Saturday, November 1, 2008

If only we could do this kind of democratic protest in Canada

We can get our signs and walk in front of the court house protesting judges but it may just serve to rile them up, especially if you still need to appear before them. They, once appointed, have little accountability other than to a body of their peers and perhaps the political minister responsible federally or provincially. The latter will usually deflect any requests by telling you to complain to the peer group.

It would be a treat to be able to "think" one could actually stop the re-appontment of a judge though. I am a dreamer! :)


The News-Gazette.com

Family-court judge faces public criticism

By Mary Schenk
Saturday November 1, 2008

URBANA – A Champaign County judge is under public attack for a second time in four years for the way he administers family court.

Signs urging voters not to retain Arnold Blockman appeared early this week in different cities in the 6th Judicial Circuit, where voters will decide if Blockman should serve another six years.

Blockman, of Champaign, was elected in 1996 and retained in 2002.

In a recent poll, the Illinois State Bar Association gave him the highest recommendation of the three Champaign County judges up for retention. The other judges are Thomas Difanis and Harry Clem. Voters in the six counties of the circuit will also have to weigh in on Macon County judges Katherine McCarthy and A.G. Webber.

Arunas Cepas, 52, of Champaign is one of the people urging the no-vote to retain the Democratic judge, even though his own divorce and custody case has been heard for years by Associate Judge Brian McPheters.

"(Blockman) runs family court. He heads the system," said Cepas, whose divorce case started in 2001 and remains open because of a 15-year-old son whom Cepas said he hasn't seen in 10 months.

"He's the one who has to effect change. His family court system does not enforce the laws equally," Cepas said.

Cepas and others have paid for about 250 anti-Blockman signs and a Web site – www.oustthejudge.com – that is critical of Blockman for his treatment of parents who don't have custody of their children.

Cepas said the group behind the effort first formed an alliance back in 2005 when the Washington, D.C.-based American Coalition for Fathers and Children funded a billboard campaign in Urbana urging Blockman to reform family court. That sparked a number of meetings and public discussion on shared parenting and family court.

Then, as now, Blockman defended his work.

"We're forced to make decisions and every decision we make, a lot of times, one person is going to be upset. All we can do is, based on whatever facts we're presented, apply the law to the facts. That's our job," he said, adding that the energies of the unhappy parents would be better expended getting the law changed.

"Some of the fathers' groups are working to get some of the law changed," Blockman said. "That makes a lot more sense than to go after an individual judge who's working in the field and applying the law that exists."

Blockman said it's "disturbing" to be criticized by Cepas since he's had nothing to do with his case. Blockman recused himself because his wife knew Cepas' ex-wife.

"Nobody likes criticism, particularly when I feel we've run a really good courtroom and it's efficient and we've had a great record in the appellate court. The criticism is really addressed to the legislation," he said.

But Cepas and another non-custodial parent, Tony Olaivar of Champaign, said Blockman and other family law judges are merely enforcing the status quo.

"The current status is to give custody to one parent, which basically means ownership and the non-custodial parent is left out of the picture completely," Cepas said.

"I would say if there was one phrase that would sum up the policy in this court is it's pro-attorney," said Olaivar, who has been through two divorces and has five children.

"The more you go into court, the more you realize that the judges and the attorneys make up all the rules. They may say this is just the system. It's the judges who make up the system. The judges are pulling your leg when they tell you they don't have any authority to interpret these laws differently," he said.

Cepas acknowledges that ousting a sitting judge is next to impossible but said he was speaking out not only for himself but other non-custodial parents who fear retribution in court if they do.

"If we don't do anything, it just keeps happening," he said.


Find this article at:
http://www.news-gazette.com/news/2008/11/01/familycourt_judge_faces_public_criticism

Comments

Boys Need Fathers ~ But so do Daughters

This is a good article on fatherhood and boys. It doesn't cover daughters but the same logic applies. That some single mothers successfully raise boys into men should not be a surprise. God help us all if they couldn't. Any child raised by a single mother, however, has a higher likelihood of problems.

It is the height of arrogance and gender aggression for the individual quoted in the article to articulate that boys don't need fathers. Only an ideologically leftist feminist could possibly think that. Her excuse or rationalization is they only need men - not fathers. And who chooses the "right" men.

I am also interested in the reasons for withdrawal of some of the fathers from those boys who did become successful men. Did they just leave for no good reason, did they give up trying because the ex gave them such a hard time or did they die?




Sunday, November 2, 2008

Despite successes, boys need fathers

I suspected it would happen; I just didn't think it would happen so quickly. Shortly after the historic achievement of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, and just before the historic nomination of Sen. Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, a major newspaper ran a full-page story celebrating the news that single moms succeed in raising accomplished sons.


The article cited Mr. Phelps, Mr. Obama and others, including cycling great Lance Armstrong, to make the case that boys raised by single mothers are doing just fine, thank you. It also quoted a number of supportive experts, including Peggy Drexler, author of a book called "Raising Boys Without Men."


Interestingly, Mrs. Drexler, who has been married for more than 36 years to the father of her son, asserts quite firmly that although boys do need men, they do not need fathers. Her position is essentially that one should not fret about fatherless boys because they have a way of finding the male involvement they need.


Well, yes and no.


Boys certainly will find male involvement, but since boys will be, well, boys, they often do not make the right choices. Case in point is convicted D.C. sniper Lee Malvo, who selected John Muhammad. And there are countless boys who join gangs to find the male involvement they so desperately crave.


That said, my biggest problem was less with the article than with the "straw man" - or rather, "straw father" - argument that it is "news" that single mothers can and do raise successful boys. As one who was raised by a single mother and has undergraduate and master's degrees from two Ivy League universities, I am a bit of a poster child on this point. (Thanks, Mom.)


However, "Can single mothers do it?" is not the right question. There are more thoughtful ways of viewing the issue.


First, should single mothers have to raise their children alone? Remember, every child has an "involved" father at conception. I do a lot of speaking about the importance of involved fatherhood. No parent has ever come up to me after a speech to say they hope their daughter will become a single mother.


And that is the problem with the article mentioned above. It discounts the fact that most women, like my mother, are single mothers by chance, not by choice. It also does not make the distinction between the worthy and necessary goal of supporting single mothers - and promoting a culture that celebrates single motherhood.


Second, this issue is not about what kind of a man a boy will become but, also, what kind of a father he will become. It's difficult to be what you don't see. Accordingly, as a nation, we have to ask this question - how does a culture that promotes and, too often, celebrates father absence, create an environment in which boys develop a desire to become present and involved fathers?


Third, in addition to the well-documented social and emotional costs of father absence for our nation's children, it is also expensive. Recently, National Fatherhood Initiative released a report called, "The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man - The Annual Public Costs of Father Absence." The report measured the federal expenditures on child-support enforcement and 13 means-tested benefits programs that support father-absent homes. The $100 billion cost represents nearly 4 percent of the 2006 federal budget. Indeed, in these difficult financial times, we cannot afford father absence.


Finally, I believe the way we look at smoking is the most appropriate and thoughtful way to look at father absence and the resulting single motherhood. Specifically, it is pretty clear the majority of people who smoke do not immediately get lung cancer. This is why it is so difficult to curb teen smoking. Nonetheless, we spend millions of dollars on campaigns and efforts to reduce smoking. Why? Because we know that those who smoke are at a higher risk for cancer, heart disease or worse. Knowing this, would anyone support celebrating the fact that many smokers beat the odds? I doubt it.


Social science data assert overwhelmingly that boys in father-absent homes are more at risk to be poor, fail in school, use drugs or be involved in the criminal justice system. Therefore, we should encourage responsible fatherhood and discourage a culture of single motherhood for the same reason - the increased risk to our sons. In my view, we do not have a fatherless boy to spare.


Roland C. Warren can be reached at rwarren@fatherhood.org.

F4J Pittsburgh PA Rally at Heinz Field Huge Success Despite Disruption by Security and Police



F4J Pittsburgh PA Rally at Heinz Field Huge Success Despite Disruption by Security and Police



Fathers-4-Justice members from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia rallied in front of Heinz Stadium this past Sunday, October 26. Members felt a football stadium on a Sunday afternoon would be the perfect place to find dads and increase public awareness. The rally was a tremendous success. Members, armed with flyers, signs and flags, walked through the public parking lots and along the sidewalks talking to people about equal parenting. “People were running after us to get our information, one guy chased me, when he caught up to me, he said he has been fighting the family court system for almost 24 years. He thanked me for being there and spreading our message. He asked for some information to give to all of his friends in the same situation, I gave him a stack of flyers, and off he went to distribute them. That was a great moment.” Brian Holladay, a National Boardmember for Fathers-4-Justice, said.


Fathers-4-Justice fights for the civil rights of parents and grandparents, so it is odd that authorities, in what appears to be a violation of civil rights, interrupted this rally.


Jesse Storm, President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Fathers-4-Justice, was detained and threatened arrest by a Pittsburgh Police. Storm explains, “This stemmed from a Rally that was taking place by a few states. We where stopped by the Security at the Heinz Field. They told us that we where not allowed on the public sidewalks and the public property surrounding the Heinz field complex. We had the “Daddy Justice Film" camera with us to record our rally and continued to film security asking us to leave public property. When Sgt. John Fisher of the Pittsburgh Police, showed up his issue was with my camera. The Sgt. asked me to turn off the audio recording device. I showed him that camera was turned off, he attacked me pulled the camera out of my hand and handcuffed me. He stated that recording, audio, was against the wiretap laws of Pennsylvania. I tried to explain to him that we where on a public side walk and there was no assumption of privacy. Nevertheless, he handcuffed me. Sgt. John Fisher, a Landmark security office and another police officer took me inside Heinz field. They took the “Daddy Justice Films” from my camera even after I informed that that I work for "Daddy Justice Films", a media source.


After a phone call, he district attorney instructed them to release me immediately. The DA said we are allowed to demonstrate on the sidewalks and to continue our rally. We attempted to moved forward with our rally, Landmark security stopped us again insisting that we where not allowed on the public sidewalks or egresses around the field.”

Fathers-4-Justice planned a peaceful rally and demonstration to increase public awareness. Security officers and police interrupted the F4J rally for an hour. Storm says, “By the time I was released and given permission to continue the rally, and stopped again by Landmark security, most of the people where inside the field. Thousands of dollars where wasted on printing flyers, rental cars, fuel and tolls to get these folks to the rally.”


Fathers-4-Justice is grateful for what was accomplished but feels they could have interacted with twice as many people had they not been illegally stopped. When asked if anyone plans to press charges, Holladay said, “Our board of directors will discuses the issue this week.”


Christine Smith

F4J National

Media Coordinator

Tel: 440-306-2444

f4jnationalmedia@yahoo.com

Princton Times ~ West Virginia ~ Uncovers some truths about stereotypes, Family Courts and DV

This is an interesting story, appearing to be well researched by the reporter TAMMIE TOLER from an area in West Virginia that has uncovered some of the real truths about DV, false claims, the source of the DV and the benefits of a presumption of equality for shared and equal parenting upon separation and Divorce.


Could Princeton be a Microcosm for what is going on elsewhere in North America. A small slice of North American geography with symptoms of an international crisis in Family Courts and the DV industry. Perhaps not, based on its ethnic mix and also note the discrepancy between the number of females 18 and over to males. (for every 100 females there are 77.7 males). That's a very interesting statistic. Are family courts responsible or is some other variable chasing men from this area such as employment prospects including military service?


For those interested in Geography given Princeton is not a large community here are some demographics from Wikepedia:

Demographics


The Mercer County Courthouse in 2007
As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 6,347 people, 2,967 households, and 1,661 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,116.6 people per square mile (816.9/km²). There were 3,371 housing units at an average density of 1,124.2/sq mi (433.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.03% White, 6.21% African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.19% from other races, and 0.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.52% of the population.
There were 2,967 households out of which 20.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.8% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.0% were non-families. 39.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.79.
In the city the population was spread out with 18.4% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 24.1% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 25.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 81.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $21,736, and the median income for a family was $32,443. Males had a median income of $25,347 versus $19,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,931. About 16.0% of families and 24.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.9% of those under age 18 and 15.9% of those age 65 or over.

Here is its location via Google Maps:


View Larger Map

and a link:
">http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=princeton,+west+virginia&sll=37.377836,-81.097384&sspn=0.188247,0.392761&ie=UTF8&ll=37.369339,-81.096611&spn=0.188268,0.392761&t=h&z=12&iwloc=addr





Fri, Oct 31 2008

Published: October 31, 2008 04:56 pm

MAWAD fighting stereotypes that only women are abused
By TAMMIE TOLER
Princeton Times


PRINCETON — Women with battered eyes and bruised souls have become the symbols of domestic violence in America, but one organization is working to change the perception that all domestic abuse manifests itself physically on the outside and that women are the only victims.


Men and Women Against Discrimination (MAWAD) formed in West Virginia to expose the untruths behind the theory that men are always the aggressors, pursue a family court system that recognizes and honors each parent’s role in a child’s upbringing and to seek “truth, justice and equality in family law.”

Along the way, organizers say they discovered there are many men out there who are just as abused as any of their female counterparts, that the court system all too often ignores their wounds and that the very systems put in place to stop domestic violence can be manipulated and twisted into another form of abuse during divorce and custody negotiations.

That’s why MAWAD members have long argued that all custody proceedings should begin with a 50-50 shared parenting plan, which may then be crafted around the family’s individual needs and situations; that the domestic violence protective order process needs to be overhauled; and that people of any gender who file false domestic violence allegations should be penalized.

MAWAD’s Region IV Director Ron Foster emphasized this week that the organization never condones physical violence or emotional abuse, but only wants every person, every parent, to face equal rights and responsibilities inside a fair family court.

“Our goal is to get the garbage out of the court so you can deal with true domestic violence cases,” Foster said Wednesday.

•••

In Mercer County, there are several organizations, including the Pam Hawkins Foundation and SAFE, that serve battered women and children by providing emergency housing, clothing, advocates and more. But, the services are far fewer for men in similar situations.

Foster said MAWAD is fighting that trend, going so far as legal action involving the state’s Family Protection Services Board, questioning the funding equation that funnels money to women’s services but seems to slight the same programs for men.

Much of the discrepancy centers on the idea that men are nearly always the aggressors.

Familiar statistics, derived from a decades-old FBI study, indicated an American woman is assaulted every 15 seconds by her husband.

But, Foster referred to a National Family Violence Survey that showed, not surprisingly, that 12.1 percent of the women surveyed in a more recent analysis reported some level of physical assault against them by either their husbands or girlfriends, in the case of lesbian couples.

What was unexpected was that 11.6 percent of husbands confidentially reported being abused by their wives or partners.

Foster said those numbers clearly show that men face abuse nearly as often, if not just as often, as women. Many of them simply don’t report it to the authorities out of shame or embarrassment, or they aren’t taken seriously when they do seek help.

In his review of this study, “Violent Touch: Breaking Through the Stereotype,” psychologist Dr. David L. Fontes concluded, “If you count all assaultive behavior, which includes minor assaults, 12.1 percent for women and 11.6 percent for men, a woman is assaulted every 6 seconds in this country, but a man is also assaulted every 6 seconds in this country.”

•••

While Foster said the members support the idea that both genders are equal aggressors, the same trends don’t appear in Family Court, where MAWAD finds both parents rarely receive equal treatment. There, the group’s members report the process encourages parents to become combative adversaries in a battle for custody and child support dollars.

Steven Burford knows that feeling all too well, and he said the system itself has turned his situation into a form of domestic abuse.

His 2 1/2-year-old daughter was sick this week. As he struggled to track down health insurance information on the child, the single father said the family court system had become more of a burden than a help.

Burford and his ex-girlfriend separated shortly after their baby was born, and the southern West Virginia family court that crafted their custody agreement set forth a parenting plan that split the parents’ time, made the mother the primary custodian and decreed Burford would pay $300 a month in child support to be withheld from his check and forwarded to the child’s mother.

The custody agreement allocated approximately half of the daughter’s time each week with each parent, still giving the mother primary custody, but Burford said the mother never stuck to that agreement.

“When it was my day, I’d show up to get [the daughter], but sometimes she’d drop her off two days early and be two days late,” he said.

Burford said he welcomed any additional time with his daughter, but he questioned how he had her most of the time and was responsible for supporting her during that time, as well as paying child support to the mother.

“I never knew what was going to happen with her,” he said. “But, the whole time, they’re still holding child support out of my check.”

Last year, the baby contracted MRSA, a form of staph infection serious in all ages, but potentially fatal in children. The little girl stayed in the hospital seven days, and Burford said her mom showed up to check on her one time.

Soon after that, the mother disappeared completely. Burford said she hasn’t turned up for a visitation with her daughter for the last nine months, at least.

“I have no idea where she is,” he said, adding that he’s tried to explain his situation to a variety of different authorities, including Child Protective Services, Family Court officials and even the West Virginia State Police.

He wants to keep his daughter and fears what will happen if the mother does turn up, but he said it’s simply not fair that she’s still technically the primary custodian of court record.

“If she showed up tomorrow, she could take her from me. That’s what the court says,” he said. “I don’t want her mother to get her. She’s not qualified to take care of her.”

Still, Burford said the Family Court and custody system is taking money out of his pocket that he could be using to take care of his daughter.

According to his calculations, the state has withheld approximately $2,700 of his money that was supposed to be used as child support for a child he’s maintained custody of the entire time.

Because he’s not the primary custodian at this point, Burford said he feared he might not even be able to secure the necessary medical attention to take care of the illness that hit his daughter this week.

“I’m struggling right now to even get her medical card,” he said. “Because I’m not legally the primary custodian, I’m not technically supposed to have that.”

While Burford said his former relationship never involved domestic abuse in the traditional sense, he said the system has given the mother all the benefits and turned him into a victim.

After months, he said state authorities put a block on the child support checks to the mother, but the $300 is still being withheld from his check every month. He never expects to see that money again.

“The system’s not fair at all. People go into it in difficult situations anyway, and they make it a little bit, or a lot, harder,” he said.

Burford, who said he’s fortunate that his fiancĂ© assists with taking care of his daughter while he’s at work, said he’s still having a hard time making ends meet.

“I could use some of the assistance the state was ready to give her,” but because the court still doesn’t recognize him as a primary custodian, he’s not eligible.

•••

When custody negotiations are more complicated than those Burford experienced, MAWAD directors say the atmosphere is prime for one party to “play the domestic violence card,” alleging some form of assault to gain the edge in the legal battle.

“We have a system that really creates adversaries of the parents,” MAWAD Region V Director Kevin Summers said. “Domestic violence orders become one of the tools they use to get the advantage, and the whole family, especially the children, suffer as a result. To me, wrongly denying a child’s right to either parent is a form of child abuse and domestic violence in itself.”

Although supporters of the domestic violence petition and protective order process say the orders allow alleged victims to seek the protection of the law without filing legal charges, MAWAD members said the papers are far from harmless.

In many instances, even the allegation, the mere mention of domestic abuse, is enough to immediately strip a parent’s visitation rights with little or no investigation, and that information stays in the court record and follows the accused parent through the custody proceedings.

What’s more, Foster analyzed a study of Cabell County’s magistrate and family court proceedings last year, and found that the vast majority of DVPs were inappropriate.

The study, conducted by University of Louisville’s Dr. Benjamin Foster, found that even with the additional emphasis on preventing and reporting domestic violence, such offenses remained largely level with other crime statistics in the state between 1980 and 2005. Although the studies encompassed the entire time, researchers paid particular attention to the figures from 1994, when the Violence Against Women Act and the West Virginia Pro-Arrest Law were passed.

Researchers focused on statewide crime and law enforcement statistics, as well as an in-depth analysis of Cabell County Family Court and Magistrate proceedings, to complete the study. Cabell County was selected, Ron Foster explained, because the population there is well-distributed in urban and rural areas, has an ethnic diversity, cooperative county officials and a Family Court system that included both a male and female judge.

According to their findings, West Virginia magistrate courts have handled an average of 15,587 domestic violence proceedings annually in each of the last five years. Meanwhile, Family Courts, only in existence for the last four years, have seen an annual average of 14,624 domestic violence-related cases.

Such cases, in addition to an 8 percent increase in divorces since 2002, have left the new court system already overburdened, leading state lawmakers to create 10 new Family Court judgeships, at a cost of $2.7 million annually, during this year’s term of the Legislature.

However, the MAWAD studies indicated approximately 76 percent of the domestic violence-related proceedings in Cabell County and as many as 80.6 percent statewide were eventually dismissed.

“That leads us to believe that these proceedings were based either on a false claim, or as we like to call them, an unnecessary claim,” Ron Foster said.

In situations where a woman filed for a protective order against another woman, the number of orders granted soared to 58 percent.

“In a patriarchal society, the teaching is that men are the only violent parties. This proves that is just not the case,” Foster said.

In addition, the study showed the number of alleged female domestic violence offenders rose an estimated 244 percent between 1991 and 2005, but Foster said men are still four times less likely to report domestic violence.

For more information on MAWAD, visit www.mawadwv.org, or call (304) 295-0053.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie