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"STEPPING BACK FROM ANGER: Protecting Your Children During Divorce."

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Sigh.  Has father's rights propaganda permeated EVERYTHING?  Would seem so.  The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers's ostensibly authoritative webpage, edited by Stephen J. Harhai, Esq., a noted family law attorney, is replete with the most dangerous kind of propaganda: the kind that quietly mixes in with good advice and facts, half-truths and outright lies.  

For example, notice the AAML's touting of the Children's Rights Council -- an unabashed anti-feminist FR propaganda machine -- as a general "source of information." (But nothing contra.)  For another example, notice the continual insertion of plugs for joint custody -- along with a marked absence of information telling the truth about how impractical it is (at best) and how harmful it is (at par.)  And for yet another example, read the following "handbook" article, publicized via Ann Landers, giving apparently sage and experienced lawyerly advice to divorcing couples.  It merits an "example" critique here, if for nothing else, than as an illustration of what subtle gender bias really is.  Talk about an agenda parading under the guise of "just some neutral advice!"  The title of the handbook is "Stepping Back From Anger. Protecting Your Children During Divorce." Sounds terrific, doesn't it?  The below quotes in italicized purple are directly from that handbook, and liznotes are in black. The handbook is (or was) posted in full at the AAML website at

So says the AAML (pushing mediation, too, of late):

Imagine you are six, and suddenly the only people you have ever relied on for food, shelter, and love are at each other's throats. In your young mind, you conclude that you are the cause of their anger, and that you might get lost in the shuffle. Before you know it, you think to yourself, there won't be anybody left to scare off the closet monsters.

SUDDENLY (?) the "only people" are at each other's throats?  It's possible, of course.  Almost anything is.  But this is hardly the typical prelude to divorce.  Relationships usually don't turn bad "suddenly," without a long build-up of worsening interaction (or lack of it.)  It's just as likely, and perhaps more likely, that that "six-year-old" has lived a life in which, for his or her entire memory, those parents were "at each other's throats," or, in the alternative, not having much to do with each other at all.  

It's just as likely, and perhaps MORE likely, given the lack of parental interaction, that both parents were NOT both parents that the child "relied on."  At least not equally.  Often, one spouse does the escapist thing from a bad relationship, working overtime, hardly ever home, going out drinking, having an affair, and so forth, during a lengthy deterioration of the parents' relationship.

Contrary to the father's rights propaganda, couples do NOT usually "suddenly" divorce, and most times it's not only not sudden, but a long time in coming.  When divorce does come, often it's merely a legal and financial formality.  During this period, it's highly likely that there were few of those family things, and less and less of any "joint" anything between the parents, one of whom is likely to have been shouldering the bulk of the child caregiving and responsibility, while the other was off feeling alienated, crying over beer to an understanding "friend," taking on extra business trips, or resolving the dissonance by avoiding it.  Sure, this "suddenly" scenario can happen, too.  

But the one-size-fits-all plea to emotionalism is specious.  The fact is, is that the picture of divorce isn't necessarily a "six-year-old child" facing "suddenly-divorcing," but otherwise functional parents.  No battery, no molestation, no individual circumstances...?  [note]  Can't the AAML appeal to reason instead of emotions?  It's an odd way for lawyers -- artists of logic -- to preface neutral advice backed up with reasoned argument.  Or is it...  Surely, they're not advocating for something here in this neutral turf...?

As parents, it is not enough to assume that your children will bounce back once the legal machinations of divorce are through. Though many adults find their post-divorce lives are vastly better than their pre-divorce lives, for many children, that is not the case.

Divorce makes its mark on children both in the short-term and the long-term. Young children whose parents are divorcing often suffer from depression, sleep disorders, loss of self-esteem, poor academic performance, behavioral regression, and a host of other physical and emotional disorders.

Of course, we ALL would agree that "in general" divorce (i.e. the demise of a family) is "bad." But it's not the "divorce" per se that's bad, IS IT.  The divorce is there because it's a bad situation, a bad marriage. The adjective's right, but what it's modifying is wrong.  

No question that the trauma of change and upheaval, even if it results in a better and less conflicted life for the child in the long run, will leave its negative mark.  Permanently.  And unavoidably.  But there's either a bad marriage or there's a divorce.  What's bad about divorce is the trauma of change that can follow what's really bad: the conflict.  But the conflict that is bad is something that exists independently.  It is the conflict between a child's parents, whether or not it results in a divorce, which harms the child!  It's not the divorce that creates this problem, it's the lousy relationship between the child's parents that creates this problem!  BEFORE and AFTER the divorce.  Divorce is just a symptom. "Divorce reform" is not going to change the parents' bad personal relationship.  Or the harm to children from it.  The Timberlawn study found that the relationship between a child's parents, more than ANYTHING else, is the primary factor in a child's well-being.  All we can do, given the existence of the bad relationship between the parents, is to look for ways to minimize additional harms, and to not make an already bad situation worse.

So what's the AAML building up to?  First there's an appeal to emotions posturing as "reason" in a pamphlet geared to be read by rather emotional people.  (Can we say manipulAtion?)  Then there's the blaming of DIVORCE itself on children's problems. (And which parent is more likely to file for that divorce? WHOSE guilt are we playing on here?)  And then there's the stab at appealing to reason (it's coming, it's coming.) Just beware that used car salesman (or that lawyer-mediator, hero-wannabe) who keeps getting you to say yes, yes, yes... because in a few moments, you'll find yourself saying yes, yes, yes to some other stuff without thinking it through...

Long after the divorce is final, children of divorce often have trouble entering into committed relationships of their own, fearing their relationships will end as their parents' did.

Could be true.  Divorce itself could be a factor in this correlation.  It would be simplistic factor, though, without isolating just what it is ABOUT divorce -- not a single simplistic event --that is the factor.  Other factors contributing to the greater likelihood that children of divorce will have relationship problems of their own when they grow up may be found more often in divorced families, but they actually are NOT the "divorce" factor.  For example: generational (genetic) dysfunctions such as tendency to alcoholism; for example: the lessons children "learn" observing parents who put paramours in a priority above their families; and, for example: that children who grow up in homes in which they cannot observe a healthy marriage INTACT will not have the role models to teach them how to function in one, either as a parent or as a spouse, regardless of what happens with or to either or both of the parents afterward.  

How much of the correlation of "divorce" to all the negatives attributed to it is really about the casting around for quick answers and solutions, and how much of the correlation really is attributable to the children's acquisition of innate or learned qualities that their parents (who themselves couldn't keep this important marriage together) share?  I don't know.  And neither does the AAML.  But it's a factoid, and factoids are necessary to convince thinking persons that a position is correct.  An appeal to emotion, followed by a factoid: "divorce = harm to your child" -- lissen up, lest negative consequences befall your baby.  (Oh stop, I'll do anything, anything... I'm feeling so guilt-ridden at this point...) 

SO THE ANSWER TO "DIVORCE IS BAD" IS... don't divorce, right?  Wrong.  Couldn't be.  And in fact, isn't said.  We're too sophisticated for that.  And we'd also recognize this immediately as women-blaming, father's rights stuff, since it's far more often that the mother actually files for the divorce.  We're not THAT guilt-ridden... And of course, we also wouldn't expect this from the American Academy of Matrimonial (aka DIVORCE) lawyers, FR or not. That would be too easy.  Also too hard.  It also would tend to open up a line of thinking about whether in fact it is divorce that actually causes the problems... 

One factoid.  A correlation.  A correlation you already know and can say "yes" to.  But which doesn't give any causation. And which is insufficient to say anything anyway, because even IF there were a causation, the solution would not work here!  Need more factoids... 

And more factoids follow.  Note, they FOLLOW.  They are positioned to follow so that in case you said, yes, yes upon reading the first factoid recognizing the correlation you didn't need the AAML to tell you, you might not even notice, while you're yes-yessing, that the factoids that follow are not even correlations:

In addition, a Princeton University study showed that children who live apart from one of their parents are more likely to drop out of school, become idle (neither be in school nor have a job), and have a child before reaching 20, than children who live with both parents. Other studies have made similar findings, concluding that the effects of divorce on children are pervasive and insidious.

... and the FR PROPAGANDA makes its entrance.  "A" study?

Not one single one of these correlations between "children who live apart" from one of the parents, gleaned from circumstances that include never-married (i.e. never DIVORCED) homes as well as divorced homes, gleaned from circumstances that include utterly dysfunctional parents as well as your average normal Joe and Sally, supports what it's laying the groundwork for!  LOOK AT WHAT IS EMPHASIZED.  Propaganda.  First, there was a buildup all about "two divorcing parents" and the trauma of divorce.  The only long-range correlation (set apart in a leading paragraph) that followed was about difficulties adult children seem to have later on in their own committed relationships.  And then, suddenly ("suddenly") we're hearing all about -- NOT THE TRAUMA OF DIVORCE, but the ills of a child's living apart from one of his or her parents.  Given that we all know which parent that is USUALLY going to be, suddenly, this has become all about why being without daddy harms a child. 

I've responded to this stuff at length in another article (liz responds to Wade Horn and the National Fatherhood Initiative.)

These sad facts make it imperative that divorcing parents put their children before their legal battles. This often means that two people who find it difficult to be in the same room without screaming at each other will have to calmly, deliberately, and most of all, lovingly, make joint decisions about their children's well-being.

While it may mean suppressing their anger at a cheating or neglectful spouse, the winner, in the long run, is the children.

The stakes are obviously quite high.

They "will have to" what?  "Lovingly, make joint decisions?"  Nonsense. They're unlikely to be doing that.  That's why they're getting divorced, and now want to divvy up the child.  To AVOID having to have interaction with the other parent!  Consider: if the stakes actually were all that high, why wouldn't the Academy just be telling people to not get divorced?  You KNOW why.  Because (1) that's clearly an absurd and impossible position which won't work -- these people just don't get along, and chances are nearly certain that at least one of them already HAS put in herculean efforts at doing so (people just don't divorce "suddenly"), and (2) that's not the agenda.  The agenda is, other than the attempt to "normalize" and white-wash divorce, to push something altogether other than the well-being of children.  What is it.  Here it is.  (If you didn't see it, read more carefully.)

Roughly one-third of the children of divorce lose contact with one of their parents, depriving them of years of adult guidance, support and love.  But even many of those who remain in touch with both parents are not any better off, as they continue to be tormented for years by their parents' continual arguing.

Read: a third of children lose contact with fathers, depriving them of years of adult guidance.  Mothers, the usual custodial parent, don't count, apparently, as adult guidance.  And yes, I changed it to "fathers."  Because the STUDIES are that a third of children lose contact with their FATHERS, not "one of their parents."  This is an example of "gender-neutral" posturing disguising what's really meant.

The AAML goes on to explain away why studies show that there's actually a greater correlation of less-than-well-being among children as the noncustodial parent has greater and greater time and interaction.  Yes, I gave you the complete factoid.  Because that IS what the studies show.  That is the counter-intuitive, argument-smashing embarrassment of a factoid being glossed over here. The AAML glosses over this as attributable to "continual arguing."  Arguing by whom?  (There's no arguing when there's only one parent around.)  Doesn't it seem strange that the very same common denominator, present or not, causes the same kind of harm?  

So children both with and without their noncustodial parents around are suffering the same evil.  And what is that evil?   The AAML says that the continual arguing means that the children are still no better off, they still are being deprived of (code phrase) "years of adult guidance, support and love."  And, again, that evil is...?  Logically, the conclusion (harm) as presented appears to boil down to merely "deprivation of fathers."  The AAML propagandlet doesn't actually say why that's harmful.  You are to presume it has something to do with the reiteration of horrors, above, in [single mother households.]  

The AAML pamphlet carefully avoids stating an outright falsehood and too clearly exposing its biases.  The AAML argument, though, if you look carefully, actually has jumped here, in what otherwise would be a gross error of logic (were it inadvertent) from a recitation of the evils of single mother households to the conclusion that harm = children's being deprived of years of father input.  You're supposed to connect the two on your own.  (Getting the other side to draw your intended conclusions themselves is the MOST convincing way of convincing someone of something.  I know this, too.  I'm also a lawyer.  I also can tell you that this is why the damn thing just sounds so good and common-sensical to most all who casually read over it!  Even lawyers!)  

And the longer the parental conflict continues, the more serious is the psychological damage to the child. Many children respond to such stress by turning off their feelings and walling up their emotions. Those children are not only deprived of the joys of childhood, but they often find themselves emotionally adrift as adults.

(An argument for sole custody if I ever heard one.)

It's important for parents to remember that their actions during their divorce can have long-term consequences they might not intend. A mother who forbids her daughter from seeing her adulterous father, for instance, is laying the groundwork for her daughter to be distrusting of all men, thus potentially sabotaging the child's intimate adult relationships.

Ah, the mother.  That visitation-interfering, parental-alienating bitch who harms her daughter's fondness for MEN.  God forbid anyone should put in a divorce lawyer's pamphlet a strong admonition to cheating men about how they have set a shitty, shitty example of how a wife should be treated, absolutely trashed their child's mother by word and deed by their adultery, set the stage for the perpetuation of the kind of misogyny that permeates (but that's okay, it's normal in) our society, and made themselves into one heck of an example of what their daughters can expect from men in the future.  NOPE.  It's the mother's visitation interference, and her feeble attempts to reassert herself that HARMS DAUGHTERs and puts them at risk of "distrusting men."  Feh.

Parents must also realize that children often interpret anger between spouses as anger at the children. That is because children are aware, even at an early age, that they are "part mommy" and "part daddy." When divorcing couples disparage each other in their children's presence, their developing self-esteem can take a battering.

And how about telling children that in reality, they are NEITHER? This half-half tritism has gone a bit too far already, given that it's actually not true, and that actually children believe themselves to be unique.  And the kicker is that children ARE their own unique selves, formed of DNA from huge numbers of persons of past generations, all combining and recombining differently... (Ignoring of course the disparaging role modeling as affecting self-esteem... because it's not what daddy did that harmed anyone, it's that mommy complained about it...)

Though divorce is never easy on children, such crises are often opportunities in disguise. Because a child's emotional health after his parents' divorce is so dependent on his parents' behavior during the divorce, the separation process is a good time for parents to reflect on their children's well-being and, if necessary, seek out professional help for themselves and their children.

It may even be necessary for children to spend some time alone with a counselor who might detect hidden messages in a child's artwork or storytelling.

And a few more plugs (now that we're on a roll, and the potential buyer is nodding away) for the normalization of divorce, the blaming of the behavior of what primarily amounts to divorcing women, and the enrichment of the divorce-support, psych community (let's get those fees going, and put everyone, in every combination and alone, into therapy...)

When informing children of an impending divorce, parents should not divulge such details as infidelity or sexual deprivation, and they should not blame one parent or another. One possible approach is to present the divorce as a solution to the family's problems, an end to the fighting and tension that have filled the home with anger.

Honesty is a crucial element in informing children of the split. They should be told that their lives will change, and that some things, like spending time with the parent they're not living with most of the time, will be harder.

Do not divulge those ("parental-alienating?") details, but be "honest."  

Note that sex is conveniently given here twice as an example of "such details," twice, because most parents would be rather horrified anyway at the idea of discussing the details of their sex lives with their children.  (Remember we're imaging a six-year-old, above.)  It's a yes-getter. Those yes-yes-yesses just wouldn't be as forthcoming, would they be, if the AAML pamphlet had said instead: "a mother should not divulge such details as the fact that her absence for four days last week in the hospital was on account of daddy's slamming her head into the kitchen cabinet."  Or "daddy should not acknowledge the fact that his drinking has made life a misery for the entire household."  And no one should mention as a cause of the family breakdown -- heaven forbid a kid should actually know why, or find it unnecessary to fill in the blanks in what he actually knows with false speculations (let's pretend and keep secrets) that daddy has filed for divorce because mommy has moved in with the mailman, or has been lying around the house in a drug-induced stupor for the past two years...

Never mind that secret-keeping, and parental failure to acknowledge the truth in family systems is a PRIMARY cause of adult child dysfunction.  Those secret-keeping households that pretend all is well, when all obviously is not well are the ones (see Bradshaw, among others) -- the very same ones -- that create future substance abusers, addicts, overeaters, neurotics... They are the very same ones in which children agonize over what happened, and are unable to reconcile what they feel is the abandonment of themselves, and where they grapple around for reasons this all happened, sometimes feeling themselves to blame.  Shhhh.  Don't tell them.  

And of course, we wouldn't want to let the kids know what mistakes were made, or (within reason) what really has gone on, so that they could rest a bit secure that divorce doesn't "just suddenly happen" for no reason, making them into future commitmentphobes.  Nope.  We're JUST doing this to stop the fighting about nothing at all.  We wouldn't want to use this as an "opportunity in disguise" to teach a few lessons about life and love and how people are not perfect, or how we can know and accept our parents for what and who they are, IF we choose to.  Nope.  Something more important is at stake, you see.  It's making sure that (above), in all those situations which are the MOST bitter (for some reason, or was that just "vindictiveness" without reason), the children are not "deprived of years of adult love, guidance, and support." And that (after a little diversion so it's not as obvious, with a few paragraphs of some routine stuff, deleted here) is:

One custody option to consider is joint conservatorship or joint custody (depending on the state). It allows both parents an equal say in decision-making on the child's behalf, even if physical custody of the child is not 50/50.

No mention of the other "options."

Although sharing parenthood so intimately with someone a parent no longer shares a marriage can be difficult, it is one of the best ways parents can show their love for their child.

WRONG.  If this has conjured up for you a MARRIED image of two loving parents, heads huddled together, working out a decision regarding the child, ditch it.  "Sharing parenthood" -- for whatever purposes that insipid cliche is yet again trotted out (in lieu of more truthfully just saying "decision-making authority," since the parents already "share parenthood") is hardly "one of the best ways parents can show their love for their child."  That's because custody -- i.e. decision-making authority, which is what is really being talked about here -- is really about the PARENTS' legal relationship vis a vis each other, NOT their personal relationship with the child.  

KIDFATEJOINT custody isn't about "sharing" anything in the sense of togetherness.  

It's about splitting the spoils (in this case, rendering children possessions) down the middle to "share" in the sense of halving.  

It's about operating separate automonous households that do NOT have to confer, because EACH can do whatever the heck it wants to, consistent or not, approved by the other parent or not.  

Joint legal custody is about granting the parent that would be the noncustodial parent the right to second-guess, meddle with, disagree with, argue with, and generally interfere with the custodial parent's decisions and the running of the child's household. A recipe for conflict-avoidance?  NO WAY.  A recipe for continuing conflict, for legally-blessed conflict, for creating more and more conflict, and for a schizophrenic childhood.  (And WHO is advocating this -- the American Academy of Matrimonial LAWYERS and MEDIATORS and their roster of "therapists?")

Moreover, as we all know, and as has been used as rationale in this same pamphlet in another context, the BEST way a parent can show love for his or her child is by doing what is first and foremost in the child's interests, and putting that before self-interest.  And in the interests of ending conflict, in the interests of reestablishing a renewed relationship between the parents free of old wounds and baggage, in the interests of getting to all these nice things that parroting the concept "shared parenting" won't actually do (only promise), that may well be UNshared "parenting."  Sole custody with the child's primary caregiver and a period of time for things to settle down.  That would entail, of course, shredding that little mine-yours mental point-counting, divvying-and-calculating "fairness-to-parents" pad, i.e. the "parenting plan," et cetera.  Notice that this AAML lawyerly piece of advice quite readily encourages doing the selfless thing when it comes to preaching about letting bygones be bygones (which primarily benefits...?)  However, in the end, it (shamelessly) plays on selfishness, by encouraging divorcing couples to adopt the very opposite of selfless thinking (and doing) in the context of post-divorce tallying and "shared parenting."  This is not about the child's interests at all.

Honesty, but don't tell...   Let bygones be, but tally the future...   Be reasonable and don't give in to anger, emotions, but adopt these illogical arguments based on their emotional appeal...

[By the way, consistency is generally considered to be a good parenting trait. Consistency benefits kids.  That includes not only consistency of discipline, but also consistency of reasoning, and consistency of primary caregiver... ]


liznotes to show you how the write-ups of various "studies" touted by
father advocacy groups mislead, obfuscate, fail to tell you the real
findings, (or hide them with misplaced emphasis), in order to preserve an agenda
that presupposes the results and solution they want to see.

The AAML Booklet "Stepping Back From Anger" also includes a "Children's Bill of Rights" that is less a giving of "rights" to children of divorce than a propaganda statement in furtherance of joint custody politics. Below, the AAML list of rights (in purple) and the translation (in blue):

1. You have the right to love both your parents. And you have the right to be loved by both of them. That means you shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to see your dad or your mom at any time. It's important for you to have both parents in your life, particularly during difficult times, such as divorce.

We tell YOU what's important in your life. Get that? You don't have the right to decide that you don't love one or both parents, and if you do, be prepared to be diagnosed with parental alienation syndrome, possibly forced to live with the parent you prefer less, and subjected to therapy to convince you to change your opinion because, after all, it's not what parents do or how you feel that counts, but DNA and father's rights, and especially our own kids' college tuition. Oh... and aside, you really don't have the right to be "loved" by both your parents either. No parent actually will be required by any court to love you, or even spend time with you. Custody rights are for parents.

2. You do not have to choose one parent over the other. If you have an opinion about which parent you want to live with, let it be known. But nobody can force you to make that choice. If your parents can't work it out, a judge may make the decision for them.

Be advised that if you DO want to choose one parent over the other, you have no right to enforce that choice. No judge or evaluator or GAL has to take your opinion into account if he or she doesn't want to. But, yes do "let it be known" because that's great for our political agenda as well as our business. We then can diagnose you with parental alienation syndrome, possibly force to live with the parent you prefer less, and subject you to hours and hours of life-intrusive, time-wasting, and very lucrative therapy to convince you to change your opinion.

3. You're entitled to all the feelings you're having. Don't be embarrassed by what you're feeling. It's scary when your parents break up, and you're allowed to be scared. Or angry. Or sad. Or whatever.

Understand that if you express strong feelings about not wanting to be subjected to the flip-flop of joint custody, or a preference for living with one parent over the other, or not visiting at a particular time, you will be diagnosed with parental alienation syndrome, possibly forced to live with the parent you prefer less, and subjected to therapy to convince you to change your opinion.

But do -- yes, do -- mention that you're scared, angry, sad and especially "whatever", so that we can blame that on the "loss of living with both parents, even if we can't peg your mother on it. If you don't feel that way, we'll do our best to help you to feel so (aren't you a little angry or scared, or embarassed now that we've suggested it?) We want you to have issues, and we'll help all we can with our constant prattering on and on. Don't forget! You're delicate! You come from a damaged upbringing now, and anything we can do to make it worse we'll do, such as enacting laws and "crafting parenting plans" that put you right smack dab in the middle of stuff that guarantees that your parents will have a hard time getting along and that hereafter will have legally sanctioned irritations and disagreements -- and that you yourself will need to get into therapy to deal with it... maybe even supervised visitations...

4. You have the right to be in a safe environment. This means that nobody is allowed to put you in danger, either physically or emotionally. If one of your parents is hurting you, tell someone -- either your other parent or a trusted adult, like a teacher.

We lie. But we just have to say it because it sounds so good and also because sometimes it's useful in furtherance of our agendas (e.g. we like to consider "parental alienation" to be an "unsafe environment.") So if you bring up complaints that you are being abused, prepare to be disbelieved, diagnosed with parental alienation syndrome, possibly forced to live with the parent you prefer less, and subjected to therapy to convince you to change your opinion. But do it, do it, DO IT, make yourself a living acting-out wreck... We'll give you the excuse, and the forums.

5. You don't belong in the middle of your parents' break-up. Sometimes your parents get so caught up in their own problems that they forget that you're just a kid, and that you can't handle their adult worries.

We lie here too, of course. You belong right in the middle of everything, right here with us. We are the yentas for hire. It's our job to denigrate and undermine your respect for your parents. But we -- WE, of course have only YOUR interests at heart. And while we commiserate, we'd really like to keep you right in the middle, caught we hope in a constant undercurrent of conflict and permit you no peace or stability.

Come talk to us. Your parents are are busy with themselves and have bad judgment. Let US be your mavins. We'll help force you constantly to navigate between two households, and make all the adjustments so that your parents don't have to, and basically, live life in the middle of a no-man's land. What would be in it for us if you just settled back down into a private, secure, permanent homelife that were child-centered, focused on you, and in which you could concentrate on things more important for your development than at which house you left your school stuff.

6. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are still part of your life. Even if you're living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent's side. You'll always be a part of their lives, even if your parents aren't together anymore.

In other words, we tell you what is good for you and your parents have absolutely no authority. This is part of our pablum pushing for joint custody, of course -- making sure that neither parent can decide what is in your interests. Instead we do. "We" are people who haven't met these other relatives of yours, not drunk Harry, or pedo Sally, have never been to your home, likely have never been the primary caregiver of any child at all, and really don't have anything more than our opinions which are like, well, you know, everyone's got them.

But we like to pretend that your parent or parents who couldn't keep it together with each other actually have decent relationships with their own families of origin, and that there were all these other people who were crucially important parts of your life. (Never mind that you see Aunt Tillie ten minutes a year, that she bores you to tears, and that joint custody interferes with your relationships with friends and being on the swim team.)

We don't really give a crap. See, it's like this. These relative people arguments are good to further the joint custody agenda, since there is next to no basis in research to support the platform of "two parent involvement." So we added in here lots of these other people. Nevermind that it's inconsistent with the picture we otherwise have created (consistency just isn't our bag) of your otherwise being all alone in the world with one pathetic familyless custodial parent.

What we really mean here of course are your father's relatives, or anyone else who is not a relative of your mother. Because if your mother wants to move back to the bosom of her home town where her own mother or sister lives we have to posture with extreme doubt about the value of that in the interests of making lucrative de novo moveaway litigation. So don't take this relative thing too literally. We don't really mean it. You won't actually have to see Aunt Tillie.

7. You have the right to be a child. Kids shouldn't worry about adult problems. Concentrate on your school work, your friends, activities, etc. Your mom and dad just need your love. They can handle the rest themselves.

We don't really mean that you should be left alone to concentrate on kid stuff. That's why we're involving you with brochures -- and we'd also like some nice mandates to force you to attend divorce kid classes and therapies and such -- good money in it.

So, as noted, what we really mean is, see, that it's your job to be right in the middle like rubber cement we like to smush. It's your job to make mom and dad happy by meeting their needs for your love. And it's your job to be our excuse for coming up with ways to take your college fund from your parents.

NO ONE TO CHASE AWAY CLOSET MONSTERS?  Unfortunately, that six-year-old child is all too often worrying about being separated from his or her primary parent, whether via custody or the parent's need to work longer hours outside the home, and about age-inappropriate financial issues, and everything the child has heard the parents arguing about.  And for too many children, that imaginary "closet-monster" is the luxury of children in loving intact homes without real issues. But note which parent is more likely to be the "closet-monster chaser" and think of that sort of stuff in connection with "what the child might be losing" or what "being a parent" entails to a child!  The AAML is not pointing out that the child is more likely to be worrying about losing the routines that REALLY make the child feel secure -- like mommy being home after school to exclaim proudly over papers, and being able to stay in the same home and community.



The Children's Rights Council, "CRC", is a father's rights group originally founded by, inter alia, FR ideologue David Levy, who is its president.  It is a 501(c)(3) organization that purports to be"educational." In reality, its membership is strongly tied to FR political lobbying groups. It's political, not educational.

When the organization was formed, (about the time it began to become popular for father's rights groups to include mention of "children" in the names of their organizations, and also about the time joint custody started getting a lot of academic notice via Ph.D. studies as a "new idea"), the founders put together an honorary membership in a "board" that currently is listed on the organization's stationery. It is common for non-profits, particularly charitable non-profits (this is not) to solicit actors and other famous persons in this way. They do it because it facilitates their public relations appearance of philanthropy and interest in causes, and in return, this simultaneously lends an air of immediate credibility to the non-profit organization.

The Children's Rights Council carefully postures its supposed "officials" in a way designed to make it appear that the group is inclusive of all interests.  

In particular, the C.R.C. plays down its FR ties, and plays up its "women" ties, e.g. hawking joint custody supporter, Karen DeCrow (childless second wife) and FRster Warren Farrell because that permits repeated mention of these individuals now dubious ties to "N.O.W." to cast the impression that the C.R.C. is a group comprising mothers and sanctioned by feminists!

But according to its masthead, the working officers and board consist of only four persons.

Of those four, two are David Levy, president, and Ellen Dublin Levy, secretary. This information is indicated in small, inconspicuous type on the Council's stationery. Quite a tight-knit group. Few might notice or question this, however, or notice that it's not at all up-front about who are the powers-that-be-in-charge, because the organization's stationery (below, as of 1998) and publications obscure this lack of informative information with a LENGTHY listing of ostensible executives including, among others:

An Honorary President (what the heck is this?) comedian David Brenner

Parenting Education Spokesperson, NBA hall-of-famer, Wes Unseld (based on his child development experience or his legal experience?)

National Spokespersons, Darryl Grant, Washington Redskins; Doug Superman, a country music singer; and Dwight Twilley, a pop music singer. (More entertainers and ball players...)

The "general counsel" is FATHER'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST-lawyer-writer MICHAEL L. ODDENINO who is a founder and organization ideologue.

His actual influence is downplayed by listing his name as if it is on a par with the comedians and sports figures.)

Then there's the long "impressive" list of "Advisory Panel" members:

Mendel Abrams, a rabbi,
Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby),
Senator Fred Thompson (TN), an actor,
Senator Bob Graham (FL),
Judith Bakersfeld, president of the Stepfamily Association of America,
Kay and Ray Berryhill, founders of Grandparents Rights in New Strength,
David Birney, an actor.
Pat Boyd, of Parents Without Partners,
Jim Cook, president of the Joint Custody Association, an FR organization,
Karen DeCrow, former president of NOW and well-known misguided supporter of the FR agenda (but if you didn't know this, her inclusion on a quick glance down the roster certainly makes this organization look woman-friendly, doesn't it),
Ellen Diamond, Children's Rights Council Co-founder
Phyllis Diller, an entertainer
Warren Farrell "Ph.D., a self-proclaimed "sexologist" and father's rights activist,
Larry Caughan, director of Family Mediation of Washington, DC,
Jonathan Goodson, the Hollywood TV producer,
Jennifer Isham, president of Mothers Without Custody, and
Joan Berlin Kelly, researcher and author.

The panel listing was designed to appear to represent a spectrum of positions and interests, particularly to be inclusive of women and feminists.

The former NOW presidency of (childless, second wife) Karen DeCrow is touted as her sole claim to fame (is it?), and, as is typical, so is (childless) Warren Farrell's board membership in the NYC chapter of NOW, which (as he usually portrays it) is written up to appear to have been membership in the national board, with a dangling modifyer implying that the national board is headquartered in NYC. (One has to wonder about THIS being Farrell's listed credential? What about his decade or so AFTERWARD studying incest and pedophilia and claiming to be a sexologist...?)

In summary, then, the C.R.C. honchos, both active and titular, include: lots of sports figures and entertainers, a representative of a stepparent's association, a representative of a noncustodial mother's association, a couple of childless former feminists (including one who has opined that "...millions of people who are now refraining from touching, holding, and genitally caressing their children, when that is really part of a caring, loving expression, are repressing the sexuality of a lot of children and themselves"), the founders of a grandparents rights organization, the P.W.P. social dating club, and okay so there's the unmistakable FRs like Oddenino and Jim Cook, but everyone's represented, right? Wrong.

Notably, you will not see one single individual or organization listed, even among the titular luminaries, who represent primary parenting-custodial mothers, married, unwed or divorced.  Not represented.  Mothers with children are not represented.  At all.  The single largest demographic group with hands-on experience in child rearing, the one demographic group with the MOST interest in and concern for children's welfare: NOT represented.

The agenda of the C.R.C. is in favor of joint custody and extended visitation rights. It has put its support behind a range of FR legislative proposals and position papers. Its featured speakers include (e.g. 11th Annual Conference in fall of 1997) the likes of Sanford Braver, Ph.D. (pro-joint custody propagandist "researcher"), Richard Gardner, M.D. of Parental Alienation Syndrome fame, Canadian Senator Anne Cools (dyed in the wool anti-feminist for those of you who are familiar with Canadian politics -- what was she doing here in a U.S. policy group?). Members of Congress routinely are invited to the organization's D.C. area meetings, such as the above 11th annual conference which featured the above notable anti-mother activists.

The C.R.C. downpeddles its FR agenda and RR ties, and markets itself in a way designed to appear to the disinterested observer as an organization backed by important people, concerned about, studying and working in the interests of children and their divorce problems.

The agenda of groups such as the C.R.C. often passes easily on a quick look-see by scholars and legislators as neutral and benign. (Another one of these, albeit not an organization per se but a program is the National Fatherhood Initiative.) Although these professionals should be "smarter," their very posture as objective and neutral means that they frequently will fail to examine surface presentations. And many of them are in fact men with personal agendas that are not pro-woman.

So what's the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers doing endorsing this bunch on its website? There are two possibilities: either (1) this supposed smart group of some of the nation's top family lawyers is ignorant of family law politics, or (2) they are themselves anti-mother, non-neutral, father's-rights ideologues.



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