Bob Norton's Anti-Creem Fliers – Why it's Happening

Click to read the flier

Starting two weeks ago, a number of father’s rights activists, led by Bob Norton, began distributing fliers in Newton critical of Sen. Cynthia Creem for blocking two family court reform bills this year - Shared Parenting (H1400) and Alimony Reform (H1785).

Emotions are running high among people who have advocated for these bills all year. Many of these activists were calling the legislature on an almost daily basis asking for progress on these bills.


They’ve Been Asking for Help all Year

When there was a public hearing on these bills back in September, many hundreds of them showed up at the State House to testify. The hearing room was packed to over-flowing. It was so hot and packed that at least one person was taken out on a stretcher.

Hundreds of people took time off work to tell our legistors, first hand, heartbreaking stories of families ripped apart, beloved children they don’t see and people with crushing financial obligations they could not meet. They testified until late into the evening when most legislators had already gone home.

I was there.

The legislators were patient, but they appeared unmoved. I haven’t heard a single public statement from anyone on judiciary sympathizing with the plight of these families.

Only a few people turned out to testify against these bills – all of them paid lobbyists for the various lawyer’s lobbies. The lobbyists testified against these two important reforms and in favor of two toothless legal industry sponsored counter bills.

Countering the shared parenting bill was a bill that would leave the current laws governing child custody as they are, but change only the language of the law, replacing the terms “custody” and “visitation” with the terms “rights” and “responsibilities.” Against the the Alimony Reform bill was a bill written by one of the Bar Associations and sponsored by Sen. Creem, that would have added only two words to the current alimony law – “and duration.” (Seriously.. read it)

These legal industry sponsored bills are an insult the the thousands of families facing serious problems caused by our outdated probate laws. The Creem alimony reform law would have done nothing to help families who have been placed in dire financial predicaments by the current law. It is galling to these families when she says that she sponsored an alimony reform bill.

The only purpose of the Creem alimony bill was an attempt to derail the real alimony bill – H1785.

The “rights and responsibilities” bill would have done nothing at all. Both of these bills would have left the current law in a state where divorce lawyers could continue to abuse the public.


The Legislature Has Done Almost Nothing

Activists for family court reform understand the need to take a careful and reasoned approach to solving these difficult problems. We agree with Senator Creem, and others, that changes like these would affect thousands of families and must be done carefully.

But in the time that we have petitioned our legislators precious little was done. Despite constant pleading no task force to study shared parenting was convened. Governor Patrick, when pressed in public, twice promised to convene a task force and both times did nothing. After sustained public pressure and several hard hitting articles in the Globe, the judiciary committee did finally convene a task force to study alimony reform. But in the 8 months since they started, they met only three times and did not finish their work before the end of the legislative year. All while we saw huge amounts of time wasted on such boondoggles as the failed casino bill.

Our issues were not the only ones that the legislature didn’t have time to deal with. Many important bills were left unaddressed this year as the legislature spent its time on bills that were backed by well funded lobbies and special interests. Many people with difficult problems will, like us, have to wait until next year.

The Alimony Bill was co-sponsored by more than half of the legislature. Shared Parenting is supported by 80% of the electorate – and a small number of legislators were able to block any action on these bills. But two stand out, Senator Creem and Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty. They are the chairs of the Judiciary Committee and either of them could have decided to take these issues seriously, convene a task force to study the issues and make fair and balanced recommendations, and make a serious effort to solve these problems.

But they didn’t. They chose to just ignore these issues for yet another year.


Ignoring Voters Has Consequences

I want to give Senator Creem some credit. She did meet many times with key activists behind these issues, like Steve Hitner and Ned Holstein. Many legislators refused to engage with us at all.

Her office was always the most helpful and informative. It is probably the most well run legislative office I have dealt with. They were patient in answering my questions, and in getting back to me. I am especially grateful for the efforts of her staff, Richard Powell and Mike Avitser.

To some extent Sen. Creem is being unfairly targeted. She was not the only one blocking progress. Rep. O’Flaherty is equally to blame. Lucky for him, his election is uncontested this year.

There is no denying that Sen. Creem has not taken these issues seriously, and seemed to hope that they would simply go away on their own.

She should know better.  As an active divorce lawyer, she works in the probate courts. In the decades that she has worked as a divorce lawyer, does she feel any sympathy for the thousands of children she has personally seen separated from loving fathers?

For 12 years as a legislator, she has chosen to do as little as she can get away with. The little progress that has been made is always due to sustained public pressure – through our calling, writing, meeting and testifying.

Throughout the year anger among affected families has been building. I knew as the legislative year was coming to an end that, if there was not demonstrable progress, people were going to take action. And that is what we are seeing today.


We’re Working On Elections

This is a deeply personal issue. My own family, and my own beloved children, have been affected by the very imperfect process we have under our current system.

I know that Bob Norton and a sizable number of energized activists are distributing these fliers around Newton. There is a lot of hyperbole in them. It is an emotional appeal by families who feel like their critical family issues – issues that affect their children – are not being taken seriously.

I think Bob’s fliers are extreme. I’ve argued with him many times to moderate the message. But he, and many of the people working with him, feel that they are only going to be heard if they speak up with the strongest language possible.

Bob’s group has been distributing these fliers in Newton.

I know they have a plan to distribute nearly 30,000 more of them in the next issue of the Tab. They are looking for funding to distribute them in Brookline and Wellesley. I think they plan on distributing them all the way until election day. Though Bob Norton doesn’t live in the district – a lot of them do. They are your neighbors.

Most activists for family court reform don’t agree with Bob’s fliers. They use needlessly divisive language. We know that to solve these problems people of good will have to come together to solve them. We’ve made a lot of progress this year talking to legislators. The real leaders behind these reforms, Ned Holstein and Steve Hitner, are concerned that Bob’s fliers are going to make it more difficult to continue a helpful process next year.

Ned and Steve represent most of us. They are the true spokesmen for our bills. They helped write the bills, talked to the legislators, got the bills submitted and have been working the legislative process responsibly. We’re grateful also to Rep. Steven Walsh and Rep. Colleen Garry for sponsoring these bills and for all the legislative co-sponsors.


We’re  Not Going Away

What legislators need to understand is that the people are tired of waiting. They are tired of their questions not being answered. They are frustrated that the process is done behind closed doors in committees comprised almost completely of lawyers and lobbyists.

This issue is not going away. There are far too many families affected. And they are getting better organized every year. They organized to help Scott Brown, who was a co-sponsor of a previous Shared Parenting Bill. They worked to defeat Lida Harkins who was always an opponent of these reforms, and supported Richard Ross who also co-sponsored some of these bills in past years. They were active in helping Sal DiDomenico who spoke up in support of shared parenting and alimony reform. I know they are organizing against Deval Patrick, who though he has several times paid lip service to their issues – has always failed to take any action.

With each race they have been learning. And they are going to continue to become more active.

This blog is itself part of that effort. I got involved in elections because I wasn’t seeing action on issues that were important to my family. In that time, meeting with legislators, writing letters and talking to people, I kept meeting other families who were affected by other issues that also were not being handled. All of us are frustrated that the legislature always seemed to have time to deal with the lobbyist’s issues but never our issues.

This blog is about more than just the issues that affect my own family. I’d like to see a legislature next year that is ready to handle the people’s business. A legislature who is willing to stand up for the needs of our towns, like supporting GIC insurance, over the demands of state workers unions. I want to see a legislature who is more afraid of cutting school funding than the priorities of lobbyists.

Most of all, I want to see a legislature next year that when confronted by a problem will  make a serious effort, convene the experts, really study the problem and make fair and responsible laws.

What none of us should accept is a legislature which works behind closed doors, stonewalls, makes token efforts, sells us out to political insiders and fails to make progress on the people’s business.

I’m done with party labels. Please don’t tell us about ideology – tell us what have you done? Most voters I’m sure agree – not nearly enough.

Every day our voice gets louder, and we ask our legislators – can you hear us now?


  • Peter G. Hill
    August 24, 2010 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    Rafael Baptista, I do not feel that Bob’s flyer is extreme.

    What is extreme is the level of tools used by the Boston Bar, the Mass Bar and the Woman’s Bar to limit fathers access to their children and their yearly campaign to kill a Shared Parenting Bill. Senator Creem is one of the leaders of these organizations and has been a leader in killing the Shared Parenting Bill.

    I personally offered to meet with the Senator and number of times and she has put pre conditions on the meeting recently and in the past has just plain ignored those requests. Many called and emailed and requested an audit, similar to what California has done of the Mass Family and Probate Courts. These requests too have been ignored by the Senator.

    Kids raised without a dad in the home with the help of existing laws that minimize the role of fathers, despite all the research, is child abuse. Allowing it to go on is child abuse. Failure to act, like in the Kitty Genovese case in NY, is a form of abuse. Being passive aggressive and preventing the bill from even moving out of committee just prolongs the existing wrong situation. This allows the abuse, and the continuation of more and more kids being raised without a dad in the home. It is abuse.

    Bob Norton is educating the public like never before. The issue is now one that all candidates for Governor are familiar with. Three fathers are running for Governors Council.

    Senator Creem does have conflicts and her lack of ability to even recognize that there is even an appearance of such a conflict demonstrates her arrogance towards the people she represents.

    She should either step down from this committee or stop her divorce practice. She can’t wear both hats and not have a conflict.

    Thank you Bob Norton for your work. Thanks Fathers and Family for their work.

    I thank even the Senator for some of her work. However, her conflicts that she has indicate that Newton, Wellesley and Brookline need a new Senator.

  • Wayne
    August 24, 2010 - 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I would like to add thank you to the people who pound the pavements in the Fatherhood Coalition, Joe Ureneck is doing a great job leading these men and women

  • Andrew Paradis
    August 25, 2010 - 4:54 am | Permalink

    I think we all know why it’s happening…Senator Creem – you managed to
    delay this for more than a year and a half…and now the legislative session is over…Alimony reform is way overdue. My
    fiancee and I are not getting married until alimony reform is
    finalized, because she doesn’t want to be paying my ex-wife’s alimony.

  • Bob
    August 25, 2010 - 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Bob Norton here. Let’s add a few more facts to the mix.

    1. Many other Judicial Legislative Committee members are also divorce lawyers, or have relatives who are, and therefore also have conflicts of interest (direct or indirect). In am told the divorce business is now about 50% of all legal fees
    2. If “Progress” means jawboning with legislators who promise to “support” the bill and then do nothing to stop Cynthia Creem and others with conflicts of interest from stopping, it then Rafael has a very different definition of progress than I do. Like most in government trying to justify their jobs, he is measuring activities and words, not results. Progress would be the bill getting out of “committee” which is legislator speak for “kill the bill”. Nothing EVER comes out of committee I am told.

    Rafael also makes a false statement when he says most activists do not agree with my flyer, though this is irrelevant given the First Amendment and free speech that he is taking advantage of here. In fact in private discussions with over 100 people it appears about 90% support this raising of the rhetoric to call attention to this crisis we call “family” court. I got 15 calls in 3 days congratulating me on my efforts – none against. Donations flowed in when this story hit too.

    Much stronger statements that would also be totally true could have been printed, but they are so unbelievable most people would discount them completely. People are only beginning to realize the depth of corruption in our government today. This system is a conspiracy of silence to maintain the $2 BILLION divorce business in Mass. alone that also brings in perverse federal funding to the state for hurting children and families.
    Senator Creem should be removed from office for many reasons. Any one of these would do:
    1. Conflicts of interest
    2. Voting against over 85% of her constituents
    3. Taking full-time pay while working part-time as a legislator and also as a divorce lawyer
    4. Continuing the abuse of about 1,500 new children per month by the current system, which was proven harmful to children by scientists doing research about 15 years ago
    5. Lying to the public
    6. Being a member of two branches of government at the same time against the intent of Separation of Powers created by our founding fathers
    It is clear from my conversations with others I could list many more but I try to only published verified facts.
    Bob Norton, Divorce Reform Activist, Father of 2 and CEO since 1989, President of C-Level Enterprises, Inc.

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