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Posts Tagged ‘the New York Times’

Earlier today,reading about the O’Connors (Fathers 4 Justice)’s appearance last Friday in a civil case brought against them, I was getting

World Largest Crane on the Tappen Zee Bridge (Angel Franco, New York Times)

World Largest Crane on the Tappen Zee Bridge (Angel Franco, New York Times)

into a very gloomy mood. I like this organization; The fathers’ right movement owes much to it, and it’s sad to see it sliding into irrelevance.

Fortunately, some very good news made my day: the International Council on Shared Parenting (ICSP) had his first conference in Bonn (Germany) in July of this year. The conference provided evidence that shared parenting was in the best interest of the child of divorced parents, and, that “national family laws should include the possibility to give shared parenting orders, even if one parent opposes it.” The theme of the first conference was “Bridging the Gap between Empirical Evidence and Socio-Legal Practice.”

This “bridging the gap”part shows real, commendable ambition.That’s also where the credibility of the International Council of Shared Parenting is to be tested. When you have the tragically decrepit New York State justice system (have you read Kalief Browder’s story in Jennifer Gonderman’s piece in a recent issue of the New Yorker?), and when the beacon of New York State’s political projects in the coming years is the new Tappan Zee bridge, you do not have exactly the most conducive environment to implement ambitious reforms of the judiciary. By the way, I have to make sure that French father’s right activists know about this famous crane which is used in the building of the new Tappan Zee bridge…

But I should not be that pessimistic after all. Shared parenting is debated in Maryland, by people who know about the work of the InternationaL Council of Shared Parenting.

 

 

 

 

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Two days ago, as I was waiting for the train on 96 street going back home, there was a young black lady on the platform, carrying a baby

D. Robinson and M. Gibbs (Photo Yana Paskova, NYT)

D. Robinson and M. Gibbs (Photo Yana Paskova, NYT)

in a snuggly and pulling a toddler, who was at most 2 years old. The little boy was crying. He was carrying an enormous backpack with Mickey Mouse on it, which he kept dropping on the floor. Each time this was happening, his mother was telling him to pick it up. Her tone of voice was crisp and authoritative. There was clearly no room for bargaining, yet the toddler kept crying, hoping perhaps her mum would comfort him. But his mum had her hands full and she did not have time to compromise. She was in the business of bringing everybody home. Maybe because I was coming back from Aznavour’s concert, and had Aznavour’s voice in my head, I felt vaguely uncomfortable by the way she asserted her authority. I noticed my discomfort was shared by people in the train.

Now that I think about it, I feel discomfort about my discomfort.  I guess this mum is the type of folks that work several jobs, cannot make it with what she earns,  and cannot afford a babysitter. She is therefore not the target of the nauseating commercial of Care.com, but she is the likely victim of the “budget cuts” of public housing in New York City that Mireya Navarro reported about in a New York Times article. Thanks to these cuts, family of two that were living in two bedrooms have to move to a one bedroom or pay more, and family of three in two bedrooms etc…  Consider now the predicament of single parents ( single fathers for instance) with a teenage kid in a one bedroom apartment, the likelihood of a surge in accusations of child abuse/domestic violence, and all these cases handled by those sensitive watchdogs of the families of the poor that populate family courts: law guardians, and private “Comprehensive Family Services” of all sort. That’s going to be interesting quality time for those families in public housing.

Meanwhile last week, the news was all about Ray Rice’s assault of his wife Janay.  It takes a “hero” to fall for exquisite sensitivity (belated on the NFL’s part) and awareness about domestic violence to be displayed.  The incident prompted a flow of reforms all over the nation.  The great State of New Jersey (Rice played at Rutgers) passed a package of six laws, the gist of which being enhancing control of the bad guys with a registry of restraining orders. Such conspicuous waste of efforts and taxpayers money, which would better spent on public housing …

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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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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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Photo The Innocence Project

Photo The Innocence Project

There are some stories, that once you become aware of, you have to do something about it. Like Mumia Abou Jamal’s, or Florence Cassez’s; they just haunt you. Even if you don’t do much, you have to do something.  In the case of Herman Wallace, that’s too late for me. Herbert Wallace died on October 5 of this year of liver cancer.

Herman Wallace spent 41 years in jail for a crime he claimed he did not commit. Adding to the abomination, he served his sentence in solitary confinement: 41 years in 6 by 9 feet cell. One can find perhaps a superior level of horror in Louis XI (1423-1483)’s justice: the famously mean king of France is known for locking up political enemies in cells so small they could not stretch.

That Herman Wallace was able to live 41 years in such conditions is an hymn to life. Amnesty International, Democracy Now among others have denounced Herman Wallace’s detention conditions. The Louisiana justice system kept tottering until the end: on October 1, Wallace’s conviction was overturned, on the 4th, he was re-indicted.

One cannot but wonder if the best thing that can happen to Louisiana is a government shutdown that would prevent the justice system from functioning at all.  Or let’s dream: a UN mandate over the Louisiana justice system, until reforms are implemented, from top to bottom.

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KramerThat’s already old news: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp, has served his third wife, Wendi Murdoch, with divorce papers; one cannot but wonder if the mogul’s amazing appetite for matrimonies will sustain itself. What’s news is that Wendy has hired a new lawyer, which is a sign of großgroß gunfight coming, according to Peter Lattman and Amy Chozick from the New York Times.

Why a mess when harmony could prevail? The answer is lack of foresight, tells divorce lawyer Paul Talbert from Donohoe Talbert, in the Times article. Even the most ‘sophisticated’ couple like the Murdochs cannot foresee all problems along the way. The Murdochs have signed tons of prenuptial and postnuptial (I confess I did not even know the word before reading the article) agreements, yet they left the Fifth Avenue Penthouse and a yacht in the dark; sophistication is in the details.

Talbert’s revelation turns the world of common folks like me upside down. I have been nurtured with Seinfeld reruns for years and in one of them, Kramer advices George, who wants – wealthy- Susan to break up with him, to ask her for a “prenup.” Kramer’s point: George’s display of foresight, while unbridled enthusiasm and confidence are expected, will seem like misplaced caution to Susan and be a turn-off.

Who is right, Talbert or Kramer? Here is a clue drawn from a totally unscientific poll of my own. On the one hand, my divorced friends from France had relatively easy divorces. On the other side of the Atlantic however, my divorced friends from New York City  (me included) had bloody ones.  In both cases wealth is not part of the picture, all right.  But why the difference?  Are the frogs more foresighted? No way. My answer: litigious divorce laws in New York State. For instance, the no-fault divorce was only introduced in New York State laws in 2010. Litigious divorce laws beg for the need of lawyers to walk you through them, and lawyers are not in the business of making a divorce less litigious.

That’s why I side with Kramer, with relief. And I venture something that will sound outrageously unsophisticated to Paul Talbert, from Donohoe Talbert: sound foresight in matrimonial affairs in New York State should minimize lawyer costs. That might mean refraining from marriage.

After all, lawyers fees must make a big deal of New York State GDP and as most people know – and more and more economists do too- GDP is a poor indicator of happiness.

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There is not much exhilarating going on in France these days, on the political and social fronts, to talk about.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Photo Nouvel Observateur)

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Photo Nouvel Observateur)

There is however more than what Maureen Dowd wrote about yesterday in the New York Times, as to whether or not “Valérie (President François Hollande’s girlfriend) can seduce the French:” a bill on equality between men and women, proposed by the French Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

Inequalities, among others in the work place, are real: a 33% difference in pensions, a 19% wage gap in the private sector in favor of men. The law has the ambition to approach the problem of gender inequalities in a comprehensive way: in the political sphere, in the work place, and at home. For instance, the law will mandate a quota of 20% -to be brought to 40% in the board of corporations of more than 250 employees, to help break the glass ceiling. The allowance for parental leave – 572.81 Euros per month- has been extended to six months for families with one child, to the third birthday of the youngest child for a family with two or more children. Vallaud-Belkacem kind of agrees, in an interview she gave to Sylvain Courage and Elsa Vigoureux from the Nouvel Observateur, that this allowance is a pittance by European standards. She counts on the increase in the number of employees in day nurseries “to change mentalities,” and to give men incentives to take parental leaves.

That’s in  gauging the change in mentalities that Vallaud-Belkacem and the French government flatly fail. There have been divorced fathers on cranes in France, asking for the rights to live with their children as much as their ex do. Evidently, Vallaud-Belkacem has not noticed them.  The law does not  touch on gender inequality in parental rights after divorce. That’s, sadly, a missed opportunity.

Hat Tip: Véronique Rouquier

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