A vote to heal families rather than break them

Senate File 1402 / House File 322 – a vote for healing families rather than breaking them

David R. Weiss – April 25, 2012

Today, April 25, is the seventh annual Parental Alienation Awareness Day. Parental Alienation is behavior by one parent (or others) that works to alienate a child from the other parent. It undermines what every child deserves: a rich and abundant relationship with both parents. It has done this to me.

Perhaps the single biggest driver of parental alienation is family court, which pushes parents into a winner-take-all system that enriches attorneys, enables judicial bias, and impoverishes children in their parental relationships. Right now in Minnesota, Senate File 1402, the Joint Physical Custody / Shared Parenting Bill (referred to as SF1402/HF322 since it has a companion bill in the House) is being killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee despite having been passed with bi-partisan support in the House (80-53). As a father who has spent a DOZEN years battling court-empowered parental alienation in my relationship with my daughter, I urge you to call your state senator tomorrow and tell them to get SF1402/HF32, the Joint Custody/Shared Parenting Bill, out of Committee and onto the floor of the Senate for a vote. Our children deserve so much more than political games.

Foremost this bill insists that courts begin with the presumption that when both parents are fit parents, the child benefits from a custody arrangement that presumes equal and shared parenting. Study after study shows that such arrangements lessen parental conflict and heighten children’s health. It’s time that family courts actually recognize what the research shows.

SF1402/HF322 includes provisions to insure full protection for children in cases of abuse, while also addressing the use of false allegations of violence or abuse, which not only break the parental relationship but also create an uphill battle for justice even when these allegations have been found to 100% false. The “kids-will-be-place-with-an-abusive-dad” card is used here exactly the same way that the “they’ll-teach-our kids-gayness” card is played in the debate around marriage equality. It pushes emotional buttons but has no grounding in fact.

The only real threat posed by this bill, is that it threatens to make post-marital conflict far less lucrative to the professionals who run the system. I say, it’s about time! And I urge you to join me in pressing furiously tomorrow – Thursday April 26 – to get this bill out of Committee and onto the floor of the Senate. Not simply for my sake, but for the sake of children and parents everywhere who are trying to create the best environment for their children after a divorce.

SF1402/HF322 will help redirect a family court system that right now too often further breaks “broken” families. The fact is, we’re not broken families, we’re families trying to heal, and we need a system that fosters healing rather than further breakage.

Please call. (See my remarks at the very bottom about whom to call.)

As a life-long DFL voter, I know this issue (often compressed down to “dads’ rights” as opposed to “parents’ rights and children’s benefits”) has been largely pressed forward by Republicans—although, truth be told, even some Republicans have flinched because of powerful forces within the family court system that do not want change. But this is NOT a partisan issue. It’s an issue that touches all of our lives. And this bill has a chance to make a difference for all of us. Again, please call. Thanks.

Here are the calls to make: anyone and everyone on the Senate Judiciary Committee; that’s where the bill is being buried right now. If any of these folks are YOUR Senator, make sure they hear your voice loud and clear. If none of them are, still call, and tell them you’re calling because they are the Committee where this bill is being held back. If, like me, you’re DFL, I’d encourage you to let DFL Senators hear that this issue matters deeply to their constituents as well—and let the Republican Senators know this issue has bipartisan support. The starred names are critical leaders, but any of them … all of them … need to hear from you on Thursday. Of course, you should contact your own Senator as well, so that they hear from you before a floor vote happens. And the Governor should hear from you, too.

Senate Judiciary – Republicans
*Sen Warren Limmer (Chair, Senate Judiciary) 651.296.2159; sen.warren.limmer@senate.mn
*Sen Scott Newman (Vice Chair, Senate Judiciary) 651 296-4131; sen.scott.newman@senate.mn
*Sen Julianne Ortman (Deputy Majority Leader) 651-296-4837; sen.julianne.ortman@senate.mn
*Sen Dave Thompson (651) 296-5252; sen.dave.thompson@senate.mn
Sen Dan Hall 651.296.5975; sen.dan.hall@senate.mn
Sen Gretchen Hoffman (bill author) 651.296.5655; sen.gretchen.hoffman@senate.mn
Sen Bill Ingebrigtsen 651.297.8063; sen.bill.ingebrigtsen@senate.mn
Sen Mike Jungbauer (651) 296-3733; sen.mike.jungbauer@senate.mn

Senate Judiciary – Democrats
Sen Ron Latz 651.297.8065; sen.ron.latz@senate.mn
Sen Barb Goodwin 651.296.4334; sen.barb.goodwin@senate.mn
Sen John Harrington 651.296.5285; sen.john.harrington@senate.mn
Sen John Marty 651.296.5645; sen.john.marty@senate.mn
Sen Mary Jo McGuire 651.296.5537; maryjom@senate.mn

Governor Dayton 651-201-3400 or 800-657-3717 mark.dayton@state.mn.us

# # #

David R. Weiss is the author of To the Tune of a Welcoming God: Lyrical reflections on sexuality, spirituality and the wideness of God’s welcome (2008, Langdon Street Press). A theologian, writer, poet and hymnist, David is committed to doing “public theology” around issues of sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. He lives in St. Paul and speaks on college campuses and at church and community events. You can reach him at drw59@comcast.net and read more at http://www.tothetune.com where he blogs under the theme, “Full Frontal Faith: Erring on the Edge of Honest.”


One thought on “A vote to heal families rather than break them

  1. David- your post on parental alienation struck a deep chord with me. I have watched my husband lose contact, and relationship with his children due to his ex’s machinations. Although they are now young adults, the emotional distance is great and they rarely even speak. It is so sad to see, so unnecessary and so cruel. My husband has gradually learned to focus on living his own life with those who choose to make him part of their lives, (my sons, for example), but I know how much it hurts, especially around the holidays. I do not understand how the courts can be so onesided, but I do agree with your contention that it makes things more lucrative for those in the legal profession. in my work as an ELCA pastor when I am working with families in conflict I regularly tell both parents that for the sake of their children they MUST put aside their own agendas, – die to themselves in Lutheran -speak- in order to make sure that their children have the best possible situation after a divorce. The kind of love Christ calls us to have is a love that wants what is best for the other. While divorcing partners may not be able to want this for each other, it is almost always best for children to have good working relationships with both parents.
    I am so sorry to hear that this has been a burden for you. While none of the legislators you listed are mine, I will contact the governor’s office. I was not aware of this bill, and although this particular opportunity may be past, I will be watching more closely.
    You will be in my prayers.
    Kris Johnson
    Onamia MN

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