Fathers' and Children's Equality
Fathers' and Children's Equality, Inc. (FACE) traces its roots to one of the oldest and most experienced fathers' and non-custodial parents' support groups in the country, Fathers' and Children's Equality, founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1978. FACE began as the New Jersey chapter of FACE of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is a large state with 67 counties and 253 full-time members of the General Assembly. Each Pennsylvania county's courts frequently have their own local rules. For those reasons, Pennsylvania FACE was organized with chapters for each county or region. A few FACE chapters had also been established in several other nearby states.
New Jersey is geographically a small state with only 21 counties and 120 part-time legislators. All New Jersey courts operate under only one set of rules. New Jersey is situated between two major markets, New York and Philadelphia. It is also in the Boston to Washington megalopolis, and in the center of the Mid-Atlantic region. Other fathers' and non-custodial parents' organizations existed in densely populated northern New Jersey, but there was none serving southern New Jersey.
In the summer of 1990 there was a meeting of 12 south-Jersey based non-custodial parents who had reached out to FACE in Pennsylvania. The outcome of that meeting was the establishment of the New Jersey chapter of FACE. Because we would be in another state, the New Jersey chapter was to operate semi-autonomously, with its own officers and its own treasury.
From its earliest days, it has been FACE's position that family court, which claims to act "in the best interest of the child*," actually harms children and puts them at greater risk by taking away one of their parents and protectors. It is FACE's position that a child's two parents are far better qualified and far better motivated to act in the child's best interest than is any judge.
We began programs to bring this to public attention. FACE members attracted media attention by holding public demonstrations in front of county courthouses, at the Hughes Justice Complex and the Statehouse in Trenton, and even at judges' homes.
FACE also began programs of holding private "workgroup" meetings in which members could strategize with one another how to handle their own cases. In addition to the current meeting sites, FACE has held workgroup meetings in Absecon, Collingswood, Hamilton Square, Hammonton, Long Branch, Margate, Marlton, Mullica Hill, Pleasantville, Trenton, Westmont, and Wrightstown. In November 2010 FACE became a truly state-wide organization with the inauguration of our Passaic County workgroup meeting in far-northern New Jersey.
FACE has always encouraged courtwatching by members. Courtwatching serves two main functions: First, it helps non-lawyer FACE members become familiar with what goes on in real courtrooms, and be less intimidated by court. And second, when FACE members courtwatch at each others' cases, it demonstrates to the court that FACE members are part of a broad community and the community cares about the outcome of the case. Through these activities, FACE has also gathered data and built dossiers on family court judges and a record of their decisions in child custody cases.
In New Jersey judges are initially appointed for a seven year term, then reappointed until mandatory retirement at age 70. FACE has organized groups of witnesses to testify before the state Senate Judiciary Committee at the reappointment hearings for family court judges found to be gender-biased, found to have violated litigants' rights, having not acted "in the best interest of the child,"* or otherwise being disrespectful or unfair to litigants. The results have been one judge removed from the bench, one judge permanently transferred out of family court, and one judge transferred to a distant county.
Having found that when FACE comments favorably about a family court judge he is quickly transferred out of family court, it is FACE's policy to never speak in favor of a good family court judge.
The New Jersey Governor's Commission to Study the Laws of Divorce was enacted in April 1993. FACE carefully monitored the activities of this commission to assure it would do the job for which it was intended and would not be unduly influenced by special interest groups. FACE contested the appointment of several commission members. FACE representatives attended and spoke at all of the public hearings held by the commission from December 1993 through November 1994. Still, the Commission was far less than a perfect forum, and was heavily influenced by self-serving lawyers' and women's organizations.
The Commission's April 1995 report contained 21 legislative recommendations and 10 general recommendations. The legislature enacted only four of the recommendations as a result of the commission's work (one more was enacted over 10 years later), and none of the general recommendations were implemented. Several of the general recommendations later became effective not by legislation, but by changes in court rules and procedures.
FACE is particularly proud of two changes in the law that it ushered through the Commission:
The term "visitation," pertaining to the time parent and child spend together, was stricken from the laws and replaced by "parenting time" throughout the laws of New Jersey. No longer are divorced or non-custodial parents "visitors" to their own children. Both parents' time with their children is parenting time.
N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.2 was passed, giving every New Jersey parent the right to access to his children's medical, dental, insurance, child care and educational records. This law, as it pertains to educational records, duplicates and reconfirms the access rights provided by the federal Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA).
On November 22, 1996 New Jersey FACE took its autonomy one step further by incorporating in New Jersey as Fathers' and Children's Equality, Inc., making FACE in New Jersey a completely independent organization. FACE also was granted IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization status.
From 1993 to 2000 FACE published its own newsletter, AboutFACE-NJ, which was sent to all FACE members, all prospective members, every New Jersey family court judge, every Appellate Division judge, every New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, every New Jersey state legislator, the Governor, every one of New Jersey's U.S. Congressmen and Senators, other influential policymakers, and other similar groups worldwide. Because of continually increasing production and postage costs, the hard-copy newsletter was terminated in 2000. Information formerly published in the newsletter is now distributed on the internet and by email to a more highly targeted audience.
Four FACE members, inspired by their own and other FACE members' family court experiences, have gone on to law school and become lawyers. The first, unfortunately, passed away shortly after being admitted to practice as an attorney. The second is currently practicing family law in New Jersey. The third already had a long term career with a major insurance company. He is now licensed in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania defending that company's insureds, and plans a private practice in family law and elder law after his retirement. The fourth recently graduated law school, has passed the New Jersey bar exam, is now admitted to practice in New Jersey, and is now weighing his options regarding giving up his long-time career and beginning to practice law full time.
Today FACE has members or supporters in every New Jersey county, thirty-some-odd other states, and about a dozen other countries. FACE networks and exchanges information with other similar organizations in many other states, several U.S. national organizations, and organizations in several other countries worldwide.
Over the years, to make themselves appear to be more gender neutral, some of the other offshoot organizations of FACE of Pennsylvania have taken on names like Parents' and Children's Equality or Families' and Children's Equality. FACE has not done that for two reasons: First, we are proud of our 1/3rd of a century heritage as a descendant of one of the oldest non-custodial parents' groups in the world, Fathers' and Children's Equality, founded in 1978. And second, there is a bias against fathers and men in family court. Although both fathers and mothers can become non-custodial parents, about 90% of non-custodial parents are fathers. Until there is a significant shift in this obvious gender discrimination, we will keep "fathers" in our name as a beacon of welcome to the 90% of non-custodial parents that are male. Regardless of our name, we will remain as welcoming, if not more so, to all women, including non-custodial mothers, as any other similar support group.
* Nowhere in the law is "in the best interest of the child" defined.
This page last updated 9/12/2011.