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Archive for the ‘Fat and Mean Family Industry’ Category

Amine Baba-Ali (Photo B. Norman for the New YorkTimes)

Amine Baba-Ali (Photo B. Norman for the New York Times)

As a foreigner, there is something I always find troubling in this country, where I have lived for 23 years: Its prodigious ability to ignore horrors committed here, and move on.  It’ s not like there is a deficit of compassion; it’s just that compassion does not seem to translate into acting on the very reasons that caused the horrors in the first place. It may be the omnipresence of the flag, the daily shots of sport news of any kind, and the annoying belief that the future will be better (I have nothing  per se against optimism, except that I want it to be awake, that is to be grounded into a reasonable assessment of things as they are).

Speaking of nightmares, check this one: Amine Baba- Ali was wrongfully convicted of raping his four-year old daughter in 1989 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Where did the accusation come from? His ex-wife.  Then the diligence of New York State Justice system did the rest: a phony physician found evidence of rape that was contested by several experts, to no avail. Amine Baba-Ali’s conviction was overturned after three years spent in jail. Since public officials were unapologetic about the ordeal he had endured, Baba-Ali sued, and the State attorney general agreed to pay $1.25 million.

Yet Amine Baba-Ali has not seen his daughter for 20 years.  I challenge any accountant to put a price tag on that. Amine Baba-Ali hopes his daughter will see Michael Powell’s NYT article and contact him.

One of the many problems with current New York State Family laws is that lethal ex-wife accusations do not bear any consequences…for ex-wife. Ex-wife can send a man to death and kill his relations to his children in all impunity. The promoters of bill A6457 are kidding themselves and their constituents if they think that the fear of punishment for “malicious” accusations would deter ex-wife from making those.

But hey! I don’t need much to be convinced: I sign on the bill if just one “maliciously” intended ex-wife spends three years of her life, like Amine Ali-Baba, in Eastern New York maximum correction facility, in Napanoch, New York. It’s not the worst, according to a well-informed source.

Hat Tip: Mariana Carreño King

 

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Mark Sargent (Photo: the CT Mirror)

Mark Sargent (Photo: the CT Mirror)

The US family justice system is supposed to act in the best interest of the child. We all know that, we divorced fathers especially, whose rights to see our children are often sacrificed in its name. Fortunately, family justice is here to remind us that our miserable interests are to be trumped for this greater cause.

Reading about the State of Connecticut’s family court reforms in the baking, one is not certain any more that family courts are that sure about whether they are acting in the best interest of the child; or rather, there is some awareness that this might not necessarily happen. As divorces are becoming more litigious, custody dockets a judge has to handle pile up, and children suffer from prolonged custody battles.

The physical-abuse trial I had to go through after my divorce was a continuation of a custody battle by other means. I had a law guardian who did do zip to protect the interests of my children or mine. She was here only to serve as the good conscience of family justice system: when your case moves at a agonizingly slow pace like my trial (which lasted six years and half), the presence of a law guardian means that the interests of children are nominally protected, even though de facto they are not.

In Connecticut, they happen to have guardians ad litem. I went to the website of one, and frankly, I have trouble understanding the difference with law guardians. Guardians ad litem are “self-described” mediators in chief,  lawyers with shrinks’ talents that pretend to have a special gift in understanding the human soul and for parenting.  In Connecticut, the services of these folks might be quite pricey. Guardians ad litem bill by the hours, and face no cap. Mark Sargent, an attorney involved in pushing reforms to the Connecticut family court system, spent $130,000 in GAL(Guardian At Litem) fees.  Some parents empty their retirement account to pay their bill. In Connecticut, family justice provides another opportunity, besides serious health problems, to be faced with financial ruin.

My homeland does not have it all. Yet it has something I came to value as I reflected on the problems I had with Manhattan family court: a conception of justice that transcends a contract between parties. In the French criminal justice system, justice is supposed to be represented, and its interests are to be defended, by an investigating judge, who investigates a case before a judge rules about it. There are the parties, and there is justice which is supposed to be served by the state.

Connecticut’s family justice does not need one more substratum of mediators, the guardians ad litem, supposedly acting on behalf of the best interest of the child stuff and taking their cut until a judge hears the final mediators of a custody case. What is needed are impartial law guardians, with real investigative power, payed by the State, speeding up the process and acting in the best interest of justice. More surely than not, they may act in the best interest of the child.

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Ms Tambor (Photo New York Times)

Ms Tambor (Photo New York Times)

Two weeks ago, I sent ex an email asking her to inform me where my oldest one was going to college. I was told that my “request” will be passed on to my daughter – who is now an adult- and who will reply “if she wishes.” I insisted:” Please give me her email address,” I wrote, I will ask her myself.  I did not receive any reply.

This last episode pulled me back some thirty years ago, when one of my best friends and myself were seeking news from a common friend who had been, little by little, pulled into a sect, and who had disappeared from our radar. We dragged ourselves to some pointless conferences organized by the sect to catch new followers in Paris, to no avail: We had to be introduced by a member of the sect to see our friend.

That’s what I have to go through with my daughters; even as they become adults, I have to be introduced to them. That’s what alienating parents do: Stand between you and your children and bare you from having a relationship with them.

And you may even die in the process: That’s exactly what happened to Deb Tamber, a Skver Hasidic jew from Rockland county (NY) who happened to leave her sect. After her divorce, Tamber was granted a once-a-month supervised visitation with her children whom she became always more estranged from, until she could not stand it any more and committed suicide.

I am, however, the type whose pain is clamoring; so I picked up the phone and called the Head of The Brearley Upper School, Evelyn Segal.  A day later, she called me back.  I asked her where my oldest one had gone to school. I was told that Brearley cannot give information about students who have left the school. Brearley abides by the privacy laws, blah, blah, blah,… that protect Brearley alums who, by the reason of the alienating parent, need to be protected from their fathers.

I have to be honest: I was not expecting much from Brearley anyway. I was however not expecting the line Mrs. Segal chose to end our cold but courteous phone conversation: “That’s the way things are done in this country,” which translates to: ” If you are not happy with the way things are done here, go back to your country.”   That’s the line of a foreman to illegal foreign workers.  More sectarian (and  inexcusable whatever the situation) it cannot be.

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Gosh, I wish the New York Times had sneaked in Manhattan Family Court when I was a regular customer there, from 2001 to

Guantánamo

2009. But later is better than never. William Glaberson’s article from yesterday, Friday November 18, describes the making of  people’s family justice in New York City. Readers can learn what divorced fathers have come to know as they tasted family courts. It is Guantánamo right here in the city.

I guess many people don’t know the most important piece of news one learns from this article: Family courts in New York City are not supposed to be the secretive places they are. On the contrary, they have been ordered to be opened to the public since 1997. Yet it looks that for fourteen years now, the media has not been welcome there. Glaberson mentions arrogant cops denying reporters entry to court rooms, judges asking reporters to show their credentials to court clerks, who ask them to get the approval of the state’s chief administrative judge. As a result, accountability is nil. The little world of family court does as it pleases and prospers. Trials last what they last – mine lasted more than six years, law guardians sleep on the children’s  interests which they are to represent; unsupervised social-agency workers that supervise the visitations with your children have the leeway to bully you while you are trying to keep your relationship with your kids from deleting.

The media should not stop halfway in this most welcome attempt to lift the veil on the nauseating secrets of family justice in New York State. There is a lot of investigating to do about the work of  support magistrates, these gracious people who behind close doors decide about child support payments that too often put non-custodial parents in the red and sometimes in jail. And please, pay a visit to the nasty fellows of the Support Collection Unit on 151 West Broadway, in the City.

When is the reform of family justice be on the agenda of New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman?

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On May 6 of this year, The American Coalition for Fathers and Children launched a Facebook Save the Turnips Campaign toSave the Turnip “confront Child Support Agencies and their inhumane practices towards child support payers.” The point? Protesting against the re-creation of debt prison for failure of child support payment in this country. Why the title? Child Support Agencies commonly refer to child support payers as “turnips,” as their goal is to trump the popular say that “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.” A.C.F.C. mentions the Child Support Enforcement Association (I did not know that such fellows existed; As Brecht would say, the belly where from the filthy beast came out is still fecund) which cynically titled a training session “Getting Blood From a Turnip. New Farming Techniques for Increasing Your Yield.” Right after the first day of the campaign, the Child Support Enforcement Association deleted the word turnip on its website.

For some time now I have denounced on this blog the thoughtless and merciless New York State Child Support Laws and their enforcement by the New York State Child Support Collection Unit. I  totally support A.C.F.C. Save the Turnips Campaign. To join the campaign, please just go to  www.facebook.com/savetheturnips and ‘like’ the page.

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One never touches the bottom of family laws’ insanity.

The Four Hundred Blows (Truffaut)

I just came across a website titled “Child Custody and Termination of Parental Rights.” I thought termination of parental rights was the predicament of folks like me, who don’t see their kids after a lengthy trial in family court that deprived them of their parental rights. Wrong. Termination of parental rights is part of Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed by Congress in 1997. It is supposed to be about facilitating adoption and providing children with the fundamental right of a safe home. The natural parents  loosing their parental rights (the civil dead)  have their ties with their kids severed for ever.  They do not pay child support any more.

What are the benefits of this law?  To make custody battles even more litigious, if it was possible, and hit particularly poor and handicapped parents. Also to open new business opportunities for the booming family industry, which like Elaine (in Seinfeld) “will be  there… for you.”

I am a non-custodial parent from New York State that lost his parental rights in family court. Yet I pay child support, ergo I am not a civil dead. That does not cheer me up.

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Picture CYBR3RCRIM3Fathers deprived of their parenting rights like myself know that Massachusetts Shared Parenting Bill HB1400 is being considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee and might become law. If this were to happen, equal parenting rights would be the basis of custody rulings in divorce cases. I happened today to come across a posting of the Simeon Law Firm, titled “Would Proposed Mass. Fathers’ Rights Rule Help Dads or Hurt Kids? One more time, this title frames the conventional, misleading trade-off between fathers rights and “the best interest of the child” that would result from the passing of the bill into law.

What do we have in this posting? Not much, in all honesty. First, the Simeon Law Firm states that evidence of biased rulings – mothers granted sole physical custody of children 84% of the time- is based on 1999 doctoral dissertation. Old stuff indeed, yet that has the merit to exist. Does Simeon Law Firm have better, more recent data?  Of course not, but the firm seems to suggest that between 1999 and 2010, Massachusetts probate courts might have – magic- produced more balanced rulings. The punch line? The law would hamper judge discretion, and judges work really hard on each individual family cases (Here Simeon Law firm quotes Scannel -director of the policy and planning for the Massachusetts Society- and Barbar, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s family laws).

The new law would hamper judge discretion, really? We can’t wait for that to happen. Divorced fathers that have spent time in family courts know that judges rarely, if ever, exert their discretion in their favor. On the contrary,  judge discretion often aggravates the bias of the law. An equal parenting law would force judges to get off the rails of biased thinking and take into account of fathers’ parenting right. Why would an unbiased family court judge mind? Moreover, where does Simeon Law firm get that justice is the proceed of judge discretion? There might have been a few good judges in the South during segregation times, did that invalidate the need of civil rights?

Ultimately, Simeon law firm’s case rests on the flimsy “best interest of the child” doctrine: a child is better off with mum when parents divorce.  Evidence in favor of this doctrine? zero. In half of the world, family laws are not predicated upon it. Can anybody prove that children of divorced parents are worse off there?

A last word. I can’t help but ask myself why would a law firm would vindicate judicial discretion against reform. I guess, from the point of view of law firms, grey areas are good for business. Judge discretion leaves more room for pleas and lawsuits… and the perpetration of things as they are.

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