The Genocide of Battered Mothers and their Children

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Mother’s Day Proclamation at the White House 1870 and 2010

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Mother’s Day Proclamation at the White House 1870 and 2010

Mother’s Day Proclamation at the White House 1870 and 2010

Mothers’ Day Proclamation

All Pages

AMPP

Mothers of Lost Children at the White House on Mothers Day, May 9, 2010

Whereas: Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that children’s exposure to traumas such as child physical abuse, incest and witnessing domestic violence have severe negative effects that can last a lifetime and that childhood adverse experiences are the major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in the United States[1]; and

Whereas: Domestic violence is a strong predictor of child physical abuse, increasing the risk from 5% after one violent act to 100% after 50 violent acts[2]; and

Whereas: Child sexual abuse allegations are extremely rare in custody cases (2-6%)[3], are just as likely to be true as at any other time (two-thirds are substantiated)[4], and fathers are far more likely to intentionally make false allegations (21%) than mothers (1%)[5]; and

Whereas: Domestic violence, child abuse and incest may not become known until the child’s parents separate, and abuse may begin or escalate after separation; and

Whereas: Non-scientific theories such as alienation theories which assume that the children’s reports of physical or sexual abuse are coached or fabricated by the protective parent result in children being inappropriately ordered into unsupervised contact with their identified batterers and molesters[6]; and

Whereas: Violent parents (usually fathers) are much more likely to seek sole custody and are successful about 70% of the time[7]; and

Whereas: More than 58,000 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States[8] and a growing number of children are murdered while in their violent parents’ custody and control[9]; and

Whereas: Children’s physical and sexual safety is fundamental to their health and welfare, and must take precedence over abusive parents’ claims to custody or visitation.

Therefore: Be it resolved that:

  1. A Congressional Hearing on family court abuses and corruption be convened.
  2. A complete investigation be ordered by the President, requesting that the U.S. Attorney General investigate family court policies, practices and procedures in California, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Hawaii, states from which advocacy organizations receive an unusually high number of complaints that children are ordered to live with batterers and molesters.
  3. A Federal Grand Jury be convened to ensure that these children are with their safe parents.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/ace and http://www.acestudy.org

[2] Ross, Risk of Physical Abuse to Children of Spouse Abusing Parents, 20(7)Child Abuse & Neglect, 589-98,1996

[3] Thoennes & Tjaden, The Extent, Nature, and Validity of Child Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Disputes, 14(2) Child Sexual Abuse & Neglect, 151-63, 1990

[4] Brown, Frederico, Hewitt & Sheehan, Revealing the Existence of Chidl Abuse in the Context of Marital Breakdown and Custody and Access Disputes, 24(6) Child Abuse & Neglect, 849-85, 2000

[5] Bala & Schuman, Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated, 17 Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 191-241, 2000

[6] Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family,http://www.nnflp.org/apa/APA_task_force.htm; and unpublished research by Geraldine Stahly, PhD

[7] Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family,www.nnflp.org/apa/APA_task_force.htm; American Judges Foundation, Domestic Violence and the Court House: Understanding the Problem…Knowing the Victim, http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/domviol/page5.html; and unpublished research by Geraldine Stahly, PhD

[8] www.leadershipcouncil.org

[9] http://dastardlydads.blogspot.com/2010/02

Mothers’ Day Proclamation

Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870


Mother’s Day was originally started after the Civil War, as a protest to the carnage of that war, by women who had lost their sons. Here is the original Mother’s Day Proclamation from 1870.

Arise then…women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts!

Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,

For caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country,

Will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with

Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

Blood does not wipe out dishonor,

Nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil

At the summons of war,

Let women now leave all that may be left of home

For a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means

Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,

But of God –

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask

That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,

May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient

And the earliest period consistent with its objects,

To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,

The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

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The Truth About Parental Alienation

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

by Irene Weiser

The truth about parental alienation, custody and abuse.

Proponents of Parental Alienation portray parental alienation as a destructive family dynamic, usually manifesting during custody battles, in which one parent purportedly turns the child’s sentiments against the other parent.  Failure to recognize and correct this dynamic by ensuring that the child has a relationship with both parents, they claim, will cause great harm to the child.

Indeed, nothing can be further from the truth.  Parental Alienation is a discredited, pseudo-psychological theory whose application in custody determinations has caused great harm to children.

Background

Parental Alienation Syndrome was first described in 1985 by the pro-pedophilia  psychiatrist Richard Gardner, at a time when the epidemic of child sexual abuse in our country was first being recognized.

Gardner defines PAS as follows:

The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent . . .

Gardner proposed that most allegations of child sexual abuse in custody proceedings were false – that a bitter or vindictive parent had planted such suggestions into the child to turn the child against, or alienate the child from, the other parent.  The remedy, Gardner held, was to punish the accusing parent and award custody to the parent the child rejected. 

There is no empirical evidence for the existence of PAS , Gardner’s theory has not undergone peer review, and PAS has never been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association for inclusion as a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Nonetheless, the theory of PAS has been increasingly relied upon in family courts and its logic extended to apply not only to situations where child sexual abuse was alleged, but to any allegations of family violence.

Tragic Consequences

The results of its acceptance in family court have been tragic. 

Parental Alienation fails to recognize that a parent or child may have legitimate reasons for having antipathy toward the other parent; it rejects out of hand the idea that allegations of abuse could be true.  Thus, instead of investigating allegations of abuse, PAS turns the focus of the court’s investigation onto the motives of accuser. Evidence of animosity toward the other parent is regarded as evidence of PAS. As a result of this "through-the-looking-glass" thinking, when courts award visitation or custody to the parent the child has an aversion to, in many instances, the courts are awarding custody to abusers. 

Some children placed in the custody of their abusers have committed suicide; others have run away, and countless others have endured the abuse and are permanently traumatized..  In recent years, children placed in custody of their abusers have been coming forward to tell their stories and to warn of the harms of PAS.

PAS Discredited in Mental Health and Legal Communities

This past year (2006) the American Bar Association’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal published an article that undertook a comprehensive analysis of the scientific, legal and policy issues involved in the evidentiary admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome, and found that there was no support for its use.

“PAS’s twenty-year run in American courts is an embarrassing chapter in the history of evidentiary law. It reflects the wholesale failure of legal professionals entrusted with evidentiary gatekeeping intended to guard legal processes from the taint of pseudo-science…. As a matter of science, law, and policy PAS should remain inadmissible in American courts.”

Jennifer Hoult Esq, The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy, 26 Child. Legal Rts J. 1 (2006).

Also this past year, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges published a judges bench book that also found no scientific or legal basis for admission of parental alienation. Further, it cautioned:

The discredited "diagnosis" of "PAS" (or allegation of "parental alienation"), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be "alienated" have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children’s other parent.

Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide, 2006, pg 24)

In 2003, the National District Attorneys Association’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse stated that

Although PAS may be hailed as a "syndrome" . . . in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner’s own practice. […] PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research. […] PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.”

And the 1996 Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family states that

Although there are no data to support the phenomenon called parental alienation syndrome, in which mothers are blamed for interfering with their children’s attachment to their fathers, the term is still used by some evaluators and courts to discount children’s fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations.[pg 40] Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as "parental alienation" may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent father. [pg 100]

Statistics

Multiple studies confirm the grim reality that at least 70% of contested custody disputes involve domestic violence.  Further, there is considerable overlap between domestic violence, child abuse and incest.  Multiple studies show that the majority of men who abuse their wives or girlfriends also abuse the children.  At least half of incest perpetrators also committed domestic violence, and daughters of batterers are 6.5 times more likely than other girls to be victims of incest.

Conclusion

It is time for law guardians, evaluators and judges to stop believing in the myth of Parental Alienation, and instead investigate the abuse that protective parents and children allege.

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A Critical Assessment of Child Custody Evaluations: Limited Science and a Flawed System

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Association For Psychological Science In the Public Interest

A Critical Assessment of Child Custody Evaluations: Limited Science and a Flawed System. by Robert E. Emery, Randy K. Otto, and William T. O’donohue

Summary

Most parents who live apart negotiate custody arrangements on their own or with the help of lawyers, mediators, or other professionals. However, psychologists and other mental health professionals increasingly have become involved in evaluating children and families in custody disputes, because of the large number of separated, divorced, and never-married parents and the substantial conflict that often accompanies the breakup of a family. Theoretically, the law guides and controls child custody evaluations, but the prevailing custody standard (the "best interests of the child" test) is a vague rule that directs judges to make decisions unique to individual cases according to what will be in children’s future (and undefined) best interests. Furthermore, state statutes typically offer only vague guidelines as to how judges (and evaluators) are to assess parents and the merits of their cases, and how they should ultimately decide what custody arrangements will be in a child’s best interests. In this vacuum, custody evaluators typically administer to parents and children an array of tests and assess them through less formal means including interviews and observation. Sadly, we find that (a) tests specifically developed to assess questions relevant to custody are completely inadequate on scientific grounds; (b) the claims of some anointed experts about their favorite constructs (e.g., "parent alienation syndrome") are equally hollow when subjected to scientific scrutiny; (c) evaluators should question the use even of well-established psychological measures (e.g., measures of intelligence, personality, psychopathology, and academic achievement) because of their often limited relevance to the questions before the court; and (d) little empirical data exist regarding other important and controversial issues (e.g., whether evaluators should solicit children’s wishes about custody; whether infants and toddlers are harmed or helped by overnight visits), suggesting a need for further scientific investigation.

We see the system for resolving custody disputes as deeply flawed, for reasons that go beyond the problem of limited science. The coupling of the vague "best interests of the child" test with the American adversary system of justice puts judges in the position of trying to perform an impossible task, and it exacerbates parental conflict and problems in parenting and coparenting, which psychological science clearly shows to be key factors predicting children’s psychological difficulties in response to their parents’ separation and divorce.

Our analysis of the flawed system, together with our desire to sharply limit custody disputes and custody evaluations, leads us to propose three reforms. First, we urge continued efforts to encourage parents to reach custody agreements on their own—in divorce mediation, through collaborative law, in good-faith attorney negotiations, in therapy, and in other forums. Some such efforts have been demonstrated to improve parent–parent and parent–child relationships long after divorce, and they embrace the philosophical position that, in the absence of abuse or neglect, parents themselves should determine their children’s best interests after separation, just as they do in marriage. Second, we urge state legislatures to move toward adopting more clear and determinative custody rules, a step that would greatly clarify the terms of the marriage contract, limit the need for custody evaluations, and sharply narrow the scope of the evaluation process.We find particular merit in the proposed "approximation rule" (recently embraced by the American Law Institute), in which postdivorce parenting arrangements would approximate parenting involvement in marriage. Third and finally, we recommend that custody evaluators follow the law and only offer opinions for which there is an adequate scientific basis. Related to this, we urge professional bodies to enact more specific standards of practice on this and related issues.

To read the full report (pdf), click here

Sound Research or Wishful Thinking in Child Custody Cases? Lessons from Relocation Law

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Published June 1, 2006 by Family Law Quarterly, Volume 40 Number 2, Summer 2006

Sound Research or Wishful Thinking in Child Custody Cases? Lessons from Relocation Law

by Carol Bruch

I. Introduction

Professionals who deal with specific child custody disputes surely seek to advance the children’s best interests, as do the legislators and commentators who address child custody law. Yet there is often profound disagreement about the principles that should guide them, and decision-makers are at a particular disadvantage if—as is increasingly the case—flawed research and inaccurate reviews are offered as improvements on the sound work of others. This article examines these forces in the context of relocation disputes— cases that arise when a noncustodial parent seeks to prevent the custodial parent and their children from moving. It summarizes the relevant legal issues, provides an overview of the credible U.S. research on children’s needs, and critiques the wishful thinking and mistaken analyses that threaten sound outcomes for children. Although it addresses U.S. cases and scholarship, its analysis also applies to relocation disputes elsewhere and, more broadly, to additional aspects of child custody law that require an understanding of children’s needs when their parents do not live together.

Many recent articles on the topic of child custody law in legal, interdisciplinary, and even scientific journals contain serious misstatements of the research literature. Unfortunately, the judges, lawyers and legislators who are their intended audience often lack statistical or scientific training and are unfamiliar with the scientific literature. They are, accordingly, ill-equipped to judge the quality of empirical studies or of review articles, which summarize and evaluate the work of others in the field. These difficulties may be exploited by those who “spin” the literature.

First, the authors of concern often publish exclusively or primarily in legal journals, not scientific ones.66 This avoids the rigorous peer review leading scientific journals provide to ensure scientific merit.67 Although the legal journals in which they publish test the paper’s relevance to legal debates, they usually are unable to assess scientific merit. The risk of inaccuracies is therefore real, and specialists in allied fields, who do not normally read law reviews, may never catch them.

Next, the authors make broad generalizations without providing support for them or addressing how their conclusions fit into the larger body of existing knowledge. Often they rely heavily on their own earlier characterizations of the field and cite few recognized authorities, making it difficult for nonexpert readers to distinguish fact from opinion.68

Even such basic information as research design and the statistical significance of findings may be omitted.69 Imprecise words (such as “more,” “less,” “often,” and “seldom”) appear instead, making it difficult to evaluate their assertions.70 Sometimes strikingly different results with direct implications for the topic are glossed over or lumped together in a way that conceals findings of direct relevance to the discussion. Finally, policy recommendations may be made that are totally unsupported by, or even contrary to, the data.

As the following discussion reveals, each of these deceptive techniques is now present in articles by those who wish that the findings concerning children’s relationships with their fathers were otherwise. This unfortunate pattern complicates what should be an even-handed, forthright discussion of child custody law.

To read full article (pdf) click here

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Father’s Rights and Violence Against Women

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Xy: Men, Masculinity and Gender Politics

by Michael Flood

Presentation in Panel, “Myths, Misconceptions, and the Men’s Movement”, at Conference, Refocusing Women’s Experiences of Violence, Sydney, 14-16 September.

——–

In this talk, I’m going to focus on the ‘fathers’ rights’ movement, and their impact on violence against women.

Introduction: The fathers’ rights movement

The fathers’ rights movement  is defined by the claim that fathers are deprived of their ‘rights’ and subjected to systematic discrimination as men and fathers, in a system biased towards women and dominated by feminists. Fathers’ rights groups overlap with men’s rights groups and both represent an organised backlash to feminism. Fathers’ rights and men’s rights groups can be seen as the anti-feminist wing of the men’s movement, the network of men’s groups and organisations mobilised on gender issues (Flood, 1998).

Two experiences bring most men (and women) to the fathers’ rights movement. The first is deeply painful marriage breakups and custody battles. Fathers’ rights groups are characterised by anger and blame directed at ex-partners and the ‘system’ that has deprived men or fathers of their ‘rights’, and such themes are relatively common among men who have undergone separation and divorce. The second experience is non-resident fathers’ dissatisfaction with loss of contact with their children or with regimes of child support.

The fathers’ rights movement focuses on trying to re-establish fathers’ authority and control over their children’s and ex-partners’ lives, on gaining an equality concerned with fathers’ ‘rights’ and status rather than the actual care of children, and on winding back legal and cultural changes which have lessened gender inequalities.

Fathers’ rights groups are well-organised advocates for changes in family law, and vocal opponents of feminist perspectives and achievements on interpersonal violence.

Impact of the fathers’ rights movement on violence against women

The fathers’ rights movement has had four forms of impact on violence against women.

Priviledging contact over safety

Most importantly, the fathers’ rights movement has influenced family law, with damaging consequences for women, children, and indeed men. Above all, fathers’ contact with children has been privileged, over children’s safety from violence.

An uncritical assumption that children’s contact with both parents is necessary now pervades the courts and the media. The Family Court’s new principle of the ‘right to contact’ is overriding its principle of the right to ‘safety from violence’. The Court now is more likely to make interim orders for children’s unsupervised contact in cases involving domestic violence or child abuse, to use hand-over arrangements rather than suspend contact until trial, and to make orders for joint residence where there is a high level of conflict between the separated parents and one parent strongly objects to shared residence.

The fathers’ rights movement has been unsuccessful in achieving its key goal of a rebuttable presumption of children’s joint residence after separation. However, other changes in family law and government policy over the last two years have reflected its influence. Recent reforms mean that greater numbers of parents who are the victims of violence will be subject to further violence and harassment by abusive ex-partners, while children will face a greater requirement to have contact with abusive or violent parents.

Current government policy echoes many of the key themes of the fathers’ rights movement. Both government policy and many fathers’ rights groups are guided by two central, and mistaken, assumptions: that all children see contact with both parents as in their best interests in every case, and that a violent father is better than no father at all (DVIRC, 2005, pp. 5-6). Both bodies talk of ‘conflict’ rather than violence, neglect violence as a legitimate issue for the courts and family services to address, emphasise mediation and counseling as solutions, and focus on punishing women for making false allegations or breaching contact orders.

Discrediting victims

The second impact the fathers’ rights movement has had on violence against women is in discrediting victims. Fathers’ rights groups tell two key lies.

First, fathers’ rights groups tell the lie that women routinely make false accusations of child abuse to gain advantage in family law proceedings and to arbitrarily deny their ex-partners’ access to the children.

Second, fathers’ rights groups tell the lie that women routinely make up allegations of domestic violence to gain advantage in family law cases and use protection orders to remove men from their homes or deny contact with children rather than out of any real experience or fear of violence.

I have written detailed critiques of these first two lies, and they are available both online and in the latest issue of the Australian journal Women Against Violence. I can send copies to anyone who wishes.

Men’s versus women’s violence (Impact on perceptions of intimate violence)

Related to this, the fathers’ rights movement also has had some impact on public perceptions of intimate violence. In particular, it tells the lie that domestic violence is gender-equal or gender-neutral – that men and women assault each other at equal rates and with equal effects.

While I’ve called this a lie, this is one claim for which there is some academic support.

To support the claim that domestic violence is gender-symmetrical, advocates draw almost exclusively on studies using a measurement tool called the Conflict Tactics Scale. The CTS situates domestic violence within the context of “family conflict”. It asks one partner in a relationship whether, in the last year, they or their spouse have ever committed any of a range of violent acts. CTS studies generally find gender symmetries in the use of violence in relationships. There are three problems with the use made of such studies by fathers’ rights activists.

First, men’s rights and fathers’ rights groups make only selective use of this data, as CTS authors themselves reject efforts to argue that women’s violence against men is as common or as harmful as men’s violence against women (Kimmel 2001, p. 22).

Second, there are methodological problems with the Conflict Tactics Scale. The CTS is widely criticized for not gathering information about the intensity, context, consequences or meaning of the action. The CTS ignores who initiates the violence (when women are more likely to use violence in self-defense), assumes that violence is used expressively (e.g. in anger) and not instrumentally (to ‘do’ power or control), omits violent acts such as sexual abuse, stalking and intimate homicide, ignores the history of violence in the relationship, neglects the question of who is injured, relies on only one partner’s reports despite poor interspousal reliability, and omits incidents after separation and divorce, which is a time of increased danger for women.

Third, a wide range of other data find marked gender asymmetries in domestic violence. For example, crime victimization studies based on large-scale aggregate data, household and crime surveys, police statistics, and hospital data all show that men assault their partners and ex-partners at rates several times the rate at which women assault theirs and that female victims greatly outnumber male victims (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000, pp. 25-26).

Feminist and other scholars have worked to reconcile the conflicting findings of these bodies of data. One important insight is the recognition of different patterns of violent behaviour in couples and relationships. Some heterosexual relationships suffer from occasional outbursts of violence by either husbands or wives during conflicts, what some (Johnson 1995, 284-285) call “common couple violence”. Here, the violence is relatively minor, both partners practise it, it is expressive in meaning, it tends not to escalate over time, and injuries are rare. In situations of “patriarchal terrorism” on the other hand, one partner (usually the man) uses violence and other controlling tactics to assert or restore power and authority. The violence is more severe, it is asymmetrical, it is instrumental in meaning, it tends to escalate, and injuries are more likely.

CTS studies are only a weak measure of levels of minor ‘expressive’ violence in conflicts among heterosexual couples. They are poorer again as a measure of ‘instrumental’ violence, in which one partner uses violence and other tactics to assert power and authority (Johnson 1995, 284–285).

There is no doubt that men are the victims of domestic violence. Men experience domestic violence at the hands of female and male sexual partners, ex-partners, and other family members.

A growing body of research tells us that there are important contrasts in women’s and men’s experiences of domestic violence. Women are far more likely than men to be subjected to frequent, prolonged, and extreme violence, to sustain injuries, to fear for their lives, and to be sexually assaulted (Kimmel 2001, 19; Bagshaw et al. 2000). Men subjected to domestic violence by women rarely experience post-separation violence and have more financial and social independence. Female perpetrators of domestic violence are less likely and less able than male perpetrators to use nonphysical tactics to maintain control over their partners (Swan & Snow 2002, 291-292).

Women’s physical violence towards intimate male partners is often in self-defense (DeKeseredy et al. 1997; Hamberger et al. 1994; Swan & Snow 2002, 301; Muelleman & Burgess 1998, 866). On the other hand, women’s intimate violence can also be motivated by efforts to show anger, a desire for attention, retaliation for emotional hurt, and so on (Hamberger et al. 1994). It is inadequate to explain women’s violence simply in terms of their own oppression and powerlessness, and naïve to assume that women are immune from using violence to gain or maintain power in relationships (Russo 2001, 16-19).

Men are likely to under-estimate and under-report their subjection to domestic violence by women (George 1994, 149; Stockdale 1998, 63). There is no evidence however that male victims are more likely to under-report than female victims. In fact, men tend to over-estimate their partner’s violence and under-estimate their own, while women do the reverse (Kimmel 2001, 10-11).

The fathers’ rights movement’s attention to domestic violence against men is not motivated by a genuine concern for male victimisation, but by political agendas concerning family law, child custody and divorce (Kaye & Tolmie 1998, pp. 53-57). This is evident in two ways.

First, the fathers’ rights movement focuses on this violence when the great majority of the violence inflicted on men is not by female partners or ex-partners but by other men. Australian crime victimisation surveys find that less than one percent of violent incidents among men is by partners or ex-partners, compared to one-third of incidents among women (Ferrante et al. 1996, 104). Boys and men are most at risk of physical harm from other boys and men.

Second, the fathers rights’ movement seeks to erode the protections available to victims of domestic violence and to bolster the rights and freedoms of alleged perpetrators, and this harms female and male victims of domestic violence alike. I turn to this now.

Protecting perpetrators and undermining supports for victims

The fourth way in which the fathers’ rights movement has had an impact on violence against women is in its efforts to modify responses to the victims and perpetrators of violence.

The fathers’ rights movement has sought to wind back the protections afforded to the fictitious ‘victims’ of violence and to introduce legal penalties for their dishonest and malicious behavior. The Lone Fathers’ Association and other groups argue that claims of violence or abuse should be made on oath, they should require police or hospital records, and people making allegations which are not then substantiated, and those who’ve helped them, should be subject to criminal prosecution. They call for similar limitations to do with protection orders.

Fathers’ rights groups also attempt to undermine the ways in which domestic violence is treated as criminal behavior. They emphasise the need to keep the family together, call for the greater use of mediation and counseling, and reject pro-arrest policies.

Such changes would represent a profound erosion of the protections and legal redress available to the victims of violence and the ease with which they and their advocates can seek justice. This agenda betrays the fact that the concern for male victims of domestic violence often professed by fathers’ rights groups is rhetorical rather than real. While such groups purport to advocate on behalf of male victims of domestic violence, they seek to undermine the policies and services that would protect and gain justice for these same men.

Fathers’ rights groups often respond to issues of domestic and sexual violence from the point of view of the perpetrator. And they respond in the same way as actual male perpetrators: they minimise and deny the extent of this violence, blame the victim, and explain the violence as a mutual or reciprocal process (Hearn, 1996, p. 105).

This sympathy for perpetrators is evident in other ways too. Fathers’ rights advocates have expressed sympathy or justification for men who use violence against women and children in the context of family law proceedings. And, ironically, they use men’s violence to demonstrate how victimised men are by the family law system (Kaye & Tolmie, 1998a, pp. 57-58).

Members of fathers’ rights groups also act as direct advocates for alleged perpetrators of violence against women. For example, one group distributes pamphlets for ‘victims of a false AVO’, giving no attention to how to respond to ‘true’ perpetrators of violence nor to the safety of family members.

Fathers’ rights groups also attack media and community campaigns focused on men’s violence against women, call for the de-funding and abolition of what they call the “domestic violence industry”, and engage in the harassment of community sector and women’s organisations which respond to the victims of violence.

Other, positive responses by men: The White Ribbon Campaign

This is all pretty depressing news. In this context, I’ve been especially heartened to see a growing positive response by men, in alliance with women, to help stop violence against women. I will focus on one such response.

White Ribbon Day is the largest effort by men across the world, working in partnership with women, to end men’s violence against women. White ribbons are worn on the day by men to show their concern about violence against women, and by women who are supporting men. It takes place on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In Australia, White Ribbon Day is organised in part by UNIFEM, a women’s organisation, but it is conducted in partnership with men and men’s organisations. The White Ribbon Campaign focuses on the positive roles that men can play in helping to stop violence against women.

To find out more, visit the website: http://www.whiteribbonday.org.au/

Conclusion

To continue our efforts to prevent violence, several strategies are necessary.

We must continue to respond effectively to those who’ve experienced this violence, the coalface work that some of you already do.

We must continue to keep the issue of violence against women on the public agenda.

We must step up efforts to engage men in positive ways, building partnerships with supportive men and men’s groups. We must confront, or sidestep, the dangerous ambitions and dishonest claims of the men’s and fathers’ rights backlash.

The achievements of the fathers’ rights movement are already putting women, children and indeed men at greater risk of violence and abuse. The fathers’ rights movement has exacerbated our culture’s systematic silencing and blaming of victims of violence and hampered efforts to respond effectively to the victims and perpetrators of violence.

However, the new politics of fatherhood has not been entirely captured by the fathers’ rights movement. There is potential to foster men’s positive and non-violent involvement in parenting and families. Key resources for realising the progressive potential of contemporary fatherhood politics include the widespread imagery of the nurturing father, community intolerance for violence against women, growing policy interest in addressing divisions of labour in child care and domestic work, and men’s own investments in positive parenting.

However, thwarting the fathers’ rights movement’s backlash requires that we directly confront the movement’s agenda, disseminate critiques of its false accusations, and respond in constructive and accountable ways to the fathers (and mothers) undergoing separation and divorce (Flood, 2004, pp 274-278).

Beating the backlash

The following are some of the political strategies we can use to help beat the fathers’ rights backlash.

Discredit fathers’ rights groups. Emphasise that they;

Are interested only in reducing their financial obligations to their children;

Are interested only in extending or regaining power and authority over ex-partners and children.

Do nothing to increase men’s actual share of childcare / parenting or men’s positive involvement in parenting both before and after separation.

Collude with perpetrators of violence against women and children, protect and advocate for perpetrators, or are perpetrators.

Produce critiques of their lies and their strategies which are credible and accessible.

Co-opt the new politics of fatherhood;

Support positive efforts to respond to separated fathers. (And emphasise that FR groups fix men in anger and blame, rather than helping them to heal.)

Build on men’s desires to be involved (and nonviolent) parents.

Find alternative male voices: supportive men and men’s / fathers’ networks and groups.

‘Speaking as a father…’

Tell women’s stories

Atrocity tales: Stories of abuse and inequality.

In letters, submissions, on talkback, etc.

(But beware of the ways in which these can (a) portray women only as victims, (b) homogenise and essentialise women’s (diverse) experiences of violence, and (c) undermine credibility and support. )

Find and nurture male allies: in government, the community sector, academic, etc.

More widely, we must continue do the work of violence prevention: to undermine the beliefs and values which support violence, challenge the power relations which sustain and are sustained by violence, and promote alternative constructions of gender and sexuality which foster non-violence and gender justice.

Contact

Dr Michael Flood

Postdoctoral Fellow

Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS)

La Trobe University

E-mail: michael.flood[at]anu.edu.au

PO Box 4026, Ainslie ACT, 2602

Permission is given for this document to be circulated or posted online.

Further resources and reading

Critiques of ‘fathers’ rights’ and ‘men’s rights’ claims about family law, violence, custody, etc.:

http://www.xyonline.net/articles.shtml#Violence

http://www.xyonline.net/articles.shtml#father

Published academic critiques of fathers’ rights perspectives:

http://mensbiblio.xyonline.net/fathering.html#Heading1042

Published academic critiques of men’s rights perspectives:

http://mensbiblio.xyonline.net/mensrights.html#critiques

Web critiques of men’s and fathers’ rights:

http://www.xyonline.net/links.shtml#24

A short critique of fathers’ rights and men’s rights perspectives:

http://www.xyonline.net/Respondingtomen.shtml

Responsible Parenting and Fathers´ Rights: An Interview With Michael Flood

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Ohmy News International by Joan M. Dawson

Dr. Michael Flood is a sociologist at La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. He received his Ph.D in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Australian National University. He’s a researcher on fathering and an expert on gender issues. He’s also the coordinator of XYonline, a Web site providing commentary on masculinities, feminism and violence.

The fathers’ rights movement began in the 1970s. It’s mostly concentrated in the U.K., Ireland, Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. It’s primarily concerned with family law issues, child custody cases and domestic violence.

While there have been many positive and supportive organizations arising to meet the needs of distressed fathers after painful divorce proceedings, there have been other organizations that are less constructive.

Some fathers’ rights groups send misogynist messages, use strategies such as harassment, stalking and intimidation, and strive to chip away at programs and services for women and children. They deny the extent of domestic violence and offer sympathy to the perpetrators.

Since many domestic violence laws just came into effect in the 1990s, it is cause for concern when an organized group sets out to attack them. This group is considered to be strong, organized, and likely, well-funded.

Personally, I’ve been startled to find aggressive, threatening messages directed at feminist writers throughout OhmyNews. I’ve seen similar comments on the Internet that deny domestic violence, call women evil and make snide remarks about women belonging at home doing household chores. The level of misogyny seems to be rising. And, while many men and women have formed positive networks and groups to deal with abuse and discrimination, these fathers’ rights groups are also gaining strength.

I was confused at first, not knowing whether to ignore them or confront them. I decided to research them further. I visited many of their Web sites, did a fair deal of research on them, and, was fortunate enough to receive a positive reply for an interview from an expert in the field, Dr. Michael Flood.

He’s answered many of my questions and, while my concerns have not been put to rest, it has reassured me that there are talented, devoted people like him working in the field to promote positive, healthy relationships in families and communities today.

The following is my interview with him conducted via email on March 19.

Which of the fathers’ rights groups should we be most afraid of, and why? How strong are these groups in terms of their numbers? How much havoc have they wreaked? Are there any signs of them weakening?

In one sense, the fathers’ rights groups we should be most afraid of are the seemingly sensible ones. Some FR groups distance themselves from the "extremists" who make wild, misogynistic claims and threats and adopt tactics of direct action. Instead, these groups concentrate on political lobbying, and they are creating changes in family law. At the same time, their perspectives are still misguided, and their influence is dangerous. FR groups have successfully shifted family laws in some jurisdictions so that fathers’ contact with children is privileged over children’s safety. Children are being forced into contact with fathers who’ve been violent to them or their mothers.

FR groups have also encouraged the lie that women routinely make false accusations of child abuse or domestic violence, and the myth that domestic violence is gender-equal.

[See my attached conference paper for other examples of their influence.]

You have said that these groups "mimic the micro-practices of offenders." Can you explain?

They deny the extent of men’s violence against women, excuse or justify this violence, and fail to place responsibility with the perpetrators by blaming others such as women or the family law system. While FR groups claim to care about children, some advocates have expressed sympathy for men who murder their children or described this as an understandable response to discrimination against men.

Are these men batterers? What are their characteristics?

Some men in FR groups have used violence. To the extent that FR groups assume that all fathers accused of domestic violence or child abuse are being accused falsely, they fail to protect children from harm. As part of encouraging fathers’ positive relationships with children, we should be upholding laws and policies addressing domestic violence and child abuse, not trying to undermine them.

What are the characteristics of the women that belong to such groups?

Some FR groups sometimes have female members and even co-founders, including second wives and other family members of men who have had some engagement with family law.

Typically, hate crime does not include crime against women. However, these groups are clearly hateful towards women, and feminists, in particular. Is it safe to say they are "hate groups"?

Many FR groups offer hateful and misogynist stereotypes of women and mothers. FR groups do little to heal the anger and blame felt by many separated fathers. And FR groups in general circulate highly inaccurate and hostile parodies of feminism. Some FR groups use "softer" and more "reasonable" rhetoric, but few if any are dedicated to building constructive relationships between separated fathers, mothers, and children.

Writeup from my "Supporting Separated Fathers" paper, also attached:

"Negative and hostile depictions of women in general and single mothers in particular are the bread and butter of fathers’ rights discourse. As Kaye and Tolmie (1998: 184-190) document, fathers’ rights literature routinely depicts women as parasitical, mendacious, and vindictive. First, resident mothers are portrayed as living lives of luxury relative to nonresident fathers, lazy ‘sofa loafers’ and ‘gold-diggers’ who are comfortable on government pensions and financially exploiting their ex-partners. As Winchester (1999: 93) found in her interviews with members of the Newcastle branch of the Lone Fathers’ Association, group members consistently overestimated single mothers’ financial well-being, underestimated the costs and expenses of caring for resident children, and undervalued their ex-partners’ domestic work. In fact, recent analysis of those involved in the child support system as recipients or payers finds that while nonresident fathers are poor, resident mothers are even poorer, with 75 percent living on incomes below $15,600 per annum (Silvey and Birrell 2004: 50). Second, mothers are portrayed as dishonest and vindictive, prone to making false allegations of domestic violence or child abuse and arbitrarily and unilaterally denying nonresident fathers’ contact with children (Kaye and Tolmie 1998: 186-187). Members of fathers’ rights groups also portray their ex-partners as ‘tramps,’ ‘whores,’ ‘sluts,’ ‘bitches’ and ‘adulterers’ (Winchester year: 90-91).

Recent public submissions by fathers’ rights groups have emphasized their commitment to respecting mothers, and focused on lawyers, judges, and the ‘system’ as the main oppressors rather than mothers (Rhoades 2005: 7). However, hostile and misogynist discourses regarding single mothers, women, and/or feminism continue to be readily apparent in the newsletters, e-mail lists, and Web sites of fathers’ rights groups.

The worldviews of fathers’ rights groups will do little to encourage nonresident fathers’ engagement in constructive and respectful relationships with their ex-partners. To the extent that fathers’ rights groups fuel interparental hostility and conflict, they will have two negative impacts. First, they will lessen fathers’ contact with children and increase fathers’ use of the courts to enforce contact. For example, in his study of Australian fathers, Hawthorne (2005: 9) found a negative association between interparental hostility and the frequency of fathers’ contact and involvement with children. Similarly, in an American study, fathers with greater conflict and poorer relationships with their ex-partners also were the ones who reported difficulties with visitation and more frequent resort to the courts (Lehr and MacMillan 2001: 377).

Second, because of their impact on interparental hostility and conflict, fathers’ rights groups will lessen children’s wellbeing. Interparental conflict is a leading stressor for children after divorce, and the best predictor of child maladjustment (Braver et al. 2005: 83). As Marsiglio et al. (2000: 1184) note, ‘Because conflict is harmful to children, conflict between parents may cancel, or even reverse, any benefits associated with frequent visitation."

How is it that some of these "believers" are able to be judges, researchers, university professors, etc.?

Because the experiences, and beliefs, on which FR groups are based are also widespread. Large numbers of men have experienced painful and bitter separations and divorces, many feel angry and deeply traumatized, and it’s easy for this to be politicized into anti-feminist hostility. More generally, sexist stereotypes of women and feminism are widespread in our culture. FR groups can mobilize beliefs which are already readily available.

How can they best be dealt with?

The most important strategy for dealing with FR groups is to offer alternative, positive responses to separated men and non-resident fathers. Responses which encourage constructive involvements in children’s lives and respectful relations with ex-spouses and mothers. More widely, we must address the social factors which feed into fathers’ separation from children in the first place, the factors which prevent many fathers from being involved with children *before* separation. Key obstacles include parent-unfriendly workplace practices and cultures, policy barriers to shared care, and gender norms and relations which constrain boys’ and men’s parenting and relationship skills and commitments.

© Ohmy News International

Troubling Admission of Supervised Visitation Reports

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

by Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse

by Nat Stern and Karen Oehme, J.d.

Supervised visitation programs provide services to courts in visitation and custody disputes in which a parent alleges physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, or other harmful behaviors against a spouse or partner. Hailed as a welcome tool in the judicial management of high-conflict family court cases, these programs are garnering increased attention from legislatures, judges, and lawyers nationwide. The flurry of activity focused on funding and developing these programs,however, has obscured evidentiary questions arising from the visitation reports created at each visit. The widespread misuse of visitation reports, this article argues, threatens to compromise both the interests of abused children and the safety of domestic violence victims, whom supervised visitation was developed to protect.

Part I of this article explores the purposes of supervised visitation programs and the legal community’s call for their development. Part II describes the efforts of legislatures and provider networks to develop standards and guidelines for the administration of supervised visitation services. Part III addresses issues surrounding the use and admissibility of observation reports and other reporting tools routinely kept by supervised visitation programs. Focusing on disputed custody cases with allegations of parental unfitness,3 this section examines the tendency of courts to call for program staff to make explicit evaluations based on visit interaction and the improper use of so-called "objective records." Finally, Part IV proposes a standard limiting the circumstances under which courts may admit program records into evidence in custody proceedings.

To read the complete article, click here

For Arbiters In Custody Battles, Wide Power and Little Scrutiny

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm

 

by Leslie Eaton The New York Times

When warring parents head to court to fight over child custody in New York, their lawyers often let them in on a little secret: The most powerful person in the process is not the judge. It is not the other parent, not one of the lawyers, not even a child.

No, the most important person in determining who gets custody, and on what terms, is frequently a court-appointed forensic evaluator. Forensics, as they are often called, can be psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers; they interview the families and usually make detailed recommendations to judges, right down to who gets the children on Wednesdays and alternate weekends.

And the judges usually go along.

Forensic reports, which the parents pay for, can cost as much as $40,000 or even more. There are no standards for who can be an evaluator or what should go into an assessment. The court system does not track who gets these lucrative appointments, much less whether evaluators tend to favor fathers or mothers or joint custody.

Some lawyers and parents suspect that cronyism plays a big role in some appointments, but given the secrecy surrounding matrimonial cases, that is hard to prove, or disprove. Others say there is nowhere to lodge complaints about mistreatment. And many — including some forensics — question whether there is any scientific basis to justify the evaluators’ recommendations.

In Suffolk County, judges repeatedly appointed a psychologist who was not licensed to practice in New York State. In Manhattan, an evaluator remained on a case even though there was evidence that he had had business dealings with one spouse’s lawyer. In Westchester County, an expert charged parents $57,000 for a report that the judge found extremely biased toward the father.

Though they have been around for years, court-appointed forensics have become increasingly commonplace — and controversial — in New York, which may be the high-conflict custody capital of the nation. But similar debates about custody evaluators are going on across the country, experts say, as divorce rates continue to rise and courts try to cope with the needs of children caught up in a contentious process.

”It’s boiling over everywhere,” said Peter Salem, executive director of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, based in Madison, Wis.

In Arizona, the governor recently signed a law changing the state’s process for investigating complaints about psychologists, in part because of controversy over forensic evaluations. In Louisiana, a committee of the state board governing social workers is considering creating standards for evaluations.

And over the last few years, California has adopted a series of court rules that require training for forensics, set standards for evaluations and provide mechanisms for filing grievances against evaluators, said Philip M. Stahl, a psychologist and frequent lecturer on custody evaluations. ”It’s the only state where the rules are very specific,” he said.
No Agreement on Evaluators’ Role

In New York, forensics’ roles are being debated at judicial conferences, psychiatric conventions and impromptu meetings of disgruntled parents. Even the court system has decided to take another look at them, through a commission appointed in February by the state’s chief judge.

Forensics ”have really become arbiters of what happens in a case,” Raoul L. Felder, the divorce lawyer, said disapprovingly. ”I just think somehow they’ve seeped into the judicial process.”

Some think that is as it should be. ”With some exceptions, I didn’t try a contested custody case without a forensic assessment,” said Philip C. Segal, a former Family Court judge now in private practice. ”They were extremely helpful, even critical.”

Custody cases are difficult and emotionally fraught, he said, adding that judges need help ”analyzing the family dynamics, analyzing the parents’ respective abilities.”

Judges must decide custody cases based on the best interest of the child in question, and they can appoint a ”neutral expert” whenever they think it would be helpful in making that decision.

Some judges ask the parties’ lawyers to agree on a forensic or to provide a list of candidates; others simply name an evaluator. Some judges have very specific questions they want addressed; others just call for an evaluation. Many, though not all, want detailed recommendations.

The American Psychological Association’s guidelines state that while evaluators may determine whether either parent has severe psychological problems, that is not their main goal. Rather, evaluators are supposed to judge the parties’ ”parenting capacity” and how that fits the psychological needs of the child.

Forensics themselves do not agree on how to conduct a proper examination. Some order psychological tests, while others avoid them; some interview baby sitters and teachers, while others do not.

In the end, the evaluator gives the court a report that usually makes detailed recommendations about custody arrangements. The parents are not given copies.

At that point, the parents usually settle, ”which we would much prefer, for the parties’ sake,” said Justice Jacqueline W. Silbermann, the administrative judge for matrimonial matters in New York State. The reports’ usefulness in encouraging settlements is one reason judges order them, she said.

But what pleases the judges sticks in the craw of some litigants, who say they feel bludgeoned into settling by a report that does not favor them, even when they believe that the report is deeply flawed. Some lawyers contend that the evaluations actually discourage settlements in certain cases because the favored party feels no need to compromise.

The only way to challenge a forensic report is to go through a full trial and cross-examine the evaluator; parties can also hire their own experts to critique the court-appointed forensic, but generally cannot have the family evaluated by someone else.

In the meantime, judges are reading evaluators’ reports and making decisions based on them, with no way to know whether the observations and conclusions are correct, said William S. Beslow, a prominent matrimonial lawyer in Manhattan.

”In eight years, I have not participated in a case with a forensic report that was not substantially erroneous in one of its major conclusions,” Mr. Beslow said. ”And some are so wrong that they have disastrous consequences for families.”

Underlying all the concerns about forensic evaluators is the question of whether they are offering the court scientific expertise or unsubstantiated opinions.

Jeffrey P. Wittmann, a forensic who has done hundreds of evaluations, says that his colleagues have been giving the courts both, and that they should stick to the scientific evidence. Dr. Wittmann, co-director of the Center for Forensic Psychology in Albany, said he stopped making specific recommendations to judges six years ago, and has urged colleagues to do the same.

The reason, he said, is that forensics do not really know, with any degree of certainty, what is in a child’s best interest. Little scientific research on the subject exists.

Forensics do provide courts with useful information, he said, but drawing conclusions about the child’s best interest and making recommendations on custody and on visiting is inappropriate, even unethical. ”We have become like mini-judges,” he added, ”and it’s a big mistake.”
Value Judgments vs. Science

Among psychiatrists and psychologists, Dr. Wittmann’s argument is far from the most extreme. William O’Donohue, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, is calling for a moratorium on evaluations until more research is done.

”Psychologists don’t have the knowledge to do what they attempt to do when they do custody evaluations,” he said.

Many custody decisions, he said, involve not scientific findings, but competing values, like a father’s wish that his child excel in sports versus the mother’s emphasis on studying.

While mental health experts have been debating these issues for several years, the legal world has been slower to recognize them, at least in New York.

Enter Timothy M. Tippins, an Albany lawyer who increasingly specializes in cross-examining forensic experts. For almost a year, Mr. Tippins has been writing articles in The New York Law Journal questioning the role and expertise of forensic evaluators in custody cases. He has teamed up with Dr. Wittmann to write a paper titled ”Empirical and Ethical Problems With Custody Recommendations: A Call for Clinical Humility and Judicial Vigilance.”

Among its recommendations is a call for judges to ”begin to help the psychology discipline rein in itself” by not demanding or accepting specific custody plans.

In March and April, the two presented their arguments to conferences of New York State judges; later this year, they will speak to judges at the appellate level.

Some judges have welcomed his arguments, Mr. Tippins said. ”I think they had on their antennae that something was amiss with these reports.”

In part as a response to Mr. Tippins, Dr. Alex Weintrob organized a symposium on the scientific basis of expert testimony in matrimonial disputes at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting this month in Manhattan.

Dr. Weintrob, a well-known child psychiatrist who does evaluations, said later that ”there is more science than some people give us credit for.” On the other hand, he added, ”it is important that we be aware of our limitations.”

Even proponents of forensic evaluations are troubled by the secrecy that envelops the business, and the large sums of money that change hands, by order of the court.

”It’s an industry, and it’s unregulated, and it affects precious family rights,” said Andrew I. Schepard, director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law at Hofstra University. ”It would be lots better if this process were more transparent.”

The secrecy alone raises questions in the minds of some parents. One woman, a Manhattan financial analyst who spoke on the condition that her name not be used because her court case is continuing, said she had heard from other parents that the evaluator in her case had a history of recommending that custody go to fathers. But, she complained, there is no way to know for sure.

In Kaye v. Kaye, an extremely bitter divorce case in Manhattan, the mother discovered that her court-appointed forensic had participated in a business venture with four other people involved in her case, including her ex-husband’s lawyer.

This gave her grave doubts about how neutral he truly was, she said, speaking on the condition that her first name not appear in print. Judges are required to disclose their ties, she said, ”and the same should be true of neutral officers of the court.”

Justice Judith J. Gische denied the woman’s request for a mistrial, ruling that the business — a limited partnership with a divorce-related Web site called SoftSplit.com, now defunct — was a for-profit educational venture, and that the lawyers, forensics and others involved were not ”in business” together. An appeal is pending.

But the conflict-of-interest allegations about SoftSplit, which were reported by The New York Post last year, are still stirring up such hard feelings among lawyers and forensics that Donald Frank, the lawyer for the mother, refused to discuss the case.
Complaints, but Little Recourse

Few parents are willing to talk publicly about their experiences for fear of seeing painful family matters aired in the press, or of being dragged into court by the other parent. They also say they are often dismissed as disgruntled litigants who are angry that the evaluator did not favor them (which, of course, they often are).

The American Psychological Association’s ethics committee reports that a rising percentage of the complaints it receives involve forensic evaluations. Dr. Spencer Eth, a member of the ethics committee of the American Psychiatric Association, said local branches of his group also investigate many complaints about forensic evaluations. While such complaints seldom result in a psychiatrist’s being suspended or removed from the association, he said, doctors are sometimes reprimanded or educated about how to conduct evaluations.

The association takes on this role in part, he said, because state licensing boards tend to be ill equipped to deal with problems that crop up in psychiatric practices, including some that are almost etiquette issues: a doctor’s rudeness, for example, or his failure to return telephone calls.

New York’s court system does not have a formal mechanism for receiving complaints about forensics, and because they are officers of the court, they cannot be sued for malpractice.

The rules governing matrimonial matters are being re-examined by a commission appointed by the state’s chief judge, Judith S. Kaye. The panel will examine the role and use of forensic examiners, said Justice Sondra Miller, the appellate division judge who is leading the group. After holding public hearings, she said, it will make recommendations to Judge Kaye, probably in about a year.

In the meantime, however, some lawyers say they believe that judges are becoming more skeptical about forensic reports, and may use them a little less. One such lawyer is Norman M. Sheresky, who represented a mother who prevailed in a Manhattan court despite an evaluator’s recommendation in favor of the father. The judge tossed out the report’s findings as biased, he said.

”I think that will happen more and more,” Mr. Sheresky said. ”I think the judges are getting wise.”

© 2004 The New York Times

THE USUAL SUSPECTS – CONNECTIONS BETWEEN FATHER’S RIGHTS GROUPS

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm

American Fathers’ Coalition, American Coalition for Fathers and Children, The Coalition of Parental Support, and Fathers’ Manifesto

By Trish Wilson, © All rights reserved by author

[For approximately two years, until early 1998, I hosted an America Online folder entitled "Exposing Anti-Feminist Men’s Groups," which was a feminist discussion about the misogyny inherent in the father’s and men’s rights movement. The folder was in an area called TalkWomen, where I used the pseudonyms "Asherah" and "WLVAsh." Michele Delo, who wrote the message below, is a director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. She was not the first fathers’ rights activist to have posted messages in my folder. Fathers’ rights activists posted primarily to attack anyone who disagreed with them, and to disrupt feminist discussion, as they do all over the Internet.]

Subject: Re:Demands?

Date: Tue, Nov 4, 1997 11:28 AM

From: MDCDelo

Message-id: [board-c-folder-000f3374-msg-000e2ccf-at-34774b54@aol.com]

It is unfortunate that someone is DEMANDING that something be done here on this board. Thankfully I see, in rereading my own posts, that I have ASKED and REQUESTED but never demanded that people do certain things. Perhaps demands, like personal attacks, could be removed from the board?

While we are waiting to read information from Ash about “father’s right groups”, with of course the name of the reputable mainstream (not feminist or anti-feminist) researchers cited, lets agree that it only applies to the specific father’s rights groups studied and named. My organization, the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, is fairly new and has not yet been studied by any university or established think tank. There may be some confusion about the name, as a group called the American Fathers Coalition is also located in Washington DC. Although the American Fathers Coalition has on occasion done lobbying on our behalf, they were specifically instructed not to use sex, race, religion or politics as factors in the discussion of our issues. If they did so, it was without our permission and in violation of our mission statement and company policies.

While I do look forward to Ash’s posts regarding other father’s rights groups, they are not here to argue their own cases and so it will be a one sided dialog; I am certainly not going to attack or defend groups of which I have no personal knowledge although others may feel comfortable doing so . In the interest of having a DISCUSSION, and since I am right here and willing to read and post daily, it would seem more appropriate to address the anti-woman words and actions of my group – if any can be documented. And if none can be documented, perhaps as a courtesy we can begin to discuss father’s rights groups individually instead of clumping them all together. Some may in fact be anti-woman or anti-feminist, and if so they deserve to be called to public account. Let’s find those specific groups and work to change their methods of operation; then we would all be further ahead.

Michele Delo

[A message entitled "Bennett Watch – Day One" was written by me in response to a fathers’ rights activists’ repeated messages, "Trish Watch – Day 1," "Trish Watch – Day 2," "Trish Watch – Day 3," etc., which he had posted demanding immediate response to Delo’s messages. Each message had become progressively more rude. At the time, I had been away for several days at a convention. I had wondered if I should let him drive himself into a tizzy, and post as far as "Trish Watch – Day 50." Such abhorrent behavior by fathers’ rights activists is very commonplace, and quite contradictory to the placid, professional demeanor they attempt to project in their promotional material, especially if they intend on impressing state legislatures.

After several posts "demanding" that I provide information about fathers’ rights groups, Delo never responded to the half dozen messages I did post (including this one), all of which detailed the true, misogynistic agenda of both American Coalition for Fathers and Children, and its lobbying arm, American Fathers’ Coalition.]

Subject: AFC/ACFC

Date: Fri, Nov 7, 1997 10:57 AM

From: WLVAsh

Message-id: [board-c-folder-000f3374-msg-000f826e-at-34774b54@aol.com]

Stuart Miller is the Senior Legislative Analyst for the American Fathers Coalition. He is also with the American Coalition of Fathers and Children. AFC is the lobbying arm of ACFC. He is a signatory of Fathers’ Manifesto.

AFC and ACFC have misrepresented research and statistics to give the impression that men and fathers experience great gender bias when it comes to divorce issues. They also support sloppy material that insists women are just as abusive as men, that mothers are most likely to severely injure or kill their children, and that single mother homes and “fatherlessness” are the number one causes of social ills in this country.Both organizations have websites. A large number associated with both organizations are signatories of Fathers’ Manifesto, including Stuart Miller. Fathers’ Manifesto is a tome to male supremacy. It advocates for “father custody – no exceptions,” the repeal of women’s right to vote, and elimination of “all transfers of asset” such as alimony, child support, AFDC, HUD, food stamps, and other programs that assist women and children, especially those living in or near poverty.

Miller himself won custody of his children when his ex-wife tried to move from northern VA to MD. Shortly before that time, he was nearly jailed for contempt of court fornonpayment of child support, but other arrangements were being made to make him pay arrearages. To my knowledge, those arrearages were still due after the switch in custody but he never paid them. From what I understand (strictly anecdotal), Miller wasn’t expecting to actually win custody. He — with his free fathers’ rights lawyer who came to VA from the midwest just to take on his case — expected to lose and then hold himself up as the Poster Boy for Fathers Rights. Didn’t work out that way. He still lives in his parents’ basement and claims he had to close down his business due to repeated court battles. He continues to galavant all over the country, speaking at various fathers’ rights rallies. He spends much of his time writing Op-Ed essays full of fathers’ rights propaganda. Who takes care of his children while he’s doing all of this? His parents? Miller’s antics are definitely eye-opening regarding his point of view when it comes to fathering.

A common method of taking the focus off of their agenda of male supremacy (and rewards for women who agree with that stance), is to state that the issue is not “fathers’ rights” or “mothers’ rights” but “children’s rights.” Holding women to the public as spokespersons for the fathers’ rights agenda is a very common tactic used by this movement. The notion is that women may temper any suspicion if it is they, not the men who actually run the organizations, who spout those views. Dianna Thompson, Executive Director of ACFC, presented the “it’s children’s rights” slight-of-hand in“Fathers Rights Aren’t Just For Fathers,” which is available on the ACFC articles page. She states the oft-repeated and completely invalid fathers rights correlation condemning single mother homes as the direct cause of “…social pathologies like dropping out of school, criminality, and suicide.” Poverty, lack of adequate attention paid to the children, abandonment by the father, and nonpayment of child support are a few of the major factors that have an effect on children. The single mother is not the cause of the problems in and of herself. Thompson writes that “children, need, deserve, and want shared parenting,” when plenty of studies have not only proven that shared parenting (a cozy euphemism for joint physical custody) is harmful for children, but that it is very difficult for the parents to maintain, and is very expensive; much more expensive than the most common form of custody: mother sole physical and legal custody. Thompson especially faults custodial mothers who supposedly win custody from “a father who had been the primary caregiver,” and then proceeds to place the child in daycare while she advances in her career. Who cares for the children when this mythic primary caregiving father is at work? His mother? His new wife? Very few fathers had been primary caregivers during their relationships with the mother.

The general tone of her article is that women must stop whining about wanting to have it all. On the ACFC homepage is the quote “We must now grant to fathers the same right to be in the family as we have granted to women in the workplace.” Notwithstanding that “we” (who the heck are “we?”) have never “granted” women any right to access to the workplace, or to the family for that matter, there is no comparison between the two notions presented. Despite the claims of fathers’ rights activists, fathers have not been taking on the bulk of childrearing in the way all mothers — including those who work outside the home at a second job — have been doing. That mothers have been taking on the childrearing is the primary reason mothers are awarded custody of the children in approximately 80% of all divorces.

Does Thompson discuss how fathers may improve their relations with their children? Does she adequately illustrate how fathers may “be in the family?” No, she doesn’t.

Rather than discuss childrearing, Thompson proceeds to condemn women who divorce for their greed over wanting that child support money — she refers to this as a “tremendous financial incentive.” Notwithstanding that the average child support award is approximately $3,000 PER YEAR, child support is a necessary reimbursement to the custodial parent, primarily the mother. This reimbursement never covers the costs of caring for the child, and it is certainly not used to fund expensive trips to the Bahamas, or purchases of fancy clothing, as many fathers’ rights activists, and those with a similar mind-bend but no connection to a specific group, have often complained. The main issue here is that these particular men, as well as their second wives and girlfriends, no longer have control over the ex-wife; therefore, they will attempt to keep a stranglehold on how much child support (if any) she is to receive, and how she is allowed to spend it. Monthly itemized lists, detailing down to the penny how child support is spent, has been recommended by fathers’ rights activists to state legislatures. Those recommendations have been wisely turned down.

Thompson refers to “the war on fathers,” and “fatherlessness” as being major concerns affecting American society. “Fatherlessness” is a misnomer — most of the fathers in question are very much alive, yet they choose to avoid their responsibilities, despite repeated and baseless claims of “visitation interference,” another favorite complaint of the fathers’ rights movement. The vast majority of fathers do well by their children, and they are not represented by the fathers’ rights movement. Fathers rights activists and supporters are part of a loud movement of disgruntled men and women who wish to continue their campaigns of power and control over their former partners after those women left the marriage. When not campaigning to eliminate or reduce child support obligations, they petition for custody arrangements that benefit no one but themselves. They also promote specious “research” supposedly indicating that men and women are equally abusive of each other, and that single mother homes cause all social ills.

Fathers rights groups such as ACFC do not act in the best interest of children. They act in their own best interests, to the detriment of how their lobbying will affect those around them, most importantly their own children.

Subject: Re:Spectral Evidence

Date: Tue, Nov 4, 1997 11:38 AM

From: WLVAsh

Message-id: [board-c-folder-000f3374-msg-000e2d66-at-34774b54@aol.com]

Quoted from N.O.W.’s Action Alert on the Fathers’ Rights Movement: “WHEREAS the objectives of these groups are to increase restrictions and limits on custodial parents’ rights and to decrease child support obligations of non-custodial parents by using the abuse of power in order to control in the same fashion as do batterers…”

Some of the custodial parental restrictions proposed by fathers’ rights groups, including those groups that are the subject of this article, are as follows. When fathers’ rights groups speak of these restrictions, they don’t cite the real reasons they are supported, such as reduction or elimination of child support and weakening of laws designed to protect women and children from abusers. They claim they want to see these restrictions passed because “children need both parents” and because “fathers have rights, too.”

*Referring to rebuttable presumption for joint custody primarily as a means of lowering child support and/or maintaining control over the mothers decision making processes, especially if the man had been abusive in any way.

*Use of visitation guidelines to lower child support (he has to get that 35% visitation in order to get that immediate reduction in child support payments, even though the mother still has primary legal custody, which is where all the responsibilities lie).

*Moveaway laws that prevent the mother from moving for any reason yet do not affect the father even if his move completely disrupts visitation.

*Use of “expert testimony” such as Parental Alienation Syndrome and Malicious Mother Syndrome, neither of which are recognized by the AMA or the APA. Such dubious medical “syndromes” are used to denigrate a mothers behavior with an invalid medical syndrome.

*Support of “second spouse” laws that would enable a father to force a court to include his ex-wife’s new husband’s income as total income thereby lowering dads child support payment.

*Support of “second spouse” laws that favor the father after he remarries. He wants to have a family with his new wife but can’t afford to do so as long as he’s shelling out all that child support, so he petitions the court for reduction based on “change of circumstance.”

*Elimination of alimony laws, which are really a moot point since only about 15% of women receive alimony anyway. They don’t get much, they don’t get what they are awarded, and it isn’t enforced.

*Excessive litigation as a means of impoverishing the mother into involuntary compliance.

*Mandatory mediation when it is not appropriate, such as one person (usually the man) having much higher income and can control the proceedings, or when the parties are too busy fighting to come to an agreement. Also, an abuser can use mediation to control his partner, intimidating her to do things his way. Mediators focus on getting an end result, regardless of whether or not that result is in everyone’s best interests. It’s also possible a woman may not learn of her legal rights with a mediator. Training is a problem as well. Anyone can throw out a shingle and work as a mediator. There needs to be some quality control.

*Friendly Parenting Provisions, which relate to custody. The parent who is deemed more likely to encourage the relationship between parent and child is the one who should get custody. This one came about primarily due to mothers who either experienced domestic violence or strongly suspected child abuse and were either very reluctant or outright refused the father access to the children. These were not vindictive mothers seeking revenge. They had valid reasons for withholding visitation. Rather than rely on “friendly parenting provisions,” the proper authorities should investigate these cases properly.

*Covenant marriage laws. Those are new. The one in the news recently is from Alabama. Makes it harder to get divorced but doesn’t fix the marriage problems. Especially harmful to women in abusive marriages. They can’t get out. The main reason covenant marriages are getting press is due to the fact that women initiate the vast majority of divorces.

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Felony Charges for Past Due Child Support

In domestic law on July 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm

from Randi James

Most women I know, including myself, receive child support. Additionally, most women that I know, do not receive the court-ordered amount of child support. So what happens? We get by by whatever means necessary. As for these fathers, at least as far as Florida Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is concerned: At 30 days, CSE can suspend the father’s driver’s license…emphasis on "can."

What does that really do?

Well, it won’t stop him from driving if he wants to or needs to drive. It will get him to paying some fees if he wants his license restored, but the child support "problem" has to be taken care of first. (This is all based on the fact that he has a license, because he might not).

How does he take care of the problem if there is past due child support? Isn’t it past due because he couldn’t pay it?

I’m glad you asked. In Florida, he can go on down to the CSE office and make a payment arrangement.

What did you say?

A payment arrangement, you know, like when your electricity bill is late and steady accumulating but you need to keep the power on so you make an agreement to pay a little something-something in installments?…Something like that. The father agrees to pay the debt by making an arrangement. Yes, I know this is odd because he already has an arrangement to pay child support on a monthly basis.

And so the full child support amount isn’t getting paid on a regular basis, what does CSE do?

I’m glad you asked. The answer is, nothing. Yes, that is indeed what the CSE representative told me…they don’t do a damn thing. As long as he’s paying something, there’s nothing further they are going to do….except…garnish his federal tax return come the following year. Oh yeah! You will get a lump sum payment of the debt (maybe not all of it, but most of it…granted you didn’t receive any cash assistance, because then the State will get paid first) next year. Oh yeah, that’s if he doesn’t owe any other debts, like student loans…and of course his other babymamas. If so, you’ll have to split the profits debt, or maybe you’ll just have to wait your turn. This is all assuming he files a tax return though.

I have heard of few men who have gone to jail for child support debt/arrears/arrearage. The men that I have known to do so were found on the street, or something similar, doing something else (illegal, or not non illegal), and the popo ran their name on their license and found other stuff, and hence they were arrested and brought in under child support charges either in addition to, or in place of, whatever the popo originally stopped them for.

So how do these fathers resolve the situation after getting arrested?

I’m glad you asked. The fathers can pay a purge to the court. I’m not quite sure what that means because I have no direct experience with that–but from what I’ve heard, the father presents in front of the judge and then pays like $100, and it is all over with. No, the child support debt isn’t erased*, it’s more like he’s making a good faith deposit on it.

One more thing, child support debt can go on the credit report…all three bureaus. Unfortunately, from what I have observed, many credit granting institutions really don’t give a shit.

Back in my youth, I used to think it was all cool that fathers were sent to jail for failing to pay their child support. There were just so many fathers doing it. I mean, it was seriously like the thing to do…NOT pay your child support BUT continue fucking around and making more babies with different women. I thought the only way to stop this madness, short of a male birth control, was to throw their asses in jail. And then one day I woke up and realized,

How the hell are they going to pay their child support in jail?

But you see, I’m referring to poor men. Or maybe not poor men per se, men who do not have a job, or are unemployed, maybe that’s a better description. You must remember that non poor men, men with jobs, men with good ass jobs, don’t pay their child support, too, sometimes. And it is on purpose. Some men work under the table, to avoid paying…some men change jobs frequently, to avoid it…some men move out of the state, to avoid…and some men just refuse to work…This is who I imagine that jail is supposed to be for. It is supposed to serve as their wake-up call.

Now the menz groups like to turn all this on its head and say that mothers are the largest group of folk not paying their child support. What kinda mothers are these? Were these mothers formerly employed and are now just acting like the menz? Or were these mothers stay at homes who, because of circumstances (ie court battle and loss of custody) are now just getting [back] into the workforce in low-paying jobs? There is a difference.

The menz always say to women,

Why do yall bitches get pregnant from these no good ass mofos with no jobs and expect them to be supportin your chilluns?

I ask the menz,

Why do yall mofos be getting bitches pregnant who want to stay at home with their children and not work outside the home?

In the meantime:

Marshall woman accused of failing to pay child support

Friday, July 9, 2010

PAT NOLAN, Staff Writer

A criminal summons has been issued for a Marshall woman for failing to pay child support

Billie J. Weathers, 39, is charged with two counts of nonsupport, a class D felony.

According to the probable cause statement, Weathers was ordered to pay $325 per month in child support for two minor children As of June 30, the total due exceeded the total of 12 monthly payments.

If convicted, Weathers faces up to four years in the Department of Corrections, or one year in the county jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine per count.

Charges contained in reports provided by law enforcement officials are not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting charges must be presented before a jury, whose duty is to determine if the accused is guilty or not guilty of the charges.

*Speaking of erasing debt. I have seen the family court system erase child support debt for various reasons (none of them good, likely not even legal). It is a very interesting (to say the least) experience watching all that money that was owed to the children, go down the drain, like it never existed. Money you could’ve used to buy socks and hairbows and shit, fieldtrips and deodorant and shit, or even piano lessons and braces and shit. I have seen child support arrears negotiated for other things ie you agree to waive the arrears, and the father agrees to "give you" full custody (since custody is now "shared" in Florida since 2008, read: Gender Bias in Florida’s Court System, Shared Parental Responsibility), and other shit like that.

Additionally, in Florida, interest can be added to child support arrears…obviously adding more debt to what the father already owes. However, I have seen family court judges not allow interest even though State law says so.

My advice to women concerning child support (if you’re on the receiving end) can be found here. Look ladies, the child support system isn’t as simple as you think it is. It has morphed into an agency that’s goal is to meddle in your home life and possible split your children half, or wholly away from you…in the name of fatherhood. Please take my word for it.

Read Also:

DHHS, Responsible Fatherhood, the Family Court: Your Tax Dollars Being Wasted On an Illegal Hype

Legislation to Help Deadbeat Dads Get Back in Control of Their Families

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