Background: On various occasions I've discussed both the 2001 Elian Gonzalez case and the current "Elian Gonzalez II" case. In both cases I support the right of the fathers--Juan Gonzalez in 2001 and Rafael Izquierdo in the current case--to take their children back to Cuba and raise them as they see fit. To learn more, click here. Izquierdo is pictured to the right, in court fighting to regain custody of his little daughter. I also strongly oppose situations such as these when governments delay or refuse to return kidnapped or detained children to their parents.
When children of divorce or separation are being abused in a mother's home and the children are taken by the state, they should be placed with their father ASAP, barring a finding of unfitness. One of the problems with the child welfare system is that this is often not the case.
In Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers
(San Diego Union-Tribune,
7/11/07), family law attorney Jeff Leving
and I discussed research from the Urban Institute which shows that the child welfare system usually denies fit, loving fathers the opportunity to raise their own children.
In the Gary Smith Jr. case discussed below, Smith's ex-wife left their three kids in the care of her boyfriend while deployed overseas. The boyfriend beat one of the boys to death, yet the system still dragged its feet in granting the father custody of the surviving two children. Leving, who represented Smith in the case, told the Chicago Tribune
that child-welfare officials should have moved the surviving children quickly to his client, explaining, "It's sad that he had to hire me and go through these maneuvers to safeguard his other children."
The article is below--congratulations to Leving
for his good work in reuniting this father and his children. A news video about the case can be seen here
. Smith and Leving are pictured above.
Slain boy's father awarded custody of his 2 other kids
Iraq veteran divorces child's mother, whose boyfriend is suspect
By Michael Higgins
, September 7, 2007
The father of a 4-year-old Calumet City boy who was beaten to death in May was granted permanent custody of his two other children under a divorce settlement approved Thursday.
Gary Smith Jr. was serving in the Army in Iraq when he learned that his son Cameron had been killed.
Unbeknownst to him, Smith said, his then-wife, Lavada Smith, had placed the couple's children in the care of her boyfriend, who was later charged with the 4-year-old's murder.
On Thursday, Cook County Circuit Judge Karen Shields approved the settlement, which allows Smith to take Cameron's siblings, ages 7 and 8, to live with him in Georgia.
"I wanted my kids to be safe," Smith said after the hearing. "I want them to be able to go to school without thinking about bad things that happened here."
Lavada Smith is allowed visitation under the settlement. She could not be reached for comment after the hearing.
Shields praised the couple Thursday for reaching a compromise that she said put their children's interests first. "I think you're probably doing the best you can with a really bad situation," Shields said.
Speaking after the hearing, Gary Smith said he still considers his former wife to be a good mother. But he said she made a terrible mistake when she was deployed to Iraq herself and left their children with Donell Parker of Calumet City.
Parker has pleaded not guilty in the boy's death.
Gary Smith's attorney, Jeffery Leving, said after the hearing Thursday that child-welfare officials should have moved the surviving children quickly to his client. "It's sad that he had to hire me and go through these maneuvers to safeguard his other children," Leving said.
Cameron was discovered lifeless in his bed. Calumet City police said the boy endured two days of being punched in the head, stomach, chest and back. He was beaten with a belt as well, police said.
"Nobody who knows me well can ever say I wasn't a father to these kids."--former NFL Star Bennie Blades
"They couldn't be any closer"--the mother of one of Blades' children, describing the boy's relationship with Bennie Blades, his father
How can a man pay $1.3 million after-tax dollars in child support and then be arrested for being a "deadbeat dad"? It happened to former NFL star Bennie Blades in 2005.
Blades was working as a substitute teacher in Broward County, Florida when he was arrested. His football career was cut short by a painful injury, and even his NFL retirement pension was taken from him for child support. Blades was by all accounts a dedicated father, who was even publicly praised by his exes after his arrest.
Blades certainly made mistakes. However, the child support system and family law system often milks high-earners with transitory incomes, such as professional athletes and entertainers, leaving them with little after their careers are over. During Blades career he was apparently paying half his after-tax income in child support.
As Detroit Free Press
columnist Michael Rosenberg explains in his column below, Blades has a strong relationship with his children. His mistreatment at the hands of Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is outrageous, and symbolizes much of what's wrong with the child support system.
In the eyes of the state, Bennie Blades is a deadbeat dad
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT _ On Feb. 17, at the behest of the State of Michigan, police arrested a substitute teacher at Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla.
The substitute teacher spent a week in Broward County Jail in Florida. Then he was shipped off to Michigan _ almost two weeks on a bus, stopping only to eat fast food or bologna sandwiches at jails along the way.
He was not allowed to bathe or brush his teeth. As the bus transported accused criminals throughout the Eastern states, he was forced to sit all day and night, which was extremely painful because the substitute teacher has chipped vertebrae in his neck, an injury he suffered when he played safety in the NFL.
"I'm like, `This is very humiliating,'" recalled Bennie Blades, a Detroit Lions star from 1988-96. "You had to eat with your hands shackled basically down to your lap."
When he arrived in Michigan on March 8 _ 19 days after his arrest _ Blades was still wearing the same Old Navy blue jeans, printed blue shirt and white Pumas he was wearing when he was arrested.
Now Blades, who has been released on bail, faces two charges. The first is felony non-support for his daughter Ashley, who lives with her mother, Yolande Healey, in Southfield, Mich. At one point, Blades owed nearly $400,000 in child support for Ashley. She is one of his six children with six women.
The other charge is for failing to appear at a Jan. 7 court hearing in the case.
Mix those ingredients together: Former NFL star. Nine million dollars in career earnings. Six kids with six women. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support.
And a state attorney general who has made deadbeat dads a top priority.
And one mother who wants Blades to pay up.
And three other mothers who say he doesn't have the money.
Oh, and don't forget those six kids. Please don't forget them.
They all had something at stake that February day when the cops showed up at Piper High. And as Bennie Blades was whisked out of the school parking lot, he didn't bother asking what he should do with his car, a 1994 Honda Accord with more than 135,000 miles on it.
"We just left it there," Blades said with a laugh. "I don't think anybody is going to steal that."
When Blades was first arrested for this case, in November 2003, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox received a rousing standing ovation from himself.
"Once again let me send this message: Deadbeats that shirk their parental responsibilities risk incarceration," Cox said in a press release. "Whether that parent works in construction or played safety for the Detroit Lions, failure to pay child support will have consequences."
It is easy to paint Blades as a villain.
That is, if you're looking for villains.
But what if you are more worried about Bianca Blades, Bennie's 11-year-old daughter, who sees her dad regularly?
Read the full article here
Background: Charlotte Hardwick's
Dear Judge (Kid's Letters to the Judge) is a fascinating collection of letters which children caught in divorces have written to family law judges.
In the letter below, a young girl blames herself for her parents' divorce.
Dear Judge,I think my mom and dad are fighting because of me. Could you put me in a new family so my mom and dad can be happy again?Sandy S.
Background: The California Judicial Council's Domestic Violence Practice and Procedures Task Force recently invited comments on its Draft Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Improving the Administration of Justice in Domestic Violence Cases. There's a big problem with the Draft Guidelines--they don't deal with the false allegations issue.
In late June I urged my readers to write to the Task Force and urge them to consider the massive problem false allegations represent in their report. Several hundred of you wrote letters. I have asked for and received permission from several of those who wrote the Task Force to include their letters in my blog. All letters are published anonymously. To learn more, see my original call to action Act Now: Major New Report on Domestic Violence, Family Law, Restraining Orders Doesn't Even Mention False Allegations! or click here.
From "Don," a reader:
"Dear Task Force:
Five years ago, I was dating a woman. At the time we had been seeing each other for a couple of years. She had turned 38, and I noticed a big change in her but wasn't really interested in talking with her about it. She had stopped taking birth control pills, became pregnant, and had our child. She immediately began a full blown attempt to destroy me, and stated that I would never see our child.
"A series of Family Court dates began to follow where one false allegation followed another. At this time, I think I have been to court 24 or 25 times. I was able to demonstrate to the court each time that the allegations were in fact, not legitimate. At the hearing before last, Judge Angela Jewell stated to the mother that she was concerned about the lack of support of the mother for our daughter's relationship with me.
"Later, the allegations turned into those of a sexual nature, and now I'm facing a trial, with the only evidence being a statement my daughter made, to a therapist, hired by the mother.
"If the family court system would have one time punished the other party for false allegations, maybe my business, my finances, my family, my life would not have suffered this kind of damage.
"Any law without punishment for false allegations would be incomplete. Of course, even if the legislation was passed, the Family Court system would probably ignore the laws of the State, and continue to do what they wanted to anyway.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) has filed a lawsuit in federal court against fatherhood programs in Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. The objective of these programs is to provide career counseling to fathers in three tough categories: incarcerated, military and fathers with disabled children.
NOW has objected because women are excluded from these programs "solely because they are women."
There is an old saying that you should be careful what you wish for, since you might get it. I think NOW should think twice about trying to win this lawsuit. If they win, wouldn't that endanger the innumerable government-funded programs that benefit only women?
More to the point, how many proofs do we need that NOW and similar organizations oppose fathers' involvement with their children and will use any excuse to attack programs that encourage such involvement? And here I thought they believed in gender equality--silly me.
The researchers concluded, "The vast majority of participants from divorced families desired more father involvement than they had received. As a result, it appears that divorce leaves many children with unmet desires for paternal involvement--desires that remain salient for many years after the divorce is finalized. This pattern of results is consistent with what Warshak (2003) has called 'the collective voice of children' and has argued that this should be used more extensively when making custody and access decisions within the family court system."
This is now the seventh or eight study showing that children of divorce want more time with their fathers (or non-custodial parents). There are no studies showing the opposite, to the best of my knowledge.
The bar associations continue to oppose shared parenting in most states. I suppose they can be excused--after all, their members have absolutely zero knowledge or training in child development. So maybe they should be a little more humble, and stick to contract law or bankruptcies, instead of telling us what is best for our children.
The self-appointed children's advocates, such as the Children's Trust Fund in Boston, also oppose shared parenting. They have less of an excuse than the lawyers. After all, these twenty-something social workers have taken two semesters of child development. This apparently qualifies them to rule our lives.
The research was carried out by Gordon E. Finley, Ph.D. of Florida International University, and Seth J. Schwartz, Ph.D. of Florida State University. They surveyed 484 university students whose parents had divorced. Their research is published in the October, 2007 issue of Family Court Review.
I've often criticized what one might call the "paternal abandonment script"--the standard assumption that if a father doesn't remain in his children's lives after a divorce or separation, it's because he "abandoned the family" and/or chose to remove himself from his children's lives. One example is discussed in my blog entry Dick Allen & the Misleading 'Paternal Abandonment Script'
. Recently I've been watching and following the ESPN mini-series The Bronx Is Burning.
details the hard lives and heroism of two women who remained loyal to their husbands for three decades
as the men were incarcerated for crimes the FBI knew they didn't commit. Both women raised their children, and kept up theirs and their children's relationships with their husbands as best they could.
Recently, their husbands and their families were awarded $102 million for the FBI's withholding of evidence of the men's innocence.
These two women, Marie Salvati and Olympia Limone, are heroines. Olympia is pictured with her husband.
Hard lives for wives of men wrongly imprisoned: Ruling that frees spouses ends 30-year wait for Mass. women
The Associated Press, 8/16/07
BOSTON - For three decades, Marie Salvati and Olympia Limone essentially lived as widows, struggling to make ends meet as they raised four children on their own. Their husbands grew old behind bars after being convicted of a murder the FBI knew they did not commit.
Now the women hope a judge's ruling awarding them and two other families nearly $102 million marks the end of their struggle in a long story of love, devotion and survival.
For many years, the two women would see each other about once a month, across the visiting room of a state prison. Their conversations were rarely more than a wave hello or a "how's the family?" but they didn't need words to understand each other's lives.
In the days after the verdict, the two women and their husbands spoke to The Associated Press about living apart for so long, and the bonds that kept them together.
Never any doubt
For Marie Salvati, there was never a moment of doubt, even after her husband, Joe, was charged with murder, convicted and sentenced.
"He told me, 'Marie, I want you to know I had nothing to do with this,' and you know, from that moment on, I knew I was in this with him for his life sentence," she said.
"I used to tell him, 'You take care of yourself in there and I'll take care of the family on the outside'," she said.
And for 30 years, that's what she did.
Every week, she traveled up to two hours each way to visit her husband in prison. She and the kids endured humiliating pat-downs and searches. The visits, she said, were to buoy her husband's spirits and to preserve the bond between a father and his children.
It was hardly the life they had planned.
The first time Joe Salvati saw his future wife, she was 16 and wearing a two-piece white bathing suit decorated with a big red lobster. He tried to edge closer on his beach blanket, but Marie"s mother shooed him away.
Salvati, who was two years older, didn"t give up. Three years later, they were married.
The first years of their marriage were typical of many working-class couples in Boston"s largely Italian North End neighborhood. Salvati worked two or three jobs -- truck driver, dock worker, doorman -- while his wife stayed home and took care of their kids.
Then came Oct. 25, 1967, when Salvati was fingered as the driver of the getaway car in the 1965 slaying of small-time hoodlum Edward "Teddy' Deegan.
'Daddy, what's an electric chair?'
At first, the couple thought the police would discover the mistake and release Salvati, who insisted mob hitman Joseph "The Animal' Barboza had framed him over a $400 debt. Salvati had been arrested just once before -- for petty larceny.
After a two-month trial, Salvati, then 34, was convicted, along with Limone, Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo. Salvati was sentenced to life in prison, while the others were sentenced to die in the electric chair.
Marie Salvati, then 32, tried to reassure their children, then 5, 9, 11 and 13.
"I said, "You know, Daddy will be OK,'" she recalled. "But nothing got better. If anything, it got worse.'
From prison, her husband spent years working on appeals, motions for a new trial and commutation requests. When his kids came to visit, he got a glimpse of what life was like for them.
"My kid came up and asked me one time, "Gee, Daddy, what"s an electric chair?" I said, "Where"d you hear that?" and he said, "Well, the kids in school said they"re going to give you the electric chair,'" he said. "They were always getting picked on.'
Raising the kids with a jailed father
It was the day before her 10th wedding anniversary when officers came to Olympia Limones" home in Medford to arrest her husband, Peter. The plainclothes officers told the kids -- two boys, two girls, all under age 9 -- that they were delivering a shipment of oil, but the boys knew better.
Olympia Limones, then 31, sank into a deep depression in the days after his conviction. "I felt like my life was over, but that I had to take care of my kids, which I did,' she said.
She visited her husband faithfully twice a week on death row, before his sentence was commuted to life in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court suspended executions in 1972.
At first, Peter Limone would not allow the children to see him.
"I said, "My children are not going to walk through this prison,'" he recalled. But eventually, the superintendent arranged for Limone to see his children in a visiting room that was separated from the prison population.
To get by, his wife made curtains, cleaned houses and relied on the charity of family and friends. When their two daughters celebrated their first communion, she took them to prison so their father could see them in their white silk dresses.
"I just always kept telling them that their father was innocent and that a man who didn"t like him blamed him for something he didn"t do,' she said.
Meanwhile, she went to all the boys" baseball games and hockey practices, took them to get haircuts and learned to fix things around the house. She hated that her children lost out on having a father.
"Sometimes if they gave me any problems I figured -- especially the boys -- he would have been able to handle it better than I would,' she said. "Do you know how many times I said, "If your father was home, you wouldn"t be doing that?'"
Peter Limone, now 73, has been reputed to be a member of the New England Mob, an allegation he denies.
His wife said she never considered ending her marriage.
"Maybe if I thought he was a killer, I might have ended the marriage,' she said. "But I never believed for a minute he was.'
'Till death do we part'
Marie Salvati maintained the same devotion.
She took classes and eventually became a program director at an early childhood center. The rest of her time she spent with her children.
Family friend Mickey Luongo remembers seeing her each week, carrying a big shopping bag full of eggplant parmesan, frittatas and other homemade Italian dishes to bring to her husband in prison.
"She kept her family close all those years,' Luongo said. "She knew what her priorities were for her family, and she just did it somehow.'
Joe Salvati and his wife sometimes lost hope that he would ever get out of prison. Salvati, now 74, said he once told his wife he would understand if she wanted a divorce. But she said no and reminded him of their wedding vows.
""Til death do we part,' he said. "They broke the mold when they made Marie.'
Free at last
Finally, in 1997, Gov. William Weld commuted Salvati"s sentence, and he was released from prison. It would be another four years before he and Limone were exonerated by a state judge. The judge found two Boston FBI agents had allowed Barboza to frame the men because Barboza and his friend, Vincent "Jimmy' Flemmi, one of Deegan"s killers, were FBI informants who provided evidence in the agency"s highly publicized war against La Cosa Nostra.
Last month, a federal judge excoriated the agency for withholding evidence of the men"s innocence and ordered the government to pay a record $101.7 million to the Salvati and Limone families and those of two other men convicted with them who died in prison.
For Marie Salvati, now 72, the money does not mean much. They plan to use it to send their six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren to college. The Justice Department has not said whether it will appeal the judgment.
"It was so cruel -- for my children, for myself, for my husband,' she said. "It should never have happened.'
Background: Charlotte Hardwick's
Dear Judge (Kid's Letters to the Judge) is a fascinating collection of letters which children caught in divorces have written to family law judges. In the tragic letter below, two parents are at war and are demanding that their children be loyal to them and only to them--a common element of Parental Alienation.
Background: The California Judicial Council's Domestic Violence Practice and Procedures Task Force recently invited comments on its Draft Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Improving the Administration of Justice in Domestic Violence Cases. There's a big problem with the Draft Guidelines--they don't deal with the false allegations issue. In late June, I urged my readers to write to the Task Force and urge them to consider the massive problem false allegations represent in their report. Several hundred of you wrote letters. I have asked for and received permission from several of those who wrote the Task Force to include their letters in my blog.
One of the reasons for the dramatic increases in child support guidelines over 20 years is the pervasive and mistaken notion that divorced fathers gain economically from divorce while women suffer from it. The myth stems from a now-discredited study conducted over two decades ago by feminist Lenore Weitzman, author of the 1985 book The Divorce Revolution. Weitzman concluded that women's standard of living after divorce dropped by three quarters while men's rose over 40%. The media trumpeted her research--some have called it one of the most widely reported studies in media history--and it led to sharp increases in child support guidelines. However, years later Weitzman was forced to admit that her findings were vastly overstated, due to a huge mathematical error.
Despite this, the myth that men gain economically from divorce remains pervasive, and is repeated even today by numerous writers and commentators, including conservatives like Dennis Prager, feminists like Ann Crittenden, and even by masculists like Tom Leykis.
Sanford Braver, Ph.D., one of the nation's leading experts on the economics of divorce, helped uncover and expose the Weitzman hoax. His research demonstrates that when all relevant factors are taken into account, including the numerous tax advantages custodial parents enjoy, the "men gain/women lose" idea is badly in error. In fact, his new research indicates that the opposite outcome may be more common. To learn more about Braver's research, click here.
Child support expert Jane Spies of the National Family Justice Association also discusses the Weitzman hoax in her recent article The Myth of the Successful Child Support System.
MSNBC, in its recent report on divorce, pushes the myth that men gain financially from divorce and women suffer from it. According to MSNBC:
"After a divorce, a woman's cost of living can increase dramatically, hence the reason why court-ordered alimony and child support payments most often go to women. Even so, experts report the average woman experiences a 45 percent decrease in her standard of living after going through a divorce. Meanwhile, the average man experiences a 15 percent improvement in his standard of living."
These statistics are in error. The MSNBC report is below.
From money to emotions: Get over your divorce How to deal with the financial and emotional pitfalls of a split
MSNBC, Aug 21, 2007
No matter what the circumstances, divorce is never easy. Both sides have to deal with heart-wrenching personal and financial decisions, but women in particular often find themselves in need of solid financial and emotional advice.
Divorce financial analyst Stacy Francis and psychologist and author Debra Mandel offer their advice on how deal with divorce on both fronts.
Protect yourself financially
After a divorce, a woman's cost of living can increase dramatically, hence the reason why court-ordered alimony and child support payments most often go to women. Even so, experts report the average woman experiences a 45 percent decrease in her standard of living after going through a divorce. Meanwhile, the average man experiences a 15 percent improvement in his standard of living.
Divorcing women often react financially to their feelings. They operate from a place of feeling hurt, angry and unappreciated, and that influences spending--for good and bad. They may overspend to compensate for their feelings of loss or fear becoming a bag lady and eat nothing but Ramen noodles to save money. This is a time to look realistically at hard-core finances, and Francis recommends taking the following steps:
Read the full article here.
I've noted on countless occasions that when a woman commits domestic violence, we don't call it "domestic violence." In this story
, Rebecca Harvey allegedly rammed her ex-husband's car while their three children were in his car.
She's been arrested, and is being charged with felony charge of reckless conduct and three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. I'm sure she will probably be sentenced to a fine of at least $25 and a minimum of a half hour of community service. It will hurt her in family court, too--possible sanctions include a disapproving look from the judge.
Beyond Rebecca Harvey's violence--which, since it was committed by a woman isn't really violence at all and will not be treated as such--she's a real charmer. She's an attorney and according to the story, during her divorce:
"In spite of her membership in the N.H. Bar Association and law degree, Rebecca asked the court to rule she should not have to work outside the home while their children were minors and cited depression as limiting her ability to work. The court ruled her depression was short-term and brought on by the divorce--which included splitting $2.9 million--and ordered her to establish an income source.
"She also asked for alimony for life and argued that $3,000 a month in alimony--in addition to $6,000 a month in child support--was insufficient."
Rebecca Harvey's chump mother-in-law and father-in-law also loaned her and her ex-husband $275,000 while they were married, and she won the right in court to stiff the elderly couple.
The domestic violence story is below. A previous story about their divorce can be found here
Mom reportedly rams car with kids inside
By Elizabeth Dinan
August 21, 2007 1:27 PM
PORTSMOUTH--A local lawyer who took her multi-million dollar divorce to the state Supreme Court is facing four criminal charges alleging she rammed her car into one driven by her former husband with their three children inside.
Rebecca Harvey, 44, of 48 Ball Street, was arrested July 4 by Portsmouth police on a felony charge of reckless conduct and three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
According to the complaints, filed by Officer Adam Kozlowski, Harvey placed her former husband--Islington Street dentist Paul Harvey Jr.--"in danger of serious bodily injury" when she "used her vehicle to push his vehicle while he was inside."
The three counts of child endangerment allege she "purposely violated a duty of care" by endangering the welfare of their three children who were in Paul's car when she struck it with hers.
In April of 2006, the couple's divorce proceedings became public when the N.H. Supreme Court released a decision on their cross appeals of seven decisions made by a lower divorce court.
In spite of her membership in the N.H. Bar Association and law degree, Rebecca asked the court to rule she should not have to work outside the home while their children were minors and cited depression as limiting her ability to work. The court ruled her depression was short-term and brought on by the divorce--which included splitting $2.9 million--and ordered her to establish an income source.
She also asked for alimony for life and argued that $3,000 a month in alimony--in addition to $6,000 a month in child support--was insufficient.
Harvey was scheduled for an August 21 Portsmouth District Court hearing on the endangerment charges, but with permission from Judge Stephen Morrison, the case was continued until September 25.
A letter from a reader:
"My 16 year old son is one of a kind, the one most mothers of teenage daughters would love to have if teen pregnancy was an issue. He works and goes to school straight A student. He did however get his girlfriend pregnant. But he has stepped up and took the responsibility from day one. He has gone out and bought a crib, Bassinet, and swing. He tries to go to the doctor's appointments and even schedules his job around them. But his girlfriend's mother is a controlling one--she doesn't want my son to be a part of this child's life.
"I just don't get it. There are so many teenagers that would have ran at the first word 'pregnant.' Not him--he wants to be a part, he wants to be there when the baby is delivered, and he wants to be in his life everyday for the late night feedings and the diaper changes. Yet her mother has done everything in her power to keep him from whatever she can.
"I have done so much research on what is my sons rights and there isn't a whole lot out there. Does he have rights? His girlfriend would like to live here with the baby and my son in our home and finish high school. We are behind them 100 %, but the mother says no.
"She recently went and filed for emancipation from her mother. She will be 17 in a few months and we are not sure if the judge will grant it to her. Although for the unborn child and the mother and father we do hope the judge sees the importance of them wanting to be parents and raising the child.
"They have carefully planned how they will finish high school and go to college. I sure am proud that I have raised my son to be so responsible for his actions. Who does this woman think she is? If you can give me any advice on anything we can do so that this child will have his father in his life I would greatly appreciate it. The baby is due in a few weeks--we are at a stand still with this.
"A loving mother"
Reflecting the weakness of the fatherhood movement, fathers' issues haven't been much of a part of the current presidential election yet. However, as I've reported on this blog, several candidates have made statements on fathers and child support, including Republican candidate John McCain and Democratic candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson. Of the four, McCain, Edwards and Richardson have been negative or largely negative, while Obama has said some positive things as well as some negative things. Their statements are briefly encapsulated below.
In March, Republican presidential candidate John McCain was asked about fathers' concerns over family law at a mid-day town hall meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Shared parenting activist Tony Taylor asked McCain if he "would be bold enough to address the issue of equal access to children for fathers that have gone through divorce." McCain testily replied:
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, I am not going to overturn divorce court decisions. That's why we have courts and that's why people go to court and get a divorce. If I as President of the United States said this decision has to be overturned without the proper appeals process then I would be disturbing our entire system of government... But for me to stand here before all these people and say that I'm going declare divorces invalid because someone feels that they weren't treated fairly in court, we are getting into a, uh, uh, tar baby of enormous proportions."
In other words, McCain is saying, "the family court issue is a mess. Given the power of the women's groups and the lack of power of fathers' groups, there's nothing for me to gain and much for me to lose in tackling the issue."
It"s unfortunate, but McCain's assessment of the politics of the issue is probably accurate at this point, and is one reason why we can"t get politicians to meaningfully act on our issues. And as unfortunate as McCain"s response is, to be fair, at least answered the question honestly. Whereas some politicians will give a vague, meaningless answer designed to appease the questioner into thinking he was going to do something about the problem, McCain made it clear he had no interest in the issue.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, as part of his new "Initiative to Strengthen Families,"
pledges to restore child support enforcement cuts, explaining that restoring the enforcement funds will "increase collections by more than $8 billion over the next decade." I've explained numerous times that this is an illusion--the overwhelming majority of child support debtors earn low-incomes, and increased enforcement measures cost more money than they bring in. To learn more, see my co-authored column Federal Child Support Enforcement Cuts Will Hurt Bureaucrats, not Children
(Las Vegas Review-Journal
& others, 12/17/05).
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized fathers around Father's Day, saying, "Let's admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child." He also calls for restoring child support enforcement cuts, under the same illusions that Edwards (see above) shares.
On the other hand, Obama's recently introduced Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007 does have some positives. In my co-authored column Obama's Responsible Fatherhood Bill--Not Enough Carrot, Too Much Stick (Wisconsin State Journal, 6/30/07), I explained:
"Currently many noncustodial fathers--particularly African-American and Latino fathers, upon whom Obama often focuses--are required to pay their child support to the state to reimburse the cost of public assistance, instead of to the children"s mothers. This is demoralizing for low-income men struggling to make a difference in their kids" lives.
"The Responsible Fathers Act will make this money go directly to the mothers, instead of the state, a policy which research shows helps bring fathers closer to their children. The bill will also expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and provide fathers with job training services."
Democratic Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson says he wants to crack down on so-called "deadbeat dads." When asked what his plan is on "strengthening families," Richardson replied: "I believe the key is strong child support, finding those deadbeat dads. And, I would have stronger laws between states, because what happens is they move from state to state. We don't have those reciprocal agreements. I would have a national law that would tighten child enforcement."