Posts Tagged ‘Fathers and Families’

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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Every four years, I forget; in the US, people do not only elect a candidate for President, but also a family.  And every four year,  we  have to watch the self-righteous -yet apparently modest and restrained- display of familial intimacy of the candidates at both parties conventions.

In her speech last week, Ann Romney set new heights in this indecent exercise. She claimed “it was about love;” yet there was nothing cuddling in this display of love. She loves the guy who took her to the high school prom, alright.  The rest of us? She doesn’t know who we are.

First, the lady claimed she had a “real marriage.” Are there people who don’t? Would she mean, perhaps, that some – gays (?)- are not having ones? Second, she talks to and about people who have a role in a family, even a broken one – single dads, for instance (she mentioned them and these were perhaps the best two words of her speech). Singles, just singles, as Condoleezza Rice? It ‘s about families, stupid. Even the guy who brought her back from the dance said it. Raising kids was the most important thing. Ann did it. Why wasn’t he more involved with his five kids? We kind of understood that was a story of comparative advantage: she had the women thing with kids, he was more gifted making money for Bain, before putting himself to saving this country.

Back to Ann. “We don’t want easy,” she says.  She does not know anything but easy, and in any case, we, divorced fathers, want it right and legit. From 1993 to 2009, the share of women getting sole custody of the kids has increased: to 84% from 83%. In addition to their parenting rights going down the drain, divorced fathers had to cope with family courts busy to enforce laws designed to satisfy the desires of all the Ann Romneys that were not brought back from the dance: pay – no matter what, even if you loose your job. And if you can’t, just go to jail.

This brings us to the only guy one wanted to meet in this Republican convention, and perhaps the democratic one. The fellow Ted Cruz said the immigrants did not come to meet in America: “the well-meaning bureaucrat.  The guy who puts his arms around your shoulders and says: let me take care of you?” The fellow delivers goodies that are part of a just society in some other parts of the world: a justice that guarantees equal parenting rights; paid pregnancy leaves; public and free nursery schools and even, minimum income for single parents up to the kids reach a certain age.

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Manhattan Family Court

I can’t help thinking last night  of a comment from a reader, Jay, on my last posting. Jay mentioned that in Canada, fathers have started occupy family courts years ago. Perhaps, fathers are less passive in Canada and this is why family laws are not as intensely biased against fathers than in the US, at least than in New York State.

In any case, Zuccoti Park is a only a few blocks from the infamous building of Manhattan Family court, on 60 Lafayette Street.  I visit it in my dreams. On the eight and ninth floors, the court rooms: that’s where fathers are striped from their rights to see their kids. Going down on the fourth floor, the little rooms without natural light,where the support magistrates lend an complacent ear to the mothers’ child support claims and expenses of all kinds.

I really would not mind to see the working of this inhuman bureaucracy disrupted for a while. Fathers for Justice USA, Fathers and families anything in mind? If yes, count me in.

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Picture CYBR3RCRIM3Fathers deprived of their parenting rights like myself know that Massachusetts Shared Parenting Bill HB1400 is being considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee and might become law. If this were to happen, equal parenting rights would be the basis of custody rulings in divorce cases. I happened today to come across a posting of the Simeon Law Firm, titled “Would Proposed Mass. Fathers’ Rights Rule Help Dads or Hurt Kids? One more time, this title frames the conventional, misleading trade-off between fathers rights and “the best interest of the child” that would result from the passing of the bill into law.

What do we have in this posting? Not much, in all honesty. First, the Simeon Law Firm states that evidence of biased rulings – mothers granted sole physical custody of children 84% of the time- is based on 1999 doctoral dissertation. Old stuff indeed, yet that has the merit to exist. Does Simeon Law Firm have better, more recent data?  Of course not, but the firm seems to suggest that between 1999 and 2010, Massachusetts probate courts might have – magic- produced more balanced rulings. The punch line? The law would hamper judge discretion, and judges work really hard on each individual family cases (Here Simeon Law firm quotes Scannel -director of the policy and planning for the Massachusetts Society- and Barbar, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s family laws).

The new law would hamper judge discretion, really? We can’t wait for that to happen. Divorced fathers that have spent time in family courts know that judges rarely, if ever, exert their discretion in their favor. On the contrary,  judge discretion often aggravates the bias of the law. An equal parenting law would force judges to get off the rails of biased thinking and take into account of fathers’ parenting right. Why would an unbiased family court judge mind? Moreover, where does Simeon Law firm get that justice is the proceed of judge discretion? There might have been a few good judges in the South during segregation times, did that invalidate the need of civil rights?

Ultimately, Simeon law firm’s case rests on the flimsy “best interest of the child” doctrine: a child is better off with mum when parents divorce.  Evidence in favor of this doctrine? zero. In half of the world, family laws are not predicated upon it. Can anybody prove that children of divorced parents are worse off there?

A last word. I can’t help but ask myself why would a law firm would vindicate judicial discretion against reform. I guess, from the point of view of law firms, grey areas are good for business. Judge discretion leaves more room for pleas and lawsuits… and the perpetration of things as they are.

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Let's Get Honest! Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?' (See March 23 & 5, 2014). More Than 745 posts and 45 pages of Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.