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It Takes a Village of Lawyers to Raise a Child

Filed under: General — Intrepid @ 3:22 pm Fri 26th January 2007

Dateline: New York, New England
By: Jeff Zeth
From: The Honor Network

Priority News Exchange Program News Item (PNEP)

The title of Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village” is taken from an African folk saying, the point of which is that raising a child is the responsibility of the whole community. While I agree with the sentiment in its widest sense, in New York State, where Senator Clinton now makes her home, the phrase has taken on a new, sinister meaning.

New York’s high court today is scheduled to settle the issue of whether grandparents are entitled to visitation rights.

The New York Sun reports today on the case of a Suffolk County man, a professor at Touro Law School and father of a 13-year-old boy, who is trying to raise his child free of the interference of the boy’s maternal grandmother. She apparently helped in child rearing when the boy was younger, but the relationship between father and grandmother deteriorated sometime after the death of the boy’s mother. Now they’ve got bitter disagreements about basic childrearing and education decisions, Ritalin, and other issues that are ordinarily the province of fit, responsible parents. Keep in mind that no one is challenging the father’s ability to parent his child. He is not charged with being abusive, neglectful, or otherwise being unfit, and custody is not at issue. What is at stake, for this father, is his ability to raise his child according to his values. New York’s family courts, though, have for several years been issuing grandparent visitation orders, and the debate has caused a lot of national controversy, generating six opinions — all of them different — handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court over the past six years.

I have to say right here that I am biased over this issue. My daughter’s maternal grandmother is an overinvolved busybody who, because of living arrangements, sees her more often than I do. I still have a strong memory of her attempts to crowd me away from the bedside during my daughter’s crucial aftercare following surgery. Granted, it was a stressful, heartwrenching time for all of us, but this person’s meddling and intrusiveness reached such a pitch that I had to intervene with hospital staff just to get a little time with my own daughter. I can’t imagine what type of drama could have unfolded if Grandma Nosy had had legal rights in the matter.

New York’s family courts are already telling parents how much they should pay in child support and what enforcement measures will be taken if they don’t pay. They are dictating to parents what type of work they are to engage in, where they can live, how often they can see their own children, and making other decisions normally reserved for parents. They are doing this because mothers are increasingly unable to compromise or to resolve issues on their own in a fair way. Accusing fathers falsely of child abuse or domestic violence puts them on the defensive right away, making them use resources to fight specious allegations instead of helping them move towards an equitable, amicable settlement.

New York State family court judges would do well to read a book by poet and men’s movement pioneer Robert Bly called “The Sibling Society”. In a culture where children are not allowed to be fully children and adults never fully grow up, the distinction between parents, children, and (at this point) grandparents becomes painfully unclear. The society of the half-adult, where everyone is a sibling on equal footing, leads to such absurdities as “sibling rivalry” between an 80-year-old grandmother and a father that can only be resolved by a judge who, in the absence of any other authority, becomes the only parent available. How terribly, terribly sad and destructive for everyone involved — especially the child.

Eliot Spitzer, the state’s new governor, is on the wrong side of this issue. As attorney general he defended the constitutionality of the state law allowing grandparent visitation orders, and as an advocate of more and bigger government, he will likely oppose any efforts at reform. So it’s hard to say how the courts will try to navigate the mess they’ve created, but for now it seems pretty safe to say that the direction of the trend will probably not be towards more parental autonomy. It’s another sign of the deterioration of the state, which, as reported in another New York Sun article late last year, is losing population at an alarming clip.

It may take a village to raise a child, but at this rate the village is going to need its own legal team — and its own village idiot.


  1. Intrepid,

    I read this article on your site but it is nice I can have a say. Being a grandparent is, for my life, a whole other experience. Some of my so called friends (maybe associates, we shall see) are grandparents. Most are older than me but we do discuss this as we are mothers and these are our grandchildren.

    Some of us will be lucky to be allowed to ‘just spoil our grandchildren’ and then hand them back to the parents who will have to put them back in line. But isn’t that our priveledge? Shouldn’t we be allowed to do that? Isn’t that what our parents did?

    Unfortunately, society is so hard on parents having to work two jobs and our children are too spoilt. They expect so much from grandparents now. And what sucks is that we can’t choose their wives or husbands. This is a huge discussion amongst women because we see far too much of what our friends (associates) are going through and we just hope we won’t have to go through that but have a better time.

    I have come to the conclusion that we are not going to have it our way. Those days don’t exist anymore for parents are having to care for thier children today until their late 30’s thanx to the selfish attitudes and the hardships to get ahead in todays society.

    Personally, I don’t think this grandmother is over stepping the line. Unless she is one of a kind yet her daughter would have set boundaries along time before her death.

    This man should be seeing things from the grandmothers point of view as far as i’m concerned.

    Infact, this guy is an intellect dick. IMO. He thinks he is so cool yet he intellect

    Comment by julie — Fri 26th January 2007 @ 4:18 pm

  2. Oh, I posted without finishing. But I am sick of this crap. I listen to intellects. Man, they definately have something to prove to the world.

    Intellects need to come down. You can discuss every problem in the world but you solve none. You have no respect from me until you walk the walk.

    Comment by julie — Fri 26th January 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  3. I mean walk the talk.

    By the way Intrepid, I am not including you in this. You may be an intellectual but you are also practical.

    Comment by julie — Fri 26th January 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  4. Interesting article – I am not challenged as a GrandDAD as long as **Equal** remains in tact – Grand Parents have the right/responcibilty even to spoil and give back as Julie says – The point being how much – I would say a Child should have a relationship with all its Grand Parents if at all possible – Even if it is to learn the bad bits of its DNA structure

    I suggest the rule should be something like – Grands share only a small part of the **Equal** applying to the parent on their side of the family and no more – In this case Mum had died but I think the same should apply

    The child spending only a few hours with the Grand Mum in any week

    Most Grand-Mums I know would be more than happy with spoiling 2/3 hrs per week and giving back the spoilee – would they not?

    Onward – Jim

    Comment by Jim Bailey — Sat 27th January 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  5. Ok, I really don’t care about all this but my teacher at college is making me write a small paper using Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development and Erikson’s theory of emotional development, answering the question,why is the world of half adults so dangerous? All I want to know is what the hell a “half adult” is.

    Comment by Lucinda — Fri 27th April 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  6. Here we are in a world of 50% marriage breakup. I use that as a rough figure, but the point is still clear. These days levels of divorce are astronimical compared to the times before ‘no fault’ divorce became de rigeur.
    I’ve reached the conclusion that whilst it’s important to sort out equitable parenting for divorcees that a tremendous amount of heartache, bullshit and acrimony that would be avoided in the first place by getting rid of the ‘no fault’ divorce law.
    How can any western man feel secure entering a marriage/defacto relationionship when the chances of being stripped of marital assetts, children and future income are so high?
    Been there, done that and like millions of my western brothers now have the scars to prove it.

    To me it’s a no-brainer to be part of the growing men’s marriage strike.
    When our legislators, the media and society in general stop making it so easy and attractive for women to divorce men as a selfish lifestyle option many smart men will re-engage and there won’t be anywhere as much need for painful post-divorce dealings as marriages will last.
    As an aside to this I notice that one of today’s headlines is about rising levels of violence, truancy and stand downs in schools – no wonder with the amount of fatherlessness feminism encouraging women into ‘no fault’ divorce has created in nz.

    Comment by Stephen — Sat 28th April 2007 @ 1:15 pm

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