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Parental parity resuscitated

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This is not an April Fool’s Day joke: the “parental parity” bill that was scheduled to be heard on March 19th was pulled BUT it’s reappeared, now scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, April 1st at 10:30am in State Capitol Room 016. (How symbolically appropriate that it’s been scheduled for April Fool’s Day…)

Concerned that our lawmakers may not fully understand how dangerous this legislation is, I reached out to some of my colleagues on the mainland, one of whom is Barry Goldstein, a writer and editor of some of the leading books about domestic violence and custody. Barry writes the kind of books by and for professionals that require citations for anything he wants to say so you won’t find his books at your local Barnes & Noble. (If anyone’s interested, you will find his books here: http://www.civicresearchinstitute.com/index.html

Barry was kind enough to submit testimony about the parental parity bill (that he showed me a copy of) that made some excellent points that I thought I’d share with you:

Elizabeth Liu and I wrote a chapter about shared parenting in our book Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor. We explain there was an original study based on a small population and covering a short period of time that found shared parenting could benefit children under the most favorable circumstances.

To be clear, I want to call attention to the fact that a marriage/family destroyed by domestic violence is NOT considered to be under the most favorable of circumstances.

The U. S. Department of Justice released an important study by Dr. Daniel Saunders that found court professionals do not have the training they need to respond to domestic violence cases and this routinely leads courts to disbelieve true allegations. The Saunders’ study also found that abusers use decision making authority to prevent any decision they don’t agree with and use visitation exchanges to harass the victim. I would strongly recommend that Hawaii not consider any expansion of shared parenting until the training problem regarding domestic violence can be resolved.

The “training problem” that Barry refers to here is the matter of “getting it right”. The concept of shared parenting or the idea of “parental parity” isn’t at the heart of this matter – getting domestic violence and abuse right is.

Ask any true DV survivor about what they think of “parental parity” or shared parenting and you’ll hear two polar opposite responses; one group will emphatically say, “Shared parenting? With my ex?! My kids and I need protection from ongoing abuse, not an open door to it!” while the other group will just as emphatically say, “Shared parenting? Where do I sign up? How fast can we make this happen?” How can a united population of authentic DV survivors have such radically different assertions about shared parenting? It all has to do with the “training problem”.

You see, if you’re a DV victim and are assessed and evaluated correctly by all the professionals you’ll encounter on your path to an abuse-free life, technically our statute HRS 571-46(9) will be appropriately applied and there will be no shared parenting because all the research shows that it’s not a good idea to leave kids alone with a parent who has violent/abusive tendencies towards the people he loves, and trying to get an abuser to co-parent with his victim is like getting oil to blend with water.

On the other hand, if you’re a DV victim and are assessed and evaluated INcorrectly by all the professionals you’ll encounter on your path to an abuse-free life chances are you’ll be accused of falsifying your DV history to “get a leg up in the custody battle”, labeled as a hostile litigant (if that gets you mad) or labeled as mentally unfit (if that makes you sad) and then your abuser gets full physical/legal custody so you’re at his mercy for any tidbits of time or contact that you can have with your kids. In this kind of a scenario, a DV survivor will do anything it takes to just get ANY form of shared parenting – even if the concept’s called “parental parity”.

What are the chances that all the professionals will get it wrong and miss the waving purple (for DV) or blue (for child abuse) flags on a case? More often then you’d care to know about. (See the prior article about the sad and tragic case of 5 year-old Talia Williams; the amount of professionals who “got it wrong” should really concern you.)

When the professionals botch up like this (failing to correctly identify abuse) the people who benefit the most from these mistakes are the abusers. Not only do they have free-reign access to their children to abuse, molest, brainwash and mold to their own image, but in many instances they can even get monetarily rewarded through collecting child support from their victim. Abusers just love it when the professionals get it wrong!

And then there’s my “pet peeve”: when the professionals realize after the fact that they got it wrong then fail to acknowledge their mistake/s then fail to right their wrongs. When this happens (again, more often then you’d be comfortable in knowing) it flies in the face of all things good, honest, just and holy; apparently “saving face” is more important to some professionals then saving life. (BUT since this is not their kid/s, not their lives, not their situations – it’s easy for them to reason “not my problem” – even though they’re the ones who are responsible for “the problem”.)

I’d feel absolutely terrible and be beside myself if I knew that my actions contributed to a child’s injury or someone’s death. Hopefully our lawmakers and those supporting “parental parity” feel the same way and will choose to not support legislation that will allow this to happen. To submit testimony on HB2163, click here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/

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