It’s not the best of times, but it’s not the worst of times either. There’s no doubt that fathers still come in a distant second in custody cases. The percentage of fathers with custody has remained essentially unchanged since at least 1993, and that rate is a far-too-low 16% +. The news media continue to purvey false images of fathers as violent and controlling, when few fit that description. Other communications media like television and film still glory in the bad dad as a stock feature of comedy and drama, Adam Sandler’s latest debacle being but one case in point. And when child custody isn’t even an issue, dads often find they’re second-class citizens. Adoption law across the land is frankly and radically skewed against fathers. The laws of most states – perhaps all of them – are plainly aimed at cutting the father out of the loop if at all possible and on the thinnest of pretexts.
So, it’s far from the best of times to be a father.
But it’s not the worst either. The undeniable fact is that fathers are more honored in wider circles than they have been since father knew best. The sheer range of groups and organizations fighting for fathers’ equality in family courts is astonishing. In state after state, town after town, fathers’ rights groups are popping up everywhere, and their demands are being listened to if not yet met. More and more, all manner of communications media are opening their access to pro-father points of view. It’s gotten to the point that data are sometimes even distorted in favor of fathers instead of against them. Just recently family lawyers were polled and a majority said they’d seen a big increase in the number of mothers paying child support and alimony. It’d be nice if it were true, but the Census Bureau shows that in fact, fewer mothers than ever have been ordered to pay child support, just 30.4% of non-custodial moms.
Still, it’s quite a turnabout when facts are distorted for fathers rather than against them.
More importantly, the irrefutable fact of fathers’ value to children is being realized and admitted more than ever before. The news media, mothers, fathers, and countless commentators are finally coming to grips with the rock-solid facts that children need their dads, dads want their children and they’re going to continue to assert their legitimate needs until legislatures and judges start to agree. This is a movement that’s only gaining in strength. If anyone is still waiting for us to dry up and blow away, they’ve waited in vain. We have right and justice on our side and those have staying power that the shibboleths of the anti-dad crowd can’t begin to match. AS they should, people in all stations of life are beginning to realize that family courts and family laws that marginalize fathers are bad for children, bad for dads, bad for mothers and bad for society generally.
It’s been a long slog and it’ll get longer. We’re still pushing that stone uphill. But we’ve got far more people than ever pushing it and someday soon we’ll get to the top. When we do, we’ll experience that exhilarating sense of momentum’s being on our side.
Happy Fathers Day! Give Dad a hug and a kiss. Take him out to dinner with all his family. That’s what he wants most – to see his family around him and to feel their love. Besides, he’s got enough neckties already.