Fathers rights endangered in Washington State
The judge bangs his gavel, concluding the court session. The father,exhausted, can not believe what has happened. He had never pictured himself in divorce court, fighting desperately for his parental rights. In chapter four of On Liberty, John Stuart Mill states," But the opinion of a similar majority, imposed as a law on the minority, on questions of self-regarding conduct, is quite as likely to be wrong as right"(Mill 84).One way the enforcement of law is wrong, is the favoring of mothers in divorce court. Mothers will disagree, fathers will see the point, but the real audience for this paper, are those that are concerned for the overall well-being of children. This essay will examine two areas in which the courts endanger and abuse fathers rights in Washington State.
One area that fathers rights are being endangered is child custody. Although both men and women are capable of caring for young children, the legal system in the United States favors mothers over fathers in child custody cases. This was not always true. Until the late 19th century, American society adopted British legal precedents, which held that a mans wife and children were, in essence, his property. As a result, when a marriage dissolved, custody was usually awarded to the father. This made a kind of sense in agrarian societies, in which the father worked at home and the children served as laborers. With the advent of the industrial revolution, however, men left the home to work in factories and mills, and women assumed the responsibility of child care. By 1916, social attitudes had changed to the point that, the Washington State Supreme Court could write the following opinion in a child custody case." Mother love is a dominant trait in even the weakest of women and as a general thing surpasses the paternal affection for the common offspring, and moreover, a child needs a mother's care even more than a fathers. For these reasons, courts are loathe to deprive a mother of the custody of her children, and will not do so unless it can be shown clearly that she is so far an unfit and improper person to be entrusted with such custody as to endanger the welfare of the children"(Freeland vs. Freeland, 1919;cited in Melledy,1998). After examining the Washington State Supreme Court ruling, we can see that the court rules in favor of mothers predominately, ignoring the so called rights of the father.
Another way that fathers rights are endangered is financially. Let us look at the case of Rick and Shannon of Spokane, Washington. Rick and Shannon were married for ten years. Unfortunately, they divorced soon after that anniversary. Although Rick was making very little at his job, he was ordered to pay a sizable amount of his income to Shannon for child support. Eventually, Rick's children came to him with a serious problem. Shannon was using part of the grocery money she received from Rick, on drugs. Not only was she doing drugs, she was doing them in front of the children. Upon hearing this, Rick was outraged. He immediately called his lawyer and went back to court. Rick beseeched the court for primary custody and a lowering of support payments. Shannon cried and asked for help. The court ruled in her favor, keeping her as the primary custodian and increased Rick's child support payments so Shannon could afford to get medical attention. Upon examination of Rick and Shannon's story, we see that the court predominately rules in favor of the mother financially, thereby abusing and endangering the rights of the father, even to the detriment of the children.
No argument is complete without an examination of both sides of the issue. In the case of child custody, some would say that mothers are genetically predisposed to be better caregivers. That women are more loving and nurturing than their male counterparts, and this is the reason that the courts rule in the mothers favor a majority of the time. A valid point upon first glance, but does it hold up to examination? If mothers were genetically predisposed to be better caregivers, statistics would show it; but we find the opposite to be true. According to the current DSSH report on nationwide child abuse:" 61 percent of all child abuse is committed by the biological mothers, compared to 25 percent by natural fathers"(DSSH 2008). Others would argue that the mother is the primary figure of influence in child development, leaving the father as secondary. The National Fatherhood Initiative had this to say," Children with involved loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior and avoid high risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy and criminal activity"(Fatherhood.org)These statistics prove that mothers are not genetically more patient, loving and nurturing and that fathers can give equal or better care to their children if given the chance and their absence is detrimental to the overall development of the child. When ruling against fathers, the court would be wise to address these facts for the well-being of the children.
Mill states that when the government enforce laws, it is often to the detriment of it's citizens. We find that to be the case in the aforementioned issues of child custody and financial responsibility. Child custody is disproportionally awarded to the mother, without solid proof that they are any better prepared than the father to provide adequate care. In the case of Rick and Shannon, one can see that increased financial responsibility was placed upon the father,even though the mother was inappropriately using the income. Both parents should be equally responsible for all expenses incurred in the care of the children. Fathers need to come together and fight, fight the courts of Washington state that are abusing and endangering fathers rights.
Comments on this draft
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