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Posts Tagged ‘joint custody’

I have been in Paris for a few days and yesterday, sunday May 26, I carefully avoided to cross path with a huge demonstration against the new law allowing  gay marriage in France. I really don’t get it. For decades there has not been a soul in French churches,  yet this law garners against it a considerable amount of folks, who see gay marriage as an unbearable cultural change shaking “French” values at their core. Ondine Millot and Willy Le Devin in Libération reported that entire families from all over France came to the the demonstration in Paris, claiming for the children of France “traçabilité.” Translation:  the same way people want to know the where and how of a  good, children do want to trace “real”origins in their making and a “kosher” upbringing, that is they want a “real” father -a man- and a “real” mother- a woman- as they grow up.

Really? When I thought of this “traçabilité” business today, I could not help connecting the dots with the movie Maisie 3“What Maisie Knew” (directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel) which I saw some three weeks ago in New York. To me it’s not exactly the brilliant piece that some have said, but the movie makes its point in a very sensitive way. Maisie is a little girl whose parents divorce. Mum (Julianne Moore) is a rock singer, dad (Steve Coogan) is a wealthy English businessman. They nastily fight over Maisie’s custody, most of all because they want to deprive the other one from Maisie. Interestingly enough, the story takes place in New York State and Maisie’s parents end up with shared custody, on  a ten-day periods rotation.  A long, long time ago, joint-custody must have existed in New York State, at least for rich folks.

In any case, mum and dad are careless parents, and one happens to seriously fear for Maisie, especially when she has to change hands. Fortunately, rock star mum has gotten a boyfriend and busy businessman dad has remarried.  Willy-nilly both new partners of Maisie’s parents have to cope with their mistakes and get to care for Maisie. Punchline: at the end of the movie, Maisie ends up with her accidental step parents in a beach house somewhere, because once more, mum did not pick her up on time. As she finally arrives, Maisie tells mum she wants to stay with the couple who really cares for her and not go with her.

I remember leaving the theater wondering if my girls would acknowledge me as their father, even after all these years without seeing them. Incidentally, I happen to be their biological father and straight. But truly, one could care less.

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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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Photo: Fathers- 4- Justice

That’s happening in the UK;  The government is to attempt to change the law so that both parents – mothers and fathers- will have the right to see their children. Family Courts will have the responsibility to give to fathers time with their children. This is not joint custody, but a step in the right direction.

Matt O’ Connor, the President of Fathers 4 Justice (UK) , is not happy about it. From what I understand of the debate in the UK, the law is not going to prevent women to invoke child abuse to deny fathers access to their children.  Point taken.  Yet, from New York State  (and most of the States), where family courts have one motto – bleed the turnip  (the non-custodial father who does not see his children)-, a law like this would be significant progress.

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Every four years, at the time of the presidential elections, I get more annoyed by the irrelevance of the debate on family values.  This week, the Arizona episode of the republican debate sank to a record low on this issue. We heard the chorus of the four  knights of the traditional heterosexual family whining about its disappearance: Apprentice Patriarch Santorum quoted the New York Times on 40% of children born out of wedlock,  Mr. Virtue -Romney- added that 40% of these children born in sin were from certain groups (guess whose) and lamented the lack of abstinence teaching in school, Marriage Boulimic Gingrich kicked at Obama rewarding infanticide doctors. The pearl was Paul’s synthesis of this fruitful exchange: “don’t blame the pill, blame immorality.” Yes folks, the poor are immoral (and by the way, they don’t have the money to buy the pill), and the rich virtuous. And eventually the poor can be rich, with less government, more free markets and a return to the gold standard. I guess there is an antique quality to it that may make it sound novel.

Let’s leave eighteenth century Europe, fast forward and listen to the democratic side of the debate. We are not yet in the twenty-first century. What do we hear there? On the one hand, some very timid openings to other types of families, that led by same-sex parents; on the other hand, the defense of the “traditional” family. Who is to blame for its troubles? One culprit: Immoral men deserting their families, leaving misery and single motherhood behind them. Actually the law has the bastards pay for it.  Thats’ actually the only right they have: pay child support and better stay employed if they don’t want to end up in jail.

When will these sinister charlatans stop preaching and get real? The traditional American family has lost its preeminence? De profundis. Let us work with the families we have and give divorced fathers what they don’t have: the right to raise their children – and the obligations that come with it-  on an equal footing with their ex-wife or girlfriend. We will find out that single moms may be single moms but no single parent.  And everybody, children mostly perhaps, will be better off.

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On  Tuesday November 17. Brian Lehrer’s guest was Susan Riss, the editor

Scene of "L'argent de poche" (Truffaut)

in chief of Working Mother Magazine.  One of the topics of the show was the new trends in child custody discussed in the last issue of Working Mother Magazine, and what I heard caught my attention. Susan Riss pointed out that unemployment hurt men more than women. That’s no news; the scoop was that more dads are seeking custody and are winning 50% of the time. With the worst recession since world war II came grace. Family courts gave up the tender year doctrine that says that mum is more suited than dad to be with the kids at a very young age. Since unemployed men are at home, they can as well as mum raise the children.

From her interview with Brian Lehrer, Susan Riss is not somebody who seems hostile to the fathers’ rights movement. Quite the contrary. She stated that “joint custody is the ideal scenario in a divorce”. Not something that nut cases contesting the existence of parental alienation syndrome would say. Yet I cannot wait to check the source of her data. And I cannot help regret to have started a divorce at the peak of an economic boom and missed family courts ‘s coming to intelligence.  In 1999, my lawyer told me that joint custody was not an even an option in New York. The stupidest move of my life: I did not ask for custody. Three years after, I was deprived of my visitation rights by a phony trial in child abuse.

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Shared Parenting Ireland

Shared Parenting Ireland

The wind of progress is so desperately rare in the gloomy world of family courts that when you feel it, it looks like it’s the one which is going to bring the most waited rain on the desert. After years of  the regime “mummy gets full custody, daddy pays what the Court says and sees the kids if mummy feels like it”, science found evidence that kids needed both parents for their development. Family courts recently heard about this unsuspected breakthrough. Outcome: mandatory parenting classes for divorced parents in 27 states (I have not heard of such classes in retarded Manhattan family court).

According to Ann Wallace Allen, these parenting classes give pretty good results. They curb down animosity and the incentives to alienate that are spurred by the current biased family laws. Parents discover that if they are not friends, they can yet manage to communicate, meet at parents-teacher conferences and be both part of the social lives of their children.  And kids happen not to be traumatized by the divorce of their parents for it is not the divorce per se that have a negative impact on them, but the inability of parents to deal with one another within the course of a divorce.

Parenting classes are nice , but the decisive step for father rights is the passing of shared-parenting bills. As the revamping of the health care system is doomed to be dwarfed without a serious public option , there will not be real improvements to the current desastrous family laws without the acknowledgment of equal parenting rights for fathers.

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