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Fathers Rights

Jun 012014
 

frozen-embryosA judge has awarded custody of frozen embryos to a 42-year-old woman over the objections of her ex-boyfriend who said it violates his right to not procreate.

In 2009, Karla Dunston, began dating Jacob Szafranski, a 32-year-old firefighter. A few months into their relationship Dunston was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy that would ultimately destroy her fertility.

She testified that she longed to have a biological child and asked Szafranski to provide his sperm so that embryos could be frozen prior to her treatment, and he did so, despite neither of them thinking the relationship had long-term prospects.

The couple broke up in May 2010. Szafranski said he changed his mind about being a father after friends and a girlfriend reacted negatively, according to court documents.

Judge Sophia Hall said Friday in a written ruling that oral agreements between Szafranski and Dunston concerning use of the embryos stand and added that Dunston’s desire to have a child outweighs Szafranski’s desire to not procreate.

“Karla’s desire to have a biological child in the face of the impossibility of having one without using the embryos outweighs Jacob’s privacy concerns, which are now moot,” the judge said in the ruling, “and his speculative concern that he might not find love with a woman because he unhesitatingly agreed to help give Karla her last opportunity to fulfil her wish to have a biological child.”

Dunston’s lawyer, Abram Moore, applauded the ruling.

“Using these pre-embyros is important to our client, but it is equally important to her to set a precedent in Illinois which helps other women cancer survivors who find themselves in this heart-wrenching situation,” he said in an email.

Szafranski’s lawyer, Brian Schroeder, said they plan to appeal the decision.

“We’re obviously very unhappy,” he said.

Karla-Dunston

Karla Dunston

Schroeder said lawyers for both parties have agreed that the embryos should not be implanted in Dunston until the appeal is completed.

Through a lawyer, Dunston previously has said she was not seeking any support, financial or otherwise, from Szafranski.

It was by both legal teams noted that despite the intentions to the contrary by Dunston, Szafranski would be liable for child support in the event of a birth, and that this financial obligation will be viable and retrospective if at any time Dunston decides to seek financial support from Szafranski.

In 1985, 260 babies were born through assisted reproductive technology; in 2010, the number topped 61,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Yet only a few state higher courts have addressed, with mixed results, what to do with frozen embryos once a couple has separated. Legal experts said they would be watching to see how Illinois handles the complex issue.

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Feb 012014
 

single-parent-families-bad-for-childrenSOCIAL progressives on both sides of politics may not like the message or the messenger, but Cory Bernardi had a point about the benefits of the traditional family.

Decades of social science data has shown that children, on average, do better in life on measures of health, education and social outcomes when raised in two-parent married families.

The risks to children associated with family breakdown disprove the fashionable idea that marriage, divorce, and sole parenting don’t matter for children.

The importance of marriage to children’s wellbeing is especially relevant to one of the most important child welfare issues facing the nation – child sexual abuse.

The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family setting. However, the fact that in 70-80 per cent of cases the perpetrator is found to have a “familial relationship” with the abused child obscures a more significant truth.

Numerous studies have found that children who do not live with both biological parents, irrespective of socio-economic status, are far more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in traditional families. Girls living in non-traditional families are found to have been sexually abused by their “stepfathers”, either the married, cohabiting, or casual partner of a divorced or single mother, at many times the rate that girls are sexually abused by their biological fathers in traditional families.

The 2010 US Fourth National Incidence Study of Abuse and Neglect found that compared to peers living in married two-biological-parent families, children living with a single parent who had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused. Children living with a single parent with no cohabiting partner, and children living in a stepfamily (with married biological and non-biological parents), were five times and between eight and nine times more likely to be sexually abused, respectively.

Step and single-parent families accounted for only one-third of all children in the US (33 per cent) but accounted for more than two-thirds (66.8 per cent) of all children who experienced child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse statistics in Australia are far less comprehensive and meaningful. Data publicly available here does not provide specific information about family structure, the identity of the perpetrator, and their relationship with the abused child.

This is symptomatic of the deeper silences in the national conversation about child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been widely applauded for finally “breaking the silence” surrounding child sexual abuse.

The commission’s inquiry into the ways that churches, schools and other institutions have mishandled child sexual abuse is crucial. However, we should still question the extent to which the commission’s findings will ensure children are better protected from sexual abuse in the future when the well-established but under-publicised links between family structure and child sexual abuse are not being investigated.

When the Australian Christian Lobby released a major report on child welfare in 2011 detailing the evidence demonstrating that family breakdown is a major risk factor for child sexual abuse, the facts were neither disputed nor acknowledged in the little public discussion that ensued. They simply washed in and out of the public domain and left no trace on community attitudes.

The issues are not fully and frankly discussed in this country because the public discourse is self-censored, in effect, by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards “family diversity”, the socially “progressive” and “non-judgmental” fiction that says the traditional family is just one among many, and equally worthy, family forms.

In hindsight, we are justifiably critical of the silences that in earlier times kept child sexual abuse a hidden problem. Yet a comparable silence exists today.

Greater community awareness is needed of the potentially harmful impact the relationship and reproductive choices of adults can have on children. This could be achieved by a government-commissioned, anti-child sexual abuse public information campaign. The campaign should emphasise that the traditional family is a protective factor that prevents child sexual abuse. It should also publicise how divorce and single-parenthood increases the risk of sexual abuse for the more than one in four Australian children who do not live with both biological parents.

This is not as radical as it sounds. In New York and Chicago, public information campaigns are encouraging marriage before having children and discouraging teen pregnancy. Barack Obama has also endorsed the need for “strong stable families” to reduce poverty in America.

Australian governments already conduct advertising campaigns such as anti-smoking and anti-drink driving campaigns to educate citizens, promote certain values, and change attitudes and behaviours. A public information campaign that advertised the risks to children posed by family breakdown would end the new silence that hides the culturally unfashionable truth.

Jeremy Sammut is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. His report, The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse, is released today.

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Nov 232013
 
paternity-tests

MORE and more families are taking steps to confirm their children’s parentage. But experts say it doesn’t have to be a negative and nasty experience.

For decades paternity tests have been cast as the bad guys, the marriage-breakers, an all-round negative experience – but now, as they become a more common part of modern life, some experts are extolling the positive side of testing.

It is estimated that in Australia, more than 10,000 people – interestingly, mainly women – sign up each year to find out whether their child is biologically theirs, says Professor Michael Gilding of Melbourne’s Swinburne Institute for Social Research.

While that number seems large, Australia remains a bit slow off the mark in embracing these tests. In the US each year, there are about five times as many paternity tests per head as the population.

But Gilding and other experts believe it is just a matter of time before this type of testing becomes more the norm in Australia, with tests becoming more accessible, affordable and acceptable.

— Getting a test

There are two types of paternity tests available in Australia – legal and non-legal.

A non-legal test is for personal information only and cannot be used for legal issues. It usually involves taking a mouth swab using a kit received in the mail. The swabs are taken from the alleged father and child and are then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Legal tests are required by law to comply with the Australian Family Law Act, so there are strict conditions concerning sample collection and all samples must be tracked from the collection centre to the testing laboratory to be admissible as evidence in court.

— Who wants them?

Men’s rights organisations, such as the Men’s Rights Agency, claim up to 30 per cent of men in Australia are living with a child they mistakenly believe is their biological offspring. In the past, the group has called for mandatory testing of all babies at birth.

Gilding adamantly disputes this figure and says it is probably closer to between one and three per cent.

“To insist everyone has a paternity test because of that [small percentage] where there is paternal discrepancy is overkill,” he says. He adds that most paternity issues arise during a break-up or strained periods in a relationship.

“The main group of people requesting tests are women who have a child outside of marriage and there is a dispute around paternity and supporting parent’s benefit,” Gilding says.

The next-biggest group ordering paternity tests are men with doubts about whether a child they are caring for is biologically theirs – and this has already been shown to have major repercussions for families.

In November 2011 an Australian woman was ordered to pay her former husband almost $13,000 after he arranged a DNA test that confirmed he was not the biological father of the woman’s 14-year-old son.

Andrea Hayward, director of DNA QLD, a specialist paternity testing facility, agrees that the number of men unwittingly raising children who are not biologically theirs has been over-estimated.

“In our experience, 80 per cent of men get paternity confirmed,” Hayward says. “While there are stories of aggrieved fathers who have spent years paying child support for children they then find are not theirs, for a lot of people, testing is a positive experience.

“Someone may have said something that makes a man wonder whether a child is really his. A test can eliminate doubt.”

— Who gives consent?

Another contentious issue is whether both parents should be aware of a test. Gilding believes there are times when the tests can be carried out without the other parent’s consent.

“I think men have a right to the knowledge of their biological paternity. But they shouldn’t be able to do a test without the mother’s knowledge,” he says.

“Tests can be done in anger. But both parents need to think about their relationship to the child. Trying to humiliate the mother may undermine a father’s long-term relationship with that child,” Gilding says.

— Here to stay

Hayward and Gilding believe paternity testing is generally a positive initiative. Plus, there is no going back now.

“Paternity tests are here. The genie is out of the bottle,” Gilding says. “And for the eight out of 10 men who find they are the father, that’s a cause for relief.”

Nov 222013
 
mens-helpline

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way.

My wife has said she is going to leave me. What do I need to know?

There are three important practical areas you need to consider if you are facing divorce: division of property, maintenance payments and residency of/contact with children. Hopefully you will be able to settle some or all of these matters without recourse to lawyers. This is clearly the preferred option as court proceedings may be lengthy and very expensive. They are also extremely stressful and can involve considerable hostility, which can have a very damaging effect on children caught in the cross-fire. However, even though court should be avoided if at all possible, it is wise to seek legal advice in order to get a clear understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities in the event that matters do have to go to formal proceedings. Note that from July 1st, 2007 it will be a legal requirement for separating couples to go through a mediation process prior to taking their case to court.


After separation, you may be required to pay child maintenance to your ex-wife to contribute to the cost of raising your children. The amount you will need to pay will depend on a range of factors including how many children you have and how old they are, your income, your wife’s income, and the amount of time you spend looking after your children each week. The formula is set by legislation. The Child Support Agency (CSA) is the government body responsible for making assessments and helping separated parents manage their financial responsibilities towards their children. In the event of separation, you will need to make contact with CSA to arrange an assessment. Note that separated parents can also make a private maintenance arrangement without going through CSA, if both parties agree.


Residency and contact arrangements for children are often the area that is most difficult for separated parents. A good idea is to prepare a parenting plan, which is a written, signed and dated agreement outlining care arrangements for your children. The main purpose is to specify who cares for which children and when, but it may also cover such areas as who pays for what expenses, as well as other matters such as choice of school, house rules and so on. A parenting plan is not legally enforceable (unless made before 14th January, 2004), although it can be converted into an enforceable ‘consent order’ if both parties agree. Mediation can help this process if parents are having trouble agreeing or even discussing arrangements.   Contact the Family Relationships Advice Line (1800 050 321), the Family Court of Australia or your local Family Relationships Centre to find out more about how to formalise a parenting plan.
 

Where can I get legal advice?

Community Legal Centres and legal help-lines offer free legal advice. Legal Aid in your state may also be able to offer free advice. Law associations can usually refer you to a solicitor in your area. Search our services directory for legal services close to where you live. The Family Relationships Advice Line (1800 050 321) also provides legal referrals Australia-wide.

http://www.mensline.org.au/Home.html

Oct 052010
 

courts-treat-fathers-differentlyMEN are being unfairly treated during custody battles according to an Albany father.

The man whose case is still in court cannot be named, but he alleges fathers in the system were being treated like common criminals.

The man said he had been charged with child abuse but felt the allegations were baseless.

He felt the issues were no more than infrequent domestic arguments, and he cannot get help or advice on the matters.

The children in question have been in the care of their mother since December, 2009. He alleges she is a drug addict.

“These children have been taken out of my care without any proof,” he said.

“The matter has gone to the Department of Child Protection (DCP) but as far as I am aware has not gone on to the police.”

When police protectors were contacted, they were unaware of the family in question.

“She (ex-partner) keeps lying to these government departments and putting the children into dangerous situations,” the father said.

“I’ve hit a brick wall and these departments seems to just want to protect her.

“I am a decent parent and the way I’ve been treated is disgraceful.

“No-one is doing their job and if DCP don’t start doing their job they will have blood on their hands.”

Family Law Action Group (FLAG) member Simon Hunt said fathers were often removed from their children’s lives on an interim basis.

“Their only prospect is to convince a biased court (and biased practitioners) that the situation should change and their role restored, which is ridiculously difficult,” he said.

“The notion of shared parenting after divorce is seen as radical and only possible in rare circumstances where both parents get on very well.

“The Family Court actually cite ‘conflict’ as the reason why one parent – usually the father – must be excluded from their children.”

Mr Hunt said child custody litigation was about winners and losers with very few mothers able to cope with the idea of being excluded from their children’s lives.

The DCP would not make comment on the case but denied men were being unfairly discriminated against in cases of alleged domestic violence and custody battles.

“The department observes a stringent non-discrimination policy to provide fairness and equity to all Western Australian families and ensures that these people who need direct assistance have an opportunity to receive that assistance,” a spokesperson said.

“The department conducts rigorous interviews and risk assessments to determine the best accommodation and care option for children.

“In some instances the child will be placed in care outside of the immediate or extended family.”

DCP said various services were available through government and non-government agencies including Anglicare, Regional Counselling and Mentoring Services.

“There are also a number of group counselling sessions including Changing Tracks for male domestic violence perpetrators, post-separation services and substance abuse counselling provided primarily by not-for-profit organisations,” the spokesperson said.

“In the Albany area, men are able to access individual counselling through a number of local private practitioners.”

ABIGAIL WORKMAN

http://albany.yourguide.com.au/news/local/news/general/courts-treat-men-poorly-father/1943811.aspx?storypage=0

Sep 122010
 
truths_lies

The issues of child protection and domestic violence have been hijacked by politically motivated feminist cliques, according to a coalition of men’s groups.

The claim came after an ombudsman’s report found bureaucrats guilty of “unreasonable and wrong administrative action” after failing to correct false and misleading information that promoted the idea men were overwhelmingly responsible for domestic violence.

South Australia’s Office for Women presented erroneous statistics, such as 95 per cent of domestic violence involves a male perpetrator and a female victim, the ombudsman found. Raw data show that, overall, at least one in three victims are male.

Men’s Health Australia spokesman Greg Andresen said the SA Ombudsman’s report should make the Gillard Government think twice about rolling back the shared parenting reforms introduced to family law by the Howard government — which effectively guarantee fathers some level of access to their children in the event of marital breakdown.

“The picture seems to be emerging of offices of women around the country — who advise state and federal ministers — having taken deeply feminist lines on domestic abuse and child protection,” Mr Andresen said.

“These bureaucrats have a strong feminist perspective — and that’s probably appropriate for people concerned with women’s issues.

“But the problem is that when governments roll out programs relating to children, what gets rolled out is a program for women, not one that has equal regard for men and women.

“The conventional wisdom among these people is that the only perpetrators of domestic violence are men and the only perpetrators of violence against children are men.

“There is a wealth of research that shows that men are almost as likely to suffer domestic violence or abuse.”

Laurie Nowell, Sunday Herald Sun, 12 September 2010, Section 1, page 28.