Custody Wars: Fathers Revealing the Truth Instead of Tossing the Towel
Wouldn’t it be nice if President Obama spoke up for fathers’ child custody rights; those who are being beat down by the family court system instead of the minority who are deadbeats? Where is the conversation and uproar on fathers’ child custody rights for them?
Who is speaking to the massive destruction of the nuclear family and the impact on fathers who are being denied visitation and access, but charged with paying support? Many of these fathers have committed no crime other than a change in affection towards the mother, which still often leads to the loss of fathers’ child custody rights.
While it is true that there are cases of abuse and violence that involves fathers, as well as mothers, that percentage is small in comparison to hard-working, law abiding fathers seeking child custody because they love their children and want to stand up to their responsibilities.
With studies on the rise about the increased number of fathers who are becoming “systematic deadbeats” because of archaic laws implemented by biased judges and a legal process that is geared towards profit at all costs with no regard for equal distribution of parental privileges or fathers’ child custody rights, it is evident that the truth needs to be told before more fathers “toss in the towel” and play right into the role that society has willingly cut out for them.
According to ChildrensJustice.org, close to 40 percent of fathers have no access or visitation rights to their children, but are still required to pay child support. Often, this court-ordered child support is designed not with the financial capabilities of the father, but the greed of the court system buying into the histrionics provided by the mothers and their legal team, who are often paid for by the fathers.
The impact on fathers’ child custody rights is dramatic. While fathers are held to the letter of the antiquated laws and driven to bankruptcy, mothers can conduct themselves as they see fit. The report added that four in 10 mothers admitted that they interfered with the father’s visitation at least one time to punish him and half the mothers saw “no value” in the father’s child custody rights or continued contact with his children.
Unfortunately, the fathers are left to fight their own battles without resources or an impartial justice system. “I just want to be able to spend time with my kids,” states Toby Brooks, a distribution employee in Houston. “I love my kids and my life revolves around being with them and making them happy. It has been months since I have seen my youngest son and I just don’t understand how anyone can keep a child from their father.”
Brooks is just beginning divorce proceedings and one of the main reasons is because he did not feel that his oldest son, who is from a previous relationship, was receiving equal treatment and his youngest son was being used as a pawn.
“If the situation was reversed and she brought a child into the relationship, they would all be treated equally, it is about being a family and now, I cannot see my youngest son nor can the brothers be together, and I love both my boys and they love each other and me.” Brooks, who is not financially equipped to secure legal counsel for his efforts, has tried to work out his situation on his own. “Most of my calls have been unanswered and I have even tried to have family members to intervene to help me to get to see my son, but I do not have the funds to fight this out in court and still try to keep my job and home and she knows this,” adds Brooks.
Brooks is not alone in his frustration in trying to maintain important ties with his children when the marriage unravels, even when you are equipped. “It has been a long road and most of the time, a lonely one when you do not see any light at the end of the tunnel,” comments Harry Hamilton, a former professional athlete and an attorney representing himself in his divorce custody for the last five years. “When you are battling this system you are in a ‘no win’ situation because there is a serious encroachment on the fundamental rights of a parent that essentially works to the detriment of the child and especially a male child.”
Research has shown that male children who are raised in fatherless homes are more prone to having serious problems, thus heightening the need for attention on fathers’ child custody rights. According to the Center for Disease Control, 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes and 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
“My son is at a crucial age and the bonds that we have established are in grave jeopardy as he is not able to maintain contact with me, even via phone, despite numerous court orders,” notes Hamilton. “While I have committed no crime, I am treated completely opposite in that my attempts to obtain enforcement of my constitutional and fundamental rights to nurture and protect my son are being frustrated by the very court system that is to uphold those inalienable rights. With all due respect for the role that mothers play, there are fathers who want to be thoroughly involved with their children and every aspect of their lives, not just a financial one. The focus on the finance leads to the focus on so called ‘deadbeats’ and leaves the other fathers and their children clamoring and screaming to be heard on a more fundamental notion.”
Addressing fathers’ child custody rights will require more than a presidential speech to bring about the extensive changes to eradicate decades of legal practices that do not incorporate the “best interests of the child”, but foster the “financial interests” of the legal system. However, having a fervent message from President Obama supporting fathers’ child custody rights can have a proactive impact and motivate a change THEY can believe.
By ignoring fathers’ child custody rights and therefore creating “systematic deadbeats”, society has been able to create scapegoats for their own failings to motivate strong family relationships between parents and their children, especially if the parents are no longer together.
The issue of fathers’ child custody rights is not a one-sided argument where one side is always right, and the other side is always wrong. Each family unit brings its own unique characteristics and until judges, lawyers, counselors and parents can come together to work out their differences and build bridges of understanding, compassion and equal consideration, the main ones who will continue to suffer will be the most innocent and clearly unprotected – the children.
Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.