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Archive for the ‘Father Unfriendly Institutions’ Category

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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Family justice in the US is a race to the bottom, with,  I long thought, New York State family justice as unbeatable at crushing fathers’ lives.

Wrong. Texas is surging as a serious contender to New York. Check out Clifford Hall ‘s story on Fox News (click on the photo below to watch video):

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.49.54 PM

One question that Fox News does not ask is why did Judge Millard sentenced Clifford Hall to pay his ex’s lawyer fees. It sounds like it’s a just the stuff that fathers have to do when they end up in family courts.

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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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Stop and FriskI don’t vote in this country , although it will be twenty-two years on November 2 of this year I have been living in the US. I probably never will. I also still do not understand why, in the so-called global world we live in, voting is still tied to citizenship. That’s so passé.  If you are resident in a country, pay taxes there, you should be able to vote.  Perhaps not in presidential elections, but in local and regional ones.

I any case, I do not have the first clue whom I would be voting for if I could. Ok, I would rule out casting my vote for Carlos Danger and his unconditional support of Israel’s settlements in occupied territories, and for Christine Quinn for supporting Michael Bloomberg’s third term.   As to the other fellows, their websites tell us they all have the family and professional background to bring the middle class New Yorker a better life. More boring, you die.

The hottest “issue” on the agenda of the candidates is “the stop-and-frisk” policy by Michael Bloomberg, motivated by an excessive attention on safety that originated in Giuliani’s administration. I will not cry if it goes. Yet I would like the candidates to be more ambitious and to root out the stop-and-frisk policies implemented in family courts that affect black, latinos and also white fathers. What fathers experience in family courts is the stop- and-frisk “pay child support and maybe, you’ll see your kids.”  But about family court justice in New York, the silence of the candidates in the democratic primary is deafening.

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There is one thing I understand in Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl, which is currently being heard by the Supreme

Veronica (Indian Country Network.com)

Veronica (Indian Country Network.com)

Court:  If Veronica was the daughter of rich white folks, we would not even be talking about her in the first place. Ain’t no rich kids embroiled in messy adoption.

But Veronica is the daughter of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee nation, and  Christy Maldonado, an Oklahoma resident. At some point, their relation turns sour. According to Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indian (NCAI), when Brown learnt about the pregnancy, he asked Maldonado to marry him, move with him in a military housing – Brown is a military- and quit her job. He pledged to financially support her and their unborn child.

That’s not the Nina Totenberg’s version of the story, tough. According to Totenberg, Brown texted Maldonado he was giving up his parental rights and would not support the girl. Maldonado then decided to put up the child for adoption. Through an agency, Maldonado found a couple she liked, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Through her lawyer, she notified  the Cherokee nation, but not  Dusten. Why? There is a law, the Indian Child Welfare Act from 1978, that prevents Indians, who have been stolen everything, to have their children taken away by adoptive parents with the blessing of family courts always eager to work in “the best interest of the child,” understood as a childhood outside Indian nations.  This law establishes that in case neither parent can claim custody, preference should be given to other Indian family members.

What bugs me with Totenberg’s story (and also, to some extent, Adam Liptak’s from the New York Times) is that Brown would have renounced his father’s rights to Maldonado and then changed his mind, when Maldonado renounced hers to the adoptive parents. That’s an interesting piece of news: we fathers have parental rights we can just forfeit through text message. Second nugget: the adoption lawyers working on the case knew Brown was a Cherokee and knew about the Indian Child Welfare Act; they were also lawyers seeking  to win.  Hence when they inquired if Veronica was an Indian Child, the paper they submitted to the tribe had Brown’s first name misspelled, and the wrong date of birth. At this point, the adoption case moves to South Carolina, where the Capobiancos live. Last but not the least telling information about the way US family laws value parental rights, especially fathers’ rights: just before he ‘s about to be deployed in Irak, Brown is served with the paper about the adoption of his daughter, Veronica. Minor detail.  The striking thing of the story is that without the Indian Child Welfare Act, Brown would be fried. The case would not be before the Supreme Court.

Is it too much to ask – for children’s sake- that regardless of race, income, religion, sexual orientation etc… adoption require the formal consent of both living birth parents before any procedure be undertaken?

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Since 1994 when Congress passed it, the “Violence Against Women Act” has been the weapon against domestic violence.  The act was to be reauthorized in 2012 to include gays, undocumented immigrants, American Indians and students.  Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats to approve the reauthorization, Republicans in the House did not.  Then the Republicans took a beating in the 2012 Presidential elections, and the reauthorization of the bill is back on the floor of the senate in February, with Republicans now more accommodating to compromises, as they hope to lure women and latinos back  (or finally) into their ranks.

One may think that at least, this  hard-learned lesson in political realism is for the greater good – the end of domestic violence. Wrong: the tackling of this problem has been nothing but petty, parochial politics (PPP) and PPP it remains.

Why? We now know  that domestic violence is not only the deed of men against women, but also that of women Universalitéagainst men and children: physical violence along with a less apparent but as pernicious a form of violence, parental alienation, which is given a free ride in family courts, which are women-biased courts. The very fact that domestic violence is defined as domestic violence against women gives women leeway to overuse of the accusation of domestic violence, to get the divorce they want and expel their ex from the life of their children.

Want to solve domestic violence? Change course and instead of adding categories of victims, throw universality into the law already. Just pass a Domestic Violence Act, that will aim at protecting women, gays, immigrants, American Indians and… men, too.

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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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Each year in March, I receive a grade report, at least of one of my girls. Both are now in

Hasta el viento tiene miedo (Carlos Enrique Taboada)

Brearley Upper School, but for some reason, I have never received two grade reports of this School, one for each of my daughter, the same year. I don’t ask why.

This year, in March 2012, along with my oldest one’s grades, was a generic letter signed Evelyn Sigal, Head of the Upper School, with the words:”If you have not already had the chance to discuss with your daughter her performance on her exams, I urge you to use this report as a catalyst for doing so.” 

The Brearley School must either have a special sense of humor I don’t get or a very short memory. In 2009, the Brearley School barred me from attending parents-teachers conference, although I had a Family Court order granting me the right to the contrary. And as I was blogging about it,  I received a cease or desist threat from the Brearley School councel. It was about refraining from comments -supposedly inflammatory-  about the Brearley School on my blog.

I learned then the Brearley School had read my blog.  Hence the Brearley School must have figured out I am incommunicado with my daughters, for almost seven years now. The Brearley School wants me “to use this report as a catalyst to discuss with my daughter on her exams?” I wished the Brearley School had not been another catalyst of my eviction from the lives of my girls. I could perhaps talk about their exams with them now.

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Montes Famliy (LA Times)

Mexico has a kidnapping problem. I am not talking about the “internal” Mexican kidnapping problem, which the Calderón administration has failed to keep at bay on all account. Making a scapegoat of Florence Cassez has just been a way to hide its failure from the Mexican public.  I am talking here of Mexico’s “external” kidnapping problem, the kidnapping of Mexican children by the US family court system: children whose parents are undocumented workers sent back to their country, and are given for adoption to US families on the grounds it is in their best interest.

First Alfonso Mejia and Margarita Almaraz, Encarnacíon Bail Romero and  Cirila Balthazar Cruz. Enters Felipe Montes.  Felipe Montes comes to the US illegally in 2003, starts working in North Carolina and gets married to Marie with whom he has three children. Unfortunately he gets deported and his wife is declared unfit to raise the children. They are placed with foster parents, who wish to adopt the children.  From that point on, Felipe Montes has to play Sparta family court (Allegheny County, North Carolina)’s lose-lose game, that is demonstrating he is worth the children. Although he has no criminal record and has taken care of the children, social workers did wonder if sending the children to Mexico was in their best interest. Felipe is living in a rural area around Tamaulipas in a house with no running water. These brillant social engineers are asking themselves if poverty should prevent parenting.

Sparta family court is supposed to render a sentence tomorrow.  Too late to suggest to social workers there how they would feel if, after venturing in a foreign country, marrying somebody there, being kicked out of there without their children, they would be denied parenting on the ground that, let say, children are better off  there because, you know, the North Carolina hamburger-based diet is not the healthiest for children, and children are better off be shielded from North Carolina gun violence.

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Gosh, I wish the New York Times had sneaked in Manhattan Family Court when I was a regular customer there, from 2001 to

Guantánamo

2009. But later is better than never. William Glaberson’s article from yesterday, Friday November 18, describes the making of  people’s family justice in New York City. Readers can learn what divorced fathers have come to know as they tasted family courts. It is Guantánamo right here in the city.

I guess many people don’t know the most important piece of news one learns from this article: Family courts in New York City are not supposed to be the secretive places they are. On the contrary, they have been ordered to be opened to the public since 1997. Yet it looks that for fourteen years now, the media has not been welcome there. Glaberson mentions arrogant cops denying reporters entry to court rooms, judges asking reporters to show their credentials to court clerks, who ask them to get the approval of the state’s chief administrative judge. As a result, accountability is nil. The little world of family court does as it pleases and prospers. Trials last what they last – mine lasted more than six years, law guardians sleep on the children’s  interests which they are to represent; unsupervised social-agency workers that supervise the visitations with your children have the leeway to bully you while you are trying to keep your relationship with your kids from deleting.

The media should not stop halfway in this most welcome attempt to lift the veil on the nauseating secrets of family justice in New York State. There is a lot of investigating to do about the work of  support magistrates, these gracious people who behind close doors decide about child support payments that too often put non-custodial parents in the red and sometimes in jail. And please, pay a visit to the nasty fellows of the Support Collection Unit on 151 West Broadway, in the City.

When is the reform of family justice be on the agenda of New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman?

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