“We” asked Primary Candidates about the #1 social problem of our time.

Fatherlessness is the #1 social problem of our time because it is the root cause of at least 20 other social problems.

Florida Election Topic 2015

An estimated 24.7 million children (33%) live absent their biological father.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “Living Arrangements of Children under 18 Years/1 and Marital Status of Parents by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin/2 and Selected Characteristics  of the Child for all Children 2010.” Table C3. Internet Release Date November, 2010.

American Fathers asked Republican and Democratic Primary Candidates:

How will you fix this??

– Father involvement makes a difference in kids’ emotional lives. From a study based on 17,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 1958 who were followed up with at ages 7, 11, 16, 23 and 33:
  • Children with involved fathers have less emotional and behavioral difficulties in adolescence
  • Teenagers who feel close to their fathers in adolescence go on to have more satisfactory adult marital relationships.
  • Girls who have a strong relationship with their fathers during adolescence showed a lack of psychological distress in adult life.

    Source: Dr. Eirini Flouri & Ann Buchanan, “Involved Fathers Key for Children,” Economic & Social Research Council, March 2002.

The USA leads the industrialized world in fatherlessness.
Every Other Weekend is Not Enough Right now, around 41 percent of children are born to single mothers.

Father Count
Total dads –  70,100,000 1
Married dads with children under 18 – 24,400,0002
Stay-at-home dads – 89,000 4
Sources: 1 – U.S. Census Bureau estimates based on unpublished data from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (2008 is the most recent year for which data are available.) 2 – U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, America’s Families and Living Arrangements, Tables FG1 and FG3,http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/cps2012.html 3 – U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, America’s Families and Living Arrangements, Table FG6,http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/cps2012.html 4 – U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, America’s Families and Living Arrangements, Tables FG8 and C3http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/cps2012.html

– Children living in female headed families with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 percent, over 4 times the rate in married-couple families.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; ASEP Issue Brief: Information on Poverty and Income Statistics. September 12, 2012 http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/12/PovertyAndIncomeEst/ib.shtml

Poverty–   Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44 percent of children in mother-only families.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011.

Continue reading “We” asked Primary Candidates about the #1 social problem of our time.

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Do you support a presumption of Equal Parental Fitness in accordance with the 14th Amendment?

No Test of Parenting FITNESS - 2015judge judy

Currently, there are laws, standards, and practices that–when combined–constitute discriminatory policies in Family Court jurisdictions particularly against fathers. By extension, these violate the rights of children.

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Biggest Civil Rights Problem - Most Urgent Social Cause - 2015

Continue reading Do you support a presumption of Equal Parental Fitness in accordance with the 14th Amendment?

Child’s Best Interest vs. Parental Rights

The “Parental Rights Initiative” required courts to award “equal parenting time” to both parents after divorce or separation. The measure was defeated by a sizeable margin (62% to 38%) but it represents only the latest round in a combustible campaign to change how child custody cases are decided.

A history of child custody (in a nutshell)

Colonial Americans followed the English common law rule that upon divorce the father retained custody of his children. Fathers had the right to the physical custody, labor and earnings of their children in exchange for supporting, educating, and training them to earn their own livelihoods or, in the case of girls, marry a man who would support them.

Colonial mothers, though deemed worthy of honor and deference, were not endowed with legally enforceable parental rights.

This paternal preference continued well into the 19th century. In fact, the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls – the first women’s rights convention – listed the fathers’ automatic custody rule among its principal complaints. But women began gaining the upper hand as our legal system dealt with two cultural transformations: the industrial revolution’s remaking men into marketplace wage earners and the emergence of a “separate sphere” for women as domestic caregivers.

By the early 20th century, motherhood had attained near-mythical status. Under the “tender years” presumption, custody of young children was almost exclusively awarded to mothers upon divorce.

It took a social revolution to unseat the tender years doctrine and replace it with gender-neutral custody standards.

English: Daniel Amneus, author, Ph.D., English...
English: Daniel Amneus, author, Ph.D., English Professor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mounting divorce rates in the 1960s and ensuing decades provoked a lively debate about parental roles and custody issues. The movement for gender equality, along with the rise of fathers’ rights groups, called attention to the importance of both parents in the care of children at the same time as loosening the link between gender and parental roles.

The end of formal rules dictating a result favoring one parent over the other led to the adoption of a more inclusive but less definitive standard of deciding custody cases based on the “best interests of the child.” This standard opened up the possibility of excessive judicial discretion as well as a threat of inconsistency in the results, resulting in hotly contested custody battles.

From the rule of one to the sharing of custody

No matter how child custody was determined, one rule continued to be ironclad: custody was indivisible. After a marital breakup, only one parent could properly raise the children, with the other parent entitled merely to visiting rights. Until the late 20th century, courts regularly refused to allow divorcing parents to share custody. The dominant view was that after divorce a child needed the full time stability of a home run by one parent.judge judy

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Why men need places to gather

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Changing laws to give fathers more rights to their children after divorce.

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About 20 states are considering measures that would change the laws governing which parent gets legal and physical control of a child after a divorce or separation. 

Some of the biggest battles over child custody are playing out not in courtrooms, but in statehouses.

Prompted partly by fathers concerned that men for too long have gotten short shrift in custody decisions, about 20 states are considering measures that would change the laws governing which parent gets legal and physical control of a child after a divorce or separation.

The proposals generally encourage judges to adopt custody schedules that maximize time for each parent. Some of the measures, such as those proposed in New York and Washington state, take an additional step by requiring judges to award equal time to each parent unless there is proof that such an arrangement wouldn’t be in a child’s best interests.

Critics of the bills contend that they threaten to take discretion away from judges and risk giving leverage to abusive men. They also say the laws are poorly targeted because typically the only custody cases that end up in court are ones in which former spouses are too hostile toward each other to effectively practice shared parenting anyway.

Continue reading Changing laws to give fathers more rights to their children after divorce.

The Second International Conference on Men’s Issues is ON!

2016 International Conference on Men’s Issues is ON!

I bring some great news. We’ve booked an outstanding venue for the second International Conference on Men’s Issues, London, for the dates we originally planned, 8-10 July. We need to sort out some minor administrative details, and our current estimate is that will take around a week, maybe a little longer. As soon as it’s possible, details of the venue (and so much more) will be posted simultaneously on the websites of J4MB and A Voice for Men. Please wait for the formal announcement before ordering tickets, or making commitments to travel and accommodation.

ICMI16 will be a truly international event. The list of countries from which we shall have speakers and/or delegates is growing by the week, and is currently:

The Activist

Continue reading The Second International Conference on Men’s Issues is ON!

The incentive for parents to focus on each other’s faults…

…and to “dig up dirt” on each other.The Family - 2015And…Should Custody Law Be Abolished?

The bigger question behind that one is: Should custody labels still matter? To put it another way: Has the time come to relegate the whole concept of custody of children to the scrap heap of history?causes.comcauses409526updates965813

The United Nations Convention the Rights of the Child

The question is not merely an abstract hypothetical. To the contrary, there appears to be a very definite trend, both in the United States and around the world, away from the concept of custody. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (“UNCRC”), for example, eschews the word custody. Instead, Article 9 of the UNCRC directs member countries to “ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except [in cases involving abuse or neglect, or where] a decision must be made as to the child’s place of residence.” Rather than referencing a  right of parents to custody of their children (referring instead to a child’s right to have the state order what it determines is in the child’s best interest), Article 9 requires member countries to “respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis….”

Shared parenting legislation

Nearly every U.N. country has signed onto the UNCRC. The U.S. Congress has refused to ratify it.2 Nevertheless, there is other evidence of a clear movement away from the concept of custody (or at least that particular word) in the United States, too. In particular, a growing number of states are transforming, or at least supplementing, their traditional custody laws with shared parenting and parenting plan legislation. These kinds of laws use terminology like primary residential responsibility and decision-making responsibility instead of physical custody and legal custody. Sometimes these laws expressly provide that parents may use other words besides “custody,” so long as the alternate terms are defined in a way that is understandable and enforceable.

Reducing acrimony and litigation

Project Fatherhood FL 11- 2015Understandably, not many family law mediators are enamored of the word custody. Fewer still are fans of the winner-takes-all, adversarial approach it connotes. Because neither parent wants to be the one who is deprived of that title and relegated to the role of “visitor,” it is a significant source of impasse in mediation. In many cases, it may actually be the only source of impasse. For this reason, many mediators will not address the issue (if they address it at all) until after all discussions of the details of the actual parenting time schedule and decision-making allocations have been completed.3

Any family court judge or attorney can attest to the fact that the lion’s share of litigation in family court involves a contest for ownership of the custody “prize.” If this incentive were removed, it stands to reason that there would be a sharp decline in litigation in family court. Parents would save literally thousands of dollars in attorney fees and related expenses like custody evaluators, forensic experts, witness fees, and so on.

Removing the winner-gets-the-kids concept would also remove the incentive for parents to focus on each other’s faults, and to “dig up dirt” on each other. It may not be reasonable to expect divorcees to co-parent blissfully, without conflict, but getting off to a less acrimonious start, one that encourages cooperation rather than competition, would certainly seem to have a greater chance of serving the interests of children than the existing system has.

The historical rationale

As explained in detail in other blog posts, and in my book, The History of Custody Law, the concept of custody has been around since earliest recorded human history. The traditional account provided by historians is that all through history, up until the Enlightened Age (i.e., the particular era of time in which the historian providing the account is living), children were viewed as economic assets having the  legal status of chattel. Under this view, an allocation of custody of a child between two parents was required for the same reason an allocation of ownership of any other marital property was required. The owner of property gets to make decisions about what to do with it, and who gets to use it. By dividing up a divorcing couple’s property, a court prevents future disputes over those kinds of decisions from arising. By the same token, “awarding” a child to one or the other parent makes it clear which parent gets to decide how to raise the child, who gets to spend time with the child, and how and when the time will be spent.

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Adopt Uniform Parenting Time Guidelines and Repeal Inconsistent Rules and Presumptions
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State of Florida Parental Rights13-16-12 – Administrative Order 12th Judicial Circuit – State of Florida

Continue reading The incentive for parents to focus on each other’s faults…