In Defense of Working Fathers
July 11, 2005
The audio of this week's His Side--"In Defense of Working Fathers"--can be heard by clicking here.
Glenn Quoted in Washington Times on Working Fathers, Anti-Father Double Standards
I was quoted on working fathers and anti-father double standards in the Washington Times article Custody's high stakes (7/10/05). Feminist law professor Naomi Cahn gave the standard feminist justification for anti-father family court discrimination--that because fathers usually are not their children's primary caregivers, the pro-mother bias represents "equality." In the article I noted:
"'There's a lot of prejudice against dads who aren't the primary breadwinner...[Men] feel like they're damned if they do and damned if they don't' stay home with the children."
As I explained on the show last night, men's desirability as mates is determined in part by their earning capacity and, once married, men are expected by their wives to be their families' primary breadwinners. According to the International Labor Organization, the average American father works a 51 hour work week. Yet, when fathers walk into family court, the fact that they sacrificed to provide for their families is held against them because they weren't their kids' primary caregivers. Whatever a man does he's wrong.
Also quoted in the article are: two of my readers, Kevin Lowry and Kenneth Hart, both divorced dads; and Mike McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
To write a Letter to the Editor concerning the article, click here.
Shreveport Times Writer OKs Boy Bashing
The Shreveport Times' Donecia Pea seemingly OKs boy-bashing clothing in her article Boy bashing is the latest in teen fashion (7/11/05). Pea writes:
"In the '60s and '70s, girl power was about burning bras, but for some of today's teens, girl power now comes in the form of boy-bashing fashion."
It's nice to know, though, that none of the stores she checked carry the "Boys are Stupid" shirts.
The article quotes 13 year-old Andrew Murphy, who "has seen the shirts everywhere, especially among his female classmates" and "does get slightly miffed sometimes when he sees the shirts."
Murphy's quote is a little reminiscent of when a nine year-old boy insulted Todd Goldman, the shorts' creator, in People magazine in June. The boy, Sean Kemp, didn't like his older sister's "Boys are Stupid" pajamas. He stuck up for himself and for boys, calling Goldman's shirts "trash," adding "We're not stupid."
One point--note the age of the children here, nine in one case and 13 in the other. When I debated Goldman on CNBC, he and I clashed over his claim that the shirts were only sold to young adults and teenagers. See Sacks, 'Boys are Stupid' Designer Mix it up on CNBC (MND Newswire, 2/25/04).
To write a Letter to the Editor to the Shreveport Times concerning the article, click here.
Glenn to Appear with Josefa Salinas on Hot 92 JAMZ in LA
I will be discussing paternity fraud and child support enforcement abuses with Josefa Salinas of Hot 92 JAMZ in Los Angeles at 7 AM PST on Sunday, July 17. To listen to the show, click here.
The audio of last week's His Side--"Congress to Vote on Renewing Anti-Male Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)"--can be heard by clicking here. To support Dave Burroughs' Safe Homes for Children and Families Coalition (SHCFC) call for action on the recently introduced renewal legislation, click here.
Do You Know a Woman Who Has Helped the Men's and Fathers' Movement and Who Deserves Recognition?
One of the least appreciated aspects of the shared parenting/fatherhood movement is the large percentage of women who have taken up this cause. Seton Hall law professor Solangel Maldonado cites my co-authored column "Why Are There so Many Women in the Fathers' Movement?" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 6/21/02) in her new work Beyond Economic Fatherhood: Encouraging Divorced Fathers to Parent (University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 153 January 2005 No. 3).
Around the time of that article I created the Women Who Have Helped the Men's and Fathers' Movement and Who Deserve Recognition section on www.GlennSacks.com. The section is in need of updating--to view the list and to nominate a woman for the list, click here.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune column was published the day the National Organization for Women's national convention began in Minneapolis. Since the piece penetrated a newspaper often regarded as feminist turf, it is quite possible that it ruined Kim Gandy's breakfast that morning...
Some of you may remember Solangel Maldonado--she and I (as well as Olga Vives, Action Vice President of the NOW) appeared on a special on post-divorce move-aways on Univision's highly rated Aqui y Ahora in May. The show featured the story of Jose Ceballos, a His Side listener whose little son was moved 1,500 miles away against his will. Also featured was a Miami custodial mother who seeks to move her two small children to Texas--to watch the show, click here. The show is all in Spanish, including my segments.
Maldonado made the astute observation that whereas in the past women complained that men were (supposedly) not sufficiently involved in their children's lives on a daily basis, now that men are more involved women are complaining that fathers' expanded roles can interfere with women's post-divorce desires. I would have added that, as usual, men are criticized whatever they do.
Los Angeles' Radio Industry Site Highlights His Side
LARadio.com, the site for the Los Angeles' radio industry, gave His Side with Glenn Sacks a nice write-up this week. LARadio.com discussed Billboard Radio Monitor's recent feature story on His Side--to read the article, click here.
The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd. works to protect fathers' rights. Leving is a nationally known attorney who defends fathers and believes fathers are often mistakenly viewed as secondary parents. He and his staff of experienced attorneys help fathers with litigation and negotiation strategies while always focusing on what's best for children--a relationship with both parents.
The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd. represents clients throughout Illinois and outside the state. Their experienced attorneys can guide you through pre- and post-divorce proceedings. They can be reached at (312) 807-3990 or at www.DadsRights.com.
Will I See You at the Men's Equality Conference 2005?
I will be speaking at the 2005 Men's Equality Conference July 15 and 16 in Washington D.C.--to attend, click here. Also speaking will be Warren Farrell, Stephen Baskerville, Jack Kammer, Carnell Smith, and Dave Burroughs. The 2005 Men's Equality Conference will be held 3 blocks from the US capitol. For more information, visit www.TrueEquality.com.
Last year's conference was exceptionally well-done. My speech to the conference last year was The Future of the American Father.
If you own a business or professional practice and are interested in advertising on the show, please contact Advertise@HisSide.com. To support the advertisers who support His Side, go to His Side Advertisers.
To become a His Side supporter and have CDs of all His Side shows for six months mailed to you, click here.
As always, all information about the show can be found at HisSide.com. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
Listen to His Side with Glenn Sacks
In Defense of Working Fathers
Topics Glenn discussed included:
Glenn spoke in defense of working fathers and elaborated on his quotes in the Washington Times article Custody's high stakes (7/10/05).
Glenn discussed His Side listener Jim Evans' commentary on the negative portrayal of divorced dads in the movie War of the Worlds. To learn more, click here
Glenn discussed the article Rev. Billy Graham's Daughter Facing Domestic Violence Charges
Glenn discussed Salman Rushdie's India and Pakistan's Code of Dishonor (New York Times, 7/9/05)
Glenn discussed the Boy Crisis in Education. To learn more, see Glenn's column New Study of Youth Shows It's Boys Who Are in Crisis (Los Angeles Times, 3/20/05)
Glenn discussed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan facing child support problems. To learn more, see Glenn's co-authored column Laws Must Protect the Rights of Military Dads (Army Times, Marine Corps Times, 3/28/05)
To listen to the show, click here.
His Side with Glenn Sacks can be heard on WSNR AM 620 in New York City and North-Eastern New Jersey, and on WWZN AM 1510 in Boston on Sundays at 10 PM EST. The show can also be heard in Southern California on KTIE AM 590 at 5 PM PST. To listen live via the Internet from anywhere in the world, go to Listen Live. Both radio and Internet listeners are encouraged to call and participate in the show live and on the air at 1-800-439-4805 (lines open Sundays from 5-6PM PST).
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Equality is not a difficult concept
Custody's high stakes
By Gabriella Boston
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
July 10, 2005
Kevin Lowry's attorneys told him he had no chance to get custody of his children, now 8 and 9 years old, in the wake of his divorce in 1999.
"'The mother always gets custody,' they told me," the 52-year-old Alexandria resident says.
In Mr. Lowry's case, this held true. He says the court order gives him visitation with his two boys every other weekend and every Wednesday.
"But I have daily contact with them by phone just to tell them I love them," he says.
The court order will be in effect until the boys turn 18 years old, the age of majority in Virginia, unless it is appealed.
About 85 percent of custodial parents in the United States are mothers, according to a 2001 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Custodial parent means the parent with whom the children primarily reside.
The fathers' rights movement says this is unfair and is aiming to change it, says Mike McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, a nonprofit District-based group.
"We believe the baseline should be equal time," Mr. McCormick says. "We're encouraging states and courts to see there's a need for equality," he adds, referring to custody rulings.
Glenn Sacks, a fathers' rights advocate and talk-show host, agrees.
"A lot of dads feel as if they become visitors in their own children's lives," Mr. Sacks says. "They feel pushed to the margins of their kids' lives. ... And we all know that kids need their dads."
However, Naomi Cahn, a law professor at George Washington University, says the 85 percent statistic is misleading.
"In most of those cases, the divorce is settled out of court and the father is not seeking custody," Ms. Cahn
Randall Kessler, chairman of the Family Law Section's Family Courts Committee at the Chicago-based American Bar Association, says there definitely is a trend of growing numbers of fathers seeking and receiving joint or even sole custody of their children.
"It's a big trend," says Mr. Kessler, who has been a domestic relations lawyer in Atlanta for 17 years. "More and more men realize the possibility that they can be involved. ... It's not that they didn't want to be involved -- or share custody -- in the past; they just didn't think they had a chance."
Mr. Lowry says he and other fathers with whom he's in touch through fathers' rights groups have not seen a change in court rulings and judges' attitudes.
"I see a lot of men who throw in the towel and just quit," Mr. Lowry says. "They feel like they're just a check. ... It makes it easy to be a bad, uninvolved dad, and it makes it hard for those of us who really want to be involved in our children's lives."
Divorce is nothing new, but the way custody is awarded has changed through the years, Ms. Cahn says.
"Up to the early 19th century, fathers were entitled to their children the way they were entitled to all property [in a divorce]," she says. "In the early 19th century, the courts adopted what was called the 'Tender Years Presumption,' which meant they felt children needed to be with their mothers."
Finally, about four decades ago, courts and states started using a different yardstick -- that the decision should be based on what is in the best interest of the children -- Ms. Cahn says.
This often means trying to keep the children's lives as intact and consistent with the pre-divorce scenario as can be -- in other words, to uproot as little as possible, she says.
So when judges decide to whom to award custody, they often look at the pre-divorce situation: who of the parents spent the most time on child-rearing, making doctor's appointments, going to school functions and engaging in other daily chores.
Traditionally, mothers have been more likely to be home raising the children. So, shouldn't they be the ones to receive sole custody on the basis of pre-divorce conditions?
"But that's less and less true. More than 60 percent of children grow up in households where both parents work full time," Mr. McCormick says. "So, that argumentation is a little passe considering where we are culturally."
Ms. Cahn, however, says even in this modern era of two-income households, women do more at home.
"Studies show that mothers, even in two-income households, do about two-thirds of child care and household work," she says. "So the question is, what is equality?"
Mr. Sacks says this kind of thinking puts fathers at a disadvantage.
"There's a lot of prejudice against dads who aren't the primary breadwinner," he says. "They feel like they're damned if they do and damned if they don't" stay home with the children.
Mr. McCormick says that sometimes the divorce is a wake-up call -- a second chance -- for men to become more involved in their children's lives.
"It's a real recognition by men. They realize their role with their children is very important," he says.
Few would disagree that children need fathers in their lives.
Kenneth Hart, a divorced father in Baltimore who sees his two sons six out of every 14 days, says he is the best male role model his children can have.
"Raising children, especially boys, without fathers will have adverse effects. We know that. ... When I fight for my rights, I fight for my kids," Mr. Hart says.
"I'm an equal parent. Why does the government have a right to infringe on my constitutional rights? If it was any other fundamental right that was violated, half the population would be up in arms," he adds.
Ms. Cahn agrees that research shows children benefit from a father's involvement.
"But the role of equality is complicated. Is parental equality always in the best interest of children?" she asks.
Susan, a divorced mother of two in Northwest, says she thinks the notion of fathers changing their ways after a divorce can be misused by men who just want to wield power against an ex-wife.
"My ex and I have a 50-50 split. But rarely, since it was imposed, has he done a whole week. It's more like a 70-30 split. The kids are with me 70 percent of the time," says Susan, who says she doesn't want to use her real name for fear of legal repercussions. She says her ex-husband abused her.
"He did this at an enormous expense -- emotionally and financially -- just to prove he could. It was about exerting power. ... But if you're a man, as long as you say you're going to evolve, the judge will listen to you."
At the same time, Susan says, she can't complain about getting to see the children more. She says she just wishes the court order would reflect reality.
In the District of Columbia, there is a "presumption" for joint custody, which means the law recommends joint custody unless there is a history of abuse, Ms. Cahn says. In Virginia and Maryland, it's up to the judge to decide, she says.
Joan Meier, a lawyer who represents women in domestic abuse cases, says judges tend to rule in favor of dads who contest, even when there are allegations of abuse toward the mother and/or the children.
"No one wants to believe that battering and sexual abuse actually happens, so the court would rather believe that the mother is lying," says Ms. Meier, who is also a professor of law at George Washington University.
"But batterers are twice as likely to contest as non-batterers," she says. "And they often win sole or joint custody. ... It's stunningly shocking."
She calls the notion that women have an unfair advantage in child custody cases "a myth."
As strange as it sounds, many mothers and fathers in custody battles have some common ground.
Neither side, for example, seems to like the term "fathers' rights."
"I don't like fathers' or mothers' rights," Mr. Lowry says. "I'm fighting for responsibility among parents to take care of the rights of children."
Mr. Hart agrees.
"We want to promote equal parenting, not fathers' rights," he says.
Mr. Hart has been fighting to get a 50-50 split for about five years. Although he has joint custody with his ex-wife, he doesn't get equal time.
"We shouldn't get too caught up on the terminology, which differs from state to state," Mr. Kessler says.
"Technically, you could have more time with your children through visitation than with joint custody," he says. "It's all about the details in the [court] order."
They also don't like the term "visitation."
"That's understandable," Mr. Kessler says. "Sounds like you're visiting a parent in prison ..."
Also, neither side has kind words for the legal system.
"Wherever people come out in this debate, all sides agree that the family courts are not working," Ms. Meier says.
Mr. Lowry, Mr. Hart and Susan all say the legal system is too adversarial.
"The courts should facilitate a conversation between the parents," Mr. Hart says, "but instead they facilitate conflict, not healthy behavior."
Mr. Lowry says the entire focus of the courts is wrong.
"Courts are so busy finding someone guilty or at fault, and then punishing them," he says, "but is that in the 'best interest of the children,' to punish a parent?"
Susan agrees that what's best for children should be at the forefront.
"I pray and hope that we truly start seeing this issue through the eyes of children," she says.
Mr. Hart, who says he filed for bankruptcy last year because of high child-support payments and legal fees, says the legal system is just out to make a profit.
"Courts profit from conflict," he says. "The judicial system doesn't have a particular bias, but if you have enough money, you can really hurt the other person."
Ms. Meier says she would like to see the courts improve in their research and evaluation processes, making sure their experts, such as child psychiatrists, are unbiased and competent.
Repeated phone calls requesting comment from Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court went unanswered.
Calls to the District of Columbia Family Court for judges' comments also went unanswered. However, a spokeswoman responded by saying the District of Columbia Family Court does not track whether there is gender bias or whether there's a trend of increasing numbers of fathers seeking and/or winning custody.
Judge John O. Hennegan of the Family Law Division with the Circuit Court of Baltimore County says he's definitely seeing a growing number of fathers who want to remain active in the rearing of their children after a divorce.
"It may not be through joint custody, but more and more men want to stay involved with their children," Judge Hennegan says. "It's their right, and I respect it."
Another point of agreement between both sides is that though their marriages ended up not being an eternal promise -- the way they initially had hoped -- parenting is.
"I tell my boys, 'Mommy and Daddy are not wife and husband anymore,'" Mr. Lowry says, "but we're still your parents, and we will always take care of you and love you."
• "Child Custody Made Simple: Understanding the Laws of Child Custody and Child Support," by Webster Watnik, Single Parent Press, 2003. This book contains information about the laws and court structures that affect custody decisions. It gives advice on how to avoid court battles and how to set up living arrangements and schedules. It also has chapters on going to court when custody cannot be settled amicably.
• "Child Custody: Building Parenting Agreements That Work," by Mimi E. Lyster, Nolo, 2002. This book aims to show separating or divorcing parents how to overcome obstacles and build their own custody agreements. It includes checklists and work sheets and covers custody law in all 50 states.
• American Bar Association, 321 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610. Phone: 800/285-2221. Web site: www.abanet.org. This national nonprofit organization, with more than 400,000 members, offers services such as providing continuing legal education and informing the public about the legal system. Its Web site provides information on family law, such as custody laws in different states.
• American Coalition for Fathers and Children, 1718 M St. NW, Suite 187, Washington, DC 20036. Phone: 800/978-3237. Web site: www.acfc.org. This nonprofit group works to establish parental equality in custody cases. According to its mission statement, it aims to eliminate gender bias from family law and from future legislation.
• ?Children's Rights Council, 6200 Editors Park Drive, Suite 103, Hyattsvile, MD 20782. Phone: 301/559-3120. Web site: www.childrens-rights.org. This national nonprofit organization strives to ensure that children continue having meaningful contact with both parents regardless of the parents' marital status.
• Justice for Children, 2600 Southwest Freeway, Suite 806, Houston, TX 77098. Phone: 713/225-4357 (D.C. office: 202/462-4688). Web site: www.jfcadvocacy.org. This national nonprofit organization aims to further children's rights and protect children from abuse.
• The Men's Resource Network (www.themenscenter.com) is a nonprofit group providing online resources on a range of men's issues, such as fathers' rights.
• Women's ENews (www.womensenews.org) covers news of particular concern for women. It has articles on topics such as custody battles.
Equality is not a difficult concept