Washington Times Editorial Slams Lifetime’s ‘Deadbeat Dads’

“[N]oncompliance with court-ordered visitation is three times the problem of noncompliance with court-ordered child support. In short, lousy moms outnumber deadbeat dads 3-1.”–Washington Times editorial, 5/18/09

Last year we conducted a protest campaign against Fox over its anti-father reality show Bad Dads, and Fox decided to drop the show. Lifetime TV decided to pick it up, and renamed the show Deadbeat Dads. We launched a protest campaign against the Show, and Lifetime has received over 5,000 calls, letters, and faxes from our supporters. Our protest garnered press attention and the endorsements of nearly 200 mental health, family law and medical professionals, and other prominent citizens.

We also drew support from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), which advocates for low income families. To learn more about our campaign, click here.

In a new editorial, the Washington Times gets it right on Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads and on the divorce wars in general. From Anti-Dad bias–Why is the father always the villain on American TV? (Washington Times, 5/18/09):

Strong families need strong fathers, but American television has come a long way from the 1950s series “Father Knows Best.”

Now Lifetime TV, a network known for its movies about women being endangered by men, has sunk to a new low – a reality program called “Deadbeat Dads”…

The Lifetime TV program ignores the numbers. More than 90 percent of fathers with joint custody paid the support due, according to a Census Bureau report (Series P-23, No. 173). So deadbeats are in the minority. Also, most so-called deadbeat dads actually are dead broke. Two-thirds of men who fail to make child-support payments earn poverty-level wages, according to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. Most of the others are unemployed…

Nor is it likely that Lifetime will ever show that some fathers simply give money directly to their teenage children because some mothers end up using child-support payments for everything but the child.

Child visitation and child support are tied together, at least in the minds of many fathers. The largest federally funded study of child-support payments was led by Arizona State University researcher Sanford Braver over an eight-year period. Mr. Braver found that fathers with joint custody pay 90.2 percent of all child support ordered. Fathers with visitation rights pay 79.1 percent of all child support ordered. However, fathers with no access or visitation rights to their children pay just 44.5 percent of the court-ordered child support. Much of Mr. Braver’s data was backed up in the Census Bureau report (Series P-23, No. 173).

But what about divorced moms who do not allow the father to visit his children, despite court orders allowing him to do so? Another study, “Visitational Interference: A National Study” by J. Annette Vanini and Edward Nichols, found that 77 percent of noncustodial fathers are not able to spend time with their children, as ordered by the court, as a result of “visitation interference” perpetuated by the custodial parent. This would mean that noncompliance with court-ordered visitation is three times the problem of noncompliance with court-ordered child support. In short, lousy moms outnumber deadbeat dads 3-1.

Will Lifetime TV be truthful about how often some mothers end a relationship with the father, take custody of the children and refuse to allow the father access to the children? Indeed, after the age of 40, women initiate more divorces than men.

While sometimes it seems that Lifetime has an anti-male agenda, perhaps it is simply pandering to embittered moms who make up the network’s audience. The full tragedy of the collapse of many American families remains untold. It is a worthy subject, but it must be told without ideology; it must be clear-eyed about the myriad ways men and women have failed each other. Such radical honesty would make for compelling television and would be a public service. Pity Lifetime is not daring enough to try it.

Fathers & Families communicated with a couple of the members of the Washington Times editorial staff concerning our Campaign Against Lifetime TV’s New Reality Show Deadbeat Dads, and it is to the paper’s credit that they picked up on it and wrote such a fine editorial. I suggest you write a Letter to the Editor to the Washington Times about the editorial by clicking here.

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