My multiracial children have been alienated and forcibly separated from their mother, and any connection to my side of the family due to injustice in Family Court whose outrageous rulings have no basis in law, fact or evidence. When I present testimony to the Family Court that my multiracial children need a connection to their family, and their culture so they can develop a healthy sense of self—and that to deny my children a relationship with their mother, and family of origin is detrimental, I am either ignored or told I am being a problem.
According to A Judge’s Guide to Making Child-Centered Decisions in Custody Cases Second Edition (American Bar Association), “There is no social science research to support the contention that the child will be harmed or unduly confused by exposure to different religions, ethnic, or cultural practices. Indeed, such exposure to their parents’ diverse backgrounds may have a positive effect on their development and may be critical to their sense of identity.”
The Best Interest Statutes are laws governing child custody proceedings in family court, and they clearly state a child’s relationship to family, culture and religion is to be protected by the Court. Further, the Court is to consider the actions and willingness of a parent to allow a child to have a relationship with the other parent, and their culture or religion, when making child custody decisions—the Best Interest statutes view alienation in a negative light, and considers it grounds for change of custody. Not only should change of parental custody be considered but in my opinion, if a judge violates the Best Interest statutes and also engages in alienation or rulings that violate the law or rights of a litigant, a change of judge should also be required for the “best interest” of the child.
“TYPICAL BLACK PEOPLE”
My children and I were snuggled up on the couch watching a music video countdown on TV. Blake Shelton’s song “Boys ‘Round Here” came on (feat. The Pistol Annies and Friends). The catchy song shows a Country Boy (Blake) driving around town in his souped up truck, he comes to a stop light and encounters two Black men (City Boys) wearing sporty clothes, driving a low rider and bobbing their heads to music. Blake waves to them and invites them to a barn dance in the country. This is a feel good dance video with the warmly lit barn bouncing and the Pistol Annies singing the hook. The City Boys appear in their baggy clothes and sunglasses and begin to dance alongside the Country Boys in a line doing the “Soul Train” all together. Street Dances meet County Line Dance and Rodeo Dance, everyone is having fun.
YouTube Video of “Boys ‘Round Here”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXAgv665J14
When the City Boys begin to dance in the barn, my daughter says real loud, “Typical Black People”.
My heart literally hammered a loud beat in my chest that reverberated throughout my body. I turned to stare at my daughter who was oblivious that she said or did anything wrong. She is staring at the TV, slightly frowning.
“You do know that you ARE Black, right?” I told my daughter.
My daughter grumbled something I did not understand.
I continued, “JJ you ARE Black. You can’t be talking about people like that. That’s rude. You don’t say all Black people are one way or the other, you know that’s not true. When you talk about other people you might as well be talking about yourself. You are both the cowboys and the rapper —you are mixed, and you are part Black.”
JJ got loud, defensive, “That’s not what I meant!” Then she sighed loudly, “I know that!”
But did she really know that? Did my older son DJ know that? Or had they forgotten their own identity, where they came from? Their father, Mr. X, was doing his best to cut off contact not only with me but any connection to my family. He had even gone so far to “kidnap” my book of family history tracing back to the 1860’s, when my ancestors were held in slavery in a twisted attempt to hurt me (thankfully the judge made him return that!). Mr. X had even stolen photos from a baby book my mom made for me during my first year of life, and just last year JJ had found photos from that book “in a pile, in the basement” and returned them to me.
The kids were living in a small town, with almost no diversity. Who would teach the kids these things if I could not? What did they know about their family, their family history, what it meant to celebrate Black history month???
“JJ, honey”, I tried again, using a softer tone, ”It really hurts when you say things like that. It sounds like you heard something bad about Black people and believe it is true. Not all Black people listen to rap music or wear baggy clothes—but the ones that do, that’s okay. You can just look to our family and see that, there are some many different personalities and stories and styles in our family…and you and your brothers are a part of that.
And believe it or not, when Mommy was young, I used to listen to rap. Back then it was cool to wear big, baggy jeans with a tiny bodysuit and construction boots. But I really don’t look like that now! You’d be so embarrassed if I showed up at your school dressed like that, huh? It’s okay for people to wear different clothes or try different styles, but to really know what a person is about you have to talk with them, spend time with them and get to know them. What you see on the outside is not the whole story.”
JJ began to twirl her hair, clearly she was uncomfortable, “Mom I know that!”
“Good.” I replied, ”That’s what I thought.”
That is another effect of the forcible separation caused by family court, my daughter is hyper sensitive and has trouble tolerating any disagreement or any sign of conflict with me. Something minor or in this case, a mistake that could be a teaching moment—would cause JJ to become visibly upset, and sometimes withdrawing to her bedroom. She would reject a hug or any kind of affection (even verbal assurance). Eventually JJ would process, and go back to her usual sunny mood. I wouldn’t give up on my child but I also know I have to be patient with her, and give her a minute alone if that is what she needs. And then she would curl up in my lap, or listen if I tried to talk to her.
JJ gave me a sideways smile, “Mom you better NOT show up at my school dressing like that! I would run the other way!”
I faked tears, kidding along with her… I knew then it would be okay.
~ Emily Court
RELEVANT STATUTES AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Minn Stat. 518.17 (Custody and Support of Children), Subd.1 The best interests of the child: “(a) “The best interests of the child” means all relevant factors to be considered and evaluated by the court including…(10) the capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion or creed, if any; (11) the child’s cultural background; (13) except in cases in which a finding of domestic abuse as defined in section 518B.01 has been made, the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child.”
A Judge’s Guide to Making Child-Centered Decisions in Custody Cases Second Edition (American Bar Association) : http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/probono/childcustody/judges_guide.pdf
Determining the Best Interests of the Child (includes links for each state on relevant laws). A factsheet that details State laws about the factors that courts need to consider when making decisions about a child’s custody and care: https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/best_interest.cfm
“Introduction to the Best Interest of the Child Standard” by Hon. Thomas Trent Lewis. A self study and test on the basics of the Best Interest Standard. (Daily Journal Corporation, approved by State Bar of California for continuing legal education).
A court must determine the best interest of a child in making a child custody order. Includes topics such as: Domestic Violence and Child Custody, Friendly Parent (who would facilitate and encourage a relationship with the other parent), Religious Training, Child’s Preference, Psychological Make Up of a Parent and More: https://www.dailyjournal.com/cle.cfm?show=CLEDisplayArticle&qVersionID=377&eid=922855&evid=1&qtypeid=8