Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is history in Shared Parenting being made in Florida?

Print This Article bradenton.com
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

New law removes old custody labels


Primary parent.
Secondary parent.
Legal terms like these will soon be eliminated from divorce and separation proceedings.
That's because on Wednesday, Oct. 1, a new law goes into effect in Florida that removes those labels from the state statute and creates new terms.
Previously, Florida courts identified a primary and secondary parent; children lived with the former and visited the latter.
But next month custody will be called "shared parental responsibility" and visitation will be called "time sharing."

The new law is intended to promote co-parenting, said Greg Lewen, an attorney who handles divorce cases throughout the state, including in Sarasota.
"These labels become very problematic for the children and the parents getting divorced, and this is a progressive step forward," Lewen said. "Visitation shows you don't really have a home at that other person's residence. Instead you take a toothbrush. . . . If you think about it, you come in as a visitor."
"When you think about divorce and custody, somebody is going to own this child like they own a piece of property and that is destructive. What we've done is said . . . it takes two to parent."

Because labels will be stripped, something was needed to govern the relationships.
So moms and dads will be required to craft parenting plans, which will designate parental responsibilities and put parents on an even playing field.
Under the new law, they will submit a parenting plan to the court.
If they can't agree, a judge will decide the time-sharing schedule.
"I feel like my prayers have been answered." said Stephen Pere, of Sarasota, who has a temporary visitation schedule for his 2-year-old daughter.
For two years, Pere — never married — spent two overnights a month with his daughter. Her mom gets her the rest of the time, he said.
"I've been wanting shared parenting time with our child since her birth," said Pere. "Hopefully my prayers and that of many other parents will be answered."
Robert Levine, of Sarasota, also welcomes the new law.

"I hope it gives me and other fathers who have shown they can parent more child time sharing than every other weekend and a Wednesday night," said Levine, whose wife filed for divorce and wants be the primary parent of their 7-year-old daughter.
"I do not support that," said Levine, 55. "I'm a good father, I can flex my schedule. I would like to be considered for equal share."
Expecting that the bill would pass, the custody and visitation guidelines committee of the Family Law Advisory Group of the 12th Judicial Circuit developed proposed parenting plans. The committee originally formed to revise already existing shared parental responsibility guidelines created in 2002.
The four optional parenting plans — basic, long-distant, highly structured and safety focused — contain the detail and diversity contemplated by the state statute, said Michelle Artman-Smith, 12th Circuit family court manager.

As a supplement to each parenting plan, the circuit created "Instructions and Assessments for Your Parenting Plan" to assist parties in making the most appropriate selection, Artman-Smith said.
The family law section of the Florida Bar is reviewing the local 12th Circuit's plans to determine if it wants the Florida Supreme Court to adopt them statewide, said Judge Diana Moreland, chair of the local custody and visitation guidelines committee.
"We started 15 months ago with the idea of addressing the needs of our local visitation guidelines, only to have our parenting plan goals be the same as those mandated by recent legislature," Moreland said. "The flood of phone calls we get saying (other circuits) are incorporating our plans is a huge accomplishment. I know it is something our circuit can be proud of."
Parenting plans, Pere said, are in the best interest of the child.

"These new plans, as opposed to what existed, spell out so many details . . . as far as holidays, pick up, drop off, so it will reduce any manipulation," said Pere.
"I don't want to be a visiting dad — visiting is for grandparents, relatives and friends," Pere said. "I hope that I will be able to get substantial, equal time sharing with my daughter."
The primary goal, Moreland said, is to assist those individuals representing themselves by fashioning a legally binding parenting plan that meets their particular needs.
"In addition, we hope the variety of plans will assist all jurists faced with unrepresented litigants, focus the litigants' attention and create thoughtful parenting plans which will meet the specific needs of that family appearing in front of them," Moreland said.

Florida is the first state to change the language, said Elisha D. Roy, a West Palm Beach divorce attorney who conducted research for the new law.
Currently, 27 states have proposed parenting plans to be used as guidelines, said Roy, who chaired the Florida Bar's Family Law Legislative Committee this past session.
"This is a giant step into the future for Florida families in meeting the goal of a less adversarial process for dealing with the dissolution of not just marriage, but of the child's family," Roy said.
Removing the previous labels, she said, will allow attorneys to focus their client's concentration on making decisions about what is best for their children and their families as opposed to fighting over meaningless labels.

In the end, parents might divorce, but the law reminds them they're not divorcing their kids, Roy said.
Just because this law goes into effect this week doesn't mean parents who already have court-ordered parental designation — primary or secondary parent — and visitation guidelines can have them changed.

"People seeking modification would likely still have to show substantial change of circumstances affecting the best interest of the children," Moreland said.
In the end, whether a person's previous court order warrants modification is up to the presiding family trial judge, Artman-Smith said.
Lewen said some people may look at the new law and try to manipulate it.

"It will give them an opportunity to say I want more in the parenting plan," he said. "The safeguard is the statute still provides for a number of specific factors for the courts to use in determining how the parenting plan should be created for a particular family. Just because there is a parenting plan doesn't mean one parent can't get 99 percent of the time and other some parents get supervised visitation on a very short leash."

Debra Carter, a Bradenton psychologist who helped develop the 12th Circuit's proposed parenting plans, said five factors should be considered when developing parenting plans — minimizing loss, maximizing e relationships, ensuring security, avoiding interparental conflict and acknowledging age-related needs.
Children, she said, benefit from having predictable, positive times with their parents.

"The needs they get met from a mother are different than the needs they get met from a father," Carter said. "But one is not more important than the other, they need both."
In the end, Levine said the law might prove to be a little of an uphill battle.

"But if these fathers show they're capable . . . that the father and mother can show they're both focused on the child's needs as No. 1, it's going to work out," he said.

© 2008 Bradenton.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.bradenton.com

In a man's working world parental leave should be about fathers, too

The following article is an interesting and thought provoking one from Australia. If you are a man or woman it is worth a read. It makes a lot of sense to me but then I was a stay-at-home dad for 10 years. Ten of the most rewarding years of my life I might add.

I was socialized in the 50's to believe a man's worth was as a provider to his family and a woman should raise the children. I learned this area of behaviour, as with others, particularly the brainwashing by religious teachers, was not always factual, and in fact may not even be true in some cases. They were handed down as part of the culture or dogma we grew up with. For me culture always started from within the family, then the street, the neighbourhood, the parish and grew from these small beginnings to the city and beyond. Today I can sit at my computer and read about tomorrow in Australia in real time. Mind boggling I think compared to the paper route in the 50's. Also note the date for publication in Australia has not yet happened in our time zone.

In a man's working world parental leave should be about fathers, too

Jo-Anne Schofield
October 1, 2008

Under the Productivity Commission's parental leave proposal, men are entitled to two weeks' paternity leave (use it or lose it), and mothers would be allowed to transfer their 18-week entitlement to their partners. It leaves the important decision about who provides primary care up to individual families and, by including women and men, the proposal raises the bar. At last men are becoming visible in parenting policy debates, and the move puts the onus on fathers and industries dominated by men.

Working life for men today has morphed into a 1950s model of male employment. Job security and reasonable hours have been curtailed by an economy organised on short-term contracts, in industries exposed to international competition. This has greatly intensified demands on full-time male workers.

Limiting the role men play as parents limits men's choice to be involved in family life and reinforces the exclusivity of women's role as primary carers. In turn, this limits women's participation in work, forcing many to opt for flexible and part-time employment to meet the competing demands of work and family. That leads to a deeply divided labour market, one where women have less job security and are paid less, which forces men to work more to maintain family income, and that reduces their capacity time, mainly to be active fathers and at home when their children are awake.

There are sound biological reasons why the needs of women are central to the debates about work and family. Giving mothers paid time off after childbirth is good for the health and wellbeing of both mother and child.

Even so, the focus on women lets men - and male-dominated industries - off too lightly. A parental leave scheme for men and women sends an important message to men, and their employers, that they have a right and a responsibility to care for their children.

It lets families decide who will look after their children and, hopefully, this will increase the choices open to families and equality between parents in child-rearing. One of the biggest barriers to parental leave facing male workers in male industries is a workplace culture that fails to acknowledge the role of men in their families. The male culture of work is so powerful many men are simply unable, or unwilling, to ask for a better work-life balance. Those who do ask send a signal to their firms that they are less serious and less committed than others, a situation that perversely penalises women who are left to make this call.

Male industries have been very clever at avoiding any of the costs of providing parental leave across our economy. It is now largely borne by employers in industries that rely on women workers, such as health, education, retail and hospitality.

There is nothing inherently different about work in these sectors. It is simply that employers in female-dominated industries had to reorganise work around the family needs of their employees. Male industries flatly refused to do so.

This inflexibility presents men with a stark choice: toe the line and neglect your family, or get out. Witness the growing number of high-profile men vacating corporate and public life altogether because the unreasonable demands of work leave little time for their families and personal life (most recently the former NSW deputy premier John Watkins).

Getting an equal parental leave entitlement for men is the first step. The second is getting them to take it. Many men may react with horror at the thought of taking an equal or greater role in parenting. Given the choice, I know lots of women who would prefer to arrive home from work after the "arsenic hour" of dinner and bath time.

Still, this is all part of the loving relationship of family life. Demanding that men commit to a kind of priesthood of working life means they forgo this relationship, leaving much of the child-rearing burden on women, and making men's lives less complete.

It is about time men embraced some father guilt and agitated for policy that fits better with their family life. After all, time with family and community makes us all better people.

Jo-anne Schofield is the executive director of Catalyst Australia, a think tank, and a working mother.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/09/30/1222651077460.html

Superhero Daddy Activist Endures Extreme Weather

The following case has similar characteristics to my own. My heart is with you Don. I know exactly how you feel. For those wondering why the purple facial hair - think Barney - think F4J and look at my colour scheme. MJM

Teri Stoddard

Superhero Daddy Activist Endures Extreme Weather
donald tenn

Donald Tenn is a California father who says he “had to take action” for his young daughter Madison. He started his fourth day this morning on a wet construction crane in Columbus Ohio alone. Last night police warned of thunderstorms. John Fowler, national coordinator for Fathers 4 Justice was able to talk activist father Paul Fisher down.

Tenn refused. “I have nothing to lose”, he said through a walkie-talkie. Earlier he told me, “I’ve followed the law, been bounced back and forth between states, and been falsely accused of domestic violence. I finally won visitation in Illinois. The judge even reprimanded her mother. I had one visit. That’s it. She’s able to use services funded by the Violence Against Women Act to illegally keep me from my daughter.”

Until Madison’s mother illegally abducted her to Illinois, Tenn was her stay-at-home parent. It’s Madison he worries about, not himself. He says she’s being hurt by the family court system and he has to protect her. A member of Fathers 4 Justice, the gender-neutral civil rights group fighting for equal parental rights, he says he won’t come down until Governor Schwarzenegger agrees to a nonpartisan investigation into the family court system. Calls to the Governor’s office have yet to be returned.

Tenn’s Sacramento phone rings off the hook at all hours of the day. Friends say he always makes time to listen to parents trying to avoid or recover from the devastation of losing contact with their children. When he isn’t grieving for his own little girl Madison, he says, his heart aches for the thousands of other parents he knows who are experiencing the same thing.

Tenn has been sending Madison packages in the mail about 3 times a week. “I’ve probably sent over 300 packages so far,” he told me recently, “they include books, healthy snacks, small toys and stickers. She loves stickers”

When asked if he wants to keep Madison away from her mother when this is resolved, he says, “no.” “I’ve always wanted equal custody, equal parenting and equal responsibility, for each of us.” Asked if his case was unique he replied,”I’ve traveled the country talking to other parents. And what I hear all the time, from mothers and fathers, is that they want equal parental rights, equal physical and legal custody.”


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

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie