Coalition of Parents Unite in Nationwide Class Action Challenges for Their Children

Submitted by Editor on Mon, 13/09/2004 - 22:48

Auburn, AL, September 2, 2004 -- Representatives from across the country are announcing that on September 17, 2004, they will simultaneously file federal class action lawsuits, on behalf of an estimated 25 million noncustodial parents, demanding that rights to equal custody of their children be restored by the federal courts.

In what some are calling "the mother of all lawsuits", the parents will challenge widespread practices by the states in determining care, custody, and support of children. "Parents are tired of being mistreated as second class citizens by state courts," according to Torm L. Howse, President of the Indiana Civil Rights Council. "Most parents say they care about their children, their families, and the related unnecessary waste of their hard-earned tax dollars, more than all other political issues combined."

Plaintiffs are seeking damages in all 50 states, bringing widespread attention to what they allege as years of disparate taxation and willful financial mismanagement. The coalition is comprised of various leaders from family rights, fathers rights, mothers rights, and shared parenting groups, as well as political candidates, doctors, and other activists committed to dramatic social, taxation, and government reform in the area of family law. The effort is also backed by several prominent family rights organizations.

"We're trying to protect the right of all fit parents to share equally in the custody and care of their children," says Howse. "The time has come for a drastic reform of government practices that harm children and parents. "Kids need both parents," adds Rachel Forrest, a leader with the Children's Rights Council and the National Congress for Fathers and Children. "We hope that this landmark action will wake up the government and make it aware of the inequities in family courts and social services that prevent our children from having equal access to both of their parents."

According to attorney Garrett C. Dailey, who successfully obtained a recent landmark California Supreme Court decision, "children of divorced parents who have two primary parents in their lives do better in school, are better adjusted and happier than children raised by only one primary parent." Likewise, the American Psychological Association, the world's largest such group, confirmed through an exhaustive study that children in joint custody arrangements have less behavior and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, better family relations, and better school performance than children who are subjected to sole custody arrangements. Agreeing in a decision long-touted by parental rights advocates, Judge Dorothy T. Beasley of the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled: "Inherent in the express public policy is a recognition of the child's right to equal access and opportunity with both parents, the right to be guided and nurtured by both parents, the right to have major decisions made by the application of both parents' wisdom, judgement and experience. The child does not forfeit these rights when the parents divorce."

In addition to challenging standard practices pertaining to family law, the coalition also alleges that while nearly every state has recognized catastrophic budgetary failures, the states still recklessly refuse to consider the financial devastation involved with encouraging routine awards of sole custody, reminding that such patterns dramatically increase crime, poverty, drug use, suicides, dropouts, teenage pregnancies, and other forms of direct harm and costs against children, families, taxpayers, and society in general. Professor Stephen Baskerville, distinguished master of political science at Howard University, and one of the world's foremost experts on various custody and child support issues, explains: "Politicians often spend money to avoid confronting problems. Yet marshaling the government to strengthen families seems especially pointless when it is government that weakened the family in the first place."

The plaintiffs further allege that the relocation of children away from one parent radically increases the incidence of parental kidnappings, which dwarf all other types of kidnappings, and wastes additional tax dollars in the ensuing processes. An in-depth analysis, conducted in 1990 by the U.S. Department of Justice, confirmed that over 350,000 children were abducted that year by a family member - typically a parent involved in a custody dispute - while the number of stereotypical kidnappings of children for ransom amounted only to a few hundred nationwide.

The parents say that common inequities in state family courts are also directly and indirectly responsible for murders and suicides amongst the most estranged families. Every week, they note, approximately 300 fathers and 75 mothers commit suicide in this country, with the majority of these senseless deaths directly attributable to victimization by family courts. These suicides are often committed by passive parents, due to hopelessness in a system fraught with injustice, but the more aggressive parents occasionally snap at the weight of suffering such anguish, and violently take out their desperation on estranged partners, sometimes even murdering them, and possibly the children, before also killing themselves

They also allege that the states are recklessly responsible for much of the abuse and neglect experienced by children in this country. The National Clearinghouse for Child Abuse and Neglect Information, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, consistently reports that, year after year, single parents are responsible for almost two-thirds of all substantiated cases of abuse and neglect committed against children - more than all other classes of perpetrators combined. The national costs of these child abuse and neglect incidents surpassed $94 billion in 2001, according to Prevent Child Abuse America. "It's painfully obvious that the majority of child abuse can be easily prevented, by simply ensuring the regular presence of both parents in the daily lives of children," notes Howse. "Involving the eyes and ears of both parents creates a naturally self-balancing situation, wherein a child's health and safety is automatically monitored by opposing sides who stand to gain if the other side fails.

The Plaintiffs further charge that because parents are generally treated unfairly in family courts, the results are also directly or indirectly responsible for very large, and otherwise unnecessary, additional tax burdens upon every citizen, through increased welfare spending and self-serving enlargement of state family agencies and entities, and that such inequities are also indirectly responsible for vast numbers of personal and corporate bankruptcies, which are absorbed into even more future taxation. Additionally, they note a pattern of fraud and abuse being progressively reported about various state family bureaucracies, which they say are very costly in terms of tax dollars, and which violate the rights of American citizens on an unprecedented scale.

"It is high time for costly government to get out of the lives of most parents and children," says Howse. "American taxpayers should no longer be forced to fund systematic violations against parents and children, and the needless progressive destruction of our society."

While the current class actions deal exclusively with conventional aspects of child custody, leaders of related parents groups report they have already begun the processes for raising similar legal challenges in the near future, on behalf of alleged victims of CPS, paternity fraud, and the progressive drugging of children in this nation.

For more information, contact:
Torm L. Howse
President, Indiana Civil Rights Council
317-769-6108
president@indianacrc.org

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