Saturday, August 18, 2007

Father's Rights

Let me say upfront, I do not market myself as being a "Father's Rights Lawyer" but neither do I market myself as a "Mother's Rights Lawyer." Some attorneys do emphasize one gender over another. For example, Stanley Robison down in New Albany bills himself as a Father's Right Attorney.

I think the legal system reflects our culture. If you disagree with me on that, then you will disagree with for the remainder of this paragraph. If a father pays more in child support than the mother would, that fact relates to the unequal pay received by women. I have seen the reverse - mother was an RN and father was working in a gas station - but it is rare. Visitation, now parenting time, saw a tilted playing field for a very long time. The tilt favored the child support payee against the payee: payor got behind in support, payee denied visitation, and the courts favored the payee even where the cause of non-payment was payee denying visitation. Experience is a hard teacher and we learned that the non-custodial parent's involvement was as important as his money. I think the Bar failed its non-custodial parent clients by not explaining their rights and leaving them thinking self-help was their only recourse when faced with a denial of visitation. That the non-custodial parent means the father is generally true and out of custody comes the determination of who has to pay child support and who has visitation. Economics and civil rights legislation might deal with the bias of unequal pay. I think the second class status for visitation rights has been addressed by the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. Custody poses a more intractable cultural problem. Think about your reaction when you hear that a mother does not have custody of her children and then think about reaction about a father not having custody of his children. Changing that reaction is a problem, maybe the problem for custody cases.

Yesterday, I got an Order on a custody case. I represented the father and he got to keep custody in the face of a strong attack by mother. I was lucky in having a father who was in his children's best interests. Still, the mother had to contend with the idea that there was something bad about her if she did not have custody of her children. If she had not had this idea motivating her, then she might have saved herself a good deal of money and a lot of stress. The reaction from a layperson who overheard me talking was that it was hard for a father to get custody of his children. I pointed out that it depends on the facts, that Indiana is more interested in the best interests of the children than preferring one gender over another. Which is why I think the debate between fathers versus mothers in custody matters misses the point - which is better for the children?


Jen said...

Unfortunately, although the state of Indiana may have realized that gender does not factor in who is the better parent, it is judges who make the ultimate decision. I have found out recently that gender does indeed have a greater bearing in some courts than the facts. I would be thrilled to see our justice system working as it was initially designed... to be a fair and unbiased system. When justice is truly blind, we will have the best justice system ever. Thank you for sharing your insights through your blog.

Sam Hasler said...

I thank you for the compliment.

Yes, there is some truth in this. Judges have their biases - they could be on the basis of sex, or age, or economic class. Remember that there is always the appeal process to take care of the worse of these judges.