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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Father’s Rights and Child Custody

The boys after a fishing trip that their step mom Jan arranged. We all went to the coast for the trip and had a great time.

Perhaps the single toughest issue facing fathers going through a high-conflict divorce matter - is managing to obtain meaningful time with the children in the aftermath. Obtaining significant parenting time (custody) of their children is frequently a difficult objective to achieve for a whole host of reasons.

Throughout history, legal presumptions about child custody for fathers have changed dramatically, and infrequently for the better for either the father or the children. Before the twentieth century, children were regarded as the property of their father. Therefore, under common law, child custody for fathers was the norm. After this period in history, a major shift occurred. Family courts came to favor mothers in child custody cases and this presumption has continue unabated. It was presumed that under normal circumstances, children did better when placed in the sole custody of their mothers. Now, a wealth of reliable information exists that shows the significant detrimental outcomes for children who come from fatherless homes and homes where frequent time spent with father is lacking. It’s bad for the fathers, it’s bad for the mothers, it’s terrible for the children and a problem for society in general.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that children benefit most by having both parents involved in their lives growing, even after a divorce, the “mother as primary custodian” bias still is pervasive. This is demonstrated by the reality that mothers are still awarded primary physical custody of the children in the large majority of cases. The family court system hasn’t responded effectively to the benefits to children in having meaningful access to both parents after the family unit has broken. They continue to hold tight to the the belief that the alleged “primary caregiver” during a marriage should remain the primary caregiver after a divorce. This diminishes the role that fathers typically have in the marriage as something other than “primary caregiving,” if it’s considered caregiving at all. It also presumes that fathers are incapable (or less capable) of day-to-day care and nurturing of children simply because they may not have had a primary or even equal part of doing so during the marriage. This is simply not true.

As a result of this distorted view regarding custody for fathers and mothers, moms are still awarded custody in more than 70% of all child custody cases. Joint custody for between both parents is awarded approximately 20% of the time. Other family law statistics demonstrate that sole custody for fathers is awarded in less than 10% of all cases.

There are a number of factors that the family courts are supposed to consider in determining the parenting arrangement for fathers and mothers. The court may consider hearing the testimony of children at any age, though it is done infrequently with children at younger ages. Additionally, the court will hear testimony from “experts” such as psychologists, psychiatrists, guardians ad litem, custody evaluator, and others during a contested child custody case. ( but not in my case. The Judge suppressed that information because it all documented that She made a mistake in her rush to judgment) Judges will give serious consideration to their findings, regardless of whether or not we agree that they’ve spent enough time or otherwise should have the authority to so influence such a significant decision which affects the lives of so many so profoundly. These “experts” will base their recommendations on some or all of the following (not all-inclusive): any history of abuse or neglect, proximity of the parents to one another, past parenting history, household stability, time available to dedicate to raising children, personal behaviors, and/or other relevant factors.

Custody for fathers is too often a substantial uphill battle when the family court system favors maternal custody rights. This is why we are proponents of shared parenting. The result should be a 50/50 custodial arrangement (or close to it) when it’s logistically feasible and there are no provable issues of abuse, neglect, and where both parents are ready, willing, and able to retain their rights and responsibilities to parent their children.

Please always be on the lookout for shared-parenting initiatives on the docket in your state’s legislature. Spread the word and take action in the form of letters, emails, faxes, phone calls to your legislators and voice your support for a rebuttal presumption of shared custody.



  1. Thank you for this Article. Fathers’ right to be a meaningful part of their childrens’ lives, have been eroded to the point of non-existence. My research suggests that this is a phenomenon consistent throughout the industrialized nations. Children who are alienated from their fathers are more likely later in life to have emotional/behavioral problems, suffer from depression, drop out of school, fail in their jobs, and suffer from other social problems. I invite you to visit my site devoted to raising awareness on this growing problem:

  2. I've been living a similar hell for close to a decade.

    Every night I go to sleep hoping for death, and hoping maybe the downstairs neighbors will leave their stove on or something, so that I can die, and yet my kids won't have had a parent who committed suicide.

    I sincerely wish you all the best.

  3. Your ex is crazy and I feel sorry for you and your sons! In law enforcement we see this much too often. As officers, our hands are tied by the Courts and Lawyers. Being involved with both, I can tell you that the system is not only unjust but also corrupt. I hope you and others will pursue the legal end of your ordeal because as I have said, the family court system in this country is destroying children by taking away kids and most especially boys from their fathers. I see the end result when the kids are in their teens and in trouble. Our kids need a strong father and discipline, those who lack this, end up in my car.


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  6. The Feminist Case against No-Fault Divorce
    It’s true that we can thank women for no-fault divorce laws. They fought hard in the 1960s and 1970s for the right to be freed from that terrible, hierarchical construct that is marriage. In 1970, California was the first state to fall, triggering a nationwide no-fault domino wave. Feminists like Betty Friedan, who once called marriage a “comfortable concentration camp” from which women should be freed, were jubilant. And they got their wish. Each state that subsequently enacted no-fault divorce laws saw immediate spikes in divorce rates. Surprise!

    Yet twenty-seven years later, even Friedan admitted, “I think we made a mistake with no fault divorce,” recognizing that no-fault divorce had led to “unintended consequences” that adversely affected women. That same year, the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, founded by Friedan, made the case against no-fault divorce in the pages of the New York Times. New York was the last state where it had not been legalized. New York fell four years later, making our country a fully no-fault nation.

    The reason for feminists’ about-face on no-fault divorce has largely to do with the reality that no-fault divorce, especially unilateral no-fault divorce, has a disproportionately negative economic impact on women.

    One study found that only 37 percent of women retained ownership of the family home under no-fault divorce, versus 82 percent under fault divorce. Another study, conducted by Professor Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School of Business, found that in states that allow unilateral no-fault divorce, spouses tend to show a lower level of willingness to make financial sacrifices that invest in the future of the other spouse, such as helping to put that spouse through school for a higher degree.

    So if you’re a married women, under unilateral no-fault laws your husband is statistically less likely to support your decision to go to law school or get your masters degree. Another study at the University of Michigan found that divorced women are more likely than men to lose their health insurance after a divorce, and to live in poverty more generally, with 22 percent of post-divorce women falling into poverty versus just 11 percent of men.

    Perhaps most significantly, no-fault divorce laws reduce female choice when it comes to work-life balance. Women are far and away more likely to be second-earners, and women overwhelmingly want to be second-earners, especially when children come. Yet under no-fault divorce, a woman can find herself essentially a single mom, drained of family resources by court costs and lawyer fees, and suddenly required to work against her will and sacrifice time with her children.

    Her former spouse can direct money that used to be hers, even if she did not work outside the home full-time or at all, toward a new wife and her children.

    By making it harder for a woman to file for divorce against her husband and children, eliminating no-fault divorce lowers a woman’s odds of winding up alone and poor, fighting for the right to tuck her children into bed each night.
    But it also increases the odds that her husband will invest in her passions and interests outside the home, even as children make pursuing those passions more challenging.

    Eliminating no-fault divorce laws increases women's well being as well their spectrum of choices. It is the feminist thing to do.