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Archive for the ‘Family Laws’ Category

IxcanulSaturday February 27,  I saw one of the most beautiful and poignant movies ever, Ixcanul, from Jayro Bustamante. It was not be mentioned in the ceremony of the Oscars on Sunday, but it received a well-deserved best first film award at Cinema Tropical award.

But I want to talk about immigration and the tragedies that often go with it, not cinema. The movie tells the story of Maria, a young girl who lives with her family in the vicinity of the volcano Pacaya, in the south of Guatemala. They are landless peasant workers working in a coffee plantation. Maria’s future is all set: She is to marry the overseer of the plantation and this alliance allows her family to keep their house and to remain on the land where they live. However Maria happened to be enamoured with a young fellow who wants to go to the US, and does not know much it besides it lies behind Ixcanul (which means volcano in one of the Mayan languages of Guatemala, Kaqchikel). Maria sleeps with him to get him to bring her with him on his trip, but the lad leaves the country without her. She becomes pregnant. The condition for her family not to be kicked out is to start sowing corn their land infested with snakes. One of them bites her, and she is rushed to Guatemala City hospital. There, doctors spare her life, but not her baby’s, who is dead, Maria is told by a Kaqchikel-Spanish  hospital translator. In fact, the paternalistic greedy administration of the hospital, with the help of Maria’s cuckold fiancé, have given her baby for adoption; That’s good money, and indigenous babies are better off given for adoption to white rich folks anyway than taken care off by their illiterate kins.

Now, let us imagine for one second a totally different story for Maria. Instead of being stuck in Guatemala, she makes it to the promised land, which a real estate mogul, who epitomizes bad taste in each of his numerous architectural endeavors, wants to protect from immigrants with a wall. Let us be generous with Maria. She finds a half-decent coyote, crosses Mexico and makes it safe to the US. Then, she starts working for a chicken factory at less than the minimum wage, with unbearable working conditions. Maria is lucky tough.  The “Migra” never raids the factory where she works. Hence, unlike her compatriot Encarnación Bail Romero for instance, she does not go to jail, and does not have her kid given for adoption by a rogue judge to well-to do American parents. Instead, she keeps on working, contributes to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and never gets a cent from any of these programs. Maria’s daughter may or may not graduate from High School; she will however go to College if State policy allows it, and remains in any case, a second -class citizen. As far as Maria is concerned, she, as an illegal immigrant, will never see her parents again. Even if she were to go  back to Guatemala to be near a dying parent, she would indeed bound to start at square one, crossing borders illegally at her risk and perils.

The point is that there is no need of a wall to make the situation of immigrants more miserable than it already is.  Distrust those who want to make America great again, and those who say that America has always been great. Both messages are old bull, and their messengers always have it wrong about immigrants: Immigrants are always loosing big. Their offspring and politicians make a point to embellish it.

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Have you ever seen fathers and fathers’ rights making top stories on TV? In the UK, sure; in France, from time to time. In the US, never. And I have been following the topic for a while.

Well, it happened in North Carolina on January 19 2016.  It looks like it all has to do with a blog called NC-Fathers, which is followed in the state. In this WLOS ABC 13 segment, Shayne Thompson, a father from North Carolina, talks about reforms that a growing group of fathers from there want to see happening in  North Carolina family laws and family courts. He hits the right cords: shared parenting, because divorced fathers want to be a part of the lives of their children beyond the weekend; make parental alienation, that is nothing but domestic violence, a crime.

http://www.wlos.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/NC-Fathers-Press-for-Equal-Custody-of-Children-251304.shtml#.VqBdVVMrKu4

These North Carolina fathers are good news for father rights at the onset of this new year.

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Louise et son père

Louise et son père

September 10th is a sad anniversary for me: On September 10 2005, I had my last supervised visitation with  my girls. Truly, I did not want any more to see my girls in supervised visitations. I had swallowed all possible regimes of monitored visitations that family courts inflict on non-custodial dads and their relation with their children. Yet I was still playing the game of family court,  as we all do, because too much is at stake and because we keep hope that the process is not totally rigged, and that perhaps, some humanity and justice will come out of all these paper pushers of family court, judges, law guardians, lawyers and social workers. It ain’t. These folks don’t care much, they don’t have second thoughts about biased family laws and how to interpret them. Moreover, they have not much incentive to challenge the status quo: since this is New York, they think they are cool, progressive, and at the avant-garde of social change.

You don’t survive ten years without seeing your children, and you don’t survive the idea that these years are wasted forever, with more to come. Ex has indeed scorched the earth of my relation to my daughters pretty well.

True, I’d like to see more changes simmering on the front of fathers’ rights. Let me end on a less gloomy note. The state of Massachusetts is considering changes to its family laws. These changes are inspired by stories like Shawn Gillespie’s, a father from Lowell, Massachusetts, who experienced hell in family court. In the legislative changes that are contemplated, there is the ban of the horrible word “visitation” that depicts what the extent of fatherhood is on the eye of the law, and its substitution for “shared parenting.”

Gosh, if things don’t happen in Massachusetts, where then?

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From the Manhattan Bridge, August 2015

From the Manhattan Bridge, August 2015

A long time ago, the Greeks invented tragedy. Tragedy is about irreconcilable positions and impossible goals. Often in the mix there are delusional aspirations, because folks fail to assess their predicament.

Talking about crazy aspirations, take that one: Being “#1 Dad”, as a fellow painted on the roof of his building (see photo), when the divorced ones can barely be dads. When I saw it, I thought of a comment of a reader of this blog. The man had an accident, tried to get disability, lost his job, while his daughter was more than 18. In New York State however, child support is owed until the child is 21, and more…  it is actually owed after the child is 21. Our man still keeps paying back support while his daughter is 24.

Why should he? Simply because for New York State, child support obligations is a gender-based financial yoke, whereby men are non-custodial payers bound to pay support to ex until the child is 21, irrespective of any need.

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There is apparently in this country a building consensus on reforming the criminal justice system.

Photograph Gilles Clarke, Getty Images

Photograph Gilles Clarke, Getty Images

Perhaps it started with the Milwaukee Experiment, which Jeffrey Toobin related in a May 11 article in the New Yorker.  John Chisholm, the District Attorney in Milwaukee County, singlehandedly decided to correct the imbalance of the American justice system which sends a disproportionate amount of young Afro-American people for minor drug offenses in prisons.  Chisholm started to ask that prosecutors’ success be measured by their performance in reducing prison’s population, and not the opposite.

In New York State, the “Raise the Age” movement has focused on changing the law that sends juvenile offenders in jail at 16. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann, Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, has been advocating for five years to raise the criminal age in New York to 18.  Lippman was heard by Governor Cuomo, who is now trying to gather support for his bill to raise the criminal age.

Interestingly enough, as the readers of this blog well know, a 16 year old is a criminal in New York State but not exactly an adult before 21, since non-custodial parents have to pay child support until their offspring reaches this age. Consistency would require raising the criminal age to 21, or freeing non-custodial parents from child support obligations when their children are 18.

This brings me to my next point. A very interesting article in the April 20 New York Times describes how divorced fathers -mostly in North Carolina and Georgia- go in and out of jail for child support debt, are denied jobs for that reason, and are drawn to poverty for life. The title tells it all: “Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Jobs. Repeat.”

It is definitely a good thing to empty jails of young people, provided one does not keep filling them with their fathers, thanks to unfair child support laws. I can’t wait to hear Governor Cuomo’s thoughts or Hillary Clinton’s on that one.

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Hillary Clinton stepped in the Presidential race yesterday, Sunday April 12 2015, stating that “when family is strong, America is strong.”

Exactly the kind of line that gives me the creeps. The topic of family in politics is indeed always and everywhere sulfurous; It is the favorite topic of the far-right, who sees family as the repository of traditional values; it is for sure the topic of those who do not have much to say about policy in general, except that the essence of government is not to interfere with individual liberty.

The problem with family champions of all kinds is that they have to come from “above-reproach families” or be hypocrite. That makes life difficult for a lot of good folks who have interesting ideas beyond “making family stronger,” like Chuy García for instance, who is running for mayor in Chicago. Two weeks before Hillary’s official launch of her presidential campaign, Phil Ponce, a WTTW’s anchor, was rubbing into Chuy García’s face, the strong- family argument:  “Your son has been a gang member. Is he still one? If you could not control him, how dare do you pretend to lead us?”

I also wonder in what way policies aiming at “making family stronger” would help the cases of Michael T. Slager and Walter L.Scott. The former, a cop coming from a divorced family according to an April 13  New York Times article, shot the latter eight times in the back as he was escaping arrest. No reason whatsoever to shoot the man, Walter L. Scott, who happened to have the bad luck to owe $18,104 in child support, was facing an arrest warrant for it since 2013, and was scared to be arrested.

Why doesn’t Hillary Clinton leave the “strong-family thing” to the guys running against her?

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There is one principle I have been sticking to since this blog started: I do not publish ads disguised as

Sheri Atwood (Photo Vicki Thompson)

Sheri Atwood (Photo Vicki Thompson)

“I love your blog” comment for anybody, even from self-declared lawyers specialized in fathers’ rights. About a week ago, I received a comment from (perhaps) a parent praising SupportPay.com. I am going to publish this comment, for once. I might do even worse, but I’ll take the risk: discuss SupportPay here, because it is a topic that, I believe, deserves comments.

SupportPay is an online platform developed by Ittavi.Inc, which is incorporated in the great State of Delaware, although its headquarters are in Santa Clara, CA. According to founders Sheri Atwood and Lorena Chiu, SupportPay aims at softening tensions between divorced parents. Between the latter, communication sucks. It does, because it revolves around money. If communication about money is made easier -here comes SupportPay, with which you upload any receipt as proof of your expenses toward what you paid for your child- tension will ease, and children will be spared the shouting match that accompanies the bringing of them from one parent to the other.

I like technology like the next guy, but I do not think it will save the world. And I am also not totally sure that SupportPay founders have a clear idea of what their customer’s base is. Who pays child support? Mostly fathers. How do they pay it? Often, the State takes care of payments for them, through garnishment of their wages, like in my case. What are the predicament of fathers? They don’t see their kids, and making communication about money smoother won’t help see them more. Child support payments, which in most states are based on the sole non-custodial father’s income, amount to absurd percentage of their income. The problem of most fathers is not to keep track of their expenses for their kids; It is to keep up with them.

All of this to give a clearer idea of who SupportPay might be for: some of the 1%, Silicon Valley fathers who are not affected by the daunting demand of US family laws on the rest of us, and may find comfort in seeing through their expenses thanks to SupportPay. God bless them. Markets will always find answers, adequate or not, to their needs. I for one, will post another blog about SupportPay if it keeps one father from going to jail for missing chid support payments.

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