Holidays Hit Noncustodial Parents the Hardest
By Tony Zizza, November-December/2001
The events of September 11th gave us pause to reconsider our nation's security - and what we value most. Freedom. Patriotism. Liberty. Diversity. Spirituality. Observe that in the midst of our national group hug, everyone is celebrating the importance of family. Families matter. Families are even reuniting.
Notwithstanding the re-emergence of this great country's vitality, something is still missing from the national dialogue. And that's a discussion on why holidays hit noncustodial parents the hardest. The late novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand said the individual is the smallest minority on Earth. I believe noncustodial parents as individuals face discrimination and heartache like no other group of individuals. Any protest we make regarding our loss of parental rights is met with the same stupidity: stop whining, start being responsible.
Consequently, the holidays accentuate the second class status we endured all year. We ponder why we're even called "noncustodial" parents. That your children live under the other parent's roof more, shouldn't make you a less loving parent. Should it? I believe the very word "custody" speaks volumes of oppression when we actually look at how weak enforcement of visitation (parenting time) really is.
Think about this. The media and government are all ears when year after year record amounts of child support is collected. Parents paying insane amounts of child support through a plethora of avenues makes for good press. Yeah, we're getting the deadbeats to take responsibility. Three cheers for the Office of Child Support Enforcement. High-fives all around.
Think about this more. The media and government are impotent when listening to parents falsely estranged from their children. Occasionally, there will be talk of better enforcement of parenting time, but it's largely a result of a few brave individuals pestering the media and government. Simple bills which increase parenting time go nowhere. After all, there isn't an Office for Visitation Enforcement, is there? Parents without custody are only judged by their last child support payment, not by the fact a great many of us are paying ransom in the form of child support because the custodial parent/family court system has in effect kidnapped our children.
Am I a little too emotional because of the holidays? I don't think so.
Consider that nationwide, there are 14 million noncustodial parents. Both noncustodial fathers and noncustodial mothers are treated as a thorn in the custodial parent and court's side. Treated as if maintaining contact with the children is a privilege earned by guessing the irrational whims of either super dad or super mom, whose supposedly "in charge."
In their daring book, "Divorced Dads: Shattering The Myths," Sanford Braver and Diane O'Connell write, "A custodial parent who does not support the noncustodial parent's visits can find any number of ways of hindering them, from outright refusal to insisting on unacceptable conditions or unreasonable financial demands." Talk to a noncustodial parent and their children this holiday season about their battles to be together, and you just might lose your holiday cheer.
In the process, you will learn it's true holidays hit noncustodial parents the hardest. Equally true is we are once again at the rear of yet another year where allegiance to genuine family values rings hollow because genuine family court reform is a pipe dream. And it will remain a pipe dream until the right of children to be parented by not only one, but both parents, is enforced on par with child support collection.
It's just common sense, isn't it? Like a little nutmeg in the holiday egg nog.