March 11, 2018 by Linda Reutzel, Chair, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Missouri

Politics is not for the faint of heart. I have heard this comment for many years and since I’ve been actively involved with changing MO custody statutes, I can vouch for that statement.

Shared Parenting advocates only want to let kids have equal access to their fit and willing parents. And research overwhelmingly agrees with this. Our most vocal opponents have been Bar Associations and Domestic Violence groups. Lawyers and judges like the current adversarial system, for obvious reasons, and they are just stuck in the status quo.

Domestic violence groups are a little bit trickier. Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence (MCADV) has sent their lobbyist to every hearing we have had since 2015. Shared Parenting advocates do not want anyone who has a history of domestic violence to have equal access to their children and MO has statutes to keep that from happening. In fact, in the custody statute (452), domestic violence is mentioned several times. And in trying to negotiate an acceptable bill, we even changed our level of evidence. Instead of clear and convincing, which other States are using, we agreed to preponderance of the evidence. So in this way, House Bill 1667 passed the Judiciary Committee and is headed to the House floor for debate.

But when our Senate Bill 645 went to committee, this same MCADV lobbyist was there with a vengeance. Now she wants a rebuttable presumption on top of our rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to award joint legal custody, joint physical custody, sole custody, or unsupervised visitation to an abusive parent. And that this presumption may be overcome by successfully completing an appropriate treatment program, such as department of corrections-credentialed batterer’s intervention program or a drug or alcohol treatment program. Also if the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence exists for both parents, the court shall determine the primary physical aggressor, as defined in some section somewhere, and the court shall award custody to the parent who is less likely to continue a pattern of domestic violence. So I guess for this Domestic Violence group, some abuse is ok if by the woman but absolutely not even a raised voice by a father. In another addition, it says, if the court restricts a parent’s visitation rights or when a court orders supervised visitation because of allegations of abuse or domestic violence, a showing of proof of treatment and rehabilitation in accordance with the provisions of subsection something must be done before unsupervised visitation may be ordered. So just an allegation can put a parent into supervised visitation AND in some treatment for rehabilitation. Where is the due process?

Then MCADV added more language that is rather hard to prove or disprove. They added that it is detrimental to the child to grant custody or unsupervised visitation to an abusive parent. Who decides that the parent is abusive? Oh, I forgot, just an allegation. Language was also added that the abusive parent pose no danger to the child’s physical health OR impairment of his or her emotional development. Men, they got you there, if physical abuse cannot be alleged, then go for the emotional.

I must say that after I read the new amendments to our SIMPLE bill, the confusion of it all was making me a bit dizzy. I also thought that this new language would actually encourage more false allegations in custody disputes. And why not? As soon as the allegation is proffered, the father is taken out of the child’s life, forced into supervised visitation and forced into some rehabilitation program. I’ve heard from many fathers who have been forced into supervised visitation and it is very costly to get out of. By the time you go back to court the damage has already been done.....to the father and of course to the children.

Why we need any more safeguards concerning domestic violence is beyond me. If it is alleged currently, the alleged abuser is automatically given supervised visitation, which takes much time and money to correct. If the allegation is found to be false, no punishment is given to the person responsible for the lie. MCADV is concerned that a judge would have to give an abusive parent 50/50. Give me a break. Fathers get equal custody is less than 20% of cases. So is this lobbyist implying that a judge would not use their discretion when abuse is involved? What hogwash!

I would like to share some statistics that MCADV never seem to share with our legislators:

1. The largest domestic violence research done to date says that women perpetuate physical and emotional abuse, as well as engage in control behaviors, at comparable rates to men. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/5/prweb10741752.htm#.V8B16psxP6I.email

2. The CDC released data from its National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and found that more men had been victims than women. This report shows a decline of the number of women reporting and an increase of men reporting abuse. https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/the-number-of-male-domestic-1284479771263030.html

3. Each year, 1.5 million restraining orders are issued in the United States that are based on false domestic violence accusations. Each year, tax payers spend a staggering 20 billion dollars on welfare and public benefit services that arise from false allegations of domestic violence which consequently force children into single-parent households. http://www.saveservices.org/camp/faam-2011/false-accusations-of- domestic-violence- by-the- numbers/

4. 71% of children killed by one parent are killed by their mother, and 60% of victims are boys. The DHHS data also shows that of children abused by one parent between 2001 and 2006, 70.6% were abused by their mothers, whereas only 29.4% were abused by their fathers. http://www.breakingthescience.org/SimplifiedDataFromDHHS.php

5. Domestic Violence groups bring in loads of Federal and State funding. They are lobbying with taxpayer funds. They should be non biased and must be truthful. https://www.mocadsv.org//FileStream.aspx?FileID=675

These statistics are not mentioned by our Domestic Violence lobbyist. This lobby is obviously very powerful in Jefferson City. Legislators listen and assume that she is telling the truth, the whole truth. Legislators are wrong to put their faith in a group that lobbies for one gender. Just like the BAR Association lobbies for its members, so too, do DV groups. They really don’t want to solve the issue of DV, they want to exacerbate it and then manage it. And in this way, keep those taxpayer dollars coming into their coffers. With our rebuttable presumption language we are trying to make both parents equal when it comes to parenting time. Children deserve that. They need great relationships with both parents. MCADV’s rebuttable presumption language seems to put guilt before adjudication, and that doesn’t seem constitutional.

 

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