2 Action Alerts: Boston Globe Takes Stand on F & F's Shared Parenting Bill; Atlantic Monthly Denigrates Dads for Father's Day

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2 Action Alerts: Boston Globe Takes Stand on F & F's Shared Parenting Bill; Atlantic Monthly Denigrates Dads for Father's Day
June 15, 2010
Top Stories
Action Alert: Boston Globe Calls for MA Courts to Be 'Monitored Closely to Ensure That Fathers Get Fair Treatment,' Carps at F & F's Shared Parenting Bill

The Boston Globe's Sunday lead editorial Child-custody cases demand discretion, not new laws (6/13/10) focuses on Fathers & Families' shared parenting bill HB 1400. The editorial arose out of contacts between Fathers & Families' Board Chair Ned Holstein, MD, Massachusetts shared parenting activist Dr. Peter Hill, and the Globe. The Globe had previously endorsed shared parenting in principle in its 2008 editorial A fair role for fathers (Boston Globe, 2/23/08) after meeting with Dr. Holstein.

The new editorial has positives and negatives. Among the positives, it says "No one can argue against the goal of giving fathers a large presence in their children's lives." Moreover, it makes an important call for Massachusetts family courts to "be monitored closely to ensure that fathers get fair treatment, and that, as much as possible, both parents get ample time with their children."

However, the editorial disappoints in failing to endorse a presumption of shared parenting and/or HB 1400 as a solution, calling our bill "too broad an approach to a challenging issue that demands nuanced, case-by-case decisions based on the best interests of the child." As Dr. Holstein explained to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in his testimony on HB 1400, the bill isn't too broad and "does not limit judicial discretion, mandate 50/50 parenting or any other specific parenting schedule, increase parental conflict or re-litigation, diminish protections against domestic violence, nor discard the best interest of the child standard". To read Holstein's written and spoken testimony, please click here.

The Globe says HB 1400 "would only affect a small portion of broken families: those in which parents are unable to reach a settlement on their own." This is the view that the Massachusetts Bar Association and misguided mothers' advocates often advance--that most divorcing/separating parents happily work things out on their own. This simply isn't true. Agreements are "bargained in the shadow of the law." Many fathers are pushed to a minimal role in their children's lives without a court fight simply because they know that they will lose and/or can't afford an expensive legal fight. Such cases don't represent fair or beneficial settlements, but are instead defeats for children and the fathers they love and need.

The Globe also states "if parents can't set aside their conflicts to determine the long-term best interest of their children, an ‘equal' custody arrangement, in which the children are frequently shuttled between enemy camps, could expose them to even more rancor." Again, this is the Massachusetts Bar Association/mothers' advocates' view. The central problem is that it allows for what's called the "hostile parent veto"--when mom doesn't want to share custody, she often creates "conflict" from which the children must be protected--by pushing the father to the margins of his children's lives. Again, children lose.

The best way to resolve conflict is a strong presumption of shared parenting in which mothers (and fathers) know that they can only deprive the other parent of shared custody by meeting a clear and convincing evidence standard of parental unfitness. This will reduce much of the conflict the Globe condemns, and will benefit children, who will have two parents in their lives instead of one.

The Globe also mistakenly refers to us as "fathers rights" advocates. We are instead family court reform advocates. As Dr. Holstein is fond of saying, we're not asking for any rights that mothers do not already enjoy, and which we want them to continue to enjoy--the right to play a meaningful role in one's children's lives after a divorce or separation, fair and reasonable financial arrangements, protection against false accusations, and to be treated equitably and fairly in family court.

We urge all Fathers and Families supporters to write to the Boston Globe about their editorial and in support of shared parenting by clicking here. To post a comment on the story on the Globe website, click here. To volunteer to be a part of Fathers and Families' work, click here.

Shared parenting bills are difficult to pass, but F & F has come a long way with its Massachusetts shared parenting bill. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature has extended HB 1400 twice. Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, the Senate Judiciary Committee Co-Chair, called Dr. Holstein recently to open a dialogue with F & F about HB 1400, and we've met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who has told the Legislature that if they pass our shared parenting bill, he will sign it.

Through Fathers and Families' efforts, over one-quarter of the Massachusetts Legislature has expressed clear, public support for our shared parenting bill, many of them signing on as co-sponsors. We gathered thousands of signatures to place shared parenting on the 2004 Massachusetts ballot and led a successful campaign for its passage, winning 86% of the vote.

Through our efforts and the efforts of our allies, shared parenting was the most-requested plank in the Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the most popular issue on the Governor's website in 2009. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Massachusetts' 3rd largest newspaper, recently published a strong editorial in favor of HB 1400, and Dr. Holstein has published several op-eds on the issue, including Where's Dad? (Boston Globe, 6/19/05) and Time for shared parenting (Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 4/29/10).

Action Alert: Atlantic Monthly Denigrates Dads for Father's Day  

To commemorate Father's Day, Atlantic Monthly published the anti-father article Are Fathers Necessary? A paternal contribution may not be as essential as we think (July/August 2010). It's no surprise that author Pamela Paul's arguments are factually flawed. Fathers & Families Board member Robert Franklin, Esq. explains:

Pamela Paul tells Atlantic Monthly readers that "there's nothing objectively essential about his (dad's) contribution." Of course she could have said that about anyone; no one's "contribution" is "objectively essential." That Paul chose fathers about whom to make the observation speaks volumes about her bias in the matter.

Paul's article takes off from an analysis of data on parents and children by Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at New York University, and Timothy Biblarz, a demographer from the University of Southern California, that was published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. Its purpose is to explain what effect (if any) parental gender has on children. The authors conclude that parental gender seems to make no difference in outcomes for children. That's the "bottom line" of the study; Paul missed it.

Biblarz and Stacey look closest at lesbian parents and tentatively conclude that they're about as good at parenting as heterosexual couples. But that conclusion comes with two huge caveats that the authors clearly state. First, studies of lesbian couples overwhelmingly study white, relatively-affluent couples and so are not comparable to more demographically sound ones done of heterosexual couples. Paul never lets her readers in on that fact.

The second caveat is that lesbian couples are far less stable than heterosexual couples, a fact plainly stated by Biblarz and Stacey. While there are various social factors that may account for that, the fact remains that lesbian couples tend to break up more readily than do heterosexual couples and have higher levels of parental conflict. The authors discuss that in some detail; Paul leaves it out altogether.
I would add that while many heterosexual parents have children due to varying degrees of accidents, the children of lesbian couples in most cases are carefully planned. As a general rule, two parents who planned to have a child together will be better parents than two who had one together accidentally, or when only one parent planned to conceive a child.

Franklin continues:
But even if lesbian couples do parent as well or better than heterosexual couples, that's no reason to question the necessity of dads, as Paul does. After all, research places the number of lesbian women at somewhere between 2% and 5% of all women in the U.S. Obviously, that many lesbian women can't parent all of our children. Did Paul not think of that?

Likewise, what little research there is seems to show that gay men make good parents. Would Paul say that mothers are therefore unnecessary?

What we do know is that the overwhelming majority of children are raised by heterosexual parents. We also know that stable, two-parent families tend to produce better child outcomes than do single parents of whatever sex (See, Whitehead, B., The Atlantic Monthly, April, 1993). That means that yes, dads are essential to children, however much Pamela Paul may wish to ignore the fact.
Write a Letter to the Editor of Atlantic Monthly by clicking here.
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Legislative Update
F & F CA Child Custody Reform Bill AB 2416 Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously, Now Moves to Full Senate

F & F in the News
F & F's Holstein Discusses Child Support on The Curtis Wright Show

WAAV Fathers and Families' Ned Holstein, MD appeared on The Curtis Wright Show on several North Carolina radio stations on June 10. Wright brought up the issue of child support, explaining that his second child just graduated high school. A divorced father, Wright said he had to fight hard to be a real father, not just a visitor and a paycheck.

WFNCHolstein said that Fathers and Families believes that children need to be financially supported but that current court-ordered child support is often excessive. It can also provide an incentive for a parent to abandon the marriage and demand sole custody. Read more here.

F & F's Glenn Sacks Interviewed by NBC Louisiana on Male Victims of Domestic Violence

KPLC Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks was interviewed by NBC Louisiana affiliate KPLC on the subject of male victims of domestic violence on June 8. To watch the report, click here. To read KPLC's Brandon Richards' news article, see Men are victims of domestic violence too (6/8/10).

According to the report:
When police respond to a domestic dispute between a man and a woman, chances are the woman is the victim. But that's not always the case.

"Research shows that about a third of all domestic violence injuries are sustained by men, so it is a significant problem," says Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks. "The research has been clear on this for 35 years, that women are at least as likely and to some degree more likely, to initiate domestic violence than men are."

Sacks said the legal system is no help to abused men either.

He said men who experience abuse are not likely to report it because they fear they will be perceived as the abuser by police and arrested. He also said abused men who are fathers don't want to risk losing or leaving their kids with an abusive mother.
Read more here.

What's Happening
Long Island Judge Gives ‘Up Close and Personal' View of Parental Alienation

Ex-Husband Sues Pia Zadora for Defamation

Sir Bob Geldof Stands Up for Equally Shared Parenting

New Twist on Paternity Fraud: Half Brother and Sister Unknowingly Have a Child Together

Department of Justice 'Likely' to Miss Deadline for Prison Rape Elimination Standards

Dads Matter
Legendary Basketball Coach John Wooden: ‘I don't believe there's ever been a better person than my dad'

John Wooden

The late legendary college basketball coach John Wooden, (pictured coaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and as a coach. His ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period while at UCLA are unmatched by any other college basketball coach.

Wooden speaks glowingly of his father in this interview. According to Wooden:
Dad would read to us in the evenings. He read the Bible every day and insisted that we did, and he'd read poetry to us.

Like Mark Twain, when I was young, I probably didn't appreciate my father at all. But thinking back, some of the things he did became so meaningful. I didn't realize at the time…I remember two sets of threes that he gave us. One was "Never lie, never cheat and never steal." I've heard that since in different ways. The first time I heard it was from my Dad.

The other one I never heard from anyone else was "Don't whine, don't complain and don't alibi." He tried to get those ideas across, maybe not in so many words, but by action. He walked it, let me put it that way. He was a gentle man, but physically strong, I think, but was gentle. As Mr. Lincoln said, "There's nothing stronger than gentleness." I think perhaps my dad emanated that…

My father was a good person. I don't believe there's ever been a better person than my dad.
Read the full interview here.

© 2010. Fathers and Families. All Rights Reserved.

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Volunteer Testimonial

"Facts show those younger children whose parents have equal shared custody are doing better emotionally, psychologically, academically and socially. Unfortunately, the Connecticut family court system has always been about one parent winning, and the other losing. Working with National Parents Organization we can help create an Equally Shared Parenting Task Force in the Connecticut Legislature. The purpose would be to create a law that would improve the lives of our children by experiencing direct support, love, and care from both parents and extended families."

By Paul Schaffer, Member, Connecticut Executive Committee