Hostages to fortune
Right now, if you go to the Star's website, you will see that the most-read and most-emailed story of the day is Precious Yutangco's report on how a Toronto man must continue paying child support even though a DNA test shows he is not the biological father of his ex-wife's twins.
Pasqualino began paying child support in 1998, after the couple separated.
In 2002, the two agreed to joint custody, when they also settled that he would continue to provide monetary support.
But after Anciolina asked for an increase in payments and a reduction in the time he spent with the children, Pasqualino demanded a DNA test.
When the results showed Pasqualino was not the father, he asked to be excused from paying child support and demanded he be reimbursed for tens of thousands of dollars that he had paid in the past.
He claimed that their 2002 agreement failed to disclose that Anciolina had an affair while they were married, calling it an act of fraud or misrepresentation.
But according to van Rensburg, it should not be a question of whether he is the biological parent, but rather whether he was considered a parent by definition.
"Cornelio denies knowledge of who the twins' biological father might be," van Rensburg said.
"In fact, she claims to have no memory of an extramarital affair preceding their birth, which she attributes to the medication she was taking at the time."
In the end, van Rensburg ruled in favour of Anciolina.
Needless to say, the comments section has gone nuts, with readers sharply divided over this issue. Some say that it isn't fair that a man has to finance another guy's kids. Others feel that the deceptive mother should be punished and that the real sperminator should be sued to recover all the husband's costs. Many are railing against a system which still favours mothers' custodial rights over fathers' -- and some are acknowledging the complexity of the situation.
Here's an example:
Interesting that this story should happen on the very day that my inbox was inundated with email, most of it angry, some of it sorrowful, a lot of it profane, about yesterday's column on men's rights groups. I heard from many divorced dads who told me sad stories about false accusations of abuse and rape, vindictive ex-wives who filled their kids with hate against their fathers, and their frustration with the courts.
At the same time I got an earful from others who confirmed what many believe about some of these men's rights groups and forums, that they are filled with mysogyny and hate and claims that I pulled statistics out of a hat. I'd post some those emails here but, really, why pollute the air any further?
What strikes me most about this controversial support decision -- one which I would hate to have to make -- is that it basically is about everything that has sparked the war between the sexes. Once man figured out that his ''seed'' got planted in the womb and made babies, society became all about controlling that womb in order to ensure paternity. Which might explain why, as many men's rights activists contend, there's research (albeit contradictory) that children are in danger of being abused and/or killed by their mothers' new partners. This, they argue, is often the reason for genetic fathers to maintain custody.
But I digress.
The thing is, there are no easy answers, no pat solutions, no Amicable Divorce for Dummies books. Bad things happen, to both men and women, and especially to children. They are the hostages to fortune. IAll too often, they are wielded like weapons, brainwashed like prisoners of war, and tortured like the Bush/Cheney ''detainees'' at Gitmo.
The angry email continues to pour in today about yesterday's column. And, as sympathetic as I am to many of these correspondents, all of whom to which I try to reply, nobody seems to have an answer to this conundrum.
How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids follows three couples as they struggle to end their marriages without hurting their children.
One couple, Roland and Carolye, don't have a lot of money, so use a do-it-yourself divorce kit and convert their 13-year marriage into something of a friendship.
Mike and Melissa, who have a bit more money, hire a mediator for $2,500 to see them through some of the bitterness as their five-year marriage ends. Things get a bit bumpy when Mike decides he wants shared custody of their twins.
With the most money of the three couples, Sally and Lionel hire specially trained collaborative lawyers, costing $20,000 – and soon put the professionals' skills to the test as they fight over equity in the family home and Sally's claim to a share of Lionel's booming business.
CBC Radio's The Current also covered the doc this morning. You can listen to it here.
Meantime, I have been hearing from regular reader Kevin Morrison on behalf of Collaborative Practice, which is featured in the doc. As he explains in an email:
The collaborative practice process is a unique out-of-court alternative and is a rapidly growing choice for separating families. Rather than waiting months for court dates the collaborative approach brings together specially trained lawyers, family and financial experts to hammer out an agreement that is equitable, compassionate and balanced for all parties involved. The collaborative approach eliminates the need for expensive and time consuming litigation and allows parents to agree on child support arrangements that work for all parties involved.
The collaborative approach is entirely consensual and
differs from mediation where a neutral party guides the participants to a
settlement. Any agreement that is reached in a consensual way is always more
likely to be adhered to rather that an agreement that is reached in court by an
adversarial process. The goal of collaborative approach is to create a win /
win scenario for everyone.
I plan to explore all this further in a future column.
While the majority of separated, and/or divorced men are relatively decent guys, they are paying for thousands of years of patriarchy, (which women and men have bought hook, line and sinker - read Bell Hooks "Men, Masculinity and The Will To Change"), and the behaviour of a small, yet violent and vocal group of males who are at best wounded adolescents in bigger bodies. In my practice and in the Groups and Anger workshops I run I see and hear men who rage and gripe about how vicious and vindictive their former partners behave - and my singluar response to them is "what did you do or say over the course of the relationship to piss this woman off so much, that she's now chosen to empower herself in this way?" Most men don't like this question - it makes them squirm and for many they feel backed into a corner and sometimes come out fighting, many simply flee rather than take a hard look at themselves, their behaviour and most importantly their responsibility to choose differently. For the courageous few who stay - they suddenly get to look at the roots causes of their anger and begin the journey of growing up.
So on one level Antonia I applaud you, and yet, there's a point here that's been missed. And that point is that women have an opportunity to do this differently. I'm saddened by the number of women I meet who seek to the play the man's game better than men - whether that be in the boardroom or the bedroom. I have to believe that after being repressed, suppressed and now expressing women would be bringing something fresher into the world - a new way of playing the game. Men and angry men certainly are not the issue - the issue is the whole structure and in that regard Feminism has been a big disappointment in changing the plight of the species.
Two things to that. (1) Blame the lawyers. (2) Don't put it all on feminism since, as Curd himself acknowledges, the patriarchy -- a word that's root is father -- is at fault. But I totally appreciate Curd's point. I may even accept his invite to go on his show. (Operators are standing by ...)
So back to the story which prompted this post: the Cornelio support decision.
If we are to smash the patriarchy, it seems to me that we have to overcome this notion that fatherhood -- which, before DNA testing, was always presumptive and therefore, ultimately, the cause of a dysfunctional gender balance -- is all about who deposited whose sperm where.
I can think of no other way around this. Can you?
This is why I agree with the judge when she says (boldface mine):
Even if this matter were approached on the basis of fairness to the respondent, I would conclude that his child support obligations toward the twins continues notwithstanding that he is not their biological father. By his own admission, Mr. Cornelio knew at the time of separation that his wife had an extramarital affair with “Tony” and he developed suspicions that she had known Tony during the marriage and that he might be the father of all three of their children. Notwithstanding these suspicions, Mr. Cornelio sought joint custody of all three children and entered into a consent order that provided for his ongoing and important involvement in their lives and for the provision of child support. It was not until access was interrupted and Ms. Cornelio commenced these proceedings seeking increased child support that the respondent began pursuing this issue. As Mendes da Costa U.F.C.J. noted in Spring, a support obligation to a child created by one’s conduct during the marriage cannot be cast aside after separation. I can only conclude that this motion by Mr. Cornelio is a response to the current conflict with the applicant and his unfortunate alienation from the children, which may well be temporary.
UPPITY DATE: Here's April Reign on the decision.