Congressman Walsh Family Law Reform Letter, Mar 2000

c/o Software Workshop Inc.
55 E. Genesee Street
Baldwinsville, NY 13027
20 March 2000

Congressman James Walsh
Federal Building, Room 1340
100 S. Clinton Street
Syracuse, NY 13261

Dear Congressman Walsh:

I’ve had no response to letters regarding Family Law Reform. As part of my daily “walks” in the Federal Building I even saw you go into your office last Friday. I realize you are a busy man and don’t have time to talk, but none of your staff has had the time either? Other people in the building have stopped to ask about what I am doing and why. I’m growing a bit concerned. There are some who might say, “they are just ignoring you in the hopes you’ll eventually get tired and just go away. Perhaps they see you as some type of crackpot, they don’t want to encourage you with any publicity.” Imagine that!

Perhaps I and the others who have written you have not been clear in our goals. Reform is such a sensitive topic, it is so easy to have misunderstanding. To clarify our goals:

  • To hear your answer to the question, “Isn’t one of my most basic Human Rights the freedom to associate with my children? Shouldn’t I be presumed to be a fit parent deserving of an equal relationship? If the ‘system’ challenges my right – shouldn’t I have the protection of a Jury? Should my right to be with my child be any different in New York than in California?”
  • To encourage you to understand and sponsor The Family Rights Act (which assumes a YES answer to the above). We do understand changes may be needed. We look to your staff for feedback & guidance in preparing it further.
  • To encourage you to call for Congressional Hearings into the necessity of National Family Law Reform.

I hope you will not see me as just one parent as I walk on the 13th floor, but as the tip of an iceberg. If you have been to the Kids-Right.Org web site, we have a lot of other stories, hundreds of registered members, and even more on our mailing list. There are so many people who are in “shell shock” after losing their kids through the “system.” I would hope you would find our group a positive role model and easy to work with – we emphasize courtesy and respect. What follows in an excerpt from a recent message:

Many of us and our children have been hurt by a system that didn’t really care, that just treated us a case number, as 15 minutes on a schedule — people who sometimes just couldn’t understand that we really loved our children! PLEASE, sit back and think a bit before you write the next email message or talk to someone about “reform”.  The system is made up of “Good People” (yes, we don’t always agree with what they do), but let’s make the extra sacrifice and treat them the way we wanted them to treat us.  This should include our former spouse/partner!

I’m sorry there aren’t thousands of us writing letters to you – then your decision might be easier. But so many parents just don’t know what to do. The “system” is so BIG and so entrenched, the realm of Lawyers and Judges. It cost so MUCH money to fight. What’s a mother or father to do? Many of us have forgotten the simple lesson of “How a Bill comes a Law.” We have forgotten that our Founding Fathers setup the Congress to give “power to the people” – and especially within the House of Representatives, whose members all come up for election every two years, including this year.

You can help give us a way and a voice. Many more people would participate once they could see some hope of progress. What happens here in Syracuse will provide a good model of what could happen in other Congressional Districts across the Nation. In a few days, a mother who is spokesperson for our group, Mary Chancellor (from Tenessee), will also be contacting your office. I grieve over my present situation with my son, Domenic; but I was crushed to here the indignities and misery Mary and her child have seen.

I have had the opportunity to lobby in Albany on several occasions for reform and was surprised at the amount of opposition from some groups. This is a sensitive topic and one that will require leadership and understanding. Divorce is a difficult experience, it is almost a natural reaction to “demonize” the other spouse (after all, its not MY fault we couldn’t make this work). Naturally, when it comes to the children, can we really expect a natural enthusiasm for equal custody (why of course I think my former spouse is a good person and has a lot to offer my children as a parent -– heck, if I REALLY thought that we’d still be married!) The present “system” appears to only encourage such tendencies.

Much is made of our call for “jury protection.” One can almost imagine the arguments made to the Founding Fathers regarding the “danger” of civil juries (why do you want to let the crooks get off with stealing, the Courts are busy as it is, how can we be expected to have that kind of proof…). But don’t we have a “right” to be presumed innocent? Please, look at the starting assumptions we make at the beginning of the Family Rights Act – if you agree with those, we think you will find the rest naturally follows. Yes, such legislation would bring about large changes in the system and how our Nation thinks about marriage and children. We like to think they will all be good changes, based on a sound foundation.

I hope you can understand the sense of urgency both we and our children have about this matter. I’m sure we can come to understand each other with respect & courtesy – and if we must agree to disagree – that is also part of a healthy political process.

Respectfully yours,

John Murtari<