MENZ Issues May 2000: Volume 5, Issue 4
Compulsory Marriage For Thousands! ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks warns: "The Government will move to shut out the public from having any input on its radical moves to include de facto and same sex couples in marriage law – effectively marrying thousands of unsuspecting New Zealanders."
Shared Parenting Not On Govt. Agenda On May 10th, Labour, Alliance, Green and NZ First MPs voted not to consider Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill. Women’s Affairs Laila Harre claimed that: "Under current legislation parents come to an agreement over custody in the vast majority of cases, with only 5% of applications to the Family Court resulting in contested hearings."
Economist Keith Rankin pointed out that the Minister: "quoted these statistics with the intention that a false inference would be drawn by listeners. The inference that we were meant to make was that 95% of separations are handled without undue and ongoing conflict. Of course, on reflection, it is obvious that the 5% statistic is just the tip of the iceberg. We urgently need better statistical information about broken families, so that these debates don’t take place in an information vacuum."
Shared Parenting – Its Success in the USA Two experts from the USA on shared parenting / joint custody visited New Zealand from 15th to 21st April, giving public presentations in Wellington and Auckland. The main speaker was James Cook, President of the (American) Joint Custody Association since 1979, who has been a major driving force behind the introduction of joint custody in the USA and other countries over several decades. They were able to dispel the widely held misunderstanding amongst politicians and officials in New Zealand that joint custody has not worked in the USA.
Women’s Affairs? When Laila Harre decides to comment on "the best interests of children", as she did in connection with proposed legislation dealing with joint custody, she quotes briefing papers from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, yet makes no reference to having consulted another of her Ministries, Youth Affairs, at all. It is clear that she considers women, and only women, to be the experts regarding children’s best interests.
Labour Opposition to Shared Parenting The Labour Research Unit has produced a document on the Shared Parenting Bill explaining why the Labour Party is opposed to the bill. The example presented has hidden undesirable and outdated assumptions, it ignores several human rights issues (rights to family, children’s rights to both parents), it is based on mothers not working and being supported by men or the taxpayer, and the objection to the arrangement is fiscally driven (it assumes the need for more taxpayer support).
Women’s Affairs Minister Deluded "Ms Harre has got matters completely wrong if she considers shared parenting has been unsuccessful overseas. I personally visited the United States on a fact-finding mission and spent time with various social agencies there. In particular, I was greatly impressed by their custody laws, which are generally vastly superior to what we have here."
NZ Law Society Out Of Touch "The Shared Parenting Bill is directly modeled on overseas family legislation that has been very successful at improving the welfare of children and significantly reducing the litigation between parents. Perhaps then the real reason why the Law Society is so opposed to this Bill is that they fear loss of work for lawyers if families are encouraged to work out their own solutions."
Smokescreen Alert The New Zealand government is reviewing matrimonial property legislation. While everyone is busy debating whether the Act should cover de facto and same-sex relationships, the intention to move toward unequal division of property is not being discussed at all.
Christchurch Father & Child Trust March 2000 Magazine An article by Stuart Birks discusses the case of the man convicted for sending a Christmas present to his daughter. He points out that children siding with one parent, holding unreasonably hostile views of the other and stating opinions which are more in line with adult thinking is an indicator of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Unsurprisingly, the main topic of discussion in the magazine is the Shared Parenting Bill. Ron Thow concludes: "A gradual move toward a more equitable custody environment and the promotion of the children’s rights and needs to have access to both parents, where practicable, can only benefit all involved parties in the long term."
Social Engineering Tucked in behind the issues of gays and those who have chosen not to marry is a little amendment on property division that will change our society forever – Family Court judges will be given the ability to divide property as they see fit. Babies place one of the greatest strains on relationships and soon we will have a good reason for not being around when they turn three.
Solo Mums Die Young Single mothers have a higher risk of early death than those who live with a partner, say researchers. Their risk of suicide was four times higher and their risk of being a victim of domestic violence was five times higher.
Satanic Ritual Abuse Hysteria Flares – Childcare Workers Charged Two childcare-workers and another man have been charged with Ritual Abuse, after the women’s adult daughters recovered memories of sexual abuse by their father, mother and stepfather. The complainants told police that when they were aged eight and ten they were placed on tables as part of a ritual involving several adults dressed in black. A line of red candle wax was placed on one of the girls’ foreheads before her stepfather raped her.
Parenting & Child Development in ‘Non-traditional’ Families review of book edited by Michael Lamb. "Both representative large-scale population studies by sociologists, and small-scale, intensive psychological studies show that children who grow up in single-parent families are disadvantaged psychologically, educationally and economically. Statistical controls for economic consequences do not eliminate the effects..-this subject is too important to be left to ideologues. In cases where children’s and parents’ interests diverge, social science research is critically important both for clarifying the issues for the parents and for informing the policy debate over how best to protect children in families where the biological parents choose to live apart…….Attempts to oversimplify the research in [the domestic violence] area using cliches like ‘intergenerational transmission of violence’ will only hinder our understanding of the process. While it is claimed that exposure to parental violence leads to behaviour problems, "the effects are not as consistent as one might expect."
Dear MENZ Issues, well, I don’t know whether to thank you or not after reading all that info but what I can say for sure is: "Holy heck batman, how the hell did we get into such a mess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Family Courts To Introduce New Urgent Hearings At our latest meeting with Judge Carruthers we established that all the FC round the country will be setting aside a judge for a time each week to deal solely with NCPs (non custodial parents) whose access is being frustrated because of allegations of domestic violence.
Chairman Jim’s Column James Cook and I also spoke much about the building of unity with men’s and fathers’ groups in the States and the difficulties they faced. We especially spoke of the problems between those who major in ‘caring for men’ and those who major in ‘political / advocacy clout’. Men’s Centre North Shore attempts to walk both roads believing the balance to be the healthy way forward. Yes, difficult, refreshing and hopeful. Bottom of the cliff stuff while building the fences that stop or break the fall.
Photo: James Cook explains how Joint Custody benefits American children. Wellington Boatshed meeting April 2000 story here.
Compulsory Marriage For Thousands!
Equal property rights for gay and de facto couples are a virtual certainty after Parliament voted on Thursday 4th May to include them in laws due to be passed soon. Apart from Labour’s Pacific Island MP, Taito Philip Field, MPs voted along party lines despite the conscience vote. Labour, the Greens, the Alliance and United’s Peter Dunne backed the move, while National, Act and NZ First voted against it.
As part of the changes, it is proposed the courts be given discretion to take into account whether future earnings had been disadvantaged by being in a marriage or a relationship.
The motion was needed because the level of amendments to the bill proposed by the government exceed the scope of the Committee of the House as a whole to approve in ordinary circumstances. The government does not wish to allow the bill to be considered again by a Select Committee which would be the alternative.
Jenny Shipley said people who "are currently happily cohabiting have no desire for this Parliament to interfere with their relationship … You are effectively marrying them by default without their choice."
ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks warned: "The Government will move to shut out the public from having any input on its radical moves to include de facto and same sex couples in marriage law – effectively marrying thousands of unsuspecting New Zealanders."
Attorney General, Margaret Wilson says: "The Government proposes extending protections to those couples who have been living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage as determined by the courts for at least three years. There will be options for couples who so desire to opt out of coverage by the new measures as long as they agree to make their own legal arrangements appropriate for any future ending of that relationships."
However there is already scope to override pre-nuptial agreements. There have been efforts for a long time to block whatever means there are to retain assets brought in to a marriage. Note section 18 of the Act on contribution to the marriage partnership (link) and section 21, subsection 8 (link): (8) An agreement under this section shall be void in any case where —(b) The Court is satisfied that it would be unjust to give effect to the agreement.
The Law Society is urging the Government to widely publicise the planned changes to the Matrimonial Property Act. Lawyer Vivienne Ullrich says the changes are complex and the Government needs to ensure those affected are aware of what is planned and able to have their say.
Many lawyers welcome the move, but say the definition of de facto will be the tricky part.
About 236,000 New Zealanders living as couples for more than three years will have to sign "prenuptial" contracts if they do not want to split their belongings equally when they part. The Feb-Mar 2000 MENZ Issues contained an article on asset protection here.
Community reaction to the proposal has varied from enthusiasm to wariness. "If a live-in lover left after three or four years he might want half of the house," warns one man. Christchurch Methodist Mission superintendent David Bromell said it raised new issues for older people who chose not to marry a new partner after the death of a spouse. University of Canterbury Students’ Association president Jarrod Gilbert said the changed law could have a major impact on students who chose to flat with their partner.
Jenny Rankine, writing in Tamaki Makaurau Lesbian Newsletter (link) outlines some of the problems she anticipates: "I believe the very first change the state will make will be to include same sex couples in benefit rules. Thousands of lesbians will lose their only income and become financially dependent on their partners. Thousands of couples who are both on benefits will have their income reduced to the "married" rate. The state will have the right to pry into the sex lives and financial arrangements of all these couples".
A Herald editorial claimed: "Property rights for de facto couples can only be a good thing, especially for their children. There is no quicker way to poverty than when the main income-earner – so often the male – leaves a household."
Jenny Shipley begs to differ: "The Government has raised big questions with its plans to change the law to ‘more fully address situations where there are likely to be significant disparities in income and living standards.’ This sounds like it is a fundamental change to the 50:50 split that New Zealanders have come to rely on. We don’t know how far-reaching it will be but it is potentially highly divisive and there hasn’t been any consultation with the public."
Stephen Franks agrees. He says: "This Government always talks loudly of giving ‘rights’ to some, when in reality, it wants to disguise taking away rights of others – in this case the right to choose to not make a commitment that extends to marriage."
Christian Heritage Party Leader Graham Capill says: "Sinister forces have been at work for a very long time to destroy the family. The Gay Liberation Front Manifesto of 1979 stated blatantly,
We, along with the women’s movement, must fight for something more than reform. We must aim at the abolition of the family so that the sexist, male supremacist system can no longer be nurtured there."
[Compiled from media reports.]
Shared Parenting Not On Govt. Agenda
Photo: Shared Parenting Bill sponsor Muriel Newman addressing the Wellington Boatshed meeting.
On Wednesday May 10th, Labour, Alliance, Green and NZ First MPs voted not to consider Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill.
A briefing document put out by the Minister of Women’s Affairs Laila Harre explained why the Government did not intend to allow this Bill to proceed to a Select Committee. She claimed that the bill would offer less protection than the current guardianship laws. As this ‘protection’ amounts to exactly zilch under the current regime, it is not clear how she imagines Newman’s Bill could make matters worse. She also claimed that:
"Under current legislation parents come to an agreement over custody in the vast majority of cases, with only 5% of applications to the Family Court resulting in contested hearings."
Economist Keith Rankin pointed out that the Minister: "quoted these statistics with the intention that a false inference would be drawn by listeners. The inference that we were meant to make was that 95% of separations are handled without undue and ongoing conflict. Of course, on reflection, it is obvious that the 5% statistic is just the tip of the iceberg. We urgently need better statistical information about broken families, so that these debates don’t take place in an information vacuum." (link). (More on what it means to negotiate ‘in the shadow of the law‘ (link).
Laila Harre also warned that a study of Australian reforms shows that there has been a marked increase in the number of contested applications for contact orders. Clearly increased involvement of fathers is considered an unwelcome outcome, because she asserts that:
"Many of these applications are without merit and are used as a mechanism to harass the resident parent."
Another of the Women’s Affairs arguments against the bill is that:
"The majority of calls for reform to custody law had come consistently from aggrieved non-custodial parents, and in particular father’s rights groups who claimed that the legislation and the Family Court discriminated against them."
The Ministry says these claims were not supported by empirical studies. In this country, studies like this are now hampered because the Family Court has ceased to collect information on the outcome of its activities.
Annette King’s secretary Robin Boldarin issued a statement which claimed that although the Minister of Health supported the purpose of Dr Newman’s Bill, and that seeking to promote fairness is "laudable", her advisers believe the purpose, principles and intentions of the Bill are not likely to be achievable through its provisions.
To many of us, the logical conclusion to draw from these statements would be that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee where the provisions could be refined and improved with input from the community. However the letter simply states bluntly:
"…the Bill is not supported".
King’s statement also says: "Imposing a preferential form of custody order risks the interests of children becoming secondary to the pursuit of that preference."
We couldn’t agree more! The current preferential form (sole mother custody) imposed on families is clearly not in the best interests of children, or society as a whole. Family Court Judges obviously need legislative direction towards the preferential forms of custody which, backed by research, actually are the best for children. The fact is, children generally do best with BOTH their parents.
The statement also suggests: "A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for Maori families may also cut across whanau or hapu based solutions to the custody of children."
Again, a vitally important observation. The Maori community is where the negative effects of fatherless families are having their greatest impact. Under the current regime, the entire extended family is usually cut off when a protection order followed by a loss of custody rips the father abruptly out of a child’s life. Denying children’s rights to contact with their relatives is seldom in their best interests whatever their racial background.
The statement concludes: "The Shared Parenting Bill raises bigger issues about how government can contribute, through policy and agency practice, to encourage good parenting prior to, during and after separation."
The best contribution the government could make would be to allow an open discussion of legislation in a Select Committee where all interested parties can have their say. They should allow their MPs to vote according to what their consciences, and constituents tell them, rather than force them to follow an ideological line. It’s time to move on from the oppositional-style politics of the 20th century where the primary goal was to control the discourse.
There had been some hope that support would come from the Greens, who had previously indicated that they might be prepared to break with tradition and support all worthwhile legislation no matter where it originated.
It’s true that ACT politicians have said some mean and nasty things about the Greens in the past, but mean and nasty things have been said about ACT by Greens as well, both parties presumably motivated by the fact that insults get media attention. An opportunity to realise some of the more ambitious promises of an MMP government has been lost here.
After calling for a Select Committee himself (Feb-March 2000 MENZ Issues here) to discuss exactly this issue, Nandor Tanzcos’ credibility will now be questioned in some quarters.
Jeanette Fitzsimons wrote to Muriel Newman explaining that the Greens were concerned that parts of the bill diminish existing provisions to address family violence and detract from the rights of children.
However she agreed that there is a real problem in access to children for non-custodial parents, and of course access to natural parents for some children. She said that because of their concerns, the Greens had sought and received an assurance from the Government that it will review the Family Court.
Last year, in the article ‘Genetic Engineering: Key Issue Of The New Millennium’, in Soil & Health, Fitzsimons demonstrates that she is not unaware of this "Yes Minister" approach to suppressing unwelcome debate. She wrote:
"We should be particularly alert to attempts to sideline the issues in a Clayton’s enquiry. We should not support a forum which can meet and hear evidence in secret, or one which has narrow terms of reference and cannot consider all aspects [of the technology]. We must not accept narrow "standing" rules which require participants to have an interest greater than the public at large and thus deny participation to most New Zealanders."
Shared Parenting – Its Success in USA
Photo: Bruce Cheriton (left) listens to James Cook outline benefits of joint custody.
Two experts from the USA on shared parenting / joint custody visited New Zealand from 15th to 21st April, giving public presentations in Wellington and Auckland. The main speaker was James Cook, President of the (American) Joint Custody Association since 1979, who has been a major driving force behind the introduction of joint custody in the USA and other countries over several decades. The other was Renee Sperling, a high profile family lawyer from Beverley Hills.
The primary objective of their visit was to brief a wide range of New Zealand politicians, officials, academics, media representatives and special interest groups on the long experience the USA, and particularly California has had of joint custody. They were able to dispel the widely held misunderstanding amongst politicians and officials in New Zealand that joint custody has not worked in the USA.
As our family was visiting Wellington for the school holidays, I left the organisation of the Auckland meeting in Jim Bailey’s hands and caught up with the pair at the Wellington Boatshed on 19th April. The meeting was chaired by Bruce Cheriton of Mana Men’s Rights, and attended by about 50 people.
Dr Muriel Newman, sponsor of the Shared Parenting Bill spoke for the first half of the meeting, while Bruce Tichbon of FARE (Families Apart Require Equality) hustled the two guests in from the airport. She encouraged the audience to support a petition asking for MPs to be given a conscience vote over whether her bill proceeds to a Select Committee. It appears that a number of government MPs would likely support the bill being discussed further if they weren’t being forced to follow the party line by their whips.
James Cook began his presentation with a brief history of the evolution of family law in the USA. We were disturbed to hear that the impetus for change in California only increased significantly when a number of Family Court judges were shot by disgruntled fathers in the late 1970s. It is hoped that New Zealand fathers do not need to go to such extremes before reforms are put in place. Cook then outlined the advantages of shared parenting / joint custody, and answered questions from the receptive audience.
Murial Newman at Wellington Boatshead. By Judith Goodyear (5).
Summary of James Cook’s handout material
Legislators are encouraged to assure, in an order of preference, that the custody decision should least effect the child’s relationship with both parents. An equitable application of joint custody more satisfactorily meets this requirement than sole custody. If there is no rebuttable presumption for joint custody, an otherwise co-operative parent must assume an attack-litigation stance. If parents know the court is likely to award sole custody, they are required to think negatively; to attack and defend.
Adversarial litigation may have merit in criminal or civil cases as a mechanism for eliciting ‘truth’. Family law cases have less bearing on ‘truth’ than with expectations, hopes, moral judgements and personal security in family relations.
Acceptance, forgiveness and co-operation are better social policy goals for a state to encourage than inspiring the alternative of spousal character assassination. The burden of proof should be on the parent seeking to isolate a child from the other parent, and judges should be required to itemise their reasons for declining joint physical custody. If there is conflict, custody should be transferred to the most co-operative and accepting parent as demonstrated by that parent’s custody plan and other submissions.
A legal system that has merely options rather than goals and make decisions on the basis of aggressive adversary litigation perpetrates destructive battles, unless that system is instructed with ‘presumptions’, ‘preferences’, and burden of proof upon the most destructive party.
Prior to a presumption of joint custody being introduced in California in 1979, there was concern that there would be increased litigation. This did not come about, and currently only 5% of Californian cases require a judicial decision. Joint custody decisions have proved least vulnerable to re-litigation. When both parents have equality there is a risk that by initiating litigation contesting the status quo, they may be seen as uncooperative and destructive, thereby loosing custody altogether. This inhibits litigation on frivolous or petty issues. On the other hand, an excluded parent in a sole custody situation looses nothing further by continuing to litigate. A 1980 study in Santa Monica showed that sole custody awards were twice as likely to result in re-litigation. Even in cases where one parent initially opposed joint custody, these decrees proved more stable than sole-custody decisions.
Increased Child Support
A 1979 study in Michigan showed that fathers in regular contact with their children paid 85% of their child support, compared to only 34% by those who had little or no contact. Other studies since then confirm that the frequency of contact demonstrates a positive relationship with the provision of child support. A report on child support arrangements in 1985 suggests that fathers who find visitation awkward and unsatisfying may see their children less and try to ‘forget the past’. Some who are outraged at the custody/visitation set by the court may turn their backs on the affair and simultaneously reduce the amount of support to reflect their grievances.
Infants, toddlers & pre-schoolers
Cook also distributed extracts from Using Child Development Research to make Appropriate Custody and Access Decisions for Young Children, presented in March 2000 to the 22nd Annual Child Custody Colloquium in Los Angeles. The authors are Joan B Kelly and Michael Lamb, head of the section on Social and Emotional Development at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Welfare. They said:
"Decision-makers in family law and mental health fields remain largely ignorant of several decades of research on child development. Psychologists have identified many of the factors that influence the formation of attachment relationships between infants and parents as well as the adverse effects on children of disrupted and distorted parent-child relationships. The development of attachments to parents and caregivers constitute some of the most critical achievements of the first years of life.
Infant-parent attachments promote a sense of security, the beginnings of self-confidence, and the development of trust. It is important to minimise the length of time that infants are separated from their attachment figures, as extended separations unduly stress developing attachment relationships. If they are attached to both parents, as most infants are, this means the lengths of time with each parent need to be adjusted to minimise the time away from the other parent. The benefits of maintaining contact with both parents exceed any special ‘need’ for relationships with the male or female parent.
Children who are deprived of meaningful relationships with one of their parents are at greater risk psychosocially. There is substantial evidence that children are more likely to attain their psychological potential when they are able to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with both their parents. Sole mother custody sacrificed continuity in infant-father relationships, with long-term socio-emotional and economic consequences for children. Literature now documents the adverse effects of severed child-father relationships as well as positive contributions that fathers make to their children’s development."
Letter to the Editor, Dominion.
When Laila Harre decides to comment on "the best interests of children", as she did in connection with proposed legislation dealing with joint custody, she quotes briefing papers from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, yet makes no reference to having consulted another of her Ministries, Youth Affairs, at all. It is clear that she considers women, and only women, to be the experts regarding children’s best interests.
When Laila Harre requires ‘position papers’ on "paid ‘parental’ leave", once again she turns to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to write them, acknowledging no other significant interest group.
When the claim is made to your newspaper that "paid leave would apply equally to men and women" in New Zealand, you print it, as if it were fact, without even attempting to clarify what "equally" may mean and without explicitly identifying the source of the claim.
That is lazy journalism.
I can understand, and do anticipate, the ever-present bias, and the easy corruption of the meaning of commonly used words by the Minister of Women’s Affairs.
I do not see why I, or anyone, should ever have to understand, or accept, the increasingly common journalistic practice of presenting as "fact"
whatever may be alleged by an unidentified, and not quoted, official source.
Labour Opposition to Shared Parenting
The Labour Research Unit has produced a document on the Shared Parenting Bill explaining why the Labour Party is opposed to the bill. It includes the following example:
"Dad earns $25,000, Mum part time 10 hours pw at $10 per hour. Children 4 and 6 years. After separation will only survive financially if Mum obtains the DPB or can somehow earn a professional salary. If 50/50 care both parents would need childcare – they could not afford it on their incomes."
There are some puzzling assertions in this example. After separation they "could not afford it" if there is 50/50 care. Is Labour suggesting that custody decisions should be based on earnings? Is a parent’s higher income grounds for awarding custody to the other parent? Why would mum need "a professional salary" or the DPB? Are they equivalent? How does this fit with "the best interests of the child" being the overriding criterion?
The example seems to assume sole custody to the mother on the basis of earnings. Why have a model where dad is expected to earn the money and mum cares for the kids – isn’t that outdated? What of other options?
Each could work part time. 40 hours pw at $10 an hour gives an annual income of about $20,000, so the actual difference in earning capacity is not even so great. Why is it assumed that the mother would not work more if there is 50/50 care?
What about the involvement of his extended family (grandparents caring for the children sometimes – sole custody potentially halves the child’s extended family)?
There are additional options over time with shared parenting, with both parents maintaining and possibly enhancing their earning power, and one or both could get more qualifications.
If, as is claimed, the separated family is only financially viable if the mother has sole custody, doesn’t this also mean that the father would be unable to support another family? If so, then isn’t Labour condemning the mother to years on the DPB and the father to a life alone, financially supporting a family he may rarely see?
Dismissal of shared parenting on these grounds is surprising when the Minister for Social Welfare is advocating benefit changes intended to make it easier for people to get into work.
The example presented by the Labour Research Unit has hidden undesirable and outdated assumptions, it ignores several human rights issues (rights to family, children’s rights to both parents), it is based on mothers not working and being supported by men or the taxpayer, and the objection to the arrangement is fiscally driven (it assumes the need for more taxpayer support).
Does Labour have a hidden agenda, or are its policies simply ill-conceived and inconsistent?
Stuart’s own excellent website is here: link
Photo: FARE Spokesman Darryl Ward.
Women’s Affairs Minister Deluded
"The Minister for Women’s Affairs, Hon. Laila Harre, must be totally deluded given her short-sighted condemnation of shared parenting", said FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward in response to the Minister’s appearance on Morning Report today.
"Ms Harre has got matters completely wrong if she considers shared parenting has been unsuccessful overseas. I personally visited the United States on a fact-finding mission and spent time with various social agencies there. In particular, I was greatly impressed by their custody laws, which are generally vastly superior to what we have here.
Under their laws, disputing parents are empowered to actually co-operate with each other and everyone wins, especially the children. The only losers are lawyers, psychologists, counsellors and others who previously profited from the suffering of children. "
"We agree with Ms Harre that the welfare of the child should is most important. However, the welfare of children is in reality currently ignored, even though it is stated in law. How can laws that effectively shut one parent out of a child’s life be seen as being in the child’s best interests? Shared parenting on the other hand will in reality ratify the welfare of the child."
"We are however at complete a loss to explain Ms Harre’s most bizarre claim that the New Zealand model of custody laws is ‘highly regarded overseas’. We must ask by whom! After all, New Zealand surely has amongst the worst family law in the world. We have the worst death rate for children under one year, the second highest rate of sole parent families in the industrialised world, the worst youth suicide rate and one of the worst teenage pregnancy rates. Overseas research clearly links such social disasters to children only having one parent."
"It is time to once and for all dispel the myth that most children in sole parent families were abandoned by their fathers. It is a fact that over 70% of divorces in New Zealand are initiated by wives, not husbands.
Your typical absent father is not absent by choice, and he is hindered by the current regime from having any meaningful involvement with his children other than payment of child support."
"There are those who claim that parents who do not live with their children retain guardianship. The reality is that guardianship in practice is not worth the paper it is written on, as any father who has survived a visit to the Family Court can tell you. Only a law change will uphold the right of children to receive love and care from both of their parents, as is enshrined in the United nations Declaration of the rights of the Child, to which New Zealand is a signatory".
"Of course the real losers under the current regime are the children. The horrific social consequences of a child being denied one of its parents are becoming obvious, even though it remains politically correct to be in denial of this fact."
"Only shared parenting will ensure that the welfare of the child truly is paramount", concluded Ward.
NZ Law Society Out Of Touch
"The Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society must be completely out of touch to suggest that Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill is misconceived and fundamentally flawed", said FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward today.
"The Shared Parenting Bill is directly modeled on overseas family legislation that has been very successful at improving the welfare of children and significantly reducing the litigation between parents. Perhaps then the real reason why the Law Society is so opposed to this Bill is that they fear loss of work for lawyers if families are encouraged to work out their own solutions."
"Furthermore, the Shared Parenting Bill encourages equality between mothers and fathers in the family. Yet the Law Society has recently been openly advocating measures that would seriously augment the already serious inequality that exists between parents before the law. If the Law Society is successful, it will not only massively increase the acrimony already caused by the status quo, but greatly increase the litigation, and lawyers’ fees, suffered by separating families".
"The Law Society must have its head in the sand to be unaware of the massive and widespread suffering that is being caused by the our family law regime. New Zealand’s current family law is decades behind the rest of the world because every year it is responsible for the permanent denial to literally tens of thousands of New Zealand children of their right to receive love and care from both of their parents. Dr Newman’s Bill strives to truly make the welfare of the child the first and paramount consideration, unlike the current regime which pays lip service to this concept but in reality causes children needless suffering".
"Our organisation has been approached by many practicing lawyers who have expressed their concern that that the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society is dominated by radical feminist philosophy. Perhaps another reason for the Law Society’s opposition to this Bill is that they wish to continue to alienate the children of divorce from their fathers, which is one of the worst outcomes of the current regime".
"If the New Zealand Law Society really did care about the welfare of children and not just its own welfare and ideology, it would support this Bill being referred to a Select Committee. That way, ordinary New Zealand parents could have their say on this momentous issue," concluded Ward.
The New Zealand government is reviewing matrimonial property legislation.
The headline debate at the moment focuses on the governments announced intention to extend matrimonial property rights to de facto couples and same-sex couples.
The Attorney General, Margaret Wilson, alluded to another significant change being planned when interviewed this morning on National Radio (3rd April).
She said that the Act needs to be changed because the mothers who have stayed home and looked after the children may not be getting enough when the marriage dissolves.
While everyone is busy debating whether the Act should cover de facto and same-sex relationships, the intention to move toward unequal division of property is not being discussed at all.
Christchurch Father & Child Trust March 2000 Magazine
An article by Stuart Birks discusses the case of the man convicted for sending a Christmas present to his daughter (see also Feb-Mar 2000 MENZ Issues here). The man had looked after her for five years until a protection order was taken out and custody went to the mother. Birks notes how loopy this seems to men who have seen their court-ordered access rights ignored by the Family Court. Judge Henwood partly based her decision on the 11-year-old girl’s statement that she wanted her father to keep away, and to have counselling. Birks points out that children siding with one parent, holding unreasonably hostile views of the other and stating opinions which are more in line with adult thinking is an indicator of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Apart from Judge Blaikie describing PAS as "emotional abuse of children" in a 1994 Family Law Journal, the NZ Family Court has shown a remarkable ignorance of and disregard for parental alienation.
A letter from a father complaining that Protection Orders are not available for dads highlighted an ongoing problem we are encountering in Auckland as well. The man says he applied unsuccessfully for an order to protect his children from his violent wife, but interim custody was given to her. Eventually this man won custody of both children, and even obtained damages against CYPS. However, he says "the incessant campaign for my violent wife to have unsupervised access continues unabated", and that he "cannot hold out against unsupervised access taking place without seeming obstinate and paranoid."
Unsurprisingly, the main topic of discussion in the magazine is the Shared Parenting Bill. Ron Thow begins by describing how he and his son’s mother were able to both take an active role in the boy’s upbringing, in an article titled ‘Sharing Parents’. He says he and his ex-partner:
"..were both deeply in love with our son, and at a time when we couldn’t talk about ourselves we were able to talk about him. Gradually, after many false starts and setbacks we found ways to make it work as a parenting team. We slowly created communication and trust where there was none. We have weathered the arrival of new partners and the changes they bring. We have tested each other to new levels of tolerance and set records in forgiveness. All so we can raise our son together. Through him we are connected for life, so we might as well work together rather than against each other."
Thow notes that while shared custody was virtually non-existent in the US in the early1970s, nationally this now accounts for almost a quarter of parenting arrangements, with rates over 50 % in some states. States that have shared custody, such as Wisconsin, also tend to have lower rates of divorce. He mentions research which shows children do better with regular access to their fathers, and are more ‘at risk’ if fatherless, and says it is time for some new options to be introduced into the system. He explains that many of the objections to the bill expressed in the media such as risk of child abuse and avoidance of child support are covered by other, existing legislation which is not compromised by Muriel Newman’s Bill. He concludes:
"A gradual move toward a more equitable custody environment and the promotion of the children’s rights and needs to have access to both parents, where practicable, can only benefit all involved parties in the long term."
Other news about the Christchurch Father & Child Trust reveals that they have joined forces with the local Plunket Society to assist fathers whose partners are attending a post-natal depression programme. The Trust has recently employed a full-time information officer, subsidised by WINZ and the Christchurch Council. Lottery Welfare has also allocated $10,000 to employ a co-ordinator, plus operating costs. They have also launched a series of radio programmes on Plains FM, with funding from the Christchurch City Council. The presenters are Harald Breiding-Buss and Janine Rogers from the Fathering the Future Trust.
The Wellington Father & Child Trust is planning another social policy forum on October 26th similar to the one held in April 1999. This year it will be held at Victoria University and will be titled ‘Parenting and Children’s Rights.’
To subscribe to this magazine send $20 to:
Father & Child Trust
PO Box 26040, Christchurch
Ph/Fax (03) 372 9140
What an interesting society we are about to become when the Relationship Property Act becomes law. We all have seen the effects the DPB has had on the welfare of children, poverty-trapped, under-skilled, under-achieving, all resulting in the mass of social issues we have today. Despite such a sad track record on the rights of children our social engineers believe that they have the solution yet again. Tucked in behind the issues of gays and those who have chosen not to marry is a little amendment on property division that will change our society forever.
Family Court judges will be given the ability to divide property as they see fit, 70/30 to women will not be uncommon and they are not stopping at just tangible assets but also your future income potential.
We have a very sad record of children losing their fathers when relationships fail and we have a disgusting track record of blaming men for all of our social ills so it is little wonder that we are about to enter the next phase and the resulting stupidity. Babies place one of the greatest strains on relationships and soon we will have a good reason for not being around when they turn three.
We will also have a good reason for not having a relationship with women who do not have their own assets or a very good education. The rich get richer. Mind you, they may be fun for a couple of years and then if they turn out ok a prenuptial that she must sign before the three year mark should fix things. Good work for the lawyers.
What we really need is a government that can see that the best way to support children is by providing solid families and the best way of doing that is for both genders to be valued as parents. We need a massive campaign of education that fathers are not just income and we need as much effort into rebuilding relations between the genders as we are putting into the Maori Pakeha divide.
Personally I can’t see it happening with the current bunch of self-righteous victims planning our future society.
Dunedin Father & Child Trust
Father’s Centre: 17 Moray Place
Ph (03) 477 6560
Solo Mums Die Young
Single mothers have a higher risk of early death than those who live with a partner, say researchers. The study into the lives of more than 90,000 women in Sweden, where 20% of all families with children are headed by a lone parent, was published in the April 2000 Lancet. Women who live alone with their children are 70% more likely to suffer premature death. Their risk of suicide was four times higher and their risk of being a victim of domestic violence was five times higher. Women with partners had the smallest risk of dying from suicide, violence, assault, homicide, or alcohol-related causes. (link).
Satanic Ritual Abuse Hysteria Flares – Childcare Workers Charged
Takapuna police believe they have uncovered a Satanic Cult. Two childcare-workers and another man have been charged with Ritual Abuse, after the women’s adult daughters recovered memories of sexual abuse by their father, mother and stepfather.
The couple face charges on 24 alleged sexual offences include rape, sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, indecent assault and anal intercourse.
The complainants told police that when they were aged eight and ten they were placed on tables as part of a ritual involving several adults dressed in black. A line of red candle wax was placed on one of the girls’ foreheads before her stepfather raped her. The older girl alleged that once she was not allowed dinner until she performed oral sex on her stepfather.
Police alerted Child, Youth and Family about the couple’s young child as soon as the two women approached them. CYF sought an order for custody of the child, but the parents appealed to the High Court and fortunately won the right to keep her in their care. The police then arrested them and opposed bail, but they were released and permitted to take their daughter out of town for Easter. The court has placed no restrictions on the couple’s involvement with young children while they are on bail.
The police officer in charge of the case told the Sunday News:
"At this stage, it’s confined to the family. If they’re found guilty, they would have to give up the preschool."
Commissioner for Children Roger McClay said he was shocked education authorities had not been notified. He would seek police assurance the children in the preschool were safe.
However, he said he believed the charges were so serious the couple should not be around children until the case had been through the courts.
"Where there is a hint of accusation of this kind of behaviour, we should do all we can to keep our children safe," said McClay. "I know that is a brutal statement. But we are better to err on the sided of caution."
Hang on a minute, shouldn’t he be insisting that they get it right? Surely erring CYFS workers are a big enough disaster already, without further encouragement from Mr McClay.
In the September 98 Butterworths Family Law Journal editorial written by Psychiatrist Dr Karen Zelas, she expressed:
"a word of caution to those who are concerned about protecting children from the psychological effects of exposure to child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse." She warns that:
"the psychological effects of family disruption, removal of a parent, splitting of families through taking sides for and against a complainant, the loss of the abusing but nethertheless loved parent, and placement in foster care, have significant psychological risks also…In some instances the psychological effects of the above may be greater than the potential psychological effects of suffering the type of abuse alleged. Fashions come and go in relation to State intervention in families".
Satanic Ritual Abuse may have been the ‘fashion’ among social workers in the early 1990s, but the hysteria largely died down when analysis of thousands of cases worldwide concluded that these kinds of ‘memories’, like those of alien abductions or multiple personalities, are artefacts produced by incompetent therapists.
Men’s Centre members are shocked that senior police have allowed this case to proceed, and relieved that at least one High Court judge has some common sense.
More on this case here.
Parenting & Child Development in ‘Non-traditional’ Families – book review.
Edited by Michael Lamb, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999.
The editor of a book on the same subject in 1981, Lamb put this book together to review the literature two decades later. He notes that mainstream theorists and researchers have tended to study traditional, two-parent, middle class, English-speaking families, and points out that this is now not representative of the general population. Currently, about 50% of children will spend at least part of their childhood with only one parent – usually the mother.
This book sets out to examine what is known about the effects of non-traditional childrearing practices on the children concerned. Contributors discuss dual-earner families, non-parental child care, primary caregiving fathers, consequence of father absence, non-custodial parents, effects of divorce and custody arrangements, stepfamilies, adoptive families, gay parents, effects of poverty, violence, and neglect.
Graeme Russell from Macquarie University in Sydney, who made the first study of primary caregiving fathers in 1982, reviews the growing literature on these families. He argues that men need to change if women are to achieve equal opportunities, because male and female sex roles are defined in relation to one another. Increased paternal involvement may be necessary to relieve the stress on working mothers. Research indicates certain personal characteristics of the parents make high father involvement more likely. These include strong beliefs that child care could not satisfy their infant’s needs, and exposure to research findings on the importance of fathers to a child’s development. One early hypothesis was that highly involved fathers would tend to be androgynous, however findings do not give this theory consistent support. There has been surprisingly little research on the effects of high paternal involvement on children, but what there is tends to suggest that the influence is actually minimal. Studies do show there are positive outcomes for fathers, both in improved relationships with their children, and in personal development.
Both representative large-scale population studies by sociologists, and small-scale, intensive psychological studies show that children who grow up in single-parent families are disadvantaged psychologically, educationally and economically. Statistical controls for economic consequences do not eliminate the effects.
Single parents complain of social isolation and lack of emotional and practical support. Growing up with just one biological parent approximately doubles the risk of a child dropping out of high school in the USA. Girls whose fathers are absent are more likely to become teen mothers. Young men from one parent families are 1.5 times more likely to be idle (unemployed) than those with two parents.
The authors on this topic note that these results are surprisingly consistent across multiple surveys and multiple subgroups, indicating confidence in this body of research . They say "-this subject is too important to be left to ideologues. In cases where children’s and parents’ interests diverge, social science research is critically important both for clarifying the issues for the parents and for informing the policy debate over how best to protect children in families where the biological parents choose to live apart."
While stepfathers often improve the economic status of single mothers, this does not eliminate the effects of divorce or single parenthood on children. The entry of stepfathers often compounds the difficulties faced by non-custodial fathers, further weakening their often tenuous relationship with their children.
The tendency of non-custodial fathers to drift out of their children’s lives is noted in four of the papers, with one speculating that conventional ‘visitation’ patterns (and the label itself), disenfranchises fathers. There are few socially-supported, constructive roles that help to establish non-custodial parenting, which is surprising in light of the prevalence of this situation.
When children are involved, divorce policy should disabuse parents of the belief that they can make a clean break of a former spouse. The authors point to a need to alter conventional thinking about the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of custody disputes. A report from the US Commission on Child and Family Welfare (1996) proposed abandoning the distinction between custodial and non-custodial (visiting) parents with new terms that affirm the shared parenting responsibilities that endure after divorce.
The authors of the chapter on lesbian or gay families conclude that: "contrary to widespread belief, children in such families do not appear to be at psychological risk, developing heterosexual identities and well-adjusted psyches at the same rate as in straight families."
Substantial progress has been made in attempts to understand violent and neglectful families, and the diverse effects on children. "From a simplistic knee-jerk judgement that violence or neglect are merely pathological and pathogenic, we have now acquired a broader understanding of the complex and heterogeneous circumstances that complicate efforts to both understand and intervene." However, the authors note that discrepancies between surveys illustrate how difficult it is to develop accurate estimates of incidence of child abuse and other family violence.
While it is recognised that many children are present when their parents are violent, most researchers have focused on male perpetrators and female victims, despite the fact that women and men are equally likely to be victimised. Results also suggest that the most common perpetrators of violence against women may be boyfriends and former partners rather than their children’s father figure.
"Attempts to oversimplify the research in this area using cliches like ‘intergenerational transmission of violence’ will only hinder our understanding of the process." While it is claimed that exposure to parental violence leads to behaviour problems, "the effects are not as consistent as one might expect." There is a growing body of evidence that the reported effects on children vary depending on the source of the reports of the effects, and unfortunately, only a few researchers have attempted to incorporate evidence from fathers as informants.
This book is essential reading for anyone genuinely concerned with ‘the best interests of children’.
Dear MENZ Issues,
Well, I don’t know whether to thank you or not after reading all that info but what I can say for sure is: "Holy heck batman, how the hell did we get into such a mess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Somewhere along the way society got brainwashed into thinking that all guys are bastards. And the worst thing is that they were all sitting at home discussing it while the poor "bastards" were slogging their guts out to provide for their families at a job they probably hated!
After consideration of the MENZ Issues articles, I’m probably not as anxious as I was a couple of nights ago. Since this saga began my sole aim in life has been to gain custody of my son [with an option to gain custody of my stepson if at all possible]. I believed that nothing less would be acceptable and that the safety of my son was dependant on that outcome. To an extent that is still true, however in reading those articles it’s blatantly obvious, that outcome could be about as real as "the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow".
I had my first access visit today which was absolutely GRAND!!! It wasn’t a moment too soon because David had forgotten already who I was. It took about 45 minutes for him to be completely relaxed. I mention this because I believe that even if you as a father are totally in the right there maybe a lot of giving involved for you to even get just a little of what is your RIGHT as a father. I learnt that wrong and right doesn’t come into the equation and thankfully I’ve learnt that early on in this saga. But if you want to get access to your child you may have to put your desire for vindication aside. It was absolutely terrifying seeing that my son after only 5 weeks had already forgotten my face and I can tell you I have spent a hell of a lot of time with him since the day he was born!!!
Above all else it is crucial to gain access as soon as possible. I believe that in putting that goal as a priority my lawyer has done me an enormous favour. It is amazing what contact with your child can do for you emotionally, physically and mentally.
To get to this stage I had to surrender my passport, as well as allow my name to listed with Interpol so that I can’t leave the country.
It would seem that I have a lawyer who is partial to shared parenting and this has given me some hope of a reasonable outcome.
So how do I promote myself as a good DAD? It seems a ridiculous question, but when you are a dad you just do it. You don’t really stop to analyse all the things you do, you’re always too busy just getting on with it! So how do you get others to see your worth as a father?
By the way I have no objection to your publishing of any of my correspondence with you. Just from reading the articles you have directed me to has been of great assistance and encouragement and if my story can help another in the same way that would make me happy.
Thank you very much for your enlightenment.
Family Courts To Introduce New Urgent Hearings
At our latest meeting with Judge Carruthers we established that all the FC round the country will be setting aside a judge for a time each week to deal solely with NCPs (non custodial parents) whose access is being frustrated because of allegations of domestic violence. This is an informal hearing and lawyers are not required. The custodial parent will be notified but her attendance is not required. The aim is to reestablish access – especially while the argument rages. I have assumed that the fathers reading this will be aware of the magnitude of a DV charge on your access – it stuffs it completely.
The hearing can be requested simply by writing a letter to the Registrar of the Court or the FC judge: suggested format follows:
Your Honor, I wish to avail myself of the urgent hearing facility, instituted by Judge Carruthers, to deal with issues of access and domestic violence allegations.
Then tell your problems briefly confining them to the issue of access being interrupted by a DV allegation or a DPO being imposed. It may pay to get an affidavit testifying that you are not violent towards the children.
We need to use this facility to prove its necessity and we need to use it responsibly.
Mana Men’s Rights.
Chairman Jim’s Column
Photo: Jim Bailey & son Javan.
Things are really warming up on the ‘access dad’ side of my life. I seem to have gained much of what I wanted from negotiations through a Family Court counselor. Javan is about to have my surname and we now have agreement to formalise equal/joint custody. He is now training for the Olympics as a swimmer. Informal music training is well underway. And not to forget our full page story in the little treasures magazine next month, they have even risked a photo, taxi and all.
The confirmations for Vision Day 2000 are keeping me busy. I look forward to many new faces at this further attempt to build our community of men and get a clear vision for the growing management team to work towards.
It was my pleasure to spend almost the last 24 hrs of the NZ tour with our guests from the USA. James Cook has a wealth of experience on ‘Shared Parenting’ and more than proves his abilities to insert this into law with 48 states of America now using it as the benchmark. It has substantially improved family law, social policy and the ensuing continuing relationships of children with their own parents who chose to separate. The public meeting had its moments but I believe inspired many and certainly affected four politicians.
James and I also spoke much about the building of unity with men’s and fathers’ groups in the States and the difficulties they faced. We especially spoke of the problems between those who major in ‘caring for men’ and those who major in ‘political / advocacy clout’.
Men’s Centre North Shore attempts to walk both roads believing the balance to be the healthy way forward. Yes, difficult, refreshing and hopeful. Bottom of the cliff stuff while building the fences that stop or break the fall. James will forward me much detail in due course and speak with a range of inspiring speakers who may be prepared to visit to help us build our NZ-wide community of men.
Watch our law and social policy change quickly for the better once men and fathers unite for the sake of their children and value their own paternal and male mentor influence above their differences.
Regards to all,