4.21.2014

Immigration Reform for Children Toward Family Restoration

While the United States Congress debates immigration reform, children who are born in the United States to immigrating families who have not properly used legal immigration procedures are placed in jeopardy.  When their parents are arrested, incarcerated, or deported, the children suffer grave potential for harm.
 
 'ARE WE THERE YET'? IMMIGRATION REFORM FOR CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND, which can be accessed and downloaded at SSRN, provides an overview of this problem, while also offering some solutions.
 

The number of children placed in these circumstances is rising, as the total number of children on U.S. soil to illegal immigrants rose to 4 million in 2009, up from 2.7 million in 2003, according to one report' estimate. "Those children — who are automatically granted U.S. citizenship — represent 5.4% of all children under the age of 18 in the U.S. That compares to 3.7% six years earlier, according to data from the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center. That percentage will continue rising, as an estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2008 alone — about 8% — came from illegal immigrant parents, the report says.”  (See Alan Gomez, U.S. Sees Rise in Children Born to Illegal Immigrants, USA Today, Aug. 12, 2010 (noting that some argue the immigration debate is political “fear mongering”)).
 

Children in the United States need legal reform to accommodate their interests as U.S. Citizens.  Family Restoration is possible when municipalities work together to protect and provide for children throughout the nation, even those who are separated from their parents by immigration deportation.

4.17.2014

Maundy Thursday and the Marriage Battle

How does Maundy Thursday relate to the Marriage Battle? Breakpoint, at http://www.breakpoint.org, has a post by John Stonestreet, published on April 17, 2014 that explains the connnection.

Stonestreet challenges the notion that to oppose homosexual unions as gay marriage "is to be relegated to history’s ideological dustbin along with those who resisted civil rights for African-Americans or the vote for women. Of course, as we’ve seen in the forced resignation of Mozilla’s CEO, opposing gay marriage can make your career history as well."

Here is the rest of his Breakpoint post:

Even more disheartening are the Christian voices joining in on the chorus. World Vision’s announcement on hiring same-sex married employees shook the evangelical world before the organization recanted. Mega-church Vineyard pastor Ken Wilson made a splash when he endorsed same-sex marriage. And many of us have seen more and more surprising endorsements on Facebook and other social media outlets from friends who have, shall we say, “evolved” on the issue.

Among the most common reasons offered by these Christians for endorsing same-sex marriage—or at least not resisting it—is that it’s too contentious and so unwelcoming. Taking a stand for marriage, they say, gets in the way of the grace of the Gospel. It excludes people from the church. We have to reach out, and strong opinions about sexuality and marriage are only distractions, we hear.

I think today of all the days in Holy Week is the time to confront this repeated refrain. Why? Because the Thursday before Easter is known as Maundy Thursday, the day set aside on the Church calendar to remember the Last Supper.

The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word for “mandate,” or “command.” At this first celebration of communion, Jesus gave His disciples what He called “a new command” to love and serve one another. And He demonstrated what He meant by washing their very dirty feet.

Now to fully appreciate this command, we have to remember that at this supper Jesus and the disciples were obeying God’s command to remember the Passover. The Passover meal celebrated God rescuing His people from Egypt, as described in Exodus. For Jesus to have the audacity to offer a “new” command when the old one was such an important part of Israel’s history, is astounding enough. But Jesus went even further. Rather than remembering the redemption of their forefathers from Egyptian tyranny and the way the angel of death “passed over” the homes with lamb’s blood on their doorposts, they were now to remember His broken body and His shed blood. In Christ’s death, death itself is not just avoided; it is defeated.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the American Church has been divided over whether it should be primarily about proclaiming truth or about serving others. But the Lord’s Supper reminds us that this is a false dichotomy. These two things can never be separated. On the same night that Jesus commanded us to remember His broken body and shed blood that rescues us from sin (that’s the truth), He commanded us to demonstrate our new life by loving and serving others (that’s the grace). We don’t have to choose between speaking truth and showing grace. They always, always go together.

Thus, we can—and we must—offer both the truth about marriage and the grace of God to all of our neighbors, including those with same-sex attraction. Let me encourage all of us to meditate, as individuals and as families, on the Last Supper and all the other events of Holy Week: the Triumphal Entry, which we remembered last Sunday, the Crucifixion which we’ll remember tomorrow, the Resurrection on Sunday, and the Ascension forty days later which culminated Christ’s earthly ministry.

You can find this post in its entirety at Breakpoint .

This Easter season contemplate and live out that new commandment - speak truth AND show grace, by offering the truth about marriage in the context of loving others unconditionally, just as we have been loved by His outstretched arms.

For more information on marriage and how it is affected by same sex unions, see "How will the Proliferation and Recognition of Domestic Partnerships Affect Marriage?"

4.15.2014

"One Day Divorce" Overlooks Possibility of Working at Marriage in Favor of Judicial Economy

This guest blog post is by Zach Hardister, current Regent University Family Law student:

A new marital dissolution procedure in California carries innovation, but misses the mark on marriage potential.  The following summary was taken from the San Diego Superior Court website regarding the “One Day Divorce” procedure being implemented in San Diego, California:

“The One Day Divorce Program assists parties with divorce cases before the San Diego Superior Court to finish their case and get a final judgment. Eligible parties will receive hands on assistance in finalizing all of the necessary forms to obtain the final Judgment of divorce or separation. Parties who successfully complete the process will go before a judge the same day and will leave court with a final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation.”

Essentially, parties to a One Day Divorce must work out all aspects of dissolution or legal separation prior to appearing before the court. The current requirements for the One Day Divorce Program are:
  1.  The parties must wait at least 6 months from the date of filing their Petition.
  2. The parties must be self-represented.
  3. The Summons and Petition must be served on the Respondent.
  4. Proof of Service of Summons OR a Response must be filed with the Court.
  5. The Parties must reach an agreement on all orders that will be included in the judgment, including: division of property and debts, spousal support, and if they have children, a parenting plan and child support. (This is not a requirement for the petitioner if the Respondent has not filed a response AND if the Respondent does not intend to participate in the program.)

According to California Court officials, nearly 72% of family law litigants are not represented by an attorney. Additionally, even simple divorce cases can take years to exit the system. These facts alone make California an ideal place to launch a pilot program of this nature.

After the filing and service requirements are met, both parties confer with a family law professional who examines their proposed divorce settlement agreement. Guided by the court professional, the parties fill out the forms needed to finalize the divorce right on the spot. If all of the necessary paperwork and disclosures are satisfactory, the litigants can appear in court the same day and leave with a final divorce decree in their possession.

It appears this new idea of the “One Day Divorce” is aimed at revising or extinguishing many of the requirements needed for summary dissolution in California. In the One Day Divorce Program, most (if not all) of the time, money, and resources needed to complete a simple divorce are eliminated. It’s been no secret that California is experiencing some of the worst budget problems in U.S. history. Fortunately, the One Day Divorce Program is completely funded by a grant from the San Diego Bar Foundation. Therefore, the SDBF has single-handedly relieved the San Diego court system from a majority of the financial burdens associated with these types of cases.

In a time when courts across the state are slashing public services because of budget cuts, the San Diego Superior Court is providing a new and innovative solution to simple divorces at no cost to the public. You can compare the differences between California Summary Dissolution and the One Day Divorce Program by looking up California Family Code §2400.

It is relatively easy to see the benefits provided to the court by the Program; however, the benefits which the parties receive are not as easily recognizable. Yes, the parties to a One Day Divorce are saving time and money in the present, but shouldn’t those involved in such a serious proceeding be more concerned about the long term effects? If the allure of avoiding attorneys and saving money isn’t enough to sway couples to the Program, avoiding all the time and trouble of the family court “grinder” surely will be.

Make no mistake; this program is truly innovative and beneficial. However, the glaring negative is that couples are not obligated to make an attempt at working things out before they rush into a dissolution of their marriage. A mere six months is all couples need before they can obtain their decree. Despite all the benefits, the One Day Divorce Program has the potential to make it too easy for a couple to obtain a dissolution. Of course, a great deal of couples are unable to peaceably form an agreement like the one needed for a One Day Divorce. Indeed, for this reason, good divorce attorneys will always have work in San Diego. In any case, this program gives couples a relatively “quick and easy” way out of what should be a lifelong commitment.

In sum, the Program is missing something more meaningful. The results of the One Day Divorce will be exciting to analyze as the program develops, especially if it becomes more widely accepted. Hopefully, there will be revised versions of the program if it catches on (“One Day Divorce [1.0]”?). Perhaps, a version that incorporates a more reconciliatory approach might work even better.  It is reasonable to believe that if either counseling or mediation were added to the requirements, more marriages might be rapidly preserved instead of terminated. California has a strong public policy for preserving marriage; however, it seems clear that the One Day Divorce Program overlooks this well established objective —at least for now.


4.07.2014

Restoring Juveniles in African Systems of Justice

Abigail K. Skeans, Candidate for Juris Doctor 2014  from Regent University School of Law also served as the Justice Programme Administrator, Children Justice Initiative in Uganda, Africa.  She has been researching and studying various juvenile justice systems in Africa during her law school career through the Center for Global Justice and the curricular Child Advocacy Practicum.  Her work is making a difference to children in Africa.

Last semester she worked in a comparative approach to juvenile justice taken in various African nations to determine the best and most restorative approach for children. 

Outlining the law in this area, Abby highlights both international, Ugandan, and Malawian standards of child justice in her research, and works to apply those rules and laws for the best interests of children when those children accused of crimes are often lost in the justice system machinery.  I have written on this before particularly regarding applications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which can be accessed at SSRN, and how important the notion of the best interests of the child ought to be applied to such circumstances.  (An overview of that jurisprudence can be accessed here).

Abby combines all the best regulations for children and a clear application of the rule of law in her global research to present an approach to juvenile law that seeks to build up and restore children even in the context of criminal accusations.  Her conclusions: "Child Justice in Malawi and Uganda will be successful when the various levels of systems can work together in a complimentary way to  address offenses while accounting for the restoration of the offender and the community based on inherent , traditional principles of African justice."  Her work is shared in her power point presentation

Children around the world deserve hope to be restored to their community and to their families particularly in the face of being charged with a criminal offense.  A restorative approach can accomplish those goals, and Regent Law is training future lawyers to do just that.  Great work, Abby!