March 29, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
In the second of his superb six-part series on fatherlessness, Terry Brennan takes on the financial interests that fight to keep the existing system in place (Daily Caller, 3/26/18). I refer of course to family lawyers and state bar associations.
Family law is a $50 billion industry which too often removes one parent; overwhelmingly fathers.
Senator Wayne Wallingford acknowledged this: “Most fatherlessness is not caused by abandonment; it’s created by an outdated court system.”
Representative Edwin Vargas added: “We’re talking about keeping parents fighting and arguing because it’s billable hours, billable hours, billable hours.”
Rather than work to maintain parent and child relationships, courts take families at their most vulnerable, and pit parents against each other in a contest for their children.
Of course many family lawyers don’t simply maximize income at the expense of clients and kids. But for maney, divorce and child custody are all about making a buck, indeed, making as many as possible. Given that their clients are already angry with the other parent, exacerbating those feelings via the adversarial process doesn’t take genius. Unsurprisingly, those same lawyers look at a legal presumption of shared parenting as a significant threat to their livelihoods. With far less to fight about (the loss of a child), parents can be predicted to fight less, resulting in fewer billable hours for their lawyers. So the lawyers fight for the status quo that shoves dads out of their children’s lives.
How are dads marginalized?
An alienating schedule remains the standard in many states. For example, Michigan courts state: “The sample schedule presented in this guideline is based upon the most commonly used schedules across the state.”
What’s the schedule?
“Parenting time shall occur on alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday evening until 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Parenting time shall occur one evening per week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on a day of the week to be determined by the parties.”
Fathers go from being everyday parents to being occasional ones. That often strikes at the heart of their very sense of self-worth, their reason for being.
No one has explained the heartbreaking decision they face better than Emma Johnson: “I eventually reached a crossroads with four paths. Some men commit suicide because they can’t handle the anguish. Others resort to violence and anger against the ex-wife. The thirds set take the difficult road, and sacrifice years of their happiness, battling on a hopeless battle with the ex, just to maintain some sort of contact with the kids. The fourth way, is to simply give up, and decide that the cost to the child through seeing the conflict, and to oneself, is too high.”
Indeed, sociologist Susan Stewart years ago coined the term “Disneyland Dad” to describe fathers who see their kids only on weekends. Her point was that those fathers quickly come to see themselves as mere entertainers of their children. What kind of father can a man be when he sees his children only two days out of 14? He picks them up, they go get pizza and rent a movie. On Sunday they go to the zoo. That’s about it. He makes no important decisions, receives little important information, impacts his child’s life in no important way.
Is it any wonder fathers drop out? About one-third of American children have little or no contact with their fathers. That’s the family law system at work. It serves lawyers very nicely, but parents and kids suffer. So does society generally, as a couple of generations of fatherless children demonstrate.
Fortunately, we have a pretty good template for shared parenting laws, i.e. that of Arizona. Professor William Fabricius is in the process of evaluating that law and how it’s being implemented. But, with the exception of the state’s family lawyers, everyone seems to think it’s working well. Fabricius also took the lead in educating Arizona’s judges about the many benefits of shared parenting, education the rest of the country’s judge’s apparently lack.
Back in 2006, Australia reformed its family laws to encourage more equal parenting time.
In reviewing the implementation of shared parenting in Australia, University of British Columbia Professor Edward Kruk found: “A marked reduction in child custody litigation has also been noted since the new legislation, with applications to court over child custody falling by a staggering 72 percent.” And, “corresponding to decreased litigation has been a marked increase in the use of family relationship centers and family mediation services. And most Australian parents (72 percent) now resolve parenting arrangements without the use of any legal services.”
That, of course, is exactly what the lawyers fear.
Brennan concludes with a thought I’ve expressed myself and should be shouted from the rooftops until our elected representatives hear it:
As almost half of marriages end in divorce and with record numbers of Americans now never getting married, shared parenting is likely the largest immediate action governments can take to begin negating fatherlessness.
The only change I’d make to that sentence is to replace the word “likely” with the word “unquestionably.” Still, Daily Caller readers will get the message. We promote fatherlessness through family courts; we do so to ensure that lawyers continue the lavish lifestyles to which they’ve become accustomed. It doesn’t get more shameful than that.
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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