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Child custody: Where men hit a glass ceiling
By Rachel Alexander
Child custody has emerged as an area where men run into a glass ceiling. "It's awful to take a child away from its mother!" Sound familiar? That is because it is the message that has been repeatedly hammered at society by feminists, as well as some conservatives. But you won't hear the equivalent, "It's awful to take a child away from its father," because the feminists aren't pushing equivalent respect for fathers. Instead, you are more likely to hear this mantra about fathers, "there's so many deadbeat dads." The feminists have successfully changed the law, the courts, and societal attitudes when it comes to the custody and care of children from split homes. Instead of looking at fathers' capabilities and indiscretions individually, the law makes sweeping assumptions and treats all fathers as second class. Women, if you are successful in no other area of life, read this article closely, because you can easily succeed here, the system is so weighted in your favor. Free money, free legal help, and kind court staff. If you don't work, or don't work much, you'll make out even better, so it is best not to work much. And all you need to do is get pregnant! Men, all I offer for advice to you is this: if you have children, you'd better pray that you remain a couple.
Sad as it sounds, this is where the law is at. When a couple that has mutual children splits up, the courts examine just a few factors to determine custody, known as the "best interests of the child." These factors make it very likely that the woman will get custody of the children and hence child support money. Two of the most important factors include who is better able to "take care" of the child and whether there has been domestic violence by one of the parents. Well, these factors "sound" good, but in reality, they have been specifically selected for their heavy bias against fathers. There are numerous other factors that address equally as serious issues, that could affect mothers for the worse, or at least equally affect both parents, such as drug abuse, but these factors are conveniently not found in the "best interests of the child" statutes (there must be an actual drug conviction - which is absurd - one drug-addict mother was able to take away custody away from the father even though she snorted meth every single day - the courts had no knowledge of her drug habit!). "Take care" of the child has little to do with being able to financially support the child. It should, since almost as many women as men work outside of the home now, but because a lot of women with children who split up with the fathers aren't very ambitious and sit around the house watching soap operas, the law has been crafted to label this as "taking care" of the children, instead of earning money. Since most fathers work full-time, they lose here.
"Domestic violence" is another disguised way of guaranteeing that the fathers lose. Women are now trained by society to call the police anytime their boyfriend or husband loses his temper, and are using and abusing this taxpayer funded "helpline" at an increasingly alarming rate. Murray A. Straus, a sociologist and co-director for the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, reported that at least 30 studies of domestic violence, including some he had conducted, found that women were as equally culpable of domestic violence as men. Yet this information is not widely publicized, and is downplayed by both police officers and the courts. Women are also abusing restraining orders. A recent article in Human Events cited a government study that found that fewer than half of all restraining orders contained even an allegation of physical violence. Instead of working out their fights, or leaving the man, women are taking the easy way out and forcing taxpayers to pay for their "tattling" every time they take up the time of a police officer or court. Of course, many times it is the woman who caused the fight, but that is not going to end up in the court's minute entry. Men are laughed at if they are the victims of domestic violence. One young father attempted to seek free legal help from a domestic violence law clinic after his ex-wife continued to hit him, and the clinic turned him away in amusement. Another young father had the domestic violence of an ex-girlfriend, who had hit him, used against him in order to justify taking away his child.
It is easy for mothers to obtain free legal aid in pursuing custody of their children. There are flyers everywhere - in women's restrooms, in doctor's offices, and in government buildings offering free legal resources for women to use. The Legal Aid clinics help out so many mothers with custody disputes and divorces that recently they have had to limit their representation of custody cases to cases alleging abuse. Domestic violence legal clinics are at many of the law schools now, and give women free legal help with divorces, custody disputes, and restraining orders. If there are low-income requirements, they are rarely verified; any woman can come in and say she makes very little money, and on her word alone she will receive free legal help (just like at Planned Parenthood).
The child support laws are crafted not just to provide for the cost of raising a child, but to bring the parent receiving the support to the level she would have been at if she were still with the father! The absurdity of this situation can be seen in this all too common example: A woman cheats on her husband and then files for no-fault divorce. She gets custody of the children, AND the benefit of his salary and pay raises until their child turns 18 - all the money benefits as if they were still married (and she may even get alimony on top of that, but that is a different issue for another column, and at least with alimony, once the mother remarries, the alimony goes away)! Why should an ex-wife be guaranteed, years after having been married, the same living standard of her husband? Absent unhealthy circumstances, why shouldn't the parent with the BETTER living standards be considered the one better prepared to take care of the child? That way, one parent isn't stuck paying for the ex-spouse too. Currently, though, most child custody laws do not consider financial responsibility of the parent as one of the "best interests of the child."
Child support is widely touted by governmental agencies as one of the most important things government does, and the duty of it is glorified almost Nazi-like to the level of a moral authority. Yet what exactly does child support do? The charts for child support award way too much money to the custodial parent - does anyone really believe that it costs $800/month to raise a child? In most situations, the mother has custody and makes considerably less money than the father. According to fairly standard child support guidelines, if the mother makes $20,000/year and the father makes $40,000/year, and there is one child, the father should pay $535/month in child support (the formula adds both parents' salaries together, then comes up with a random number of how much they think that child costs - here it was $800 - then has the non-custodial parent pay the percentage his salary is - here it is 66%). Does anyone REALLY THINK that many of the mothers who resort to going to court to collect child support are the types of mothers who would spend a full $535/month on one child, as well as another $265/month of their own money (particularly if the child is older than 5 and in school)? There is no monitoring of that money, and it is very difficult to get a court to order any type of accounting by the mother. One such mother of a 6-year old has stated that she is saving the money for breast implants.
Furthermore, the concept of child support money discourages personal responsibility and ambition. It penalizes the custodial parent for working harder and trying to get ahead, because a higher paying job would reduce the amount of free money they get from the other parent. It is akin to welfare - if you work hard, you aren't eligible for it. And it is a double penalty, because it also penalizes the non-custodial parent for working harder. The more money the non-custodial parent makes, the more money is taken out of his paycheck to go to the residential parent.
Do we really want to heap benefits on mothers who split up with the fathers, essentially giving "reward" money to women who have sex, instead of letting them suffer the consequences? Everyone knows that sex without true commitment leads to broken down homes and emotional trauma, particularly for any children involved. Everyone also knows that when you have sex, you may get pregnant. In some ways, child support is merely a disguised form of prostitution - women are encouraged to have sex and receive money from any man who succeeds in impregnating them. After sex, the man then has no other contact with the woman except to give her money for the child, and any modicum of visitation he can squeak out. Instead of teaching women to avoid gratuitous sex, our society encourages sex with its condom education and giveaways, and easy access to taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthoods. Women realize they can have gratuitous sex without suffering any consequences, because the safety net of a man's pocketbook will always be there for them, thanks to the long arm of the moral authoritarian government child support agency that reassures them that they are right.
And what exactly are deadbeat dads? Many "deadbeat dads" are simply fathers who are going through a hard time economically; they may have lost a job, or simply are having a difficult time paying $800/month in child support. Sure there are some fathers who have completely rejected any responsibility towards their children, but that doesn't mean all fathers should be treated like criminals and rounded up by Sheriff's Offices and taken into jail. Why are the fathers held accountable while the mothers aren't?
Why this bias against fathers has been allowed to develop may be the result of conservatives' neglect of this area of the law. Conservatives have avoided domestic relations law, not wanting to get involved in this area because of their strong dislike of divorce as well as their old-fashioned view that mothers are better nurturers than fathers. Consequently, liberal feminists have had free reign here. What is interesting however, is the flavor of feminism which has prevailed - it is not the version that encourages men to be more sensitive, but instead the version that accepts prostitution and rampant sexual promiscuousness as a component of womens' equality.
The feminists' efforts in this area are no doubt driven by both their beliefs that mothers are better nurturers of children, and their resentment towards men who use women for sex and then leave them. But punishing all men equally fails to take into account certain things. First of all, those men eventually remarry and move on with their lives. The courts consider the new spouse's salary when computing child support! So punishing the father also results in punishing another completely innocent woman. Secondly, child support creates resentment and additional fighting between the parents, since the paying parent resents the other parent and will try to change the situation. This clogs up the family courts.
So what should the solution be? For starters, how about ending child support between parents who both want custody of their children? If someone really wants their children, they will find a way to make ends meet. It just doesn't cost that much to raise a child, no matter what people whine. The message we should be sending is, if you can't afford a child, then abstain from sex! Foster parents receive around $300/month per child. This isn't very much money. Nobody seems to complain about those children not receiving $800/month. Why not let the parent who wants to care for the child, and is more financially capable, have the custody, or at the very least cut out the child support? That way, no parent is stuck supporting the other parent. This would also send a message to parents that they should be ambitious and set good work ethics for their children, instead of the current message which encourages parents to be lazy and earn less. If the mother has to work during the day, and the father works evenings, let the father take care of the children during the day instead of putting them in daycare. There are better workable solutions than giving the children to the mother just because she is lazy and stays at home, utilizing the father only as a money funnel. One mother sat around the house getting high on her days off, yet still put her child in daycare, using the father's money!
Finally, "domestic violence," which has been abused by women, should be looked at more closely by the courts if it is to be a factor in determining child custody. There may be more to "domestic violence" than appears in a brief minute entry or police report. For example, the mother may have been racked out on drugs at the time she called the police, as well as every day of her life, yet this is not taken into consideration as part of the "best interests of the child" unless there is an actual drug conviction. The courts should also examine whether the mother is the type to move from abuser to abuser, which ultimately creates an unstable upbringing for the child. Is it really better that a child stay with a mother who cycles through violent or volatile relationships, or is it better that the child live with the father whose only "history of domestic violence" occurred when the mother obtained dubious restraining orders against him when she was having affairs on him? Unfortunately, the laws do not currently take these circumstances into consideration when considering the "best interests of the child." Unless a father has an excellent attorney who is able to get ahold of hard evidence proving these types of circumstances, and has success persuading a judge to give these factors some weight even though they are not in the law, a father is simply out of luck. He has reached the glass ceiling for fathers in child custody.
Rachel Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She has done work with a domestic violence law clinic and has studied
this area of the law in law school. She is the founder of the web site
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