How to Increase the Marriage Rate. Professor Gordon Finley hits the nail on the head in USA Today.

How to Increase the Marriage Rate.  Professor Gordon Finley hits the nail on the head in USA Today.

Miami, Florida–Professor Gordon Finley of Florida International University published a great letter today in USA Today. His letter, reproduced below with his permission, tells us that marriage rates cannot be improved without first removing gender-based biases from divorce court. It is a nice, succinct statement of the problem.

Fear of divorce stunts many young adults’ decision to marry
Gordon E. Finley, Professor of psychology, Florida International University – Miami

While social science commentators quoted in USA TODAY’s article gave a variety of reasons for why young adults are delaying marriage, they omitted the most critical: divorce (“Young adults delaying marriage,” Life, Wednesday).

With a 50% divorce rate for first marriages, women overwhelmingly initiating divorce and mothers getting custody about 85% of the time while fathers get visitation, child support and alimony, it is easy to see why any man wouldn’t want to get married.

Further, many of these young adults are children of divorce who know firsthand the consequences.

If one wants to increase marriage rates, one first must reform divorce laws to make them equitable for both fathers and mothers and help children maintain relationships with both parents.


Blog Plug-in

Judge Paula M. Carey Named Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Courts in Massachusetts September 18th, 2007 by Ned Holstein, M.D. CNN Protects Perpetrator of Fraud September 18th, 2007 by Ned Holstein, M.D. How to Increase the Marriage Rate. Professor Gordon Finley hits the nail on the head in USA Today. September 18th, 2007 by Ned Holstein, M.D. An ‘Elian Gonzalez in Reverse’ Case September 13th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks His Side with Glenn Sacks Radio Commentary: Texas Supreme Court Gets It Right in Frozen Embryo Case September 13th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks
Iraq Veteran Wins Custody of Two Surviving Kids After His Son Was Beaten to Death September 13th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks Former NFL Star Bennie Blades Pays over $1 Million in Child Support, Yet Is Jailed for Being a ‘Deadbeat Dad’ September 11th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks Ouch–‘I think my mom and dad are fighting because of me’ September 11th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks ‘If the family court system had even once punished her for false allegations, maybe my family would not have suffered so much’ September 11th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks NOW takes fatherhood programs to court. What do they oppose? September 7th, 2007 by Ned Holstein, M.D. Do children of divorce want more or less involvement with their fathers? What did researchers find? September 7th, 2007 by Ned Holstein, M.D. ‘The Bronx Is Burning,’ Billy Martin, & the Misleading ‘Paternal Abandonment Script’ September 6th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks Two Heroic Wives Remained Loyal to Their Husbands as They Served Three Decades in Prison for a Crime They Didn’t Commit August 28th, 2007 by Glenn Sacks


An ‘Elian Gonzalez in Reverse’ Case

Background: On various occasions I’ve discussed both the 2001 Elian Gonzalez case and the current “Elian Gonzalez II” case. In both cases I support the right of the fathers–Juan Gonzalez in 2001 and Rafael Izquierdo in the current case–to take their children back to Cuba and raise them as they see fit. To learn more, click here. Izquierdo is pictured to the right, in court fighting to regain custody of his little daughter. I also strongly oppose situations such as these when governments delay or refuse to return kidnapped or detained children to their parents.
In Elian I, Elian Gonzalez was held by Cuban relatives against his father’s will for six months before being returned to his father. In Elian, II, the state of Florida is doing everything it can do avoid returning Rafael Izquierdo’s four-year-old girl to him. In other cases, children are abducted internationally, and governments sometimes refuse to return the children to their parents. As David Levy of the Children’s Rights Council noted in this letter, this is particularly a problem when children of American/Japanese heritage are abducted from the US and brought to Japan.  A reader recently pointed out a case to me where the Cuban government quite properly returned two children to the United States who had been abducted from the US and taken to Cuba. In this 2003 case, an Egyptian-American father abducted his two children, first to Egypt, and then to Cuba. The American mother personally appealed to Fidel Castro to have the children returned. According to the BBC: “The children’s father, Anwar Wissa, had earlier been arrested and would stand trial in Cuba, according to a Cuban Government communique. “The Cuban authorities say the case appears to be a reversal of the highly publicized custody saga of Cuban castaway Elian Gonzalez. “The case of the Wissa children emerged after their mother wrote a letter to Mr Castro, delivered by a ‘friend of our commander in chief,’ according to the official release. “In the statement, read out on state television and published on the official Granma [Cuban state] website, the Cuba authorities said: ‘Cuba will never forget that when five-year-old Elian Gonzalez was kidnapped by relatives who had no custody rights, more than 80% of the North Americans supported his return to Cuba, where his father and family resided.’ “‘Cuban territory will never be used as a refuge to kidnap children, even if the perpetrator, as in this sad case, is the father.'” The full BBC story is below. Mother back with children in Cuba BBC, 6/26/03 A US woman who sought Fidel Castro’s help to get back her two children taken to Cuba by their father has been reunited with them, the mother’s attorney has said. Cornelia Streeter could finally embrace her son Henry Wissa, 10, and eight-year-old daughter Victoria – both US citizens – on Wednesday night in Cuba after nearly two years, the attorney, Barry Pollack, said from Boston. Read the rest of this entry »


Iraq Veteran Wins Custody of Two Surviving Kids After His Son Was Beaten to Death

When children of divorce or separation are being abused in a mother’s home and the children are taken by the state, they should be placed with their father ASAP, barring a finding of unfitness. One of the problems with the child welfare system is that this is often not the case.

In Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/07), family law attorney Jeff Leving and I discussed research from the Urban Institute which shows that the child welfare system usually denies fit, loving fathers the opportunity to raise their own children.

In the Gary Smith Jr. case discussed below, Smith’s ex-wife left their three kids in the care of her boyfriend while deployed overseas. The boyfriend beat one of the boys to death, yet the system still dragged its feet in granting the father custody of the surviving two children. Leving, who represented Smith in the case, told the Chicago Tribune that child-welfare officials should have moved the surviving children quickly to his client, explaining, “It’s sad that he had to hire me and go through these maneuvers to safeguard his other children.”

The article is below–congratulations to Leving for his good work in reuniting this father and his children. A news video about the case can be seen here. Smith and Leving are pictured above.

Slain boy’s father awarded custody of his 2 other kids
Iraq veteran divorces child’s mother, whose boyfriend is suspect

By Michael Higgins
Chicago Tribune, September 7, 2007

The father of a 4-year-old Calumet City boy who was beaten to death in May was granted permanent custody of his two other children under a divorce settlement approved Thursday.

Gary Smith Jr. was serving in the Army in Iraq when he learned that his son Cameron had been killed.

Unbeknownst to him, Smith said, his then-wife, Lavada Smith, had placed the couple’s children in the care of her boyfriend, who was later charged with the 4-year-old’s murder.

On Thursday, Cook County Circuit Judge Karen Shields approved the settlement, which allows Smith to take Cameron’s siblings, ages 7 and 8, to live with him in Georgia.

“I wanted my kids to be safe,” Smith said after the hearing. “I want them to be able to go to school without thinking about bad things that happened here.”

Lavada Smith is allowed visitation under the settlement. She could not be reached for comment after the hearing.

Shields praised the couple Thursday for reaching a compromise that she said put their children’s interests first. “I think you’re probably doing the best you can with a really bad situation,” Shields said.

Speaking after the hearing, Gary Smith said he still considers his former wife to be a good mother. But he said she made a terrible mistake when she was deployed to Iraq herself and left their children with Donell Parker of Calumet City.

Parker has pleaded not guilty in the boy’s death.

Gary Smith’s attorney, Jeffery Leving, said after the hearing Thursday that child-welfare officials should have moved the surviving children quickly to his client. “It’s sad that he had to hire me and go through these maneuvers to safeguard his other children,” Leving said.

Cameron was discovered lifeless in his bed. Calumet City police said the boy endured two days of being punched in the head, stomach, chest and back. He was beaten with a belt as well, police said.


Former NFL Star Bennie Blades Pays over $1 Million in Child Support, Yet Is Jailed for Being a ‘Deadbeat Dad’

“Nobody who knows me well can ever say I wasn’t a father to these kids.”–former NFL Star Bennie Blades

“They couldn’t be any closer”–the mother of one of Blades’ children, describing the boy’s relationship with Bennie Blades, his father

How can a man pay $1.3 million after-tax dollars in child support and then be arrested for being a “deadbeat dad”? It happened to former NFL star Bennie Blades in 2005.

Blades was working as a substitute teacher in Broward County, Florida when he was arrested. His football career was cut short by a painful injury, and even his NFL retirement pension was taken from him for child support. Blades was by all accounts a dedicated father, who was even publicly praised by his exes after his arrest.

Blades certainly made mistakes. However, the child support system and family law system often milks high-earners with transitory incomes, such as professional athletes and entertainers, leaving them with little after their careers are over. During Blades career he was apparently paying half his after-tax income in child support.

As Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg explains in his column below, Blades has a strong relationship with his children. His mistreatment at the hands of Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is outrageous, and symbolizes much of what’s wrong with the child support system.

In the eyes of the state, Bennie Blades is a deadbeat dad
Detroit Free Press, 4/29/05

DETROIT _ On Feb. 17, at the behest of the State of Michigan, police arrested a substitute teacher at Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla.

The substitute teacher spent a week in Broward County Jail in Florida. Then he was shipped off to Michigan _ almost two weeks on a bus, stopping only to eat fast food or bologna sandwiches at jails along the way.

He was not allowed to bathe or brush his teeth. As the bus transported accused criminals throughout the Eastern states, he was forced to sit all day and night, which was extremely painful because the substitute teacher has chipped vertebrae in his neck, an injury he suffered when he played safety in the NFL.

“I’m like, `This is very humiliating,'” recalled Bennie Blades, a Detroit Lions star from 1988-96. “You had to eat with your hands shackled basically down to your lap.”

When he arrived in Michigan on March 8 _ 19 days after his arrest _ Blades was still wearing the same Old Navy blue jeans, printed blue shirt and white Pumas he was wearing when he was arrested.

Now Blades, who has been released on bail, faces two charges. The first is felony non-support for his daughter Ashley, who lives with her mother, Yolande Healey, in Southfield, Mich. At one point, Blades owed nearly $400,000 in child support for Ashley. She is one of his six children with six women.

The other charge is for failing to appear at a Jan. 7 court hearing in the case.

Mix those ingredients together: Former NFL star. Nine million dollars in career earnings. Six kids with six women. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support.

And a state attorney general who has made deadbeat dads a top priority.

And one mother who wants Blades to pay up.

And three other mothers who say he doesn’t have the money.

Oh, and don’t forget those six kids. Please don’t forget them.

They all had something at stake that February day when the cops showed up at Piper High. And as Bennie Blades was whisked out of the school parking lot, he didn’t bother asking what he should do with his car, a 1994 Honda Accord with more than 135,000 miles on it.

“We just left it there,” Blades said with a laugh. “I don’t think anybody is going to steal that.”

When Blades was first arrested for this case, in November 2003, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox received a rousing standing ovation from himself.

“Once again let me send this message: Deadbeats that shirk their parental responsibilities risk incarceration,” Cox said in a press release. “Whether that parent works in construction or played safety for the Detroit Lions, failure to pay child support will have consequences.”

It is easy to paint Blades as a villain.

That is, if you’re looking for villains.

But what if you are more worried about Bianca Blades, Bennie’s 11-year-old daughter, who sees her dad regularly?

Read the full article here.


Ouch-‘I think my mom and dad are fighting because of me’

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 letter below, a young girl blames herself for her parents’ divorce.

Dear Judge,I think my mom and dad are fighting because of me. Could you put me in a new family so my mom and dad can be happy again?
Sandy S.


‘If the family court system had even once punished her for false allegations, maybe my family would not have suffered so much’

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 “Don,” a reader:

“Dear Task Force:

Five years ago, I was dating a woman. At the time we had been seeing each other for a couple of years. She had turned 38, and I noticed a big change in her but wasn’t really interested in talking with her about it. She had stopped taking birth control pills, became pregnant, and had our child. She immediately began a full blown attempt to destroy me, and stated that I would never see our child.

“A series of Family Court dates began to follow where one false allegation followed another. At this time, I think I have been to court 24 or 25 times. I was able to demonstrate to the court each time that the allegations were in fact, not legitimate. At the hearing before last, Judge Angela Jewell stated to the mother that she was concerned about the lack of support of the mother for our daughter’s relationship with me.

“Later, the allegations turned into those of a sexual nature, and now I’m facing a trial, with the only evidence being a statement my daughter made, to a therapist, hired by the mother.

“If the family court system would have one time punished the other party for false allegations, maybe my business, my finances, my family, my life would not have suffered this kind of damage.

“Any law without punishment for false allegations would be incomplete. Of course, even if the legislation was passed, the Family Court system would probably ignore the laws of the State, and continue to do what they wanted to anyway.



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.


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.


‘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.