Happy Father’s Day 2010
By Leon R. Koziol, J.D.
Unlike the sugar and spice with everything nice which routinely characterizes Mother’s Day, a growing media focus on the other parent’s holiday invariably degenerates into slurs and stereotypes about absentee fathers. Indeed, only two years ago, an aspiring presidential candidate, presumably familiar with such prejudice, used Father’s Day as an opportunity to declare yet another war, this one directed to making fathers (not absentee mothers) more accountable to their children.
Today, nearly halfway into his term, President Barack Obama is losing his own war. Poverty, crime, teen pregnancies and domestic controversy are all on the rise. Separate parenting households are now the mainstream. Meanwhile, our productivity as a nation is being lost to foreign countries as more businesses, workers and entrepreneurs waste valuable time attending to Family Court mandates and proceedings in the states.
Mr. Obama might secure a turning point in this war by boldly going where no president has gone before. He can go to the source by consulting domestic policy agenda spearheaded by his Secretary of State during the nineties. A socialist agenda was escalated under the Social Security Act when it targeted fathers in a manner which caused a massive flight of both parents from their traditionally recognized priorities.
In the spirit of, it takes a village, to raise our children, parenting roles were systematically transformed into diverse figures resembling neither of the two created by nature. School personnel, day care providers and a variety of parental substitutes were accorded the lion’s share of child-rearing authority. Meanwhile statutory creatures known as “custodial parents” were trained to merge distinct parenting roles by diminishing the non-custodial creation (typically fathers) to maintain power and welfare benefits (custody and child support).
The source of these creations is the Child Support Standards Act. In virtually every case where parents, by design, necessity or otherwise, maintain separate homes, this statute mandates a money collection formula which cannot be satisfied without the naming of a “custodial parent.” Because a money and power award comes with the title, rarely can parents come to terms. The ulterior, if not intended agenda, behind this formula then emerges with the hiring of lawyers, accountants and forensic agents who collectively devour a finite parenting estate to the detriment of the children.
Ironically, this socialist policy agenda was purportedly designed to benefit these same children. Other countries and our founding fathers might call it propaganda or tyranny over our privacy rights. Regardless, given present day trends, lawmakers and bar associations would benefit society by sponsoring independent studies of the vast waste and child injury which these laws have logically produced.
Children today are learning the brutal tactics which parents exercise in these state sponsored custody wars. Two Albany Family Court judges summed up the crisis and its source best in an opinion and guest column. The first declared in 2001 (Webster v Ryan) that the “custody” and “visitation” framework had long “outlived its usefulness.” His ruling was reversed on other grounds and ignored by the legislature.
Six years later, 15 year Judge Dennis Duggan lamented the consequences in a newspaper column. After describing firsthand accounts of a 12 year old robber and a 15 year old would-be killer, he “confessed” that after hearing 40,000 cases, he had no solution, only observations. Among them, he cautioned that “schools can never replace parents.” His best advice, however, went to a mother who claimed her child had “issues” requiring “anger management” therapy. Reverting to a traditional model of parenting, Judge Duggan explained that “anger management started when (his) father came home from work.”
Not surprisingly, the mother could do little to relate because she herself had never known any father figure. Fathers do matter, and they require far more respect than our “custody” system presently offers. Money awards and power titles will not produce responsible parents. Child-rearing time and rights can be apportioned by agreement, mediation and, as a last resort, court orders that promote the function and not the exploitation of good fathers.
Leon R. Koziol, J.D., is a civil rights advocate who has practiced law for nearly a quarter century in New York State. He has been a spokesperson for parenting rights and currently publishes an Internet blog site known as LeonKoziol.com, focused upon reform in our domestic relations courts.