A general overview of the fathers’ rights movement – a social reform initiative advocating a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting and defending the rights of fathers in family law, visitation, and custody decisions.
Today’s divorced and never-married often have the experience of asking for (and receive) joint custody of their children. You might already know that this was not always the case. Let’s take a look at not only how fathers’ rights were treated far back in our nation’s history but also recent changes, the fathers rights movement, and ways that these rights could be expanded upon in the future.
Children as Property of the Father
During Colonial times, children have generally considered the property of their fathers. This means that fathers were usually able to retain custody of their children. Divorce was not common during these times, so it wasn’t often an issue, but it was generally understood that children legally belonged to their fathers.
This also meant that fathers were responsible for the care and upbringing of their children. Interestingly, during these times, men were also responsible for young apprentices, so if your family took in another child to apprentice under the father of the family, that child would be the family/father’s responsibility. Of course, that is not a consideration now in the 21st century.
The Tender Years
As time went on, and especially during the mid-20th century, it became the rule of thumb that their mothers best raised young children. During the 1950s, 60s, and even into the 70s, most children of divorced parents were awarded to the mother with sole custody. Sometimes visitation with the father would be included as part of the judgment, but in general, fathers did not get custody of their children as long as they were young.
This was largely due to the belief that children in the “tender years” needed to be cared for by their mothers due to the unique bond that mothers and their children have. At the time, little thought was given to the unique bond between fathers and their children. However, what was given consideration was the thought that fathers should be financially responsible for their children. In many of these cases, children might see little of their fathers, but their fathers would still be responsible for sending child support payments for them.
More Recent Times
Since the 1970s, it has been established that children do best when they have relationships with both of their parents. Over time, the fathers rights movement has been expanded. During the earlier years of this philosophy, it was common for mothers to have primary custody of children and for fathers to have visitation with their children. This visitation often resulted in fathers having their children every other weekend.
Now, many divorces result in shared parenting time that is roughly (but not exactly) equal. In these cases, children might spend one week with their father and then the next week with their mother. Parents share both legal and physical custody. This means that not only do the children spend roughly equal time at each house but that the parents are both responsible for making important decisions such as which religion (if any) the children will be raised in, which school they attend, and so on.
Fathers, as well as mothers, can attend pediatrician appointments and parent-teacher conferences. This change is more or less attributed to the fathers rights movement. This does not mean, however, that everything is always exactly equal and fair. Some judges still tend to prefer mothers over fathers. While not always solely the father’s responsibility, child support sometimes do tend to favor the mother.
In general, these attitudes are changing, however, due to efforts from the fathers rights movement. Mothers and fathers are often considered responsible for their children’s financial needs, and their individual income levels will be considered when figuring out child support payments. Also, child support modification is available in all states and is commonly used when a parent’s income drops due to job loss, cut hours, illness, or other reasons.
Improving & Growing the Fathers Rights Movement
Fathers rights movement groups are still working hard to make improvements in the system. For example, these groups still often see a bias against fathers and are working to change that. They contend that fathers are just as adept at parenting as mothers and that there should be no preference given simply due to the sex of the parent requesting custody. They also say that the courts often overlook custodial interference by mothers.
This happens when a mother refuses to allow a father his legally binding parenting time. The fathers rights movement says that this needs to be taken more seriously. Another problem is that some fathers believe that judges tend to believe false allegations of child abuse submitted by mothers against fathers. This is another issue that depends on the accusation and accuser’s perceptions, so these groups believe that these biases need to be changed when possible.
Finally, some fathers rights movement groups also believe that fathers should have the right to not consent to a mother’s decision to have an abortion. Some also feel that if a mother decides to carry a baby to term and parent him or her, then the father should be able to opt-out financially if he didn’t want her to carry the baby to term. In these cases, the groups feel that fathers should have a greater say in family planning decisions (they currently have almost none, and it is considered the mother’s right to decide what to do about an unplanned pregnancy).
At National Family Solutions, we can help you determine whether your fathers rights are being upheld. We can also help you represent yourself to enjoy the opportunity to bond with and raise your child. Contact us for more information about fathers rights and the fathers rights movement in your state.