Anti-father dv.custody bill signed into law

Jacques/Cohen bill sails thru after SJC approval

The old adage, "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels" can now be officially updated for the new millennium: "Protecting children is the first refuge of scoundrels."

For three years fathers advocates have been fighting the legislation many of the state's non-custodial fathers consider the final nail in the coffin of fatherhood. But on July 22, Acting Governor Cellucci signed into law H.5621 (final bill number after many incarnations), the Jacques/ Cohen bill, after it was was unanimously affirmed by the House and Senate.

The bill creates a rebuttable presumption that parents who engage in a pattern or serious incident of abusing their spouse will lose custody rights and have their visitation restricted. Because the bill was draped in the PC "protect the children" flag, even the few opponents of the bill who knew it's real intent had to vote in favor. It's political suicide in Massachusetts to vote against legislation that purports to protect women and children.

In December, the Senate voted to send the bill to the Supreme Judicial Court for an opinion on it's constitutionality. The SJC has long since traded in any pretense of being an august, deliberative body that takes the Bill of Rights seriously, and as expected, returned its seal of approval in July. The high court reasoned that there were already safeguards that discourage false allegations of abuse, though it declined to mention just what they might be. In the balance, the need to protect innocent parents from false allegations was held to be outweighed by the need to (repeat after me): Protect the children.

The law replaces existing language in divorce code that domestic "violence" be considered when making an order or judgment of custody, with dumbed-down 209A-defined domestic "abuse" language. Henceforth, an allegation of domestic abuse against a parent (read, "mother") requires that the abusive parent (read, "father") have no custody rights unless a judge writes findings of fact explaining why.

Additionally, the legislation writes into law supervised visitation centers and batterers programs, along with a host of other remedies, to safeguard the abused parent when the abusive parent is allowed to visit his children.

 

Because the bill was draped in the PC "protect the children" flag, even the few opponents of the bill who knew it's real intent had to vote in favor. It's political suicide in Massachusetts to vote against legislation that purports to protect women and children..

 

The bill's proponents from the victim-feminist lobby - Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence, Coalition of Battered Women's Service Groups and their shill in the Women's Bar Association, Beth Boland - framed the bill as a necessary tool to protect children from abusive parents. Of course, in the present climate, only men are recognized as perpetrators of feminist-defined domestic abuse.

The bill was languishing in committee until House Speaker Tom Finneran (D-Boston) announced his endorsement and put the bill on the fast track in September. No doubt Finneran is laying the seeds of his political future in higher elected office by appeasing the feminist contingent.

When the bill came out of the Judiciary Committee, the word "reasonable" had been inserted before "fear" in the definition of "abuse." Except for this one word, the definition is identical with that in the abuse protection statute, 209A, which includes: "in fear of serious and imminent physical harm."

Fathers advocates from across the state lobbied heavily in opposition to the bill. Representatives from The Fathers Group worked valiantly in the State House to educate legislators. They claim credit for three amendments that made it into the final version of the bill:

The actual meaning and interpretation of this last item is not clear. Some claim that the findings must be written if the judge is denying custody to a supposed "abusive" parent under the provisions of the act, but another interpretation holds that the findings must be written only if the judge does give custody rights to an alleged abusive parent, an extremely unlikely event under the present policies in effect in P&F court.

Here is the actual language:

"If the court finds that a pattern or serious incident of abuse has occurred and issues a temporary or permanent custody order, the court shall within 90 days enter written findings of fact as to the effects of the abuse on the child, and demonstrating that such order is in the furtherance of the child's best interests and provides for the safety and well-being of the child."

In the opinion of this writer, findings must be written if custody is granted to an alleged abuser; that is, no findings need be written to take custody away from a parent that has been declared "abusive."

Bear in mind that the "custody" in question will most likely be (shared) legal custody. Fathers who are accused of domestic abuse by their ex's are never in a position to gain physical custody of their children. In general, when custody is contested with or without allegations of abuse, sole physical custody goes to the mother. If there are allegations of abuse, there is certainly a 209A. If there is a 209A, it has been court policy for years that the "abuser" be given NO custody rights (sole or shared physical or legal) at all. When you understand this, the real target of the bill becomes clear: the sole remaining right of fathers in a conflicted custody battle: unfettered visitation.

Another amendment put forward by The Fathers Group, to provide that hearings under the provisions of the bill be evidentiary (i.e., where the rules of evidence apply, such as entering evidence, calling witnesses, etc.), was rejected. Apparently our lawmakers, many of whom are degreed in law, fail to see any value in providing minimum standards of due process when someone's parental rights are at stake. Yes, it does boggle the mind...

The other purpose of the bill is to jump-start the new industries springing up to exploit fathers already savaged by the divorce process: supervised visitation centers and batterers treatment programs. Now, the path of least resistance for a judge confronted by a mother hell-bent on eradicating dad, is to order visitation at a center. This way the judges can have a clear conscience because they will make an order that still allows dad to see his children.

The enactment of Jacques/Cohen closes a sad chapter in the book of fathers rights in Massachusetts. We fought tooth and nail for three years, and the final result is a unanimous vote in both the House and the Senate.

Another nail in the coffin of fatherhood. Another resounding defeat - but a resounding victory for the battered women's advocates, who are as ruthless in their pursuit of the destruction of the family as they are in their propaganda war. Will it serve as a wakeup call?

 

News and Commentary from the New Guard of the Father's Rights Movement

Volume 2, Issue 1
September, 1998

PO Box 1146 Leominster, MA 01453
www.ziplink.net/~brontis/FFhome

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