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January 25, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The timing of this story couldn’t be better. Just yesterday I wrote about the well-meaning but largely uninformed Mava Enoka who cheerfully instructed readers that fathers are fully capable of caring for children, New Zealand culture should encourage them to do so and, if it did, mothers would benefit by being freed to work and earn more. All true, but her sole idea for accomplishing those ends was to give fathers more parental leave after the birth of a child. She ignored family courts altogether and their sidelining of fathers.

So it’s entirely right that this article should come out the very next day (Stuff, 1/24/18).

A heartbroken father has dropped his fight to spend more time with his young children.

For two years, Tom* has battled in court to see his two boys more than every other weekend.

But after yet another failed court hearing this week, the Marlborough man says the "emotional toll" on the children is too much.

"I love them very much and this has been all about them, not me, but enough is enough. The emotional toll is too high and this is not just a Marlborough issue but a nationwide one," he says.

"All I get from the courts is the runaround and nobody has ever given me a valid reason why I can't see more of them. Now I'm supposed to pay$3000 for a S133 psychological report [a suitability-to-care report] by a court appointed doctor to see more of the children I already care for."

Tom, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year,sees his children every second weekend and every other week during the school holidays. He was fighting for equal access, but would have settled for an extra two nights a week.

Sound familiar? It should. Time and again, fit fathers are marginalized for no good reason in the lives of their children. “Tom” is just the latest. There is no reason for his being forced to be an every-other-weekend dad. There is every reason why he shouldn’t be. The principal reason of course is the welfare of his children who would certainly do better both now and in the future with two parents actively involved in their lives. But, contrary to Mava Enoka’s sunny beliefs, countless fathers can’t do that simple thing because courts won’t allow it. During marriage they were good, loving fathers with whom their children enjoyed loving and nurturing relationships. No serious person would argue that those marital relationships were anything but in the children’s best interests.

But according to family court judges throughout the English-speaking world, come divorce, a kind of alchemy takes place by which good fathers who are loved and needed by their kids become superfluous. No one has yet explained that process and of course no one is about to start.

The New Zealand Fathers' Rights Movement has 1228 followers on Facebook.

Group advocate and member Dillon Chisnell says the family court system is biased towards women.

"For fathers, it's guilty until proven innocent.

"From my experience it's fundamentally skewed towards mothers but I know that society has changed in the last 20 to 30 years, moving away from the patriarchal age where the mother stayed at home and the father went out to earn the bacon.

About reforms that would actually change things for the better for fathers and children, Mava Enoka has nothing to say. And, needless to say, neither does the family lawyer quoted by the linked-to article.

Family Law lawyer and mediator Michelle Duggan says parental rights do not distinguish between a mother and father and are determined by a court by what is in the best interests of the child or children.

She’s right that the law is scrupulously gender-neutral. The problem is that judges aren’t. The pro-mother/anti-father bias of courts has been well established, at least here in the States. But given the fact that shared parenting is best for kids in all but rare cases, plus the fact that maternal sole/primary custody runs between 80% and 90% in all those countries, it’s hard to make the case that family court judges aren’t biased.

And no, they don’t act in children’s interests. They say they do, but they don’t. Just look at “Tom,” kicked to the curb in his children’s lives, and for what? Certainly not their interests.

For example, according to Canadian economist Paul Millar, by far the best predictor of a custody outcome is the sex of the parent. Overwhelmingly, mothers get custody and fathers lose it, often entirely. This is true despite the fact that there is no evidence that children do better in sole maternal care and much that they do not. Indeed, Canadian psychologist Dr. Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia, has written bluntly “The sole custody or ‘primary residence’ model of child custody determination is not empirically supported.”

Meanwhile, the shared parenting model is well supported by an abundance of peer-reviewed studies.

The typical judicial order is exactly like the one endured by “Tom.” It’s wrong for Tom and his kids. It’s wrong in almost every case. It’s contrary to the great weight of scientific evidence on children’s welfare. Judges must be educated in that science. And they must set aside their biases when deciding custody and parenting time. And Mava Enoka needs to get a clue.

 

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National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

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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