Lopsided Impossibility versus Split Custody
Early feminists, the suffragists, fought for the right to custody of their children in case of divorce. The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. There are situations where fathers have essentially NO rights with respect to their children, and must sometimes go to herculean efforts to protect their children, particularly when mothers are engaging in egregiously bad behavior.
I am proposing a new way at looking at this topic. As an EQUITY feminist, I believe that fathers have certain rights and duties, and that these are presently denied to many fathers.
An equity feminist is a person who believes that women and men are entitled to equitable rights, which means that where gender differences make doctrinaire equality impossible, each gender is granted the rights that would be equitable for that gender. For example, while both parents have a right to protect their unborn child from abortion, only the woman can breastfeed, so granting her the right to breastfeed would not be a right that could be granted to men. And because women bear the young and their bodies need to remain healthy, it is not equitable to allow or require women to be involved in combat in a war. But because men have been cheated out of equity with respect to parenthood, by the law, fathers deserve and need laws that protect their rights as fathers, without having to go to impossible lengths to secure them.
The presumption must be that a child is entitled to the love and care of BOTH parents.
To this end, I propose a new legal mechanism, which I have called "Split Custody" to describe this new set of arrangements and rights.
In Split Custody, both parents:
have a right to spend significant time with the child
have a right to a major say in policy decisions regarding the child's well being, care (including medical care), education, and upbringing
has a right to child support from the other
has a right to withhold the child from the other.
I will start with examples of why the present system doesn't work, and then suggest mechanisms for righting these wrongs and creating equity. Bear in mind that the ultimate goal is the best interests of the child, who is ENTITLED to be raised by both parents. A child needs intimate contact with a person of each gender in order to develop into an emotionally healthy adult who can relate to people of either gender.
The photo is licensed under the Creative Commons attribution, share alike license, by Kiefer.Wolfowitz.
Differences Based on Marital Status
I am familiar with the law in one state: Arizona. I also have some knowledge of the situation and the law in California. Other states may have different practices and laws, so I will be looking at one or two ways in which the laws operate.
In Arizona, an unmarried mother gets sole custody. There is some logic to this inasmuch as she must physically nurture and bear the child. However, the law takes it too far. For the unmarried father to gain any kind of custody rights may be next to impossible. I am mindful of one example where a mother actually cut off ALL contact between the child, and the father and his family, for six months. The father and his family didn't even know if the child was dead or alive, let alone how the child was doing. When they were re-united, the child at first was frightened of the father and her family, but fortunately, old memories of nurturing did kick in after a short time. The child was a little over a year old when they were re-united, and it took a court action to bring it about.
I would hold that if the law wants to PRESUME that the mother in that situation has sole custody, a father can fairly easily get "split custody" whereby he has the right to spend significant time with his child. The mother has a right to breastfeed the child until weaning, and the child has a right to his mother's milk until weaning, but the father can babysit, or spend time in the maternal household with the baby. All that should be necessary for the father to gain "split custody" rights should be requesting the court grant it, with a minimal showing that he has done everything reasonable to maintain contact, and to be nurturing.
The current system has the fatal flaw that because of the way the welfare system is constructed, a mother cannot get most public benefits for the child unless the father is absent. This leads a lot of mothers to try to break contact with fathers, as happened in this case.
The mother finally realized the importance of allowing the father to have contact when the father actually disobeyed a court order and kept the baby for ten days, all the while keeping the mother INFORMED of the child's well being. Both of them were on the run from law enforcement for ten days, until the court held a hearing and ordered the child returned. The reason for keeping the child was that the father feared that the mother would commit international child abduction (more on that later). When the father returned the child to the mother, the child showed no interest in going with her mother. The father placed the child on her feet, and she turned around and wrapped her arms around her father's legs. She has spent her entire life trying to unite her parents.
The father should never have had to disobey a court order to protect his daughter from international child abduction! But the state has NO law, so the court was unable to do anything more than refuse to order the father to agree to a passport for the child.
On the other hand, if the couple is married, it is more common for both parents to have joint custody in case of separation or divorce. But this can cause problems of its own as I will show later.
The child's need for both parents is not different based on the marital status of the parents. Public policy currently tries to drive a wedge between parents who are not married, when it SHOULD be encouraging them to unite in marriage instead.
International Child Abduction
As long as I mentioned it, I will talk a bit about international child abduction (i.e. kidnapping and taking a child over the border into another country). The law is in a state of development in this area. Kidnapping is a federal felony, but trying to protect the child from being kidnapped on the state level may or may not be possible.
One treaty allows the government to seek the return of a child taken out of the United States into another country (and taking a child from one country to the other), but not every country has signed the treaty, and the ones who have are not always cooperative in returning a child. It can get very expensive to have the child returned. First, it may be necessary to spend considerable money to locate the child. Then, there may be local legal hurdles to overcome. For example, in one country I know about, the child is considered a citizen of THAT country if the mother is, and will be very uncooperative in returning the child to the country of customary residence, even though it has signed the treaty. And some countries that have not signed might come as a complete surprise. Japan is one of them! If the child is taken to an Arabic country, the parent left behind will be lucky ever to see the child again, particularly if that parent is the mother.
Most states have laws in place that make it illegal for one parent to take a child out of that jurisdiction without the permission of the other parent, and this can be applied to the international child abduction situation, but it doesn't have a lot of teeth because of lack of cooperation of many other countries.
It should be relatively easy for a parent to get a court order specifying that the child shall not be removed from the jurisdiction, but it should also be relatively easy for one parent to show that the other parent is abusive and the child needs protection, without having to remove the child from the jurisdiction. In practice, one parent may be highly abusive, but it may be next to impossible for the other parent to prove it to a court's satisfaction.
Books Worth Reading
Available on Amazon.
Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education
by Raymond S. Moore, Dennis R. Moore, Dorothy N. Moore
Children are better off starting school late. I agree ONLY if parents go ahead and teach their children to read as soon as the child is ready (which may be far earlier than you think.) The Moores seem to think that it hurts children to learn to read too early. I emphatically disagree. I don't see it as any more desirable that a child is illiterate than it is that an adult is.
The Montessori Method
by Maria Montessori
Be careful. This method will teach your child to be an independent thinker and worker, who won't fit well in a factory setting. It also provides the child with advanced learning opportunities that most children can take advantage of.
The Absorbent Mind
by Maria Montessori
How to Multiply Your Baby's Intelligence (The Gentle Revolution Series)
by Glenn Doman, Douglas Doman, Janet Doman
Please note: I do NOT agree with all of Doman's recommendations. But this particular book is full of really good ideas, if you have the time to implement them. Also beware of Doman's parents, who become fanatics. Smells too much like "cult" to me.
When one parent has sole custody, it is common for that parent to shut the other parent out of all decisions regarding medical care for the child. Obviously, if the child is in need of quick medical care, one parent should be able to make the decision regarding care, whoever has the child at the time. However, both parents should be able to request the right to have basic principles regarding medical care established in written form, to which both are required to adhere, and both parents should have a say in the development of the writing.
Some forms of medical care are not emergencies, and no doctor should ever give a child medical treatment in those cases, without the permission of both parents. Keep in mind that there is growing controversy about the wisdom of certain types of treatment, and doctors who support each side of the controversy. Here are some examples.
Vaccinations. A vaccination is never an emergency. It has been shown that vaccinations may often not produce immunity, and that most vaccines contain poisonous substances such as mercury, aluminum, squalene, and other substances. (Squalene is safe in the skin, and occurs naturally. It doesn't occur in the bloodstream.) The damage vaccines can do is considerable, and more documentation is accumulating constantly. If both parents do not agree to vaccination, it should NOT be done by any doctor. This obviously goes contrary to many practices and laws, but these need to be changed.
Psychotropic drugs. These drugs can cause suicidal ideation and violence. They cause more harm than any good they MIGHT cause, and should never be given to children in the first place, yet this is becoming commonplace. No prudent doctor will ever give a psychotropic drug to a child at all, let alone with the consent of only one parent. These drugs cause addiction just like certain street drugs, and there will be serious withdrawal symptoms if the drugs are stopped cold-turkey. It is becoming more widely known that MOST if not ALL of the recent mass shootings involved a shooter who was at the time, or had been, on psychotropics.
Statins. There are some people who are proposing giving children statins. This is SICK! Statins should be banned. They cause far more harm than good, and can cause a first heart attack that is fatal. They can cause a wasting of the muscles, by actually killing the tissue. The process of eliminating the dead material from the body can cause kidney failure. There is no evidence that more than 1% of the population ever benefits more than suffers from these drugs, and unless a person actually HAS heart trouble, statins should not be given. Giving them to a CHILD is utterly ridiculous!
I am sure people can come up with other examples. But this will suffice to show the problem.
In one case I know about, the psychiatrist gave a 12 year old a prescription for 100mg of Zoloft daily. That's a huge dose even in an adult. He stated his intent to increase the dose to 200mg. But one parent had not granted permission, and objected. Now the doctor is backpedaling. Hopefully, this can be resolved in favor of weaning the child off Zoloft and not introducing any other dangerous drug.
For more information on the dangers of psychotropic drugs, see this web site:
Please note that an abusive parent who has physical custody too much can drive a child to a point where a psychiatrist may decide to put the child on drugs. If the child "NEEDS" drugs, the parent needs to examine himself or herself and see what he or she is doing to cause the harm to the child's emotions, instead of using the availability of drugs as a scapegoat for their own bad behavior. Nobody EVER suffers from a Zoloft deficiency!
Another example of where a father can fall short of having the authority he needs to protect the best interests of his child is in the realm of education.
Case in point: both parents are working, and there are times when neither is available to take care of the child. So they agree to seek day care for those hours, but they don't need all of the time that the day care center provides. But the day care program requires the child to be there five days a week. Head Start is one such program that can place requirements like these.
The child is placed in day care and does all right for a short time, but quickly starts to develop bad habits, like hitting other children. The father realizes that the child isn't thriving in day care and wants to find an alternative. A good alternative would be Montessori school. But the father has no say, and the mother is being difficult enough he doesn't feel it would be wise to bring this up.
The fact that a preschooler probably doesn't belong in a group setting was illustrated in a book called The Secret Language of Your Child by Howard Fast. Unfortunately, the book has gone out of print, and I haven't been able to find any used copies at Amazon. The gist of the book was that the interpersonal relationships between child peers are often emotionally unhealthy. Some children become shy and retiring and become the brunt of the cruelty of other children. This happened to me. Some children become aggressive. He describes one such personality trait as "Dominant Aggressive". The only trait he described that I could even remotely agree with was the "Dominant Leader". Such a child uses diplomacy to persuade other children to do what he wants. These children are rare, especially at such a young age. In the family, there is a natural pecking order, and while this doesn't prevent older children from being cruel to younger siblings, unfortunately, it DOES mean that there isn't a constant competition among children to determine who is higher in the pecking order. I can guarantee that when one person has to watch 15 children, the Dominant Aggressives can easily wait until the caretaker's back is turned, to engage in cruelty.
Considering these problems, Dr. Raymond Moore wrote a book (also out of print, but available used) called Better Late Than Early, which advocates delaying placing a child in a group setting until the age of 8. I do not agree that very young children should be kept from learning to read. You can teach an INFANT to read if you know how to do it (Glenn Doman does this, though he uses the wrong METHOD; instead of phonics, he uses look and guess), and I don't see that an illiterate toddler is a wonderful thing!
Many bad parents may be motivated by the issue of child support, to tear apart the relationship. They operate out of greed. Theoretically, there is supposed to be a formula that determines how much child support the non-custodial parent owes the other. But in practice, it doesn't always work out that way.
I am mindful of one situation I know about where child support was set, and then the father lost his job. He filed a motion to have the child support adjusted, but the court refused to do anything with the motion. In the meantime, the government seized all of the money the father had placed in his bank account to pay income taxes. He has been unable to get the money back. He is in a heap of trouble if something doesn't give. A year later, the father pursued it, but he was sent to the child support court, which found that he still owed the same amount, along with arrears, and refused to examine the evidence this was unreasonable, based on a technicality. The father obviously had extremely poor legal representation, and for that reason, he was unable to defend his position. The situation has left the father functionally destitute for the foreseeable future. He has no income, is unable to hold a job (because the government won't let him keep enough money to pay his own living expenses, or enough to pay the taxes on what he earns), and doesn't even have enough money to buy food. He's on food stamps, and working to get on general welfare. In the meantime, the mother is collecting money from the government, which will try to pursue the father for reimbursement, and there is no motive for her to be reasonable.
Theoretically, the government should never take more than half his income. But in practice, they have been taking everything.
This is one reason why I advocate that in the "split custody" arrangement, NEITHER side is liable for child support to the other.
In another case, the mother has been returning the child support payments to the father, because he is taking care of the child almost half the time, and the combined income in the mother's household is greater than his, and he is barely squeaking by. But she also feels free to take some child support money (and not return it) to send to needy relatives elsewhere. This is not what the child support is FOR!
Exceptions to Split Custody
There are two exceptions I would advocate, with respect to split custody:
1. If the parents are married and one parent initiates divorce for anything other than adultery, abandonment, or physical cruelty, then the parent who did NOT initiate the divorce should get preference. In that case, the custodial parent will be entitled to child support, and to remain in the family home. However, the other parents should ordinarily have a right to spend significant time with the children. If it can be shown with evidence that the non-custodial parent is being cruel to the children, then this would not be granted, or if the custodial parent is being cruel to the children, there should be a remedy that safeguards the children. This is a difficult area. Just take it that I am not advocating equity parenting when one parent gets a divorce for any reason other than the most serious. I would like to see no-fault divorce abolished.
2. If the father tries to coerce the mother into abortion against her will, he loses his equity rights. If she tries to get an abortion against his will, then she loses her equity rights.
The current public policy is to provide government help for a single parent, where the other parent is absent. It is easy to think this is a valid policy, because single mothers have grave difficulty providing for their children AND holding a job that pays enough, while still taking care of the children. This policy has been in place for decades, and the result has been that many fathers simply give up. They have NO interest in being fathers; they were just in the relationship for personal pleasure, and they didn't CARE if the woman became pregnant. Often, the father coerces the mother into an unwanted abortion.
The fact is, children are much better off with both parents in the home. They grow up into more responsible adults, tend to stay out of trouble, and are more emotionally balanced. So public policy OUGHT to ENCOURAGE parents to stay together. However, if they do, then single mothers whose partner isn't interested will be left without help.
This shows a fundamental weakness in letting the government be the source of help. When private charity helps, then the workers can determine on a case by case basis, when help should be provided for a single mother, and when help should only be provided if the couple is together. A set of complex rules won't provide the answer, and bureaucrats don't have the time or inclination, let alone the empathy as a general rule, to make just determinations of who should receive help. Greedy people taking advantage of the system has resulted in widespread fraud. The only answer offered has been more and more rules, and each rule makes life more difficult for the parents in the long run.
A father should have the right to challenge any determination that the only way a mother can receive help is if he abandons the family. A father should also have the right to refuse to cooperate with receiving government money and to determine that the family should be supported by the parents. Mothers should have the same rights. They should be in agreement.
In the meantime, I advocate that state governments set up a fund to which private individuals can contribute, and they receive a 100% tax credit for money contributed, up to a reasonable amount (say, $600 a year), and the organization that disburses the money is PRIVATE, not government-run, and any family in need can apply for help. The organization shall provide counselors (they can be trained volunteers) who will help the couple find solutions to problems of food and housing. We already have such a system set up for school tuition in my state, and it works very well. Parents can get a "scholarship" and send the child to the school of choice, public or private. It saves the government a heap of money, and thus also the taxpayers. The cost of the scholarship program, in decreased revenues, does not come close to equaling the saved expenses of providing public education to every family that cannot afford private school, and the children get a better education. This system should be expanded to ALL forms of help to the needy, the sooner the better. Counselors can figure out who the greedy parents are, and stop them from gaming the system and getting benefits to which they are not entitled, or who have deliberately destroyed the family in order to get money from other sources.
More to Come
I have more to say, but this is all I am writing for the moment. Please give me your input, so I can develop these ideas further. Give me examples of situations you know about, that may suggest additional facets to remedy this problem.
Do you think the idea of "split custody" is a good idea?