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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.  

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No sooner had Judge Nancy Gordon transferred custody of their two children from Alaina Giordano to her ex-husband Kane Snyder, than the machinery of uninformed reaction went into high gear.  That was back on April 25 when the North Carolina judge transferred custody to Snyder who lives in Chicago. Now the same judge has upheld her previous order.  Read about it here (ABC News, 6/8/11). It seems that the two had had a stormy marriage and divorce with multiple allegations of domestic violence that saw each parent spend time in jail.  There was evidence of mental illness, violations of court orders and what came briefly to be a cause célèbre - Giordano's Stage 4 breast cancer. According to practically everyone who leapt to the barricades to decry the judge's ruling, Giordano's cancer - and nothing else - was what caused the change of custody.  To anyone who took fifteen seconds out of their busy day to actually think about the issue, it surely would have seemed unlikely that a judge would do such a thing. And of course she hadn't.  In fact, there were multiple factors that influenced Judge Gordon to give primary custody to Snyder.  For one thing, Giordano doesn't have a job, and Snyder has a good one.  So financially the kids will be better off with him.
Gordon highlighted other concerns in the original ruling, however, such as mental health concerns and a tendency to involve the children in parental disputes, that called into question Giordano's suitability as a primary caregiver, regardless of her health.
In short, Judge Gordon had a number of perfectly sound reasons for transferring primary custody to the children's father. But the punditocracy was having none of it.  Article after article, blog after blog informed one and all that Gordon had taken Giordano's children because she had cancer.  They never paused to consider the fact that countless parents have some form of cancer and judges including Gordon don't deem them unfit to parent. What came through more than anything was the clear sense of entitlement with which those opiners invested Giordano.  "She's the mother and the kids are hers" was the none-too-subtle message.  Indeed, the number of pieces that called the children "hers" as opposed to "theirs" was astonishing.  If he hadn't gotten primary custody, you'd have thought the children had no dad. Still, one of the reasons Gordon transferred custody was Giordano's advanced cancer which thankfully seems to be in remission at least for the time being.  And that raises a legitimate question - to what extent, if any, should physical illness or incapacity on the part of one parent weigh in the custody balance?
In accordance with the Uniform and Marriage and Divorce Act, it is not uncommon for family court to take into account the health, both physical and mental, of a parent in making custody decisions.
"Substantial case law and psychological research consistently indicate that the physical and mental health of the parent constitute an important factor in considering custody of children following divorce," Dr. Gerry Koocher, professor of psychology at Simmons College in Boston, said.
And Gordon had in fact taken testimony from a psychologist on exactly that issue.
In her ruling, Gordon cited forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Brantley: "The more contact [the children] have with the non-ill parent, the better they do. They divide their world into the cancer world and a free of cancer world. Children want a normal childhood, and it is not normal with an ill parent."
Hmm.  I'd like to know more about the impact on children of living with a parent with a serious, potentially life-threatening illness.  I'm sure Brantley is right that children want a normal childhood, but countless children adjust to not having one.  The issue is whether living with such a parent truly affects the long-term well-being of the child.  If there's good evidence that it does, then I'll take Brantley at her word.  Until then I'm with Holly Prigerson.
Holly Prigerson, director of psycho-oncology research, psychosocial oncology and palliative care, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said, "Cancer is not leprosy ... young children want to be with their parents, even if ill. That's not to say that seeing a parent so ill will not be upsetting for children -- it will be frightening -- but not seeing a mother and not receiving honest answers about why mommy is not there may be more detrimental to the child's mental health and functioning than the reverse."
It probably depends a lot on the age of the child.  Older children are more capable of understanding and dealing with a parent's illness than are little ones.  The Snyder/Giordano kids are 5 and 11. And of course if an illness truly affects a parent's ability to do the normal daily tasks of parenting, then it's clearly appropriate to limit that parent's time with the kids. On a related note, Fathers and Families has been on the front lines fighting for the rights of parents with disabilities.  In California, for example, we were instrumental in passing legislation that prohibits judges from restricting custody because of a parent's disability unless that disability interferes with the person's ability to parent. But that's not the case with Giordano.  Her cancer doesn't impair her parenting ability, so I'm skeptical of its being used as a factor in deciding custody.  Still, Brantley and those who have researched the matter may be right in advising courts to err on the side of giving custody to non-ill parents.  As I said, I'd like to know more about what they're hanging their hats on. All that said, I'd be surprised to see Gordon's order reversed.  There were many factors favoring primary custody for Snyder.  The fact that Giordano's illness ever made the news is due more to an under-informed punditocracy and a sense of maternal entitlement than a real appreciation of the issues involved in child custody cases where one of the parents is gravely ill. Thanks to John for the heads-up.

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Let's say Person A calls the police and says "My partner hit me."  The police come to the house and the caller is there with a black eye and a puffy, bloody lip.  The partner refuses to say anything to police.  That constitutes probable cause to arrest and charge the partner.  Why?  Because they have the allegation of violence by Person A, corroboration of that allegation (the black eye and split lip) and the opportunity on the part of the partner to commit the offense. But that's not what happened in the Scott Bundgaard case in Arizona, about which I've written once before.  Here's the latest (Arizona Central, 6/11/11).  It seems that back last February, Bundgaard and his girlfriend, Aubrey Ballard, went to a gala to raise funds for kidney research.  Bundgaard is a state senator and doubtless his name lent a certain something to the proceedings.  I imagine he thought it would be a good vote-getter too.

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When Chandler, Arizona police arrested Jamie Howell two weeks ago for disorderly conduct, they had no idea of whom they were arresting.  Read about it here (Vancouver Sun, 6/1/11). It seems Howell and her son Valor had gone to a laundromat where the 10-year-old boy got bored and started behaving in some way not to the liking of the other patrons.  So Mom Jamie responded by screaming at them, taking their clothes out of the dryers, throwing them around, throwing laundry soap, etc. Oops.  That turned out to be not the smartest move she could have made because the patrons called the police who arrived and arrested Jamie on a disorderly conduct charge.  That wouldn't have been a terribly big deal except they did a routine warrant search and lo and behold there was the name of Jamie Howell who was wanted by Canadian authorities for kidnapping. Back in December, 2004, Howell and her ex-husband Garrett Taylor were involved in a nasty child custody case.  Howell had custody, but had interfered with Taylor's visitation on several occasions.  He'd complained to the family court judge who wasn't too happy with Howell's behavior and told her he'd have her arrested if she did it again.  Within a month she and Valor, who was four at the time, were gone. At that, the court awarded Taylor sole custody. They were traced to Spokane, Washington, but there the trail went cold until two weeks ago when she was arrested in Chandler, just outside of Phoenix.  It appears she'll be extradited to Canada to face kidnapping charges. This article tells us about what experts believe will face Garrett Taylor and Valor when the two attempt to reconnect after over six years (Edmonton Journal 6/10/11). I've written a good bit about parental child abduction and this case gives some tantalizing facts that seem to agree with Nancy Faulkner's research to which I've referred often.  For example, her description of abducting parents says they tend toward narcissism including wanting the child to be theirs and theirs alone and to live for the parent alone. It's that exclusive relationship in which the child utterly depends on the parent and to a great degree, the parent depends on the child, that is so destructive.  Howell's behavior in the laundromat at the criticism of her child by the other people there strongly suggests that type of personality, at least to me. So does Valor's demeanor in the presence of the police which they describe as "aloof and withdrawn."  That seems to me to describe a boy whose mother has been his entire world for most of his life and who likely has been taught to mistrust all adults except his mom. Meanwhile, the second article quotes a couple of experts, family attorney Lorne MacLean and Bob Finlay who's a family counsellor and mediator specializing in reunification.  And to their credit, they get it right about parental child abduction.
"The question now is how to repair your bond," said Vancouver lawyer Lorne MacLean, who specializes in family law.
"The boy might not remember his father, and two older siblings, or he may have a negative viewpoint about the father due to parental alienation. You have to get the child to reorient. The child will have a distorted view of past events..."
Abduction, or simply disappearing with a child, is "the highest level of gatekeeping or access-blocking, and it is clear that a parent who does that cannot make proper decisions on behalf of the child," said MacLean.
So MacLean knows about maternal gatekeeping and accurately describes kidnapping as the most extreme form of that behavior.  He also nails the psychological problems a parent manifests when he/she abducts a child to keep it away from the other parent. So does Finlay.
Finlay hasn't worked with Taylor or Valor, but he said an abduction case like this typically would involve a destructive pattern of alienating the child from the parent left behind and creating dependency on the abductor.
"It would create terrible confusion for the child. You could get a bit of Stockholm Syndrome where the victim identifies with that parent, he could feel tremendous guilt, feel that he's abandoned her, especially now that she's in jail."
When a parent engages in alienating behaviours, and if the child is abducted at a young age, "the child would become totally dependent on the mother . . . would be vulnerable and susceptible to being brainwashed and accepting a very bold lie as truth."
So the child, who's been made totally dependent on the mother and probably believes she's his only support and refuge, has lost her, at least for a while.  That's the problem with parental abduction of children; it's illegal, so the two lose everyone else - friends, neighbors, extended family, clergy, teachers - on whom we all depend.  And when the abducting parent is arrested, the child loses her too. It'll be a stressful time for Valor Heath Howell. That said, I'd like to highlight the fact that we've come a long way in a short time in understanding and dealing with cases like this one.  Just a matter of a few years ago, I can easily see media articles denigrating the dad and at least suggesting that he and the police should have left well enough alone. "Yes, she did wrong," would have been the tone of the coverage, "but the child's best interests require us to allow the abduction to continue.  It would be too upsetting to the child to lose the only mother he's ever known.  The father's just being selfish."  Etc., etc. But the Journal article is far better informed than that, as are the experts interviewed. It's too bad that certain judges in Colorado and New Jersey aren't as well informed.  They're the one's I've written about recently.  The Colorado judge handed two children back to an abducting mother with no suggestion that he understood the destructive nature of what she'd done to them. The New Jersey judge "punished" a mother who'd abducted her daughter 25 years before with 18 days in jail, days she'd already served awaiting extradition from Nevada. Neither of those judges showed any understanding that mental health professionals understand child abduction to be child abuse.

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You'd think that Psychology Today could do better.  This article by Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D. should embarrass both her and the magazine (Psychology Today, 6/6/11).  Still, if this is the best opponents of Parental Alienation Syndrome can do, the future looks rosy. For a long time now, one of the main arguments advanced by those opposed to fathers having access to their children post-divorce is that fathers abuse children, therefore their access should be limited at best. Those folks are fighting a losing battle as we see every day.  In my 13 years as an advocate for fathers and children, the public debate about fathers has changed dramatically and mostly for the better.  The level of public awareness of the value of fathers to children and the rights of fathers has grown dramatically in that time. That's mostly because facts and fairness are on the side of fathers.  For example, the answer to those who wring their hands about abusive fathers, is that mothers do twice the child abuse and neglect that fathers do.  That statistic is reported every year by the Department of Health and Human Services and it must cause consternation among the anti-dad crowd. So when we read a piece like Caplan's it's not hard to hear the desperation of those who feel themselves on the wrong side of history.  After all, if you oppose the inclusion of PAS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, and you had a good argument against it, why would you make this one, as Caplan does?
[PAS] is a medical-sounding term for nothing more than "She's a vengeful woman who's trying to make her children tell horrific lies about their father."
Well no, it isn't.  Anyone who spends, say, five minutes on the Internet would learn that mental health professionals say that PAS is not gender-specific.  Sadly, mothers and fathers alienate about equally.  Time and again it's been said and written that men and women both alienate their children. So with Caplan, there are two possibilities; she either doesn't know the basics about PAS or she's intentionally misleading her readers.  I'm essentially certain which one it is, and that's the reason why Psychology Today has no business publishing such nonsense. And just because she leads off her piece with an assertion that is demonstrably false, doesn't mean that Caplan has much more to say on the subject.  It's the same old stuff that we've come to expect and, as we've also come to expect, it's almost completely unsupported by any data. According to Caplan (and others), PAS is a concept unscrupulously used by abusive fathers to deprive mothers of their children post-divorce.  Into the bargain, it's "unscientific." As to the latter, I've said before that I express no opinion.  Whether the syndrome should be included as such in the DSM is beyond my ability to say. What is common knowledge is that some parents attempt to alienate their children from the other parent following divorce.  Unfortunately, the practice is common as dirt.  Whether there's a discrete set of symptoms that alienated children exhibit and that warrant inclusion of PAS in the DSM is, for now, an open question. That doesn't make PAS "unscientific;" it just means the scientists haven't agreed on the answer. Caplan's claim that only fathers claim PAS only against mothers is, as I said, simply wrong.  The same is true of her belief that family courts don't take allegations of child abuse seriously.  It's a well-traveled claim, but it's not only untrue, it's essentially unimaginable. So Caplan plays the card that lets us know to a dead certainty what her true motivations are.  She claims that "it is estimated that 'over 58,000 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States.'" The problem with that "estimate" is that it's made by people who believe every mother's claim of child abuse by a father to be true.  Their claims are legion, their proof is non-existent.  Time after time people like Amy Neustein, Jonea Rogers, Sadia Lolliger and the like swear to heaven that their children were taken from them by courts that cared not a whit for their claims of child abuse by the father. But on closer examination, it's revealed that the courts investigated the claims carefully and found them to be unwarranted.  Not only that, but Neustein's daughter has been grown up for a long time now and has said that she owes her well-being to the fact that CPS got her away from her mother and into her father's care.  Does Neustein admit that she's wrong?  Nope; even her daughter's own words don't deflect her from her mission. It's the same mission that Caplan is on - to do whatever they can to keep fathers and children separate.  And if that means making up "facts" about PAS, then they're happy to do it. And, like seemingly everyone else in her camp, Caplan wants us to believe that Dr. Richard Gardner, who first researched and named the syndrome, was an apologist for (male) child abusers.  The fact that that is again simply false deters her not a bit. Gardner is no longer living and it's not legally possible to libel a dead person, which is the only reason these people keep making the claim.  What they hang their hats on is the fact that he did, as an expert witness, on occasion express the opinion that a mother who claimed abuse by the father was actually engaging in alienating behavior.  And if you believe that mothers never lie about abuse, there's only one thing to conclude - that Gardner was shielding pedophiles. It's utter nonsense of course, but again, when you don't have real arguments to make, this is the type of thing you come up with. If you think by now that Caplan's penned a pretty dreadful piece, it's actually worse than that.  One of the commenters is Robert Samery, Vice President of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, so I'll let him administer the post mortem.
Paula, You have made strong assertions against the existence of PAS, all without balance. You quote old statements without quoting the updates by those same sources and further you say that elsewhere there is no credible research supporting the malady. In 1996 the APA simply found a lack of data, no invalidating data even then, in 2008 their position changed when said they have no position on PAS. You quote Dr. Fink as discrediting PAS without quoting his written retraction and newer validation of the behaviours and damage they cause children. You demean the courts and actually say they do not take domestic violence seriously without any situation whatsoever. Yet you do not site even 1 case where this has been shown as to have happened. I would be happy to site any number or case from all parts of the where the child has been brain washed, and in more extreme cases, abducted or even murder by a parent who testified to the motivation for the behaviour being to remove the other parent from that child"s life. If you have no valid research information about PAS please read any of the over 500 recent peer reviewed situations in over 40 countries as presented by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists Treasurer Dr. W. Bernet in his book "Parental Alienation, DSM-5, and ICD-11', 2010. If you want empirical evidence you only need look to our website where both children of all ages and parents recount their personal stories of PAS, or look to Dr. Amy J. Baker's research with adult children survivors of PAS, "Adult Children of Parent Alienation Syndrome', 2007. I trust this brief update is helpful to your understanding of parent child relations in high conflict parenting including divorce.

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="F & F member Jeff Oligny (right, near cameras) asks  popular presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (left) about family court reform at June 12 campaign event."][/caption] A contingent of Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign activists attended New Hampshire GOP events over the weekend and asked presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman about family court reform. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F member Lorraine Corbeil (left),

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It's good to see Sanford Braver's recent research being exposed to a broader audience than that usually afforded academic studies.  This article gives a good and balanced description of the study and its findings (Huffington Post, 6/9/11). What's troubling is the tendency of pieces like this one and others I've discussed to conclude that the system of family courts doesn't discriminate against fathers.  That's an altogether facile conclusion that's unwarranted by Braver's findings and directly contradicted by much other information. The reason I'm pleased to see the findings getting a wider audience is that they show that the people surveyed strongly prefer equal parenting post-divorce to the usual practice of family courts of giving primary custody to mothers and condemning dads to the status of permanent paying visitors. Braver and colleagues asked their subjects to judge three different hypothetical "divorce" situations.  One had Mom and Dad parenting equally during marriage and the other two had one parent doing 75% of the parenting and the other doing 25%.  In none of the cases were there any allegations of abuse or neglect by either parent. In the 50/50 hypothetical, 69% of those surveyed said they'd award 50% custody to each parent.  In the hypotheticals in which one parent did the lion's share of the childcare, almost 50% of survey participants still awarded equal custody to Mom and Dad.  In all the scenarios, Braver's subjects' parenting orders were radically more egalitarian than those ordered by judges.  Significantly, men and women didn't differ in their custodial decisions. So Braver's study makes a strong case for the proposition that the general public favors equally-shared parenting post-divorce, at least as long as there are no serious problems of abuse, neglect or some other form of parental unfitness. Braver went a step further and asked the same subjects what they thought the family court system would do in the same hypothetical cases.
Here participants thought the legal system would come to dramatically different conclusions. In the case in which both parents had 50-550 (sic) caregiving time, the study participants estimated that the legal system would award equal time in only 28% of the cases, although another 47% estimated that the child would live with mom and get lots of time with dad. In the case in which the mother was described as spending more time with the child, the most common expectation (about 33%) was that the court would rule that the child should live with mom and dad would get "some" time. In the reverse case in which the dad was described as spending more time in caregiving prior to the divorce, again only 27% expected the courts to award equal time to both parents. The study participants did not expect fathers who were caregivers to get the same results as the mothers. Twenty-seven percent expected the judge to rule that the child should live with the mom, but the father would get a lot of time. Likewise, only 24% expected that the judge would rule that the child would live with the father and the mother would get to spend a lot of time with the child.
Statistics kept by a variety of organizations indicate that Braver's subjects were too optimisitic.  In fact their ideas about how much parenting time dads get overestimate the reality.  As most people who follow custody law and practice know, the rate of maternal sole and primary custody has stood at 84% in the United States at least since 1993.  That's according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So what explains the radical difference between what the public wants and what family judges do?  It's here that the article and the researchers too easily conclude that
In writing about the implications of these findings, the researchers note that the perception of the legal system is important because both lawyers and parents may base their choices on what they believe the court will decide. They write, "the mere perception that there is a bias may influence the settlements on which most the judgments are based, [resulting in ] a self-fulfilling prophecy."
It's a happy thought.  I'd love to believe it.  What could be better and simpler than for everyone to simply change their attitudes about child custody?  We wouldn't have to lobby state legislatures or worry about the bias of judges custody evaluators and the like.  And presto!  Parents would have equal custody, children would have two parents and all would be right with the world. But unfortunately, that rosy scenario doesn't bear much resemblance to the reality of family law, family judges and the decision-making apparatus of custody cases.  Most obviously, the great majority of cases are not tried by a judge but agreed to by the parties.  As such they're influenced by lawyers who practice daily in family court, many of them for decades. Now, it's unquestionably true that lawyers and litigants do have the perception of bias in the family court system and they surely make decisions based on that perception.  The question is whether the perception is right or wrong. By calling it a "perception" and a "self-fulfilling prophecy," Braver and colleagues suggest that tens of thousands of divorce lawyers across the country who've tried countless custody cases are in some way uninformed about the tendencies of the judges before whom they practice.  And that assertion needs a lot more evidence than anyone has produced for us to conclude that all those lawyers are misinformed about what goes on before their eyes. Likewise, as I've reported before, Washington State keeps data on all custody cases in that state.  Its statistics show that when either party contests a custody matter, i.e. requires a decision by a judge instead of agreeing with his/her ex-spouse, outcomes for fathers actually get worse.  That could easily mean that the "perception" of judicial bias against dads that attorneys observe and the general public believes exists, does. Finally, if there's no bias against fathers, why does so much law relating to parents frankly treat mothers and fathers differently?  Here are just a few examples:  in almost every state, single mothers have parental rights automatically by virtue of their biological parentage.  Single fathers don't; they must prove their worth as parents and if they don't, can lose their rights entirely. Second, paternity fraud is uniformly accepted by state law.  If there's ever been a mother punished for falsely telling a man he's the father of her child when he isn't, or telling him he isn't the dad when he is, I've never seen it.  Where are the laws and judicial decisions protecting fathers and their children from the caprice of mothers? The point is that, in the case of paternity fraud, as throughout the legal system governing father- child relationships, mothers exercise an alarming level of control over fathers' parental rights, but not vice versa.  That's called bias. Third, visitation with their children is what 84% of fathers receive from courts, and it is visitation that courts routinely refuse to enforce when it's violated by mothers.  Are we seriously expected to believe that it's mere coincidence that it is precisely those meager rights of fathers that courts are happy to ignore? Compare that with the draconian measures and billions of dollars expended at the local, state and federal levels to enforce child support that overwhelmingly benefit mothers and it becomes increasingly hard to ignore the dramatically different treatment accorded fathers and mothers by family courts and the many governmental agencies that enforce what they do. Fourth, in state after state, adoption laws allow single mothers, but not single fathers to decide which children are placed for adoption.  If a single mother wants to place a child for adoption, she may.  But if a father wants to do so, he finds himself subject to her rights and her desires. Worse, if a single father wants to stop the adoption of his child on which the mother has determined, he's got an uphill climb.  That's because in over half the states, he's not entitled to even know about the proceedings if he hasn't signed up with the Putative Father Registry.  Mom has no such obligation of course.  And in non-PFR states, he still has to prove his worth as a dad.  If he fails to do so, he loses his child, but again, the mother is exempt from such rules.  Her fitness and desire to parent are presumed; his are not. Of course, those are all legislative enactments, not judicial ones.  But with that level of overt anti-father bias, are  we seriously expected to believe that judges are immune? Braver and his colleagues have done as much as anyone and more than most to inject reason and fact into the debate about fathers and mothers, divorce and custody.  For that they should be applauded and I've done just that many times.  I will again.  But they shouldn't conclude that anti-father bias is simply a perception that, if changed, would itself change the system.  It isn't and it won't.

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Here's Barbara Kay again with her usual lucid, fact-based piece (National Post, 6/15/11).  In it she raises a number of good points, one of which I should have raised earlier myself.  I'm delinquent for not having done so and will duly fall on my sword at the appropriate moment. That point is simple; over the past, say, 20 years, fathers have taken on more and more of the care of their children.  That's reflected in statistics and it's also reflected in popular culture where we see movies, commercials, sitcoms, novels, etc. about fathers and children or at least involving them in significant roles.  But courts remain firmly stuck in the past; the overwhelming majority of child custody still goes either solely or primarily to mothers. What that means is that children and fathers suffer as never before when parents divorce.  In the past, dad may have seen his role as exclusively the breadwinner and therefore taken little part in day-to-day childrearing.  In the event of divorce, it could be argued that separating him from his child wouldn't be too traumatic for either.  After all, their relationship was a bit distant anyway.  I would object to that argument, but now, with fathers bonding ever more closely to children, consigning him to the role of paying visitor is doubly bad policy. It's an important point and one I'll come back to in the future, partly because the always excellent Dr. Edward Kruk makes it in his new book, to which Kay refers.
Edward Kruk, associate professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, has been studying the changing role of fathers and the problems of father absence for 30 years. His latest book, Divorced Fathers: Children's Needs and Parental Responsibilities, illuminates the tragic toll on fathers first removed from their children's lives by a biased legal system, and then unsupported by a social services network that is almost wholly indifferent to fathers' rights and feelings.
Displaced fathers are overwrought at the loss of contact with their children. They are far more likely to become depressed or unemployed. Worse, suicide rates amongst fathers struggling to maintain a parenting relationship with their children are "epidemic." Divorced fathers are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as married fathers. But since men tend to suffer in silence, the depth of their despair goes unnoticed.
Kruk calls the crisis of father absence -for both fathers and the children they are torn from -"one of the most significant and powerful trends of this generation." Children now form primary attachments to both parents. Losing their father's active participation in their lives is enormously consequential. Trustworthy research demonstrates that children deprived of a meaningful father role are at far greater risk of physical, emotional and psychological damage than those actively parented by their fathers. Children fare better with equal parenting even where there is conflict between the parents; it is only child-directed conflict that hurts children.
Kruk's findings reveal that ironically, precisely because they have taken on equal responsibility for parenting before divorce, men who lose their parenting role now suffer far more grievously than they used to 20 years ago when he wrote his first book, Divorce and Disengagement. He argues for a paradigm shift, away from a rights-based discourse to a framework of "responsibility to needs," in which both children's needs and parental and institutional responsibilities to them would be enumerated.
Kruk rather poignantly asks: "Why are parents with no civil or criminal wrongdoing forced to surrender their responsibility to raise their children?" and "Is the removal of a parent from the life of a child, via legal sole custody, itself a form of parental alienation?"
Kay is frank about why, in the face of all the social science and the popularity of equal parenting, courts and legislatures doggedly continue to resist keeping fathers in the lives of children.
It is clear to any disinterested observer who immerses himself in the subject that almost the only opponents to equal parenting are misandric ideologues and those financially invested in the family court system itself, which would see a drastic reduction in revenue from the professional gold mine all-or-nothing custody battles represent.
If you're a family lawyer or any of the many professionals who make their livings doing custody evaluations, you know that custody cases are the gift that keeps on giving.  In most litigation, cases are eventually decided - over and done with.  Indeed, one of the foundations of our legal traditions is that of finality.  When a case is decided, we don't like to revisit it time and again.  Not so with custody cases.  In those, most courts have "continuing jurisdiction" meaning that, if an issue comes up after the order is issued, the same court hears and decides it.  That way the litigants don't have to re-file an original action before a judge who doesn't know what's transpired before. That makes sense, but, as every family lawyer knows, custody cases have the potential to be litigated time and time again.  Issues of child support, custody and visitation can be ,and often are, subject to "changed circumstances" that may necessitate a new order. With those changed circumstances, therefore, come new motions and of course new fees for attorneys and possibly for the various other professionals who provide advice to family court judges. The anger and heartbreak of divorce are tailor-made for attorneys to exacerbate conflict between spouses all in the service of the lawyer's bottom line.  The presence of children at the center of that drama makes the tendency all the worse.  I've seen it all too often. And of course the child support system in the U.S. is a gravy train for states.  For every dollar of child support collected by states, the federal government reimburses them a percentage.  The more support collected, the more money flowing into state coffers.  But equal parenting holds the potential for reducing child support obligations which would mean lower collections and lower reimbursements from Washington.  And we can't have that, now can we? In "Bleak House," Charles Dickens took on the travesty that was British Chancery Court (i.e. the court that litigated claims on the estates of the dead) at the time.  In the book, he described chancery as a disease that was inevitably fatal to anyone who contracted it.  That is, if anyone actually came to believe that he would ever see a penny of the estate to which he was heir, he'd gotten the disease of chancery and he would surely die.  The reason was that the estate would take years to be resolved and that would happen only when it was completely exhausted by paying the lawyers their fees. I wish Dickens were around today.  Maybe his book about family courts' treatment of fathers and children would light the fire that so many of us, Barbara Kay among them, have been trying to start for so long.

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Fathers Day is fast approaching.  We know that because the jokes about what to - and what not to - get dad on His Day that come immediately before the day itself have been plentiful.  So be advised, among other things, don't get Dad a tie for Fathers Day. Someone should have told the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, a tie is exactly what the Court gave one set of dads just a week before Fathers Day.  And is it ever ugly.  To be clear, the tie the court gave immigrant dads was a 4 - 4 tie. In Ruben Flores-Villar vs. United States, the court voted 4 - 4 with Justice Kagan having recused herself.  In cases of a tie vote in the Supreme Court, the lower court ruling is affirmed which in Flores-Villar means a federal law treating alien mothers differently (and better) than alien fathers was upheld. Perhaps worse, the justices hid inside that old sanctuary the Per Curiam ruling which means no one wrote an opinion, so we don't know who voted which way or why.  For the edification of all, here's the one-page ruling of the Court. If you'll recall, I wrote about the case originally here.  I won't go into the tedious details of the law, but suffice it to say that Congress wanted to prevent children fathered by U.S. servicemen abroad from becoming U.S. citizens.  So it passed a law treating the offspring of fathers born outside the country differently from those of mothers similarly situated.  Here's how Slate described what Ruben Flores-Villar, Sr. was required to do in order for Ruben, Jr. to be a U.S. citizen.
[T]he law holds that Ruben Sr. cannot confer citizenship unless he provides proof of parenthood, legally acknowledges Ruben Jr. before the child turns 18, and pledges to support him. Finally--and crucially in this case--Ruben Sr. must show that he himself lived in America for at least five years, after he turned 14 and before Ruben Jr."s birth. Ruben Sr. satisfied all the legal requirements save the last one, which was physically impossible: He was only 16 when Ruben Jr. was born.
So, not only did the law impose a variety of prerequisites on Ruben, Sr. - prerequisites it does not impose on mothers in his position - in his case one of the requirements was actually impossible for him to perform.  In short, the statute frankly discriminates against fathers on the basis of sex. Many organizations filed amici curiae briefs with the Court objecting to the overt sex discrimination in the law.  As I said in my original piece, much of what they said argued for simple fairness and common sense.  After all, what exactly is accomplished by treating mothers and fathers differently in those relatively few cases covered by the law? I guess we'll never know.  But whatever went on behind the closed doors of the Supreme Court, four justices apparently didn't see anything wrong with that particular form of sex discrimination.  Needless to say, that doesn't bode well for future challenges to the plethora of state laws that treat fathers differently and worse than they treat mothers.  Can we truly trust Elena Kagan to break future ties in favor of fathers? Of course the U.S. Congress can rectify this law any time it wants to.  The offending law is their doing and they can undo it.  In fact, it would be interesting to hear the debate on any proposed change. That's in part because, as I reported earlier, various feminist organizations wrote or joined briefs opposing the law as an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  As I said, much of what they said made perfect sense - that parental roles have been evolving and the law perpetuates untrue stereotypes of mothers and fathers. All of that was fine, but some wanted us to believe that the feminist organizaions (such as the National Women's Law Center) filing briefs argued for treating fathers and mothers equally.  They trotted out those briefs as evidence for the proposition that feminist organizations really do believe in gender-equality. To be blunt, that's not what the briefs said.  In fact, their argument was that fathers and mothers should be treated differently, with fathers getting the short end of the stick.  They did that by arguing that,
[T]hat stereotype (of the uninvolved father) cannot justify treating fathers who have taken steps to establish a relationship with their children differently from mothers.
In short, theirs is the old, outworn and misandric one we find throughout family law - that mothers rights are established by their biological relationship to their children, but fathers must "have taken certain steps" to have parental rights.  For them, biology is not enough; dads must do more. Exactly what they must do is often an open question to be resolved after the fact by courts, leaving dads in the dark about what is sufficient to obtain for them that most humble of desires, the right to care for their children. A perfect example of that is the Christian Diaz case on which I've reported before.  He's the 17-year-old from Bakersfield, California who fathered a child with is girlfriend.  Against his express wishes, she placed the child for adoption, lying to him about what she was doing.  Diaz prepared a room for the child, bought baby furniture, toys and clothing and, in spite of the mother's best efforts, managed to find out which hospital she'd gone to to have the baby.  When he arrived there to see his son, she told the hospital authorities he wasn't the father and he was "escorted" from the premises. When he went to court to contest the adoption, he learned that what he had done was insufficient to establish his parental rights and thus obtain custody of his child.  What would have been sufficient?  The court didn't say, and so how was he to have known? The point being that that is the type of thing that would pass muster with NWLC.  Fathers must behave in ways that some court at some later date finds acceptable in order to gain rights to their children; mothers need not. The solution to all this is simple.  Biological parents - both men and women - should have rights to and responsibilities toward the children they bring into the world, solely by virtue of their biology .  The only way either rights or responsibilities should be diminished is through proof of unfitness. Unlike family law everywhere I know about, that approach is fair and unbiased.  More importantly, it helps to connect children with their biological parents whom much social science shows us to be their best caregivers. Now that would be a great Fathers Day gift.  Better than a tie of any stripe.

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Recently there has been some confusion over the Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign, and we"d like to clear it up. Because of our recent conversations with Republican presidential contenders Gingrich, Huntsman, Pawlenty and Johnson, some people have incorrectly concluded that we are somehow leaning to the right.

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Judge Goldfarb found that [the mother] "has embarked upon an unstoppable and relentless pattern of conduct for over two years to alienate the children from their father, and lacks either the ability or the willingness to facilitate, let alone encourage, a close and continuing relationship between them. On the other hand, this court finds that D.T. (Dwyane) will, in fact, encourage a close and continuing relationship between the boys and [the mother]." For all those who like to pretend that parental alienation doesn't exist, I urge them to read the judge's findings in the Dwyane Wade custody matter.  I can't link to it, but I can quote from it.  The Final Custody Judgment is 102 pages long and is replete with the day-to-day facts of parental alienation by the mother, Siovaughn Wade. More than that, though, it describes in minute detail the effects that alienation had on the couple's two boys who were 8 and 3 at the time.  The custody evaluator, Dr. Phyllis Amabile, M.D. J.D. and the judge chronicled the progression of the illness that comes from parental alienation. As I've said before, I don't have the background to give an opinion about whether those effects on the children add up to a discrete "syndrome" or "disorder" sufficient for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. But what I can do and what Judge Goldfarb and Dr. Amabile did in the Wade case, is observe and describe the behavior of a mother bent on keeping two young children away from their father.  That alienation clearly led to certain behaviors by the boys that certainly looks like PAS to me.  It's what Dr. Richard Gardner, Dr. Richard Warshak, Dr. Amy Baker and many others have described countless times. Interestingly, the main tool Siovaughn Wade used to keep the kids from their father was healthcare.  For about two years, she had primary custody and he had visitation rights while the custody case was being resolved.  From the judge's description and that of the custody evaluator, Dwyane's visitation was often thwarted by Siovaughn's claims that the children were ill, needed to go to the doctor or actually at the hospital receiving care. Time and again those claims proved to be either untrue outright or overblown.  Therefore, a minor earache meant no time with Daddy.  When their older child fell into the swimming pool resulting in nothing more than a minor scratch, Mom whisked him to the hospital and then frantically searched for a camera with which to photograph him lying on a hospital gurney. The use of the boys' health as an excuse to prevent visitation with their dad was so frequent and so obvious that the judge, in her opinion, took to using the buzz words "drama/trauma" to highlight it. As in so many states, one of the factors a judge must consider when awarding custody is
The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.
Judge Goldfarb found that
This court finds that S.L. (Siovaughn) has embarked upon an unstoppable and relentless pattern of conduct for over two years to alienate the children from their father, and lacks either the ability or the willingness to facilitate, let alone encourage, a close and continuing relationship between them. On the other hand, this court finds that D.T. (Dwyane) will, in fact, encourage a close and continuing relationship between the boys and S.L.
Siovaughn's attempts to keep her ex-husband out of his children's lives only got worse with time.
This court finds that the progression and history of S.L.'s attempts to alienate Z.B.D. and Z.M.A. (the children) from D.T. and her unwillingness to facilitate a positive and healthy relationship between them is the major cause of this sad custody trial. Her behavior according to Dr. Amabile is almost in the severe range.
Siovaughn used the children's health as a way to frustrate Dwyane's visitation.
Dr. Amabile was critical of S.L. regarding her willingness to foster a relationship between the children and D.T. during this time before court ordered visitation. She stated, "For a long period of time she made visitations challenging for Mr. Wade and the children beyond what could be explained on the basis of concern for the children's wellbeing." After the separation she was "definitely being controlling in terms of his access to them (the kids) ... in a bad way."
At one point she simply packed the kids up and moved them from their Miami home to Chicago where they had no friends and few relatives.  This broke the attachment bond between the older boy and his father. The move violated a court order, but, throughout the case, Siovaughn exhibited little regard for the authority of the court.  That included violating numerous clear, specific court orders, but also lying to the court numerous times about what she had done and why.  Dr. Amabile called her attitude "I will do as I please."
The next two years involved motion after motion, order after order, regarding parenting time for D.T...  As Judge Nega aptly stated on May 10, 2010, "There always seems to be some disruption in pick up and drop off. There's always a struggle about where it's going to be, who's going to be present, who's not going to be present, what the time is, what the location is, and it's just too stressful for the children. That's a statement of fact."
Dr. Amabile specifically noted that even subsequent to court ordered intervention on the issue of parenting time with D.T., S.L. still attempted to interfere with rather than facilitate a relationship between D.T. and his sons that was not in the best interests of the children. "She leaves a strong impression of being controlling and of being resistant to authority on this issue (visitation)" and that included the authority of the court.
Eventually, Siovaughn's relentless campaign of parental alienation began to bear fruit.  The older boy began to criticize his father and not want to be around him.  In the classic case of parental alienation, when questioned by the custody evaluator, he used words and concepts that could only have come from an adult. The custody evaluator described one such incident this way:
"The child made a number of negative and critical statements about his father during his interviews with me. He talked about some past experiences with his dad where he described his dad as being harsh verbally, physically, sounded to me as if they were at least somewhat embellished. He talked about his dad having abandoned them and such things as 'imagine that you're a mother of a five-year old and you were about to have another child, and imagine your husband walks out on you.' Very strange thing for a seven or eight year old child to say. That was another example of what I would consider to be an alienated kind of attitude toward his dad."
All of this was extremely detrimental to the children, particularly the older boy.  It was bad enough that the evaluator recommended Siovaughn see a therapist "who is very familiar with this process of alienation."  Eventually she got around to doing that, but
Nevertheless, rather than showing some modicum of improvement since the May 6''' report, S.L.'s behavior, got progressively worse. Frankly, worse does not quite describe her behavior and how she was willing to utilize Z.B.D. as an instrument against the Wade family and ultimately his father.
The bottom line in the case was this:
S.L. has had over two years to demonstrate an ability to foster a relationship between the children and D.T. Rather than demonstrate a willingness to do so, she has manifested only disdain for the relationship between the boys and their father, despite her claims to the contrary. This court finds that the animosity toward D.T. and his family has become all-consuming for S.L. She still referred to D.T. until the end of trial as "my abuser." Until almost the end of trial, S.L. still sought supervised visitation for D.T...
D.T. on the other hand very credibly and sincerely testified that the children need both of their parents. He stated "I want both parents to be in their kids' lives ... S.L. needs to get healthy.. .to get help dealing with whatever issues she's dealing with .. . if she does that, she gets healthy, I want her to spend as much time with the kids as she wants to spend."
D.T. continued, "I'm not trying to take my kids from her. I want to foster a relationship between both parents, where we have equal rights, hopefully one day we can make decisions together, and our kids can see us together as a parent team to know that we have their best interests at hand."
I wish I could give more of the court's judgment.  It's not just one judge, either.  Judge Goldfarb quotes at least two other judges who dealt with various aspects of the case and who both sing the same song about Siovaughn Wade. I'd like Paula Caplan or any of the other PAS deniers to read the entire judgment of the court and then explain how parental alienation is a figment of someone's imagination and just a plot by abusive fathers to get custody of their kids. Compare Caplan's disgraceful article in Psychology Today with the judgment in Wade vs. Wade and you know which way the winds are blowing on the issue of parental alienation and PAS. Thanks to Michael for the heads-up.

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This article from the Associated Press has a happy headline (Salon.com, 6/16/11).  It reads "Study: Dads Spending Much More Time with Children."  Nice, no? Ah, but that headline obscures more than it reveals.  The study, done by the Pew Research Center, comes just in time for Fathers Day, so why not accentuate the positive?  And the positive is that college-educated men tend to only father children when they're married, and when they do, they're more involved in their lives than their fathers were with them. But of course college-educated men are only a small percentage of the overall population of men.  The far less cheerful news is that 27% of fathers live apart from at least one of their children and of those, 27% hadn't seen or talked to their kids in the past year.  Forty years ago, there were half as many fathers living apart from children as today.
On the other hand, married fathers who live with their children are devoting more time helping their wives with caregiving at home, a task once seen almost exclusively as a woman's duty. Such fathers on average now spend about 6.5 hours a week on child care, which includes playing, helping kids with homework or taking them to activities. That's up from 2.6 hours in the 1960s.
So the title of the Pew research, "A Tale of Two Fathers" is really more accurate than the headline of the AP piece.  Fathers who are married to the mother of their children spend a lot more time than ever before doing childcare.  Those who aren't do less or none at all. Those findings of course dovetail precisely with the concept of "parenting as a package deal" that's well known to sociologists and was introduced to readers of this blog by Kathryn Edin's work on low-income fathers.  Parenting as a package deal means that the mother and the child are considered a package by both the mother and the father.  So when she moves on to a different place or a different partner, the child goes with her and the dad is left behind. That's one of the specific findings of the Edin article I've referred to many times before.  In relationships in which the parents are poor and/or poorly educated and unmarried, the father begins as an enthusiastic caregiver, but over time becomes more and more marginalized in the child's life as the mother moves on to different romantic relationships. It's a dramatically different understanding of the dynamic of fatherlessness than the one usually peddled by the news media and policy-making elites.  Among them, it's de rigueur to place the blame for father absence on the father alone when in fact maternal gatekeeping may have more to do with it than anything. So this Fathers Day we can count on seeing plenty of exhortations to men to be better, more involved dads.  There's nothing wrong with that per se, but what we won't read is the suggestion that mothers have anything to do with father absence. And what we certainly won't read is the idea that the legal system has anything to do with separating fathers from children. Here's President Obama on the subject:
"Father's Day reminds us parents that we have no more solemn obligation than to care for our children," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in calling for fathers to be more involved. "But far too many young people in America grow up without their dads, and our families and communities are challenged as a result."
I couldn't agree more, but the none-too-subtle suggestion is that dads should just stop being so gosh-darned irresponsible and shoulder their parental load.  But the simple fact is that mothers themselves, the legal system and popular culture's depictions of fathers as uninterested in and dangerous to children have far more to do with father absence than does the corrupt nature of men so many people are happy to presume. After all, the "Two Fathers" the Pew Center talks about are largely married ones and unmarried ones.  Married dads are pretty involved with their kids and their kids benefit from it.  Unmarried dads tend not to be.  Hmm.  Now why would that be?  Is it possible that the legal system fails to keep dads connected to their children post-divorce?  Is it possible that the legal system's differing treatment of single mothers and single fathers has anything to do with father absence? It's not only possible, it's an objective fact.  By law and by custom, the system of divorce and child custody has for decades placed children in the hands of mothers and denied fathers the ability to play a meaningful role in their kids' lives.  It's so clear that you'd be tempted to call fatherlessness public policy. It does that by failing to enforce even the minimal visitation orders it "awards" dads.  It does it by refusing to give equal custody.  It does it by honoring false allegations of abuse.  It does it by allowing mothers to move away to places too distant for dads to keep contact with their children.  Child support law does it; so does adoption law.  And yet, with Fathers Day approaching, we hear nothing from policy-makers about taking the obvious, fair steps to keep fathers and children together post-divorce for which countless social scientists and advocates have been calling for decades.  We hear nothing about reasonable family court reform.  The calls are there, but the ears are deaf. It's hard not to conclude the obvious - that the policy-makers who are ever-ready to inveigh against fatherlessness are in fact content with a system that produces exactly that. Perhaps second only to the crumbling of the American middle class, I believe that fatherlessness stands as the gravest single problem confronting this country.  Raising generation after generation of children with only one parent is bad for kids, bad for the dads who can't care for their children and bad for moms who have to spend too much of their time doing so. As far back as the 1960s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised the alarm and was met with ignorant scorn.  Today, mothers work more and fathers parent more, but how much has really changed about our willingness to effectively confront the problem whose name we know so well - fatherlessness?

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The Gravy Train pulled into Regina, Saskatchewan this week with a big beautiful new package for Professor Mary Hampton of Regina University.  It was from the Canadian government and the package contained $1 million.  Read about it here (Regina Leader-Post, 6/13/11). The money is a grant for Hampton to study domestic violence in rural areas of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories over a period of five years.  The idea is to learn about the unique needs of DV victims in rural areas and develop an action plan to combat the problem. But there's a catch.  (Face it, you knew there was a catch.)  Mary Hampton and her colleagues are going to use the money to study only violence by men against women.  Male victims of DV along with female perpetrators will be completely ignored.  Again.

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Like millions of other fathers, Shawn Gliklich, MD, a Methuen, Massachusetts emergency-room physician, was allowed limited time with his children after his divorce. He says: "My kids had one of the two people they love most in the world pushed to the margins of their lives. I have the lives of other people"s children in my hands on a daily basis--why is it I"m not allowed to equally care for my own?" In Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks' new column Fathers get a bad rap in the media and the courts (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 6/19/11), he writes:
Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Edwards. Eliot Spitzer. John Ensign. Mark Sanford. To hear the media tell it, we live in the era of the Bad Dad. Stories about famous, successful men who submit to temptation and harm their family lives in the process certainly make great headlines and internet fodder, as do the divorces which often follow. But lost in the obsession over this handful of episodes is the fact that research shows most fathers are heavily invested in their kids" lives, and that their presence is vital.
To write a Letter to the Editor about the column, please click here. To post a comment on it, please click here. To read the full column, click here.

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Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death in Saigon in June, 1963 to protest anti-Buddhist persecution.

Thomas Ball, a troubled New England divorced father, took his own life in front of the door of the courthouse in Keene, New Hampshire on Wednesday.  He sat down, doused himself with gasoline, and lit a match. Ball was a Vietnam veteran and apparently his act of protest was modeled on the famous "Burning Buddhist" protests against the U.S.-backed Ngo Dinh Diem government of South Vietnam in the 1960s. The buddhists were protesting the discrimination and mistreatment they suffered at the hands of Diem's pro-Catholic regime. Ball was protesting the discrimination he, his children, and many other fathers and children have endured from the New Hampshire family courts. Ball left a lengthy narrative of his experiences with the court that detailed how he lost his children. He concluded:

I have three things to say to my children. First, Daddy loves you. Second, you are my three most favorite people in the world. And last, that you are to stick together no matter how old you get or how far apart you live. Because it is like Grandma always said. The only thing you really have in this world is your family.

But his story was much more than that.  It revealed a deeply troubled individual who nevertheless understood clearly the workings of family courts - their routinely anti-father decisions and the role that money plays in propping up a status quo that is morally bankrupt, scientifically shoddy and misandric.  Ball understood all too well the price paid by fathers and their children to keep a system functioning that, by no definition of the word adequately performs the task society gives it.  Fathers and Families" Board Chairman Ned Holstein, M.D. said:

The callous and disrespectful treatment of so many fathers by the family courts means that tragedies like this one are sure to befall the most fragile among them.

In his narrative, Thomas Ball's pain and frustration are palpable.  Anyone going through the loss of his children would understand his feelings. But that does not justify the violence Ball advocates in paragraphs 73-78 of his 15 page final statement. I sympathize with him; I feel for his loss.  I will never condone exhortations to violence. There are ways to accomplish the goals of the family court reform movement.  Those ways include the ballot box, lobbying state and national legislatures, media attention, and legal defense work.  Whoever reads the words of Thomas Ball will feel what he felt and empathize with his pain, anger and frustration.  No one should take to heart the violent methods he recommends. And however distant Ball may have felt from his children, however hard it may have been for him to speak to them, touch them, hold them, he is forever lost to them now. His deed is done and there is no undoing it.  We can only hope that it will serve the purpose Ball intended - to draw attention to the countless children who go to bed fatherless every night, not because their fathers don't care, but because their caring is devalued by family courts.

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Every Fathers Day I make a pitch for everyone reading to remember their dads with love.  Fathers are indispensable to their children and today is the one day out of the year we're urged to honor them.  So much of the rest of the time seems to be spent doing the opposite. But this year I think I'll let Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade do the talking for me.  This year saw the culmination of his successful fight to gain custody of his two sons and here's his Fathers Day article that touches on that fight, and what his kids and his own dad mean to him (Newsweek, 6/5/11). And while you're reading his piece remember two things.  First, recall all the things his ex-wife did to make contact with his boys hard or impossible.  Second, remember what Dwyane said in court about her:
"I want both parents to be in their kids" lives … S.L.(his wife)  needs to get healthy.. .to get help dealing with whatever issues she"s dealing with .. . if she does that, she gets healthy, I want her to spend as much time with the kids as she wants to spend.'
D.T. continued, "I"m not trying to take my kids from her. I want to foster a relationship between both parents, where we have equal rights, hopefully one day we can make decisions together, and our kids can see us together as a parent team to know that we have their best interests at hand.'
When you think about it, that's a pretty good statement of the goals of the family court reform movement in a nutshell. To me, Dwyane Wade looks like he's got a big heart.  That largeness of spirit will be there long after he laces up his NBA sneakers for the last time.  Whatever his ex-wife may do, I know his sons will be better boys and better men because of it. Happy Fathers Day!

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Fathers and Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. lays out the case for shared parenting in his new column For Father"s Day, give the gift of equal parenting (Buffalo News, 6/19/11). To write a Letter to the Editor about the column, please click here. To post a comment on it, please click here. In the column, Franklin writes:

[W]hen parents divorce, keeping both actively involved in the child"s life is vital to the child"s well-being. Dr. Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia examined the findings of every North American study comparing sole and joint custody arrangements. He concluded:

"On every measure of adjustment, children in joint physical custody arrangements were faring significantly better than children in sole custody arrangements: Children in joint custody arrangements had fewer behavior and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, and better family relations and school performance than children in sole custody arrangements'...

With the great weight of social science solidly behind shared parenting, you"d think that courts and legislatures would be doing their utmost to promote it. Sadly, existing laws and court practices often seem designed more to inhibit father-child relationships than to promote them.

To read Franklin's full column, click here.

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This is a fine pre-Fathers Day piece, which is odd since it's not exactly about a father (Salon.com, 6/18/11). It's about an uncle, and a young one at that.  His name is Adrian McLemore who's 23 and lives in Ohio where he attends Wright State University.  There's nothing strange about any of that, but he also raises two children, a 4 year old girl, A'Rayiah and a 2 year old boy, Tyiaun. They're not his kids, but his sister's.  It seems that McLemore was living the life so many young men his age do.  He had a part-time job at a video rental store and attended classes at Wright State.  He had some ideas about what he wanted to do in life. But then he got a late-night call; CPS was about to take his sister's children into foster care for reasons that McLemore won't divulge out of loyalty to her.  That's when McLemore stepped in.  He adamantly refused to allow his niece and nephew to go into foster care; he would raise them himself, regardless of the hardship, regardless of the cost, regardless of his studies, regardless of everything. That's because McLemore himself spent 11 of his childhood years in foster care.  Despite the warnings of friends who told him he didn't know what he was getting into, his sister's two children came to live with him.
"I refuse to allow another generation of McLemores to be raised in foster care."
"I will take care of my niece and nephew," he told the authorities. "I will feed them and take them to day care. I will make sure they get their shots. I will give them a stable home. I know them. And I love them like no one else can."
And that's just what he's done.  For the last 18 months, he's established a stable regimen for the kids with rules that must be followed but with plenty of fun time too.  His sister is allowed to see them on weekends, and one suspects that the plan is for her to get them back at some point.  Until then, Adrian McLemore will be their uncle, their "father," or, the title he uses most himself, their protector. Who or what is he protecting them from?  Foster care.  And to hear McLemore talk about his experiences in foster care you might well ask "why?"  After all,
... McLemore has nothing but respect and admiration for the families who cared for him -- the Lukes in Georgia, the Kings and Ligginses in Ohio -- and though he keeps in regular touch with them, much was missing. Their homes never felt like the loving, permanent home he has created for A'Rayiah and Tyiaun. He never had the kind of precious little conversations about school and life that he has with A'Rayiah driving home after day care. He felt grateful, not attached or secure.
"You simply never know when you might be told to pack your things and leave," he says. "In foster care, families can always say, 'Take him back.' Real parents don't have that option."
"The biggest thing children need, in addition to unconditional love, is a comfortable, safe environment, a sense of stability and permanence," McLemore says, with all the clarity of someone who did not have these things. "Children need to know their siblings and spend time with them, not just in weekly visits with a case worker, but at picnics and in parks and with family members like aunts and uncles and grandparents. They NEED their own family."
Those are wise words that come from experience.  Notice that McLemore is not denigrating foster care; he's just pointing out the differences between even the best foster home and "real parents."  Foster care is always contingent; the child can be sent away any time.  So even the best foster parents engender gratitude, but not a sense of attachment or security. McLemore himself wound up in foster care because his parents divorced and custody of him and his sister was "awarded" to his mother.  His father served with the Air Force overseas and so wasn't present to buffer Adrian's mother's bad behavior.  She had a problem with alcohol and often would simply disappear. So it was off to foster care for Adrian and his sister.  That held until his father returned from abroad and took over their care when Adrian was 9.  His care lasted two years until Staff Sgt. ErnestMcLemore was redeployed overseas.
McLemore worships the memory of his father, who died of cancer in 2004. The two years he lived with his dad, he says, were the happiest of his life.
McLemore's face glows as he talks of those years, of being with his sisters, of having his own room, of having a father who took them to soccer and karate and theme parks. It was, he says, the first time he had ever felt like a normal child from a normal family.
When his father went abroad, the two kids went back to their mother where little had changed.
There, McLemore said, things quickly spiraled out of control. Their mother drank. She went missing. There was often no food or clean clothes. There were endless arguments. He would run away.
But his foster families did what they could to keep him on the right track and one counsellor saw, through Adrian's teenage anger, a truly special person. Over the years, that person has blossomed.  Elected officials - whom McLemore calls his "future colleagues," signalling his aspirations - consult with him about the foster care system and he tells it to them straight.  McLemore is an avid fan of foster care, but knows it must be reformed.  He knows firsthand that kids in foster care are largely off the radar of those in office. But before he's elected to public office, in fact before he's even out of school, he's got two kids to raise.  It sounds like he's doing a great job of being a father to them even though that's not officially what he is.  He's their uncle, their protector.  He's the one they live with, the one who buys their food, changes the little one's diapers, takes them to school and picks them up, rocks out with them to Michael Jackson, reads them to sleep. Sounds like a dad to me.

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Now that Fathers Day has passed, I guess we can get back to the hard business of trying to get people's actions to live up to their words.  On Fathers Day, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio are all about honoring Dad, and of course that's as it should be. On Fathers Day we learn how great a guy Dad is or was and how, whatever success a particular person has had, he/she owes so much of it to their father.  That's good.  It's a good thing to remember everything your father did for you and what a valuable presence he is/was in your life.  That's what the day is for, after all. But with all the hosannas raining down, you'd think it would carry over to the days following Fathers Day.  You'd think that we'd be doing everything in our power to make sure kids and dads don't get tossed out of each other's lives, when divorce comes along, like so much dirty dishwater.  You'd think that we'd buckle down to the task of reforming family courts to reflect what so many already know to be necessary - keeping fathers and children together as much as possible. But if previous years have been any indicator, it'll be the same old grind.  Fathers' rights advocates will still face the same old machine that churns out falsities and distortions about men, fathers, children, divorce, custody and abuse like rank sausage.  Come to think of it, they didn't wait for Fathers Day to be over; in fact, the machine never missed a beat. As but one case in point, there's this article (San Diego Reader, 6/15/11).  It's friendly title is "Dad Was a Bum," just in case anyone might get the wrong idea. It's all about Mike, who's now 53, if my arithmetic is correct.  Mike and his siblings were brought up in New Jersey by their mother.  Times were tough and the budget was tight.  That's because Dad left early and never came back, never called, never wrote.  He left when Mike was 13. And the anger and hatred Mike feels for his father almost ooze off the page.  Indeed, Mike says that he and his brothers made a pact as teenagers - that if their father ever showed up, they'd beat the stuffing out of him. So it's odd that, when Mike found himself in Florida at age 40, he decided to find his father.  It seems an aunt had let slip years before the information that his father lived somewhere in the Sunshine State.  So Mike, in Florida on business and with a little free time, decided to locate his father. As luck would have it, he was in the very county that showed a man with his father's name on the tax roles, so Mike went to the address and there he was - his father.  When Mike told him who he was, the man, now in his 70s, broke down and wept.  He did so again at the restaurant they ate at.  He cried again when they returned to his house. Why?  The article never says.  That was 13 years ago and Mike never saw his father, who is now dead, again.  His anger at his father seems undiminished by the meeting. In what's become a familiar ritual, the article came out shortly before Fathers Day.  Amid all the accolades for dads, there's always a stubborn few that seize on Fathers Day to pour out vitriol against the men we're supposed to be honoring. The hatred of fathers that some harbor has always struck me as odd.  Oh, I don't begrudge people like Mike their anger.  Children need both their parents and he didn't have his father.  As far as he can tell, it was because of the ill will or irresponsibility of his father that he didn't have a dad when he was growing up.  If all the facts were known, he might be right.  Maybe his dad was a bum. But it's the fact that certain publications just can't seem to take a deep breath, swallow their hatred and simply give fathers their due on Fathers Day that I just can't seem to grasp.  Would it be so difficult to acknowledge what is so widely known - that children need fathers and most fathers want to be good ones? Sure there are bad fathers just as there are bad mothers, but I'll bet the ranch that the San Diego Reader didn't do an article entitled "Mother Was a Bum" just ahead of mothers day.  It's not that they couldn't have, because there are millions of stories of bad, abusive, criminal mothers.  But no, on Mothers Day, we honor mothers, and rightly so.  But for some, Fathers Day is different. That brings us back to Mike.  In the author's fervent desire to depict his father as uncaring and irresponsible, she misses some obvious cues.  It's the way it always goes when the story is told as black and white, corruption versus innocence.  When the writer of a story allows her villain no redeeming qualities, when the question "why?" is never asked, there's not much room for subtlety or nuance. And sure enough, the Reader article offers none, which is a shame.  Interest usually lies in ambiguity.  For adults, a story gets interesting when we start to see why the villain acts as he does.  It thwarts the narrative of Good and Evil and replaces it with one of human beings doing the sometimes flawed things humans do. And there are indeed some tempting clues about Mike's dad.  There were his paternal grandmother and aunt who raved about his dad.  There was the time when he was 13 when his dad invited him and a couple of his siblings to come with him to his girlfriend's house in the country for Thanksgiving.  They went and Mike's description is of an idyllic time away from the city.  He had a good time.
A couple of weeks later, his father called again and asked if the kids could come back for Christmas. This time, his mother said no.
"She blew up about it. She figured, ‘You took three of my kids for Thanksgiving, and now you want to take them for Christmas, too? You haven"t been around forever." I just remember she had a huge fight with him over the phone. The next thing I knew, he dropped off some gifts for us, and that was the day he disappeared.'
Then there's the man who couldn't stop crying when his son came calling 27 years later.  There's the man who willed everything to Mike, his siblings and their mother when he died. Who knows what the reality of Mike's situation was.  Why did his parents split up?  Why was his father such a non-presence in his life?  What were those overtures about on Thanksgiving and Christmas?  And why didn't he ever call, write or send gifts? We'll never know because Mike was content to let appearances stand in for reality.  He visited his father but he never asked "why?"  Now Mike will never know because his father is dead. And maybe in his case, the appearance was reality.  Maybe the man who wept was callous, cold and uncaring.  Anything is possible, and I'd never presume to tell another man what his experience was. But what if Mike had treated his father like a person instead of like pure Evil.  What if he'd asked "why?"  "Why, dad, did you leave us and never return?"  I put even odds on the answer being something neither Mike nor the article's writer wants to think about - that the man who cried was neither callous nor uncaring.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the man cared deeply for his children, but was shoved out of their lives by a mother who refused to share them.  And when that happened, the only way he could deal with it was totally - a complete break.  After all, his second wife urged him to get in touch, but he never did. Of course I could be wrong, but I've seen enough of these cases to have my suspicions about how it actually came to pass that Mike's father left. But to learn that we'd have to treat the man as a man instead of a pariah.  We'd have to try to know him, to understand him and why he did what he did.  And that's not what the article is interested in.  It's interested in a tale of wrong and right, of black hats and white.  Above all it's interested in denigrating dads.  Hey, it's Fathers Day.

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As we know, much of what family courts do seems aimed at separating fathers from children.  We see that in their 84% preference for maternal primary custody and their hesitancy at enforcing dads' visitation orders.  We see it in their readiness to issue restraining orders on the thinnest evidence of abuse.  We see it in the draconian enforcement of child support. But family courts aren't the only ones to blame.  State legislatures that enact laws and fail to repeal others that frankly treat mothers and fathers differently are as well.  That's true in adoption cases, paternity fraud cases and the like.  In all of those cases fathers have to clear a number of high hurdles just to get the same parental rights that mothers have automatically by virtue of their biological relationship to their children. Then there's the anti-dad crowd that will stop at nothing to keep fathers and children separate.  They stoop to rank untruths and distortions to try to convince lawmakers that dads are dangerous to and uninterested in children. I've said all that before, but I'd like you to keep it in mind as you read this article (Wall Street Journal, 6/14/11).  The article is a nice pre-Fathers Day piece reprising a lot of the best information on how fathers care for children and how that helps the kids become resilient, healthy individuals.  I think it's worth remembering all the ways in which our society, it's law and culture seek to keep fathers separate from children when you read the WSJ piece.
After dinner at Todd and Jodie Schiermeier's house in O'Fallon, Ill., it is "tackle Dad" time. That's when Mr. Schiermeier gets down on the floor with their three children, Rylee, 7, Kinsey, 4, and Jace, 20 months, for a session of "horseback rides and pillow fights and tackle and wrestle," he says.
It is a stark contrast to Ms. Schiermeier's playtime with the kids, who says she mostly cuddles them or has "a little tickle fight."
The rough play is already benefiting her older daughter, who is "a little timid," Ms. Schiermeier says. "She has toughened up a little" playing with her dad. "He is teaching her how to take the blows of life, and to get in there and fight." All three kids are learning to take turns and work as a team. For Mr. Schiermeier, that is intentional: "I push them to get outside their comfort zones."
Writer Sue Shellenbarger understands the basic fact of parenting: mothers and fathers tend to parent differently, each tends to complement the other and the two together are needed by children to grow into well-rounded adults.  That most important concept should always be kept in mind by those making decisions about custody, but time and again, it seems that those judges, legislators, etc. seem to think fathers are expendable.  But,
The benefits of involved fathering are known: improved cognitive skills, fewer behavioral problems among school-age children, less delinquency among teenage boys and fewer psychological problems in young women, based on an analysis of 16 long-term studies of father involvement, published in 2008 in the scholarly journal Acta Paediatrica.
It turns out that even fathers' greater tendency to go to work and earn has benefits to children in the way they parent.
As a result, fathers may be less familiar with their children's nonverbal cues. Such dads tend to challenge children more to express themselves in words, helping foster the better cognitive skills researchers have found in 2-year-olds with involved fathers.
Parenting patterns may be rooted in neurological differences. Under stress, research shows, men's brains are wired to respond to challenges physically, leaping into action. Women are more likely to withdraw or shut down.
Because fathers have had to learn to manage their own impulses to strike out or react physically to frustration, they may be better equipped than mothers to help children manage their own urges to behave badly, Dr. Pruett says.
Indeed, fathers typically aren't as upset as mothers by kids' tantrums or bad behavior, based on a 2009 survey of 1,615 parents by Zero to Three, a nonprofit child-development research and policy organization. Only half as many fathers as mothers say their children's temper tantrums are one of their biggest challenges.
The differences in fathering and mothering begin early and persist.  Mothers tend to be more contemplative and in-turned.  That means they tend to talk problems over with their children.  Fathers often want to distract children from difficulties and encourage them to move on from whatever bothers them. Of course neither is the right or wrong way.  On the contrary, both are necessary skills for coping with life and children who have both a mother and a father tend to demonstrate the sets of skills associated with each parent.
Since Callip and Christine Hall, who live in Cary, N.C., became parents nearly three years ago, they have noticed differences in their parenting. When their 2-year-old daughter, Ella, fell off her chair recently, Mr. Hall picked her up and carried her away from the table to distract her. He says he wants to teach her that "we're not going to cater to the whimpering if she's not really in pain," and he sees Ella learning to shake off minor setbacks and move on.
"I'm more verbose," Ms. Hall says. I would have immediately started saying, 'Oh, Ella, tell Mommy what happened. Are you OK?' " she says. But while "my mothering instinct was to go over there and hover," she says, she restrained herself while Ella cried for a few moments, then joined her husband to pat Ella's back and soothe her.
Soon, "between efforts by both of us, we were able to get her to calm down," Ms. Hall says. "Neither one of us thinks one way of parenting is right or wrong. It's just different." In the end, she adds, "we are complementary."
It's all very true and worth remembering.  It's particularly worth remembering when yet another court informs us that the "best interests of the child" require that he/she sees dad at most every other weekend or not at all because an angry mother claims child abuse for the first time in their marriage during a custody fight.  And it's doubly worth remembering when the anti-dad crowd opposes an equal parenting law with the spurious claim that fathers, but not mothers, abuse their children. The truth is there in the Journalarticle.  Fathers benefit children in ways that mothers tend not to, and vice versa.  Anyone who argues against greater father involvement with children argues that kids shouldn't receive the benefits that fathers provide. We should always remember that. Thanks to Gordon for the heads-up.

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The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that indigent child support obligors are not necessarily entitled to an attorney when faced with contempt proceedings threatening incarceration. In the case of Turner vs. Rogers, the Court found that the defendant's Due Process rights were violated by South Carolina's contempt proceedings, but his rights could have been met in ways other than the provision of a state-paid attorney. As those who've read my previous posts on this case know, Turner is the South Carolina man who spent a year in jail for civil contempt for his failure to pay child support.  He claimed that he was indigent and unable to pay, but the judge jailed him anyway without making a finding of whether Turner could have paid his debt or not. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5 - 4 decision that Turner's rights under the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment were violated because he was neither provided an attorney by the state nor did he receive "alternative procedural safeguards."
These include (1) notice to the defendant that his "ability to pay' is a critical issue in the contempt proceeding; (2) the use of a form (or the equivalent) to elicit relevant financial information from him; (3) an opportunity at the hearing for him to respond to statements and questions about his financial status; and (4) an express finding by the court that the defendant has the ability to pay.
Those procedural "safeguards" will be sufficient for due process purposes in cases in which the other party is the custodial parent who is not represented by counsel.  In many, perhaps most, cases in which indigency of the obligor is an issue, it is the state that seeks reimbursement for payments made to the custodial parent through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).  The Court's decision doesn't reach those cases. So it is key to Justice Breyer's opinion that it applies only when the custodial parent is the opposing party and she/he is not represented by counsel.
[S]ometimes, as here, the person opposing the defendant at the hearing is not the government represented by counsel but the custodial parent unrepresented by counsel. A requirement that the State provide counsel to the non-custodial parent in these cases could create an asymmetry of representation that would "alter significantly the nature of the proceeding,'... creating a degree of formality or delay that would unduly slow payment to those immediately in need and make the proceedings less fair overall.
Hmm.  Where to begin?  Perhaps with the observation that the justices apparently have no concept of the realities of poverty or the child support process. In the first place, Justice Breyer (joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor) is concerned about creating asymmetry between the custodial and non-custodial parents.  I suppose it's too bad that no one told him about the pro-custodial-parent asymmetry that already exists.  Countless fathers and their attorneys could educate the court on that, but I guess none of them did. The idea that custodial mothers and non-custodial fathers walk into a hearing on child support arrearages as equals is far fetched at best.  Whether she has an attorney by her side or not, the custodial mother has the full weight of the state's child support bureaucracy on her side.  That includes the fact that the state receives partial reimbursement from the federal government for every dollar of child support it collects.  It is therefore in the interests of the state to set child support as high as possible, which in turn militates against finding fathers indigent and unable to pay. Second, even if provision of counsel did create an asymmetry, there's a good reason why.  It's a reason that the learned justices could have figured out for themselves, or at least you'd think so.  The reason is that one of the people before the judge stands to go to jail; the other one doesn't.  When Turner and his wife went to court, there was not a chance in the world that she would go to jail or be punished in any way.  Why would she have been? But Turner faced jail if he didn't argue his case effectively, as in the event he did not.  And it is that prospect of jail that should require that he have an attorney; that's what the case is about.  To say, as the majority does, that provision of an attorney to keep someone out of jail gives him an unfair advantage over an opposing party faced with no such threat is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of the proceeding. Third, the majority's objection to providing counsel that it would "unduly slow payment" of child support beggars belief.  For one thing, that's been the objection of every law enforcement agency for all time to the assertion of due process rights by anyone accused of crime.  "How can we fight crime if we're forced to afford the accused due process?" The answer has always appropriately been that due process of law can indeed by cumbersome, but it's required if we don't want to live in a police state. And that's the answer to Breyer.  Yes it may impede, however slightly, the rush to judgment, but that is the whole point of due process rights - to force the state or whoever seeks to deprive the defendant of his freedom to be right.  The more due process corners we cut, the more innocent (or in this case indigent) people land in jail.  Justice Breyer and the majority opted to cut corners. And would it be too much to ask of the majority that they take notice of their own assumptions?  After all, the whole argument that providing an attorney would  "unduly slow payment" of child support assumes that the father is not indigent and therefore must pay.  It is astonishing to say the least that the learned justices apparently can't grasp the possibility of a man's being actually indigent, unable to pay and thus not ordered to pay. That brings us to what the majority considers an adequate substitute for an attorney - a form.  To be precise, the majority's "alternative procedural safeguards" may be alternatives, but they are in no sense safeguards. As the justices see it, a judge would be required to tell the obligor that he can claim inability to pay if he wants to, and, if he does, give him a form to fill out providing financial information and then ask him questions about his financial condition. In short, combining a judge who's strongly motivated from the outset to order child support, with a poor - and likely poorly educated - parent, is an open invitation to abuse.  Again, it's the poor and undereducated who will wind up in jail because of this ruling which is precisely what the Due Process Clause is supposed to prevent. And speaking of invitations, that's just what the Court has issued to the 45 states that currently provide counsel to indigent child support obligors.  South Carolina is in the small minority of states (five) that don't; all the rest do.  Now they know they don't need to. And what do you bet that cash-strapped states will jump at the opportunity?  What could make better financial sense than no longer having to pay those pesky lawyers and simply substituting a pre-printed form.  It makes perfect sense and will streamline civil contempt proceedings into the bargain.  It's a win-win situation except for the dad, but what's a few thousand destitute fathers in jail beside saving the state money? The solution to this was always simple; when a state seeks to incarcerate someone for whatever reason, that person should have an attorney to represent him/her.  Period.  It's a fundamental part of due process rights or should be.  Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens would understand.  That the justices of the Supreme Court don't speaks volumes about their ignorance of how the poor - and fathers - are treated every day in the courts of this country.

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The first is here (Bakersfield Californian, 6/12/11).  It's about our old friend Christian Diaz, and thanks to writer Jose Gaspar for continuing to report on his case. Diaz is the teenager who fathered a child with his girlfriend who was also a teenager at the time.  He always wanted to raise the child and she led him to believe she did too.  But when it came time for her to give birth, Diaz learned that she'd misled him.  First, she didn't tell him which hospital she'd be going to.  When he figured that out and showed up there shortly after his son's birth, she told hospital authorities he wasn't the dad, so he was escorted from the premises without ever seeing his son. The mother had decided to place the child for adoption and already had parents picked out.  But Diaz went to court immediately to assert his parental rights.  He'd already purchased furniture, toys and supplies for the baby and he and his mother had set aside a room especially for the little boy. But the court denied Diaz his right to raise his own flesh and blood.  It did that because, in California, a single father must perform certain acts in order to establish his parental rights.  Single mothers, like Diaz's girlfriend, face no such requirements. Into the bargain, no one lets dads know just what those obligations are.  In his case the court said Diaz hadn't done enough to support the mother during pregnancy, which means he knows that now.  When it mattered, he didn't and so another child with a loving father was taken by adoptive parents.  As I've said many times before, that means that another child somewhere in the world who needs adopting, who doesn't have a loving father to care for it, has been denied adoptive parents. That's what the State of California calls acting "in the best interests of the child."  It's an odd concept.  Denying one child the love of his father and denying another the love of adoptive parents somehow adds up, in the minds of state legislators, to "the best interests of the child." So Christian Diaz is appealing the adoption of his child.  Attorney Marc Angelucci for one sees several problems with forcing adoption on a child who doesn't need to be adopted.
First, the judge denied Diaz a fundamental constitutional right to parent his child, for no good reason except that he's an unmarried father and that the court felt he did not support the pregnancy enough, said Angelucci. Second, the evidence did not support the decision; instead it was based on gender-biased laws that violate the equal protection rights of fathers like Diaz, claims the attorney.
Young mothers have a presumed right to their child; so should young fathers like Diaz, said Angelucci.
Shorn of legalese, let's look at what those concepts mean in the Christian Diaz case.  When reviewing the facts ask yourself "whose behavior is rewarded and whose is punished by the State of California?"  She lied to Diaz about raising the child together, misled him about where she would give birth, refused to tell him about the adoption or the adoptive parents and lied to hospital authorities so he couldn't see his newborn son.  That behavior is perfectly alright according to the California legislature and the judge. By contrast, Diaz did everything he knew to do to prepare for and be a father to his child.  That behavior is punished by adoption law in California. He and she are both young and both are single parents.  But gender equality is an alien concept in family law in California and elsewhere. While he waits for the appellate court to get around to hearing his case, Diaz still maintains his son's room just the way it's always been, waiting for the day he believes he'll gather the boy, now one year old, into his arms for the first time. He's not only never hugged the child, he's never seen him.  That's in part because the adoptive couple have refused to send him photos as long as Diaz contests the adoption.  If he drops the case, he'll get to see the photos; if he doesn't, well, it's his tough luck. About that, Christian Diaz says "there's no way I will ever agree to give up my son." Our second update comes to us from the Houston area.  It's the case of the area high school teacher, Anne Lynn Montgomery, who carried on a lengthy affair with one of her students, Bradman Moore.  It started when he was 16 and she was 31.  She got pregnant - twice - and bore his two children.  At least we think they're his.  Moore says she had sex with five other high school boys over the years. At some point, the two split up after apparently living together for a time.  That was when Montgomery made a mistake almost as big as carrying on a sexual affair with an underage boy.  She went to the county prosecutors and demanded a restraining order against Moore.  The police investigated her claims and found them unsupported by any evidence, but in the process, they noticed the obvious - that the woman had committed multiple sexual assaults on an underage boy. So they arrested her and charged her with two felonies, sexual assault of a child and improper relationship between a student and an educator. Well, this article tells us that Montgomery wasn't too thrilled with her prospects, which could amount to 20 years behind bars.  So she's now on the lam (New York Daily News, 6/17/11).  Apparently Montgomery has disappeared. I don't think that's the smartest move she could have made, but she seems to have a history of not very smart moves.  My guess is that she'll be found, brought back and have yet another charge against her.  In doing so she'll have squandered her female sentencing discount. What I really want to know is where the kids are.  Surely they're not with her.  After all, she's accused of a couple of felonies and could easily do time.  So does he have his children?  Amazingly, no article deems that worthy of mention. Stay tuned.

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Here's an interesting new study.  It's by three researchers at the Boston College Center for Work and Family and is entitled "The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted." It's interesting partly for what it says and partly for what it doesn't. The researchers, Professor Brad Harrington, Fred Van Deusen and Beth Humberd, gave a questionnaire to 963 male employees of four Fortune 500 companies.  All the men were fathers.  The study sought to learn what the men thought of their jobs and their roles as fathers.  It provides information about their practices and attitudes.

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The saga continues and gets more outrageous the more information comes in.  This first article comes to us from up in the "thumb" of Michigan (Detroit Free Press, 6/21/11).  There a seven-year-old boy had spent Fathers Day at his dad's house in Filion and, upon being returned to his mother and stepfather became unhappy and wanted to go back to Dad. So he did what any enterprising youngster would do; he got in the car and went.  Specifically, his stepfather was at work and his mother was asleep having worked a night shift the previous night.  That left no one to look after the little boy who wanted his father.  He took his stepfather's Pontiac Sunbird and headed for Dad's place some 12 miles distant.

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On Fathers Day, President Obama launched his initiative called Strong Fathers, Strong Families.  If anyone can figure out what it is, by all means let me know.  As far as I've been able to ascertain, it looks like a year-long exhortation to fathers to be better than they've been in the past.  If there's more to it, I'd love to know. But what I do know is what the president wrote in his pre-Fathers Day article in, yes, People Magazine here (People, 6/8/11). Reading the piece, it's hard not to hear the president's sincerity.  He really believes that fathers should be involved in their children's lives.  After all, his father wasn't, so he knows how that feels. What I also know is that President Obama is a smart man.  He's well-educated and knowledgeable.  So it's more than disconcerting to realize that he took to the national press to talk about the value of fathers to children, about which he knows a lot, but said nothing about how that comes about.  Indeed, by opening his article with his own experience of a father who left his family, the president strongly suggests that paternal irresponsibility is the only thing keeping fathers and children apart. It's true of course that some fathers don't want much or anything to do with their kids.  In a nation of 300 million people, you'd expect to find some of those dads.  Of course you'd also expect to find mothers who are irresponsible, violent, neglectful, etc., and sure enough you do.  The Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services reports almost a million incidents of child abuse and neglect every year and every year right at 40% of them are committed by mothers acting alone. So, in his concern for children, President Obama could have mentioned those mothers, but he didn't.  He also didn't mention the many ways in which state and federal laws do the exact opposite of what he knows to be best for children.  Those laws frankly keep fathers out of children's lives and do so in an astonishing variety of ways, all of which I've written about before.  From Adoption to child Support to Custody to Paternity Fraud, Visitation and more, there's a whole alphabet soup of laws and practices that have one thing in common - their tendency to separate fathers from their children. They do so based on one simple assumption that the president makes as well - that fathers are either dangerous to or uninterested in their children.  The fact that much social science shows that to be false seems to matter not at all.  Fine long-term studies like the Fragile Families and Child Well-being study that's been going on at Princeton under the direction of Sarah McLanahan show clearly that even those fathers we'd expect to fit the stereotype of the uninterested dad in fact passionately desire an active role in their children's upbringing.   You'd think the President of the United States would know such things and my guess is that he does.  After all, who has more resources at his fingertips than the man in the Oval Office?  So that must mean that he's aware of the many obstacles dads face when they try to remain actively involved with their children, but chooses not to mention them.  Far worse, he chooses not to attempt to do anything about them.  Oh, I understand that family law is, for the most part, a state matter and therefore beyond the president's purview.  But much, like child support enforcement and domestic violence law have roots in federal law and policy; they are therefore within Obama's power to directly influence.  But he doesn't. He could also use the Oval Office as a "bully pulpit" from which to hector states to do the right thing by dads.  But he doesn't do that either. I also understand that those holding public office are always running for reelection.  They therefore choose their words as best they can for maximum electoral effect.  So Obama's piece appeared in a magazine that's read by far more women than men and his message was conducive to mothers' sense of their own self-worth: "Mothers, you bear no fault; it's the dads who need to change." You wouldn't expect to find him excoriating mothers for maternal gatekeeping, denial of visitation, false claims of abuse or paternity fraud in the pages of People.  Come to think of it, pretty much the same could be said of Vice-President Biden's disgraceful interview with Glamour Magazine about domestic violence.  He opted to avoid the truth too.  His brief - that only men commit DV and only women are victims - was preaching to the choir.  Why would he tell the truth about women's commission of domestic violence to an audience of women? Well, one reason would be because it's the truth and the truth has a way of mattering irrespective of the context.  But speaking the truth about such things takes courage and those looking for that attribute among elected officials usually look in vain. And since elected officials can't be counted on to do the right thing, because they can be counted on to do what they perceive as in their best interests, we in the movement for family court reform and fathers' rights need to make doing the right thing in  politicians' best interests.  To be blunt, we need to make our electoral decisions based on each candidate's stance on family court reform and nothing else. Being right on family court reform needs to go to the head of the list of attributes a candidate must possess in order to get our votes.  If he/she is, then we should vote for the person; if not then regardless of his/her other qualities, then he/she doesn't get our vote. And we should let them know why we voted for or against them.  They can't get with our program if they don't know the consequences of not doing so. We should do more than vote.  We should make ourselves indispensable to campaigns whose candidates are right on family court reform issues.  We should give money and put our boots on the ground for candidates who are right and against those who are wrong.  That means block-walking, phone-banking, home meet-and-greets and the thousand other things that make for effective electoral politics. The movement for family court reform and fathers' rights has been on the right side of justice, fairness and science from the start.  But exhortations to political officials to do the right thing have limited effect.  Put simply, until they're scared of what we can do at the ballot box, we'll continue to read arrant nonsense courtesy of presidents and vice-presidents.  And once they've gotten the message that we have electoral power and mean business, all that will change.

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