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Archive for the ‘Fatherhood in the Media’ 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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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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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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Dusten BrownThere are two things I do not understand in Baby Veronica’s case, as the case is called : 1. Why isn’t Dusten Brown – Veronica’s biological father- supported by the father right movement, or fathers’ organizations in the US?  The man is wearing no Superman suit, and to my knowledge, he has climbed no crane; Yet Dusten Brown’s fight to keep custody of Veronica against the justice system,  is both legitimate and admirable. 2/ The recent pathetic CNN reporting of the case should make Dusten Brown’s plea on the agenda of the fathers right movement, even if, as everybody knows, nobody is watching CNN. Fortunately so.

CNN anchor Randy Kaye’s reporting of this case could not have been less informative and more biased. After a purely formal “balanced” exposition of the two sides of the case –  an interview with Dusten Brown followed by an interview with the Capobiancos, the couple who recklessly persist in adopting Veronica at any price, be it depriving her of her father- Randy Kaye steps in the debate out of the blue, asking the question: how come Brown is not in jail, after four courts ruled in favor of the adoptive parents, including the US Supreme Court?

Let’s underscore a couple of facts Kaye overlooked, or certainly not even looked at. Brown’s gave her parental rights to Maldonado, his girlfriend whom he broke up with. Shocking ? Nope. I don’t want to second guess Brown, but that’s a man stuff. Before my first one was born, being a father was raising one dominant feeling in me:  fear. When I saw her, fear was gone and she was the most wonderful thing that had happened in my life. Now, let’s move to shocking stuff. Maldonado gives Veronica for adoption and let Brown know when Veronica is four months old. One would think that giving parental rights to somebody does not imply giving her right to to give up one’s child for adoption.

Wrong. In the US, it is, except for Native Americans.  Without the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, Brown, who is Cherokee,  was fried. His consent would not have been needed for Veronica’s adoption for the Capobiancos. Actually, a voracious adoption industry prospers on the loopholes of the adoption laws. The consent of an undocumented immigrants who get caught by the INS, go to jail and have their children placed in the home of adoptive parents is not required either. But the Indian Welfare Act is this odd thing that against the wind, does not entertain the view that the best interest of the child of the poor is to be raised by rich white folks.  The South Carolina Supreme Court voided Veronica’s adoption, which the US Supreme Court upheld. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, argued that since Brown had not supported Maldonado during her pregnancy, his consent to Veronica’s adoption was not required. Interestingly enough, Sotomayor and Gingsberg, the two female justices dissenting to the majority, held a contrary view on Brown’s right.

Let’s remain polite and say that in this case, the ruling of the US Supreme Court, displays a less than Solomonic quality.  Dusten Brown  – Veronica’s biological father- is now wanted by South Carolina to face the charge of “custodial interference.” Dusten, is up to you if you keep “interfering”, but whatever you do, I support you.

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Jason Hatch (NYT magazine, May 8 2005)

Jason Hatch (cover of NYT magazine, May 8 2005)

I started struggling with New York City family court justice in June 2002, as I was put on trial for physical abuse. In these early and sombre years when the fathers’ rights movement was in its infancy in the US, there was not much a sole custodial father on trial could hang on to, except for what was going on in the UK. Which I found out in the May 8 2005 issue of the New York Times Magazine, featuring Jason Hatch in its cover page. Headline:  ” Sure, Happy Mother’s Day. But…I Want to See My Kids. The rise of the fathers custody movement.  I kept it until this day.

That’s why I got nervous reading Ally Fog’s piece in the Guardian, “Fathers4 Justice: The Solution lies in our family, not in family courts.” Thesis: the F4J folks are entrenched in a pointless “all or nothing position.” The children and family bill is entering a second reading (thanks, by the way, to F4J for it) and it includes the statutory assumption of shared but not necessarily equal parenting. But according to Fog, F4J wants nothing to do with it. Then we are told that “family courts can solve all of our problems,”  shared parenting has to start from the moment of birth. Sweden’s example is pointed at, where fathers benefit from paid paternity leaves, and actually take them. These blessed Swedish fathers have harmonious relationship with their partners early on, and less litigious separations later.

Sure. That’s real sensitive strategy for divorced fathers. Let’s just wait for à- la Swede institutional changes to come and exert their pacifying influence on family relations, and problems will be solved. The political momentum in the UK is just ripe for that. Who is going to be take the lead in implement these changes? David Cameron?

I like the Scandinavian social model as much as the other guy, but it won’t spare us from asking the family court system for equal rights with women.

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Since Friday February 15, Serge Charnay, has been on top of an abandoned crane, in  a Nantes (France) old shipyard. Charnay spread a banner with these words: “Benoit, two years without his dad.”  Benoit is Charnay’s son. He has not seen his father for two years. Serge lost his visitation rights when he sequestered his son for ten days in 2010 and two months in 2011.

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry AFP)

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry, AFP)

Also Charnay wrote on top of the crane: “Let’s save our children from the justice system.”

What is it with some fathers and cranes ? Five years ago, in September 2008, Paul Fisher (Ohio) and Donald Tenn (California, President of Fathers for Justice USA) climbed on a crane near Ohio State University. They were requesting a non-partisan investigation into the family court system by the governors of their respective states – then Ted Strickland in Ohio, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.

I love it. Men perched on a phallic piece of machinery screaming their lungs and their powerlessness at the unfairness of the justice system and claiming their rights to see their kids, like their exes do.

In any case, Serge Charnay may have made significant breakthroughs for the fathers rights movement in France, perhaps because awareness on the topic has previously been raised by Moreno’s protests against the family justice system (Moreno went to Nantes to support Charnay). On Friday night, Serge Charnay was told – by  the Prefet (a high government official) that he could benefit from a request before family court to review his case. As Charnay refused to get off his crane, Jean Marc Ayrault – Mayor of Nantes and Prime Minister, mind you- asked the Minister of Justice (the French Attorney General) and the Minister of the Families to meet next week with father rights organizations.

When has any high- ranked government official ever met with fathers rights organizations in the US? Did governors Strickland and Schwarzenegger ever ask their Attorney Generals to investigate the family court systems in their respective state? I guess not. And  I think it may have to do with the fact that father rights movement are no lobbyists with big pockets.

Serge Charnay, you are most welcome to talk about your experience on this blog when you will get off your crane.

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That’s the bottom line: for fathers claiming their rights, it all starts with the desperation from not seeing their kids: Jason Hatch (England) could not see his, Charlie and Olivia. He joined Fathers 4 Justice (UK) and stunted Buckingham Palace in September 2004 (The New York Times Magazine, May 8 2004). At the end of 2007, I had not seen my girls for almost three years and was harassed by ex via Manhattan Family Court. I was seeing myself going straight to jail and at least, I wanted my girls to know why; I started this blog.  Nicolas Moreno, from Romans (France), has adopted a bolder way: hunger strike.

Dauphiné Libéré, 01/21/2013

Dauphiné Libéré, 01/21/2013

Let me say first that if I could trade the New York State family justice for the French one, I’ll do it in a second. There, I bet justice may be slow but there ain’t no trial for child abuse that lasts more than 6 years; no judge arrogant enough to tell you, after having found you innocent of child abuse, that your relationship with your kids is “damaged” hence your kids and yourself are doomed to therapeutic visitations for an indefinite period of time; finally,  joint-custody is the default option in divorce.

Is the French justice system faultless? On paper, it acknowledges the right to fathers to be part of their kids’ life; Yet it did not protects Nicolas Moreno’s when ex moved with Luca and Evan, their sons, some 400 miles away from him, for no justifiable reason.

Nicolas is part of SVP Papa, a father rights organization which is asking for the inclusion of alternate staying of the kids with each parent into family laws. There is a fathers meeting in Nantes, the city whose mayor is Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Prime minister, on February 20; to help him hear the Nicolas of France.

Hat Tip: Scott Gabriel Alexander Reiss

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