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June 17, 2009
Column #1,451
Millions Have Nothing to Celebrate on Father's Day
By Mike McManus

What did Adolph Hitler, John Wilkes Booth, Jack the Ripper, Saddam Hussein and Billy the Kid have in common?  All grew up without a father.

Forty percent of American children do not live in a home with their dad.  They are at much higher risk of failure.  Many studies report that fatherless kids are three times more likely to be expelled, to fail a grade or be sexually abused, than those from intact homes, are five times as apt to be poor and are 11 times more likely to be violent in school.

Fatherless children are at high risk of drug and alcohol abuse.  Three-fourths of those in chemical abuse centers are fatherless, as are 63 percent of youth suicides, 85 percent of youths in prison and 90 percent of runaway children.

President Obama was eloquent last Father's Day when he said, "Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.  They are teachers and coaches, they are mentors and role models…

"But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that too many fathers are missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it."

While many fathers have "abandoned their responsibilities," the largely overlooked fact is that millions of fathers got a divorce they did not want, and 40 percent of them and unwed fathers have NO access or visitation rights.  Yet they are expected to pay child support.  How many do so?

Surprisingly, only 10 percent of non-custodial fathers fit the "deadbeat dad" category.   Fully 90 percent of fathers with joint custody paid the support due.  Fathers with visitation rights pay 79 percent and 44.5 percent of those with no visitation rights still support their children.

Two-thirds of those not paying child support simply can't afford it.  Perhaps they lost their job, or earn little while child support orders are often set very high. Yet it is rare for courts to reduce child support orders due to unemployment or even prison. In fact, on any given day, 30,000 to 50,000 fathers are in jail for non-payment of child support, according to Mike McCormick, President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

       `Did you know that debtor's prisons exist in the U.S. as in the England of Charles Dickens?

       The Boston Globe reported that a father lost his job in real estate this spring, due to the recession. With his request for child support modification pending, he was handcuffed in court and put in jail for 30 days.  "Of the 45 guys I was in jail with," he said, 12-14 hadn't paid child support.

Therefore, the 100th anniversary of Father's Day this Sunday will be a very sad day for millions of fathers who can't even visit their children - and for millions of kids who wonder why their father never sees them. 

There are two culprits, two malefactors that must be dealt with.  First, half of mothers raising children alone "see no value in the father's continued contact with his children."  As the data cited proves conclusively, they are flat-out wrong. 

Second, the law almost always sides with the mother who is trying to destroy the marriage or keep the father away from the children.

Given the massive evidence that children are best reared by BOTH natural parents, the law should be changed in three ways if there is a divorce or non-marriage, to give the father equal access to the children, even if the mother opposes it.

1.  Each parent should have at a minimum of 35 percent of time with children, McCormick argues. At present, nine-tenths of divorces allow the father to see the child only every other weekend, 14 percent of the child's time.

2.  Mothers have incentives to make false allegations of domestic violence, such as gaining possession of the family home, access to family assets, reimbursement for medical bills.  Ed Bartlett, President of SAFE (Stop Abusive and Violent Environments) argues that "If allegations are proven false and if the false accuser would have received $1,000 a month, the accuser should have to pay $1,000 to the person falsely accused."

3.  The primary custodial parent should be prohibited from moving out of state, so that the child retains access to both parents.

These reforms would grant kids a better future, and prepare them to be better fathers.

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