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Divorced fathers raise voices for full measure of parental rights – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm

By Tom Fontaine
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Divorced dads increasingly are seeking legal and political remedies from a legal system that they feel has been slanted toward mothers, say attorneys and lawmakers.

“It’s a trend and a voice coming through that’s very strong. I think they’re tired of paying out money and not having the same rights when it comes to their children,” said Karen Stewart, author of “Clean Break” and founder of a company that assists divorcing couples.

Maria Cognetti, an attorney in Camp Hill, agrees.

“There is no group out there that is as vocal and in the face of legislators as the fathers’-rights groups. There’s nothing even close on the women’s side.”

Kevin Sheahen, 55, of Bethel Park is former Pittsburgh chapter president of the National Congress for Fathers and Children. He depicts fathers’-rights groups as underdogs in their efforts.

“Very few (fathers) stick around beyond the heat of their own issues. Once their issues are resolved and things calm down, they move on with their own lives,” Sheahen said.

In Pennsylvania, which averages about 30,000 divorces annually, groups such as the NCFC and Fathers-4-Justice have focused on child-custody laws.

In Pennsylvania, the battle has centered on a proposed policy called “presumption of joint custody.”

The proposal would require custody cases to begin with the legal presumption that the parents are entitled to joint custody.

“Unless there is an unfit parent, a parent shouldn’t have to fight to see their own child,” said Jeffrey Dick of West Mifflin, a board member with the Pennsylvania chapter of Fathers-4-Justice.

Cognetti, however, pointed out that “many presumptions often lead to a not-thorough-enough review of a case being done.” She added that a presumption becomes much harder to overcome, “and it almost gives the court a basis not to look at each case individually.”

Downtown attorney Jay A. Blechman, past president of the Allegheny County Bar Association, agrees.

“Custody should always be determined on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Cognetti said the proposed policy, however, wouldn’t help good fathers.

“Whenever I represent a good dad, I want to go in and get primary custody for him. I don’t want to get shared custody. If you have a presumption, it could be hard to overcome, and your good dad is not helped,” said the Camp Hill attorney.

A custody bill by Rep. Kathy Manderino, D-Philadelphia, which unanimously passed the House on Monday, doesn’t include a presumption policy.

Manderino wants the courts to “ensure that both parents are treated equally” by ignoring gender in custody cases.

“Both parents — when fit, willing and able — should share in raising a child, even after separation or divorce. This legislation would make that concept the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s child-custody law,” Manderino said.

Other measures include requiring judges to give written explanations of custody decisions; requiring parents in contested cases to put proposed parenting plans in writing; allowing for the appointment of a children’s attorney; and identifying factors to be weighed in custody decisions.

Rep. Bob Belfanti, D-Northumberland County, said the bill doesn’t go far enough. But legislation he sponsored — which includes a presumption policy — has failed to generate enough legislative support.

Thomas Tessaro of Franklin Park, a board member with the local National Congress for Fathers and Children chapter, said Manderino’s bill “does nothing to stop fathers from being excluded from the lives of their kids.”

He said federal statistics show Pennsylvania mothers win custody 75 percent of the time. Joint custody is awarded in 10.8 percent of the cases. Fathers win custody in 8.2 percent of the cases.

Two local attorneys said most measures in Manderino’s bill are standard practice in Allegheny County.

“The bill is simply taking what is common law and making it statutory, so it would be simply a continuation of the work being done here,” Blechman said.

Attorney Carol McCarthy agrees.

“Equally shared custody can only work if parents can work cooperatively together. That’s what creates problems for kids — the state of friction between their parents,” she said.

“And the case law is clear — it’s all about the children’s best interests, not about the parents.”

Divorced fathers raise voices for full measure of parental rights – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

 

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Please make note that I, Jessica Lynn Hepner the creator of What Every Parent Should Know, is not giving legal advice. I am not a lawyer. I am giving you knowledge via first hand experiences.

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Save A Life by Angie Kassabie

Save A Life by Angie Kassabie
I URGE ALL MY FRIENDS TO READ & SHARE THIS; YOU COULD SAVE A LOVED ONES LIFE BY KNOWING THIS SIMPLE INFORMATION!!! Stroke has a new indicator! They say if you forward this to ten people, you stand a chance of saving one life. Will you send this along? Blood Clots/Stroke - They Now Have a Fourth Indicator, the Tongue: During a BBQ, a woman stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics) ...she said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Jane went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. Jane's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00 PM Jane passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ. Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Jane would be with us today. Some don't die. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead. It only takes a minute to read this. A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough. >>RECOGNIZING A STROKE<< Thank God for the sense to remember the '3' steps, STR. Read and Learn! Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions: S *Ask the individual to SMILE. T *Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. Chicken Soup) R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS. If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher. New Sign of a Stroke -------- Stick out Your Tongue NOTE: Another 'sign' of a stroke is this: Ask the person to 'stick' out his tongue. If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other that is also an indication of a stroke. A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people; you can bet that at least one life will be saved. I have done my part. Will you?

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