Saturday, June 18, 2005

Manley Quest

This article originally appeared in Real Change
June 15, 2005
Local man fathers a movement to abolish child support
Staff Writer

Wind and rain pierced the plaza at Seattle’s new federal courthouse on May 18. That didn’t stop Perry Manley. He was determined to burn an American flag to protest something he’s been fighting 15 years: child support and the second-class citizenship of divorced fathers.

“Freedom march for non-custodial parents!” Manley cried. “Freedom march for non-custodial parents!”

Except for one other dad taking pictures, Manley was a march of one. He wore a black judge’s robe and yellow sandwich board, which he took off before stepping up to a fountain to burn the flag he’d brought with him.

His lighter, however, only burned holes in the nylon — nothing for the nine policemen on hand to worry about. Manley has been to the courthouse so many times, in fact, that one of the officers greeted him by name, then asked why he needed to burn a flag.

“It’s a symbol of freedom,” Manley answered. But “25 million non-custodial parents don’t recognize this symbol because this symbol doesn’t represent them.”

Because his ex-wife hates him, Manley told the officer, he won’t get to walk his daughter down the aisle this August. The very thought choked Manley with tears.

In the myriad of lawsuits Manley has filed against the state, however, he’s argued money shouldn’t have been withheld from his paychecks to support his ex-wife’s choice to have children or get a divorce — which Manley objects to on religious grounds.

Despite the lone flag-burning, Perry Manley isn’t alone: He’s part of a growing national network of divorced and angry fathers who aren’t just offering support or legal advice any more — that was the ’80s. Today, disgruntled dads with groups such as Dads Now, Fathers4Justice and a host of others are arguing that the child support system doesn’t treat dads equally and should be abolished.

For 15 years, Manley has been arguing there’s no such thing as a non-custodial parent. What he and other dads say they want is real, joint custody where no child support is paid to either parent, and each has the kids half the time.

Lawyers say shared custody is a growing phenomenon, but one that only works when the divorced mom and dad can communicate without conflict.

In the three latest lawsuits Manley has filed in U.S. District Court since 2000, however, he hasn’t been arguing for joint custody — his own three children are already grown. What Manley has argued, over and over, is that child support violates the Anti-Peonage Act and represents involuntary servitude, which he says is illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

That, says Manley, who filed the lawsuits on his own, has deprived him of the fruits of his labor, including paying an overage of $14,000 in child support after his kids were grown.

In his two most recent cases against the state, he also sued three of his former Seattle employers — the Women’s University Club, The Salvation Army, and Aramark Sports — for complying with state orders to withhold child support from his paychecks.

In every case, the court, most recently under U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly, has dismissed Manley’s claims — moves that led the father to file letters with the court system April 18 and May 31 accusing Zilly of treason for not enforcing the law as Manley sees it.

Over the years, Manley, who was divorced in Bremerton in 1990 and now lives in Seattle, has been evicted, jailed, and homeless in the same cycle of protest.

Tom Swanson, the dad who was with Manley at the flag-burning, says he’s been living out of a storage unit for about six years — the result of a hand injury that left him unable to work for two months. As a result, he could not pay the $900 in child support he owed from his monthly paycheck of $1,800.

He currently has a payment plan to retire the $65,000 in back child support he owes. But Swanson says his ex-wife and son are long gone. Even when he knew where they lived, he says his ex-wife disobeyed the visitation rules and there wasn’t much he could do about it.

“The parenting plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” says Swanson, a Gulf War veteran who came home to find his wife in bed with the gardener.
While fathers can appeal to the court to have child support payments reduced or deferred, many divorced dads say the courts and lawyers are a big part of the problem. They say attorneys represent men terribly in family court, which nearly always gives custody to the mother.

“I paid a lawyer $5,000 to be a dummy and be silent while I got less than 30 percent non-custodial” visitation, says Steve Polson. “By giving me less than 30 percent, that lets them charge maximum child support and funds the system.”

Polson is a fisherman who came down from Alaska last year to be near his daughter and ex-girlfriend, who moved to Washington in 2003. Since then, he says, his ex-girlfriend has moved again. More than an hour’s drive now separates his house in Rochester from hers in Kalama.

That makes his Thursday though Saturday visitation with his 4-year-old daughter a constant rush, Polson says — with no end in sight. Polson says he and the mother are currently in jurisdictional limbo between Alaska and Washington.

“I’m asking for equal custody,” Polson says. “It’s statistically proven that children do better with both parents in their life. This is so one-sided.”

All three men say their custody fight isn’t a gender fight — three million of the nation’s non-custodial parents are women who suffer the same travesties, Manley says. But the writings at Hate Male Post, a web log where Manley and Swanson post notes and articles, say otherwise.

“The ‘woman’ has waged WAR against Patriarchy, defined as control by men,” Manley wrote in a recent entry at the site. “The movement seeks to destroy: The Constitution, The Family, Established Religion.”

The website of the “Indiana Civil Rights Council” — a fathers’ rights group through which Manley and Swanson met — is far more detailed. It claims more mothers abuse children than fathers and lays the blame for youth suicide, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and other social ills squarely on the shoulders of single mothers.

“The court gave the child to a high school dropout who was unemployed and had no skills,” Swanson says of his ex-wife. “She’s never had a job.”

Three attorneys with experience in family law say Manley’s legal arguments don’t excuse a man from supporting his children. They agree, however, that representation of fathers has been atrocious over the years — something that’s slowly changing.

In the meantime, Nancy Sapiro, an attorney with the Northwest Women’s Law Center, says mothers still tend to get custody because they are usually a child’s main care-giver — the number-one factor that a judge is supposed to consider under the state Parentage Act.

If a husband shared care-giving during the marriage (for instance, feeding, diapering, and bathing the children half the time), Sapiro says he’s entitled to half custody — something Manley had but calls a joke because he had to pay someone to raise his children.

Sapiro and Renton attorney Ruth Moen insist, however, that when men chose to litigate, they prevail — particularly men with money. “They used that power viciously,” Moen says.

“As in any situation, you can drum up examples on either side to boost your point of view,” Moen says. “As many stories as there are of women manipulating the system, there are an equal number or more stories of men manipulating the system.”

Real Change News
2129 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA 98121
Tel: 206.441.3247
Real Change is a member of the North American Street Newspaper Association
and the International Network of Street Papers.


Blogger The Geezer said...

We feel your pain, brother, we feel your pain.

6/18/2005 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Patriarchal Oppressor said...

Government pimping of kids. That's all it really is.

6/18/2005 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Swanson said...

Thank You Cydney!

6/18/2005 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Iguana said...

The last quote is bogus, but it's great to get reporting SOMEWHERE, even if it is on a wacked out, far left web site that generally reports on topics and people that are anti-father either directly or through their affiliations.

6/18/2005 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

I agree with Iguana. That last quote is another myth. It appears as though she tried to remain objective and, perhaps she was, from her own point of view. It takes a strong woman to let go of the crutches and it doesn't happen over night.

6/18/2005 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

I miss you Perry.

6/20/2005 11:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really sad he had to go and get the cops to blow a hole in his chest to make his point.

Pretty ineffective leadership if you ask me.

Isn't leadership what father hood is supposed to be all about? Leadership through adversity?

Utterly lacking in this 'man' . Now dead.

6/21/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger One man said...

Perry was a good man and I will miss him. I knew him and all of you cowards that talk trash about him while hiding behind your computer mean nothing. You help to prove his point Credit belongs to the the one who DOES. Who tries and fails and tries again. Not to the critics that are too fearful of failure to actually DO something. So keep critcising, it shows your character or lack there of.

6/21/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous One of THOUSANDS of Non Custodial Moms said...

The last quote was right on the money if you ask me. Just visit if you don't believe me.

6/25/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous The NCM above said...

Oh, and God Rest his Soul.

6/25/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

WOW...female supporters. Welcome ladies. It's nice to hear from you. I like your site. Contact Tom Swanson about getting into touch with me. I would love to add a link here for you. It would be nice if I could use a ready made logo for the button code instead of trying to make a good copy.

6/25/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous nancm member said...

I am also a a ncm from the nancm site. Not only is it fathers but mothers getting taken away from thier children. Our goal is a shared parenting plan for the sake of our children. I hate how Mr. Manly passed but I hope his cause continues on for ALL NCPs

6/25/2005 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

I am glad to hear from you. We ALL need to work together. I know this site is a bit on the upity is designed to get attention...good and bad. But our teue goals are exactly the same as yours. We are not women haters here. We just think there is alot of prejudice against men. But, as you make abundantly clear, it's not just a man thing. Please notice the link I added to your site and feel free to comment. I want to help the world see us. Thank you for your comments and even if we don't see eye to eye on every detail I think we are on the same side.

6/26/2005 12:57:00 PM  

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