Family courts put fathers at a decided disadvantage

By Mike Franco, [Springfield, MA] Sunday Republican, Letter to the Editor, June 17, 2001

Recently many of our nation's major newspapers and magazines, including your publication, cited the U.S. Census report for the year 2000 that showed a steady decline in married households with an increase in single parent households.

The census also indicates that single mother head of households with children outnumber single father households by more than 3.5 times.

Additionally, but not cited in the report, is the commonly known statistic that mothers are awarded custody of children about 90 percent of the time in divorce and separation while fathers are relegated to non-custodial "visitors" of their children.

Our nation's Family Courts determine custody in this manner with what appears to be a faulty interpretation of the "best interests of the child" standard since research indicates that children do just as well or better with their dads than they do with their moms.

The notion that children are served better when mom cares for them is just another myth in the realm of family law that puts the child/father bond at a major disadvantage.

Why does the bias exist? One theory is that America is infatuated with groups that qualify for "victim" status. So much so that our state bureaucracy is ever ready to aid these groups regardless of whether innocent people, like fathers and children, are unfairly treated and suffer unjustly.

A victim group in our society can receive layers of government funding and benefits. However, divorced and unwed fathers receive little assistance from our government, and even if, by slim chance, a father is granted custody, he will rarely receive child support from the mother because the courts do not impose it or enforce it.

Massachusetts has been highly effective at creating a subculture of poor fathers who have been forcibly disassociated with their children even when these dads have proven that they are willing, competent and loving parents. It is tragic to see fathers in their twenties emotionally wounded because they have never had the opportunity to truly parent their children or to be more active in their kids lives. This epidemic continues on even when there is evidence, such as in a recent Harris poll, that indicates young men are approximately 7 percent points more likely to give up pay to be with their families than women of the same age group.

Regardless of bureaucratic motives, men, fathers and children continue to be violated by the Family Court, a forum having little to do with justice or equal rights, but more to do with helping women and mothers receive entitlements based on their "victim" status. Fathers become hostages to an oppressive system the first time they seek justice in Family Court when engaged in custody disputes with the mothers of their children. It is time fathers demand equal consideration from the government with regard to relationships with their children.

Mike Franco, Co-chair
The Fatherhood Coalition

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