NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Men earn only one in five of all master"s degrees awarded in psychology, down from half in the 1970s. They account for less than 10 percent of social workers under the age of 34, according to a recent survey. And their numbers have dwindled among professional counselors -- to 10 percent of the American Counseling Association"s membership today from 30 percent in 1982 -- and appear to be declining among marriage and family therapists.And that turns out to have a profound effect on men who seek the services of mental health professionals. Whether rightly or wrongly, men tend to seek male therapists. So the near-absence of men in the profession effectively denies services to half the population.
The result, many therapists argue, is that the profession is at risk of losing its appeal for a large group of sufferers -- most of them men -- who would like to receive therapy but prefer to start with a male therapist.
"There"s a way in which a guy grows up that he knows some things that women don"t know, and vice versa,' said David Moultrup, a psychotherapist in Belmont, Mass. "But that male viewpoint has been so devalued in the course of empowering little girls for the past 40 or 50 years that it is now all but lost in talk therapy. Society needs to have the choice, and the choice is being taken away.'Of course, many men go to female therapists and many doubtless get help from them. After all, as the article points out, a good therapist is a good therapist; a bad one is a bad one. And the two aren't sex-specific. Still, it seems that a man tends to be more comfortable talking about intimate details of his life and psyche to another man, and that creates a problem when there aren't many males in the profession.
In just the past few years, psychologists have identified a number of issues that are, in effect, male versions of the gender-identity issues that so many mothers face in the work force: the self-doubt of being a stay-at-home father, the tension between being a provider and being a father, even male post-partum depression.
"In the same way that there is something very personal about being a mother, something very important to female identity, the experience of fathering is also very powerful,' said Aaron Rochlen, a psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin. "And some men, I think, prefer to talk about that -- the joy of being a father, the stress, how it"s impacting them -- with a therapist who"s had the same experience,' from the same point of view.There's a small upside to this. If a man wants a good job, he knows where to find it. Graduates schools and clinical programs are begging men to apply.
"I remember when I started training, I looked around and realized that for the first time in my life, I was an endangered minority,' said Ryan McKelley, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. "Now I tell my male students, if you"re interested in clinical care, you can write your own ticket. You"ll be hired immediately.'I have a couple of thoughts on this that the article didn't mention. The first is that, with the dramatic rise in fatherless families over the past 40 years, and the virtual monopoly women enjoy of teaching, it's possible for a child to reach college age and never have any meaningful dealings with an adult male. That's not a revelation of course; it's been commented on numerous times. But one of the places a person might go to deal with the problems of having no contact with adult males is to a therapist. Now we know that that's not an option either. The second is more important. Anyone who follows family court practices very closely knows about the immense impact mental health professionals have on custody decisions. Family judges rely on them to an enormous degree to recommend not only custody but the amount of time a non-custodial parent will have with his child and under what circumstances. The fact that 90% of these professionals are women can't help but have an overall impact on custody outcomes in family courts. Of course we'd like to believe that their professionalism would prevent any sort of bias or prejudice in favor of mothers and against fathers, but experience teaches that that's a "frail reed." Many, perhaps most - mental health professionals strive to do their jobs scrupulously. But the news has plenty of examples of those who don't and anecdotal evidence of fathers supports the notion that part of the tilt of family courts toward maternal custody comes from the counsellors they rely on. And in any event, who would be surprised to find a female social worker who's also a mother who's been involved in a custody battle with her ex-husband erring on the side of maternal custody. That's even more likely because of the hesitancy men have with female therapists. If a dad's not comfortable with a female mental health professional, how likely is it that he'll come across well on her evaluation of him? It's yet another wrong that a presumption of equally shared parenting could help to right. If a judge has to order equally shared parenting absent a strong showing that one parent shouldn't care for the child half of the time, it would be harder for mental health professionals to skew the results by unflattering evaluations.
The bill was modeled in part on legislation the organization Fathers and Families has helped pass in other states, including California. Under the language in the bill, deployment cannot be considered a "change in circumstances" by the courts when considering custody and visitation matters. House Bill 121 will also authorize courts to issue orders granting grandparents, stepparents and extended families the ability to exercise a deployed soldier's normal parenting time, allowing children to preserve bonds with their deployed parent and their families. Those behind the bill stress that service members shouldn't have to choose between patriotism and being a parent. This new bill will protect Ohio parents who serve their country.
1) Call your state representative and ask him or her to call House Chair Eugene L. O'Flaherty and Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo and ask them to pass the bill. The phone numbers and email addresses of all House members can be found here. [caption id="attachment_15878" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Fathers and Families Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS testifying in favor of H02684."][/caption] 2) Call your state senator and ask him or her to call Senate Chair Cynthia Stone Creem and Senate President Therese Murray and ask them to pass the bill. The phone numbers and email addresses of all Senators can be found here. 3) Tell us what your representative or senator said by emailing us.Activism is not a spectator sport--we need your calls to help overcome the special interests that are arrayed against us. Women, grandparents and children of divorce are especially needed--we urge you to ask your spouses, parents, siblings and friends to call, too. We've built widespread support for shared parenting among legislators--30% of whom signed on as cosponsors of shared parenting legislation--and with the Governor. But shared parenting is being bottled up in committee by a handful of ideologues--we need your help to get it out. To read the testimonies of Dr. Holstein and Fathers and Families' members Deanna Marchand, Jules Remenar, Michael Burgraff, Howie Simon, and others, click here. We also thank F & F member Richard Fucillo for his skilled legislative work in support of the bill, as well as the many others who attended and in some cases testified, including Roy Corbeil (a grandparent), Terry Brennan, Harris Allen, Tom Hanks, David Harbison, Robert Gada (with his baby), John Peterson, Kevin McCarthy (with his 4 year old boy), and others. We know of only two people who testified against shared parenting, one of whom represented the Family Law Task Force. A Repudiation of the Massachusetts Family Court System [caption id="attachment_15875" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Fathers and Families member Deanna Marchand testifying in favor of H02684."][/caption] Another positive that came out of Wednesday's hearing was progress on S00665, an alimony reform bill. In Massachusetts, divorced fathers are often saddled with lifetime alimony, as judges are forced to either order alimony without an end or no alimony at all. Fathers and Families has worked legislatively and in the PR area for a decade on this issue, and in recent years the group Massachusetts Alimony Reform has done excellent work to resolve this problem. There appears to be a consensus in the Judiciary Committee that Massachusetts Alimony Reform's S00665 will pass. This is a very positive development in itself, but there's more. Paula Carey, the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, has long publicly held that the legislature need not meddle into family law, as the family court system can and does correct itself. Yet the alimony situation has been a long-running train-wreck which Carey, the family court system, and the higher courts couldn't or wouldn't fix. The fact that the legislature has had to intervene directly to fix this problem serves as a repudiation of the Massachusetts family court system and the higher courts, and could open the door to more reforms. As Dr. Holstein noted during his testimony, "Shared parenting is overdue. We seem to be about to take care of the money [via the alimony bill]; now let"s take care of the kids." Background on H02684 Fathers and Families members' Citizen Lobbyist efforts of the past several months have paid off, as nearly 30% of all Massachusetts legislators signed on as co-sponsors of Shared Parenting legislation. For a complete list of these legislators, click here or see the bottom of this page. F & F's History of Organizing Popular Support for Shared Parenting in Massachusetts
While we have been stymied to date by a small minority on the Judiciary Committee, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the population of Massachusetts favors shared parenting, and it's safe to say that most legislators favor it, too. We say this because:
- An F & F Massachusetts shared parenting ballot initiative in 2004 won by a huge margin (86%-14%).
- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the Massachusetts legislature that if they pass our shared parenting bill, he will sign it, and F & F has met with Patrick.
- F & F has consistently been able to gather large numbers of legislative co-sponsors for shared parenting, including future U.S. Senator Scott Brown and many others.
- Shared parenting was the most-requested plank in the Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party in 2009.
- Shared parenting was endorsed in principle by the editorial board of the Boston Globe in 2008.
Together with you in the love of our children,Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. Founder, Chairman of the Board Glenn Sacks, MA Executive Director
Senate Bill 481 would require divorce court judges "to consider the extent to which income for support was already capitalized and paid to the other spouse in the division of community property, in order to avoid double counting the income when the result would be inequitable." Wright says it's aimed at "double-dipping" for ex-spouses receiving alimony, and if enacted, the bill could result in lower alimony payments. While Wright has support from the State Bar, he has drawn strong opposition from feminist groups, renewing their old conflict with him over rules of the divorce game.The National Organization for Women has come out against SB 481, and we're embroiled in a major political battle in Sacramento over it. We've lined up a great deal of support from influential California political organizations who realize that this is not a gender issue, but is instead an issue of fairness. We've helped build a consensus that reforming California's spousal support system is best for all, including the many successful women business owners and executives who are sometimes exploited by unfair spousal support laws, just as men often have been. Walters' full piece can be seen here. To comment on the piece, click here. To write a Letter to the Editor, write to [email protected] Walters' piece also covers our political battle over paternity fraud--to learn more, see Part II here.
1) Help "duped dads' free themselves from being forced to pay 18 years of child support for other men"s children by allowing them to petition the family court to transfer the obligation from themselves to the actual biological fathers 2) Crack open the current, restrictive time limit for challenging paternity, allowing a duped dad the opportunity to file for relief after he "becomes aware of facts that lead him to reasonably believe that he is not the biological father of the child' 3) End the abusive practice of coercing boys under the age of 18 into signing legally binding paternity declarations without parental consent or legal counselIn addition to Wright, Fathers and Families" legislative representative Michael Robinson has played a key role in numerous legislative and judicial measures to address paternity fraud. These include helping to pass paternity fraud bills (AB 252 and SB 1333) which allow California child support obligors to use DNA evidence to set aside false paternity judgments and the concomitant child support orders. Robinson also spearheaded a successful campaign to counter the County of Los Angeles" California Supreme Court petition to depublish the historic Navarro decision. Navarro was the first published case to hold that the statute of limitations did not apply in setting aside an old default judgment against a paternity fraud victim. As Walters details, Wright has long-championed paternity fraud legislation. It can be such a difficult political issue that Wright once described his early attempts to address it as being akin to being "the first ones to hit the beaches at Normandy." Walters writes:
[I]n 2002 [Wright] won legislative approval of a bill [AB 2240] that would make it easier for men to challenge child-support orders when DNA tests prove that they are not the biological fathers of the children involved.
Wright likened it to the use of DNA evidence to free wrongly convicted prisoners, but feminists said it would plunge more children into poverty, and, as Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, put it, would resurrect the "age-old double standard." Davis vetoed the bill.At the time, we condemned Davis in our column Preserving Paternity Fraud (Orange County Register, 10/3/02). We wrote:
California Governor Gray Davis had the chance to free thousands of falsely condemned men last week. He chose federal funds instead. Davis vetoed the California Paternity Justice Act (AB 2240), which would have helped thousands of California men who were wrongly assigned paternity in default judgments, and who have been compelled by the state to pay years of child support for children whom DNA tests have shown are not theirs. In Los Angeles County in 2000, for example, 79 percent of paternity judgments were decreed by default. Most of these men had no idea they were "fathers" until their wages were garnished. Technical instructor Bert Riddick of Carson is one of the men AB 2240 would have helped. Ten years ago, Riddick was erroneously named by an ex-girlfriend as the father of her child. By the time Riddick realized what had occurred, the statute of limitations for challenging paternity had passed. Riddick, his wife and their three children have fallen from the middle class to homelessness because he is forced to pay $1,400 a month in child support and arrearages. Like many paternity fraud victims, Riddick has never even met the child he is supporting. Davis could have freed thousands of these innocent men and their families by signing AB 2240. The bill would have helped men assigned paternity in default judgments by extending to three years from the date of discovery the period during which such judgments may be challenged through DNA testing. The bill would have allowed courts to vacate default paternity judgments which are shown to be erroneous, thus relieving falsely identified fathers of further child support. Instead of justice, Davis chose money. Under federal guidelines, states must identify the fathers of children whose mothers are receiving benefits or risk losing federal incentive money. In addition, states receive federal funding on child-support orders. Because federal rules do not require DNA testing to prove paternity, states have little incentive to demand accuracy in establishing paternity. Opponents of the bill included NOW, the National Center for Youth Law and the San Diego-based Children's Advocacy Institute. An institute official praised the veto, saying "we're glad that the governor put children first." These critics overlook the fact that when a father is forced to pay support for a child who is not his, his own biological children suffer greatly. If Davis had signed AB 2240, children of falsely identified fathers would not have been deprived of support. Mothers in these cases would do what they should have done all along: disclose the true identity of their children's fathers so the state can then approach them to establish paternity and pay child support. Riddick was devastated by Davis' veto. "Davis and his supporters say they did this for the children. Let him come to my house and explain to my children why this is good for them. "The system lies to children about their own parentage and Gov. Davis thinks that's OK. The system defrauds thousands of innocent men and wounds their families and Gov. Davis thinks that's OK. The system puts money ahead of truth and justice and Davis thinks that's OK. What kind of message is this sending to our children?"Walters' full piece can be seen here. To comment on the piece, click here. To write a Letter to the Editor, write to [email protected] Walters' piece also covers our political battle over spousal support--to learn more, see Part I here.
On April 26, Kelli Murphy withdrew her request to dissolve the marriage, saying: "I do not want to divorce my husband." Her bid to end the proceedings -- which was denied -- said she had filed for divorce "wrongly, out of anger." "I do not want a divorce, and my husband has told me that as well. This needs to stop. We need counseling, not a divorce."All that came to a halt on Monday when Kelli Murphy apparently killed their two children, Liam 9 and Madigan 6. Kelli called 911 and said she was about to commit suicide. When asked if there were children in the home, she said "they're in heaven." She then slit her wrists. Police arrived at the home to find the two children dead but with no visible signs of injury. So far no cause of death has been established. Kelli Murphy was taken to the hospital, treated and released. She's now in jail charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The day before the killings, Robert Murphy asked police to visit the home in which Kelli and the children were living. The reason for his request is not yet public knowledge, but a police spokesman said it was related to the deaths. Apparently police had been called to the home several times over the past few weeks. In addition to the divorce, Robert and Kelli Murphy had recently filed for bankruptcy protection. For several years, Robert worked for Qwest Communications and earned a good salary, but more recently his earnings had dropped to less than half of their previous level. Obviously, it's far too early to know exactly who did what and why. We can't even be certain that Kelli Murphy killed the two children, but I'd be surprised if she didn't. Still, if she is the killer and if the past is any guide, we can safely predict certain things. The first is that every possible effort will be made by Kelli, her attorney and the news media to exculpate her. The stress of divorce and financial problems will play a part in that as will the protective order against Robert. We'll be told how emotionally distraught that made her with the none-too-subtle suggestion that she should be excused for her wrongdoing (if any). Mental health professionals, most of whom will have never set eyes on her, will explain how the stress in her life made her delusional and how she thought she was doing the children a favor by killing them and sending them "to heaven." All of that may be entirely true of course. At this point, we don't know what was going on in Kelli Murphy's mind. Or it may be the type of reflexive desire to forgive child injury by mothers that's so routinely a part of public discourse. That has seldom been so apparent as in the LaShandra Armstrong case that took place last month in New York State. She's the mother of four who drove herself and the children into the Hudson River killing all but the oldest boy who managed to get free of the automobile and swim to safety. Despite there being no evidence of mental instability on her part prior to the killings, numerous opiners took to the airwaves and the print media to find her delusional. And of course the children's father was pilloried by all and sundry. The fact that he had once allowed a toddler to roam around unsupervised late at night and that he was heard shouting at Armstrong's door trying to be let in, morphed into an across-the-board indictment of the dad. Soon enough it was hard to tell from media reports just who had done the awful deed. It got so bad that the Associated Press actually had to say that the children's father wasn't "entirely to blame" for their deaths. So on one hand he may have been negligent in caring for a child on occasion and on the other she intentionally takes her own life and those of three little children and tries to kill a fourth and the press all but convicts him of the crime. Amazing. That's by way of letting Robert Murphy know what he may be in for. Whatever the actual facts of the case, it'll be in Kelli's interest to tar him with the blackest brush she can find. Do I see a plea of battered wife syndrome on the horizon? I can't be sure, but I wouldn't be surprised. The great thing about battered wife syndrome is that, if a jury is gullible enough to buy it, it's a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card. That's because the woman claiming the defense need show no objective manifestations of abuse. Indeed, she may even deny it, because, in a perfect diagnostic Catch-22, denial of abuse is one of the indicators of the syndrome. So the fact that the only claim of abuse in Kelli Murphy's case has been one allegation made during the course of a divorce and custody case that was withdrawn by her matters not at all to mental health professionals who have drunk the Kool-Aid of battered wife syndrome. But I've gone too far afield. The coming days will allow us to sketch in the details of what happened and what Kelli Murphy's defense will be. I hope those days will prove me wrong. I won't be surprised if they don't. Thanks to Ned for the heads-up.
Family courts generally allow fit loving fathers only a few days a month with their children. This is not only harmful to children since it"s so important level of involvement by both parents in their lives, but it"s also a terrible civil rights violation when the government dictates how much time a father or mother can spend with his or her children. What are your thoughts on family court reform?In response, Gingrich criticized the family law system for its "extreme anti-male bias." Gingrich added 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..." We commend Gingrich for his awareness of the crisis in family courts and for giving a meaningful response to our question. [caption id="attachment_16260" align="alignright" width="252" caption="Marchand asks Gingrich about the need for family court reform."][/caption] Since family law is usually a state matter, it's a fair question to ask, "What could the federal government do to promote shared parenting?" One answer is this:
The federal government helps shape states" policies in many areas by the payment 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. One of the things a pro-shared parenting administration could do to greatly encourage shared parenting is to tie those funds to progress in enacting shared parenting laws, implementing and encouraging shared parenting arrangements, and enforcing visitation orders.
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: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. Newt Gingrich's Daughter Speaks about Gingrich's Highly-Politicized Divorce Gingrich has taken a lot of criticism over his personal life, some of it undoubtedly merited. However, to be fair, he is close to his two adult daughters, one of whom publicly disputes the widely-publicized accusation that Gingrich told his first wife he wanted a divorce while she was in the hospital dying of cancer. In her article Setting the Record Straight, Jackie Cushman Gingrich, Gingrich's 44-year-old daughter, says:
- 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.
- It was her mother who requested the divorce
- It happened prior to her mother's hospital stay
- Her mother was not "dying of cancer," as many claim, but was instead there for a benign tumor, not cancer, and is still alive and healthy today
- Gingrich visited her so the couple's children could see their mother, not to discuss their divorce.
"marital relationship" as used in KRS 406 .011 is not merely a synonym for sexual intercourse between a husband and wife, but is instead a collective reference to a monogamous relationship with traditional qualities, such as love, fidelity, and trust, to forge the marital bond between a husband and wife .Whatever the legalities in Kentucky might be, in the world outside the courtroom, that makes perfect sense. Inside the courtroom it means that, by pursuing an extra-marital affair and lying about it to her husband, J.A.S. destroyed her "marital relationship" with her husband. The child was therefore born "out of wedlock," so the presumption of paternity by her husband no longer existed. In short, in situations in which a man has an affair with a married woman who becomes pregnant, he'll be able to claim paternity. That in turn means he'll be able to assert claims to custody and visitation, which, depending on his fitness as a parent, may be significant or not. Of course, if the husband chooses to stay in the picture, it'll fall to the family court to sort out parenting time among three parents. But of course that's what happens when people get divorced and one of the parents has another spouse or partner. I've long argued that presuming paternity on the part of a married man regarding a child born to his wife made a certain sense prior to genetic testing. But we now have reliable scientific tests for paternity and we should use them - not a legal fiction - to ascertain who is the father of a child. The Kentucky Supreme Court agrees using some perfectly commonsensical language to do so.
Throughout the history of paternity adjudications, evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption of paternity or legitimacy has been limited only by the scope of biological knowledge available to prove or disprove a biological connection between a man and a child ... In Fugate v. Commonwealth, 993 S.W .2d 931, 937 (Ky . 1999), we recognized that the scientific reliability and validity of DNA testing had been generally established by the "overwhelming weight of medical and legal authority." DNA evidence is now used widely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of those accused of crimes, and upon occasion, to exonerate innocent persons convicted of a crime. The General Assembly has expressed confidence in the ability of genetic testing to prove or disprove paternity by enacting KRS 406 .111, which creates another presumption of paternity to apply when test results indicate probability of paternity of 99% or more. We see no justification for keeping the traditional presumption of paternity locked in the science of centuries past.That's exactly my point. There's no reason for us to pretend that paternity is unknown or unknowable when we have the means to easily ascertain the truth. And there are many reasons why not so pretending, i.e. not clinging to a scientifically outmoded and legally unnecessary presumption, is not a good idea. Interestingly, the dissent in the case alluded to several of those reasons, albeit unwittingly.
[W]e hold strongly that only partners to marriage have the standing to question the legitimacy of children born during their marriage . Interlopers cannot use their own adulterous behavior as a license to invade and disrupt the matrimonial circle . The majority here deals with only one child . We speak for the thousands of children yet unborn . For centuries, the institution of marriage has "been the rock in the shadow of which children are born, shaded, protected, and nurtured."In other words, only a husband or a wife can challenge the presumption of paternity of a child born during the term of the marriage. All others are "interlopers." And the presumption of paternity should remain inviolable in order to promote the institution of marriage. There are of course a number of problems with that line of argument which may explain why the judges kept it so brief. The most obvious is that in many paternity cases, probably most, it's the wife and mother who's committing adultery. Technically in this case, C.H.E. committed adultery as well, but he was at least no longer having sex with his soon-to-be ex-wife. J.A.S. can make no such claim. So how he comes to be an interloper in a marriage that the wife herself has done a lot to destroy is a concept I can't quite grasp. He's not an interloper if she invites him into a relationship, which she did. More importantly, the dissent frankly argues in favor of a wife's power over the parental rights of her paramour. Because that is what, among other things, the presumption of paternity accomplishes. If he can't assert his rights to be a father to his child, that matter is left in her hands. As long as she can maintain the deceit, the biological father will have no connection with his child and the husband will act the part of the child's father in ignorance. Yes, the marriage may well go more smoothly with the husband and the father ignorant, but I call that a difficult policy choice to make. Plumping for ignorance at the expense of knowledge, deceit instead of honesty, strikes me as a hard row to hoe, and a dangerous one. Contrary to the dissent, I believe that the knowledge that the paramour has rights he can assert in court, may give married women pause before embarking on extramarital affairs. That would tend to strengthen the institution of marriage, not weaken it. This case of course doesn't do what should be done - require DNA testing of all children at birth. If we do that, there will never be any doubt about who's the dad, who should pay child support and never a danger that a child's medical treatment will involve erroneous assumptions about his/her genetic heritage. But that's a matter with which state legislatures must grapple. For now, the Kentucky Supreme Court has dealt a small blow in favor of fathers' rights and against the disreputable institution of paternity fraud. And that can't be a bad thing. Thanks to Jerry for the heads-up.
DREW GRIFFIN (CNN Host): States around the country have tried any number of creative ways to get parents who are behind in child support to pay up. Illinois, for example, puts up this website which shows the worst offenders. Other states seize tax refunds, report it to the credit bureau, or refuse hunting or fishing licenses. But some of these enforcement laws affect the way parents get around. Some states are revoking car tags, impounding cars, or requesting that the U.S. State Department deny or suspend that parent's passport. So, while no one can deny the importance of obtaining child support payments, could some of these measures have an unintended negative effect?... District Attorney, let me begin with you. Your county is about to target late parents by having them lose their tags. Why have is you come up with this idea? ROBERT JAMES, DEKALB COUNTY, GA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, we have a very serious problem, not just in DeKalb County, but throughout the state of Georgia and, frankly, throughout the nation. And that problem is parents not paying child support. If you look at the facts, we're not dealing with parents that are just a few days late. In our instance, we are dealing with parents who haven't paid in as long as two years to never. And it's time for that to stop and it's time for parents to support their children. GRIFFIN: So, this is a last resort for those truly, truly dead beats. Let's try to hit them at the car? JAMES: This is absolutely a last resort. We have gone through amnesty days. We've gone through hauling these people into court. We've gone through calling their homes, bringing them down, trying to set up payment plans, and they just absolutely will not pay. And children need support. GRIFFIN: Glenn, is that a good idea to go after their cars? GLENN SACKS, FATHERS & FAMILIES: Well, I agree with Robert--let's look at the facts. The facts are very clear. The overwhelming majority of these parents are not deadbeat, they are dead broke. The federal government's own research shows before the recession over 2/3 of the people behind on the child support earned poverty-level wages. That's before the recession. During the recession, it's gotten far worse because courts and the child support enforcement agencies are very, very slow to give fathers and mothers who are behind on their child support downward modification. So, you have people who are forced to pay child support on an income that they haven't earned in a year, and when they can't afford it, then they get to be called deadbeats and publicly humiliated by programs like this. And a program like this even for the people that, you know, they are trying their best, perhaps trying to work, trying to get jobs, whatever, you are taking away their transportation, making it even harder for them... GRIFFIN: Lisa, I can't believe that the people that the district attorney are going after are trying their best, but I want to ask you if you think that this is the right route, because potentially, you take away somebody's job. I mean, you take away somebody's car, you could take away their way to get to a job. So, they might pay in the future. What's your thought on this? LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: That's right. Look, children need love and support and attention, but they also need money. Children need shoes and food and tuition, and so child support is very important. I support wage garnishments. I support tax liens. But I don't support this particular proposal, because it doesn't make sense to make it more difficult for a parent to get to work, and in most places in this country, you need a car to get to work. We need to help them to get to work and help them earn an income and garnish the wages, pay them directly to the other parent. It seems to me that's a much more effective way of supporting their kids. GRIFFIN: Mr. District Attorney, can you just -- without naming a name, give me an idea of the person you are going after and whether or not he fits into this category of somebody he's just really trying to find a job or get work, but he just can't because of the circumstances? JAMES: Certainly. We have one parent in particular that is $104,000 behind, and that parent has never paid child support. We have offered that parent amnesty on three different -- during three different years. We have made phone calls. We have tried to work things out. We have hauled that parent into court. He is GRIFFIN: And does that parent have the ability to pay? JAMES: Yes. Yet that parent can pay for gas in their car, which at this point unfortunately, if you have a SUV, it's up to $100...In Georgia, we have an extremely expensive ad valorem tax, that person can renew their tag and pay a lot of money. That person can do everything that they need. But when it comes to supporting the needs for their child, they refuse to do so. And, frankly, you know, if you're not using the money from the employment to pay for your child, then I don't have an issue with perhaps interrupting or compromising that employment. GRIFFIN: Glenn, let me just ask you, you can say what you want, but, hey, man, take a bus, pay up for your kid. SACKS: The fact is that these guys can scrounge together money to fill their gas tanks doesn't mean that they have money, enough money to pay whatever the child support order is. I'd ask this gentleman--he says he has a most wanted deadbeat parent list. I've been looking at those lists all over the country, the states and counties doing for years and years. You never find anybody on the list who's got a decent job. They are day laborers, construction workers, cashiers, roofers, who owe these fantastic sums of money and we are supposed to believe are these wealthy guys who ran out on the kids and now have the trophy wife and the Porsche... GRIFFIN: Well, wait a minute now. Wait a minute. They are plenty day laborers, roofers who are supporting their families, sir. I don't think that just because you are poor doesn't mean you cannot support the family. SACKS: Often the orders are set too high...To learn more about the new DeKalb County child support measures, see DeKalb puts brakes on car tags for deadbeats (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/26/11). Fathers and Families has brought an enormous amount of media attention to the plight of low-income child support obligors over the past several years. To learn more about this issue, please see:
He said: 'I was stunned when I found out she had withdrawn my sperm without my consent because at the time we had split up and were going through a divorce. 'It was a deliberate act to bring two children into this world without a father to look after them. I was never at the clinic and I never signed the documents. 'I love the children and spend money on taking them out and buying them clothes, but it is an expense I shouldn't really have. The cost of this has been huge. 'It is scary to think how little control I had over it all. I just can't understand how they believed her."How little control." Actually, he had none at all. And that's the main point. In a culture that bends over backwards to give women control over their fertility and the consequences of their sexual choices, you might think that men would have the same, but you'd be wrong. At every bend in the road from conception to childbirth to child rearing, men's parental rights are placed firmly in women's hands. The least ingenuity on the part of a mother can deny a man all knowledge of and access to his child. On the other hand it can require a man to support a child who's not his. It can deny the finest and most loving father the right to even know about the adoption of his child by strangers. It can deny visitation to a divorced father. That ingenuity can accomplish all those things and far more for one simple reason - the law allows it. Sanity may dictate that, if we want fathers involved in children's lives, they have to have the opportunity to do so. But what we do is entirely different. What we do is reward deception and violations of court orders by mothers. Never mind that cutting a father out of a child's life is bad for the child, we're glad to paper over the rift with nonsense about the best interests of the child. If you don't believe me, just listen to what the mother in our British case had to say:
The woman who forged her ex-husband's signature so she could have his children by IVF has refused to apologise and revealed she would 'do it again.' She said: 'I don't believe I have done anything wrong. It was getting later and later for me and I wanted to have a child. 'If I had not done it then I would not be blessed with my children. 'I have no regrets - I would do it again. 'The children known they came from the freezer and the younger one says he comes from Iceland, but they know they are loved.'Who can argue? After all, the law backs up everything she said. It's all about her desires and she wasn't getting any younger, wanted kids so why not lie to the sperm bank, lie to the IVF clinic, defraud her ex-husband and deprive her children of a father during their early years? What could be the problem with that? Well, most people can find a lot wrong with it, but none of them happen to serve in the British Parliament. According to British law, she seems to have done nothing wrong, so why should she see it any other way? There's a solution to this. Every jurisdiction should have a law that says that no father can have his parental rights or obligations either diminished or established until he knows about his child and has an opportunity to take an active part in its life. And no case shows it better than this one. It is beyond outrageous that a perfectly upstanding man should be defrauded in this way. It is worse still that he should be made to pay support to the woman who did the defrauding. Until laws change, children will still go without fathers and fathers without children, and mothers will still tell the world that paternity fraud isn't wrong. Thanks to Malcolm for the heads-up.
Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life 1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. 2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.Now, alert readers will have noticed that the prohibition on governmental interference with family life is limited. Governmental actions that are otherwise "in accordance with the law and... necessary... for the prevention of crime,... or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others," are still OK. Those rather obvious exceptions to the right to family life would seem to be sufficient to keep Bishop in jail for the balance of his sentence, but no.
At the Appeal Court, Mr Justice Maddison and Mr Justice Sweeney agreed that imprisoning Bishop was not in the ‘best interests" of his children, and ordered the sentence to be suspended instead. The court was told that Bishop was the sole carer of his children, aged between six and 13, for five nights a week. Since he was jailed, the children have been cared for by his sister during the week and their mother, Bishop"s ex-partner Tracey York, 30, at weekends. The court heard the sister, a single parent, was already responsible for seven children and lived seven miles from the schools attended by her nieces and nephews. Mr Justice Sweeney suggested it was hardly in the children"s best interests for their father to be out committing burglary and asked who had been looking after them at that time. But he and Mr Justice Maddison together concluded that the judge who jailed Bishop at Nottingham Crown Court had not paid enough attention to the effect that imprisonment would have on his children. Mr Justice Maddison said: ‘It is important that criminals should not think that children can provide some sort of licence to commit offences with impunity. ‘All of that said, however, we have to be aware of the highly unsatisfactory and difficult situation faced by the children and those now doing their best to look after them."For his part, Bishop has pronounced himself a "lucky boy." Now, I strongly suspect that the judges aren't truly issuing a get-out-of-jail-free card to all convicts with children. My guess is that the relatively trivial nature of the offense plus the fact that Bishop was the sole caregiver for the children, plus the unsatisfactory nature of the substitute parenting arrangement all played big roles in springing him from jail. I also strongly suspect that that type of reasoning will, in the future, be used almost exclusively for the benefit of mothers. They are, after all, more likely than fathers to be the sole caregivers for children. Why Bishop is the children's only parent, I don't know. But I do know that family courts in the UK are renowned for marginalizing fathers in the lives of their children in every imaginable way. For the most part, that takes the form of unequal custody awards coupled with their refusal to enforce visitation, but there are plenty of others. So when we couple that behavior by family courts with what looks to be the future of sentencing in criminal courts, a more complete picture begins to take shape. In short, family courts create 'sole caregivers' and criminal courts turn a blind eye to their wrongdoing as long as they have inadequate back-up parenting plans and commit relatively minor offenses. It's a sort of perfect, self-contained system brought to you courtesy of some of the looniest laws imaginable. Thanks to Malcolm for the heads-up.
"Filler"s wife testified her memory was unclear about the alleged physical assaults and, though there was testimony about Filler"s wife having a bruise around the time of the second alleged assault, there has been no clear evidence introduced at trial about how she got that bruise."So Filler's announced that he'll appeal that too. The taxpayers of the county in which the case was tried have spent who knows what amount of money to persecute a man who looks to me to have done nothing wrong. That's mostly thanks to the latest misdeeds of ADA Kellett whose record of prosecuting men for evidence-free allegations of sex crimes has been well-documented elsewhere. From here Kellett looks like another true believer who swallows any story told by a woman about a man committing an illegal sex act. The canons of ethics for prosecuting attorneys include the concept of exercising professional judgment about what cases to prosecute and which ones to drop. Kellett seems to have little understanding of which sexual assault cases are meritorious and which ones aren't. And the taxpayers of the state pay the price for her inability. Of course a man who is surely innocent of the only serious charge against him has paid an enormous price in attorneys fees, heartache, anguish and time behind bars. He should never have had to do any of that. A responsible prosecutor would have looked at the case and seen that the allegations originated during a custody case, there was no physical evidence, the couple's older child said it was his mother who was violent, the accuser was mentally unstable and had made false accusations before. That same responsible prosecutor would have dropped the case like a hot rock. And speaking of cases, in l'affaire Filler, there is actually an assault case that has some evidence to back it up. The Filler's oldest son said he saw his mother hit his father in the face on at least one occasion. Since the testimony comes from the son and not a party to a divorce case who's trying to gain the upper hand, it carries enough weight to convict. So where's the DA's office on charging Ligia Filler with assaulting her husband? No word on that as yet.
There is now a strong consensus among the general public that equal parenting time is best for the child. Large majorities favor it in all the locales and among all the demographic groups in the United States and Canada in which this question has been asked, and across several variations in question format.For example, in a nationwide poll done at the insistence of the Canadian Parliament, 78% of those asked said they "strongly preferred" or "somewhat preferred" a presumption of equal parenting post-divorce. In Massachusetts in 2004, 85% of voters in a non-binding referendum voted in favor of a presumption of equally shared parenting in custody cases. Those have been followed up by recent studies done by Fabricius and Dr. Sanford Braver. In 2010, Fabricius asked a cohort of people waiting to serve on juries in Tucson the same question that Bay State residents were asked in the non-binding referendum. Some 87% of Arizonans asked favored the presumption of equally shared parenting. This year, Braver, Fabricius, et al went further and designed a study that confronted respondents with various hypothetical fact situations and asked them to, in effect, be the judge, i.e. to "issue a custody order" in each hypothetical case. When parents in the cases were said to have done about equal amounts of childcare during the marriage, 69% of respondents said they should have equal parenting time post-divorce. When childcare was radically unequal, almost half of respondents still awarded equal parenting time. When parents were equally responsible for marital conflict, respondents awarded equal parenting time in about two-thirds of cases. The only thing that steered respondents away from equal parenting after divorce was when one or the other spouse was solely or largely responsible for the marital conflict. When one person instigated conflict and the other attempted to dampen or deflect it, the instigator paid a price in parenting time. Interestingly, fathers were more likely to be punished for instigating conflict than were mothers. Only 4% of respondents awarded equal parenting time to instigating fathers while 21% gave equal time to mothers responsible for conflict.
This public consensus about equal parenting time revealed in all these surveys is probably best characterized as a cultural value rather than mere opinion, given both its connection to the long-term historical trend toward gender equality, and the evidence for its universality and robustness. Regarding norms of practice, there appears to be a slow trend toward greater amounts of parenting time with fathers, especially equal parenting time. In our data collected in 2005-06 in which the students" parents had divorced on average 10 years earlier, about 9% of students reported equal PT (50%). In Wisconsin the percentage of divorced parents with equal PT increased from 15% in 1996-99 to 24% in 2003-04 (Brown & Cancian, 2007). In Washington, the percentage of divorced parents with equal PT was approximately 20% in 2008-09 (George, 2009). In Arizona the percentage of case files specifying equal PT tripled from 5% in 2002 (Venohr & Griffith, 2003) to 15% in 2007 (Venohr & Kaunelis, 2008).Then, in a classic example of academic understatement, Fabricius notes:
The above makes it clear that the practice of equal parenting time lags the consensus about its value.That's putting it mildly. In other words, what the people prefer, judges and legislators do not. I've kvetched about that very thing a lot and doubtless will again. Apparently it's not enough that the social science overwhelmingly favors greater father involvement in children's lives post-divorce; nor is it enough that people seem to like the idea of equally shared parenting; nor is it enough that the political concept of gender equality itself argues plainly in favor of equal parenting time. Judges and legislators aren't having it, as the data Fabricius presents strongly suggest. But that's not the conclusion Fabricius draws.
Thus the reason that the practice of equal parenting time lags the consensus about its value, despite much evidence that fathers desire more parenting time (see Fabricius et al., 2010), appears to be that fathers do not bargain harder because of the guidance they receive from attorneys, and their own widespread belief, that the system has a maternal bias.And it's there that I part ways with Dr. Fabricius. I'll say more about that in a future post.
Thus the reason that the practice of equal parenting time lags the consensus about its value, despite much evidence that fathers desire more parenting time (see Fabricius et al., 2010), appears to be that fathers do not bargain harder because of the guidance they receive from attorneys, and their own widespread belief, that the system has a maternal bias.In othe words, family attorneys believe there's an anti-dad bias in family courts. They advise their male clients of their belief and, their male clients, having the same belief, tend to not bargain very hard for parenting time. That of course raises the question of whether those family attorneys are correct in their belief about family court bias. Oddly enough, Fabricius never once considers the possibility that they might be. To my mind, when thousands of attorneys who practice daily in family courts agree that there's an anti-dad bias in custody decisions, the smart money doesn't ignore them. Fabricius does. Instead, he offers his only evidence that family court judges aren't biased against dads. It seems he attended a conference of family judges and commissioners, gave the same hypothetical examples to them that he'd given to the Tucson jury pool members and sure enough, some 90% of them said they'd give equal custody. The most obvious problem with that survey is that only 30 judges were polled. It seems a bit much for an experienced researcher to ask us to believe that such a small sample actually represents family judges generally. That seems particularly flawed when he chalks up to a mere "belief" the opinions of experienced family attorneys that there's an anti-dad bias in family courts. Illogically, he goes on to claim that that "belief," not actual bias, must be the cause of fathers getting the short end of the custody stick. Likewise Fabricius ignores altogether evidence out of Washington State here about the actual practices of family court judges there. For several years now, Washington State has compiled records on every custody case decided there. The results suggest that Dr. Fabricius' theory that if dads only ignored their attorneys and tried for more parenting time they'd succeed is too facile by half. The Washington data show that, in the year 2009-10, fathers were awarded less parenting time than mothers in 66% of all cases. Fathers got more time than mothers in 17% of cases and the rest of the cases saw parenting time divided equally. More to the point, Washington took a look at contested and agreed cases. In other words, the state examined what happens when dads don't just passively agree to a custody arrangement, but fight for what they want. In other words, they do exactly what Fabricius says they should. Here are the results:
To examine whether the residential time of children was related to the type of decision, cases in which there were no risk factors for either parent were compared. For agreed cases, 64% of the mothers received the majority of time, and 22% of mothers and fathers received equal time (see Exhibit 6). For the few contested cases, 67% of mothers received the majority of time, but only 5% of mothers and fathers received equal time.So according to the Washington State data, contesting matters tends to be a bad idea for fathers. Certainly, those data aren't definitive. They don't tell us who's contesting what and again the sample size isn't large because the vast majority of cases are agreed to by the parties. But what the data suggest is that things go better for dads if they don't contest the case. Stated another way, they stand a better chance with their ex than they do with the judge. In agreed cases, mothers get majority time in 64% of cases while in contested cases they rate goes up to 67%. That's not much, but if a dad is going for equal time, contesting the matter is a bad idea. His chances of winning equal custody drop from 22% to 5% if he contests the matter. Fabricius might argue that the same holds true for mothers. After all, her chances of getting equal time drop the same as dad's - from 22% to 5%. But that argument ignores one large, if inconvenient, truth. When a father fails to get equal time, he likely gets less; when a mother does, she likely gets more. So the drop from 22% to 5% of equal custody for both men and women when cases are contested masks an important fact - it's a win for her and a loss for him. Another fact that suggests bias against fathers and the idea of equal parenting is the fact that, although the idea has been around for many years, no jurisdiction (with the partial and short-lived exception of Australia) has ever passed a law mandating a presumption of equally shared parenting. Granted, judges aren't state legislators and vice versa, but the fact that proposed statutes establishing the presumption invariably fail surely tells us something about how fathers are viewed. Combine that with Fabricius and Braver's conclusion that there's widespread public support for equal parenting and we're left with an unavoidable question - "why don't legislatures do the will of the people in the case of equal parenting?" I've argued before and I'll do so again that that is a function of political elites deciding what's best for the rest of us. And it should come as no surprise that what they decide regarding equal parenting is invariably anti-dad. How can that be anything but bias if the people generally support equal parenting? Finally, let's not forget that the entire nationwide structure of child support militates against equal parenting. That's because, for every dollar in child support states collect, they get reimbursed a percentage by the federal government. Equal parenting reduces child support amounts, and therefore reduces the inflow of federal dollars to states. So Fabricius' argument that family judges really aren't biased against dads despite the fact that family law attorneys believe they are and the fact that their rulings in agreed and contested cases alike indicate they are requires a lot more support than a survey of 30 judges in Arizona.
In a story on the new hotline recently instituted by CYFD, the Journal on April 8 quoted the secretary of CYFD saying that the previous hotline received about 75,000 calls a year, of which only 4,000 were substantiated.That's a little over 5%. Of course not all of the 71,000 unsubstantiated calls were falsely or maliciously made; surely many of them were by well-meaning people with a genuine concern for the welfare of children. But just as surely many of them were of the other kind. That's because reporting is anonymous. CYFD is barred by law from divulging the names of reporters of child abuse, the better to encourage people to report suspicious activities or apparent injuries to children. The idea may be a good one, but its misuse should come as no surprise. The New Mexico statute says that people who make false reports maliciously or in bad faith can be prosecuted, but apparently no one ever has been. So reporting abuse is a free shot to anyone who desires to do so. Reports made in bad faith are supposedly weeded out by a screening process, but, as with so much about child welfare agencies, it's understaffed and overworked. So there's little actual screening done. It's easier to pass the case along to an investigator who is him/herself under-trained and overworked. All of this would be acceptable if no one got hurt by being investigated by CYFD, but many are. That's partly because of the notorious heavy-handedness of the agency. It's also because of the nature of having to defend your parenting choices to a governmental investigator who likely has neither the time nor the interest in grasping the nuances of your child's needs. In Chandler's experience, parents of children with disabilities, particularly autism, have the most difficulty convincing investigators that how they parent their children is appropriate.
These situations often create suspicions in a person who sees a parent, for example, dealing with an autistic child in a manner recommended by autism specialists that looks to the casual observer very much like abuse. Many of these parents are totally absorbed in their children"s care and treatment and have no time in their lives for many of the activities most of us take for granted. A report to CYFD can mean they will be spending weeks and months dealing with overzealous investigators checking absurd allegations made out of total ignorance by a well-meaning neighbor, schoolteacher or caregiver. This is a disruption to that family that can trigger family chaos, and can send their always precarious finances into a tailspin with attorneys fees and additional doctor"s fees.
The real tragedy is that the experience can be as traumatic to children as actual abuse would be, when a CYFD worker shows up at the door with a cop in tow, demanding to remove the child"s clothes to inspect for signs of physical abuse.As with so many governmental agencies, CYFD tends to want to do its job at the expense of people's rights. So Chandler sketches in the rights of New Mexicans when contacted by CYFD.
[A]lthough they are required by law to inform persons of the allegations against them at initial contact, they have never done this for any of my clients. Asked for the allegations by a knowledgeable subject, they will attempt to bargain the allegations for the surrender of another right, for example the right not to submit to an interview with investigators or the right not to allow the investigator into the house. I tell my clients not to discuss anything with CYFD outside my presence, which is their right; one investigator responded to this by threatening to substantiate the report because if my client wanted a lawyer present she must be guilty of the allegations. In Los Alamos, the police department insists on accompanying CYFD to the door, so the investigators like to bluff by threatening subjects with immediate removal of the child, which they cannot do except in exceptional circumstances that are not present in these cases.What Chandler doesn't say is that child welfare agencies have a nasty habit of circumventing the rights of the parents they investigate by going to court to obtain an "emergency" ex parte order. In court, without the parents present to oppose their claims, the agency can convince a judge to issue an order to take the kids and, if the parents resist, they can be jailed for refusing to obey the court's order. That's precisely what happened to Maryanne Godboldo in Detroit. Chandler has some good advice for reporters - don't be too quick to report something you don't know much about. Take the time to learn some details about who the parents are and why they might be treating a child in a particular way. He's got some advice for CYFD too.
For CYFD I have four pleas: Publish guidelines for these reports. Develop better, realistic screening that includes asking about and looking critically into the relationship of the reporter to the alleged perpetrator. Insist that your investigators scrupulously follow the law on the rights of their subjects -- I have known a number of people who would have cooperated willingly with an investigator had they been approached in a reasonable manner and according to the very clear rules set forth in the statutes and CYFD regulations, and this would have saved CYFD a lot of time and resources.
Finally, put some of your valuable resources into prosecuting some of those malicious and bad faith reporters that you have been ignoring. The statute plainly gives you that option, and the investment will pay off in efficiency in the long run if the reporter understands you will not tolerate being used to accomplish their vendetta.The last one is of particular interest to advocates for family court reform. It's well known that allegations of child abuse are routine in divorce and child custody cases. Many of those allegations are false and made only to gain the upper hand in family court. Since family courts seem unwilling to punish false swearers, it would help if prosecutors would do so.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger paternity case has revealed a large flaw in California family law, one which, ironically, Schwarzenegger attempted to fix while Governor. The flaw? Schwarzenegger fathered a child with Mildred Patty Baena, who was married to Rogelio Baena at the time. Under California law, Schwarzenegger wouldn"t be obligated to pay a dime in child support--but deceived husband Rogelio Baena would be. Currently the only person who can be held legally responsible to support the child is the mother"s then-husband, who is presumed to be the father because the child was born into the marriage. Judges routinely (and at times apologetically) saddle such "duped dads' with stiff child support orders. In one paternity fraud case, Arthur Gilbert, presiding judge of the Second District, Division 6 Court of Appeal, wrote:
"I reluctantly concur with the majority. Once again I vent my frustration over the state of [California] law in paternity cases…I would reverse the judgment--if I could. But I cannot…[I] suggest the Legislature reconsider…Is anyone listening?'
This year, Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) introduced SB 375, which would end the marital paternity presumption. This ancient presumption is anachronistic and destructive, and has led to horrendous injustices. In some cases, a divorced man must pay child support for the child of his ex-wife and her paramour--and pay it into the household where the paramour and the ex-wife, the two biological parents, now live! In others, there"s "father shopping'--if mom can get more child support out of her ex-husband than her ex-boyfriend, then he"s "dad.' The most common scenario is this: a husband does not learn that the child of his marriage is not his child until after the limited window for challenging paternity has closed. After the couple divorces, the mother minimizes or withholds visitation, sometimes citing the father"s non-paternity as a justification. Yet dad is still forced to pay child support--for children who are not his, and with whom he is not allowed to have a relationship... Getting the biological parentage wrong can have serious and damaging medical consequences for children. Current California law declares that there is a compelling state interest in determining paternity for all children. SB 375 would instead declare that there is a "compelling state interest in determining biological paternity for all children.' Legislation to encourage accurate paternity identifications for medical reasons has been supported by many prestigious medical institutions, including the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In March, over 50 physicians signed a letter to Senator Wright emphasizing that "good patient care includes accurate family histories,' and urging California to "employ reasonable means, including DNA testing, to accurately determine children's paternity'... Texas family court judge David Hanschen, expressing frustration over a paternity fraud case in his court in which the limited time allowed for challenging paternity had expired, recently wrote: "The ultimate victims of [current] laws are ignored--the children. To decide a child cannot know who his real parents are because an arbitrary amount of time has passed is manifestly unjust…the truth doesn't have a statute of limitation."To read the full column, click here.
We agree that the trial court improperly considered the sex of the parent in awarding custody. The trial court found that appellant satisfied all of the statutory criteria set out in Ark. Code Ann. § 9-10-113 (Repl. 2009) except for best interest. The determination that it would not be in the child"s best interest for custody to be awarded to her father was based expressly on the finding that appellant is a man and the child is a girl...Oddly enough, the trial court's "reasoning" went as follows:
This . . . is so important because while [appellant"s] grandmother is in his home, there is no mother figure with whom D.D. is familiar to answer the questions her body will be asking her in the near future. There is only the one to whom she has looked up to as mother and custodian, her aunt, [appellee] Ms. Easter.Stated another way, a father can't talk to his daughter about puberty, menstuation, ovulation, sex and pregnancy; only a woman can do that. I wonder how many mothers are denied custody of sons because of the need to talk to them about puberty, sex, condoms, pregnancy and the like. The overt bias of the trial court judge is the more remarkable because it's explicitly prohibited by Arkansas law. Arkansas statutes make it clear that the sex of the parent may not be considered in awarding custody. So, given that the prohibition is there in the law in black and white, the power of the urge to discriminate against fathers is there for all to see, at least in this case. Of course, this case alone means nothing about other cases elsewhere. But when a judge faced with a clear prohibition against discriminating on the basis of a father's sex does so anyway, is it not entirely possible that similar things occur regarding different issues in family courts across the country? In other words, whatever the specific situation, there are plenty of excuses to find it in the "best interest of the child" to give custody to Mom and not Dad? After all, we've been at 85% maternal custody at least since 1993, and before that it was even more radically skewed against fathers. I've said before that I don't believe that judges march into court every morning with the thought "how can I discriminate against dads today?" I don't think their bias is conscious. My guess is that if we were to ask the trial judge in LaTroy Hamilton's case if his decision was based on anti-father or anti-male bias, he's indignantly deny it. He'd tell us that he's just trying to do what's best for the child. And it just so happens that that truly genuine desire on the part of judges results in maternal custody 85% of the time. They're products of a culture that believes women should be mothers and men should be breadwinners. Until someone shows me something that compels a different conclusion, that will continue to look like bias to me. So here's a prediction: the appellate court remanded Hamilton's case to the trial level to revisit the issue of the best interest of the child and to make a custody ruling on that basis. My prediction is that the court will once again decide that the best interests of the child require her to stay with Janet Easter. The judge will just prudently refrain from mentioning anything about the sex of the father, and it'll all be nice and legal. My prediction is made advisedly. Here's what the appellate court told the trial court:
For the guidance of the trial court, however, we note that parental preference does not apply with equal strength in cases where a child has been entrusted to the custody of another and familial bonds have been allowed to develop.For that proposition the court cites a 1955 case. If that's not a signal to deny custody to the father, I've never seen one. It's the old situation in which a man learns about his child months or years after the fact, by which time "familial bonds have been allowed to develop." So the theory is that disturbing those bonds would be too upsetting for the child, so once again, Dad's out of the picture. That of course raises the issue of how it came to pass that LaTroy Hamilton came into his daughter's life so late. Did he not know about his child? I'd bet on it. Otherwise, why would the court say that he's a fit father and has "undertaken his parental responsibilities?" Here's my second prediction: the mother or the aunt decided to raise the child without Hamilton's knowledge and received Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) from the state. The Office of Child Support Enforcement got involved to get reimbursement of the state from the dad, at which point, for the first time, LaTroy Hamilton was informed he had a daughter. That's why the OCSE is a party to the case. That happens a lot in this country in which over 40% of children are born out of wedlock and in which some 7-10% of children are fathered by men who don't know about their children. When a man's parental rights depend on his knowing about his child and no law requires the mother to tell him, this sort of thing is bound to happen often. But never to mothers. It biologically can't happen to mothers, only to fathers. So the laws that allow the development of "familial bonds" in the absence of the father which then deny him his parental rights, begin to look like discrimination against fathers. Which of course they are. Thanks to Tony for the heads-up.