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U.S. News Archive
November 15 - November 21, 1999

 

 

 
 

 

This page contains news for the period Monday, November 15, 1999 through Sunday, November 21, 1999.

 

 

 

 

<<   November 1999  >>

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Saturday, November 20, 1999

Fear lingers for children of divorce

A story published today in the Desert News discusses the findings of a researcher who has done long-term studies of the effects of divorce on children when they become adults.

Loneliness in the first effect mentioned in the article. Twenty-five years after their parents' divorce, this is what people remember from their childhoods: loneliness and fear.

Well, terror, actually, says Judith Wallerstein, a psychologist and one of the nation's premier divorce researchers. She says adults like to believe that children are aware of their parents' unhappiness, expect the divorce and are relieved when it happens. But that's a myth, she says.

What children actually conclude is: If one parent can leave another then they both could leave me.

The story observes that as a society we like to think that divorce is a transient grief, a minor upheaval in a child's life. Myth, again, she says. Divorcing parents go through transition. Their children live in transition.

Wallerstein does long-term studies. She's followed a group of California families since the early 1970s, interviewing fathers, mothers and children at regular intervals, beginning with a divorce. The findings of the 10-year follow-up became a best-selling book called "Second Chances."

This week, Wallerstein came to Utah. She talked about her soon-to-be-released 25-year follow-up.

Wallerstein quoted men and women who are turning 30, people whose ages ranged from two to six years old when their parents divorced.

Even though at the time they were children of the middle class, but they remember being worried about who would feed them.

The story says that they remember being afraid that when they woke up in the morning, no one would be there. One week their moms were home, at least part-time. The next week, their moms were at work and they were left in the care of strangers or of older siblings - who, being angry and grieving and children themselves, did not hesitate to hit.

"Their loneliness was overwhelming," Wallerstein said. "Such are the core memories of these children . . . an abrupt and sudden diminution of nurturing."

The story focuses on a 28-year-old woman who said that her father's departure came as a total surprise to her. "I don't remember anybody explaining anything to me," she told Wallerstein, looking back from the perspective of an adult. "I spent so much time alone. I tried to become my own support, but I was only 4. I went for days without saying a word."

Wallerstein has an additional warning to parents: Even tiny children who witness violence are affected by it. Even one incident of domestic violence stays in their minds forever. "We'd better take this seriously," she says. Those children need counseling.

And she has even more warnings: Children of divorce hit adolescence with low expectations and big emotional hungers. About 50% of the children she studied used drugs during their teens.

Middle-class married parents send their children to college. In Wallerstein's study only one-third of divorced parents could be counted on for tuition. Many wealthy fathers told her, "I paid my child support for 18 years. Now I am done." It made no difference that they'd regularly seen their children.

Divorce cuts family relationships loose from its foundation, Wallerstein says. As a society we try to look past those severed ties. Nor can court orders mandate relationships.

In general, Wallerstein finds that 21-year-old children of divorce are still angry with their parents. They are usually more angry at their fathers.

 

Thursday, November 18, 1999

Single adults without kids have least ties to organized religion

A story published today by Arizona Star Net reports that one out of every nine Americans does not belong to any organized religion.

According to the article, people who answer ``none'' when asked their religious preference tend to be male, young, urban and single, according to a four-year study of the religious orientation of adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

Some 24 million American adults do not belong to any organized religious institution, making them second in number only to Roman Catholics if they were counted as a specific religious group.

"One of the basic facets to being non-aligned with a religion is that you do not want restrictions imposed upon you,'' said Ronald Barrier, spokesman for the 2,500-member American Atheists Inc., an advocacy group founded 36 years ago by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. "We are more open, more accepting.''

The story says that religious participation is especially low among the young, as 17 percent of young adults are unaligned compared with only 7 percent of people who are at least 65.

The study found that education has little or no impact on religious affiliation. College graduates of the same generation are no more or less likely to participate in organized religion than are people of similar age who never graduated from high school.

Single adults who have no children are more than twice as likely to be religiously indifferent as married people who are raising or have raised children.

Only 8 percent of married-with-children households are not involved in organized religion, compared with 18 percent of adults who are single and without children.

The study is based on interviews with 6,705 adults, including 754 who volunteered the answer ``none'' when asked: ``What is your religious preference - Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish or another church?''

The study of residents of the United States was conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Arkansas appeals court says cohabiting mom can lose child custody to her ex-husband

A story published today in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that an Arkansas Court of Appeals ruling yesterday upheld a Benton County Chancery Court decision granting custody of a child to his father because the boy's mother lived with another man when she had custody.

Laura Phillips, formerly Laura Ricketts, appealed the chancery court ruling. She argued that her premarital cohabitation with the man, whom she later married, did not represent a "material change in circumstances" for the boy.

Laura Ricketts and James Darrin Ricketts divorced in 1993. She received custody of their 2-year-old son.

The story says that when she asked for an increase in child support in 1998 he agreed, but he also filed a counter-petition asking for a change of custody. Phillips claimed that her ex-husband was aware that she was living with a man and didn't express any concern until he asked for full custody.

The appellate court wrote that the best interest of the child are paramount in child custody cases and that no-cohabitation orders, which both parents had received, are intended to promote the child's best interests.

"The evidence adduced in the present case includes evidence of cohabitation and remarriage of the custodial parent on one side, and remarriage of the noncustodial parent and a new half sibling on the other," the court said. "Although each child custody determination ultimately rests upon its own facts so that no holding regarding the sufficiency of the evidence is absolutely controlling in a different case, it should be noted that under very similar circumstances, our Supreme Court relied upon these circumstances in holding that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding of changed circumstances."

 

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

California drops rule of automatic opposition to joint adoptions by unmarried couples

An Associated Press story released today reports that a state policy of automatically opposing adoptions of foster children by gay and other unmarried couples was quietly dropped this week by the administration of California Governor Gray Davis.

The move rescinded a 1995 order by then-Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

The story noted that even with the earlier policy, however, judges could overrule the state opposition if the would-be parents hired an attorney and appealed.

State Department of Social Services attorneys "concluded that it was an underground regulation, or one that did not go through the proper legal process,'' agency spokeswoman Sidonie Squier said.

The state on Monday advised all California adoption agencies and county welfare directors of the change.

Democratic Gov. Gray Davis approved the agency's decision, but that doesn't mean he supports adoptions by gay couples, spokesman Michael Bustamante said.

``The previous administration took a position on adoptions. This administration is not,'' he said. ``This governor has made the determination that the professionals, not the state, are best suited to decide'' which couples are suitable adoptive parents.

The story says that it had been state policy since 1987 to automatically recommend denial of any petition by an unmarried couple to adopt a ward of the state. That policy was rescinded in 1994, but when Wilson heard about the change through news accounts three months later, he ordered it reinstated.

Colorado AG to challenge court ruling in lesbian co-parent case

A story published today in the Denver Post reports that the Colorado attorney general's office has launched a legal fight against a landmark decision allowing a lesbian couple to place both of their names on their twin babies' birth certificates.

In a motion filed last week, the Attorney General asked Boulder District Judge Roxanne Bailin to reverse her ruling granting both women equal parenting rights as mothers of the two children.

State law doesn't "provide authority to establish the relationship of a child and more than one natural mother,'' Hollie Stevenson, an assistant attorney general, wrote in her request.

Bailin ruled Sept. 30 that Anne G., the biological mother, and Jane K., her life partner, could both be identified as mothers on their child's birth certificate.

At the time, Bailin said she based her ruling on state law, which she said allows people who have no biological connection to a child to assume parental rights in certain circumstances.

But Stevenson wrote that Bailin erred in using a statute referring to paternity, which is strictly about fathers' rights. Bailin exceeded her jurisdiction when she found that "a child can have two legal, natural mothers,'' Stevenson argued in her brief.

The attorney general's office made the request on behalf of the state registrar, the office that files birth and death records under the Department of Public Heath and Environment. The registrar had never encountered two women's names on a birth certificate and wondered if the judge's order was valid, said Cynthia Honssinger, a director in the health department.

"We've never had a circumstance quite like this order,'' she said. "We believe the judge gave us something outside the law.''

 

Wednesday, November 16, 1999

Washington State releases vital statistics on family formation and dissolution

A story published on the Internet Wire reports that the Department of Health has just released data for 1998 on the number of births, marriages, and divorces.

Although the number of births in 1998 (79,640) was up slightly from the total in 1997 (78,141), the crude birth rate remained steady at 14 births per 1,000 residents. Nearly 28 percent of all births were to single mothers, a significant increase from the 22 percent recorded just a decade ago. At the national level nearly one-third of all births occur to unmarried women.

In 1998 there were about 41,000 marriages and 28,600 divorces. The data suggest that men commonly marry women who are somewhat younger than themselves. The most common ages for women to marry are 20 to 24, and for men, 25 to 29. By contrast, divorces and annulments are more likely to occur in the 35 to 39 age group. Roughly 58 percent of women and 51 percent of men were under 40 when their marriages ended.

U.S. envoys union, gays lobby for expanded benefits

An article published today in the Washington Times reports that the State Department's labor union and gay rights groups have joined forces to push for full diplomatic benefits for unmarried live-in partners of U.S. Embassy officers working in foreign countries.

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the collective-bargaining agent for career diplomats, and a group called Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies mounted their campaign after the department refused to allow the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to grant preferential visa assistance and other diplomatic benefits to a Polish national who is an unmarried "partner" of a U.S. Embassy officer in Russia.

The story says that an embassy officer wanted the administration to send an official diplomatic request to the Russian government so the Polish citizen could go to Moscow as "domestic staff," not as an unmarried partner, according to State Department documents obtained by The Washington Times.

"The department has been very, very careful on this as an issue," said Marshall P. Adair, AFSA president. "On issues that are socially controversial, they adhere to clear parameters."

AFSA's board of governors voted on November 3 to lobby the department to change its policies so unmarried partners of foreign-service officers, including same-sex partners, have the same diplomatic benefits as heterosexual spouses.

"The [AFSA] board was concerned with what appeared to be a change in the previous practice of allowing chiefs of mission flexibility in dealing with this issue and of advancing 'family friendly' policies in general," the union's cable said.

The group is asking for 13 policy changes "that the department could institute immediately and upon its own authority to address the inequitable treatment," including "administrative and logistical support from the department and from missions aboard for gay and lesbian employees as we seek to secure visas from host governments that will allow our partners to remain legally in our countries of assignment."

The story said that other requested benefits include official embassy identification badges so both same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried partners have access to diplomatic facilities and services available to married spouses, including:

  • Unclassified embassy facilities and receptions
  • Discount commissaries and duty-free shops
  • Special government airfare rates
  • Medical and educational benefits
  • Use of diplomatic mail pouches to send personal correspondence
  • Permission to apply for part-time embassy employment abroad
  • Inclusion in emergency evacuations from foreign missions and family-notification services

 

Monday, November 15, 1999

Feds' new rule ties health coverage to child support

A Reuters story published by Fox News today reports that the federal government is proposing a new federal regulation that would help children of separated or divorced parents get private healthcare insurance.

"For many uninsured children, private insurance is available through their parents, but it can sometimes be difficult for employers to enforce medical support orders after a separation or divorce,'' Donna Shalala, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, explained in a statement.

"That's why having a simple and standard means to obtain health insurance from non-custodial parents is so important,'' Shalala added.

The proposed regulation would establish a "National Medical Support Notice.'' This standardized document is designed to help employers enforce child support agreements that require non-custodial parents to provide for their children's healthcare needs.

The regulation also mandates that states educate employers about their obligation to include workers' children in employer-based health plans, even when employees do not retain legal custody.

Middle-aged single women concerned about retirement plans

An article published today by Charleston Net reports that the Census Bureau is projecting that by the year 2010, there will be 75 million Americans who are age 55 and older.

Participants a Baby Boomer Retirement Study were picked from two groups - baby boomers between the ages of 48 and 52 - and a similar group of people over 65.

The polling took place across the United States and included 800 participants from almost all income levels.

The results include some interesting tidbits. Here's a sampling:

• Just because they're planning to retire doesn't mean the boomers will quit working. They said they plan to continue working part time after retiring, partially because they plan to live longer and need the money.

• More than 60 percent of the baby boomer group said they will work at least 20 hours a week during retirement. Forty percent said they own two computers and want offices in their homes. In comparison, two-thirds of the group over 65 don't even own computers.

• While three out of four boomers believe they are financially prepared for retirement - more so than their parents were - they're still concerned with finances. Sixty percent said they won't have enough money to retire at 55.

• Single women are the least likely to believe they are financially more prepared for retirement than their parents. They are the most likely to work 20 hours a week or more after retiring.

• Two-thirds of baby boomers said they need more than $200,000 to retire. Nearly 40 percent said a half a million dollars or more was a goal. Seventeen percent said they need at least $1 million.

• If going to college early on in life wasn't enough, many plan to return to school. Twice as many boomers as in the 65-plus group say they will go back to school in retirement.

Justices Turn Away Lesbian Dispute

An Associated Press story released today reports that the United States Supreme Court today left intact a ruling in which a lesbian won visitation rights to her ex-partner's child.

The justices, without comment, refused to review a groundbreaking decision in which Massachusetts' highest court said a lesbian who for years helped her partner raise a son had become a "de facto'' or "in fact'' parent entitled to visitation rights when the two women split up.

Today's action sets no legal precedent and does not preclude the possibility that the court someday might agree to decide the issue in some other case.

In the Massachusetts case, women identified in court papers only by the initials L.M. and E.O. lived together for 13 years before separating in 1998. While they lived in Maryland, L.M. had a son through artificial insemination in 1995.

The story says the two women signed a "co-parenting agreement'' that did not discuss adoption but purported to give E.O. the right to "do everything legally possible to create a legal relationship ... for purposes of determining custody, visitation, support and inheritance rights.''

The family moved to Massachusetts in 1997. After the women separated, E.O. went into state court in an attempt to visit the boy, who as a 3-year-old told people he had two mothers.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled for E.O. by a 4-2 vote last June. "The recognition of de facto parents is in accord with notions of the modern family,'' the state court said. "It is to be expected that children of nontraditional families, like other children, form parent relationships with both parents, whether those parents are legal or de facto.''

The story reports that courts in other states -- California, New York and Florida are examples -- have ruled that lesbian ex-partners are not entitled to visitation rights with children they helped nurture but with whom they have no biological tie.

In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for the boy's biological mother argued that the state court's ruling unlawfully interferes with her fundamental right to raise her child as she sees fit. The appeal also contended that the state court had usurped power reserved for the state Legislature.

But lawyers for E.O. urged the justices to reject the appeal. They said the state court had ruled in the child's best interests.

The Decline of Marriage

An article published today in Scientific American reports that only 67 percent of American women aged 35 to 44 were legally married as of 1998. This contrasts with 81 percent in the period 1890-1940, before the unusually high marriage levels of the baby boom years.

The story says this trend--it is more or less paralleled by other countries on the map, with the exception of Poland and Romania--reflects several developments, including rising age of marriage, increasing popularity of cohabitation, high divorce rates and growth in the number of children born out-of-wedlock.

It theorizes that people staying single longer may stem in part from the option of living together without marrying, which has lost much of its stigma in recent years.

Divorce rates in most Western countries are much higher now than they were before 1970, probably resulting in part from the growing economic independence of women, which makes it easier for wives to walk away from bad marriages. The divorce rate tends to be higher in those countries where women are most apt to work at paid jobs.

According to a novel theory advanced by economists George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen and Michael L. Katz of the University of California at Berkeley, wider availability of the birth-control pill and legal abortion led to dramatic changes in American attitudes toward marriage.

The story says that before the early 1970s, the stigma of unwed motherhood was so great that few unmarried women were willing to have sex unless it was understood that marriage would follow if pregnancy occurred. In those days, if a woman became pregnant, the man felt obliged to marry her. Such "shotgun marriages" became rarer, thanks to abortion and contraception. Because women could, theoretically, choose not to give birth, men began feeling that it was the woman's fault if an unwanted pregnancy was carried to term and therefore felt no responsibility for the child. Increasingly, women no longer believed that they could ask for a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy.

Still, for a number of reasons, many unintentionally pregnant women did not get an abortion. The result was an increase in the proportion of births by unmarried white women from 5 percent in 1964-1969 to 26 percent in 1998, and among black women, the proportion rose from 35 to 69 percent.

The story suggests that children may suffer from the decline in marriage rates. One comprehensive analysis of 92 studies on the effects of divorce concluded that the negative repercussion on minors was weak. Other studies, however, have suggested that the adverse effects are delayed and only become manifest when children are grown. Another consequence of the decline in marriage, suggested by Akerlof, is that men who delay marriage or remain single are less likely to be employed, tend to have lower incomes than married men and are more prone to crime and drug use.

U.S. Senate staffers are mostly unmarried

An Associated Press story released today reports that the typical Senate staffer is young, well-educated single and without children.

The article says that 63% of the Senate's staffers are unmarried and 70% have no children. The average age is 33.8 years, and nearly 90% hold at least a bachelor's degree.

In contrast, workers nationwide are approximately 5 years older, 65% are married and only 25% have at least a bachelor's degree.

 

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