‘California Lawyer’ Magazine Covers Fathers’ Rights Movement

California–“Being a divorced dad doesn’t necessarily make David C. Stone an effective advocate for fathers. But it certainly doesn’t hurt. ‘I understand what they’re going through,’ says the 57-year-old sole practitioner, whose family law practice caters almost exclusively to men. ‘I’ve been married three times; I’ve given away houses. I also had visitation rights with a son who had moved to Arizona. I realize how difficult and painful divorce can be.
The only reason I pursue this line of work is that children need two actively engaged parents.’ “Such work puts Stone on the front lines of what both supporters and critics call the fathers’ rights movement (FRM)-a movement with roots that go all the way back to the 1970s. However, it would be something of a stretch to think of it as a highly organized crusade. As Glenn Sacks, a proponent and frequent radio commentator, observes, for fathers’ rights there’s ‘no dominant unifying organization like the NAACP in the civil rights context. It’s more a loose confederation.’ “It’s also a cause that has drawn an eclectic group of activists to its ranks. Take Sacks: A nonlawyer, he is perhaps the closest thing that the FRM has to a public tribune. Yet he’s never been divorced, and is in fact happily married with two children. Other prominent figures include Anne Mitchell, a Stanford Law School graduate who was abandoned by her mother at age three, raised by her father until age eleven, then moved in with another family; Krystal R. Clemens, who 16 years ago started DadsLaw, Inc., a family law practice in Orange County that runs a nationwide network of affiliate lawyers; and Craig Candelore, an Army Reserve colonel and the founding attorney of the Men’s Legal Center of San Diego. “Despite their varied backgrounds, all share a strong belief that on such emotionally charged issues as child custody and visitation, the family-court system is stacked against men.” California Lawyer magazine covers the Fathers’ Rights Movement in the #2 story in its March issue–The Dad-Vocates by Bill Blum. The article covers a variety of issues and mentions a couple of family law attorney David C. Stone’s cases. In one case, “a dying man, now living in Virginia, wants to have his kids with him this summer, but the children’s mother agreed to send them for only a week, preferring after that to ship them off to Hawaii for a vacation with her parents.” Nice lady. Blum writes about Nathaniel S., who in 1997 had a son with his live-in girlfriend in Tustin: “They never married but seemed to enjoy a conventional relationship-until it unraveled in 2003. The next year, says Stone, the boy’s mother, without consulting Nathaniel, took the child to live in Jacksonville, Florida. “Stone says Nathaniel didn’t go straight to court because he believed he’d get to see his son the following summer under an informal agreement with the child’s mother. Nathaniel also didn’t believe he’d get much help from the legal system. But when, according to Stone, it became clear that the child’s mother had no intention of sending the child to visit, Nathaniel called DadsLaw. “Stone acted quickly, securing a presumptive finding of paternity and an order requiring that Nathaniel’s son be sent back to Orange County to spend the summer with his father. Nathaniel also was ordered to pay child support (currently $930 per month). Although Nathaniel has continued to make the payments, Stone says, the visitation order was ignored and Nathaniel lost contact with his son, now ten. “Increasingly desperate, Nathaniel tracked down Stone last spring at his solo practice. The pair then returned to court for what promised to be a battle royal. “It took two months and over $2,000 in costs,” Stone says, “but we finally managed to serve the mother in Florida with a new order to show cause.” “The order sought monetary sanctions against the child’s mother and, ultimately, an order awarding Nathaniel primary physical custody of his son. Stone says he was also prepared to put on a reverse “move-away” case, referring to a long line of appellate decisions delineating the rights of custodial parents to relocate with their children. (For example, In re Marriage of Burgess, 13 Cal. 4th 25 (1996); In re Marriage of LaMusga, 32 Cal. 4th 1072 (2004).) And he was ready to invoke a claim of parental alienation syndrome (PAS), a doctrine asserting that children may become alienated from one parent as a result of the hostile actions or words of the other parent. (The notion that PAS can be considered a full-blown psychological disorder, on par with, say, post-traumatic stress disorder, however, remains highly controversial.) “‘Nathaniel grew up without his father,’ Stone says, ‘and he wanted to break that cycle’ with his own son. On January 7 the judge in the case ordered the boy to stay with his father this summer and go back to his mother in the fall, after which there would then be another review.” Read the full article here.

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