques are applicable to all ages, but psychologists note that starting early is better. Once kids hit about 10 or 11, discipline gets a lot harder. "Parents don't have as much leverage" with tweens and teens, says Dr. Verduin. "Kids don't care as much what the parents think about them." Some parents try and reason with young children, which Dr. Kazdin says is bound to fail to change a kid's behavior. Reason doesn't change behavior, which is why stop-smoking messages don't usually work, Dr. Kazdin says. Overly harsh punishments also fail. "One of the side effects of punishment is noncompliance and aggression," he says. Spanking, in particular, has been linked to aggressive behavior in kids and anger problems and increased marital conflict later on in adulthood. Still, 26% of parents "often" or "sometimes" spank their 19-to-35-month-old children, according to a 2004 study in the journal Pediatrics, which analyzed survey data collected by the federal government from 2,068 parents of young children. At the Yale Parenting Center, psychologists have found that getting kids to "practice" temper tantrums can lessen their frequency and intensity. Dr. Kazdin recommends that parents have their kids "practice" once or twice a day. Gradually, ask the child to delete certain unwanted behaviors from the tantrum, like kicking or screaming. Then effusively praise those diluted tantrums. Soon, for most children, "the real tantrums start to change," he says. "From one to three weeks, they are kind of over." As for whining, Dr. Kazin recommends whining right along with your child. "It changes the stimulus. You will likely end up laughing," he says. Researchers noted that not every technique is effective for every child. Some parents find other creative solutions that work for their kids. Karen Pesapane has found yelling "pillow fight," when her two kids are arguing can put a halt to the bickering. "Their sour attitudes change almost immediately into silliness and I inevitably become their favorite target," said Ms. Pesapane, a 34-year-old from Silver Spring, Md., who works in fundraising for a nonprofit and has a daughter 10, and a son, 6. Dayna Even has found spending one hour a day fully focused on her 6-year-old son, Maximilian, means "he's less likely to act out, he's more likely to play independently and less likely to interrupt adults," says the 51-year-old writer and tutor in Kailua, Hawaii. Parents need to take a child's age into account. Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine notes that it isn't until about age 3 that children can really start to understand and follow rules. Dr. Siegel is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee that is currently reworking the organization's guidelines on discipline, last updated in 1998. Write to Andrea Petersen at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Child support guideline Panel for Sept 20 postponed

Fathers For Virginia Note About CS Review Panel The next meeting of the Virginia Child Support Guidelines Review Panel that had been scheduled for September 20 has been postponed. Although the panel's website does not yet (Sunday afternoon) reflect the change, Fathers For Virginia representatives were told on Friday that the September 20 meeting would not take place. The next meeting of the panel is likely to be on November 5 in Richmond. We will update you as soon as we know, but we were told on Friday that Dr. Jane Venohr, the Review Panel's economist, is likely to present a report at the November 5 meeting. Her report will contain specific recommendations for new child support amounts to be incorporated in the statutory CS guidelines. On another issue, we had understood that the panel's report on the issue would be finalized in time for the 2013 legislative session. However, we were told on Friday that the report is to be finalized in time for the 2014 legislative session. This timetable clearly gives us more time for comments. The new timetable does not diminish the importance of continued participation by fathers in the Review Panel's meetings. From what we were told on Friday, it seems unlikely that we will get enough time to study Dr. Venohr's report before the November 5 meeting, but we will have opportunities at later Panel meetings to offer our comments. For more general background on the situation, see the Review Panel's website Check out the minutes to be found in the Meetings section of the website. In particular, look at the minutes of the last meeting, on June 12, 2012. They indicate the direction in which the panel is going. FFV Representatives testified at the previous meeting, on November 16, 2011. Some of the major issues for FFV are in testimony by FFV President Fred Hawkins ( and by me ( For those of you who didn't attend the September 8 meeting in Springfield, the following are the major points that were made during the meeting: We have a good opportunity at the present time to raise fathers' issues. There is great concern in Richmond about the costs to taxpayers of fragile families, which Social Services Commissioner Martin Brown says were about $2.4 billion in 2011. Brown seems aware that some government programs have unintentionally created incentives for single-parent families. FFV representatives have stressed that raising child support figures is one way of increasing the incentives for single-parent families. Despite the general impression that the custody situation in Virginia is now more or less gender-neutral, the statistics indicate that this is emphatically not so. Division of Child Support Enforcement statistics show that, as of October 2011, 93.39 percent of custodial parents were female and only 6.23 percent of custodial parents were male. Wholesale discrimination against fathers continues. Fathers must tell the CS Review Panel that it should not go further down this road by recommending increases in amounts of child support, which overwhelmingly is paid by fathers. The current guidelines should be revised to remove the present 90-day limit above which there is no recognition of the noncustodial parent's expenses in caring for his children. A computer program to calculate CS amounts is in widespread use throughout Virginia. The availability of this computer program (VADER --Virginia Attorneys' Divorce Electronic Reference) removes earlier objections that substitution of a sliding scale for the 90-day limit (the so-called "cliff effect") would make CS calculations too complex. There are signs that Commissioner Brown's views about the importance of two-parent families are filtering through to the Division of Child Support Enforcement. DCSE is one of the agencies under his control. For example, DCSE is considering ending the Ten Most Wanted list of noncustodial parents who are delinquent in child support. The DCSE background notice on this proposal says, among other things: "In addition, with the Commonwealth’s increased focus on strengthening families, it is not appropriate to embarrass or humiliate child support obligors and their families, especially since many of the individuals on the lists were those who were unable to pay rather than those who were unwilling to pay. This sort of enforcement tool does not encourage noncustodial parents to pay support and, in fact, may serve as a disincentive." FFV has written to DCSE supporting this proposal. We will try to keep you updated on these issues. Meantime, cancel any plans you have made to attend the September 20 meeting in Richmond! Kenneth Skilling September 16, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Significant Development on Contested Adoption

The following is the current addition to the existing VA Code section 63.2-1203, under number 4(C). C. In an adoption proceeding where the consent of a birth parent is required, but the petition for adoption alleges that the birth parent is withholding consent to the adoption, the court shall provide written notice to the birth parent of his right to be represented by counsel prior to any hearing or decision on the petition. Upon request, the court shall appoint counsel for any such birth parent if such parent has been determined to be indigent by the court pursuant to § 19.2-159.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Important Fathers For Virginia Child support Meeting Springfield VA Sept 8

The Virginia Child Support Review Panel has scheduled a meeting for September 20 in Richmond. The panel plans to make its recommendations in time for the 2013 legislature session, which starts in January 2013. Signs are that the panel may recommend a big jump -- enough to cause "sticker shock." according to the panel's economic consultant -- in the numbers in Virginia's child support guideline. The guideline relates CS to the incomes of the parents and the number of children. In the view of Fathers For Virginia (FFV), the next meeting of the CS Guideline Review Panel is likely to be a critical one. FFV has organized a meeting in the afternoon of Saturday, September 8, in Springfield, VA, to discuss the outlook for the CS review panel, and what noncustodial parents can do to ensure that they are not stuck with a major increase in their payments. We hope you will be able to come to the meeting, and make a contribution to the discussion. We also hope you will be able to testify to the September 20 meeting. Please consider coming to the September 8 meeting even if you personally no longer pay child support. This is part of our effort to get people in Richmond to focus more on fathers' issues, and that is a very long-term process. We have arranged the meeting in a library close to the Springfield Interchange (I-95 and the Washington Beltway), in hopes that those coming from outside Northern Virginia will find it easier to attend. Details of the times and the location are below. Some FFV representatives have already testified to the Child Support Guideline Review Panel, whose website is . Among the points we have made are the following: --- The current guideline is already indexed for inflation, because CS amounts are linked to the incomes of the custodial and noncustodial parents. In consequence, it is a mistake to suggest that amounts in the guideline must be raised because the cost of raising children has increased. --- The whole issue of child support, and its enforcement, is distorted by the disparity in the gender distribution of custody, with fathers being custodial parents in only about 6 percent of non-intact families in Virginia. This disparity should be openly acknowledged as a problem, and the CS review panel should not go further down the road of discriminating against fathers. --- The current CS guideline should be modified, but the modification should consist of removal of the present 90-day threshold below which visitation time has no impact on the amount noncustodial parents have to pay. We have seen some signs of a new attitude in Richmond towards divorced and non-marital families, including concern about unintended incentives for the creation of these families. We can explain some of these signs at the meeting. This is a golden opportunity for non-custodial parents to make their voices heard. We hope you can come to the meeting on September 8. We need more people who can speak out on these matters. Please reply to this e-mail to let us know if you plan to attend the September 8 meeting. We need to have an estimate of attendance, in order to complete the arrangements. Any questions should be directed to Kenneth Skilling, Details of the Meeting The meeting has been scheduled for Saturday, September 8, 1 p.m. in Meeting Room 1 of the Richard Byrd Library ( The address of the library is: 7250 Commerce Street, Springfield, VA 22150-3499, telephone: 703-451-8055 For those coming from a distance, there are several hotels in various price ranges within easy reach of this library. In addition, it may be possible to arrange overnight accommodation in the homes of FFV members who live in Northern Virginia.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Father For Virginia Activites on Current Policy Issues

FFV Activities on Current Policy Issues Fathers For Virginia (FFV) has started preparations for the next session of the Virginia legislature, which begins in January 2013, A major focus of FFV's attention is the re-examination of Virginia's child support guideline. An advisory panel appointed by the governor has been meeting to look at the current guideline, which links CS payments to the incomes of the parents and to the number of children. The advisory panel expects to make recommendations in time for consideration by the 2013 legislative session. The next meeting of the child support review panel is in Richmond on September 20. It is important that as many fathers as possible are present at this review panel meeting. FFV plans to hold a meeting during August to discuss how to handle this issue. The date and place for this FFV meeting will be announced soon. Several FFV members testified to the last meeting of the child support review panel. The points made in FFV testimony were as follows: (1) From comments made by Dr. Jane Venohr, who was hired to help with the review of the CS numbers, it appears that she will recommend substantial increases in the figures in the guideline. The basis for raising CS amounts, she says, are that the cost of raising children has increased, and that adjoining states are raising their CS guideline numbers. FFV, however, has testified that the guideline amounts already are indexed for inflation, because the numbers are tied to parental incomes. To raise the amounts without regard to the incomes of noncustodial parents (almost exclusively fathers) would involve imposing new and unjustified burdens on fathers. (2) The CS guideline SHOULD be revised, but the change should be to remove the present 90-day threshold below which the time the children spend with the noncustodial parent has no effect on the amount of CS he has to pay to the custodial parent. There is no justification for this 90-day "cliff effect," which has had the practical repercussion of ensuring that custodial parents will never agree to more than 90 days visitation per year. Instead, CS amounts should be calculated on a sliding scale. (3) Underlying the CS guideline is the longstanding and pervasive discrimination against fathers in custody awards. According to figures from the Division of Child Support Enforcement, at the end of 2011 fathers were custodial parents in only about 6 percent of cases in Virginia. FFV is also involved in other issues in Richmond that affect fathers. We plan to seek reintroduction in 2013 of a bill that would provide for presumptive joint custody. In addition, FFV is seeking to participate in a policy re-examination started by Social Services Commissioner Martin Brown, the Strengthening Virginia's Families initiative. This initiative is based on an explicit recognition of the costs to Virginia taxpayers -- running into billions of dollars annually -- of family breakdown in the state. We think that the initiative should involve ways of eliminating government programs that have the unintended consequence of providing incentives for the creation of fatherless families. In addition, FFV is encouraging the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement to drop the "Ten Most Wanted" list of those who have fallen behind on CS payments. We maintain that this list is disrespectful to fathers, most of whom are unable -- not unwilling -- to pay the huge amounts of money that they owe. There are some signs that DCSE may be willing to drop this list. Kenneth Skilling Fathers For Virginia

Friday, July 20, 2012

Need for Interstate Adoption Act and Treaty

The Wyatt adoption civil case has been settled and the settlement has been sealed. While this ends the civil aspects, the criminal aspects have not been addressed by the authorities, However, the need to have a uniform interstate adoption Act is a goal that needs to be achieved, Criminal penalties need to be attached to the act both for enforcement and activation of US vs Parks which only applies to criminal prosecutions. The decision states that an executive can be held criminally liable if the executive fails to take corrective action of criminal acts of lower echelon employees. Adoption should be a joyous event but there needs to be a standard for both interstate US adoption and adoption occurring between two different countries.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Case for Joint Custody By Kenneth Skilling


Del. Albo’s Joint Custody/Visitation Bill (H.B. 84)

1. Summary of bill (H.B. 84)
Delegate Albo’s bill provides for a rebuttable presumption of joint custody in a no-fault divorce cases, but not in cases where a divorce is sought on fault grounds. In no-fault divorces the bill would, in essence, create a rebuttable presumption that parents should be awarded joint physical custody, with no parent's share of such custody comprising less than two-fifths or 40 percent of the child's time.

2. H.B. 84 differs radically from previous joint custody bills
In 2011, and in previous years, bills that would have provided for presumptive joint custody were introduced, but didn’t reach the statute book. Opponents of earlier bills suggested that presumptive joint custody would tie the hands of judges and family law attorneys. Opponents feared that joint custody might be imposed in divorces where one spouse was guilty of domestic violence or some other behavior that would adversely affect the children. However, under H.B. 84, the option of seeking divorces on fault grounds would continue. Presumptive joint custody would not apply in fault-based divorces. So, where parental misconduct was part of the case for a divorce, the rebuttable presumption would not apply.

3. Presumptive joint legal and physical custody is in the children’s best interests.
Many studies indicate that a high proportion of children who grow up without active father involvement in the family suffer major damage. They do less well in the educational system, they are much more likely to be involved in crime (particularly violent crime), and there are many more teenage pregnancies among girls who come from fatherless homes. The annual cost of family fragmentation in Virginia runs into billions of dollars. Much of this cost could be avoided if fathers continued to be fully involved with their children despite being divorced from the mothers.

4. Existing provisions for joint custody are inadequate
Virginia law already makes provision for joint custody by agreement between the parents. However, the current system in effect allows any parent who is confident of getting sole custody to veto joint custody. Overwhelmingly, the courts act as if there were a presumption of sole maternal custody. Without a presumption of joint custody, the present situation will never change. As of October 2011, Division of Child Support Enforcement data indicate that very little change is taking place in custody arrangements. Fathers are custodial parents in only about 6 percent of cases.

5. Joint custody must be compared with the status quo, which has serious shortcomings
No one argues that joint physical and legal custody would miraculously solve all the problems of family fragmentation. However, it’s vital to compare joint custody with the system we have at present, which overwhelmingly is sole custody. We know from the research that children raised in single parent families face serious problems. Parents who genuinely have the best interests of their children at heart will be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make joint custody work. Where problems cannot be resolved by the parents, mediation will help to smooth out the difficulties.

6. Joint custody reduces existing incentives for family breakups
Research indicates that states with high levels of joint physical custody awards (over 30 percent) in 1989 and 1990 had significantly greater declines in divorce rates in following years, through 1995, compared with other states. According to the research, expectations about child custody are very important in decisions about seeking divorce. Not only would enactment of this bill reduce the incentives for divorce, but it would diminish the incentives for custody disputes at the time of the divorce.

7. Existing custody rules discourage fathers from staying in touch with their children
The typical child custody order in Virginia makes it very difficult for both parents to be involved in raising the children, and the excluded parent nearly always is the father. Some say that most fathers don’t even want custody of their children. However, the desire of fathers not to be cut out of their children's lives can’t be measured by the number of cases where fathers seek custody through litigation. Most fathers know very well that custody fights are very expensive, emotionally draining, and overwhelmingly likely to be futile. Custody contests are like bullfights – there’s never much doubt about which side is going to win. Presumptive joint physical and legal custody would transform the situation.

Prepared on January 9, 2012
Any questions should be directed to:
Kenneth Skilling
703 768 6588


More Detailed Information About Joint Custody

(a) Presumptive Joint Custody is in the Interests of Children

Children are born with two parents, and all the indications are that, when one parent (nearly always the father) is removed -- or removes himself -- from the lives of the children, the children do much worse than children who grow up in two-parent families. Many studies have indicated that teenage pregnancy, crime, and educational underachievement are much more common among children from fatherless families than among children from two-parent families. These social pathologies are not merely the result of low family income.

One area where children in single-parent families suffer serious harm is education. A Heritage Foundation paper on family structure and children’s education ( highlights the various elements in the situation, and provides links to the underlying research. “Individuals from intact families completed, on average, more years of schooling and were also more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and complete college compared to peers raised in blended or single-parent families,” the paper says. Among other problems, the paper points out, “youths who experienced parental divorce tend to have lower grade point averages and are more likely to be held back a grade in school.”

The National Fatherhood Initiative was founded in 1994 to confront what its organizers regarded as the most serious social problem of our time: widespread father absence in the lives of children. In the educational context, among the problems identified by NFI are the following:
-- Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school. (National Center for Health Statistics. Survey on Child Health. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1993) (;
-- Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A's (
-- Students living in father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school; 10 percent of children living with both parents have repeated a grade, compared to 20 percent of children in stepfather families and 18 percent in mother-only families ( .

Fatherless families are closely linked to crime, particularly violent crime. The Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think-tank affiliated with the Democratic Party, in a report on family issues (, summarized the research as follows: "The relationship [between serious crime and single-parent families] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature; poverty is far from the sole determinant of crime."

A Justice Department study ( noted in 2004 that over half of jail inmates grew up in either a single-parent household or with a guardian, such as grandparents, another relative, or a non-relative. Thirty nine percent of jail inmates lived with a mother only. Another study (, of 13,986 women in prison, showed that more than half grew up without their fathers. Forty two percent grew up in a single-mother household and 16 percent lived with neither parent.

Father-absence is a major cause of childhood poverty. Fatherless homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 38.4 percent of children in female-householder families. (U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2002, P200-547, Table C8. Washington D.C.: GPO, 2003 ( ).

Studies of “fragile families” establish a clear link between father-absence and poverty. For example, during the year before their babies were born, 43 percent of unmarried mothers received welfare or food stamps, 21 percent received some type of housing subsidy, and 9 percent received another type of government transfer (unemployment insurance etc.). For women who have another child, the proportion who receive welfare or food stamps rises to 54 percent. (Sara McLanahan: The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study: Baseline National Report. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Well-being, 2003: ).

A child with a nonresident father is 54 percent more likely to be poorer than his or her father (Elaine Sorenson and Chava Zibman. “Getting to Know Poor Fathers Who Do Not Pay Child Support.” Social Service Review 75, September 2001 ).

In short, the research evidence is beyond dispute. The creation of fatherless families is a major reason for a large proportion of the most serious social pathologies facing Virginia and other states. Finding ways of keeping fathers involved in their children’s lives, even after divorce, is absolutely critical.

(b) Existing provisions for joint custody are inadequate

Family lawyers typically tell clients that in Virginia custody of children is no longer determined by the gender of the parent. However, this is a misleading summary of the current situation. The language of the law is as follows:

“In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest. The court may award joint custody or sole custody.” § 20-124.2.

The reason for including a presumption of joint custody, is that the practical result of the current language is to exclude fathers from their children’s lives. In some cases, fathers are awarded joint legal custody, and this is sometimes seen as evidence that the system is evolving. However, as fathers who have had joint legal custody will attest, this adds very little to their role in relation to their children, if they don’t also have joint physical custody, and if they see their children only every other weekend, and one evening a week.

A more revealing picture is presented by information in the database of the Division of Child Support Enforcement. According to a recent (October 2011) analysis of the DCSE database, 93.39 percent of custodial parents are female and only 6.23 percent of custodial parents are male. In other words, custody arrangements are very far from being gender-neutral, whatever the law may say.

(c) Joint Custody Must be Compared With the Status Quo

When legislators are considering proposals for presumptive joint custody, the tendency is to focus exclusively on the possible problems that would arise if the change were made. However, examining the issue in this way distorts the picture.

The appropriate analysis is to compare presumptive joint custody with the status quo, which in Virginia overwhelmingly (93.39 percent) is maternal custody. Without even considering the issue of gender bias, the social research indicates that when fathers have no effective participation in their families, very serious problems result. That comparison should be the basis of pushing the system in the direction of joint physical and legal custody.

(d) Incentives for Family Breakups Should be Reduced
Current arrangements in Virginia, and in other states, have unintentionally created incentives for family breakups. A change to presumptive joint custody would help to correct this situation.
Research by Richard Kuhn and John Guidubaldi ( established that states with high levels of joint physical custody awards (over 30 percent) in 1989 and 1990 have showed significantly greater declines in divorce rates in following years through 1995, compared with other states. “Divorce rates declined nearly four times faster in high joint custody states, compared with states where joint physical custody is rare,” Kuhn and Guidubaldi said. “As a result, the states with high levels of joint custody now have significantly lower divorce rates on average than other states.”
A paper originally published in 2000 suggests that expectations about child custody are very important in decisions about seeking divorce ( ). Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W. Allen concluded that “who gets the children is by far the most important component in who files for divorce, particularly when there is little quarrel about property, as when the separation is long.”
Often, there is an unfortunate tendency to treat fathers as if they were to blame for the creation of single-parent families. However, the research indicates otherwise. Most divorces (estimates range from 60-90 percent) are initiated by wives over the objections of their husbands (see, for example, and

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Utah Adoption Case

The Utah adoption case involving the child removed from VA may be headed to the US Supreme Court from the Utah Supreme Court. Since the Utah Supreme did not identify the names of the Utah adoptive parents, the case is identified by initials. The other part of the case is scheduled for trial in the Alexandria Federal District Court in early July 2012. Wyatt, the father, is suing several defendants for 10 million dollars. Wyatt is the unmarried father of the child taken to Utah. The case is important since Wyatt has a valid Order of Custody for the child. Furthermore, there is also a need to have a uniform adoption law just as we currently have the Parent Kidnapping Act that is designed to prevent forum shopping during custody hearings.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Essentials of a $86 VA Divorce

The Essential Elements of a $86 VA Divorce
1. Final Decree of Divorce This is signed by the Circuit Judge but drafted by the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff also signs the order.
2. Complaint For Divorce Signed by the Plaintiff-not notarized
3. Private Addendum to Decree of Divorce Pursuant to Code sec. 20-121.03 This contain the social security numbers of the litigants and is signed by the Plaintiff. This document restricts disclosure of the social security numbers.
4. Waiver of Notices The defendant appears before a notary (who does a jurat) and states the defendant does not contest the action, and waives all future notices of the case. The notary needs to make absolutely sure that the signed reasonable understands this document!!!!
5. Marital Separation and Property Settlement and Custody Visitation Agreement.If there are no children one would omit the custody and visitation. The signature of both parties is notarized.
6 Answer to Complaint for Divorce Signed by the Defendant and not notarized

ALL document are submitted to the clerk of the Circuit Court with a payment of $86 CASH. The Court will review the documents and set a date where the Plaintiff and a collaborative witness appears in Court.