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About Moms, Dads and Children

by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.

I am in the process of planning a teleseminar that has evolved from a combination of my research for Father and Child Reunion and my expert witness work on custody issues.

When I do expert witness work, I confront three biases from most judges that I was also surprised to see proven invalid when I did the research for Father and Child Reunion. The first bias is the stability bias; the second is the mother bias; and the third is the 'If-the-couple-is-in-conflict-joint-custody-will-not-work' bias. All of these biases apply to post-divorce parenting.

The Stability Bias

Judges understandably reason that amid the instability of divorce, children are best stabilized by staying in the home they are accustomed to with the parent who has been the primary parent. I call this "geographical stability". The research shows that geographical stability does not create psychological stability. For children of divorce, geographical stability is "one parent stability"; this article explains why "one parent stability" is psychologically destabilizing. For example...

Studies show that after divorce the children who do best psychologically have about an equal amount of exposure to both mom and dad--especially if both parents live near each other, and there is no bad-mouthing. The psychological stability of two-parents equally involved leads to the children also doing better academically and socially, and being healthier physically.

Why does two parent stability trump geographical stability? No one can be 100% sure, but a blend of research and observation offer clues. Three quick assertions in quasi-headline form...

First, the job of a child growing up is to discover who it is. Who is it? It is half mom and half dad. It is not the better parent. It is both parents. Warts and all. So we are not talking here about fathers' rights, mothers' rights or even the child's right to both parents. We are talking about a new paradigm: the child's right to both halves of itself.

Second, children with minimal exposure to one parent seem to feel abandoned, often psychologically rudderless.

Third, dads and moms, like Republicans and Democrats, provide checks and balances. Moms tend to overstress protection; dads may overstress risk-taking. There has to be a balance of power for the child to absorb a balance of both parents' values. One parent dominating tends to leave the child with a stereotyped and biased perspective of the values of the minority parent, and ultimately a lack of appreciation for that part of itself.

The Mother Bias

Most judges do believe children do best with both parents, but if they must live with one, mom is given the edge. In fact, the new research I report in Father and Child Reunion very clearly shows that children brought up by dad are more likely to do better psychologically, physically, academically and socially than those brought up by mom.

I will explain in the teleseminar not only some of the twenty-five measures that create this counterintuitive conclusion, but also what dads do unconsciously that so often works to the benefit of the child. At the same time, I will also explain why it would be erroneous to conclude that men make better dads than women do moms (e.g., dads usually have more income).

The "If-the-couple-is-in-conflict-joint-custody-will-not-work" Bias

Conflict-- especially bad-mouthing-- hurts all parenting arrangements. The more the conflict, though, the more important it is for the child to see both parents about equally, because conflict leaves the child vulnerable to feeling that the parent it does not see has abandoned it-- does not love her or him. The less the child sees a parent the easier it is to form a negative and caricatured stereotype of the unseen parent. This leads to the child feeling negative about that half of her or himself.

Finally, a system that says, "If the couple can't get along in court how are they going to get along enough to share the children?" creates an incentive for the mom to initiate conflict. Why the mom? The Mom Bias teaches mom that if she can erase the joint custody option, she is more likely than dad to be given custody of the children. This awareness creates an incentive for a mom who wants full custody to not co-operate with the dad.

The three biases in combination lead to many options after divorce not being considered. The teleseminar and Father and Child Reunion explore some of those options.

My experience thus far is that virtually all judges are focused on doing what is best for the children, as are most moms and dads; that the above responses to these biases address the issues that prevent judges from giving more priority to securing both parents' equal involvement; that once judges know this, their rulings are much more likely to incorporate this prioritization.

To visit Dr. Warren Farrell's website, CLICK HERE

If you do not like how courts are treating you and your children, you have no choice but to get active. Until you stand up no one else is going to stand up for you. Either put up or shut up.

The Texas legislature is having interim committee hearings. This session is about child support. People, our "guidelines" may change. Do you want them better or worse? Now is a great time to make 50/50 custody the standard rather than a parent and visiting ATM.

We need your help. Below are steps and practices as we go along. Watch for hearing notices. If you wish to be on our direct email listing for action, contact us.

We need help changing Texas Family Law and all you have to do is make a call.

The Legislative section of the Fathers for Equal Rights website is provided by the Texas Fathers Alliance.

Click here to find your Texas legislator and enter your zip code and see your legislator then make a call.

About your call:

Identify yourself by name, address, and organization you represent, if any, and, if you are a constituent of the legislator, make that point known. Keep the call short and to-the-point. Don't go into your life story. If the person seems to want to extend the call, let them take the lead. Make an outline of points you want to make in advance to help you order your thoughts through the conversation and to insure that you do not forget an important point during the call.

An example conversation would be:

"This is John Doe in Dallas Texas. I would like to speak with Ms. Peg Henley please." "Ms. Henley, HB1655 is being heard on Tuesday in the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues committee and I am asking Representative Toby Goodman to support this bill. This legislation is very important to noncustodial parents trying to be a part of their children's lives, and children who might otherwise be raised without the benefit of both parents. Thank you for time in this matter"

Bills and Legislation

What Can You Do

Thanks to our friends at Men's Health Network

You may decide that you would like to make changes in the way an issued is treated by state or federal government. You may wish to see a greater emphasis put on education about the dangers of a specific disease, an increase in research dollars, or other changes that you feel would benefit a group or society. If so, you will probably want to influence your state and federal elected officials.

As a citizen, you can help obtain good legislation on state and national levels by communicating with your elected representatives in a timely fashion. You may do this as an individual, but it is often more effective to join with others who have a common interest. A group, or coalition, is far more visible, has greater resources, and carries more political weight. As Michael Hettinger, Chief of Staff for Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), explains:

"Whether through mass mailings or visits to Congressional office, grassroots lobbying has a direct and positive impact on the legislative process. Each day, Members and Staff are visited by constituents, interest groups, and professional lobbyists. These visits help to shape a member's position on issues currently pending before Congress. Regardless of the issue to be discussed... Members and their staffs rely on these visits and letter writing campaigns to collect and analyze information, which is vital to formulating legislative policy which has a positive impact on their own Congressional districts and the United States."

To be effective, you must acquire an understanding of the legislative structure and process and then organize concerted efforts to effect the changes you desire. Individuals can be effective, but organized community and citizens' groups are more effective. Coalitions provide a focal point from which citizens can participate in the decision-making process and more effectively influence the legislative process. The following suggestions can make your efforts more effective.

Communicating with your elected officials

When communicating with elected officials, you want to use the most effective methods, taking care to use a style that will gain their attention while promoting your issue. When speaking to them, refer to senators as Senator (last name) and representatives as Representative (last name) or, alternately, Mr. (last name) or Ms. (last name). An opportunity for personal contact with your elected official is known as face time.

Establish a coordinator for your coalition's efforts, a person who collects reports from each coalition member who has contact with a policy maker. Ask each member of your coalition to report all contacts with policy makers to the coordinator. This allows your coalition to keep an accurate record of the opinions of policy makers at different stages in the process and assists in developing future strategies.

Methods of Communication, in order of effectiveness:

  • Personal face-to-face visit at their capitol or home office.
  • Face-to-face meeting at a fundraiser or social event.
  • Group visit, followed by a letter or telephone call.
  • Personal letter.
  • Telephone call.
  • Telegram or mailgram.
  • E-mail, if the person reads their e-mail. Some do not.
  • Petition.
  • Form letter.

To be most effective, combine at least two from this list. Make a personal visit and follow up with a letter or telephone call. Write a letter and follow up with a telephone call.

Suggestions for personal office visits:

Personal contact with legislators or staff should be professional and in careful consideration of their busy schedules. As Mike Hettinger explains:

  • Keep it short. It is best to keep it short and to the point. Members are on very tight schedules and they will get more out of the meeting if they can focus on a few important issues. A short written summary is the most effective way to get and keep a member's attention; this will also help staff to follow up with you and take any action that may be needed.Be brief, get to the point within the first 30 seconds.
  • Always identify yourself. If you are a constituent, mention that fact.
  • Ask the name of the person you are speaking to, and keep it for future reference.
  • Ask the name of the person who analyzes your issue for the lawmaker. ("Who analyzes health issues for the Senator/Representative.") Write down their name for future reference. Schedule an appointment to meet with them for an in-depth discussion of your issue.
  • Start from the basics. The official you are contacting may not understand the issue, and may not even know that it is an issue. Your contact may be the first time that he or she has heard your side of the story.
  • Do not be vague. State exactly what you want your Senator or Representative to do.
  • Do not be argumentative.
  • Stress the personal. Explain how the bill affects you, your family or your job.
  • Have one or two good pieces of information. Do not overwhelm them with facts.

Suggestions for letter writing:

  • Keep your letter short. One page or less.
  • Either type your letter or write legibly. Be courteous and include your telephone number and complete address.
  • If you are a constituent, state so in the first sentence.
  • Write early before the legislator has made up his/her mind on the issue, in order to spark his/her interest in your issue.
  • Don't be argumentative or threatening. Never use language like "I'll work for your opponent next election if you don't vote against this bill."
  • Make your point in the first two sentences and use the remainder of the letter to develop the reasoning behind your position. Be polite, and be specific about what you want them to do.
  • If you are interested in a particular bill, write again when a vote is imminent. Note the number of the bill and state your position in the first two sentences.
  • If available, use graphs and charts to make your point.
  • Send a copy of your letter to your coalition coordinator and also send that office a copy of any correspondence you receive from your Senators and Representative.
  • Use the proper form of address. When writing elected officials, address your letter to The Honorable (first name) (last name). Begin the letter with Dear (Senator or Representative) (last name). Contact your state or federal legislator and ask for a booklet which provides an in-depth explanation.

Telephone calls:

  • Telephone calls are particularly effective when a legislator is facing a vote on an issue. They are most effective if you have already established a working relationship with the legislator or his/her staff.
  • Keep the call short and to-the-point. If the person seems to want to extend the call, let them take the lead.
  • Make an outline of points you want to make in advance to help you order your thoughts through the conversation and to insure that you do not forget an important point during the call.
  • Identify yourself by name, address, and organization your represent, if any, and, if you are a constituent of the legislator, make that point known.

Testifying before a committee:

Testifying before a state committee is a very effective way to get your idea across to key decision makers. Most states allow anyone who wants to testify regarding an issue being considered before a committee to do so. However, your time may be limited to 5 minutes or less.

Testimony before a Congressional committee is by invitation only. If you wish to testify before a Congressional committee, make that request through your Senators or Representative.

  • Before you testify, brainstorm with others to identify possible questions and develop satisfactory answers.
  • Attend prior hearings to learn the hearing process.
  • Keep your testimony simple and easy to follow.
  • Use a real life story to illustrate your point, if possible.
  • If you are a constituent of one of the committee members, or one of the sponsors of the bill being considered, mention that fact.
  • Provide a written statement but develop a shorter one for your oral testimony. Take 20 copies to the hearing for distribution to legislators and their staff. Frequently legislators will read through your testimony while you are testifying.
  • Confine your remarks to facts that can be proven and provide supportive material for remarks that might be questioned.
  • Note support from other organizations or well-known individuals
  • Stay on track, don't let your testimony wander.
  • State specifically what you want to have happen.
  • If asked a question you do not know the answer to, tell the questioner that you do not know but will research the issue and quickly deliver an answer to him/her and the other members of the committee.
  • Practice your oral testimony the day before the hearing. Fine tune it until it can be given in under five minutes.

Media attention:

You may gain media attention for your cause. You may receive a call from a print reporter, a request for a radio interview (usually done over the telephone while you are at home or work), or a request to go to a studio for a television interview. If so, remembering a few simple rules can help produce the most positive coverage for your issue.

  • Develop a position paper that you and other members of your coalition can use as a guide when answering questions. This provides consistency in any media coverage you achieve.
  • Develop a media package that succinctly explains your issue. One or two pages will do but have back-up material in case a reporter wants to do an in-depth story.
  • Have a list of your talking points before you so that you can refer to them as the interview progresses.
  • If a reporter calls, respond quickly. They are usually on a deadline and need a quick and accurate response.
  • Off-the-record. No interview is ever truly "off the record."
  • Keep your response simple and give the important facts first. Offer to fax your media package to the reporter.
  • Be honest and straight forward - policy makers who read the story will rely on your response as an accurate presentation of your coalition's opinions and goals.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, don't guess. Ask the reporter when the deadline is for the story and tell the reporter you will do your best to get them the requested information.
  • Remember - you want to be a media resource. Be accurate, be nice (even to unfriendly reporters), and always thank them for contacting you.

Don'ts...

No hard votes. Don't put the lawmaker in the position of having to make a hard vote. Develop compromises that achieve your goals and allow the lawmaker to vote for you without endangering his/her position.

No surprises. Lawmakers cannot afford to pass a bill that creates "surprises" after being enacted that can cost them an election.

No assumptions. Make no assumptions about a lawmaker's position on an issue. Always approach them with an open mind. You may be surprised how open they are to a good suggestion.

Dos...

The "Big Rule" - Know how to count (votes).

Be a Winner. Be polite, be quick, be accurate, and keep in close contact with your activist coordinator.

Thanks for your interest in Fathers for Equal Rights, Inc. We are delighted by the national outpouring of support for the rights of fathers, children, and families and have been asked by many, "How Can I help?"

We are a successful 30 year old not for profit organization. We have accomplished so much over the past 30 years, however there is so much more to do. We are looking for people, both men and women, who are willing to work with us to make long term changes in our legal system. If this sounds like you, we need your help and energy.

The best thing to do is become involved in your local area. All politics is local. Nothing fires up a representative, senator, congressman, or elected judge than talking with a constituent. Check out our ?making a difference section? for how to conduct your activities. The squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease. If you are not in Texas, contact us. He will be able to direct you to someone in your state.

By far the greatest help, with the most far reaching result, would be for you to make a tax deductible donation of any amount, to FER. We have so much more to do but we are restrained by limited funds. While women's shelters often have incomes of $2-4 million a year, frequently subsidized by federal and state grants from your tax dollars, fathers organizations such as Fathers for Equal Rights, Inc. and the National Fathers' Resource Center, exist largely on membership fees. If we spend millions helping battered women, shouldn't we spend something helping disenfranchised fathers and their children?

Some say, "Men aren't committed enough to make a difference." Lets prove them wrong. Donate today.Get active today. If you are not doing something to change the system and the process, you have no right to complain. So, let's get to work.

If becoming an activist is your goal, we need help with newsletters, phone calls, internet work, grant writing, contract writing, legislative work, and more. If you are near Dallas, you can also help by becoming a member of Fathers for Equal Rights and getting involved at our meetings. Our Board of Directors normally meets the third Monday of every month at 7:00 pm. Watch our calendar of events for exact time and dates. All you have to do is find something you like and "dive in."

If you are still confused about how you can help, feel free to give Doug Clark a call at (214) 953-2233 and tell him you want to help. We will find a spot for you.

Be sure to check out this link to our site: National Fathers' Resource Center - There is some good information available there on how to make a difference.

In the Absence of Clear and Convincing Evidence

A presumption of equal physical custody. (Studies show this is best for children.)

Rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence. (Not the current standard that is the same used to judge traffic tickets.)

All parents are treated equally. (This encourages parents to work it out themselves.)

Pros:

  1. Children do best with two equally involved parents.
  2. Equal physical custody creates more stability for children.
  3. Divorces would drop substantially. Current estimates are that more than half of divorces would not occur but for the expectation one parent has of winning all the power.
  4. Custodial parent couldn't minimize, and then eliminate the other parent.
  5. Parental alienation and other forms of abuse are less likely.
  6. Divorces would be over quicker, as would finality.
  7. With a level playing field, parents would not have incentive to weaponize their children.
  8. If parents expected a level playing field, they would come up with their own, rational parenting plans. The courts do not need to be involved.
  9. Equal is equal. This is a XIV Amendment issue. This is an American issue.

Cons:

  1. Equal physical custody reduces the ability to divorce: False. This does not limit the power to initiate divorce in any way.
  2. This is really about child support: False. Child support has nothing to do with this concept. First determine what is best for children independent of child support.
  3. This is really a gender issue: False. Increasingly, women are non-custodial parents or are not allowed to see their grandchildren.
  4. This would limit the freedom to move: False. A parent may move at anytime for any reason.
  5. The courts need to make one parent be in charge of all medical and other decisions: False. Parents can work out their own means to break ties.
  6. Children do best raised by both parents.
  7. This issue is really about domestic violence: False. That is a separate issue dealt with separately.
  8. This issue is really about child abuse: False. That is a separate issue dealt with separately.

Our focus has always been to focus on protecting Parental Rights. Most of the problems we face are because our government has violated Parental Rights in an unwarranted fashion. You can't be for Parental Rights for some parents but against Parental Rights for other parents. As regards custody, our focus has always been on putting parents in a position to decide the best custody arrangement. To do that requires an ability to have equal physical custody. We do not focus on child support.

The equal parenting bills this Session include the following:

Senate Bill 522 (SB522), sponsored by Senator Carona, and House Bill 1229 (HB1229), sponsored by Representative Legler, are companion bills. They both list as the first option as regards custody, equal physical custody. While we all know the benefits of equal physical custody, what else are selling points for the politicians are:

  • Judicial discretion remains.
  • "Best interest of the child" remains.
  • The other custody possibilities remain.
  • This is gender-neutral.
  • This does not change child support.

HB 1229 is in the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee. Please call everyone on that committee as well as your legislator. The legislators are:

  • Jim Jackson
  • Tryon Lewis
  • Dwayne Bohac
  • Joaquin Castro
  • Sarah Davis
  • Will Hartnett
  • Jerry Madden
  • Richard Pena Raymond
  • Connie Scott
  • Senfronia Thompson
  • Beverly Woolley

SB 522 is in the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. Its members are:

  • Chris Harris
  • Jose Rodriguez
  • John Carona
  • Robert Duncan
  • Mario Gallegos, Jr.
  • Joan Huffman
  • Carlos Uresti

Also, we have HB 2554 (attached) which was recently filed by Fred Brown. HB 2554 defines "the best interest of the child" as it related to custody to be what the two parents agree it to be. In the event of an inability for the two parents to agree on custody, HB 2554 assumes that "the best interest of the child" is equal physical custody. This may only be overcome by the demonstration of parental unfitness subject to a standard of clear and convincing evidence. This is the bill we will get some day but not now. Also call up and support this via the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

These are the things we need to do. Please ask your politicians to sponsor these bills and support them. To see the actual bills in question please click here.

New Texas Law - 2011

Senate Bill 785 has passed through both the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor for signature on April 20th, 2011. This bill will Amend the Family Code and allow the termination of an order establishing a Dad based on the results of genetic testing that excludes that Dad as the child's genetic father. This new law should take effect September 1st, 2011.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

Section 161.005 (Termination When Parent Is Petitioner), Family Code, provides that a parent may file a suit for termination of the parent-child relationship, and a court may order termination if the termination is in the best interest of the child; however, there are no provisions dealing with situations in which a father has mistakenly signed an acknowledgment of paternity or has been adjudicated as the father of a child. The father would be required to continue paying child support even if genetic testing proved that he could not be the father of the child.

S.B. 785 provides a way for a man who has either signed an acknowledgement of paternity or is adjudicated to be the father of a child without obtaining genetic testing to have the parent-child relationship terminated. The petition for termination must be verified and state that the petitioner is not the child's father, and that he had mistaken belief of paternity based on misrepresentations when he either signed the acknowledgement of paternity or when the court order was rendered.

The man may not file a petition for termination if he is the child's adoptive father, the child was conceived by assisted reproduction that was consented to by the man, or the man is the intended father under a court-approved gestational agreement.

A petition for termination must be filed not later than one year after the man becomes aware that he is not the father. The provision takes effect on September 1, 2012. Between the effective date of the bill and September 1, 2012, any man may bring a petition under the bill without regard to when the man learned that the child was not his biological child.

If the man establishes a meritorious prima facie case for termination, the court orders genetic testing. The result of the genetic testing then determines the outcome of the case.

This bill provides that if the parent-child relationship is terminated, the man may no longer be required to pay child support in the future; however, the termination does not affect the child support obligations already accrued prior to termination, nor does it affect the accrual of interest on any back child support owed.

If another man is determined to be the father of the child, that man may not be ordered to pay retroactive child support for any period of time preceding the date on which an order terminating another man's parent-child relationship is entered.

This bill provides that a man seeking to terminate a parent-child relationship may also petition the court to continue to allow him rights of possession and access to the child. If possession and access is granted, the court may require any party to participate in counseling with a mental health professional.

S.B. 785 amends current law relating to the termination of the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay child support in circumstances involving mistaken paternity.

Family Law

October 22, 2012

Texas Family Lawyers:

The State Bar of Texas has approved the Family Law Section's legislative program for 2013. Twelve issues have been submitted to the Texas Legislative Council, the arm of the Legislature that acts as the official drafters of legislation for consideration during the session, which begins January 8th.

Here is a brief explanation of each issue:

Waivers of citation: Amends Section 6.4035, Family Code. This bill simply clarifies that a sworn waiver is one that is sworn to before a notary and eliminates an ambiguity created by a provision of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Military deployment: Amends Section 153.709, Family Code, and repeals Section 153.3162, Family Code. These sections are redundant. The bill consolidates provisions regarding the designation of the persons who can petition for periods of possession lost during military deployment, in which case the court has discretion to enter orders allowing make up time to the petitioner.

Enforcement of agreements incident to divorce: Amends Sections 9.001 and 9.002, Family Code. This bill makes it clear that agreements incident to divorce and annulment may be enforced in the same manner as decrees of divorce.

Finding of contempt for failure to pay child support: Repeals Sections 157.162(d) and (e), Family Code. Under current law, a child support obligor who is behind on their payments can avoid being jailed by paying the amount due just before a hearing to hold the person in contempt. The bill prevents this situation by allowing a court to impose contempt, if appropriate under the circumstances.

Grandparent access: Amends Sections 153.432 and 153.433, Family Code. The bill makes it clear that expert testimony is not required in connection with an affidavit of a grandparent or for proof of harm when seeking access to and/or possession of a grandchild. The bill also broadens the applicability of the statute to grandparents in general by eliminating the requirements that that grandparent's child be dead, gone, in prison or incompetent.

Grandparent standing: Amends Section 102.004, Family Code. The bill makes it clear that notice and a hearing are required in suits in which a grandparent seeks custody of a grandchild.

De novo hearings: Amends Section 201.015(a), Family Code. The bill simply reduces (to three business days from seven business days) the time for seeking a de novo hearing in front of a district judge following a decision by an associate judge.

Possession and alternative possession times: Amends Sections 153.316 and 153.317, Family Code. The bill makes it clear that certain notices may be delivered electronically and that a person eligible to make an election regarding possession times that are alternatives to the standard possession time can select more than one of the alternatives.

Spousal maintenance: Amends Sections 8.051, 8.059 and 8.101, Family Code. The bill authorizes courts to enforce by contempt and withholding a spousal maintenance agreement, as opposed to court-ordered maintenance, to the same extent that the court could have originally imposed the maintenance by order. Any agreed maintenance that exceeds what the court could have originally imposed by order will be enforceable as a matter of contract.

Child custody and adoption evaluations: Amends Chapter 107, Family Code. The bill separates the adoption study provisions from the child custody study provisions of the Family Code. The custody study provisions increase the standards applicable to a professional's eligibility to perform such studies and makes clear what issues and to what extent an expert may testify regarding custody. The intent of the adoption provisions is to maintain current law. (Discussions regarding this proposal with representatives of the county Domestic Relations Office are ongoing.

Interlocutory appeals: Amends Section 51.014(b), Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The bill provides that a suit under the Family Code is not automatically stayed by an interlocutory appeal, but is discretionary.

Gestational agreements: Amends provisions of Chapter 160, Family Code. Current law allows only married couples to enter into gestational agreements. The bill is intended to also authorize a single individual to enter into a gestational agreement, in addition to a married couple.

Steve Bresnen, the lead lobbyist for the Texas Family Law Foundation, and his colleagues on the lobby team, will determine the best strategy for passing this legislation and whether two or more issues should be combined into the same legislation.

The 2013 session will once again keep the Foundation's volunteers busy working to improve the Family Code for Texas families, courts and lawyers.

Sincerely,
Diana S. Friedman, Chair
Family Law Section, State Bar of Texas

Copyright 2012
State Bar Family Law Section

I won custody of my son because my son needed me to!
  -- David A. - Dallas, TX

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