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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

March 20th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Here’s one final take on the Maurizio Rigamonti/Lura Calder case.  As you’ll recall, George Washington University professor Joan Meier took to the pages of the New York Times to express her entirely baseless opinion that the Hague Conventnion on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is defective.  That’s because women who abduct their children often excuse their behavior by claiming abuse by their husbands/boyfriends, but courts require evidence of abuse before refusing to return a child to its home country.  To Meier, apparently every woman who claims abuse is telling the truth and courts that require them to prove it are, in some unexplained way, in need of change.

The one and only “example” of this phenomenon Meier deigned to provide was the Rigamonti/Calder case.  But even a casual look at the facts thereof demonstrates that it’s not an example at all.  Lura Calder never claimed Rigamonti had abused her or their son Leo until she had abducted the little boy to California, 6,000 miles from the only home he’d ever known, Parma, Italy.  Once there, Calder discovered that the judge in her case was nothing if not on her side, but unfortunately the Department of Children and Families did that strange thing that Meier abhors; they looked for evidence of abuse.  Finding none, they so reported to the court.

Reports by the monitor who was employed to oversee Rigamonti’s supervised visitations with Leo were similarly discouraging to Calder and her judge.  The monitor, Eileen Hastings, mentioned in one report that Maurizio told Leo on the occasion of the former’s birthday that seeing his son ”the best present Father can have for his birthday.”  At a park, a little girl about Leo’s age approached father and son and asked to play with them, but “Leo says, ‘I don’t want to share my Daddy.’”

In case anyone entertains notions that Calder wasn’t attempting to alienate Leo from his dad, during their play time, Leo came out with this: “I don’t like you… I’m saying this because I’m trying to get that to the judge.”  The kid was one day short of five at the time.  Later, “Leo mentions a shirt that Father gave him with a shark on it.  Father asks if Leo wears this shirt and Leo responds by saying ‘Mom put it away.’”  I’ll bet she did.

And then: “Father holds Leo and tells him how much he loves him.  Father asks Leo if he understands the magnitude of Father’s love.  Leo says, ’Longer than space and miles.’”

Armed with the monitor’s report and the findings of the DCF showing a loving father and devoted son, amazingly the judge cut off all contact between Maurizio and Leo.

But, as we know, in June of 2012, about 28 months after his original abduction by Calder, Leo was returned to Maurizio in Parma where they live to this day.

Now, if Calder’s claims of abuse had any validity, we’d expect Leo to be suffering at the hands of his brutal father.  After all, Maurizio has custody of the child, so why shouldn’t the alleged abuse continue?  Indeed, none other than Joan Meier claimed that’s exactly what’s happening.  According to her, “the child continues to suffer overseas.”

Why are we not surprised to learn that that assertion by Meier is exactly as accurate as her others?  That is, her claim that Leo is suffering is arrant nonsense.  My source informs me that the boy is doing very well and thoroughly involved in being a seven-year-old.

But it’s not just my source that tells me this.  After all, that person could be biased.  But guess what else is true about the ongoing custody battle between Calder and Rigamonti.  If you guessed “Calder hasn’t even claimed abuse in the Italian courts,” go to the head of the class.

There’s a certain consistency in her actions.  She lived all the boy’s life in Parma and never claimed abuse against her or Leo by Maurizio.  Now that she’s back in Parma having abducted the boy for over two years and extracted from Italian authorities their promise not to prosecute her for her blatant criminal wrongdoing, she’s once again taken the opportunity to not claim that Maurizio is an abusive father.

I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.  It looks like she only claims abuse when she’s thousands of miles away from witnesses, friends, relatives, child welfare officials, the police, etc. who could actually walk into court and testify under oath that her allegations were baseless.  When she’s in Italy and all those people, institutions, documents, etc. are ready to hand, she clams up.

So at this point, we have a single person who’s claiming that Maurizio Rigamonti is an abusive father.  It’s not his ex-wife or their son.  It’s not the police or child welfare authorities in Parma.  It’s not friends, relatives or neighbors.  No, that one person is the one who knows the least.  Indeed, if she knows anything at all about the case Joan Meier isn’t letting on.  Given the opportunity, she didn’t even name the case she referred to in the Times.  I had to find that out from her.

I must point out that it’s like this every time.  There’s a segment of the anti-dad crowd who cries in the wind about “abusive fathers getting custody.”  The only problem with their mythology is that it’s just that -mythology.  Time and again they trot out a case in which a supposedly abusive father got custody only to have their “example” dry up and blow away under the slightest scrutiny.  This is another one.  Maurizio was investigated in California at the behest of an extremely hostile judge and no abuse was found.  To all appearances Lura Calder isn’t even trying any more.

Of course, there are about 1 million divorces granted in the United States alone each year.  About 64% involve children.  Fathers rarely get custody, but out of those millions of divorces, there are a great many fathers with primary custody in this country at any given time.  As of 2009, the Census Bureau put the number of custodial fathers at about 2.4 million.  What are the chances that some of those men abuse their children?  Pretty good.  It’s just the law of averages.  So somewhere, there must be a case the anti-dad crowd could point to in which a father with custody is actually abusive.  But, they try so hard.  You’d think they’d find one sooner or later.

I refer to them as “the anti-dad crowd” for a reason.  They pretend to promote children’s welfare, but don’t.  I know this because they’re forever shouting about abusive fathers while scrupulously ignoring abusive mothers.  Never once do they pause to mention the inconvenient fact that mothers do twice the abuse and neglect of children that fathers do.  Every year the federal government publishes those statistics and every year the anti-dad crowd hides their eyes and stops their ears.  Just ask yourself if you expect Joan Meier to run a piece about an abusive mother with custody of her children.

Nope, me either.

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