We could use your help. If you are interested in making a corporate donation for 2008, please e-mail Michael Robinson. As always, thank you for your generous support!
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Every year CAFC has had a major impact on family law policy at the California State Capital. Our positive reputation has grown significantly in Sacramento and nationally as well. We get calls from Legislators around the country, from individuals seeking help in California, and from military families in Iraq.
Most recently, CAFC has been instrumental in bringing about state and Federal changes to protect the parental rights of military parents. CAFC was also just successful in its efforts to educate California legislators and organize opposition to AB 164, a bill that would have denied thousands of California non-custodial parents the right to receive their children's school records.
Our recent focus has been in the areas of conflict reduction in divorce and child custody, domestic violence reforms, child support, paternity fraud and assisting in class action lawsuits. We have also assisted countless individuals in need of help. In the California Legislature our work included educating policy makers, providing updated research and data, giving testimony at legislative hearings and forming valuable relationships with family law, juvenile law, child support and domestic violence experts. We now have excellent working relationships with a number of significant organizations including the judge's association and the Family Law Section of the State Bar.
CAFC now gets calls and requests for information and bill ideas from Legislators and the Governor's Office. This is the final proof CAFC has achieved a level of credibility and respect given to established advocacy groups. CAFC supporters should be proud of this progress. Our continued presences in the halls of the California Legislature now gives us access to policy makers who seriously listen to our concerns — something absent in prior years.
The recurring issue, however, is whether we will get the support and resources to stand our ground on the difficult issues that will arise this year and next. Given our limited resources and the large number of bills introduced each year in the children/family law area, we need your help to continue our efforts on behalf of fathers, mothers, children and second families.
CAFC 2008 Mid-Year Report
This year has been both rewarding and difficult. The full text of the report is available by clicking here.
We are most pleased with the election victory of former Assemblyman Roderick Wright to the California Senate. Rod has been a strong voice for equal family law rights and will help organize other members to our view during hopefully his eight year stay in the Senate. CAFC is also proud of its leadership on several successful national action campaigns and its conference on domestic violence. Unfortunately, our successes continue to be hampered by our inability to obtain a solid base of financial support. Most distressing, our Executive Director of the past four years, Michael Robinson, has informed the Board that unless we can developa stable and reasonably funded budget he cannot continue to raise his two daughters on an uncertain salary at poverty level income. In light of these events CAFC will reduce its activities in other areas and make one last effort during the next few months to secure an adequate and reliable funding base for our budget. If we are not successful and Michael leaves, we will suspend our activities effective January 1, 2009. Please help us continue our efforts to reform, reeducate and retrain the family law courts.
2008 Educational Conference
CAFC just wrapped up a truly historic domestic violence conference that was held in Sacramento on February 15 and 16, 2008. CAFC was proud to sponsor the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Family Violence Treatment and Education Association (FAVTEA). The conference also featured many of the speakers from the National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center (NFVLRC). Read the story of this year's conference. This is the follow up to last year's equally successful conference.
CAFC Goes Four For Four in the 2008 California Legislative Session
Number 1: CAFC was successful in having California’s very successful Compromise on Arrears Program (COAP) extended until July 1, 2010. CAFC’s representative, Michael Robinson, testified in support of the program before the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) on March 24, 2008. But we aren’t satisfied yet: (1) we want to make the program permanent; (2) we want it available to obligors with more than one case; (3) we want to lift the $5,000 limit so local child support agencies can process applications without referring them to Sacramento for processing; and (4) we want an online application process. Currently California has $14 billion in uncollected payments on its books – we think that our proposed changes will makes it feasible to compromise $5 billion of those arrears.
Number 2: CAFC was successful in getting SB 1333 (Ashburn) introduced to fix confusion regarding a recent law that was meant to allow genetic testing to disprove falsely alleged or incorrectly determined paternity. Based on the testimony of CAFC’s Michael Robinson and others, we were successful getting the bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 25 on a 5-0 vote. As a result, the bill will likely be on a consent calendar from here on out. In addition, CAFC (with the invaluable help of Attorney Marc Angelucci) is pursuing an excellent case in before the 3rd District Court of Appeals regarding this issue. Even though SB 1333 will correct the problem, this appeals case will allow us the opportunity to make further arguments for additional legislation regarding paternity fraud next year.
Number 3: CAFC has been working for at least two years on a bill to protect obligors from the abuses of potential fraud. The committee bill does much to assure due process: DCSS will no longer be able to take drivers licenses, passports or other actions without the Obligee or the agency first filing a notice of arrears that has been signed under penalty of perjury, filed with the court and served on the Obligor. The bill passed out of committee in April 2008 and is likely to be approved soon.
Number 4 CAFC was successful in the passage of the original Collaborative Law bill in 2006 (AB 402 – Dymally). However, some of necessary technical language was omitted from the bill so we returned in 2007 with AB 189 – Dymally to correct those matters. This year we were successful in getting some of the corrections into AB 3051 - Committee on Judiciary. The bill passed out of Committee on April 8, 2008. It will prevent a court from interfering in Collaborative Law cases unless it can show good cause. We continue to work on getting the rest of the technical amendments passed as quickly as possible, particularly putting some teeth into violations of visitation orders.
CAFC 2007 Summary
The CAFC Annual Summary for 2007 can be viewed here. Our focus last year was in the areas of conflict reduction in divorce and child custody, domestic violence reforms, youth services and foster care systems, child support, paternity fraud, training conferences and assisting in lawsuits involving paternity fraud and domestic violence. Our work included seeking policy reforms by educating policy makers and other stakeholders. We provided updated research and data, testified at hearings and continued to form valuable relationships with family law, juvenile law, child support and domestic violence experts. This was in addition to helping assist countless individuals in need of services. We are very proud of our acchievements in 2007, and we are dedicated to continuing our efforts in 2008. Your financial support and involved membership in CAFC are invaluable to our efforts!
Conflict Reduction Reform
CAFC was directly responsible for the introduction and passage of California AB 402, which enacted the Collaborative Family Law Act. This bill for the first time recognized the collaborative process in California law, thereby allowing divorcing parties, by written agreement, to utilize a collaborative law process rather than an adversarial judicial proceeding to resolve disputes. Only Texas and North Carolina have similar statutes.
AB 402 will help fuel a national movement to look at alternatives to costly and emotionally draining court litigation. The contribution of CAFC was clear. An almost identical bill to AB 402 was previously introduced in the 2002 session (California SB 1603 - Oller) but it never made it out of the first policy committee. Since 2002 the drafters had been looking for an author to carry this legislation without success. In 2006 the Family Law Section of the State Bar sought our help. CAFC not only found a legislator to author the bill but also worked extremely hard to get the bill passed and signed into law.
As you see above, CAFC continues to work tirelessly to ensure that the Collaborative Family Law works. In 2008, we succeeded in passing several corrections to the original Act.
"Move Away" Changes
For the second time CAFC was victorious in defeating an attempt to modify the California Supreme Court decision In re Marriage of LaMusga, a crucial case relating to move away of children to other cities or states. Late in the 2006 legislative session, California State Senator Gloria Romero amended her bill ( SB 1482) to reverse the LaMusga decision. Because CAFC was monitoring this bill we were able to quickly alert interested groups to the amendment and to organize opposition to the bill.
CAFC's Michael Robinson worked with the California Judges Association (CJA), the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and family law attorney's with the Family Law Section of the State Bar (FLEXCOM). He joined with Glenn Sacks to organize opposition letters and witnesses to testify against the bill, including the original plaintiff, Gary LaMusga. Faced with this combined opposition Senator Romero dropped the bill just prior to the committee hearing.
It certainly isn't the first time this issue has arisen. In 2004, CAFC was instrumental in defeating SB 730 (Burton), which would have effectively reversed the gains of LaMusga. Nonetheless, this issue is certain to surface again in coming years.
CAFC further established its position as an organization focused on children and a balanced family policy with its support of two bills by California Assemblywoman Karen Bass in 2006. The bills help close funding gaps and encourage extended family members to take in related foster children. Better funding and services provided in these bill will help prevent foster kids from becoming the new homeless once they turn 18 and the money runs out. The Governor signed both bills.
As a result of our support CAFC's Michael Robinson was asked to testify at a legislative hearing called by the Select Committee on Foster Care at its Statewide September  Conference. While "Father absence" was acknowledged as part of the problem, Michael was able to expand the discussion and explain that "Father absence" is not always the result of an uncaring Father but rather the result of policies that marginalize Fathers.
AB 2051: Cohn; Domestic Violence
This was is a good example of losing the battle but hopefully winning the war. CAFC spearheaded the opposition California Assembly Bill 2051 by Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn. This bill was an attempt to end run the impact of a pending class action lawsuit, Meagan Black vs. California, filed by attorney Marc Angelucci. The case challenged California's discriminatory law that defines domestic violence ("DV") victims as only women. CAFC assisted in the lawsuit. You can read the Opening Brief in this case here.
Assemblywoman Cohn amended her bill from gender-neutral language to expanding the definition of a domestic violence victim to include lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) victims. CAFC opposed the bill because it excluded straight males and their children.
Even though AB 2051 passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on September 30, 2006, our efforts did not go unrewarded. See CAFC Press Release. The CAFC organized experts to testify on the bill and educate policy makers and the Governor's staff for the first time about the realities of DV and the needs of male victims and their children. We brought in many of the most respected national and international experts in the field of domestic violence — nearly 50 in all — in our campaign to reform California DV policy. Some of those experts included Donald Dutton, Denise Hines, Tonia Nichols, John Archer, John Hamel and Murray Straus, just to name a few. As a result we now have commitments from legislators and the Governor's office to work with us during the 2007 legislative session to correct this issue.
Child Support Guideline Reform
In memory of Steve Tipaldi