Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do you want an Attorney who FIGHTS for their Clients?

I am Attorney [INSERT NAME HERE] and I FIGHT for my clients!

This is a common description on an attorney's website.  They want you to know that they would be your champion!  If you hire them you won't have to worry about your problem anymore.  They'll take that monkey off your back.

But is that true?  Is it realistic?  Is it really what you want?

While the job of an attorney is often described as zealous advocacy, to equate that with fighting is to misunderstand the work of an effective attorney.  Zealous advocacy means that your attorney is working hard to accomplish your goals.  Unless your goal is to create conflict and start an expensive legal battle, then "fighting" is probably the last thing you want your attorney to start with.

Consider these two examples:

Example 1 - The Stolen Website Copy: You find out that one of your competitors has stolen copyrighted material from your website and reprinted it on their website.  You call your attorney.  Do you want an attorney whose first reaction is to:

A. File a lawsuit;

B. Write an angry cease and desist letter; or

C. Call the competitor and ask them to take down the content?

If your goal is to pay your attorney a lot of money for a fight then option A is probably your best bet.  If your goal is to look tough and make sure the other side starts on the defensive then option B is probably your best bet.  However, if your goal is to have the material taken down, then option C is the best way to start.  Just because you start with a phone call doesn't mean that you can't move to option B or A if necessary, but Hanlon's Razor suggests that you usually benefit by assuming incompetence before malice, and acting accordingly.

Often a phone call is enough, especially if they were unaware that their web designer has been lazy and bad at their job and just copied content from another site.  In many cases a phone call is enough for the competitor to take down the material (and hopefully hire a new web designer).

Example 2 - The Custody "Fight": You just found out your spouse wants a divorce and they want you to move out!  You don't really want to see them right now, but you are not going to give up time with your kids just because they want to get divorced.  You call your attorney.  Do you want an attorney whose first reaction is to:

A.  File a Complaint for Divorce and schedule a hearing date requesting that the Court give you Custody;

B.  Write a Letter telling your spouse that they've been hired and invite them to respond by a certain date or they will be served with a Complaint for Divorce; or

C.  Discuss all your options, which includes helping you decide if there is any opportunity for reconciliation, whether mediation or a collaborative setting could result in a better co-parenting relationship, or whether court is necessary for protection due to an issue that truly threatens the safety of you or the children.
Again, if your goal is to pay your attorney a lot of money for a fight then option A is probably your best bet.  If your goal is to have attorneys involved every time you and your spouse have a parenting disagreement in the future then option B is probably your best bet.  However, if your goal is to make sure that your children are okay and not hurt by your divorce, that both parents stay involved in their life, or that your voice is respected and heard throughout, then option C is the clear preference.  Court is the best process for some, but it should be a last resort for most, and the choice of process should be one that you make after being informed of all options.

In both examples, Option A and B are much more lucrative for the attorney so you should ask yourself why an attorney whose preference is "to fight first" has that preference?  Is it because it's best for you or because it's best for them?

You should also ask why an attorney would draft their advertising in a way that promotes their ability to "FIGHT"?  Is it because they approach every problem in that way?  Is that how you approach every problem, or do you try to resolve conflict before it turns into a fight?  Do you want to pay for a "fighter" or a "problem solver?"  Think about that when you read an attorney's website and choose wisely!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Who is a Legal Parent? Redux Edition - Partanen v. Gallagher

About a year ago we posted a series entitled Who is a Legal Parent? and addressed the many ways in which a parent (someone who takes care of a child) can also be considered a legal parent (someone who the court recognizes has rights and obligations relating to the care of a child).   In the Venn Diagram to the left you can see that these two categories overlap but not everyone who is a legal parent acts like a parent, and not everyone who acts like a parent is recognized as a legal parent.

Today, the Massachusetts SJC expanded the purple section of this diagram, recognizing that a non-biological parent who "jointly with the mother, received the child into their home and openly held out the child as their child" is a legal parent.  In Partanen v Gallagher the SJC read the statutory definition of paternity to include a non-biological same-sex parent.
"In addressing Partanen's claims on direct appellate review, we consider the question whether a person may establish herself as a child's presumptive parent under G. L. c. 209C, § 6 (a) (4), in the absence of a biological relationship with the child. We conclude that she may."
We review this decision below:

The court first reviewed the timeline of the relationship between Partanen and Gallagher, the two mothers in this case:

2001 - Partanen and Gallagher entered into a committed relationship.
2002 - They moved to Florida and purchased a house.
2005 - They decided to start a family; Partanen unsuccessfully underwent fertility treatment.
2007 - Gallagher underwent similar treatment and was successful and gave birth to a daughter.
2011 - Gallagher again underwent a fertility treatment and gave birth to a son.
2012 - They returned to Massachusetts together.
2013 - They separated and Partanen moved out of the family home.

From 2007 to 2013, Partanen participated in raising the children from birth, but did not formally adopt the children.  In February, 2014, Partanen filed an action seeking shared legal custody and parenting time with the children under the "de facto" parenting standard.  In October 2014 she also filed a Petition to establish legal parentage under G. L. c. 209C, § 6 (a) (4) among other laws.  The SJC did not reach her other assertions (under the reproductive technologies statute and under constitutional claims) because they found in her favor under G. L. c. 209C, § 6 (a) (4).

The trial judge dismissed the second complaint but did provide custody and parenting time to Partanen under the "de facto" parent standard, expanding the traditional "de facto" parentage case law to include legal custody and child support.  That issue is under appeal as well, but the issue of legal parentage under 209C reached the SJC first resulting in this decision.

G. L. c. 209C, § 6 (a) (4) states that "a man is presumed to be the father of a child" born out of wedlock if "he, jointly with the mother, received the child into their home and openly held out the child as their child."

Under Hunter v. Rose, the court reads all statutes as if "words of one gender may be construed to include the other gender and the neuter."  Read in gender-neutral terms G. L. c. 209C, § 6 (a) (4) includes all children who were "born to [two people] who are not married to each other" instead of its original language "born to a man and woman who are not married to each other."

Gallagher argued that, regardless of a gender-neutral reading, the provisions of G. L. c. 209C, § 6 (a) were intended only for the purpose of establishing biological parentage and are thus inapplicable to this case where this is no doubt that Partanen is not a biological parent of the children.  However, the court points out that nothing in the statute expressly requires a biological tie.

Further, the court points out that the statute's purpose is described in § 1 as providing "all '[c]hildren born to parents who are not married to each other . . . the same rights and protections of the law as all other children.' G. L. c. 209C, § 1."  Under Hunter v. Rose, if Gallagher and Partanen had been married, the children would have been presumed to have two legal parents.

The court also points out that another portion of G. L. c. 209C has already been extended beyond biological parentage, specifically under § 11 (a) if parentage is established through a written voluntary acknowledgement of parentage then even a non-biological signatory parent would be considered a legal parent with all the attendant rights and obligations.

Ultimately, the court's reading of this case (and the trial court's requirements on remand) are highly dependent on the facts of the case, and more specifically the exact nature of the relationship and decision to have children together:
"Gallagher contends also that allowing Partanen's claim to proceed intrudes on Gallagher's 'right [as] a single woman to give birth to a child into a family framework of her own choosing.' The question in this case, however, is not whether courts may impose a second parent onto a single-parent family, but whether this was, in fact, a single-parent family in the first place.  Partanen's allegation is that, from the beginning, the children had two parents, both of whom were jointly involved in the children's lives.... and  the statute at issue was enacted for the benefit of children born outside the context of marriage..."
The claims that Partanen made in her complaint regarding her involvement with the children were sufficient for the SJC to establish a claim under the "paternity" statute.  Now the decision returns to the trial court where Partanen must prove those claims.  Given her previous establishment of parenting rights under the "de facto" parenting standard it seems likely that she will be able to meet this burden of proof.

Given that this case expands the reading of the "paternity" statute beyond the traditional reading, this case may have far reaching impact on the rights and obligations of non-biological parents who formally may have had very limited rights under the "de facto" standard.  This will create some confusion as different fact patterns are presented to the court, but in the long run should mean the recognition of more parents as "legal parents", something which the SJC clearly believes is in the best interest of children born to unmarried parents.

Friday, September 30, 2016

3 Tips for a Peaceful Divorce

I was recently invited to collaborate on an expert panel and share some insights on how to prepare for divorce and keep it peaceful. Here is what I added:

The experience of a peaceful divorce does not happen by chance or by accident. It is a choice that you make and the good news, even in divorce, is that you have a choice.

Here are a few tips to help you choose peace over war when getting divorced:

1. Choose a process, don't let the process choose you.

While many people think litigation is the only option in divorce, there are many process options that can be tailored to your family's needs. Mediation, collaborative law, and outside-of-court attorney negotiation are all more flexible options than court.

Learn about all the options before you choose one.

2. Preferences before positions.

It is a common mistake to jump to conclusions about what you want before you have all the information. Instead of saying "I want the house" or "I think this much support is the right amount," consider all the options before you make a decision.

Many times your favorite option on day 1 is not the best option when all the information is gathered.

3. Use a "timeout."

Language can be hurtful, demeaning, and misunderstood or it can be uplifting, freeing and create peace. It's very easy to react when faced with the fears that are natural when splitting time with children or dividing finances.

Don't be afraid to pause, call a "timeout" and gather your thoughts before responding.

You can read the full article and the tips from other experts here: How to Prepare for Divorce

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Trusting the Trust: the Pfannenstiehl Redux

Guest Post from Beth Aarons*

Massachusetts estate planners enjoyed a collective sigh of relief as the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) agreed to further appellate review of the Pfannenstiehl’s plight to determine whether the husband’s interest in his family’s trust should be divisible as a marital asset during divorce.  The SJC issued an opinion that such a trust should not be divided as part of the marital property.  [SJC-12031]

When the Pfannenstiehls appeared in case law three years ago, the MA Appeals Court had upheld the Probate and Family Court’s determination that the husband’s one-eleventh fractional beneficial interest in his family’s trust balance (there were 11 living beneficiaries at the time) was a marital asset, with 60% of his one-eleventh share to be paid to the wife as part of the property division in their divorce.  The class of trust beneficiaries was open to include any future descendants of the donor, but the lower court used the existing number of beneficiaries to calculate the value as the husband’s present interest.

The estate planning community was roiling in confusion, since the Pfannenstiehl family trust had elements that estate planners regularly rely upon for the protection of their clients’ assets: completely discretionary distributions, a spendthrift clause, and co-trustees, including one disinterested trustee.  Estate planners were scratching their heads and regrouping at the drawing board.  Wasn’t the point of establishing this type of trust to prevent exactly the scenario that occurred?  Shouldn’t the trust protect the family’s assets from creditors and transfers outside of the family blood line during a beneficiary’s divorce?  If not, what’s the point of creating a trust at all?  The bullet-proof language had suddenly been pierced and in that moment all similar trusts were potentially at risk.

So imagine the relief brought by the SJC’s opinion, restoring established expectations to the world of trust provisions.  It should be noted that the specific facts in Pfannenstiehl relating to the trust distributions and the particular terms of the trust factored into the SJC’s decision.  The conclusion is not that trusts are globally excluded from consideration as marital property during a divorce, but that with the right facts and circumstances, they still can be.

*Beth Aarons is a Mediator and Collaborative Law attorney who runs her own practice in Newton and is of counsel to Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. Beth's practice includes family law mediation, collaborative divorce representation, and estate planning, trusts and probate practice. Click here to learn more about Beth or here to schedule an appointment with Beth.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Does Settlement Counsel Help or Hurt Clients?

Guest post from Rackham Karlsson.*

A man goes to the doctor with chest pain. The doctor finds a small growth next to his heart. The growth can be removed, but it’s a very delicate operation due to the location. The doctor offers the man the choice of two surgeons:

  • Surgeon A is highly specialized. She has extensive experience with this type of surgery and has a tremendous success rate. “However,” the surgeon says, “Because I’ve chosen to focus my work on this type of surgery, there is a chance that we would want to bring in another surgeon if something goes wrong during the procedure. I don’t expect it, but it could happen.”
  • Surgeon B is a generalist, a Swiss Army knife of surgeons. He has some experience with this type of surgery, but it’s not the focus of his practice. “I can handle any situation that comes up during the surgery,” he boasts. “I wouldn’t want you to limit your options and have to change surgeons in the middle of the procedure.”

Which surgeon would you choose?

Surgeon A, right? It’s a no-brainer.

If that's true, then why do so many family lawyers dislike the concept of settlement counsel — an attorney who focuses exclusively on negotiations and bows out of the case if litigation is necessary? Doesn't the same logic apply?

Let’s give surgeon B the benefit of a doubt. He cares about his patients. He wants them to be healthy, and he truly believes that by personally offering the full range of surgical procedures, he is fulfilling his Hippocratic oath. The equivalent in law is the duty of zealous advocacy. Lawyers often believe that they can’t advocate zealously for their clients if they restrict the scope of their representation to settlement counsel and exclude themselves from litigating.

There are two problems with this view of “zealous advocacy:"

First, a lawyer who anticipates litigation is necessarily compelled to view the case in adversarial terms, always thinking about gathering facts and building a theory of the case that paints one party as the inevitable ‘winner’ and the other as the inevitable ‘loser.’

The theory of the case is a powerful, but extremely blunt, tool in the litigator’s arsenal: “Settle on my terms or I’ll have a judge do it.” This approach is simply incompatible with what it takes to reach meaningful settlement: building bridges, finding shared interests, and forming consensus. Do we really expect a lawyer to probe a party’s most private thoughts in a deposition one day, and then engage in principled negotiations with that same party the next day? Never mind whether the attorney thinks it can be done — how can we expect the party to ever trust that attorney in negotiations?

It’s no wonder that so many cases settle on the eve of trial: settlement becomes a last resort, rather than a mutual accomplishment.

Second, viewing a case through the lens of litigation encourages lawyers and their clients to focus on measurable outcomes — asset division, support amounts, hours spent with their children, etc. — because those are the outcomes a judge can determine.

But in many cases, particularly family law cases, there are complex interests involved that really aren’t measurable in that sense. Honoring what remains of a deep friendship. Forming a healthy co-parenting relationship. Being able to tell their children that it was a dignified process. Avoiding the embarrassment of an adversarial hearing. These are almost always shared goals of divorcing spouses, and yet those shared goals are consistently undermined by a litigation mindset. We all know what happens to parents who spend months (or years) working with their lawyers to paint each other in the worst possible light…

What does Settlement Counsel do?

Now, let’s consider what settlement counsel can accomplish, by explicitly and transparently announcing that he or she won’t litigate the case:

  • Settlement counsel can focus on principled negotiations without being pulled in the opposite direction of building an adversarial case against the other party.
  • Settlement counsel can get to know the other party in a setting that’s non-threatening and fosters trust, allowing both parties to explore their respective interests and work toward shared understandings — opening up options for creative, mutually agreeable solutions.
  • Settlement counsel can explore the clients’ intangible interests, being a “zealous advocate” for those interests and not just the ones that are within a judge’s limited authority.
  • Settlement counsel can assure the client that disagreements will be negotiated by the most respectful means possible, and the case will be transferred to a litigator only if absolutely necessary. (There could even be an understanding that a particular litigator has been identified if the need arises.)  
Can adding Settlement Counsel actually subtract cost?

Finally, let’s consider the financial benefits to the client of using settlement counsel. Litigation isn’t just expensive — it’s EXPENSIVE, all caps. And for what? The vast majority of cases settle short of trial. Do we really need to put the clients through the wringer, just so they can ultimately settle — often in a desperate attempt to stem the financial hemorrhaging caused by litigation?

There are times when litigation makes sense. A party might refuse to negotiate, or the dynamic between the parties might prevent meaningful negotiation. In some cases, it might even be necessary to use the high cost of litigation as a blunt stick to encourage settlement. But too often, the people who benefit most from litigation are the attorneys. Whatever their best intentions might be, we can’t ignore that financial incentive. Clients are certainly aware it; they know that we are keepers of the legal process, and yet we benefit the most when that process is least efficient.

Going back to the surgeons, suppose you had initially chosen surgeon B. Would it change your mind to know that surgeon B gets paid by the hour, so the more complicated the surgery, the more he gets paid? It’s not to say that the surgeon intends to hurt the patient, but what is the surgeon’s incentive to focus on the skills needed to avoid complications more consistently? The disincentive might be entirely subconscious, but it can’t be ignored.

For some lawyers, the choice is very conscious: they don’t want to give up litigation because they need the income. But there is no shortage of cases out there, and lawyers can make a very good living without litigating. In fact, we can often attract more business by modeling ourselves after surgeon B and offering highly focused services that are appealing to clients. Some of us are living proof of that, having sworn off litigation completely and focusing our efforts on being the most effective mediators, collaborative attorneys, and settlement attorneys we can be. It’s not only financially feasible, but it’s what most clients actually want!

Consider, in parting, these words of Abraham Lincoln:

"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. 
As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. 
There will still be business enough."

That is exactly what settlement counsel does.

*Rackham Karlsson is a family law mediator and collaborative attorney based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His blog and podcast series, The ADR Initiative, focuses on building profitable alternative dispute resolution businesses.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Should Parents (and especially Divorced Parents) discuss Sexting with their Teen Children? - Infographic

When parents separate or divorce, children are affected in many different ways.  If the parents fail to effectively communicate then children may not be properly prepared for the challenges that teens face in relationships.  The ubiquitous use of cell phones by teenagers has some benefits but also many dangers.

Sexting is one of the potential dangers that face all teens, but which teens of divorced and separated parents may be more susceptible to.  Parents should discuss the personal and legal ramifications of sexting with their children and this is just one of many conversations that divorced and separated parents should coordinate so that the information received by the child is consistent.

Below is an infographic with some of the information that parents and children should know about sexting and the consequences.

Permanent Picture: Teen Sexting (And What Parents Should Do About It) (via Intella Blog)

Permanent Picture: Teen Sexting (And What Parents Should Do About It)

Above is an infographic provided by Intella Blog.  Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. provides this for informational purposes only. We do not endorse nor claim endorsement from Intella or Vound Software. Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. is not responsible for any information contained therein, unless indicated specifically on that site.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 U.S. Presidential Platforms - What do they say about Families?

The 2016 U.S. Presidential election has many talking points and topics that engender strong reactions.  The significant difference between the various presidential candidates and their platforms explains some of the vehemence with which many defend or attack the 2016 candidates.  Since this blog focuses primarily on the impact of the law on families and family conflict, we will concentrate on only one portion of the presidential platforms:

How does each 2016 U.S. Presidential Platform address the American family?

These platforms are presented in no particular order and we do not endorse any of the following platform positions.  We are providing them specifically so you can decide for yourselves (and we encourage all eligible voters to vote in the election):

2016 Republican Party Platform Word Cloud
The 2016 Republican Party Platform mentions the words "family" or "families" 72 times, the words "child" or "children" 50 times, the word "marriage" 19 times.  The Republican party platform never uses the words "gay", "lesbian", "LGBT", or "transgender" despite referencing "traditional marriage" repeatedly.

Below are some of the excerpts from the Republic party platform's discussions relevant to families:

Excerpt in "Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary":
"Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.... We, therefore, support the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states to decide such fundamental social questions."
Excerpt in "The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Human Life"
"The Constitution’s guarantee that no one can 'be deprived of life, liberty or property' deliberately echoes the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation that 'all' are 'endowed by their Creator' with the inalienable right to life. Accordingly, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth... We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from individuals with disabilities, newborns, the elderly, or the infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide."
Excerpt from "Marriage, Family, and Society"
"Foremost among those institutions is the American family. It is the foundation of civil society, and the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman... Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation. Moreover, marriage remains the greatest antidote to child poverty..."
"The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: Every child deserves a married mom and dad... Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman and actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society. For that reason, as explained elsewhere in this platform, we do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states. We oppose government discrimination against businesses or entities which decline to sell items or services to individuals for activities that go against their religious views about such activities."
Excerpt from "Choice in Education"
"We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual
risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs."
Read the full 2016 Republican Platform here.
2016 Democratic Party Platform Word Cloud
The 2016 Democratic Party Platform mentions the words "family" or "families" 72 times, the words "child" or "children" 66 times, the words "gay", "lesbian", and "LGBT" 29 times, and the word "transgender" 7 times.   The Democratic party platform never uses the word "marriage."

Below are some of the excerpts from the Democratic party platform's discussions relevant to families:

Excerpt from "Supporting Working Families"
"We will fight to secure equal pay for women, which will benefit all women and their families, particularly women of color who are disproportionately impacted by discriminatory pay practices, and against other factors that contribute to the wage gap. And we will combat the discrimination they face on and off the job. While Donald Trump thinks it is “dangerous” for women to leave the home and paid family leave hurts our economy, Democrats will make sure that the United States finally enacts national paid family and medical leave by passing a family and medical leave act that would provide all workers at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue. "
Excerpt from "Guaranteeing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights"
"Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love. But there is still much work to be done... We will also fight for comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding. We will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces. We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate. We will combat LGBT youth homelessness and improve school climates. We will support LGBT elders, ensure access to necessary health care, and protect LGBT people from violence— including ending the crisis of violence against transgender Americans. We will also promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world."
Excerpt from "Guaranteeing Universal Preschool and Good Schools for Every Child"
"Democrats believe we must have the best-educated population and workforce in the world. That means making early childhood education and universal preschool a priority, especially in light of new research showing how much early learning can impact life-long success. Democrats will invest in early childhood programs like Early Head Start and provide every family in America with access to high-quality childcare and high-quality preschool programs. We support efforts to raise wages for childcare workers, and to ensure that early childhood educators are experienced and high-quality."
Excerpt from "Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice"
"We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexuality, race, income, disability, and other factors. We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions."
"And we strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services, as well as protections for women against pregnancy discrimination. We are committed to creating a society where children are safe and can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. We recognize and support the importance of civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child."
Excerpt from "Ending Violence Against Women"
"Democrats are committed to ending the scourge of violence against women wherever it occurs —whether in our homes, streets, schools, military, or elsewhere. We will continue to support the Violence Against Women Act to provide law enforcement with the tools it needs to combat this problem..."
Excerpt from "Women and Girls"
"We will support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe. In addition to expanding the availability of affordable family planning information and contraceptive supplies, we believe that safe abortion must be part of comprehensive maternal and women’s health care and included as part of America’s global health programming. Therefore, we support the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women’s access to health care information and services, including the “global gag rule” and the Helms Amendment that bars American assistance to provide safe, legal abortion throughout the developing world."
Excerpt from "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People"
"Democrats believe that LGBT rights are human rights and that American foreign policy should advance the ability of all persons to live with dignity, security, and respect, regardless of who they are or who they love. We applaud President Obama’s historic Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons, which combats criminalization, protects refugees, and provides foreign assistance. We will continue to stand with LGBT people around the world, including fighting efforts by any nation to infringe on LGBT rights or ignore abuse."

2016 Libertarian Party Platform Word Cloud
The 2016 Libertarian Party Platform mentions the words "child" or "children" 6 times, and the word "marriage" once.  The Libertarian party platform never uses the words "family", "families",   "gay", "lesbian", "LGBT", or "transgender".

Below are some of the excerpts from the Libertarian party platform's discussions relevant to families:

Excerpt from "Personal Relationships"
"Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships."
Excerpt from "Abortion"
"Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration."
Excerpt from "Parental Rights"
"Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs. This statement shall not be construed to condone child abuse or neglect."
Read the full 2016 Libertarian Platform here.

2016 Green Party Platform Word Cloud
The 2016 Green Party Platform mentions the words "child" or "children" 56 times, the words "family", or "families" 54 times,  the word "marriage" 4 time, the words "gay", "lesbian", or "LGBT" 7 times, and the word "transgender" 2 times.

Below are some of the excerpts from the Green party platform's discussions relevant to families:

Excerpt from "Families and Children"
"We call for social policies to focus on protecting families... The Green Party supports and seeks to expand Head Start and Pre- and neo-natal programs. A Children's Agenda should be put in place to focus attention and concerted action on the future that is our children... A universal, federally funded childcare program for pre-school and young schoolchildren should be developed."
"Family assistance such as the earned income tax credit, available to working poor families in which the parent supports and lives with the children, should be maintained and increased to offset regressive payroll taxes and growing inequalities in American society."
Excerpt from "Social Equality"
"The Green Party calls for U.S. passage of CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was adopted in 1979 by the U.N. General Assembly and ratified by 173 countries. The U.S. is one of the very few countries, and the only industrialized nation, that have not ratified it."
"We support the inclusion of an equal number of women and men in peace talks and negotiations, not only because these efforts directly affect their lives and those of their husbands, children and families, but also because when women are involved, the negotiations are more successful."
Excerpts from "Reproductive Rights"
"Women's rights must be protected and expanded to guarantee each woman's right as a full participant in society, free from sexual harassment, job discrimination or interference in the intensely personal choice about whether to have a child." 
"Women's right to control their bodies is non-negotiable. It is essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remains available. The "morning-after" pill must be affordable and easily accessible without a prescription, together with a government-sponsored public relations campaign to educate women about this form of contraception. Clinics must be accessible and must offer advice on contraception and the means for contraception; consultation about abortion and the performance of abortions, and; abortion regardless of age or marital status." 
"We endorse women's right to use contraception and, when they choose, to have an abortion. This right cannot be limited to women's age or marital status. Contraception and abortion must be included in all health insurance policies in the U.S., and any state government must be able to legally offer these services free of charge to women at the poverty level. Public health agencies operating abroad should be allowed to offer family planning, contraception, and abortion in all countries that ask for those services. We oppose our government's habit of cutting family planning funds when those funds go to agencies in foreign countries that give out contraceptive devices, offer advice on abortion, and perform abortions."
Excerpts from "Economic Equality"
"Since, nationally, women earn only 77% of men's wages for equal work, despite outnumbering men in the workforce and despite the U.S. 1963 Equal Pay Act, we support intensified effort to see this unfair gap closed, including support for the Paycheck Fairness Act and similar legislation, and greater effort at enforcement."
Excerpts from "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity"
"The Green Party affirms the rights of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation." 
"The Green Party recognizes the equal rights of persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, trans-sexual, queer, or transgender to housing, jobs, civil marriage, medical benefits, child custody, and in all areas of life including equal tax treatment." 
"The Green Party will enact a policy that the U.S. Government recognize all international marriages and legal equivalents, such as civil unions, in processing visitor and immigration visas."
Excerpts from "Youth Rights"
"Youth are not the property of their parents or guardians, but are under their care and guidance." 
"Youth have the right to survive by being provided adequate food, shelter and comprehensive health care, including prenatal care for mothers." 
"Youth have the right to develop in a safe and nurturing early environment provided by affordable childcare and pre-school preparation."
Excerpts from "Adoptee Rights"
"Due to current laws millions of adults that were adopted as children are now being denied access to vital records regarding their births. This is a basic human right that the Green Party should be committed to help in abolishing the secrets and lies that surround many adoptions around the world by creating necessary transparency between adoptees, their mothers and adoptive parents."
Read the full 2016 Green Platform here.

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