Wednesday

Yes, Dad, You Really Can be Awarded Custody of Your Kids, But It Doesn't Have a Damn Thing to do with Being a Primary Caretaker

This is in response to a post that I feel is a little misleading...however, part of the information was acquired was from this article in the Times.

From the first:
So many separating fathers have the preconceived notion that it is impossible for them to have majority timesharing with (or physical custody of) their children.
This notion is bitched down from circles of fathers who spread their "stories" about how the ex got everything. They often fail to mention that they didn't engage in a custody pursuit either. Evidenced by:
More and more separated and divorced dads want, and can and do get to have their children with them most of the time.
But this increase in father custody comes at a cost [to children]. According to The Role of Fathers in Risk for Physical Child Abuse and Neglect:Possible Pathways and Unanswered Questions by Guterman and Lee:

(emphasis mine)
"In one of the first studies directly examining fathers’ involvement and child neglect risk, Dubowitz et al. (2000) reported that fathers’ greater direct involvement with child care was positively linked with higher child neglect risk...

fathers, as well as father figures, are highly overrepresented as perpetrators of physical child abuse, particularly in its most severe forms ...

Given that fathers provide, on the whole, substantially less direct child care than mothers (Margolin, 1992; Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, & Hofferth, 2001), these proportions of fathers and possible father surrogates as perpetrators of severe child abuse appear as rather startling.
And so (back to the blogger's article):
According to a recent article, fully fifty (50%) percent of fathers who seek equal or majority timesharing with (physical custody of) their children receive it.
Actually, this isn't so "recent," according to the 1990 Florida Supreme Court Gender Bias Commission:
Contrary to public perception, men are quite successful in obtaining residential custody of their children when they actually seek it.
We also know that batterers are 70% likely to win custody of their children.

We also know this increase may be coinciding with Florida's new "timesharing" law that was slipped into the books last year.
Due to a combination of the recession and social change, the American family has changed … and family courts have adapted to it.

More and more mothers are the primary breadwinners in their families and more and more fathers are the primary caregivers for their children prior to separation.
The courts haven't adapted. They are still led by the same patriarchal ideas that have been in place since forever. The American family has changed, as far as employment issues are concerned, however, the father's roles are questionable, at best. According to and article entitled Fatherhood and Fatherlessness by Michael Flood:

(all emphasis mine)
Perceptions of fathering have shifted, and the image of the nurturant and involved father now exerts a powerful influence on popular perceptions. However, the culture of fatherhood has changed much faster than the conduct. Fathers share physical care of children equally in only 1-2 per cent of families, and are highly involved in day-to-day care in only 5-10 per cent of families.
So, who, exactly, is doing the caretaking in the father's household? This should come as little surprise:
Myth -- Single custodial fathers who have remarried are the primary caregiver of their children in the household.

Fact: Stepmothers are. "The general picture that emerged is that stepmothers and mothers had been the lead actors in the monitoring and directing of activities and the nurturing and disciplining of these children. This finding about stepmothers was somewhat surprising, given that the children's longer term primary ties were to their biological fathers and that most participants only visited their stepmothers and fathers part time when they were minors. One might imagine that in a visitation or coresidential situation with biological fathers and stepmothers, fathers would take the lead over stepmothers in the guiding and care of their children...Yet, gender imbalances in father-stepmother guidance and daily care of children tended to dominate in these interview findings despite biological fathers' longer term relationships and biological ties with their children that their current wives did not have... fathers' work obligations sometimes created situations in which children were left for long periods under the sole care of the stepmother."

--Maria Schmeeckle (2007) Gender Dynamics in Stepfamilies: Adult Stepchildren's Views Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (1), 174?189.
And the blogger concludes with this:
As a result, more than two million mothers do not have majority timesharing with (physical custody of) their children.
Maybe, we should query these 2 million moms, especially ones like this:


IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA

FIFTH DISTRICT JULY TERM 2008

L.S.,
Appellant,
v. Case No. 5D07-1682
D.S. AND
FXXX SXXXXX, INC.,
Appellee.
________________________________/
Opinion filed August 15, 2008
Appeal from the Circuit Court
for Volusia County,
Shawn L. Briese, Judge.
Clifton H. Gorenflo and Christine R. Stenger,
of Gray & Gorenflo, P.A., Sanford,
for Appellant.

James L. Rose, of Rice & Rose, P.A., and
Leonard Ross, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.
GRIFFIN, J.

L.S ["Wife"] appeals the Final Judgment of Dissolution of her marriage to D.S ["Husband"]. This has been a long and contentious dissolution and many errors are asserted on appeal. We conclude, however, that the trial court reversibly erred in one respect only.

Wife filed a Motion for Continuance shortly before the final hearing because the social evaluation of clinical psychologist, Dr. Deborah Day, previously ordered by the court, had not been completed, and her report had not yet been made available to the parties. The trial court denied the motion.

Dr. Day’s preliminary report, issued in November 2004, had recognized Wife’s prior and continuing role as primary caretaker of the parties’ two minor daughters, acknowledged her fitness, and recommended that she remain the parent with primary residential responsibility. In her revised and updated report, which first appears of record on March 7, 2007, two days before commencement of trial on March 9, 2007, Dr. Day catalogued a range of facts and circumstances causing her to change her previous opinion and to recommend that Husband be given primary residential responsibility for the girls.

On appeal, Wife draws the court’s attention to many Florida cases in which it has been held that social evaluations, carried out by experts appointed by the court, are of such importance to decisions of child custody that due process requires that the parties receive the report within a reasonable period of time prior to trial so that each can properly evaluate the report, undertake discovery, where appropriate, and have an adequate opportunity for preparation of rebuttal evidence. See Schmitz v. Schmitz, 890 So. 2d 1248 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005); Robinson v. Robinson, 713 So. 2d 437 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998); Miller v. Miller, 671 So. 2d 849 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996); Crifaci v. Crifaci, 626 So. 2d 287 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993); Fredericks v. Fredericks, 575 So. 2d 808 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991); Clayman v. Clayman, 536 So. 2d 358 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988); Kern v. Kern, 333 So. 2d 17 1 Wife also referenced a psycho-sexual evaluation of Husband that had been ordered by Dr. Day to be performed by Dr. Alan Grieco, but no report had been received by the parties. In her updated report, Dr. Day says that she received a report from Dr. Grieco and that the “findings were within normal limits.”3 (Fla. 1976). See also Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.363(b) (”The written report shall be prepared and provided no later than 30 days before trial . . . .”).

Husband does not address the legal authorities cited by Wife. Rather, Husband urges that Wife failed to object to the admission of the report at trial on the specific ground that she had not had an opportunity to adequately review it. The error, however, lay in denying the Wife’s Motion for Continuance, not in admission of the report. The trial was set to commence on March 9. Wife filed her pro se motion for continuance based on the lack of receipt of reports on February 28, 2007. The trial court ordered Husband to file a response no later than noon on March 8. The updated report of Dr. Day first appears in the record as an attachment to Husband’s written
opposition to the motion, filed on March 7. Ironically, Husband’s opposition to the
motion for continuance was based on Dr. Day’s updated report. Husband argued that Dr. Day’s new opinion that Wife’s behavior was detrimental to the children was the reason why the change in custody should not be delayed by a continuance. Under the case law, due process required that Wife have a reasonable opportunity to assess and prepare a response to the social evaluation report. Wife is entitled to a new hearing on the custody issue.

AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED IN PART.
SAWAYA and EVANDER, JJ., concur.
Wife was unrepresented at trial, and her only position at trial was that she was unable to represent herself and needed funds to hire counsel. The updated report is undated but bears a fax transmission time/date stamp of March 5, 2007 at 2:05 p.m.

____

What is a primary caretaking dad, anyway? Does society's image match with the reality? The blogger who monitors the news at Dastardly Dads reports:
Based on what I see in the articles I collect for Dastardly, "primary caretaker" (when it comes to dads) is defined as the following: chronically unemployed or unemployable parent, often with drug/alcohol problem, who tends to spend his day doing video games, sleeping, eating, or driving around in his truck (so he can find more video games, food, drugs, and/or booze). Tends to leave the children at home while he does these "errands,", or leaves them in the truck while he frequents, bars, strip clubs and casinos. The "best" of these "primary caretakers" utterly ignore the babies, and "forgets" to feed them, cuddle them, change their diapers, talk to them, etc. The worst get "frustrated" or "snap" when the baby cries (thus interrupting Daddy's drug-hazed video game), so the baby gets violently shaked or squeezed till his ribs crack, or her legs get broken during the diaper change. We progress from there to "dropping" the baby or throwing the baby into the wall because poor daddy "just can't take it." I mean how can you do Super Mario Brothers 3 with all that racket? Of course, the house is a filthy disaster, because when you are a daddy "primary caretaker," doing dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, and all that is beneath you. Mommy can do that after she finishes her shift. And that if she's lucky and the 911 guys aren't there when she gets home.