Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NOW and joint custody in NY

I confess that I neither live in New York State nor do I know much about the joint custody bill being considered there besides what I have read in a few news items, but this shrill, hysteria-mongering rant from Marcia Pappas of the NY NOW is so full of distortions, deceptions and self-serving rubbish, independent of the NY legislation and NOW, that I felt a little critical dissection was in order. I quote the entire article in blue italics and intersperse my comments in plain text.

The state Legislature is considering the worst joint custody bill that the National Organization for Women -- New York State has ever seen,

Has the state Legislature ever considered a joint custody bill before? This is an honest question, I don't know.

presuming joint custody in all custody cases

I have yet to see any argument anywhere that presents any kind of a case at all that this might be a bad thing, and I've read lots from both sides.

including a deceitful attempt to redefine visitation of non-custodial parents as shared parenting.

And why is this bad? Why should one parent be relegated to the status of "visitor" in his or her children's lives?

NOW NYS has always favored primary caregiver presumption legislation to ensure stability and continuity of care for children.

Uhuh. And is that what it acheives? The words sound good, but what is the reality? What is there about having as near as possible equal access to both parents that represents instability or discontinuity to the children? Their inheritence is constituted by both parents, not just one of them.

How do you know that the custodial parent can provide stability and continuity? These days the majority of divorces are instigated by the woman, there's at least a partial argument that the unilateral act of ending the marriage can be seen as an unwillingness to seek stability and continuity for the children. This is not a "conservative" opinion, it is simple logic.

If a person is not involved in the lives of his or her children during the marriage, why would that involvement increase after divorce?

For many (most?) fathers and mothers, every other weekend plus Wednesday evenings is an appalling decrease in parental involvement and yet that is precisely the most common award to the non-custodial parent in the aftermath of a divorce.

Therefore, we oppose court-mandated joint custody and oppose changing the terminology to shared parenting.

This is a non-sequiteur. A "therefore" implies a preceding statement of factual grounds leading to a conclusion, and there is none. I don't think you have a coherent reason for your position except you want custodial parents to retain a total and totally unfair power over the non-custodial parents through their children. The fact that the National Organization of Women feels so strongly about this reflects who it is who possesses that power and who stands to "lose" (i.e. not the children and not the fathers).

Primary caregiver presumption would cut down on the abusive practice by the moneyed spouse (usually the husband) of coercing the non-moneyed spouse (usually the wife) to make monetary concessions rather than risk a custody battle before a biased court.

Since the court's bias is, in fact, very much towards awarding custody to the mother, this sentence should read: a presumption of shared parenting would cut down on the abusive practice by the spouse in control of the children (usually the wife) of coercing the non-custodial spouse (usually the husband) to make concessions of parenting time and money rather than risk a custody battle before a biased court.

This threat of a fight for custody is the fear factor that leads mothers to make financial concessions in exchange for the chance to give her children a stable life.

The threat of a fight for custody is the fear factor that leads fathers to accept disenfranchisment in exchange for financial survival. The father who fights for his and his children's rights is far more likely to end up a penniless loser than the mother he faces.

One attorney has acknowledged that he often gave that advice to male clients. When he became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals in West Virginia, he was responsible for the passage of a primary caregiver bill.

Many attorneys have been known advise female clients to accuse their ex's of abuse to gain an upper hand in a divorce settlement, whether it included a custody battle or not. A presumption of joint custody in which the accuser has to prove any such abuse would drastically reduce the incidence of this disgusting practice. Furthermore, an attorney who routinely advises male clients to sue for custody to get a better financial deal knows that he's lining his own pockets quite nicely.

NOW NYS would like to set the record straight. It is a lie that mothers are awarded custody in 95 percent of divorce cases, as fathers rights advocates would have the public believe.

I would like to set the record straight that I have never known any fathers rights advocate claim that mothers are awarded custody in 95 percent of cases. The highest I have heard is 80% and I have never heard of anything close to parity. Therefore, you use the underhanded and deceitful debating technique of putting your own lie into the mouths of those who would advocate fathers' rights simply so that you can call them liars.

Only 1 percent of cases are litigated so mothers get custody by agreement of the parties, whether or not the agreement is coerced as we describe.

If there is "agreement of the parties" doesn't that imply the case is not litigated? What does this sentence mean?

Let us learn from the experience of others. In California, a report prepared 15 years after divorce reform legislation, found that one-third of joint-physical custody arrangements were indistinguishable in practice from the sole-custody visitation arrangements.

Which implies that TWO-THIRDS, 67%, a clear majority, were different! And yet large parts of this article argue that joint-custody is simply a change of terminology...?

After seeing the harmful effects on children by court-ordered joint custody, California ended its presumption in favor of joint custody awards in 1989.

What harmful effects? As opposed to the harmful effects of fatherlessness on a generation of children?

Joint custody establishes rights without responsibilities.

Primary caregiver establishes rights without responsibilities. Complete rights.

There is no way under current law to enforce visitation.

The currently legal ways to enforce visitation are unenforcible.

There are no penalties for failure to visit.

There are rarely any penalties for failure to comply with visitation.

There is nothing in this bill, or any other joint custody or shared parenting bill, to enforce compliance with a parenting plan. The term parenting time suggests that all non-custodial parents take an active, positive role in their children's lives. Reality shows us that many parents who are granted visitation choose not to be involved in their children's lives.

Reality also shows that many parents are frustrated in their desires to be involved in their children's lives by the paltry visitation awards that are made.

Change in terminology does nothing to enforce parental responsibility or involvement. Opponents feel that the term visitation carries a negative connotation with respect to non-custodial parents, stating that visitation is associated with visiting relatives in prison.

It is certainly demeaning.

This is clearly a ridiculous argument.

Try it. Really, give it a go. You try trying to think of something special and fun to do in the insufficient few hours you have on Wednesday evenings, every Wednesday evening. You try spending every other weekend intensively keeping the company of your children while simulatenously trying not to crowd them. You try creating something like a normal family life in which you can all relax when all you've got is 14% of the time. You try reassuring your kids as the time approaches for them to return while you yourself are anxious to get there on time because if you aren't both you and they will suffer. You try enduring that hour or two wasted at the beginning of each visit while you get to know eachother again. You try answering court questions over homework that the children didn't do while in your company, homework that neither you nor they knew anything about. Seriously, try it.

People visit family members and other people in many and varied relationships.

This is disingenuous. I visit aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents from time to time, but my relationship with them is fundamentally different to that I have (or would like to have) with my children. To be made to "visit" one's children is a humiliation. For many the humiliation is so unbearable that they back off, becoming fodder for your canon into which you load accusations of delinquency, further humiliating them.

If parents want to take an active role in their child's life, why would terminology make a difference? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

If "shared parenting" is in reality no different from "visitation", then why are you all so worked up?

NOW NYS believes the actual motivation for this change in terminology is to require the court to equate the parenting plan or schedule with actual parenting responsibilities, financial and otherwise.

Yes, and?

Arguments have been made by non-custodial parents that the costs of spending time with their children should be deducted from their child support obligations, ignoring the fact that it is the primary caregiver who is responsible for the day-to-day expenses of the children.

Many non-custodial parents would be grateful for the responsibility for the day-to-day expenses of children, directly, as opposed to through the custodial parents' proxy and disposed of as she chooses.

This newly proposed legislation lays the dangerous groundwork for the courts to decrease child support awards based on a change of terminology.

This newly proposed legislation lays the welcome groundwork for the courts to increase the involvement of many disenfranchised parents in their chilren's lives.

It is an erroneous implication that the caregiver and the non-custodial parent carry the same load and devote the same time to their children.

That is precisely the point, they don't, and many want to but are stymied by the false assumption that they aren't interested, which turns into their disenfranchisement which, with Pavlovian inevitability, demoralizes and demotivates them.

The basis for this strong battle of the fathers' rights groups is totally financial.

No, it is not, any more than the NOW's motivation is total domination of the country's policy on children. Hmmm. Now that I come to say it....

It is frequently reported by school guidance counselors that a common complaint of children of divorce is that they don't see their fathers,

Because the courts and their mothers don't want them to.

and it is not unusual for children to complain about the inequities of material advantages they often observe when their father acquires his new family.

In which he often acquires new expenses and therefore such "inequalities of material advantages" are a lie that you put into the mouths of the children.

This bill establishes the pretext of a continuing relationship between children and non-custodial parents,

With this line, you neatly expose the real problem, that a continuing relationship between children and non-custodial parents is a pretext, a fraud, a sham. You admit, in fact, that the current system erodes and destroys the relationship between children and non-custodial parents, that simply being a non-custodial parent implies the lack of a proper relationship with your child. And yet, the law and custodial parents take that destruction and blames it on the non-custodial parents. In fact, what it does, is blame the victim for the crime. Now where have we heard that before?

This pretext should be eradicated by legislation which encourages that relationship to be real, legislation which recognises that both parents are of value to the children, and that the destruction of the relationship between the children and one parent or the other is inherently detrimental to the child.

and falsely legislates in the best interest of the child.

This is only true if it is in the "best interests of the child" to undergo a parentectomy. "The best interest of the child" has been reduced to a political canard which reflects the underlying tendency to use the children to obtain unreasonable control over the non-custodial parent, both financial and emotional.

As Adolf Hitler said: "Society will tolerate almost any injustice so long as you tell them it is for the children."

The reality is that it does nothing to advance the welfare of the children of New York.

The reality is that the welfare of the children anywhere has very little to do with what NOW wants. It is a National Organization of Women not a National Organization of Children. To equate the two implies that women and, in particular, the women of NOW, have a monopoly on the knowledge of what is best for children and that is not true.

A little more exploring and I find that Albany Times Union includes this story from Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks back to back with the above febrile incoherency from NOW which neaty and gracefully puts the lie to their position.

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2 comments:

Danny Guspie said...

Executive Director Danny Guspie, Fathers Resources International responds to Marcia A. Pappas article: " Joint custody bill not in child's interest" March 28, 2006:

March 30th, 2006

Dear Ms. Pappas:

How sad that you oppose love from a father who wants to be involved with his child. Even sadder is your lack of insight about what a child needs, wants and requires of both their parents before during and especially after a divorce.

ALL CHILDREN WANT A FAMILY. That means a Mom and a Dad, brothers and sisters. I have to ask - do you have a family? Do you even have children? Do you have a good man in your life? How is your relationship with your Dad? How about your Grandfather?

The number one persistent fantasy of a child of divorce is that Mom and Dad will make up, and get back together. Absent that, they will stop fighting. You reduce it to money. Involved men pay child support without hesitation. That's just common sense.

Lets call it for what it really is: What YOU oppose is LOVE. What you are advocating for is HATE,

Hate is never a solution, especially when children are caught in the middle between parents. Nor is more government intervention your solution.

HERE IS REALITY: Government can't fund itself and now it is using our children as a funding source. Follow the money in child support enforcement. Also follow the money in where child support goes when it is paid - YOU CAN'T. There is no accountability for that support for those women who do not spend it on the kids.

And if you are not the dad, but have to pay because the laws encourage paternity fraud - where is the fairness in that? And what about the Bradley amendment? And what about your own constituencies, grandmothers who are denied time with grandkids, young women who want to see their Dads but are blocked from Mom. Aren't these things as important?

Therefore you oppose the solution to that which you say you seek - fairness. Isn't that a fact?

You are saying that all men do not love their children that we are all irresponsible, that men win in Family Court because we have the money. That's the same ignorant sentiment that is the very foundation of all hate, racism and genocide.

I oppose YOUR dishonest arguments against shared parenting: Children's rights are not bound up with one parent. Children's Rights are independently their own. They have a right to the love and support of two parents. Rarely does it work that way in Family Court.

Your statistics are self-serving and completely wrong. The truth is this; those who have them commissioned can manufacture them.

Here is the truth: No man would ever marry a woman thinking he was anything but an equal partner, nor vice-versa. And that is the presumption before you enter Family Court.

It was equally wrong 100 years ago that men automatically got custody. It's just as wrong today that women get that same presumption. It strips away the dignity every parent based upon a LIE.

Calling Family Court biased in favour of men makes no sense at all when women have the advantage of organizations like yours, unconstitutional laws like VAWA that do not speak about violence against male children and men, child support laws that force fathers to pay for children that are not theirs if they miss some artificial 30 day deadline and the Bradley amendment. Show me a law on the books for men that do these things to women.

The foundation of YOUR lie is this: That all women are saints and men devils. You are saying women are good and men are bad.

That's a stereotype. That's what good women in the 70's fought against. So why are you engaging in it? Your doing the very thing that your movement originally sought to end.

Women murder, rape and abuse just as good as a man does. It's not about gender; it's about morality - Good versus Evil and Right versus Wrong. There are many women who never pay a dime of child support when they lose custody, and Family Courts who bend over backwards to accommodate "the poor woman".

Liberation for women and men incorporate humanism, dignity, compassion, and collaboration. Peace is always the primary best interest of the child. When there is peace, money flows to kids, not lawyers and special interest groups like yours.

Your views are really hate mongering. Wrapping it in "Apple Pie and Mom" does not change that.

Real liberation is about stepping up to the plate, not blaming others. Not being dependent on anyone or anything. Focusing on the solution rather than blame. Having an attitude of inclusiveness and partnership.

Yes, some men are irresponsible. Not because they are men though. Because they are irresponsible human beings - Period.

What you are saying that a woman never:

• Initiates a relationship;

• Pursues men for a date;

• Shames men into marital commitment

• Lobbies for a huge diamond ring

• Demands a big costly fantasy wedding

• Demands a honeymoon that is beyond reasonable means

• Ever lies about her age, nor use of birth control

• Gets depressed when the "the honeymoon" is over

• Never makes a household miserable when they don't get their way

Do all women act this way? Are all women irresponsible? Of course not.

Some do act this way though. Does this mean all women should be vilified? Of course not, that's stereotypical thinking and profiling. Its not because they are women, it is because they have low self-esteem and are searching for someone to validate their existence.

98% of women initiate a separation and divorce. All without any encouragement to examine how they got themselves in the situation in the first place, and because it's "the man's fault". That's why so many women want to change us, shame us, medicate us and claim we are unnecessary.

It's the women's fault for buying into: "You can have it all baby" and the man's for not being mature enough to say: "Sorry, you're not my type…"

Both parties made the situation what it is. Both need to be responsible and share in the blame, and then move past it if there is to be real liberation from the poor choices made that created the situation. Relationships are partnerships.

Finally - in your world men are bad, but women are the primary caregiver's. I guess that care giving wasn't too good for the last 30 years, because N.O.W. hasn't made young boys into good men yet.

Perhaps the problem is not the money, but kicking the man out of the kid's life and for Mom's who know so little about the value good caring people bring to each other in our relationships.

I was taught in the 70's that a man can do anything a woman can and vice-versa.

So I count myself lucky that after my divorce, I raised our kids. And when they felt they needed their mother, I let go without any regrets. Despite the facts that the Mom was not really a suitable parent. I trusted that our children needed to find that out for themselves. I did not engage in silly rhetoric like yours.

And you know what - it all worked out. And even though I never got a dime in child support from their mother in nine years, I paid my child support without complaint for seven.

Finally - the idea of custody is a false illusion. The state owns you, our kids and me. Need proof?

I win custody. Six months later I make a decision. You as the other parent don't like my decision and take me to Court. Who makes the decision?

The judge - the third branch of Government. Who gets the money - the lawyers.

You are fighting the wrong enemy Ms. Pappas. But then, only an adult child of divorce like me would have the real life experiences to see such distinctions and call a hate mongerer on it and their nonsensical worldview that has nothing to do with LOVE and everything to do with GREED.

For shame for crawling into bed with the lawyers, the State and the continued industrialization of divorce, the harvesting of your constituency who often lose every asset in Family Court chasing your illusions of VICTORY, when there can be no winners but the profiteers and finally for siding with the continued savage rape of a child's identity with rhetoric and polemics more suited to the Nuremburg Rally.

Shame on you Ms. Pappas and double shame on you N.O.W.

Danny Guspie
Executive Director
Fathers' Resources International


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