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NOW takes fatherhood programs to court. What do they oppose?

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has filed a lawsuit in federal court against fatherhood programs in Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. The objective of these programs is to provide career counseling to fathers in three tough categories: incarcerated, military and fathers with disabled children.

NOW has objected because women are excluded from these programs “solely because they are women.”

There is an old saying that you should be careful what you wish for, since you might get it. I think NOW should think twice about trying to win this lawsuit. If they win, wouldn’t that endanger the innumerable government-funded programs that benefit only women?

More to the point, how many proofs do we need that NOW and similar organizations oppose fathers’ involvement with their children and will use any excuse to attack programs that encourage such involvement? And here I thought they believed in gender equality–silly me.

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Do children of divorce want more or less involvement with their fathers? What did researchers find?

The researchers concluded, “The vast majority of participants from divorced families desired more father involvement than they had received. As a result, it appears that divorce leaves many children with unmet desires for paternal involvement–desires that remain salient for many years after the divorce is finalized. This pattern of results is consistent with what Warshak (2003) has called ‘the collective voice of children’ and has argued that this should be used more extensively when making custody and access decisions within the family court system.”

This is now the seventh or eight study showing that children of divorce want more time with their fathers (or non-custodial parents). There are no studies showing the opposite, to the best of my knowledge.

The bar associations continue to oppose shared parenting in most states. I suppose they can be excused–after all, their members have absolutely zero knowledge or training in child development. So maybe they should be a little more humble, and stick to contract law or bankruptcies, instead of telling us what is best for our children.

The self-appointed children’s advocates, such as the Children’s Trust Fund in Boston, also oppose shared parenting. They have less of an excuse than the lawyers. After all, these twenty-something social workers have taken two semesters of child development. This apparently qualifies them to rule our lives.

The research was carried out by Gordon E. Finley, Ph.D. of Florida International University, and Seth J. Schwartz, Ph.D. of Florida State University. They surveyed 484 university students whose parents had divorced. Their research is published in the October, 2007 issue of Family Court Review.

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‘The Bronx Is Burning,’ Billy Martin, & the Misleading ‘Paternal Abandonment Script’

I’ve often criticized what one might call the “paternal abandonment script”–the standard assumption that if a father doesn’t remain in his children’s lives after a divorce or separation, it’s because he “abandoned the family” and/or chose to remove himself from his children’s lives. One example is discussed in my blog entry Dick Allen & the Misleading ‘Paternal Abandonment Script’. Recently I’ve been watching and following the ESPN mini-series The Bronx Is Burning.
The series discusses the year 1977 in New York–the famous power outage and subsequent riots and looting, the “Son of Sam” killings, the upset in the mayoral election, and the controversies surrounding the New York Yankees and their 1977 championship season. One of the main figures in the mini-series is Yankee manager (and former player) Billy Martin. (FYI for non-baseball fans, Martin was super intense and something of a nutcase, but had an uncanny ability to take over wretched baseball teams and turn them into winners. He was repeatedly fired from jobs, including a record five times from the Yankees by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, in part because of his drinking and propensity to get in fistfights. Martin is pictured with Reggie Jackson, his star slugger with whom he often clashed. This includes a fistfight in the dugout at Fenway Park after Martin pulled Jackson out of a game on national television because, Martin claimed, Jackson wasn’t hustling.) One of my childhood friends admired Martin (as did many New Yorkers), and I followed Billy Martin’s career as a kid. One way or another I’ve read a great deal about him over the years. Billy was scrappy, just like his mother Joan, who he idolized. We were always told that Joan raised him as a single mother after his father abandoned him. These two descriptions of Martin’s father’s “abandonment” from the mainstream media are typical: “His father walked out before he was born, leaving Billy to be raised by his strong-willed mother and his grandmother.” “Billy’s natural father left the family when Billy was eight months old.” In watching The Bronx Is Burning and reading some related material, it turns out that Martin’s father did not desert the family–he was driven away. (This is not to say that he was a great guy–we’re told he repeatedly cheated on his wife). A few things: 1) In The Bronx Is Burning, the character playing Billy Martin–apparently quoting the real Billy–says, “One time my mother caught my father cheating and she split his head wide open.” 2) According to ESPN, Martin’s father “was a philanderer whom [his mother] tossed out of their lives before Billy was born.” 3) Sportswriter Maury Allen interviewed Joan, and in All Roads Lead to October Joan says: “[Martin’s father] was no good. He told everybody he left me. I threw him out…When I found out about [his cheating] I busted his car with a hammer…He’s still alive around here someplace. I’ll spit on his grave.” Speaking of the only surviving picture of the young Billy Martin with his father, she says “Nobody’s ever seen this picture. Nobody ever will.” 4) Martin’s mother had been divorced twice–quite unusual for a woman during the 1930s. She called her first husband a “bum,” as she did Martin’s father, her second husband. Conclusion? Perhaps both of Joan’s ex-husbands really were “bums”–or perhaps Joan wasn’t so easy to get along with. Or perhaps both. Given Joan’s temper and violence, and her raging fury at her ex 50 years after their divorce, it’s unlikely that the breakup was all the father’s fault. Billy Martin’s father may have been a bad husband, but–contrary to what I’ve heard and read for 30 years–he didn’t abandon his child.

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Two Heroic Wives Remained Loyal to Their Husbands as They Served Three Decades in Prison for a Crime They Didn’t Commit

This story details the hard lives and heroism of two women who remained loyal to their husbands for three decades as the men were incarcerated for crimes the FBI knew they didn’t commit. Both women raised their children, and kept up theirs and their children’s relationships with their husbands as best they could.

Recently, their husbands and their families were awarded $102 million for the FBI’s withholding of evidence of the men’s innocence.

These two women, Marie Salvati and Olympia Limone, are heroines. Olympia is pictured with her husband.

Hard lives for wives of men wrongly imprisoned: Ruling that frees spouses ends 30-year wait for Mass. women
The Associated Press, 8/16/07

BOSTON – For three decades, Marie Salvati and Olympia Limone essentially lived as widows, struggling to make ends meet as they raised four children on their own. Their husbands grew old behind bars after being convicted of a murder the FBI knew they did not commit.

Now the women hope a judge’s ruling awarding them and two other families nearly $102 million marks the end of their struggle in a long story of love, devotion and survival.

For many years, the two women would see each other about once a month, across the visiting room of a state prison. Their conversations were rarely more than a wave hello or a “how’s the family?” but they didn’t need words to understand each other’s lives.

In the days after the verdict, the two women and their husbands spoke to The Associated Press about living apart for so long, and the bonds that kept them together.

Never any doubt
For Marie Salvati, there was never a moment of doubt, even after her husband, Joe, was charged with murder, convicted and sentenced.

“He told me, ‘Marie, I want you to know I had nothing to do with this,’ and you know, from that moment on, I knew I was in this with him for his life sentence,” she said.

“I used to tell him, ‘You take care of yourself in there and I’ll take care of the family on the outside’,” she said.

And for 30 years, that’s what she did.

Every week, she traveled up to two hours each way to visit her husband in prison. She and the kids endured humiliating pat-downs and searches. The visits, she said, were to buoy her husband’s spirits and to preserve the bond between a father and his children.

It was hardly the life they had planned.

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‘Whichever parent I am with wants me to be loyal…I can only prove my loyalty by saying I don’t want to be with the other parent’

Background: Charlotte Hardwick’s Dear Judge (Kid’s Letters to the Judge) is a fascinating collection of letters which children caught in divorces have written to family law judges. In the tragic letter below, two parents are at war and are demanding that their children be loyal to them and only to them–a common element of Parental Alienation.
Dear Judge, I thought the worst moment of my life was when my mom told me she and dad were getting a divorce. I was wrong. This is the worst. Whichever parent I am with wants me to be loyal. I can only prove my loyalty by saying I don’t want to be with the other parent. The other parent is worried that I will stop loving that parent because of something the parent I am with said. Then I get dropped off or picked up and it starts all over again. It’s like sixth grade when two of my girlfriends made me crazy trying to force me to pick one of them to be my best friend. I remember when I was sad sometimes. Now I have trouble remembering when I wasn’t sad. Yours truly, Bailey A.

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‘She coached my daughter to testify that I committed DV…My daughter explained how her mother practiced her testimony, and made up parts’

Background: The California Judicial Council’s Domestic Violence Practice and Procedures Task Force recently invited comments on its Draft Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Improving the Administration of Justice in Domestic Violence Cases. There’s a big problem with the Draft Guidelines–they don’t deal with the false allegations issue. In late June, I urged my readers to write to the Task Force and urge them to consider the massive problem false allegations represent in their report. Several hundred of you wrote letters. I have asked for and received permission from several of those who wrote the Task Force to include their letters in my blog.
All letters are published anonymously. To learn more, see my original call to action Act Now: Major New Report on Domestic Violence, Family Law, Restraining Orders Doesn’t Even Mention False Allegations! or click here. From “Bruce,” a reader: Dear Task Force: I would like to mention my case as an example. My ex-wife got mad at me. She chased me from our apartment to the street. She was topless at that time. I had to lock myself in the car. She climbed the car and broke the windshield. My neighbors called the police and reported that a topless woman broke the windshield. When the police arrived, she ordered my 8-year-old daughter to tell them that “father became violent recently.” The officer arrested me. She even brought my daughter to the court and coached her to testify in the court that I committed violence. My daughter explained in detail how many times mother practiced her testimony, and which parts of it she made up. I was found not guilty. My ex was never punished for false domestic violence allegations and for bringing an 8-year-old child to testify to false allegations against her father. After that, my ex attempted to file four other police reports. All four times, I succeeded in proving that I was innocent. I am ready to present all related documents, including transcripts. I suggest addressing the issue of false allegations. There are extremely serious consequences for anyone convicted of domestic violence. That includes losing child custody, jail time, fines, protective orders, attorney fees, and possible employment problems. If a wife falsely accuses her husband of domestic violence, there are no consequences. Bruce

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MSNBC Pushes Myth That in Divorce, Men Gain and Women Lose

One of the reasons for the dramatic increases in child support guidelines over 20 years is the pervasive and mistaken notion that divorced fathers gain economically from divorce while women suffer from it. The myth stems from a now-discredited study conducted over two decades ago by feminist Lenore Weitzman, author of the 1985 book The Divorce Revolution. Weitzman concluded that women’s standard of living after divorce dropped by three quarters while men’s rose over 40%. The media trumpeted her research–some have called it one of the most widely reported studies in media history–and it led to sharp increases in child support guidelines. However, years later Weitzman was forced to admit that her findings were vastly overstated, due to a huge mathematical error.

Despite this, the myth that men gain economically from divorce remains pervasive, and is repeated even today by numerous writers and commentators, including conservatives like Dennis Prager, feminists like Ann Crittenden, and even by masculists like Tom Leykis.

Sanford Braver, Ph.D., one of the nation’s leading experts on the economics of divorce, helped uncover and expose the Weitzman hoax. His research demonstrates that when all relevant factors are taken into account, including the numerous tax advantages custodial parents enjoy, the “men gain/women lose” idea is badly in error. In fact, his new research indicates that the opposite outcome may be more common. To learn more about Braver’s research, click here.

Child support expert Jane Spies of the National Family Justice Association also discusses the Weitzman hoax in her recent article The Myth of the Successful Child Support System.

MSNBC, in its recent report on divorce, pushes the myth that men gain financially from divorce and women suffer from it. According to MSNBC:

“After a divorce, a woman’s cost of living can increase dramatically, hence the reason why court-ordered alimony and child support payments most often go to women. Even so, experts report the average woman experiences a 45 percent decrease in her standard of living after going through a divorce. Meanwhile, the average man experiences a 15 percent improvement in his standard of living.”

These statistics are in error. The MSNBC report is below.

From money to emotions: Get over your divorce How to deal with the financial and emotional pitfalls of a split
MSNBC, Aug 21, 2007

No matter what the circumstances, divorce is never easy. Both sides have to deal with heart-wrenching personal and financial decisions, but women in particular often find themselves in need of solid financial and emotional advice.

Divorce financial analyst Stacy Francis and psychologist and author Debra Mandel offer their advice on how deal with divorce on both fronts.

Protect yourself financially
After a divorce, a woman’s cost of living can increase dramatically, hence the reason why court-ordered alimony and child support payments most often go to women. Even so, experts report the average woman experiences a 45 percent decrease in her standard of living after going through a divorce. Meanwhile, the average man experiences a 15 percent improvement in his standard of living.

Divorcing women often react financially to their feelings. They operate from a place of feeling hurt, angry and unappreciated, and that influences spending–for good and bad. They may overspend to compensate for their feelings of loss or fear becoming a bag lady and eat nothing but Ramen noodles to save money. This is a time to look realistically at hard-core finances, and Francis recommends taking the following steps:

Read the full article here.

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Ex-Wife Rams Ex-Husband’s Car While His Three Kids Are Inside-Don’t Call It ‘Domestic Violence’, Though

I’ve noted on countless occasions that when a woman commits domestic violence, we don’t call it “domestic violence.” In this story, Rebecca Harvey allegedly rammed her ex-husband’s car while their three children were in his car.

She’s been arrested, and is being charged with felony charge of reckless conduct and three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. I’m sure she will probably be sentenced to a fine of at least $25 and a minimum of a half hour of community service. It will hurt her in family court, too–possible sanctions include a disapproving look from the judge.

Beyond Rebecca Harvey’s violence–which, since it was committed by a woman isn’t really violence at all and will not be treated as such–she’s a real charmer. She’s an attorney and according to the story, during her divorce:

“In spite of her membership in the N.H. Bar Association and law degree, Rebecca asked the court to rule she should not have to work outside the home while their children were minors and cited depression as limiting her ability to work. The court ruled her depression was short-term and brought on by the divorce–which included splitting $2.9 million–and ordered her to establish an income source.

“She also asked for alimony for life and argued that $3,000 a month in alimony–in addition to $6,000 a month in child support–was insufficient.”

Rebecca Harvey’s chump mother-in-law and father-in-law also loaned her and her ex-husband $275,000 while they were married, and she won the right in court to stiff the elderly couple.

The domestic violence story is below. A previous story about their divorce can be found here.

Mom reportedly rams car with kids inside
By Elizabeth Dinan
August 21, 2007 1:27 PM

PORTSMOUTH–A local lawyer who took her multi-million dollar divorce to the state Supreme Court is facing four criminal charges alleging she rammed her car into one driven by her former husband with their three children inside.

Rebecca Harvey, 44, of 48 Ball Street, was arrested July 4 by Portsmouth police on a felony charge of reckless conduct and three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

According to the complaints, filed by Officer Adam Kozlowski, Harvey placed her former husband–Islington Street dentist Paul Harvey Jr.–“in danger of serious bodily injury” when she “used her vehicle to push his vehicle while he was inside.”

The three counts of child endangerment allege she “purposely violated a duty of care” by endangering the welfare of their three children who were in Paul’s car when she struck it with hers.

In April of 2006, the couple’s divorce proceedings became public when the N.H. Supreme Court released a decision on their cross appeals of seven decisions made by a lower divorce court.

In spite of her membership in the N.H. Bar Association and law degree, Rebecca asked the court to rule she should not have to work outside the home while their children were minors and cited depression as limiting her ability to work. The court ruled her depression was short-term and brought on by the divorce–which included splitting $2.9 million–and ordered her to establish an income source.

She also asked for alimony for life and argued that $3,000 a month in alimony–in addition to $6,000 a month in child support–was insufficient.

Harvey was scheduled for an August 21 Portsmouth District Court hearing on the endangerment charges, but with permission from Judge Stephen Morrison, the case was continued until September 25.

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We Want Young Dads to Be Responsible Fathers-but All Hell Breaks Loose If They Actually Do It…

A letter from a reader:

“Dear Glenn:

“My 16 year old son is one of a kind, the one most mothers of teenage daughters would love to have if teen pregnancy was an issue. He works and goes to school straight A student. He did however get his girlfriend pregnant. But he has stepped up and took the responsibility from day one. He has gone out and bought a crib, Bassinet, and swing. He tries to go to the doctor’s appointments and even schedules his job around them. But his girlfriend’s mother is a controlling one–she doesn’t want my son to be a part of this child’s life.

“I just don’t get it. There are so many teenagers that would have ran at the first word ‘pregnant.’ Not him–he wants to be a part, he wants to be there when the baby is delivered, and he wants to be in his life everyday for the late night feedings and the diaper changes. Yet her mother has done everything in her power to keep him from whatever she can.

“I have done so much research on what is my sons rights and there isn’t a whole lot out there. Does he have rights? His girlfriend would like to live here with the baby and my son in our home and finish high school. We are behind them 100 %, but the mother says no.

“She recently went and filed for emancipation from her mother. She will be 17 in a few months and we are not sure if the judge will grant it to her. Although for the unborn child and the mother and father we do hope the judge sees the importance of them wanting to be parents and raising the child.

“They have carefully planned how they will finish high school and go to college. I sure am proud that I have raised my son to be so responsible for his actions. Who does this woman think she is? If you can give me any advice on anything we can do so that this child will have his father in his life I would greatly appreciate it. The baby is due in a few weeks–we are at a stand still with this.

“Thank you

“A loving mother”

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Presidential Candidates’ Views on Child Support, Fathers’ Issues (Part I)

Reflecting the weakness of the fatherhood movement, fathers’ issues haven’t been much of a part of the current presidential election yet. However, as I’ve reported on this blog, several candidates have made statements on fathers and child support, including Republican candidate John McCain and Democratic candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson. Of the four, McCain, Edwards and Richardson have been negative or largely negative, while Obama has said some positive things as well as some negative things. Their statements are briefly encapsulated below.

John McCain

In March, Republican presidential candidate John McCain was asked about fathers’ concerns over family law at a mid-day town hall meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Shared parenting activist Tony Taylor asked McCain if he “would be bold enough to address the issue of equal access to children for fathers that have gone through divorce.” McCain testily replied:

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, I am not going to overturn divorce court decisions. That’s why we have courts and that’s why people go to court and get a divorce. If I as President of the United States said this decision has to be overturned without the proper appeals process then I would be disturbing our entire system of government… But for me to stand here before all these people and say that I’m going declare divorces invalid because someone feels that they weren’t treated fairly in court, we are getting into a, uh, uh, tar baby of enormous proportions.”

In other words, McCain is saying, “the family court issue is a mess. Given the power of the women’s groups and the lack of power of fathers’ groups, there’s nothing for me to gain and much for me to lose in tackling the issue.”

It”s unfortunate, but McCain’s assessment of the politics of the issue is probably accurate at this point, and is one reason why we can”t get politicians to meaningfully act on our issues. And as unfortunate as McCain”s response is, to be fair, at least answered the question honestly. Whereas some politicians will give a vague, meaningless answer designed to appease the questioner into thinking he was going to do something about the problem, McCain made it clear he had no interest in the issue.

John Edwards

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, as part of his new “Initiative to Strengthen Families,” pledges to restore child support enforcement cuts, explaining that restoring the enforcement funds will “increase collections by more than $8 billion over the next decade.” I’ve explained numerous times that this is an illusion–the overwhelming majority of child support debtors earn low-incomes, and increased enforcement measures cost more money than they bring in. To learn more, see my co-authored column Federal Child Support Enforcement Cuts Will Hurt Bureaucrats, not Children (Las Vegas Review-Journal & others, 12/17/05).

Barack Obama

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized fathers around Father’s Day, saying, “Let’s admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child.” He also calls for restoring child support enforcement cuts, under the same illusions that Edwards (see above) shares.

On the other hand, Obama’s recently introduced Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007 does have some positives. In my co-authored column Obama’s Responsible Fatherhood Bill–Not Enough Carrot, Too Much Stick (Wisconsin State Journal, 6/30/07), I explained:

“Currently many noncustodial fathers–particularly African-American and Latino fathers, upon whom Obama often focuses–are required to pay their child support to the state to reimburse the cost of public assistance, instead of to the children”s mothers. This is demoralizing for low-income men struggling to make a difference in their kids” lives.

“The Responsible Fathers Act will make this money go directly to the mothers, instead of the state, a policy which research shows helps bring fathers closer to their children. The bill will also expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and provide fathers with job training services.”

Bill Richardson

Democratic Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson says he wants to crack down on so-called “deadbeat dads.” When asked what his plan is on “strengthening families,” Richardson replied: “I believe the key is strong child support, finding those deadbeat dads. And, I would have stronger laws between states, because what happens is they move from state to state. We don’t have those reciprocal agreements. I would have a national law that would tighten child enforcement.”