The National Parents Organization has polled the American public in several states and found that the vast majority, over 70%, support joint physical custody after divorce whenever possible. Increasingly, old fashioned ideas have fallen out of favor — that children belong with their nurturing, caregiver mothers, while the role of the father is to provide money and “babysit” when mom needs a day out. With such overwhelming support, legislation to reform the outdated family court system, which is heavily biased toward the mother, into one that values both parents equally, should be just around the corner. Unfortunately, equal custody rights for fathers have faced opposition from special interests every time they have been proposed.
In 2016, Governor Rick Scott of Florida vetoed SB 668, a bipartisan effort to reform continuous alimony and custody in the sunshine state. The bill would have made it easier to restructure alimony payments after one or both individuals had a change in income. The most controversial part of the bill, however, was the inclusion of a premise that children spend about equal time with both parents. Judges would have maintained authority to adjust custody on an individual basis, but the default would be equal time for both parents. Despite more than 80% of the calls and letters Governor Scott received clearly favoring the new measures, he chose to veto the bill. In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner, he wrote, “This bill has the potential to upend that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest…”
Even though all research and common sense seems to dictate that having both parents equally involved is in the child’s best interest, several women’s rights groups felt otherwise. A unified front consisting of the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, Breastfeeding Coalition, National Council of Jewish Women and UniteWomen FL descended on the capital armed with picket signs and righteous indignation. Their speaker, Barbara DeVane of Quick, NOW, wasted no time getting to the point. She told the crowd, “The bill is calling for a 50/50 timeshare split. This affects child support payments. More time sharing equals less payments.”
A similar battle reached the same conclusion in Massachusetts. Two bills were introduced at the same time, one of which dealt with alimony and the other with child custody. Both bills passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, with the alimony bill passing with a unanimous 156-0 vote. Unfortunately, that was as far as they got. Neither bill made it past the Senate. The alimony bill was repeatedly delayed until the end of the voting session by the small minority of senators who opposed it, and the custody bill was repeatedly amended until it looked nothing like the original.
Dr. Ned Holstein, founder of the National Parents Organization, is one of the primary speakers in a recent documentary produced by RT America called Forgotten Fathers. The documentary features individual men who became victims of the family court system, which rules in favor of the mother in five out of six custody hearings. Dr. Holstein explains, “This is a classic case of special interests versus what the public generally believes… Politically, that should be a landslide but in fact there are special interests that are standing in the way of that.”