Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Michigan NOW Against Proposed Joint Custody Legislation...(Big Surprise)

Okay, this is an article from the Liberation Journal and penned by Gregory Flanagan (who apparently is the only writer for the Liberation Journal, as of yet I can find no other authors on the site...links to other sites, but no other articles written for this particular site by another author...please update me if I am incorrect)

To start, I found this article suspect since it was written by a man. Granted, there has often been cross-over in many civil rights issues in our history- men supported the women's movement, whites supported civil rights, (and the most obvious) women support men's right to equal custody. However, a man outwardly supporting NOW in a blanket fashion did seem suspect to me. So I decided to do a little research on the Liberation Journal and Mr. Flanagan.

From the little I have found, this site appears to be hosted by a Canadian ISP. I'm not sure if that is relevant. I did find a site in which Mr. Flanagan was commenting on content of his site about homosexuals being pedophiles and concerning some type of action by the Canadian government... but not enough to have a cohesive summation.

I can't find much else, except other articles written by Mr. Flanagan, all of which seem to be written on hot button topics. Maybe he is simply fishing for notoriety.

Anyway, I wonder, if he is a Canadian citizen, why the apparent interest in Michigan custody legislation? Or the myriad of other US issues he takes up...

I have to say that I am surprised at the lack of biographical or contrary literature available on Mr. Flanagan. He certainly takes positions on very strongly felt issues; maybe I am the only one stupid enough to give this guy the time of day. (Also, I have on no way reviewed his positions in their entirety, he may very well agree with me on other points)

On to the article... for your reading pleasure I will provide some direct quotes, but first I should give some type of summary. He does cite some sources, primarily NOW. However, at least his first paragraph is startling lacking in support. It seems obvious to me that Mr. Flanagan believes: 1) That mothers are rightly given physical custody in the majority of cases, 2) That fathers are generally happy with their visitation schedule, 3) That mothers and children have a bond not matched by fathers and children and 4) A presumption of joint custody is not inherently in the best interests of the child and any judge who rules as such is ignoring the welfare of the child.

My favorite quotes:

"To make any other decision, a judge must find reasons why joint custody is not in the children's "best interest." This is an ambiguously high legal standard that makes it very difficult for judges to award sole-custody. It is a departure from the traditionally accepted standards determining what's in the best interest of the child based on the biological bond of mother and child and the fact that in the vast majority of cases, the mother is the primary child care provider." (More ambiguous than finding what is in the child's best interest, which this author argues is the "biological" bond between mother and child. Excuse me, but I took biology at some point, and I'm pretty sure there is a "biological" bond between father and child too! Unless we are talking about immaculate conception, maybe Canada has more going on up there than we thought.)

"Most child custody cases are settled through mutual agreement, sometimes aided by mediation, and the overwhelming majority of the time the mother gets custody with the father getting visitation in a way that satisfies both of them." (This is just ridiculous. If the majority of cases were settled through mutual agreement and there were smiles all around, what in the hell would all joint custody legislation be about? Obviously, there is a problem felt by enough to warrant a myriad of father's rights groups, new legislation, etc... We all know these statistics are often used by NOW and are categorically incorrect. Through my first search I found this: This study, conducted in Arizona, showed what the wishes of each parent was, and what the resulting custody decision was:

Fathers Wishes.

Joint Custody: 74%
Paternal Sole Custody: 15%
Maternal Sole Custody: 11%

Mother's wishes.

Maternal Sole Custody: 70%
Joint Custody: 30%

For the conflicting families (Father wanted joint custody, mother wanted sole custody).
Maternal Sole Custody awarded: 77%
Joint Custody awarded: 23%

(Source: Determining the Impact of Joint Custody on Divorcing Families, Sanford Braver, associate professor at the Arizona State University)

"The decrees overwhelmingly favored the mother's custody wishes: 67% of mothers obtained both the legal and residential custody arrangements they desired compared with only 15% of fathers; meanwhile, only 8% of mothers (vs 37% of fathers) found neither stipulation to correspond to their preference."

(Source: Gender Differences in Satisfaction with Divorce Decrees, Sheets & Braver, 1993)

There are also other statistics available ON THIS SITE countering this faulty claim repeatedly made by NOW.)

"Imposed joint custody is "unworkable for uncooperative parents; it is dangerous for women and their children who are trying to leave or have left violent husbands/fathers; it ignores the diverse, complicated needs of divorced families; and it is likely to have serious, unintended consequences on child support." Says NOW." (What precisely would be the unintended consequences in child support? Mothers would no longer get de-facto alimony titled as "support" in the name of the children? Mothers might be expected to support themselves and 50% of their children's needs on their own? My heavens! Whatever will we do with this unintended accountability!)

"NOW warns that, "Forced joint custody is also a top legislative priority of fringe fathers' rights groups nationwide. These groups argue that courts are biased and sole custody awards to mothers deny fathers their right to parent. They allege that, in most cases, mothers are awarded sole custody, with fathers granted visitation rights. The men cite this as proof of bias against fathers."

"The truth is that in 90 percent of custody decisions it is mutually agreed that the mother would be sole custodian. According to several studies, when there is a custody dispute, fathers win custody in the majority of disputed cases." According to NOW."
(Here it is again, mutual agreement, fathers win a majority of custody disputes... Notice NOW only cites several studies, no study titles authors, or dates. Must have slipped their mind. I mean, come on, the findings are so prominent how could you not know this stuff! Women always get screwed, men are oppressors, we (women) are so weak and delicate and intelligence challenged that the courts must be biased in our favor in order for there to be a level playing field. Oh, but BTW, we still want you to "help our children" in the form of cold hard cash. Don't forget to sign the check!! This is a an article on the effects of joint custody and the need for fathers: SPARC)

"NOW says, "The legislature's determination to impose joint custody on parents in conflict is a frightening proposition for many women and places them and their children in harm's way. There is documented proof that forced joint custody hurts children." "In the majority of cases in which there's no desire to cooperate, joint custody creates a battleground on which to carry on the fight," one researcher reported in the legal magazine, The Los Angeles Daily Journal (December 1988)." (I'm not even sure what to say here, NOW speaks more crap... What documented proof? Provide some sources... There is documented proof joint custody is beneficial (see SPARC above), that is the beauty of statistics, you can almost always find some to support your point. The difference is here I'll provide mine, NOW just uses "one researcher" who reported in The Los Angeles Daily Journal. I don't know, but I gotta think that if you go to the card catalog of your library and look up one researcher and the magazine title, you are going to come up with... squat. But then who knows...)

"In "Ongoing Postdivorce Conflict: Effects on Children of Joint Custody and Frequent Access," Janet Johnson and her colleagues compared children in court-ordered joint custody with children in sole-custody homes. In both situations, the parents were in "entrenched conflict." This study showed that under these circumstances frequent shuttling between both parents in joint custody "is linked to more troubled emotional problems" in children than the sole-custody arrangement." They reported." (I just love the "They reported." Anyway, the problem here is that the article says there were conflicts in both scenarios and while they may have been aggravated by joint custody, isn't the real problem the parents? Should we punish, or keep the children from having meaningful and regular contact with one parent because the parents (note the plural) are too stupid to act like adults around each other? That doesn't necessarily negate their ability to properly parent their children and if it did it would require the law to remove the child from the care of both parents, not just one.)

"Imposed joint custody is particularly dangerous to battered women and their children. As the director of the Michigan Domestic Violence and Treatment Board said in her testimony opposing this bill, "...the exchange of children during visitation can be the most dangerous time for the [domestic violence survivor] and her children." (This is a legitimate concern but a ridiculous point. As even the article itself notes, the judge can demonstrate why joint custody is not in the best interests of the child and order sole custody. I'm reaching here, but I think documented abuse would warrant such a decision...)

"My experience with presumptive joint custody as a domestic relations lawyer in Louisiana was almost uniformly negative," said NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy. "It creates an unparalleled opportunity for belligerent former spouses to carry on their personal agendas or vendettas through the children -- and with the blessing of the courts."
"Attorneys often referred to it jokingly as the `lawyer protection act' because repeated trips to court over minor issues kept the fees rolling in, and the mothers were more likely to suffer," Gandy said."
(Well everybody clap for NOW since they seem to be the only ones worth quoting. As if a lawyer who also happens to be the NOW Executive Vice President wouldn't have an agenda or possibly a differing opinion from your run of the mill divorce attorney. But everyone listen to Kim --mothers are more likely to suffer. Now let's bow down and kiss the feet of this impartial, benevolent pedagogue. What on earth would we do without her to suffer for all the meek, half-witted victims (oops, I meant women). God bless the predominately male judiciary who will save them all from having to share their children with the person who shared the responsibility in their creation and pay their own way.)

Oh crap, there is a link to another article by this Flanagan fellow... Guess what!! It is just as moronic and misrepresented. Thankfully I have very little to do at work today...

Link to the first article here: Mother's Rights and Children's Welfare Threatened by Forced Joint Custody (from the Liberation Journal)

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