Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Legislative Plaza, Room 16: Mandatory Joint Custody:

CONTACT: Janice Johnson (615) 369-0860
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Legislative Plaza, Room 16
12:30 pm

Dear friends and colleagues:

I am writing to you as about a very important event that will be
taking place tomorrow at 12:30 at Legislative Plaza concerning
Mandatory Joint Custody for children of divorce.

You will find an official press document attached, however, I
am asking oy to please try to show your support AGAINST this

I have known many of you for years, other's either professionally or for a short period of time.

I have decided to take part in this event because I was reminded
just the other day how difficult it can be to grow up in a
fragmented home.

I do not plan to say much tomorrow, however I think I can offer a
unique perspective on the unanticipated consequences of a broken
childhood. I plan to discuss how my parents divorce effected my
ability to recevie student loans, health insurance, and disiablility benefits.

For some of you it may not come as a surprise that a divorce
agreement can wreak havoc on a young adult at the
at the age of 22
or 23, but for others, I hope you will see that being on
housing subsidies, and other benefit programs is not always a
choice... and certainly one I owuld NEVER have chosen for myself.

issuue is not really with my parents at all, my issue is with a
court and
social welfare agencies that failed to intervene as a
child, and a system
that does not allow me to move forward.

With both of my parents out of
the country, I expect this meeting
will be a very safe place where everyone
is respectful and
considerate of one another.

Either way, I plan to
go, and hope that I will see at least one or
two friendly faces along the

Please join me and so many others who feel strongly
defeating this legislation. And you can always go STAND FOR CHILDREN if you get
there a little early or plan to stay a little bit late!

Thank you for your time and consideration. I do hope I will see you
at Legislative Plaza tomorrow (Room 16, 13:30 PM) but if not, I hope
you will take a little time to do something to take care of yourself
and not just the people around you!

Best wishes,

Elyssa Durant


Legislative Agenda – Week of March 23, 2009

Mandatory joint custody (aka split the baby) bills will be heard this week. These bills have immense potential for considerable harm to children, as evidenced by all of the organizations that oppose its implementation (see list below). There are 3 MJC bills slated to be heard in the House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee “Domestic Relations.” This meeting takes place Wednesday, May 25 at 12:30 in LP16.

Link to subcommittee info:

Links to bill activity and summary:

HB 0002/SB: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0002

HB 0802/SB 1257:

HB 0398/*SB 0050:

Subcommittee members are Rep. Sherry Jones, (chair), Rep. Kevin Brooks (vice-chair), and Representatives Tommie Brown, Stacey Campfield, Terri Lynn Weaver, and Johnny Shaw.

Priority list for caucus members to contact: Reps. Brooks and Weaver (thought to be undecided) and Reps. Brown and Shaw (thought to be opposed to the bills, but real-life examples or experiences are helpful). Rep. Jones opposes MJC.
Note: Rep. Campfield is a bill sponsor.

The major talking points are below. There are hyperlinks for each representative’s contact info in the subcommittee link above. Please note that if any of these bills pass out of the subcommittee, we will need to contact the Children and Family Affairs Committee members found at this link:


Please let us know if you have questions, require additional information and if you would be a prospect for an in-person meeting with “at-risk” Children and Family Affairs committee members should any of these bills pass out of this subcommittee on Wednesday. MJC is a major priority for the Caucus so we hope you’ll have an opportunity to help with the push that will be required if it passes out next week. If you know of other organizations that are opposed and would like to be listed officially opposing, please provide that information so we can enlarge our opposition coalition.

Holly Spann
Vice President, Legislation
Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus


 Mandatory Joint Custody removes the court’s discretion to decide each case individually based on the child’s best interest.

 The bill requires the court to order equal custody in every case unless the parent opposing it can prove it is not in the child’s best interest, the “rebuttable presumption” standard.

 Many lower-income parents will be unable to afford litigation and will have to accept equal custody even if it is not in the child’s best interest.

 Many victims of domestic abuse will be afraid to litigate and will have to accept equal custody even if it is not in the child’s best interest.

 Most child mental health experts oppose equal custody in high-conflict cases as being detrimental to children.

 Under our current parenting plan law, all parents go through mediation. 90% to 95% of couples are able to agree upon an individualized parenting arrangement. This bill undercuts the efficacy of the parenting plan law.

 5% to 10% of custody cases involve parents who are so angry and hostile that the children are placed in the middle of a war zone. The court needs to have full discretion to order a parenting arrangement that is best for the children in those situations.

Organizations Opposed to Mandatory Joint Custody:

 Tennessee Bar Association

 Tennessee Judicial Conference

 Tennessee Women's Political Caucus

 Tennessee Federation of Business & Professional Women

 Tennessee Division of the National Organization for Women

 Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence

 Tennessee Psychological Association

 National Association of Social Workers – TN Chapter

 Focus on the Family (Dr. James Dobson)

Janice Johnson
Nashville Women’s Political Caucus

*** posted by Elyssa Durant, 4/24/2009 ***

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Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.