Let me tell you this. In a society that loudly trumpets the rights of just about everyone and everything, why is it that fathers are treated so poorly in family courts? Let me be abundantly clear, I am not talking about fathers who abuse their wives and/or children. I speak not of fathers who betray their wives and children through infidelity or the fathers who don’t raise a finger or contribute a dime towards raising their children. I am not taking about absentee fathers. I am talking about the father who wakes up one day and is told by his wife that she doesn’t want to be married to him, he needs to pack his things and leave. I am talking about the father who struggles to rebuild his life while coping with not only the emotional trauma of losing his children, but in addition, the tremendous financial burden placed on him. I am talking about the father who just wants to see his children, but has them stripped away from him. Those are the fathers I am referring too.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2013, 77.9% of all suicides in the United States were male. Almost 80% of suicides are men, and where is the outcry? Where are the calls for studies to see why the suicide rate is so disproportionate? Why does it appear that no one cares? Just why do men commit suicide four times more often than women? Thomas Joiner, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at Florida State University estimates that “romantic disruptions” and other relationship issues trigger depressive episodes in about 75 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 40 who commit suicide. Professor John Macdonald, Co director of the Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre (MHIRC) in Australia stated “Many men are overwhelmed by social problems like unemployment, family break-ups and not having access to their children.” Well, as a divorced father who has spent many a night in a bar, I can certainly attest to the pain that many fathers experience when going through a divorce, and particularly a divorce that they did not initiate. It’s sad, but amazing how quickly they bond over sharing a divorce story. It’s almost like soldiers discussing the misery of war. One moment a father is sitting at the bar having a drink, and the next moment he overhears another father talking about how his ex-wife won’t let him see his kids. The next thing you know, the two of them become fast friends, as each shares with the other his “divorce war story”. I’ve made many a friend in this manner.
Why do I feel that divorce laws are so unfair to fathers? Well, the primary reason is in most divorces mothers get custody of the children by default. Why is that? Why does society constantly proclaim that men and women are equal, yet in family court it simply is not the case? In family court mothers get enormous preferential treatment. More often than not, a father has to prove to the court that if the children lived with their mother, it would be detrimental to their well-being. He has to show that she is perhaps a drug addict, or an alcoholic. How can reasonable people find that to be even remotely fair? Why isn’t custody decided on a case by case basis? Why do children automatically go to the mother, even in cases when it is the mother who wants to end the marriage, and gives no substantial reason other than “I no longer want to be married to him”.
Another thing that is grossly unfair and oft times a formidable burden to fathers is the exorbitant amount of money they are forced to pay in child support. Contributing towards your child’s upbringing is one thing, but paying above and beyond that cost is another. The courts impose absolutely no accountability on mothers. The child support money is theirs to spend as they see fit. There are no restrictions and there is no oversight. Mothers can do whatever they like with that money. Why aren’t child expenses tracked, receipts generated, and fathers asked to pay for half of the cost of raising children? Again, why in a society that constantly screams men and women should be treated equally, do mothers get a substantial financial advantage over fathers when a marriage ends and there are children involved? Often times child support payments leave a father with very little to no money at all. It makes it extremely difficult for many fathers to live, let alone move forward. How is a father supposed to rebuild his life when he lacks the funds to do so?
When you combine the fact that divorces are now granted without cause in many states with the overwhelming advantage mothers receive in family courts, fathers are clearly at a significant disadvantage. A man gets married, has children, becomes a good father, and one day the mother of his children decides she no longer wants to be married to him, and he loses everything. He is forced to leave his home, his family, and he is laden with unjust financial strain. He loses the ability to see his children on a daily basis, something that many mothers would consider unbearable, yet it is the default solution that our family courts routinely dole out to fathers.
I am divorced, and without getting into a blame game, I will simply say I did not want to get divorced. In the end, I have rebuilt my life, and I am far happier now than I ever was. But I will carry to my grave the sadness of having lost the opportunity to do so many of the simple things than many mothers take for granted: such as kissing my son good night at the end of his day. But hey, I’m just a cop.