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Archive for the ‘Family Laws’ Category

I came across TyQan Brow’s story, which was on the news some ten days ago.  A new pearl in the nauseating list of encroachments of

Scottish Monster (Katie McPherson)

Scottish Monster (Katie McPherson)

fathers’ rights by family courts.

TyQan is the father of an eponym son he conceived with Jonetta Woods.  In February 2013, Jonetta tragically lost three of her four children in a fire.  The story gets suddenly very complicated, thanks to erratic Kalamazoo (Michigan)  family court decisions. For a while, TyQan is granted custody of Drayanna, the daughter Jonetta had with another man and escaped the fire, and his soon-to-be-born son.  But not so fast: TyQan Junior is born in March 14, but his father TyQan does not even have a chance to bring his baby home, as  he has to face an accusation of child abuse and neglect:   A social worker, who had visited TyQan before the baby’s birth and had found no crib at home, jumped to the conclusion that he was not prepared for parenthood. Eventually TyQan is granted temporary custody of his son by Kalamazoo family court, after he showed he had all that was needed to take care of his son, and all the desire to do so. Yet,TyQan is a father on “probation.”  I could not  keep myself from thinking: what will he need to prove to the court to be granted permanent custody of his child?  How filled, and with what food, his fridge will have to be? How much money will need to be on his savings account?

My first reading of TyQuan’s  tangle with family court was that if the family court’s  crowd  despises the Patriarch figure, the man that provides, takes charge, and imposes his will on women and children, there is one type of men it hates even more: the poor. In the times we live in, low-income men don’t make it to the middle class, and their status as breadwinners is always fragile. If they get divorced, they don’t not remain breadwinners very long, as family courts turn them into deadbeat dads with inflexible child support payments. Eduardo Porter is right when he suggests to policymakers, in a New Times article from March 5 2014,  to try support instead of punishment for low- income fathers (and families).

However, a look  at family laws outside the US shows that  punishment by family courts also applies to low-income non custodial fathers in countries where the social safety net is better than in the US, in Ireland for instance. Dan Buckley from the Irish Examiner writes that judges are breaching human rights of fathers, keeping them from seeing their children and forcing them into poverty. The targets of family courts there are fathers who can just make it with state benefits. Too often, judges tend to order an excessive amount of child support (maintenance in Ireland) relative to income; the same judges will curtail visitations or send fathers to jail if child support is unpaid.

There is something in out- of- wedlock fathers with kids which deeply bothers our societies; perhaps, the fact that they could be totally autonomous with kids,  that they could not need the help from women to educate their children.

I will celebrate when the first custodial or  non- custodial father will be elected in office – any office-  anywhere.

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Cirilia Balthazar Cruz and Ruby (Photo Sharon Steinmann)

Cirilia Balthazar Cruz and Ruby (Photo Sharon Steinmann)

Over the last years, I have been blogging about Cirilia Balthazar Cruz’s case, perhaps one of the most outrageous examples of violation of parental rights by the US family justice in recent times. When we, non-custodial fathers, deal with family courts, we are often the defendants, there is a usually a trial and a vague appearance of due process; in Cirilia Balthazar Cruz’ case, hardly.

With Cirilia, there is no husband, no boyfriend, and no custody battle. Problems start with social services’ predators of the State of Mississippi. Her baby is taken from her almost upon delivery in Singing River Hospital in November 2008. Why? Mrs Cruz does not speak English or Spanish, but an indigenous language, Chatino, spoken in the region of Oaxaca, Mexico. The hospital employees and the social worker assigned to the case understand zip.  That must have made them angry. They tell the Mississippi Department of Human Services, that Cirilia is a prostitute and about to give up her child for adoption. Such deeds go a long way when supported by a high officer of justice-  in the present case, Judge Sharon Sigalas.  According to her, Cirilia’s child will suffer developmental problems for lack of English (I guess there are a bunch of folks in this country that may have had developmental problems throughout US history, and historians better investigate the problem quickly). As a result, the child is put to adoption.

Fortunately, thanks to the Southern Poverty Law Center that filed a federal law suit (in passing, why isn’t there any Wealth Law Center anywhere in the US?), Cirilia regained Ruby’s custody in 2009 and her maternal rights in 2010.  And last friday, a federal justice court decided that Mississippi state officials may have to answer of their actions violating Cirilia’s constitutional rights to raise her child. Cirilia might get justice for the miscarriage of justice by the justice system, a precedent that hopefully will inspire others beyond the great State of Mississippi.

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Rep. Joe Kleefisch (photo Wisconsin State Journal)

Rep. Joe Kleefisch (photo Wisconsin State Journal)

A month ago, I read about Assembly Bill 540, which Joel Kleefisch, Republican Representative of Oconomowoc, was planning on introducing to the Wisconsin State Assembly. I thought it was incomplete, but some ideas were not to be dismissed entirely: capping child support payments to $150,000 in yearly income, which the bill proposed, was not unreasonable to me.  As much as I am for the top 10% to pay their fair share of taxes, I don’t see why child support payments ought to guarantee a 10% life style to an ex-spouse who happened to have married into the 10%. The bill was also aiming at guaranteeing “an equalized placement of children into both families.” That resonated nicely to me; we non-custodial fathers too often are granted pitiful visitations of our children.

However the fathers’ rights rhetoric of bill 540 proved pure smoke screen. In fact, Kleefisch had one father in mind when he was writing the bill, his multimillionaire friend, Michael Eisenga, who is also a contributor to his campaign and to that of his wife, who is Lieutenant Governor of the State of Wisconsin. Even better, Eisenga, unhappy with his child support obligations, was holding Kleefisch’s pen. On January 15, the bill was withdrawn from committee hearing.

The saddest thing in this story is that there is a bunch of fathers besides Eisenga who really needed a break. Let’s be fair with Wisconsin Child Support guidelines: They are immensely more sophisticated than New York State’s.  Income subject to child support is determined as an arbitrary percentage of each parent’s gross income (wrong), yet a component of child support obligations (day care for instance) is adjusted for the time the child spends with each parent (right), and income disparity is stated to factor in the computation of child support obligations. Wisconsin Child Support guidelines also describe sources of income subject to child support payments, which include social security disability benefits and unemployment benefits. The folks that live off such income often need to have their child support obligations revised downwards or be exempted from child support obligations altogether. Obviously Kleefisch and his pal Eisenga were not thinking about them.

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Pre KFor some time now, I have noticed a growing number of comments on this blog expressing frustration and anger at  the lack of change in child support laws.

It ‘s important,  I think, to see that in the sad political times we live in, where “welfare as we knew it” has been under attack since 1996,  and these attacks have been adding to the justifications for tax cuts, current child support laws, as New York State’s, have sizable advantages. Welfare of the child? Not the problem of society anymore. That’s the problem of the noncustodial parent, for the most part the noncustodial dad.

Last but not least, the design of the law – the regressive  one-size- fits- all percentages of noncustodial parent gross income in child support payment (in New York, 17% for one child, 25% for two children. etc.)-  has the advantage of convenience:  enforcing the law is a no brainer. These child support percentages are part of this category of numbers you don’t know where they come from (who is the brilliant mind that came up with it) and that spoil the lives of millions of people (like for instance, the convergence criteria to belong to the European Union, but I won’t get started).

There is thus a lot of inertia at play against changing the laws, and politicians are usually no prophets of change. I don’t know if our new mayor, Bill de Blazio, is, but I like his proposal to add pre-K to the school years of the New Yorkers.

I am not going to talk about the benefits of PreK for child development, which are well documented. I am talking here of the possible impact of the implementation of pre K on child support laws we fathers have to deal with.

If pre K becomes part of the life of a child, single custodial mum’s  child care expenses go significantly down. That may bring our wise lawmakers to think, for once, of what “the cost to raise a child” is. And perhaps to think that it could be born by the two parents based on their income, not just one.

And allow me to step on the financing side of the issue. Governor Cuomo would like us to believe that New York State can afford tax cuts and pre K. This presupposes that public  services in New York State  are just good as they are. But  New York State is not Sweden:  people are dying in 2014 in the emergency room in the Bronx. Pre-K ought not to happen at the expense of already substandard enough public services.  The 1% has to chip in.

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A long, long blessed time ago, I was spending weekends playing dolls with my girls. And I liked combing the thick, curly hair of my little one. There is nothing especially unusual with that. Much less, I think, that a mum – late Adam Lanza’s- bringing his son to gun shows and planning to offer him one for Christmas.

Well, maybe I have it wrong,

Doyin Richards

Doyin Richards

Here is a nice guy, Doyin Richards. He has a blog, Daddy Doin’ Work, which is about him raising his girls. He is also on paternity leave, (paid paternity leave?), which, in this- not- so -socially- advanced country, is something that should make people rejoice. He posts a picture of him combing his girl, among others to show his wife he could handle the job.

His blog is flooded messages – from fathers-  calling him a sissy, a deadbeat dad, a kind of uncle Tom, a man who cannot handle a black woman. Some asked him if he rented the girls (?).  Enjoy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/doyin-richards/i-have-a-dream-picture-like-this_b_4562414.html

Perhaps we deserve the condescending family justice system we have that only sees fathers as just good enough to pay child support.

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Family justice in the US is a race to the bottom, with,  I long thought, New York State family justice as unbeatable at crushing fathers’ lives.

Wrong. Texas is surging as a serious contender to New York. Check out Clifford Hall ‘s story on Fox News (click on the photo below to watch video):

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.49.54 PM

One question that Fox News does not ask is why did Judge Millard sentenced Clifford Hall to pay his ex’s lawyer fees. It sounds like it’s a just the stuff that fathers have to do when they end up in family courts.

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JusticeWonder why there is a strong father rights’ movement in the UK and not in the US ? Perhaps because the press gives heed to the fate of the regular guy in family court, not just Alec Baldwin’s. But that may well be the chicken and the egg thing: the press cares about what goes on in family court because fathers have claimed their rights loud and clear. Both factors may help the justice system to take its job seriously.

Check out this (old) October 2013 Belfast Telegraph article, about a ruling in the Family Division of High Court in Leicester (Ulster, UK) on a case regarding a father asking for an increase in the number of yearly visits with his daughter. What strikes from this article is the granularity of the judge (judge Bellamy)’s decisions: the father asked for one overnight visitation a month instead of three -without overnight- he currently has; He got eight visits a year, without overnight, two more than his daughter had asked for. Emails? Three or three texts a day, no more, and no contacts through social networks.

This judge Bellamy fellow does not seem to be kidding. If he says X, it looks like it is going to be X, no more, no less. One is led to infer that there is not just a ruling; there is a ruling that will actually be enforced.

What’s is so great about enforcing decisions that, in this case at least, are harsh for a father ? When you have experienced Manhattan family court dilettantes, you see why. No follow-up on decisions there. First of, in the unfolding of a trial there, your time with your children does not weigh much against procedure, that is the contribution of a bunch of folks, from ACS (Administration for Child Services), to the so-called forensic psychologist and social workers who report to the judge and bloat up your file. Their input – sometimes valuable – does not matter in any event.  Indeed I cannot recall one decision, about visitations or email contacts, that was enforced.  And I’d trade absentee judges and law guardians for Bellamy anytime.

But talking about details, let’s be fair with Manhattan family court. When it comes to child support, Manhattan Family Court is not serious, it is anal. To the penny.

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I am often behind on popular culture. Perhaps watching Seinfeld reruns for too long has not

Breaking Bad IFT

Breaking Bad IFT

helped. I recently finished swallowing “Orange Is The New Black.” Right now, I am just catching up with “Breaking Bad.” I am hooked.

A few days ago, I was watching IFT (I know, Season3, Episode 3, shown in April 2010! ) and a scene got me thinking.  Skyler knows everything about her husband underground activities and does not want to have anything to do with him anymore. He however cannot fathom living separated from his family and he is back home, talking to his son, Walt Junior, who could not be happier. She urges him to leave the premises. He refuses. She calls the cops.

The cops step in and ask what happened. Has her husband been violent? Nope. Skyler will not lie. She will also not reveal to Walt Junior that his dad is a drug “producer.”  She will tell her shrink later that since Walt has lung cancer, she hoped “things could resolve from their own momentum” (as George Constanza said to Jerry once),  that is she could separate and not tell Junior the truth about his dad. The cops are almost sorry, but there is nothing they can do for her. Walt stays home.

What struck me is that although Skyler is a decent person, she calls the cops. That’s now part of female DNA. That’s just what you do when you want your spouse, violent or not, removed. That’s one of the services cops provide: to remove undesired partners from home.

I have no data to back me up but I bet that other things being equal (holding personal decency and domestic violence constant), men don’t call cops that much to solve domestic problems. And I don’t see much progress if they were to catch up with women.

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An eighth September 10 has passed this year since I saw my  girls for the last time. I have already told the story of my last

Le grand phare, Ile de Sein.

Le grand phare, Ile de Sein.

supervised visitation on this blog. I have just this piece of news after eight years without seeing my girls: You don’t get used to it, ever. The pain grows with the moments that you don’t share with them.

At the time of this sad anniversary this year,  I was lucky to get distracted  by a story about what ex-partners or spouses can do to interfere with the custody of their ex. The story takes place in France, and it has a funny twist. No WMD (None of the tricks of parental alienation involved);  just creative “custodial interference.”

In this story told by Justine Salvestroni for Le Monde, the father threw a curveball. His ex wanted to relocate, with the three children, to Sein Island, off the coast of Brittany, far from Montpellier where the father lived. In family court, the father’s lawyer made a description of the Island as a secluded and backward place, inhospitable to kids. That worked: the family court judge denied the request of the mother to relocate to Sein Island.

The mayor of Sein ( also the  name of the only town of the Island) , Jean-Pierre Kerloc’h, happened to learn about the story, and he was pissed. He wrote a letter to  Montpellier family court’s president, asking if all the children had to be removed from all the islands of Brittany…

I have been to other islands in Brittany and never to Sein Island,  but I am sure the mayor of Sein is right. This Island must be on of these breathtaking places that evoke the Opposing Shore (Julien Gracq). And let’s bet that crime must be consistently zero. One could find worst for children.

Hat Tip: Véronique Rouquier

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I am no lawyer, all right. But after watching for the second times divorce lawyer Yvette Harrell’s video on the Huffington Post from August 10, I am still bemused about the fairness of divorce laws in this country. Can anybody enlighten me?

What I grasp from Yvette Harrell’s interview is that we, would-be divorced fathers and divorced fathers, have an information problem. Once upon a time, divorce laws were biased against fathers. That’s not the case any more. We just need to assert our rights to be fathers. Did Yvette Harrell mean that all we needed was lawyers that walk us through divorce laws? Or am I second-guessing her?

While listening to Yvette Harrell, I could not help thinking of a bill that some representatives from the far -right wanted to pass in the French Parliament: having children of parents of foreign origin to officially state their willingness to be French when turning 18. Yet, these children were French, because they were born on French soil. Needless to say, children of French parents did not have to do the same.

We have the same premises plaguing divorce laws in the US, but Yvette Harrell doesn’t seem to see it. The right of divorced mothers to be mothers is protected by divorce laws, while fathers have to claim their right to be fathers to be acknowledged by the justice system. Isn’t this discrimination plain and simple?

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