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.
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.
"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.
[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.
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
"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!
[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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.