Statement in Support of Federal Lawsuit
By Mark Charalambous
November 1, 1999
The Fatherhood Coalition (a.k.a. "CPF") is an all volunteer, non-profit organization of men and women advocating for the institution of fatherhood, encompassing the full range of human behaviors and endeavors that flow from the father-child relationship. We work to promote shared parenting and to end the discrimination and persecution faced by divorced and unwed fathers.
Members are of all political stripes, united by one common purpose, which is summarized by the "Four R's" of the Mission Statement:
To secure equal parenting rights and responsibilities for men and women, by:
The Fatherhood Coalition is active in all the arenas that impact the father-child relationship. We hold public events, conferences, protests, and rallies, and work the news media to raise public awareness about the importance of fatherhood and the epidemic of throwaway dads. Members are active within the courts fighting for justice and due process. We assist in legislative efforts promoting shared parenting, and work to correct the gross injustices that have worked their way into the state's law books. We produce literature and disseminate it to the public, the news media and to elected officials. Fathers who need help in the courts are given support and help, and directed to pro se workshops where they learn how to best represent themselves.
History of the organization
The Fatherhood Coalition was formed from a small group of non-custodial fathers meeting in Arlington, MA in December 1993. The group soon grew in size and moved to an office on Washington Street, Boston. In September of the following year they took their name, Coalition for the Preservation of Fatherhood. In 1995, the group moved to another office on Beacon Street, (which was closed this year). In 1996, they shortened their name to The Fatherhood Coalition, and use "CPF" informally.
The CPF "founding fathers" were brought together as a result of their experiences with the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court system. Most of us found ourselves in the judicial system for the first time. We knew little about criminal procedures because we weren't criminals. For many of us, our first brush with the legal system produced a state of profound shock.
All of the founding fathers were involved in custody disputes of one kind or another. We all loved our children and many of us were in deep emotional pain over meaningful contact with them. One of us, along with other members of his birth family, had been a victim of a sexual abuse witchhunt in central Massachusetts. As the legal case unfolded, the prosecutors relented on their original accusations of a full-blown sexual abuse club involving the defendant's new wife and aged mother, and focused the case solely against him.
The developments of this man's case were covered by the Telegram & Gazette. This man chose to leave his fate in the hands of a judge, not trusting the jury system. He was eventually exonerated of the charges; however, he lost all access to the two children he dearly loved, and of course was responsible for paying the instigator of this tragedy, his ex-wife, over $200 per week in child support. The state's apparatus for protecting children from sexual predators was easily appropriated by this man' ex-wife, simply as a tactic to gain custody of their children. Allegations of sexual abuse of one's own children are unfortunately a frequent tactic in custody battles because it is effective and consequence free for the accuser. This is but one symptom of the complete breakdown of the legal system in matters of family law within the state's trial courts.
Other men were also in various stages of losing access to their children. Some were labeled "abusive" of their ex-wives, and were trying to maintain a relationship with their children within the constraints of a 209A restraining order.
These men, mostly professionals, many of them engineers, broke away from an established fathers rights organization to form what is now the Fatherhood Coalition. Some of them now have full custody of their children, but they can never forget their experiences, and continue to work for fathers' rights.
What is the present state of affairs for fathers in the Massachusetts Trial Court system?
Ape and Essence is one of the lesser-known works of renowned author Aldous Huxley. In this distopia, Dr. Poole, a scientist from Australia, embarks on a journey to California to see what remains there following the worldwide collapse of civilization. What he discovers is a society that has turned to worship of Belial (the devil), because in their minds the apocalypse can only be attributed to the final victory of the Prince of Darkness in his ages long struggle with the Lord of Light. What other explanation could there possibly be for the complete breakdown of the world's ecosystem, along with man's technology?
At first, the good doctor is to be put to death, but the Arch-Vicar, the religious authority of this kingdom, spares Poole when he realizes that his scientific knowledge can be useful. Poole is ordered to analyze the soil to determine what if anything can be done to improve their meager farming efforts. In his report to the Arch-Vicar, Poole manicly exclaims that during the 20th Century, mankind must have declared all out war on the environmentthere is simply no other explanation for the thorough state of toxification of the soil.
Dr. Poole's analysis rules out the possibility of an accident or even a global Armageddon. No, what must have happened is that, at some point, man declared war on Mother Nature.
We, the fathers who have experienced the family court system, can find no other explanation for the present state of affairs in the courts other than that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has declared war on fatherhood. Echoing the Belial worshippers: There is simply no other rational explanation for the thorough maltreatment of men by the legal system.
In the courts, we find ourselves in a hostile, anti-male environment. When we consult attorneys, we are told that sharing custody of our children will only happen if the mothers of our children can be convinced to agree to it. Our children are in many cases ransomed to us. It is not uncommon for women to bargain with financial settlements for our rights to see our children.
Lying in the courts is commonplace. Even when it is proved, there is no consequence for a mother who has lied. It is merely ignored by the court. Perjury is never prosecuted. Accusations and allegations of abuse that are disproved or unsubstantiated have no negative consequences for the perjurer. This also contributes to the complete breakdown of confidence in the state's court's ability to implement family law with fairness.
In this atmosphere, women are encouraged to lie, since there is no punishment, and lying most often results in a favorable ruling. Allegations of abuse are met with the path of least resistance by judges: Let's err on the side of caution. Supervised visitation is now the default whenever allegations are made against a father. If the allegations are serious, all contact is suspended until the investigation is completed. During the interim, the father-child relationship is often fatally wounded, and when and if the charges are unsubstantiated, the court process becomes one of how best to reintegrate the father into the life of his child. Never is the accuser held accountable. The rubric "Best interests of the child" is used to substantiate all court decisions that invariably harm the father-child relationship while protecting the mother, regardless of the circumstances.
Since women know that the judges rule in their favor, there is no incentive for them to mediate. When cases do go to trial, Findings of Fact are often duplicated directly from the woman's proposed findings. Trials cannot be "won" by men in the Massachusetts courts. In order to ensure plausible deniability, guardians ad litem (GAL) are employed to investigate and submit recommendations. The job of the judge is merely to pick out the reasons given by the GAL to substantiate the foregone conclusion: physical custody for the mother, child support obligation for the father. Guardians ad litem know this is to be the outcome and so tailor their reports to it its execution. Proven egregious behavior of women is overlooked, but any behavior by men that can be interpreted in a negative manner is faithfully reported so. When tasked with the job of evaluating two people for parental fitness, it doesn't take a genius to slant the relative merits and demerits of one over the other.
The more a father struggles in his case, the more the court punishes him. The message is clear: Do not go against the grain. You will be the non-custodial parent. You will be responsible for financing the new family, which now consists of the mother, your children, and any partner or partners she may choose in the future. You will see your children every other weekend. If you rebel against this, you will be punished, and your children will suffer further.
Tactical weapons used against good fathers
Of the men who formed the Fatherhood Coalition, many were exemplary fathers. Unfortunately, it is these types of men who are most at risk in the state's trial courts.
No one denies that some fathers have little interest in their children. And no one denies that among the fathers who find themselves in divorce court there are some truly bad eggsas there are to be found in any random slice of humanity. There are substance abusers, chronically unemployed men, and also some violent men. Such men have no chance of gaining custody of their children in a custody battle, and hence women don't need to employ the legal "nuclear" weapons to win custody. It is the good fathers who need to be "taken out," and these weapons are most often used against them.
Domestic abuse allegations regarded as just a cost of doing business for fathers
To someone with but a cursory knowledge of the legal precepts that form the basis of our system of justice, it is incredible that the Supreme Judicial Court has stamped constitutional approval on the state's abuse protection law, ch. 209A. This law allows a parent to lose custody of his children, be thrown out of his home, arrested, and enrolled in an abuse registry, based solely on hearsay evidence from his accuser.
209A is so foreign to our notion of presumed innocence and due process, it boggles the mind. The law allows for ex parte restraining orders to be issued based on a definition of "abuse" that includes a subjective "feeling" of the alleged victim that she is in danger! Furthermore, violations of these orders can be technical in nature, having nothing to do with physical assault and battery, and can be purely accidental, or even contrived by the "victim." No intent to violate the order is required to prosecute a defendant and subject him to 2 1/2 years in jail. 209A codifies prior restraint, which is anathema to a free society.
Many victims are suffering in silence
Several years ago, CPF had the opportunity to run a radio spot on AM radio in Boston. Though the ad ran only three times daily, we received up to 75 calls per day from fathers needing help. Our phones continue to ring without any but word-of-mouth advertising.
Fathers are persecuted in Massachusetts. The family courts are sending a message to men: dare to come in here and you will be punished. To men, the court appears more like a war-crimes tribunal than a true court of law. Spend a day there and one sees a steady stream of men brought forward to account for various "gender crimes." As divorce has become a process of criminalization for men, the courts are now a killing field for fathers.
Feminist jurisprudence rules everywhere. Notions of separation of powers and due process are secondary matters no longer of concern. What matters is the empowerment of women and the punishment of males.
The courts have special Victim Witness offices staffed by battered women's advocates. The operating procedures in these services stem from radical victim-feminist ideology. Here, women are schooled on what to say to get a restraining order securing custody of children and deadbolting dad out of their children's lives. Never is a woman questioned as to the accuracy of her claim, or what might have led to an altercation. If a woman claims she needs a protection order, she will be assisted in and out of the courtroom. Men who wish to use these services are sneered at.
Child support regime: unconstitutional in the courtroom and disproportionally targets men
In matters of child support, the state's guidelines have been established so high that they are fully outside the bell curve of the nation's average. Almost 10 percent of the state's children who live outside of a nuclear family are raised by their fathers. Yet 98% of the Department of Revenue's child support obligors are men. The guidelines top off at 40.25% of the noncustodial father's gross pay. With less than a third of his wages left, a working man cannot survive under these guidelines, let alone provide for his children during the visitation time he is permitted. The state's child support guidelines are a blueprint for the destruction of the father-child relationship.
Like the victim's witness advocates, employees of the DOR Child Support Enforcement are also made at home in the courthouses. On cases before the court that deal with child support, the DOR is the authority of record. All court costs that relate to the expediting of child support are reimbursed by the DOR. Thus, when a father is in the courtroom, the representative of the DOR who is calling for his head is actually paying the judge's salary! This is a clear violation of separation of powers, but no one seems to mind.
What's the remedy?
Nearly 40% of the nation's children live without their fathers. What does this mean? In the space of 30 years we've gone from "Father knows best" to "Are fathers really necessary?"
Anyone who really wants to know what to expect from a nation of children raised without their fathers need only look at the nation's inner cities. For several decades, the family unit of the inner city, particularly the inner city African American family, has been the single mother and her kids. The present practice of disassembling the nuclear family will not find a new healthy equilibrium following some period of readjustment. It is a disaster. Children need their fatherstheir biological fathers. The importance of fatherhood is finally emerging, now that the damage to children from the War on Fatherhood has become unavoidable.
The state's courts must stop their wholesale slaughter of the father-child relationship, and instead act to preserve the role of both parents following family breakup.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and the need for an articulate voice to advocate for fatherhood has never been greater. The Fatherhood Coalition recognizes that the only force that can stop the war are the fathers themselves. Unlike other organizations that seek to hide behind the skirts of second wives or, even worse, put our children in front of us on the front lines, we recognize that it is our job to save our children from the predations of the anti-fatherhood regimes.
The Fatherhood Coalition is committed to fighting those forces of darkness that presently hold sway in the state's courts, family law, the social services, and in our Statehouse. We assert that the federal courts must step in to reign in the state's courts who, in their practice of feminist jurisprudence grounded in victim-feminist ideology, have transgressed beyond the boundaries imposed upon them by the Constitution of the United States.
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