Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Custody Awarded to Fathers: An Increasing Trend?

A dedicated stay-at-home LDS mother I know in Illinois is going through a divorce in which the father, a professional with a heavy-duty job, is surprising those who know the family well by claiming that all along he has been the primary caregiver for the kids. He's after custody of the kids and wants to raise them in another religion. (Battles over the religion of the children are one of the disadvantages to marrying outside one's faith.)

On the face of it, I expected this custody battle to be an easy victory for the mother. However, I hear that Illinois has a new law that affects child custody, and allegedly makes it easier for fathers (at least in their neck of the woods). In fact, in the particular situation here, the family evaluator appointed for this case is a man who is known for advancing the theory that women alienate their children from fathers. Incredibly, in the last 70 cases the family evaluator has worked with, so I am told, every single case resulted in a recommendation for custody being awarded to the father. 70 for 70!

So what's up with all you abusive moms who turn your kids away from poor ol' dad? Yes, I know there are cases where the father really is a victim or really does deserve custody, but 70 out of 70?

I asked why the judge doesn't throw the guy out and challenge his track record. There's an easy answer, as there often is in the grand state of Illinois (so a lawyer from Illinois has told me). The divorce judge and the family evaluator are best friends. They go on walks together, hang out together, and appararently enjoy working together to hand kids over to downtrodden fathers. Looks like they're heading for 71 out of 71, unless the mother comes up with a lot of cash to hire a second evaluator to dispute the findings of the appointed evaluator, and engage in more costly and time-consuming legal battles. This will add months and many thousands of dollars to an already expensive and painful battle.

How terrible divorce is, especially in a corrupt legal system.

Any of you have any experience with the Illinois system or advice for the mother?

12 comments:

Helaman said...

A long time ago, I found myself in a situation, that as a man I found I had little legal recourse. This of course was due to bad decisions on my part and that of a girl. But it boiled down to me not having a legal foot to stand on in trying to save my babies life. Now while I don't think every man deserves ful custody, or legal abilities to keep a child from being aborted - there are cases like mine, where I should have had some power, or say in the matter. Now this case in Ill sounds pretty wrong - there are situations where not everyone has all the facts. For mine, on the outside it would have looked liked I was in no position to raise a child on my own, and would have been a terrible father, or any numbers of reasons why I wouldn't have been a good dad. but that's only to an outsider - internally I had numerous roads of support, from my parents, from my friends, and from my faith.

I guess what I'm saying is that I beleive there should be more abilities and recourses for fathers - but a wholesale allowance is the wrong approach.

Stacey Pokorney, the "Party Crasher" said...

Hello, again, everyone,
Unfortunately, been there, done that, on three different occasions. No, I have not been divorced three times - but my parents were divorced, my uncle was divorced, and I myself have been divorced - all three cases in Texas, and all three cases involving a custody battle where the father sought primary residential custody.

All too often in the US legal system, social inequalities are allowed to fester for decades, and then when the pendulum begins to swing, those who still need justice pay the price for social improvement. I will clarify.

For decades upon decades, when a married couple divorced, the father got custody of the children, no matter what, due to the old-fashioned fact that most of the time they were the breadwinners and the mother was about to go back to her family in shame. This fact alone kept many, many women in sad marriages way longer than many should have, out of fear of losing their children.

In recent decades, that pendulum of social injustice has swung the other way, and since the 1950's at least, many states have come to favor the mother for child custody in divorce situations. In Texas, a mother had to practically be an axe murderer or Andrea Yates not to get custody of her children. Even today, the assumption is that when children are involved in a divorce down here, the mother gets custody, and if she doesn't there must be something wrong with her (as in drug addiction, felony conviction, etc.)

Now that pendulum is swinging back towards fathers again, as many well-deserved and decent fathers are facing weeks or months without their children due to divorce but are still expected to pay child support, etc., while the mother gets re-married and moves away.

The standard divorce decree here in Texas states that the parent with primary residential custody gets to raise the children in his/her religious faith. Both parents have that right, but the non-custodial parent, just by nature of having less time with the child(ren), has less influence in this area.

All too often, my family attorney explained to me, when it comes to matters of religion in this area, faith becomes involved in ugly ways such as when a belief system excludes family members of another faith from pivotal moments in a child's religious life (such as when a person of a different religion is barred from a baptism or wedding, etc.)

My strong suggestion for any parent going through a divorce and/or custody battle is simple: Get a GOOD family attorney. Yes, it will cost money. If the mother does not work and never has, she may be able to get the court to order the father to help pay for her representation, especially if he is the one asking for the divorce. This is extremely tricky, however, and I recommend a lot of research at the local library.

Well, I've ranted long enough here, but thanks to my sadly extensive knowledge on the subject, albeit though mostly in Texas, I would be happy to help in any way that I can.

Geoff B said...

Jeff, the case you cited seems to be one in which an injustice is being done. But, as a divorced father, I can tell you that we have had decades of unfair laws that automatically assume the mother is a better caregiver than the father, and I welcome a more rational custody policy that looks at the entire picture in a more balanced way.

That One Guy said...

I'm with Geoff.

Anonymous said...

Since American families are historically patriarchal, as are the courts where there are mostly male judges, custody of the kids on divorce has always gone to the father whenever he asks for it. He owns the kids, and the wife, but if she leaves, he keeps the property that is his, the kids, unless they decide otherwise.

The legal basis for this has changed, first they were chattel, then dad had the bigger income so made the "better parent", then a lunatic named Gardner (who eventually stabbed himself to death) invented a woman-hating theory that children who hate or fear their dads or simply want to be with the mother who cares for them have been "alientated."

In reality, kids usually prefer to be withthe parent who cares for them, and that is usually. In the siginifcant number of divorces where child or wife abuse is present, kids and mom wisely seek to minimize contact with the abuser. This is not "alienation", it is self protection and child proteection.

It is a myth that men have some sort of disadvantage in court. Women have ended up with kids in the cases where daddy didn't want to take care of them after the divorce. He often remarries and starts a new family. Mom stays behind to continue her primary caregiving role.

The men advocating for more custofy for men are most concerned with getting out of having to pay child suppport. Look at all their websites. Nothing on being a good ad before divorce, nothing advocating more parenting behavior while married, just "how to get joint custody so you don't have to pay support". These are selfish men, but then that's probably why their wives left them in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I come from a background where I tend to think that wholesale custody to either parent is very wrong. I knew of a case in California where a child was taken from her parents because of drug abuse. The Father, who was actually in the process of cleaning up his life wanted to fight for custody, but was advised against it, because if he fought for it, he would loose. Even though the Mother was in Jail for posession with intent to sell drugs, and he was working on getting well. It turned out in the end that He didn't fight for custody, and the Mother was found to be unfit, because of her extensive history with drug abuse, and the child was given to her aunt and Uncle to adopt, but the father should have been given a chance. But fathers have NO parental rights in California. Seems like Illinois is doing the same injustice to Mothers. It doesn't make sense to throw the same laws and ideation at every custody case, as each one is different, and very complex.

Helaman said...

Just goes to show, that marriage, children, and families take more then just a spur of the moment decision. It take prayerful petitioning to the Lord. We had our Elders Quorum meeting yesterday we had a great discussion over this exact thing (well maybe not custody, but what it takes to succeed with a marriage). I always think that fast food is the basis for problems - people get so use to getting things RIGHT NOW, that to hit a hurdle and actually have to work through it doesn't pay as well as - let's get divorced. It's pretty sad that their are people out there that go into a marriage with the idea that they will get divorced, not maybe, not could be - but that it WILL happen. There's a lot of selfishness out there that plagues couples out there, and marriages take work - and a lot of young people don't think it will or don't want to put forth the effort...

Anonymous said...

The REAL bible says not to add to it or take away from it.
SO WHY does the mormans believe this is ok?
Why do mormans read "the book of morman" MORE than the REAL bible.. hmmmm lets think about this shall we?

Anonymous said...

I have been fighting for custody of my three daughters for two years now and counting. It is an injustice that the man has to prove that he is a fit parent while the mom can continue to casue harm mentally,physically and emotionally. Fathers have been misrepresented in the courts and the department of child welfare for to long. The tides should be changing but it should be more like a titlewave for our childrens sake anyway.

Anonymous said...

I have been fighting for custody of my three daughters for two years now and counting. It is an injustice that the man has to prove that he is a fit parent while the mom can continue to casue harm mentally,physically and emotionally. Fathers have been misrepresented in the courts and the department of child welfare for to long. The tides should be changing but it should be more like a titlewave for our childrens sake anyway.

Anonymous said...

Although I believe the family evaluator is most likely biased, its peanuts compared to the complete bias against fathers. All fathers are not downtrodden. I can sense a tone in the post that the blog postings author has a bias against men as well. In fact there is a huge problem with father alienation. Unless you have been there you will never know.

Shymmers said...

A track record of 70 for 70 means that there's a little shady business going on. Sorry, but that's true.

There are almost 4 million mothers in this country that don't have custody of their children. In a large number of cases, it's not because the mother is unfit or abusive. Non-custodial is not synonymous with unfit applies to women as well as men. If a man says he doesn't have custody, society doesn't bat an eye; yet if a woman says they don't have custody the first thing that comes into someone's mind is that she must be abusive, had the kids taken from her, is a drunk or a druggie, or something horrible. That is no longer true in today's society. Fit and loving women are becoming non-custodial parents just like fit and loving men are. It's really no longer about gender.

As for those cases where the mother alienates the father, let me tell you that father's also alienate mothers when the fathers are the ones with custody. I work with a non-profit that focuses primarily on mothers without custody and we have a lot of women in our organization who have been alienated from their children. Some have been asked to give up their parental rights by their children. Others haven't been able to see their children in years. Still others have children that now tell them they hate them. Why? because the father (and in a lot of cases, the father's family or friends) tell the child lies about the mother. Alienation isn't specific to women, it's not gender-based, it's person-based. A vindictive ex is a vindictive ex, no matter what their gender is.

As for advice to the mother, feel free to direct her to our website www.nancm.org and tell her we have a message board she can sign up for anonymously if she'd like to. We have resources listed there that may help her, and over 1,000 women who have been where she is.

Take care.