Harvard Study on Family Law Reform - F4J.US neutered?

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From: John Murtari (jmurtari@AKidsRight.org)
Date: Sat Aug 16 2008 - 21:09:18 EDT

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Good People & People of Faith,

The early results of an important study were sent to me by someone who
had access, but wishes to remain anonymous.  I was told this was not
the complete report, but selected excerpts, so it's a little
disjointed.  I haven't been able to fact check it or confirm the
source, but I found it worth reading (even if painful):


"Study of 'Parental Rights' & the Family Law Reform Movement in the
United States" by Professor Peter Bilmes, Professor Samantha Burke, &
Professor William Batterson; Harvard University Faculty.

   Abstract - This study examined the nascent Family Law Reform
   effort in the United States.  The focus was on the last ten years
   of efforts and an attempt was made to compare & contrast the
   current status of this movement with significant Civil Rights
   efforts of the past.

   We concluded the effort is disjointed and often lacks any clear
   goals that would appear to define a Civil Right. There has been a
   constant flux of fractured organizations and none have appeared to
   achieve long-term stability and growth.  Details on several groups
   are reported below.

   We agreed any serious reform effort may still be decades away -- if
   at all possible.  Our researchers disagreed on the legitimacy of
   the 'Parental Right' claims. It is a matter for further research.

FATHERS-4-JUSTICE (United States)

   This group is an off-shoot of an effort originally started in the
   UK by Mr. Matt O'Connor. The UK effort was able to obtain high
   profile visibility by the stunts of various childhood Superheroes.
   The U.S. group has failed to achieve any such publicity and it
   appears their members reject the costumed crusader concept (CCC).

   The "About F4J(R)" link (above) is the groups self-definition and it
   surprised researchers by the extreme use of the Registered
   Trademark symbol(R).  One commented, "it seems like they want to keep
   someone from stealing their product; or perhaps they are getting
   ready to sell F4J(R) Cereal?"

   Many reformers complain about the 'legalese' used by Judges and Members
   of the Bar Association in Family Court, we include this excerpt from
   the F4J(R) site:

      "Fathers4Justice(R) does not advocate, authorize, encourage,
      support, promote, sponsor, perform, participate in or plan any
      violation of constitutionally valid laws or any activity that is
      contrary to public policy or in conflict with express statutory
      restrictions or limitations.

      Individuals who engage in illegal activity or activity that is
      against public policy or in conflict with express statutory
      restrictions or limitations are not acting on behalf of
      Fathers4Justice(R) and do so at their own risk."

   It appears that former Civil Right's leaders like Mahatma Gandhi,
   or Dr. Martin Luther King, would not find a receptive audience for
   their efforts with this group.  While peaceful, many of their
   historic efforts were clearly in violation of public policy at the
   time and legal precedent.

   Dr. Samantha Burke could not help but remark, "In comparison to the
   ongoing efforts in the UK and in Canada, this group has effectively
   neutered themselves.... no wonder they wear the pink combat fatigues
   in marches?"


    This group seemed to have more prominence in the past, but appears
    to be sliding into oblivion.  Their website has a "News" sections,
    but all the news reports are from 2005 and earlier?

    On their home page they have a petition which appears to capture
    the essence of their view of reform; again, it is a head-spinner:

        "Children thrive with the active involvement of both parents.
        Children and parents should be encouraged to spend substantial
        time with each other regardless of the parents' present
        marital status.  The undersigned recognize that absent issues
        of abuse, neglect or abandonment, social and government policy
        must be structured in such a way as to promote and maximize
        the opportunity of all parents to contribute to the social,
        emotional, intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual
        development of their children."

    Dr. Batterson couldn't help but exclaim, "What fluff!  Talk about
    political correctness and affirming the right of government policy
    to control family life -- I don't see any Civil Right?"

    This group appears to have a strong goal and a concept of the
    Civil Right's of parents, but it's a one man band and also risks
    irrelevancy.  It's clear from the website that the group
    organizer, John Murtari, get's only peripheral support from other

    Prof. Bilmes offered this summation, "Talk about a failure in
    leadership.  For a former Air Force officer, it looks like this
    guy couldn't lead a group of lab rats out of a paper bag!  It's a
    good thing he doesn't seem to mind spending time in jail --
    because he's going to be there a lot and it won't matter...'


    Our three person team interviewed many parents who had been
    through child custody proceedings brought by either the other
    parent or an agency of government (child abuse allegations).

    They appeared bewildered and for the most part did not communicate
    any positive goal.  There was palpable frustration and anger
    towards Judges, Lawyers, Social Workers, and, of course, the other
    parent.  Most could not articulate any clear goal for reform and
    clearly seemed more concerned with their taking the kids back
    vis-a-vis any recognition of the right of the other parent.

    In historical contrast with other Civil Rights movements which
    established well recognized freedoms -- these parents became
    defensive and gruff when asked "what would you sacrifice today to
    make reform a reality for others besides yourself?"

    The negative responses confirmed the estimate of future success
    that we summarized in our Abstract.


Obviously, what someone sent me was a bit of satire on our efforts for
reform.  I don't blame them for wanting to remain anonymous. It made
me laugh, but it also exposed some bitter truths.  What do you think?

Best regards!

                                       John Murtari
Coordinator                            AKidsRight.Org
jmurtari@AKidsRight.Org                "A Kid's Right to BOTH parents"
Toll Free (877) 635-1968(x-211)        http://www.AKidsRight.Org/
A Kid's Right to Both Parents!
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