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Fathers lose bid for equal custody rights after review of family law PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Tim Shipman   

Fathers’ hopes of securing equal rights over their children will be dashed tomorrow when a review of family law is published.

Plans to give parents equal rights to share custody of their children in the event of a split have been rejected by the Family Justice Review, led by former civil servant and businessman David Norgrove.

In a further blow to fathers’ rights campaigners, the Norgrove Report will also reject calls to enshrine in law the principle that children should have a ‘meaningful relationship’ with both their mother and father.

The Return of Patriarchy PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Phillip Longman   

Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.

"If we could survive without a wife, citizens of Rome, all of us would do without that nuisance." So proclaimed the Roman general, statesman, and censor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, in 131 B.C. Still, he went on to plead, falling birthrates required that Roman men fulfill their duty to reproduce, no matter how irritating Roman women might have become. "Since nature has so decreed that we cannot manage comfortably with them, nor live in any way without them, we must plan for our lasting preservation rather than for our temporary pleasure."

With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population -- at least until plague or starvation sets in. It is an assumption that not only conforms to our long experience of a world growing ever more crowded, but which also enjoys the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas Malthus and his many modern acolytes.

Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next -- from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East.

Fearful of a future in which the elderly outnumber the young, many governments are doing whatever they can to encourage people to have children. Singapore has sponsored "speed dating" events, in hopes of bringing busy professionals together to marry and procreate. France offers generous tax incentives for those willing to start a family. In Sweden, the state finances day care to ease the tension between work and family life. Yet, though such explicitly pronatal policies may encourage people to have children at a younger age, there is little evidence they cause people to have more children than they otherwise would. As governments going as far back as imperial Rome have discovered, when cultural and economic conditions discourage parenthood, not even a dictator can force people to go forth and multiply.

Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.

Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents' investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system -- which involves far more than simple male domination -- maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn't were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback.

The Conservative Baby Boom

The historical relation between patriarchy, population, and power has deep implications for our own time. As the United States is discovering today in Iraq, population is still power. Smart bombs, laser-guided missiles, and unmanned drones may vastly extend the violent reach of a hegemonic power. But ultimately, it is often the number of boots on the ground that changes history. Even with a fertility rate near replacement level, the United States lacks the amount of people necessary to sustain an imperial role in the world, just as Britain lost its ability to do so after its birthrates collapsed in the early 20th century. For countries such as China, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, in which one-child families are now the norm, the quality of human capital may be high, but it has literally become too rare to put at risk.

Falling fertility is also responsible for many financial and economic problems that dominate today's headlines. The long-term financing of social security schemes, private pension plans, and healthcare systems has little to do with people living longer. Gains in life expectancy at older ages have actually been quite modest, and the rate of improvement in the United States has diminished for each of the last three decades. Instead, the falling ratio of workers to retirees is overwhelmingly caused by workers who were never born. As governments raise taxes on a dwindling working-age population to cover the growing burdens of supporting the elderly, young couples may conclude they are even less able to afford children than their parents were, thereby setting off a new cycle of population aging and decline.

Declining birthrates also change national temperament. In the United States, for example, the percentage of women born in the late 1930s who remained childless was near 10 percent. By comparison, nearly 20 percent of women born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives without having had children. The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, will leave no genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the next generation compare with that of their parents.

Meanwhile, single-child families are prone to extinction. A single child replaces one of his or her parents, but not both. Nor do single-child families contribute much to future population. The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one's own folk or nation.

This dynamic helps explain, for example, the gradual drift of American culture away from secular individualism and toward religious fundamentalism. Among states that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, fertility rates are 12 percent higher than in states that voted for Sen. John Kerry. It may also help to explain the increasing popular resistance among rank-and-file Europeans to such crown jewels of secular liberalism as the European Union. It turns out that Europeans who are most likely to identify themselves as "world citizens" are also those least likely to have children.

Does this mean that today's enlightened but slow-breeding societies face extinction? Probably not, but only because they face a dramatic, demographically driven transformation of their cultures. As has happened many times before in history, it is a transformation that occurs as secular and libertarian elements in society fail to reproduce, and as people adhering to more traditional, patriarchal values inherit society by default.

At least as long ago as ancient Greek and Roman times, many sophisticated members of society concluded that investing in children brought no advantage. Rather, children came to be seen as a costly impediment to self-fulfillment and worldly achievement. But, though these attitudes led to the extinction of many individual families, they did not lead to the extinction of society as a whole. Instead, through a process of cultural evolution, a set of values and norms that can roughly be described as patriarchy reemerged.

Population Becomes Power

In the primordial past, to be sure, most societies did not coerce reproduction, because they had to avoid breeding faster than the wild game on which they fed. Indeed, in almost all the hunter-gatherer societies that survived long enough to be studied by anthropologists, such as the Eskimos and Tasmanian Bushmen, one finds customs that in one way or another discouraged population growth. In various combinations, these have included late marriage, genital mutilation, abortion, and infanticide. Some early hunter-gatherer societies may have also limited population growth by giving women high-status positions. Allowing at least some number of females to take on roles such as priestess, sorcerer, oracle, artist, and even warrior would have provided meaningful alternatives to motherhood and thereby reduced overall fertility to within sustainable limits.

During the eons before agriculture emerged, there was little or no military reason to promote high fertility. War and conquests could bring little advantage to society. There were no granaries to raid, no livestock to steal, no use for slaves except rape. But with the coming of the Neolithic agricultural revolution, starting about 11,000 years ago, everything changed. The domestication of plants and animals led to vastly increased food supplies. Surplus food allowed cities to emerge, and freed more people to work on projects such as building pyramids and developing a written language to record history. But the most fateful change rendered by the agricultural revolution was the way it turned population into power. Because of the relative abundance of food, more and more societies discovered that the greatest demographic threat to their survival was no longer overpopulation, but underpopulation.

At that point, instead of dying of starvation, societies with high fertility grew in strength and number and began menacing those with lower fertility. In more and more places in the world, fast-breeding tribes morphed into nations and empires and swept away any remaining, slow-breeding hunters and gatherers. It mattered that your warriors were fierce and valiant in battle; it mattered more that there were lots of them.

That was the lesson King Pyrrhus learned in the third century B.C., when he marched his Greek armies into the Italian peninsula and tried to take on the Romans. Pyrrhus initially prevailed at a great battle at Asculum. But it was, as they say, "a Pyrrhic victory," and Pyrrhus could only conclude that "another such victory over the Romans and we are undone." The Romans, who by then were procreating far more rapidly than were the Greeks, kept pouring in reinforcements -- "as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city," the Greek historian Plutarch tells us. Hopelessly outnumbered, Pyrrhus went on to lose the war, and Greece, after falling into a long era of population decline, eventually became a looted colony of Rome.

Like today's modern, well-fed nations, both ancient Greece and Rome eventually found that their elites had lost interest in the often dreary chores of family life. "In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and a general decay of population," lamented the Greek historian Polybius around 140 B.C., just as Greece was giving in to Roman domination. "This evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life." But, as with civilizations around the globe, patriarchy, for as long as it could be sustained, was the key to maintaining population and, therefore, power.

Father Knows Best?

Patriarchal societies come in many varieties and evolve through different stages. What they have in common are customs and attitudes that collectively serve to maximize fertility and parental investment in the next generation. Of these, among the most important is the stigmatization of "illegitimate" children. One measure of the degree to which patriarchy has diminished in advanced societies is the growing acceptance of out-of-wedlock births, which have now become the norm in Scandinavian countries, for example.

Under patriarchy, "bastards" and single mothers cannot be tolerated because they undermine male investment in the next generation. Illegitimate children do not take their fathers' name, and so their fathers, even if known, tend not to take any responsibility for them. By contrast, "legitimate" children become a source of either honor or shame to their fathers and the family line. The notion that legitimate children belong to their fathers' family, and not to their mothers', which has no basis in biology, gives many men powerful emotional reasons to want children, and to want their children to succeed in passing on their legacy. Patriarchy also leads men to keep having children until they produce at least one son.

Another key to patriarchy's evolutionary advantage is the way it penalizes women who do not marry and have children. Just decades ago in the English-speaking world, such women were referred to, even by their own mothers, as spinsters or old maids, to be pitied for their barrenness or condemned for their selfishness. Patriarchy made the incentive of taking a husband and becoming a full-time mother very high because it offered women few desirable alternatives.

To be sure, a society organized on such principles may well degenerate over time into misogyny, and eventually sterility, as occurred in both ancient Greece and Rome. In more recent times, the patriarchal family has also proved vulnerable to the rise of capitalism, which profits from the diversion of female labor from the house to the workplace. But as long as the patriarchal system avoids succumbing to these threats, it will produce a greater quantity of children, and arguably children of higher quality, than do societies organized by other principles, which is all that evolution cares about.

This claim is contentious. Today, after all, we associate patriarchy with the hideous abuse of women and children, with poverty and failed states. Taliban rebels or Muslim fanatics in Nigeria stoning an adulteress to death come to mind. Yet these are examples of insecure societies that have degenerated into male tyrannies, and they do not represent the form of patriarchy that has achieved evolutionary advantage in human history. Under a true patriarchal system, such as in early Rome or 17th-century Protestant Europe, fathers have strong reason to take an active interest in the children their wives bear. That is because, when men come to see themselves, and are seen by others, as upholders of a patriarchal line, how those children turn out directly affects their own rank and honor.

Under patriarchy, maternal investment in children also increases. As feminist economist Nancy Folbre has observed, "Patriarchal control over women tends to increase their specialization in reproductive labor, with important consequences for both the quantity and the quality of their investments in the next generation." Those consequences arguably include: more children receiving more attention from their mothers, who, having few other ways of finding meaning in their lives, become more skilled at keeping their children safe and healthy. Without implying any endorsement for the strategy, one must observe that a society that presents women with essentially three options -- be a nun, be a prostitute, or marry a man and bear children -- has stumbled upon a highly effective way to reduce the risk of demographic decline.

Patriarchy and Its Discontents

Patriarchy may enjoy evolutionary advantages, but nothing has ensured the survival of any particular patriarchal society. One reason is that men can grow weary of patriarchy's demands. Roman aristocrats, for example, eventually became so reluctant to accept the burdens of heading a family that Caesar Augustus felt compelled to enact steep "bachelor taxes" and otherwise punish those who remained unwed and childless. Patriarchy may have its privileges, but they may pale in comparison to the joys of bachelorhood in a luxurious society -- nights spent enjoyably at banquets with friends discussing sports, war stories, or philosophy, or with alluring mistresses, flute girls, or clever courtesans.

Women, of course, also have reason to grow weary of patriarchy, particularly when men themselves are no longer upholding their patriarchal duties. Historian Suzanne Cross notes that during the decades of Rome's civil wars, Roman women of all classes had to learn how to do without men for prolonged periods, and accordingly developed a new sense of individuality and independence. Few women in the upper classes would agree to a marriage to an abusive husband. Adultery and divorce became rampant.

Often, all that sustains the patriarchal family is the idea that its members are upholding the honor of a long and noble line. Yet, once a society grows cosmopolitan, fast-paced, and filled with new ideas, new peoples, and new luxuries, this sense of honor and connection to one's ancestors begins to fade, and with it, any sense of the necessity of reproduction. "When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard 'having children' as a question of pro's and con's," Oswald Spengler, the German historian and philosopher, once observed, "the great turning point has come."

The Return of Patriarchy

Yet that turning point does not necessarily mean the death of a civilization, only its transformation. Eventually, for example, the sterile, secular, noble families of imperial Rome died off, and with them, their ancestors' idea of Rome. But what was once the Roman Empire remained populated. Only the composition of the population changed. Nearly by default, it became composed of new, highly patriarchal family units, hostile to the secular world and enjoined by faith either to go forth and multiply or join a monastery. With these changes came a feudal Europe, but not the end of Europe, nor the end of Western Civilization.

We may witness a similar transformation during this century. In Europe today, for example, how many children different people have, and under what circumstances, correlates strongly with their beliefs on a wide range of political and cultural attitudes. For instance, do you distrust the army? Then, according to polling data assembled by demographers Ronny Lesthaeghe and Johan Surkyn, you are less likely to be married and have kids-or ever to get married and have kids-than those who say they have no objection to the military. Or again, do you find soft drugs, homosexuality, and euthanasia acceptable? Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason, people answering affirmatively to such questions are far more likely to live alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer negatively.

The great difference in fertility rates between secular individualists and religious or cultural conservatives augurs a vast, demographically driven change in modern societies. Consider the demographics of France, for example. Among French women born in the early 1960s, less than a third have three or more children. But this distinct minority of French women (most of them presumably practicing Catholics and Muslims) produced more than 50 percent of all children born to their generation, in large measure because so many of their contemporaries had one child or none at all.

Many childless, middle-aged people may regret the life choices that are leading to the extinction of their family lines, and yet they have no sons or daughters with whom to share their newfound wisdom. The plurality of citizens who have only one child may be able to invest lavishly in that child's education, but a single child will only replace one parent, not both. Meanwhile, the descendants of parents who have three or more children will be hugely overrepresented in subsequent generations, and so will the values and ideas that led their parents to have large families.

One could argue that history, and particularly Western history, is full of revolts of children against parents. Couldn't tomorrow's Europeans, even if they are disproportionately raised in patriarchal, religiously minded households, turn out to be another generation of '68?

The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of modern societies married and had children. Some had more than others, but the disparity in family size between the religious and the secular was not so large, and childlessness was rare. Today, by contrast, childlessness is common, and even couples who have children typically have just one. Tomorrow's children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as always happens. But when they look around for fellow secularists and counterculturalists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their wouldbe fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating traditional religious values akin to the Bible's injunction to honor thy mother and father.

Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and submit to father.

Money, parenting and online social networking are breaking up marriages PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Kate Larsen   

SACRAMENTO, CA -- While no couple goes into a marriage with the intention of getting divorced, the fact is, 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.

While a marriage can end for any number of reasons, most experts agree money and finances are the biggest cause for marital tension.

"I would say the number one warning sign would be excessive spending. When one spouse is spending 10 thousand dollars on plastic surgery, and it's coupled with a new wardrobe and a new luxury car," says Jennifer O'Brien, a Sacramento family law attorney.

O'Brien says it's not just the spending that causes problems but the reasons behind it, "When it exceeds what the family can spend or it's just out-of-character for that person, maybe a spouse's priorities have shifted."

Other telltale signs a divorce may be looming are disagreements over parenting.

Marriage and family therapist, Carol Greenfield, sees a lot of marriage tension created over blended family issues. "The parent of the child has to find a way to support both the child and the partner. If that does not occur, problems arise within the marital relationship as well as with the child and the parent," Greenfield said.

Hiding information, particularly when it comes to online social networking, is a red flag for a marriage on the rocks. If your spouse is spending too much time online, perhaps communicating with an ex, it could be a sign they're losing interest in the partnership or even a sign of infidelity.

All experts agree communication and time spent together are key ingredients to a happy marriage.

Should Mothers Be Sued for Bad Parenting? PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Bonnie Rochman   

By Bonnie Rochman Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When my young daughters get mad and call me "Mean Mommy" for withholding gum or making them clean up their toys, it makes me laugh. But I can't imagine that Kimberly Garrity is seeing the humor in the lawsuit her adult children filed against her on the grounds that she was a bad mother.

Garrity's children, Steven Miner II, 23, and Kathryn Miner, 20, originally filed their suit against her two years ago, asking for more than $50,000 for emotional distress suffered during childhood due to Garrity's alleged parental offenses, infractions such as sending her son a birthday card sans check, not dispatching care packages to him in college and insisting on a midnight curfew for her daughter during her high school's homecoming.

Last week, an Illinois appeals court tossed out the suit, ruling that it did not consider Garrity's behavior "extreme or outrageous," according to the Chicago Tribune. The court mused that a ruling in favor of the children "could potentially open the floodgates to subject family child rearing to … excessive judicial scrutiny and interference."

But who's the real victim in this situation? For sure, the mother is to be pitied. The lawsuit was undoubtedly completely humiliating and unjustified. But the children, who grew up in a $1.5 million home in a posh Chicago suburb, should be even more embarrassed.

"I guess the lesson to be learned here is not to spoil your fabulously rich kids rotten, because they'll just grow up and sue for not spoiling them rotten enough," blogged Staci Zaretsky on Above the Law. "Kids these days."

And on the faculty blog of Marquette University Law School, Lisa Mazzie wondered:

Where is it written that a parent must always include money in birthday cards? Or send packages to her child in college? Or deny her child what the child wants but does not need? Many would say what Garrity did was responsible mothering, not "outside the realm of good mothering" and certainly not mothering intended to cause emotional distress.

And one must wonder whether "good mothering" differs from "good fathering." Might there be a separate standard for fathers? Why not refer to what Garrity did as simply "parenting"?

It's unclear why the suit originated: could Garrity's children really have believed that their mother's behavior warranted monetary damages? Or were they simply pawns in litigation prompted by their father, Steven A. Miner, who served as their attorney and may be holding a grudge for being served divorce papers by Garrity in 1995?

According to the Tribune:

In court papers, Garrity's attorney Shelley Smith said the "litany of childish complaints and ingratitude" in the lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by Garrity's ex-husband to "seek the ultimate revenge" of having her children accuse her of "being an inadequate mother."

"It would be laughable that these children of privilege would sue their mother for emotional distress, if the consequences were not so deadly serious" for Garrity, Smith wrote. "There is no insurance for this claim, so (Garrity) must pay her legal fees, while (the children) have their father for free."

In general, courts don't look kindly upon relatives suing each other. There's a forum for sanctioning truly bad parenting, and that's generally through various social services agencies. In instances of abuse, officials must get involved to safeguard children's well-being.

But that doesn't seem to be what unfolded in this situation. In the case of the Miner children, there doesn't seem to have been abuse or even neglect. Maybe just an overdue reality check for an oddly entitled brother-sister duo.

How to represent yourself in court PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Jon Robins   

Proposed changes to legal aid will remove whole areas from the scheme, leaving many people little choice but to go it alone

Lawyers and "access to justice" campaigners are predicting that government plans to slash the £2.2bn legal aid budget by £350m will leave ordinary people fending for themselves in courts, clogging up the civil justice system and creating further delays.

If the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, published last month, goes on to the statute book in its current form it will remove entire areas of laws from the legal aid scheme. Important parts that will go include "social welfare law" – advice on welfare benefits, employment, debt, housing advice (except where there is the threat of homelessness) and immigration. Ministers will also remove publicly funded legal advice for private family law including that on divorce, child custody and child support.

"If large numbers of parents are excluded they won't simply abandon their wishes to have arrangements with their children resolved in the courts," says Stephen Cobb QC, chairman of the Family Law Bar Association. "Instead they will litigate themselves. Cases with litigants-in-person almost always take longer than cases where advocates are involved, because the judge has to walk the litigant through the process. Court lists are going to become increasingly clogged up."

On the government's own figures there were 211,000 family cases where people received initial advice and assistance last year under the family legal aid scheme alone, and a further 53,800 cases where they received representation before the courts. All family cases are to be scrapped under the legal aid scheme unless there is evidence of domestic violence.

"A culture of DIY law is going to be much more the norm in the courts," predicts Richard Miller, legal aid manager for the Law Society. "Judges will try as hard as they can to ensure processes are explained. But litigants-in-person will need to understand that the points they want to make might not, necessarily, be germane to the case in law."

This will leave the courts in "an invidious position", he reckons: "Do they allow the unrepresented litigant to present irrelevant evidence, or do they cut them off and risk them feeling that they haven't been given a fair hearing? Inevitably, courts will face huge delays."

Here's what you need to know about presenting your own case.

Do I have a case?

Prospective litigants-in-person should ask four questions before embarking on action, says Luca Badioli, a debt adviser at Arun & Chichester Citizens Advice Bureau and chair of West Sussex Money Advice Group: "Do I have a good chance of winning? If I win, can the other party pay? Is this worth my time and money? Have I done everything to try to avoid proceedings?"

Badioli adds: "There's no point in taking the matter to court unless you've a good case and the other party is in a position to pay." If it is a money claim, check the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines and insolvency register to see if the other party can pay; if they are a limited company, look at their accounts at Companies House.

Lucy Reed is a barrister and author of Family Courts without a lawyer: a handbook for litigants-in-person. She points to the wealth of online information about legal rights, notably Citizens Advice's Advice Guide and "You can learn a lot through internet searches but use reliable recognisable organisations," she advises. You can access legislation at the government's legislation website but it's not up to date, and case law at, which also is not up to date and not terribly user-friendly.

Do I need a lawyer?

Depending on how serious the issue is and how complex the law might be, you may feel you need some legal input (even if you can't afford it). A first port of call should be your Citizens Advice Bureau, advice agency or law centre. Also check your motor and household insurance policies for legal expenses cover. Many law firms offer a free first half hour of advice.

The Law Shop in Bristol advises on how best to handle straightforward matters, with DIY litigants paying £7 per five minutes. Most firms insist on being paid an hourly rate (£250 for a reasonably experienced solicitor) but, increasingly, they offer fixed fees.

The general rule in the courts in England and Wales is "costs follow the event". "This means if you win, the other side picks up your costs and, conversely, if you lose you're stuck with your own costs plus the other side's," explains Luca Badioli; adding that there are exceptions – for example, the small claims court and the employment tribunals – where, generally speaking, each side bears their own costs.

There is, for the time being, a civil legal aid scheme covering many areas of law, but most accident claims are excluded. Advice is means-tested and only about one in three people qualify.

You might be able to find a lawyer prepared to advise you on a no win, no fee basis. If you lose, your lawyer gets nothing and you pay nothing; if you win, your lawyer can double their fee and the other side should pick up your costs.

Unfortunately, the legal aid bill promises more bad news: the other side won't have to pick up your costs and your lawyer's success fee will come out of any compensation (subject to a 25% cap).

How should I prepare?

"It's like going into exams when you're a kid at school," says Lucy Reed. "Make sure that you know where the car park is; have enough change; expect things to take all day; and make arrangements for childcare if they are stuck."

"Take time to prepare the particulars of a claim – the statement making your case – and make sure witness statements are in order," advises Badioli. Reed adds that if you're going to produce documents "make sure they are provided for the court and for other parties such as your ex-partner or their lawyer. Make copies and send them out in advance".

Consider taking a so-called McKenzie friend, who can't speak on your behalf but can sit and support you and quietly take notes.

What should I expect?

"People can be frightened at the prospect of the unknown," says Peter Brown. "They often have a picture in their mind of something they've seen on TV with images of wigs, gowns, and juries."

However, he says that often the court proceedings (especially in the small claims and family courts) "take place in an office with a judge in a suit and everyone sitting around the table. It can be quite informal."

Richard Miller says that court staff can be very helpful, especially for on-the-day assistance when it comes to filling in forms.

"They cannot give advice on the things you need to say or on your case but they can help with the generic issues."

What will drive a judge potty?

"Litigants-in-person often struggle to understand the turn-taking process," says Lucy Reed. "If there's a lawyer involved they might get to explain the case first just so the judge can get their head around the issues. You will get the opportunity to have your say. Wait for the appropriate moment rather than butting in."

What do I call the judge?

Don't get too worked up about it, advises Peter Brown. "The default position is 'Sir' or 'Madam'.

"It is only senior judges that are likely to be a bit crusty about being called Your Honour."

Studies shatter myth about abuse PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Karen S. Peterson   
By Karen S. Peterson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — It is not just men who hit women. Women hit men, too. And the latest research shows that ignoring the role women play in domestic violence does both women and men a disservice.

There is little doubt that women get hurt more than men. She may slap him. But then he may hit her harder or more often.

By not understanding the mutual role they often play, women are at great risk for injury, new studies show.

Still, the newest findings challenge the feminist belief that "it is men only who cause violence," says psychologist Deborah Capaldi of the Oregon Social Learning Center. "That is a myth."

The number of women who hit first or hit back is "much greater than has been generally assumed," Capaldi says. She says she is surprised by the frequency of aggressive acts by women and by the number of men who are afraid of partners who assault them.

Capaldi and two other female researchers call for a re-evaluation of treatment programs nationwide. Such programs focus on men and ignore women. Men are court-ordered into some type of rehabilitation, and their women are told in support groups or shelters that they had nothing to do with the violence, Capaldi says.

"Prevention and treatment should focus on managing conflict and aggression for both young men and women," Capaldi says. Each needs to understand the role both play while still putting a "special responsibility" on the man, who can inflict greater injury.

The three women did different studies but presented them as a team recently to a conference sponsored by the Society for Prevention Research. The National Institutes of Health sponsored much of the work.

The researchers emphasize they are not blaming women. "We are not saying anybody is at fault," says psychologist Miriam Ehrensaft of Columbia University. "But new data is emerging that says women are also involved in aggression. If we do not tell women that, we put them at risk."

Rita Smith of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is not convinced that men are afraid of abusive women. "That fear is a critical factor in any domestic violence situation. And the abuse is part of an ongoing pattern to control someone else's behavior."

Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Lab at the University of New Hampshire, has found both men and women are involved in physical aggression, but he emphasizes injury rates are not the same. "The likelihood of an injury to a woman requiring medical attention is much greater. Men cause more damage."

The little-talked-about involvement of women in mutual aggression with men is "the third rail of the domestic violence field," says Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. "Touch it and you get electrocuted." Both he and Straus have done studies that caused fiery controversies.

Gelles says the lifetime risk of a woman being struck by a male intimate partner is about 28%. And "depending upon who is doing the survey and how you measure it, you could get numbers of up to 50%." But he says a man's lifetime risk of being struck by a woman is also about 28%.

Many researchers' findings in earlier, government-financed studies emphasize the man's role.

Patricia Tjaden's study for the non-profit Center for Policy Research, sponsored by two government agencies, questioned 8,000 men and 8,000 women. She found women three times as likely to be assaulted in some way over a lifetime by a male partner than the reverse, and seven to 14 times as likely to be attacked, including beaten, choked or threatened with a gun.

Different research tools and methods pick up on different kinds of intimate partner violence, Tjaden says. But still, she says, she has "always had trouble with the mutual-abuse argument. Where are all the male victims?" It is women, she says, who are subjected to "systematic terrorism."

The young are particularly prone to aggression. Erika Lawrence of the University of Iowa told the prevention conference that one-third of newlywed women and one-quarter of newlywed men engage in physical aggression.

The subject of partner violence is a minefield. Even defining it is controversial. Some call verbal abuse a form of battering. And all sorts of studies are done in all sorts of ways. Those based on crime statistics and reports from women's shelters tend to show dramatic aggression by men against women. (Gelles cautions that some men may not realize or admit they have been assaulted by a woman and may not report it as a crime or seek treatment.)

"Family conflict" studies may reflect a broader population, Straus says, and take into account lesser types of aggression that don't lead to arrests or broken limbs. These studies show about the same rates of aggression by men and women.

It is clear that women suffer physically more at the hands of men than the reverse, says Faye Wattleton of the Center for the Advancement of Women. But still she says it is good to bring new research to public attention. "I applaud the women who had the courage to present these findings. We don't make progress by suppressing the evidence."

Positive parenting helps control child’s tantrums PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Staff reporter   
DUBAI, 17 September 2011— If you are a parent, then you would know what it is to stand in an aisle at the grocery store, helpless and embarrassed, and watch your two-year-old yell at you for a toy or a bar of candy.

Yes, it may be easier to give in to the child’s tantrum and buy him that little object of desire. But is that a solution to solve the problem altogether?

These temper tantrums are common, and kids do grow out of it. But, that doesn’t mean that a parent cannot do anything about it. In fact, Dr Jamuna Raguraman of Aster Medical Center says parents can very much control the tantrums and tune the child behaviour.

The answer lies in positive reinforcement of the right behaviour. The process of training the child into behaving begins right from infancy where every act of the child is responded to with positive or negative feedback. “Even in infancy, babies understand the reaction parents have to what they do and the tone that is used to express their opinion. With a soft tone and a gentle approval of a child’s good behavior, parents can train the child to behave well over time. Repetition of your response would reinforce good behaviour. Children can be easily molded to behave well through positive parenting,” says Dr Jamuna.

“It isn’t too late to begin this form of approach to tantrums. The first step lies in recognising where the fault lies. Getting to the root of the problem and dealing with it from there,” the doctor suggests.

One should channelise the energy of the child in more constructive ways. “As parents, we are protective of our children, and therefore, try to restrain them within the safe and comfortable confines of our homes. It is a good idea to expose them to open and real environments such as parks, other children and animals. Interaction with life in an open environment helps inculcate a positive attitude in a child, and the open space helps them expend their energy in play.”

“The most popular tantrums are seen over mealtimes, in malls or while leaving a party or park. In my experience, I have seen that preparing the child well in advance is a good way to avoid a tantrum. Before heading to the mall, tell the child that he can buy toy or chocolate, but ‘mummy or daddy’ will decide if he can have it. Reinforcement of this rule before every mall visit would eventually make the child understand,” Dr Jamuna recommends.

The doctor further adds, “Something simple and interesting we don’t always know about is ‘object permanence’. This is the ability of a child to understand that what he cannot see does exist. This realisation forms at around nine months of age in an infant, which is an interesting time to play positive games of ‘hide and seek’ or ‘peek-a-boo’.

The one thing a parent must know and understand is that they can do something about their child’s temper tantrums, and most importantly, that this is a phase which, thankfully, will pass.”

Father's Testosterone Drops Steeply After Baby Arrives PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Foxnews   

A father's testosterone level drops steeply after his baby arrives, showing that human males are biologically wired to care for their offspring, a U.S. study out Tuesday showed.

Researchers from Northwestern University, Illinois, followed a large group of men in their 20s and found testosterone levels fell after they found partners and became fathers.

They said the effect is the same in many other species in which males take care of dependent offspring, as testosterone boosts behaviors and other traits that help a male compete for a mate.

This "mating-related" behavior, however, can conflict with the responsibilities of fatherhood, so when males do have children it becomes advantageous for the body to reduce production of the hormone, according to the study.

Moms Can Be Deadbeats Too PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Liza Porteus   

Single dads are sick and tired of being labeled "deadbeats" when it comes to paying child support. And data suggest they have good reason to be upset.

The percentage of "deadbeat" moms is actually higher than that of dads who won't pay, even though mothers are more consistently awarded custody of children by the courts.

Census figures show only 57 percent of moms required to pay child support -- 385,000 women out of a total of 674,000 -- give up some or all of the money they owe. That leaves some 289,000 "deadbeat" mothers out there, a fact that has barely been reported in the media.

That compares with 68 percent of dads who pay up, according to the figures.

Men who are due child support are also getting tired of deadbeat moms' excuse that they can't pony up the money, and some courts have responded.

California lawyer Eudene Eunique in February was denied a passport because she was $30,000 behind in child-support. Instead of spending money on visiting her family in Mexico and on business contracts, the appeals court ruled Euniques money should go to her kids.

Meanwhile, warrant officers in southwest Florida earlier this summer dubbed an effort to list the area�s top deadbeat moms who owed up to $19,000 in support as "Operation Father�s Day." Included on the list were Trudi Dana, 43, who owes $19,001 and 29-year-old Mary Mahadie Friar, who owes $16,493.

Of course, the problem of deadbeat dads remains a serious one. Many more men than women have to pay child support, making the overall number of deadbeat dads much greater.

The statistics show 4.3 million moms out of 6.3 million who are supposed to receive child support actually get it. That leaves the alarming figure of about 2 million deadbeat dads, putting them more in the media spotlight than deadbeat moms.

But men also still pay much more in child support. The Census Bureau last month also released numbers showing fathers paid an average of $3,000 to custodial moms in 1997. Women paid little over half that. Moms also get about 60 percent of what they are owed, whereas dads only get 48 percent.

Not only are the dads paying up more when they don�t have custody, but when the court does hand the kids over to dads, they work more than moms who have custody.

While 7 percent of custodial moms work more than 44 hours a week, 24.5 percent of single custodial dads work more than 44 hours. And only about half as many custodial dads get government help than moms.

Some dads say it�s not for a lack of laws that moms are getting away with not paying up.

Bill Henry is head of Dads Against Discrimination of West Virginia and a single dad. In 1983, his first ex was ordered by the court to pay $25 a month in child support � which he did not start actually receiving until 1987 � even though the state minimum then should have been $75 a month.

Henry said dads are often discouraged from pursuing custody battles by attorneys and often don�t like to make waves in the system, as long as they get to regularly see their child or get complete custody.

"A lot of men are afraid to ask for child support simply because they think if they�re asking for child support, they won�t get a chance to get custody," Henry said.

California dad Scott Downing has also experienced child-support snafus and said courts continue to give dads the short end of the custody stick. "The laws are there, but it�s the way the courts interpret those laws," he said.

Single dad David Wood of North Carolina has similar concerns.

"My frustration � is not so much there�s any biases in me getting child support � it�s just the whole system needs a lot of work. If you don�t get aggressive with it � you have to really work to get it if someone doesn�t want to play the game" and pay up.

Wood, whose ex-wife has had trouble in court, said there are four men he knows of just at his workplace who are currently or are going to be single dads, or are grandparents of kids who had deadbeat moms.

"It�s not the exception anymore," Wood said, adding that before he became a single dad two years ago, "I would have almost bought into that stereotype" the dads are usually the deadbeats. But "that philosophy is just 30-40 years out of date."

But more moms that don�t have the kids simply can�t afford to pay child support since they are poorer, said Geraldine Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support. Studies show the average income for non-custodial moms is only $15,000 a year, whereas non-custodial dads average about $40,000 a year.

And moms who don�t have custody of the kids often remarry and have more kids, and often choose to not work.

But "that�s certainly no excuse," Jensen said. "It doesn�t matter if you�re a mom or dad, you should meet your child support obligations."

Putting child custody on fast track PDF Print E-mail
(0 Votes)
Written by Allyson Bird   

A 12-year-old boy spent nearly half his life caught in a legal limbo while his parents waged war over his custody in family court.

Last holiday season, and within just weeks of the most recent hearing, the boy killed himself.

Charleston Family Court Judge Paul Garfinkel never can ask the child if the case drove him to desperation, but says, "In my mind there could be no other explanation."

A month later Garfinkel became chief judge for administrative purposes and called a meeting with the family court attorneys.

There he outlined how he wants them to handle cases they bring into his courtroom, and he also pitched an idea.

Let's get these custody cases finished faster, he told them.

He calls the system, when it drags on for years as in the 12-year-old boy's case, "legalized child abuse." Garfinkel wanted to see these kids in permanent homes sooner and, beginning this summer, the judge should get what he wants.

Is The Playing Field Level For Men In The Family Court System? PDF Print E-mail
(1 Vote)
Written by Joseph E. Cordell   

The father's rights movement isn't an anti-mom or anti-woman movement; it's an anti-unfairness movement. It just so happens that moms have most of the power in the family court system in America.

It's true there has been progress in the family law system overcoming its gender bias, though rarely is the playing field even. In order to be truly fair to both parties, courts need to be completely gender blind, which is simply not the case.

In family law, more than any other area of the law, judges have a huge amount of discretion allowing ample opportunity for biases that we all as human beings have.

Since those presumptions are frequently held against fathers, men must spend more time, money, and effort just to try to get to a level playing field in a family law courtroom.

One purpose of the law is to protect us from those leanings of individual judges, but once you give a judge such a wide range of discretion and decision-making then it invites that sort of bias. Historically, it has not worked in the favor of guys.

For example, many states' child custody laws specifically say the child is entitled to maintaining a relationship with both parents, but those same laws do not outline the quantity of time each parent has to establish and foster that relationship.

At odds with it is the required presumption that a child should spend a majority of his or her time in the established custodial environment. This may be with both parents, but is usually with the primary caregiver--often either in reality or as perceived by an older, traditional judge--Mom.

With the growing number of stay-at-home dads and two-working-parent households, one would think that the presumption that a child should spend equal time with each parent is a given--but not so.

I've seen several cases where you have a highly successfully, financial well-off wife married to an unemployed or underemployed husband who cares for the children.

For the most part, judges and opposing counsel see the situation and say, "Why doesn't this guy go out and get a job?"

Now flip the roles. The husband is a high-paid executive and the wife is unemployed or underemployed. There is no presumption here that she should be working. In fact, many believe the woman is performing a perfectly legitimate role as a stay-at-home mom.

So a dad has to struggle to prove he is not guilty of being a deadbeat, but the same is not true when the situation is reversed.

Even when the father is employed, his job schedule works to his detriment. I've had countless cases where the man worked more than the wife, and now it is held against him because he was never deemed to be the primary caregiver, though his job financially benefited the family.

Yet it is not an option for him to decrease his work hours or income because he will face penalties and sanctions on the support side. The wife would argue that he is shirking his responsibilities and simply decreasing his income so he doesn't have to pay as much child support and alimony. But how else can he maximize his time with his children?

After 20 years of experience spent with Cordell & Cordell representing men in domestic relations matters, I can't help but notice the challenges consistently facing one side of the table--the guy's side.

Presently, many states are recognizing the importance of leveling the playing field in family courts. Some have had success (Tennessee recently passed a law that now requires judges to consider how to maximize both parents' involvement in their child's life when making custody decisions), while others consistently have bills stall in the legislature.

Yet every year we have more and more people at least talking about the concept of Dad having more parenting time.

Sure, the playing field might be leveling, but it is not level, and the players on the field are not equally equipped to play the game.

Joseph Cordell is the Principal Partner of Cordell & Cordell, a nationwide domestic litigation firm focused on men's family law matters. Cordell & Cordell also provides a website dedicated to informing men on the divorce process and the challenges they face.

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