Legislators, move the parental rights bills

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Members of the Judiciary Committee,

On behalf of myself and hundreds of other parents in Connecticut, we are wondering what caused the languishing of nearly 15 parental rights related bills? I am not aware of public hearings related to any of our bills, yet many other child welfare related bills were afforded a hearing, such as An Act Concerning the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds. If this Act made it to a public hearing, what about bills concerning fundamental parental rights? Why did they die in committee? Will any of them make it to a public hearing? We are very concerned.

Our families are fractured and are desperate for change. The legislative branch has become the only glimmer of hope many of us have left. We cannot get relief by going to court, no matter how many hoops we jump through at the direction of judges and court-appointed vendors. We are out of money, and we are out of time.

These bills are not solely designed as a benefit to parents like myself, but designed to benefit to our children and extended families of our children, whom many have been cut out of these young people’s lives by unconstitutional Family Court orders.

The now-dead bills are designed to promote the health of our society and our younger generation, who are still developing brain synapses and formative attachments. The absence of one fit parent is the one of the core risk factors in whether or not an adolescent child will develop a dependence on illegal substances, become suicidal, become a teenage parent, engage in delinquency, and fail to finish school. We already know all this, as the veracity of the evidence supporting this has been widely accepted for decades.

The current Connecticut statutes, which allows a Family Court judge to create a “best interest” finding by selecting a winning parent and a losing parent, are unconstitutional.

The determination of “best interest” in an intact family would never be dictated by a state judge, as it lies solely within the intimate decisions of two fit parents. The state cannot remove a fit parent from an intact marriage, so therefore the state does not have a claim on the rights on a fit, but divorcing parent. A change in marital status is not a waiver of parents’ fundamental right to family integrity – nor is it a compelling state interest to relegate one parent to “visitor” status, overnight, without a fitness hearing.

Under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, a change in marital status is not a trigger for a state actor to make a “best interest” determination, which is rooted in nothing more than the opinion of a Family Court judge. The Supreme Court does not recognize “best interest.”

The Connecticut state statues do not reflect any U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding parental rights whatsoever. Yet the Connecticut statues allow this anyway. This is why parents like myself need reform. Our families have suffered far too long. Constituents do not want our future doctors, lawmakers, teachers and parents to come from broken homes. It’s in society’s best interest to have happy and healthy children. It’s in the network of our collective value system.

On behalf of many devastated parents, who are rapidly running out of time to save their parent-child relationship, we need the Judiciary to amend the current statues and make them constitutional. We call on the Committee to resurrect the 2017 parental rights bills that have died. We can’t keep waiting, year after year, hoping that the legislature will help us.

My 10-year-old son with autism spends a mere four days a month with his maternal family, and has done so for most of his life because of Judge Jose Suarez’s unconstitutional and draconian 2011 court orders. I am forced into constant litigation simply to be an equal parent . My son’s time is running out, as he is testing two years behind his peers in school, because he does not have the full support of two fit parents. My son deserves more than one parent and one visitor.

Please let us know how and why these bills died in committee? We are not asking for funding, so the Appropriations Committee does not need to approve anything. The Children’s Committee surely would support children being raised by two fit parents, with all the fatherhood initiatives that the state receives in federal grants.

We would like to know what led up to the bills being blocked. Is there anything the public can do to resurrect any of these bills? We have not seen any reform since 2014.

On behalf of the CT Coalition for Connecticut Family Court Reform, the National Family Law Policy Center, The Family Civil Liberties Union, countless other advocacy groups, and 22 million appropriate and capable non-custodial parents nationwide, we would like to know.

Monica and Peter Szymonik are family court, autism and Constitutional rights activists who live in Glastonbury. and have four children.  They met testifying at the State Capitol in 2014 where both they spoke out along with 70 other parents about the need to modernize and reform Connecticut’s family court system.

What do you think?

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