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May 04, 2005

Presumptive Joint Custody Fails In California

I have just received word that a presumptive joint custody bill has failed in California. It had the support of California fathers' rights groups, who are very disappointed that the bill failed in committee. The bill was opposed by Business and Professional Women/USA, the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, the California Judges Association, California Federation BPW/USA, and the California National Organization for Women. Glenn Sacks had advertised this bill on his radio show and web site. Over 2,000 fathers' rights activists had written sob stories to California legislators, hoping that the bill would pass. This is a newsletter sent out by Glenn Sacks in light of the failure of the bill.

AB 1307 Update: Shared Parenting Bill Defeated in Assembly Judiciary Committee
May 3, 2005

Despite the massive support we generated for AB 1307, the new California Shared Parenting bill, children and the parents they love and need were defeated today in the California Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Two thousand of you called, faxed or wrote Sacramento in support of AB 1307. By contrast, the opposition, led by the California National Organization for Women, the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, the California Judges Association, the State of California Commission on the Status of Women, and the California State Bar Family Law Section, had no discernable popular support. Nevertheless, they successfully attacked the bill by claiming that a rebuttable presumption of shared custody puts women and children in danger of abusive men. They also claimed that fathers who fight for custody are usually abusers.

As my listeners and readers know, these claims are spurious. Mothers are far more likely to abuse children than fathers are, and women are as likely to commit domestic violence as men are, though women's injuries tend to be more serious. Moreover, AB 1307's presumption of shared custody applies only to fit parents, not abusers.

The California Shared Parenting Alliance's presentation at the hearing was impressive, particularly the testimony of family law attorney Denise Placencio. The highlight of the proceedings came near the end of the testimony when Assemblyman  Mervyn M. Dymally, the bill's principal author, said "here's my final witness"--and held up a box with almost 2,000 of our letters in it! 

Our defeat represents the triumph of special interests over children and families. The California Shared Parenting Alliance won the endorsements of dozens of mental health professionals and family law experts, as well as veterans and retirees groups. These were backed by popular support vastly beyond anything the special interest groups opposing us could muster.

CSPA has plans to continue this fight, and Dymally says he will be bringing the bill back next year.

A Personal Note to the Sackson Horde

This is our sixth His Side with Glenn Sacks Listener Campaign and our first defeat. I thank all of you for your support and faith in us, and I'm sorry we were unable to deliver another victory. I knew from the beginning that this one would be tough, but I also believed that we had to fight the good fight regardless of the odds.

Special credit goes to CSPA lobbyist Michael Robinson, who spearheaded both AB 1307 and SB 1082 in Sacramento, and was one of the heroes behind our successful campaign to preserve the LaMusga move-away decision last summer. To donate to support CSPA and Michael's lobbying efforts, click here. Thanks also to the American Coalition for Fathers and Children for its support.

The failure of this bill wasn't a "triumph of special interests over children and families." It was a triumph of the best interests of children and viewing each custody case on its own merits over fathers' rights ideology. Did you notice the typical men's rights attacks against mothers, with the claims about child abuse and domestic violence? Domestic violence is not equal between men and women. That persistent myth is propogated frequently by men's rights activists, and very few people buy it. I've addressed that myth on my web site. Kate Orman has also addressed it in her web site The Battered Men Controversy.

Regarding the LaMusga moveaway case, this is an Update from January 27, 2005.

"The children have been living in Arizona with their mother, stepfather and sister for eighteen months now. Now that things are being done their mother's way, they are doing fabulously well -- happy, healthy, and terrific in school. Much better than they ever did in California. They still are seeing their father too. So much for seven years of following the nitwit advice of third parties, and handwringing interloping of the team of father's rights psychologists who filed a brief ostensibly "in the children's interests" that did absolutely nothing of benefit for these children or any others. Finally, today, too, contrary to the ravings of father's rights media shill Glenn Sacks and father's lawyer Garret Dailey, the trial court has ruled on the long-pending issue of the "onerous child support" Gary LaMusga supposedly was paying. Seems that for the past two years, he was paying approximately $400 below the guideline amount. So much for the carrying on by the joint custody lobby about how these guys are all about their kids, and that it's not about the money..."

I had sent a letter to the committee members urging them to not allow this bill to pass. The last time fathers' rights activists had tried to pass a presumptive joint custody bill was in the mid 1990s. I had sent written testimony against that bill, AB 999, which had also failed. This is what I wrote to the committee members this time:

Dear Assembly Members,

Hello. My name is Trish Wilson, and I'm a member of the National Network on Family Law Policy. I am writing to you to urge you to vote against AB 1307, the bill calling for a presumption for joint custody. Custody should be determined on a case-by-case basis, and it should not be applied in a cookie-cutter fashion that a presumption would do. Joint custody is already an option for parents who choose to try it on their own. There does not need to be a presumption for it. 90% of parents settle without the need for court intervention in deciding what form of custody is best for them and for their children. Most parents do not choose joint custody because they recognize how hard it would be on them and especially on their children. They also recognize that in most cases the mother had been the primary caregiver of the children, and they believe she should continue in that capacity. That is why mothers most often get sole custody. It is not due to bias against dads in court. When dads make an issue of custody, they get some form of it more than half the time.

Joint custody has been shown to be detrimental to children who are exposed to conflict between their parents. Joint custody also asks a lot of children. Many of them cannot handle the shunting back and forth between homes very well. They also must keep track of which home they are to be in on a given day, which is stressful for them. They lose track of their friends, and their extracurricular activities suffer when parents pay too much attention to when the children are to be with them.

Researchers have long come out against a presumption for joint custody. The following researchers have expressed their reservations about exposing children to conflict in joint custody and about a presumption for joint custody. You may read my entire page criticizing joint custody at this link:

http://members.aol.com/asherah/jointcustody.html

What The Experts Say: Scholarly Research on Post-Divorce Parenting and Child Well-Being
Chapter Four
Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission
Diane N. Lye, Ph.D.
June, 1999
Section Five
What The Experts Say About Joint Physical Custody
Quotes from Leading Divorce Researchers
In Particular Researchers Who Have Strongly Supported Joint Custody and Father's Rights
Such As...
Maccoby and Mnookin
Sanford Braver
Judith Wallerstein
Joan Kelly
Andrew Cherlin

Complete text, including researcher's bios, is available on the "What The Experts Say" web page.

[Excerpt]

Eleanor Maccoby and Robert Mnookin

"In the large majority of divorcing families, both parents have been involved with the children on a daily basis. Simple continuity with the past, in terms of the roles of the two parents in the lives of the children, is hardly possible. The relationship between parents and children must change markedly."
(Page 1 in Dividing the Child)

" the coparental relationship between divorced parents is something that needs to be constructed, not something that can simply be carried over from pre-separation patterns. It takes times and effort on the part of both parents to arrange their lives in such a way that the children can spend time in both parental households "
(Page 276 in Dividing the Child)

"Only a minority of our families--about 30 percent were able to establish cooperative coparenting relationships. Spousal disengagement, which essentially involved parallel parenting with little communication had become the most common pattern about a quarter of our families remained conflicted at the end of three and a half years."
(Page 277 in Dividing the Child)

"While our study did not attempt to measure the impact of coparenting relations on the well-being of children, the results of the follow-up study of the adolescents in our sample families, as well as the research of others, makes us confident that there are important effects. Children derive real benefits--psychological, social, and economic--when divorced parents can have cooperative coparenting relationships. With conflicted coparental relationships, on the other hand, children are more likely to be caught in the middle, with real adverse effects on the child."
(Page 277 in Dividing the Child)

"A more radical alternative to the present best interests custody standard is a presumption in favor of joint physical custody. We oppose such a presumption. We are deeply concerned about the use of joint physical custody in cases where there is substantial parental conflict such conflict can create grave risks for children. We do not think it good for children to feel caught in the middle of parental conflict, and in those cases where the parents are involved in a bitter dispute we believe a presumption for joint custody would do harm . . . We wish to note, however, that joint custody can work very well when parents are able to cooperate. Thus we are by no means recommending that joint custody be denied to parents who want to try it."
(Pages 284-285 in Dividing the Child)

Sanford L. Braver

"There is simply not enough evidence available at present to substantiate routinely imposing joint residential custody the limited analyses other researchers have performed don't strongly recommend it be imposed either."
(Page 223 in Divorced Dads)

"If each parent is empowered by joint legal custody and is allowed involvement in the full variety of child rearing activities, few parents or children will feel deprived. A parent overly concerned that he see his child exactly the same amount of time as his ex-spouse becomes more of an accountant than a parent. Furthermore, this strict accounting of time can also set the stage for many future arguments, when arrangements must be changed because of extenuating circumstances, which routinely come up. Finally, such arrangements are often transitional. As children get older, they frequently don't want to switch households so often. In short, insisting upon strict equality of time spent with the child may be in the weaker parent's interest but it is rarely in the child's."
(Page 224 in Divorced Dads)

Judith Wallerstein

"Joint custody can be helpful in families where it has been chosen voluntarily by both parents and is suitable for the child. But there is no evidence to support the notion that "one size fits all" or even most. There is, in fact, a lot of evidence for the idea that different custody models are suitable for different families. The policy job ahead is to find the best match for each family. Sadly, when joint custody is imposed by the court on families fighting over custody of children the major consequences of the fighting are shifted onto the least able members of the family--the hapless and helpless children. The children can suffer serious psychological injury when this happens."
(Page 304 in Second Chances)

Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin

"Custody arrangements may matter far less for the well-being of children than had been thought . The rationale for joint custody is so plausible and attractive that one is tempted to disregard the disappointing evidence and support it anyway. But based on what is known now, we think custody and visitation matter less for children than how much conflict there is between the parents and how effectively the parent the child lives with functions. It is likely that a child who alternates between the homes of a distraught mother and an angry father will be more troubled than a child who lives with a mother who is coping well and who once a fortnight sees a father who has disengaged from his family. Even the frequency of visits with a father seem to matter less than the climate in which they take place. Joint physical custody should be encouraged only in cases where both parents voluntarily agree to it imposing joint physical custody would invite continuing conflict without any clear benefits In weighing alternative public policies concerning divorce, the thin empirical evidence of the benefits of joint custody and frequent visits with fathers must be acknowledged."
(Pages 75-76 in Divided Families)

Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur

"Joint custody arrangements, while not common, are found in many communities, particularly in more privileged socioeconomic groups. Whether or not high levels of contact with both biological parents can reduce or eliminate the negative consequences associated with divorce is an open question. To date, researchers have found very little evidence that it does."
(Pages 6-7 in Growing Up With a Single Parent)

"We have demonstrated that children raised apart from one of their parents are less successful in adulthood than children raised by both their parents. For children living with a single parent and no stepparent, income is the single most important factor in accounting for their lower well-being as compared with children living with both parents. It accounts for as much as half their disadvantage."
(Page 134 in Growing up With a Single Parent)

Joan Kelly

"Recent studies suggest that the relationship between child adjustment and conflict is neither universal, simple, nor particularly straightforward It appears that, rather than discord per se, it is the manner in which parental conflict is expressed that may affect the children's adjustment. High interparental discord has been found to be related to the child's feeling caught in the middle, and this experience of feeling caught was related to adjustment. Adolescents in dual (shared) residence arrangements did not feel more caught than did adolescents in mother or father custody type arrangements. Nor was amount of visiting related to feeling caught. There was a significant effect, however, of the interaction between type of residence and the parental relationship. Dual residence arrangements appeared to be more harmful when parents were in high discord than were sole residence arrangements. In contrast, adolescents in dual residence arrangements where there was cooperative communication between parents benefited more than did adolescents in sole residence arrangements."
(Pages 34-35 in "Current Research on Children's Post-divorce Adjustment")

Debra Friedman

"On the face of it, joint custody seems to be an equitable solution to the problem of dividing the child . [Proponents of joint custody] suggest that parents whose conflicts or incompatibility are so great as to necessitate divorce are somehow able to manage to concur on a joint path when raising their children . Without coordination, and without a structure in which each parent has the means to compel the other to engage in appropriate behaviors and make investments in their children, joint custody is hardly akin to an intact family. Joint custody is at least as likely as alternative custody arrangements are to result in diffusion of responsibility for the child. When both take responsibility it is tantamount to neither doing so."
(Page 129 in Towards a Structure of Indifference)

---

I recently published an article critical of presumptive joint custody for Alternet. Below is the article, including a link.

http://www.alternet.org/rights/21836/

Solomon's Solution
by Trish Wilson
AlterNet. Posted April 21, 2005

Presumptive joint custody has become the norm in many states, as judges attempt to force cooperation in contentious divorces. But instead of bringing families closer together, mandated joint custody can tear them further apart.

Angela is a divorced single mother whose ex-husband was abusive, often in front of the children. Her ex-husband had told her if she tried to divorce him, "I will say or do anything to prove you are an unfit mother. And if I can't, I will take the kids and you will never see them again."

Angela trusted that the court system would see his abusive behavior and protect her and her children, so she filed for divorce. Unfortunately, her husband's predictions came true. "I was pressured to accept an unstable and unsafe 50/50 custody schedule, even for my nursing infant," she said. "I was blamed for the violence in the house; for mine and my children's reasonable fears about their father's abuse. [The court] implied that if I didn't agree to shared physical custody, I would be punished by having sole custody awarded to the children's father. His verbal abuse of me and the children were deemed 'communication problems.' Incidents of child abuse and physical domestic violence were minimized and called a 'difference in parenting styles."

When Angela finally agreed to joint custody, the results were a disaster. "The toll on our eldest child of unsupervised and increasing visitation was enormous," Angela said. "She would kick, struggle, scream and cry as he carried her bodily from my home for visitation. She chewed her hair and pulled it out. She picked at her skin so often it bled. She had stomach aches prior to visits with her father, crying jags, and although tested as a gifted child, she almost failed fourth grade. One of her teachers reported she would sit at her desk crying after being dropped off by her father."

Joint custody is all the rage in courts across the United States, but it doesn't always look as good in practice as it does on paper. Fathers' rights groups lobby for presumptive joint physical custody, which would make joint physical custody the starting point in all divorces, regardless of whether or not joint custody would be appropriate for the families. The Indiana chapter of the Children's Rights Council (a fathers' rights group) has urged the filing of class action suits nationwide calling for a presumption for joint physical custody. While presumptive joint custody looks fair on paper, it should not be applied to families in a cookie-cutter fashion. Custody decisions should be taken into consideration based on an individual families needs on a case-by-case basis.

In theory, it's a good idea. Children are thought to thrive best when there is "frequent and continuing contact" with both parents. Judges often proscribe joint custody in the hope that parents will work together for the sake of their children. Eleanor Maccoby and Robert Mnookin, authors of Dividing The Child, argue that "We are deeply concerned about the use of joint physical custody in cases where there is substantial parental conflict. Such conflict can create grave risks for children." They described a California study in which joint custody was sometimes awarded to resolve familial conflicts. The more legal conflict that occurred between the couples, the more likely the court was to order joint custody. They wrote that "three and one-half years after separation, these couples were experiencing considerably more conflict and less co-operative parenting than were couples for whom joint custody was the first choice of each parent."

Judith Wallerstein, in her book Second Chances writes that "[s]adly, when joint custody is imposed by the court on families fighting over custody of children the major consequences of the fighting are shifted onto the least able members of the family--the hapless and helpless children. The children can suffer serious psychological injury when this happens."

When both parents freely choose joint custody, it can be a great idea. Early studies of joint custody show the following characteristics commonly held by parents who chose it: they had cooperative relationships, there was less conflict at the time of divorce, they were financially well-off, the mothers had not remarried, they chose to live near each other, and they usually had only one child.

When these qualities are lacking, families are thrown into turmoil. Forcing joint custody leaves the child's primary parent without an ability to function properly. Beverly, a woman whose divorce was very divisive, still sees the negative effects of joint custody on her son. "My ex does give my son his asthma medications," she says. "Then, he tells the judge that my son is always sick when with me." The experience has changed her feelings about joint custody. When couples gets a divorce no matter how civil it is," she says, "The first thing that goes out of the window is trust, communication and cooperation. These are the main ingredients in order for joint custody to work. Otherwise it becomes an arsenal to continue to control."

Joint custody became the most politically attractive concept of the 90's. Mary Ann Mason, in her book The Custody Wars, wrote that "joint or shared custody ... has been propelled by the rhetoric of fairness to parents, mainly fathers, who believe they have been discriminated against by the courts and excluded from their children's lives. And the idea has grown popular among judges. As New York Judge Felicia K. Shea observed, "Joint custody is an appealing concept. It permits the court to escape an agonizing choice, to keep from wounding the self-esteem of either parent and to avoid the appearance of discrimination between the sexes." No wonder Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack signed a presumptive joint custody law in May 2004.

Mason described her first experience with joint custody, which was in 1978. Carole and George had divorced, and Carole insisted upon Mason representing both her and George. Mason balked because she was not convinced that one lawyer could fairly represent both party's interests. Carole and George were certain they both wanted "a cooperative rather than adversarial property arrangement, and they also wanted to extend this cooperation to custody arrangements for their two sons, Jacob, six, and Josh, eight."

To achieve this end, "they sold the family house, and each rented an apartment near the school that both boys attended. [Mason] helped them draft an elaborate custody plan. The children were to stay at Carole's apartment Wednesday night through Saturday night, and at George's Sunday night through Tuesday night. George picked up an extra Saturday every month to even out the schedule. Holidays were similarly divided." They had two rules -- keep the boys together and try to attend all their functions. At this time judges were skeptical of joint custody. To avoid seeing it rejected, Mason presented "a standard custody plan to the court that listed Carole as the custodial parent." This meant that if something went wrong with the joint custody arrangement, a court would not enforce it.

After this, Mason did not hear from Carole until two years later, when she called Mason and asked her to stop by her apartment for a drink. When Mason arrived, Carole was smiling. She reported the good news that the custody arrangement was going well. There were some minor problems, but overall she seemed pleased with the arrangement. While joint custody seemed to work well for Carole, Jacob described a slightly different scenario. Each boy had a watch and was responsible for following "the schedule" without any reminders from their parents. Each boy had to keep track of his belongings as they moved from one house to the other. Neither boy could complain about things at the other house, nor could they discuss other people, such as, as Jacob put it, "like if Dad's got a girlfriend or something." That was a lot of time-keeping and list-making for two young children to do.

Over the next several years Mason saw Carole occasionally, and Carole remained positive about the joint custody arrangement. In the end, it lasted seven years. The boys at that point lived with her permanently and saw their father about once a week because George's long-time girlfriend moved in with him. The arrangement did not end badly. Everyone remained on good terms and the boys still loved their father.

Whether or not joint custody will work depends on the children and the parents. Judith Wallerstein says, "Joint physical custody depends a great deal of the child's capacity to move back and forth. If the child is a school age child, the child must be able to make friends and maintain them in two neighborhoods. Kids complain all the time that they miss birthday parties and sleep-overs, and that their playmates forget when they are coming. They must be able to maintain their activities like team sports, music, etc. They must feel wanted in both homes by step-parents or lovers and not playing second fiddle to child who is always there and says, "This is my house." She points out that "joint custody also depends on the flexibility of parents; their willingness to believe the other parent who says Jimmy is ill, or Jimmy does not want to come and their willingness to modify their schedules for the changing needs and wishes of the growing child. And it depends on the jobs that parents have, their other commitments, whether they travel alot, and their partners too."

Barbara Hauser, director of the Family Services Clinic, Middlesex Probate Court, in Cambridge, Mass., says that a small percentage of people getting divorced actually have joint custody in their legal documents. She sees an advantage in joint custody in that "children feel they have all the advantages of both households. Having a more shared relationship mutes the feeling of distance from one parent, usually the father." However, an atmosphere of conflict or tension takes away from the joint relationship.

The Family Services Clinic seeks to help couples that are having difficulty managing joint custody. It was "set up specifically to help people having disputes." The Center offers parenting classes and help for parents regarding how to discipline children. Workers meet with parents and children to help them come to agreement about how their children are coping with separation and to help their children cope with disagreements. Sometimes there are disagreements over a parent having a new partner, or a parent who takes the children to relative's homes. The child wants to visit more with the parents. The child needs to be with the parents. It is sometimes too hard for children to integrate new people into their lives.

Joint physical custody is not easy to maintain. The schedule is daunting. The parents must put aside their own issues and work together in caring for their children, and many parents are unable to do that. Joint custody does not inspire parents to cooperate with each other. It exacerbates conflict.

Children's needs are often lost in custody cases because the parents are too concerned with their own desires, whether that desire is to keep up the facade of a harmonious relationship or the desire to keep a child completely to onself. Parents should not risk turning themselves into stopwatches, overly concerned with the amount of time the child spends in each parental household. When joint custody works well, a child has a sense of balance and unity. When its forced on couples, joint custody has the opposite effect, tearing children apart.

---

Thank you for reading my letter. I urge you to vote against presumptive joint custody (AB 1307). Please allow custody decisions to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Parents already decide what is the best form of custody for their children. Please do not allow a minority of angry fathers' rights activists change the way parents prefer to handle their custody decisions.

I am thrilled that this bill has failed to pass. Custody should be determined on an individual basis, and not subjected to a cookie-cutter approach that presumptive joint custody would have done. The committee members did the right thing in rejecting this bill.

Posted on May 4, 2005 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

Comments

Sacks claims that the opposition had no "discernable popular support" -- and that after listing some of the organizations that were in opposition. Funny, I had never thought of California NOW as the equivalent of a trade group -- a narrow advocacy group with no grassroots base or democratic structure. Disagree with NOW's political stances if you will, but it seems pretty self evident that the group has a relatively substantial membership across California, more so, say, then an industry group agitating for utility rate hikes.

Since Sacks admits that this was his first legislative defeat, I suspect that maybe his problem is the opposite. Maybe the opponents to joint custody are finally learning how to activate their base and apply the kind of legislative pressure that the right has mastered, instead of floundering like many progressive forces have done in recent years, hoping that somehow the truth or justice will prevail against all odds.

Posted by: silverside at May 4, 2005 1:28:46 PM

California NOW is one of the few NOW chapters that has actually done work on motherhood and custody issues. I wish more NOW state chapters would work on motherhood and custody issues. NOW has national clout and recognition, and it's support is needed. Sadly, it has done little work on those issues.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at May 4, 2005 3:35:54 PM

California has long prided itself in initiating nationwide movements.
Let's hope that CANOW is in the lead on this one too.

Posted by: silverside at May 4, 2005 3:44:13 PM

I'm sorry, ladies, but I just can't understand how any parent, given normal circumstances, could be against the right for both parents to be fully involved in their children's lives as custodial parents. Absent the presumption of joint custody, the law assumes that only one parent is custodially fit. This is nothing more than legalized gender discrimination. I'm pretty sure that if fathers were the ones being awarded sole custody in the vast majority of divorces, there'd be a much different message being posted by Trish and the rest.
In the end, tho, this is just one more example of the divorce industry dividing moms and dads for their own considerable benefit. It shouldn't be you against me, it should be us against them.

Posted by: rooman at May 4, 2005 8:46:48 PM

"ladies"??

That's your problem right there. We're not ladies.

Posted by: Sheena at May 4, 2005 9:20:38 PM

I am overjoyed that AB 1307 failed. I would like to think that the letters I wrote to every one of the Judiciary Council members made a difference. I don't often feel like I have a voice.

I have spent 3 years fighting an emotionally abusive ex who keeps demanding 50/50 split custody. He lives 135 miles from his kids by his own choice. He spends less than 7% timeshare by his own choosing. He blames me that they don't want much to do with him, but in truth, he's so verbally and emotionally manipulative and abusive, that they want little to do with this man who claims to be their father.

Shared parenting would NOT work with this guy. He seeks either sole custody or 50/50 split custody every year since 2001 in protracted litigation. His motive is to eliminate child support. He cares nothing for what's in the children's best interest. The courts have been complicit in his efforts to destroy the financial stability of our home. It's criminal what this man has been allowed to get away with. He's figured out how to be a "Legal" deadbeat.

If you read the radical Father's Rights materials like I have done for the past 2 years, you will learn the fundamental core reason they demand 50/50 shared parenting. It's very simple. Follow the money. They don't want to share their earnings with their ex-wives whom they denigrate and verbally assault when they think that they are only talking among themselves.

I'm no "Walk-Away Wife" I'm a mother who finally had to leave a 15-year marriage because the father became to emotionally unstable to remain in the marriage.

I know that not all men are like my ex. I remarried a really decent man. Sometimes I think my 2nd husband is a saint for all he has had to endure at the hands of my sociopathic ex.

Most good parents know intuitively that children need stability and love - and food, clothing, shelter, warmth, and education. If the ex could just put the children's needs first and set aside his animosity, I would encourage him to share more time with the children. He won't do it. Instead, he tries to blackmail, distort the truth, harass and belittle, and alienate the children so he can get his way.

He acts like a terrorist, stalking through the courts. Kids don't need this grief. He needs to man-up and BE a father, not just thump his chest and make threats and accusations of "PAS."

Thanks for letting me vent.

Reenee

Posted by: Reenee at May 4, 2005 11:34:24 PM

Is it your contention Trish that men do not get abused by their spouses?

I have to agree with with rooman on this: shouldn't everyone involved want both parents fuly involved?

Posted by: filchyboy at May 5, 2005 12:01:03 AM

Filchyboy, of course some men get abused by their spouses. It just happens to not be very common. Yes, those men need help, just like abused women do.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at May 5, 2005 7:36:17 AM

I'm a non-custodial mother. I technically have joint custody, but physical placement is with the ex, a very manipulative, slick abuser. I don't believe 50/50 would help me in the slightest. I was in court just a few months ago. The courts refuse to enforce the visitation I have. They tell me it's strictly my responsibility to see my daughter, neatly sidestepping the reality of my ex's roadblocks. 50/50 is just a different number on a piece of paper, but the same old sh--. The only thing that would help would be granting me the authority of sole custody and a court that is willing to enforce it (e.g. ex cannot just willy nilly take off with child with no strings attached.) I would be perfectly generous and fair with visitation (I was when I had custody before), but I need the courts to back me up. They won't with 50/50. When you share "joint" custody with an abuser, and you have a pro-FR county court, you basically have nothing.

Posted by: silverside at May 5, 2005 8:29:19 AM

For NOW and other such groups, best interst of the children is translated into: "Best interest of women and no one else."

Oh yea every man out there is an abuser. Um, yup.

Posted by: Me at May 6, 2005 10:30:12 AM

Nobody claims that every father is an abuser. But a lot of abusers seize on custody issues to harrass their ex-partners, the mothers of their children. If joint or 50/50 works for you and your ex, and both are happy with it and want to make it work, go for it by all means. Ain't nobody stopping you. But for those of us who are being told we have to work with an uncooperative and nasty parent, it's ridiculous. In that case, custody should go to the stable, decent, law-abiding parent, not the abuser.

Posted by: silverside at May 6, 2005 12:02:37 PM

And by the way, I notice that the 50/50 crowd NEVER addresses fathers that block visitation or access. You'd think this was solely a mother caused problem. Not so by any means. I have NEVER met a non-custodial mother where visitation wasn't an issue, partly because visitation is such a convenient way for abusers to do their control/punish routine.

Posted by: silverside at May 6, 2005 1:06:14 PM

Ok, so because some fathers abuse the system so they can abuse their ex-wives and their children then all fathers should be denied the presumption of having the right to equal custody?
I would venture to bet that the number of mothers who use the system to screw over thir ex husbands and their children is much higher than the number of fathers who use it to screw over their ex wives and their children.

And the reason for that is not that woman are any worse than men, it's that the systtem in place right now presumes that women are the best custodial parent. Either explicitly or implicitly that is the way it is in the courts right now. Because of this women are in the better position to abuse the system and those who would be so inclinded to do so can get away with it.

Just because there would be a presumption of equal custody doesn't mean that the 90% of parents who settle without the need for court intervention wouldn't still be able to settle without court intervention, it's the 10% that take it to court that this would affect.

And please spare me comments about payments below the "guideline amount". Those guidelines are utter garbage. They take a percentage of income needed to support the child where the support payer is in a lower income bracket and then apply that across the board for all income levels.

Now excuse me I'm off to listen to Jerry Reed's "She got the Gold Mine, I got the Shaft." :)

Posted by: Fred at May 6, 2005 2:41:11 PM

"custody should go to the stable, decent, law-abiding parent, not the abuser."

What if NEITHER parent is stable, decent, and law-abiding? That happens more than many people realize.

Posted by: kohoutekdriver8 at May 6, 2005 6:07:07 PM

My parents had joint custody of me. It sucked. It sucked even though their divorce was not nasty and they did not try to poison me against each other, and neither one was abusive. As someone who knows what the hell she's talking about because I've lived through this, presumptive joint custody is a horrendous idea.

My parents asked me to choose a parent to live with, but I was six years old and refused to do it. So they both asked for and got joint custody. I was an only child. But even in this ideal situation, it was a rough way to live. I had no stability. I had to pack my things every week and move to another neighborhood. It was very difficult to maintain friendships. I did not feel "normal". For a while my parents lived in two different cities,about an hour apart, and I went to school in a third city (where they both worked) because it was the only way they could both keep their jobs and maintain the joint custody. By the end of fourth grade it was unbearable and I told them so, and they rearranged things so that they both lived in the same city and I started going to school in that city, but even then it was rough. I think it would have been better if I lived full time with one and visited the other regularly. Having to constantly adjust to the rules and norms and rhythms of two different households with two different sets of friends is very tough on a child and made regular after-school activities pretty much impossible.

The thought of joing custody being automatic scares the hell out of me.

Posted by: alley rat at May 6, 2005 10:30:42 PM

Joint LEGAL custody, where both parents can make decisions for the children regarding things like hospital admission and education, I have no problem with - and again, it should not be automatic because it isn't for everybody either.

Joint PHYSICAL custody, where the children live with each parent 50/50, I do have a problem with because like I have said elsewhere, the kids don't really live anywhere. I believe in liberal visitation rights MOST OF THE TIME.

I have a BIL and SIL who did 50/50 and it was a disaster from the word go, but so are both of them. My SIL would keep track of time away with a stopwatch and I was told that he did too. I once asked our mutual relative (OMR) if they did 50/50 so the BIL wouldn't have to pay child support, and OMR said, "No, it's because they are both idiots."

The oldest child is in his early 20s and has not seen his dad since he was 16, when he no longer had to, even though they live in the same town. OMR knows why but won't tell me, and BIL must have really done something awful considering the next paragraph. The younger one does see his dad.

BIL had to carry health insurance on the kids and pay all uninsured medical bills, and SIL spent so much time taking them to doctors, just to soak him, that I asked if she was still working and were the kids home-schooled. (Answers: Yes and no, although nobody could figure out how.) SIL was also banned from most of the therapists' offices in their city for saying things like, "Now tell the nice therapist how much you hate Daddy." I'm glad the kids are boys (and maybe she has done this and I don't know about it) because if they were girls, there is no doubt in my mind that she would have filed false sexual abuse charges against him.

Sometimes you just wonder what people are thinking.

Posted by: kohoutekdriver8 at May 7, 2005 11:21:12 PM

What is to be said for a loving father whose ex-wife has essentially found a babysitting boyfriend and desires to strip him of his right to a relationship with his daughter and gain a pay raise in the form of additional support. Despite the fact that I have never committed any form of assault, domestic violence or any such physically or verbally abusive behavior, the mediator in this case completely disregarded the evidence, leaning over towards me with brows furled stating, "you are a big, mean, intimidating looking individual" Then she proceeded to make her one sided, absurdly biased recommendation that essentially stripped visitation to the bare bones and granted my ex-wife a $18k per year raise. I am remarried to a wonderful woman and have three beautiful loving step children who I love very much. LOVE IS ACTION - and my actions speak far louder than any words I could write here. I wonder Trish if you are opposed to the custody and support being so inextricably linked. Surely, you must possess an ability to reason sufficient to draw the logical conclusion that linking support with visitation has essentially destroyed my God given right to have a fruitful relationship with my daughter. In this case, Trish, the system, the judge, the legislature, the mediator and you are responsible for placing my daughter in a warped home with a mother who is egregiously estranged from her own mother and who is incapable of having a meaningful relationship based in giving of one's self. Thank you for you support.

Posted by: Mark Cole at May 20, 2005 12:13:12 AM

Post script to above.


My case started because I would not terminate my court ordered visitation early. The police were called to my house where the investigating officer commented "why am I here?" Two days later I was served with notice of ex-parte hearing under false allegations of domestic abuse. When the evidence was presented by my attorney and the allegations presented by hers, the judge (and I use that term loosely) disregarded the facts and entered an order for supervised visitation. Problem is the supervisor is the mother of my three step children making it a virtual impossibility that visitation could ever be exercised.

Posted by: at May 20, 2005 12:23:50 AM

It's really sad when 1% of the population thinks they should control the entire population.

Justice is coming.

Posted by: Teri Stoddard at May 30, 2005 2:24:48 AM

"It's really sad when 1% of the population thinks they should control the entire population."

It's also really sad when one side thinks they own the truth, and I see this in both women's rights and men's rights advocate groups. Neither of them truly care about the best interests of the child. If they did, they would be working together for solutions rather than encouraging discord between men and women and engaging in sexist insults against the other. However, I do agree with Trish in that joint custody should not be presumed. There are some parents who will never get along, period. Putting a child in the middle of such conflict is unreasonable and selfish. It's dangerous to assume that one general situation will work for every divorcing or separating family. And no one bothers to ask the children how they feel about it.

"Justice is coming."

Sadly, I doubt it. The pendulum will merely swing from one extreme to the other, while Justice sits in the balancing point screaming "MORONS!! I'M RIGHT HERE!!"

Posted by: free_spirit at Jun 21, 2005 2:57:24 AM

It it amazing that neither you, the experts or bureaucrats they call judges ever take into consideration the wants or wishes that the CHILDREN who are most affected by all of the bullshit.

Posted by: edward mcewen at Aug 15, 2005 4:53:29 PM

Several respectable Judges, Psychologists, mediators, researchers have come out openly in favor of shared parenting. Parents, Please grow up. Children want both their parents. - Even if one parent or both are manifestedly unfit.

While you fight each other - you are destroying your children's future. Neither of you are a Dad and a Mom to your child.

Here is the chilling truth of children raised without a father. Could also be applied to children raised without a mother:

Here is the chilling truth about our children who come from fatherless homes:

63% of youth suicides (Source: U.S. D.H.K.S., Bureau of the Census)

70% of juveniles in State Institutions (Source: U.S. Dept. of justice, special Report, Sept 1988)

71% of teen pregnancies (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)


71% of High School dropouts (Source: National Principals Association Report on the

State of High schools)

75% of children in chemical abuse centers (Source: Rainbows For All God’s Children.)

80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior,Vol 14, p- 403-26, 1978)


80% of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from broken homes. (Source: "Family Matters: The Plight of America's Children.' The Christian Century, July1993:14-21.)

85% of youth sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992).

85% of children with behavioral problems (Source: Center for Disease Control)

87 % of the juvenile offenders in the Virginia juvenile justice system do not live with both natural parents and 73 % are rearrested within three years of their release. (Source:Virginia Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission)


90% of homeless and runaway children (Source: U.S- D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)

TEENAGE PREGNANCY "Daughters of single parents are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages. All these intergenerational consequences of single motherhood increase the likelihood of chronic welfare dependency." Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Atlantic Monthly (April 1993).
Daughters of single parents are 2.1 times more likely to have children during their teenage years than are daughters from intact families. The Good Family Man, David Blankenhorn.
71% of teenage pregnancies are to children of single parents. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

CHILD ABUSE

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that there were more than 1,000,000 documented child abuse cases in 1990. In 1983, it found that 60% of perpetrators were women with sole custody. Shared parenting can significantly reduce the stress associated with sole custody, and reduce the isolation of children in abusive situations by allowing both parents' to monitor the children's health and welfare and to protect them.
POVERTY "The National Fatherhood Institute reports that 18 million children live in single-parent homes. Nearly 75% of American children living in single-parent families will experience poverty before they turn 11. Only 20% in two-parent families will experience poverty." Melinda Sacks, "Fatherhood in the 90's: Kids of absent fathers more "at risk"," San Jose Mercury News (10/29/95).
"The feminization of poverty is linked to the feminization of custody, as well as linked to lower earnings for women. Greater opportunity for education and jobs through shared parenting can help break the cycle." David Levy, Ed., The Best Parent is Both Parents (1993).


KIDNAPPING Family abductions were 163,200 compared to non-family abductions of 200-300. The parental abductions were attributed to the parents' disenchantment with the legal system. David Levy, Ed., The Best Parent is Both Parents (1993), citing a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice (May 1990).


These statistics translate to mean that children from a fatherless home are:

*5 times more likely to commit suicide.

*32 times more likely to run away.

*20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.

*14 times more likely to commit rape

*9 times more likely to drop out of high school.

*10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.

*9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution.

*20 times more likely to end up in prison.

A Parent is a terrible thing to waste!!!!

"I believe this presumption (in favor of shared parenting) will help settle at least 25 to 30 percent of all child custody cases. The attorneys will begin to concentrate on how these two parents will parent their children in two separate homes instead of trying to prove who is the better parent. I rarely had a contested custody case in which both parents weren't good parents and that is why they were contesting custody. I have been involved in over 1,200 divorces. This bill is a step in the right direction." --A.M. Keith, former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court - who, during his years in
private practice, was a divorce lawyer

Posted by: Ron Jagannathan at Aug 31, 2005 2:52:11 PM

Yawn. Another copy/paste from a fathers' rights web site.

More fatherlessness stats and misquotes. Ron, those kids aren't fatherless. Their fathers are around somewhere, and they weren't necessarily good dads. The problems they experience were often in existence when their dads were around, so getting that bad influence out of their lives helped them.

Ron, you can whine all you want about single and divorced moms. Presumptive joint custody remains rejected in California.

This page discredits all that "fatherlessness" garbage fathers' rights advocates like to use to denigrate custodial mothers. "Fatherlessness" is nothing more than code for "children being raised by their single and divorced mothers".

Posted by: The Countess at Aug 31, 2005 2:58:32 PM

"The feminization of poverty is linked to the feminization of custody,"

Well right here is a huge lie. The feminization of poverty is a trend that is going on WORLDWIDE. Has nothing to do with women getting 'custody' as in most parts of the world men just abandon their family as opposed to divorcing them JUST LIKE MEN USED TO DO HERE.
So custody is NOT an issue unless the child is worth something and unlike here in the US, MOST children in other parts of the world are worth little so the only ones interested in them are their mothers.

"KIDNAPPING Family abductions were 163,200 compared to non-family abductions of 200-300. The parental abductions were attributed to the parents' disenchantment with the legal system. David Levy, Ed., The Best Parent is Both Parents (1993), citing a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice (May 1990)."

Well this is true and 15 years later it's even worse I think the figures have doubled. BUT even this can be attributed to the selfishness of MEN trying to avoid paying child support.

Actually many of these abductions are by fathers trying to get custody through a legal loophole in the law. Whereas if you have a child and they are NOT in any kind of legal custody, one parent can abduct a child and race down to the courthouse to get temporary custody themselves w/o the other one even knowing about it until it's too late...

I've read many fathers rights attorneys advising men to do this and this is the fuel that is driving all these parental abductions. Fathers being advised by attorneys to pull this sneaky crap. A lot of this money to help men be better parents is spent at 'clinics' that advise men of their rights and tells them about sneaky tricks like this. The attorneys should be arrested when their clients do this. That's my opinion.
Thrown right in jail.

"85% of youth sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes"

Yet how many youth go to prison, out of a country of almost 300 million, how many youth are we talking about? MOST youth who grow up in single mother families grow up just fine, in spite of this propaganda and disinformation.

It reminds me of the Soviet era when between, our government, the Soviets and the press, we never really heard anything but lies. It's a miracle we didn't blow up the world trying to kill each other after some of the crap that was put out by both sides.

Posted by: NYMOM at Aug 31, 2005 7:39:12 PM

Every activist group ultimately supports itself. Women's group want to retain custody because they want to retain the child and the money that comes with it.

Men's groups want custody rights because men are being forced to pay a woman for a child that he can only see once a week.

The so-called inconveniences of dual custody are unfounded.

Of course, a child would rather see both parents and enjoy two loving parents than simply one.

Posted by: Sarah Davis at Nov 12, 2005 8:42:56 PM

"Every activist group ultimately supports itself. Women's group want to retain custody because they want to retain the child and the money that comes with it."

This, of course, is a lie.

Women have been raising their children long before child support was a factor, as it has only become relevant in our lives over the last decade or so. I never even heard of it before the 80s and most other mothers never did either.

Actually the imposition of child support had far more impact on men's behavior then women and if we did a chart tracing the increase in men fighting for custody and stricter enforcement of child support the two would show the same time line and trajectory...

So it is men who are motivated by child support, not most mothers...an objective look at history in every species and society around the world would show us that.

Posted by: NYMOM at Nov 13, 2005 8:39:59 AM

"Every activist group ultimately supports itself. Women's group want to retain custody because they want to retain the child and the money that comes with it. Men's groups want custody rights because men are being forced to pay a woman for a child that he can only see once a week."

Uh, no. Most women's groups don't work on custody issues. A few do, but not nearly enough. Some domestic violence groups do work on these issues. Some child welfare groups do work on these issues. Fathers contribute only 19% of the incomes to the child's household, so mothers who want custody aren't in it for the money. Mothers who want custody want it because most of them have been the primary caregivers of their children. They have been doing the nuts and bolts work of childrearing since day one, and they believe they should continue. So do most of the fathers. Most divorces - 90% - settle out of court with both parents deciding that mom should have custody for the reasons I've described.

Men's groups, on the other hand, want custody because they want to get out of paying child support, and they use custody battles as a way to continue meddling in their ex's lives. They talk about "shared parenting", but little of their talk has anything to do with the welfare of children. Fathers' rights groups and men's rights groups are overpopulated with men with power and control issues and other serious "problems". Abusers are also attracted to these groups. The men in them, by their own admission, frequently get into power play fights with each other. Decent men are best advised to avoid these groups like the plague. Men's and fathers' rights groups do not serve decent dads well.

Posted by: The Countess at Nov 13, 2005 8:58:03 AM