THE CHILD CUSTODY WAR
The latest weapon in the war against women is a set of faulty statistics touted by the Fathers' Rights movement. In fact, the latest diatribe by this movement tries to make women, particularly custodial mothers in separation and divorce cases, look petty and vindictive by withholding court-ordered and voluntary visitation of their children to the fathers. These statistics are being used in court to enable non-custodial fathers, often with the assistance of their new wives, to take children away from their custodial mothers. The faulty statistics are as follows:
49% of non-custodial mothers are in total default on child support payments.
75% of non-custodial fathers are paying some form of child support.
Only about 8% of non-custodial fathers are true "deadbeat dads".
The most frequently cited source for these calculations is the "Technical Analysis Paper No. 42, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Income Security Policy, Oct. 1991, Authors: Meyer and Garasky". This paper, entitled "Custodial Fathers: Myths, Realities and Child Support Policy" includes documentation of child support payments owed to custodial fathers by non-custodial mothers. Supporters of the Fathers' Rights movement have taken information from this document out of context. The 49% number stated in the Meyer and Garasky paper, in fact, is not a national figure, even though the Fathers' Rights groups have insisted that it is. According to pages 22 and 23 of the paper, 47% of 128 custodial fathers in the state of Wisconsin (a study group for the paper) did not received their court-ordered child support from the non- custodial mother. The study group is interesting in and of itself, since the authors of the paper state that one reason they chose not to look to prior studies of father-only families was due to a lack of quality data, in particular eleven studies that were limited to small geographic regions such as single states. The most amazing cited source for the 49% figure is the "Current Population Reports, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Series P-23, No. 173". This particular document covers housing, poverty, welfare, health insurance, the elderly, minority statistics, income and marital trends. It covers neither child support nor alimony, period.
The 8% figure of true "deadbeat dads" (fathers who have the ability to pay but refuse to do so) has wavered between 8.4%, 10%, 14.9%, and 24.8% according to the 1991 Technical Analysis Paper, America Online, the Internet, and the Child Support and Alimony Statistics - Bureau of the Census 1989-90, respectively.
The 75% figure of payment by non-custodial fathers has been misconstrued. The breakdown of child support statistics, paid by non-custodial fathers, is listed in the chart below. All of the figures listed in this report come from the 1989- 90 "Current Population Reports, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Series P-60, No. 173 -- Child Support and Alimony". It regards mother-only families, father outside of the home. It does not cover custodial fathers. A document regarding custodial fathers is being released by the Census Bureau shortly.
The first misinterpretation is that these figures represent the amount of money being paid by the fathers to the mothers. In reality, the figures represent the amount of money received by the mothers, not how much the father has paid. The majority of support monies are provided through garnishment and property liens due to non-payment by fathers. 75.2% makes up the total of the categories Overall/Paid In Full and Overall/Paid In Part. According to the Census Bureau, "Paid In Part" means that the mother has received some child support, but not the full amount she is owed. "Not Paid" means the mother has received nothing. A full 48.6% of non-custodial fathers are in arrearage regarding their child support payments. "Voluntary" means that the divorcing parties have come to a written agreement without going through the court system. "Court order" means that the arrangements have been made through the court system. To put the figures in perspective, 66.7% of child support orders are made through the court system. 28.9% are arranged voluntarily, and 4.4% were made through other arrangements; the nature of which was unclear. The Fathers'' Rights groups like to use the "Overall" statistics because the numbers make the non-paying fathers look better than they actually are. Since "Court Ordered" child support is the most common form (over two thirds of the total awards), the percentages in that category would be the most accurate. 57.7% of non-custodial fathers are in arrearage regarding their child support payments. Only 42.3% of payments have been made in full in 1989-90.
"Paid In Full/Part" does not necessarily mean that the father is voluntarily paying child support. In 1989-90, 29.3% of women who were owed child support went to a collection agency to get it. One million wanted to locate the father, establish paternity, or establish child support obligations. One third received no help from the agency.
The Fathers' Rights movement insists that since such a small number of women have used collection agencies, that collection of arrearages is being blown out of proportion in the press. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only 29.4% of custodial mother have used collection agencies because such agencies are used after all other options have been exhausted. Lawyers, Legal Aid, and outreach groups such as A.C.E.S. (Association for Children for Enforcement of Support), OECS (Organization for the Enforcement of Child Support), and CMCR (Committee for Mother's and Child's Rights) have also helped custodial mothers obtain child support.
Fathers' Rights groups are also trying to obtain custody of children for non- custodial fathers by insisting that, since the fathers generally have higher incomes, they can take better care of the children. Many mothers with custody have fallen into poverty due to divorce. Mothers will see their monetary situation improve within five year following diovrce primarily of they remarry. What the Fathers' Rights groups conveniently leave out of the equation is that the biggest reason many mothers and their children end up on welfare, or very close to it, is that a large number of non-custodial fathers refuse to pay child support. The poverty rate for women who do not receive child support is 43.2%. With child support, the rate drops to 24.1%. Over one third of families at or below the poverty line (35.6%) are mother-only families, father absent from home.
A tactic favored by Fathers' Rights groups include pushing for joint custody. They claim that joint custody, both legal and physical, is in the best interest of the child. It's actually in the best interest of the non-custodial father. Under joint custody provisions, his child support payments would be drastically cut, and he would not be required to provide health insurance for the mother and children, or use of the marital home until the mother is able to get on her feet.
Even though Fathers' Rights groups voice support for joint custody, its proponents most often file for sole custody. According to the "Custodial Fathers" paper by Meyer and Garasky, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) states that over 40% of the custodial fathers have obtained custody of their children after remarrying. These fathers wait several years after the divorce, become more stabilized in their careers, remarry, and file for sole custody. They reason that their income, which is often higher than the mothers', is better for raising children. They also reason that, with a new wife at home to take care of the children, the "traditional family" atmosphere is more appropriate for childrearing. The most important reason is that these men and their new wives resent having to pay child support. They don't want to provide for the first family, especially if they are planning on having children of their own. The mother often has not remarried, does not have access to family members to help care for the children, and may not be able to afford good day care on her salary. Not that day care is looked at in a positive manner. Fathers' Rights groups consider day care "dumping the children and letting strangers raise them". Many judges also hold this belief. In effect, a woman who is not biologically related to the children stands a better chance of raising them than their own mother.
These groups also urge non-custodial fathers to wait until the children are pre- teenagers before going after sole or joint custody. They advise non-custodial fathers to scale down their careers in order to look as if they would be better providers for the children than the custodial mother. As reported in the press, mothers with careers have been severely penalized. Marcia Clark is the most famous example. Upon obtaining custody, many fathers go back to their original work schedule. By this time, as previously stated, these men have often remarried, and the new wife helps to raise the children.
Second wives and girlfriends of fathers who are fighting for custody are often very hostile towards the custodial mothers. They envision first wives, usually due to vivid descriptions by the fathers in question, as vindictive, lazy, feminist harpies who only are interested in the child support money. They do not like the idea that the new husband/boyfriend must put out money to support his first family. By obtaining custody, they know that child support will be drastically lowered. What they don't realize is that, most likely, they will be responsible for raising the children. If they have children of their own and the relationship dissolves, they often receive the same treatment from their former husbands/boyfriends that the hated first wife has experienced.
Protective orders (ex-partes) are also under fire by Fathers' Rights groups. These groups, and the lawyers and mediators who make anywhere from $60,000 to $200,000 per year from their law practices that feed on angry divorcing fathers, insist that feminists have encouraged women to file false charges of domestic and/or child abuse in order to gain leverage in divorce court. All caps in the passage below have been added for emphasis.
From "A Guide to Fathers' Rights", by Ronald L. Isaacs J.D., attorney at law (available on America On-Line, Legal Issues Library - p. 18), Mr. Isaacs, a Fathers' Rights lawyer, states that "women's groups have successfully lobbied for passage of laws that should be considered un-constitutional and seriously infringe on your basic rights. In Illinois a woman may obtain a fill- in-the-blank form from her local women's center (USUALLY A NEST OF MAN-HATERS WITH A FEW LESBIANS THROWN IN.). On the form SHE WILL ALLEGE YOU ARE A DANGER OR THREAT TO HER AND YOUR CHILDREN She will <submit> the form before a local Judge and he will sign the fill-in-the-blank order attached WITHOUT YOU EVEN HAVING AN OPPORTUNITY TO DENY THE ALLEGATIONS! THE ORDER WILL PROHIBIT YOU FROM EVEN RETRIEVING YOUR TOOTHBRUSH OR SETTING FOOT ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY OR APPROACHING YOUR CHILDREN, ALL WITHOUT YOU EVEN HAVING A CHANCE TO ARGUE YOUR CASE! This initial order is usually good for ten to fourteen days when a hearing is scheduled where you will get to present your side."
Mr. Isaacs allegations are untrue. To begin with, the "property" is also owned by the wife, and the issue is not property but abuse, which needs to be taken seriously. With police escort, the husband may enter "his property" and retrieve "his toothbrush". Also, the majority of applications are denied. If accepted and the hearing is heard, most cases are lost by the woman who filed. Even if covered with bruises, judges have been known to deny protective orders because they do not believe the woman has been beaten up enough. In cases of emotional abuse, it's almost a waste of time applying for a protective order because emotional abuse is taken even less seriously than physical abuse. If won, the protective order is good for an average of sixty days. Occasionally, an protective order may extend for as long as three months, but such a length of time is rare. Also, these orders are not enforced. Many women who have been seriously injured or killed by former partners were under protective order at the time of the attack.
The Backlash is rearing its ugly head toward custodial mothers. There is help out there for women who are having difficulty obtaining child support payments. Women who are being taken to court by their ex-husbands/boyfriends due to custody battles need our support.
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