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Non-feminist custody evaluators see domestic violence as resulting from "toxic" relationships, not from the patriarchal mindset of the father.  That's the second major part of the findings of the survey I've written about in my last two posts. The first part dealt with the attitudes of feminist custody evaluators toward reports of domestic violence.  The second part deals with the attitudes of "family violence" evaluators.  Those tend to get their information and attitudes from the body of social science that, over the decades, has studied large, random samples of the population.  Feminist inquiry has focused on women in DV shelters, as the authors of the survey make clear. The salient findings regarding the 14-member group of family violence evaluators include the fact that they overwhelmingly see domestic violence as situational.  That is, they see DV as something that comes as a response to the natural stresses of family life.
Their predominant discourse was distinctly different from feminist evaluators in that they perceived most DV as conflict and stress induced, normative, and mutual. Indeed, they reported seeing almost exclusively situational couple violence in practice.
They also had an "it takes two to tango" outlook on domestic violence.  That is, domestic violence is a product of family dynamics in which there are no clear perpetrators and no clear victims.  It's the understanding of domestic violence as well as most things in family life as arising from the integrated system that is the family. For them, all relationships have issues related to control and the ebb and flow of who has power or control at any given time over any given issue describes in part the relationship between the two partners.  That of course can be destructive, but need not be.  And who has and who wants control in a particular situation is not a matter of gender.  Both men and women have a need to feel in control, so there's a continuing interpersonal "dance" between the two. Where feminists see only men having power in relationships and believe that male power is inappropriate, these family violence evaluators have a much more nuanced take on the nature of power between intimate partners. These family violence evaluators distinguish between minor domestic violence such as a push or shove, and "real" DV which involves serious injury such as serious bruising, broken bones, etc.  They utterly condemn that sort of DV, but rarely if ever see it in their practices.  They opine that abusers like that get weeded out of the custody battle long before an evaluation takes place.
Chris explained, "If [the violence is] that bad, child protective authorities or legal authorities or someone else is going to have already dealt with it.'
These evaluators also regarded the minor, mutual DV they see as compatible with parental custody.  To them, neither minor violence like a push or shove nor the usual issues of inter-relational power, automatically disqualified a parent from have custody. Unlike the feminist evaluators, the family violence group saw false allegations as common and purposeful.
Whereas feminist evaluators estimated that false allegations occurred in about 10% of their cases, family violence evaluators estimated that 40% to 80% of their cases involved false allegations. Two evaluators thought allegations were "grossly exaggerated,' not entirely false. All reported that mothers made the majority of DV allegations, and false allegations were intended to gain leverage in the custody dispute or alienate the children from their father.
Interestingly, this group was the only one of the two that even mentioned parental alienation.  They did so in the context of false allegations of DV.
Red flags for a false allegation included suspected parental alienation by the mother, the mother"s demeanor (e.g., angry), and lack of documentation of the abuse.
And speaking of documentation, the family violence evaluators were concerned about claims of DV for which there was no objective evidence.
The majority of family violence evaluators emphasized that real DV victims should have documentation (e.g., police reports, pictures, hospital records, witnesses) or physical signs of DV (e.g., bruises); however, there were some disagreements when it came to the importance of documentation. For two evaluators, having an order of protection was the only way to ensure that an allegation was true, but for two other evaluators an order of protection was considered too easy to obtain and did not lend credibility to the allegation.
Not surprisingly, this group expressed the belief that both parents were important to children's well-being and attempted to promote that where possible in their recommendations to courts.
Family violence evaluators reported making custody recommendations that emphasized coparenting relationships that facilitated children"s contact with nonresidential parents. Jennifer"s perspective was echoed by others: "I"ve been doing this long enough [to know] that children in the past really suffered from not having enough contact with the other parent--the parent they don"t live with.' Their recommendations focused on modifying negative behaviors of both parties (e.g., conflict management classes or counseling for both parents).
If they suspected parental alienation by one parent, this group of evaluators leaned strongly toward custody on the part of the other parent.
As Michael said, "I would tend to lean toward custody with the so called "bad parent' because I know [the allegations are] not true, that the [father] is not like that . . . [it] is more like parental alienation syndrome stuff. . . . That relationship [between the father and child] is going to be over if the kid"s living with the [mother]."
In short, these evaluators had different training in DV than did the feminist group and interestingly their understanding of domestic violence appears to be far more congruent with existing science than that of the more trained feminists. For example, they seem to know that both men and women commit domestic violence.  They observe that they see little severe DV, and that's what study after study of large populations show as well (see, e.g. the 12,000-person Scottish study showing that 80% of DV resulted in either no injury or only a "minor cut or bruise").  They're aware of the existence of false allegations and the possibility of parental alienation.  They make no distinction based on sex about who may make false allegations, while the feminist group said that less than 10% of women's allegations are false, but 50% of men's are.  So the overt misandry of the feminists wasn't apparent in the other group. Perhaps most importantly, this second group sought to keep both parents connected with children post-divorce whereas the feminist group opted to radically marginalize dads at even the mere allegation of DV by mothers. As I said before, it's a small study, but it may tell us a lot about what's going on, not in court, but behind the closed doors of the custody evaluators on whom they rely.

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The U.S. State Department reports international parental child abductions are "sharply on the rise."  Read about it here (Houston Chronicle, 7/4/11).
Last year, at least 1,500 children were unlawfully taken to foreign countries by a parent who had been living in the United States, including children who were taken even while a parent was serving in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Only 578 abducted children were returned to the United States.
And, as I've reported before, Mexico continues as the prime culprit in the failure to rapidly return children to their left-behind parents in the United States.  Mexican family law favors maternal custody and, when a father in the U.S. seeks his child's return from there, years can go by with no action taken by Mexican courts. That's in spite of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction that calls for return of abducted children within 60 days.  Mexico and the U.S. are both signatory nations to the Convention, but Mexico routinely violates its speedy return provision. That's been true in Greg Allen's case.
For nine gut-wrenching years, Texan Greg Allen has been trying to track down his daughter after her mother absconded to Mexico with the 4-year-old during a rare unsupervised visit after the couple's contentious divorce.
"When it first happened, I was unable to function," recalls Allen, 42, an electrical engineer and sonar expert doing doctoral research at the University of Texas' applied research laboratories in Austin. "I went from being a single parent whose whole life revolved around raising my daughter to being a left-behind parent whose purpose in life was gone."
He still hasn't seen his daughter and has no idea of where she and her mother are.  Allen's remarried with three kids here in the States, but he still holds out hope of someday reconnecting with the girl.  She's now 14 and he figures she's probably an Internet addict, so he hopes she'll find him that way.  Otherwise, he's pretty much given up on the legal process as a means of getting his daughter back. He's not alone.  When legal channels don't do the job - and in the case of international child abduction to Mexico, they clearly don't - people often turn to what attorneys call "self help."  That means taking the law into one's own hands.  After all, a child abducted can be re-abducted.
Some parents resort to rescue teams assembled by activists such as Mark Miller, who founded the American Association for Lost Children in 1987.
Miller says he has rescued five children from Mexico over the past five years, relying on notarized copies of U.S. custody orders and U.S. birth certificates carried by an ad hoc team of drivers, a private investigator, an interpreter and even a person dressed as a priest to help persuade local authorities to cooperate with the recovery.
"We are going in on our own," says Miller. "We pick up the child and hurry up back to the border as quickly as possible."
That's not legal of course, but parents turn to it as a last resort when legal channels don't work. And speaking of laws, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey and others are attempting to sharpen the teeth of existing federal law.
Alarmed by mounting abductions and inadequate cooperation from foreign nations, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J. - chairman of a House Foreign Affairs Committee panel that tracks the issue - and eight House colleagues have proposed the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act. It would require an annual presidential report on unresolved cases and threaten U.S. development assistance and preferential tariffs for nations that demonstrate "a pattern of non-cooperation."
My guess?  That's a non-starter.  The idea that the U.S. is going to tie its own hands in international commerce for the sake of a few parents and kids just doesn't have the ring of truth to me, but we'll see.  In the meantime I'll applaud Smith for his efforts. The State of Texas, with its long international border has recently passed a law making child abduction a felony.  It takes effect September 1st.  That too is a good idea, but of course enforcement of the law would mean locating the abducting parent and returning him/her to the state.  That's exactly what Greg Allen has been unable to do in nine years, although others have succeeded. Finally, in twist that's new to me, it seems the ongoing War on Drugs has its impact on child abduction to Mexico.  In some states where the big Mexican drug gangs are most active, judges are afraid to take action against an abducting parent because  he/she might have ties to one of the local drug lords.
But court proceedings often get sidetracked, particularly in Mexican states engulfed by the drug wars such as San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas.
"We have judges who are afraid to do anything," says attorney Pamela Brown of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in Weslaco, who handles about 20 international child abduction cases a year to and from Mexico. "Judges are terrified that the taking parent might have ties to the cartels so they won't step in."
Adds Allen: "With a civil war going on down there, child abduction is just not a high priority."
In truth, it's not a high priority here either.  American parents have complained for years about the inaction and seeming indifference of our own State Department that's tasked by law with assisting them.  "Just going through the motions" was the common complaint made by several left-behind parents who testified before Chris Smith's subcommittee earlier this year. So while the number of abductions is rising, efforts to combat or rectify the practice remain depressingly the same.

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Houston children living in self-storage warehouse were taken by CPS last week.  The six children of Prince and Charlomane Leonard were taken by CPS caseworkers and placed in foster care with relatives.  Read about it here (ABC News, 7/6/11). I've written before about the difficulties of being an underpaid, undertrained, overworked CPS caseworker.  Those people have to make some of the toughest calls of anyone in any job anywhere. The question always is "can this parent care for his/her children properly or are the kids in danger?"  A wrong answer one way means taking the kids from a loving parent and placing them in foster care that's known to be overall more dangerous to kids than parental care.  A wrong answer the other way can result in a dead or injured child.  How'd you like to make those choices every day? And one of the trickiest ones is knowing the difference between poverty and neglect.  Was the child left home alone because the parent didn't care or didn't know that it was a problem, or because the parent didn't have the money for a sitter?  Not much food in the fridge?  Same question.  Etc., etc.; ad infinitum. Now, when I first heard that a Houston family had six children housed in a self-storage warehouse, I wasn't the least surprised that Child Protective Services had swooped down and gotten the children out of there.  Now I think differently. That's because the storage facility I'd imagined - maybe 10 feet by 30 feet - turns out to be vastly larger than my own house.
The northeast Houston storage unit that the Leonards call home has 10,000 square feet--plenty of room for the parents and their six kids to roam around. It has air conditioning, beds, a bath tub, a microwave oven and two computers--among other amenities.
What it doesn't have is running water.  But the Leonards get that there at the warehouses.
The Leonards believe they are guilty not of breaking a law, only of having fallen on hard times. "We have access to running water," insists the soft-spoken Charlomane. "We get it right here at the storage facility, in a five-gallon drum."
The article mentions nothing about sanitary facilities, but I assume the Leonards rely on the storage units for that too.
The Texas Family Code, says Mrs. Leonard, defines physical neglect as a parent's failure to provide a child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain life and health. She and her husband, she maintains, have provided all those things, notwithstanding their choice of residence. "The law doesn't say you have to have a pretty little house."
Their children, she says, "were not removed due to the breaking of any laws, but because of someone's perception of where we should reside. We are not criminals, drug abusers or child abusers, just plain old loving parents who are working hard to secure a future for our children."
In fact, Texas law exempts from the definition of "neglect" the failure to provide the necessities of life that is caused by "financial inability."  In short, it requires CPS workers to distinguish between neglect and poverty. For their part, the Leonards are certainly on hard times financially, but that may change soon.  Prince is a certified welder and he and his wife think of their situation as temporary. But whether it is or not, they do raise some pithy issues that CPS needs to address.
She and her husband have worked hard, she says, to transform the storage space into a home--one far safer, she says, than the crime- and rat-ridden apartment buildings and motels where the family had lived before. Safer, too, in her opinion, than a homeless shelter.
So, running water or not, their choice of abode makes a certain sense.  A run-down apartment with rats, drug addicts and nightly gunfire, or a clean safe storage unit without a faucet inside?  I suppose I don't have to point out that families have raised healthy children for millennia without indoor plumbing.  Few people prefer that given the choice, but it certainly can be done. The owner of the storage units made that very point.
The place where he himself grew up, Hill says, had no running water. "My grandpa's property up in Livingston had no running water, just a well with a pump, and an outhouse." Growing up that way didn't do him any harm. The Leonard's housing solution, he says, "beats living on the street."
And then there's something even more pertinent - the health and well-being of the kids.  Are they happy, healthy, clean, well-fed, properly clothed?  They seem to be in the Leonard's case and, after all, isn't that the point of "child protective services?" The owner of the storage units says the kids are great.
"I have never seen a more happy group of children. Well-mannered. Well-kempt. Their manners are better than my kids. And I live in a rich neighborhood--just a bunch of spoiled brats here."
So if the kids are alright, what are they doing in foster care?  The answer to that is the classic bureaucratic one.
The family had been living happily in storage until a CPS investigator, responding to a tip, discovered the Leonards' solution to weathering the recession and determined it to be bad for kids. Mrs. Leonard quotes the investigator as having said, "My supervisor isn't going to like this at all."
That pinpoints something that seems to be a universal truth when it comes to government bureaucracies, the iron law of CYA.  The caseworker seems to have paid less attention to the realities of the children's wellfare than to the realities of keeping his/her job. And speaking of the children's welfare, the Leonard's youngest child was still nursing when CPS took him away from his mother and father.  Mrs. Leonard says "my son was forced to wean then and there."  Nice. Just to put a cherry on top, the children were taken away one day before Fathers Day. So it goes.

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The New York Times has a forum here with the provocative title "How Can We Get Men to Do More at Home?" (New York Times, 7/6/11).  Despite its headline that proves to a certainty that the paper has little idea of the realities of the topic under discussion, at least a couple of the commentators do. That said, they also miss a lot.  They miss things that anyone with a firm grasp on the subject would at least mention. The setup for the piece is pretty much what we'd expect: women do more paid work than before, so why don't men keep up by doing more at home. As two of the commentators note, they do.  Men still don't do as much child care and other domestic tasks as women, but women still don't do as much paid work.  And when the two are added together, they come out equal as even a casual glance at the American Time Use Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics would tell them. But that's not part of the NYT forum, which I count as odd since it's so obviously germane to the topic. Here's a thumbnail sketch of the forum. Neil Gilbert of Cal Berkeley points out some obvious things about the difference between the classes who chatter about work and family and the vast majority of parents who don't have the means or the desire to hire nannies or daycare.  His unstated point is that for them, someone has to stay home with the kids and in fact, someone will probably want to do so given the fact that kids are at home full time for about five years.  That leaves the parent 30-40 years in which to enjoy the wonders of paid work. Jeremy Adam Smith, author of "The Daddy Shift" writes that greater workplace equality has indeed resulted in greater equality in childcare at home (contrary to the implicit view of the NYT).  He points to "structural and interpersonal sexism" as one of the culprits.
Studies consistently show that 80 percent to 90 percent of mothers still expect fathers to serve as primary breadwinners (and very few will consider supporting a stay-at-home dad). At work, only 7 percent of American men have access to paid parental leave, among other structural limitations.
Ute Frevert notes that our attitudes change more slowly than do our laws and institutions (I don't agree).  Her culprit is children's books "that lead present-day women to feel responsible for the social and emotional set-up of the family.  This comes in handy for men..." who, according to her, leap at the chance to stay at work and avoid childcare.  She hopes our "mentalities" on the subject of work and childcare will change, and, although both men and women need to work on that, "[m]en"s education is thus badly needed. If they resist change, our striving is bound to fail." Andrea Doucet of Brock University in Canada has a suggestion that, while sincerely intended, simply won't do much to address the problem.  It's non-transferable parental leave for fathers.  She cites countries in which it's been tried and high percentages of dads take off work to be with their kids.  That's nice, but the leave is only one or two months depending on the country. Needless to say, a month or so of leave for dad will not impact the long-term gender imbalance in childcare in the least.  That's particularly true since mothers in all those countries have much longer periods of leave than do the fathers.  Add to that the fact that the prospect of the U.S. passing laws requiring parental leave at the bottom of a depressed economy is about as likely as the Houston Astros winning the World Series this year. Sandrine Devillard sees that women "remain at the center of family life," and that they seem to have an aversion to doing what it takes to get to the top of the heap in the corporate world.  Devillard sees this as a problem to be solved.  (I see it as a suggestion that women have their priorities in order better than men.)  Her solution?  "Visible commitment by top executives and programs to develop women as leaders stands at the heart of any attempt at effective gender diversity."  Needless to say, if every top management spot in the country were occupied by a woman, it would make no discernible impact on the time spent at home and at work by the tens of millions of other men and women in the workplace. That's not all the commentators, but you get the picture.  For what is presented by the Times as a serious inquiry into the "problem" of why men do more paid work and women do more domestic work, this is thin gruel indeed. Predictably, not one of the commentators flipped the coin over and looked at the other side.  Not one made the simple, obvious remark that if women want to do less at home, they need to do more at work so the dads can tend the kids.  The single-minded notion that it's men who must do more at home ignores the fact that women must do more in the traditionally "man's world." Equally predictable is the unquestioned idea that work-family conflict exists for women but not men.  As Devillard wrote, "[t]his "double burden" of work and family responsibility weigh (sic) heavily on women..."  That's the narrative we've been read for the last 30 years or so; "work, employers, society, daycare, etc. must all change because women are stressed with their "double burden." So the Families and Work Institute's recent finding that for some 30 years, it's been men more than women who've suffered from work/family conflict, must have come as quite a shock - too great a shock apparently for Devillard or any of the commentators to mention. A final oversight is child custody post-divorce.  Divorce is common, and people know it.  The divorce rate in the U.S. is over 40%.  What's also common (far more so than divorce) is mothers receiving primary custody and fathers being kicked to the "visitation" curb.  That too is well-known to fathers and mothers alike. So why would dads knock themselves out doing childcare when they know the high probability of divorce and the vanishingly small probability that they'll play any meaningful role in the children's lives they've so diligently helped raise? The answer many would give is that, if fathers opt out of childcare while married, they can't expect a judge to fix it for them.  That would be reasonable if we didn't see so many hands-on dads get the same treatment that their less involved peers do.  It would be reasonable if we didn't know that a single allegation of abuse, whether founded or not, can be all it takes to deprive the best father of his child. It also ignores the fact that we already have plenty of evidence judges can use to give dads equal time with their kids.  In the vast majority of cases, there is no impediment, factual or legal, to their doing just that, but they don't. The fact is that children don't need their fathers less because Dad spent 50 hours a week at work and Mom only 30.  Children don't care about that and it doesn't adversely affect their outcomes.  But family courts routinely identify the "primary parent" (i.e., the one the father's work allowed to stay home with the kids) and give primary custody to her. We can't realistically ask fathers to sideline careers in the vain hope that, if divorce comes along, a judge will notice.  Chances are he won't. So, while some of the pieces in the Times forum have merit (Gilbert's and Smith's notably), the exercise generally is awash in outdated notions of female victimization and male failings. And its central organizing principle - that women really want to chuck this motherhood thing in favor of corporate striving - is loony enough to be certified.  Here's a hint.  In essentially all mammal species including our own, the female does either all or most of the childcare.  That is not a patriarchal construct of gender; it's a biological fact of life. I'm all for women working and earning more; I'm all for men spending more time with the kids.  But when individual men and women choose to address the work/family balance their way and not mine, I'm not one to criticize. I guess that's what makes me different from the New York Times. Thanks to Paul for the heads-up.

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[caption id="attachment_17414" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F member John Eisendrath of Sony Pictures Television."]john-eisendrath[/caption] Veteran writer-producer John Eisendrath of Sony Pictures Television has been Executive Producer of numerous successful TV series, including Alias, Felicity, Beverly Hills, 90210, and numerous others. John has been helping us raise money in the entertainment industry, and has also given generously to Fathers and Families. John first joined our efforts in California in 2004 when he worked with us in our successful effort to protect the CA Supreme Court's LaMusga move-away decision from a legislative assault. In his Los Angeles Times column "Divorced Dads and Fairness" (8/4/04), Eisendrath wrote:
[Recently] the California Supreme Court issued the landmark LaMusga ruling giving divorced fathers a fighting chance to prevent their ex-wives from moving away with their children. It was an important decision, reinterpreting the court's 1996 Burgess decision, under which custodial parents...have been allowed to drag the kids off to different cities, states and even countries, even if a judge agreed that such moves were bad for the kids. The April decision articulated a single premise: Decisions such as this one must be based on the best interests of the child... I care about this issue because it happened to me. In October 2002, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied my ex-wife's request to move our two young boys 200 miles north to San Luis Obispo. The judge ruled the move would be detrimental to them because it would destroy the close relationship they shared with me and that it was not in their best interest.
[caption id="attachment_17419" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Eisendrath has been Executive Producer of numerous successful TV series, including Alias."]alias[/caption]
My ex-wife appealed. In May 2003, a three-judge appellate panel remanded the case back to the lower court. Citing Burgess and related cases, the panel concluded that detriment related to the move--including the damage done to a child's relationship with his father--was not a sufficient reason to prevent it. All that mattered, according to the law, was that my ex-wife spent more hours of the week with our two boys than I did, which of course was based almost solely on the fact that I work and she doesn't.
And by the way, she was not moving to San Luis Obispo to improve our children's economic prospects, to place them in better schools or to be near relatives. It was a pure lifestyle choice. She wanted to live on a farm with her new husband, and the court said that was OK. The result was that in August 2003, the same Superior Court judge who had originally denied the move because it was bad for the boys now ordered it to occur. Visibly frustrated by what the appellate court was instructing him to do, the judge made his feelings plain: "The order I'm about to make is not in [the boys'] best interest," he said from the bench. "Let's get that real clear. I haven't changed my mind from the last time. It's simply no longer relevant." Imagine how that feels: Being told by a family court judge that under the laws of the state of California the best interests of your children are not relevant.
[caption id="attachment_17428" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Eisendrath has been Executive Producer of numerous successful TV series, including Felicity."]felicity[/caption] Today John says:
This is a cause near and dear to my heart. Children have the right to have a relationship with both parents after a divorce or separation--a right that is routinely violated by our court system. We've long needed a strong, well-funded national advocacy group that can represent the interests of children of divorce. We need to bring balance to a system rife with gender bias and which devalues the importance of the father-child bond. This isn't about my custody case--my case is long done. But I owe it to my sons and I owe it to all children to address this terribly damaging and oft-ignored social problem. I support Fathers and Families because they are professional and effective, and are our best hope for change. I urge everybody reading this to volunteer to be a part of Fathers and Families by visiting www.FathersandFamilies.org/volunteer and to contribute to Fathers and Families by visiting www.FathersandFamilies.org/give.

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Across the pond, governmental agencies are targeting fathers in ever-more bizarre ways.  Here (The Courier, 6/30/11) and here (Daily Star, 7/5/11) are a couple of recent examples. In the first, David Hawksworth is doing three months in Perth Prison in Scotland courtesy of Sheriff Richard Davidson.  What's the normally mild-mannered Hawksworth doing there?  According to Davidson he committed a crime the sheriff deemed "threatening" and (gasp!) "inappropriate." It seems Hawksworth has been denied all access to his son, so, on the boy's eighth birthday, he placed 100 balloons outside his school.  That, according to Davidson, constituted the crime of "harassment."  Of whom? one wonders, but the sheriff didn't get into that. Meanwhile, the activist organization New Fathers 4 Justice plans to protest the outrage of jailing a father for attempted celebration of his son's birthday.
"Whilst David is in Perth Prison, Blairgowrie Golf Club will also be targeted with direct action. Fathers' rights group New Fathers 4 Justice will close down arterial routes in Scotland ... after activist Dave Hawksworth was jailed for three months in Dundee last week.
"Dave crime (sic) was to place 100 balloons outside his sons (sic) school on his 8th birthday after being denied access for many years. He was told that he had no business at protesting at his course and clear off back to England, he has not had any direct contact with his son in 7 years."
The statement also claims that Tayside Police had given permission for Hawksworth to place the balloons outside the school.
Apparently the mother has denied Hawksworth access to his son for seven of the boy's eight years.  If she's been punished in any way for that violation of his parental rights, it's not been publicized.  My guess is that she's been given a pass on that. So, in this case, total deprivation of contact between a boy and his father is acceptable behavior on the part of a mother, but placing balloons outside his school on the child's birthday is a crime.  Letting the child know he's still there and thinking of him gets a father jail time.
Real Fathers For Justice chairman Mike Kelly said online, "It will come as no shock to those within the movement as to how this father has been treated by the authorities, lambasted, racially abused and then hung out to dry in prison alongside murderers and rapists. All he wants to be is a father to his kids."
Does it get any more outrageous?  (Well, there was the Australian father who was jailed for sending his daughter a birthday card, but I won't go there.) Meanwhile, farther south in Rochester, Kent, Ian Burrowes was recently informed by England's Child Support Agency that he owed £11,500 in back child support for his two grown daughters.  Burrowes was stunned.  He'd never known about the young ladies he was told he'd fathered. On searching further, he learned that the mother of the girls was someone he'd never met and didn't know existed.  He informed the CSA of that fact. He then found photographs of them.  They're black and he's white.
He spent two months trying to clear his name and traced a photograph on the internet of the now grown-up "children' – two women with thick afros.
He said: "I was stunned. I"m a pale, white guy with ginger hair and these women were black.
"It was obvious just by looking at us there was no way I could ever be their father.'
So he contacted the Child Support Agency whose representative did what any self-respecting bureaucrat would do; he/she got indignant and passed the buck.
When he rang up to protest his innocence and demand a DNA test, an advisor at the CSA told him: "It"s not for us to prove you"re guilty, it"s for you to prove you"re not.
"As far as we"re concerned you are the father and you need to pay.'
Notice that the folks at the CSA didn't do what any normal human being would have done.  They didn't say, "Gee, you've got a point there.  Let's see what we can do to fix this.  After all, the real dad is out there somewhere."  No, it was more on the order of "We made this mess, now you fix it.  If you don't, we'll put you in jail. You're guilty until proven innocent." And when I say it was CSA who made the mess, I'm just telling the truth.
DIY manager Ian was told the CSA had files listing his name, previous address and National Insurance number on their birth certificates alongside the mother, a woman named Darlene.
How'd that happen?  How could CSA possibly have all his information when he had no connection to the woman or her kids?  The answer?  CSA put it there. It seems that when Mom was filling out the requisite forms for the kids, she left out her National Insurance number.  So somehow someone from CSA just filled in a number and that number happened to be Ian Burrowes's.  Really, that's how these people operate. Burrowes hired a soliciter and CSA backed down and even apologized, claiming he'd been the victim of an "unprecedented" error.  Unprecedented?  I doubt it. But before all that, the whole foul-up caused consternation in the ranks of Burrowes's actual family who initially thought he'd been leading a double life.
He also faced questions from his own family, including his daughters Hazel, 22, and Kirsty, 20, over the claims.
He said: "They were concerned that I had been living this double life.
"It caused a lot of grief and made a lot of people doubt my integrity.'
In the minds of CSA functionaries, all that's taken care of by an apology. Then of course there's the matter of the real dad.  Where's he?  Who is he?  Why did his two daughters grow to adulthood without a father?  Why will he ultimately be forced to pay a large lump sum of child support when he's been refused all access to and perhaps all knowledge of his own flesh and blood? Those are questions the article doesn't ask.  More to the point, I suspect they're questions the CSA neither asked nor cares about.

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Good news on Massachusetts alimony reform--from the State House News Service's new article "House Advances Bill Overhauling Alimony Laws" (7/7/11):

The House signaled Thursday that it appears ready to tackle an issue that policy makers have long eyed as in need of reform: the alimony system...the House gave initial approval to a sweeping reform bill and Rep. Paul Donato, (D-Medford), a member of Speaker Robert DeLeo"s leadership team who presided over Thursday"s session, said the House would likely hold a formal session next week to debate the changes.

Under the proposal, state law would lay out for the first time specific guidelines on the levels and duration of payments to former spouses.

Critics of the current system say it is inconsistent and arbitrary and leaves many without redress even if their financial situation deteriorates. The changes would also curb "lifetime' alimony, something reform advocates say Massachusetts judges award too often.

The bill (S 665) has 133 co-sponsors from both parties and support from a large majority in each branch.

Alimony reforms have failed to pass in the past, but the recession has helped push the issue up on the Legislature"s priority list, lawmakers involved in drafting the bill said. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony on the proposed changes in May.

Critics of the current system have argued some alimony payers found themselves out of work or their businesses failing when the economy took a tailspin, but judges were unable to revise alimony payments because the law did not make any allowances.

Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham), who led the legislative task force charged with looking at the issue, has said the bill does not abolish alimony, like some people fear. "Nothing could be further from the truth,' Candaras told the News Service during an interview in May.

Candaras said the task force worked with people on all sides of the issue to "make sure nothing they did would negatively impact" people affected by divorces...The bill would establish a timeline for payments, granting payments based on the years of marriage. If someone is married five years or less then the person receiving alimony would get payment for half of the number of months of the marriage. For a 10 to 15-year marriage, judges would award payment for between 60 to 70 percent the number of months the couple was married. The spouse of a 15-year marriage would be entitled to payments for 80 percent of the number of months. It would still be up to a judge's discretion on how many months of payments to award for any marriage longer than 20 years.

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"[GOP presidential hopefuls] Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich apparently are all saying 'yes' to divorced and separated fathers."--Eagle-Tribune, 7/10/11 Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign is a nonpartisan grassroots campaign with the goal of injecting family court reform into the 2012 election campaign. In GOP candidates hammer president on jobs (7/10/11), the Massachusetts newspaper Eagle-Tribune discusses the candidates' positions on taxes, the budget, creating jobs---and family court reform. The newspaper wrote:
"[GOP presidential hopefuls] Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich apparently are all saying 'yes' to divorced and separated fathers. That's according to Fathers and Families, a national organization that pushes for court reform to give fathers better standing in legal proceedings involving their children. The group calls these fathers "the largest untapped voting bloc in America."
To comment on the piece, click here. To write a Letter to the Editor of the Eagle-Tribune, click here. To learn more about Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign, click here.

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The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine ran a feature interview (pictured, right) with Fathers and Families" Board Chairman and founder Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. on Father's Day. In the piece --- Fighting dad (6/18/11) --- Holstein discussed our shared parenting bill H02684, which has been endorsed by nearly a third of the Massachusetts legislature. Holstein explained:
Women"s groups are also against [the bill],

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="223" caption="Troubled New England divorced father Thomas Ball, who committed suicide in front of a courthouse June 15."][/caption] 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 June 15. His suicide apparently was precipitated by Ball believing he would soon be jailed for being behind on a child support obligation he says he was unable to meet. Ball left a lengthy narrative of his experiences with the court that detailed how he lost his children. It revealed a deeply troubled individual who nevertheless understood clearly the workings of family courts. Fathers and Families" Board Chairman Ned Holstein, M.D. said:

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Short Version: We want you to go with us to ask Governor Deval Patrick to do more to support our shared parenting bill on Tuesday, July 26 in Boston. If you can attend either event, please email [email protected] your name, email address, phone #, and which event(s) you can attend.

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A domestic violence advocacy group has released model legislation it hopes will replace VAWA.  Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) has drafted legislation that would transform existing federal domestic violence law if passed.  Here's SAVE's website. As those who follow VAWA and domestic violence issues already know, current federal law is riddled with problems.  Beginning with its title and the history of its original passage, VAWA has always been radically anti-male. Since its inception, the law has been amended to contain gender-neutral language (except its title), but its effects have been, and continue to be, anything but.  As but one example, federal dollars fund hundreds of shelters for women, but not one for male victims of DV. And speaking of shelters, although hundreds of millions of dollars go into DV shelters every year, we know little about what actually happens inside their walls.  That's because the federal government seems not to much care.  As little as 18 months ago, the website for the Office of Management and Budget rated federally-funded DV shelters as "non-performing."  That means they don't bother to put forward any criteria for success with the unsurprising result that no one knows if they're successful. In short, DV shelters take the money, but no one asks them to report on their activities or measure them against any objective criteria.  Is our money being spent wisely or not?  We don't know because our government doesn't ask and the recipients don't tell. What studies have been done of DV shelters are sketchy, but should be enough to spur aggressive inquiry by oversight agencies.  (You can access some of those on the SAVE website.)  Among other things, most DV shelters don't require any verification that an applicant actually have been the victim of domestic violence.  Simply making the claim is sufficient. So it comes as no surprise that many DV shelters serve as homeless shelters for women who don't care for the Salvation Army.  And given that, what one finds inside the shelters are often drug dealers and women who need psychiatric care more than a shelter. All of that is what led shelter resident Ebonee Barnes to call shelters she's lived in "beyond livable."  She of course is far from the only one.  Blogs by women living in DV shelters paint an unflattering picture of violence, theft, drug abuse and dysfunction. Of course not all shelters have those problems.  But with neither standards nor oversight, shelter owners are largely free to provide any sort of conditions they choose.  And that's an open invitation for abuse and corruption. So the fact that federal law is anti-male is only one of its many problems.  And even that would be acceptable if it in some way reflected the reality of domestic violence in this country, but it doesn't. We've known since 1976, the year in which the first major study of domestic violence was done for the national Institute of Mental Health, that men and women perpetrate DV equally.  At the same time we've known that about 35% of those injured in DV incidents are male.  And yet we utterly ignore male victims and therefore female perpetrators. A woman concerned about her propensity for attacking her male partner and seeking treatment, might as well look for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  DV shelters don't believe she exists and their ideological construct of domestic violence has no concept that she might need help.  Therefore, there is none. Oh, if she has the money for a private therapist and is lucky enough to find one who knows the science, she can get help.  But that's what government money ought to do; it ought to heed the huge amount of science on DV and bring realistic solutions to bear. But VAWA has always prevented that.  Now SAVE has created its model legislation in the hopes of bringing reason, balance and science to the topic of domestic violence in the United States. It's called the Partner Violence Reduction Act and, according to SAVE, it,
1.      Gives first priority to real victims and reduces false allegations by constraining definitions and distinguishing between an allegation and a judicial finding of domestic violence.
2.      Makes the law gender-inclusive and removes discriminatory policies.
3.      Seeks to protect and restore families when the abuse is minor.
4.      Removes harmful mandatory arrest, predominant aggressor, and no-drop prosecution policies, thus helping to restore due process.
5.      Allows legal assistance to be provided both to the alleged victim and alleged offender.
6.      Improves the accountability of domestic violence organizations.
7.      Curbs immigration fraud.
8.      Removes provisions that violate the Constitution and restores civil rights to the accused.
Now, I don't have remotely enough time or space to go into those in detail.  But each addresses a major shortcoming of domestic violence law at the federal level.  Here's a link to the text of the model legislation itself. What I will do is point out that domestic violence law is one of the major culprits in the break-up of families and the separation of children from their fathers.  Pretty much anyone who follows issues related to fathers and children knows that even bare allegations of violence can be used to separate the two, sometimes permanently. We read frequently about allegations of abuse that are raised for the first time during divorce and custody proceedings.  According to a recent study of custody evaluators, far more mothers than fathers level allegations of abuse at their partners.  When they do, family courts routinely issue temporary orders restricting the fathers' access to their children.  Those temporary orders create a fait accompli keeping fathers and children apart permanently. Indeed, often as not it seems that opponents of fathers' rights to access to their children have but one bullet in their gun - domestic violence.  In Australia, the modest gains dads made in the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act are under attack based on essentially one claim - dads are violent and shouldn't be around children. Never mind that mothers abuse children twice as much as do fathers.  The anti-dad crowd's got it's story and they're stickin' to it. Domestic violence law in this country is based, not on responsibly-done science, but on the ideology-based claims of a few who in the beginning were frankly anti-family and anti-male.  Their claims have always been factually wrong and politically motivated.  As such the basis they form for DV law ignores the science on the subject and the equal protections of both sexes by the Constitution. This country must scrap VAWA and start again with legislation that is science-based and that treats men and women equally.  Until we do that, we'll continue to throw huge sums of money at programs that don't work because they don't acknowledge what the problem is. SAVE's model legislation won't be enacted any time soon.  The forces arrayed against it are far too strong to allow reason and justice to win the day.  But SAVE's representatives have been walking the corridors of the Capitol talking with congresspeople and their aides, and they've gotten a generally favorable reception. That's a long way from passing legislation, but they've begun the process of education of Congress.  In so doing, congressional representatives and their staff have been educating SAVE.  The more they talk, the more SAVE will come to understand where the weak spots are in the armament of VAWA's defenders.  In time that will mean more effective lobbying and legislation that's more apt to attract sponsors. It's only the beginning, but that's what's needed; we need to begin to end the tyrany of VAWA over innocent men and their children.  SAVE has done just that.

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Vicki Larson writes the truth about domestic violence and society's propensity for male-bashing.  Her article is here (Huffington Post, 7/12/11).  It should be posted and re-posted.  It should appear above the fold in every morning paper and as the cover story of every weekly magazine.  It should be required reading for every holder of an elective office. Her piece isn't long and it's not difficult.  (It's amazing how easy the truth can be when it doesn't have to fight against ideological constructs.)  It skims the surface of a number of topics related to DV, and so it doesn't go deeply.  But it says things that need saying.  They've needed saying for a long time. And the fact that Larson is saying them in a widely-read online publication means that her ideas are getting traction in the larger field of public discourse in the United States. It's high time.  Up until recently, and for over three decades, the most outrageous claims have been made about men and domestic violence.  Never mind that they were false; never mind that they were impossible; never mind that they contradicted good science and common sense.    Those who chose to believe the lies and half-truths were pleased to ignore the facts and continue to promote claims they thought people should believe in lieu of the truth. Do I have to remind readers of the claims that "all men are rapists?"  What about the claim by the Women's Educational Equity Act Publishing Center's claim that 4 million women are beaten to death each year and that violence is the leading cause of death among women?  Do I have to cite Joan Zorza's assertion that between 25% and 35% of all women admitted to emergency rooms nationwide are there because of domestic violence?  (The Centers for Disease Control, that tracks the data, says the figure is between 0.01% and 0.02%.) I could go on indefinitely citing claims that range from the delusional to the made-up to the merely misleading.  We've been collecting them for over 30 years, after all. Of course what's part and parcel of the false claims is that no consequences seem to attend them.  As long as people know that they can say anything, regardless of how silly or libelous, and get away with it, it's no surprise that the nonsense keeps pouring forth. All of that is to say that Larson's article should not only be reprinted prominently, it should appear and reappear daily for the next several decades in order to, in some small measure, balance all that has gone before. Her point of departure is "whom do we believe?" when claims of abuse are hurled at men?  The woman or the man?  And if we believe her, why do we do so? Her answers come from various people who've been asking the same or similar questions.
Men, of course, aren't the only ones who can do damage; statistics show that women can be just as violent as men. But while the Violence Against Women Act provides millions of dollars for shelters for abused women, you don't see too many shelters -- any, actually -- for abused men. "It's often been taken for granted that women can't really do that much damage, so it's OK to maybe slap your boyfriend or do something of that nature," says Kellie Palazzolo, an assistant professor at Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication who is overseeing research on how college students perceive female and male perpetrators.
About those slaps, how many movies dating back to the 30s have you seen in which a woman slaps a man?  I can't count, but it used to be common as dirt.  More to the point, it never hurt and he always deserved it, having said or done something she didn't like. And the beat (so to speak) goes on in popular culture.  Larson rightly points out that many women cheered when Elin Nordegren attacked Tiger Woods (if she did).  He'd cheated and, according to them, that justified domestic violence.  But only because it was a woman doing it to a man.  Reverse the sexes and the same people would be calling for his scalp. "Thelma and Louise," one of the most popular "chick flicks" of all times, is virtually nonstop female violence against men.  And they all deserve it, according to the film, because in a variety of ways, they treat the two protagonists wrongly. Of course we don't have to stop at popular culture when searching for a societal double standard on DV.  Just listen to Vice President Biden give a lengthy interview to Glamour magazine on the subject and never mention the possibility that a woman might have ever struck a man.  The complete absence of public funding for male victims or female perpetrators of DV speaks volumes. Or read the newspapers.  Almost without exception, when female perpetrated domestic violence is reported, it's not called "domestic violence."  As but one example, I recently followed the trial of Rosa Hill in the San Francisco Bay area.  Several area papers covered the case in which Hill carried out her carefully planned attack on her ex-husband and his grandmother.  She killed the 91-year-old woman and tried to kill her ex.  Out of at least four articles in each of three papers, not one included the words "domestic violence." So, as Larson notices, when it comes to DV, men are indeed silenced.  Their voices are ignored, their injuries unreported, their very existence denied.  Our national narrative repeats that it is men, not women, who hurt their intimate partners.
And so men walk around somewhat guilty until proven innocent. And sometimes, no one's too interested in proving them innocent.
"As a society, we don't typically think of men in the role of a victim. We can't even recognize it when we're confronted by physical evidence," [Dr. Tara] Palmatier writes. "On the other hand, we're inclined to believe accusations about men."
All this began with the words and deeds of true misandrists who made little effort to hide the fact.  But, like Frankenstein's monster, it's taken on a life of its own, blundering about the countryside damaging everything in its wake.
Not only is it unfair and dishonest, [Palmatier] says, but it's "damaging to boys and young men, gender relations, relationships, families and 'the best interests of the children.' And it gives the women who are predators a free pass."
That says a lot in a few words, and every one of them is true.  Vice President Biden should read them again and again until he understands the deep and broad damage that he is doing.  The lies and half-truths that have been repeated ad infinitum have had their toxic effect on people, laws and institutions.  We are reaping what we allowed to be sowed - a harvest of bitterness, mistrust and the decline of the rule of law. And
Automatically assuming the worst of men is a form of discrimination, [Palmatier], [Warren] Farrell and others say. And they're right.
It's what we've taught ourselves to do over the last 40 years.  Someday, we'll look back at those years, shake our heads and wonder "How could we?"  We'll also look back at Vicki Larson and know that she was one of the many who pointed us in the right direction - back toward sanity, reason and the truth.

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Fathers and Families today released the press release below concerning the new Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the lesbian child custody case pitting biological mother Kelly Mullen against lesbian social mother Michele Hobbs. F & F has long-defended Hobbs and other lesbian social mothers--to learn more, see the Holstein/Sacks MSN.com column With Gay Marriage Comes Gay Divorce: The Rise of Lesbian Custody Battles (10/15/09) and our post High-Profile Ohio Lesbian Custody Battle Again Highlights Injustices Faced by Noncustodial Parents.

Ohio Supreme Court"s Lesbian Child Custody Ruling Ignores Importance of Social Mom"s Bond with Her Child

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The Daddy Wars continue, this time at CNN.  I mean that literally, or at least almost. This year, CNN did what we see every year in a number of media outlets; it chose Fathers Day to denigrate dads.  Here's Jeff Pearlman's exceptionally disgraceful and fact-free diatribe against fathers (CNN, 6/17/11).  And here's Josh Levs's rejoinder (CNN, 7/12/11). Pearlman, you see is a stay-at-home dad.  He works there too.  And his attitude falls into line with about half of everything said about fathers - they're bums.  Specifically, according to Pearlman, fathers (except him) want nothing to do with their kids, shift all the childcare and housework onto Mom and slouch through work at the office following the latest sports news and celebrity scandals. Meanwhile, the ones who really slave are the stay-at-home parents, of which he is coincidentally one.  Funny how that works. So disdainful of these imaginary fathers is Pearlman that he lays out his ten commandments for them that include things like  don't play golf on weekends, wash dishes, change diapers, etc.  The commandment to paint your toenails eluded my comprehension, but I guess that makes me a bad dad in Pearlman's book.  Mea culpa. In short, Pearlman's piece is straight out of the anti-dad playbook we've all been reading since I don't know when.  Somehow these people manage to convince themselves that fathers are layabouts, that working 50-hour weeks is a walk in the park and that fathers stop at nothing to avoid their children. That of course brings me to my one commandment for Jeff Pearlman and all his fellow travelers - learn some facts. You see, Jeff, it's really not good enough to deliver insulting, condescending diatribes on subjects you plainly know nothing about.  Oh, I'm sure you're just too busy to actually do any work beyond what you already do.  After all, being a SAHD is the next thing to indentured servitude.  We know; you told us.  But if that's the case, don't write anything at all.  It's far better than spreading your own ignorance to others. But in truth, the facts aren't hard to find.  Probably an hour online would have been enough to show Pearlman that essentially all of his concepts are wrong.  He could start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey that shows that, when paid and unpaid work are added together, men and women do essentially identical amounts.  Men do more paid work, women do more domestic work including childcare.  No one's the slave, no one's the master, and no one has his feet up while the other toils. He would have found that women are far more likely than men to hold no paying job, if they do have one it's far more likely to be part-time and even when they work full-time, women still work fewer hours than men who do.  What all that means is that it's men's paid work that allows mothers to stay home with the kids.  Pearlman disdains that, but someone has to pay the rent. From there he could have moved to the countless studies (of for example, attorneys, MBA graduates, and women working in science, technology, engineering and mathmatics fields) that show women opting out of careers in order to care for children.  Pearlman of course would claim that fathers force mothers to do that because they refuse to, but, if he'd bother to actually read the studies, he'd learn that the opposite is true.  Amazingly, mothers actually want to be mothers and adjust their schedules accordingly.  Who'd have guessed? Then Pearlman could have gone to the recent Families and Work Institute survey showing that fathers have far more work-family conflict than mothers do and have for about 30 years.  That's because they're toiling to do just what Pearlman fantasizes they aren't doing - work a more-than-full work week and do a whole job of fathering when they get home.  Pearlman didn't get around to any of that; too busy painting his nails, I guess.  But if he can't be responsible enough to learn an actual fact or two about his subject, you'd hope a CNN editor might intervene.  You'd hope a reputable news organization might demand some minimal level of knowledge or accuracy on the part of writers it publishes.  Apparently not.  Apparently "attitude" is an acceptable substitute for, well, everything else. Fortunately, someone seems to have had second thoughts about the Pearlman piece, so Josh Levs was given space to answer.  For my money, Levs is far too respectful of Pearlman, but he does know something of his subject and lets us know that Pearlman is off the wall.  CNN too.
The idea that anyone thought this was an appropriate message for Father's Day is preposterous...
Who are these "millions" he's imagining? They're none of the fathers I know, none of the fathers I've interviewed in my work covering the changes  in American fatherhood.
Yes, actual knowledge about fathers is a real obstacle to the type of denigration of them Pearlman prefers.  So Levs provides a few facts about fathers and what they do.
• 44% -- The percentage of working dads who are sole financial providers, up from 2010, according to a careerbuilder.com survey. More than one in five work more than 50 hours a week, and one in five bring home work at least three days a week. • Three hours -- The average time working dads spend with their children every workday, according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute. • 80% -- The percentage of dads who report that they change diapers as often as or more often than their wives when they're home, in an Ipsos poll for Pampers. Pearlman complains about dads who refuse or don't even know how. (The women polled say they change diapers more often but don't say their husbands shirk diaper duty altogether.) • 36% -- The percentage of young children who had 15 or more outings with their father in the previous month, according to the census. Another 24% had eight to 14 outings; 37% had one to seven outings. Only a sliver had none, for any number of reasons. (These can be just with dad or with both mom and dad.) Pearlman describes dads who never take their kids out. From a Pew Research study: "Almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework and playing."
And here's another thing.  Why is it that people like Pearlman believe that earning the money to support the family is something to be ashamed of?  To him "a staggering number of fathers suck at being fathers" because they don't change as many diapers as mothers do.  But mothers don't "suck" at being mothers because they willingly leave the earning to Dad. I'll make it simple: earning money is parenting irrespective of who does it.  Putting a roof over your child's head, food on the table and clothes on his back is not ignoring your child.  It's caring for him.  It's childcare every bit as much as preparing the meals and changing the diapers. Face it, dads' working is what allows moms to stay home with the kids which study after study shows they strongly desire doing.  But obvious concepts like that, together with simple respect for both sexes always elude the anti-dad crowd.  It's why their views are at last becoming marginalized.  Too bad CNN didn't get the message.

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Childhood obesity is the latest reason being promoted for CPS taking kids from parents. This article reports on a recent piece in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association recommending that seriously obese children be placed "temporarily in foster care." (Worcester Telegram, 7/13/11).
Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children"s Hospital Boston, said the point isn"t to blame parents, but rather to act in children"s best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can"t provide.

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The first fissures have appeared in congressional support for VAWA. Hearings are currently going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  Read about them here (Washington Times, 7/14/11).  And as you might expect, representatives of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) were on hand to report on the proceedings. SAVE's Dr. Edward Bartlett tells us that, in the past, Judiciary Committee hearings on VAWA were collegial affairs, which is to say that everyone agreed on pretty much everything and the waters of committee discourse remained calm. This year it's different.  For one thing, SAVE had nine people there wearing T-shirts with the message "I Was FALSELY ACCUSED of Domestic Violence." More importantly, ranking Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa had two witnesses whose testimony may outline the fissures in the support for VAWA I mentioned.  One of those was Julie Poner whose ex-husband used false allegations of domestic violence in his native country to gain legal entrance to the United States.  So Fissure Number One is the problem of false allegations.  That's important for countless reasons. Bartlett reports that after yesterday's hearing, SAVE representatives approached committee member Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and "emphasized how every false allegation takes away desperately needed services and protections from real victims."  Apparently Klobuchar got the message and was sympathetic. The second fissure is the problem of where the money goes. 
Reviews of VAWA grantees have uncovered vast problems with record-keeping and unallowable expenditures, said Mr. Grassley. "Simply put, in today"s economic environment, we cannot tolerate this level of malfeasance in federal grant programs.'
I disagree.  I would prefer Grassley to have said "we cannot tolerate this level of malfeasance in federal grant programs in any economic climate."  But I'll take what I can get. What level of malfeasance is the senator referring to?  Well, for starters, the president's Office of Management and Budget candidly admits that it doesn't have enough information on what shelters and other grantees do with the money we give them to assess their success or failure.  We also can't do that because there are no standards for success or failure.  Those standards don't exist because no one's thought to establish them.  In short, shelters and other recipients of the $551 million in VAWA funding are pretty much free to spend it any way they want with no consequences for the rampant "malfeasance" Grassley referred to. And that brings us to Fissure Number Three.
Government Accountability Office official Eileen Larence testified about the dearth of data related to VAWA and domestic-violence issues. But she cautioned Congress that "challenges exist for collecting this data,' such as people"s confidentiality and safety, staffing costs and definitions of abuse.
She gets the day's prize for understatement.  Put another way, DV shelters refuse to tell the government that pays them what they do.  So there is indeed a "dearth of data."  There need not be, but there is.  All Congress has to do is treat VAWA the same way it treats every other federal program except the CIA (interesting comparison, no?) and we'd at least be headed in the right direction. Congress needs to establish standards for DV shelter performance and require accurate reporting of what's done, what's spent and for what.  Some agency with enforcement authority needs to oversee compliance.  That's as basic as it gets and yet DV shelters have to date been all but exempt from all of it.  One of the consequences of VAWA funding and shelter behavior flying under the radar is to take the entire system out of the democratic process.  When administrative agencies are empowered by Congress to establish standards of performance and oversee compliance, we the people are able to know what is going on behind the closed doors of those receiving our tax money.  That way, we can demand change if it's warranted. But when we don't know what's going on inside DV shelters, we can't very well bring our influence to bear on our elected representatives.  What would we say? As far as I know, that wasn't mentioned at yesterday's hearings, but for the first time since its original passage, there are cracks in the edifice of VAWA's hitherto unquestioning support.  And that portends more of the same.  There are plenty of other issues with VAWA beyond the three that have come up, but once Congress gets the regulatory bit in its teeth, the law will unavoidably become more sensible, gender-neutral and recipients of grants will have to conform to the standards set. None of that is ideal.  The ideologues will still rule the roost, but as time goes on, they'll more and more be expected to prove their claims, justify the exclusion of women with teenage boys, verify that those receiving services are actually victims of DV, etc.  Shelters will less and less be havens for drug dealers.  Homeless women will be directed to homeless shelters so that actual victims of DV will have room at shelters.  Male victims will start to receive protection and female perpetrators will get treatment. And with the emphasis on tight budgets, I'd expect the definition of domestic violence to be narrowed considerably.  At some point, some senator is bound to start asking why federal funds are being used to house women because their husbands shouted at them or they were afraid they might.  Remember, that's one of the things Eileen Larance emphasized as problematical - "definitions of abuse." All that is to say that the edifice is finally showing signs of cracking.  Will VAWA be reauthorized this year?  Of course it will be.  But change is in the wind.

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Dr. Phillip "Dr. Phil" McGraw gave inaccurate and biased testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on VAWA.  He testified on Wednesday on behalf or reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  He was called by committee chairman, Senator Pat Leahy, D-Vt. Over the years, "Dr. Phil" has taken on a number of issues related to fathers on his television program.  To say that he has an anti-father bias is putting it mildly.  A few years ago he had a show dedicated to showing how lazy fathers are.  Hey, he and Jeff Pearlman should team up; great minds think alike. Then there was the "Dr. Phil Show" in which he asserted that abusive fathers routinely get custody of their children.  One of the "examples" he gave was that of Sheldon Creek (a pseudonym) in which the mother accused the dad multiple times of child sexual abuse of his young daughter.  The only problem was that every single doctor, nurse, clinic, hospital, custody evaluator, guardian ad litem and child welfare agency that investigated, concluded that there had never been any form of abuse.  Into the bargain, the judge concluded that the mother fabricated the accusations shortly before court hearings on custody. To Dr. Phil that meant the father had abused his daughter.  What apparently didn't mean much to him was that the child had to undergo five separate medical examinations due solely to her mother's false claims of sexual abuse against her dad.  That concerned the girl's guardian ad litem as well as the judge.  From Dr. Phil?  Not a peep. Glenn Sacks demolished the "Creek" case here. So when Dr. McGraw  showed up to testify on behalf of VAWA, we knew we were in for a rough ride.  And so we were.  Here's a transcript of his testimony. In keeping with so much commentary on domestic violence, Dr. Phil evinces no awareness that women ever injure their male partners.  In that he's reading directly from the Joe Biden handbook.  Biden, who's proud of nothing more than his support for VAWA, has no notion that women ever perpetrate domestic violence or that men are ever their victims. (As an aside, a matter of hours before his testimony, Catherine Kieu of Garden Grove, California, drugged her husband's food and, when he went to bed feeling sick, tied him to the bed, cut off his penis with a kitchen knife, and ground it up in the garbage disposal.  She did nothing to stop his profuse bleeding and the 60-year-old man was listed in serious condition at the hospital.  Kieu told police "he deserved it."  The two are in the middle of divorce proceedings.  In keeping with the Biden/Dr. Phil take on DV, no article has yet called her actions "domestic violence."  Here's one article on the case (NBC Los Angeles, 7/14/11). So McGraw's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was both wrong and biased.  It's wrong because women perpetrate domestic violence at least as often as do men and possibly more.  It's wrong because, while men are more likely to injure women than vice versa, over one-third of DV injuries including deaths are suffered by men.  And of course, we've known this to a certainty for 36 years, ever since the first major study was done for the National Institute of Mental Health in 1976. And yet Joe Biden and Dr. Phil can still tiptoe merrily through the tulips pretending we don't know what we've in fact known for decades.  Keep in mind, this guy was testifying before a senate committee charged with gathering facts - facts, mind you - about domestic violence, VAWA, it's shortcomings, its strong points, etc.  Wouldn't you think they'd want informed people before them?  Wouldn't you think they'd demand accuracy?  After all, there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake and national policy is being made. But Dr. Phil didn't stop there.  He came out with this doozey:
Domestic violence is now the most common cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44.
No, actually it's not.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, it's nowhere in the top five, being far outstripped by things like falls, motor vehicle accidents and overexertion.  Indeed, anyone who's ever taken a defensive driving course would hesitate to say that anything causes more injury to the young than do motor vehicle accidents.  The least regard for accuracy would have stopped Dr. Phil from making the patently untrue claim and the committee from hearing it. From the outright false, McGraw improved to the merely misleading.  For him, all DV is done by men and all of it is serious.  He's like so many in the DV establishment who are pleased to inflate the definition of DV to include every minor push or shove and every raised voice.  That's on one hand; on the other they call all DV "battering." That allows them to vastly exaggerate how many instances of DV there are and at the same time pretend they're all life-threatening.  They shift their definitions without letting on they're doing it.  And so it is with the august Dr. McGraw.
2,000,000 women a year are victimized meaning as we sit here today in the 1st hour of this hearing, 228 women are being beaten, terrorized and intimidated, all behind closed doors, all undoubtedly feeling very alone.
See what I mean?  If you define DV to include imagined slights, shouts and minor pushes and shoves, then yes, 2 million women may indeed be victims.  But if you define it as being "beaten, terrorized and intimidated," the number is a small fraction of that.  Indeed, the Scottish study I've referred to frequently found that there was no injury at all or only a minor cut or bruise in 80% of domestic violence incidents, i.e. far from "battering." Dr. Phil, like so many in the DV establishment, wants to define the term as he wishes when he wishes.  He wants to have it both ways. Reading what McGraw said to the committee, the untutored might actually believe he meant it.  How's this for a clarion call?
And so I pledge to you today our campaign to End the Silence on Domestic Violence is just beginning. With legislation like VAWA we can turn obstacles into stepping-stones. I will continue to use the Dr. Phil platform to raise awareness and educate the public. We will advocate for victims of violence and partner with others, from the roadhouse to the Whitehouse until we can at last, lay down our swords.
Stirring stuff, no?  Well, it would be if he had any intention at all of "educating the public" or "advocating for victims of violence."  But, based on his previous behavior and his testimony to the committee, he has no such intention. Dr. Phil will no more educate the public about male victims like Catherine Kieu's husband than the man in the moon.  He has no intention of advocating for men.  To him, male victims of violence at the hands of their intimate partners are just so much collateral damage in a war declared long ago - a war in which Dr. Phil is a high-ranking officer, a war on the truth, a war on male victims of female violence. Phillip McGraw talks about ending the silence, but he himself silences every male victim of domestic violence.  It's how the DV establishment likes male victims - voiceless. He added,
I long ago resolved to never speak unless I could add something to the silence.
Would that it were true.

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The Ohio Supreme Court denied parental rights to a lesbian woman despite her care of the child for two years.  Here's one informative article about the case (HRC Backstory, 7/13/11). Back in 2000, Michelle Hobbs and Kelly Mullen formed an intimate relationship.  They lived together for three years and decided to have a child with Mullen being the one to conceive and carry the child to term.  Hobbs had a friend in Georgia, Scott Liming, whom they contacted about being a sperm donor.  He agreed and, along with Mullen signed an agreement under which he would have no obligation to the child.  Nevertheless, Liming was named as the child's father on the birth certificate. In due course, Mullen became pregnant via in vitro fertilization and the child was born.  During all that time, Hobbs was present and actively supported Mullen.  Once the child was born, Hobbs took a similarly active role in its care and upbringing. That was reflected in certain documents Mullen executed.
 Of particular importance to the Court were documents which Mullen signed which named Hobbs as the child"s guardian and gave Hobbs a durable power-of-attorney and a health-care power of attorney, granting her the ability to make school, health, and other decisions for the child.
But about two years after the child's birth, Mullen and Hobbs broke up.  Hobbs immediately petitioned a trial court for joint custody of the child.  She was denied there, denied at the appellate level and denied once again by the Ohio Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Liming has moved from Georgia to Ohio to be near his child.  He's taking an active role in its care.  Whether he or Mullen is paying child support, the article doesn't say. (Just for the record, the agreement he signed absolving him of responsibility for the child isn't worth the paper it's written on.  Had Mullen gone to court seeking a child support order, that agreement would have been 100% ineffective to prevent her from getting one.  The same will be true if she ever does in the future.) The court's reasoning in the case echoes what many fathers have experienced in family court.  I've complained many times about the fact that fathers' parental "rights" are often placed squarely in the hands of mothers.  That's of course particularly true when the two aren't married, but can happen as well in married couples. Essentially, a few well-worded misrepresentations by the mother are usually sufficient to either deny altogether or sharply restrict a father's exercise of his parental rights.  Simply disappearing from the man's life as soon as she knows she's pregnant is the easiest method.  That way, he'll assume she was no longer interested in seeing him and go about his business.  Even if he finds out later about his child, he'll find his right to custody all but non-existent.  Why?  Because he hasn't taken a hands-on approach to childcare.  The fact that she intentionally deprived him of any chance at doing so is routinely ignored by courts. Of course if she wants child support at any time in the future, she need only file a petition with the court and - presto! - the money starts flowing from the stunned father.  If that happens, his parental rights miraculously spring up from nowhere, again courtesy of the mother. Other methods, such as lying about paternity work almost as well. In the case of adoption, the state usually does the work for her.  Putative father registries and other laws designed specifically to facilitate denial of fathers' rights require little or no effort on the mother's part. So it's interesting that, in Michelle Hobbs's case, the Ohio court placed particular emphasis on the fact that the child's mother, Kelly Mullen, retained the right to revoke those powers of attorney at any time.  She also refused to enter into a shared custody arrangement that's permitted by Ohio state law. In short, the outcome of Hobbs's attempt to continue as a parent to the child depended not on her actions but on Mullen's consent.  As with fathers, her rights were placed, not in her own hands but in those of another person altogether - the mother.  Try as she might, Michelle Hobbs could do nothing to improve her chances at sharing custody.  It was not up to her; it was up to Mullen, and when their relationship soured, their child was left permanently without one of the only two parents he/she had ever known.  Why?  Because the mother said so. No one in family court has the power that mothers have.  Indeed, with one exception, nowhere else in American jurisprudence does one adult control the exercise of valuable rights held by another adult.  And that exception is telling.  When one adult has been adjudicated to be non compos mentis and in need of a guardian, then another adult is appointed to exercise the other's rights and discharge his/her obligations. The relationship of guardian and ward is the closest thing American law offers to the relationship of mother and father. So now Michelle Hobbs knows a little bit about what it means to be a father in today's United States.  She may have paid half of the child's expenses.  She may have done all she could as the child's parent; she may have loved it, cuddled it, changed its diapers, bathed it, fed it, sung it to sleep.  The child may have smiled every time it saw her.  Once it learned to, it may have toddled eagerly to Hobbs for a hug and a kiss. But all of that means nothing in Ohio law.  Let Hobbs suffer; let the child suffer.  But on no account diminish the power of the mother to control who will act as its parent today, and who will tomorrow. Thanks to Don for the heads-up.

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Since I've written several times recently about domestic violence and its treatment by the news media, I'll start with this (Slate, 6/24/11). I've pointed out that throughout the DV industry, male victims are silenced.  The DV establishment only grudgingly admits male victims exist at all, and some parts of it, like the Vice President of the United States, don't even do that. For its part, the media often report on domestic violence by women against men, but almost without exception, fail to call it "domestic violence."  That of course promotes the DV establishment's preferred narrative of only female victims and only male perpetrators. The Slate piece comes from its advice column, "Dear Prudence."  In this case, a young woman wrote in to say that she's just out of film school and had landed a pretty good job with a husband-and-wife documentary film team.  Her problem is that her employers fall somewhere between hard-to-get-along-with and crazy.  She wants to keep her job, but her bosses make life stressful for her.  None of that would be exceptional, but she includes these sentences:
The husband and wife are overtly abusive to each other, verbally and emotionally (I also think physically, though not in front of us). Sometimes they come back from "lunch," and the husband has puffy, black bruises on his face.
To that remarkable revelation, Prudence responds... not at all.  Reading her response, you'd never guess that the young woman believes - and with apparent justification - that the wife is beating up her husband.  It simply didn't register with Prudence that violent crimes are being committed by the woman against the man.  Or if it registered, she didn't consider it important enough to comment on. Now, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what Prudence likely would have replied if it had been the woman coming back from lunch bruised.  My guess is that it would have made up the bulk of her response.  She'd likely have tossed off a few false figures about the prevalence of DV against women and advised the young woman to report the man, albeit carefully so as to not jeopardize her job. But when it's a man getting hit, it's no big deal; actually, it's no deal at all.  Better to just ignore it and hope everyone else does too.  It's been the modus operandi of the DV establishment from the beginning. Second up is this very strange case (Associated Press, 7/13/11).  Last year, Michele Kalina of Reading, Pennsylvania, was arrested for killing five newborn children - hers.  It seems that she had become pregnant five separate times and kept them all secret from her husband and her boyfriend who is the father of at least three of the children.  She then carried each of the children to term, gave birth (where, no one seems to know), killed the children and stored their remains in a locked closet. Her 19-year-old daughter got into the closet somehow and found the remains. Since her arrest, she's been evaluated for mental competence and has just been found to be capable of standing trial.  But that won't happen.  She'll plead guilty in August, although to what remains unclear.
The home-health aide is charged with one count each of criminal homicide and aggravated assault, and multiple counts of abuse of a corpse and concealing the death of a child.
DNA tests show she conceived most, if not all, of the babies through a long affair with a co-worker. Neither he nor Kalina's husband knew about the pregnancies.
Kalina moved the remains with her and kept them in a locked closet until her teen daughter found them in the family's high-rise apartment last year and called police, authorities say.
It's a case that has perplexed the police and indeed seems hard to explain.  Exactly why a woman with many contraceptive alternatives and the choice of abortion would become pregnant five times, give birth and then kill the newborns is a mystery.
Despite the unusual nature of the Kalina case, Dr. Peggy Bowen-Hartung of Alvernia University does have a theory.
"She meets the definition of a serial killer," said Bowen-Hartung, who specializes in forensic psychology and is chairwoman of psychology and counseling at Alvernia.
"It's not uncommon for a serial killer to keep them as trophies as remembrance," she said of remains. "The babies were so young. She did not allow maternal attachments. This is a really weird case."
Bowen-Hartung likened Kalina to a New York woman who is in prison for the murder of one newborn but apparently killed six others. Meanwhile there's the father of the children, Kalina's boyfriend.
She also had a sixth secret pregnancy that culminated with the 2003 birth in a Reading hospital of a baby girl that she gave up for adoption. That child was also conceived with the boyfriend, DNA tests show.
A prosecutor described him last year as "overwhelmed and shocked" by news of the pregnancies.
I'll be interested to see what her punishment is.  If it's anything less than life in prison, I'll be amazed; she's mentally competent, after all. One thing her case highlights is the ease with which she concealed her pregnancies.  Although there's nothing to indicate that she did so strictly for the sake of denying paternal rights to her boyfriend, she certainly accomplished exactly that, not only by the killings but by the earlier adoption. Notice that in that case, the adoption was finalized without anyone contacting either her husband or her boyfriend.  The child was presumptively her husband's, but the court that waved its wand over the adoption apparently did nothing to let him know that "his" child was going to other parents. They do have records on marriages in Pennsylvania, you know.  Did no one check?  Did no one go to her home to see if there was a husband around? The point being that, when it comes to adoption, courts aren't very interested in knowing whether there's a dad or not.  Everything goes much more smoothly when he's out of sight and out of mind. (Didn't I just say something very much like that about male victims of domestic violence?  Yes, I believe I did.) The larger issue is the ease of concealing her pregnancies.  One of the easiest ways by which mothers deny paternal rights to fathers is by keeping  pregnancy secret.  That can be done in all sorts of ways, and when it is, fathers, particularly single fathers, will have a hard time asserting their rights even if they do find out later. Michele Kalina showed just how easy that is.

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Former New York mayor/potential 2012 presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani with F & F activist Shawn Gliklich, MD."][/caption] Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign activists attended New Hampshire GOP events this week and asked former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a 2008 and potential 2012 presidential candidate, about family court reform. Giuliani told F & F activist Shawn Gliklich, MD "family courts absolutely need reform," and expressed interest in meeting with F & F. Giuliani told Dr. Gliklich that he sees family law as a state matter, rather than a federal one. Giuliani is for the most part correct, however, there are many things the federal government could do to promote shared custody and undermine the current sole custody to mom norm. The federal government helps shape states" policies in many areas by the disbursement or withholding of federal reimbursement funds. It works the same way with family law--the federal government reimburses the states billions of dollars each year in child support collection funds. A pro-shared parenting administration could greatly encourage shared parenting by tying those funds to progress in enacting shared parenting laws, implementing and encouraging shared parenting arrangements, and enforcing visitation orders. President Obama has admirably emphasized the importance of fathers in children's lives. However, he has chosen to focus only on the part of fatherlessness which is caused by irresponsible fathers, and not the large part of it that is caused by the family court system. Giuliani experienced the bias of the family court system during his highly-publicized divorce from actress Donna Hanover. During Giuliani's 2008 campaign, it was evident that Giuliani"s children were alienated from him--his son Andrew publicly attacked Giuliani's wife Judi Nathan, and has often voiced objections to Giuliani"s and Nathan"s marriage. Giuliani also paid put an enormous sum in the divorce, and his ex-wife even demanded that he pay her $1,140 a month to care for the family dog. We discussed Giuliani's family life, marriage, and divorce---in which he also was not free of wrongdoing---in a column here. Like millions of other fathers, Dr. Gliklich, a Methuen, Massachusetts emergency-room physician, was allowed limited time with his children after his divorce. In June he was quoted in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

"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?"

Giuliani is the 5th presidential (or likely presidential) candidate who has come out in favor of family court reform via Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign. These include:

We Want YOU for Fathers and Families' Election Campaign 2012---Click Here to Volunteer

Gary Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, said:
"Anything I could do on the federal level I would do, as president, to address [this] real inequality. I recognize it, having been Governor of New Mexico. It's a huge issue...the courts rule...usually [if not] always against the fathers...[in these rulings, fathers rights'] are obliterated, they're nonexistent. I recognize that...I'm open to ideas [on fixing it]."
[caption id="attachment_16127" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F activist Penny Rogers shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at a May event. Gingrich said the family law system has an 'extreme anti-male bias'"]gingrich-fundraiser-rogers-gingrich[/caption] Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized the family law system for its "extreme anti-male bias.," and explained that he was "in favor of fathers having rights...We live in an age that is very different than 50 years ago and I think that it is very often very important...that we have a much greater sensitivity that both sides, both parents, both have rights and have responsibilities..." Less definitely but still encouraging were former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty comments:
[O]ne of the most significant determining factors of how children are going to do in school and more broadly in life is the degree of involvement and engagement of their parents in their lives. We want to encourage that to the fullest extent possible. And so the laws...as they relate to the relative balance between custodial and non-custodial [should reflect] that we want both parents engaged and productive...in their children"s lives.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F activist/NH House member Jeff Oligny (left) with Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman (right) at June event."][/caption]
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said:

I totally agree with your assessment on the need for children to be able to bond and interact with their parents. When they"re there, they do better. And when they are estranged, they do worse. There is something about a parent figure that is so critically important and indispensable in the lives of families.

I"m somewhat familiar with some cases that have played out in Utah where fathers in particular were estranged from their children. Unfortunately, caught up in the legal system, caught up in bureaucracy, we did what we could do. But I understand where you are coming from and if you have any specific solutions on how we ought to be looking at this issue, I"d love to hear them.

Join Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign! Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign is a nonpartisan grassroots campaign with the goal of injecting family court reform into the 2012 election campaign. Between now and New Hampshire's February 14, 2012 primary, our activists will be going to candidates' campaign stops, rallies, and townhall meetings, as well as calling in when candidates are interviewed on radio talk shows. We will be politely and persistently asking candidates questions about family court reform, with the goal of garnering media attention for our issues and getting candidates to go on the record with their views. Our central issue is simple--family courts harm children by routinely separating them from one of the two people they love most. How You Can Help No matter where you are, there are many ways you can help:
1) If you are in New England and can volunteer to make appearances at campaign stops and townhalls, please fill out our volunteer form here and type "Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign" at the beginning of the "How I Can Help" section. 2) We understand that many of you can"t participate due to geography or other limitations. We still want you to fill out our volunteer form here and participate by:
  • Helping us organize by making phone calls and doing web research.
  • Making calls to reporters, radio talk shows, and candidates' offices, writing letters and posting comments in response to our campaign Action Alerts. You will see these on our website at www.FathersandFamilies.org, our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/FathersandFamilies, and in our weekly ENewsletter.
  • Our New Hampshire efforts cost money---help defray our costs by giving at www.FathersandFamilies.org/give.
We Are Non-Partisan Fathers and Families is resolutely non-partisan and has and continues to work successfully with legislators on both sides of the aisle on legislation to promote family court reform. Our primary goal is to protect the loving bonds children share with both parents after divorce or separation, and we're happy to work with any legislators or political figures who share this goal. During the Fathers and Families Election Campaign 2012 we will be intervening at both Republican and Democratic events. However, there are many more Republican events than Democratic events because the Republican primary will be hotly contested, whereas the Democrats have an incumbent running.

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New research shows that the well-being of children and mothers is enhanced by father involvement. The study was conducted by three researchers at Arizona State University, Alyson Shapiro, Judy Krysik and Amy Pennar.  The families they chose to study were those receiving services from the Healthy Families Arizona program.  HFAz is a voluntary program that seeks to identify families that are at risk for a variety of bad child outcomes including child abuse. Shapiro, Krysik and Pennar studied data from 197 such families to try to learn what impact, if any, father presence and involvement had on children and mothers.  Specifically, when programs like HFAz intervene in family life to try to head off, for example child abuse, to what extent should fathers be included and how? Now, you might think that had been done before, but the three authors are at pains to let readers know how sparse the data are on the role fathers play in child well-being in predominantly poor families.
Although evidence of the importance of father–child relationships has been well documented over the last three decades (see Lewis & Lamb, 2003), intervention studies have largely failed to include fathers as a major component of intervention models and related research...  [T[he bulk of early intervention services remains primarily directed toward mothers.
So, since fathers have been largely ignored in literature on family intervention, it's no surprise that the best ways of including fathers in intervention programs is unknown.
This lack of information on fathers in families considered at risk for child abuse makes adequate targeting of fathers in interventions difficult, if not impossible.
The authors summarize some of the research on fathers to date, and it strongly indicts the notion that single-motherhood is "just another lifestyle choice."  That's true for even the poorest and least educated single fathers.
Despite variation in the methods used, the literature suggests that many fathers are involved and that positive father involvement is associated with benefits to child development and well-being (see Lewis & Lamb, 2003).
But father-involvement with children is often not up to the dads, but to the mothers.
Research also indicates that father-related family dynamics can both influence father involvement and reflect father contributions to infant development indirectly through the mother.  Mothers appear to act as gatekeepers, either supporting or thwarting father involvement in intact as well as nonintact families (McBride et al., 2005), with maternal encouragement predicting parent-reported father involvement.
Given all that, you might have thought that programs that intervene in families to try to build healthier relationships and parenting would have, if not focused on fathers, at least included them.  But you'd have been wrong.
Although fathers have not historically been included as major factors in intervention programs and related research, a recent meta-analysis indicated that father inclusion in parenting training was associated with positive child outcomes...
That's true of the Healthy Families Arizona program as well.
The literature on Healthy Families America points to the parent–child relationship as a target for intervention services.  However, the primary focus of those services has traditionally been on the mother–child dyad and maternal parental functioning (DuMont et al., 2008).
Stated another way, HFAz and its larger incarnation, Healthy Families America, have been around for decades trying to create healthier parenting.  But they're just now getting around to considering fathers as part of that effort. So the authors studied fathers in low-income, at-risk families.  To be considered "at risk," families have to answer survey questions about various topics such as parent trauma experienced as a child, mental health problems, substance abuse, criminal history, past child abuse, etc.  If a family scored high enough on the survey, they were qualified for admission to HFAz. The families studied were poorer than most, and, being from Arizona, predominantly Hispanic.  Interestingly, almost exclusively mothers were interviewed.  Fathers were too if they happened to be present when the interviewer was at the family's home, but there is no documentation of how many fathers participated. Only 15% of the mothers were married, but 47.2% lived with the father.  Yet another 29.4% said the father had at least some contact with the child.  So in all, about 77% of the fathers had at least some contact with their children. Comparing families in which fathers had contact with their kids to those in which the fathers didn't, revealed several benefits associated with father involvement.  Mothers were less likely to be involved with Child Protective Services and more likely to have sought pre-natal care.  Mothers were less likely to be depressed and their families were financially better off.  In fact, the greater the father-involvement, the greater the family income. So the researchers did further analysis controlling for income levels and found that father involvement still correlated highly with less maternal involvement with CPS.  Likewise, a resident father was significantly correlated with better maternal mental health, specifically lower depression. Involved fathers tend to lessen a mother's chance of being a victim of domestic violence.
Specifically, mothers were more likely to report that they were physically abused by a partner if the father was not involved shortly after the baby"s birth (M = 3.81) compared to mothers in families with either involved nonresident fathers (M = 1.35, p = .02, d = 1.12) or resident fathers.
Of course all this is simply correlating father involvement with better maternal and child outcomes.  It says nothing about causality.  It could be argued that those fathers who are involved with their children tend to be better fathers than those who aren't.  Therefore intervening in families to involve hitherto uninvolved fathers wouldn't benefit mothers or children. But the dynamics of how fathers come to be involved or uninvolved in their children's care strongly suggest the opposite.  Studies on maternal gatekeeping as well as those describing "parenting as a package deal" in which the mother and child make up the "package" (or "dyad") strongly suggest that greater efforts should be made to involve more fathers in their children's lives.   The authors conclude
The current research identified several indicators of maternal and family well-being that were positively related to the level of father involvement. Thus, child and family functioning could be influenced indirectly through father-related family dynamics as well as through the contributions fathers make as parents.
Once again, research shows the beneficial effects of involving fathers in the lives of their children.  It's something the academy has known for decades now.  Are state legislatures listening?

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Kaitlyn Timko sued her father for emotional damage caused to her when he was shot in the head by a motorist.  Read about it here (ABC News, 7/11/11).  The 11-year-old girl is suing her dad through her mother, Lori Hardwerk. Back in October 2008, Thomas Timko was driving near Philadelphia with his daughter Kaitlyn in the back seat.  That was when he made two bad mistakes.  Another driver apparently did something to anger him and Timko flipped him the bird.  That was his first mistake.  His second was to whom he chose to give the one-finger salute.  That person turned out to be Christian Squillaciotti, a schizophrenic ex-marine armed with a pistol. Squillaciotti shot Timko in the head.  Timko survived but is permanently impaired as well as disfigured by scarring.  Squillaciotti went to prison for his crime for up to 26 years. Meanwhile, Lori Hardwerk seems to have made some plans.  She and Timko were never married, but they'd lived together for 20 years prior to his shooting.  Hardwerk was herself disabled in 2001 and hasn't worked since.  My guess is that Timko was her sole or primary support during the seven years between the onset of her disability and his in October, 2008. In 2009, she and Timko "broke up."  That may be the article's shorthand for her walking out on the man who was still trying to recover from his gunshot wound and unable to work.  She took Kaitlyn with her.  The next thing Timko knew, Hardwerk had sued him "as next friend" of their daughter. Unsurprisingly, Kaitlyn has experienced serious emotional difficulties brought on by seeing her father shot in the head when he was a matter of a few feet from her.  She was eight at the time.
According to child psychologist Dr David Fassler, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, this horrific experience contained a perfect storm of factors that lead to Kaitlyn's lasting trauma.
"Direct exposure to violent and confusing events involving people you know will typically have a more significant and lasting effect than a distant event involving strangers or acquaintances," he said.
"Kids also tend to react more to incidents which threaten the stability and predictability of their lives and immediate families," he says. "Kids who've had such experiences often require comprehensive and ongoing treatment to help them cope and go on with their lives."
That's easy to understand.  What's also easy to understand is that Timko has no job, no assets and skyrocketing medical costs.  Being the defendant in a lawsuit, particularly one by his ex suing on behalf of his daughter, can't improve matters much for him. That's even more true given the fact that, from where I stand, the case looks to be one of dubious merit.  In civil law there's a concept called "intervening causation."  Without being too tedious, that means that a defendant can't be held liable for the wrongful act of someone else even though the defendant also acted negligently.  The question is whether the defendant reasonably could have anticipated that the third party would act the way he/she did. So, was it reasonable for Timko to expect to be shot by someone he flipped off?  A jury will decide that, but it looks like a stretcher to me. Whatever the case, the article linked to makes this case look like nothing but a fight over money.  Timko has an insurance policy and indeed, Hardwerk has also sued Squillaciotti's wife who was in the car with him at the time of the shooting.  She's also considering whether to sue the state agency that gave Squllaciotti a gun permit. But there seems to be something else going on that may be more important than anything else in the case.  Although the plaintiff's attorney is at pains to deny it (me thinks he protests too much), the very act of filing a suit against someone is hostile in nature.  It comes from bad feelings and breeds bad feelings. My thought is that Lori Hardwerk is doing her daughter more harm than good.  What the girl feels now and what she'll feel in the future about bringing a civil suit against the man who's been her loving father all his life remains to be seen.  Add to that the fact that she's clearly "kicking him when he's down" seems to me to hold the possibility of producing extreme guilt in her if not now then later. It turns out I'm not the only one.
Kaitlyn and her father have handled the situation by simply not discussing the case, Hardwerk said, but Fassler cautioned that if the suit does create further friction between Kaitlyn's parents there's a danger it may still be counterproductive for Kaitlyn herself.
"Ongoing conflict between parents, with or without legal involvement, puts kids at increased risk of emotional and behavioral problems, Fassler said. "In general, the sooner things get resolved, the better, for everyone involved."
I guess Lori Hardwerk didn't think of that.  She seems not to have thought of "stand by your man" either, even though he's stood by her all these years.  And in the end, the one to suffer, in addition to Thomas Timko, will be his daughter who is currently too young to appreciate exactly what her mother is doing.

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CBS's "The Talk" found Catherine Kieu Becker's slicing off of her husband's penis to be high comedy.  As you'll no doubt recall, Becker allegedly drugged her husband's food and, when he lay down feeling sick, tied him to the bed and cut off his penis with a kitchen knife.  She then ground it up in the garbage disposal before calling 911.  When the police arrived, she told them "he deserved it." What had he done?  Apparently he'd filed for divorce.  That makes him one of a minority of men who do, since 70% of divorces in the United States are filed by women.  The hosts of "The Talk" found Becker's mutilation of her husband to be great fun.  One of the panelists, Sharon Osbourne, called the savage attack "quite fabulous" and "hysterical."  Host Julie Chen laughed heartily when a woman in the audience called out "that'll teach him" to the news that Becker had done it because he'd filed for divorce. (Chen, by the way is the wife of Leslie Moonves, who's President and CEO of CBS.  She pursued an affair with Moonves while the executive was still married.  Presumably she's glad Moonves' ex didn't do what Becker did when the two split up.) All of the six female panelists got great pleasure from the man's sexual mutilation.  One referred to their delight (and the audience's) as "the buzz," and said she didn't want to "kill" it.  Osbourne added that, if it had been her, she'd have just tossed the penis into the dog's bowl instead of the garbage disposal.  (I guess she's evolving.  Not long ago she said that if she'd been Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, she'd have cut off his penis and put in the garbage disposal.)  Yet another opined that the decision whether to cut off a man's penis "does depend on the reason why" she did so.  In other words, some reasons for sexual mutilation of a man are appropriate while others aren't. After several minutes of glee, one panelist actually realized that "it's not funny," but that remark went unheeded by the others.  Still another found it "a little bit sexist" to be laughing at the incident and wondered if they would find similar humor in a man's severing a woman's breast.  Her remark was not treated seriously. Here's a link to a a website with a video of the episode of "The Talk." To say the least, the entire performance by all six of the women was disgraceful.  As by far the worst of the lot, Sharon Osbourne should be fired immediately by CBS and never get another job there. It goes without saying that, if a husband had drugged his wife, tied her to their bed and sexually mutilated her with a kitchen knife, the ladies on "The Talk" wouldn't have been laughing.  They'd have been calling for his head.  From coast to coast we'd have been treated to an orgy of recrimination and false "facts" about the corrupt nature of men and how prevalent our violence against women is. "The Talk" took hypocrisy to a all new low.  The blatant misandry of all six of the female hosts was shameful.  All should publicly apologize and Osbourne should be fired.  It is far past time to dispense with the public hatred of half the population of the world.  It is far past time to stop the promotion of women's domestic violence against men that we see time and again in popular culture, from casual slaps to murder. If domestic violence is wrong, as we've said for decades, it's wrong.  That means it's can't be right for women but wrong for men.  About 400 men in the United States died at the hands of their female partners last year, and in fact that's an understatement because women tend to hire the job done more often than do men.  Those murders-for-hire are not counted as spousal murder by the police agencies charged with reporting them. Are those men's deaths cause for the type of celebration the women on "The Talk" had for Catherine Becker? The double standard regarding DV that appears everywhere in American law and the practices of police and courts must end.  But it won't until those in the public spotlight take seriously women's violence against men.  That includes the six women on "The Talk" for whom the sexual mutilation of a man is the source of such unrestrained joy. And they'll never change if their utterly unacceptable behavior goes unpunished. To call for Sharon Osbourne's firing and an apology from the rest, go to the link I've provided.  That site has links to CBS's complaint department, investor relations, the Federal Communications Commission, etc.

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