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Parental parity: a death sentence for children of abuse

Children should be found in playgrounds not plots
Children should be found in playgrounds not plots

How funny is this? If you put “parental parity” into a search engine, what pops up is “Did you mean: parental parody”?

If it weren’t such a serious matter my answer would be YES because in the world of domestic violence “parental parity” is a joke, but here in Hawaii it’s called House Bill (HB) 2163.

According to “parity” is defined as

equality, as in amount, status or character.

something that doesn’t exist – and never will exist – for those whose lives have been touched by domestic violence. was also not written in “batter chatter” – the native tongue and language of DV that is only understood by those who know DV so while “parity” might mean “equality” to everyone else in the world, “parity” means “my way” in batter chatter with “my” being defined from the abuser’s position (because it’s always all about the abuser).

When legislation is presented to our lawmakers, the language is not written in batter chatter nor is legislation understood and interpreted in batter chatter before it's passed yet what legislative proposals are passed affect us ALL. This is critical to understand because “a good idea” - the best sounding well-intentioned legislation designed to do “the most good” - can have devastating, life-threatening and life-ending unintended consequences for those who struggle to survive in DV world and HB 2163 – Relating To Parental Parity – is one such piece of legislation.

HB 2163 “Requires the court to consider frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with each parent when awarding custody of a minor child, unless the court finds that one or both parents are unable to act in the best interests of the child.”

At 10:00am on Wednesday, March 19th, the Senate’s Judiciary & Labor Committee chaired by Senator Clayton Hee will convene in State Capitol Room 016 to read and listen to public testimony in support and opposition to HB 2163. This is the bill’s third reading that I’m astounded about because of the overwhelming testimony in opposition submitted in its first reading. (Usually what happens is a measure/proposal “dies” if legislators vote against its passage and usually legislators vote against a measure/proposal because of overwhelming testimony submitted in opposition. In this case, lots of testimony in opposition but lots of votes in support. Go figure.)

What’s even more incredible about the testimony submitted in opposition was the volume of research that was referenced to and cited that couldn’t make it any more clear about how dangerous parental parity would be in cases involving abuse but still HB 2163 passed and was sent along to its second reading.

If research won’t make an impact on our lawmakers’ decision-making perhaps real life will. The pitfalls of such legislation can easily be seen in a case ripped from the headlines and currently being prosecuted in Honolulu’s U.S. District Court federal court (as if all the other cases of children who've suffered the same fate haven't proved enough):

In 2005 Talia Williams was 5 years-old and had only been in Hawaii for seven short months before being killed by her father who had obtained custody of her just seven months before. In all the years since where fatality review teams have had ample opportunity to figure out how to prevent such tragedies from ever happening again, leave it to Hawaii - where Talia's homicide occurred and is being tried - to present and push legislation that will allow the factors that led to Talia's death to be promoted and supported by law NOT rejected and condemned!

Is legislation like HB 2163 the way to honor Talia's memory? Surely if Talia's death means more then her very short life, the legacy to be left and the lesson to be learned is how to prevent such tragedies from happening, NOT how to add names to the ever growing list of the deceased. Even if I didn’t know what I know about DV and abuse, I could never sign my name in support of parental parity if only because of what happened to Talia; how would you feel if a child died as a result of a law you helped put into place? Blood is not something I want on my hands.

If HB 2163 is passed and becomes law, it will only be a matter of time before another child is killed as a result of parental parity and friendly parent provisions that only benefit abusers (IF the law is correctly applied to begin with). On the flipside, when the law is misapplied victim-survivors find themselves banned, barred and prohibited from their children by laws that were intended to protect them from this situation; the key to success or failure rests in the hands of the professionals entrusted to “get it right” and in just Talia’s case alone, look how many professionals got it wrong (and then look at the price paid for all those mistakes in judgment).

The other thing about HB 2163 is “…unless the court finds that one or both parents are unable to act in the best interests of the child”. Or both parents? Then what happens? Slap a “For Sale” sign on the kid and put him/her up on a Department of Human Services auction block to go to the highest bidder? So much for the best interests of the chattel, er, child…

In case anyone thinks I may be making a DV mountain from a non-DV molehill where Talia’s case is concerned, take a quick look at this early article and you'll see that (once again) domestic violence was indeed alive and well in Talia's house - just overlooked, missed and dismissed (as usual).

NOW how do you feel about "parental parity"? Are you willing to risk even one child’s life on “a good idea”? Tell your legislators what you think by submitting your testimony on HB 2163 through the State Capitol website here:

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