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Shared Parenting — Truly shared in Oklahoma


Subject:  Tulsa Oklahoma-Update
   Date:  Fri, 8 Sep 2000 09:21:40 -0500
   From:  "gregory palumbo" <g.palumbo@worldnet.att.net>

I thought you all might like to see some evidence of spirit rekindled in Tulsa, OK. The message below is from one of the organizers.

Below is a second article in a series of articles that appeared in the Tulsa World, written by Jason Collington, because of the activities of 3 men and two women dedicated to change.

In contrast to what was stated in the article, the shared parenting act of 1999 requires that it is up to a parent who opposes equal parenting time during the pendente lite hearing to prove the other parent is a danger to the children.....only then can a judge write an opinion denying equal or near equal time to both parents. The reason this law is so important to Oklahoma is that a guaranteed victor in divorce or out-of-wedlock births contributes to broken families based on several national studies.

The goal of passing this law was to set a tone that the children could not be used as a weapon upfront in divorce. Further that over the 5-9 months to the final custody decree, the parents would learn to get along because it was best for the children, and thus both parents if fit, would remain parents. And just possibly......the parents might, through focusing on the children, mend their marriages or get married.

It was the likely outcomes of this law of creating and maintaining healthy families that led the Children's Rights Council of Washington D.C. to give the Oklahoma legislators who sponsored this law, and Governor Keating who signed it, national recognition this summer. I have received the recognition certificates from CRC just this week to hand out to those responsible during a pro-family event next February 

Gregory Palumbo, Ph.D.
Oklahomans for Families Alliance
 

"We in Tulsa are a reality!  Whether it be 5 or 500 or 5000, we are here to stay. You send us the weary, the displaced or those who have nothing left in their soul but hope and we will be there. The one commitment we have dedicated our lives to is we are not going away! Do you hear us in Tulsa, we are not going away as long as one child suffers the pain of discrimination and is a product of financial gain to those who do not care! We will fight and continue the fight until someone recognizes truth, so help us God!

Those of you out there who believe in what is right must stand and deliver!"
 

                                David M. Ellenburg

Shared parenting
By JASON COLLINGTON World Staff Writer
8/15/00

Jimmy Williams holds his sons Jimmy, left, and Jeremy at their home in Claremore. He has had custody of his sons for four years.

World File
 

Child advocacy groups stress `kids need both parents'

Five times more likely to commit suicide.

Thirty times more likely to run away.

Nine times more likely to drop out of school.

Ten times more likely to abuse drugs.

These are the kind of statistics David Levy runs through when asked what happens to children who don't have consistent contact with both parents.

"This is a public health issue," said Levy, president of the Children's Rights Council and author of "The Best Parent is Both Parents: A Guide to Shared Parenting in the 21st Century."

Studies add that children in single parent homes are at a higher risk of living in poverty. Girls are more likely to engage in premarital sex and give birth outside of marriage.

Many child advocacy groups and parent organizations have adopted the phrase "Kids need both parents." It's also the motto of a newly created Tulsa organization called Dads Are Displaced.

It is using findings like Levy describes as proof that its work is in the best interest of children.

"What we hope to establish in Tulsa is a place for parents to come who want to be a part of their children's lives but are running into walls," said Carl Weston, a DAD member. "It's simple. Parents need to be parents."

THE PENDULUM IS SWINGING BACK

Many divorces are civil, but "unquestionably, there is a small population of parents that are really vicious," said psychologist Daniel Stockley, a longtime custody evaluator in Tulsa. "They will do anything to keep the child from the other parent. That's when they are not able to focus on the child's best interest."

But he believes the pendulum is starting to swing more in the favor of noncustodial parents who fight for more visitation and full custody.

"A majority of judges make a reasonable effort to be gender blind," he said. "I also see that men are just as interested in being good parents as women are."

Hal McBride has spent the last 25 years being an expert witness in many custody cases. He believes there is a reason why noncustodial parents, many times fathers, are being given more access to their children after a divorce.

"At the same time, fathers have become much more active and competent parents," said McBride, a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist.

"For some, a divorce makes them really focus on being with the child. Some become better fathers than they were when they were married." 

He admits that some decisions he has heard in courtrooms have not always been in the best interest of the child but of the custodial parent. But now, more than ever, he's seeing a movement toward better equality in the custody process.

Oklahoma has not only started to change laws concerning custody, but many of those laws include the popular phrase "shared parenting," language pushed by child advocacy groups and parent organizations.

The Oklahoma Parenting Act of 1999 recently received a national honor for its design to allow state courts to provide both parents "substantially equal access" to minor children.

The laws allow changes to be made if the judge determines shared parenting would be detrimental to the child.

"I think laws like this are evidence that a lot of elected officials recognize what's at stake," said Levy, in a telephone interview from the Children's Rights Council's office in Washington, D.C. His council recognized the law by state Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City. "It's now becoming a national movement. The message is getting out that divorce ends the marriage but should not end the family."

The legislation grew from the number of stories of children in the middle of high conflict divorces, Graves said.

"I believe kids have a right to both parents and this law just guarantees that everyone is working for the same goal if conditions are right," Graves said.

Although laws are starting to pop up, the public needs to make sure they are enforced, said Jeffery Leving, author of "Fathers' Rights: Hard Hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute."

"Not only are the judges playing politics, but many lawyers are as well," the lawyer said from his Chicago office. "Still for many noncustodial parents, visiting their child is only a luxury for those who have the money."

A FATHER'S ADVICE

Jimmy Williams knew it would be better for his boys to be with him. But at the same time, he knew it wouldn't be easy.

But after spending months several years ago thinking about the future of his family, this Claremore father said the morning sun accompanied his decision.

"I woke up one day and asked myself what was important," Williams said. "I was raised by my dad most of my life and so right then and there, I made him a promise of not letting them go."

His two sons are now in his custody and their mother is still a part of their lives. Staying close together and not having too much distance between parents and children has made life better for his sons, Williams said.

His advice to noncustodial parents who want to be more a part of their children's life is simple, he said.

"The system wants to see how hard you'll fight," he said. "You'll never be a loser or a deadbeat if you fight."
 

For more information on Dads Are Displaced, call 299-1630, 663-3652 or 832-0202. The DAD Web site is www.tulsa.org/dads.

__________________
Posted 2000 09 08