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Dad's activism Unsettles State House
 
By ERIC MOSKOWITZ
Monitor staff
 
January 26. 2006 8:00AM
 
 
 
Marc Snider, a divorced dad who regularly attends legislative hearings on family-law bills, calls himself "a righteous force for equality and fairness in the true best interests of New Hampshire's children." But his tactics go too far, some lawmakers and lobbyists said.
Last year, Snider posted a photo of a lobbyist, identifying her and others he says do the bidding of "radical anti-father ideologues" and manipulate policy from "the shadows." He has also posted pictures of House Children and Family Law Committee members on his website, along with a scorecard to be filled in with their votes.
He has videotaped multiple committee hearings, including one last week where he pointed his camera toward the audience making a couple of lobbyists from family organizations feel intimidated or reluctant to testify, said Rep. Mary Stuart Gile, a Concord Democrat who raised the issue at a subsequent committee session. "There were a number of people who felt threatened," she said.
Debates over custody and child-support legislation typically draw impassioned fathers who say the divorce system discriminates against them by creating two classes of parents. Many tell stories about their struggles to maintain access to their children and some regularly send e-mails to lawmakers.
But Snider has moved past the realm of policy with his website, said Grace Mattern, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. 
"It's one thing to disagree with someone about a subject area, but to take it to a level of being personal and to make incorrect statements about an organization, I think, is really unfair," she said. Snider and others allied with him have contributed to a "new level of animosity" over family-law issues, Mattern said.
Others see Snider as the victim of a smear campaign. The issue has split members of the House committee, some of whom say the lobbyists are overreacting.
"If you're going to throw it, you've got to be able to receive it. And if they're on the receiving end, they don't like it," said Rep. Karen McRae, vice chairwoman of the committee and a Goffstown Republican. Any lobbyist afraid to be videotaped "should get out of politics right now," she said.
Rep. David Bickford, a committee member who has sponsored several bills that Snider supports, called the complaints about discomfort a last-ditch tactic used by lobbyists to divert attention from the merits of legislation. "They're trying to play that they're the victims," said Bickford, a New Durham Republican. "I find that underhanded. I don't believe for a minute they're intimidated."
Snider said too much has been made of the lobbying page on his website, which includes a photo of Coalition lobbyist Amanda Grady, her work contact number and information about her other political activities, including a link to another site with her personal phone number. Bickford came to Snider's aid last fall when concerns were first raised. The site contains only public information, he said, and anyone who calls the page threatening is playing "dirty politics."
Snider, a software engineer from Merrimack, has been a fixture at family-law hearings for about a year. After his 2001 divorce, he spent more than two years struggling to gain 40 percent legal custody of his daughter, now 9. His ex-wife "conspired with the courts and family law to keep us apart," he said.
As Snider started to research the system and meet other fathers with similar stories, he took an interest in policy. That's when he discovered, he said, that family law tended to be shaped less by family interests than by "father-hating groups that don't believe that fathers should play, need to play or must play an active role in the lives of their children."
The website and videotaping are not about personal attacks, Snider said, but about lending transparency to the process. He removed the photos of legislators from his site last year after some complained. But he has no plans to turn his focus from the lobbyists, he said.
Last year, lawmakers passed the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, a measure designed to make divorce less acrimonious and focus parents on sharing responsibilities. But legislatorsheld off on a bill that would give both parents 50 percent custody at the start of court proceedings. That bill would also require a judge or court official to explain the rationale behind custody decisions. Snider is a staunch advocate of those measures as well as others, like a bill that would revise the child-support formula so payments would be tied to custody, giving fathers financial credit for time with their children.
Many of the dads who testify want all their reforms enacted at once, Gile said, but they need to be patient with the legislative process. She said that pinpointing individual lobbyists for criticism isn't the right way to advocate change. "It doesn't do his cause any good to make people angry, to threaten people," she said. "If good, quality change is going to come about, then it's got to come about in a reasonable and thoughtful way."
Linda Griebsch, public policy director for the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the debate grew more rancorous last year than it had been in the previous decade. Last fall especially, she said, "when people would testify with an opposing viewpoint, there was definitely jeering, laughing - just general disrespect for the people who are testifying."
No formal allegations have been filed against Snider. But that didn't stop him from sending a letter to the committee chairman, the governor, the Executive Council and others this week expressing his concern about an attempt by lobbyists to discredit him by painting him as a threatening presence, "to prevent my continued participation in the legislative process." He also requested that all committee business be videotaped by the state.
That's unlikely to happen, for budget reasons. But state law gives Snider the right to tape, subject to "reasonable restrictions."Rep. Ed Moran, the Children and Family Law Committee chairman, said he would ask anyone seeking to videotape in the future to check with him first, "to make sure the equipment is set up and operated in the least obtrusive manner possible." Otherwise, he hoped to avoid the fray between Snider and the lobbyists. "We really try to stay out of the histrionics," he said.
------ End of article
By ERIC MOSKOWITZ
Monitor staff

 

About time the Monitor ran some feedback -

Fair's fair, CASANDRA MINICHIELLO, Atlanta - Letter

January 30. 2006 8:00AM
 
R
e "Dad's activism unsettles some in State House" (Monitor, Jan. 26): I applaud Marc Snider for his actions!
If this were a mother, would anyone object to her activism? As a mother, I would go to any extent to ensure that I was being treated fairly by our legal system.
Children deserve both parents, and it's sad that a father would have to fight for his child's rights, which is exactly what he is doing.
CASANDRA MINICHIELLO
Robbed and enslaved, JIM O'BRIEN, Hooksett - Letter
January 30. 2006 8:00AM
T
o Sen. Maggie Hassan: How would you like to receive a final decree order from a corrupt judicial family law system which orders you to pay college support to any public college in the entire United States without you ever discussing this matter with the father of your children?
What if you received such an order that told you to pay for your neighbor's child?
This is what has basically happened to our family. My ex-wife would have to sell her home to comply with this abusive court order.
Please reconsider your actions and consider those earlier divorce decrees where contract law does not apply because both parties have no idea the paragraph was to be stuck in there. I will never be a slave! So help me God! Please help stop family law abuse. Please help reform the New Hampshire family law system.
The New Hampshire Bar members raided our family financial assets to the tune of $55,000 and then ordered the two parents into over $200,000 in future debt. Something is grossly wrong. We were robbed and converted into slaves!
JIM O'BRIEN
Hooksett
 
 
No more waiting; it's time for reform, MARC SNIDER, Merrimack - Letter
January 28. 2006 8:00AM
T
o Monitor reporter Eric Moskowitz: Thank you for your objective story. The public needs more exposure to the actuality of the legislative process as it relates to family law.
It is important to draw the parallel between the lack of accountability for false assertions being made at the State House by special-interest lobbyists and the lack of accountability for false assertions being made in the family courts to gain advantage in child-custody proceedings.
A father in a New Hampshire family court confronted with a similar allegation from his child's mother (or her attorney) will find himself ejected from his home and separated from his children in most cases. When and if the allegation is proven to be unfounded, no action is ever taken to hold the perjurer responsible for such heinous allegations.
This lack of accountability has led to a pandemic of false allegations in the context of divorce and child custody.
The special-interest lobbyists refuse to debate the bills in question on their merits, instead slinging mud to discredit reform supporters because their arguments on behalf of retaining the dysfunctional status quo truly are meritless.
Rep. Mary Gile was quoted as saying the public needs to be patient. The public has been waiting patiently for reform for far too long. It is time to do the right thing.
Not a single individual showed up to testify against these bills during the public hearings for them. Why? Because public support for these reforms is overwhelming.
The only individuals opposed are those representing professional special-interest groups that profiteer off of separating children from their fit parents at the time of divorce. These groups do not want to explain in the public light why they oppose clear reforms for fairness, equity and the best interests of children.
MARC SNIDER
Merrimack
 
Kangaroo court, BOB NORTON, Milford - Letter
January 28. 2006 8:00AM
W
e need many more Marc Sniders, people willing to take a stand and expose what is the most corrupt, unfair and unconstitutional legal system in existence.
The family court is a kangaroo court where everything is designed to extract as much money as possible from the divorcing couple by creating an uneven playing field. I would have never believed it until I saw it with my own eyes, but my judge broke the law over 20 times already.
There is a reason about 300 men of divorce commit suicide every month (11 times the number of women), and it is not because the divorce system is fair, ethical and unbiased. This is a scandal waiting to be exposed -hidden behind closed doors and complex laws. It is morally revolting to anyone who spends the time to understand it.
Family court judges are the most prolific criminals I have ever met.
Justice is coming because men have been abused far too long in divorce. The domestic violence tail has been waving the divorce dog for decades, and this must change. Only 0.05 percent of homes experience real domestic violence, but restraining orders are used to kidnap children and hijack the home and income of dad as standard procedure when nothing has happened.
The media need to begin to understand and expose this American tragedy that is harming generations of children and men. All the scientific proof is out there, but the courts are living in the 1960s.
BOB NORTON
Milford
 
No justice, MEGAN TRACY, Concord - Letter

January 28. 2006 8:00AM

 
I
would like to touch on what Marc Snider is doing as far as the child custody issue with dads. I am a male-to-female transsexual and have been discriminated against in the Concord court system when it concerns my daughter.
I have been through the system as both a man and as a transsexual woman, and the result is the same.
Who is to say I love my daughter any less or would make any worse a parent than any other parent out there? I have no criminal history and have had no problems with drugs or alcohol. I am an A and B student at Hesser College here in Concord.
Even though I started the entire court process as my daughter's father, my transsexuality still came into play, and the mother violated a direct court order and did not even get a slap on the wrist. Where is that justice?
MEGAN TRACY
Chilling effect?, JON KELLY, Penacook - Letter
January 28. 2006 8:00AM
M
arc Snider has apparently been vilified for participating in the democratic process ("Dad's activism unsettles some in State House,"Monitor, Jan. 26).
His actions - attending hearings, evaluating elected representatives and asking for transparency in the Legislature - are things that all citizens have a right to do and should feel comfortable doing.
For lobbyists who disagree with him to call him intimidating may cause a chilling effect. Will other citizens hesitate to testify for fear that they will be labeled this way?
I am surprised that some lobbyists complained about being videotaped at a public meeting. I am wary of any lobbyist for any ideology who wants to influence public policy but who does not want to face the light of public scrutiny.
JON KELLY
 
 
 
 Don Mathis <fourteenpercenter@yahoo.com> wrote:
 
 
Dear Editor,
 
Marc Snider has videotaped multiple committee hearings, including one last week where he pointed his camera toward the audience. Rep. Mary Stuart Gule feels this makes a couple of lobbyists from family organizations feel intimidated or reluctant to testify. "There were a number of people who felt threatened," she said.
 
Cockroaches feel threatened by the light of day, too.
 
Grace Mattern, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said, "It's one thing to disagree with someone about a subject area, but to take it to a level of being personal and to make incorrect statements about an organization, I think, is really unfair."
 
Snider is correct in that the gender bias and prejudice in custody decisions is "really unfair" as well.  
 
Many people make a lot of money from the divorce industry. Those whose pockets are being filled find Snider a nuisance.  
 
To the rest of us, Marc Snider is a hero. 
 
Don Mathis
(the  14%er)