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U.S. News Archive
October 07 - October 13, 2001



This page contains news for the period October 07, 2001 through October 13, 2001.  

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Friday, October 12, 2001

Alabama High Court affirms rights of unmarried father

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a divided Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the father of an out-of-wedlock child was wrongly disqualified in a custody dispute with a couple who adopted the newborn in 1998.

The justices in a 5-4 decision said Alabama's Putative Father Registry Act, which took effect in 1997, conflicts with the state's previously enacted adoption code. The 1997 law requires that biological fathers register with the Department of Human Resources within 30 days of a child's birth to establish paternity.

Court records show the child was born Oct. 28, 1998 to an unmarried mother. The records also indicated that against the wishes of the biological father, the mother decided to place the child for adoption. When the child was 2 days old, the adoptive parents filed an adoption petition in the Autauga County Probate Court. On Nov. 12, when the child was 15 days old, the biological father's identity was made known to the court.

The biological father who failed to file with the court a notice of intent to claim paternity as required by the law then filed the required notice in January 1999 when he was informed of the registry.

The Supreme Court said that since the biological father's identity was known to the court even though he failed to register, disqualifying him from the custody was wrong.

Slowing economy may increase uninsured Americans rank

A story released today by the Associate Press reports that the National Academy of Sciences has reported that millions of Americans still lack health insurance and, with the economy foundering, that is likely to increase.

"Unless health insurance is made more affordable, the number of uninsured Americans is likely to continue growing," said Mary Sue Coleman, co-chairwoman of the committee that wrote the report. She also is president of the Iowa Health System.

The report is the first of six planned by the Institute of Medicine over two years. The series is planned to find out who lacks insurance and why, determine the consequences and provide the groundwork for debate on how to correct the problem.

This initial report seeks to draw a picture of the millions of people who lack insurance. It does not, however, offer any recommendations.

Last month, the Census Bureau reported that 38.7 million Americans went without coverage for all of 2000, compared with 39.3 million the year before. Experts say the trend is likely to reverse this year, given that the economy was slowing even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

About two-thirds of Americans younger than 65 are covered by health insurance through their job or that of a relative, the report found. That means many people gain or lose coverage as they marry or divorce, change jobs, start or graduate from college or go through other transitions.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Marital status in New York is changing after the attack on Sept. 11

A story published today by the New York Daily News reports that  New York couples who had been lingering in long engagements have been moving up their wedding plans. Partners who were unsure about a future together seem to be overcoming their apprehensions and getting engaged. And singles are making more of an effort to find mates, creating a spike in business for professional dating services.

"It was difficult for people to get married here in the first weeks after the attack because only our Queens office was open," said City Clerk Carlos Cuevas. "Our backup server is located there."

"But since Manhattan reopened [Oct. 1], there has been a steady stream of couples, and this is not usually a particularly busy time of year. May through August is when we get the most people."

On Friday the waiting area was bustling with brides and grooms.

Some were in dresses and suits - others were dressed casually, as if they were on their way to the supermarket. Some had bridal bouquets and were accompanied by friends and family, while others scoured the halls for willing witnesses.

"We're seeing that in response to the horror of the attack, people are putting things in a different perspective," said Judith Sherven, Ph.D. - a psychologist, "relationship trainer" and co-author with her husband, Jim Sniechowski, Ph.D., of three books, including "Be Loved for Who You Really Are".

"They suddenly realize they want to get on with certain things in their lives, particularly love, security and building something substantial with a partner."

"Rather than continue to hesitate or remain self-involved," added Sniechowski, "people are thinking that life can be taken away or changed in an instant, and it makes them want to feel more alive, and closer to someone. They want a deeper connection with the one they love."

Carley Roney, editor in chief of The Knot, a wedding-themed Web site, said that is an emerging trend.

"We're seeing couples who were on the fence who are now saying there's no time like the present," she said.

"The disaster has made people's expectations more realistic, and has put the survival factor back in marriage. It's more like when our grandparents got married - they had different expectations for a partner. It was about partnership more than romance."

But not all the couples getting married came to the decision as a reaction to disaster. There are plenty who have had wedding plans for some time, and some of them actually considered postponing their ceremonies.

"We originally thought about putting it off," said Jill Schaeffer, a Forest Hills dietitian, just minutes before she married her boyfriend of four years, Bob Yee, who works at Manhattan's Union Square Café. "But then we met a fireman who went to a wedding the weekend after the attack. He said that was a great experience for him. He said, 'You need to give people a reason to celebrate.'"

In the wake of the attack on our city, many New Yorkers are looking to make  their own special connection. At It's Just Lunch, a dating service with 35 branches nationwide, business has been up nearly 50%.

"We're a service for busy professionals who usually only have time for lunch or a drink after work, once a month or so," said senior vice president Nancy Kirsch. "But now, members who used to only be available for one date a month are saying they'd like to go out two or three or four times.They're telling us they're more interested in meeting someone. They're saying their priorities have changed - maybe work isn't  everything."

Sniechowski and Sherven, the psychologist couple, said the current high demand for mates runs deeper than just cognitive, practical concerns.

"It's instinctual," Sniechowski said. "And it's hormonal. After certain shocks to the system, our glands release oxytocin, which is the hormone that makes you want to hug. It's the same hormone that follows the adrenaline rush of being madly in love, so that we move into that cozy companion feeling.

"We've all been through such terror and the sudden possibility of  loss, not to mention the fear of another attack. It's brought us right to that place where we need to feel close and safe and warm."

Michigan lawmaker wants to revamp states’ no-fault divorce law

A story published today by the Detroit Free Press reports that a Michigan lawmaker is introducing a bill package dubbed as the Family and Marriage Preservation Plan hoping to change the state’s no-fault divorce law.

The measures cover issues from tax credits for marriage counseling to a requirement that divorcing parents develop a parenting plan prior to the breakup.

The most controversial proposal would end Michigan's 30-year tradition of no-fault divorce.

State Rep. Joanne Voorhees, R-Grandville, the principal sponsor of the package, called current law "unjust, unfair . . . and harmful to children."

The marriage preservation plan would assure spurned spouses and children are protected emotionally and financially, Voorhees said.

The proposed revision to the no-fault law calls for four divorce options:

A consensual no-fault divorce in which both parties agree to end the marriage.

A non-consensual no-fault divorce on the court's order to prevent harm to a minor child at the court's discretion.

A non-consensual divorce in which the party seeking the divorce agrees to give up a share of the marital assets.

A so-called conduct-based divorce in which the court finds that one party is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage and may penalize that party.

Brad Snavely, executive director of the Michigan Family Forum, said the package is comprehensive and provides more options for families than previous proposed changes. Those proposals, however, met a chilly reception in the Legislature, largely because of concerns that the state should not be in the business of trying to preserve bad or abusive marriages.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Filing a divorce with a single click of a button

A story published today by the San Francisco Examiner reports that a Washington state lawyer's web site Monday became the first to allow California couples to end their unhappy unions with a simple click of a button at CompleteCase.com.

Creator Randy Finney, a Seattle-based attorney, says his customers are paying for the convenience of the site, which places the correct information on the correct form, and does necessary calculations for child and spousal support.

Doing the math can really be a headache, Finney said.

Peter Keane, the dean at Golden Gate University School of Law, thinks the idea is great but for $249.00 dollars, anyone who would like to save money can always go down to the nearest courthouse and pick up the necessary divorce forms "for two or three bucks."

Most counties in the state also have informational kiosks set up in family law courts, he said, staffed by people able to provide answers to the most common questions.

"What you're describing is not new in the world of dissolutions," Keane said. "It seems like that's a little expensive for what you get."

Finney rebuts that saying his web site is an enormous time-saver. Instead of trekking back and forth to court, making sure the hundreds of entries on the various forms are all correct, the site puts them together neatly, all ready to go.

"In fact, in California, you can fax your filing, so you don't even have to step inside a courthouse," he said.

The web site, however, warns prospective users that their site is suitable only for uncontested divorces, where both parties are in agreement about nearly everything -- except staying together.

Study shows that being single brings good health

A story published today by the Scotsman reports that if you hope to live a long and healthy life, abandoning all plans of marriage and dedicating yourself to climbing the career ladder would bring a disease-free old age.

A massive study of 15,000 middle-aged men and women, carried out in Paisley 30 years ago, has provided researchers a unique opportunity to determine the factors which contribute to a productive dotage.

And the startling results reveal that women who have never married and never given birth have the best chance of good health in their later years.

For men, career success seems to be the elixir necessary for sustained quality of life long after-retirement age. The ground-breaking study, carried out by the University of Paisley, revisited some of the surviving 7,500 men and women who took part in the original research.

Professor Mary Gilhooly, director of the Center of Gerontology and Health at the university, said that the two and a half year Prevail project was unique in the world.

Today’s research found evidence to suggest that eliminating stress was a precursor for a healthy old age.

"It seems that having and caring for children is stressful for women and lack of career progression is stressful for men. So low levels of chronic stress from giving birth or a poor career are damaging over a lifetime." said Gilhooly.

Asked whether the prognosis for a generation of women who juggle career and family commitments was poor, Prof. Gilhooly said: "Well, it could be worse. If the common under-lying factor in our findings is stress, then it’s possible that poor health may increase for those women when they reach old age."

The professor explained that modern women could benefit from increased salaries, better homes and better diets, which could, in turn, balance out any negative impacts on health associated with child-birth and marriage.

Professor Gilhooly added that her study had thrown open some interesting results for her own future. She admitted: "I’ve been married for 30 years and I have a son."

"I’m not childless and not unmarried, but I have had career progression, so if I was a man, my prognosis would be wonderful."

Tuesday, October 9, 2001

U.S. Supreme Court refuses child custody case

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court has refused today to intervene in a child custody case between a New York mother and father in Hong Kong.

The father wanted the court to consider for the first time a case over how American authorities handle the Hague Convention on child abduction.

In this case, Stephen Croll accused his ex-wife, Mei Yee Croll, of secretly moving their daughter from Hong Kong to America.

After the couple filed for divorce in 1998, a Hong Kong judge said that Christina Croll could not be removed from that country until she turned 18 or unless there was permission from the court or consent from the other parent.

A federal judge in New York ordered the mother to return Christina to Hong Kong, where she was born in 1990 and had lived her entire life.

A divided panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and said the treaty can only be used when a child has been moved to another country in violation of a parent's custodial rights. The court said the father had "rights of access" but not "rights of custody."

Mei Yee Croll has claimed that the man she was married to for 16 years was physically abusive to her. She said that after taking their daughter to New York in 1999, she never returned because she feared she would be arrested.

"Christina, unquestionably was brought to this country by her custodial parent," her lawyer said.

The attorney said Stephen Croll never sought sole or joint custody but to qualify under the treaty he "wants to transform his rights of access into a right of custody - again without burdening himself with duties that correspond with such rights."

The mother, father and daughter are American citizens but have lived in Hong Kong. The treaty said that children should be returned to the country of "habitual residence."

Sunday, October 7, 2001

Counseling classes help parents and kids cope with the reality of divorce

A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that nationwide, there were nearly 20 million divorced people recorded in the 2000 U.S. Census, compared with 4 million in 1970.

Even with intervention, divorce still remains a painful experience for children.

"In many ways, death is easier to deal with," said Diane Wolff, a counselor with the Waukesha County's Family Court Counseling Center in Wisconsin. "Death is final. But parents go on and on and on."

Two programs offered by Family Service of Waukesha, a local non-profit agency, strive to help children and parents cope with divorce and move on with their lives.

Rollercoasters, a program in its third year for children under 13, teaches kids how to deal with their feelings and develop hope and confidence. The children's program is divided into two groups for those 5 to 8 and 9 to 12.

Cooperative Parenting Skills, a parallel program for parents only, shows them how to confront their problems without putting children in the middle.

"We want to give parents credit for what they already know," program director Joy DeNicola said. "We know that they all love their children and want the best for them. But sometimes they get lost. The broken and shattered dreams, the betrayal, can cloud their perceptions. We want to give clarity."

An 8-year-old Pewaukee boy who recently took the class said, "It was awesome!"

The boy had been acting out with temper tantrums after his father filed for divorce and remarried, said his mother, who asked that the family not be identified.

His school work also was "slipping a little bit because of the distractions going on - his worrying about what's going to happen," she said.

"Coming to the class, he had learned to express his feelings more and the tantrums aren't as often," his mother said after the class Monday.

When Terry Zietlow's wife filed for divorce in February 1998, he was devastated. A stay-at-home dad whose wife worked as a physician, Zietlow, formerly of New Berlin, said he quickly realized his wife would get primary placement of the children.

After she took a new job 150 miles away and moved the children with her, the couple's son and two daughters were carted back and forth on weekends for a year for visits with their father.

"It was just terrible, a nightmare," Zietlow said, adding the children "went through hell."

He decided to move.

The two now live in the same community - New Richmond, near the Twin Cities where Zietlow works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although he takes an active role in raising the children, they primarily live with their mother.

"We're always on the phone dealing with issues," Zietlow said. "We see each other all the time. At the soccer games, we both go and sit near each other. It's almost like we're together but we're not. We learn to co-exist."

He credits the Cooperative Parenting Skills class for helping him learn how to do that.

"I learned you can make the best of a bad situation," Zietlow said.

The program urges parents to act as business associates with a common goal - the best interests of the children, said teacher Kristen Nelson.

Circuit Judge Patrick Snyder, a family court judge, said when he decides which parent should get primary placement, "I look for who can best promote the other parent."

"The worst thing a parent can do is bad-mouth the other," Snyder said. "The second worst thing is to make (the children) feel that they're losing something. Parents need to assure them that their life is going to go on harmoniously, safely. That mom and dad are going to be friends."

Trends are changing to give fathers primary placement or greater child visitation, he said. A recent law change require judges to "maximize the amount of time the child may spend with each parent."

With the law changes, more fathers are returning years after the divorce to seek greater time with their children. Sometimes, the motives can be less than genuine, said Wolff, of the Family Court Counseling Center.

"The more time you have the child, the less you have to pay," she said.

Wolff urged parents to focus on what will make their children's lives most secure, stable and consistent.

"Find a way to work together so you don't destroy your kids," she said.

Local church group helps singles cope with loneliness

A story published today by the Evansville Courier and Press reports that if television were life, then being single as being portrayed in television shows would be a life to covet.

But TV isn’t life, and being single, said the Rev. Connie Baltzell, isn’t as sexy as it seems.

"It’s harder than you think," said Baltzell. "There are a lot of single people with a lot of responsibilities and problems but who feel like they are facing them all alone."

That is why Baltzell decided two years ago to take the job of creating and leading a singles ministry at Memorial Baptist Church. He and Rev. Adrian Brooks, were determined to find a way their church could offer support and encouragement to single people in the community.

Their goal wasn’t to pair up single people, but to convince singles that in learning to live happily alone, they’d increase their chances for finding their soulmate.

"The message is very direct," said Baltzell. "If you have a relationship with Christ, then you are never really alone. You develop that relationship first, find fulfillment there first, and then the other kinds of relationships will come."

At Memorial, the singles ministry encourages singles to be celibate, and Baltzell talks candidly about the complications of sex, from broken hearts to sexually transmitted diseases.

"You’’ve got to deal with issues that singles face every day," said Baltzell. "You have to find a way for people to put their faith to work in every part of their lives."

When Baltzell started the singles ministry at Memorial, there were four people who attended the first meeting. Now there are more than 70 people involved, though the membership ebbs and flows.

"Churches need to be places where everybody can come," said Baltzell, "where the barriers that keep us from each other are broken down ... . We aren’t here to judge each other. We’re here to encourage each other."

"You’ve got to feel whole on your own, before you can feel whole with someone else," said Baltzell.

It’s a theme carried over to a conference the church is sponsoring next week. Called "Never Alone," it features speakers and workshops that offer spiritual guidance for the single life.


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