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August 28, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Regular readers of this blog know that I try to avoid the invariably tawdry and almost never enlightening divorces and divers spats of celebrities. Those people by definition get too much attention as it is and, since they’re neither smarter nor more observant than the rest of us, don’t merit a still brighter spotlight.

But there are exceptions. I wrote a fair amount about the Kelly Rutherford/Daniel Giersch custody case because it provided a lesson in the bias and incompetence of the press that reports on celebrity divorce. In that case, a California judge wrote a long and fact-filled order that anyone could read any time. It demonstrated beyond doubt that Rutherford had attempted to remove Giersch from their children’s lives and gone to extreme lengths to do so. Those included attempting to have him deported on specious grounds so as to entirely block his access to the children.

The details of her attempts were less important though than the fact that the press, in countless articles, doggedly tried to portray her as the victim of the story. Reporters had no facts on which to base such a stance, plenty to show that Giersch is a loving and devoted father and still more that Rutherford routinely lied. It was all there in the judge’s recitation of the facts of the case. Apparently, no one reporting on the case bothered to read it. They had their story and stuck to it regardless of everything.

I reported on Rutherford/Giersch because of the astonishing anti-dad bias of the celebrity press.

I report on this case for another reason (People, 8/25/17). It’s still in the early stages and I don’t know where the case will end up, but what Jesse Williams, actor in the TV drama Grey’s Anatomy, says in a declaration to the court in his divorce and child custody case caught my eye.

In his declaration filed Monday, Aug. 21 to the Superior Court of Los Angeles and obtained by PEOPLE, Williams, 36, claims that “Aryn [Drake Lee] uses the fact that I work to support our family to marginalize me as a parent.”

Well, if she’s doing that, she’s got plenty of company. I’ve said many times that essentially everyone who comments on parenting, including the judges who order custody and parenting time, takes as an article of faith that, when a father works to support his family, in some way, that’s not being a parent. Moreover, if he does such a good job of earning that his wife doesn’t have to, he’s doubly tarred with the brush of “not a hands-on Dad.” Again, apparently the only way to be a parent is to change diapers, bathe and feed the kids. Supplying the money that buys the diapers and, the food, puts a roof over the family’s head, etc., demonstrates no interest in the family so benefited.

Then of course, when divorce comes along, not only is Dad’s hard work considered a detriment to him in parenting time, it’s further assumed that it’s a blow against Mom, preventing her from doing what she really wanted, i.e. to leave the kids in daycare and toil in the corporate rat race.

That essentially all those assumptions are not only untrue but absurd never seems to get the attention of either judges or state legislatures. Alimony, parenting time, custody and child support are all based to one extent or another on the notion that working for a living isn’t parenting and that mothers want nothing more than to abandon motherhood for paid employment.

In short, Jesse Williams looks like he’s onto something.

Williams continues in the documents, “My hard work has allowed Aryn the incredible privilege of being a stay-at-home mom, with a full-time nanny, able to be with our children when she wants. She is now punishing me for providing that privilege.”

Whether Drake-Lee is doing what he claims is at present unknown to anyone but them, but if she is, she’s preaching to the choir. Judges are all too willing to consider supporting one’s family as a detriment to anyone seeking to maintain real relationships with their kids post-divorce. Good for Williams for raising the issue.

But, family courts being what they are, he obviously is unwilling to hang his hat on the notion that some judge will recognize earning as a vital form of parenting and rule accordingly. So Williams goes on to vow that, in addition to earning the family’s daily bread, he’s been a “real” parent too, i.e. the mom kind.

Working full time did not keep me from being a doting parent then and it should not now…

I am always trying to work more efficiently so that I can free up as much time as possible to be an even more present parent to Sadie and Maceo,” the documents read…

“I am equally capable of caring for Sadie and Maceo. When I was not working on Grey’s Anatomy, and during the show’s hiatus, I fed the children, changed them, bathed them, dressed them, designed activities, played with them, read to them and put them to bed. I have always played a constant and significant role in their lives,” the Grey’s Anatomy actor states in the documents.

Needless to say, Drake-Lee, having been entirely supported by Williams is now seeking sole custody of their children.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. But however it does, I’m glad to see Williams raising such an important issue. Dads shouldn’t be sidelined because they supported their families including their wives whom they allowed to do exactly what they wanted – care for their children – free of the obligation to bring home a paycheck.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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