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The Truth About Equal Custody And VAWA

August 11, 2008

I've recently been misrepresented on Mothers United Against Domestic Violence. "Teri Stoddard, a woman who very strongly advocates mandatory joint custody." I have never advocated for mandatory joint custody.

Every proposed equal custody or shared parenting bill I've read has had a section on neglectful, abusive and uninterested parents. No one in the family rights movement wants kids with abusers, of either gender. And we would never force a child on an uninterested parent.

I am for equal parental rights, with equal physical and legal custody. I want this for all parents who desire it, and have not been found guilty of child abuse or neglect. This does not mean it's mandatory. This does not mean the kids have to spend equal time with each parent. Parents can write a parenting plan (which I offer free on Shared Parenting Works.)

These plans should be flexible, and should change as the years go on. The only time parents would have to split the time exactly 50/50 would be if they can't agree on a plan. Most parents realize they need to take into account their work schedules, the child's school schedule, how close they live to each other, etc. Without the "winner take all" attitude of fighting for sole custody, parents are more willing to cooperate.

I understand these women have been wronged, as have their children. But I stand by my belief that we should not have laws that hurt 95% of the population, just to help 5%. We can still help these women without taking rights away from all fathers.

And that is exactly what we've done with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Mothers without abusive exes are now using false allegations to win sole custody of children. Recent studies show that 60 to 80% of all domestic violence allegations are unnecessary or false.  The California Bar Association has even publicly stated they're concerned about this.

VAWA allowed Sheila Fuith to illegally abduct Emily Hindle from the UK to the US . VAWA-funded attorneys and shelters helped this abusive and neglectful mother to hide her child for years while continuing to file false charges against Emily's dad Karl.

Sheila recently admitted making up every single allegation. Was she punished? Does Karl have Emily back? No. In this case the U.S. State Department is included in the corruption and abuse of Emily's right to her father. If it weren't for the more than $400,000 Karl has spent investigating this, no one would have known. He still waits for justice, and his little girl.

VAWA allowed Shannon Phillips to illegally abduct Madison from California to Illinois. Her father Donald Tenn is devastated. He was her stay-at-home parent. "We were always together. I even watched Barney with her," he said, "My favorite thing was having her sit on my lap while I read books to her. It's so hard to be in this house without her."

Donald and Shannon got along. They never had any instances of domestic violence. Shannon wanted Donald to move to Illinois with her. When he asked her to return to California so they could decide together, she refused.

Donald knew the law was on his side. Move-aways are illegal in California. When he told Shannon that he was going to have Madison returned, she immediately filed false allegations against him.

As time goes by, her allegations are getting worse. Donald has become an active leader in Families4Justice and Fathers4Justice. "I want Madison to know I did everything I could to get her back," he said.

Shannon has enjoyed free legal aid, and free airfare, all thanks to VAWA. Donald has no free legal aid. He was able to get visitation in Illinois, and spent some precious time with Madison, once. Shannon illegally refused any other visits, and has been supported for it.

"The roller coaster of emotions is hard," he said, "I can understand why some fathers give up trying to get custody, or even seeing their children. It's like nothing I've ever experienced." But Donald won't give up.

Making sure Madison never forgets their closeness, Donald sends her packages in the mail. "Every time I'm shopping I see things she'd like, and I buy them. Little snacks, books, stickers...she loves stickers," he explains, "I send about 3 packages a week."

The Violence Against Women Act is unconstitutional and full of prejudice against men. The organizations that profit from it openly discriminate against men. They even have a network of feminist attorneys ready to fight any lawsuit brought by men to gain services.

And now we have The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act -- H.R. 6088 and S. 1515 -- recently introduced in Congress. This bill would authorize $55 million for volunteer lawyers to help victims of domestic violence.

Let's be very clear. This would be for women. And many would use it to take children away from good fathers.

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Copyright ©2008 Teri Stoddard