This is a strange time for fathers everywhere. At the same time that there is more evidence than ever about the value of fathers to children, those who seek to separate them are ramping up their campaigns of mis- and dis- information. This is Fathers Day, after all, and this year as in years past, incongruously enough, many people see that as an occasion, not to celebrate but to denigrate dads.
Fathers are still reviled in much of popular culture; fathers are routinely denied custody of their children; fathers are routinely denied visitation with their children by mothers; fathers’ visitation orders routinely go unenforced by family courts; fathers are routinely separated from their children, their homes and belongings by restraining orders granted without any opportunity to rebut the charges. Paternity fraud and adoption laws still separate fathers from the children. Child support laws imprison fathers who are unable to pay; fees and interest place poor fathers in permanent debt servitude; even in times of massive unemployment, it still takes courts months to schedule hearings for fathers to deliver the simple message, “I lost my job; I have no money.” By that time, the spiral of unpayable debt has begun.
All of that is true and more.
And yet, if this is still not the best of times, it’s not the worst of times either. The snowball of fathers’ rights to their children and children’s rights to their fathers is rolling – slowly – and as it does, it gains size and momentum. Just two days ago, I was talking to a colleague in the movement. I mentioned to him that I started participating in fathers’ rights issues back in 1998. As recently as that, there was almost no public information or public awareness of fathers’ rights issues. As recently as that there were next to no websites devoted to fathers’ rights, almost no fathers’ rights organizations. Back then I checked the annual list of all books published in the United States; there was a grand total of four about fathers and children.
Today, our issues are much more widely aired in the news media, popular culture and before state and national legislatures. More and more, decision makers hear our reasonable, fact-based voices and respond. More and more, courts are coming to understand that children need their fathers and act accordingly. Equal parenting laws are before several state and national legislatures. Anti-dad practices of CPS agencies have been held to violate federal civil rights laws. Fathers’ rights organizations are proliferating. The Irish Parliament has a bill before it to equalize the rights of married and unmarried fathers. Australia passed amendments to its Family Law Act that have the potential to expand the role of fathers in their children’s lives and marginalize attorneys in divorce and custody cases. Courts are reevaluating paternity fraud in light of biological fathers’ rights. The new government in the United Kingdom is moving to equalize parental leave. This and so much more.
And why not? The facts are on our side. The facts tell us that children need their fathers. The facts tell us that it is mothers, not fathers, who mostly injure and neglect children. The facts tell us that men who are fathers are usually better men than men who aren’t. The facts tell us that fathers are nurturing, loving, teaching, protecting creatures. The facts tell us that fathers – even the youngest, even the poorest, even the least educated ones – passionately desire an active role in their children’s lives. The facts tell us that for many men, fatherhood becomes their greatest purpose in life.
But more than just the abstract facts, the individual experiences of countless fathers, children, second wives, mothers, grandparents and many others tell them and us that the family court system is broken and must be fixed. Every day here at Fathers & Families, we receive the most heart-rending letters testifying to the Dickensian horrors of family court. The fathers who lose their children, the children who grow up without a father only to learn as adults that he desperately wanted a role in their lives, the second wives who witness first hand the agonies their husbands go through in the simple pursuit of a relationship with their children, the mothers who see their sons grow up only to be put through the same tortures – those and countless others know family law for what it is and every one of them cries “No!” to the injustice.
For decades now, we’ve had laws and policies that kick fathers to the curb. Those laws and policies are based on bad science and a misandric political ideology that has never been seen before. It’s entirely predictable that policies and laws so based would in the end turn people against them. And that is exactly what is going on. Gradually that snowball will reach critical mass and things will start to change. Someday we’ll look back on this Fathers Day and shake our heads in wonderment that it could ever have been this way, that we could ever have intentionally turned away from all we know about children’s need for their dads.
The anti-father forces will continue their campaigns, but theirs is a losing battle. They themselves have created the conditions of their own demise, and few will mourn their passing.
Happy Fathers Day!