In previous commentaries on the status of child custody decisions and the gender component I have decried the Fathers’ Rights Movement [FRM] for using children as pawns and seeking mandates not consistent with the best interest of those children. Often, the focus of the FRM has been objections to child support calculations, orders, and enforcement. In my view, child support payments are ancillary to the greater matters of child custody, parenting time, and due process which relegates them to the realm of superfluous details.
A central theme of the FRM has been that Shared Parenting should be mandated and judges should be relieved of their discretion. Both of these propositions are fallacious and can be detrimental to not only the children but the essential performance of the judiciary. While a presumption of Shared Parenting would shift the burden of proof and require a deeper examination of the child’s interests there does exist a quite robust cornucopia of processes that facilitate meaningful due process. These opportunities are not served to a litigant al a carte but rather require diligence in ferreting them from the arsenal of strategic procedures while enveloping an overall plan that may include novel approaches.
The maternal preference in child custody placement which permeated Indiana Courts through the turn of the millennium has been on a rapid dissolve of late. The bias about mothers and fathers which once nearly ensured placement of children with their mothers is being flipped. The pendulum has swung in step with similar reversals in social presumption such as the reverse discrimination that befell white males in employment opportunities during the 1970’s - 1980’s which was subsequently ruled unconstitutional. The presumption for mothers as being the “fit parent” has now come to deprive them of parenting time and custody.
In The Maternal Preference in Child Custody Cases: Harm to Women and Children I articulated how this maternal preference has backfired on women when manifest in the double-standard of presumed competence. “To clarify, I provide this explanation of a maternal preference bias based upon my conversations with those judicial officers. One female judge bluntly told me that if women can't manage their jobs and take care of their children properly then the father can have custody [parenting time] of them. She went on to . . . say that if they want to have sole custody then they sure better be able to do everything for that child.” That does seem reasonable. Make sure you can manage that which you seek. That is not the attitude that I have seen conveyed to fathers. “Yet when fathers have difficulty managing to perform all caretaking duties concurrent with employment obligations these judges try to fashion plans that shift responsibility, but not time, to the mother or they seek to find resources for the fathers. To me the message is clear; mothers are perceived as being more capable of balancing employment and family obligations than men which is a resounding endorsement of their capacities. But it comes at a cost. When mothers don't manage fully they will have their responsibility of the children shifted to the fathers – men who may be no more be capable than women.
Thus, no deference has been afforded to the dual responsibilities of mothers that is now a reality of our modern culture. Concurrently though fathers are granted latitude in their child rearing misgivings that appears to be based upon the difficulties in adapting to their new roles.  Women’s liberation sought to redefine the roles of parents and judicial officers appear to express a bias in custody rulings that says ‘You asked for this responsibility and now you are going to be held to a higher standard for doing so.’ ”
In a Hamilton County case a mother has erred and the father now has the child 100% of the time. Father had vigorously fought to have legal custody and primary parenting responsibilities in this paternity case through portraying mother as unfit. His efforts were mostly successful and the court ordered a Shared Parenting arrangement with joint legal custody. Recently, however, the mother was arrested and remains in jail awaiting trial. Thus, by default, the father is now solely responsible for the child just as so many other parents have become when confronted with a spouse being jailed, killed or otherwise incapacitated, being temporarily relocated for employment purposes, or abandoning the family. Most accept the role and perform admirably without complaint.
Not so in this case. This father who fought relentlessly to denigrate the mother in the eyes of the court has now been given an opportunity to shine and demonstrate competence in effectuating full child rearing skills. Instead of embracing what he had sought he has continued to complain about all the time he must dedicate to his daughter, how he must handle logistic matters, and that he has additional financial costs.
So how is this to be interpreted? Does it appear that this father was genuinely interested in developing a nurturing parent-child relationship with his daughter? Does it appear that he had some other motive in denigrating mother and seeking custody of his daughter? Do his actions demonstrate that he truly wanted to be the sole custodian and primary parent to his daughter? Do these actions support the contentions of some who say that fathers seek custody and parenting responsibilities of children not out of desire to build a parent-child relationship but, instead, as a means to control or retaliate against the mothers? It is this contention applied to fathers ubiquitously that I have sought to prescind in such postings as Why the American Bar Association seeks to perpetuate Domestic Violence and how it is covertly accomplished. A father like this guy in Hamilton County serves to set back the efforts to establish equity for legitimate fathers. It is incumbent upon respectable fathers to marginalize those who don’t embrace their role as parent.
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