Monday

The profound urgency of Florida DCF reform

With much chest-thumping, Gov. Rick Scott last week signed a law clipping auto-tag fees by about $25 per vehicle in Florida. He used the opportunity to blast former Gov. Charlie Crist for raising those fees five years ago.
What Scott cynically failed to mention during the bill-signing charade was that all the top Republicans standing at his side had also supported the auto-tag hikes. It was the depth of the recession, and the state desperately needed revenue.
Scott is desperate to appear gubernatorial because Crist, running as a Democrat, will likely be his opponent in the November election. The auto-tag fee cut was the centerpiece of a tax-relief agenda being pushed by the governor, who trails Crist in the early polls.
Two of the GOP lawmakers who were crowing about this grand windfall for motor-vehicle owners have an infinitely more important job in the days ahead. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have a chance to do something truly crucial and good.
They can shape a law that saves actual lives — the lives of endangered children.
Bills that would strengthen Florida's child welfare laws are winding through both houses of the Legislature after publication of the Miami Herald's shocking investigative series, "Innocents Lost."
The newspaper documented the deaths of at least 477 children whose parents or caregivers had a history with the state's Department of Children and Families. During the six-year period studied by reporters, DCF consistently under-reported the number of victims in its files who died because of violence or negligence by parents and caregivers.
In 2008, for example, the state said the death toll was 79. Using DCF's own records,Herald reporters found 103 fatal cases that year.
Then, in 2009, the state reported that 69 children whose families had prior contact with DCF had died. Reporters counted 107.
The uncounted die just as wretchedly — and as unnecessarily — as the counted.
One of the most awful, notorious cases involved Nubia Barahona, a 10-year-old Miami girl who'd been tortured and starved by her adoptive parents. Soaked in poisonous chemicals, her decomposing body was found inside a black garbage bag on a pest-control truck.
Three years after the murder, the DCF still hasn't sent her case to the Florida Child Abuse Death Review Committee. Incredibly, Nubia's death remains officially uncounted.
The child-welfare system has been overwhelmed and broken for a long time, but that hasn't stopped lawmakers from hacking millions in DCF funding. But this year, Florida has accumulated an extra $1.3 billion in revenues, so there's no excuse not to take action to stop the killings.
Scott has proposed $40 million to hire more DCF investigators and improve their training. That's a start, but drug-treatment and counseling programs are also needed for those who've been allowed to keep their children while under supervision.
The sad truth is there aren't enough good foster homes to let the state move all the kids now living with reckless parents in high-risk situations. In recent years, the DCF has bent over backwards to hold dysfunctional families intact, too often with lethal consequences.
In 83 cases found by the Herald, a little boy or girl died after one or more parents had signed a so-called "safety plan" pledging to take better care of the child. The Senate version of the reform bill aims to make these safety plans more than just a piece of paper. The measure would require prompt and complete reporting of certain child deaths, and offer tuition-aid incentives for social workers who want to become child-abuse investigators.
Still, the Senate bill provides only $31 million in extra funding for child protection. The House version calls for $44.5 million.
"It's tragic where Florida finds itself," Weatherford said last week.
He and Gaetz have the clout — and a moral obligation — to make other lawmakers understand the profound urgency of DCF reform. Children who are known to be in danger are dying, and the state can't even properly count how many.
With $1.3 billion in unanticipated revenue lying around, the governor and Legislature can afford to invest more than a drop in the bucket to help Florida's most helpless children.
Lowering auto-tag fees by 25 bucks might be cause for giddy back-slapping in Tallahassee, but saving even one child from a tortuous death would be a more noble accomplishment.
And one you can't put a price on.
Hiaasen writes for the Miami Herald.





 Representative Ritch Workman of Melbourne goes into more detail about the bill.
Posted May 29, 2013.
  • FILED UNDER

Alimony Reform Is Coming [Video]


Alimony Reform Is Coming [Video]
Amber Statler-Matthews reports on push for alimony reform from permanent alimony to durational alimony.


Deborah Leff Israel founded the Florida chapter of the Second Wives Club, now called the Florida Women for Alimony Reform. Deborah explains alimony changes are needed to weed out people who truly need longer term support from those who are able-bodied and can work but get away without doing so–because of the law.
Lawyers.com videojournalist Amber Statler-Matthews reports on the changes in alimony law, looming in the horizon.
Deborah reconnected on Facebook with a friend, whom she had not seen for 26 years. They fell in love and were engaged in 2010. Three years later, they are still engaged. That’s because Deborah realized if she married her fiance and he fell into financial hardship — the permanent alimony granted to his ex-wife could become her responsibility.
Deborah’s club is part of a growing, national movement to reform alimony laws. The women in the group believe permanent alimony is wrong for several reasons:
  • The alimony checks continue until the payee remarries, even if the payor becomes sick or retires.
  • Increasing lifespans and co-habitation mean payments get extended much longer.
  • Permanent alimony ties former spouses to unhealthy relationships.
  • Court ordered alimony payments rely too much on the judge’s discretion.
Family law attorney, Lori Barkus, says new legislation, which creates uniformity and gives people standards and guidelines, is needed. She feels the laws should also allow judge’s discretion, in cases that warrant it.

iStockphoto/ Thinkstock
Reformers are pushing for the following:
  • Durational alimony allowing enough time for a long-term homemaker to establish a career, then payments should end.
  • Alimony based on established formulas that take into account the length of the marriage, and the age of supported spouse.
  • A set date for payments to end.
  • Removal of judicial discretion on the payment terms.
Women are now making up larger numbers in the workforce. A recent study shows that 40% of married women out earn their husbands. Change in alimony is coming.
Tagged as: #alimony  #familylawreform #florida

Critics put Florida's child welfare system under microscope

LK at Legally Kidnapped -
Critics put Florida's child welfare system under microscope After a wave of child deaths since the end of the spring legislative session, Florida lawmakers this week started looking for ways to improve the state’s child-welfare system — and got an earful from a dependency court judge

We only support organizations who show an understanding that children need both parents, and that either parent is equally capable of the choice to perpetrate hate or declare peace.



9 comments:

  1. WLYB.....
    Florida Governor Ric Scott...Follow the Money, the Ex's and the Florida Bar.
    In a moment not only was the alimony bill bill (SB 718) veto but the destruction of shared parental rights swept away as well. A group of 20 or so ex-wives protested in his office the day it was to be signed. Scott caved to this bullies and our children will pay for it for years to come. This bill would retroactively change the course of alimony, as it should but more importantly it would of put parents on a 50/50 shared parenting with their children. Now it destroys any chance of parents receiving 50/50 custody prior to 2008 divorce. Who suffers........our children.
    Who benefits, the Florida Bar. The Florida Family division (only 3500) lobbied against the bill. Scott said he blocked the bill because they would have been disruptive for families. No, Scott the DESTRUCTION of families is closer to the truth. Scott needs to be removed from office and the Florida Bar dissolved. The Florida Bar is the third largest such bar association in the United States.
    When money comes before our children we are on a path to destruction in family values.
    As always.........FOLLOW THE MONEY
    Glen Gibellina
    http://ondemand.wjct.org/recent?items_per_page=72

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for bringing this important issue to light. There are a few clarifications/additions I would like to make:
      1. Our proposed legislation did indeed pass the Florida House last session by an overwhelming majority, 83-30. Our House sponsor who is very committed to alimony reform, Rep. Ritch Workman, will be sponsoring the bill again. It was never even brought to a vote in the Senate (by last year’s sponsor, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla) where we believe it would have passed based on our headcount. This upcoming session, we will be much more selective when choosing a Senate sponsor so the same problem doesn’t re-occur.
      2. It should be noted than many people when getting divorced feel compelled to sign an agreement to pay permanent alimony. I have heard the same story from many of our members. The attorneys, who are trying to help their clients, tell them that should sign the agreement to pay permanent alimony because if they don’t, they will spend many thousands of dollars on a trial during which the judge will most likely order them to pay lifetime alimony. The attorneys are trying to save their clients money and aggravation by offering this advice. There are thousands paying permanent alimony in Florida. There are documented suicides due to the hardships imposed.
      3. When the draft of our new bill is available, any reasonable person will see that the proposed legislation is very fair, even for older homemakers. Right now, application of the law is unpredictable and often biased against the breadwinner or higher wage earner. Too many people are forced into bankruptcy while others are given a free pass at self-sufficiency.
      4. Last but not least, even if my own fiance’s alimony were to terminate tomorrow, this is a cause I would still work for because I have seen too many people suffering under the current laws and lives unnecessary lost and destroyed. I believe the laws that were created back in the “June Cleaver” days are no longer appropriate in the 21st century.

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    2. These ancient laws have to change. Alimony needs to work like Child Support in Florida. Fixed amount, fixed period of time, nothing to argue about.

      That’s why Child Support works just fine. Nothing for the family law attorneys to fight (and bill you) for.

      Girlfriends or fiancee’s dare not ever marry a lifetime alimony payer in Florida – their income can then be counted to give the first wife a raise in her alimony!

      The current draconian laws are anti-family and oppressive to our entire state. With over a 50% divorce rate out there, our lousy laws may not impact your happy marriage, but the odds are good that you brothers, sisters, children, or close friends will one day feel the wrath of these pro-lawyer, anti-family mandates.

      And their lives will be destroyed.

      Support Alimony Reform in Florida this year!

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    3. Thank you for bringing attention and public awareness to this issue. Permanent alimony is ridiculous, hurts all involved & takes the joy and ability of sharing the fruits of the payor’s hard work (financial resources) with children. The financial resources are depleted by the payee, who in many instances is already in a supportive, cohabitive relationship. Attorneys are making excessive amounts of money as payor’s try to right this, and outcomes are not always favorable, although they appear they should be. Public opinion on the situations I am aware of is “they had a bad attorney”, most public are not aware of the “facts” of these archaic guidelines related to alimony in Florida. Even when a “supportive relationship” is proven, recognized by the judge, alimony is still only reduced insignificantly. And the payor is ordered to pay the attorney fees for both sides….how is that justice? Paying their high priced attorney to fight to keep something they are no longer entitled to, losing, but not being responsible for the bills incurred to move forward with a fight….if they would have been responsible for their own fees, maybe they would not have added up to $12,000! We will never give up the fight until Florida laws related to alimony are updated to reflect today’s socially accepted lifestyles, push to self sufficiency and fiscal responsibility for everyone, not just alimony payor’s.

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  2. Children's Bill of Rights

    WHEN PARENTS ARE NOT TOGETHER

    Every kid has rights, particularly when mom and dad are splitting up. Below are some things parents shouldn't forget -- and kids shouldn't let them -- when the family is in the midst of a break-up.

    You have the right to love both your parents. You also have the right to be loved by both of them. That means you shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to see your dad or your mom at any time. It's important for you to have both parents in your life, particularly during difficult times such as a break-up of your parents.

    You do not have to choose one parent over the other. If you have an opinion about which parent you want to live with, let it be known. But nobody can force you to make that choice. If your parents can't work it out, a judge may make the decision for them.

    You're entitled to all the feelings you're having. Don't be embarrassed by what you're feeling. It is scary when your parents break up, and you're allowed to be scared. Or angry. Or sad. Or whatever.

    You have the right to be in a safe environment. This means that nobody is allowed to put you in danger, either physically or emotionally. If one of your parents is hurting you, tell someone -- either your other parent or a trusted adult like a teacher.

    You don't belong in the middle of your parents' break-up. Sometimes your parents may get so caught up in their own problems that they forget that you're just a kid, and that you can't handle their adult worries. If they start putting you in the middle of their dispute, remind them that it's their fight, not yours.

    Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are still part of your life. Even if you're living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent's side. You'll always be a part of their lives, even if your parents aren't together anymore.

    You have the right to be a child. Kids shouldn't worry about adult problems. Concentrate on your school work, your friends, activities, etc. Your mom and dad just need your love. They can handle the rest.

    IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND DON'T BLAME YOURSELF.

    ----Special Concerns of Children Committee, March, 1998

    "Children's Bill of Rights" is a publication of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. © 1997 - 2001. All rights reserved. "Children's Bill of Rights" may be reproduced under the following conditions:

    It must be reproduced in its entirety with no additions or deletions, including the AAML copyright notice. It must be distributed free of charge. The AAML reserves the right to limit or deny the right of reproduction in its sole discretion.

    © 2013 AAML Florida. 3046 Hawks Glen Tallahassee, FL 32312 | 850-668-0614

    The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements. Before you decide, ask the attorney to send you free written information about their qualifications and experience. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
    http://www.aamlflorida.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.tentips

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PRO SE RIGHTS:
      Brotherhood of Trainmen v. Virginia ex rel. Virginia State Bar, 377 U.S. 1; v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335; Argersinger v. Hamlin, Sheriff 407 U.S. 425 ~ Litigants can be assisted by unlicensed laymen during judicial proceedings.

      Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 at 48 (1957) ~ "Following the simple guide of rule 8(f) that all pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice"... "The federal rules reject the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits." The court also cited Rule 8(f) FRCP, which holds that all pleadings shall be construed to do substantial justice.

      Davis v. Wechler, 263 U.S. 22, 24; Stromberb v. California, 283 U.S. 359; NAACP v. Alabama, 375 U.S. 449 ~ "The assertion of federal rights, when plainly and reasonably made, are not to be defeated under the name of local practice."

      Elmore v. McCammon (1986) 640 F. Supp. 905 ~ "... the right to file a lawsuit pro se is one of the most important rights under the constitution and laws."

      Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, Rule 17, 28 USCA "Next Friend" ~ A next friend is a person who represents someone who is unable to tend to his or her own interest.

      Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972) ~ "Allegations such as those asserted by petitioner, however inartfully pleaded, are sufficient"... "which we hold to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."

      Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1959); Picking v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 151 Fed 2nd 240; Pucket v. Cox, 456 2nd 233 ~ Pro se pleadings are to be considered without regard to technicality; pro se litigants' pleadings are not to be held to the same high standards of perfection as lawyers.

      Maty v. Grasselli Chemical Co., 303 U.S. 197 (1938) ~ "Pleadings are intended to serve as a means of arriving at fair and just settlements of controversies between litigants. They should not raise barriers which prevent the achievement of that end. Proper pleading is important, but its importance consists in its effectiveness as a means to accomplish the end of a just judgment."

      NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415); United Mineworkers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715; and Johnson v. Avery, 89 S. Ct. 747 (1969) ~ Members of groups who are competent nonlawyers can assist other members of the group achieve the goals of the group in court without being charged with "unauthorized practice of law."

      Picking v. Pennsylvania Railway, 151 F.2d. 240, Third Circuit Court of Appeals ~ The plaintiff's civil rights pleading was 150 pages and described by a federal judge as "inept". Nevertheless, it was held "Where a plaintiff pleads pro se in a suit for protection of civil rights, the Court should endeavor to construe Plaintiff's Pleadings without regard to technicalities."

      Puckett v. Cox, 456 F. 2d 233 (1972) (6th Cir. USCA) ~ It was held that a pro se complaint requires a less stringent reading than one drafted by a lawyer per Justice Black in Conley v. Gibson (see case listed above, Pro Se Rights Section).

      Roadway Express v. Pipe, 447 U.S. 752 at 757 (1982) ~ "Due to sloth, inattention or desire to seize tactical advantage, lawyers have long engaged in dilatory practices... the glacial pace of much litigation breeds frustration with the Federal Courts and ultimately, disrespect for the law."

      Sherar v. Cullen, 481 F. 2d 946 (1973) ~ "There can be no sanction or penalty imposed upon one because of his exercise of Constitutional Rights."

      Schware v. Board of Examiners, United State Reports 353 U.S. pages 238, 239. ~ "The practice of law cannot be licensed by any state/State."

      Sims v. Aherns, 271 SW 720 (1925) ~ "The practice of law is an occupation of common right."

      Delete
  3. It's human nature to seek out a partner in life, and to possibly marry and have children. Unfortunately the matrimonial establishment, as we are all aware, is being methodically torn down by a demoralized society. Sadly the divorce rate is still on the rise and the foundation of marriage is being devalued and is crumbling. As adults we learn to adapt and move on when divorce attacks our lives but for children this is another story. They are the real victims of divorce and unfortunately they will suffer dearly from our selfishness and in most cases follow the same path of destruction if not worse.
    As a nation we have been granted certain civil rights by our constitution. Through the years it has been amended to better the lives of many Americans. The two most notable changes have come to Women in the 1920s and with African Americans in the 1960s. These rights were long overdue for both segments of our nation but thankfully we realized our mistakes and corrected them. This was not an easy journey for either of these crusades but through dedication and perseverance the bells of liberty rang loudly and victory was achieved.
    Unfortunately we have reached yet another fork in the road and with that comes another challenge to the American people. "We've worked hard for women's rights, but we have to watch out that the pendulum doesn't swing the other way" says Ruthie J. of the Reach FM. Ironically the pendulum has already swung far to one side and this time the male gender is being demonized by erroneous and fraudulent information. Males are being portrayed as callus, uncaring, and without emotion. We are being taught that men represent 95% of abuse in this nation against women. These and many other false statistics are being recklessly strewn throughout society and none of it is true. Yes, women are being abused by men that is a fact. striking a woman is abhorrent to the highest degree and should be dealt with appropriately but men are abused at an equal rate and they are being ignored. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control men represent 38% of domestic violence related injuries. Compound that with the fact that only 0.9% of men report abuse verses 8.5% of women and I think we have a pretty equal degree of violence between partners.
    The cornerstone of this "abuse" is VAWA the Violence Against Women Act. It was passed into law by Bill Clinton in 1994 and has been extended by every subsequent President. This law funnels Billions of dollars into discriminatory education and propaganda that violates men's civil rights. Many times DVIs or Domestic Violence Injunctions are used as a tool in divorce, child custody or just vengeance against a partner, most often against males. This is because the system of acquiring a DVI is simple and requires no evidence, witnesses or prior police reports. Just the word of an alleged victim making a claim of abuse. The repercussions of these orders are devastating and many times result in a violation, arrest and complete destruction of one's life. Even in cases when they are dismissed, a serious blemish remains on the falsely accused forever; how does that look to potential employers who almost always perform background checks prior to employment? This must be stopped and a better system of protecting all victims of domestic violence should be put in place.
    I hope to help bring awareness to gender discrimination and help provide support for men who are abused. There are programs to help women of abuse but nothing for men. My website will provide more information on the facts, my personal experiences and the stories of those who have been victims of this heinous tactic of relationship vengeance. Men and women should truly have equal rights and currently the scales are unjustly tilted. Let's work together to end domestic violence and not vilify one gender as inherently abusive. "United we stand, divided we fall" A powerful statement that we must never forget.

    Thank you,
    Tom Lemons
    Founder, www.falsedvireports.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. “Justice is a part of the human makeup. And if you deprive a person of Justice on a continuous basis, it’s really an attack (and not to get religious or anything) but it’s an attack on the human soul. We have, as societies, evolved ideas of Justice and we have done that because human nature needs Justice and it needs resolution. And if you deprive somebody of that long enough they’re going to have reactions…” ~ Juli T. Star-Alexander – Executive Director, Redress, Inc.

    Redress, Inc. 501c3 nonprofit corporation, created to combat corruption. Our purpose is to provide real assistance and solutions for citizens suffering from injustices. We operate as a formal business, with a Board of Directors guiding us. We take the following actions to seek redress: Competently organize as citizens working for the enforcement of our legal rights. Form a coalition so large and so effective that the authorities can no longer ignore us. We support and align with other civil rights groups and get our collective voices heard. Work to pass laws that benefit us and give us the means to fight against corruption, as is our legal right, and we work to repeal laws that are in violation of our legal rights. Become proactive in the election process, by screening of political candidates. As individuals, we support those who are striving to achieve excellence, and show how to remove from office those who have failed to get the job done. Make our presence known through every legal means. We monitor our courts and judges. We petition our government representatives for the assistance they are bound to provide us. We publicize our cases and demand redress. Create a flow of income that enables us to fight back in court, and to assist our members impoverished by the abuses inflicted on us. Create the means to relieve the stresses on us, as we share information and support each other. We become legal advocates for each other; we become an emotional support network for each other; we problem solve for individuals on a group basis! Educate our judges, lawyers, court personnel, law enforcement personnel and elected leaders about our rights as citizens! Actively work to eliminate incompetence, bias/prejudice, special relationships and corruption at all levels of government! Work actively with all media sources, to shed light on our efforts. It is reasonable to expect that if the authorities know we are watching and documenting, that their behaviors will improve. IT'S A HUGE TASK! Accountability will not happen overnight. But we believe that through supporting each other, we support ourselves. This results in a voice for justice and redress that cannot be ignored. Please become familiar with our web site, and feel free to call. We need each other - help us to help you! Although we are beginning operations in Nevada, we intend to extend into each state in a competent fashion. We are NOT attorneys, unless individual attorneys join us as members. We are simply people helping people. For those interested, we do not engage in the practice of law. You might be interested in this article Unauthorized Practice of Law on the Net. Call Redress, Inc. at 702.597.2982 or e-mail us at Redress@redressinc.com. WORKING TOGETHER TO ATTAIN FAIRNESS

    ReplyDelete

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