Tuesday, March 28, 2006





by Marcia Pappas

The state Legislature is considering the worst joint custody bill that the National Organization for Women -- New York State has ever seen, presuming joint custody in all custody cases, including a deceitful attempt to redefine visitation of non-custodial parents as shared parenting.

NOW NYS has always favored primary caregiver presumption legislation to ensure stability and continuity of care for children. If a person is not involved in the lives of his or her children during the marriage, why would that involvement increase after divorce? Therefore, we oppose court-mandated joint custody and oppose changing the terminology to shared parenting.

Primary caregiver presumption would cut down on the abusive practice by the moneyed spouse (usually the husband) of coercing the non-moneyed spouse (usually the wife) to make monetary concessions rather than risk a custody battle before a biased court. This threat of a fight for custody is the fear factor that leads mothers to make financial concessions in exchange for the chance to give her children a stable life. One attorney has acknowledged that he often gave that advice to male clients. When he became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals in West Virginia, he was responsible for the passage of a primary caregiver bill.

NOW NYS would like to set the record straight. It is a lie that mothers are awarded custody in 95 percent of divorce cases, as fathers rights advocates would have the public believe. Only 1 percent of cases are litigated so mothers get custody by agreement of the parties, whether or not the agreement is coerced as we describe.

Let us learn from the experience of others. In California, a report prepared 15 years after divorce reform legislation, found that one-third of joint-physical custody arrangements were indistinguishable in practice from the sole-custody visitation arrangements. After seeing the harmful effects on children by court-ordered joint custody, California ended its presumption in favor of joint custody awards in 1989.

Joint custody establishes rights without responsibilities. There is no way under current law to enforce visitation. There are no penalties for failure to visit. There is nothing in this bill, or any other joint custody or shared parenting bill, to enforce compliance with a parenting plan. The term parenting time suggests that all non-custodial parents take an active, positive role in their children's lives. Reality shows us that many parents who are granted visitation choose not to be involved in their children's lives. Change in terminology does nothing to enforce parental responsibility or involvement. Opponents feel that the term visitation carries a negative connotation with respect to non-custodial parents, stating that visitation is associated with visiting relatives in prison.

This is clearly a ridiculous argument. People visit family members and other people in many and varied relationships. If parents want to take an active role in their child's life, why would terminology make a difference? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

NOW NYS believes the actual motivation for this change in terminology is to require the court to equate the parenting plan or schedule with actual parenting responsibilities, financial and otherwise. Arguments have been made by non-custodial parents that the costs of spending time with their children should be deducted from their child support obligations, ignoring the fact that it is the primary caregiver who is responsible for the day-to-day expenses of the children. This newly proposed legislation lays the dangerous groundwork for the courts to decrease child support awards based on a change of terminology.

It is an erroneous implication that the caregiver and the non-custodial parent carry the same load and devote the same time to their children.

The basis for this strong battle of the fathers' rights groups is totally financial. It is frequently reported by school guidance counselors that a common complaint of children of divorce is that they don't see their fathers, and it is not unusual for children to complain about the inequities of material advantages they often observe when their father acquires his new family.

This bill establishes the pretext of a continuing relationship between children and non-custodial parents, and falsely legislates in the best interest of the child. The reality is that it does nothing to advance the welfare of the children of New York.

Marcia A. Pappas is president of NOW-New York State.

I just want to say that even though this article CLAIMS NOW NYS "has always favored primary caregiver presumption legislation to ensure stability and continuity of care for children" yet NOW never actually DID a thing to see that this became law and or even standard operating procedure in New York State OR any other state for that matter. Since the West Viriginia example they cited is no longer valid, it was changed a few years back.

THUS, there is NO state that has a primary caretaker presumption.


This is a red herring thrown out by NOW to act like they have been involved on the side of mothers over the last decade or so when millions of you lost custody of your children. The primary caretaker presumption exists in NO STATE and I believe that presumption will probably never exist again, as MOST of the people involved in making public policy are against this presumption since it is NOT gender neutral and favors mothers.

This is really a moot issue NOW NYS is teasing mothers with. As the issue facing mothers now is NOT the primary caretaker presumption OR Joint Custody...it is rather mothers being forced into court where they will be facing a bunch of fathers rights advocates or gender neutralized feminists who SUPPORT giving fathers custody (it is seen as progressive and trendy right now to do this) OR this presumptive Joint Custody.

Unfortunately although I know most mothers were the primary caretaker parent and SHOULD have sole custody with child support being paid to them by the fathers who were the providers during the life of the relationship, it's not going to happen anytime soon, so we must get over this false hope. As it's just pie in the sky for anyone to act like it's a possibility. So this presumptive Joint Custody is the lesser of MANY evils that could happen to mothers and children if you do NOT go along with it...by far the lesser.

As the worst that could happen is you will have Joint Custody, get no child support and the childrens' father will not pick up his kids for visitation. That's the worse case scenario.

Whereas listening to NOW, the worse that could happen is that you lose custody of your children, are not permitted to visit (since as was pointed out in the article their is NO effective legal enforcement for visitation) plus YOU are forced to pay your ex child support that you can't even afford, as you were a stay-at-home mom who never worked.

See that's the WORSE that can happen listening to those idiots...actually that is what has been happening listening to them over the last decade...many mothers have lost custody and rarely if ever see their kids again, not to mention the numbers of mothers who have been put in jail for not being able to pay child support. Even though BOTH feminists and mens' rights advocates admit mothers make less money because they are home with their children instead of building careers...YET not ONE feminists spoke up when mothers were sent to jail for not having the money to pay child support...not ONE...

In short, they were useless...

Last point about NOW...as we saw with that whole Bridget Marks fiasco in New York City, many gender neutralized feminists of the NOW variety said nothing during that crisis. Even though if that decision had been allowed to stand hundreds of thousands of never-married mothers would have been under threat to lose their children at anytime, anytime to one of these prodigal fathers (who were given the okay by Judge Arlene Goldberg's ruling). These prodigal fathers would have been empowered to show up three, seven or even ten years after the birth of a child and be allowed to exercise parental rights, including a reversal of custody, AFTER not even bothering to sign their child's birth certificate.

NONE of these feminists spoke up to defend Bridget Marks or help her get her children back. In fact, it was the Albany Appeals Court who eventually overturned that decision and returned Bridget Marks' children to her. Probably some of the old patriarchs of the Appeals Court in Albany felt sorry for Bridget Marks and her kids. YET not ONE feminist said a word in her defense (Bill O'Reilly and some male columnists were more outraged by the decision then any feminist in NY was).

They would have GLADLY yet that ruling stand as it was made by one of their own, a gender neutralized feminist Judge.

So let's not forget that...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your website. I am a recent veteran of the custody wars. I was a stay at home mom for 20 years and my 3 children are wonderful. My case was an extreme as my "husband" is a very powerful and wealthy attorney.

I am going to make a difference. I like some of your suggestions. Thank you for caring. Mothers do not understand that a husband can leave and take the children with him.
My story and my suggestions for other women will be coming out in a book next year.

To all mothers fighting for Custody, do not give up. I did not, despite the largest law firm in the state doing their best to "destroy me." I won custody in the end of my two boys who were being abused as I had been...Do not give up. That is what you have to remember. I will be telling my story to help other women as best as I can. We need to unite and speak out. Marcia Pappas is doing her best, but more needs to be done. I have been there. The "men's rights" movement is very entrenched. We are behind the eight ball in this. We need to work hard and fast. God Bless the good mothers and their children who suffer through this abuse. Things must change.

NYMOM said...

"Things must change."

The problem is with people like Marcia Pappas and others insisting that every custody decision be made on a case by case basis by a family court Judge, things never will change. I mean the same sort of Judge who originally gave your ex-husband custody, although you were the primary caretaker of your kids, exists in every single family courtroom across this country. YET Pappas and people like her keep insisting that women should just continue taking their chances with these Judges, just keeping our fingers crossed I guess.

We need to keep these cases OUT of the courts as Judges have shown they are susceptive to awarding custody based upon what is considered fashionable and trendy today. Sadly that happens to be father custody...it's all the rage.

So for Pappas to keep fighting against legislations like presumptive Joint Custody, while complaining that Judges are biased against mothers doesn't even make sense. Having that presumption will keep MOST mothers out of court and that's what needs to happen.