Gender Bias Against Fathers in Domestic Relations Cases

January 11, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Father's Rights Articles

The magazine of the American Bar Association’s

Family Law Section

Spring 1993


To The Editor:

My hat is off to the American Bar Association and the Editorial Board of the Family Advocate for their decision to devote an entire issue to “The Father’s Custody Case”, even though two members of your Board offered their resignations over the decision. Sadly, the magazine lacked the journalistic integrity to acknowledge the obvious legal conclusion that leapt out from every page:

GENDER BIAS AGAINST FATHERS IS SO PERVASIVE THAT OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM ROUTINELY VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHTS OF DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTION OF MOST FATHERS IN CUSTODY CASES.

Why did the magazine fail to promote an immediate end to the gender bias it freely acknowledged BUT FAILED to condemn?

Gender bias against fathers in domestic relations is so ingrained that most people fail to recognize it even when it is admitted. People who have not experienced the devastating consequences of appearing as a father in our nation’s divorce courts fail to recognize the discrimination from such bias. Imagine the horror and outrage which would have resulted if the following statements had been made about racial bias in our courts:

Many lawyers who responded to our survey believe there is no inherent bias in how they represent an African American criminal defendant versus a white defendant, but they concede that they handle African American cases differently. Like Norman Robbins of Birmingham, Michigan, many felt that generally both races come to court without any legal advantage or presumptions based on race. “However,” Robbins acknowledged, “most of our judges were raised in a white culture. We plan our presentation differently when representing an African American in order to overcome the sub-rosa inborn prejudice.”

A black man cannot simply show the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, he must prove himself innocent.

Geoff Hamilton views judicial bias in terms of the human condition. “I suspect all of us–lawyers, judges, social workers have certain unconscious biases, i.e. blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites. But, again, that may in fact be true as a general proposition.”

An African American and his attorney must convince the judge that the African American criminal defendant is a responsible citizen with a law abiding zeal that overcomes stereotypes of the African American criminal tendencies.

I only take African American criminal cases where there is a reasonable chance of winning as I have had a number of good cases in which the African American ‘wimped out’ and accepted a plea bargain. I test the African American client’s dedication to pleading innocent by asking for a bigger retainer and I have serious heart-to-heart talks with the client.

Thomas J. Jedinak of Columbus concedes that African American criminal defendants have a tougher time obtaining a not guilty verdict.

Geoff Hamilton of Honolulu, Hawaii put it more bluntly, “You start off with the proposition that the judge will presume your African American client is guilty as charged.

Other lawyers said that a few judges were openly suspicious of African American criminal
defendants pleading innocent. These courts look for ulterior motives, such as a desire to irritate the prosecutor.

A respondent who preferred to remain anonymous noted one important distinction between how he evaluated blacks and whites in child custody matters. When a black seeks custody of his or her children, he pays “more attention to the potential for violence, sexual perversions, and motives to reduce or obtain child support.”

George R. Holmes of Columbia, South Carolina, takes one giant step further. He says that the prosecutor must be “blatantly psychotic, for him not to find any Negro charged with a crime, guilty as charged”.

It is time for the domestic relations bar to take a long hard look at the unconstitutional treatment of fathers. The Family Law Section of the American Bar Association should take the lead and formally denounce the current gender bias as pervasive and unconstitutional. The National Congress for Men and Children requests the Family Advocate recommend the formation of GENDER BIAS COMMISSIONS to document the nature and extent of gender bias in all domestic relations matters. In addition, our Litigation Committee invites contributions to mount a major attack in federal court.

After our funding reaches $100,000 we will file a suit in federal court seeking to address such issues. The funds will only be spent on costs to bring the case, travel and out-of pocket expenses of attorneys and experts, data analysis and public relations; i.e. all legal and expert witnesses’ time will be donated or paid from other sources. The fund we have established is formally restricted by the Board of Directors and has been named: The National Association For the Advancement of Concerned Fathers (NAACF). All contributions are tax deductible. A complete accounting of the funds will be sent to all individuals making a donation of $100 or more and all other contributors who make a written request for an accounting.

As succinctly stated by the Editor, Arnold H. Rutkin, “limiting a mom’s or dad’s parenting to visits every other weekend or large blocks of the summer robs a child of a meaningful relationship with two parents and predisposes the child to a dysfunctional view of family life.” If the Family Advocate is dedicated to the best interest of children, it should actively pursue immediate and substantial reformation of the gender biased domestic relations policies and practices in the United States.

Phillip J. Holman, Esq.

Chair, Litigation Committee

National Congress For Men and Children

Legislation Is Disastrous For Noncustodial Fathers

March 19, 1993  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Legislative

The Detroit Legal News  

FRIDAY, MARCH I 9, 1993

(Editor’s Note: This letter by Travis Ballard, a lawyer in Adrian, was submitted by the National Congress For Men and Children in reference to House Bills 4135-4138)

I am submitting this letter in the hopes that our citizens and our Legislature will wake up in time to prevent the loss of an untold number of lives in the State of Michigan. The legislation presently pending in the Michigan House was approved in Committee on March 10, 1993, and is expected to be promptly enacted. It involves the latest attempt to coerce child support collections by authorizing and directing the loss of driver’s licenses and occupational licenses of individuals with child support arrearages.

Although supported by many well intentioned individuals, the proposed legislation is poorly drafted and will result in destroying far more people than it benefits. In the final analysis, the amount of child support collected will undoubtedly decrease.

Child support enforcement agencies refuse to consider the legitimate concerns of non-custodial parents, which primarily concern the areas of access to their children, the necessary accountability over the use of the child support payments and the reasonableness of the amount awarded.

The emotional agony in divorce involving children is inherently intense. When child support enforcement agencies ignore due process and prefer one gender and over the other, it generates absolute frustration and despair. Most of the fathers who will suffer sanctions under these provisions will be financially unable to pay. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 66 percent of custodial mothers stated the reason they were not receiving financial child support was financial inability to pay.
However, few fathers will receive any sympathy or concern from a system that views them solely as objects to be manipulated, instead of loving parents caught up in the emotional and financial crisis of a divorce.

Most of our judges were raised mainly by their mothers (fathers working). As a result, fathers are unable to overcome the subrosa inborn prejudice and are treated with more contempt than shown to violent criminals. Consequently, their financial inability to pay will be ignored. Most will already have lost their homes, the ability to parent their children and already have an extremely high incidence of suicide. Taking the additional steps of removing their ability to drive and their ability to earn a living is certain to push many over the edge. Many will decide they have nothing left to live for.

Although I condemn violence and certainly recognize that violence in domestic relations matters only diminish fathers’ rights and the public sympathy for our plight, this legislation is certain to result in substantial loss of life. How many fathers will commit suicide and how many will improperly and unjustly face financial ruin before enough people recognize that our system must treat fathers with the concern and respect they deserve?

The proponents of the bills are primarily concerned that the Friend of the Court lacks an effective tool to collect child support from independent contractors who cannot be subjected to withholding by their employer. However, even this group is likely to have many unintended victims.

Unfortunately, the bills go too far and are certain to be applied inappropriately to destroy many loving fathers whose only crime is being male in a society that somehow fails to understand that divorced fathers love their children and strive to provide for their financial and emotional needs.

Some of the worst aspects of the legislation which desperately need amending, are the following:

l. There is little, if any, public policy reason to raise alimony to this level of punitive enforcement.

2. Ability to pay as defined in House Bill 4138 Section 26 (A)(4) is far too vague. At a minimum, the act must allow courts to consider the hardship to the payer and his family. The act implies the payer can magically obtain funds from a source other than currently available resources.

3. The bills allow suspension of licenses even though an income withholding order is in effect if it “has not been successful in compelling compliance with a support order.” By definition, if the withholding order cannot compel compliance-the payer has inadequate income to pay the amount of the order.

4. The notice provisions should require personal service. Imposing the obligation on the payer to keep the Friend of the Court informed of his or her address will result in many individuals failing to receive actual notice. Many fathers will have notified the Friend of the Court and the file will never be corrected, the required notice will be improperly addressed, lost in the mail or inadvertently misplaced at the payers residence (e.g. by a roommate or relative).

5. Allowing only 14 days after notice is mailed to request a hearing is far too short. After deducting the days lost in mailing, an individual out of town to look for a job, a death in the family or on vacation will never have an opportunity to request a hearing.

6. The bills allow the payer to seek a modification of his support order. However, an individual in such situations is likely to be unwilling to risk incurring the wrath of the referee who holds, what amounts to power of life and death over his head. Consequently, the referee should have the affirmative duty to determine that a downward modification is not then appropriate.

7. The law will require the Court to order a suspension if a payer fails to comply with an arrearage payment schedule. This provision will destroy many individuals who are unable to make the arrearage payments scheduled. Moreover, no clear guidelines are provided to the court in making its determination of the schedule for payment of the arrearage.

8. The court is directed to presume that the payer has Currently available resources equal to four weeks of the amount due under the order, in the absence of proof to the contrary. Few payers will be able to provide the “proof” required to satisfy a skeptical judge. When applied to license revocation, the inevitable injustice is inexcusable.

9. The Friend of the Court or a party should be required to seek, and the courts should be absolutely required to impose, the same sanctions for:

a) Repeated failure to comply with a visitation order; and

b) Repeated false allegations of physical or sexual child abuse.

10. Since the proposed legislation is only justifiable if it benefits children of divorce, lets make sure all of the money is spent on the children by requiring the funds to be deposited in a separate bank account and an annual statement of how such funds are spent filed with the Friend of the Court and mailed to the payer. If Social Security benefits paid for the benefit of a dependant child when a parent dies justifies such accountability, surely the far greater amounts generally paid in the form of child support, merit equal or greater concern.

Sincerely,

Travis Ballard

President
 National Congress for
 Men and Children

(Written by Phillip Holman on behalf of Travis Ballard).


Turning Loving Fathers Into Visitors

June 25, 1992  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Legislative

State wants to go after ‘deadbeat dads’who fail to make child support payments

By Kenneth Cole

DETROIT NEWS LANSING BUREAU

LANSING — Despite a good record of collecting child support, Michigan wants to crack down further on “deadbeat dads” by having courts report them to credit bureaus the state’s social services director said Wednesday.

Gerald Miller said the move would generate additional federal dollars for the cash-starved state and strength- en families, particularly those dependent on welfare.

The measure is part of Gov. John Engler’s plan to reform Michigan’s welfare system and is one in a series of bills aimed at penalizing dads who fail to pay child support.

Other bills would prevent fathers from renewing their driver’s licenses, professional licenses and automobile registrations. The package could go into effect as early as Oct. 1, when the 1993 fiscal year begins.

“The bottom line is we want to make Michigan as strong as possible in child support collection,” Miller told a House committee on social services. “We’re doing a reasonably good job in this area right now, but that’s not good enough.”

Michigan ranks second among the 50 states in child support collection, behind Pennsylvania.

Still, among households receiving aid to families with dependent children (ADC), 12 percent of child support is collected, and $2.4 billion in court-ordered child support goes uncollected annually in the state, according to Department of Social Services records.

“Just think of the implications (for the families) if we can get just 10 percent of that money,” Miller said.

The House Judiciary Committee may take up the bills Thursday.

One measure would require Friend of the Court officers to report to credit bureaus fathers who are more than $1,000 behind in child support.

“They don’t want that on their credit record,” Miller said. “It gives us another tool in our arsenal.”

Added Karen Smith, DSS communications chief: “For every dollar we can bring to a family–whether they’re on public assistance or just low income–the less it has to rely on the state.

“Plus, if we fail in our ability to get child support dollars, children are deprived of something to which they are entitled.”

Phil Holman, interim president of the Michigan chapter of the National Congress for Men and Children called the bills “outrageous.”

“When parents are allowed access to their children, the problem of noncompliance disappears,” Holman said, charging that much of the information the state is using to launch its attack on dads comes from bitter mothers.

“Domestic relations in this country turns loving fathers into visitors,” he said.

THE DETROIT NEWS
Thursday, June 26, 1992

Schools Add Trauma for Children of Divorce

March 21, 1991  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Father's Rights Articles

By Phillip J. Holman, Esq.

 

President, National Congress For Fathers and Children

 

To the editor:

 

Diversity concerns do not end with race, national origin, etc. The prejudice today towards noncustodial parents is reminiscent of the racial bigotry in Alabama in the ’30s, i.e. where awareness of the discrimination existed, it was considered a “God given right.”

One half of our students live within the emotionally devastating tug-of-war of their parents’ divorce. Recent publications suppress surprise that the attendant emotional scars are significantly more acute and long term than anyone expected. Although children aren’t supposed to like “being bounced around,” they were expected to bounce back quickly from divorce. Unfortunately, to fit in with their peers, children of divorce deny their feelings until they are expressed through substance abuse, pregnancy, etc.

The policy of our schools appears twofold: ignore the problem and maybe it will go away; and do not show any concern for the nonresidential parent. Families are forced, like the proverbial square pegs, into traditional family molds. Our schools actively discourage the involvement of both parents. For example, emergency cards, address lists and virtually all other forms only provide one space to list home address and telephone numbers. Such information (and in fact virtually all information, school work, etc.) Is sent home with the child on days least likely to be received by the nonresidential parent who traditionally is relegated to “visiting” on alternate weekends and Wednesdays.

After being told that the failure to turn in homework was the result of spending weekends with the nonresidential parent, most teachers have decided not to assign homework on weekends. Such a decision, albeit a short term solution which successfully ends the finger pointing, also serves to further undermine the parent-child relationship and attenuate the nonresidential parent’s involvement and commitment to the child’s academic progress.

 One current program is a series of support groups which reassures children that the divorce was not their fault. Unfortunately, the material provides substantial misinformation and stereotypical biases. The material presents the worst stereotypes about divorce. No mention is made of the gender based bias of our court system or that custody is to be based primarily on the best interest of the child. Our children aren’t informed of joint custody, that “custody” defines them as property to be awarded to the “better” parent or that “visitation” is as derogatory as any racial epithet.

The school does not want to “get caught in the middle” of the war. However, we are charged with creating significant contributors to our global society. How can we do this and continue to exacerbate the most traumatic experience of half of our students?

 

Phillip J. Holman

 


Thursday, March 21, 1991

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