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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

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The extent of illogic required to deny a fit father access to his child is often astonishing to behold, and this case is no exception.

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As I said recently, humans are a bi-parental species.  That means that nature equips both sexes for parenthood.  The exact process by which it does so is complex and far from completely understood, but suffice it to say that not all mammals are bi-parental.  Think about grizzly bears and African lions, for example.  Males of those species take no part in rearing young and are in fact dangerous to them Other species, from prairie voles to a vast array of primates including humans involve males to various degrees in parenting.  A little over 40% of mammal species are bi-parental while some 93% of birds are. I've reported before on an intriguing study of the levels of the hormones oestradiol, prolactin and cortisol in expecting parents.  The study was done back in 2001 and found that the fluctuations in those hormones that produce parenting behavior in other animals and that exist in pregnant women, are also found in those women's partners.  That is, the things that compel adults to care for children are present in both mothers and fathers. Now my understanding is that more recent research has undercut the findings of the 2001 study, but the question remains, given that humans are bi-parental, what is the biology of fathers' attachment to children? In evolutionary terms, the problem with bearing immature children who need a long time to come to sexual maturity is that they decrease the adults' chances of survival.  Immature offspring eat but don't kill.  They can't defend themselves or the group, they're slow, weak and uneducated in the arts of survival.  Pregnant and lactating females require far more calories to survive than do any other member of the group. So on one level, it makes no sense for adults to care for offspring.  And in fact, many or most reptiles do exactly that; once hatched, the kids are on their own.  But mammal babies, particularly human ones, require long periods of care before they can begin to reproduce.  Nature therefore equipped us and many other species with the biological apparatus to overcome our tendency to abandon our offspring.  The species wouldn't have gotten very far if it hadn't. This article delves into that apparatus in men (Babble.com, 9/23/10).  What strikes me most is how insufficient is the evidence of the precise mechanism by which nature recruits human fathers to the cause of childcare.  The author, Heather Turgeon, is a psychotherapist.  She noticed that, when she was pregnant and just after she gave birth, her husband changed to become more protective, not just of her and their child, but of others as well.  "He's a dad, and it has changed his brain."
The biology of fatherhood doesn't get much play -- dad manuals and parenting advice usually focus on how a man can support his partner and take care of her, so she can in turn take care of the baby. But it's becoming increasingly clear that being a dad (and even preparing to be a dad) programs men differently, down to the level of brain cells and hormones...
When scientists look at the brains of these primates (marmosets), they find that after mom gives birth, the dads actually grow more neuron connections in certain areas of the brain's prefrontal cortex -- regions involved in caretaking and bonding. After becoming fathers, they have more receptors for the chemical vasopressin, which is related to nurturing and attachment...
Not only that, male hormones change while mom is pregnant. Prolactin levels go up in the male marmoset and cotton-top monkeys during pregnancy. And after childbirth, human dads have a drop in cortisol and testosterone (which scientists think makes them less likely to fight and more likely to devote energy to caretaking).  
So the human father's connection to his child exists at the most basic level - the biological.  It exists, that is, if Mom allows it.  A mother who keeps dad in the dark about a pregnancy or bars him from being present during her pregnancy effectively prevents him from forming those all-important bonds. But Turgeon tells us Dad's not the only one effected.
And as Dad is changing, want to guess who else is being affected? Last month, a Scientific American article highlighted research that suggests babies change when dad is around.
That research is on laboratory rats, so it may not be applicable to humans.
The research, however, is strong enough for us to assume that, in humans as in rats, dads and babies change each other. We tend to see characteristically maternal behaviors as the gold standard for attachment, but dads can have just as strong a drive to attach (for example, a recent study found that oxytocin levels rise equally in new moms and dads), even if the result looks different on the outside -- moms" soft cuddles and high-pitched "motherese" voices vs. dads" physical play and a tendency to show objects to the baby.
But these are all attachment behaviors, and they all reveal a deeper biological drive to bond, teach, and care for our kids. My husband says that as a father he sees the world through a new lens -- it's part of his identity and he almost can't remember what life was like before. Becoming a parent changes both mom and dad at the core.
The scientific inquiry into the biology of fathers' attachment to their children and how those children are impacted by it has barely gotten off the ground.  Obviously, that science can and should make an enormous impact on fathers' rights in the future. I'm no biologist, but I'd welcome any information readers can provide about advances in research on those topics.

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Bedard is already paying nearly $80,000 a year for his daughter, as well as another $80,000 for his daughter’s education. Most of this money is tax-free to Roberts--a very large sum for one child, particularly in Kentucky.

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Thirty-five percent of children with separated parents had no contact with the non-custodial parent.  That was one finding of a 2008 report by the United States Census Bureau and referred to in this article (Durango Herald, 9/22/11). It's a good article in a number of ways.  Principally, it eschews the usual excuse for why non-custodial parents don't have contact with their kids, i.e. dads don't care about their children.  Having done so, it's free to take a (cursory) look at some real issues, like the many institutional and individual barriers between fathers and children.  (Has the author been reading this blog?)
C. J. Wood will tell you that being a father is about answering questions, going fishing and wearing out the swings at the local playground. 
But sometimes, a father"s willingness to do those things does not guarantee an ability to do them.
Wood is among a number of parents fighting for access to their children. A 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report found more than 35 percent of children whose parents live separately had no contact with their noncustodial parent in 2007. However, advocates and state researchers said it"s impossible to know how many of those cases involved parents who were denied access to their children.
Notice that the non-custodial parent is assumed to be Dad.  That of course is accurate.  About 84% of non-custodial parents are fathers, so it's appropriate to illustrate non-custodial parents with dads.  But according to sociologist Susan Stewart who studied non-custodial parents, mothers in that role are as likely to become "Disneyland Parents" as are fathers.  That strongly suggests it's the system of custodial/non-custodial care that's at fault for separating children from one parent post-divorce, not the parents themselves.
Locally, though, "it"s extremely common for us to get calls from fathers who want to be in their children"s lives more than anything, but someone, or something, is stopping them,' said Eve Presler, director of Advocacy for La Plata, an organization that helps at-risk families and operates a fatherhood program aimed at helping dads increase their parenting time and comply with child-support agreements.
"Someone or something is stopping them."  That puts it in a nutshell.  The "someone" is the custodial parent, usually the mother, who interferes with visitation knowing full well that the "something" - the court - likely won't lift a finger to stop her. But that "something" does far more to separate children from fathers than just non-enforcement of visitation.  Daily, thousands of times a day, it looks at fit fathers and consigns them to the role of visitor for the rest of their children's lives as minors.  It does that time and again all the while waving the banner of the "best interests of the child" even though mountains of data on child well-being show it's that very separation that harms children. One of the ways that "something" goes about separating fathers from children is by accepting allegations of abuse or domestic violence when made by mothers virtually at face value.  It's one of the most common stories we hear: Mom levels an allegation of abuse or violence at Dad for the first time in a custody case.  Little or no evidence of actual abuse or violence is required for a no-contact order to be issued, and so one duly is.  Dad is separated from his kids for the duration of the divorce case at the end of which time he's consigned to the role of visitor.  Fathers know this all too well.
For Bret Burrows, who began working for the fatherhood program at Advocacy for La Plata a year ago, the situation is alarming and somewhat repetitious.
"It"s almost like every story is the same with a few details changed,' Burrows said.
He sees parents fighting over support payments and dodging visitation schedules. Some even have kidnapped their own children, leaving the other parent to fight for months or years just to see their children...
"It"s painful,' Wood said of the children"s absence. "They"re growing, and I"m missing it.'
Burrows said he sees both positive changes and old stereotypes playing out in courtrooms as the families sort through their concerns. Though the laws try to ensure equal rights and responsibilities for both parents, there still are times when "a knee-jerk reaction' in the mother"s favor is apparent, Burrows said. "Fathers are not only having to fight mom for access to their kids, but they"re having to fight the system, too,' Burrows said.
That's pretty much the size of it.  And let's not forget that the "system" Burrows refers to includes state legislatures, parts of the federal government and the news media that too seldom do what the Durango Herald did in the linked-to article - tell the truth about what it's like to be a father in the family court system. Let's be clear.  There are over one million divorces a year in this country.  Millions of children have divorced parents.  The fact that 35% of them have no contact with their non-custodial parent is far beyond disgraceful.  It indicts the entire system of the way we handle divorce and child custody.  More than anything I can think of, that one fact fairly screams that what we are doing is morally wrong and destructive of the legitimate needs of children and fathers.  Children need both parents.  Our system of family courts and family laws resolutely accomplishes the opposite.  That must change.

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What does the domestic violence establishment have in common with John Wayne?  What could a movement that claims to abhor violence - and particularly violence done by men - possibly have in common with The Duke, icon of exactly that?  Well, if this article is any indication, maybe more than you'd think (Huffington Post, 9/19/11). The piece is by one Mary Pauline Lowry and, as articles about DV go, it's a stinker, and that of course is saying something.  Articles about domestic violence routinely ignore violence by women against men.  (Has any article yet called Catherine Kieu Becker's sexual mutilation of her husband "domestic violence?)  They're content to misstate known facts and rely on anecdote over science.  As such they're all of a piece with the anti-intellectual tradition in American life and public discourse historian Richard Hofstadter so aptly described in 1962. But Lowry's piece takes a different tack, one that celebrates female violence against men and myth over science, but with a twist.  She called her article "Hit Her Once, She'll Shoot You Dead.  Did Janice Soprano Have it Right?"
During the second season of The Sopranos (still generally considered to be one of the best television shows of all time), Janice Soprano was totally in love with and happily engaged to Richie Aprile. But when Richie hit her in the face for the first time, Janice picked Richie's own gun off of the table and shot him dead.
Did Janice Soprano have it right? And would the epidemic of violence against women in this country be halted if, for a short time, every woman who was physically or sexually abused killed her abuser immediately? Certainly the word would get out that women are no longer to be beaten, raped and terrorized by their intimate partners. And I am guessing that in a few months, levels of violence against women would drop dramatically.
Now, having titled her article as she did, having led off the piece with two paragraphs wondering oh-so-pointedly if maybe women murdering their husbands/boyfriends might be a good idea, Lowry ducks for cover.  She calls herself a pacifist; she wants us to know that shooting a man is the furthest thing from her mind. And by the end of the piece she tells readers that she would "never advocate for women who have been abused to take such action in real life." Except of course she already has.  Oh, I believe Lowry when she says she's a pacifist.  After all, I have nothing with which to contradict the claim.  But her readers may not be so discerning.  Face it, when you construct a piece the way Lowry did, boilerplate denials take a backseat to the compelling scene of Janice Soprano murdering Richie Aprile. Count on it, non-pacifist women will notice and may take action.  (Did you know that Sharon Osbourne of the afternoon women's talk show "The Talk", on reading of Arnold Schwarzenegger's infidelity, said his wife should slice off his penis and throw it in the garbage disposal?  Two months later, Catherine Kieu Becker did exactly that.) But irrespective of whether Lowry's piece sets off a wave of vigilante slayings, her recommendation of a fictional female character's murder of her fictional boyfriend as causing her to feel a "thrill of justice" has deep roots in America's mythologizing of the West. That mythic narrative originated in dime novels and in Buffalo Bill's Wild West.  Western novels of the Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour type took up the theme, followed shortly by movies and later by television.  The astonishing popularity of mythologized western fiction played out in the 1960s, but the genre has been continued in the guise of the urban crime drama.  Compare Kiefer Sutherland's role in the TV series 24 to any of a number of tough-guy western heroes and you'll see what I mean. The set-up in our western mythology runs to type.  The West is presented as a place in which the law is unable to control the evil impulses of the powerful or the desperate.  The cavalry is too distant to help or, more often, the local sheriff is too weak to do his job.  This void in the police power allows evil to flourish and evil in this context means unchecked power.  Often as not, there's a local cattle baron who, because he's got money and muscle, does what he wants, up to and including murder.  Think Shane. Into this situation of "might makes right" strides the western hero.  He's a lone man, skilled with a six-gun and impelled by a strong sense of right and wrong.  His courage and moral conviction allow him to stand up to evil and prevail, which he usually does.  High Noon is the classic of the genre, but there are countless others.  One of Wayne's best was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. That of course is what happened in The Sopranos episode lauded by Lowry, and the realization that it could be a scene from a western movie (picture Janice and Richie standing in the middle of a dusty street, hands poised over pistols on their hips) helps understand the mindset of the DV establishment as expressed by her. According to that mindset, like the wild West, a woman's home is a lawless place.  Inside the home, men are freed from all restrictions on their behavior which is naturally violent toward the women there.  Because in the home, might makes right and the man has the might, he can get away with anything he pleases.  He's the Miller Gang in High Noon; he's Lee Marvin in Liberty Valence.  He's every man in the radical feminist imagination. And, like them, he'll continue his evil ways until superior force stops him.  That force can't come from the police or courts; remember, the home is a lawless place, a place beyond the reach of civilization.  So the only person who can provide the moral wherewithal to stand up to the evil-doer is the woman.  But does she have the western hero's skill with firearms? Janice Soprano did and Lowry was thrilled to see it.  Justice!  The justice she did was of the quick and dirty variety so beloved of the mythology of the American West.  Let some pointy-headed judge quibble with her methods, she did what had to be done.  Or, as Catherine Kieu Becker said, "he deserved it." My purpose is not to point out the glaring hypocrisy of a DV advocate's encouragement of spousal murder; I only want to show the cultural source of that encouragement.  In so doing, some of the many astonishing fallacies of the DV establishment come to light. For example, like the mythologizing of the West, The Sopranos is fiction.  Fiction of course is different from fact in several important details, one of which is the position of the narrator.  In fiction, we're often told what happened and, unless the fiction is of the postmodern variety, there is no competing reality.  So when Richie Aprile hit Janice Soprano, we know that happened because we saw it.  But in domestic violence situations, that's often not the case.  There's often a he said/she said that someone must sort out and no objective camera to help in the task.  So Lowry's affinity for the television scene is also an affinity for a story to which there's only one side.  As DV incidents usually work out, that side is the woman's because police are trained to arrest men when DV is alleged.  One undeniable effect of a woman's murdering her husband/boyfriend is that his side of the story won't be told.  Not coincidentally, that's the scene being played out in a Queens courtroom right now in the case of Barbara Sheehan who's on trial for shooting her husband 11 times, killing him.  She says it was self-defense.  What would Raymond Sheehan say if he could? Another aspect of the Western myth is that due process of law is a superfluous nicety.  Gary Cooper and John Wayne didn't need due process of law because they were in the right and no one else could stand up to evil.  Indeed, they couldn't afford due process of law because resort to it would allow evil to prevail.  Similarly, much of the history of domestic violence law is the relentless erosion of due process.  Does a woman allege that she's "in fear" of her husband/boyfriend?  Then he's committed a crime.  Never mind that it's beyond his or anyone else's power to disprove her subjective state of mind.  Never mind that there is no evidence of wrongdoing against him.  Those are the quibbles of due process that must be sacrificed to the higher good of preventing domestic violence.    Finally, there's the concept of the home, like the wild West, as a lawless place in which its residents are beyond the protection of the state.  That's a trope that's literally as old as the DV movement itself.  Radical feminists in and out of the DV movement have long claimed that the home was uniquely dangerous to women because the legal concept of privacy shielded men's violence against them.  So once again, and sagging under the weight of irony, the touchstone for the DV movement is our mythologized American West. The confusion of myth and reality can have tragic consequences.  When a DV advocate urges us to think that vigilantism by women against men is not merely acceptable, but an affirmative good (remember, according to Lowry, incidents of DV against women would "drop dramatically" if more women emulated Janice Soprano), they court tragedy.  DV advocates likely wouldn't see it as tragic, but many others would. But more to the point, Lowry wants us to only hear the woman's account of what happened; she prefers her men voiceless, and she views due process of law as an unnecessary encumbrance.  In that, she accurately reflects the values of the domestic violence industry since its inception. The last important line in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is delivered by a newspaper editor.  He says, "This is the West, sir.  When the facts meet the legend, print the legend."  That could be the motto of the DV establishment.

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It turns out that motherhood isn't a get-out-of-jail free card.  Neither is it a reason to not pay child support.  As Pokey Prothro once said, "who'da thunk it?" This article tells us about a mother in British Columbia who had two children with her common-law husband (Vancouver Sun, 9/23/11).  They separated and at first she had custody and he paid support.  But that arrangement got reversed for reasons the article doesn't explain, with him getting full custody of both kids. 

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Fathers and Families, Massachusetts Alimony Reform, and others have long agitated for alimony reform in Massachusetts, and these efforts have now come to fruition. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed an alimony reform bill that will largely end the lifetime alimony burden that family courts have placed on many Massachusetts obligors. F & F founder and Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS explains:

"This is a terrific step forward. It is a win for both men and women. Men will not usually be required to pay forever. Women who deserve short-term alimony will now get it.

"But this law only gets half the job done. The next step is to rid the alimony issue of gender bias -- the idea that only men should pay it and only women should receive it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in two-earner couples today, women out-earn men in about 33% of couples. Yet women are alimony payers in only 4% of cases. We need an even-handed approach."

The Boston Globe explains:

The measure adds some consistency to alimony judgments by curbing lifetime alimony payments and providing caps on the number of years a spouse can receive alimony. The legislation also allows judges more flexibility to make determinations based on a family"s specific circumstances.

In most cases, it will put an end to lifetime alimony payments, instead capping the number of years of payment according to the length of marriage.

But family law attorneys are also hoping that the law will allow people divorcing from shorter marriages - people who previously would have received no alimony - to receive a brief period of payments, just enough to get them through the transition period after the divorce.

Under the new law, a judge can rule to end alimony payments if the recipient is living with a new partner in a marriage-like situation.

Fathers and Families congratulates Steve Hitner of Massachusetts Alimony Reform and all the others whose hard work helped lead to this reform.

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Three years after her mother abducted her, Pearl Gavaghan da Massa has reunited with her father.  This article is fairly sparse on details (BBC, 9/27/11).  Here's a piece I did on the case last March that has more information about the case. The little girl was originally abducted when she was four years old; she's now seven.  Her mother, Helen Gavaghan and her father, Henry da Massa had split up prior to Pearl's abduction.  Gavaghan had primary custody with da Massa having weekend visitation.  But da Massa wanted more and a court agreed, awarding him substantially greater parenting time than before.

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In Australia, it's a race against the clock.  Can the Labor government of Julia Gillard squelch shared parenting in time, or will Australians stop the effort with their preference for greater equality for both parents? As most readers of this blog know, the Howard government ushered in amendments to the Family Law Act in 2006 that urged greater equality in parenting time post-divorce or separation.  That prompted the anti-dad crowd to leap to the barricades with the battle cry "domestic violence and child abuse."  Maybe it should replace the Internationale. Long before the real effects of the amendments were known, anti-father advocates pronounced it flawed because it allowed abusive fathers to get custody of children.  As a practical matter,

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Here's a different twist on paternity fraud (Kansas City Star, 9/26/11).  The particular case is interesting mostly for the article that reports on it. It seems that back in 2004, a woman was fired from her job at the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph (Missouri).  She was upset, so her husband suggested she contact someone at the church for counselling, and that's what she did.  She was counselled by Rev. Joseph Matt who among other things was on the church's Marriage Tribunal, which seems to mean he tried to assist members of the congregation with marital problems as well as dealing with theological issues related to marriage. Into the bargain, Matt had known the couple as churchgoers for many years and they considered him a friend.  Well, he seems to have been friendly enough with her.  So in addition to "counselling," Matt and the woman pursued a two-year clandestine affair that produced a pregnancy and a son. Neither Matt nor the woman thought to inform her husband of (a) the affair or (b) the possibility that the boy might not be the husbands.  So he dutifully raised the child as his own.  Five years later, the man's wife finally came clean to him, acknowledging the affair.
Late last summer, the man said, his wife told him she"d had an affair with Matt. The man said he didn"t even consider the possibility of Matt being his child"s father.
But the next week, he said, "I asked her if there was a chance (the boy) wasn"t mine, and she goes, ‘It"s possible." But she"d never tried to find out.'
He then confronted Matt who acknowledged the affair and that it had gone on a long time.  Matt was later transferred to another church.  He paid for genetic testing that proved the child was his.
A week later, he said, "They called me at my work, the DNA people, and told me that (the boy) wasn"t mine.'
"I lost it,' the man said, his voice breaking...
"It"s been a nightmare,' the man said in an interview with The Kansas City Star. "It"s not a good thing to find out that your son is not yours and the father is actually a priest that you thought you could trust. I still can"t believe it.'
Not surprisingly, the man divorced his wife but intends to continue raising the boy as his own.
"I never thought I"d have to experience something like this,' he said.
As for the child, he added, "Someday, he"ll have to know. I"ve just got to figure out the right time to tell him.'
The man has sued both Matt and the Catholic Diocese, but apparently not his ex-wife, for fraud among other things.   (He's done so anonymously in order to protect his son, hence the absence of names in the article.)  I assume the legal theory is that Matt had a duty to disclose his relationship with the woman to the man as well as the possibility that the child might be his. In the meantime, the church has managed to make a bad situation worse.
The man, who has filed for divorce, said he and his attorney met with [Bishop Robert] Finn and a diocesan attorney earlier this year.
"My lawyer asked Bishop Finn what they were going to do about Joe Matt,' he said. "And his answer was, well, Joe Matt"s done all these great things, he"s been a good guy, he takes care of his brother. All he did was compliment how good of a guy Matt was.'
During the meeting, the man said, "Never once did Finn apologize for what Matt did.'
Not only that, but the church has also left Matt on its Marriage Tribunal.
The tribunal gathers information and then decides whether the couple is still bound to the former marriage or may be free to enter into another one.
Rebecca Randles, the plaintiff"s lawyer, said Matt"s position on the tribunal was "completely outrageous.'
The man said he was shocked that the diocese placed Matt back at St. Joseph the Worker parish earlier this year and left him on the Marriage Tribunal.
"If I wanted to get an annulment, I"d have to go in front of him,' he said.
The Catholic Church generally has been in bad odor for years due mostly to  priests seducing minors and the Church's covering up those scandals.  It's established a pretty unsavory reputation in cases of priests and their illicit sexual behavior, so predictably, that's the slant of the Star piece.  It's mostly about the callousness of the Church generally and Matt in particular. Lost in the shuffle is the behavior of the man's wife.  She lied to him about the affair, lied to him about the child's parentage, lied to the state about the same and allowed the man to develop a bond with the child without telling him he might not be the dad.  My guess is that was calculated.  After all, if she'd told him straight away, he might have divorced her then and obviously a Catholic priest is not going to marry her.  So she'd be on her own but receiving child support from the meager earnings of a priest.  Not a good prospect. And it seems to have worked.  The man indeed bonded with the boy he thought was his son and he's not about to give him up now.  Is he paying child support?  Is Matt?  Is she?  The article doesn't tell us.  It only says the former couple have a shared parenting arrangement for all three of their children. Thanks to Ron for the heads-up.

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Why do American men remarry more readily than do American women?  That's the question Vicki Larson raises in this article (Huffington Post, 9/27/11). I've written about Larson before, and she's generally pretty down to earth.  She also possesses that rarest of qualities in people who opine about marriage, divorce, custody and the like - a lack of misandry.  And so it is in her current piece.  The problem is that neither she nor the various experts she quotes seems to quite get to the heart of the matter.  Larson touches on some good points, but misses an important one - perhaps the most important one. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, about one-third of men over 45 remarry after a divorce (or, I assume, the death of a spouse), while only about 25% of women do.  Now, let's not forget that the difference between 33 1/3% and 25% is only 8 1/3%, so in truth, women and men aren't behaving in dramatically different ways.  Also, since there are fewer men than women, it's a safe bet that the hard numbers of men and women remarrying are closer still. But the tendencies are there and it's worth ruminating on why men and women behave differently, if only slightly so.  
For Emily V. Gordon, a therapist and Huffington Post blogger, it may because men don't have the sort of support women do post-divorce:
"In my experience as a therapist and as a friend, it seems that the majority of the breakup resources available are for women and not men. Women, who tend to be more vocal about their emotional struggles, are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease from friends, from online communities, from books, and from therapeutic approaches. Women are encouraged to go on an emotional journey of self-care after a divorce, while men are expected to need help learning how to cook and parent on their own. When you Google "how men handle divorce," many of the links advise women on what to do if their husbands become violent during the divorce process. Why is there so little focus on how men can heal after a divorce?"
It's an interesting point.  Men don't tend to complain or seek support; women do.  Not surprisingly, there are a lot of support services, both formal and informal for women, and relatively few for men. But I suspect there's more to it than that.  Gordon's question about the lack of attention paid to men's pain post-divorce is surely answered in part by the different ways in which men and women are viewed by society generally.  The simple fact is that we still tend to expect men to "stiff-upper-lip" their way through accident, injury, illness, war, depression and of course divorce.  The way the news media treat male suffering strongly indicates the double standard that pervades society and public discourse.  An article recently in The Guardian about the rape of males in the various African civil wars was notable for many reasons.  One was that it was the first of its kind; another was the astonishing prevalence of rape of men and boys and still another was the revelation that international organizations that oppose rape as a weapon of war uniformly opposed the publication of the article.  Their reason?  Bringing attention to the rape of men might siphon off resources from efforts to curtail the rape of women. Back during the war in Bosnia in the 90s, it was well known to policy-makers, the press and the United Nations that it was Serbian policy to exterminate as many Bosnian men and boys of military age as possible.  The various atrocities, so widely publicized, were all aimed at precisely that, and yet the press was astonishingly hesitant to state the fact.  An excellent analysis of five international news outlets' coverage of the conflict revealed that, over years of articles and commentary, almost no mention was made of the fact that it was precisely men and boys who were targeted for death. So I'd say that one of the reasons for the lack of attention paid to the pain men experience on divorce is, in addition to the choices men and women make, also a matter of good old-fashioned sexism. Speaking of which, Larson quotes "Hugo Schwyzer, a professor of history and gender studies at Pasadena City College."  Now what do you think a professor of "gender studies" would have to say on the subject?  I wonder if he would take the opportunity to denigrate men.  Let's see.
A working woman doesn't necessarily want to "walk right back into the same sort of situation from which she just extricated herself," he said, and the unequal distribution of household chores may have something to do with it. He also wonders about the marriageability of men:
"I'm convinced that one reason that so many divorced women are so reluctant to remarry (and so many women unwilling to marry in the first place) is that frankly, marriage doesn't seem to be a very appealing deal for most women. And one of the reasons why marriage seems unappealing is that the sacrifices of marriage are many, and the benefits increasingly few -- especially considering that an extraordinary number of men may not be worth marrying!"
Larson squelches that misandric nonsense, but one must ask why she included it in the first place.  It's valuable to get competing views on a subject, but if it were me, I'd try to make sure they all at least made sense.  Women don't want to remarry because they do too much of the housework?  Well, why don't men reject remarriage because they do too much of the paid work?  Schwyzer doesn't let on because the fact that men and women do equal amounts of combined paid and unpaid work conflicts with his mythology about the sexes, specifically that men are louts. Most importantly, what neither Larson nor any of her expert" mention is children.  It's been known for a good many years that women are far more likely to file for divorce than are men, and we also know why.  The reason, as Douglas Allen and Margaret Brinig have shown, is that women know they won't lose their children when they divorce.  The overwhelming preference of courts for maternal custody is the greatest encouragement to women to divorce, and correspondingly the greatest discouragement to men. So it seems to me that remarriage holds a promise for men that women simply have no need for - children.  Yes, divorce is painful and marriage means the possiblity of divorce.  Indeed, divorce is probably more painful for men than for women for that very reason - they lose their children.  But remarriage means they can reacquire a family, either by having more children of their own or because their new mate brings children with her. Women, by contrast already have their families, courtesy of the courts.  Remarriage for them would simply be a duplication of what they already have. It's a pretty straightforward concept, but one that escaped Larson and all the people she quoted.  I'd be interested to know if my speculations are borne out by any science on the matter.

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The Helen Gavaghan/Henry da Massa child abduction case looks like it has "legs."  Numerous news organizations in the UK, Canada and the U.S. have run pieces about Gavaghan's arrest and their daughter Pearl's return to her father, da Massa.  And with each new article, new facts become known. For example, I reported that Gavaghan and Pearl had gone by three different names each in the three years of Pearl's abduction.  It turns out there were actually four.  When the police arrested Gavaghan on September 16th, she was calling herself Eve Hart and her daughter, Krista. It now appears that Gavaghan availed herself of the services of the Catholic Worker organization to keep hidden for so long.  The Catholic Worker maintains what they call "houses of hospitality" throughout much of Mexico and the United States.  Those provide way stations for undocumented immigrants where they receive housing, food, clothing and above all, a place to be out of sight of the law.  Such at any rate is my understanding of them, having had some personal experiences with one such house of hospitality in Texas. So it seems that it was the Catholic Worker organization that constituted the "alternative community" that's been reported to have provided Gavaghan the cover she needed to keep Pearl away from her father for so long.  As far as I can tell, members of that organization in Toronto seem to have fully understood that Gavaghan was on the run from the law.  She told them that da Massa is a child abuser, that the courts in the U.K. didn't believe her and that she therefore was compelled to kidnap the girl.  They seem to have swallowed her story hook, line and sinker.  
Gavaghan had told a circle of acquaintances in Toronto -- people who risked breaking the law to keep her Parkdale whereabouts secret -- that Da Massa had been abusive toward Pearl, which is why she fled England six months after a High Court issued a shared residency order...
[Mennonite Pastor Doug] Hatlem was totally convinced by Gavaghan"s account of child abuse and remains so. "Helen was completely believable. She discussed Pearl"s experiences in front of the child.
"I have enough confidence in the story that I was willing to risk a deep, deep involvement in the case.'
The pastor understood that Gavaghan had lost faith in the judicial system. He helped put her in contact with a lawyer who advised resuming the legal battle in court but Gavaghan was fearful of putting her daughter on the stand.
I suppose it never occurred to Hatlem or any of the others who abetted the abduction of a little girl that there might be a perfectly plausible reason why Gavaghan was "fearful of putting her daughter on the stand."  After all, she might tell the truth.  And I suppose it never occurred to them that the British police and courts had gotten it right when they concluded that Henry da Massa was not a child abuser and that he was entitled to participate fully in his daughter's care and upbringing.  And it clearly never occurred to them that depriving a young child of her father might have any adverse consequences for her.  What did they think about the fact that Gavaghan had told Pearl that she didn't have a father, while telling them that he was an abuser? My guess is that some people are unduly susceptible to a fable of a mother's lonely stand against injustice to save her daughter from the depredations of an evil father.  It's the type of hero myth that appeals to some people, it seems.  Still, when you read what Gavaghan posted on her website prior to fleeing the U.K., what comes through is not so much heroism as paranoia.
"He is a very rare (or at least little-acknowledged) type of mentally sick person. The ways he went about damaging me (and now my daughter) are subtle, unbelievably contrived and almost inarticulable (sic) ...'
Gavaghan added: "I am leaving the UK with my daughter soon for the States to escape this dark character"s hold on us..."
The mental illness that only she can see, the great damage to her and the child that's unknown to all but her, the need to flee and hide out from authority, would all be red flags for anyone who cared to look.  Hatlem and the others didn't. In what may be a harbinger of things to come, this article goes to considerable lengths to let Gavaghan tell her side of the story (Toronto Star, 9/28/11).  We see this pretty routinely; the press often treats female and male wrongdoers differently.  Women tend to have their actions understood and excused while male malefactors are condemned out of hand.  Part of that process is the silencing of the men while women are offered the type of forum the Toronto Star gave Gavaghan. So we're told in Gavaghan's words how "shocked" she was to not be seeing her daughter in court or in jail.  She tells us how "worried" she is about Pearl and how uniquely close the two are.  "I'm suffering on many different levels," Gavaghan informs us. As much as we learn about Gavaghan's travails, it's equally noteworthy what the article doesn't tell us.  It says nothing about the debts she left unpaid back in the U.K. or the apparent fraud she committed on (my guess) a credit card company.  Those are the type of inconvenient details people leave out when they're trying to recruit sympathy from readers. Whatever the motivations of the writer, I have a feeling Helen Gavaghan will fail in her role as the victim in this drama.  My guess is that she'll be seen for who she is - a mother bent on depriving her child of her father who stopped at nothing, including child abuse, to accomplish her goal. We'll see.

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Since claims of domestic violence and child abuse are the major tool used to prevent shared parenting, it's always useful to look at what domestic violence actually is and what it's not.  To that end, a friend of Fathers and Families forwarded some data from a publication by the State of Maryland entitled "Crime in Maryland, 2010."  Unfortunately, I can't provide a link. I reported recently on the study conducted by Douglas Allen and Margaret Brinig that looked at the efficacy of the 1997 amendments to its family law by the State of Oregon.  The amendments' purpose was to increase shared parenting and decrease sole custody after divorce.  But Allen and Brinig found that the amendments achieved no such thing.  There was no increase in shared parenting.  In fact, the only change in custody arrangements saw fathers getting slightly more sole custody and mothers getting slightly less. So what was the problem?  Why didn't the new law do what it was intended to? The answer is simple - claims of violence and abuse.  The law, like those everywhere, included an "escape clause" that prevented or severely limited custody to abusers.  Not surprisingly, there was a spike in claims of abuse, 82% of which were made by mothers.  Those claims protracted the divorce litigation and most importantly, thwarted the aims of the law.  Elsewhere we learn that non-feminist custody evaluators believe that between 40% and 80% of abuse claims are fabricated for the purpose of gaining an advantage in the custody case. So domestic violence is an important topic to those who would reform family courts.  It may well be the most important thing. Now, the data sent to me out of Maryland are police statistics.  As we know, the police are powerfully urged to arrest the "dominant aggressor" whenever they get a DV call.  As a practical matter, that means the man.  He's usually the larger and stronger of the couple and, more importantly, the police, like the rest of society, have been trained to believe that women don't commit domestic violence or, if they do, it was either non-injurious to the man or was in self-defense, i.e. he started it. So arrest statistics have never shown the reality of domestic violence.  What they show is the reality of police behavior in the context of their training and socialization on the issue of men, women and domestic violence. Given that, it's interesting to note that the Maryland figures for 201o show that over 25% of the victims of DV in the state were men.  That's far more than I would have guessed would appear in figures compiled by law enforcement. In all, there were a little over 17,000 arrests made for DV in the state in 2010.  That continues a steady downward trend in DV arrests that's been going on for at least five years.  Almost all of those were for assault and 78% of those were of the non-aggravated kind, i.e simple assault.  Eighteen people were killed in DV cases in the state in 2010.  The percentage of male victims increased slightly over five years and the percentage of female victims declined slightly.  The number of African-American victims dropped 24% in five years while the number of white victims declined about 11%. Husbands and wives were markedly less likely to assault each other than men and women who cohabitated. Interestingly, among cases in which it was known to police whether alcohol and/or drugs were involved, most had no such involvement.  Of the total of 17,391 DV cases cleared by the police, in 5,859, it's unknown whether drugs or alcohol were involved.  That leaves 11, 532 with either drugs and or alcohol involved or not.  Of those, 6,839 - 59% -  had neither. The causes of domestic violence are many, but infidelity and children are consistently the top ones.
There are two ways of clearing a case. One is by making an arrest and charging the person (s) with the offense. The second is known as an exceptional clearance. Exceptional clearance means the police know the identity and location of the person (s) who committed the offense and have enough information to arrest them. However, there is some reason beyond their control that prevents them from making the arrest.
In short, Maryland is a mandatory arrest state.  Police either arrest someone or for some reason they're unable to.  Now, there are some provocative data from several sources that suggest that people don't call the police in DV incidents because they don't want them or the courts involved.  That seems particularly true in mandatory arrest states because partners know that a call to the police means that someone's going to jail. My guess is that at least some of the drop in arrests for DV in Maryland reflect that very hesitation on the part of everyday citizens to involve the entire system of law enforcement in what they often view as a private matter. Thanks to Michael for the heads-up.

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senator-larose-smaller Fathers and Families of Ohio's Matt Johnson (left) and Michael Domanick (right) met with Senator Frank LaRose (center) in Akron last week. today.  Senator LaRose was a co-sponsor of HB 121, a military custody bill modeled on Fathers and Families' successful California AB 2416--to learn more, see F & F's Don Hubin's column Custody agreements should survive deployments (Columbus Dispatch, 4/6/11). According to Johnson:

The meeting was very positive. Senator LaRose intends to devote attention to issues involving family court reform and asked me to help organize a meeting in a month in Columbus, Ohio to bring interested parties to the table to discuss ideas for legislation.  He said he will have someone from the Ohio Legislative Commission, the organization which bills must initially pass through, at the meeting.

We discussed various aspects of family court reform, including some issues which the Senator was not previously familiar with. Domanick explained some of the cost savings that many of our proposals would mean for Ohio. These include shared parenting, which frees up the considerable court time spent on needless child custody battles, and our family access motions proposal, which will provide an expedited means for courts to enforce parents' parenting time rights.

Senator LaRose called Hubin afterwards and they spoke at some length about F & F of Ohio's legislative initiatives. Our current Ohio legislative projects include:

1.    Presumption of Shared Parenting during Temporary Orders 2.    Parenting Time Enforcement 3.    Disabled Parents Protection Bill 4.    Presumptive Child Support in Shared Parenting Cases 5.    Child Support Self-Support Reserve Correction

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="From CBS' new show 'How To Be A Gentleman'"][/caption] "Tonight, CBS premieres How To Be A Gentleman, a brainless buddy comedy presenting a dichotomy in which men can be either delicate, ineffectual, sexless weaklings or ill-mannered but physically powerful meatheads."--NPR's Linda Holmes Braver men than I have quailed at the thought of an essay on masculinity brought to us by National Public Radio.  But here one is, and it's nothing short of excellent (NPR, 10/1/11). The writer is Linda Holmes and her subject is less masculinity per se than its depiction in popular culture, specifically television.  To say that Holmes is unhappy with the portrayal of men in the current season of sitcoms is to understate the matter considerably.  She writes with a combination of anger, dismay and perplexity. Now, I must say that popular culture has little interest for me, so I'm far from an expert on TV sitcoms, but over many years I've developed a strong sense of certain messages about men and masculinity that pop culture has trafficked in.  I, like Holmes, am not happy with those. Still, I've always thought that feminism went (goes) way overboard in its sensitivity to cultural messages.  There was a time that feminism asked us to believe that we were all virtual slaves to however our sex was displayed on TV, the movies, magazines, etc.  Pop culture surely has some impact on how we see and understand ourselves.  Just as surely, every man comes to terms with being a member of his sex; every woman does too.  Essentially none of us resembles Rambo or Angelina Jolie and at some point early in life it ceases to matter. So what Holmes writes about has some importance, but I can't say just how much. That said, it's entirely worth noting that depictions of masculinity on television bear no resemblance to actual men.  Of course what Holmes is dealing with are men in sitcoms, so they're not necessarily meant to.  But face it, there's a message inside the incessant drumbeat of denigration of men.
Tonight, CBS premieres How To Be A Gentleman, a brainless buddy comedy presenting a dichotomy in which men can be either delicate, ineffectual, sexless weaklings or ill-mannered but physically powerful meatheads. Says this show -- over and over, in both its marketing and in its actual dialogue -- there are gentlemen, and there are real men, and each might need to be a little more like the other.
Yes, yes, it's a sitcom, and caricatures are common, and on its own, this wouldn't make much of an impression. But this is not just any season. It's a season that also brings Tim Allen whining about what ever happened to "real men" in Last Man Standing, three guys lost in a universe of "pomegranate body wash" in Man Up, and -- sometime in midseason, unless the universe blissfully swallows us all before then -- two men in drag in Work It trying to overcome the entirely female-driven economy in which they literally cannot support themselves without dressing as women.
Yes, the question burning on the lips of TV producers from L.A. to Burbank is "whatever happened to 'real men'?"  Interestingly, Holmes has the answer.
Where, on television, are the men who both like football and remember birthdays? Where are the men who can have a highly insightful drink-and-talk with friends? Where are the men who are great dads, great husbands, great boyfriends? Where are the men who are dedicated to important jobs? Where are the men who aren't seeking reassurance about what it means to be men? Where are, in short, all the men I rely on in my day-to-day life?
Bingo.  Holmes is smart enough to realize that 'real men' are all around her in her everyday life, just not on television.  That means that, far more than the producers of those shows, Holmes has the ability to look around her and see what's there.  It's an ability that's surprisingly absent in many people.  The willingness to mentally cram reality into scripted myth is as common as dirt and not surprisingly distorts reality for those who do it. And it's not like the producers of these shows are without their political/social agendas.  Holmes gets it right when she uses the word "hectoring" to describe the programs' sense of driving home a message they're sure we all need to learn.
But there is something about this narrative hectoring about men not understanding manhood that seems particularly brutal in that it specifically attacks them for emotional ineptitude while simultaneously attacking them for having emotions. Men who are emotionally reactive (like Hornsby's character here) are weak; men who are emotionally inert (like the Man Up guys) are clueless. In both cases, women don't want to have sex with them, even if they're married to them.
In short, a man can be either of two things - Rambo or Mr. Rogers - but whatever his personal bent, he's wrong and women are right to dislike him.  It's a limited and not very inviting world. And it is that very 'hectoring' quality that makes me care at all.  As I said, most people navigate the shoals of masculinity and femininity very well.  They do that in part by ignoring  stereotypes peddled by TV shows.  But I get the sense that the purveyors of popular culture won't stop until we've absorbed their message, until they've actually had their perverse effect on people's views of themselves and their sex. I think the whole matter becomes important, to the extent it does, because the message of universal masculine deficiency doesn't stand alone on television between the hours of 7 and 10 PM.  It taps into a larger social message that's anything but recent in provenance. Over 40 years ago, radical feminists saw that characterizing men in particular ways could pay big dividends.  Specifically, if men could be seen to be stupid, brutish louts, it would be far easier to marginalize them in society generally, imprison them, divorce them, take their children, etc.  After all, a man without feelings and with Rambo's penchant for violence is good as part of the armed services (i.e. OK to be killed or maimed in battle), but stateside, we're all better off if he's in prison.  Failing that, he should be the subject of a TRO and kept strictly away from women and children. Whatever may be said of a few silly sitcoms, most of which won't last the season, the feminist view of men has gotten plenty of traction over the years.  So it's no accident that what's now almost universally referred to as a "real man" is in fact only that feminist caricature of us. Over the millennia, far more sensible societies than ours have realized that men and women come in an astonishing variety of packages, all of them 'real.'  They've been able to look at Catherine the Great of Russia and Mary mother of Jesus and notice that both were women, however radically different.  In the same way, the Buddha was a man as surely as Julius Caesar, Einstein and Oscar Wilde, to which I say "VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE!" We took a wrong turn 40 years ago in agreeing to the feminist view of men and masculinity.  We haven't recovered yet, and TV sitcoms aren't helping.  To her credit, Linda Holmes is.

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Black Union Army soldiers helped turn the tide in the Civil War."][/caption] "Dont be uneasy my children   I expect to have you. If Diggs [the children's master] dont give you up this Government will and I feel confident that I will get you 'Your Miss Kaitty [Diggs, the children's master] said that I tried to steal you   But I'll let her know that god never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood...And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she [will] meet her enemy "I once [thought] that I had some respect for them but now my respects is worn out and have no sympathy for Slaveholders. And as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell   You tell her from me that She is the frist Christian that I ever hard say that aman could Steal his own child especially out of human bondage."--Former slave/Union Army soldier  Spottswood Rice. The following was sent to us by longtime Fathers and Families supporter Thomas O'Shea from Kansas.  It's as deeply moving as anything I've read in a long time.  The two letters are quoted from The Black Military Experience, Free at Last, Families and Freedom and Freedom's Soldiers. The letters were written in 1864 by a former slave named Spottswood Rice.  Rice had managed to escape bondage and make his way to Missouri where he joined a union regiment of former slaves.  Rice was taken ill with rheumatism and confined to the barracks hospital.  Apparently part of the first letter is not in his handwriting, leading me to believe that his illness forced him to dictate it to another person.
My Children   I take my pen in hand to rite you A few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you and that I want to see you as bad as ever   now my Dear Children I want you to be contented with whatever may be your lots   be assured that I will have you if it cost me my life   on the 28th of the mounth. 8 hundred White and 8 hundred blacke solders expects to start up the rivore to Glasgow and above there thats to be jeneraled by a jeneral that will give me both of you   when they Come I expect to be with, them and expect to get you both in return. Dont be uneasy my children   I expect to have you. If Diggs dont give you up this Government will and I feel confident that I will get you   Your Miss Kaitty said that I tried to steal you   But I'll let her know that god never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood. If I had no cofidence in God I could have confidence in her   But as it is If I ever had any Confidence in her I have none now and never expect to have   And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she [will?] meet her enemy   I once [thought] that I had some respect for them but now my respects is worn out and have no sympathy for Slaveholders. And as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell   You tell her from me that She is the frist Christian that I ever hard say that aman could Steal his own child especially out of human bondage You can tell her that She can hold to you as long as she can   I never would expect to ask her again to let you come to me because I know that the devil has got her hot set againsts that that is write   now my Dear children I am a going to close my letter to you   Give my love to all enquiring friends   tell them all that we are well and want to see them very much and Corra and Mary receive the greater part of it you sefves and dont think hard of us not sending you any thing   I you father have a plenty for you when I see you   Spott & Noah sends their love to both of you   Oh! My Dear children how I do want to see you
This second letter is to the owner of one of his children.
I received a leteter from Cariline telling me that you say I tried to steal to plunder my child away from you   now I want you to understand that mary is my Child and she is a God given rite of my own and you may hold on to hear as long as you can but I want you to remembor this one thing that the longor you keep my Child from me the longor you will have to burn in hell and the qwicer youll get their   for we are now makeing up a bout one thoughsand blacke troops to Come up tharough and wont to come through Glasgow and when we come wo be to Copperhood rabbels and to the Slaveholding rebbels for we dont expect to leave them there root neor branch   but we thinke how ever that we that have Children in the hands of you devels we will trie your [vertues?] the day that we enter Glasgow   I want you to understand kittey diggs that where ever you and I meets we are enmays to each orthere   I offered once to pay you forty dollers for my own Child but I am glad now that you did not accept it   Just hold on now as long as you can and the worse it will be for you   you never in you life befor I came down hear did you give Children any thing not eny thing whatever not even a dollers worth of expencs   now you call my children your pro[per]ty   not so with me   my Children is my own and I expect to get them and when I get ready to come after mary I will have bout a powrer and autherity to bring hear away and to exacute vengencens on them that holds my Child   you will then know how to talke to me   I will assure that and you will know how to talk rite too   I want you now to just hold on to hear if you want to   iff your conchosence tells thats the road go that road and what it will brig you to kittey diggs   I have no fears about geting mary out of your hands   this whole Government gives chear to me and you cannot help your self Spotswood Rice Spotswood Rice to Kittey diggs, [3 Sept. 1864], enclosed in F. W. Diggs to Genl. Rosecrans, 10 Sept. 1864, D-296 1864, Letters Received, ser. 2593, Department of the MO, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives.
Here's a father, a slave, who escapes and manages to join the Union army to fight the Confederacy and what is most on his mind is the freedom of his children and reunification with them.  As Thomas says, "remind you of any fathers today?" While nothing fathers experience in family court today resembles the brutality of slavery in the old South, the concept that children are their mothers' first and that any claim on them by fathers is a kind of theft of what rightfully belongs to mothers, has a certain resonance.   More than that, though is the sense of deep connection to his children that Spottswood Rice vowed to maintain against the evil institution of slavery, the military might of nations and his own illness.

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Houston attorney Julie Ketterman did a revolutionary thing; she asked a court to apply Child Protective Services' own rules to Child Protective Services.  And the judge did just that.  Read about it here (KHOU, 9/29/11).  The judge issued a temporary restraining order against the local CPS agency, apparently finding that it had engaged in abuse of a child in its care.  It's a ruling that you can bet will be looked at carefully by attorneys all across the country who will follow Ketterman's lead. Back in 2009, Jaime Brown had her daughter taken from her by CPS that claimed she'd neglected the girl, who was then 14.  Brown said it was all the result of a big  misunderstanding, but she tried for a year and a half to get her child back in her care.  She never succeeded.  Meanwhile, the girl, Christianne, had been dumped in a group home where she really was being abused by the other kids there.
"She was beat up quite a bit. There was the running away. She has braces and the wires were literally falling off of her teeth," Ketterman said.
That of course is not at all unusual.   Foster care generally has a far worse record of abuse and neglect than families of any other kind, and group homes have a worse record still.  Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said
"Tens of thousands of times every year, all across America, children are needlessly taken from everyone they know and love.  The emotional trauma is, in itself, devastating.  But several studies have found abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes and the record of group homes and institutions is even worse."
That proved tragically true in a case I reported on last year of a teenage boy who was killed by staff in a group home administered by the same county CPS that oversaw Christianne's.  That home was finally closed by the State of Texas; the boy was the third death at the home in five years. Eventually, Christianne voted with her feet and ran away from the home to parts unknown.  The case worker who had taken her originally displayed a remarkable attitude about that.
'The case worker called (her) mom and said she ran away, but you find her, you can keep her," said Julie Ketterman, the Brown"s attorney.
Let's see.  The caseworker takes the child, keeps her away from her family for almost two years and, when the child runs away, says "you find her, you can keep her."  What happened to the original reason for her being removed from her mother in the first place?  If those conditions were no longer present, why hadn't the two been reunited?  It looks like a blatant admission that the child's presence in foster care was unnecessary.  My guess is that CPS had known that from the start. Whatever the case, Brown eventually turned to Ketterman who had one of those "moments of crystal clarity."  It's not legal to abuse or neglect a child, right?  Anyone who does that can have a TRO issued against them.  So why not CPS?  After all, abuse was exactly what Christianne was experiencing in the group home, the home was overseen by CPS who knew about the abuse, so it seemed reasonable that a court would order CPS to stop allowing the abuse. And that's exactly what happened.  A court in Brazoria County, just south of Houston ordered CPS to stay away from Jaime Brown's daughter due to its history of abuse while in foster care that was supposedly supervised by Children's Protective Services. There are some things I'd like to know about this case.  For example, CPS is charged by law with protecting children and that can't be undone by a judge's order.  The obvious question arises, "what if the child is truly abused while in her parent's care?"  Are CPS caseworkers supposed to sit idly by while that happens because a judge has told them they can't do their job? Of course the order is a temporary one.  What happens after it expires?  Is it business as usual or is there some sort of continuing limitation on what CSP can and can't do?  Ketterman plans to go to court to extend the order for two years. In any event, it's a very interesting development in parent's fight to rein in the overreaching of CPS.  Expect to see more attorneys trying what Julie Ketterman did successfully - apply laws for children's protection to Children's Protective Services.
"It could snowball," said Ketterman.
I can't wait for winter.

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In Ohio, 70% of child support cases are in default.  That means that in each of those cases, the parent who's obligated to pay is behind.  In some counties in the state, the default rate is 80%.  Read about it here (Dayton Daily News, 9/29/11).

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Former Secretary of Education William Bennett"][/caption] Former Secretary of Education William Bennett has taken time out from his busy day to notice men, and he doesn't like what he sees.  Here's his article (CNN, 10/4/11). It's not a good piece for a former Secretary of Education.  That's because it's short on facts and logic, and does its best to contradict itself.  In short, if Bennett had turned this in as a composition exercise in, say, 10th grade, I'd give him a D. The only reason his grade isn't lower is that he does get some facts right.  He notices that men's status in society has declined significantly since the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The data does not bode well for men. In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%, by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two. Women's earnings grew 44% in real dollars from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men.
In 1950, 5% of men at the prime working age were unemployed. As of last year, 20% were not working, the highest ever recorded.
He's on track except for that last bit.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics' data show that, as of the end of August, 8.9% of men 16 and over were unemployed compared with 8.0% of women.   Add the unemployed to those not in the labor force, and you get 36.3% of men 16 and over versus 46.4% of women.  That's true even though there are 7 million more women than men in that age group.  A whopping 50.8 million women 16 and over aren't even in the work force, i.e. they're not looking for work. So Bennett's paean to women fails to notice the actual figures.  He's the latest in a long line of opiners to claim that women will soon pass men in various employment categories.  But despite the fact that the current brutal recession has hit men's employment far harder than women's, there are still over 6 million more men working than women. So Bennett's wrap-up of men's employment picture is just flat wrong.
The changes in modern labor -- from backs to brains -- have catapulted women to the top of the work force, leaving men in their dust.
What the reference to "backs" is, I have no idea.  If Bennett seriously believes that women have any advantage over men in occupations that are physically demanding - like construction, mining, etc. - I'd encourage him to consult some actual data.  Again, the BLS would be a good place to start. As to "brains," there's no doubt that women are outstripping men in education, but so far that hasn't translated into greater employment, particularly full-time employment.  Database after database, study after study find even the most highly educated women working fewer hours than their male counterparts and taking years off to care for children. None of that fits with Bennett's narrative of deficient men, though, so he tactfully neglects to mention it. But the bees in Bennett's bonnet have barely begun to buzz.
The warning signs for men stretch far beyond their wallets. Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out-of-wedlock birthrate is more than 40% in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%...
Man's response has been pathetic. Today, 18-to- 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to- 17-year-old boys. While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families.
Where to begin?  Should I point out to Bennett that if men aren't getting married then women aren't either?  Since almost all our states prohibit same-sex marriage, that means that when a man marries, he marries a woman; when he doesn't, neither does she.  But in Bennett's way of thinking, it's only the men who are to blame. The simple fact is that Bennett confuses delayed marriage and childbearing on the part of both sexes with an adolescent aversion for the institution on the part of men only.  Again, if he'd only check the readily-available facts, he'd know that, since 1970, the average age at which men and women marry has increased by almost exactly six years apiece. Far more importantly, he manages to blame out-of-wedlock childbearing on men, as if women played no part in the decision to have or not have a child. As to absent fathers, Bennett's stance is all of a piece with that of President Obama and countless others.  The fact that men are absent from their children's lives has, according to those opiners, nothing to do with the family court system that rewards with primary or sole custody women who divorce, while doing everything in their power to cut fathers out of their children's lives. But his piece hits bottom when he tries to figure out why, in his opinion, men have all of a sudden become such good-for-nothings.  First, he lays the problem at the feet of fathers who abandon their children.  Interestingly, he doesn't seem to notice that an equal number of girls and boys have absent fathers, but as he understands it, the problem only affects boys making them, in time, bad fathers. What Bennett never acknowledges is that fatherlessness is far more a function of our cultural view of mothers and children as a "package deal" in the parlance of sociology, maternal gatekeeping, anti-father family courts and popular culture that paints the most dismal picture imaginable of men and fathers, than it is of feckless men fleeing their responsibilities as fathers.  The irony of his attack on what he considers to be irresponsibility on the part of fathers is that it's Bennett who's irresponsible.  He finds it easier to blame fathers for things beyond their control than to deal with the realities of fatherlessness. Strangest of all is Bennett's final prescription for men.
We may need to say to a number of our twenty-something men, "Get off the video games five hours a day, get yourself together, get a challenging job and get married." It's time for men to man up.
There are a lot of problems with that of course, but one of the main ones is that Bennett's already established that young men, lacking male role models, have no idea of what it means to "man up."
The machismo of the street gang calls out with a swagger. Video games, television and music offer dubious lessons to boys who have been abandoned by their fathers. Some coaches and drill sergeants bark, "What kind of man are you?" but don't explain.
Neither does Bennett.  And now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing.  After all, who wants a man who believes that men are irresponsible louts explaining masculinity to boys?  Not me. To be a man means many things, but honesty and taking responsibility for ones actions are certainly among them.  By contrast, Bennett takes refuge in a misandric caricature of American males, and pretends he's addressed the very real problem of men and masculinity. Hey, it's easier than working for a living. Thanks to Betsy for the heads-up.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 5, 2011 CONTACT: Ned Holstein, MD, MS 617-542-9300 ext 1 [email protected] In President Obama"s new proclamation "National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2011' he misstates several key facts on men, women, and domestic violence. Harvard-trained public health specialist Ned Holstein, MD, MS explains:
"Obama tells us that ‘One in four women and one in thirteen men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime." In reality, over 200 studies have found that women initiate at least as much violence against their male partners as vice versa. Obama"s 3.25 ratio is actually 1-1. And men comprise about a third of domestic violence injuries and deaths.' The most recent large scale study of DV, published in the American Journal of Public Health, surveyed 11,000 men and women and found that, according to both men"s and women"s accounts, 50% of the violence in their relationships was reciprocal (involving both parties). In those cases, the women were more likely to have been the first to strike. Moreover, when the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70% of the time.
Dr. Holstein, Board Chairman of the national family court reform organization Fathers and Families, says, "Obama"s distortion is no mere quibble over statistics--the myth that ‘only men do it" has crept into family courts, leading judges to put children into the custody of dangerous mothers whose violence is ignored because of the pervasive myth that women do not injure or kill.' Holstein cites the Mary Winkler case, wherein a mother who shot her husband in the back while he slept was able to get off with a few months in prison by making unsubstantiated abuse claims. Today this dangerous woman has custody of her children. Fathers" efforts to get shared child custody are often thwarted by spurious DV claims--recent research shows that a 1997 Oregon joint custody law has had little effect because of increased DV claims. Some of the programs Obama touts are examples of how bad data lead to bad policy, including his administration"s promotion of "tools for better enforcement of protective orders.' Holstein explains:
"DV victims need protection, but, as many prominent family law attorneys and legal scholars have pointed out, domestic violence protection orders are often handed out to women almost automatically, with little examination of the evidence. Under this system, many innocent men are being booted out of their homes and cut off from their children by protective orders based on invented claims. The system is a product of bad stats, anti-male stereotypes, and gender bias run amok. The victims are children, who end up in the care of violent mothers and/or are deprived of the guidance and nurture of loving fathers.'
Fathers and FamiliesTM improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting the child"s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. www.fathersandfamilies.org

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Danish custody law promotes children's contact with both parents post-divorce.  And this article doesn't like it a bit (The Copenhagen Post, 9/30/11).
In 2007, Denmark passed the Danish Act on Parental Responsibility, which introduced new guidelines for determining custody rights. According to Vivian Jørgensen, a lawyer who has handled numerous custody cases, the biggest change was the emphasis placed on equal custody: judges can force the parents to work together even if, well, they can"t work together.
"In 2007 we got this new idea,' Jørgensen told The Copenhagen Post. "Now what"s more important is not the environment or how you treat the child. The idea now is that it"s always good for the child to have contact with both parents, and it"s always good to force the parents to co-operate.'
Jørgensen added that the law does not favour men or women. Instead, it simply says that parents "must agree on significant decisions regarding the child'.
This philosophy, according to Annette Kronborg, an associate professor of family law at the University of Copenhagen, is designed to promote, and indeed force, co-operation. She said that if there is conclusive evidence of wrongdoing towards children then it is indeed a factor in custody decisions. That said, the "starting point is co-operation'.
"The idea is to make the parents co-operate,' Kronborg said. "And the best solution is to stay out of the family and let the parents make their own solution. So according to the family law idea, the best interest of the child is what the parents agree on.'
It's tough to fight through the thicket of anti-shared-parenting rhetoric that makes up almost the whole of the article, but if you can, you'll find that Denmark might be on to something good.  What Jorgenson said above is patently untrue.  The law doesn't say that it's "always good for the child to have contact with both parents." As Kronborg said, the law aims at courts' staying out of parental decisions the better to foster cooperation between parents.  Proven wrongdoing on the part of one parent though, is a deal breaker. As such, the Danish law looks like it has much to offer us in the United States and indeed other countries.  First, the strong preference for shared custody, significant contact for the child with both parents and shared responsibility are clearly important and, in almost all cases, in the child's best interests. Second, courts take a hands-off role in the decisions of parents.  That contrasts starkly with American courts that routinely involve themselves in the minutiae of everyday life, from what time the child is to be picked up to what food is to be eaten to whether the child may catch the bus near Dad's house.  My guess is that parents can deal with those issues themselves without the assistance of a judge.  I'd also guess that if parents knew they couldn't go crying to the judge every time the other parent did something they didn't like, they'd get along better.  Too often parents who act like children in custody matters run to court, not because they can't work it out with the other parent, but to seek validation of their own point of view.  They seek a "win" on their behalf and a "loss" on that of the other parent.  Take that away, as Danish courts seem to be doing, and those parents might start acting like adults. Third is the law's emphasis on cooperation.  Apparently it goes so far as to insist that parents work things out between them.  The article calls this "enforcing" cooperation between parents, which of course no court can do.  The law is only four years old, so it's impossible to know what real-world effects it's having, but studying the matter over time would be worthwhile.  Does a court's in effect telling parents time and again "stop bothering me and work this out on your own" result in their actually doing that?  I'd like to get a real answer to that question.   Fourth, it appears that the law requires actual proof of domestic violence or child abuse before allowing a judge to limit a parent's contact with his/her child.  That's the most radical difference from court practice in this country.  Here, mere allegations of domestic violence or child abuse, particularly when made by mothers, serve to keep fathers and children separate.  Perhaps worse, pretty much anything a mother experiences as uncomfortable can qualify as "abuse" sufficient to get a no-contact order issued against her ex.  State after state places greater value on a mother's unsupported claim of feeling "in fear" than on a child's rights to his/her father. Unsurprisingly, it's that very requirement of actual proof - what Kronborg calls "conclusive evidence of wrongdoing" - that's got some people's knickers in a knot.  Equally unsurprising, those are the only people the article quotes on the subject. The article deals with the cases of two American women who married Danish men.  Their marriages hit the rocks and the women are enraged that their claims of child abuse against the men weren't sufficient to deny them contact with their children.  Of course neither the courts nor The Copenhagen Post could find any corroboration of the women's claims, but that doesn't stop the women from assuming that a great injustice has been done.  One thing we've come to expect from articles like these is that the men will not be heard from.  When Mom says he's a child abuser, that's all we're entitled to hear.  The old journalistic rule "get the other side of the story" seems not to apply when claims of abuse are leveled at fathers.  And so it is with the Copenhagen Poststory; the women are quoted at length to the effect that their ex-husbands are child abusers, but the men remain voiceless.  No boilerplate statement "calls to the ex-husband went unreturned" appears in the article, strongly suggesting that no calls were ever placed. Now, one of the women apparently produced medical records showing bruises to one or more of the children.  But the article says there's no corroboration of her claims of abuse, so that means there was nothing connecting the bruises to her ex.  Still, her attorney pronounces herself certain that the man is a danger to the children.  Again, the writer talked to the woman and her attorney but made no effort to get the man's side of things.  As the years go by, I'd like to know more about the effects of this law on Danish child custody and whether parents, secure in the knowledge that the courts won't help them, sort out their problems on their own.  More importantly, I'd like to know about the welfare of children.  Are more of them the victims of domestic violence than before the law's enactment?  Surely Denmark keeps records of child abuse and neglect, so you'd think we'll be able to tell. Indeed, you'd think we'd already have some information on that.  After all, how hard could it be to compare child abuse data from before the law's effective date and afterward?  That wouldn't be conclusive, but it would  give an idea of whether there was a problem or not.  Do I have to add that the article's writer didn't do that? So I'd like to know that information.  The anti-dad crowd will tell you that fathers getting custody means danger for children, so data from Denmark will either bear them out or contradict them.  I can't wait to find out. In the mean time, it doesn't look like there's the type of anti-father backlash against the Danish law that Australia is experiencing against the 2006 amendments to its Family Law Act.  That means we can expect the law to be around for at least a little bit longer, so with any luck we'll be able to assess its actual impact on the welfare of children and their continuing contact with their fathers post-divorce. Thanks to Jim for the heads-up.

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A tragic accident has taken the life of Danny Dimm.  He's the father whose son Timber was abducted twice by his mother, Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm.  When she and Danny split up, Bartell-Dimm was given primary custody, but Dimm became uneasy with her lack of care for the boy.  Timber has been diagnosed with mild autism and, among other things, she was neglecting his dental health to the extent that, at age five, he had serious tooth and gum disease. So Dimm tried to increase his parenting time, only to have Bartell-Dimm abduct the boy to Minnesota.  She was apprehended within days, but the Canadian judge did nothing to punish her flagrantly illegal behavior.  Still, Dimm eventually managed to get greater parenting time with Timber and, just before he was to have the boy for three uninterrupted months, Bartell-Dimm kidnapped the child again.  This time though, she was more effective at her crime.  She disappeared completely for about two months earlier this summer.  Eventually the two were found hiding in a South Dakota shelter for victims of domestic violence.  She was arrested and this article says she's still in jail (Winnipeg Free Press, 10/4/11).  Timber was returned to his father. Over the years, Dimm was able to increase his parenting time from four weeks per year to sole custody and guardianship of his son. Now, not two months after he was reunited with Timber, Danny Dimm is dead, killed on the job in a logging accident this past Monday. 
Dimm's sister Jewel-Ann Juriansz said it's too soon to tell what will happen to Timber.
"I wasn't privy to all of Danny's workings, you see, in this matter. I have to sit down with people and figure out where things are," she said.
She said her brother not only went through a custody battle -- fighting for the rights of single dads -- but also sought funding to help care for his son's autism, and that issue still needs to be sorted out.
"We obviously need funding and funding for care," she said, adding that she lives in Toronto.
Lawyer Theresa Gerlach, who helped Dimm regain custody of his son, said Dimm wanted to do the right thing for Timber.
"He was always focused on what was best for his son. He wanted his child safe, he wanted to give his child a normal upbringing," she said.
I received an email from Dimm's Canadian lawyer expressing concern for Timber's future welfare.  He called the custody battle for Timber "parental alienation at its worst and the increased recognition of fathers' rights at its best."  He currently represents Dimm's sister, Jewel-Ann Juriansz. As things stand now, a custody battle looms between Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm and whoever else can assert a claim to custody of the boy.  Juriansz appears likely to try.  As I said, Bartell-Dimm is in jail.  How long she'll remain there isn't yet known.  Likewise, no one yet knows whether she'll be sentenced to prison time for her abduction of her son.  My guess is she won't be.  I think I can hear her attorney's argument now:  "Judge, you can't put this nice mother in prison; she's the only parent this little boy has." Prior to her second abduction of Timber, a judge voiced concern about her emotional/psychological stability, so that should militate against her getting the boy back. We'll see what develops. Second, there's this video of an oral argument to the Ohio Supreme Court.  It's far from current, having taken place in June of 2005.  But it's altogether current in the way it depicts the mindset of those charged with collecting child support. The case pits the Cuyahoga County Support Enforcement Agency against Gregory Lovelady, and it's a classic of "I don't care what the facts are, just show me the money" justice. It seems that, at the time, the State of Ohio had a statute allowing a man who was paying child support to present evidence to a court at any time showing that he's not the father of the child.  As a practical matter, that meant that he could bring results of DNA testing to a court and get an order absolving him of having to pay further amounts for a child proven to have been fathered by another man. Now most of us would say that's only fair.  After all, people should support the children they actually bring into the world.  That's just taking responsibility for one's own actions.  But requiring a man to support a child who's not his is doubly wrong; it forces him to take responsibility for something he didn't do while absolving another man of responsibility for what he did do.  But the attorney for the C.S.E.A. wasn't having it.  He was desperately trying to convince a skeptical court that the statute allowing men to prove the truth about paternity violated the Ohio Constitution. In the case before the court, Gregory Lovelady had been tagged with support of a child by Willa Lloyd.  Interestingly, he'd never showed up in court to contest the matter originally, so apparently a default judgment had been taken against him.  (Had he gotten notice of the matter?  Often, child enforcement agencies play fast and loose with notice requirements, take default judgments and then enforce them against men who aren't the dad.) Seven years later, Lovelady had a $46,000 judgment taken against him for back support of a "child" who was then 20 years old.  He eventually appeared in court with results of genetic testing proving conclusively that he wasn't the father. So what did the C.S.E.A. do?  Did it go to the mother and demand that she tell the truth about the child's paternity?  No, that would have been reasonable and fair to all concerned, and that, as we know, isn't their style.   Instead, C.S.E.A. litigated the constitutionality of the statute allowing Lovelady to prove his non-paternity.  To them, it's all about the money, and once they've got one man in their sights, it's easier to bring him down than to re-aim at someone else. During the oral argument, one justice asked the lawyer for C.S.E.A. whether he thought Lovelady should pay the $46,000 regardless of the fact that he's not the father to which the answer was "Yes."  And that about sums up the attitude of child support enforcement authorities.  We don't care who you are, just pay. I've often thought that a far more effective, easier and less time-consuming way of establishing paternity would be to just do it at random.  Maybe an official of the agency could go out on the street corner at noon and arbitrarily choose men to pay child support.  After all, since who's actually the dad doesn't make any difference, why not cut to the chase?  Why not save everyone time and money and abandon the pretense that we care who actually fathered a child? The judges weren't buying what the C.S.E.A. lawyer was peddling.  They overruled his argument, but it's interesting to notice what never came up.  Neither the lawyer nor any of the justices ever recalled that, where there's a child, there's a father.  In this case, it didn't happen to be Lovelady, but biology tells us that it was someone.  And none of the judges ever asked why C.S.E.A. didn't just leave Lovelady alone and go find the actual dad.  I found that a strange oversight. Thanks to Tony for the heads-up on the Lovelady case.

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The difference between fathers' and mothers' depictions in the news media is on graphic display here (Huffington Post, 10/5/11).  About the only thing I can make out of this article is that HuffPo wants to rub it in.  The piece reads like a "what I did on my summer vacation" essay by a 10-year-old.  And it has nothing to do with anything beyond the writer's own experiences, so I wonder how it got accepted at all.  (As one commenter asks, "so what?")  My conclusion is that there's always room for a piece about the bravery and empowerment of mothers and the perfidy of fathers. The writer, Marissa Cortes, tells us about her four-month sojourn in South America.  She tells us about how nice the people in Buenos Aires are even though she speaks not a word of Spanish.  Then she moves on to the glaciers of Patagonia and penguins, before whisking her readers to Brazil which "also covered many stunning, secluded beaches, vibrant cross-cultural cities, and musical delights that seduced our ears." Through all that, "I soon understood that this foreign journey had lessons to teach that hit close to home, no matter how far from home I actually was." What those valuable lessons were, she doesn't let on, which I suspect is just as well given the depth with which she treated her other topics. But her piece isn't just a travelogue; it's also a justification.  You see, she made the trip with her daughter Lulu who was 10 months old when Cortes started out.  And she did so just after her boyfriend, Lulu's father, had engaged her in a battle for custody of the girl. Now, Cortes describes the man in the most unflattering terms possible.  According to her, he's a philanderer and callously uninterested in her during her pregnancy.  I have no reason to doubt Cortes on this; after all, she was there and I wasn't.  But her indignation at Lulu's father's actually wanting to see his daughter is a sure sign that something's not right with her description of the custody battle.
Three months later we were enmeshed in a custody battle where he fought to have our baby girl with him as much as possible, but (but?) had his female lawyer argue (and win) that he was obligated to pay next to nothing in child support, as my income was higher than his.
It's interesting that she never says what the outcome of the custody matter was.  All we know is that he doesn't have to pay much in child support.  But if he "won" on that issue, I can't imagine him being denied custody altogether.  Cortes's sense of unsatisfied entitlement (He fought to have the child as much as possible!  He wanted child support to be based on income which it is in every state!) is palpable. So what we have is a custody battle that in one way at least didn't go as Cortes wished, so she takes the infant off to South America.  Cortes clearly has no clue that there was anything amiss with what she did.  That's true despite the fact that several commenters point it out.  They also point out the obvious - that if a father had done the same, he'd be pilloried as a child abuser.  So Cortes chimes in with her own comment that shows she still doesn't get it.
Of course fathers matter, especially if they want to be a part of their children's lives, and not fight to have them more than 50% of the time because it lessens their obligation in financial child support.
No Marissa, fathers matter even if they do that.  Mothers do that every day of the week, many times a day, but you don't turn your nose up at them.  Here's a simple message:  it's not OK to deprive a child of one of its parents - mother or father - because you're in a bad frame of mind and need to feel "empowered."  Marissa, what you did was harmful to your child, plain and simple.  Into the bargain, my guess is that it violated the father's rights under the court's order. It continues to amaze that many mothers and their enablers don't get the basic concept that children do better with two parents than with one, that children have rights to full, meaningful relationships with their fathers and that mothers shouldn't exercise control over either the child's or the father's contact with the other.  It's just not acceptable.  Yes, Cortes's paramour behaved like a cad; that made her angry at him as I'm sure it would anyone.  But her feelings are for her to sort out on her own separately from the child.  We see this every day - parents who believe that slights done by the other parent warrant interfering in the other's relationship with the child.  They don't. Too bad Cortes doesn't get the message.  Too bad Huffington Post doesn't either.

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The ease with which fathers lose parental rights sometimes astonishes.  This is one of those cases (Leagle, 9/30/11).  Into the bargain, it's an example of a case in which the Danish approach to child custody might prove to be better than ours. On the face of it, the case is one that, I imagine, family court judges would be happy to preside over.  The parents divorced, but in their dealings with each other and the child, they made the effort to get along and handle child-care issues constructively.  Moreover, both were good, loving parents.  In short, everything was about as good as one could hope for in a custody case. The father, Tinotenda Rutanhira, immigrated to the United States from his native Zimbabwe in 2000.  At some point he became a United States citizen and has no intention of returning to live in the country in which he was born.
The parties were married on April 7, 2004, and their daughter was born on March 11, 2005. In August 2009 they separated. Mother filed for a divorce in October 2009. Under a temporary order, the parties shared physical rights and responsibilities for daughter on a roughly equal basis. The parties ultimately agreed to continue sharing physical custody, but could not agree on sharing legal rights...
The court found that the parties were "very cooperative" in determining daily arrangements for daughter, and the court highlighted the fact that "there is really little to choose from as between these two parents." The parties agreed on where to send daughter to school, her travel around the country, the choice of doctors, dentists, and religion.
In short, the two divorced parents got along well.  They shared physical custody of their daughter and cooperated well in decision making. The problem arose, not over parenting time, but over decision-making authority, i.e. legal custody.  But even about that, there were only two bones of contention.
The first involved a disagreement in 2009 about whether daughter should be inoculated with the H1N1 flu vaccine; father eventually supported mother's decision not to inoculate. The second was the real issue of contention: foreign travel...
In 2009, [the father] expressed a desire to bring daughter to visit Zimbabwe, along with other members of his immediate family, to see his remaining family there. The trip, planned for the summer of 2010, coincided with the World Cup in South Africa. Mother objected. She viewed the trip to Zimbabwe as far too dangerous for daughter. Though father wanted daughter to know her heritage, he ultimately acquiesced to mother's wishes.
So when she was four, Tinotenda, doubtless proud of his young daughter, wanted to take her to visit his relatives who remained in Zimbabwe.  That's not hard to imagine; I'd think any dad would be so inclined.  But Mom objected saying she thought Zimbabwe was too dangerous.  And it's true that there was political violence there and often food shortages.  At the same time, Tinotenda's relatives lived there, apparently in peace.  But whatever the facts of the situation in Zimbabwe, Dad ultimately agreed with Mom and stayed home in Vermont.
Nevertheless, this was the issue upon which the family court based its award of legal custody to mother.
Huh?  Dad wanted to take his daughter to visit her relatives in Zimbabwe, Mom objected and Dad agreed with Mom.  And that's what the court based its decision on to award legal custody to Mom?  What basis? Well, it seems the fact that Tinotenda wanted to take his daughter to visit her relatives is what tipped the scales of justice against him.  He never took her, he just had the desire to do so.  That's what I mean about how astonishingly easy it is for fathers to lose parental rights. Now, the good news is that the Vermont Supreme Court reversed the trial court's decision.  But it did so, not because of the amazingly trivial nature of what the judge based his/her decision on.  The state's Supreme Court reversed the lower court because the judge had conducted an online investigation of conditions in Zimbabwe, and that information wasn't in evidence.  So, if the online information had been in evidence, the trial court's decision would stand, irrespective of the fact that both parents are clearly qualified to raise their daughter and get along well doing so. And it's here that I argue that the Danish approach might be better than ours.  As I reported just a couple of days ago, Denmark passed a law governing allocation of parental responsibility back in 2007.  It basically requires joint custody unless there's actual proof of wrongdoing by one parent.  It also requires judges to push parents to cooperate in decision-making. In so doing, it seems to abandon the concept of legal custody that requires a court to place decision-making authority in the hands of one parent only.  And it's exactly legal custody that the judge in the Rutanhira case was forced to decide even though he/she was clearly uncomfortable choosing between the two. Remember, the judge said that there was really "little to choose" between the two parents.  The Supreme Court sympathized;
We appreciate the difficulty facing the trial court--the challenge of choosing between two equally capable and caring parents.
I argue, and I believe Danish law agrees, that it shouldn't have to choose.  My understanding is that in Denmark, there would have been no issue.  The parents had a minor disagreement, discussed it, thought it over and came to an agreement.  There's nothing for the court to decide.  Indeed, if two Danish parents had brought a similar matter to a family court, my understanding is that they'd have been told to work it out between themselves which is what the Rutanhiras had done in the first place. Look at what the American court had to do with an issue that's surpassingly trivial:  The trial court conducted a two-hour hearing, the court reporter recorded the testimony, the court made findings of fact and conclusions of law and entered a written order.  All of that required the assistance of pricey attorneys.  The order was appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court whose justices individually read the briefs and the trial transcript, decided to reverse and wrote down their opinion.  Now the case returns to the trial court for further consideration. That's what the Vermont courts had to do.  The Danish courts would never have heard about the matter because there was nothing to decide.  The parents had worked it out between themselves.  Simple, cheap and altogether lacking in conflict. As I said in may previous piece, maybe the Danes are on to something.

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