Friday, September 5, 2008

The Sault Star ~ Fathers 4 Justice sets up chapter in Sault

Fathers 4 Justice sets up chapter in Sault

A lot of dads beaten down by the system -- local father


When his ex-wife accused him of abuse, stay-at-home dad Mike Murphy knew gaining custody of his 10-and 13-year-old daughters would be almost impossible

"You're automatically an evil, hateful, abuser. People believe it, absolutely, unequivocally and you're toast, I'm toast," said Murphy, who insisted no evidence of actual abuse has ever been proven in three years of courtroom custody battles.

The current family law practice of doing what is in "the best interest of the child" really only serves the best interest of the mother, argued Murphy.

"We hear a lot about dead beat dads, but a lot of these so-called dead beat dads have been beaten down by the system," he said.

Murphy spent Thursday morning outside the court house on Queen Street protesting that system. Along with fellow dad Steven Plastino, he started a local chapter of Fathers 4 Justice earlier this week. The international organization aims to make shared and equal custody a presumption in law. That means mom wouldn't get first dibs on the kids; parents would automatically get joint custody in most cases.

Under the current system, joint custody doesn't guarantee anything, said Plastino. After the first two years of a 10-year battle, Plastino received joint custody of his children. Then his wife moved to St. Catharines and took their boys with her, he said. She moved at least seven times over the next several years, according to Plastino, making it impossible for him to fulfill his joint custody requirements of caring for the children at least 40 per cent of the time.

"It's completely alienated us," he said. "It was a completely kangaroo court the way I see it -- as soon as I walked in there, I was fighting a losing battle to get access to my kids."

The men said they have both suffered from "parental alienation" - their ex-wives turning the children against them. While Murphy said he is slowly rebuilding his relationship with his girls, Plastino said he has not seen his sons in seven years.

Fathers 4 Justice is made up of men in similar situations and women who have been affected by those situations, usually paternal grandmothers, aunts and sisters.Group members often don superhero costumes and illegally hangbanners from buildings, bridges and even cranes to get their point across.

The organization is currently on a cross-country campaign promoting its cause. The tour ends in Ottawa Oct. 7 in support of a private member's bill set for motion that day.

MP Maurice Vellacott for Saskatoon- Wanuskewin plans to put forward a divorce law amendment for equal parenting, but with what looks like an election just around the corner, it's doubtful he will get the chance. "If Mr. Vellacott gets re-elected, he'll bring it forward again. We'll just have to be patient and we are very patient," said Murphy.

The idea of men's rights doesn't sit well with some. Murphy said the local F4J chapter has already been targeted. A group of hackers claiming to be "man-hating women" busted onto the newly created site, rigging an online poll. The poll's question, "Do you believe in equal and shared parenting as a presumption in law?" offered several tongue-in-cheek answers. Murphy claims the hackers spent over 22 hours voting for answer 4, "No. Men are innately incapable of such responsibility."

Several anonymous comments were also posted on the blog, demanding no fathers should be near their children.

"Men are inherently violent and irresponsible people," one poster wrote. Another wrote, "I hope rights for fathers are further stripped away. . . . Do you want dads out there diddling their kids? I didn't think so."

The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie