As the founder of Free-Range Kids, I often hear from parents being investigated by the cops or child protective services simply because they let their children play outside or walk to soccer practice.With the police and CPSA assuming the power to micromanage family life, it should come as no surprise that they do exactly that. And sure enough, right on schedule, I find this. It seems that, on August 25th, Teresa Tryon of Elizabethton, Tennessee answered a knock on her front door. There was her 10-year-old daughter who was supposed to be in school, with a police officer. But it wasn't the girl who'd done something wrong, it was her mother. What was her crime? Allowing the girl to ride her bicycle to school. The officer told Tryon that "in his judgment," it wasn't safe for the girl to ride her bike to school. So Tryon called the police department to inquire just what laws she or her daughter had violated.
Major Verran of the police department returned Ms Tryon's call. She said he told me, "He had spoke with the District Attorney's office who advised that until the officer can speak with Child Protective Services that if I allow my daughter to ride/walk to school I will be breaking the law and treated accordingly."
She asked, "What law she would be breaking to which the answer was 'child neglect'".Child neglect. I think the Elizabethton police might want to refresh their memories about just what "child neglect" consists of in Tennessee. In fact, I'll help them. Here's the statute.
(a) Any person who knowingly, other than by accidental means, treats a child under eighteen (18) years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury commits a Class A misdemeanor; provided, however, that, if the abused child is eight (8) years of age or less, the penalty is a Class D felony.
(b) Any person who knowingly abuses or neglects a child under eighteen (18) years of age, so as to adversely affect the child's health and welfare, commits a Class A misdemeanor; provided, that, if the abused or neglected child is eight (8) years of age or less, the penalty is a Class E felony.
(c) (1) A parent or custodian of a child eight (8) years of age or less commits child endangerment who knowingly exposes such child to or knowingly fails to protect such child from abuse or neglect resulting in physical injury to the child.In short, section (a) refers to anyone who inflicts injury on a child, section (b) refers to anyone who adversely affects the child's health or welfare and (c) refers to anyone who allows someone else to do (a) or (b). Since Tryon's daughter wasn't injured and her health or welfare wasn't affected, where's the "child neglect?" The answer is that there wasn't any. Tryon was just doing what any normally responsible parent might do - allow a 10-year-old the freedom to take herself to school. But when it comes to kids, Big Brother knows best, or at least thinks he does. Just think of Maryanne Godboldo in Detroit. Big Brother knew she should have given her daughter powerful psychotropic medication, and when Godboldo decided to parent her child differently, CPS came down on her like a ton of bricks. Many weeks later, that case has just about been resolved in Godboldo's favor, but the point is clear - when CPS decides something, regardless of how erroneous, the full weight of the police and courts will be used to support that decision and against the parent. So Teresa Tryon had best listen when Major Rusty Verran tells her she's breaking the law by allowing her daughter to ride her bicycle to school. She's doing no such thing, but neither was Maryanne Godboldo. But that didn't stop CPS from snatching her child or the police putting her in jail. It didn't stop her having to hire attorneys to defend herself. And so it may be with Tryon if she's so intemperate as to insist - as Godboldo did - that she's a fit mother who has the right to decide how to raise her child. Oh, she'll prevail in the end because she's done nothing wrong. But what will happen in the meantime? Police, handcuffs, arrest, jail, courts, charges, lawyers? Where will her daughter be then and how much trauma will it cause her? We all know that Tryon can beat the rap but she can't beat the ride. More outrageously, neither can her daughter. Decades ago, the American family started to fall apart. That scared a lot of people as well it might, particularly because of its effects on children. It didn't take long for us to call the police and CPS to do what we trusted parents to do before. That meant an enormous encroachment by the state into family life of a type and an extent never seen before. Look at the police officer's words to Tryon. In his "judgment" the girl shouldn't ride her bicycle to school. That is, he's substituting his judgment for that of the mother, and his has the weight of the law enforcement establishment behind it. And the horror stories just keep happening. In only the rarest of instances is the state a better parent than the parent. Its decisions are typically made by CPS caseworkers with no ties to the family or the child. The caseworkers are underpaid, undereducated, undertrained and overworked. They owe no loyalty to parents or children and, like most bureaucrats, seek first to cover their you-know-whats. That's a poor combination for ensuring the welfare of children. Sometimes parents abuse their children; sometimes they neglect them to a criminal extent. We've all read the stories. In those cases, the state can't sit idly by; it must act to spare the children further injury. But that's not what went on in the Godboldo case and it's not what's going on in Tryon's. Those cases and countless others exemplify the naked, wholly unjustified exercise of state power at the expense of parents and children. In any society that values freedom and justice, that would be totally unacceptable.
The plaintiffs will have an opportunity to raise their constitutional arguments when their cases are heard before the Probate and Family Court (or other trial court), and to pursue appellate remedies if they are dissatisfied with the outcomes of those cases.Child support obligors struggling with excessive child support obligations in the worst economy since the Great Depression are hardly in a position to fund long, expensive legal battles as individuals. This is the reason why Fathers and Families' Legal Defense Fund filed this case to begin with--we know individual obligors can't afford to fund their own battles, so we're working to change the guidelines for all obligors. What Will Fathers and Families Do? There are several ways Fathers and Families can fight this ruling, including taking a specific obligor's child support case and appealing it, as well as legislative action. What Can You Do? As Dr. Holstein told the media last week, we're not giving up this fight. We want you to:
- Become an F & F volunteer and/or citizen lobbyist to help promote our agenda in the Massachusetts legislature and beyond by filling out our form at www.FathersandFamilies.org/volunteer.
- Legal and political work costs money--help fund the group that fights for you by making a contribution at www.FathersandFamilies.org/give.
- Write a Letter to the Editor of the Boston Globe at [email protected] about SJC rejects challenge to child support rules filed by fathers group (9/2/11) and the Boston Herald at [email protected] about Dads' group seeks child-support reform (9/2/11). Also, use the links in the second paragraph above to comment about the issue on the news outlets' websites.
In one memorable scene, the four fathers are sitting in the living room comparing notes. Two of the men met each other in jail, their ex-wives having successfully filed false harassment claims.
As the meeting is being filmed, the wife of the man in whose house they are seated, is upstairs with the children. She eventually calls the police to try and have her husband evicted. The policeman, shown with his face blurred, arrives at the home and tries to explain he is just doing his job by responding to a domestic abuse report.
In another scene, a father tells the filmmaker that he is about to commit an illegal act. The crime? Visiting his son at a youth sporting event. He is technically only allowed to see his children at the arranged supervised times. "How many days do you think its normal for a father to go without seeing his children?" the filmmaker asks the father. The father replies, "How many days can you go without breathing?"So the false allegations of domestic abuse are there as well as the crazy prohibitions on fathers communicating with their children. Many readers will remember the Australian dad last year who was jailed for sending his child a birthday card in violation of a family court order prohibiting contact. What Israel adds to the anti-father bent of family courts that other countries don't is it's across-the-board award of sole custody to mothers of children under the age of six. In most of the countries I report on, that's the all-but-universal practice, but in Israel, it's the law. And it's that law, that a panel of the Knesset is evaluating with an eye toward change. The same panel is considering whether to punish mothers who make false claims of domestic violence or child abuse in order to deprive a child of its father. Consideration of those two changes to Israeli law is directly attributable to the film. Another practice that will be familiar to those interested in family court reform is that of child welfare agencies ignoring fathers when they take a child from its mother. That too happened to one of the four fathers in the film.
This particular parent is shown in one scene of the film standing outside a youth foster care center where his daughter lived temporarily. Child protective services had sent her to live in the facility after she threatened to run away from her mother's home. In the film, the father laments that social services preferred to send her to a facility rather than have her live with him. The movie ends with the girl's Bat Mitzvah after the father gains full custody.Then there's the issue of child support that in Israel is called mezonot. There as here, the usual draconian penalties apply to failure to pay. There as here, the money is often more for supporting Mom than the child.
A father is legally required to pay the mother mezonot from the minute the separation occurs. If he does not, he is liable to have his pay check frozen, his driver's licence taken away and even be put in jail.
"A father ends up becoming a second class citizen. The laws discriminate against men. He has to pay child support regardless of his wife's income." Halpern gives the example of Shari Arison, the owner of Bank Hapoalim and heir to Carnival Cruise Lines. "She is technically entitled to child support by law. Even if her ex-husband were bankrupt and homeless, he would have to pay. Even men who gain custody sometimes have to pay child support to the ex-wife. If a father does not pay child support, one can by law can sue his parents. But on the other hand, the grandparents are not guaranteed visitation access to see the grandchildren."Director Halpern calls fathers' rights in family courts a "human rights issue," which it assuredly is, as is the issue of false claims of abuse made against dads. Part of that is the uniform unwillingness of courts to punish those who level false allegations.
The issues of false claims of child abuse, sexual molestation or domestic violence are currently being debated in the Knesset as a result of the film. "In Israel, the courts will not prosecute a woman on false claims or false testimony for lying about sex offenses," Halpern says. "It's carte blanche (a white card). Any woman can make any claim about any man, and she doesn't have to worry that she will get in trouble for it."Indeed, recent research in the U.S. has shown that claims of abuse are the single major factor thwarting the Oregon legislature's statutory enactment aimed at greater shared custody. That research showed that the vast majority of the claims were made by mothers. Other research has shown that abuse claims filed in the course of custody cases are often false, with estimates ranging from 20% to 80%. Family attorneys across the country have for years bemoaned the use of abuse claims to gain an upper hand in custody matters. Apparently Israel is no different. Interestingly, the film seems to have already made one convert.
Another significant change, as depicted in the film is that of the National Welfare Officer for Family Affairs at the Ministry of Social Welfare. In the beginning of the film she is shown to be against joint custody. But as the film portrays, she eventually hears requests of the fathers and changes her opinion.
Women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to receive public assistance than recently divorced men (23 percent and 15 percent, respectively). Looking at household income, women who divorced in the past 12 months reported less income than recently divorced men. For example, 27 percent of women who divorced in the past 12 months had less than $25,000 in household income compared with 17 percent of recently divorced men. Similarly, women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely than recently divorced men to be in poverty (22 percent compared with 11 percent, respectively).So men are over 50% less likely than women to receive welfare following divorce and are half as likely to live in poverty. Since the children in the survey were over 2.5 times more likely to live with their mother after divorce than with their father, it should come as no surprise that they too are more likely than other children to live in poverty.
Overall, 1,100,401 children, or 1.5 percent of children in the United States in 2009 lived in the home of a parent who divorced in the last year... Children living with a parent who divorced last year were more likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28 percent) compared with other children (19 percent). Children living with a parent who divorced last year were also more likely to be living in a rented home (53 percent) compared with other children (36 percent), and were more likely to be living in households headed by their mothers (73 percent) compared with other children (23 percent). The greater likelihood of children to live with mothers following divorce could explain why a greater proportion of such households were in poverty.Of course as a general rule, women in the U.S. are less likely than men to work for pay at all and far more likely to work part-time if they do work. That's because they're more likely to spend their time caring for children than are men. The result, as the ACS data suggest is that, when they get divorced, they're more likely than men or their undivorced counterparts to suffer serious financial consequences. When divorce happens, women are more likely to be caught with no job or with only a part-time one. So getting back into the workplace in a job and at a level that pays a living wage is harder for them than for men. They're paying the price of taking on the primary caregiver role. All of that suggests a couple of fairly obvious responses. First, as I've said many times before, if women would turn over some of the childcare to men, they'd free themselves up to earn more, they wouldn't lose contact with the workplace or the job market, so divorce wouldn't be such a financial blow to them. I encourage women to bargain with their husbands/partners for more time at work and men to bargain for more childcare time. Failing that, it must be said that the pro-mother bias of family courts continues to put children in poverty. Year in and year out, mothers receive 84% of the sole and primary custody in this country. That means, as the Census Bureau reports, that children of divorce are more likely to live in poverty than are children of married parents. Children who live with mothers are also more likely to live in poverty than are children who live with fathers. That should raise an obvious question for family courts - "why are you making custody decisions that result in children living in poverty?" There's no evidence that poverty is good for children and much to the contrary, but family courts still intone the mantra of the best interests of the child, while sending them off to live in seriously straitened circumstances. Why not give primary custody to dads who are better equipped to support the children they bring into the world? Better still, why not award equal custody? That would ameliorate the relative absence of maternal earnings and keep both parents active in the child's life? I've kvetched a lot about judges who penalize fathers for having their audacity to work hard to support their families. When it comes to divorce and custody, those fathers are shoved to the side in favor of mothers who've done more bathing and diapering but who can't earn enough to keep their kids out of poverty. This makes sense? It's far past time for fathers' unique contributions to be honored by courts in their custody decisions. That's partly for the good of fathers, but mostly for the good of children. As I said, we've known this for a long time; the Census Bureau report just reinforces what we already know. Now it's time for courts to pay attention and act.
Since the 1988 decision of the High Court in M v M, even if a judge cannot find an allegation proved on the balance of probabilities, having regard to its seriousness, the court may still refuse to make an order for contact between a child and a parent if that order would expose the child to an unacceptable risk of abuse. That is because the court is ultimately deciding what is in the best interests of the child, not whether abuse can be proved to have occurred.Read that carefully, and understand that it's existing law in Australia and has been at least since 1988. Understand too that it is that law that the anti-dad crowd deems insufficient to accomplishing their aim of cutting fathers out of children's lives. Justice Bryant tells us some noteworthy things. First, when a family court judge hears evidence regarding domestic violence or child abuse, he/she does so under the evidentiary standard "the balance of the probabilities," which we in the U.S. would call "preponderance of the evidence." That is, a litigant must prove her case by producing merely a smidgen more than 50% of the evidence in favor of her claim. That done, she wins the case. It's the lowest standard anywhere in law. Second, notice that even if she fails to prove her case by the lowest possible standard, she can still win. That is, the court can "still refuse to make an order for contact between a child and a parent if that order would expose the child to an unacceptable risk of abuse." In other words, a mother can allege child abuse by the father, fail to prove her case and still have the judge exclude the father from the child's life. "Based on what?" you ask. Well, based on the judge's theory that the father poses "an unacceptable risk of abuse." But if the "balance of the probabilities" tip against his ever having done so (as they must, since the case wasn't proven), on what would the judge rest his/her decision that the father posed an unacceptable risk? That's hard to know, but Justice Bryant teases us with this hint: "having regard to [the allegation's] seriousness." That is, the more serious the allegation, irrespective of proof, the more likely a judge should, under applicable precedent, refuse contact between the father and the child. The lesson? The more serious the allegation, the more likely a mother is to prevail, even if she has no proof. That's the law in Australia as explained by the Family Court's Chief Justice. Moreover, it's the law that the anti-dad crowd has managed to convince all and sundry is too lenient on fathers, too likely to lead to contact between abusive fathers and children. It's hard for me to imagine a law more likely to come between fit fathers and their children than this one. It plainly violates the most basic notions of fair play between spouses. For a father to be denied access to his children despite having found not to be abusive by the court that heard the evidence is outrageous. For the law that allows that to be considered insufficiently abusive of fathers' rights to children and children's rights to their fathers would be beyond belief if we didn't read about it so often in the news.
Watching the parliamentary debates that have been taking place in the Japanese Diet, it is difficult to believe that Japan intends to abide by the Hague treaty in good faith.To date, most debate within the Japanese Diet has revolved around creating "exceptions" under which Japan would not have to return abducted children. These telling debates are in obvious opposition to the spirit of the Hague treaty in which signatories purport to want to return a child to his or her home following an abduction. The article's author, Paul Toland, is the national director of Bring Abducted Children Home. He lists several concerns his organization has that have the eerie ring of truth.
First, members of BAC Home are gravely concerned that the Japanese government will not be willing to address the current cases of parental abduction (since the Hague treaty is not retroactive).
Japan owes it to these children and the parents who have suffered for years from this grave injustice to provide a bilateral framework solution to promptly return these abducted children to their habitual residence without delay.
Second, Japan must utilize standard rules of evidence when domestic violence is alleged. Allegations alone are not adequate to prevent the return of a child. Evidence, originating in the child's country of habitual residence, must be utilized to rise to the Hague treaty's legal burden of proof standard of "clear and convincing" evidence required in domestic violence allegations.
Currently, abductors in Japan are able to cut off all access to the Left-Behind Parent through unsubstantiated hearsay allegations. Facts and evidence are optional, but not necessary under Japan's proposed system for Hague Return Denial, and this is unacceptable...
Additionally, the Japanese government seems concerned that international child abduction is considered a crime in many other nations, and has vowed to not return abductors who are labeled as criminals or charged with a crime. This is not a determination for Japan to make. Japan cannot simply exonerate its citizens who break the laws of another nation while residing in that nation.Then there's the ubiquitous "best interests of the child" shibboleth that Japanese courts use to justify child abduction by Japanese mothers.
For years the Japanese government has used the subjective phrase "best interest of the child" to justify abductions by its citizens and deny access to left-behind parents... Typically in Japan,the judge individually defines "best interest" without standards or guidance, using the "best interest" of a child as a "catchall" to justify judicial rulings preventing the abducted child from being returned to the left-behind parent. In one reported case, custody of a child was given to a mother because the "best interest" analysis required that she live in a house with a Japanese garden, which the mother had and the left-behind father did not.Here as elsewhere, "the best interests of the child" is a group of words in search of some meaning. Here as elsewhere, the words are a thinly-veiled excuse for judicial or cultural bias. Here as elsewhere, that bias is pro-mother and anti-father. There's little to suggest that Japan's signature on the already-proven-to-be-ineffective Hague Convention will make one bit of difference to its traditional mistreatment of fathers generally and non-Japanese fathers in particular. Maybe Michael Sanchez's idea isn't such a bad one after all.
It's been the case since the 1960s. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote about poorer African-Americans in the '60s -- you may be familiar with the Moynihan report, where he talked about the so-called breakdown of the family in inner city areas and the increase in single parent families among poor African-Americans. Since that time, the same developments have spread to the middle class. If you look at statistics overall, about 2 out of every 3 black women are unmarried. A minority of black men are married, as well. These figures are most pronounced among the poor, but they actually extend throughout the socioeconomic spectrum. College educated black women are about twice as likely to be unmarried as college educated white women by age 40.Banks is interested in individual people and the impact on their lives of the marked changes in marriage rates over the last 40 or so years. That is, he's more interested in adults than in children and more interested in individuals than in large populations. That's where his empathy comes in. He listens to what women say and reports it.
Women now have more freedom than ever to live life on their own or as they see fit because they're able to work and bring in an income, so they don't have to depend on men for economic support. The pressures to marry aren't as great and people can imagine not being married. At the same time, it is the case that most black women imagine their life with a partner. This is true for most people. They may not want to marry just anyone. They may not want to marry early. They may not be desperate to marry, but did they envision that they would be 35, unmarried, and childless? No. That wasn't the plan and it's not the life that women want, and black women in particular are not able to realize that desire.But actually listening to the desires and aspirations of black women holds no interest for Salon.com's interviewer. For him, the ideology that holds that marriage and children are measures meted out by a patriarchal society for the oppression of women is the only legitimate view of the matter. So he asserts, "A lot of people would consider the notion that happiness and fulfillment is (sic) contingent on marriage and childrearing to be offensive and retrograde." Now of course Banks said no such thing, nor did he suggest that "happiness and fulfillment is contingent on marriage and childrearing." That's strictly a product of the interviewer's imagination. What Banks did was listen to and respect what the women said they desired. They said they wanted marriage and children and were disappointed when they didn't get them. To the interviewer, those values are "offensive and retrograde." I wonder if the women know. It turns out that Banks, being an academic at Stanford, had some experience of his own with people who shared the interviewer's biases. And in his circumspect, academic way, he dealt with them.
I've talked about this with a lot of academic white feminists at Stanford, and I've heard a lot of them ask, "Why do women need to be married? Why can't they have children on their own? And who am I to impose some moral code on women?" My response is that when I went out to interview people, I thought I was going to find a lot of black women who were so happy they didn't have to be married. But I didn't find that. To the people who say black women are leading the charge in being unmarried and we should applaud them rather than subject them to scrutiny, I would say they're really missing the experience that a lot of black women are having. A less charitable take is that it's doing a disservice to black women to manipulate their experience for the ideological ends of feminism.In Banks's experience, feminists, when faced with women whose needs disagree with feminist ideology, toss the women over the side rather than alter that ideology. As many people have pointed out before, ignoring actual women is a curious way to be an advocate for them. It's particularly curious for a movement that claims to honor almost above everything else, the personal stories of (particularly minority) women. But the interviewer isn't finished with his brief that marriage and children are tools of oppression. Eschewing questions, he states, "If so much of these women's ideas about happiness are tied to marriage and motherhood, doesn't that suggest that our culture is putting too much value on those two things? " I don't have room to point out all the ways that statement doesn't make sense, so I'll just let Banks do it.
It would be ironic to make that characterization because there is so much less pressure now to marry or have children than ever. There was a time long ago when women in particular had no choice but to marry and have children. We're beyond that point now. The overwhelming majority of people do want to have children because they do want to nurture a young person and project themselves into the next generation. I think an even larger number of people want to have a partner. Maybe they don't when they're in college or just after college, but as they get older, most people tend to want to have an ongoing, intimate relationship with someone. In every civilization we know of, there has been a relationship that was something like marriage, so I get a bit impatient when people talk about marriage as though this is a social construction that is oppressing people and we should just cast it off -- because the issue is not formal marriage, the issue is that people want a partner.The Salon.cominterviewer is happy to flaunt his misandry. When confronted by Banks with the fact that young black women have surpassed young black men educationally and economically, his question "how could that possibly be a bad thing?" accomplishes little more than to reveal his bias. Likewise, Banks gives him the information that, in couples in which the man earns less than the woman, both sexes are discomfited by the fact. But the interviewer is impervious to the fact that women aren't comfortable in such a relationship, having a preconceived notion of the man as the primary breadwinner. To him, there's only one wrongdoer in any relationship and it's the one with the Y chromosome.
To me, the fact that so many men can't handle women outearning them points to a crisis of masculinity more than anything else.Well, that may be true, but if he'd pay attention to the rather well-known facts, he'd have to conclude that there's equally a crisis of femininity, but his worldview has no room for facts that contradict his precious preconceived notions. Given that the interviewer has plainly drunk the Kool-Aid of women's studies programs, it's no surprise that his antipathy for men extends to marriage as well.
So many people have healthy, if not better, relationships outside of marriage -- so why care about the institution in the first place?Of course, if he means to suggest that non-marital relationships are in some way healthier or better than married ones, in this country at least, he's just flat wrong. In fact, non-marital unions are far more fragile than marital ones, breaking down much more rapidly. But again, the interviewer has no intention of letting facts interfere with his opinions. He's got his story and he's stickin' to it. Because Banks is more interested in adults and their relationships, he never even touches on the vast sea of data that tells us that children do better in married relationships between biological parents than in any other situation. But it's interesting to note how powerful the motivations are to marry and procreate even after so many years of being told that both are "offensive and retrograde." The whole piece is a fascinating reflection of our ongoing debate about marriage, families and children. It's a scene of scientific knowledge fighting to be heard over a din of radical ideology that's so wrong-headed as to ignore the desires and aspirations of women "for their own good."
Winston said it"s just as important for a man to know that he"s not the father as to learn that he is.
"There are a lot of different situations where the father found out after he had a child that the child wasn"t his,' and yet he still had legal responsibility for the child, said Winston, who"s 39. Fathers who acknowledge paternity officially or ignore legal notices of paternal responsibility often have great difficulty undoing that determination--despite a negative paternity test.
"We want to make it so fathers can get testing early on before it gets to that situation,' she said.So her store front walk-in lab promises results within 48 hours. For people who can't afford the $400 price tag, she offers time payments and discounts. The woman's on a mission to do what states should have started requiring long ago - genetic testing of every child and putative father to establish actual paternity early in a child's life. Winston's New Haven community has noticed and applauded.
"When I saw the sign I thought, `Go progress,"' said Dresha Grier, who owns an eponymous hair salon around the corner from the clinic. "Why go through the waiting and the overpaying when you can find out right here in the community?'
Steven Stewart, 54, who sells newspapers across the street from the clinic, praised the location. "It"s the right spot--across the street from a high school in the ‘hood, as they say,' Stewart said, adding that a paternity test "can provide a lot of closure on a tough subject.'
Willie Penn, 44, and Greg Carter, 45, who were visiting a relative who lives down the block from the clinic, said there is definitely a need for such testing.
"A lot of my friends found out when their children were 20 or 25 years old they were not the father,' Penn said. "At the point the baby was born they didn"t bother to find out because they didn"t want to disrespect the mother. But it"s better to know at the beginning.'
Carter agreed: "Little kids become part of your life. You develop a bond and then you find out you"re not the father. It"s hard.'
...Lance Carpenter also had a personal reaction to the clinic across the street from where he sells newspapers alongside Stewart. The former Marine said he never knew who his father was. "My mother told me three different men were my daddy,' Carpenter recalled. The 54-year-old said he made sure he knew he was the father of his four children. "People should know about their background,' he said, adding "we need it in the community.'All of that is important in a state like Connecticut that makes it hard for men to "reopen" a case if they acknowledged paternity at the hospital or in court. I wrote recently about the procedures used by Connecticut courts and, once a man claims he's the father, he's pretty much stuck with that decision irrespective of genetics. Basically, the courts look to how long he's been involved in the child's life and whether the child looks at him as his father. If so, the court will be loath to overturn the man's previous acknowledgement. On the surface, that looks to be, if not fair to the father, at least fair to the child. After all, why rip up a child's relationship with its father based on DNA? The child neither knows nor cares about that; he/she only cares about continuing the love and care of the man called "Daddy." That of course makes sense until you realize that we daily contradict that very precept - that stability for the child is all-important. Indeed we do so thousands of times a day. It's called divorce. The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that in the year preceding its 2009 American Community Survey, over 1 million children's parents divorced. In every one of those cases, a child's life was torn apart, its world turned upside down by the simple fact that (in 84% of those cases) he/she wouldn't be seeing much of Daddy any more. Moreover, many of the mothers of those children remarried, if not sooner then later. In so doing, they brought into the child's life another man who the child didn't think of as "Daddy," but who would try to play that role. And of course the child's previous "Daddy" was marginalized by the entire process of divorce and custody that left him an every-other-weekend visitor with the child. Was that upsetting to the child? You bet it was. Time and again we learn and relearn the profound emotional/psychological effects divorce has on children. That's partly due to divorce itself and partly to the loss of their father. However it's done, children suffer when their parents split up. We would never dream of restricting parents' rights to divorce and remarriage. That's true despite the fact that all the arguments against allowing a man to opt out of his role as father when he learns he's not the dad are equally valid against divorce and remarriage. Those arguments carry the day in the former case but are considered too strange to even mention in the latter. All of which is to say that, for men and for children, it's far better to do genetic testing as soon as possible. Finding out the truth about paternity prevents a host of problems, misunderstandings, hurt feelings and sometimes permanent emotional trauma down the road. States should require it at the birth of every child. Failing that, stop by Joyce Winston's testing lab. It's right there on the street. Whatever the results, you'll be glad you did.
Paul Robinson, the beloved, long time advocate for children and custody reform, has died after a long illness in northern Virginia. Paul leaded Fathers United for Equal Rights and Women's Coalition for more than 30 years. He held regular meetings of his support group at a church in northern Virginia every two weeks, and helped thousands of dads, moms and grandparents who attended those meetings to help their children and grandchildren.
Paul also gave enormous time and energy in meetings with individual parents, and going with them to court when necessary. He also opened his home as a "halfway house" for parents to live in from time to time, in their hour of most desperate need.
After my separation from my first wife, I immediately realized that I needed help. I was a copyright lawyer, but knew nothing about custody. This was about 31 years ago. I found out about Paul's support group and started attending meetings. At the meetings, I met John Bauserman Sr., Michael L. Oddenino, Elliott Diamond, and others who became the nucleus of the Children's Rights Council. Paul's group became a chapter of CRC. he attended all of our 16 national conferences, and other CRC events.
On a personal note, Paul could spot a phony a mile away. During the course of any non-profit organization, there are always people who do not understand the mission and try to cheat the organization. Paul would spot them and interrogate them mercilessly to get at the truth. It is his absolutely honest, straight-arrow approach to life, and integrity, as well as his unflagging commitment to helping reform the legal system in this country, that I and those who loved him so much will most remember.
The memorial service for Paul Robinson was held at the Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke, Virginia -- a church Paul helped to found 30 years ago. Perhaps 100 people were there -- family, friends, and divorced parents.
Paul's younger brother David gave the family background, explaining why Paul was so interested in social justice, determined, and a capable flyer of small planes from age 16.
Speakers included other family members, neighbors, CRC members, and representatives from Fathers United for Equal Rights and Women's Coalition, which Paul ran for more than 30 years. Paul's mother was known for feeding strangers who came to her door in the early 1900's, sometimes inviting them to sleep in the family's basement; but she would ask them to work for an hour or two. That must be where Paul got his idea of opening his own house to parents going through ruinous custody battles, inviting them to stay there for weeks or months at a time.
Common threads of Paul's life were devotion to his family and his pursuit of the truth and facts, often asking people, "What do you mean by that?" and "How do you know that?"
God Bless You, Paul.
The study carried out by Erin Pougnet, a PhD candidate in the Concordia University Department of Psychology, and associates, used data from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, an intergenerational longitudinal data set collected in inner city areas of Montreal...
One hundred and thirty-eight children and their parents from lower to middle income backgrounds participated in two waves of data collection: at ages 3 to 5, and again at 9 to 13 years old.
The children were given IQ tests, while their mothers completed questionnaires on spousal conflict and the home environment.
The children"s teachers contributed to the research by observing and reporting the child"s behavior at school.
"Teachers were a somewhat more independent source of information than mothers, fathers or children themselves,' Pougnet said in a press release from Concordia University, "because a father"s absence can result in home conflict, maternal distress and child distress.'
The study found that, "Compared with other children with absentee dads, kids whose fathers were active parents in early and middle childhood had fewer behaviour problems and higher intellectual abilities as they grew older -- even among socio-economically at-risk families...'
The study also found that girls were more affected by absent fathers than boys.
"Girls whose fathers were absent during their middle childhood had significantly higher levels of emotional problems at school than girls whose fathers were present,' said Pougnet.It's the study, not the results, that's news. We've known this for decades now, and much more about the value of fathers to children. We've known, for example, that a father's active presence provides benefits to children across all socio-economic strata. In fact, whatever the race, religion, class or geographical location, father presence helps and father absence hurts. And what that means - or should mean - is that governments and courts should be bending heaven and earth to make sure that fathers take an active role in their children's upbringing. Not surprisingly, that's exactly the message the researchers in the Quebec study want to convey.
The research team suggests that the findings of their study not only contribute to the body of research connecting fathers and childhood development, but should also be used by governments to establish policies that support the role of fathers in their families and society.
"These findings add to the increasing body of literature suggesting that fathers make important contributions to their children"s cognitive and behavioural functioning,' the report concludes, "and point to the benefits of developing policies that encourage fathers to spend time with their children (i.e., parental leave for men) and promote positive fathering and involvement through parenting courses.'Of course that last sentence is a bit paltry. After all, the reason there aren't more fathers actively involved in their children's lives isn't the lack of parental leave for men or too few parenting courses. Those would be nice I suppose, but they hardly go to the heart of the problem of children without fathers. No, if you want to get at that problem, you have to profoundly change the behavior of mothers and family court judges. Someone might point out to the researchers that a man can't be an active dad when a court has barred him from all contact with his child due to false allegations by the child's mother. So one place to start would be to make mothers prove that fathers have actually posed a risk to a child in the past before denying or limiting contact. They should be required to do so with actual, verifiable evidence as opposed to just their say-so. The risk should be of actual violence, instead of some vague claim of being placed "in fear." As we've recently learned, in the late 1990s Oregon amended its family law to promote joint custody, but the effort entirely failed. Why? Domestic violence claims by mothers against fathers. Attorney's have for years pointed out that allegations of violence and abuse are now routinely made for the sole purpose of gaining the upper hand in custody matters. And why not? Those claims, when made by mothers, work like a charm, as indeed they must given the astonishingly low levels of "proof" required to get a court order separating a child from its father. But even in the absence of false claims of abuse, fathers are still denied any meaningful parenting time with their children as a matter of course. I've pointed out many times that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1993, 84.2% of custodial parents were mothers. By 2007, that figure stood at 83.6%. In short, despite a mountain of evidence promoting fathers' involvement with children, courts haven't changed in the least. Now, the researchers say that even fathers who don't live with their kids can have a positive effect on them. That may be true, but surely we can all agree that fathers with more contact with their children have a better chance of having that effect than fathers who see their kids for two days every two weeks, the standard "visitation" schedule. But custody and false abuse allegations aren't the only reasons dads don't see their kids. As I've pointed out many times, our legal system gives Mom the power to decide whether Dad will get to see or even know about his child. Until we start requiring mothers to inform fathers about their children and give them the opportunity to be the type of parents the Quebec researchers describe, fathers and children will remain separate. And then there's the matter of education. When and where in all our systems of education, whether at home or in schools or elsewhere, do we tell girls that, when they grow up, it's not OK to use their legal power to remove Dad from his child's life? When do we tell them that maternal gatekeeping is morally wrong? The answers are obvious; we never tell girls that. Indeed, we tell them the opposite. As long as the legal system gives mothers a free pass to lie, commit paternity fraud, etc., the message to all is loud and clear. Then there are the politicians who call loudly for "responsibility" on the part of fathers. Translation: if dads weren't so worthless, this "absent father" problem would be solved. The great irony is that it's not the dads who are irresponsible (although surely many are), but the politicians who want to pretend they're addressing the problem while ignoring the hard changes required to actually bring fathers and children together. Face it, privileged mothers and absent fathers go hand in hand. Until we admit that fact and change our laws, millions of children will go to sleep every night wondering where their fathers are. And those same children will grow up to be less happy, less secure and less intellectually developed than they could be. As Walter Cronkite used to say, "and that's the way it is." Thanks to Mike for the heads-up.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Joanne Veit called Effert's actions "a classic infanticide case -- the killing of a newborn after a hidden pregnancy by a mother who was alone and unsupported."
"I try very carefully not to exaggerate, but I do think that"s an apt comparison,' said Sarah Geraghty, the attorney handling the Georgia case for the Southern Center for Human Rights.
"And I think anyone who went down and watched one of these proceedings would agree with me. … You see a room full of indigent parents -- most of them African-American -- and you have a judge and attorney general, both of whom are white. The hearings often take only 15 seconds. The judge asks, ‘Do you have any money to pay?" the person pleads and the judge says, ‘OK you"re going to jail,"' she added.That's a scene few people envisage when thinking about child support indebtedness and those who go to jail because of it. The news is full of "deadbeat dads" with plenty of money who don't pay support because they're irresponsible. That's the narrative we've come to accept and there are just enough of those parents to keep the myth alive. What we never seem to see in the news are the people Geraghty sees every day - the poor who will never have the resources to pay in full and who go to jail because of it. Those people often don't have a lawyer to represent them and now, with the Supreme Court's decision in Turner v. Rogers, states know they don't have to provide an attorney for those too poor to hire one themselves. Up until Turnerwas decided, only six states refused to appoint representation to indigent child support contemnors. But with state budgets growing ever tighter, it will surprise no one if other states follow suit. After all, the Supreme Court has told them they don't need to pay attorneys to represent the poor in child support cases, so why would they? The Court's majority opnion in Turnerdemonstrates no comprehension of the everyday realities of the process that Geraghty describes. According to Justice Breyer who wrote the opinion, it's acceptable for states to rely on judges to make the type of inquiry necessary to ensure that only those truly able to pay go to jail. No lawyer is required. Breyer imagined an in-depth investigation by the judge of a father's ability to pay, replete with explanations of the man's rights, etc. Breyer should get out more. The reality that Geraghty sees every day is a 15-second "hearing" that has one goal - to get the case off the court's docket and the father behind bars. Not surprisingly, both are accomplished in the blink of an eye. And that's one of the most interesting things about Brunker's article. Like the contrast between the reality of child support contempt cases versus the one imagined by the Supreme Court majority, Brunker contrasts that reality with what those who support the current system would have us believe. Compare Geraghty's statement quoted above with this:
Judge Janice M. Rosa, a supervising court judge in New York"s 8th Judicial District and a board member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said the system in her state adequately protects non-custodial parents by guaranteeing them a court-appointed lawyer if they cannot afford one and carefully determining that they have the ability to pay.
"No one here is going to jail when a factory closes down and you"re one of hundreds looking for a job,' she said. "… Every state has said that debtors" prisons are illegal, and you have to give these people a way out. You can only put them in jail if they have money and won"t pay.'Hmm. Well, maybe in her court that's true, but not in the ones Geraghty sees. But of course Rosa is a judge; what are the chances she'll admit to ignoring a father's inability to pay and sending him to jail just to keep the line of cases moving? My guess is they're not good. Even in states that appoint lawyers for indigent parents, those without the ability to pay can still go to jail.
A 2009 study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank in Washington, D.C., found that only half of the child support debtors in California prisons had reported income in the two preceding years. And the median net income of the others was a mere $2,881.That dovetails with data from the Office of Child Support Enforcement that show that 63% of all child support debtors (not just those in jail) reported yearly income of $10,000 or less. The same OCSE report excoriates judges for setting child support payments too high in the first place, a practice Geraghty has seen first-hand.
Geraghty, the Southern Center for Human Rights attorney, said part of the problem is that courts often order poor parents to pay too much for child support in the first place, increasing the likelihood that they will fall behind on payments.
"One of my former clients worked at the Piggly Wiggly (supermarket) and they were taking 65 percent of her paycheck,' she said. "It left her in a position where there was simply no way that she could survive on the amount that she had left.'And it's not like the threat of prison has much effect. Oh, I'm sure it does for those parents who really can pay but don't. But those are the exceptions; the rule is otherwise. As I've reported before, every six months, the State of New Jersey conducts a "sweep" of child support debtors. That is, police and sheriff's departments get arrest warrants and go out and haul in parents behind on their payments. Usually they arrest close to 1,000 parents. But, faced with jail or payment, those parents produce one cent on the dollar owed. The most recent sweep grossed payments of one percent; the previous one took in 1.1%, strongly suggesting that those arrested simply didn't have the money to pay. The entire child support industry is far more complicated than the news would like us to believe. Thanks to Mike Brunker and MSNBC for doing much to educate the public and dispel the myths. Thanks to John for the heads-up.
1) Longer payment periods. 2) Recipient is no longer required to look for work or get career counseling. The only requirement now is that they show they need alimony to provide for their minimum reasonable needs. 3) Limits on levels of payment has been raised. 4) Makes an exception for DV victims, who now need not provide proof that they need alimony to provide for their minimum reasonable needs. Family law attorney Moises Rios gives the details here. It should be noted that Texas alimony law generally has been fairer to obligors than those of most states, and is certainly more equitable than Massachusetts, California, or Florida law.
I stayed home with my children, first when they were babies, then as toddlers. I bought the latest Baby Einstein crib mobiles and educational toys. I never forgot to pack an extra hat and kept an ample supply of organic graham crackers in the diaper bag. I would spend hours researching what kind of diapers or sunscreen to buy. I made baby food and froze it in convenient serving sizes in the ice cube tray. I subscribed to Family Fun magazine. I felt confident in my role of Super Mama for over eight years.Van Buren was body and soul a mother. She lived and breathed that reality, that role, that self. But she discovered her husband's infidelity about the same time he lost his job because of it (how that happened, she doesn't explain). That meant not only divorce, but a radical shift in how she lived. She had to go to work. Meanwhile, her husband who was no longer going to the office every day, found childcare to his liking. So the pair split up, but since she was earning and he wasn't, he kept the kids. Soon enough, they were sitting across from each other deciding that he would have the kids weekdays and she weekends. It was a simple arrangement that fit both their schedules. Eventually, her ex remarried and his new wife liked his children and seems to be a perfectly sensible, loving step-mom. But all of that was an assault on Van Buren's sense of herself as mother first and everything else second.
Unfortunately, I failed to see the repercussions of what amounted to a handshake deal. Our new set up would come to tear at the very fabric of my concept of motherhood and my identity. I also hadn"t thought ahead about how other people would view me as a woman and mother.There it is - not only the value she placed on motherhood, but the importance attached to it by others - friends, relatives, neighbors - by society, by popular culture. Freeing herself from that was a steep hill to climb and would be for any mother. It requires a shift in one's values and one's self-concept. Here's how Van Buren did it.
I asked myself -- what if being a responsible and good mother now means that I need to work outside the home instead of flipping pancakes and shuttling the kids to school and practice every day? Ultimately, I decided that it was my turn to bring home the bacon, and their father"s turn to be the caregiver. I decided that I would have to let go of what everyone else would think and pay attention to what my children"s practical needs were instead.In short, she's a mother who put her children's needs before her own. When she did that, it was easy enough to refigure her own role. She was no longer the stay-at-home, but the go-to-work mom and that's what was best for her kids at that time. Far from abandoning her nurturing role, she was reinventing it in another form, a form that fit her and her ex's situations and her children's needs. Again I say, if all divorcing parents were as child-centered and sensible as Van Buren, we'd all be so much better off. Shared parenting would work the way it's supposed to. As if to prove the point, Van Buren's blog recently received an email from a woman she calls Melissa. Melissa is divorced and she's upset about the fact that her daughter who's three and a half has taken to calling her step-mother "Mommy." Melissa thinks that title rightly belongs to her and wants Van Buren's advice. Here it is and it should be emblazoned on the wall of every family court in the country:
"Melissa, let me ask you this question -- how is whatever name your child calls her stepmother adversely affecting the well-being of this child?That's a woman with her eye on the ball. She knows what's important and what isn't. She knows it and she puts it into practice.
At this point, I encourage you to always use this lens to judge matters involving your kids and your situation. Again, it's very difficult and it will take a while to get used to it, but that's what I've taught myself to do and I really believe it is a big reason why my kids are well-adjusted, when, on paper, you would think that they would be torn in half.It's how shared parenting works. It's the best we can do for children of divorce.