Did You Know That There is a Season for Everything?

To remind you of this timeless wisdom, we invite you to read the famous poem from Ecclesiastes 3.

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To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

March 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm 1 comment

Which Power Do You Honor?

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I had the most amazing experience today as I was out and about, running errands downtown. I was surprised to be unable to find a parking space, since I usually park in front of my destination, regardless how crowded the streets may be. I’d been circling the block for about thirty minutes when I spotted a van on the corner ahead of me about to pull out of its parking spot. As it moved out, I glided right on in… to see a sleek BMW sedan just ahead flashing it’s blinker as if it had been waiting to back into the exact same spot. The flashy BMW slowly pulled back alongside my car, and we both lowered our windows as soft flurries of rain drizzled down from the sky. The BMW’s driver was a 20-something Asian male wearing black sunglasses, who crisply announced, “I was waiting for this spot.”

I replied, “I was waiting for this spot, too. I didn’t see you there — I’ve been circling this block for thirty minutes.”

The Asian fellow furrowed his brow and looked very annoyed as he said, “I’ve been circling for thirty minutes, too.” As I looked at the young man, I saw another myself. A younger, male, Asian version of myself, perhaps, but I had a very clear sense that our roles could easily have been reversed. Only a moment of time had passed as I gazed into the depths of his Ray-Bans, yet I felt that there was only one course of action that would give me peace of mind; to relinquish the parking spot. I replied, “You can have this spot. It’s yours,” and pulled forward to watch the young man park his BMW there. I sighed as I noticed he hadn’t even said, “Thank you,” no doubt because he was sure that he was right and I was in the wrong.

As I began to drive around the block one more time, I bit my lip and asked Spirit, “WHY is this happening to me? I just don’t get it.” It was so strange for me to be deprived of a parking spot for thirty minutes — this had never happened to me before! As I passed the BMW in its corner spot on my circuit around the block, I noticed it’s license plate for the first time: “BM POWER.” Suddenly, I understood — and laughed out loud! When I was growing up, “BM” was a word that children used when they were talking potty talk, and seeing it proudly displayed as a source of power was just too funny! Naturally, the owner of BMW was most likely intending to demonstrate pride in his vehicle, but the wonderful and oh-so-timely message for me finally put my entire frustrating parking experience in perspective.

You can’t let the @#$% win the game, regardless how much power it might think it has. After all, you are always the one who chooses how you respond to every situation — your feelings and your attitudes are your greatest riches, and there’s no way that any kind of “BM POWER” (no matter how trying the situation may seem) can ever be greater than love!

Within seconds of this divine revelation, a car on the block ahead of me pulled out so I could park my car. In that instant I knew for sure that it really is that simple. All you have to do is decide which power you will honor in your life.

About the Author:
MBA,  Intuitive, and Spiritual Life Coach, Cynthia Sue Larson helps people tap into the extraordinary powers that lie within them to create their best lives.  Please visit her website: http://www.realityshifters.com.

March 9, 2009 at 9:02 pm 2 comments

At One With the Solution

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I recently visited a friend, who loaned me a bead and rope puzzle that had been sitting around her house unsolved for many years.
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Take it with you, and let me know if you figure it out“,

she said with a hopeful lilt to her voice as we said our farewells.

I brought the deceptively simple puzzle with me inside my parents’ house, where it quickly became the center of attention. As one person after another tried to solve the puzzle, I waited outdoors until the excitement died down. About an hour later, I was delighted to enjoy my first private inspection of it.

This puzzle was elegant in its simplicity. It consisted of two beads on separate loops a rope that was firmly connected to a piece of wood at each of its ends. There was a hole in the center piece of the puzzle from which the ropes emerged into the separate loops for the two beads. The solution to this puzzle was illustrated on the back of the wooden piece as a picture of the two beads adjacent to one another on the same loop of rope.

I immediately sensed something about this puzzle… I could feel the solution to it as clearly as if I was holding the solved puzzle in my hands. Suddenly I knew that if I just held that image in my mind, I could manipulate the beads and rope until the beads were side-by-side. I was not closely studying every move I made, but was instead in a state of being at one with the solution to the puzzle.

Within ten minutes, I’d solved the puzzle, and the two beads were resting together on the same loop. My family was astonished to see the puzzle solved so quickly, and wanted to know how I’d done it. I simply replied,

I was at one with the puzzle.”

I got looks of disbelief and some annoyance at this remark, but I didn’t know how else to convey my feeling of being harmoniously attuned to the solution. They wanted to see me solve the puzzle, but I knew that any audience watching me so closely when I couldn’t even watch what I was doing myself would block me from being able to solve it.

I felt so aligned to the puzzle that solving it felt instinctive to me, as if I’d worked this puzzle successfully hundreds of times and could use motor memory. There was some truth to that, since my mother had brought home several similar topographical puzzles when I was a teenager, and I’d spent many enjoyable hours playing with them.

When my family’s attention was once again diverted elsewhere and I had another quiet moment to work unobserved, I moved the beads back apart from one another again. This time, I paid a bit more attention to how I was manipulating the ropes and beads, so that I would be able to help my family solve the puzzle, too.

When my family saw the puzzle back in its original starting state, they were astonished once again, and asked how I’d solved the puzzle. I repeated, “I was at one with the puzzle”, smiling as I said this, since I saw how my enigmatic response made little sense to anyone.

As I showed my family the steps required to move one marble to the other side, I realized:

it is possible to align oneself
with the solution to any given problem,
and in doing so
find a seemingly effortless approach.

The steps to doing this are simple:

(1) Observe an imagined future solution,
(2) With feelings of happiness and gratitude for finding the solution,
(3) Without staring too closely at what one is doing as one solves the problem.

This reminds me of the wonderful adage:

The one who says it cannot be done
should never interrupt the one who is doing it.

lest we get so caught up in what we think we know
that we can’t see the world as it really is.

About the Author:
MBA,  Intuitive, and Spiritual Life Coach, Cynthia Sue Larson helps people tap into the extraordinary powers that lie within them to create their best lives.  Please visit her website: http://www.realityshifters.com

March 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

Those Who Are Last Shall Be First

By Josh Hoff
            The State of Illinois bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncle who for years looked like he just got out of bed when he attended the annual family reunion. The, one year, somehow, he gets motivated to pull himself together and charms the entire family much to everybody’s delight. This stems from the fact that the State of Illinois has done an about-face for child support collections in 2006.

            In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Child Support Division’s performance fell steeply, causing hardship for thousands of Illinois parents.  In 2000, Illinois faced the threat of federal penalties for poor child support enforcement.  Recently, however, Governor Blagojevich announced Illinois’ 2006 child support collections reached $1.14 billion, the most collected in any single year ever.         
  
           
As a result the National Child Support Enforcement Association selected Illinois for the 2006 Most Improved Program Award.  What does all of this mean when the state has scored consistently low in this department in the past?

           
“It shows that the Governor is aggressively collecting child support,” says fathers’rights attorney Jeffery Leving.  “It is going to be more difficult for non-custodial parents.  They will have a harder time avoiding paying child support.”

           
The amount of child support collected in 2006 is over 11 percent higher than last year’s $1 billion in record-breaking collections, and more than 50 percent higher than the $729 million collected in fiscal year 2001.

           
“Every year, as the cost of raising children and providing a loving and secure home continues to go up, more and more parents are struggling to meet those needs alone,” Governor Blagojevich announced in a news release.  “Before I became Governor, the child support system in our state was the worst in the nation.  But this program has turned around and is now breaking its own records and receiving national recognition for its improvements.  More Illinois parents than ever are getting the payments they are owed so their children can have the childhood they deserve.”

           
While the trend of increased child support collections is beneficial for children and families in general, it could also have a positive impact on fathers in their relations with their children.  “There is a correlation between contact with children and payment of support,” explains Leving.

           
The increase in child support collection is attributable in large part to the implementation of several new programs, including: the Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office; the Deadbeat Parents Website; and the New Hire Initiative.

           
The Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office is a collaborative effort that ensures improved interstate information sharing, faster collection of court-ordered child support, and more efficient enforcement of child support laws.  According to the Governor’s office this collaboration has resulted in the collection of $234,351.  Further, the Deadbeat Parents Website has been an effective tool for the state of Illinois, in that it identifies parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, and has resulted in the collection of nearly $190,000 since the program’s launch in November 2003.  In Illinois, 80 percent of child support is collected through wage withholdings, a method facilitated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory.

           
Though these initiatives have led to increases in child support collection, they also have a flipside – that is, further alienation between some parents and children.  Most deadbeat dads, for instance, have no income or low income.  In fact, 66 percent of those behind in child support are at poverty level income.

           
“You can’t get child support from people who are indigent, sick, ill, or incarcerated,” warns Leving.  “It could alienate fathers from their children further.”

           
The question then becomes: What is the state of Illinois doing for parents, particularly fathers, who want to meet their child support obligations but are unable to do so?  Fathers’ rights guru Leving has some ideas for what the state might do to improve the lot of these parents.

           
“Fathers that are unemployed, find employment for them, empower them,” he suggests.  “Job training could be valuable.  They could use money allocated to chase down deadbeat dads to educate the jobless.”

            The state of Illinois bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncle who for years looked like he just got out of bed when he attended the annual family reunion.  Then, one year, somehow, he gets motivated to pull himself together and charms the entire family much to everybody’s delight.  This stems from the fact that the state of Illinois has done an about-face for child support collections in 2006. 

March 6, 2009 at 8:01 pm Leave a comment

Top 10: Mistakes Men Make in Divorce

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By Jeffery M. Leving

It’s easy to make mistakes at the very beginning of the divorce process, especially if you’re dealing with someone who is highly manipulative, abusive or just plain irrational. Even if you are divorcing a reasonable person, it’s tough to think clearly and make the right initial decisions. Most people are so angry, upset or anxious at the end of their marriage that they’re not thinking logically about what they should do to protect themselves or their children from an unfair settlement.

In the past, the prevailing emotions during a divorce were usually sadness and regret. Today, anger is the dominant emotion: People are angry at their spouses, their spouses’ parents, at their spouses’ new partners, etc. All this anger translates into words and deeds that make the divorce process more costly, stressful, frustrating, lengthy, and an all out war. It doesn’t have to be that way, even if you are divorcing the most irrational of humans. Below are the 10 most common mistakes men make in divorce. If you can learn to place your emotions in check and avoid these mistakes, you can alleviate some of the pain that comes with any divorce.

#10Using Your Children as Pawns
Threatening to limit or deny visitation is a powerful threat, and it can terrify a parent who loves his child(ren). Often, parents who are the primary caregivers, but who lack the financial resources, feel that they must use this threat to gain sufficient financial support.

As painful as these threats are, do not respond in kind. Don’t issue threats of your own. Instead, recognize that in most cases, the truth will come out. If you’ve been a good, responsible parent, your spouse likely cannot deny you a chance to see your kids on a regular basis. More to the point, the court won’t allow it in most instances.

#9 – Thinking Romance First, Divorce Second
The most common factor that turns a normal divorce into an abnormally contentious one is bringing another woman into the mix. The situation is already potentially volatile, and all it takes is the mention that you have a new lover for your spouse to become infuriated.

There are several reasons you may want to announce your new relationship-revenge, one being to show her that someone finds you attractive and you’ve even found happiness. Try to keep a new relationship out of the conversations with your spouse and especially your children. The best decision is to wait until the divorce is concluded before you engage in a new relationship.

#8 – Allowing Your Spouse to Convince You to Not Hire An Attorney
If your spouse has hired a lawyer, you need to hire one quickly. If you don’t, you are an amateur playing against professionals. One underhand tactic is for a spouse’s attorney to offer to represent both parties to save time and money. Not only is it unethical, but it also creates a conflict of interest.

The process is designed to be adversarial, and there is no way a lawyer can fairly represent you both. The odds are that your spouse has something to hide or something she wants, and she knows that if you hire a lawyer it will be more difficult to achieve that goal.

#7 – Using Verbal Abuse
Just about everyone who gets a divorce argues. Not everyone, however, engages in continuous verbal battles in which threats and vile accusations become routine forms of communication. Being on the receiving end of this abuse is demoralizing, especially when the threats raise the possibility of physical harm to you or your children.

You need to discuss any threats of this type with your attorney, who can advise you on how to deal with them. Furthermore, if it is you who’s engaging in the verbal abuse, remember that your spouse can easily obtain an order of protection and any violation of this order can land you in jail. There is a myth that men do not endure verbal or even physical abuse from their spouses, but it is just a myth. Abuse is not gender specific.

#6 – Rubbing Salt In the Wound
If your goal is to avoid a court battle and the high costs that go with it, then you want to avoid any accusations of personality flaws. Be aware of your spouse’s sensitivities and avoid inflaming them. Compromise is the essence of divorce negotiations, and if you say and do things to encourage your spouse to dig in and be inflexible, you’re asking for a war.

No matter how much you despise your spouse; no matter how many ways you feel you’ve been wronged, don’t make a bad situation worse by identifying your spouse’s vulnerabilities when trying to reach a settlement. Always try to negotiate before you litigate.

#5 – Using a Difficult Attorney
Lawyers can turn good divorces into bad ones and bad divorces into nightmares. It’s not just divorcing spouses that are difficult. Certain lawyers are intent on churning fees, and they can cleverly manipulate situations to their financial advantage. The result is couples who will fight over the big and little things and invariably wind up in court and broke.

Do not fall for the myth that you have to find a take-no-prisoners attorney, someone who is ruthless and will use any tactic necessary to “win” the case. When there is one difficult attorney, the odds are the divorce will be costly and unpleasant. When there are two difficult attorneys, the divorce will be a total nightmare.

#4 – Becoming Passive
The last thing you want to do when your spouse announces she wants a divorce is to become completely acquiescent. Many people are manipulative, and if they think they can manipulate you into getting what they want out of the divorce, such as money, property or custody, they will do so.

If you are stunned or saddened, you may agree to anything and everything your spouse recommends. Don’t confuse passivity with being reasonable. My experience is that the shock of divorce soon wears off, and once it does, you’re much less vulnerable to making this mistake.

#3 – Arguing About Who Gets What
In most divorces where couples have been married for a number of years, disputes about property arise, and sometimes these arguments are perfectly understandable. These arguments, however, can become completely irrational and vengeance-based. I had a client say, “I would rather incur 10 times in legal fees what the painting costs than allow her to have it!”

These arguments can be draining emotionally (not to mention financially), but it helps to recognize that no matter how your spouse uses these objects in the bargaining process, the court generally divides property fairly if both parties have competent attorneys.

#2 – Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers in Embarrassing Places
Having an officer of the law serve your spouse at home or business should be reserved for cases where they refuse to file an appearance or accept service of process, or where great conflict exists between the two parties.

There is nothing more embarrassing than having a police officer serve you with papers at work, and nothing more unnerving than hearing the doorbell ring at 2 a.m. and seeing a policeman at the door (and having your neighbors see him as well).

If your spouse uses this tactic on you, as obnoxious as it may be, remain calm.

#1 – Responding to An Impending Divorce With Anger
The early stages of the divorce process can be a highly emotional time when people say things they do not mean or act in unusual or uncharacteristic ways. Divorces “blow up” legally when one person responds to anger with even greater anger, creating an escalating war of attrition that otherwise would have been a brief skirmish.

Therefore, allow a bit of time to pass before you do anything. Your spouse may settle down after blowing off some steam, and you can continue to move forward in a reasonable manner.

March 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm 1 comment

A Civil Rights Champion Dies

We have just lost a champion of civil rights. James Cook, often called the “father of joint custody,” passed away last week in California. His passing is being lamented by prominent fathers’ rights attorney Jeffery Leving.

The people in Illinois have joint custodial rights for parents because of Jeffery Leving; however, he is quick to point out that it was James Cook who was the pioneer in this movement in our nation.

It is 30 years since James Cook initiated the joint custody movement, traveling all over the country to argue the case. As a result of his work, California passed the joint custody law in 1979, and this inspired Jeffery Leving to advocate a similar measure in his home state. Jeffery Leving co-authored the Illinois Joint Custody Act which the Illinois governor signed into law in 1986. Thus Jeffery Leving gave impetus to a movement which has in most states transformed the law concerning the custody of children.

James Cook’s effort has forever changed the treatment of fathers in the courts. When James Cook went through the trauma of divorce, there were no civil rights for fathers. The judge told him that the law did not permit him to grant joint custody. In contrast, about a decade later, New York Supreme Court Judge Richard Lattner regarded joint custody as “an appealing concept” that freed the court from making decisions based on gender.

Even now, the work started by James Cook is not complete as there are still many states that have no joint custody law on the books. Nevertheless, many fathers will be grateful to James Cook who launched the fathers’ rights movement; and to Jeffery Leving who continues to champion the cause, and has increased public awareness through publishing the online magazine LevingsDivorceMagazine.com, founding the non-profit Fatherhood Educational Institute, as well as chairing the government body the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood.

Jeffery Leving expects to go to the graveside service for James Cook on Friday, March 6, 2009.

March 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

Respect a Man’s Choice, Too

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By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks

In Kai Ma’s recent AlterNet column “The Difference Between a Womb and a Wallet” (7/26/06) she applauds a U.S. District Court judge’s quick, contemptuous dismissal of Matt Dubay’s “Roe v. Wade for Men” lawsuit. Dubay sought to wipe out the child support payments he is obligated to make to an ex-girlfriend who, he says, used a fallacious claim of infertility to deceive him into getting her pregnant.

In opposing “Choice for Men,” Ma asserts that a “woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is not the equivalent of a man’s choice to financially opt out of fatherhood.” She cites the pain and discomfort of pregnancy, and the way motherhood “may limit our mobility or careers.”   These problems are very real; however, so are the problems created when men are saddled with child support obligations.

According to an estimate in Men’s Health magazine, 100,000 men each year are jailed for alleged nonpayment of child support. Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data reveal that 70% of those behind on payments earn poverty level wages. The “Most Wanted Deadbeat Dad” lists put out by most states are used both for police actions and to hunt and shame “deadbeats” through newspaper ads and publicity campaigns. These lists are largely comprised of uneducated African-American and Latino men with occupation descriptions like “laborer,” “maintenance man” and “roofer.”

Ma dismisses the burden of child support as being “a few hundred dollars a month.” However, in California, AlterNet’s home state, a noncustodial father of two earning a modest $3,800 a month in net income pays $1,300 a month in child support. The money–almost $300,000 over 18 years–is tax-free to the custodial mother. One can reasonably debate whether this sum is appropriate or excessive. One cannot reasonably dismiss it as being insignificant.

Ma portrays children as a mother’s albatross, forgetting that parenting is also the greatest joy a person can experience in life. Yes, in single mother homes the mother bears the burden of most of the childrearing, but the mothers also experience the lion’s share of the joys and benefits of having children. Noncustodial fathers are not so fortunate—they’re usually permitted only a few days a month to spend with their kids. Once mom finds a new man, they’re often pushed out entirely in favor of the child’s “new dad.”

Ma condemns men who “lie, deceive, break their promises, or pull a 180…who agree to marry but don’t,” and laments that “millions of women” have been “trapped into single motherhood for life with, often, next to no recourse.” Yet according to a randomized study of 46,000 divorce cases published in the American Law and Economics Review, two‑thirds of all divorces involving couples with children are initiated by mothers, not fathers, and in only 6% of cases did the women claim to be divorcing cruel or abusive husbands.

The out-of-wedlock birth rate in the United States hovers around 33%–given the wide variety of contraceptive and reproductive choices women enjoy, this can hardly be blamed primarily on men. Yes, in some of these cases the mother and father shared a relationship which the mother (and the father) may have expected would become a marriage. Yet these relationships fail for many reasons besides male perfidy. These include: youth; economic pressure and the lack of living wage jobs (how many couples fight over money?); and the mothers’ post-partum depression and mood-swings. It’s doubtful that many men really wake up in the morning and say to themselves “my child loves me and needs me, my girlfriend loves me and needs me—I’m outta here.”

Ma says men “shouldn’t be able to choose to abandon that child in the lurch.” Yet 1.5 million American women legally walk away from motherhood every year through adoption, abortion or abandonment. In over 40 states mothers can completely opt out of motherhood by returning unwanted babies to the hospital shortly after birth. If men like Dubay are deadbeats and deserters, what are these women?

Whenever a child is born outside of the context of a loving, two-parent family, there are no good solutions. Ma overstates her case, but she is correct that “Choice for Men” is a flawed solution. However, the current regime, which provides women with a variety of choices and men with none, is also flawed.

Dubay’s conduct is not particularly admirable, and he’s certainly not a candidate for father of the year; however, he does have a point. Over the past four decades women’s advocates have successfully made the case that it is wrong to force a pregnancy on an unwilling mother. Despite the backlash against Dubay, hopefully his lawsuit will result in a greater societal awareness that it is also wrong to force a pregnancy on an unwilling father.

Jeffery M. Leving is the Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

Glenn Sacks’ columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at www.GlennSacks.com or via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.

March 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

Absent Fathers & Youth Violence

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More kids have died in Chicago between September 2007 and August 2008 than servicemen and women from Illinois during the same period in Iraq. A recent survey estimates the greatest fear Chicago schoolchildren have is “getting shot.”

Government officials, educators, and community activists debate continuously over the causes of the explosion of youth violence in Chicago — gangs, drugs, guns, poor school funding, etc. While all of those factors certainly contribute to the rising statistics on youth violence, the largest contributing factor that continually gets overlooked is absent fathers.

Studies show that school systems with above-average rates of father absence have nearly double the rates of school violence compared to those with below-average rates of father absence. Children who do not live with both parents are also more likely to carry a gun, assault another student and assault a teacher. To put it simply, father absence is the single strongest predictor that a child will grow up to be violent or fall victim to violence.

When male youths do not have a father figure in their lives, they often join gangs to fill that emptiness and look to gang leaders to fill that “fatherless” void in their lives. There is a critical connection between a father’s absence, juvenile delinquency and anti-social aggression in our youths. The likelihood that a male will engage in criminal activity doubles when he is raised without a dad. In fact, 72 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without their father (Characteristics of Adolescents Charged with Homicide, 1987).

Boys who grow up in broken marriages are more than twice as likely as other young males to end up in jail and each year spent without a father in the home increases the likelihood of future incarceration by 5 percent (Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, 1999).

Delinquency and crime are among the many damaging effects created by father absence. The solution to stopping the continued slaughter of Chicago children is to stop kicking fathers to the curb. Fathers who are not involved in their children’s lives need to step up to the plate and start building a solid lasting relationship with them.

But there are also millions of great dad’s out there in America that are being pushed out of their children’s lives. Gender bias and parental alienation are preventing many good fathers from getting involved in their children’s lives.

The solution to youth violence must begin with reuniting fathers with their children. Until this happens, every other measure that is taken is like putting a band-aid on a wound. We have to restore fatherhood as a societal norm in our community. It is an inalienable right for children to walk to school each day, play on the playground, ride their bikes on the street and not fear for their lives.

The Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood is issuing a call-to-action for all parents and concerned community leaders to make a commitment to restoring responsible fatherhood in our community. We have to come together to protect the future of our youth. For more free information, visit http://www.responsiblefatherhood.com.

Jeffery M. Leving of Chicago is the author of “Divorce Wars” and the Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood.

March 5, 2009 at 9:46 pm 1 comment

Are American Husbands Slackers?

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By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks

In the wake of the death of feminist pioneer Betty Friedan, many women’s advocates are asserting that the revolution she began is only half complete:  career opportunities have opened up for women, but these careers are being undermined and sabotaged by women’s disproportionate and unfair household obligations. 

Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, recently asserted that the “gender caste system is still alive and well in most of our households…The outside world has changed enormously for women in these past 40 years. But home life? Think about it. Who routinely unloads the dishwasher, puts away the laundry and picks up the socks in your house?…The answer, for a great many families, is the same as it was 50 years ago…[Friedan’s] description of the lives of women in the 1950s sounded just too much like the lives of women today.” As feminist professor Linda Hirshman recently noted, “The glass ceiling begins at home.” 

Careers and wage-earning have certainly increased the demands on women’s time–have American men refused to hold up their end by contributing more at home? Are American husbands slackers?

Warner, Hirshman, and other feminist critics compare the work men and women do at home but fail to properly account for their disparate obligations outside the home. Census data shows that only 40% of married women with children under 18 work full-time, and over a quarter do not hold a job outside the home.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2004 Time Use Survey, men spend one and a half times as many hours working as women do, and full-time employed men still work significantly more hours than full-time employed women.

When both work outside the home and inside the home are properly considered, it is clear that men do at least as much as women. A 2002 University of Michigan Institute for Social Research survey found that women do 11 more hours of housework a week than men but men work 14 hours a week more than women. According to the BLS, men’s total time at leisure, sleeping, doing personal care activities, or socializing is a statistically meaningless 1% higher than women’s. The Families and Work Institute in New York City found that fathers now provide three-fourths as much child care as mothers do—50% more than 30 years ago.

Yet even these studies understate men’s contributions because they only count the hours devoted to a task without measuring the physical strain and/or danger associated with the task. A man doing eight hours of dangerous construction work in the 100-degree heat is credited with no more “work” than a woman who works in an air-conditioned office or who does childcare or housework in the comfort and safety of her own home (and without a supervisor breathing down her neck).

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than three million workers a year are treated in hospital emergency rooms for occupational injuries—the vast majority of them suffered by men.  Nearly 100,000 American workers have died from job-related injuries over the past decade and a half, 95% of them men. Of the 25 most dangerous jobs listed by the U.S. Department of Labor, all of them are between 90 percent and 100 percent male.

The sacrifices made by men like Terry Helms, one of the 12 miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster last month, are unrecorded in the studies. Terry’s son Nick told the Associated Press that his father “had endured numerous injuries in a 30-year career and hated mining because of the dangers.”

“[My father] is very selfless,” Nick said. “[He] refused to quit because the job put food on the table…He gave his life in there so I could go to the movies.”

It is true, as Warner and Hirshman assert, that work outside the home is often more interesting than work done in the home. Yet it is also true that work done in the home—particularly time spent with one’s children when they are young—is often more satisfying than wage work.

Feminists’ persistent criticism of men has combined with women’s traditional expectations of their husbands to place men in a double bind. A man may be a devoted caretaker of his children or a talented cook, but if he is unable to provide for his family, he is not respected. Yet when a man works long hours to fulfill the breadwinner role which he is still expected to perform, he is blamed for not contributing as much at home as his wife does.

Feminists are right to complain that with long work weeks, the high cost of child care, scant union protections, and inflexible workplaces, working women often face a trying juggling act.  But they’re wrong to place the blame on husbands, who do their fair share and often make great sacrifices to provide for their wives and children.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

Glenn Sacks’ columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at www.GlennSacks.com or via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.

March 5, 2009 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

Hounding Low-Income Dads Won’t Pay

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By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and Child Support Services Department Director Steven Golightly have announced a sweeping new campaign against “deadbeat dads.” They say their new Most Wanted Delinquent Parent list is modeled on the FBI’s fabled 10 Most Wanted list. On paper the 10offenders owe over $2 million, but it’s very questionable that Cooley and Golightly will be collecting much. Golightly’s action is particularly remarkable considering that the California Department of Child Support Services, which supervises the CSSD, issued a report in January that contradicts any possible rationale for this campaign.

According to the CDCSS, there are four primary factors creating child-support arrearages in California: “high child-support orders established for low-income obligors”; “a limited number of child-support orders adjusted downward”; “establishment of retroactive child-support orders”; and “accrual of 10 percent interest on child-support debt.” Over a quarter of these arrears is interest.

Unlike the Most Wanted Deadbeat Parent put out by most states and counties, the CSSD’s list does not contain the occupations of the “deadbeats.” One can understand why.

Nationwide these lists are never comprised of well-heeled businessmen, lawyers and accountants, but instead of fathers who do low-wage and often seasonal work, and owe large sums of money, which they could never hope to pay off. It is rare to find a person with even a college degree on these lists.

In recent years there have been several highly publicized actions similar to CSSD’s, generally coupled with arrests.

For example, Virginia’s Most Wanted list was topped by a laborer, a carnival hired hand and a construction worker, who collectively somehow owed over a quarter-million dollars in child support. Similarly, Kentucky’s list during its campaign sported only one obligor with an education, and the most common designation for occupation was “laborer.”

How do men of such modest means end up with such fantastic arrearages? The child-support system is largely impervious to the economic realities working people face, such as layoffs, wage cuts, unemployment and work-related injuries. According to the Urban Institute, less than one in 20 noncustodial parents who suffers a substantial drop in income is able to get courts to reduce the support obligation.

To Cooley’s and Golightly’s credit, they did explain that some of the “deadbeats” they’re pursuing may be able to use California’s Compromise of Arrears Program. COAP allows some obligors to settle their artificially inflated paper debts to the state for realistic amounts.

The problem is there has been little outreach done on COAP, so few obligors are aware of it.  Fewer than 5,000 have used it since its inception in 2003.  Moreover, it’s unlikely that those on the list will view the Most Wanted approach as much of an invitation to turn themselves in.

Golightly says he’s doing this so the “deadbeats” will “take care of their children.” This is misleading, because 70 percent of California’s child-support debt is owed to the state, not to custodial mothers and fathers.

It is understandable that taxpayers want money spent on welfare benefits to be repaid.  Yet it makes little sense to hound low-income fathers, particularly since research shows that in some cases, were it not for child support, the men would still be playing a role in their children’s lives.

The Cooley/Golightly approach may be good politics, but it’s counterproductive policy.

March 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

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