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||Many Divorced Fathers Struggle Desperately to Remain in Their Children's Lives
by Glenn Sacks, GlennSacks.com
Three-quarters of divorced
fathers surveyed maintain that their ex-wives have substantially interfered
with their visitation rights, and as many as 40% of mothers surveyed admitted they
have interfered with visitation.
Jim, a Michigan technology consultant, can't even remember what his daughter looks like.
"I haven't been allowed to see my little Caroline for over three years,"
he says. "The last picture I have of her was taken four years ago, when she
was eight years old. The only contact I'm allowed with her is a short phone
call every Sunday, and often even that is blocked."
Jim, a Commander in the Naval Reserve, has fought the toughest battle of
his life to remain in his daughter's life. Twelve years ago his ex-wife left
their home in Michigan and moved with their baby to Louisiana. Time and again
Jim says he has paid the $600 round trip fare to go to Louisiana to see his
daughter only to have his visitation blocked, even when he has come to visit
his daughter on her birthday.
Jim has appealed to the courts on numerous occasions to enforce his visitation
rights, to no avail. At the same time, he has paid enormous legal fees (as
well as child support) and has almost been forced into bankruptcy. He says,
"I sometimes wonder if that picture of Caroline is the last one I'll ever
Jim and hundreds of thousands like him are part of a new generation of heroic
fathers who fight a long, hard, and often desperate struggle to remain a
part of their children's lives.
Three-quarters of divorced fathers surveyed maintain that their ex-wives
have substantially interfered with their visitation rights. A nationwide
study of children of divorce confirmed these sentiments, and as many as 40%
of mothers surveyed have admitted they have interfered with visitation and
that their motives were punitive and not due to safety considerations.
Some fathers have even been denied all contact with their children because
courts have accepted false and/or uncorroborated accusations of domestic
violence or child sexual abuse. Forensic consultant Dean Tong, author of
Elusive Innocence, believes that in the context of a custody
battle, between 60% and 80% of domestic violence accusations are false. According
to a study conducted in New York state, 75% of child sexual abuse accusations
made during custody battles were shown to be unfounded or unsubstantiated.
Other fathers have suffered at the hands of "move-away moms" who permit or
even use geography to drive fathers out of their children's lives. And some
fathers have watched helplessly as their own children have been taught to
Fathers with horror stories are not hard to find. Like Daniel Lee, the founder
of the Tennessee shared parenting group Child's Best Interest, who has flown
nearly half a million miles over the last five years so that he can see his
son, who was taken to live 2,000 miles away. Or Edgar P., a Los Angeles father
who risked a one year jail sentence for a domestic violence charge because
he knew that pleading guilty in a plea bargain would destroy his chances
of obtaining visitation rights with his young daughter. He was acquitted
of the charge last year but is still only allowed to see his child a few
hours a week.
Some distraught fathers find the situation so painful that they destroy themselves.
Following an adverse family court decision last year, 20-year Navy veteran
Derrick Miller walked up to court personnel at the entrance to a San Diego
courthouse, waved his court documents, said "You did this to me," and shot
himself in the head. Nationwide divorced fathers are ten times as likely
to commit suicide as divorced mothers, and more than twice as likely to commit
suicide as married fathers.
Other fathers simply give up and drop out of their children's lives.
Increasingly, fathers like Lee and Jim, a member of a Michigan shared parenting
group, are turning to political activism. Jim says, "I want to change the
system so that no father ever again has to go through what I've been through.
The problem is not my ex. The problem is a family court system which allows
her to do this."
Glenn Sacks is a men's and fathers' issues
columnist and radio talk show host. His columns have appeared in dozens
of America's largest newspapers. His radio show, His Side with Glenn
Sacks, can be heard every Sunday on KRLA 870 AM in Los Angeles. Glenn
can be reached via his website, at GlennSacks.com
or by e-mail. This column first appeared in the Long Beach Times.
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