President Obama’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative was created to address the growing crisis of fatherlessness in America, a disturbing trend that is rooted in part to the lack of rights given fathers in family courtrooms.
Though the messages on Fatherhood.gov are focused on helping dads play a bigger role in their children’s lives, little attention is given to the biased family court system that systematically removes fathers from their children’s lives post-divorce.
Shared parenting efforts are picking up steam throughout the country – Tennessee’s new law requires family court judges to make custody decisions that maximize the presence of both parents in a child’s life – but too many fathers are still being left stripped of their rights and their relationship with their children.
According to 2009 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 17.4 percent of custodial parents in the nation were men.
In his latest book, Professor Edward Kruk shared an alarming statistic that only 29% of fathers who said that they substantially shared in childcare during marriage were allowed to continue to do so after divorce. Yet 87% of these fathers said they wanted to remain as actively involved post-divorce as they did during the marriage.
Kruk writes in “Divorced Fathers: Children’s Needs and Parental Responsibilities” that “it appears that more fathers are now engaged in shared-parenting in two-parent families, yet more fathers are becoming disengaged when removed as primary or co-caregiver.”
As outlined on Fatherhood.gov, research shows the importance of having highly involved fathers in children’s lives.
Children living with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents are less likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers with absent fathers.
Highly involved fathers also contribute to increased mental dexterity in children, increased empathy, less stereotyped sex role beliefs and greater self-control, according to Fatherhood.gov.
So while it is important raise attention to the growing crisis of fatherlessness, it is as important to bring attention to the root causes of this problem, including the need for family law reform to quit casting aside fathers as second-class parents.
Joseph E. Cordell, J.D., C.P.A., LL.M, is nationally known as the Principal Partner at Cordell & Cordell, a domestic litigation firm focusing on men throughout the divorce process. He co-founded the firm in 1990 with his wife, Yvonne, and since that time the firm has grown to include 47 offices nationwide. He is also the founder of DadsDivorce.com, MensRights.com. He can be contacted at cordellcordell.com.