Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Daughter He Found

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The Daughter He Found
By Jeffery M. Leving

A thin pasty-faced tattooed teen-aged girl knocked on Ed Green’s Salt Lake City, Utah, condo door one day a couple of springs ago. She looked strung-out and exhausted and burst into tears the moment she opened her mouth and sputtered, “You’re my father.” Much to Ed’s surprise, the image of a girl he’d had a somewhat casual relationship with in college came back to him. Her eyes the same steel blue as the tattooed girl’s. Immediately he wondered, why had the girl he’d slept with in college never told him she was pregnant and that she’d given birth to their daughter? Over the next few hours he learned the tragic story of his daughter and the tumultuous life she’d lead since her birth. After giving birth, her mother realized she didn’t really want to have a baby and half-heartedly mothered her until she put her up for adoption as a toddler. Her adoption family broke up and she was thrust into bouts of poverty and depression and early experimentation with hard drugs and left with an overwhelmingly constant feeling of abandonment and rejection.

A bit shocked but full of paternal love and desire to be the father Tiffany wanted and deserved, Ed welcomed Tiffany into his world with open arms. She moved into Ed’s condo and almost immediately bonded with Ed’s mother and 12 year-old daughter. By the following fall she was enrolled in her first semester at community college and thriving. While on the one hand Ed was thrilled and grateful he could fill a void and have some positive influence on Tiffany’s life, he was also angry and hurt that Tiffany’s mother could have given birth to his baby and put her up for adoption without legally having to notify him. It took him awhile to let go of the idea that if only he’d known about Tiffany from the beginning, her childhood would have been less traumatic.
However, even if Ed had known that Tiffany’s mother was pregnant and wanted to put Tiffany up for adoption, Ed would have had to jump through impossible hoops to assert any rights to decisions regarding his daughter. In fact, Utah has become to go-to state for pregnant women who want to exclude biological fathers from the decision making process.
In the state of Utah a birth mother may consent to an adoption or relinquish an infant after giving birth. She does not need the consent of the unmarried father unless he has done the following: filed a petition to establish paternity in a Utah court with an affidavit stating he is "willing and able" to have full custody and will pay child support, pregnancy-related and childbirth expenses (it also must detail a plan for the child's care); filed a "notice of commencement of paternity proceeding" with the Office of Vital Statistics; and has offered to pay for a reasonable share of the mother's pregnancy-related and childbirth expenses, unless he is able to show he did not know about the pregnancy, or was prevented from paying the expenses, or the mother refused his offer to pay.

Under Utah’s law Ed would not even be entitled to notice of the mother’s proceedings unless he complies with the above as an unmarried biological father. By virtue of the fact that he is engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman, a man is considered on notice that a pregnancy and adoption proceeding regarding the child may occur. Utah imposes upon the father a duty to protect his own rights and interests.

This is archaic and sexist and heartless and downright ridiculous. Just because a man doesn’t have a uterus doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about what happens to his biological offspring. Just ask Ed Green who, two years after reuniting with his long-lost daughter, Tiffany, still shakes and shudders when he thinks about all the years Tiffany lived feeling abandoned, without knowing her father was more than willing to love and nurture her. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unwed Fathers Receive Rights to Infant Children

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Unwed Fathers Receive Rights to Infant Children
By Jeffery M. Leving

Unwed biological fathers are often told they have no rights when it comes to their infant
children when placed for adoption. The fact they fathered their child is not considered
important when the mother decides, on her own, to give the infant child up for adoption
in certain circumstances.

But, this gender disparity in equal protection and due process in parental rights is

Recently, the State of Utah adopted House Bill 308 that is designed to safeguard unwed
paternal rights in regards to children six months or younger from being adopted. This law
would require unwed fathers to be issued official notification of the mother’s intention to
give their infant child up for adoption in certain circumstances. Once received, the father
would then have 30 days to assert his rights as a parent and petition the court for custody.

This closes a loophole which had allowed mothers to circumvent notifying the biological
father and thus committing the ultimate act of parental alienation – terminating the fatherchild
relationship forever.

Common sense and fair play would argue that if an unwed mother decides to give up her
rights to a child, then the biological father would automatically be given the opportunity
to take custody of his child. Instead, a stranger can be given the right to adopt the child,
often without the father even knowing he will never see his child again.

All too often these points are treated unreasonably in many states because too many
jurisdictions have rejected the rights of fathers regarding infant children born outside of

The mother, it is aggressively argued, bears the burden of child birth and therefore should
be the sole parent overseeing the child’s well-being and future relationship with the birth
father. This not only doesn’t make sense, but can strip children of someone who has a
natural biological drive to protect them – their own father.

Utah isn’t the only state that has begun to tear down these antiquated attitudes against
biological fathers.

Recently, a legislative initiative evolved in the State of Michigan to adopt a similar law
involving putative fathers. This House Bill (HB 4067), which, among other things, would
allow biological fathers the right to seek to establish paternity even if the child’s mother
was married to another man between the time the child was conceived and born.

The new Michigan legislation would provide a detailed mechanism to establish paternity
for a biological father as previous statues automatically granted paternity to the marital

Again, common sense would dictate that the biological father, the one who conceived the
child with the mother, would have rights to establish paternity and custody, but this is not
always the case. Existing laws in many states not only ignore the rights of the father, but
ignore the rights of the child. Who better to enjoy the legal right to defend a child’s
health, education, and welfare than their biological, natural father when mom walks

The rights of fathers should be balanced against the rights of mothers when it comes to
safeguarding the well-being of their children. Equal protection and due process should
exist in every state regardless of gender and marital status. Unwed fathers should not be
wrongfully excluded from making decisions that are necessary in raising their children,
including education, religious training, and health care. This is critical in this nation
where approximately 33.1% of children are born out of wedlock.

However, if there is a child placement disagreement, the child’s future is too often
decided based on parental gender and marital status.

Unwed fathers’ rights legislation will hopefully be enacted into law in both Utah and also
in Michigan and spread throughout the nation. These are steps in the right direction to
correct this unfair imbalance. Constitutional rights must apply to unwed fathers and their
children too.

Jeffery M. Leving is the author of Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars, as well as the soon
to be released How to Be a Good Divorced Dad, which garnered praise from President
Barack Obama and an endorsement from Francis Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of
Chicago. He also co-authored the Illinois Joint Custody Law and is the founder of Leving is a dedicated matrimonial attorney focusing on what is
best for the children – a relationship with both parents.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why don’t men seek help?

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Why don’t men seek help?
By Jeffery M. Leving

Have you ever heard of a “shelter for battered men?”

It’s bad enough that in today’s society the odds that a marriage will fall apart are staggering. More than 40 percent of marriages end in divorce.

Worse is the fact that many men who are victims of abuse, not only do not get help, but often assume blame believing doing otherwise is a sign of weakness and “unmanly.”

The idea of seeking shelter would be too humiliating for most men to accept.

Men face many stigmas and stereotypes that force them to accept blame even when they are not to blame, and discourage them from seeking professional assistance even when they should.

These are terrible obstacles for anyone to overcome.

  • Society’s stereotype that men are always at fault
  • The emasculating stigma of being “abused” by a woman
  • The absence of programs to address abuse of fathers
  • Getting men to overcome their fear that failing to accept the blame might cost them their children

While men are often the first to be blamed for a collapsing marital relationship, many times, the break up is driven by abuse from one spouse against the other.

In many cases, it is the husband, not the wife, who is at the receiving end of physical and emotional abuse when marriages collapse. But they won’t accept it, and remain in denial. Abusive female spouses easily hide behind societal stereotypes to disguise their abusive roles. Many people just refuse to believe the facts no matter how truthful they appear.

The tendency to not seek help is greater with men than it is with women. That may explain why men are often blamed for the collapse of a marriage. Men tend to “circle the macho wagons” because they have been taught as little kids not to cry, not to surrender, and to always be tough.

Being tough often means avoiding doing the single most important thing a parent in divorce should do to end the cycle of violence. That is, to get help.

This is a societal stigma that is difficult to overcome.

Our society defines how we think and feel as men and women. Men must be strong. Women are weak. Men go out and work and put food on the table while women stay home and raise the kids.

The stereotype that it’s a man’s job to shoulder the tough responsibilities also includes forcing men to accept blame even when the blame doesn’t fit.

Today’s economy is changing the dynamics of a household. In many families today, both the husband and the wife work. More and more women are looking for jobs to bring home part or all of the “bacon”.

The family nucleus is impacted by the realities of the economy and the world around us, however, the perception of guilt still often falls on the shoulders of the father who believes he has failed as the sole or primary breadwinner of the family.

In some cases, many men not only assume the blame, but refuse to get counseling for the blame they wrongly accept.

It’s a quandary that causes much consternation for fathers. It even sounds contradictory that a father would accept the blame for doing no wrong but not seek help to address the causes of a collapsed marriage which has motivated the mother to falsely assess blame.

Many men assume blame because it is our societal expectation, even though not driven by fact.

Many men feel ashamed that their wife is leaving them, they often are in denial and remain there for most of the divorce process.

Many fathers also live with the fear caused by societal stereotypes, believing that they will be stripped of their rights with their children if they report their dilemma. Fearing they will lose their children, they refrain from seeking help.  Alternatively, some men accept blame believing that courts will then protect their relationships with their children.  Wrong.  Accepting blame is a “sacrifice” you do not want to make.

In fact, though, accepting false blame only undermines the rights of the father.

It is important for fathers involved in marital breakups to seek help immediately. They have to resist the temptation of succumbing to the stigma that somehow they are being weak by seeking help or even acknowledging that they need it.

Our society needs to change. We need to recognize that abuse is not shameful nor gender specific.

Men who are victims of abuse, whether it is physical or mental, have no shame to hide.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Absentee fathers a growing epidemic in America

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Absentee fathers a growing epidemic in America
By Jeffery M. Leving

One in three children in America, according to the U.S. Census, live in homes where their biological father is absent.

I recognize that this trend is worsening not becoming better, reaching epidemic proportions that must be addressed.

Oftentimes we turn to the statistics, which show that this problem is acute. But sometimes we have to assess our changing cultural norms that are sometimes best portrayed in the mainstream entertainment media.

When I was young, television had a dramatic power over manipulating our perceptions and in turn our attitudes.

The TV was filled with programs that reinforced the image of a family as being one with not only strong mothers, but strong fathers working in partnership.

Today, for a lot of reasons, that has changed. Instead of programs like Father Knows Best, the Brady Bunch or even Andy of Mayberry which reinforced the notion that single-parent fathers can raise their child with success in our changing world, we now have violence defining manhood to young boys and porno to watch.

We also have programs that minimize or deprecate the role of fathers.

Today’s popular TV genres about families often subjugate the role of the father to a status considered insignificant.

A good example of this is in the reality show TV genre. And one program in particular that I believe reflects this minimization of the importance of a father figure in today’s society is “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

Forget about the sex and the scandals. That’s the distraction from the real challenge we face. What I see when I watch the Kardashians is a family out of control driven by the absence of a father figure. The biological father is gone and replaced by a substitute father, Bruce Jenner, who is marginalized and often belittled in the television reality show. In fact, it seems as if his role is intentionally defined as the punching bag for all that goes wrong.

Reality shows like this are often brushed aside by some as “trash TV,” but the reality is that these types of programs can have dramatic consequences for our young people and how they engage parental responsibility and fathers rights when they come of age.

I am concerned about our society. And while I don’t want to blame the Kardashians as the only source for this trend, they are symptomatic of a wider problem.

The notion that romanticizing families with absent fathers or even weak father figures is a dangerous one, especially if it has no counter balance in our society.

And our society needs to fight to restore the parental balance in the environment in which children are raised.

We know from the data, that children raised in father-absent environments can be prone to problems and challenges that include poverty, crime and jail time, teen pregnancy, abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and even obesity.

It can be particularly acute on girls who learn to live without a caring or loving male figure in their lives, creating challenges for them in terms of how to deal with men when they become older. That could explain the excessive drama of the Kardashian girls.

The role of a father must be protected. Our judicial system needs to overcome gender bias that places all blame for divorce on the father or male partner.

This is one reason why I have been so pro-active in reaching out to help men in divorce. I recognize that defending fathers rights in divorce is not just about their share of assets and their immediate family, but also because insuring that fathers rights are protected has a direct impact on improving the world in which our children are raised. Any man’s loss of a child diminishes mankind.

The consequences of father absence is directly addressed in many of my books and publications. It’s important.

Our society has an important stake in insuring that fathers rights are protected. And one way to do that is to protect how we view fathers.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

Being a good divorced dad means not giving up on your kids

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Being a good divorced dad means not giving up on your kids
By Jeffery M. Leving

Most divorced fathers want to spend as much time as possible with their children but oftentimes, for a variety of reason, feel they can’t.

Being a “Good Divorced Dad” oftentimes depends on how much time a father is able to commit to their children. It’s one of the topics I address in detail in my new book, which comes out this Spring, “How to be a Good Divorced Dad: Preventing the Divorce Process and Its After effects from Hurting Your Relationship with Your Children.”

Sometimes, the causes that prevent divorced fathers from becoming good dads have to do with the provisions of the divorce agreement, limiting the time they can spend with their children. Other times, the factors involve personal hurt or lack of self-esteem caused by the divorce. You may be a father physically but not in the spirit that allows you to put the strength and time into it that is required.

In many cases, divorced dads accept a restricted role that is often imposed on them by these circumstances.

But you can change that and you can be a great divorced dad who becomes a role model for your children for years to come.

My book walks fathers through the process of identifying the obstacles that prevent divorced fathers from protecting their relationship with their children.

I call them the Seven Deadly Sins of failed divorced fatherhood. They are: the terms of the custody agreement; orders of protection; financial problems; legal trickery; gender bias; guilt; and anger.

In each instance, there is a strategy to improve the amount of time you spend with your children and to improve the quality of that time.

For example, in the case of having to live under the terms of a very restrictive custody agreement, you can become available to your ex-wife to assist her by being there to help with the children. Too often, the personal animosity that results from many divorces prevents this, but your children need you.

You have to watch for opportunities when your ex-spouse will need help with the children and be there to take advantage of the opportunities. And you have to strategically think about how you approach this, not feed into the anger.

You may be hurt about the divorce. Your ex-wife may be a vengeful person. You need to control your own emotions for the benefit of your children. Why allow your former spouse’s anger to impact your relationship with your children?

A good lawyer will also be able to help with the language in your custody agreement to facilitate opportunities to increase contact with your children. They can be built into the agreement.

In each of these challenges you will want to insure that the time spent with your children is quality time. You need to work on that, but there are methods to help you do that. Planning your time with your children will vastly improve the relationship.

Having a competent, experienced attorney at your side will help avoid many of these challenges, such as avoiding an order of protection that is based on false allegations against you. Many father are coerced by guilt and a gender-biased system into believing that they must admit to fault when there is none.

My book has a list of questions divorced dads can answer to help make them stronger and more effective divorced dads. Knowing them. Thinking about them. And answering them will help improve your experience with your children.

The point is don’t give up. Control the process of divorce in order to control your relationship. And make sure your rights are properly represented when you begin the divorce.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Safety of children is always a number one concern

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Safety of children is always a number one concern
By Jeffery M. Leving and Ray Hanania

Three senior judges on the bench in New Zealand ruled that neither the father nor the mother of a child conceived out of wedlock should be given custody of the new born baby girl.

It was the result of an unusual case that involved alleged infidelity, religious views and cultural traditions that the judges thought might result in harm to the child.

It all began when a married man had an affair with a single Muslim woman. The woman then became pregnant, but kept the pregnancy secret from her parents and brothers.

In many Third World countries, cultural tradition takes a severe view of unmarried women having affairs, let alone having a child out of wedlock. It is common in many countries, including in some parts of the Muslim World where the woman is from, that the family would punish the woman for bringing “shame” on the family name.

In many cases, the women involved are murdered by family members in a grisly practice dubbed “honor killings.” Honor killings are banned in many Muslim countries but the practice continues outside of the law and often without any punishment for the offenders.

In fact, even some families who have immigrated to Western nations like New Zealand and the United States, where the practice is considered a crime, continue to practice “honor killings.”

In this case in New Zealand, the already married biological father sought custody of the child when he learned that the woman he had the affair with had a baby as a result of their affair.

But the New Zealand courts concluded that despite the fact that the father would have been the most responsible parent to raise the child, they denied the request. They also directed that the child be placed in foster care and be removed from the mother.

In their ruling, the judges, according to media reports, expressed concern that the process might result in identification of the mother and that would put the unwed Muslim woman in jeopardy of becoming the victim of an honor killing if her parents and relatives discovered her secret.

It’s an extreme example of where safety is given priority over custody in parental rights cases. In this case, the father clearly should have been given custody, but the judges feared doing so might result in the identification of the woman he knew as being the mother. That would have started a chain reaction that could have resulted in the mother being punished.

As a lawyer who represents fathers in child custody cases, I recognize that the safety of all of the principles in a relationship must be protected, including the safety of the child.

This is an unusual case where the judges believed they made the right call for everyone’s protection.

While we often do not encounter such safety issues stemming from cultural traditions here in the United States, they can happen.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and radio talk show host.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Illinois Institute of Technology Recognizes Jeffery M. Leving for Outstanding Achievement

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                     Jennifer Whiteside
Dec. 28, 2011                                               
                                                                                    Tel: 312-807-3990 ext. 236

Illinois Institute of Technology Recognizes Jeffery M. Leving
for Outstanding Achievement

Chicago – The Illinois Institute of Technology this week named Chicago attorney Jeffery M. Leving as a recipient of IIT’s Professional Achievement Award for 2012.

The award is given by IIT, one of the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions, and is one of the highest distinctions that can be given to one of its alumni.

The award will be presented to Leving, an accomplished attorney who concentrates in matrimonial law and fathers’ custody rights, during a luncheon that will be held April 13th at IIT’s Chicago Campus.

“I am deeply honored by this award,” Leving said. “It will serve to motivate me to continue to fight for the rights of parents, including disenfranchised fathers, whose rights are often overlooked.”

Leving received his Juris Doctor from IIT-Chicago Kent College of Law in 1979, and is world-renowned as a pioneer of the Fathers’ Rights Movement.  He is the publisher of Leving’s Divorce Magazine (

Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio™, Jeffery M. Leving is the internationally acclaimed author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars and was selected by his peers as one of Illinois’ top attorneys.
In 2000, Leving was chosen to draft an amicus brief to submit to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to reunite Elián González with his father in Cuba in the highly publicized case.

Mr. Leving serves as the governor-appointed Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood and is President Emeritus of the Fatherhood Educational Institute. In 2006, he received the President of the United States Service Award, the nation’s highest honor for volunteer service directed at solving critical social problems.

In August 2009, Mr. Leving was selected by the White House Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships as an expert resource to join senior White House staff and other community leaders at the first White House Community Roundtable and Town Hall Meeting on Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families in Chicago.