Cincinnati Divorce Falls Into Battle for Human Rights

This case is huge. The issues at hand here aren’t just your garden variety divorce issues… they are your garden variety divorce issues on steroids.Divorcing dad wants to take kids to Saudi ArabiaDivorce is ugly. There’s no two ways around that. Even ordinary divorce issues often present harsh realities to those involved, especially for divorcing spouses with children.

It’s a rare thing for a marriage to break up without the occurrence of hard feelings. It’s rarer still for that to happen when there are children involved. Custody issues turn into control issues as parents with different views on life fight over everything from visitation schedules and child support to dietary habits, school attendance, and moral, ethical and religious upbringing.

Every day in the U.S., cases like this are decided. Divorcing parents are not going to remain living together, and sometimes the one moving out moves further away than just across town. Custody battles put tough decisions upon the shoulders of Family Court judges. Should the children remain in their current home with one parent, or move away with the other? Which parent is more equipped for and focused upon providing the best environment for the overall well-being of the children? When a parent makes the choice to move beyond the short distance provided for in most states’ joint custody (often called other terms such as shared custody or shared parenting) laws, the answers to these questions decide which parent must give up parental rights and regular interaction with them, as distance reduces and sometimes even nearly eliminates the chance of regular, frequent visits by the non-residential parent.

The continental U.S. is a big place; it is entirely possible for a divorce to create a distance of 3000 miles (or more) between the two parties. Throw in moves between the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii, and the distance becomes even more expansive.

Crossing that distance to spend time with one’s children can be difficult. Time and expense issues affect the possibility, and can be prohibitive for lower income parents. Even in the best cases, great distances are going to limit the time children are able to spend with at least one of their parents, and that doesn’t even take into account the way this affects extended families. When a child is moved across the city by a parent, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends are still able to visit with and receive visits from the child. School attendance can often even remain the same. A distant move cuts into all of those relationships, as the same factors which keep the non-residential parent from visiting also affect other family members whose lives are structured around their own work and immediate family schedules.

In light of these things, one can clearly see that moving away following a divorce involving children is not a decision to be taken lightly. In some cases, it may be done as a way for a primary residential parent to effectively turn a joint custody ruling into a one-parent-custody situation by using the distance to limit the other parent’s access to the children. In other cases, it may be done out of desperation, when jobs in the parent’s field are scarce in the residential area, and he or she is faced with the choice to hunt elsewhere or be unable to support the children.

Either way, when the primary residential parent, who has physical custody of the children, decides to make a big move, the other parent is then forced to also make a choice: Stay behind, and lose time with the children, or risk everything, give up everything, and follow them. Both choices involve risk. Once a parent moves the children away from the other parent, visitation orders become harder to enforce. Non-residential parents are considered responsible for the expense involved with visits in divorce agreements written prior to the move. If, after such an agreement is filed, the residential parent decides to move away and take the kids, the non-residential parent has no recourse for enforcement without going back to court, an expensive prospect which is unavailable to lower-income families. Even in the case of a court-ordered visitation agreement, enforcement requires court action initiated by the non-residential parent. There is no agency to enforce parental rights, as there is to enforce payment of child support.

Complex and daunting as those issues may seem, they pale in comparison to the those in the cases of divorce in which one spouse wants to take custody of the children, and then move them to another country. International borders can so complicate custody and visitation issues to the point of making it easy for the custodial parent to completely eliminate the non-custodial parent from the lives of the children. The choice between following them and staying behind becomes more complicated, as various nations around the world have vastly differing policies on family rights issues which would affect all aspects of the divorce ruling.

Further complicating the Cincinnati case is the fact that the country in question is Saudi Arabia, a nation still in the dark ages in the realm of Women’s Rights. If the father in this case is awarded residential custody in the shared parenting agreement he has requested, and is given permission by the judge to take the children and move to Arabia, his ex-wife will effectively lose all of her parental rights. Even if she follows him there, she will be extremely limited in every aspect. She will not be legally permitted to drive. She will not have a joint custody agreement any more, but a circumstance in which her ex-husband has custody, and she receives limited visitation. She will not even be legally permitted to obtain gainful employment without permission from a male guardian, either her father, or a husband. It is possible that in order to work and support herself, she will have to get her ex-husband’s permission.

Men’s rights with regards to divorce issues the U.S. have taken a beating over the years. According to statistics published by the Center for Children’s Justice:

  • 37.9% of fathers have no access/visitation rights. (Source: p.6, col.II, para. 6, lines 4 & 5, Census Bureau P-60, #173, Sept 1991.)
  • “40% of mothers reported that they had interfered with the non-custodial father’s visitation on at least one occasion, to punish the ex-spouse.” (Source: p. 449, col. II, lines 3-6, (citing Fulton) Frequency of visitation by Divorced Fathers; Differences in Reports by Fathers and Mothers. Sanford Braver et al, Am. J. of Orthopsychiatry, 1991.)
  • “Overall, approximately 50% of mothers “see no value in the father`s continued contact with his children….” (Source: Surviving the Breakup, Joan Kelly & Judith Wallerstein, p. 125)
  • In a study: “Visitational Interference – A National Study” by Ms. J Annette Vanini, M.S.W. and Edward Nichols, M.S.W., it was found that 77% of non-custodial fathers are NOT able to “visit” their children, as ordered by the court, as a result of “visitation interference” perpetuated by the custodial parent. In other words, non-compliance with court ordered visitation is three times the problem of non-compliance with court ordered child support and impacts the children of divorce even more.

and

  • Custodial mothers who receive a support award: 79.6%
  • Custodial fathers who receive a support award: 29.9%
  • Non-custodial mothers who totally default on support: 46.9%
  • Non-custodial fathers who totally default on support: 26.9%Originally published Sept. 1992

Ohio has seen its fair share of that. Sexism in Divorce law and Child Support enforcementSuperstalker! A Vexatious Litigator update & referralOn the other hand, there are serious rights issues at the mother’s end of this argument which would not affect a strictly domestic divorce settlement as opposed to the international-movement decision under consideration in this case.

Major women’s rights violations in Arabia have made the news several times over the years. These issues are not unknown. In some cases, women have suffered terrible treatment and abominable human rights violations under Arabian law.A few examples:It’s not new… “I was caned in Saudi Arabia”but it’s not going away, either…75-year-old widow to be floggedSaudi court orders lashes and prison for 19-year-old gang rape victimand foreigners living in Arabia are not immune!Saudi Arabia to lash Filipino rape victim 100 timesRima Shaheen’s concerns about being forced to give up her children or move to a nation which will not recognize her rights are not only valid, but serious and compelling. In this case, the women’s rights issues don’t just apply to the mother, but to two of the children as well. Though the news story discussed mainly the limits which would be placed upon her own person, miss Shaheen’s concerns must extend to rights and safety of her daughters. Will they, after living as free, equal American girls since 2004, be able to adjust to the change? With the youngest child being six, and the oldest fourteen, it is apparent that the years of development during which children gain an understanding of their community culture and develop their own manner of social interaction took place mostly in the U.S., completely for the youngest child, and during the majority of the oldest child’s socially active life. Though the family spent eight years in Arabia prior to 2004, even the oldest child was too young to understand and develop a personality around the surrounding culture. The contrast between the cultures of the two nations is great enough that after six years of living and growing in an American community, the girls may have serious difficulty assimilating to the restrictive, confining nature of the culture into which their father wishes to graft them. It’s a question Judge Mattingly may have to take into consideration as she decides custody issues in this case. Will she award custody to the mother, who wishes to remain in the U.S. with the children, where father’s rights are limited but not eliminated, or to the father, who wishes to remove them from the country and move them to a nation where the mother’s rights will not even be considered, and where two of the children will become second-class citizens?

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