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Archive for the ‘Father Rights Movement’ Category

Lady Justice in Johannesburg (Photo Rowan Pybus, Faith47’s website)

More than ten years ago, as a father immersed in a fight with ex and the Manhattan Family Court to regain my meager weekends with my girls, I excoriated the languid pace of US family justice and its biases against fathers. I have never gotten my weekends back, and I still have child support garnished by New York State Child Support Collection Unit which does not care one way or the other if I see my children, and gee, was I right: Family justice is slow, painfully so. Yet if there is very little progress going on in the US, things are happening elsewhere.

Consider this: By the end of 2017,  UK Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory Service) is touting a “groundbreaking initiative” to tackle parental alienation, arguing that “parental alienation is a feature of many of our cases” (no kidding!). In the Spring of 2018, “guidelines will be issued to help social workers to deal with suspected cases of parental alienation.” An alienating parent could loose custody if convicted of demonizing the other parent with one’s children.

My children have been the victims of parental alienation, which the Manhattan Family Court judge dealing with my case acknowledged, but whose ruling aggravated its effect instead of correcting it. Hence I cannot but salute the Cafsass “initiative,” hoping that one day sleepy New York State justice system might want to emulate it. I want here to point at idiosyncratic US factors that may render this initiative ineffective if it were put in place..

Take the US idiosyncratic dysfunctions between the public players (judges, lawyers etc..) and private ones (supervisory businesses that deal with the visits of sole custodial parents and their children).  In my case, It only took a couple of supervised visits for the social worker to figure out that mom was demonizing me and sabotaging my supervised visitations. The social worker wrote a letter to the judge, which went nowhere, for the next trial date was month apart, and the law guardian in charge of my case was as awake as Ben Carlson in the 2016 Republican debates. My point: Guidelines are not going to help much if roles in the chain of decisions are not clear, and again, if nothing is done to remedy the excruciating slow pace of rendering justice (in the US).

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Over, let say, the last decade, fathers rights organizations all over the world agreed on this point: joint- custody – equal parenting rights for the father and the mother- had to be the default option after a divorce, that is, the law had to acknowledge fathers’ role as equal to mothers’ in raising and educating their children. Several countries inserted joint-custody into their family laws, but the outcome, from a  fathers rights perspective, remained below expectations,  partly because of the justice systems’ prejudice against men  (in the U.S. for instance), and the inertia of legal practices; You may very well grant (legal) joint-custody of the children to both parents, but if mom has the de-facto custody of the children, dad’s relationship with his children is toasted in the long-run. The poor fellow has very little chance to have any relationship with his children when they reach adult age.

That is the background for a bill about shared residence which is to be discussed today, Thursday November 30 2017. This bill is about making shared residence of children of divorced parents the default option. That is, children of divorced parents are to share residence with mom or dad equally over the years, depending on the constraints of each parents. This is no miracle solution by any means. France is not as large a country as the U.S., but if Dad and Mom lives far apart (Dad in Paris and Mom in Marseille for instance), shared residence is not going to work, because the child is to attend the same school over the year. Also, family counselors stressed the need for less than three-year old children’ s psychological stability not to be moved around from one place to the other. Hence, the parent who is granted custody (residency) of a child below three has to find ways to make exist his (her) ex in the daily life of the child, warned family counselors.

Would this bill help divorced fathers to be real and effective parents? Let see. What I like in this bill is that it gives, for once, incentives for all players – the justice system, moms and dads- to be smart. What does smart mean exactly for these folks ? The justice system would not be held accountable for (implicit) cultural norms dictating which parent a child ought to be with; hence the ground would be clearer for mom and dad to pursue, conjointly, the best interest for their child, given their own diverging interests as separated individuals.

I think that if some twenty years ago, a bill like this had been discussed- and passed- in New York State, I would have been given a chance to keep my relationship with my children, which I lost long ago. Perhaps I am just not the pessimist I think I am.

 

 

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Fathers interested in the progress of fathers’ rights may have heard that Michigan Representative Jim Runestad introduced House Bill 4691, which

Rep. Jim Runestad, Michigan House of Representatives.

aims at providing equal parental time to parents (the bill specifies that a child shall not spend more than 200 nights per year at one’s parent home, unless there is an agreement by both parties). Given that family courts tend to grant custody to the mother in divorce proceedings, Bill 4691 sounds like a step in the right direction.

So, out of curiosity, I decided to check where Representative Runestad stood on other issues. I was not pleased.

Runestad and I do not have the same view on parenting, starting with what he considers a safety issue for his 14-year old daughter, now in middle school. Interviewed by John Perry (Legal Analyst), Runestad blasted the Michigan Board of Education guidelines protecting transgender students. One of Runestad’s subject of wariness about the Board guidelines is the fact that a transgender (male) student can have access to female bathrooms. Runestad conjectures that these transgender students may not know who they are: one day they think they are male, the other day female. While Runestad totally ignores the much documented need to protect these students, he seems to fear a male predator taking the pretext of a fake identity to assail female students in the bathroom. No kidding.

If my daughters were of Runestad daughter’s age, rather than malevolent LGBT students, I would fear the occurrence of another Columbine or Sandy Hook, and the perils of more weapons to more armed nut cases. However Runestad proudly voted in favor of “the right to carry” legislation, meaning right to “conceal carry” on the laudable motive that law-abiding citizens, who can “already carry a firearm without permit or training requirement in the State of Michigan,” should not be unfairly penalized. Tears come to my eyes at this noticeable legislative achievement.

Last but not least, Runestad strives to improve “a perfect voting record” while working on a piece of legislation that would ban policies that protect illegal immigrants. In this project, the two sanctuary cities of Michigan, Detroit and Ann Arbour, are targeted on the usual obnoxious grounds that illegal immigrants imply increased insecurity, low wages and a drain on public resources. Trumpian fallacies.

So what? Shouldn’t fathers from all sides of the aisle, in a spirit of bipartisanship, support House Bill 4691?

I am no Michigan voter, but my answer is no, in a million years. Representative Runestad does not think straight about human rights and he urgently needs to correct that. The big picture of his voting records and legislative projects show that he does not care about the right of the most vulnerable people (refugees, immigrants, LGBT, etc). As a result, it is clear that he cares even less about the parenting rights of these folks.

Runestad has to be the sweetheart scarecrow of those who trash the father rights movement as a reactionary project of white men eager to restore the old patriarchic order.

I have no interest whatsoever in a fathers’ right movement that denies equal parenting rights to LGBT, refugees, or immigrants, legal or not. And the US fathers’ rights movement in the US has to make clear that it has nothing to do with fellows such as Representative Jim Runestad.

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I saw Gad Elmaleh’s show, “Oh My Gad” last night at Joe’s Pub. Elmaleh is  a very

gad-elmaleh-jpg_203462

Gad Elmaleh (www.madamesioux.fr)

successful stand-up Moroccan French comedian who decided to make it in New York. Why New York? Gad knows. As I was thinking of the show, one of its main themes came to me.  America has mostly good people but bad institutions, like health care policy,  justice and gun laws. In France, or in Morocco, where Elmaleh spent part of his childhood, people are perhaps not so good, but institutions are much better.

Let’s leave Gad Elmaleh and let me take it from there. In New York for instance, we have the ethicist and his column in the Sunday Times. Each week, a bunch of good people are asking Kwame Anthony Appiah what is the right thing to do, because they care about it. Like this woman for instance, who asks the ethicist if she should tell her boy about his biological father (her ex). She cannot stand having his son learn about his biological father by anybody but her. That’s a woman thing: she wants to control the narrative, totally. The ethicist goes right to the point: tell your son. Now.

The surprising thing is that somehow, all these good intentions have come to be lost in the process of designing institutions, justice for instance. As this group of fathers demonstrating in front of Toledo family court on May 28 to ask for the basic right of having a role in the life of their children shows, there is little ethics in the working of family courts. It is a custodial- mother- take- all game.

Also let say it again. We need to seriously improve our narrative. No, “we are not -all- deadbeats- dads.” The deadbeats dads are those who have been bled by unreasonable child support payments. We want family courts not to mess up with us being dads.

 

 

 

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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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CAFE parental alienation and fatherlessness billboard adds.

CAFE parental alienation and fatherlessness billboard adds.

Perhaps that’s because they don’t have Black Friday in Toronto (Canada), and no Donald Trump. Or just because they pay attention to issues that matter. In any case, the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) has started since November 17 of this year the second of a three-stage campaign to challenge social attitudes towards male issues, betting that it would strike some chords with the public.

The campaign takes the form of public events and billboards showing a kid in the arms of his father, with the message: “I am no parental prey.” The goal is to raise awareness on the fact that parental alienation severs the ties of divorced fathers with their kids, thanks to complacent family courts. The pinnacle of the campaign is a public event in the University of Toronto, on November the 26th.

From the US, it is so comforting to watch a father right movement with inhibited ambitions. I would have no objection if these Canadian folks were to extend the reach of the Association for Equality beyond the border.

 

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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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