The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine ran a feature interview (pictured, right) with Fathers and Families” Board Chairman and founder Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. on Father’s Day. In the piece — Fighting dad (6/18/11) — Holstein discussed our shared parenting bill H02684, which has been endorsed by nearly a third of the Massachusetts legislature. Holstein explained:
Women”s groups are also against [the bill],
but they can”t turn out a crowd on this issue. The public understands this is good for children…Judges still award [physical] custody to mothers by default; fathers still see their children every other weekend and maybe Tuesday nights. It”s a cookie-cutter solution that has outlived its usefulness.
The consequences of this, Holstein noted, include:
There is evidence showing adverse outcomes [for kids]. They feel terrible, they long for the missing parent, and begin to draw conclusions that they”re not worthy.
Predictably, there’s now a blowback against Holstein and F & F from opponents of the interests of children of divorce–the domestic violence group Jane Doe Inc., and a divorce attorney, Laura W. Gal. Jane Doe Inc. and other domestic violence groups have largely succeeded in blocking shared parenting legislation by ludicrously equating divorced fathers seeking a meaningful role in their children’s lives with wife-beaters and child abusers. Jane Doe’s Executive Director Mary R. Lauby accuses Holstein and F & F of “wholesale misogyny” and writes:
We are not sure which is more disturbing: the false claims that Holstein continues to peddle or the uncritical reporting on behalf of the Globe...A review of case outcomes in Massachusetts reveals that in cases where the divorce is contested and abuse is reported, fathers are likely to receive either sole or joint custody. In addition, abusive husbands are more likely to contest custody as a means of controlling or emotionally attacking their victims.
Massachusetts divorced fathers–few of whom get true joint custody–will no doubt be surprised to find that fathers are so favored in court that even fathers who are wife-beaters usually get “either sole or joint custody.” In another letter, divorce attorney Gal writes:
…Holstein…claims that judges use “default’ or “cookie-cutter’ solutions and show “old-fashioned gender bias.’ As a family law attorney, I can say these claims are inaccurate and misleading…The current law is clear and comprehensive: (1) Parents have equal rights; (2) there is no presumption in favor of, or against, shared custody; and (3) custody decisions are based on the best interests of the children. There is no default outcome. Bias is explicitly prohibited.
In the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts cases today, mothers receive sole custody and fathers are only allowed to spend a few days a month with their children. Does Gal actually expect us to believe that this occurs independent of gender bias? That mothers are such better parents than fathers that courts are truly acting in children’s best interests by severely restricting their time with their fathers? We want you to write a Letter to the Editor of the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also urge you to comment on the piece by clicking here. Lauby and Gal’s full letters can be seen here under the subheading “Contesting divorce.”