Letters on the father's rights movement
|MMO received an unprecedented volume of reader mail in response
to June 2005 coverage of the fathers' rights movement (Fathers'
Fight by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser and War
of the Wounds by Judith Stadtman Tucker). Some of this heightened
interest was undoubtedly generated by an entry on radio host Glenn
Sacks' web site, which included the MMO's email link. Although Sacks'
commentary, which was short and described the stories as "slanderous,"
was only online for about two weeks, his post -- including the mail
link -- was copied and circulated on several other fathers' rights
discussion boards, blogs and web sites, including the web site of
Several of the letters sent in the following weeks were quite thoughtful,
and although the tone of the mail was generally critical, most of
it was not threatening. On the other hand, some comments were clearly
intended to intimidate. A number of writers were anxious to make
their own views and experiences known, although it was not always
clear whether they had read the stories or were simply protesting
on principle. Although I've been reluctant to prolong what has been,
for the most part, an unusually unpleasant experience, I made a decision
to publish all the letters verbatim. I've corrected spelling errors
(as indicated in brackets), and added brief editorial comments at
the end of several letters when I felt clarification was in order.
Beyond those minor modifications and additions, I thought it was
best to let the letters stand on their own.
I must admit that in the thick of it, I found myself missing the
days when the most objectionable email jamming the MMO inbox was
spam offering erection-enhancing pharmaceuticals, replica watches and
hot dates with horny housewives. I've since discovered that being
bombarded by negative -- and occasionally menacing -- mail or comments
from true believers is something of a right of passage for anyone
who dares to suggest the objectives of the fathers' right movement
are not as selfless as its proponents claim. But from the range of
comments I received, it's also clear that fathers' rights groups
also attract more moderate men who are looking for moral
support at a difficult time in their lives.
Be that as it may, it doesn't change the fact that other fathers'
rights supporters compare themselves to ticking time bombs and imply
that we disregard their volatility at our own risk. Two days after
Father's Day, a disaffected dad named Perry Manely was shot to death
by security police after brandishing a disarmed hand grenade inside
a Seattle, Washington courthouse. According to news
reports, Manley had aggressively contested his obligation to
pay court-ordered child support and -- over a15 year period -- had
taken exceptional measures to avoid making payments to his ex-wife.
An objective observer might conclude that Manley was an angry --
and in the end, dangerous -- crackpot. Yet in the days following
Manley's death, a number of letters
to Seattle area newspapers portrayed him as a victim of the
system and a martyr to the fathers' rights cause. As one man wrote in Manley's defense,
"Frankly, I'm surprised incidents like this are so rare. Believe
me, there's a little of him in every one of us." Well, OK --
but if that's really how you feel, I don't want you anywhere near
The following letters appear in the order in which they were received.
Only last initials are used when a full name was given.
Judith Stadtman Tucker
Editor, The Mothers Movement Online
|I would just like to make
a brief comment regarding "What's wrong with the father's rights
movement." As a divorced father, with NO history of violence,
I have little access to my daughter due to the current laws in effect.
I had a slanderous accusation that after going through nearly two
years of attempting to clear my name (and finally doing so) and at
the cost of literally four thousand dollars, I have little to show
for it. I was given no recourse and no refund. To add insult to injury,
it was found that it was in the best interest of the child to keep
her in her present location although the guardian ad litem stated
to the judge that he felt that my daughter would fare better living
with me. Finally, to make the clincher, the mother signed over her
rights to her parents where my daughter now resides. Please explain
to me how this is justice? If an equal parenting law were in place,
at least I would have equal access to my daughter instead of having
to continue to spend lots of money for little time with her. So tell
me, is my daughter better off? Thank you.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
|I just had to comment
on the article that Ms. Tucker wrote. She writes that "men who
truly care for and about their children usually express their commitment
by maintaining a supportive, if not deeply caring, relationship with
their children’s mother." Ms. Tucker, you surely haven't
met my ex-wife or the ex-wives of a great many divorced dads I know.
Studies have shown that 5 years after a divorce, moms are still angry
about the divorce -- even if they instigated the divorce and got the
settlement they were seeking. In my own case, I've tried honestly
and consistently to have a healthy relationship with my son's mom
-- but she has been bitter, angry, and vindictive. In my case, I divorced
her - because of HER behavior. And yes, I've educated my lawyer, the
court mediator, and the judge about her. But it's still an uphill
battle, and every time we go before the judge -- right now we're in
court so I can have the "right" to pick him up and take
him to sports practices -- it's a roll of the dice as to whether he'll
rule in my favor. And no, I don't have "a documented history
of abuse" as your article suggests that most fathers do.
The Dads I know, and the Fathers and Children's Rights group I
belong to, simply want to play a meaningful part in their children's
lives. We don't believe that Child Support is enough -- our children
need our attention, our interaction, our support, and occasionally
our discipline. They need fathers as much as they do mothers. Unfortunately,
in the vast majority of divorces, children end up having little
time with their dads. This is wrong for everyone, except, perhaps,
vindictive mothers who wish for nothing more than the father to
shut up, leave her and the kids alone, and hand over his money.
clarification: Neither Sarah Buttenwieser's article or my commentary
assert that "most" divorced fathers have a documented
history of abuse. However, both articles do cite family violence
experts and studies suggesting that fathers involved in high-conflict
custody disputes are significantly more likely than other divorced
or separated fathers to have a history of domestic violence.
|I have done years of research
and every, every study (I have searched hard for sole custody arrangements)
says the best place for children post divorce is with physical equal
custody (or close to it). Recently, the American Psychological Association
came out with the same exact findings; even finding that joint physical
custody lowered hostility over time where sole maternal custody did
not. In fact, it usually got worse. All the studies also found that
sole maternal custody is usually the most damaging place a child can
end up. And I'm sure you know all the stats on fatherlessness. But,
with the typical red flag of 'abuse by men' as the standard to seek
out, remember only 6% of any divorce is related to cruel or abusive
behavior (and that goes for both partners committing abuse, not just
men). 94% of divorce is for adultery or [irreconcilable] differences.
When child support awards went up in the 1980's, there was a sudden
surge in [irreconcilable] differences. I don't say men have a part
to play in the problem, but please hold women to a higher standard
than victim. Many women today don't buy into the victim virus poor
single moms want us to. 85% of divorces with children were [initiated]
by these 'poor downtrodden victims' at the expense of these children.
Moms and dads need to suck up to the reality that their happiness
is not as important than their children's welfare and that children
do better with both parents married, even in a poor marriage than
they do divorced. Once you have children, you get to give up narcissism,
most single moms just don't get that.
clarification: The March 2002 meta-analysis noted by the writer,
which may be viewed
on the APA web site, found that whether joint custody is physical
and "equal" or joint legal custody -- where one parent
retains primary custody but both parents are actively involved in
their children's lives -- was non-consequential to better outcomes
for children, as long as children spend "substantial"
time with both parents (no specific time split is mentioned). The
conclusion of the article also notes that the nature and size of
the overall research sample was borderline for determining statistically
significant effects, and states "It is important to recognize
that the results clearly do not support joint custody as preferable
to, or even equal to, sole custody in all situations. For instance,
when one parent is clearly abusive or neglectful, a sole-custody
arrangement may be the best solution. Similarly, if one parent suffers
from serious mental health or adjustment difficulties, a child may
be harmed by continued exposure to such an environment."
|I just read your article
"War of the Wounds" by Judith Stadtman Tucker, and I have
to say that I am pretty [appalled] There's so much misinformation
in the article that I wish I had time to sit down and clarify it all,
but unfortunately I have to work.
However, I feel I must make one point clear at least -- I'm a single
father with sole custody of my daughter. My ex-wife is a bipolar
alcoholic abuser who was a crystal meth user during our divorce,
and despite clear evidence that spoke to all those facts, the court
chose to award her custody (in the "best interests of the child",
of course). It wasn't until she went to prison for assault and probation
violation that I was able to get custody.
Oh wait, first I had to battle her parents for custody.
I am 100% behind presumptive shared custody. There is no way ANYONE
will ever convince me that presumptive maternal custody is in the
best interests of the child. Especially when you look at the data
presented in Dr. Warren Farrell's "Father and Child Reunion."
Ms. Tucker sounds like a typical bitter anti-male misandrist to
me. Especially on page three, where she mocks father's desires to
be part of their children's lives as a ploy to control their lives
and the lives of their mothers.
Anyone who can dish out that claptrap with a straight face has
a withered, uncompassionate heart. Find a better writer -- one who
actually cares about children.
I am appalled at your
anti-father stance in your magazine. How can you justify denying
parental involvement, either a father or a mother, in a child's
life? Judith Stadtman Tucker's article, "What's Wrong with
the Fathers' Movement" shows a biased opinion formed from an
uneducated perspective. Has she actually interviewed any fathers
who have been through custody battles?
I am a woman who has
been through this battle and I can attest firsthand that there is
a strong and deeply covered up agenda against fathers in family
courts. It is fueled by child support agencies who continue to label
men "deadbeat" for not paying their child support. Most
men do pay their child support. There is a small percentage of men
who do not pay and choose not to be involved (like 5%). This is
the true type of "deadbeat dad" that we hear and read
about which has become the stereotype used for all dads who do not
have custody of their children. The other type of dad who does not
pay all of his child support is someone who is involved and wants
to be involved but is not able to pay the ridiculous unreasonable
and [inaccurate] amounts required of them and maintain his own living
expenses at the same time. It does not cost $1000/month to feed
and clothe a child 60% of the time EACH month.
Almost all fathers who
are paying their full support amount want to spend more time with
their children than what the courts gave them. They are being denied
access to their children by court officials or the children's mothers
by being given four days a month to spend with their children. Fathers
aren't allowed to be parents, that is babysitting. Fathers, step-moms,
grandparents, aunts, and others are not happy with this and some
are finally speaking out about it through fathers rights groups
like Fathers 4 Justice. They should. They care about the welfare
of their children.
Fathers' Rights groups
are fighting for TIME WITH THEIR CHILDREN. How could anyone argue
a parent's desire and a child's birthright to see one another? Just
so you know where I am coming from I will include a direct written
quote from my husband's custody evaluator who gave my husband 50%
physical custody simply because the mother only wanted 50% and despite
my husband's request for sole physical. The evaluator refused to
interview daycare providers or the mother's family for any part
of the evaluation despite a police report against her for abusing
my husband and written documentation of suspected abuse of the child
in the mothers household. The evaluator was forced to acknowledge
it due to several other police and jail reports. Her quote, "The
mother has subjected the child to significant domestic violence."
However, "I find it concerning that the father would want to
limit the child's contact with the mother (by asking for 60% parenting
time)." There is much bias in the family court system against
fathers. Stop perpetuating stereotypes of "deadbeat dads"
and start recognizing the value of men in their children's lives.
Talk to some of us.
Saint Paul, MN
clarification: According to 2003 report from the U.S. Census Bureau,
just 63 percent of all custodial mothers were awarded child support
in 2002; of those who were awarded support, 26 percent never received
it. 74 percent received some amount of payment, and just under half
of mothers who received payments received the full amount due.
and I were invited to interview non-custodial fathers participating
in one fathers' rights message board. In an effort to capture both
sides of the story, I asked for volunteers who would agree to let
us contact their ex-wives. Only two men responded; one sent me contact
information for his ex-wife but cautioned that she might take out
a restraining order against him if I contacted her.
|Your column on father's
rights groups demonstrates beautifully why they need to exist: to
counteract decades of institutionalized misandry.
"The best estimate is that around one million children are
affected by divorce each year, and in 72 percent of cases with a
formal written agreement, mothers retain sole custody; fathers are
awarded sole custody in 9 percent of cases, and joint custody is
awarded in 17 percent."
You have provided these figures, and yet you question why groups
push for "equal opportunities for fathers and children."
"This is not to dismiss the real distress non-custodial fathers
may feel due to separation from their children. The tales of woe
father's rights advocates weave tend to be maudlin and somewhat
suspect -- for example, one man describes the two year-old son he's
never met as "the love of my life" (one might imagine
that actually living with a two year-old for any length of time
would temper his boundless affection)."
All right, perhaps we'll have you give birth to a child, and then
deny your right to see your child until his second birthday, and
then observe how you feel then.
Your argument is incredible: argue against men being treated as
anything but non-custodial ATMs, and then actually COMPLAIN that
you "have" to take care of a two-year-old.
Make no mistake: the men, women and children who are disgusted
by your sexist attitudes have had just about enough, and are banding
together to bring about change. You have a problem with men's rights
groups now? You haven't seen anything yet.
Stadtman Tucker's recent column (What's wrong with the Father's Rights
Movement), some points:
She opens her article with the expression: father's "rights"
movement, with the word rights in quotations. As if it is some ridiculous
notion that a father has any "rights," legal or otherwise.
Second, it is repetitively insinuated in many feminists group communications
that most divorced dad's are dangerous and abusive and the mother
and child must be protected from them by the state. This permeates
the knee-jerk notion that the best-interest-of-the-child is the
severe curtailing of the father's presence and influence. The more
militant-extremist the women's "rights" group, the higher
that statistic of abusive and dead-beat dads.
Ms Tucker cites Trish Wilson, who "considers exposing the
unwholesome underside of the father's custody movement her part-time
job," and parlays her analysis as factually objective. That
last quote says it all. Anyone devoted to finding the "unwholesome
underside" of any person/group/movement will find it. Every
"rights" group has its extreme fringes (Pro Life= kill
abortion doctors?), To paint them all with the same brush is a weak
Lastly, she notes Ms Wilson's [surprise] at the lack of feminist
group interest in this area. Maybe because they are not under direct
attack. We noncustodial father's are the ones long pushed into a
corner of parent disenfranchisement and are now refusing to remain
there. We don't look for domination, just equality as a parent.
Can the women's side really argue against equality?
And if Trish Wilson finds herself fighting that alone, as she says,
then what kind of fringe extremist has she become?
|On the whole, I thought
the column was well done. Certainly a better attempt at fairness than
some of what Glenn Sacks says.
However, as a father, as a man, and as a human being, I think we
could all do without your insinuation at the end of the article:
"In any event, it's unlikely the damaged hearts of these displaced
patriarchs can be repaired by imposing joint custody on their children's
browbeaten mothers -- however sweet the taste of victory."
However much I feel betrayed by their mother, and by the court
system, I would not use the children, nor time with the children
as a "means" to get back at their mother. I do realize
that people do it, but it goes both ways, and since mothers are
the ones who mainly have the children, they are the ones who have
the most opportunity to perpetrate this injustice upon their children
and the fathers.
I'd also like to point out that yes most custody [arrangements]
are arrived at by agreement, or mediation. However, I didn't find
the mediation to be impartial. To sit there, and be told over and
over by someone who is supposed to be impartial that I was never
going to be given the time that I want was the worst day of my life.
Their mother leaving me, that day I would celebrate except for the
pain it has caused my children, and what it has meant to our ability
to spend time together.
After reading your shallow writings on Glenn Sacks and other fathers
trying to just get the simple opportunity to visit and even, god-forbid,
share custody of their children I just couldn't help but hate you.
Therefore, on behalf of pissed off white men everywhere, I have
included your organization on our "May God Smite" list
in our website (found on the "people to hate" page). I
will be updating the page shortly.
Thank you and keep up the good work.
The obvious tone of your writings makes it clear that you feel
threatened by equality.
Huh, imagine that.