Attorney Robert Franklin recently said: “The terrible effect of fatherlessness on children, including when they become adults, is the single greatest social ill we face. And yet we promote it – actively promote it – as a matter of public policy.”
Worse still, it’s done to benefit a wealthy special interest group.
Family law is a $50 billion industry which too often removes one parent; overwhelmingly fathers.
Senator Wayne Wallingford acknowledged this: “Most fatherlessness is not caused by abandonment; it’s created by an outdated court system.”
Representative Edwin Vargas added: “We’re taking about keeping parents fighting and arguing because it’s billable hours, billable hours, billable hours.”
Rather than work to maintain parent and child relationships, courts take families at their most vulnerable, and pit parents against each other in a contest for their children.
How are dads marginalized?
An alienating schedule remains the standard in many states. For example, Michigan courts state: “The sample schedule presented in this guideline is based upon the most commonly used schedules across the state.”
What’s the schedule?
“Parenting time shall occur on alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday evening until 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Parenting time shall occur one evening per week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on a day of the week to be determined by the parties.”
Many fathers disappear after this is “awarded”, creating fatherlessness.
A ten-year Nebraska study found the average time children received with their “non-custodial parent” was 5 days a month. A Massachusetts study likewise concluded: “It is not rational for fathers to fight for custody because their chances of winning primary or shared parenting are insignificant.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s recent proclamation states: “Approximately 40,000 Alabama children a year experience court ordered visitation with one parent for only two to six days a month”.
If every case is different, why are the results so consistent?
Attorneys know fathers face discrimination. North Dakota attorney Jackie Stebbins bluntly stated: “Gender issues are alive and well and young moms can do pretty well at shutting dads out”.
After separation, many fathers want to remain parents, but aren’t allowed. No one has explained the heartbreaking decision they face better than Emma Johnson: “I eventually reached a crossroads with four paths. Some men commit suicide because they can’t handle the anguish. Others resort to violence and anger against the ex-wife. The thirds set take the difficult road, and sacrifice years of their happiness, battling on a hopeless battle with the ex, just to maintain some sort of contact with the kids. The fourth way, is to simply give up, and decide that the cost to the child through seeing the conflict, and to oneself, is too high.”
The unjustifiably high cost of divorce even impacts marriage. Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division, said: “Young couples are aware of divorce statistics and consequences of divorce, even without children involved, and for many, cohabitation is a hedge against divorce. In addition to escaping costly wedding expenses, cohabiting couples avoid the legal complications, family entanglements, emotional stress and financial costs associated with divorce proceedings.”
In addition to interest in marriage declining, out of wedlock births have skyrocketed and fatherlessness is a crisis.
None of this is best for children.
In 2014, 110 experts in child development, psychiatry, psychology, attachment, and domestic violence took the unprecedented step of endorsing shared parenting, stating: “The experts are united in their concern that flawed science is leading to parenting plans and custody decisions that harm children and their parents.”
Evidence shared parenting is best for kids is overwhelming. It’s supported by 54 studies, favored by 70 percent of the population, improves children’s relationships with both parents, reduces stress on children, and was recommended by the largest study, which examined 150,000 kids.
Unfortunately, attorney special interest groups, known as Bar Associations, oppose shared parenting since it reduces their income.
In reviewing the implementation of shared parenting in Australia, University of British Columbia Professor Edward Kruk found: “A marked reduction in child custody litigation has also been noted since the new legislation, with applications to court over child custody falling by a staggering 72 percent.” And, “corresponding to decreased litigation has been a marked increase in the use of family relationship centers and family mediation services. And most Australian parents (72 percent) now resolve parenting arrangements without the use of any legal services.”
A review of Arizona’s shared parenting law examined how judges, conciliation staff, attorneys, and therapists feel it’s working. It stated: “Half of the attorneys and about one-third of the mental health providers evaluated the law negatively. It is not clear why they differed from the rest of their colleagues, although perceived financial interests among some private professionals can’t be discounted.”
Bar Association take drastic measures to oppose shared parenting. The Nebraska Bar was sued for lobbying against shared parenting, resulting in its dues being halved and staff reductions. The North Dakota Bar was sued for forming a front group with $50,000 of it’s members mandatory dues. The Florida Bar spent $105,000 on “Emergency Lobbyists”, suggesting,“The game plan is to flood the Governor with emails and phone calls and letters…the best will be non-lawyers reaching out to him. We could also send emails from our personal email addresses.”
“The Establishment”, controlling legislation for their own benefit, isn’t a tumor solely impacting Washington, but instead has metastasized to every statehouse in the country.
If states want to reverse fatherlessness, they first need to stop creating fatherless kids.
They should enact what research says is best for kids; a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting. Where enacted, it’s working well, with fathers now told they have a 90 percent chance of equal time being “awarded”. That impacts fatherlessness.
As almost half of marriages end in divorce and with record numbers of Americans now never getting married, shared parenting is likely the largest immediate action governments can take to begin negating fatherlessness.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.