I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New York Times Review of Alec Baldwin's Book

Divorce American Style

Published: October 3, 2008

Alec Baldwin is responsible for two of the greatest short bits of comedy ever to appear on television. The first is the 1998 “Saturday Night Live”skit in which he is Pete Schweddy, the owner of the holiday bakery Season’s Eatings. Schweddy appears on a National Public Radio talk show to discuss his Christmas goodies — zucchini bread, fruitcake and, of course, his bakery’s most famous holiday treat, typically rum-based. “No one can resist” this delectable Schweddy treat, Baldwin intones with the sobriety of an undertaker. It’s sophomoric in print, and brilliant on the screen.

Mark Blinch/Reuters

Alec Baldwin

A PROMISE TO OURSELVES

A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce

By Alec Baldwin with Mark Tabb

224 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $24.95

The second is a scene from the second season of the NBCcomedy “30 Rock”: Baldwin is Jack Donaghy, a self-important television executive who guides Tracy Morgan’s character through a therapeutic role-playing session to the protests of a do-good shrink. In two minutes, Baldwin resolves Morgan’s family estrangement by assuming the roles of Morgan’s father, a black man from “funky North Philly” with a droopy lip; Morgan’s mother; Morgan’s mother’s white boyfriend; Morgan himself; and the neighbor Mrs. Rodriguez. It is a manic monologue, satiric and sharp. Go to YouTube and watch it now.

As brilliant an actor as Baldwin can be, his comic acuity may be so keen partly because we associate him in real life with a darker, more dolorous personality. His new book, “A Promise to Ourselves,” is a treatise on how the family law system in America is broken, and why it should be changed. It is a serious book, masquerading as a manifesto but eventually turning into a desperately sad memoir, layered beneath the polemic, about the failure of Baldwin’s marriage and his estrangement from his only child. It’s the curse of the comic not to be taken seriously when he or she wants to be serious: Just because Robin Williams went into rehab, would we want to read a book about 12-stepping by him? When Billy Crystal fulfilled a lifelong dream by going to bat as the Yankees’ designated hitter in spring training earlier this year, standing at the plate with his white man’s overbite, weren’t you kind of hideously, painfully embarrassed for the guy when he struck out?

Baldwin barrels forward, arguing that American family law is a system of lawyers and judges working in cooperation to drain the wallets of divorcing couples — an industry that preys on the vulnerabilities of the already vulnerable. “To be pulled into the American family law system in most states is like being tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road late at night,” he writes. “No one can hear your cries and complaints, and it is not over until they say it is over.” Baldwin draws on his contentious divorce from the actress Kim Basinger, and he wants you to believe that the book contains no gossip about that tabloid feast. And yet “A Promise to Ourselves,” written with Mark Tabb, includes details that will surely make their way onto the Internet and supermarket racks: when Basinger told Baldwin she was pregnant with their daughter, it was with such grimness that rather than a seeming cause of joy, it was “like someone telling you that they had wrecked your car”; Baldwin describes Basinger as having “the legal equivalent of Munchausen syndrome,” appearing most alive “when she was surrounded by a battery of high-priced lawyers”; he suggests she did everything in her power to distort his relationship with his daughter. And woe to many of the lawyers, judges, anger- management therapists and shrinks mentioned in the book. They are variously “oily and smug,” “pent-up, angry and even malicious,” “cadaverous,” “the Wicked Witch of the West Coast.” One of Basinger’s attorneys is an “avaricious, inhumane garden slug.” And that’s the nice part. Most lawyers strike him as “men and women who were not sufficiently smart enough to become doctors or engineers.” Ouch. Let’s hope this guy doesn’t get divorced again.

Despite the fact that scores of millions of Americans are divorced, divorce is a lonely business. Each divorce is horrible in its own specifically horrible way. Because of this, no two people can cry on each other’s shoulders with the precise amount of empathy and understanding. In an attempt to forge some sense of community, Baldwin sprinkles the book with narratives from men who experienced divorces like his — including those in which the children suffer from parental alienation syndrome. P.A.S. is a malady in which one parent — in Baldwin’s book, almost invariably the father — is isolated from the child or children in a divorce. In short, it’s the women folk who make the kids hate Dad. Dad then spirals out of control and leaves an obscene, emotionally violent message for his prepubescent daughter on her cellphone (as Baldwin notoriously did in 2007, calling her, among other things, a “rude, thoughtless little pig”). The message is leaked to the press, which really makes you wonder which parent should be tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road at night, but nevertheless the father is left with egg on his face, and his daughter with one person fewer on her speed dial.

Baldwin wants us to believe that P.A.S. is a legitimate syndrome, yet he goes to curious lengths to show us that it may not be a sound diagnosis. He then wraps up by interviewing a Harvard law professor, a “rising star” and a woman who argues that feminism is in part to blame for the broken family law system. The transcript format he uses here is ponderous, self-serious and rigid. You can almost hear him as Jack Donaghy interviewing the hot little number from Harvard.

For all its faults, its creakinesses and almost codger-like crankiness, its occasionally sludgy prose, this book has a point. Divorce is hell. Lawyers are vultures. Children get lost. Baldwin bravely set out to illuminate and change the way divorce is conducted in this country; he also, wittingly or not, offers a candid, unhappy portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Alex Kuczynski is the author of “Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery.”

The anguish of being a weekend dad

The Daily Mail Online, UK

The anguish of being a weekend dad: One part-time father gives his poignant testimony

By William Leith
Last updated at 11:53 PM on 07th October 2008
Three years ago, in his mid-40s, writer William Leith, who lives in Lewes, East Sussex, rejoiced at becoming a father at last. But two years later, his relationship with his partner - whom he had known for 20 years - broke down.

Now that he is no longer part of a family home, he finds himself among the ranks of Britain's part-time parents. Here, he reflects on the loneliness and anxiety of being a weekend dad.

Every week, I walk up the road to my son's house, either to pick him up or to drop him off. I walk up the road and down the drive and knock on the door of the house I used to sleep in. These are anxious moments. I stand on the doorstep while my brain whizzes around, taking in detail, thinking about what might have been. But I must edit these thoughts. I must move on; I must move on.

I'm fine, I say to myself as I look at the front door. Just fine! And now I can hear something. My son's mum, my ex in other words, is getting his stuff together. There is rustling. And now I can hear his voice! Billy! A balloon expands in my chest. My son!

It's still weird, this feeling, even after three and a half years. My son! I don't usually go more than three days without seeing him. But sometimes it feels like a long time not to see your son. Of course, in the Stone Age, men probably went off on hunting trips and didn't see their sons for days on end. And lots of people I know didn't see their dads much, even when they lived at home.
William Leith and son
Precious: William Leith wth his son, who he sees once a week since his split with his son's mum

But a three-year-old can change appreciably in half a week. Then again, if I saw him every day, the change would be more incremental, so I might not notice it as much.
I can hear him through the door. 'No!' he's saying. Is he going through a 'No!' phase? How sweet, I think.

He says: 'I don't want my wellies!' This might take a while. I stand there, peering at the frosted glass.

I didn't think I'd have children. And then my son was conceived when I was 44. I'd got to a point where I thought I'd missed out, thought I'd spend a lifetime of what-ifs and wondering about the mysteries of parenthood. I'd wanted children, but it kept on not happening.

The moment I knew I was going to be a father I felt elated in a very strange, time- standing-still way. I looked at the line on the pregnancy testing kit. I felt great. We felt great.

Of course, things didn't work out between me and Billy's mum. And so I have these confused memories; they start off with 'us', which is me and her, and then 'us', which is all three of us after Billy was born, and now, for me, the 'us' is just me and him.


Wanting a son

I desperately wanted a son. I don't know why. I really don't. I also felt sure that he was a son. We - there it is again, that 'we' - decided not to find out the sex of the baby. But there were complications with the pregnancy, scans and, at one point, a nurse said something like: 'Look - there he is.' I said: 'But I thought you weren't going to tell me the sex.'

She thought for a second and said: 'Um, I always say "he", whether it's a boy or a girl.' I didn't believe her.

I was right not to. A boy! He was born, by Caesarean section, nearly six weeks premature. He had to lie in an oxygen box because his lungs hadn't formed properly.

They said he was pretty likely to survive. But they also said it wasn't absolutely certain. A nurse told me I should spend some time alone with him. I was allowed to hold his foot, but nothing more. I talked to him and tried to stop myself crying. Three days later, a doctor said he would be fine. Then I really cried.

And now at his house the door opens, and it's him. 'Daddy!' I pick him up, and then put him down gently. He is full of things to tell me. As a three-year-old boy, he's interested in machines and creepy-crawlies. 'There was a big spider and it made a web, and that was to catch a fly!'

And: 'Look, Daddy, there are more webs! With more spiders! There was a spider in the car!'

I talk to his mum. My ex. We talk times, dates. There is so much more I want to say. One day, soon, I will find the words. We talk wellies, Crocs. My voice is shaky. But less shaky than it was.

And now we're off. I hold his hand and turn the corner and we're gone; now it's just the two of us, and this is one of the best moments of my week.

I've lost a relationship, and that's sad, but I've gained this boy, I've gained these moments, and it's terrific.

I say: 'It's lovely to see you!' To which he sometimes says: 'I love you, Daddy.' And sometimes: 'I want to talk about spiders!'

I say: 'What have you been doing?' 'Playing.' 'Who with?' 'People.' It occurs to me that one day he might say a name in answer to that question, and it might be the name of a future stepfather. But I must take this in my stride.


Always vulnerable

'A single father is always vulnerable. I mean, my God, those Fathers 4 Justice guys who dress up in superhero costumes and climb up the sides of buildings... I try to dispose of these thoughts as soon as they enter my head. Mentally, I cross myself.

I say: 'So, how are you?' And sometimes he scowls. Sometimes he's grumpy. But I love that, too, his grumpy face just like my grumpy face from old photographs.

One of the complications of being a part-time parent is that you tend to love everything they do, even when they throw things and have tantrums. I worry that it might be more difficult to keep these things in perspective. Maybe I find it harder to tell him off than I would if I lived with him.

Once, a while back, I took him to the open day of a nursery school. We were standing in a semi-circle listening to the principal, and all these kids were being very well behaved.
Father and son
'Can we go and see some more dead things?' William's son asked him, after he saw a bee 'come back to life' (picture posed by models)


But I could feel my son tugging at my hand. Then he pulled his hand away and ran into the school. I ran after him. I could hear things being thrown and over-turned. He was shouting. I remembered that there was a table with children sitting around, stringing things on beads. And then I heard a noise that meant the box of beads had been tipped over; when I got there, the floor was awash with beads.

But my son was already somewhere else, way ahead of me, having located some plastic food. He was shouting: 'I want cake!' When I finally picked him up, he whacked me in the face, over and over.

But I wanted to laugh. I must remember not to laugh when he does stuff like this, even though I want to.

I know that I must not be over-indulgent. But am I too strict in other ways? Am I too careful? When I get him to my house, he wants to get on his tricycle or ride on the top of his toy bin lorry - 'bin lorry surfing! Bin lorry surfing!' - and he wants to go fast, wants to hurtle along, wants to risk crashing and falling off, and I'm always watching him, always worried about sending him home with a cut or a scrape I could have avoided, also thinking: 'But that's how they learn, you idiot!'

And I insist on holding his hand when we're near a road, always wondering if I'm being too cautious. When I press the button at the crossing, I wait for the green man, even if the road is quite empty.


Indulgence

I used not to worry about hygiene so much, even let him eat soil when he was a toddler. But then I split up with his mum and I became more worried. He won't eat soil on my watch, I thought.

Now I'm getting calmer. On our days out together, we wander around town. We look in shops. For a long time there was no part of my mind that could ever have imagined it: me, walking along, holding hands with a small boy. Me, a father! And then: me, a single father.

There's a whole world out there I didn't know about - not just the world of parenthood, but also the world of single parenthood - a daytime world of mums and dads with kids, in parks and leisure centres. And a part-time world of mums and dads who are sometimes on their own, whose lives fall into two separate parts - with their children, and without them.

Of course, there are endless questions. One thing about being a single parent is that you don't spend as much time as you might otherwise spend talking to your co-parent about what you should say about this and that. You do not present a united front, because you are not a united front.

On this particular outing, we see a bee on the path. My son asks me if the bee is dead. But then the bee moves.

'It's come back to life!' I say, well, no, the bee has not come back to life - it had never been dead. He looks at me, turning the thought over in his mind. We walk on. My son says: 'Look - what is that?' It's a dead squirrel.

'It's a dead squirrel.' My son looks at the dead squirrel. He says: 'What can we do to make it come back to life?'

'Um, nothing.' 'Why?' And here it is, possibly the first Big Question, and for a few moments it flashes through my mind, the panorama of death, and I don't know what to say, and what comes out is: 'Well, that's just the way it is. When something is dead, it's dead. That's it.'

My son looks at me. He ponders this, and nods his head.

'Dad,' he says. 'Yes?' 'Can we go and see some more dead things?'

Later, we go to the fish counter at Tesco to see the dead fish, and I realise I'd love to tell his mum about it, but I won't have time to tell the story, with all its nuances - the way he ran into the shop and shouted: 'Are there any dead fish in here?' and then what he said to the fishmonger.


Fear of a rival

Being a single father makes you vulnerable. You fear a rift, a rival stepfather, the fact that your child might move away. I sometimes wonder if this somehow hardens you emotionally, if your brain is secretly preparing for the possibility of these things.

You wonder what your child is doing when you're not there, when you won't be there, in his life, for days. You get good at blocking out bad thoughts. You get less shaky. But at what cost? Of course, you'll never know. There's a lot you'll never know, like what it would be like to live with your son in a family situation. There is guilt.

Sometimes I wonder: do I want more kids? Maybe. Maybe not. It's hard to imagine.
There are other things. I don't know if the stories I read my son are the same stories his mum reads him, or some of the same ones or completely different ones, and I wonder if we're talking to him about words and numbers in a slightly different way, because even if you talk about these things, you never quite see the other parent in action.
Father and son
Over indulgent? William struggles not to laugh when his son his son is naughty, and whacks him around the face (picture posed by models)


Some of the single mums I know say that there are unspoken rules: for instance, the non-custodial parent should not give or arrange haircuts. Haircuts are the province of the custodial parent. One mum told me she'd be mortified if her ex bought their daughter a pair of shoes. She said that would be going too far.

Sometimes I take my son back to the house on the bus. He says: 'We're going to Mummy's house.' Occasionally, when he says this, somebody will catch my eye. Recently he said: 'Mummy doesn't go to Daddy's house, and Daddy doesn't go to Mummy's house.'

'Yes,' I said conversationally. 'Why?' 'Well,' I replied. 'That's the way - that's the way it turned out.'

On the way back to the house at the end of the day, I have a pang of sadness. I know that, for a while, I will carry around a strange, hollow feeling, a bit like homesickness feels like when you're a kid.

I will walk away, this time on my own. Then I will not see my son for three more days. Three whole days.

Recently, I was walking in the hills above the town, in the early evening, and I took an unfamiliar path, and turned a corner, and saw a view that I hadn't expected. About a mile away, in the far distance, I could clearly see my son's house. He would be in there. Probably getting ready for bed.

I looked at the house for a while. And here we are. Back again! He runs towards his mum. My ex. 'Mummy!' he says. I stand there. I want to tell the story about the dead squirrel and the fish shop. But I won't be able to get in the nuances.

My voice will be shaky. My timing will be off. 'We saw this bee,' I begin.


©
Guardian News And Media 2008.
William Leith's latest book, Bits Of Me Are Falling Apart: Dark Thoughts From The

False allegations of violence ~ Domestic and Otherwise

Read the Globe and Mail editorial of October 6, 2008 and then Barbara Kay's column that focuses more on the false allegations of abuse and their impacts against fathers. Note the Globe's  comment on punishing the false accusers and those that "egg" on the vigilantes.

Lets put this in the context of the family courts. False accusers are usually the female, therefore, they should be punished;  those that "egg" the accuser on are often misguided feminists, some of whom will say to you with a straight face that Parental Alienation doesn't exist either.  They should also be sanctioned and/or punished. Who would the vigilante be under these circumstances? The judge who causes the father/man to lose his self respect, his property, his children, his reputation; his livelihood? Add to the judge the lawyer who is bringing these false accusations to court?  Is she/he an expensive and duped  baseball bat being sent to wield as much damage as possible on to this man/father?

It gets quite interesting doesn't it when one gets a good look at the "other side" of an issue involving false accusations in the family court.  It kind of makes it look like judges and lawyers can be dupes and low lifes just like the vigilantes in the editorial.  Makes you stop and think about the seriousness of what is going on - doesn't it - all without any penalty to these perpetrators and conspirators of injustice. Who are judges answerable to? When was the last time you heard of a Superior Court  judge being punished for wrong doing. Once perhaps in the past 50 years or so.

globeandmail.com

VANCOUVER ISLAND KILLING

Gossip and vigilantism


Clifford Frederick Martin is charged with a cowardly and despicable crime. Two girls aged 13 and 15 had claimed that a 19-year-old man, a young father living in Courtenay, B.C., had touched them inappropriately.

According to the charges, Mr. Martin did not call police, but picked up a baseball bat, broke into the man's home at night and savagely beat him to death.

Even if the man was guilty of the rumoured sexual interference, the response was horrific. But the most sickening aspect of the events is that the RCMP say the girls' allegations appear to have been fabricated. So, if he is guilty, Mr. Martin is not only a coward and killer, but also a dupe of young people's gossip.

It's not the first time this year that an innocent man was attacked on the basis of gossip. A 42-year-old man was beaten and stabbed by some men in Owen Sound, Ont., in July after a 17-year-old girl mistook the victim for another man and began verbally and physically assaulting him. She then summoned her male friends who furiously attacked him.

Police later revealed it was a case of mistaken identity. The victim, police say, was left with "close to life-threatening" injuries.

In that case, at least, the 17-year-old was charged with assault. But the two girls whose claims allegedly prompted the Courtenay murder have not been charged. And an 18-year-old woman, Janelle Peyachew, who accompanied Mr. Martin, is facing only charges of breaking and entering.

To deter vigilante-style attacks, the authorities need to punish those whose false accusations are at the root of the incidents, and those who egg on vigilantes - not just those wielding the baseball bats and knives.



October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; How about making November false allegations awareness month

Barbara Kay
Posted: October 06, 2008, 9:11 PM by Jonathan Kay



Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed in October, 1987 and is celebrated on the first Monday in October. That's today, October 6. Fittingly enough, this morning's Globe and Mail carries an editorial on the sometimes tragic effects when innocent men are charged with false allegations of sexual abuse.

The editorial recounts the story of a young father who was savagely beaten to death with a baseball bat by a young man who took the word of two girls, aged 13 and 15, when they claimed the victim had "touched them inappropriately." The girls had lied and clearly incited their male "protector" to violence, but they were not charged with any crime. Nor was an 18-year old woman who accompanied the murderer and presumably, at the very least, approved of his actions. Perhaps she even egged him on. She was only charged with "breaking and entering." The editorial indignantly concludes that "the authorities need to punish" those whose false accusation are at the root of such incidents.

The Globe editorialists' indignation suggests a certain naiveté about the prevalence of this practice. They would profit from spending a few days in family court, where, in the interest of tipping custody battles in their own interest, women's false allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse of children against their former partners are so rife - and virtually never punished - that it is apparently the best-kept secret crime in the western world. Oh, perhaps these men are not beaten up with baseball bats, but they do lose their homes, their children, often their jobs and friends, spend time in jail, are rarely given the benefit of the doubt - and many of them kill themselves from despair.

In 2000, it was reported that the FBI's DNA testing over a three year period had exonerated more than 30% of their 4,000-plus sexual assault suspects. Going further back, in the FBI's Behavioural Science Unit's 1983 study of False Allegations, a total of 220 out of 556 rape investigations - 40% - turned out to be false. Over a quarter turned out to be actual hoaxes (remember the infamous Tawana Brawley, who at 15 falsely accused a number of white men of a marathon three-day gang rape, some of them police officers? At least she got successfully sued for defamation, but that was small potatoes for the havoc she wreaked in those men's lives). About 4,000 allegations of rape a year are levelled in Manhattan. About half never happened. Police officials in New Zealand state that 64% of rape reports are false.

False reports of child abuse are even more prevalent. A 1999 National Post article reported on a study by two law professors from Queen's University: "The academics looked at 196 abuse allegations involving separated parents. Of these, 46 cases resulted in judgments that abuse did occur. Of the 150 unproven cases, the trial judges believed the allegations were intentionally false (either a parent or child made them up) 45 times. Thus it appears there are as many cases of false accusations of child abuse as there are provable, true incidents.

After lifting the veil on the prevalence of false claims, the two law professors then detail[ed] the costs - emotional, financial and legal - of such accusations. Since mothers make the preponderance of abuse claims - true and false - it is fathers who bear the bulk of this burden. Further, it is important to remember that even if the charges are found to be baseless in criminal court, they can subsequently re-appear in family court. This means the father may never escape the stigma of being falsely accused of child abuse. And just one instance of a mother being charged with making false accusations was reported in the study, even though the data suggests one quarter of child abuse charges are likely to be deliberately invented."

All allegations of sexual abuse or domestic violence should be routed immediately to criminal court and the burden placed on the accuser to prove (usually) her case. Real punishment should follow on false accusations of abuse of any kind. When women get away scot free with ruining men's lives - or provoking tragedies like those detailed in this editorial - it is inevitable that the message trickles down to society at large that false allegations against men by women and girls are tolerated and even triviliazed. I don't think those girls thought they were doing anything "wrong," certainly not committing a crime. I daresay they would not have been so insouciant about accusing the unfortunate young man if they were aware that false allegations result in serious consequences.

I would love to see the Globe and Mail follow up their editorial with an in-depth story on the state of false allegations in Canada today. As a kind of ironic "homage" to domestic violence month.