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Archive for the ‘Politicians on Fatherhood?’ Category

Since Friday February 15, Serge Charnay, has been on top of an abandoned crane, in  a Nantes (France) old shipyard. Charnay spread a banner with these words: “Benoit, two years without his dad.”  Benoit is Charnay’s son. He has not seen his father for two years. Serge lost his visitation rights when he sequestered his son for ten days in 2010 and two months in 2011.

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry AFP)

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry, AFP)

Also Charnay wrote on top of the crane: “Let’s save our children from the justice system.”

What is it with some fathers and cranes ? Five years ago, in September 2008, Paul Fisher (Ohio) and Donald Tenn (California, President of Fathers for Justice USA) climbed on a crane near Ohio State University. They were requesting a non-partisan investigation into the family court system by the governors of their respective states – then Ted Strickland in Ohio, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.

I love it. Men perched on a phallic piece of machinery screaming their lungs and their powerlessness at the unfairness of the justice system and claiming their rights to see their kids, like their exes do.

In any case, Serge Charnay may have made significant breakthroughs for the fathers rights movement in France, perhaps because awareness on the topic has previously been raised by Moreno’s protests against the family justice system (Moreno went to Nantes to support Charnay). On Friday night, Serge Charnay was told – by  the Prefet (a high government official) that he could benefit from a request before family court to review his case. As Charnay refused to get off his crane, Jean Marc Ayrault – Mayor of Nantes and Prime Minister, mind you- asked the Minister of Justice (the French Attorney General) and the Minister of the Families to meet next week with father rights organizations.

When has any high- ranked government official ever met with fathers rights organizations in the US? Did governors Strickland and Schwarzenegger ever ask their Attorney Generals to investigate the family court systems in their respective state? I guess not. And  I think it may have to do with the fact that father rights movement are no lobbyists with big pockets.

Serge Charnay, you are most welcome to talk about your experience on this blog when you will get off your crane.

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Sometimes when I come back to the US from abroad, I have some cultural adjustments nrato make. At the beginning of this New Year, I had to go over a big one.

A few days ago indeed, it was Black Friday all over again, not for electronics but for guns. In anticipation of new laws following  the Newtown slaughter, people rushed to buy guns. Gun dealers sold out their inventories. I can’t wait for Walmart advertising a Martin Luther King day sale on semiautomatic rifles.

I never had a gun. I don’t get the drive for it, although I have hunters in my  family: real ones, the type that run miles after a wild boar. Also, let’s face it: the political justification for the American rights to bear arms ought not to fly.  All in all, the second amendment was about keeping the slaves slaves.

Now for the cultural/in- defense-of- the-American-democracy line you hear from gun owners an the NRA: that’s all about the government, stupid. The government wants to deprive you from your right to own weapons. First they take your weapon and  tax the wealthy, then communism.

Back in New York at the beginning of the year, I received my annual New York State Child Support Processing Center: annual child support paid in 2012. I did not see nor talk to my girls last year, but New York State could care less. I am no father, I am a permanent resident paying for his children.

And I have news for the NRA and gun owner nuts: folks, it’s been a long time you have lost much more than the right to own a semiautomatic rifle, a machine gun or a tank: You have let the right to see your kids slipped and have not done zip about it.

Maybe there is one way, the only one, to have folks wake up to the cause of father rights: Forbid non-custodial fathers to own a gun, of any kind. At least we would have the NRA with us.

(more…)

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I love what readers of this blog are doing with it: it becomes a place where experiences, and sometimes solutions, are exchanged.

Yesterday, comments of a reader immersed me back deep into the Dickensian world of New York State family laws, in 2012.

Let’s summarize: She’s a non-custodial parent living on Social Security disability benefits; her ex-husband too. As a veteran, he gets disability benefits for their dependent son. It does not matter. She has to pay child support no matter what. Any earnings in addition to disability benefits -strictly limited by law- are garnished: that’s part of the bureaucratic recklessness rooted in the sheer imbecility of the State’s child support laws. When she asks for a refund, the State takes its time and its cut: child support overpayments are never entirely refunded. Only in New York State!

At this point, another reader mentioned bill S4547 introduced by New York State Senator Ken LaValle. I did not know about it. Thanks. I immediately googled it.

Kenneth LaValle

A smart fellow once said politics is the art of the possible. As New York State family laws goes, the possible is not much. The bill basically amounts to putting a band aid on a gaping wound. It requires a reduction of a child support’s obligation by the amount of social security benefits received by the child (conditional upon a case by case examination by family courts: good luck!).

Sure, the bill will help my reader, who should not be in this situation in the first place. Has it occurred to lawmakers that recipients of social security disability benefits do not exactly belong to the 1%? And that our reader would not be that distressed, if her child support payments were not a flat share of her gross income, regardless how low her income is?

Kenneth LaValle and colleagues on the other side of the aisle need to get some ambition. The State family laws can be reformed, deeply. It has happened in Britain and Australia, who had as crummy family laws as in the State. The guiding plot: joint-custody and child support payments based on both parents’ income.

Meanwhile, readers, stay safe: don’t marry, and most of all, don’t divorce in New York State!

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Reverend Mary Hovland

The State of Minnesota is about to have fathers rights make a major step forward with the passing of  HF 322, Children’s Equal and Shared Parenting Act.  The bill will adopt the presumption of  shared and equal parenting time, unless agreed otherwise by parents. Provisions of the law will be extended to unmarried parents. Oh My!

Where did the impetus that shook the status quo come from? Interestingly enough, from three women – Phyllis Stageberg, retired teacher, Reverend Mary Hovland and the founder of the Center for parental Responsibility Molly Olson, who campaigned to give equal parenting rights to fathers. Olson documented that children without absent fathers do not fare well, undermining the “best interest of the child monstrosity” predicament which still founds most state family laws.

If the law passes in the house, it will obviously entail a revision of child support laws. If parents share custody, there is indeed no reason for divorced mothers to automatically receive a certain percentage of their ex’s income as child support, irrespective of theirs.  That’s where further resistance to the new law will come: from noble politicians championing mothers’ loss of the divorced rent.

In its 2011 version, the law was even dealing with false accusations of child abuse as a ground for the accuser’s parental fitness dismissal. I wonder if this cherry on the cake is still on the 2012 version…

Unlike in Canada, Australia, England, GermanyIsrael or Spain, the debate on fathers rights in the US is in a state of complete torpor. Let’ s hope that the Minnesotan Children’s Equal and Shared Parenting Act change that.

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What do we want? My ranking goes this way: 1/ joint-custody of children (and the relegation of sole custodial parent status to an

Bourbier

exception); 2/ a fair division of the costs of raising a child that would take into account both parents incomes 3/ the disappearance of family courts- these unreformable, secretive gender-biased institutions- and the transfer of their functions to Supreme Courts.

Unfortunately, recent events lead me think that these most welcome reforms are not about to see the light soon, and the price might be many more Balls victims of the US family justice system. We live in times of fiscal imbecility: thanks to the deal just concocted by the President and Congress, the poor are going to pay for the costs of two senseless wars aggravated by the Bush tax cuts. In such a context, the US family laws have a crucial advantage: they are fiscally innocuous, hence the bastards -fathers mostly- pick up the tab for everything – education, health care –  that the scrawny U.S. social system lacks of. And there are no incentives for politicians to shake the stalemate: republicans, that wound up debt-aware when Obama became President-  care as much for fathers rights as they care for women or gay rights; invertebrate democrats won’t take the risk to alienate their female constituency, even if it would not be that hard to explain that fathers rights are not against mothers rights, except for some outdated feminists.

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For a week now, I have been reading about Thomas James Ball, who self immolated on June 15 in front of the Cheshire county

Cheshire County Courthouse, Keene, N.H.

courthouse (New Hampshire). I cannot totally grasp the total desperation of a man who sets himself on fire; moreover, with three kids he loves. There is not even the hope that one’s sacrifice will serve a purpose.  Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor who self immolated himself,  sparked the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring (now the Arab Year), did not know what the consequences of his immolation would be.

What is clear is that Thomas James Ball’s story is too reminiscent of that of many fathers fighting family laws and family court justice in this country. What broke the camel back in Thomas’ case was that he had it all, whereas most of us do not drink the chalice of the insanity of U.S. family justice all at once.

It starts with Ball’s wife accusing her husband of domestic violence. That was unfounded but in Cheshire County House, Keene, New Hamsphire, like in most U.S. family courts, it does not matter;   What family courts care about, is to give women the impression that they are treated seriously, even if their accusations don’t fly. Ball has in front of him the typical gutless family court judge, judge Sullivan, who denies him to see his two girls unsupervised until the Monadnock Family Services say so.  Obviously, the family justice system of the great State of New Hampshire, like that of the great State of New York, heavily counts on these private, for-profit, unregulated,  “Fully-Committed-To-Screw-Your” Family Services to sort out the wheat from the chaff. It happens that Ball cannot stand the do-gooders of Monadnock Family Services and refuses its transitory family “guidance”.

Last blow for Ball: he became unemployed. He soon found out that while men were on pot, family-loving lawmakers have reenacted debt prison for failure to pay child support. He faced the prospect of unlimited time in jail.

Rest in peace, Thomas.

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Maltraitance infantile

There is currently a most welcome legislative push for shared parenting in the U.S. Yet, the way these reforms are presented by some media is disconcerting: two camps entrenched in apparently irreconcilable positions.  That’s not helping clarify the issue, nor very conducive to pulling gutless politicians to take a stand.

Pick Jacobs’ article in DesMoines Register for instance, about shared parenting bill in Iowa. Her point: the proposed bill is too controversial for the Senate to vote for it.  Women Rights groups opposed shared parenting, because if the bill is enacted,  it will be more difficult for abused women to get sole custody.  In Iowa as in New York State I believe, women so far just need to throw an accusation of child abuse and the rights of the father to see his children are fried. A child abuse accusation is proof free and if  unproven, unpunished. And once an alienating mother has gotten all that she wanted, which family court judge will restore the rights of the non- custodial father? It actually would be a good thing if the bill were to entail that accusations of child abuse be substantiated.

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