Connecticut has had a string of hearings dealing with Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. It is much needed there as it is in just about every state in the union. The following is written testimony that was presented to the Supreme Court in Hartford. While this parent speaks specifically to the rules for GALs in that state the general idea is one that can be applied in every court room especially here in Maine.
This woman is saying that absent of any abuse or neglect – every parent should have a fundamental right to parent on an equal basis and that no parent should be forced into ‘supervised visitation’ absent of neglect or abuse. Yet how many parents are forced into that position by a Guardian ad litem or Family Court?
Supreme Court in Hartford
Public Hearing on Rules and Forms
Written Testimony of Marisa Ringel
April 14, 2014
Justices of the Supreme Court and/or Committee of Justices members:
I am hear today to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The 14th Amendment clearly states:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
In Stanley V. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651; 92 S.Ct. 1208, (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court stressed:
“The parent-child relationship is an important interest that undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection. ..A parent’s interest in the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children rises to a constitutionally secured right, given the centrality of family life as the focus for personal meaning and responsibility.”
It is my suggestion that the Connecticut Practice Book incorporate these two quotes to open Section 25.
Every parent, absent abuse or neglect, in the Constitution State should have a fundamental equal right to parent their children without the interference of government.
While there is legislative authority granted to provide for various awards of custody in the State of Connecticut, there does not appear to be any specific legislative authority for a judge in the State of Connecticut to force a parent into “supervised visitation” absent abuse or neglect.
Yet, in the family courts of the State of Connecticut, “supervised visitation” is often ordered without any justification that a “child’s welfare” is in danger.
Therefore, I am proposing a new Practice Book Rule 25-70:
“No judicial authority shall have the right to issue an order of supervised visitation without conducting an evidentiary hearing to establish whether there are grounds for an order to show cause that “clear and present danger to the physical/psychological well-being of a child” exists that requires an limited time order of supervised visitation.
No order of supervised visitation shall remain in place for more than three months, without conducting another evidentiary hearing at which any party can call witnesses, including those supervising the visitation, to report to the court on their observations of the parent-child interactions.”
There are reports in Fairfield County of supervised visitation which have been in place for more than two years, in which fees in excess of $20,000 have been paid by a parent to conduct a once a week four hour visitation.
Supervised visitation cannot be seen as a “first option” response from a judicial authority to make parenting time “unaffordable” or a “punitive measure”.
The 1886 Supreme Court decision in Yick Wo v. Hopkins 118 U.S. 356 stated:
“Law and court proceedings that are ‘fair on their faces’ but administered ‘with an evil eye or heavy hand’ was discriminatory and violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Family courts must provide divorced parent the same rights and obligations of their children as if still married. Otherwise, the court is administrating a criteria in a manner which discriminates against a class of citizens based on “un-married status”.
Such discrimination by the family court judges against any class of citizens who are no longer married would constitute a violation of Title 42, Section 1983.
Each of us who is speaking today, is a victim of orders of “supervised visitation” at the current time or in some past order issued in the family court system in Connecticut.
Each of us has been and has always aspired to be a “fit parent” and have been “humiliated” and “degraded” by a family court judge who has abused their powers in administering family court justice through ordering “supervised visitation” without an order to show cause.
This authority to order supervised visitation has no statutory authority and is therefore an abuse of discretion and must be curtailed.