The
Fatherhood
Coalition
For Immediate Release

Local case to test Federal interstate custody law

Chairman presses family court to act


SPRINGFIELD, Mar. 20, 2003 – A pivotal child custody hearing for fathers’ rights activist Mike Franco will be heard Friday, Mar. 21 at 9:30 a.m. at the Hampden Division Probate and Family Court in Springfield. The outcome of the case may have ramifications for other Massachusetts' noncustodial fathers whose children have been allowed to move out of state against their wishes.

Franco is Co-Chairman for CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition, a statewide organization advocating for equal parenting rights for fathers. The case will be heard by Judge David Fuller.

At issue is a change of jurisdiction to Texas effected by Franco's ex-wife. Franco has not seen his daughter in three months, in contradiction of the terms of divorce judgment rendered by the Mass. P&F court in 2000.

Along with a Complaint for Contempt alleging "denial of my parental rights and a failure to mediate," Franco is bringing a motion to retain jurisdiction and request judges to communicate state-to-state. The latter motion calls for the Mass. court to follow the rules established in federal law.

In Franco's pleadings he claims that the mother made false statements to the Texas court in order to gain a favorable court order allowing the change of jurisdiction, obtaining the order illegally:

"The affidavit which she submitted as part of her petition to the Texas Court, states that: 'The Massachusetts courts refused to exercise jurisdiction over this matter since Texas is now the home state of the child.' This is untrue. Mass. has not declined jurisdiction over this matter.

"[She] failed to tell the Texas court about an open complaint for modification of custody in this court, by virtue of her own complaint for modification of support, and Mr. Franco's counterclaim for custody, filed December 19, 2000."

According to Gregory Hession, the attorney for Franco, this case is crucial because it addresses core principles of federal law under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (UCCJA/PKPA), which govern interstate custody disputes. The complaint also alleges that Mass. General Law 209B has been violated by the ex-wife.

The new Texas order requires Franco to visit his daughter in Texas at his own, considerable, expense. According to Franco, "There is no way I can recreate Western Mass for Victoria in one weekend from some motel room in South Texas. I'm not only her dad, but I'm the 'gateway' to her home here and all the relationships she's emotionally invested. She is forgetting what we look like."

Franco initiated the divorce in 1998. The couple went to trial over the issue of custody of their daughter. The divorce decree issued in January 2000 by Judge Anne Geoffrion gave full custody to the mother, and allowed her to move away with their child to Texas.

Upon entry of Judge Geoffrion's order, Franco immediately filed an appeal which took another two years to process in which the order was affirmed.  Franco's request for further appellate review was also denied by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Because the mother was employed as an airline stewardess and enjoyed liberal flight benefits, the court provided for a unique visitation schedule whereby she would fly the child to Massachusetts for one week each month to be with Franco and his family.

In the divorce decree, Judge Geoffrion states that the move to Texas was "not intended to deprive the husband with visitation." Geoffrion's decree also states that the mother had no motive to "deprive her husband of a relationship with [the daughter]," and that she made a "good faith" offer to the court.

Now that the mother refuses to bring the child back, those assurances appear to have been insincere, attorney Hession said.

"The mother has abandoned her promises to the court," he said. She waited for "the ink to dry on the divorce order, then thumbed her nose at the Massachusetts court."

 

Note:  Nationally renown child custody expert Attorney Michael Humiston from Heber City, Utah will be on hand to observe the proceedings. Humiston has in-depth experience with filing lawsuits; one, a multimillion-dollar class-action suit against Utah and several state officials in relation to the deprivation of parental rights. See report at; http://www.freedommag.org/english/vol32I1/page07b.htm.

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For further information, contact:

Mark Charalambous

CPF Spokesman

brontis@thecia.net

(978) 840-0268

Attorney Gregory Hession

Mike Franco's attorney

(413) 323-7508

CPF/Fatherhood Coalition

Hotline: Calls about Franco hearing promptly returned

(413) 295--DADS

CPF / The Fatherhood Coalition
617-723-DADS

A non-profit, all volunteer organization of men and women advocating for fatherhood since 1994


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