A Father’s Rights Journey Gone Sour

After an eight year custody battle with Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin has harsh words for judges and lawyers reports ABC News.

“I don’t care if the judges and the lawyers die of heart attacks in the process of getting their job done. They are corrupt, inefficient, lazy, stupid — they’re the most God-awful people,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin’s new book, “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce,” hits stores tomorrow.

“The judges are like pit bosses in Vegas casinos,” says Baldwin.  “Their job is to make sure everybody stays at the table and keeps gambling.”

Baldwin and Basinger have had 91 court proceedings so far, and about $3 million in legal costs.  That’s enough to make anyone mad at the system.

Conference Focuses on Father’s Rights

The First Annual Fatherhood Conference will be held on Saturday, November 8, 2008, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland.

There will be workshops addressing father’s rights, the challenges that all fathers face and honoring the importance of fathers.  These will be offered in English and Spanish.   A certificate of attendance will be given to all participants.

The event is FREE.

It is sponsored by several state and county agencies, including:

Health  and Human Services
Correction and Rehabilitation,
Pretrial Services
Office of the State’s Attorney
Maryland Division of Parole and Probation
The Domestic Violence Coordinating Council

“A Dad is a guy with no  money and a lot of pictures.” — Anon

Hero of Fathers’ Rights?

Clark Rockefeller made headlines when he took his seven year old daughter in Boston on July 27 during his first supervised visitation with a social worker.  Rockefeller lost custody last December when the mother relocated to London for work.

Rockefeller turned himself in in Baltimore and now faces felony charges in Boston.

Some websites portray Rockefeller as a hero of fathers’ rights and are using his case to draw attention to problems with the family court system.

Dahlia Lithwick, writing at Slate.Com, recognizes these problems:

“Many good fathers will be downgraded from full-time dads to alternating-weekend-carpool dads. They will be asked to pay at least one-third of their salaries in child support for that privilege. Simple rules of modern life make it likely that an ex-wife will someday decide that a job or new husband demands a move to a faraway state. At which point the alternating-weekend-carpool dad is again demoted—to a Thanksgivings-if-you’re-lucky dad.”

But, she notes, that “lionizing Clark Rockefeller or other violent, lawless fathers will not promote fathers’ rights or fix the family-court system.”

She’s right.  The system is imperfect.  But until we come up with something better, it’s the best we’ve got.  As Rockefeller found out, taking the law into your own hands will not work.

Fathers’ Rights and Time with the Kids

“In 85% of divorces, fathers get just two weekends a month and a couple of hours during the week.” — Mike McCormick of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

With the divorce and custody trial of Christie Brinkley vs. Peter Cook in the news, the Intelligence Report at Parade Magazine is asking if divorce courts are anti-dad or protect fathers’ rights. They are taking a survey on this question:

“Should divorced dads get equal time with their kids?”

Parade notes that up to half of fathers lose contact with their kids after a divorce even with a trend toward shared custody over the past twenty years.

Proportional time is a new legal trend according to Jennifer Rosato of Philadelphia’s Drexel University School of Law, where “the custody decision is based on the time dads spent with their children before the divorce, rather than presuming that dads have, and want, limited involvement with their kids.”

But, says McCormick, “Courts want a check first and a relationship second.”

Julian Mariscal is a father of four in the midst of a divorce and custody battle in Kennewick, Washington. He’s concerned about his fathers’ rights.

Apparently facing a court decision that mom should have custody and he would get visitation every other weekend, Mariscal says, “Four days a month, that’s not enough.”

To combat it, he’s organized a walk for dad’s like him, who believe they’ve been treated unfairly by a family court system that favors the mother. The walk starts at the Kennewick Courthouse at noon on Father’s Day.

“All I’m asking is that they give us the opportunity, us men, fathers to have equal rights, just make it 50/50,” he said according to KNDO TV.

A Chicago divorce attorney decided to review our father’s rights book. It did not go as she had planned.

“Thus, it was with a smirk that I picked up the book titled Father’s Rights by James J. Gross. I intended to flip through it, roll my eyes and pity the poor father who would take such a BS book seriously.”

That’s from Chicago divorce lawyer, Marie Fahnert, at JustDivorceBlog.Com.

But, after reading the book, she says in her three part review, “To my surprise the book is very good!”

Married Men and Fathers’ Rights

My wife sent me this email today that is making the rounds on the Internet. We need a father brave enough to write a response in the comments section.

Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks. Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.

There is no fast food. Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of “pretend” bills with not enough money.

In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week. Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time. Each man must also take each child to a doctor’s appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment.

He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care. He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function. Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done. The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn himself with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished and eyebrows groomed. During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting. They will need to read a book and then pray with the children each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:00 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child’s birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor’s name Also the child’s weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child’s favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if…he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment’s notice.

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years eventually earning the right to be called Mother!

Fathers’ Rights and the Judge

Sometimes you can do everything right for fathers’ rights. You can have the best client, a father who cares for his child, who can provide the resources for home, education and the best upbringing for the child.

You have funding for legal fees. You can obtain the right witnesses. You can hire the private investigator. Your psychologist can testify the father is the best parent to have custody. You can win the recommendation of the custody evaluator.

You can develop the theme of your case. You can prepare well for trial. You can create a trial notebook with opening and closing statements, questions for each witness and a list of exhibits cross-indexed to the witnesses.

You can conduct the trial flawlessly, eliciting correct answers on direct examination, devastating opposing witnesses on cross examination, and winning on every objection.

But there is one wild card you cannot control and that is the judge. The judge is the final decision maker on custody. It is supposed to be based on best interests of the child. But that means only what the judge thinks.

And the judge is human. Judges are not trained in social work or family relations or
psychotherapy. We do not give them lie detectors. Judges see the evidence through their own particular filters based on their own life experiences. Do we ever know how a judge felt about his own mother or father? They are not even required to be right – only to make a decision. Of all the parties and participants in the case, they have the least contact with the child.

So sometimes you can do everything right.

And still lose.

When children make allegations of sexual or other abuse how do we know whether they are telling the truth? We usually have them interviewed by a mental health professional and a court evaluator.

A recent study was conducted to determine if adults could ascertain when children were lying. Researchers had 58 children with an average age of four sit in a chair facing a mirror. They were told they were being videotaped. A researcher told the children she was bringing a toy into the room but they were not to peek. She left the toy and then returned and asked the children if they peeked.

Thirteen children did not peek and said they did not. Thirty five peeked and lied about it.

Then 64 adults viewed the video tapes and were asked if the children were lying or telling the truth. On the average the adults were correct about which children were lying only 42% of the time. They were even worse at picking the children who were telling the truth. About half of the adults who were child professionals did better than a chance level.

The conclusion of the study is that adults cannot accurately determine when children are telling the truth or lying.