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June 18, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

In the run-up to Father’s Day, the general gist of articles on fathers seemed to be less hateful toward men with children than usual. Of course the New York Times did its best to buck the trend with its pre-Father’s Day forum, a set of short pieces by five different authors (New York Times, 6/14/14).

Who knows where the Times digs these people up? Some year maybe the editors could actually ask someone who knows something about fatherhood and the countless legal and cultural obstacles placed between fathers and their children. Oh, but of course one of those obstacles would be The New York Times, so I suppose that’s not going to happen. Or they could even locate someone who’d be willing to say what we’ve known for decades – that children do better with a father to care for them than without. But no, simple, straightforward messages like that aren’t any part of “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Face it, the message about fathers, families and children is pretty easy to grasp. Children do better with fathers than without. Father-absence is one of the most serious social and economic issues this society faces. It’s bad for children, bad for fathers, bad for mothers, bad for society generally and bad for the public treasury. The fingerprints of fatherlessness can be found all over issues like crime, declining educational achievement, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, poverty, child abuse, domestic violence, high school dropout rates, and on and on. Fixing fatherlessness should be society’s Job One, but instead family courts, adoption courts, child welfare agencies and countless others act to separate fathers from children. Beginning early in life, children should be taught that the decision by adults to have a child means the decision to stay together in all but the direst of circumstances. Should divorce become absolutely necessary, every child should maintain equal relationships with each parent unless one is found to be unfit. Laws and judicial practice should change to reflect these realities.

There, that hardly covers the waterfront, but it gives a good idea of what should be said in places like the Times forum on fathers. Instead we get people with little idea of the realities fathers face and still less of what fatherlessness means for our society and culture.

Take Christopher Emanuel, for example, who believes that his state’s putative father registry “requires that [single men] be notified if the[ir] child is put up for adoption.” Of course the registry requires no such thing. Only if a man knows about the registry and what failure to register means and files the correct forms has he protected himself against the theft of his child by adoption agencies and their lawyers who, unlike 99.9% of men, know the law. Emanuel notices that the registry in his state is “fairly obscure,” but still thinks it’s a godsend to single fathers. It’s not. Its sole purpose is to cut them out of the adoption loop, making adoption easier and thus more lucrative for those agencies and lawyers.

We might expect a law professor to know a bit more about the subject, and Kevin Noble Maillard manages to notice some important issues.

Unmarried men have little security in child rearing decisions and custody outcomes. Legally, the extent of unmarried men’s decisions about reproduction and children stops at the sexual act. Beyond that, the mother has the most leverage to make decisions about visitation and possible adoption. Why? Because law and social practice assume that unmarried men in intimate relationships have no interest in commitment, stability or responsibility.

True enough, but by focusing on fathers, Maillard overlooks the most important person in the father-mother-child triad. Where’s the realization by him or any of the writers that the father absence caused by all these wrongheaded laws is bad for kids? Nowhere to be seen. And in so doing, Maillard plays into the hands of the anti-dad crowd, one of whose many canards is that, in some unspecified way, the rights of fathers and the well-being of children are antithetical. Of course vast amounts of social science show the opposite, but Maillard isn’t interested and the result is the backhanded promotion of an anti-father trope.

Then of course what’s a good Father’s Day forum without at least one anti-dad article about domestic violence. That job falls to law professor Kelly Behre. Unsurprisingly, she makes a hash out of it. I don’t know how you can get through high school, much less law school, with the idea that a good essay is nothing but a series of assertions with no evidence to back them up, but Behre managed the feat. For example:

But even the more moderate groups within the fathers’ rights movement engage in a backlash against feminism when they attempt to discredit the experiences of female victims of intimate partner violence and roll back legal protections for all victims of domestic and sexual violence.

I suspect the National Parents Organization falls within those “more moderate groups,” but whether or not it does, I’d like her to present a single instance in which what Behre claims has actually occurred. I know I’ve never seen it and the mere fact that so many women are spearheading the fathers’ rights movement gives the lie to Behre’s claim. Besides, if she actually had an example, don’t you think she’d have mentioned it?

Another example:

The utilization of equality and civil rights language does not change the underlying call for the reinstatement of patriarchy in the fathers’ rights movement. Harkening back to a time when men had near absolute control over children as property, activists advocate for male property rights that trump both the best interests of children and the safety of battered mothers.

Ridiculous. Entirely made up. Reinstatement of patriarchy? Absolute control of children as property? Behre has no argument to make, so she’s just making statements the anti-dad crowd already agrees with. They do so, not because they’re true, but because they’ve got nothing better with which to defend their demonstrably injurious and unjust points of view.

Proof positive of that can be seen when Behre actually gets something right, but clearly believes it’s wrong.

Many fathers’ rights activists argue that women perpetuate as much, if not more, violence against intimate partners and that most domestic violence is mutual, ignoring or discounting all research to the contrary.

No, we don’t discount research to the contrary, we just point out how shoddily it’s done. We just notice that the largest aggregations of science on the subject of domestic violence, like the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project plainly show that men and women are equal perpetrators of DV and that men make up about 35% of the victims of severe violence by an intimate partner.

The amazing thing about Behre is that she clearly believes she can simply state the above and whoever’s reading it will believe the opposite of what the overwhelming body of research actually demonstrates. It’s obvious that she’s writing, not to inquiring minds but to those that are already made up.

That the New York Times, or indeed any reputable source of information, should give such an anti-father gender ideologue as Behre a forum is disgraceful. Unsupported claims about anything don’t make an argument. When the purpose of those claims is to separate children from their fathers, the piece should find no place in the publishing world.

Yet another law professor, Clare Huntington, simply tosses aside as not “real” the problems married fathers face when their wives decide to divorce them. No, seriously, she claims that the “real” problems only arise when fathers aren’t married to the mothers of their children.

Now, of course it’s true that unmarried fathers (about 42% of the total) have it worse than do married dads. Married fathers are presumed to be the fathers of the children to whom their wives give birth. We know that’s not always true, but the presumption persists, often resulting in parental chaos when a case of paternity fraud is uncovered. But at least married fathers don’t have to go to court to have their parental rights established. Unmarried fathers must do exactly that and Huntington’s correct to point out that many of them can’t afford to do so.

But by declaring the plight of divorced fathers to be less than “real,” Huntington absolves herself of dealing with the vast array of those problems that any divorced dad can tell her all too real. The simple facts are that, as most custody laws today dictate, only one parent is to be the custodial parent, irrespective of the other parent’s fitness. The non-custodial father is then marginalized in the child’s life and made to understand that his true worth is in his wallet. In most jurisdictions, he’ll be permitted to see his child between 14 and 20% of the time, if Mom allows it. If she doesn’t, well, it’s back to court for him in the often vain hope of getting the judge to enforce the order of visitation. Gone from Huntington’s narrative are the mental/emotional blows fathers experience when they lose their kids, gone the spike in divorced dads’ suicide rates. Nowhere to be found are the child support orders set higher than dads can pay, and nowhere the loss of drivers’ and professional licenses and the threat of jail.

False claims of domestic violence, made-up allegations of child abuse, mothers moving far away with children, mothers abducting them to other countries and continents. All of those are well-known and entirely real. They lash the psyches of married and unmarried fathers alike, but Huntington is so determined to ignore the problems of once-married fathers, she simply writes them out of her script.

Well, that’s one way of pretending fathers’ many problems aren’t as serious as they are. And we can count on the New York Times to do just that. But the simple fact is that that’s just one of many measures of the Gray Lady’s increasing irrelevance. The rest of the country is coming to understand the realities of a family court system that, more than any other institution, contributes to the multiple dysfunctions this society exhibits. Slowly, the rest of the country is moving on without the likes of the Times and the know-nothings it hires to denigrate fathers. It’s their loss, not ours.

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#Father'sDay, #fathers'rights, #NewYorkTimes, #Domesticviolence, #non-custodialfathers

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