Legal system stacked against dads, Utica attorney says
By COURTNEY POTTS -
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Koziol: My case is civil rights issue
Facing the loss of his law license, local attorney Leon Koziol on Monday compared his failure to pay child support for the last two years to the acts of civil disobedience carried out by Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders in American history.
At a press conference conducted at his home here, the fathers' rights advocate restated his belief that custody proceedings are biased against dads.
The state Supreme Court's Appellate Division suspended Koziol's law license last week based on his failure to make child support payments for his two daughters - ages 6 and 8 - since November 2007.
But Koziol said he plans to appeal that ruling. And he hopes doing so will bring more attention to what he calls an "antiquated" and "inherently flawed" custody system.
"Susan B. Anthony. Martin Luther King Jr. The people who went to the front of the bus. What did they do? They violated the law, and it sent a great message," Koziol said.
Koziol and his ex-wife, Kelly Hawse-Koziol of New Hartford, filed for divorce in September 2005 and have been involved in a battle over custody and visitation ever since.
Accompanied by his girlfriend and by fellow National League of Fathers leader John Kalil, Koziol displayed photographs of him and his daughters spending time together. He said he has not been able to see the girls since July due to various court orders.
But Rebecca Crance, the attorney who represents Koziol's ex-wife, challenged Koziol's description of the visitation arrangement.
She said Koziol has been awarded parenting time but "has refused to accept it." And she said she was not aware of an incident Koziol described in which his children were not home last fall when he went for his scheduled visitation.
"My client feels the Appellate Division made the appropriate decision regarding the child support," Crance said. "My client would prefer that these very private matters would stay out of the media, but Mr. Koziol has made that impossible."
Koziol said he made his personal story public only after his related license suspension became front-page news last week.
He has been more public, however, with his views on custody issues in general.
As legal adviser for the National League of Fathers, he frequently speaks about how the current system turns fathers into "visitors" in their own families. He said he is an advocate for "shared parenting" - an arrangement in which both parents have equal or near-equal time with their children.
On Monday, he described child support as a "multi-billion-dollar industry," and said that federal funding tied to its collection gives states an incentive to perpetuate the system. Lawyers and civil servants who work within the court system also benefit from the current framework, he said.
Koziol also said that he remains more concerned with fighting for time with his children than with the status of his license.