Systems can create parental alienation, and add barriers to healthy families and father inclusion.
These systems created for protection, should not become systems of harm.
This is what I’ll be talking about on my weekly Chicagoland radio broadcast, the Dads’ Rights Legal Hour, 9-10 a.m. CDT Saturday, October 21 on Power 92.3 FM.
I represented a U.S. military father who was unable to rescue his baby boy while he was serving our country overseas, but saved his 2 young daughters upon his return to the U.S. It was reported to him that his wife left their children with her boyfriend who brutally beat my client’s baby son to death, in front of the boy’s 2 little sisters while locked in a room over the course of 2 days. This was horrific! I needed to fight for this dad to secure custody of his surviving children. They are safe with him because of this. This should not have been a battle we needed to fight. But, we fought it and won.
I’ve felt for 40 years that there are fathers who receive unfair treatment. I discussed this with President Obama when I served on his National Finance Committee.
In another case, my struggling client’s daughter was brutally beaten to death by the mother, and he was prosecuted for non-payment of child support! We won the case and kept him out of jail, while he was grieving the loss of his infant daughter.
When I first recognized the injustice that many fathers face, the first thing I had to do was change the law. I co-authored and helped pass the first real joint custody law in Illinois about 37 years ago. Before that, divorced or separated fathers could only be awarded joint custody of their children if the mother allowed it. Under the new law, judges could award joint custody to fathers as they saw fit.
Good fathers are proper parents who deserve time with their children, and their children desperately need their fathers in their lives.
I’ve been working on this, as I said, for more than 40 years. There is still work to be done. Justice should not be a luxury only the rich can afford. I think exposing discrimination, where and when it exists, helps create fairness, awareness and accountability.
The Rev. Martin Luther King delivered a sermon on courage in Selma, Alabama in 1965. He said: “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
I think it’s right, just and true that children should not be deprived of their good fathers. We must overcome the hurdles. I believe our society’s future depends on it.
I could go on about the value of fathers – and how children with involved fathers can grow up with better health, better academic performance and are less likely to be involved in crime, either as offenders, victims or both.
If there’s one thing I could say we need, it’s a law in Illinois – and in every state – that would start child custody disputes with the presumption that equal shared parenting is in the best interests of the children – because the best parent is both parents.
Litigants would be allowed to present evidence to the contrary, if there is any, but the case would start at 50-50 – a level playing field. Fathers would not have to fight to get to that point; that would be the starting point.
In my public speaking appearances, nothing I say gets more support than the idea that custody should be 50-50, unless there’s a significant reason to deviate.
It would make life easier for fathers and better for children – and that’s what it’s all about. And, that’s what I’m fighting for.
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