MONTHLY ARCHIVES: June 2012

Avon Program Leads Effort to Help Victims

30June
2012

Most efforts to aid victims of domestic violence usually come into play long after the initial abuse has happened and the victim has no options left.  The Avon Program for Women and Justice at the O’Connor House is working to change this pattern. 

Lucia Howard, the founding co-chair of the program, works with law enforcement, attorneys and members of the community to change the options for domestic violence victims.

Howard said that “Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is very committed to a lot of women’s causes and she brought up focusing on domestic violence.”  Domestic violence incidents are the greater portion of 911 calls that police respond to, but there is very little effort in curbing the domestic violence in the area.

The Avon Foundation recently gave $100,000 to fund domestic violence projects in Arizona.  The program was established in 2009 with a $250,000 grant by Avon to not only raise awareness, but to improve systems dealing with issues of justice and equality for women.  The new funds will be used to streamline the protective-order process, train volunteer lawyers and victim advocates, and also to conduct a public-awareness campaign called “Speak Out Against Domestic Violence.”

Apache Junction Police Chief Jerald Monahan heads the program’s Order of Protection Task Force, which aims to simplify the process of filing protection orders so the orders can be served quickly.  Another aspect the task force is working on is that of communication among law enforcement agencies so information about both victims and abusers can be transferred efficiently.

Family-law attorney DeShon Pullen mentors attorneys undergoing domestic violence training, in order that they can better represent the victims of domestic violence.  Pullen stated that these types of cases are trickier than most as “many victims do not want to testify in open court as they feel both ashamed and intimidated.”

Howard said that she has received a lot of positive feedback from both attorneys and law-enforcement personnel, and she is hoping the community will support the cause and hopefully become involved in reducing domestic violence in Arizona.

Posted in Domestic Violence |
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Arizona Dad Fights for Rights of Divorced Dads

27June
2012

Part 3 of 3

When Mike Espinoza met state Senator Sylvia Allen and told her the story about his divorce and his fight for equal custody of his sons, Allen encouraged him to join an organization which could help him and other fathers makes changes to family-law legislation in Arizona.  This organization was the Domestic Relations Committee whose purpose is to research family-law issues and propose new legislation for the state of Arizona.  This committee is composed of anti-domestic-violence organizations, attorneys, judges, parents, faith-based organizations and lawmakers.

Espinoza began working with several politicians to draft legislation and, if the bills failed, rewrite the bills to try to improve custody issues for fathers in Arizona.  According to Espinoza, even though it has been a long process, judges are now splitting custody of minor children 50/50 in most divorce cases in Arizona if it is in the best interest of the child.  One of the laws Espinoza worked on was named after one of his sons, 12-year-old Ammon.  Ammon and his father have not seen each other for four years because of the court’s custody ruling, and now must go through reunification counseling, which they have not done.  Ammon has said that he does not want to see his father.

Mike McCormick, executive director of the Washington D.C. based American Coalition for Fathers and Children, stated that Arizona is among the leading states pushing for shared parenting time.  McCormick added that states have different statutes and requirements when it comes to custody of children in a divorce, but judges nationwide tend to limit the non-custodial parent’s access to their children.  He also stated that activists  like Mike Espinoza are helping to change visitation and custody issues around the country.  He feels that those professionals who work with divorcing parents need to do more public outreach, especially among those parents who do not divorce through the courts.

Although there are many supporters for equal custody, there are other professionals who believe that each case should be looked at individually as there are situations when shared custody is not in the best interest of the child.  Domestic violence groups are closely watching the equal custody issue to ensure that it does not expose children to an abusive parent.

Arizona’s new law does require judges to make decisions that are based on a child’s best interest, but now their best interest includes maximum time for both parents when advisable.

Perhaps divorcing parents need to have Mike Espinoza’s outlook – if the courts assure both parents equal time, then couples will stop fighting over custody.  Espinoza said that when there’s “nothing left to fight about, hopefully the divorce rate will go down and families will stay together.”

Posted in Child Custody |
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Arizona Dad Fights for Rights of Divorced Fathers

23June
2012

Part Two of Three

Arizona is similar to many states in that when a couple divorces, the mother is usually made the primary caregiver.  One divorced Arizona father, Mike Espinoza, is fighting to change this practice.

For decades, even though mental-health experts, lawyers and judges agreed a father should play a major role in his child’s life, the father, in normal situations, was not given the time to do so.   Having the child stay in the same home with one parent, one set of rules and not moving that child from household to household was the norm.  According to Arizona State University psychology professor Bill Fabricius, “if a dad showed up every once in awhile, and paid child support, that’s all you needed him for.”

This practice is now beginning to change, and Arizona is one of those states initiating the change.  According to Fabricius, in the past, most of the research on children of divorced parents focused on the mother’s perspective of not only how the children doing, but how her ex was was doing as well.  Fabricius felt that no one was actually finding out the child’s perspective in the situation.

To remedy this, Fabricius conducted a study during the 2005-2006 school year by interviewing more than 1,000 college students, seeking their perspective on both divorce and their relationship with both parents.  The results of this study were contrary to what literature had been saying in that most students felt the best arrangement for children after a divorce was to spend equal time with both parents.

Another psychologist, Arnold Shienvold, confirmed this research that shows children adjust better if they have quality relationships with both parents.  This is true as long as both parents have adequate parenting skills and don’t have substance abuse, domestic violence or mental-health issues.  He stated that “mothers tend to be more on a comfort, nurturing continuum and do more rule-setting, while dads tend to be more playful and engaging.”  Shienvold added that a child needs both of the above qualities to socially adapt and be well adjusted.

Fabricius shared his research with lawmakers in other states and worked with Arizona’s State Legislature’s Domestic Relations Committee to update custody laws. Mike Espinoza joined this effort in 2010 when the divorce courts gave him limited access to his sons.  Espinoza found an ally in his effort to have laws changed when he walked into the office of state Senator Sylvia Allen of Snowflake and told her his story.

To be continued.

Posted in Child Custody |
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Arizona Dad Fights for Rights of Divorced Fathers

19June
2012

Part One of Three

In the past, when a couple divorced,it was customary for custody to be given to the mothers with fathers usually having custody of their children every other weekend and one day during the week .  One father in Arizona  feels this customary practice is unfair and has been fighting to have custody laws changed in Arizona. 

Mike Espinoza, a 41-year-old father of two sons, said that he could really care less about “dad’s rights or mom’s rights”, but that when you look at the research and the effect it has on children, how could anyone not take note of that, and added that it is time for equal time and equal custody.”

Mr. Espinoza has been working with Arizona state lawmakers, judges, lawyers, university researchers and activists over the past three years to change Arizona divorce and custody laws.  He has already been successful in 2010 in pushing change to the wording in one Arizona law, as the law now states that, unless there is evidence of domestic violence or drug use, it is in the child’s best interest to have “substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents.”

Next January, another law he helped pass, will go into effect.  This law further encourages joint parenting, including requiring the court to adopt a plan that “maximizes” the children spending time with both parents and forbids the court from giving one parent preference based on the parent’s or the child’s gender.  In reference to this bill, Espinoza stated that “it’s equal’; a child deserves to have both parents.”

To be continued.

Posted in Child Custody |
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Celebrating Father’s Day

16June
2012

On the third Sunday in June, we celebrate some very special people in our lives, our fathers.  This is a special day for dads when they are pampered by their children (and grandchildren) and wives, given gifts and honored for the way in which they enrich their family’s lives.

There are several stories as  to the origins of Father’s Day, but there is no way of knowing which one is true.  However, even though we do not know who the founder was or when exactly it was started, we do know who promoted this holiday with a great passion.  This person was Mrs. John Dodd, who felt that her father was so outstanding he deserved to be honored.  Her father was a special person for after fighting in the Civil War, he raised six children on his own after his wife had died.

Mrs. Dodd started the ball rolling by speaking with ministers around where she resided, Spokane, Washington, to see if they would have a church service dedicated to just fathers.  She wanted the service to be held on her father’s birthday, which was June 5, but it was actually held on June 19th as her minister needed time to prepare such a service.  After that, Washington as a state began celebrating “Father’s Day” on the third Sunday of June.  When other states got wind of the celebration in Washington,  these states wanted to have an annual Father’s Day, as well, and began lobbying Congress to dedicate such a holiday.  President Woodrow Wilson approved Father’s Day in 1916, but it was not made a national event until 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge.

This Sunday, May 17, let us take a moment, or the whole day, and thank our fathers, or our father figures, for all they do for us and let them know what a special place they hold in our hearts and in our lives.

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Arizona Father’s Brain Tumor May Have Caused Murder-Suicide

12June
2012

Can a brain tumor be the blame for a tragic  murder-suicide of an Arizona family or is it another case of extreme domestic violence?   Authorities will probably never know the answer to these questions.

Last week, a burned out SUV was found in the desert in Pinal County, Arizona, in an area that is used frequently for the smuggling of illegal aliens and drugs.  The case was in the national news at first as Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu claimed the bodies were related to Mexican drug trafficking and then used the case to criticize border security actions of the present federal administration.  Authorities were later able to confirm the bodies were that of James Butwin, his wife Yafit, and their three children Malissa, Daniel, and Matthew.

Although authorities have found evidence in the Butwin’s home that leads them to believe it could be a murder-suicide, friends of the family cannot believe that James Butwin would do something so horrible as this crime unless his brain tumor led him to kill his family.  Butwin was described by friends as “one of the nicest guys.”  One 15-year-old friend of Daniel’s stated that “the whole thing had to be his illness.”  A neighbor also stated that the Butwins were “an amazing family with so much heart.”

Even if James Butwin was one of the nicest guys, he still could have snapped under the strain of going through a divorce and battling a brain tumor at the same time.  Butwin had been asked to move out of his house, but refused to do so and continued to live there until the family’s end.  Even “an amazing family with so much heart” has major issues that can erupt in violence.

On Wednesday of last week, a Jewish grief service was held at Temple Emanuel and more than 600 mourners participated in the service.  Funerals for the members of the Butwin family will be held at a later date.

Posted in Domestic Violence |
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Debra Messing Seeks Divorce

10June
2012

Another celebrity couple is divorcing after many years of marriage.

Actress Debra Messing, best known for her television roles in ‘Will and Grace’ and ‘The Starter Wife’,  is seeking a divorce from her husband of eleven years, Daniel Zelman.

Messing met her husband, who happens to be an actor and screen writer, at NYU in 1990.  Both were attending graduate school at the university and actually met on the first day of class.  They were married in 2000, and their son Roman was born in 2004.

Unfortunately, like many marriages these days, theirs fell apart and Messing separated from Zelman in December of last year and filed for divorce on June 5, of this year. The former couple have both said they want this to be a amicable divorce especially since they have a son to consider.

When discussing the breakdown of her marriage, Debra said, “Twenty years.  It’s a very long time.  I think the institute of marriage is a noble thing.  The idea of a partner for life is incredibly romantic.  But now we’re living to 100.  A hundred years ago people were dying at age 37.  Til death do us part was a much different deal.”

Messing was off a bit on her statistics as the life expectancy a hundred years ago for men was 51.5 years and for women 55.9 years.  One has to remember infant mortality rate was much higher then and that mortality rate number figured into and brought down the life expectancy age of that era.

Both Messing and Zelman plan to jointly raise their son and have said that they “are fully committed to raising their son together” and they “remain best of friends.”  Debra is seeking spousal and child support from Zelman.

Divorce can be an emotional and stressful time, especially when there is a child involved.  An amicable divorce eases the stress, the emotional upheaval, the struggles over child support, and whatever  else figures into the divorce, and makes the whole process easier on all involved.

Messing has already moved on to a new relationship with her co-star from ‘Smash’, Will Chase.  ‘Smash’ is a musical pilot that premiered on February 6, 2012, and will be a new series for NBC in the fall.

 

Posted in High Asset Divorce |
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Dennis Rodman Sentenced in Family Court

5June
2012

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman was sentenced in Orange, Florida family court Tuesday to 104 hours of community service on four counts of contempt for failing to pay child support.

Barry Michaelson, who is the court commissioner, also placed Rodman on three years of informal probation, with the condition that Rodman pay current child and spousal support obligations.  Michaelson said to the retired basketball player that his suggestion is to use your talents as a motivator, as a fine, fine athlete and as a fine person to assist others in need.

The dispute between Rodman and his ex-wife, began a long time ago, beginning in 2004 when his now ex-wife filed for divorce. Michelle Rodman’s attorneys say Rodman still owes back child support in an amount that exceeds $800,000.

Rodman said he’d do whatever community service that was required of him near his home in Florida and did not begrudge his former wife.  He said after the hearing that’s it all about the kids.

Rodman, 51, was found guilty last year of four counts of contempt for child support owed in 2009 and 2010.

According to Rodman’s attorney, Linnea Willis, those charges stemmed from a period of time when he was expected to pay $50,000 per month for child support, and that amount has now been reduced to $4,500 a month for both child support and spousal support.  She also stated that Rodman is current on those obligations.

Rodman was known for his wild and flamboyant behavior during his basketball career.  He and his former wife have been feuding over child support and custody for years.  They have two children, ages 10 and 11.

According to court documents filed earlier this year, Rodman is “broke”.  His tax return from 2010 shows that he earned around $150,000, but his financial manager stated he owed a significant amount in back taxes.  Because his alcoholism has hurt his image, she said, Rodman is finding it difficult to obtain corporate endorsements and other work.

Rodman’s outstanding disputes over back child support and additional contempt charges will be addressed at a hearing on June 22.

 

Posted in Child Support |
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Randy Travis Accuses Ex of Betraying Information

2June
2012

Country music star Randy Travis and his ex-wife, Elizabeth, were married for 19 years before divorcing.  What made their divorce unique in a way as Elizabeth was not just his wife, but his manager as well.  Now the ex-couple is back in court, one with a suit and the other with a countersuit.

A countersuit filed by country music star Randy Travis against his ex-wife claims that she’s been divulging confidential information about him that could damage his reputation and career.  The suit was recently filed in a Nashville federal court, but the court documents do not say what information Elizabeth Travis is allegedly revealing.  These filings are just the latest in the feud between the former couple.  After 19 years of marriage, Randy and Elizabeth divorced in 2010.  Elizabeth had been Randy’s manager for more than three decades.

Last month, Elizabeth Travis sued Randy claiming that he made it impossible for her to do her job and also that he terminated her management contract without proper notice.

Not only is Mr. Travis accusing his ex-wife of divulging confidential information about him, he is also accusing her of overbilling for reimbursement for travel and other expenses. According to his countersuit, his ex-wife completely destroyed the  degree of trust that should exist between an artist and his personal manager.  The singer wants a court to declare  his ex-wife breached her contract and he also would like her barred from receiving any management commissions.  He is seeking attorney fees as well.

Elizabeth Travis’ attorney did not respond to a request for comment on Mr. Travis’ countersuit.

Randy has been in the country music business for 25 years. He said that he started playing in nightclubs when he was 14-years-old and that for ten years he was turned down by every record label for being too country. He finally signed with Warner Brothers and his first album, “Storms of Life”, which was released in June 1986, went on to platinum. Since that time, Travis has charted 18 number one singles, earned seven Grammy Awards, ten American Music Awards, and ten Academy of Country Music statues.

 

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