- The Fatherhood Coalition
PO Box 700 Milford, MA
01757 · 617.723.3237
XX XXXX XX XXX
XXXXXXXXXXX XX XXXXX
Romney For Governor
P.O. Box 381091
Cambridge, MA, 02238
September 12, 2002
Dear Mr. Romney
The Fatherhood Coalition is an active statewide organization advocating for father's rights since 1993. We are concerned that your campaign has chosen to ignore issues of importance to our community, which should be of concern to all people who care about the condition of their society.
The number one social problem facing this nation is the mammoth growth in the number of fatherless children. The safe road for politicians to address this, to this point, is as a need for "educating" recalcitrant fathers to become "responsible" fathers.
As people who have faced incredible obstacles in our attempts to continue to be good, loving parents to our children, this attitude of politicians can be infuriating.
If there are two populations of men who have no access to their children ¾ those that want access and are being denied, and those that have no interest in their children ¾ where should responsible government be focusing their actions to correct the problem?
It should be clear to all that removing obstacles to fathers who want to parent their children is by every measure the more effective and superior approach if we are really serious about ending the blight of fatherless children. However, it is political correctness ¾ and not common sense and reason ¾ that determines how government has chosen to act.
It is a mistake to assume that the core, isolated issue that needs correction is a gender-bias in custody determinations and a failure to enact strong 'shared-parenting' legislation. Much of the huge number of fatherless children is directly caused by seemingly unrelated policies, the most prominent of those being the domestic abuse/violence laws and policies in effect in the commonwealth that essentially allow women to throw away the father of their children by simply claiming that she is "in fear" of domestic abuse, and obtaining what is known as a 209A abuse protection order. A 209A order obtained by a woman at the outset of a family breakup virtually guarantees that the father will be relegated to the status of non-custodial parent, a virtual visitor in his child's life, when the divorce is finalized.
Several candidates for Governor, as well as your choice for Lieutenant Governor, have rang in on these issues, to some degree or other. On the bad side, when Kerry Healey describes herself as a criminologist and an expert on domestic violence, noncustodial fathers in this state shudder. We understand that means that Healy has been indoctrinated into the victim-feminist ideology of domestic violence, which has systematically censored the truth about what scientific research into the subject has revealed since research began in the late seventies. For fathers in this state, Healy is the kiss of death to your campaign.
On the Democratic side, the candidates all link any discussion of unfairness in custody determinations and general discrimination against men in our Probate and Family Courts to domestic violence. Alone among the fray, Shannon O'Brien has dared to say anything positive with respect to shared parenting after divorce.
What this means for your candidacy is that there is a wide open electorate waiting to be tapped by the candidate that speaks to their issues. There are a vast number of noncustodial fathers in Massachusetts, and to a man, they are at once very angry at what has happened to them and equally sad and motivated by their sadness at being kept out of the lives of their children.
You may not have noticed, but while the candidates of the major parties have been sleeping, third-party candidates have been quick to recognize the seriousness of this issue, and the political capital that is waiting to be harvested.
Following are statements by Shannon O'Brien, Carla Howell, and independent candidate for Governor attorney Barbara Johnson, a tireless advocate for justice and fairness in family law.
Please read these statements carefully and, if you would like to engage in a dialog with the Fatherhood Coalition, contact me at your earliest convenience. I would greatly enjoy having the opportunity to present our concerns to you in person in the hope that you can add our issues to your campaign platform.
State Spokesman, CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition
Shannon O'Brien, Dem. Candidate for Governor
Currently, only 6% of child custody cases in Massachusetts result in a shared parenting arrangement, as compared to 20% nationwide. Massachusetts ranks 46th in shared physical custody and 50th in visitation amount and enforcement. In addition, fifteen other states have passed some form of legislation that encourages shared parenting.
Shannon believes that the best interests of the child must be the paramount concern when custody is determined by parents or the courts. A childs interests are best served when both parents are significantly involved in their childrens upbringing, maintain frequent contact with their children and work together on a parenting plan. In that regard, Shannon supports the shared parenting concepts currently under review by the state Legislature.
At times, the current system fails to adequately address the rights of parents and serve the best interests of the child. Shannon hopes that the proposed legislation will go along way in improving the lives of families undergoing separation and divorce.
August 21, 2002
Richard Davey, Deputy Issues Director, O'Brien for Governor
Carla Howell, Libertarian for Governor on Fathers' Rights
We must get Big Government out of marriage and families. We must end the damage caused by Big Government meddling and restore the responsibility of individuals who choose to marry by:
Divorce terms and pre- and post-nuptial agreements
A legal contract is one entered into willingly by both parties where each understands and agrees to every term in the contract. The contract does not change unless and until both parties agree to it.
Marriage is, or should be, a legal contract where both parties know and agree to all terms of the contract including what will happen if the marriage ends, e.g., what rights and obligations regarding custody, visitation, child support, alimony and division of assets will be awarded to or expected of each parent.
Limit of Parental Liability
No divorced parent should be subject to obligations of support that are not required of parents of intact families, i.e., remove all obligations for support of adult children (18 and older) including college tuition unless it is a term of a pre- or post-nuptial agreement.
Unproven accusations of abuse
There must be no exceptions to the right of due process and a fair trial. In particular, it has become common practice in a divorce case for one party, typically the woman, to accuse the other, typically her soon-to-be ex-husband, of violence in order to get a restraining order against him where there is no prior history of violence, where there is no proof of violence or even a threat, and where no crime is ever charged.
These illegitimate restraining orders are used to put him at a disadvantage and allow her to pressure him into conceding her wishes such as denying him visitation rights.
I support changes in the law so that no Abuse Prevention Order may be issued under Chapter 209A unless the defendant is notified in advance, in writing, of what specific conduct is the basis for the order, nor unless the judge makes written findings of what specific conduct constituted "abuse". No order shall issue unless the judge finds probable cause to charge the defendant with a crime.
The Supreme Judicial Court has already said that misuse of the Abuse Prevention Statute can be grounds to deny custody to the parent who makes false charges.
I would support legislation that would provide for specific penalties for divorcees and prospective divorcees who make false accusations.
As Governor, I will take care in seeing to it that persons hostile to the rights of parents are not appointed to the judiciary.
Barbara Johnson, Independent Candidate for Governor
(Excerpted from www.barbforgovernor.org)
Family and Culture
For decades, the number of children living in single parent homes, especially fatherless homes, has been increasing. The divorce rate has been increasing, and the number of children born to single mothers has been increasing.
Barbara Johnson is a realist. While she cannot force parents, wed or unwed, to stay together, she proposes policies that encourage families to stay together. And for those families that do fall apart, either by divorce or separation, she proposes policies that will assure that the children, too, are not divorced or separated from either of their parents. Children must have continuing and uninterrupted contact with their mothers and fathers.
Divorce and Fathers -- A Major Public Health Problem
A major public health problem today is the serious effect of separation and divorce on fathers.
This problem has arisen out of the culture and gender wars that have plagued Americans for several decades, but the real victims are the children, whose chances of being abused, abusers, battered, batterers, jailed or pregnant go up significantly when their parents separate.
The state spends millions of dollars annually on services for women going through a separation or divorce, but nothing for men in the same situation, despite the following serious problems:
Men going through separation or divorce are far more likely to experience acute health conditions, including infectious and parasitic diseases, respiratory illnesses, digestive illnesses, and severe injuries compared to those married, as well as higher levels of psychiatric disorders (depression), which can depress immune system function; Men are sometimes dangers to themselves and to their former partners at this time -- men are eight times more likely to kill themselves or their former partners than at other times; Men frequently lack parenting skills that they'll need to handle visitation or custody as a single parent; The state provides extensive support services specifically for women going through separation and divorce, and none for men, creating gender-based discrimination which IS in violation of state and federal laws. (This is analogous to laws that require colleges to spend equal amounts of women's sports as on men's sports.)
For these public health and legal reasons, the state urgently needs programs to provide men with services to men going through a separation and divorce as follows:
The legislature should allocate funds for services targeted to men equal to the funds for services targeted to women. These services should include legal services for poor and rich men alike. United Way and other agencies that provide funding for gender-specific agencies should be required to fund agencies that provide services for men and women equally, to avoid violating anti-discrimination laws. Funding from Bush's Proposal to Support Marriage should be allocated to these purposes, as well as to find ways to encourage married couples with children to save their marriages, rather than getting divorced. Massachusetts should adopt Shared Custody at the Divorce or Separation Gate to provide for the safety and well-being of children whose parents are separating or divorcing.
This is the only way for a child to have equal access to his or her parents.
This is the only way for a parent to have equal access to his or her children.
Barbara Johnson insists that each parent, wed or unwed, have 50 percent of physical custody of the children.
'209A' Restraining Orders
As over 55,000 men learned in 2001, restraining orders pursuant to chapter 209A are the greatest impediment to liberty. Due process and equal protection are obsolete in the courts when 209A is the issue.
False Reporting to the Police
Mass. General Law c. 269, s. 13A, which makes false reporting to the police a crime, is never enforced. This selective enforcement of the law must be changed. Strict adherence and restitution must be effected.
Children: A Reward, a Gift, or an Award?
During a divorce, a child basically has a huge price on his or her head: The child is typically worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support to the parent getting custody. There's no question that parents love their children, and would want custody irrespective of the amount of child support, but the fact that such a huge amount of money comes with the child substantially distorts the child-custody problem.
Even worse, the child-support issue generates bitterness and hatred between the parents that lasts for decades, and affects the children adversely.
Child Support Guidelines
These must be changed. They are unfair. They are, in Johnson's opinion, unconstitutional. Discounting the custodial parent's income, attribution of income that should not be attributed to the noncustodial parent, payment forced but visitation not enforced. The man becomes a wallet and often merely an occasional visitor in his child's life.
This must be wiped out by statute. If a woman lies as to who is the father of the child, she should be charged criminally. That criminal statute must be drafted and passed.
DNA testing is a must and it must be determinative of a man's child-support obligations.
The court has taken the position that if the man has acted as if he were the father, then he must continue to support the child even after divorce or separation... so that the child is not hurt.
Who is kidding whom? The child might need to know his or her biological parent for medical reasons.
Does that mean that the child will know some adversity. Yes, it does. But adversity comes with life. No one promises each child a rose garden to live in for life. A little adversity early in life often builds character, and should not necessarily be looked upon as a "bad" thing.
The child will overcome the bad news. And in the long run, knowing the truth will be best.
Justice and fundamental fairness and truth must be the overriding factor here.
Most of the public is unaware of the numerous visitation centers located around the state because they shun publicity and the press does not seek them out ...despite the abundant evidence of substantial abuse.
The original intent of visitation centers was to provide a location for supervised visitation of children by abusive parents.
Visitation centers charge $100 per hour or more for a father to visit with his children. If the father cannot afford to pay the money, then he isn't permitted to visit his kids.
Stories from men indicate that judges are requiring thousands of men to use visitation centers, even when the judge knows that the father is completely non-violent.
Men have complained that they receive loathsome treatment at these centers.
Attendance is demeaning and insulting. Workers treat every man as if he were a diddler or a batterer. A man cannot even wipe a strand of hair out of his child's eye.
One man described them as follows:
"There's no privacy. Every visit is supervised by a counselor from a battered woman's shelter. She writes down everything you say, and if you raise your voice, she writes down that you're violent. You can't hug your kids without her permission. If you say what she claims is the wrong thing, she reprimands you in front of your kids. They lecture you on parenting in front of the children. If you ever object, that's part of the validation that you're a violent person. If you tell your child to do something, she'll say to the child, 'You don't have to listen to him. You just have to listen to your mother.'"
Unlike the case of Women's Shelters, all of the above is provable. Each man must sign a contract with a visitation center before he is even permitted to use the center.
Barb would demand both publication of the boards of directors and ownership of these centers and a financial accounting to substantiate the multi-billion dollar industry which has grown up across the country, of which Massachusetts is still a part.
Barb would require two changes to visitation centers:
A non-profit, all volunteer organization of men and women advocating for fatherhood since 1994