Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

03/29/2016 03:00 PM House HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
<Bill Hearing Rescheduled from 3/24/16>
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         HB 334-CHILD CUSTODY;DOM. VIOLENCE;CHILD ABUSE                                                                     
4:01:48 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  334, "An  Act relating  to visitation  and child                                                               
4:02:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CRYSTAL  KOENEMAN,  Staff,  Representative  Cathy  Munoz,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,  reminded  the  committee  that  HB  334  was                                                               
introduced  to  give  judges   discretion  in  determining  child                                                               
custody  schedules, in  the  best  interest of  the  child.   She                                                               
shared  that  during the  numerous  discussions  with judges  and                                                               
attorneys regarding  the statutes  surrounding the  child custody                                                               
schedules,  there  had been  a  request  for discretion,  as  the                                                               
rebuttable presumption  could result in  unintended consequences.                                                               
She  acknowledged  that this  was  an  emotional issue,  and  she                                                               
expressed a  desire to  protect the  children while  not damaging                                                               
the  bonds between  parents  and children.    She mentioned  that                                                               
nothing   in   the  proposed   bill   prevented   a  judge   from                                                               
consideration  of any  evidence of  domestic violence  or sending                                                               
someone  to a  batterer's  intervention program  or to  substance                                                               
abuse counseling.                                                                                                               
4:05:07 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. KOENEMAN paraphrased from the  sectional summary [included in                                                               
members' packet], which read:                                                                                                   
     Section 1.  Changes the phrase  "has committed  a crime                                                                    
     involving domestic violence" to  "has been convicted of                                                                    
     a crime  involving domestic  violence" for  purposes of                                                                    
     the  court's authority  to set  certain conditions  for                                                                    
     visitation in proceedings involving domestic violence.                                                                     
     Section   2.  Changes   the   phrase   "a  history   of                                                                    
     perpetrating domestic violence"  to "has been convicted                                                                    
     of a  crime involving  domestic violence"  for purposes                                                                    
     of  the  rebuttable  presumption against  delegating  a                                                                    
     deployed parent's  visitation rights to  certain family                                                                    
     members in a custody or visitation proceeding.                                                                             
4:05:50 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. KOENEMAN  moved on to  Section 3,  Section 4, and  Section 5,                                                               
which read:                                                                                                                     
     Section   3.  Changes   the   phrase   "a  history   of                                                                    
     perpetrating domestic violence"  to "has been convicted                                                                    
     of a  crime involving  domestic violence"  for purposes                                                                    
     of  the  rebuttable  presumption against  delegating  a                                                                    
     deployed parent's  visitation rights to  certain family                                                                    
     members in  a proceeding for modification  of a custody                                                                    
     or visitation order.                                                                                                       
     Section  4. Changes  the phrase  "if  one parent  shows                                                                    
     that  the  other  parent   has  sexually  assaulted  or                                                                    
     engaged  in domestic  violence" to  "if one  parent has                                                                    
     been convicted  of a crime involving  sexual assault or                                                                    
     domestic  violence"  relating  to the  factors  that  a                                                                    
     court may  consider in  determining the  best interests                                                                    
     of  the  child for  custody.  Adds  evidence of  sexual                                                                    
     abuse in  the proposed custodial household  to the list                                                                    
     of  factors   a  court  may  consider   in  determining                                                                    
     Section   5.  Changes   the   phrase   "a  history   of                                                                    
     perpetrating domestic violence"  to "has been convicted                                                                    
     of a  crime involving domestic violence"  relating to a                                                                    
     rebuttable presumption in custody judgments.                                                                               
4:06:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. KOENEMAN discussed Section 6, Section 7, and Section 8,                                                                     
which read:                                                                                                                     
     Section  6. Deletes  the  reference  to the  rebuttable                                                                    
     presumption against  granting custody  to a  parent who                                                                    
     has a history of perpetrating domestic violence.                                                                           
     Section   7.  Changes   the   phrase   "a  history   of                                                                    
     perpetrating domestic violence"  to "has been convicted                                                                    
     of a  crime involving  domestic violence"  for purposes                                                                    
     of  custody determinations  in  cases  where the  court                                                                    
     finds that both parents have  been convicted of a crime                                                                    
     involving domestic violence.                                                                                               
     Section   8.  Changes   the   phrase   "a  history   of                                                                    
     perpetrating domestic violence"  to "has been convicted                                                                    
     of a  crime involving  domestic violence"  for purposes                                                                    
     of  the  conditions a  court  may  set before  allowing                                                                    
     supervised visitation.                                                                                                     
4:07:44 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. KOENEMAN concluded with Section 9, which read:                                                                              
     Section  9. Limits  the  applicability  of the  changes                                                                    
     made  by  the bill  to  visitation  and custody  orders                                                                    
     issued on or after the bill's effective date.                                                                              
4:08:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON asked Ms. Koeneman to discuss rebuttable                                                                           
presumption and review its interpretation and function.                                                                         
MS.  KOENEMAN explained  that currently,  if there  had been  one                                                               
serious incident of  domestic violence or more  than one instance                                                               
of domestic violence, then the  rebuttable presumption would take                                                               
place.   In  determining the  history of  domestic violence,  the                                                               
judges used  a preponderance of  evidence.  She relayed  that the                                                               
application  could  include  a   domestic  violence  order  or  a                                                               
restraining  order that  had been  put in  place.   She indicated                                                               
that  [even one]  incidental contact  violation of  a restraining                                                               
order  would invoke  the rebuttable  presumption.   She  declared                                                               
that this  would result  in the  loss of sole  or joint  legal or                                                               
physical  custody  of  the  child,  and there  could  be  only  a                                                               
supervised visitation.   She explained  that a judge  could order                                                               
attendance  at  a  batterer's intervention  program,  although  a                                                               
prerequisite was  the admission of  guilt.  She pointed  out that                                                               
not admitting guilt,  even when a person truly felt  they had not                                                               
done  anything wrong,  would prevent  entry  into the  batterer's                                                               
intervention program.                                                                                                           
CHAIR SEATON asked for clarity to the rebuttable presumption.                                                                   
MS. KOENEMAN explained that with  a rebuttable presumption, after                                                               
completion of the batterer's program,  the person could return to                                                               
the judge and ask for a change in the custody schedule.                                                                         
4:12:05 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON opened public testimony on HB 334.                                                                                 
4:12:41 PM                                                                                                                    
PAUL GRANT, Attorney, shared his  background in family law and as                                                               
a volunteer with  Alaska Network on Domestic  Violence and Sexual                                                               
Assault (ANDVSA),  although, as  a legal practitioner,  he stated                                                               
his  strong  support  of  the  proposed  bill.    He  stated  his                                                               
philosophical  objection  to  presumptions  in  general,  and  he                                                               
opined  that   presumption  meant  an  essential   conviction  of                                                               
wrongdoing without any showing particular to the person.                                                                        
MR.  GRANT paraphrased  from his  written testimony  [included in                                                               
members' packets],  which read  as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
     I  write in  strong support  of  HB 334.  As a  private                                                                    
     practice  lawyer with  extensive experience  in custody                                                                    
     litigation,  it  has  been   my  observation  that  the                                                                    
     domestic  violence provisions  of AS  25.24.150 (g)  et                                                                    
     seq.  are often  used not  for their  intended purpose,                                                                    
     the  protection of  children from  harm, but  rather to                                                                    
     gain a  tactical advantage in custody  disputes. It has                                                                    
     been my  further observation that "the  presumption" is                                                                    
     very often  applied in  cases in  which there  has been                                                                    
     absolutely no  documented harm to  the child,  but only                                                                    
     situational or  technical violations of the  law having                                                                    
     no possible bearing on the  safety or best interests of                                                                    
     the child.  As an example,  let me cite  a hypothetical                                                                    
     case - but  one that is very similar to  cases in which                                                                    
     I have  been involved.  The father, during  an argument                                                                    
     with  mother, slammed  a door,  causing  damage to  the                                                                    
     door frame. The father was  never charged with a crime.                                                                    
     Their child was  in the house but there  is no evidence                                                                    
     the child actually witnessed the  incident (he may have                                                                    
     heard  the argument).  The mother  obtained a  domestic                                                                    
     violence  restraining  order,  claiming that  the  door                                                                    
     slam was  an assault, and  1 also that the  door damage                                                                    
     was malicious destruction of  property (both "crimes of                                                                    
     domestic   violence"   within   the   meaning   of   AS                                                                    
     24.25.150).  Subsequently,   the  father  inadvertently                                                                    
     violated the  protective order  by attempting  to speak                                                                    
     with the mother when he  encountered her in the grocery                                                                    
     store.  Since  no conviction  of  a  crime is  required                                                                    
     under the  statute, the  father was  now guilty  of two                                                                    
     incidents  of domestic  violence,  and  in the  ensuing                                                                    
     custody case, the court had  no option but to apply the                                                                    
     presumption  of  domestic   violence.  The  father  was                                                                    
     reduced  to minimal  supervised  visits  with his  son.                                                                    
     Unfortunately,  the  only   visitation  supervisors  he                                                                    
     could  find  charged  $75   per  hour  for  supervision                                                                    
     services. Because he was paying  full child support, he                                                                    
     simply   could  not   afford  to   see  his   son,  and                                                                    
     consequently   that  relationship   has  been   largely                                                                    
     destroyed. What  is remarkable  about this  very common                                                                    
     scenario is  that there was absolutely  no demonstrated                                                                    
     harm to  the child caused  by the supposed two  acts of                                                                    
     domestic  violence.  There  was  no  physical  violence                                                                    
     directed  at any  person involved.  There was  no nexus                                                                    
     between the acts  of the father and  the best interests                                                                    
     of the child.  Yet, on this flimsy  showing, the strong                                                                    
     relationship between  the father  and his son  has been                                                                    
     functionally  destroyed.  The   provisions  of  HB  334                                                                    
     requiring  actual  conviction  of  crimes  of  domestic                                                                    
     violence, rather than  just "preponderance of evidence"                                                                    
     allegations, will go a long  way toward remedying these                                                                    
     abuses.  Another admirable feature  of the bill is that                                                                    
     it   confines  consideration   of   convictions  to   a                                                                    
     reasonable 5  year period under AS  25.20.061. However,                                                                    
     I would suggest  that the 5 year limitation  set out in                                                                    
     AS  25.20.061 be  included also  in AS  25.24.150. This                                                                    
     would  clarify   the  legislature's  intent   to  limit                                                                    
     consideration  of domestic  violence  allegations to  a                                                                    
     reasonable  time period.  As  interpreted currently  by                                                                    
     the Supreme Court, because there  is no time limitation                                                                    
     imposed under AS 25.24.150, the  courts are required to                                                                    
     consider  allegations of  domestic  violence that  have                                                                    
     not been actively litigated, no  matter how old, and no                                                                    
     matter if  the parties  settled their  custody dispute.                                                                    
     Here is an  example that shows the  unjust results that                                                                    
     can flow  from this  rule. I  recently completed  a six                                                                    
     day  trial  in a  custody  modification  case that  was                                                                    
     largely based on allegations  of domestic violence that                                                                    
     were 8 to  10 years old. The parties  had settled their                                                                    
     case  without litigating  the DV  allegations in  2009.                                                                    
     The mother now  sought to have the court  impose the DV                                                                    
     presumption   even  though   the  parties   had  shared                                                                    
     physical and  legal custody  since their  separation in                                                                    
     2008. As you can  imagine, the difficulty of disproving                                                                    
     allegations  that  are  ten years  old  is  tremendous.                                                                    
     Fortunately  the mother  was found  not to  be credible                                                                    
     and the  motion was denied; however,  the parties spent                                                                    
     six days of  the court's valuable time  getting to that                                                                    
     result.  Had there  been a  statute  of limitations  on                                                                    
     allegations which  might trigger the presumption  in AS                                                                    
     25.24.150, the  case would never  have been  brought. A                                                                    
     final  thought on  the bill  is this,  and I  recognize                                                                    
     that it may  be controversial. It seems to  me that the                                                                    
     current legislation  conflates protection of  the child                                                                    
     with protection of the former  spouse. In theory, there                                                                    
     is no  reason that the former  spouse needs protection;                                                                    
     to  the  extent  that  it  is  used  that  way  without                                                                    
     considering the negative impact  on the relationship of                                                                    
     the child  to the alleged perpetrator,  it can actually                                                                    
     do harm  to the child.  I believe that there  should be                                                                    
     some  consideration  given  to narrowing  the  list  of                                                                    
     triggering  crimes  of  domestic violence  to  ones  in                                                                    
     which  the   petitioner/plaintiff  can   demonstrate  a                                                                    
     direct impact on the well-being  of the actual children                                                                    
     involved  (rather than  a  hypothetical or  theoretical                                                                    
     impact  on children  in general,  or an  impact on  the                                                                    
     other parent). I would like  to see the bill amended to                                                                    
     require  both  conviction  and   a  showing  that  harm                                                                    
     occurred or  is likely to  occur to the  child involved                                                                    
     in the actual  case before the court.  With these minor                                                                    
     qualifications,  I  heartily applaud  the  legislation.                                                                    
     This is  a set  of statutes that  has been  misused for                                                                    
     far  too long.  Many  parental relationships  (usually,                                                                    
     though not  always of fathers  to their  children) have                                                                    
     been  destroyed based  on  completely hypothetical  and                                                                    
     theoretical  harms  that simply  do  not  exist in  the                                                                    
     particular case  before the  court. HB  334 is  a great                                                                    
     step toward remedying the situation.                                                                                       
MR. GRANT offered his belief that the proposed bill was a very                                                                  
good start at resolution for some of the problems.                                                                              
4:20:52 PM                                                                                                                    
FRED TRIEM, Attorney, paraphrased from a prepared document,                                                                     
[included in members' packets], which read as follows [original                                                                 
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     Six  arguments in  support of  the original  bill first                                                                    
     presented before CS:                                                                                                       
     #1 Original HB 334  eliminates a vague, ambiguous, ill-                                                                    
     defined  term:  "a  history  of  perpetrating"  with  a                                                                    
     precise term: "convicted".                                                                                                 
     #2 Vague law provokes  disagreement - inspires, invites                                                                    
     #3  H&SS Comm  Substitute  is  step backwards  replaces                                                                    
     precise  with  vague  "clear and  convincing  evidence"                                                                    
     which is not a precise legal term.                                                                                         
     #4   Original   HB   334   will   streamline   judicial                                                                    
     proceedings  by  omitting  collateral  trials  on  side                                                                    
     issues  (a)  "committed a  crime";  (b)  "a history  of                                                                    
     perpetrating  DV";  "a  history of  perpetrating";  (c)                                                                    
     "shows that the other  parent has sexually assaulted or                                                                    
     engaged  in  domestic  violence"; [presumption  of]  "a                                                                    
     history  of  perpetrating";  multiple:  "a  history  of                                                                    
     perpetrating" (8 times) ….                                                                                                 
     #5  Protects  the  parties  by  assuring  that  (a)  DV                                                                    
     accusation  has been  brought in  a timely  fashion (b)                                                                    
     with fair  advance notice to  the accused, and  (c) has                                                                    
     been adjudicated by a judge and jury.                                                                                      
     #6  Will conserve  judicial  resource: reduce  judicial                                                                    
     burdens, save  court time,  attorney efforts  (public &                                                                    
     private attorneys),  will save court system  money $ by                                                                    
     lowering  number of  disputes  and  reducing extent  of                                                                    
     Summary:  HB 334  replaces  vague,  ambiguous law  with                                                                    
     accurate, precise law.                                                                                                     
     Beauty  of the  Original Bill:  will reduce  litigation                                                                    
     and judicial  work, save Alaska  Court System  time and                                                                    
     money, discourage wasteful legal disputes.                                                                                 
4:27:09 PM                                                                                                                    
BRENDA STANFILL,  Interior Alaska  Center for  Non-Violent Living                                                               
(IAC),  paraphrased  from  a   prepared  statement  [included  in                                                               
members' packets],  which read  as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
     I am following  up on a phone call that  I made to your                                                                    
     office  yesterday.  I know  things  are  very busy  and                                                                    
     wanted to  make sure  I connected  with your  office to                                                                    
     state my  strong concerns with HB334  passed from House                                                                    
     Health and  Social Services. In  the original  bill the                                                                    
     language  for when  the rebuttable  presumption to  the                                                                    
     issue of domestic violence and  custody would be raised                                                                    
     was  changed  to  require   a  conviction  of  domestic                                                                    
     violence instead of  a "history defined as  two or more                                                                    
     incidences  or  one  serious injury  event"  There  was                                                                    
     strong opposition  to this change in  language as often                                                                    
     times  these  cases are  not  pursued  by the  district                                                                    
     attorney, some  areas have no law  enforcement to call,                                                                    
     untrained law  enforcement arrest  the victim  when not                                                                    
     recognizing  the  difference between  self-defense  and                                                                    
     primary  aggressor,  and  that  someone  could  have  a                                                                    
     conviction due  to a  very bad time  in their  life but                                                                    
     not truly be an individual  who uses abusive tactics to                                                                    
     control their  family. In response to  the concerns the                                                                    
     bill  sponsor  rewrote  the   bill,  however,  now  the                                                                    
     proposal is  to require  clear and  convincing evidence                                                                    
     of the  domestic violence instead of  the preponderance                                                                    
     of the  evidence that is  normally required  in custody                                                                    
     consideration, replacing how  history was determined as                                                                    
     two  instances to  just be  history  determined at  the                                                                    
     discretion of the courts, or  a conviction for domestic                                                                    
     violence.  In  addition,   it  removes  the  rebuttable                                                                    
     presumption  and  treats   domestic  violence  as  just                                                                    
     another issue  considered in custody. Having  worked on                                                                    
     the  Criminal Justice  Commission this  year I  realize                                                                    
     there are  two sides  to each  issue coming  before you                                                                    
     and that you must weigh out  what is best for our state                                                                    
     in the larger scheme of  things and not just based upon                                                                    
     one  or  two  cases. Currently  the  information  being                                                                    
     presented on  why this  bill is  needed is  based those                                                                    
     one  or two  cases  where  it didn't  appear  to go  as                                                                    
     planned.  I  have heard  a  few  Dad's feel  they  were                                                                    
     unjustly  impacted  by  this presumption  when  it  was                                                                    
     applied  to them  and a  few attorneys  that appear  to                                                                    
     have  lost custody  cases and  feel  that the  domestic                                                                    
     violence that had occurred in  the case should not have                                                                    
     been considered as hard as  it was. As we know domestic                                                                    
     violence  is  learned  in  the  home  and  the  largest                                                                    
     predictor  of  a future  batterer  is  what he  or  she                                                                    
     observed in  the home environment.  Knowing this  it is                                                                    
     imperative that we have a  process in place to identify                                                                    
     when  this  behavior  is  happening   and  once  it  is                                                                    
     recognized that  we limit the child's  exposure to this                                                                    
     until  the  abusive  individual  get  helps  for  their                                                                    
     issue. The current  "rebuttable presumption" provides a                                                                    
     hearing for the  mother and father to  present the case                                                                    
     and  the  judge makes  a  determination  on whether  it                                                                    
     applies. If it does apply,  the individual found as the                                                                    
     abuser's  time is  limited  and  supervised until  they                                                                    
     complete the programs  set out by the  judge where they                                                                    
     can  learn  skills  that  allow them  to  be  a  parent                                                                    
     modeling healthy  relationships instead of  "growing" a                                                                    
     new batterer.  As you  have heard me  talk about  in my                                                                    
     testimony through the  Criminal Justice Commission work                                                                    
     and HB205, we  have grown the offenders who  are now in                                                                    
     jail through  the social  issues they  are experiencing                                                                    
     as  children  and  we  have   not  intervened  in.  The                                                                    
     presumption language  passed in 2004 has  saved victims                                                                    
     lives and  has provided an opportunity  for children to                                                                    
     interact  with  an  abusive parent  in  a  healthy  way                                                                    
     through  monitoring and  supervision until  that parent                                                                    
     gets the assistance they need  to be able to model that                                                                    
     healthy  behavior  without  supervision. I  have  truly                                                                    
     thought  through  whether  there  is a  fix  needed.  I                                                                    
     talked to judges, victims,  lawyers, and advocates. The                                                                    
     statute as  currently written works  and does  not need                                                                    
     fixing.  I  urge  you  to  leave  the  current  statute                                                                    
     regarding  the  rebuttable   presumption  as  currently                                                                    
     written and to hold this bill.                                                                                             
4:31:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SAMANTHA WEINSTEIN,  Attorney, said the majority  of her caseload                                                               
is in Family  Law, but she also works with  the Alaska Network on                                                               
Domestic Violence  and Sexual Assault  (ANDVSA).  She  added that                                                               
she offered pro  bono legal service to the Aiding  Women in Abuse                                                               
and Rape Emergencies  (AWARE Inc.) shelter.  She  stated that she                                                               
had  a  greater   concern  for  men  in   the  domestic  violence                                                               
proceedings as the current laws  allowed that a father would lose                                                               
the  moment  any allegations  were  stated,  as neither  ex-parte                                                               
orders nor  violations of these  orders required any proof  of an                                                               
act of  violence.   She declared that  these fathers  were guilty                                                               
until  proven innocent,  and even  while working  to prove  their                                                               
innocence, they  lost time with  their children.  She  listed the                                                               
fears  facing  many   of  these  fathers  as  a   result  of  the                                                               
accusations.  She declared that the  law was "in place to protect                                                               
all  citizens and  sometimes there  are oversights  in the  way a                                                               
particular  law is  written.   These oversights  can be  remedied                                                               
without  losing protections  for our  most vulnerable  citizens."                                                               
She emphasized that  this was a request for  protection "for both                                                               
categories,"  stating  that the  proposed  bill  did not  try  to                                                               
protect   batterers,  abusers,   and  perpetrators   of  domestic                                                               
violence, and it  did not force children to stay  with an abusive                                                               
parent.  She  declared a desire for those with  an actual history                                                               
of  domestic violence,  who  had been  tried  and convicted  with                                                               
evidence brought against  them, to be held  accountable for their                                                               
actions and thereby protect children  from these situations.  She                                                               
relayed  that  the  American  justice  system  prided  itself  on                                                               
"innocent until proven guilty," and  that the laws should reflect                                                               
this under all circumstances.   She stated that allowing a parent                                                               
to obtain custody  on unfounded claims was "in  opposition to the                                                               
mission of our justice system and we need to change that."                                                                      
4:39:11 PM                                                                                                                    
JANE  ANDREEN shared  that  she  had spent  16  years working  in                                                               
domestic  violence  and  sexual   assault,  recently  working  on                                                               
prevention  and  health promotion  in  the  public health  arena,                                                               
which included  violence prevention, domestic dating,  and sexual                                                               
violence.  She expressed her  surprise at such a significant step                                                               
backwards  for  protecting  victims   and  children  of  domestic                                                               
violence by  the proposed  bill.  She  directed attention  to the                                                               
Domestic Violence  Act of  1996, which had  set up  a coordinated                                                               
response,  and included  a look  at  the history  of violence  in                                                               
determining custody cases.   She shared her  recent experience of                                                               
attendance at  the Alaska  Public Health  Summit, listening  to a                                                               
presentation  for a  community coordinated  response to  domestic                                                               
violence, with accountability and services  to address this.  She                                                               
expressed  concern  for  the perpetuation  of  adverse  childhood                                                               
experiences  (ACEs)  and  the impact  of  children  being  raised                                                               
around violence.   She encouraged  the committee to not  pass the                                                               
proposed bill.                                                                                                                  
4:42:18 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TARR questioned whether  there was a middle ground                                                               
option, if  there were circumstances  that the system  was abused                                                               
and  resulted in  unintended  consequences.   She  shared that  a                                                               
suggestion from  Legislative Legal and Research  Services was for                                                               
application  of the  "clear  and  convincing evidence  standard."                                                               
She  asked  if  that  would  be beneficial  and  "the  next  step                                                               
MS. ANDREEN replied  that she would need to look  more closely at                                                               
the legal definition, as it appeared  to be more in the direction                                                               
to  which they  intended to  move.   She stated  that basing  the                                                               
proposed bill  on a conviction  would eliminate about  90 percent                                                               
of the  domestic violence cases,  as a vast majority  of domestic                                                               
violence was not  reported, with the remainder  of reported cases                                                               
having a less than likely chance of prosecution and conviction.                                                                 
CHAIR  SEATON asked  about the  definition of  domestic violence,                                                               
which could include raised voices.   He opined that this could be                                                               
problematic  when  it  carried  with it  the  potential  to  lose                                                               
custody of a child.  He  asked whether the definition of domestic                                                               
violence should be modified for child custody cases.                                                                            
MS.  ANDREEN reported  that she  had  never seen  a raised  voice                                                               
being  defined as  domestic violence.    She expressed  agreement                                                               
that  the  legal  definition  for  domestic  violence  should  be                                                               
reviewed if this  was the case.  She added  that it was necessary                                                               
to do a better job  with training judges about domestic violence.                                                               
She  said  that  a  raised  voice used  when  there  had  been  a                                                               
consistent  history  of  domestic   violence  was  a  controlling                                                               
behavior.   She opined  that the common  sense approach  had been                                                               
4:45:58 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  directed  attention  to Section  5  of  the                                                               
proposed bill,  which referenced the rebuttable  presumption that                                                               
a  parent  had  been  convicted of  a  crime  involving  domestic                                                               
CHAIR  SEATON said  that the  committee was  struggling with  the                                                               
issue  and would  appreciate any  recommendations to  ensure that                                                               
justice  was  well  served  and  that  kids,  adults,  and  their                                                               
relationships were protected.                                                                                                   
4:47:38 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from 4:47 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.                                                                       
4:50:06 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON brought the committee back to order.                                                                               
4:50:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON   noted  technical   difficulties  and   asked  the                                                               
remaining  two witnesses  to forward  written testimony  to Chair                                                               
Seaton's  office.   He closed  public  testimony on  HB 334,  and                                                               
advised that  if the committee  so desires in the  future, public                                                               
testimony could be reopened.                                                                                                    
4:51:05 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CATHY  MUNOZ, Alaska  State Legislature,  as prime                                                               
sponsor  of HB  334, shared  an anecdote  for the  loss of  child                                                               
custody by a friend.  She  declared that she had felt obliged "to                                                               
act  and  compelled to  work  toward  a  system that  honors  due                                                               
process and  that provides both  parties in a custody  dispute to                                                               
have a fair hearing before the  court."  She expressed her belief                                                               
that  this was  not  the case  currently, and  that  the law  was                                                               
CHAIR  SEATON mused  that  there had  been  many suggestions  for                                                               
changes to  the proposed bill  and that the committee  was trying                                                               
to   find  a   middle   ground,  including   the  suggestion   by                                                               
Representative Tarr  that there  should be "clear  and convincing                                                               
evidence" as  opposed to  "conviction."   He surmised  that there                                                               
was  consideration  for changes  to  the  definition of  domestic                                                               
violence in child custody cases.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES  stated her  support of the  proposed bill,                                                               
and  she offered  an anecdote  regarding her  son.   She declared                                                               
that  "it's just  a cryin'  shame" to  allow these  situations to                                                               
destroy families.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ expressed agreement  that the definition for                                                               
domestic  violence was  quite broad,  as it  could include  an ex                                                               
parte  order, a  violation of  the order,  a misdemeanor  assault                                                               
threat of violence, or property damage.                                                                                         
4:56:57 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ, speaking as  a co-sponsor of the proposed                                                               
bill, offered her  personal observations that the  process can be                                                               
manipulated  during the  custody  proceedings.   She suggested  a                                                               
review of  the definitions  and rebuttable  presumptions, stating                                                               
that it assumed  guilt which then necessitated  evidence to rebut                                                               
the  presumption.   She suggested  the need  for a  timeframe, as                                                               
CHAIR  SEATON suggested  a need  for  amendments, declaring  that                                                               
this was  a very emotional  issue.   He opined that  the proposed                                                               
bill needed  to be narrowed  or modified  to make it  through the                                                               
5:00:59 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  VAZQUEZ reflected  that  it  was impressive  that                                                               
four attorneys who specialized in  family issues had all declared                                                               
there was an issue with the current statute.                                                                                    
[HB 334 was held over.]                                                                                                         

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