There’s been quite a kerfuffle among the center-right commentariat over the past few days. Fox’s Tucker Carlson started it with a ten-minute opinion piece on some of the ways in which this culture denigrates men and boys to everyone’s detriment. Many of Carlson’s points hit the nail on the head.
His was followed by an article by David French in the National Review, and it’s French’s on which I’d like to remark today (National Review, 1/7/19).
French is right about most of what he says. He points out that the process of raising boys to be men – i.e. the type of men we desire and society needs – is a long and difficult one.
When the bell rings on opening day this Wednesday, January 9, 2019, in the Missouri Assembly, companion shared parenting bills, HB 229 sponsored by Representative Kathy Swan and SB 14 sponsored by Senator Wayne Wallingford, will be ready for legislative action. The legislative language in these bills has been vetted in previous sessions and so these bills are ready for passage. State advocates of shared parenting are ready to help advance the interests of children and parents in Missouri by informing state officials about the importance of getting these bills across the finish line and signed into law. Rebuttable presumption of equal parenting is not mandatory and judges have discretion in circumstances where exceptions exist or it would be dangerous for the child. It simply means that for fit and willing parents who want equal time with their children, it should be allowed and encouraged.
All research points to equal parenting time after divorce or separation as a common sense policy that is in the best interest of children and families. Sharing the parenting after a divorce reduces conflict and helps children have a sense of stability in their lives which most parents would agree is important. This means less stress on children, reduced litigation costs and frees up court docket time. While there is broad agreement that an intact family is part of the American dream, burying our heads in the sand when it comes to parenting laws after divorce is no solution. Equal shared parenting is best for children of divorce.
A measure of sanity now leavens New Jersey’s public policy on the enforcement of child support delinquencies (New Jersey Law Journal, 1/2/19). State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson has struck down as violating the state’s constitution that portion of a New Jersey statute mandating automatic driver’s license suspension in all cases in which “a child support arrearage equals or exceeds the amount of child support payable for six months or court-ordered health care coverage for the child is not provided for six months.”
In those cases, child support obligors in the Garden State were afforded neither notice of the state’s action against them nor a hearing. To say the least, that’s an astonishing breach of the most basic tenets of due process of law, a fact Judge Jacobson explicitly noted. She also wrote in her 187-page opinion that the 1988 law violated the principle of “fundamental fairness.”
She’s right on both counts. The idea that a state can or should deprive a person of one of the most basic necessities of modern life without providing an opportunity to be heard and prove, if the facts support it, the inability to pay, is obviously at odds with constitutional precepts.
She explained that “both due process and fundamental fairness require courts to provide counsel to indigent obligors at any hearing at which a hearing officer may recommend a driver’s license suspension to a court, or at any hearing when the family court itself is considering a driver’s license suspension.”Judge Jacobson issued an injunction against enforcement of the law and gave the state 120 days to establish policies that afford delinquent obligors an opportunity to be heard.
The linked-to article is a good one. The editors of the Law Journal clearly know the basics about child support and the process of enforcement.
Delinquency is concentrated among low income parents with support obligations…
We find that Judge Jacobson’s ruling addresses an important public problem. We hope that the governor, attorney general, and the Division of Family Development will work diligently and earnestly to produce the new regulations which the court has granted 120 days to formulate. Judge Jacobson declined to make her order retroactive. Thousands of parents—especially low income—doubtless remain stranded without driving privileges. Their status is something which the Legislature can and should address.Indeed. The federal Office of Child Support Administration has long known and stated that some 63% of child support obligors behind on their payments report earnings of less than $10,000 per year. The heavy weight of draconian enforcement methods falls most heavily on those least able to bear it.
Meanwhile, Judge Jacobson cited some pithy facts about the impact of driver’s license suspension.
In her comprehensive opinion, Judge Jacobson took note of a 2006 study by the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission—“Motor Vehicles Affordability and Fairness.” The report “found that 42 percent of individuals who had their licenses suspended lost jobs as a result of the suspension, 45 percent of those who lost jobs could not find another job, and 88% of those that were able to find another job reported a decrease in income.” Jacobson wrote that “[e]ven though most of the Report’s findings addressed license suspensions in general and did not focus on child support-related suspensions, it is reasonable to assume that the affected dependents likely included many children who are the subject of child support orders, and the very individuals that the automatic license suspensions were intended to benefit.” The Bloustein/MCV report also found that in low income areas “child support suspension rates for drivers…were ten times higher than the statewide average.”In other words, what child support reform advocates have been saying for decades is the truth – suspending drivers’ licenses makes paying child support much harder. It acts to defeat the very end the state claims to be pursuing – money to support children. That the state legislature did so in such a patently unconstitutional manner was outrageous in 1988 when the law was passed and has remained so ever since.
The late 80s of course were the heyday of the notion that fathers had no interest in their children and sought any way possible to avoid supporting them. That of course is so much bunk and has been proven to be so many times by scrupulous social science. But still public policies based on exactly that willful misunderstanding of fathers and their attachment to their children (and vice versa) continues to inform public policy regarding family law.
Kudos to Judge Jacobson. She’s struck a much-needed blow for sanity in the public policy that governs child support and its enforcement.
The Washington Post is at it again (Washington Post, 1/1/19). In the linked-to article, the Post pulls out all the stops to reinforce the notion that men, but not women, are dangerous to their families and kids. The most remarkable part of the piece is that it uses a case in which a mother murdered her two children to try to make the point.
On about September 5, 2018, Noera Ayaz shot and killed her two sons and then herself. Not one word of the article even suggests that she should be criticized for doing so. On the contrary, the entire piece extols her virtues as a mother and human being generally.
Some articles say a little in a lot of words, but some, like this one, say a lot in a few (TMZ, 12/31/18). Now, I doubt that the anonymous writer knows how much he/she’s actually communicating, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the piece is a small gold mine or information. It weighs in at a bantam-weight 140 words, but those with eyes to see and ears to hear know it speaks volumes.
It’s about former NBA journeyman Matt Barnes who played with a number of different teams over his 14-year career, his ex-wife Gloria Govan and their twin sons Carter and Isaiah, aged 10.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that, under state law, a mother who abused a variety of addictive drugs during pregnancy did not violate the law prohibiting child abuse, despite her baby being born addicted to opiates (Bucks County, Courier Times, 12/29/18).
The case involves a girl who spent 19 days in Williamsport Hospital last year after she was born, being treated for drug dependence that caused severe withdrawal symptoms. Her mother had relapsed into drug use after getting out of jail, and two weeks before the girl was born in January 2017 the mother tested positive for opiates, marijuana and benzodiazepines, [Justice Christine] Donohue wrote.
Here’s one of those ‘Ask the Lawyer’ type of articles that appear in so many publications (Lebanon Democrat, 12/27/18). This one’s short, but reveals so, so much. The lawyer is Jim Hawkins of Tennessee. He begins his piece with a fact:
Striking fact: During 2017, 43.6 percent of all Tennessee babies were born to unmarried mothers.
Now we come to the nut of Bud Dale’s claims to the Family Law Advisory Committee of the Kansas Judicial Council. In my first piece, I dealt with the fact that Dale intentionally misrepresented to the committee NPO’s report on the parenting time guidelines of Ohio family courts. In my second, I pointed out that he relies on the current system for at least part of his income, a fact that may better explain his opposition to salutary change than any principled opposition to children having meaningful relationships with their father post-divorce. I also noted that, although he was on the AFCC committee that promulgated guidelines for the use of scientific literature in forensic settings, Dale violated at least three of the ten guidelines in his letter to the Family Law Advisory Committee.
His letter gives a glimpse of his take on shared parenting and the science on parenting time and children’s well-being.
As I mentioned in my last piece, Bud Dale’s letter to the Family Law Advisory Committee of the Kansas Judicial Council is riddled with inaccuracies and at least one outright lie. But it gets worse. Dale opposes any change in the law that would promote shared parenting arrangements for kids post-divorce. His letter would have the committee believe that he does so out of the highest of high principles, but a closer examination of Dale himself suggests otherwise.
Dale is both a lawyer and a psychologist. Wearing his latter hat, he earns money as a custody evaluator. Wearing his former, he earns money as a mediator. In short, he feeds at two troughs provided by the existing family court system, troughs that might well run dry and be upended by a presumption of shared parenting. Dare we to deduce that his opposition to shared parenting is more of a matter of self-interest than of the best interests of kids?
Someone named Bud Dale has decided to set himself up in Kansas as (apparently) the sole arbiter regarding the science on shared versus sole parenting. Dale advertises himself as a “licensed PhD. psychologist and attorney in Topeka, Kansas.” In all the studies on shared parenting I’ve read and read about, I’ve never seen his name mentioned nor cited as a researcher in the field. The finest scientists in the field of parenting time and children’s well-being gathered in Boston in May of 2017 for a conference whose aim was to distill the state of knowledge about that topic. Dale wasn’t there, nor was he mentioned.
Nevertheless, Dale seems to have insinuated himself into the good graces of the Family Law Advisory Committee of the Kansas Judicial Council. His purpose appears to be to take issue with proponents of shared parenting, most notably Profs. Linda Nielsen and Richard Warshak. To that end, Dale’s written a letter to the aforesaid Committee. If his letter is any indication of his overall trustworthiness, no one should take Dale seriously.
A recent appellate court decision in Kentucky casts doubt on the future of parental rights for unmarried same-sex partners.
Teri Whitehouse and Tammie Delaney were partners. The mutually agreed that Delaney would become pregnant via a sperm donor.
Leave it to The Guardian to make the domestic violence situation worse, not better (The Guardian, 12/4/18). The type of virulent misandry on parade in the linked-to piece belongs in the ash heap of history, but The Guardian is nothing if not a throwback to older, less-informed times. It’s one of the troglodytes of the British press, the only silver lining to the cloud being that its readership has declined for years until today it’s next to nothing.
The article’s premise is that men commit domestic violence, women don’t, women are victims, men aren’t and therefore, the only way to reduce the incidence of DV is for men to be, well, different.
It’s a truism that bad facts make bad law and nothing reaffirms it like this case (Express, 12/7/18).
A judge in England has ruled that a child may be adopted without ever letting the father know of its existence. The reason? Dad’s a bad person.
Now, Dad was only 14 years old when he had sex with a girl he’d met at school. She was 13. She says she didn’t know she was pregnant until she went into labor. Whatever the case, Dad doesn’t know he has a child and, according to Judge Cohen, he never will.
The way-past-its-sell-by-date comedy, Saturday Night Live, has recently outraged fathers and those who care about them everywhere with two of its skits. And the estimable Barbara Kay doesn’t like it one bit (National Post, 12/18/18). The two pieces were so bad that the usually restrained Kay called the first one “an act of vile misandry.” Just so.
Here’s her description of the piece:
Here’s some good, albeit old, news on the alimony front (Money, 11/17/15).
It seems that, with women earning more than in previous decades, more of them are being ordered to pay alimony when they divorce. And apparently that doesn’t sit well with them, so they’re fighting back.
Now that women are paying alimony more often, they are getting involved in advocating for change.
“It’s unfair for men to pay it, and unfair for women to pay it. But women are much more outraged by it,” said Ken Neumann, a founder of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators.I hope he’s right. The more people we have demanding alimony reform, the better. Of course, as with so many articles of this sort, we’re left to simply believe someone who expresses an opinion. Neumann cites nothing authoritative for his statement.
“Deadbeat dads” are back in the British news (Independent, 12/13/18). Oh, the article avoids the term, but the message is the same – fathers don’t care about their kids, so, when Mom divorces Dad, Dad doesn’t want to pay. We could write the narrative in our sleep. Needless to say, the article is all of a piece with a thousand others. Like many of them though, it inadvertently reveals facts about the child support system some would prefer to remain unknown.
It seems that many divorced and separated fathers in the U.K. don’t pay child support or, if they do, don’t pay much. Or at least that’s what the mothers of their children say. In keeping with the genre, the survey to which it refers makes no mention of fathers, what their feelings are about the child custody and support systems or indeed anything related to fathers. Nor does it inquire into non-custodial mothers’ rates of child support. If the mothers think fathers are anything but walking wallets, there’s no indication of it in the article.
A federal judge in Houston has struck a blow for child abduction, child abuse and violation of law (CBS News, 12/13/18). On Wednesday, Judge Alfred H. Bennett sentenced Carlos Guimaraes to just three months in prison and his wife Jemima to a mere one month for their part in the abduction of their grandson Nicholas Brann by his mother to Brazil.
I’ve written about the case here and here among others.
Nico’s mother, Marcelle Guimaraes, was married to Houston physician Christopher Brann. Nico was their only child. Marcelle filed for divorce in 2012 when Nico was three years old. A Houston court granted the divorce and ordered the pair to share parenting and custody (more on that later). Only then did Marcelle abduct Nico to Brazil with the help of her wealthy parents.
Brann filed suit in Brazil under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Courts there found that Marcelle had taken the boy illegally, but have refused to order his return to his father on the grounds that Nico has acclimated to his life there.
The report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) continues from yesterday.
The colloquial term “deadbeat dads” is a common stereotype and colors all aspects of men’s involvement in the adoption process. A Canadian study on attitudes of triad members toward releasing identifying information on adoptees to birthparents found that respondents were much more willing to grant access rights to mothers than to fathers (Sachdev, 1991). The author concludes that members of the adoption community share the prevailing stereotypical views of the birthfather as a “Don Juan” or “phantom father” – that is, little more than a sperm donor.
In my response to the Washington Post’s article on the parental rights of incarcerated parents, I had occasion to skewer claims by two “experts” that taking children from their parents is OK because they can simply be adopted and therefore have a “forever home.” As I pointed out, the arithmetic regarding adoption definitively refutes that notion.
That encouraged me to consult the best source of information regarding adoption in the U.S., the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI). Alas, its website says that DAI has been shuttered since the beginning of this year, but fortunately, its work product is still there. That means I have the best data available on adoption.
I return now to the Washington Post article I wrote about last Friday (Washington Post, 12/3/18).
The article’s a pretty long one and it covers an important issue – that of the parental rights of prison inmates. Put simply, it reports on a Marshall Project finding that many parents lose their children solely because they’ve gone to prison. That is, there’s been no finding of abuse or neglect, but only that the parent is in prison, regardless of the length of the sentence.
Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will be considered by Congress in 2019. The reauthorization bill, H.B. 6545, is dangerously flawed and must be substantially amended. It contains a definition of domestic violence that is almost certainly unconstitutional, makes behavior actionable that non-violent couples routinely engage in and that can be part of healthy adult relationships. It likely would worsen domestic violence by overburdening police and courts with non-serious claims while increasing state intervention into family life.
Here is the definition proposed by H.B. 6545:
As Washington Post articles go, this isn’t bad (Washington Post, 12/3/18). It raises a real issue – the parental rights of incarcerated parents – and provides readers valuable information. But of course, this being the Post, it also ignores vast swaths of the issue in order to maintain intact its preconceived notions about parents and those of much of its readership.
Its gist is that state child welfare officials too readily take children into foster care and move to terminate their parents’ rights based solely on the fact that the latter have committed a crime and been imprisoned.