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U.S. News Archive
November 14 - November 20, 2000





This page contains news for the period November 14, 2000 through November 20, 2000.


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Monday, November 20, 2000

California court says unmarried co-parent may sue for guardianship rights over ex-partner's child

A story published today in the Recorder reports that the First District Court of Appeal in California has decided to publish a month-old ruling that for the first time gives non-biological parents the right to seek guardianships over children they've helped birth mothers raise in now-defunct relationships.

The ruling, originally released unpublished on Oct. 17, is particularly gratifying to lesbians who claim to have acted as de facto parents to children birthed by their former same-sex partners. Because gays have no marriage rights, the non-parent in such breakups has traditionally had no standing to seek parental rights.

The court didn't say why it chose to publish the ruling Friday. But it was a well-received move by some gay rights advocates.

"This is the first time a court of appeal in the state of California has recognized and given some protection for the right of lesbian co-parents," said Kathryn Kendell, executive director of San Francisco's National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Given the precedential nature of the ruling, it is all the more important that it be available for lower courts to look to for guidance."

The decision in In re Guardianship of Olivia J. , 00 C.D.O.S. 9251, allows a woman identified only as Karen B. go back to Alameda County Superior Court to seek guardianship rights over Olivia J., the daughter of ex-partner Jennifer J.

San Francisco lawyer Jill Hersh, who represented Karen B., said Friday she hopes the ruling encourages birth mothers to treat their former mates with more respect.

"It's not uncommon for adults in dissolving relationships to subject their children to the trauma," she said. "But in traditional relationships, where there is a divorce, the existence of the family court really prevents one person from having this unilateral power."

Women should take 'Finance 101'

A story published today in the Dallas Morning News suggests that, because women usually earn less than men, are more often caregivers than men, and often outlive men, women should pay more attention to financial matters than they have been doing in the past.

While more and more women are learning about investing and personal finance, too many still defer to their husbands or significant others when it comes to money matters, leaving them exposed if the relationship shatters or their partners die, financial advisers say.

The story points out that single women aren't exempt. Many of them haven't considered that they have to plan for themselves.

"They just don't stop to think, 'How am I going to care for myself in a financial way?' until the wolf is at the door," said Joan M.Gruber, a certified financial planner.

It's imperative for women to be involved in financial planning, experts say. While men and women share the same concerns and needs when it comes to planning for their financial future, women have unique characteristics that make it even more crucial that they begin to take stock of their financial lives, experts said.

For example:

-  Women tend to live longer.
-  They don't earn as much as their male counterparts.
-  They often take several years off to care for children or elderly parents.
-  And, as a result of lower wages and more time off, their retirement income greatly is reduced.

Women earned only about 76 cents for every dollar that men earned overall in 1999, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That can result in a dire situation for many women in their old age. Women make up more than two-thirds of impoverished Americans 55 and older. And that percentage only increases in the older age brackets, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Several circumstances may contribute to that.  Half of all women work in traditionally female, low-paying jobs without pensions, according to the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement in Washington. Three out of four working women earn less than $30,000 a year and nine out of 10 earn less than $40,000 a year, the institute said.

The average woman spends 15 percent of her career out of the paid work force caring for children and parents, according to the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.  That caregiving extracts a high price financially. Caregiving costs individuals more than $659,000 during their lifetimes in lost wages, lost Social Security and pension contributions because they take time off or leave their jobs entirely. As a result, they miss opportunities for career training, promotions and plum assignments, according to a 1999 study by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

"Caregiving for parents is grossly overlooked," Gruber said. "Planning for caring for parents — nobody is planning for that."  She advised women to consider buying long-term care insurance on their parents that would help pay for caregiving.

Taking time off to raise a child also hurts a woman's financial position. For every year a woman stays home caring for a child, she must work five extra years to recover lost income, pension coverage and career promotion, according to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research in Southampton, N.Y.

One situation that women don't and can't plan for is divorce, which can be financially devastating. One year after divorce, the average woman remains single with an average income of $11,300, according to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research. 

In fact, a woman's standard of living can plummet 10 percent to 25 percent after divorce, said Carol Ann Wilson, a certified financial planner and founder of The Institute for Certified Divorce Planners in Boulder, Colo. The center trains advisers on how to calculate the financial effects of divorce.

Women, married and single, need to know their legal rights and what they're entitled to, experts said.

Married women also need to establish a financial identity separate from their husbands, financial advisers said.  "Have credit in her name," said Debra White Stephens, a certified financial planner.

Another contingency working single and married women need to consider is disability and how it would torpedo their greatest asset — their ability to earn a living.  Because they live longer than men do, women are more likely to become disabled than men, said UnumProvident Corp. in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Having adequate disability insurance is especially crucial for single women because they don't have a second income to back them up if they become disabled, financial advisers said. Whatever the circumstance, women need to start thinking of themselves as individuals, experts said.


Sunday, November 19, 2000

Splitting the difference: Some couples don't let a little thing like divorce get in the way of getting along well

A story published today in the Sacramento Bee discusses how some couples have a better relationship after the divorce than when they were married.

The story uses a Sacramento couple as an example.   It says that while other divorced couples fight, bicker and feud, the Reichels intend to make their divorce a success.

After seven years of marriage and two beautiful children, the Sacramento couple called it quits. They did everything they could to save the marriage, including counseling. But in the end, "it just wasn't working out," says Mark Reichel, an assistant federal public defender.

The marriage may have fizzled -- but the divorce is doing quite wel. The Sacramento couple are getting along better than they have in years. "We're much better friends than marriage partners," says Susan Reichel, manager of Crabtree & Evelyn at Arden Fair mall.

And what good friends. On Saturdays, he mows the lawn at her house. On Sundays, he brings her flowers. She cleans his place when he's too busy at work and occasionally cooks him dinner. They talk on the phone twice a day, and it's not unusual for them to end the conversation saying, "I love you." They've met each other's dates.

Their friends marvel at how well they get along. Even the Reichels, whose divorce became final a year and a half ago, concede that their relationship is unusual. They say they do it for their sons, Joseph, 8, and Jack, 4. "One of the things we both agree on," says Susan Reichel, "is that it's important for us to be good to each other for the sake of our children."

Good to your ex? An amicable divorce? The thought of spending a day with the ex would make most people run. But to the surprise of many, more formerly married couples are making the most of their divorce. Like the Reichels, they believe their families have been through enough and are managing to put their anger and animosity aside. Whether it's for the sake of the children or for the sake of their sanity, many couples are saying, "Enough -- let's be friends."

"I think the message that all the fighting is bad for the children is finally getting through," says Marjorie Engel, author of "Divorce Decisions Workbook," who specializes in families complicated by divorce and remarriage. "And I think people are realizing that you can't stay mad at someone forever."

That's what happened to the Henry family of south Sacramento. As college sweethearts, they married in their early 20s. Soon thereafter there were three kids, a mortgage and two demanding careers. "We were both exhausted all the time. ...  Eventually we just grew apart," says Celeste Henry, an accountant at a law firm. There was a bitter divorce, and at one point they spoke only through attorneys. "Then one day when he came to pick up the kids, we got to talking," Henry says. "And eventually we became friends again."

Now they meet for dinner once a week. Sometimes they'll go to a movie or catch a play at the B Street Theatre. They've even double-dated. "That was strange the first time," Henry admits. She and her ex get along so well that they're talking about going on a cruise to Mexico in the spring. As friends.

Fifty percent of all first-time marriages end in divorce -- so how many of those people become friends?

About 15 percent or more of all divorced couples stay highly involved in each other's lives, says Dr. Kay Pasley, professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

"These people celebrate children's birthdays together, get together on the weekends, socialize regularly. ... Another 20 percent stay mean and hostile and continue to make each other miserable for years. The rest fall somewhere in the middle."

Mike Filigenzie, a chemist in Sacramento, says his 1995 divorce was so nasty that "at the time I could have never imagined that my ex-wife and I would be friends." But they are. Last weekend, the two threw a birthday party for their 9-year-old daughter, Angela.

Filigenzie remarried eight months ago. His current wife gets along so well with his ex that the two women stayed together during a recent trip back East.

"I think we get along because neither one of us is a vindictive person. For the sake of our daughter, we made a huge effort to get along. Eventually, we became friends again," says Filigenzie, who has nothing but kind words for his ex.

Linda Engstrom and her ex-husband get along so well that they decided to move in together last Christmas. She has some health problems, and their daughter was tired of shuttling back and forth between homes.

"We thought, why not?" says Engstrom, a Davis kindergarten teacher. "We each have our own bedroom, and when there's a problem we call a family meeting." She says things aren't perfect and occasionally there's friction. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have gotten divorced," she says. But overall, it's working out well. Engstrom says at first her friends were surprised by the arrangement. "But I've since heard of other people doing it."

On average, it takes a person anywhere from 18 to 24 months to emotionally recover from a divorce, according to Pat Krantzler, of the Love & Marriage Counseling Center in San Rafael and co-author of "The New Creative Divorce."

"After that," she says, "it depends on the couple and the situation."

Divorce is never easy, Krantzler says. But some things do make it easier. Like focusing on the children. Letting go of anger. Concentrating on the positive changes that can come about.

"Divorce is incredibly difficult," says Krantzler, who is divorced and remarried. What advice would she give someone going through a divorce now? "Get therapy. If you can't do couples therapy ... then at least go by yourself."

The experts also encourage couples to seek mediation rather than divorce attorneys. "It's much less acrimonious," Engle says. "Sometimes, if you both have attorneys throwing spitballs at each other, you lose sight of what you want ... and most people want what's best for their children."

The Reichels can't speak highly enough about the mediation process.

"I had a few divorce cases when I was in private practice," Mark Reichel says. "Believe me, it turns your stomach. Nothing is worse for your children than dragging them through that."

The Reichels' friendly relationship has caught the attention of a big law firm in town. They were asked to talk to divorcing couples about the benefits of mediation.

Some people, like the Reichels, even go to divorce counseling. The couple went through communication counseling to work things out. "We've never been through this before. Both of our parents have been married for ages," Mark Reichel says. "Being separated was something we didn't know how to do. We figured we went to marriage counseling, why not divorce counseling?"

Less than 5 percent of couples seek counseling during or after a divorce, Engle says. "It's unfortunate, because it would probably help a lot of people learn how to communicate with each other."

Obviously, former spouses have a better chance of maintaining a relationship with the ex if there are children involved. But some couples manage to become friends even if they didn't have kids.

"My ex-husband is a wonderful man," says Delia Roast of Folsom. "But a terrible husband."

The two frequently go on mountain bike rides together. Six years after their divorce, they plan to spend Thanksgiving at her family's house next week.

Maintaining a friendship is also easier if there are no significant others around.

"Once there's remarriage and stepchildren and all that, it becomes much more complicated," Pasley says. Some families still manage. "It's not uncommon anymore for exes to celebrate birthdays with their new spouses."

The Reichels spend a lot of time together. They estimate they probably see each other five days a week. So far, neither has had a serious relationship with another person. But if a new person in their lives didn't understand the relationship between the Reichels? "Then they'd be gone," Mark Reichel says. "There wouldn't be a relationship." His ex-wife agrees: "Obviously, we'd only become involved with someone who understood."

The Reichels concede they get along much better now than they did a few years ago. What about a reconciliation? They both shake their heads vigorously.

"No. Things are much better now," Mark Reichel says.

Says Susan Reichel: "Better for us -- and better for our kids."


Friday, November 17, 2000

GOP needs to rethink its relationship with unmarried women voters

In today's edition of National Review, editor-at-large William F. Buckley Jr. challenges the Republican Party to reevaluate the way it communicates with unmarried women.

Buckley observes that unmarried women voted for Gore overwhelmingly (63 percent to 32 percent), but the vote by married women was virtually tied (Gore 48, Bush 49).

He notes that such marital status and gender polarization didn't happen overnight. Four years ago, Clinton received 62 percent of the unmarried women to 28 percent for Dole. The quick assumption that unmarried women were scared to death on election Tuesday by the high-pitched Gore predictions that a Bush victory would mean destitution at Social Security time doesn't stand up, Buckley says, unless we pure analysts are willing to say that the fear of dispossession began four years ago and stayed there to frighten unmarried women.

The drama goes back to antecedent quadrennials. In 1992, Clinton vs. President Bush came in 53 percent to 31 percent. Perot got 15 percent. No one knows for sure from whom he took those votes, but if we apply them proportionately, we see that the unmarried women had already swung to the Democratic candidate.

And so he moves back, this time by two presidential elections. In 1984, the vote was virtually tied: 49 percent for Reagan, 50 for Mondale. And in 1988, the slippage had begun: 42 for Vice President Bush, 57 for Gov. Dukakis.

Buckley suggests that several contributing factors are involved.

The first is that the GOP is associated with the right to life, and single women are most covetous of the dominion over reproductive rights.  He says that the assumption here is that married women care less about choice, but this isn't manifestly so: The married woman who finds herself pregnant, and already has other children to raise, will often opt for an abortion, and this group makes up about one-third of abortions performed. Where then do we look for this near 2–1 disparity in the current vote?

The figures reveal that 90 percent of African Americans voted for Gore. The mere application of that advantage contributes to the unmarried-women Democratic figure. But blacks are only 10 percent of the voters, which means that 90 percent of the plurality has to be otherwise accounted for.

Buckley continues:

"Isn't it possible that unmarried women find themselves, in the absence of a husband, relying on — somebody else to help with the usual social anxieties? Health care and Social Security predominantly, but also, for a considerable number, education? Single mothers procreate a great many children, and these need to be educated. The impression given by modern Democrats is that it is they who hold out a hand to aid the disadvantaged at every level. Somebody there at the hospital at time of birth, somebody at the schoolhouse to teach the kids, somebody to give them drugs as required, somebody to look after her in her old age. What's his name? Not Daddy. It's Uncle Sam."

He then asks:

"Does this reasoning apply to widows? They are "unmarried women." But it is likelier that they will have been provided for by their dead husbands, and trained to rely less on government than on personal resources."

Buckley says the GOP can't reasonably be expected to promote a campaign to get husbands for unmarried women. But short of that, Republicans have to come up with something. It isn't as easy as to reverse its position on abortion: Reagan did just fine simultaneously a) opposing abortion, and b) attracting the backing of unmarried women.

Buckley's commentary ends with this suggestion:

"At the least, future Republican strategists could openly address the question. They try to appeal to Jewish voters by cosseting Israel, to Catholic voters by church/state rescue missions, blacks by civil- rights militancy, Hispanics by social hospitality. The unmarried woman can selectively be singled out for attention at least to the point of acknowledging that she exists, and ought to adopt the GOP for her otherwise childless household."

Michigan bill would limit moves by divorced or unmarried custodial parents

A story published today by Capital News Service reports that a divorced or unmarried parent who moved their child more than 100 miles from the home when a custody order was issued, could be in trouble, under a bill before the state House.

The bill would prohibit a divorced or unmarried parent from changing their children's residence to a location more than 100 miles from their legal residence at the time of a custody order.

Advocates hope the bill would stop one parent from relocating to disrupt the other parent's custody or parenting time with their child.

They believe a child can become a pawn in one parent's attempt to thwart the other's interest and participation in rearing their child.

The point the bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Bullard, is addressing with the bill is a parent must now get a court order to move the domicile or child outside the state even if the move is only 20 miles, such as from Monroe to Toledo. But a parent can move a child hundreds of miles within Michigan away from the other parent without a court order.

The restriction on relocation would not apply if the other parent consented to, or the court permitted, the change in residence. Also, the bill would not apply if one parent had sole legal custody or if the child's two legal residences were more than 100 miles apart at the time the custody order was issued.

But the court would consider five factors when permitting a residence change beyond 100 miles, such as domestic violence, improved quality of life, financial advantages in support obligations and parenting time schedules, with the child as the primary focus.

In addition, the bill would grant children whose parental custody was governed by court order legal residence with each parent, which would amend the Child Custody Act.

Bullard said the child's dual legal residence language in the bill reinforces school code law, which allows enrollment in either school of the divorced parents.

The bill passed the state Senate and the House has held one hearing with another expected soon.


Thursday, November 16, 2000

Thanksgiving for single people in Rowe, Massachusetts

If you are single during the "family" holiday of Thanksgiving and are looking for a wonderful experience with other single people, consider "Thanksgiving for Single People" at the Rowe Center in Rowe, Massachusetts.

One of our members reports:  "I would like to alert AASP members to a wonderful conference center in Western Massachusetts called Rowe.  Every Thanksgiving and Easter there are programs specifically for single people and a warmer, more delightful experience cannot be imagined.  The housing goes from rustic to comfortable single rooms.  The food is exquisite and mostly vegetarian."

Our member clipped an article about this event.  It states: "If you are single during this family holiday, this celebration might be just right for you.  We have wonderful, comfortable ways of creating an extended family over this long weekend.  Child care is provided for a part of each day, allowing the adults time to gather to share the stories of our lives and tog et to know each other better.  We live gently and respectfully together.  In addition to our amazing vegetarian banquet, we also serve a range-fed turkey.  Relax, party, hike, read, be on vacation and do whatever you like."

For more information, call (413) 339-4954.


Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Bishops reject same-sex marriage

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a group of national religious leaders rejected same-sex marriage in a first-of-its-kind ``Christian Declaration on Marriage'' issued  Tuesday at the U.S. Catholic bishops' fall conference.

The declaration calls for ``a stronger commitment to this holy union'' and ``practical ministries and influence for reversing the course of our culture.'' The declaration   defines marriage as ``a holy union of one man and one woman.''

The marriage declaration was signed by Bishop Anthony O'Connell of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and Bishop Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of

At a press conference announcing the declaration, neither Mannoia nor Land offered any specifics on how it would be implemented. The declaration said high divorce rates, a rise in cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births, as well as a ``diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying, especially among young people,'' adversely affects society.

``Therefore, as church leaders, we recognize an unprecedented need and responsibility to help couples begin, build, and sustain better marriages, and to restore those threatened by divorce,'' the declaration said.


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