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November 05, 2003

Joint Custody Down Under

I've just accepted an invitation to join a group that assists women and children in family law cases in Australia. A major concern Down Under is the push for presumptive joint custody which is favored by Prime Minister John Howard and fathers' rights activists. Joint custody, sometimes referred to by its feel-good political name, "shared parenting," has long been proven to be harmful for mothers and especially children. It ignores the contributions of primary-caregiving mothers, instead elevating the fathers' wishes to the forefront. Most parents do not want joint custody. It is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to manage. It does not take into consideration child developmental needs and major life changes such as remarriage. One reason fathers' rights activists support joint custody is to get the lower child support order that goes with it. Another reason benefits abusers and control freaks -- joint custody gives a nonprimary caregiving parent permission to meddle in parenting decisions that had always been left with no protest to the primary caregiving parent.

The Family and Community Services Department just released a report that claimed that joint custody would cost Australia millions of dollars. The report stated that "if just 30 per cent of separated parents acquired joint custody, taxpayers would pay another $156 million a year in unemployment and family tax benefit payments. As more parents took on custody responsibilities in such an arrangement, payments from non-custodial parents would be reduced and the cost burden would shift to the Government." At least this article doesn't pretend to be concerned about overburdening poor mothers who receive public assistance. It's about the government not wanting to dish out more money. It also plays on biases against poor mothers, based on stereotypes of the people who accept public assistance. I know little about Australia's welfare system. The one in the U. S. is a nightmare. The drive to establish paternity in welfare cases to collect child support is due to welfare reform, not feminism. States want welfare reimbursement, which is why there has been such a drive to collect child support. Linking DNA to the fatherhood role, the hunt for "deadbeat" dads, "responsible fatherhood" initiatives, and marriage promotion all originated with welfare reform and neo-conservative social engineering favoring the "traditional" father-headed family. There is also denigration of motherhood in the mix, as is evident by those specious "fatherlessness" statistics. Children are completely lost in this mess.

In speaking against presumptive joint custody in Australia, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward said that "it was unrealistic to expect a father to step into an equal joint custody role, when they might not have been carrying out such a role before the parental relationship broke down."

She continued: "You can't expect a person to step into that role when the child's 10, having never seen them before, needing an autocue to remember their name. You've got to give them the capacity and the permission to do it right from the beginning."

While I agree with her that joint custody is unrealistic given established parenting roles, I do not agree with her assessment of "equal" joint custody. This isn't about mothers or fathers stepping into an "equal joint custody role." There is no such thing. No two parents treat parenting in an equal fashion, right down the middle, even when they are married. Parents do not enter the courtroom for divorce on equal footing. To treat them as if they do ignores the primary caregiver's role and contribution to caring for the children. Fathers already have the capacity and the permission to act as the primary caregivers of their children. No one needs to "give" it to them. Primary caregiving is independent of employment status. The parent who had been doing the bulk of the hands-on child-related work is the one who should be awarded custody. Courts should not ignore the psychological bonding between the child and the primary caregiver. Child psychologist Jennifer McIntosh elaborated on the importance of infant and child attachment in another article that spoke against joint custody. She said "joint residential arrangements could make it difficult for infants to form a close attachment with at least one care giver, which was vital to a child's development." She found that one quarter of children of divorced parents had disorganised attachments, and the rate was even higher in infants who spent half their time with each parent. "Of that population, it has been found that 60 per cent have disorganised attachments," Dr McIntosh said. Joint custody ignores attachment theory.

I don't agree with Ms. Goward's statement that "the guy who is working 60 hours a week doesn't want the kids." I don't think she's looking at the issue the right way. She's too busy tying custody to employment. Plenty of moms work long hours, yet they are also their children's primary caregivers. I think the key is to see how both parents have already established their parenting roles, irrespective of employment. Of course guys who work long hours want the kids. However, in not being their children's primary caregivers, they have freed themselves up over the years to accept longer hours, promotions, and travel that their primary caregiving partners are unable to take on. Most dads not only acknowledge this fact, they recognize that mom has always had primary care and responsibility for the children. Both freely chose those roles. Those established roles should be reflected in post-divorce custody rulings because they benefit the children. Custody rulings should not be about appeasing adults like fathers' rights activists who falsely claim that there is rampant bias against dads in court.


Posted on November 5, 2003 at 09:08 AM | Permalink

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The Failed Family Law Pathway In Australia

Divorce is so common today that the greeting card industry has begun to package what it assumes are appropriate sentiments for the occasion. Well over ninety thousand adults are in are position to send their announcement each year and it does not appear that the market has peaked. Court officers’ talk with some pride about the new simplified Divorce kit: It's sort of like a tax pack––you just tick a few boxes one explains.

With the growing numbers of children affected by divorce there is increasing legal and community disquiet that after twenty seven years of the Family Law Act, present day methods of dealing with residence and contact issues are not working satisfactorily.

Why are there such proposals for change? The answer is self evident, because no one likes the present system. The children of divorce, parents, legal and health professionals increasingly complain that the exclusivity of sole residence is not benefiting anyone.

•Children complain that they miss their non–resident parent; they experience guilt, tension and loyalty conflicts as a result.

•Non–resident parents complain that they miss their children; they feel depressed, alienated and powerless. They become non–parents, in effect visited aunties or uncles.

•Resident parents complain that they are over–burdened, have too many responsibilities and that seeking work and having the responsibility of full time parenting is too stressful.

•Judges complain that the court calendar is congested; that child residence decisions demand the Wisdom of Solomon and that no matter which parent is awarded residence of the child, the case will be back in court within a short period of time.

To these complaints can be added those of psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists who say that the current legal system does not pay sufficient attention to human development, children's needs, and the available data showing what is psychologically in the best interests of children.
Others complain that the winner take all concepts implied by sole residence treats the child as an object to be fought over within the legal system.

Sexism and Cultural Stereotypes.

Cynthia Banham (SMH 27/10/2003) writes: "Equal joint custody was impractical and most men did not want it anyway, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, told a parliamentary inquiry yesterday."

Today, while we rightly address the problems of single mothers and their children, we ignore the plight of the other parent and his child. We assume the other parent is really no longer a parent. Implicit in this damaging myth is that non–custodial fathers want it that way and ignorantly picture the fathers who have lost their children and parenthood as miserable, selfish, non–caring oafs.

By sanctioning the entrapment of divorced mothers in the home while advocating the liberation of women (and men) from sex-prescribed roles, Ms Goward is caught in a grave contradiction. At the same time, it is surely true that Sex Discrimination Commissioners (along with psychiatrists, social scientists, judges and others) are not free of cultural stereotypes.

This sexism takes the form of doubt or negativity about the capacity and commitment of fathers to care for their young. There is near complete disregard for the father of the divorced family and the need for his continuing participation in the life of his children.

With the tragic consequences of inadequate parenting all too apparent on the streets of our cities, we can no longer afford a legal system that discards one of the two most important people in the child's life.

We Need Thoughtful, Careful Research, Not Narrow Advocacy.

Lauren Martin (SMH 23/10) writes: "The majority of babies who live alternately with their divorced parents develop long-lasting psychological problems, new research has found. Such arrangements cause enduring "disorganized attachment" in 60 per cent of infants under 18 months, says a clinical psychologist and family therapist, Jennifer McIntosh."

The 1999 American study quoted by Jennifer McIntosh actually presents a positive case for overnights because the study found no significant difference between the attachment status of toddlers who spent overnights with one versus both parents. The study reported no significant difference between these two groups on incidence of secure and insecure relationships.

The finding about “disorganized attachment children” referred to a comparison with infants in a group of intact families that had no divorce. But for the purpose of assessing the impact of overnights versus daytime only contact with fathers, the relevant comparison is to children without overnights whose parents live apart.

This one study, with its limitations, does not provide a solid basis for policy recommendations. Infants and toddlers often sleep away from their mothers and away from their cribs. They sleep in strollers, car seats, day-care, in church and in their grandparent’s homes. In sum, ‘we need thoughtful, careful research, not narrow advocacy that plays parents against each other like scorpions in a bottle.’

“The Primary Parent Presumption Is Primarily Meaningless”

Throughout most of the 20th century, stereotypes regarding the nature of men women and children dominated child custody decisions. The unsubstantiated belief that first, women by nature, are better suited to love and care for children and second, children need mothers more than they need fathers drove decisions that resulted in most children living with their mothers after divorce and infrequently spending time with their fathers.

The usual way of divorce (mother gets residence, father gets contact and financial obligation), is based on outmoded, erroneous, and damaging concepts concerning men’s and women’s parenting roles, abilities, and parent–child relationships As such, it serves primarily to prolong and intensify the suffering and thereby to inflict great emotional harm on our nations children.

There is of course, an obscene fraudulence involved in exalting motherhood. Woman is kept in her place through praise, whereas in earlier times, the same result was achieved by denigrating her. The Roman law restricting the rights of women and the recent legal custom of assigning children to the mothers’ exclusive care are not so different. Law Professors Finlay & Bailey–Harris point out that:

"Quite apart from any supposed biological considerations affecting the respective roles of a father and a mother in relation to a child, the former attitude favouring a mother, particularly where the child was young, was the accepted respective role expectation which society entertained as regards men and women. On this view, it was considered ‘natural’ that a young child's needs would be better met by a mother because those needs were of a kind, which a woman was expected to be able to discharge. Those ‘needs’ involved the performance of domestic chores, mostly of a mechanical, indeed ‘inferior’ kind, such as washing and cleaning, cooking and other routine household tasks."

Barbara Wearing an eminent Australian sociologist and feminist advocate has been highly critical of this perceived role of women in the family and the institutionalisation of a motherhood myth in Australian society:

"Caretakers of the ideology of motherhood accept domestic labour as the preserve of women and perpetuate the existing structure of male–female relationships, legitimating women's relegation to the responsibility for the domestic sphere by an emphasis on the biological mother as the primary caretaker for her children during the early years. For these caretakers sex roles are fairly rigidly defined and appear as functional both for individual members of the family as well as for society as a whole."

The claim by supporters that the primary caretaker preference will reduce litigation by introducing certainty in child residence outcomes is not supported by the experience of the American State of Minnesota.

It is of more than passing interest to note that in 1985 the Minnesota Supreme Court assessed the suitability of legal standards to promote proper determination of child residence disputes. Consistent with case law development in Australia (important factor), the court announced a firm preference for the child’s primary caretaker as a measure of the best interests of the child.

In reasoning that the child’s relationship to a primary caretaker provides emotional and psychological stability the court deferred to the debunked 1973 work of Goldstein, Freud, & Solnit (the authors psychological parent doctrine is a sophisticated variation on the legal presumption for primary caretakers and heralded the preference).

However, in almost every respect of its rationale the primary caretaker presumption proved ineffective, and contrary to the expectations of its supporters, caused an explosion of litigation as parents fought to assert their claims over who was the child’s chief caretaker.

The well known family law commentators Freed & Walker observed that the preference “spawned an incredible amount of litigation concerning who changed more diapers, the unfitness of parents, and the threshold age at which a child is old enough to express a preference.

The Minnesota legislature responded to political and legal pressure and rejected the preference in 1989 and again in 1990.

Regarding the Family Court’s application of the primary caretaker standard to determine child residence, clinical psychologist Professor Warshak states:

"I do not believe it makes any sense to equate the amount of time a person spends with a child with that person's importance in the child's life. Research indicates that we cannot even assume that, the more time a parent interacts with a child, the better their relationship will be. In fact, we all know of parents who are too involved with their children, so-called smothering parents, who squelch any signs of their child's independence...

.... Is the primary caretaker the parent who does the most to foster the child's sense of security, the person to whom the child turns in time of stress – the role most often associated with mothers? Or is it the parent who does the most to promote the child's ability to meet the demands of the world outside the family and to make independent judgments – the role most often associated with fathers? We really have no basis for preferring one contribution over the other. Both are necessary for healthy psychological functioning."

The Parental Agreement Debate

It has been argued that to advocate a presumption in favour of physical custody (i.e. joint residence) is coercive. But those who argue along these lines conveniently forget that the current bias in favour of sole residence is itself coercive.

If joint residence is only ordered for couples who are agreed then the potential resident parent (usually the mother), has an effective veto on residence outcomes.

It is intellectually dishonest to oppose the awarding of joint residence over the objections of a parent for reasons that are equally applicable to the awarding of sole residence. Court-ordered sole residence, the default residence award is always imposed over the objections of the resultant non-resident parent, and that the court-ordered contact component of such award is often imposed over the objection of the resident parent, all of which is functionally indistinguishable from court-ordered joint residence.

Opponents of joint residence argue that joint residence cannot work if the parents are in conflict. Certainly it is the case that conflict between the parents is troubling to children. The opponents of joint residence however, make the wrong comparison. The choice is between joint residence and sole residence, not between joint residence and Ozzie and Harriet. Further, the evidence shows that sole residence does not reduce conflict and exacerbates it. The parents still must deal with one another in connection with aspects of the child's life, but they do so in unstable and unhealthy relationship of victor and vanquished.

The insistence on complete agreement between the parties about what is in their children’s best interest is an unrealistic standard that parents who live together do not have to meet. Conflict is certainly present in most divorcing situations, but it usually subsides with time. Temporary anger is common in reaction to such a powerful psychosocial stressor. It is not ordinarily indicative of pathology and should not result in an abrogation of parenting privileges.

These distortions have fuelled the controversy over what might otherwise appear to be an obviously fair proposition – that neither parent should lose parenting privileges or responsibilities as a result of divorce.

Sole Custody As A Child Abuse Risk Factor

Even a cursory look at the evidence documents that children are at an increased risk for child abuse in sole custody situations.

National child abuse statistics collated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show an over representation in single parent households. The over representation becomes more apparent when abuse statistics are compared with ABS data on the frequency of different family types in Australia.

When this comparison is taken into account the relative risk of child sexual abuse in a single parent household is over seven times the risk in a two natural parent family. The relative risk of any kind of abuse in a single parent household is eight times that of a two natural parent family.

Strikingly, there are no published results of abuse occurring in joint physical custody households.

With these recorded results, it is somewhat surprising that the factor of sole residence is not considered in much of the literature on child abuse. Numerous factors are considered as correlates of child abuse including age and sex of the child, race, family income, number of siblings and social status.

While a number of Australian studies have considered the effects of the family structure on child victimisation, most merely refer to structure as part of the family demographic information, noting the over-representation in their sample. Oddly, results are not reported that would indicate whether mothers are more prone to child abuse than fathers. These are simple questions. Yet, these fundamental questions are not being addressed.

The decision taken in 1997 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to no longer publish data indicating the sex of perpetrators in substantiated child abuse cases must be reversed. The action was taken just one year after the data was first published in 1996 (968 men and 1138 women).

The omission was justified on the wobbly basis that only one state (WA) and two territories (ACT & NT) had furnished statistics and a lack of publishing space. Interested parties were advised that they could obtain the data under a Freedom of Information request at a cost of $200.

Curiously, these reasons did not preclude the publication of gender based data in 1996. In fact, Angus & Hall (1996) observed that the information base provide an extra dimension to data previously presented. Quite obviously, the non-publication of such important data can negatively impact on child abuse policy and the allocation of resources.

If the AIHW decision does indeed represent bias reporting then such slanted views clearly have no place in scientific endeavours.

Joint Parenting Is What Children Want

In spite of the relative inability of children to articulate their feelings (at least compared to the average adult there is increasing evidence that children, when presented with the opportunity to do so have articulated their desire to maintain a loving, involved relationship with both parents after divorce. This desire on children is understandable, given the evidence that children form meaningful attachment bonds to both parents.

To see the importance of joint physical custody for children, consider how you, as an adult, would feel if you could see your children only four days a month. Like most parents, you would miss them terribly, even with your adult level of emotional maturity. Children, with their fragile, still-developing emotions, often suffer much more.

The work undertaken so far suggest the ready accessibility of each parent, is likely to be of considerable value in assisting children to come to terms with the reality of their changed circumstances and keeping both parents alive for them.

Joint parenting, insofar as it allows them to continue their relationship with both parents is what children want. Each of the studies that sought the views of children indicates that while they would prefer the intact family of origin, they are satisfied with joint parenting and value the opportunity to continue their relationship with both mum and dad.

The joint physical custody children echoed the sole custody children in responding to the question, “With whom would you have wanted to live after the divorce?” by saying, “With both.” Not only were joint physical custody children not confused by the arrangement they were able to cite specific advantages in the two–household lifestyle. They described their arrangement as “more fun, more interesting or more comfortable.”

“A recent Australian study adds weight to the view that children are better off spending equal time with both parents after divorce. “The study one of the first in Australia to look at how children feel about spending time with their parents, when they were asked how parents should care for children after divorce, the most common answer was "equal" or "half and half". Half also said they wanted more time with their non-resident parents” (Danielle Teutsch SMH 21/12/03.

Further, the high prevalence of reconciliation fantasies among children in sole custody arrangements would also seem to indicate a strong desire for continued involvement of both parents in children's lives.

This desire on the part of children is understandable, given the evidence that children form meaningful attachment bonds to both parents. Further these data suggest that judicial decisions resulting in sole parenting may abrogate the human rights of the child to know and love two parents, thus victimizing those children needlessly.

Summary

Given the drastic increases in the number of children who will undergo a parental separation our society must assure that our procedures for dealing with divorce and custody issues make sense and is consistent with the available evidence.

In addition to the research concerning children’s adjustment in the post-divorce period, there are other factors to consider.

The advantages of joint physical custody include specific advantages for each parent, less litigation, less potential for child abuse, dramatically higher compliance with child support orders and falling divorce rates.

Karen DeCrow summaries liberal feminist support in the following way:

"If there is a divorce in the family, I urge a presumption of joint custody of the children. Whereas it is impossible to change thousands of years of sex-role stereotyping through legislation, we can hope, in an existential fashion, that attitudes can be changed through education and via the passage of laws.

...Part of ending sexism involves eliminating the inhuman practice of awarding a parent ‘visitation’ to his or her own child. Shared parenting is not only fair to men and to children; it is the best option for women. After observing a women's rights and responsibilities for more than a quarter-century of feminist activism, I conclude that shared parenting is great for women, giving time and opportunity for female parents to pursue education, training, jobs, careers, professions and leisure.

There is nothing scientific, logical or rational in excluding men and forever holding the women and children, as if in swaddling clothes themselves, in eternal loving bondage. Most of us have acknowledged that women can do everything that men can do. It is now time to acknowledge that men can do everything that women can do."

The case for joint physical custody is convincing and legislators should move quickly to encourage this as the presumptive first choice in the interests of children, parents, grandparents and the wider society.

Yuri Joakimidis

Posted by: yuri joakimidis at Feb 13, 2004 6:40:32 AM

Gee. I've been spammed by Yuri Joakimidis, National Director of Australia's Joint Parenting Association. He is one of many fathers' rights activists unhappy with the recommendations made by the Committee in the Final Report, in particular the Committee's failure to endorse presumptive joint physical custody as demanded by father's rights activists. They are quite livid about it.

Mr. Joakimidis wrote this in his January 7, 2004 article "Child Custody Recommendations Continue The Cruel Hoax Perpetrated Against Children" - "[p]rior to the release of the federal report, non-mainstream feminist activists, myopic academics, bureaucrats and Legal Service Commissions protested loudly against the introduction of presumptive joint physical custody and a 50/50 time share preference. With the publication of the proposals strident roars turned to satisfied purrs as it became clear that the "shared parental responsibility" recommendation DID NOT change existing family law practice."

Mr. Joakimidis, like most of the Australian fathers' rights activists who have voiced complaints to date, is not happy that the Final Report did not endorse presumptive joint custody that the activists had demanded. Custody decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis that take into account established parenting patterns, attachment, and the best interests of the child. The cookie-cutter approach such as presumptive joint physical custody favors a loud minority that is angry over not getting its way. Not getting your way legislatively or in your personal court case does not mean that the government and courts have "failed children" or are biased against fathers.

For accurate information about joint custody as opposed to the misinformation spammed to my blog by Mr. Joakimidis, please see...

The Truth About Joint Custody

A Critique of John Bauserman's Shoddy Joint Custody Analysis

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Feb 13, 2004 8:22:21 AM

The Cruel Hoax Perpetrated Against Children

The Family Court got it wrong was the message by Minister Peter Duncan as he moved the Keating Labor government's 1995 family law amendments. His words made clear that in the view of the Parliament the Family Court had handled the resolution of child custody matters inappropriately:

"The original intention of the late Senator Murphy was that the Family Law Act would create a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting, but over the years the Family Court has chosen to ignore that. It is hoped that these reforms will now call for much closer attention to this presumption and that the Family Court will give full and proper effect to the intention of Parliament"

(‘Consideration of Senate Message,’ House of Representatives Hansard, 21 November 1995 p 3308)

The amendments enacted in June 1996 introduced more neutral terminology such as parenting orders for residence, contact, specific issues and child maintenance replaced the language of custody and access.

Despite the Duncan speech however, the changes oddly omitted the above statutory instruction.

While some mothers are cast into the “visiting” and “Disposable Parent” role, the Family Court’s definition of “shared parental responsibility” typically has the following components:

"Shared parental responsibility" = mother is awarded a residence order + a specific order investing her with day-to-day responsibility (i.e. the pre 1995 sole physical custody) + both mother and father are invested with long term responsibility (i.e. the pre 1995 joint guardianship) + father is awarded financial responsibility + the child is allowed just 4 days contact a month with their non-resident father.

According to the Family Court "shared parental responsibility" does not mean that both the mother and father are awarded residence + day-to day-responsibility + long term responsibility + a 50/50 time share as the contact preference for the child (i.e. the pre 1995 joint physical custody).

Importantly and contrary to the Family Court’s definition, Mr. Duncan in a published Age article confirmed the 1995 reforms established what was previously described as presumptive joint custody.

To avoid the risk of distortion perhaps the words of the architect of the 1995 revisions will shed light on the issue:

“As Attorney General in the 1970’s……Murphy sought to introduce family laws enshrining caring, informal, flexible and inexpensive solutions. Unfortunately Murphy’s laws have been subjected to judicial interpretation, judicial administration and judicial bureaucracy through the Family Court to the point where they are barely recognizable.

For example there is nothing explicit in the 1975 act indicating a preference for sole custody over joint custody…

It was this interpretation that led to complaints about the treatment of children’s interests in family law. This was the wrong that the Parliament sought to right by introducing a presumption of joint parenting and new terminology.

In many ways the Family Court has been the architect of much that is wrong with family law. From the outset it has been a body of men and women obsessed with prestige and status……

However, it will take great political strength to take on and reform the Family Court. This is a court with a well resourced media/public relations section. It has a full and broad understanding of the term judicial independence.

If the Family Court does not implement the Parliaments intention to have a rebuttable presumption of joint parenting then at the earliest possible time and in an appropriate case the Attorney General should intervene and provide legal aid to take the matter to the High Court”

(“Judges In The Dock,” Age 17 October 1996 p A 18).

Summary

The pleas of children to spend equal periods of time with each parent after divorce, mandates that the Family Court’s presumption of sole physical custody be reconsidered.

In all cases even when adopted children have never seen their real parents the parent–child bond is a psychological and emotional reality which does not disappear by decree. Children and parents continue to feel the curiosity, loyalty, the sense of loss, the fears of abandonment, and the emotional attachment and ambivalence that comes simply from knowing that “you are my daughter––I am your child.”

As adults, people who have given up a parent––sacrificed a love object––continue to feel the pain. Deirdre Laiken in her book compiling the reactions of women who are the daughters of divorce explains:

“Just the thought of a choice between parents is frightening; it is a situation that was never meant to be. In the normal course of development, girls feel alternating loyalties, alternating identification... If we are asked to make a choice, this important process is disturbed. If the choice is made for us, there is a residue of anger and feelings of loss. ‘Sacrificing a love object’ is an act some of us performed unconsciously others of us in full view of the judge our parents and our relatives. But it was a sacrifice that has long-range effects on our personalities and our lives.”

Yuri Joakimidis

Posted by: yuti joakimidis at Feb 13, 2004 10:49:21 PM

Readers may find this press release of interest.

URL's are included below.

Yuri Joakimidis

Press Release––31 July 2001 African Women’s Day Launch of the Joint Parenting Website

(ENDA, Joint Parenting Project, 31 July 2001)-On 31 July, in celebration of the African Woman's Day, the "Joint Parenting" website will be launched in Dakar, at the Millenium Cyberspace (Senegal).

The Joint Parenting website is the core of the "Information and Communication Technologies supporting women gender equality programmes in Senegal" project. This project has been initiated in 2001 by ENDA Third World, in partnership with Siggil Jigeen and with the support of the International Development Research Centre - Acacia Initiative.

The project aims to get women's organisations use modern communication tools in support to their agenda and, in the context of the Joint Parenting project, foster public awareness on the need to remove notions such as "marital power" and "paternal power" from national family laws, to replace them with the concepts of "joint parenting" and "joint responsibility for the family".

Initiated in January 2001, the project has been implemented in close association with civil society and human rights organisations, as well public services, parliamentarians, cooperation agencies, and the Senegalese, African, and international media. Activities so far completed include production of endogenous contents, research and information documentations, both written and audio, in French and in Wolof, training the partners in computer and internet use for communication.

The website, named "Joint Parenting: ICTs for gender justice" is the core public space of this project, providing access to information, documents, discussion forums, lobbying activities, and training modules produced by the project. The site is a link off the famafrique portal, created two years ago, the first ever virtual space for resources, data, and activities on sustainable development for francophone African women.

http://www.famafrique.org/parenteconjointe/grandefenetre.htm

http://www.famafrique.org/parenteconjointe/docanglais/pressrelease3107.html

Posted by: yuri joakimidis at Feb 14, 2004 5:02:30 AM

Readers may find this press release of interest.

URL's are included below.

Yuri Joakimidis

Press Release––31 July 2001 African Women’s Day Launch of the Joint Parenting Website

(ENDA, Joint Parenting Project, 31 July 2001)-On 31 July, in celebration of the African Woman's Day, the "Joint Parenting" website will be launched in Dakar, at the Millenium Cyberspace (Senegal).

The Joint Parenting website is the core of the "Information and Communication Technologies supporting women gender equality programmes in Senegal" project. This project has been initiated in 2001 by ENDA Third World, in partnership with Siggil Jigeen and with the support of the International Development Research Centre - Acacia Initiative.

The project aims to get women's organisations use modern communication tools in support to their agenda and, in the context of the Joint Parenting project, foster public awareness on the need to remove notions such as "marital power" and "paternal power" from national family laws, to replace them with the concepts of "joint parenting" and "joint responsibility for the family".

Initiated in January 2001, the project has been implemented in close association with civil society and human rights organisations, as well public services, parliamentarians, cooperation agencies, and the Senegalese, African, and international media. Activities so far completed include production of endogenous contents, research and information documentations, both written and audio, in French and in Wolof, training the partners in computer and internet use for communication.

The website, named "Joint Parenting: ICTs for gender justice" is the core public space of this project, providing access to information, documents, discussion forums, lobbying activities, and training modules produced by the project. The site is a link off the famafrique portal, created two years ago, the first ever virtual space for resources, data, and activities on sustainable development for francophone African women.

http://www.famafrique.org/parenteconjointe/grandefenetre.htm

http://www.famafrique.org/parenteconjointe/docanglais/pressrelease3107.html

Posted by: yuri joakimidis at Feb 14, 2004 5:02:49 AM

Still spamming my blog, I see...

Mr. Joikimidis makes the fathers' rights agenda sound so wonderfully inclusive, child-centered, and gender-neutral, but the reactions of Australian fathers' rights activists following the publication of the Final Report have been anything but. There has been much ranting about men's rights, not child welfare.

AussieDads Lionel Richards wrote on a fathers' rights mailing list that "[h]opefully the new recommendations will never be implimented or we may as well organize a mass castration of all virile males, to keep the suicide rate from going through the roof." Richards also wrote that, "Alas the long awaited report into Shared Custody is a crock of #$%^." Those are just two quotes. There are many more in the same vein, including threats against ex-wives and legislators, from other fathers' rights activists who are angry over not getting their way with the publication of that Final Report.

The real focus of fathers' rights in Australia has been laid out in the article "G'day, mate! Fathers' rights? Stick it in yer billabong!50/50 parenting "unfair" says Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward. Vote for Child Custody debate now!" It's ALL about men's rights. The mawkish blather about children doesn't disguise that. This passage at the end of that article makes that fact very, very clear:

"By the way, if you think Australia is a long way away (If you're in Australia it's possible you won't be thinking that) can I suggest this to you. A victory anywhere on any men's issue is a victory for all men. It should be clear that feminists are spreading their vile hatred worldwide and that they are constantly exchanging ideas across the globe. Sure, it's only a newspaper poll but the more polls, surveys, studies and even laws that support men's rights the more evidence we can put forward for men's rights in our town or county or state or country. Men's rights will be not be won by you alone and not just in your town. So help another man. Value another man and his rights and help show the world that men's rights are important. Support him and in doing so, support yourself. His victory may later become your victory. In a real way, his victory is your victory."

Mr. Joakimidis, you've spammed my blog long enough. Anything else you post from this point on will be removed.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Feb 14, 2004 9:48:48 AM

You go girl! Why should *you* have to pay to give a platform to these idiots?

Posted by: Spicy at Feb 14, 2004 2:23:43 PM

The women on this blog are continually caught in their lies, deceptions, delusions, denials and prejudices. They see this process of correction as an expression of anger or political propaganda. One can almost imagine them fleeing to a domestic violence safe house because a man corrected their checking account balance. Your deliberate censorship will allow you to remain in your Princess world of entitlements and privileges without a thought in your mind or a concern for anyone other than your self. You go girl.

Posted by: Ray at Feb 15, 2004 9:23:04 AM

Really, Spicy. Voicing an opinion is one thing. I do not feel threatened by dissenting opinions. Why would I? There are plenty of dissenting opinions in my comments sections, including some rants and trolls from a few moonbats who have posted over the past 48 hours. ;)

Using my blog as a personal bulletin board (on my dime, no less) is another thing altogether. He can open his own danged blog and pay to promote his platform out of his own pocket, not out of mine.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Feb 15, 2004 10:20:21 AM

That's actually what I meant - fathers 'rights' activists are *always* bleating about censorship yet in this instance, failing to take into account that this is *your* blog - for which you pay - and as such, you are under no obligation to provide a space for them.

Like you, I am not averse to opposing views, but this guy isn't engaging in discussion, just spamming (including now spamming me with emails telling me off for my gesture of support!)

I really appreciate the work you do in this area exposing their faulty logic and / or lies. I may not comment very often but am a very regular lurker - so thanks!

There's a bit in The UK Observer today about the way father's rights activists twist statistics - see half way down at this link:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,1148407,00.html

Posted by: Spicy at Feb 15, 2004 10:49:08 AM

I can't believe the sexist nonsense that I have just read on this site. It is incredible how discrimination can be justified.

The nazi's justified discrimination against the jews, as did the africanners against the blacks.

Now I read all this nonsense as to why father's are not equal to mothers, how father's are less a parent than a mother.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves, especially if you have sons. This type of discrimination is what is destroyng this world.

Can't you simply accept that we, as humans, are all equal.

Dear me, it seems that human beings never learn from their mistakes. Hatred has a million disguises.

Posted by: john spelling at Apr 20, 2004 3:07:50 AM

What makes you people who support Joint Custody so arrogant that you think the mother/child bond was just 'invented' by humanity?

The bottom line is that after examining our history, the evidence of biology and just plain common sense I have to vote with the millions of years of evolution that produced mothers as the most obvious, and best caretakers of their children in EVERY species, including our own (with the possible exception of the rare Disney clownfish species)...

Frankly, I don't care what a bunch of eggheads in Australia or the US thinks regarding fathers rights...if fathers wanted rights to play 'mom', they probably should have spoke up a couple of thousand years ago instead of waiting until now to do so...Frankly I and many others have to be highly suspicious of any movement that follows the trajectory of child support reforms so closely...


Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 20, 2004 7:53:48 PM

Sorry John but we, as human beings, aren't all equal...

I'll tell you what, the day that you come to me after going through the menses for 20 odd years (just to prepare each month for motherhood), then finally on through all the inconvenience, pain, suffering, mess and just plain bloodiness (not the mention the disfiguresment of our bodies AFTER the fact) that women as mothers go through just to bring forth the next generation THEN you can talk to me about 'aren't we all equal'...(and I didn't even mention menopause yet which is it's own unique horror show) until then John, you DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT...

Okay...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 20, 2004 8:04:17 PM

I'm sure John has been "preparing for fatherhood" for as long as your 20 odd years NYMOM.
Each in his own way.
The fact that you are equipped to bring forth life and suckle it for as long as you decide to as nothing to say about whether you shoudl thereafter have full exclusive custody
I parent my girl half the time andshe is perfectly happy. happy children.. happy and justlye treated adults .. this is the right answer NYMOM, not some injustice to one parent based on the fact you seem to think being a female gives you a bad deal which should somehow be compensated.

Posted by: Steve at Oct 21, 2004 5:43:07 AM

How has he been preparing in your opinion? I'm curious...

Posted by: at Oct 21, 2004 9:24:48 AM

Of course since fatherhood is a 'social construct' John and every other man is expected to prepare himself FINANCIALLY to support his wife and any children she will produce...this takes the burden off of MOTHER and everyone else in society of having to support the family John helped created. This leaves mother free to have as many children as John can support without being a burden on the rest of us...

NOW MEN want to change the rules of the game and decide that they want to be 'mothers' too and parent for 50% of the time and while mother and father just take care of their own expenses...Well unfortunately Steve that just might NOT work because I and everyone else is not going to be willing to take care of your kid's mother and probably your kids too for the 50% of the time they are with her because you suddenly decided that you want to keep all the family assets for yourself...NOT to mention that there aren't too many future mothers out there who are going to be too happy with it either...so what will happen is those potential mothers will be spending ALL of their most fertile years planning a career so they can make just as much income as a man and then turn around and only be able to produce one child (or none) and our entire society will fall into decline because of the greediness of men who are too stingy to share the family assets with their family Steve...

After all children already have a mother, we don't need two people fighting over that role...if a woman wishes to relinguish it voluntarily I certainly don't mind but if it comes down to the wire women should be allowed to chose motherhood and men fatherhood which by its definition as a social construct implies husbanding of resources and providing them so that women can go and be mothers without worrying that some cheapskate is going to leave her and/or her kids destitute at some point in the future...

Hope I was clear Steve...so that you and John can start 'preparing for fatherhood' properly as opposed to what you appear to be doing now which is preparing for a bastardized version of motherhood...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 21, 2004 9:51:53 AM

The nazi's justified discrimination against the jews, as did the africanners against the blacks.

Hello, Goodwin's Law.

Let's get something straight--you have not been interred in concentration camps, you have not seen your siblings, parents, spouse and children murdered, you have not had medical experiments performed on you, and you have not been gassed, tortured, starved, or beaten. So stop your whining and histrionics, and wonder no more why you are not taken seriously.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Oct 21, 2004 11:28:03 AM

Exactly...

Men have just been asked (for the first time in history by the way since previously they could pick and chose which children to support) to finally support their children and possibly the mother for a period for a time; which makes perfect sense as the children's mother lost economic and educational opportunites due to bearing MEN'S CHILDREN FOR THEM...WHO should pay if NOT MEN...as it's the ONLY contribution they make to the entire process...

Yet they have done nothing but complain for the last 10 years or so since child support guidelines were finally established and enforced...I frankly am getting sick of it...and I'll tell you something else a LOT of other women are too and when WE finally get fed up it's MEN who will be sorry...since I can tell you right now as I tell a LOT of young women I know...it's easier to just find a doctor and get artificial insemination then to put up with 18 years of aggravation after the fact, in order to have a child with one of them...

Remember a test tube is cleaner, quieter and a LOT less trouble then the average male...so if men want to even remain relevant anymore they better start thinking about where they'll fit into the new world order that's been established since reproductive technology has given women TOTAL control over their own bodies and thus complete control over reproduction...

For better or worse now that's just the way it is...men could be on the way to extinction if they continue causing all this trouble all the time, between starting wars, breaking the law and filling our prisons, terrorism, general mischief and now NOT WANTING TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES, it's just becoming a little TOO MUCH already with them...WAAAAAAAAAAY too much...

AND quite a few of us women are getting highly sick of it...


Posted by: at Oct 21, 2004 1:54:20 PM

"...it's easier to just find a doctor and get artificial insemination then to put up with 18 years of aggravation after the fact, in order to have a child with one of them...

Remember a test tube is cleaner, quieter and a LOT less trouble then the average male..."

You go girl...and after you have your test tube baby, try squeezing child support out of the test tube!

Posted by: at Oct 21, 2004 5:51:59 PM

Very funny...don't you have the guts to post your name at least.

Although my idea of a universal child support tax that is paid by all 'potential' fathers COULD work here...it would almost function like the social security tax, assessed against all men according to income and then paid out for every child using the current child support formulas (with certain adjustments, of course) that we have now.

That way if men WISHED to be involved with their children via Joint Custody, that's fine...BUT child support would be paid whether or not men wished to be involved...

Okay...smart guy or gal...whoever you are...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 21, 2004 6:41:34 PM

Dear NYMOM,
What difference does it make who I am? All you girls have been regurgitating here is what you picked up in college out of Women's Studies...that's it. I know because I've taken the course. Most of you girls don't have an original thought, and you certainly don't have children. And I doubt if you are, or have ever been involved in a loving relationship with a man. And FYI...I am a woman BTW...

You're calling the most intimate of relationships between mothers, fathers and children (the most IMPORTANT of interpersonal relationships mind you)a product of social construct like you pumping it out of a conveyor belt.
Pull your noses out of your propogandized books for awhile and live LIFE. Interact with children. Hell, interact with MEN for godsakes.

Because that is what LIFE is all about. Love, family and children. And stop trying to act like you know what you've never lived, felt or experienced. No feeling...I repeat, NO FEELING is more satisfying than lying in a hospital bed wrapped in the arms of the man you love, with your newborn child wrapped in your arms, between the two of you. And there's no more satisfying a feeling to men as well. You'd know that, if you knew or cared to know anything about men.

When my marriage ended, I knew that my relationship with my ex had to continue for OUR kid's sake. I wasn't about to start playing power trip games with that kind of pain. My ex pays child support of his own accord. We have opted to keep the courts out of it. Why? Because of exactly what I'm reading here again and again. And because we don't play the little games that you girls find so fulfilling, we are better parents for it. Am I pissed at my ex because the marriage didn't work out? Sure I am...but no more than he's pissed at me. I take full responsibility for the fact that I couldn't wait until the ink was dry on our divorce papers before I got involved with another man. And that hurt him. We women are very good at playing that card you know...But the important thing is that I eventually came to admit that it was just as much about getting even with him...for what? I don't know...as it was about my own libido.

But in the end, we realized that we were still about family, and love...even if that love didn't sustain our marriage, it sustains our family. Because the truth of the matter is that we still are a family. Fractured, but a family nonetheless.
I'm proud to say that I am a feminist. Feminism is about equality. But the type of feminism you espouse here isn't about equality...it's about absolute power. Power over men, and power over everything around you. And absolute power corrupts...ABSOLUTELY. As a mom NYMOM...you should know all this.

Posted by: at Oct 22, 2004 10:47:04 AM

Anonymous, my dear girl,

You certainly do seem to love making assumptions about people here, don't you? Judging from your post, it seems to be more of a case of projection than anything else.

I take full responsibility for the fact that I couldn't wait until the ink was dry on our divorce papers before I got involved with another man. And that hurt him. We women are very good at playing that card you know...

Oh, yes, why I've never met a man whose separated or just recently divorced and involved with someone else. Nope, it's just women. And it's only women who are good at playing that card, not men. And since you've been hurtful, every woman here must have been hurtful as well.

Kudos to you and your ex for getting along now. Kindly realize that not everyone's ex-husband makes the effort, and that pointing that out doesn't make one anti-father or anti-male.

Most of you girls don't have an original thought, and you certainly don't have children. And I doubt if you are, or have ever been involved in a loving relationship with a man. And FYI...I am a woman BTW...

This is how you discuss the points in Trish's original post? Some mothballed attack along the lines of "you're just a bunch of bitter women who can't get men!" Did you stay up all night to think that up? Because that's just so original.

Gosh, what a logical and erudite post! Obsessing over the personal lives of people in cyberspace does so much to advance your argument.

You obviously disagree with Trish and the other posters here, but you're not disagreeing coherently.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Oct 22, 2004 11:59:14 AM

I have plenty of original thoughts and btw I have two adult daughters and a grandchild...so clearly you don't know what you're talking about in that area...

I never assumed you were a man, since I know a lot of high-functioning Uncle Toms ARE women that's why I said 'whoever you are'...

I think the relationship you described when your child was first born IS the PERFECT relationship. I'm sorry you thought so little of it that you sc*ewed it up...but you know what if EVERY WOMAN waits for that perfect relationship to happen many won't have ANY children...as it is at least in the US and I'm sure in some other western societies as well, citizen births are in steep decline and in a generation or two listening to people like you, we'll be heading into extinction...

We cannot continue to argue and degrade single mothers as they are rapidly becoming the ONLY engine of population growth in our society and even though it's not the 'perfect' situation to raise children within, it's good enough...and we don't need to waste any more time arguing over the perfect versus the good here either...I'm happy that you and a few other women have the 'perfect' situation to raise a child within, most of us don't and it's that majority that I'm addressing NOT the women who have PERFECT situations like yours...so feel free to ignore me since your situation is so perfect that nothing I say can possibly apply to you.

Okay...

BTW, I never said the mother/child bond was a 'social construct' as it is NOT. It is REAL not a construct at all and has existed in all species including our own probably since life first crawled out of the primal mists...I said fatherhood is a social construct, again as it is in every species including our own with the possible exception of the rare Disney clown fish species...

Fatherhood in nature does NOT exist and the only relationship males have with their young is by providing food for a mother after she gives birth and/or keeping other males away from her until the young are weaned...

Even this weak relationship is NOT due to a male wishing to provide for his young, as many would like to have us believe, BUT instead due to males wanting to reserve the female sexually to himself and not share her with other males of the species...

So let's knock off this ridiculously over-inflated cult of 'fatherhood' that has recently emerged in our society...most of it is baloney...cooked up by men trying to hold on to at least some of the privileges they were forced to give up when the women's liberation movement successfully initiated changes in our society...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 22, 2004 1:31:09 PM

This is sad, NYMOM, it really is. I've read numerous posts from you calling fatherhood a mere "social construct," calling fathers mere "bit players" in the drama of life, saying they have nothing of real significance to give their children except providing their mother with resources, and so forth. And I've refrained from addressing it, instead keeping to issues of law and avoiding emotionality, which is of negligible value in any debate of social policy. But I just have to say, when I read your views of men as "bit players" and such, I think of my husband sitting patiently at the dinner table every night coaxing one slow bite after another into our impossibly picky toddler, brushing his teeth as he screams in protest, getting up in the middle of the night to soothe him when he cries so that I can get some rest, calling the NICU every hour on the hour throughout the night to check on our daughter's condition, flying home for the weekend in the middle of business trips (at his own expense) because he can't bear to be away from his kids. I think of my father, providing me with a rational, accepting and stabilizing influence through all the years that my controlling and abusive mother was riding roughshod over us both. I think of my grandfather, taking my dad with him everywhere he went because he knew my grandmother favored the two older children and he was not sure my dad would be well-treated by her. Most of all I think of the joyful light in my children's eyes when they see their dad walk in the door. I'm not saying they're representative of all dads, but for mere social constructs, the men in my life, at least, have done a damned fine job of parenting, and no one is going to convince me that their role is superfluous. As for the mother-child bond, while I don't dispute its existence, I know that my children neither know nor care that I carred them for nine months or that I have C-section scars or stretch marks or that my abdomen will never be quite as firm again--they only know that both their "real" mom and their "constructed" dad love them with all their hearts and would do anything for them. That's what "real" parenting is about, the primal mists notwithstanding. Sorry if I've come off sounding like a Hallmark card here--you know that's not my style--but I couldn't keep it in.

And while the previous poster made some unfair assumptions about you, to be sure, nothing in her post justified calling her an Uncle Tom.

Posted by: Anne at Oct 22, 2004 4:22:40 PM

Oh girls, girls, girls...of such sound and fury and yet signifying nothing...but your own contempt and hatred. And it's all me, me, me for you isn't it? "I have the children so feed me, clothe me and back off!"
Poor Sheelzebub (that's your REAL name I take it...well it does say it all, doesn't it) You hate men so much, but I MUST be a female "Uncle Tom" because not only do I NOT hate them, I appreciate the fact that they've evolved beyond this silly notion of 'social construct' that NYMOM does so cling to, to make her pointless points.
But I suppose that's the new wave of college level debate these days. Spin,spin,spin.

The reason you don't get it is because you have fluff between your ears. You've barely lived a full and complete life, and yet your such an expert.

No, ALL men are not good and deserving but neither are we. EQUALLY! THAT'S the true test of feminism and the equality that we're all about...the willingness to except our own culpability as much as we are willing to point the finger at men for all of our woes.

But hang onto that contempt and hatred girls. Keep on clinging to that power trip propoganda that's TRULY turning back the clock on women's rights, strengths and achievements. It will serve you well as you grow old alone with your cats.

Posted by: at Oct 22, 2004 4:25:53 PM

This is sad, NYMOM, it really is. I've read numerous posts from you calling fatherhood a mere "social construct," calling fathers mere "bit players" in the drama of life, saying they have nothing of real significance to give their children except providing their mother with resources, and so forth. And I've refrained from addressing it, instead keeping to issues of law and avoiding emotionality, which is of negligible value in any debate of social policy. But I just have to say, when I read your views of men as "bit players" and such, I think of my husband sitting patiently at the dinner table every night coaxing one slow bite after another into our impossibly picky toddler, brushing his teeth as he screams in protest, getting up in the middle of the night to soothe him when he cries so that I can get some rest, calling the NICU every hour on the hour throughout the night to check on our daughter's condition, flying home for the weekend in the middle of business trips (at his own expense) because he can't bear to be away from his kids. I think of my father, providing me with a rational, accepting and stabilizing influence through all the years that my controlling and abusive mother was riding roughshod over us both. I think of my grandfather, taking my dad with him everywhere he went because he knew my grandmother favored the two older children and he was not sure my dad would be well-treated by her. Most of all I think of the joyful light in my children's eyes when they see their dad walk in the door. I'm not saying they're representative of all dads, but for mere social constructs, the men in my life, at least, have done a damned fine job of parenting, and no one is going to convince me that their role is superfluous. As for the mother-child bond, while I don't dispute its existence, I know that my children neither know nor care that I carred them for nine months or that I have C-section scars or stretch marks or that my abdomen will never be quite as firm again--they only know that both their "real" mom and their "constructed" dad love them with all their hearts and would do anything for them. That's what "real" parenting is about, the primal mists notwithstanding. Sorry if I've come off sounding like a Hallmark card here--you know that's not my style--but I couldn't keep it in.

And while the previous poster made some unfair assumptions about you, to be sure, nothing in her post justified calling her an Uncle Tom.

Posted by: Anne at Oct 22, 2004 4:26:12 PM

Well Anne, like I told the anonymous poster I am as happy as I can be that her and you had wonderful husbands, fathers and grandfathers in your lives; but you know what history and statistics shows that a lot of men are NOT like the ones you painted...and the rise of the single mother in western society points that out better then anything I can ever say...After all child support guidelines and their subsequence enforcement do NOT exist because fathers in our society were so anxious to be involved with their children as you seen to imply by your generational description of all the wonderful men in your family...

I disagree with your assessment of the anonymous poster that she wasn't that insulting. In fact, she was very insulting to me and every other woman implying that women make our decisions regarding life based upon a few womens studies courses taken at college...Guess what Anne, talk about assumptions...I didn't graduate from college until my kids were practically adults...So no, I didn't wait for a professor half my age to tell me about life...I had already lived it by the time I sat down in a college classroom...even the poster's comments about us not having children was an insult...Clearly she was attempting to imply that we had NO right to an opinion on these issues if we didn't have children ourselves, which is not correct either as every citizen has the right to an opinion on how children are treated in our society, every one...

You are right in one thing you said however NOBODY but mothers care about everything we put into having children. It's accepted as a given that women will continue to do that w/o complaint but you know what Anne, our rapidly dropping birth rates implies that might not be correct, so we need to think about that too, convincing women to say yes to motherhood when there are a 101 reasons to say no today and effective enough birth control methods to ensure that the no becomes permanent...

Lastly, I'm sorry you disagree that fatherhood is a social construct...I would think that most thinking people agree on this point at least. Especially with paternity fraud being paid the attention that it is today; it's really being made very clear that there is no biological basis whatsoever for the claims that fatherhood is anything but a social construct...

Like I said to anonymous it's the PERFECT situation when a mother and father can raise a child together, just PERFECT...Unfortunately that PERFECT situation is becoming so rare today that I don't think we can continue making public policy based upon that PERFECT situation happening for most of us. Since we cannot base policy on an idealized version of what SHOULD BE, but on what actually IS for MOST of us...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 22, 2004 11:51:23 PM

First of all NYMOM,
I sincerely apologize to you if you got the incorrect assumption that it was my intention to insult. OK, truthfully it was, but you sort of asked for it with the statement you made about test tube babies. And I have read this blog long enough to see that insults fly from here like bats from a cave, whenever someone comes along and disagrees with this band.
But that said, I apologize for the sarcastic statements I made, that you felt insulted by, and I further promise thru this discourse, that I will not insult anyone again.
I hope I get the same apology for being called a female Uncle Tom, but I rather doubt I will....

Just a few points...
First of all, let's be clear, my situation with my ex is most certainly NOT perfect. There IS no such thing as a perfect ex spouse, anymore than there is a perfect marriage. It takes incredible work and patience on a day-to-day basis. We don't like each other. But we work at getting along for the sake of our kids...two girls BTW.

And the reason that we opted to stay out of the courts goes to a statement that you made regarding child-support, and it's indication that ours is a unique arrangement.

Make no mistake...the states don't care a wit about you or your child getting support from your ex spouse.

The states get federal assistance everytime they add a new name to the list of child support obligors that are required to pay child-support. You see, my ex was WILLING to pay of his own accord. MOST fathers in this country are...but had we stayed within the court system, my state of Ohio would have attached my ex's paychecks via the child support enforcement agency here in my state. In doing so, they would have added his name to the ever increasing list of dads they felt the need to ENFORCE. But why would they need to ENFORCE what my ex is perfectly willing to comply with? Because every name included in their enforcement list is submitted to the federal government. The federal government, in turn, sends federal money to each state that bolsters it's list of obligors. The more names, the more money. It's that simple. Additionally, the money that is collected is not paid out immediately. Every dollar that is collected thru so-called enforcement, is held over for one month. Now if you factor how many dads are attached for child support in a given state that is held back for a month, you're looking at an incredible amount of monthly interest that the state enjoys. In some states, it has been reported that those funds are held in suspense even longer. What that means is that you cannot rely on the states to forward your CS on time, even though they penalize dads routinely if their support comes in so much as a week late. You do the math dear...the states are making money off of you and your kids. But they're doing it, in the name of protecting you and you kids.

The truth is, if each state concentrated on the real dead-beat dads, the names on these listing would be SIGNIFICANTLY lower, and in turn, the states would see massive reductions in the amounts of federal support on this issue. And the states can't have that, can they?

Don't get me wrong...if my ex were to all of the sudden decide to stop paying support for whatever reason, I would still be able to collect thru our enforcement agencies, but why convict him for a crime he hasn't committed yet...because of other dead-beats? That hardly seems fair. Imagine if you electric company started attaching your paycheck because so many OTHERS don't pay their light bill on time...seems outrageous, doesn't it?

And on this other point of social construct...
What your talking about, my dear, are animals and their instincts. Not men or mankind. Mammals, to be more specific.

Fatherhood has ALWAYS been just as nurturing as motherhood. You just haven't been paying attention. In different ways perhaps, but ways that are unique and special to a child. And as such, essential to a child's well-rounded upbringing. To their very identity. I wonder, (honestly, I mean no disrespect) don't you have any good memories of you father? And if you don't, couldn't it be possible that this colors your observations today?

When both of my girls were born, my ex was like a blathering idiot. He had daily crying fits. Everytime he picked them up, he had tears rolling down his eyes. You never saw a man puff with such pride, after successful potty training. When my girls had a splinter, or were sick with the flu, or wanted their toenails painted, do you think they came to me? Let me tell you sister, they went across the room to the big, bald burly guy with so many tatoos he looks like he just got out on parole.

I am so sorry that you didn't experience these kinds of things. I'm sorry for any woman who hasn't...but I'm afraid the vast majority don't fall within your notions about "Johnny Come Lately's." It's the other way around.

And NEITHER of us are perfect parents...we've BOTH made our fair share of mistakes equally. And pardon my french, but it's a real bitch for either of us to admit where we've both screwed up when it comes to parenting. But we all attend counselling together and it has made a world of difference. And just for the record, I didn't screw around on my husband, I met a man a short time before our divorce was finalized...there's a big difference. It was just that I did it in a way that would make the big lug know that I could have any man I wanted at any time. That was hurtful to him, even in the face of divorce. The point is...I knew I could still push his buttons. A fact that was pointed out to me by my attorney...shortly before I fired her. I regret it now...

As far as instinctively evolved nurturing mothers go, follow the neverending headlines of how many women kill their own children compared to men. It's absolutely no contest...

These are the things that feminism strives to understand. How can women do such things and how we can help to change such destructive thinking. How we can take responsibility for ourselves and strive to improve. Not on the backs of men who are willing and accessible, but on our own. That takes incredible courage and strength. To recognize our own faults and foibles. To improve on ourselves because we recognize that WE need improvement. Blaming the 'easy-to-blame' doesn't do that.

I had hoped that this, a feminist site, would address such issues, and that might be the dialog here. I'm so very sorry that I don't see any of that.

Signed,
Marilyn Perry

Posted by: at Oct 23, 2004 9:57:33 AM

Sorry but I don't accept an apology in the first paragraph as sincere when in the following paragraphs you go on to slander women in the role as mothers...

BTW, fathers are as bad if not worse to their children and our statistics continually show that most children who are murdered are, in fact, murdered by their father. Statistics also show us now that in spite of all the propoganda by men and the various female Uncle Tom's they have recruited to their side that children raised by fathers and stepmothers actually have less money spend on them for food, education and medical care, not more, although fathers generally make more money and can well afford it.

So, please let's not start playing the stats game since I'm sure you know either one of us can produce stats showing ANY position we support...

Anyway you are still wrong in your assumption that fathers have been as nuturing as mothers have in our society or any other. This is propoganda put out by you and others in an attempt to degrade mothers. BTW, I'm not as arrogant as you are to believe that humans are so different from other living beings in our biological instincts...so yes, we can learn somethings from observing our fellow travelers here...

Why don't you read some of early American history if you think fathers are so nuturing or any early history really. Get a look, for instance, at some of the literature on how our founding fathers treated the children they fostered on slave women...if ever there was a vulnerable group of kids it was this one and many of them had rich fathers...Jefferson now: was he a great father to any of his kids...or any of the children he had sold off to pay his own debts? What about him? Was Frederick Douglass's father a great dad? Doulgass almost starved to death while under his care. Where does he rate on the great dads in history scale? Those are just two but there are thousands of other historic dads who followed the same game plan with their children.

The bottom line is that we have endless historical records (from the time of the ancients actually) and none of them EVER demonstrate these nuturing dads you keep talking about. MEN have had countless opportunities, when they were in control of EVERYTHING, at the top of their game, so to speak, to demonstrate concern for children and they never did...NOW that divorce and child support are issues and women have the rights we lacked until this historic moment, suddenly MEN are concerned with equal parenting time...doesn't that strike you as the least bit self serving?

Please...

It will take a LOT of convincing to show me that this is anything other then a ploy to either continue their position of privilege and extend their control over women for another generation or two OR an attempt to get out of paying child support...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 23, 2004 3:03:51 PM

Nothing will EVER convince you to let go of your hatred and contempt. You're as stuck in it as you are in early American history that has nothing to do with reality TODAY. Because we don't live back then...we live in the NOW. So I won't waste my time, my breath or my patience trying to convince you otherwise. Good luck in the pit of morose self-pity you've placed yourself in. You're on the wrong track baby!

Posted by: Marilyn Perry at Oct 23, 2004 4:26:54 PM

Well history might mean nothing to you, but you know what, it has a nasty way of repeating itself when the unwary pay NO attention to it...

But suit yourself in believing whatever you wish...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 23, 2004 9:53:07 PM

OK, now that my emotional vent is out of the way, I'll go back to being rational. :-)

First of all, NYMOM, do you have a link to your stats on fathers being responsible for most child murders? I've never heard that, but I'd be willing to take a look. The Department of Justice figures I looked at recently have fathers and mothers committing pretty much equal rates of parental murders of children (and about one-third each of child murders overall). And before anybody jumps in to point out that those figures don't take into account the difference in the amount of time that men and women tend to spend with their children--I know all about that. But if we are going to be so enamored of motherhood that we want to throw equal protection out the window altogether and give women sole ownership of children, shouldn't we at least be able to expect that they will kill far less of those children than fathers will?

Secondly, am I correct that you do not favor the primary caregiver preference in custody cases? Even if a father made the career and financial sacrifices of staying home with the kids and put in the time and effort parenting them full-time while his wife worked, you still would take the children away from him and give them to mom? I myself have no problem with the primary caregiver preference--I think as a rule of thumb it's as good a custody solution as any, in cases where the parents are not sufficiently mature and enlightened to embrace joint custody together (although it's not perfect--it would not have served MY best interests, for example, as my primary caregiver was an extremely toxic person), but I think both equal protection and the best interests of the children demand that it apply both ways.

Posted by: Anne at Oct 24, 2004 4:36:39 PM

I have a report about the numbers but it's too large to post here...I will try to pull some relevant paragraphs from it tomorrow to post... but let me ask you this...what difference would it make this discussion whether men or women were shown to have abused or even killed more children? Since I think we can BOTH agree that parents who kill are in the minority and we cannot make public policy based upon that small dysfunctional group but instead must make it considering the impact on the vast majority of our citizens...who do NOT murder their children...

The reason I responded to you with the statistic is because I am sick and tired of hearing people tell me that women abuse or kill more children and using this to justify polices that negatively impacts every other women (the vast majority of us) who do NOT do this...

But I'll look it up anyway even through it means nothing to this discussion...

The primary care presumption has been talked about forever and never happens...and even if it did I could STILL see men manipulating the court system through the use of slick lawyers and more money, so no, it would never work...Additionally, it would include never-married fathers within it and frankly, I see NO reason to give a one-night stand rights to the children of never-married mothers...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 24, 2004 5:45:04 PM

Well, you won't see me campaigning for never-married dads to have equal rights with married ones--you know already that I don't like unwed dads' rights but only see it as a necessary evil for support purposes. But I'm talking here about married, stay-at-home dads, and if they are at home with the kids I think their wives would be the ones with the greater resources for lawyers and such and the greater ability to manipulate the system, don't you?

What exactly do you mean when you say the primary care presumption "never happens"? Where I come from it tops the list of factors that go into a custody decision.

Posted by: Anne at Oct 24, 2004 8:12:36 PM

Anne: being the primary caretaker is one of anywhere from 7 to 15 factors that come into play when making a custody decision depending upon your state laws. There is only one state in the union that allowed it to decide custody and that was W. Virgina which recently replaced it with the usual 7 to 15 factors. Most fathers and mens rights group have fought very hard over the years to make it just one of a number of factors in deciding custody since I guess they realize mothers are still generally the ones who stay at home with the children and didn't want mothers to have an 'unfair' advantage over them...

Generally it is balanced out by other factors such as financial ones from the other side. So yes, it is ONE factor but again, one of a number...which has no greater or lesser significance then the others. Very rarely do women walk into a court today and get custody just because they were the primary caretaker...I think this is how many states cut their welfare rolls actually.

Really looking at the numbers from the last census I would say it is a good guess that MOST non-custodial mothers were probably former stay-at-home mothers who never worked since their income are so low, I assume they were probably imputed at minimum wage in order to pay child support.

Most appear to have lost custody because either their ex filed first (which usually determines who wins a custody case by the way, who files first). Generally the person who files first and get temporary custody awarded to them winds up eventually being assigned permanent. Or else these women lost custody because they had no income/job or even job skills to support themselves and/or their children with; so it worked against them...

Married couples who decide amongst themselves who gets to be primary caretaker that's between them and their spouse. Although I've heard PLENTY of those women complain after a divorce too that their husband just stopped working and decided to stay home with no prior discussion about it...So don't fool yourself. Those woman are just as upset to lose custody of their children as a stay-at-home mother is...

Plus never-fathers have an equal right to custody just like married ones and they make up about 30% of the pool of non-custodial fathers...So a one-night stand you pick up in a nightclub has as much right to your child as a man you've been married to for 10 years...

There is NO legal distinction between them.

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 24, 2004 10:19:10 PM

Poor Sheelzebub (that's your REAL name I take it...well it does say it all, doesn't it)

Vanna, I'd like to buy the troll a sense of irony and a sense of humor. But my handle is linked to an email/website. Try it sometime and stop hiding.

You hate men so much, but I MUST be a female "Uncle Tom" because not only do I NOT hate them, I appreciate the fact that they've evolved beyond this silly notion of 'social construct' that NYMOM does so cling to, to make her pointless points.

Don't start whining about another poster calling you an Uncle Tom if you're going to use the mothballed "man-hater" attack. Not only is it hypocritical, it's rather overused and unoriginal.

But I suppose that's the new wave of college level debate these days. Spin,spin,spin.

Pot, kettle, black. You're using that tactic with aclarity. Note your comments about my so-called hatred of men, your assumptions about our lives, and your insults.

Grow up, dear. You've just nuked your credibility.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Oct 25, 2004 10:56:47 AM

There may be no legal distinction but there is a practical one: they have they have little chance of custody because by the time paternity is established and the parties have been to court and jumped through all the requisite legal hoops, mom has indisputably bonded with the child as the primary caregiver and judges generally don't like to mess with the status quo. Visitations ordinarily start out supervised and gradually increase to standard visitation over a long period of time. Not that that's bad--it's just the primary difference between married and unmarried dads.

About parents who just decide to quit and stay home, well, women can and do pull that trick too. But how upset the spouses are about it doesn't really matter as much as who has actually been doing the day-to-day-caring for those kids. Also, who files first for divorce and custody matters less than who actually has the kids at the time of filing. If dads get temporary custody, they probably already have the kids with them for one reason or another.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about this automatic mother custody thing. My bottom line point is that even if it were adopted, which it never will be because it doesn't fit modern day lifestyles and gender roles, it would not reverse the population trends that you are concerned about. In fact, I can't presently think of anything that would reverse them very much, because it's a nationwide economic issue. I look at my sister-in-law, for example, very much one of those "best and the brightest" of which you've spoken. If she were guaranteed custody of her 2-year-old son in the event of a divorce, would that really motivate her to quit or scale back her career as a software engineer to stay home with him and maybe have two or three more? No way. Because if she did that then she and her husband would not be able to afford their brand new $200,000 house in the suburbs with all the new appliances and furniture and the high-quality public school down the road. Also she would miss out on a number of years of 401K benefits and possible promotions. So she'll continue full steam ahead at her job while her father cares for her son along with his invalid wife for ten or more hours a day (another one of those men who aren't biologically programmed to nurture but somehow do a pretty decent job of it when it falls to them). And she seems pretty typical--everywhere I look women are in the same bind, except that most of them are worse off because they must rely on daycare. We also live in a new suburban subdivision in a good school district, and there are only a handful of stay-at-home moms here--everyone else is at work otherwise they wouldn't be living here. And I think it's crummy that it HAS to be that way, but wherever the answers (if any) are, they're not in the family court system.

Enjoyed the exchange. While I don't agree with all your points, you are obviously a thinking person and extraordinarily civil, and I appreciate that.

Posted by: Anne at Oct 25, 2004 12:29:32 PM

Well maybe we need to start looking at what they do in other countries to increase the birth rate of women like your sister. Perhaps a maternity allowance (and no, men can't qualify for it in case any men is out there reading this, don't bother asking why since it should be obvious).

The maternity allowance would run anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 annually and be tax-free. It should be given for 18 or maybe 21 years, handled like the earned income credit, which is the LESS you earn the MORE of the credit you get. This could be a good incentive for a woman NOT to work or NOT to work so much BUT still have a good standard of living as the money is TAX FREE...

Additionally it would ALWAYS follow the birth mother, even in the event of divorce and/or loss of custody so at the very least she would be assured of having child support prepaid if her husband should abandon her or she should have to pay child support herself to her ex...NOR should it impact her alimony or spousal support if she was entitled to it anyway...anymore then any other tax credit would impact spousal support; but it should be factored in for child support purposes.

A few other people have been talking about a maternity allowance like this for a while due to the high cost of daycare and afterschool for children but they want the allowance to only go until the children are 13...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 25, 2004 7:38:03 PM