Add it to the stack
Los Angeles, CA--In case we needed one, here's another study showing kids benefit from involved fathers (New Scientist, 12/08). This one's a British study done on over 10,000 kids over 50 years. The shocking discovery: Kids with actively involved fathers have higher IQs than those without. This is not news, but toss this study on the stack along with all the others. Some day the pile will be high enough that even family courts and state legislatures will notice it. As the practice of family law now exists, women exert enormous control over men's access to their children from the moment of birth to the time they reach adulthood. Marriage is the only realistic way a father has a prayer of keeping contact with his child. As long as the marriage is intact, he and his child can be together. But divorce is available to all at any time for any or no reason, and in that event, even the married dad can have access cut off completely by his ex. Of course a married woman can kidnap a child, but at least that's illegal and those laws sometimes are enforced. For the mother, denying access to a single father is a piece of cake. Since out-of-wedlock childbearing has reached about 35% of all births in this country, that's a lot of dads who risk losing their children. Specifically, there are about 4 million live births each year in this country, so that's about 1.4 million children born to single mothers. Unlike a married mother, a single mother owes the father of her child nothing. She doesn't even have to tell him about the child. She can tell him it's not his; she can move away, get a restraining order against him or place the child for adoption without telling him. About 15% of birth certificates in this country have the blank for 'Father' marked 'unknown' or simply left blank. The best he can do is file a paternity suit (if he even knows the child exists) and, if the child hasn't been adopted, gain the right to visitation and pay support. But of course visitation orders are barely worth the paper they're written on, so the reality is that single fathers' parental rights are tissue-thin. Those are the rights, by the way, that the U.S. Supreme Court once called "far more precious than property rights." (Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972)) So when it comes to single fathers, we do what we do nowhere else in American jurisprudence - place the rights of one free adult (the father) effectively in the hands of another person (the mother). The closest comparison is to the parent-child relationship in which parents exercise many of the child's rights. And that tells you a lot about the value we place on single fathers in this country. The result: More children without fathers and more fathers without rights. It's bad for children, bad for fathers, bad for mothers and bad for society generally. Placing fathers' rights in mothers' hands is bad for everyone, and unjust to boot. The New Scientist study is just the latest to show what courts and legislatures desperately need to know.