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Fathers fight back:
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 Fathers4Justice Canada.

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 my kids.

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
July 2005

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.

Michael S.
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.

Jim E.
Athens, Georgia

Editor's 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.

Carri H.

Editor's 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.

Jay T.

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.

Kim W.
Saint Paul, MN

Editor's 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.

Sarah 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.

Brian G

Regarding Judith 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 debater's technique.

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?

Paul S.

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.

No signature


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.

Webmistress Erica

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