Prejudice is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights; especially: detriment to one’s legal rights or claims.” And also as “preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge”
It is keeping in mind the first definition that I wish to focus, with an afterthought to the second, on the ongoing prejudice against fathers, their equal rights to parenting their children, and the ongoing bias and prejudice society holds towards them in most family court decisions regarding custody of their children and awarding joint or full custody rights.
It is beyond refute or reasonable doubt that there is indeed an ongoing prejudice against fathers in the family court setting. Part and parcel of the strict need to label fit and loving parents (most generally fathers as ‘non custodial’), is Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. This act allows the US Federal Government to give back “Incentive Payments” to US states for performance based child support collection, paternity establishment, and administrative costs. Typically, these incentive payments go back to social services programs because the thinking is after a divorce many women will end up using programs like TANF and welfare for which US States have little money in their budgets.
While the exact amount of money is hard to define because of performance, and the fact that different states get back different amounts, many studies show the average is for every one dollar collected in child support, one dollar is released from Social Security Coffers that can then be given back to US States.
There are several problems with child support enforcement. If all 50 states are dependent on federal money from the collection of child support, then there is also a dependence on the non-custodial parent not having equal access to their children, paying more child support, and triggering the release of more federal money. One can see why many non-custodial parents refer to this cycle as a ‘kids for cash’ scheme. Under equally shared parenting, many non-custodial parents would pay considerably less child support because of increased time with their children, or they would pay no child support at all. Were equal parenting the rule in all 50 states, there would significantly less federal money available for Welfare programs and most states would be in financial crisis trying to solve funding for low-income social programs.
Let that sink in for a moment. Children and parents are being robbed of equal time and custody because of other people’s sense of entitlement! Even more frightening is that most child support enforcement programs are housed under Health and Human Services Agencies like Social Services. Typically, these agencies investigate cases of child abuse, neglect, and dependency (Child Protective Services), and they often have legislative immunity for any wrong they may commit. Historically, Social Services agencies have been about providing services for women and children, and there is concern in many cases, especially those involving child protective services matters, that social services policies and procedures have enforcement mentality in mind when dealing with non-custodial families.
Furthermore, Social Services knows that if a child abuse, neglect, or dependency case can be made against a father, he will pay greater child support. Again, this will also lead to greater Title IV-D money being delivered back to the State. In essence, Social Services NEEDS non-custodial parents to exist, and they need them having little visitation (if any) with their children so they pay more child support. Were the financial burden not ‘punishment’ enough; the facts and evidence show fatherless households are at a higher risk for criminal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and in some instances leave the children at a higher risk for suicide.
The ongoing impacts of the prejudice against fathers and non custodial parents include not only costly court battles, but parental alienation syndrome by the affected children. The negative feelings of alienation, in this instance, are often towards the father or non custodial parent, which in some instances, can also be the mother.
What many in today’s society deem as a legal issue, studies show is an evident prejudice that often amounts to brainwashing of the children involved to distance themselves from the other parent as well as over a period of time leading to a hatred of the alienated parent, more commonly the father in the issue of custody after a divorce.
According to the Canadian Children’s Right’s Council the following statistics have been proven regarding the family court prejudice against fathers and the effects of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in children: “A child who was separated from his or her father for a period of three months or longer while between the ages of 6 months to 5 years old, suffered a 2.5 to 5 times higher risk of conduct disorder, emotional disorders and hysteria than a child that did not go through the same period of separation”.
Drastically increased suicidal tendencies were found in children and teenagers who had experienced the loss of their father. And lastly, significantly higher number of attempted adult suicides for people who, in childhood, had lost a parent through parental separation or divorce. This prejudice is often compounded against the father and or the non custodial parent by terms such “lazy,” “neglectful,” “deadbeat,” “un-loving or uncaring,” and finally being a “cheapskate,” as the issue is often twisted or warped to give a bias that most fathers or non custodial parents simply want their children in order to avoid child support.
With the role of fathers evolving and changing expectations of what was once deemed “normal” or traditional for fathers in the family unit, as well as due to an ever-changing and evolving economy requiring both parents to work, fathers and non custodial parents are finding themselves tackling responsibilities and duties that were never expected to be placed upon previous generations of fathers.
According to the book ‘Life without Father’ “This role change has been positive in most, but not all respects. With the concentration of “role equality” in the home, the larger and more ominous trend of modern fatherhood has been overlooked. Through many social revolutions in the past thirty years: the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, as well as changes in divorce and custody laws, the startling emergence of the absent father, has become a pathological counterpart to the role that society deems as the “new father”.
Parental Alienation Syndrome
Many of you not dealing with this issue personally are likely asking the question: as to “What exactly is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and what is the evident psychological science behind this?”
‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ or “PAS” was first identified by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner in divorces and child-custody cases. Dr. Gardner identified “Parental Alienation Syndrome” in 1987.
Dr. Gardner, in first-hand clinical evaluations and observations, noticed there was a dramatic increase in the frequency of a one parent, most often the ex-wife, or soon-to-be-ex-wife, who had systematically begun programming, brainwashing, denigrating, or otherwise attempting to estrange or alienate the child/children from the father as well as “motivating” the child/children to instill hatred toward their father.
Dr. Gardner observed that parental alienation wasn’t just brainwashing or programming by the mother, but was egregiously exacerbated by “mothers” that he referred to as “self-created contributions” by the child/children supporting the alienating mother’s campaign of denigration against the father. This escalation was then suggested these women/mothers have a disorder that he referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
Dr. Gardner’s definition of Parental Alienation Syndrome is:
* Parental Alienation Syndrome is a disorder that arises primarily in the divorce and child-custody litigation.
* The primary manifestation of PAS is the child’s/children’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification”
* Parental Alienation Syndrome results from the combination of a programming or brainwashing of a mother’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the child’s/children’s father.
Another term that has come from bias and stereotyping against fathers and other non custodial parents has been the term parentectomy. What exactly is a parentectomy? According to the website parentectomy. com, a parentectomy is “the removal, erasure, discounting, diminution or slandering of a caring parent in a child’s life, following separation or divorce. Parentectomies are typically waged by bitter scornful women who use a father’s child or children as “pawns” is a war that ultimately devastate the child/children of divorce” Examples of the methods of parentectomy are partial parentectomy, where statements such as “you can visit your Dad/Mom on every other weekend” or even a total parentectomy where the child and parent relationship is completely absent or the parent is completely removed from the child’s life by the custodial parent, be it a mother or in rare instances, the father.
It is worth noting that in these instances, family courts across the United States are becoming increasingly more and more proactive to stopping parental alienation due to the increasing evidence of the long term psychological abuse of children involved in divorce. The stereotype of ‘deadbeat dad’s’ ‘Disneyland Dad’s’ and fathers rights advocacy and equal parenting laws being brought up for votes in states such as North Dakota is awakening people to the evident bias and stereotypes against non custodial parents and in particular, fathers.
Based on the above evidence and facts regarding prejudice against fathers one may ask, how do we prevent further bias and stereotyping against fathers and non custodial parents? As the evidence shows the long term damage done to children who are alienated from their father or the non custodial mother, the first step in preventing this would be:
1. Petitioning family courts through legislative reforms to make equal custody for fit parents the standard of state laws as North Dakota is trying to enact.
2. Realizing that children are human beings who are 50/50 of each parent and not “pawns” or “trophies” to be used by the custodial parents.
3. Removing or reforming the financial incentives for custodial parents in regards to support, alimony, state assistance, and parenting time to feed the stereotype of “deadbeat Dad’s/Mom’s”.
- Recognizing that all fit parents, ‘fit’ in this paper being defined as a parent, in this instance again, the father who has no record of physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse to be allowed to exercise his natural right to be a proactive, engaged, and present parent in the lives of his children.
Removing all government incentives (Title IV-D) that often pressure or incentive the courts to reward custody to parents who are solely dependent on government assistance of any kind. Custodial parents are can work and choose not to while living of government assistance shouldn’t be allowed to double dip the system and receive both nor should reimbursement of such benefits to the state be calculated into child support orders against the non custodial parent.
- Any custodial parent proven beyond a doubt to have engaged in parental alienation or false allegations in gaining custody of the children should be subject to the same punishment as perjury in court. False allegations of abuse, neglect, or any other statements made to distance or alienate a parent and child relationship often go ignored and unpunished by the courts even after evidence and facts have proven the accused is in fact not guilty.
It is evident in a review of the facts presented, that there needs to be a ‘progressive’ if not an immediate change to the rules and standards used in determining custody for fathers who seek to have equal or full custody. Supporters of fathers rights as well as parental equality need to petition not only the family court system itself, but their city government, state representatives, attorney general, governor as well as radio and television media and ask why this issue continues to be an ‘elephant in the room’ subject. As someone who has been deeply and personally affected by this issue, it is also important to emphasize that those of us deemed ‘non custodial’ are more than just ‘visitors’, we are more than just ‘paychecks’, and it is doubtful that any number of non custodial parents punished with only four days a month with the children we love wouldn’t say “This four days a month with my child(ren) is sure working out great.