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What does this mean to a movement concerned with the right of a child to have access to both parents?

What do we want?

A child has a right to be with their parents, a parent has a right to be with their child -- whether the two parents are in love or out of love does NOT matter. It is a substantial right. Overriding this presumption requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt presented to a jury of your peers. This right should not be challenged by 51% of the "evidence", or just the testimony of a few "experts". Few of the many cases of litigated custody, where one parent was favored over another, would stand such a review. We need to begin to communicate that to others --
it is simple to understand, basic, and fair

Check out the Family Rights Act.

We must understand, real change comes from within us.

  • This is not an issue of statistics - While all the statistics are nice, let's not loose site of the "right." It doesn't matter if 9 out of 10 parents in your neighborhood are bad, when your case comes forward you have a right to be assumed capable (innocent until proven guilty).

    It is a no-brainer - We are not fighting economic prejudice or a colonial government, no one will die or be physically injured in this movement. Almost every one in our country believes in "equal rights." What many people don't see is the pain caused by the system, many more have experienced the pain, but feel it can't be changed, "that's the way it is here."

  • We are good people and good parents - Many of us have been brain washed and crushed by the system. We have all made decisions we regret. Perhaps watched our child, the one we love, cringe in fear at the idea of spending time with us. The "gratuitous" accusations made by a spouse make us doubt ourselves -- maybe I really do deserve it. Do NOT believe it for a moment, do NOT give up. You can be as good a parent as your spouse, loved by your children equally as well -- but it takes time, access, and sometimes a little training. All items which are NOT supplied by the present system.

    We are not "perfect", no one is -- but a child does not require a perfect parent.

  • We must purge ourselves of hatred toward an ex-spouse or the opposite sex - This is essential to entering into the movement. As a parent denied access to your child, how easy it is to have envy toward those who do, even anger. We must treat them most of all with Love. The conversion that is required here is not easy!

    Realize the struggle begins anew with every morning - even Gandhi, who had renounced sex, found himself physically attracted toward a female reporter very late in life -- he had to re-double his efforts. We will all fail, just as he did at this father's death bed -- but tomorrow brings a new day.

Understand the system and why it must change.

There is an industry of lawyers, counselors, psychologists and others who make an income from this system. They wish to continue to earn a living, and just like anyone, are threatened by change. Understand you see the Judge only once, your lawyer may see this same Judge for many more cases -- with no jury to decide, the Judge is all powerful in this type of civil law. Understand that your attorney has to balance your best interest against his interest and the best interest of future clients -- you may be perfectly right on something, but your attorney is NOT going to upset that Judge. Understand that the Law Guardian or Psychologist doesn't want to be seen as the only professional disagreeing with a "majority decision" -- they rely on referrals from other attorney's and Judges -- they don't want to be seen as difficult. In the compassion and understanding we extend toward them, we must understand these things as we work for change.

Realize what the most difficult sacrifice is in this type of movement.

The movements we have reviewed were done by middle/lower classes. As Thoreau noticed, the more monthly payments you have, the harder it is to be an idealist -- what would happen to most of us if we had to spend 30 days in jail. I am sure all of us are willing to sacrifice anything for our children -- but will this really work?

  • We need to energize more people - we need to get more parents involved who have less to loose financially. Those of us with a lot of money need to contribute to supporting the movement. Contributions for "dues" need to become voluntary. We need to be less of a "support group" and more for "civil action". I think we will all be surprised by the amount of support and people which appear once we start to take real action.

We need to take action.

I don't have a ready list, but here are some DO's and DONT's:

  • DO sit-ins with legislators - probably a very effective way of getting a meeting with top people who "never have time to talk". Send several letters, try to schedule a meeting, make a good faith effort. Then go to their office (and bring a TV/news crew), and just sit there until they meet with you. Be quiet, be good and polite, but don't leave the office until the police arrive, and then go peacefully. Few legislators could stand the heat and publicity of throwing constituents into jail when all they wanted was a meeting.

  • DO sit-in/picket within Court Houses - better for a larger group.

  • DO participate in parades and marches.

  • DON'T get into loud arguments and lost in the details - many people will want to nastily confront you and provoke you. What about this, what about that? they will ask. Our firm voice is that a child has a right to both parents, a parent has a right to be with their child -- a jury needs to find otherwise. Yes, this will required changes in the system and the way we do "business" now, that can all be worked out as we go -- but there is NO denying the basic right.

  • DON'T try to take your child to protest a custody ruling - while you may be 100% right, these types of actions are all too easy to frame as a cruel abduction. It makes it easy for opposition to rationalize that you are "crazy" or "dangerous". It confuses the issue in the public eye.

  • DON'T stop paying child support to protest - you may be right, but again it is TOO easy for opponents to frame this as your "true motivation". You do not care about children, just money.

  • DO take actions that will make you alone suffer - as Gandhi and King both talked and demonstrated, these are the most effective. Because there is little bad you can say about someone who is going to jail quietly for what they believe in.  Carry a picture of you and your child and quietly "picket" in a public building.

  • DO organize - it is best to take the actions above as a group, so we can support each other. The large and more coordinated the effort, the quicker we will see real results.

  • DO have your attorney ask for a jury - present law in N.Y. State, allows you to have a jury to hear the grounds of divorce -- it does NOT allow you to have a jury to decided custody. We need to organize a legal fund so that test cases can be appealed.

  • DO Love & DON'T hate - anyone!

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