« Some Major Changes For My Blog | Main | I've Been Busy Writing »

April 26, 2006

Shared Parenting Fails In New York

Fathers' rights activists are upset that the shared parenting bill they had heavily lobbied for in New York has failed. The legislators who voted against it rightly said that it placed the wishes of parents over the welfare of children. I had helped to defeat this bill by sending information about shared parenting (better known as joint physical custody) to New York women's groups. This bill will likely be re-introduced next year. It has been introduced in the New York legislature for many years, and it has always failed. New York did the right thing by rejecting it yet another time.

Posted on April 26, 2006 at 01:42 PM | Permalink


Well whether or not one agrees with shared parenting as a presumption, it's pretty clear that something has to be done in NY. Marcia Pappas in one of her editorials compared NY family law with that of California, but really that comparison is apples and oragnes. California has a Family Law Code whereas NY doesn't.

I think that the heart of the matter in NY is not so much a presumption of shared or joint custody, but at least a definition and protection of those arrangements once arrived at. Truly, there is an important distinction between a father who's a father as a result of a one night stand and a father who's a father because he's loved and nurtured his children since the moment they're born.

Unfortunately, in NY there really isn't even any such thing as joint custody. It gets mentioned, but absent a definition and protection it becomes nothing more than an intention of the divorce decree for liberal visitation and a contract to see the child's school and medical records.

The game in NY is a game where one parent wins and one parent loses and it gets nasty mostly because no one wants to be the loser where their relationship with their chldren is concerned.

I have a female friend right now who's been going through a lot of expensive court battles with her ex husband. He's moved 20 miles away and lives in one of the top school districts in the entire state. She lives in one of the worst school districts in our city. They're fighting over custody sparked largely over the fact that the boy's father wants him to go to school in his district. Mom is afraid to let that happen since, given a year's time, Dad has a much greater claim to custody which she doesn't want to lose. If they had protected shared parenting, the issue would only be the school district and I imagine the fight would have been over long ago. So in my opinion even if not presumed, it should at least be an OPTION which can be protected.


Posted by: Dirk at Apr 27, 2006 11:06:13 AM

I live in NYS and I have joint custody. I don't think it's rare at all. Unfortunately, joint custody is utterly meaningless when you "share" custody with an abuser. It just means endless hassles. And not just over the child. Abusers see joint custody as a carte blanch for continued control/harassment over every aspect of their ex's life, or even things that are pretty much irrelevant to the child. Or even sabotaging your financial security for reasons that do not benefit the child at all, but just create genuine harm for everyone involved. Except for the abuser, who gets his sick jollies from pulverizing other people, even if he derives no direct material gain from it.

Irony is, I was more open to "shared" parenting at the beginning of this process than he was. But they gave him physical placement, so my visitation is canceled on a whim. Now I no longer support "shared" parenting. It's a sham. Custody should go to the mother, or to the non-abusive, non-control freak parent. That is the party is who is most likely to be fair.

Posted by: silverside at Apr 27, 2006 12:30:59 PM

Silverside is right. Joint custody is getting awarded in cases because judges don't want to be bothered with divorces and custody cases. People who make their livings from contentious divorces such as GALs, mediators, parenting coordinators, and custody and psychological evaluators keep these cases in court so that they can take the parents money from them - money that would have been better spent on the children. Awards of joint custody are part of a burgeoning divorce industry - the same divorce industry fathers' rights activists whine about. They brought this mess on themselves with their push for presumptive joint physical custody.

Still, presumptive joint physical custody has failed in New York, and fathers' rights activists are livid about it. They didn't get what they wanted. Again. Good.

Posted by: The Countess at Apr 27, 2006 1:03:36 PM

My point is that there is not mention of the term "joint custody" anywhere in any statute or case law in NY state. "Joint custody" is a term that describes an agreement characterized by liberal visitation and contractual agreement with the custodial parent to view a child's records and have input on decisions. In NY there is only a custodial and non-custodial parent after divorce.

To me that's a big part of the reason that GAL's and lawyers make so much money off of these things. Parents are fighting desperately to either gain or preserve custody. If there was no custody to gain or lose many of these cases would go away. In my opinion the upside for people like Silverside and my friend I mentioned is that courts would be able to focus on cases where custody really should be removed rather than cases where the threat of custody loss is contributing to the contentiousness of the situation.

Posted by: Dirk at Apr 27, 2006 1:18:44 PM

Dirk, shared parenting, shared parental care, equal parenting, and whatever else you want to call it is the same thing - joint physical custody. Calling it by a supposedly more "friendly" term doesn't change what it is.

The reason that GALs and lawyers make so much money from joint custody is because fathers' rights activists have made such a big issue of it. They demand their "equal time", and the divorce industry will give it to them - at a big price. You guys have only yourselves to blame for this mess.

By the way, have you seen the press release about the e-mail threats and death threats women's activists had received from fathers' rights activists while this bill was being heard? Here it is, from NY NOW:

Press Release-NOW New York State Applauds 12 Members of Children and Families Committee of NYS Assembly

Press Release
April 26, 2006

National Organization for Women-New York State, Inc.Applauds 12 Members of the Children & Families Committee of the NYS Assembly The National Organization for Women-New York State applauds the 12 members of the NYS Assembly that sit on the Children and Families Committee whom exhibited the courage to stand up for women and children. With a vote of 12-4, committee members voted to hold bill #A-330 in committee. This bill, if signed into law, would put thousands of women and children at risk, by forcing judges to presume a determination of joint custody before hearing any details of the custody battle for the child.   

"Cooler heads and logic prevailed," stated Marcia Pappas, President of NOW New York State.  Pappas further stated, "It was obvious that the 4 legislators who voted to report the bill to the full Assembly, did not understand the repercussions of this bill.  We feel confident that we can work with the legislators who voted to report the bill, to assist them in understanding how devastating this bill would be to the children of New York State."

Leaders in NOW New York State visited with several legislators on Monday, the day before the vote.  "One can only imagine what went on in the homes of so called fathers rights advocates after hearing directly from Legislators that threats had been made on their lives. Also, during the past few weeks, several women's groups who oppose this bill had received harassing emails, phone calls, and one group even received a death threat. And these are the men who want custody of their children?" asked Pappas.

The National Organization for Women-New York State, representing over 35,000 supporters, fights to achieve full equality for women.  Today, we saw the fruits of our labor and were reminded that voting, caring citizens can make a difference. 


Posted by: The Countess at Apr 27, 2006 1:31:07 PM

Dirk...just my thoughts here:
The only thing that I can see wrong with even the term "presumptive joint custody" is that once the gavel is down, truly neither parent has equal rights to how the child is "raised".
In this process, the system produces what's known as "Chameleon Kids". They become
over adaptive and easily influenced by outside forces. At dad's house, the child is
dressed to near perfection-pretty in pink with bows, mistakes are barely tolerable and
the child's step-mother (who may or may not have been a parent in her life) exacerbates
the situation. At mom's house, the child is allowed to run, jump, play in the mud; mistakes are allowed because, in being a parent she realizes that her child is just that--a child.
I've also heard this scenario dubbed "the space-suit drill". The child goes between homes
realizing that she has to put this "heavy" suit on before going to dad's house, tolerates
it for the duration of her visit with dad and then once home again, the child stips off
that suit faster than she can run and cuts loose with all those feelings she's had to
bottle up over that period with dad. More mental health providers will be needed if
all states resort to this--causing insurance to rise (again), causing the courts to fill
up because each parent wants their child raised "their" way....facing the fact that
divorce is ugly anyway, the mear disagreement between property and such shouldn't be
extended to the child.
Dirk, I've been living this nightmare for 3 1/2 years now...my daughter see's a counselor twice a month because it's very confusing to her why she has to act two separate ways in her
little life. She doesn't understand why she has to dress and act a certain way at her
father's house and then get to come home and let it all out--both figuratively and
Divorce only leaves the children as losers and "shared parenting" will only work if, and
only if, the parents of that child can agree on one standing way of raising the child.

Posted by: Jeanie at Apr 28, 2006 8:11:28 PM

Just a note to clarify my posting about Chameleon Kids is the above web-site. This
article is published by the Honorable Judge Anne Kass. Ann Kass is a District Judge in the Second Judicial District State of New Mexico.
Chameleon Kids

Sharp-tongued parents turn child into chameleon

Chameleon kids are an all too frequent product of divorce. These are children who behave, think and feel one way at dad's house and an altogether different way at mom's house.

Chameleon kids often tell each of their parents different stories to keep them both happy. Telling each parent, "I want to live with you." is a common example. Complaining about or criticizing one parent to the other parent is another.

Chameleon kids go far beyond that, however. Sometimes they change the way they dress, their interests, and virtually all aspects of their lives as they go back and forth between their parents' homes.

In one case a teenage girl rode horses at her mom's house and talked about rodeos. At dad's house, she wore preppie clothes and talked about school proms.

The most extreme case I can remember involved a young girl whose parents called her by different first names. At mom's house, she took ballet lessons. At dad's house, she was an outdoor-loving youngster who went camping and hiking. At mom's house, she behaved like a very little girl, often sitting in her mother's lap like a two-year-old. At dad's house, she was assertive and self-reliant.

Everyone needs to learn how to adapt to different situations. It is essential to know that behavior should be different at church than at a football game. But children who exhibit complete changes of behavior and interests from one parent's home to the other's are in trouble. They become over-adaptive. They are extremely vulnerable to peer pressure because their primary fears are rejection and abandonment. If they happen to be in the company of thugs, they act as thugs act. If they associate with a cult, they become true believers. If their peers use drugs or alcohol or join gangs, so will they. They do not develop a sense of self or an internal set of values.

Divorced parents need to pay special attention to the hopes and expectations they convey to their children. Warning signs from a chameleon-child-in-the-making include talking negatively about one parent to the other or agreeing with a parent who is criticizing the other parent. A child mimicking a parent's behavior or interests could be another warning sign.

The best remedy for chameleon behavior is for parents to stop their fight. Parents who stop talking negatively about each other and who interact courteously give children the message that it is acceptable for people to be different and that people can disagree without absolutely rejecting one another.

Parents need to give their children permission to be individuals. Divorced parents need to love their children more than they hate each other in order to prevent the chameleon effect.

Posted by: Jeanie at Apr 28, 2006 9:57:05 PM

Jeanie I understand what you're saying.

I'd also like to add that the rise of father's rights groups is in many ways a reaction to the brutalization of how the family court system views non custodial parents.

There's little if any protection of access to children and the child support enforcement system redefines a good parent's role all too often to that of walking ATM. I don't think most divorced fathers have issue with financially supporting their children. In fact most of them were doing just that for years before a third party redefined their relationship.

Posted by: dirk at Apr 28, 2006 11:48:23 PM

Joint custody/shared parenting has been shown to work only under specific circumstances. The characteristics in families where joint custody/shared parenting has worked are these: the parents had an amicable divorce, they had higher-than-average education levels, they had higher-than-average incomes, they had only one child, they lived close to each other, they were able to communicate and work together for their own sake and the sake of their child, their child could handle the joint custody/shared parenting schedule, and the parents chose of their own free will to try joint custody/shared parenting with the intention of making it work. You can't force couples who don't get along to make joint custody/shared parenting work. Dr. Judith Wallerstein found that in cases where judges ordered joint custody/shared parenting to force warring parents to get along, 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."

Posted by: The Countess at Apr 29, 2006 8:02:52 AM

Dirk: There's little if any protection of access to children and the child support enforcement system redefines a good parent's role all too often to that of walking ATM. I don't think most divorced fathers have issue with financially supporting their children. In fact most of them were doing just that for years before a third party redefined their relationship.

This is what a lot of these activists don't understand--they had no problem "supporting"
their child(ren) before there was "reason" to redefine the relationship. Bitterness between the divorcing couple when there may be abuse, drugs/alcohol, or infidelity at hand, leaves years
of a horrible taste in the mouth, figuratively. The courts need to be sensitive to these issues when deciding the fate of a child. When the marriage just didn't work and was mutually dissolved, why shouldn't parents be more opened to "getting along", no one was "at fault" and the relationship is still in tact. This only strengthens my opins more toward the basic fact that shared custody/ joint/joint physical custody--whatever it is or isn't called, can ONLY WORK IF IT'S MUTUALLY AGREED ON. If there's high conflict, I don't care how many years go by, it's not going to work because the willingness is absent.

As the countess stated in her quotes from Dr. Judith Wallerstein--3 1/2 years; you really can't "force" a horse to drink the water it's been led to....the issue at this point will only make matters worse. It "pits" parents against one another to see "whom is the better parent" for the child or who will remain to be blamed for the marrital ending. After enough years go by, one parent feels they have better skills than the other and a custody suit takes place--again, leaving the child marred and often very depressed.

Posted by: Jeanie at May 4, 2006 10:22:39 AM

Why do parents continue to put there kids in the middle of their adult issues? What is wrong with this picture?

I am a divorced father and fighting for the rights of my children to love and be loved and cared for by both their mother and myself. Their mother is confusion her dislike of me with what’s right and just for our children. She continually sabotages everything from phone calls to visitation and vacation time. Because of her vindictive attitude towards me, not only have I been shut out of my children’s lives, so has my entire extended family.

Why must my children have to be used as her pawns in her war against me? She would like nothing better than for me to walk away and as she has said on many occasions “leave us alone”. What kind of dad would I be if I just gave up? If I did give up then the feminist groups could call me a “deadbeat”. Until then I wish the feminists would put away their war against men and focus on the children. Until then I would appreciate it if those militant feminists would just put a lid on it.

Posted by: Richard at May 8, 2006 11:56:15 AM

I think the problems in NY state are even deeper than a "presumption" of shared parenting as in the best interests of the child. The big problem is that we don't have a family law code the way many states, like California, do. We can refer to terms like "joint custody" but in NY there really isn't any such thing.

What we have is an intention outlined in a divorce decree that allows for liberal visitation and not much more than the right to see medical and school records. That contractual arrangement is referred to as "joint custody", but in fact the term doesn't appear in any lawbook or piece of legislation anywhere in NY state. In NY all we really have in any of these instances is a custodial and non-custodial parent.

People like Marcia Pappas can decry what she mistakenly refers to as "mandated" shared parenting, but what we have in NY now is mandated sole custody.

So despite all the misinformation all round, you can claim that joint custody and shared parenting are OK if agreed upon by both parents, but the real truth of the matter is that in NY state, despite even the best of intentions that good parents may have, shared parenting or true joint custody are not even real options.

Posted by: Dirk at May 9, 2006 8:44:03 AM

Feminist have gotten really good at clouding issues and using children as a means to manipulate public policy. Feminist care nothing about children or famiily and absolutely nothing about fathers and the important roles played. This is why men should start standing up for themselves to fight feminist.

Posted by: Mother at May 9, 2006 1:09:48 PM

It always kind of tickles me how a well reasoned argument on the internet basically can kill a thread.

I can almost hear the crickets chirping.

Posted by: Dirk at May 10, 2006 9:57:31 AM

To all,
I found this blog while searching for an answer to my ex’s continued harassment, and had to stop and read it through. While you all make very valid points, I need to comment on a few things.
It is not just FATHERS who need these type of rights, it is ANY non-custodial parent. The NYS court system is unfair to either parent who is not the custodial parent as it stands, but it IS more unfair if that parent is the father. We aren’t talking about the type of father who became so due to a one-night-stand and wants nothing to do with their children, but one who has been there for his children from their very conception. A father who wants to be more than “a walking ATM”, who always had been and wants to stay INVOLVED in his children’s lives. This is whom these rights are intended to protect. And yes, I also know women who are in the very same boat as I, when THEY are the non-custodial parent.

Richard and Dirk: All I can say is Thank You.

Jeanie: Thank you as well, you do understand. . However the notion of the “space-suit drill” does not always fall from the fathers side. In my situation, it is coming from their mother, with whom they live. All that they will tell me is that they’re “not allowed to do anything anymore. All we do is get in trouble, no matter what we do.” A lot of it has to do with the 62 year old “boyfriend” she moved into her house.

A little background info: I’m three years divorced after a 14 year marriage, with five wonderful children, now aged 9 through 16. During this time, I worked my tail off to support my ex, our five (5) children, HER mother and two younger brothers in the house that I bought and paid the mortgage on. By mutual agreement, she stayed home to take care of the kids. I was there for each of the deliveries, and had been an active part in their lives, both in school and in bringing them to doctor appointments. In 2001 I lost my job of 17 years to disability. Six months later, she tells me that she’s been dating someone 27 years older than her and that she wants me out. I find all of my things are either in the living room or on the driveway. I slept in my sons room for a few weeks, until I had to move out for my own sanity, when she started having this guy come to the house to pick her and our kids up to sleep over his place (We hadn't even filed for divorce yet). During mediation I found out that she’d had another affair a month after I lost my job, that my oldest may not actually be mine due to an affair she’d had at the time, and that she’d intentionally gotten pregnant with ALL of our children by sabotaging our birth controls. In telling me about our oldest, she told me that “… at the time I just wanted to be pregnant. I didn’t care WHOSE it was.”
In court she was given physical custody of the kids and house, because I had a disability and “she was the one who was primary caregiver up to that point”. She kept about a third of my belongings, claiming she didn’t know where/what they were. I was given less than a quarter of the value of the house, due to the fact that I only had disability as income, but still had to pay a minimum amount (She just got in trouble in court because she is refusing to give me the money she owes me for the house, even though she admits she has it). I also ended up with ALL of the marital debt and no way to pay it, since all of it was based solely on my salary. During the proceedings and in our custody “agreement”, she was ordered that “mother will provide father notice of school, medical, social and extracurricular activities involving the children”. We are now in court again for an enforcement order, because she is outright refusing to let me know ANYTHING as to what is happening with the kids. The school district won’t get involved (nor should they have to) saying that I have to get an enforcement to the order. I have NO medical information, I don’t know who their doctors are (three of them have the same disabilities that I have). On the rare occasions that I have been able to find out about extracurricular things, she has pulled the kids away from me when I went to congratulate them. (I’m supposed to have access to them during school events.) She has called CPS on me, claiming that I hadn’t given the kids medicines that SHE never gave to me to give them, or to treat illnesses SHE never told me they had (Later proved to be unfounded claims).
She is now looking for an increase in child support (I get 1450/month in disability, she wants a third of it), while admitting that she brings in between 60 and 100 thousand a year between herself and her boyfriend. The children have been complaining that she won’t buy them new clothes (“Go get them from your father”), but will go away to the Bahamas or the Pocono’s for the weekend every month while I have them; buy a new 50 inch flat screen TV and stereo for her bedroom; add a 25x40 foot extension to the house; build a home-gym; remodel and refurnish all the rooms in the house that I bought for her; and has six cars for two drivers. In the meantime, I’ve had to take a part-time job just to pay child support, rent, food (for myself AND the kids when I have them - I don't get support for that), try and pay off the collection agencies from the marital debts, maintain the vehicle I need to get to work and pick the kids up with, while not being able to pay for my medical expenses because Disability and Medicare just aren’t enough.

So, Countess… This is not my opinion based just on reports that I have read, or what the "experts" say... This is MY reality as a concerned,loving and INVOLVED father, who wants nothing more than to be just that.

Posted by: Jim at May 15, 2006 9:16:37 PM