I came across TyQan Brow’s story, which was on the news some ten days ago. A new pearl in the nauseating list of encroachments of
fathers’ rights by family courts.
TyQan is the father of an eponym son he conceived with Jonetta Woods. In February 2013, Jonetta tragically lost three of her four children in a fire. The story gets suddenly very complicated, thanks to erratic Kalamazoo (Michigan) family court decisions. For a while, TyQan is granted custody of Drayanna, the daughter Jonetta had with another man and escaped the fire, and his soon-to-be-born son. But not so fast: TyQan Junior is born in March 14, but his father TyQan does not even have a chance to bring his baby home, as he has to face an accusation of child abuse and neglect: A social worker, who had visited TyQan before the baby’s birth and had found no crib at home, jumped to the conclusion that he was not prepared for parenthood. Eventually TyQan is granted temporary custody of his son by Kalamazoo family court, after he showed he had all that was needed to take care of his son, and all the desire to do so. Yet,TyQan is a father on “probation.” I could not keep myself from thinking: what will he need to prove to the court to be granted permanent custody of his child? How filled, and with what food, his fridge will have to be? How much money will need to be on his savings account?
My first reading of TyQuan’s tangle with family court was that if the family court’s crowd despises the Patriarch figure, the man that provides, takes charge, and imposes his will on women and children, there is one type of men it hates even more: the poor. In the times we live in, low-income men don’t make it to the middle class, and their status as breadwinners is always fragile. If they get divorced, they don’t not remain breadwinners very long, as family courts turn them into deadbeat dads with inflexible child support payments. Eduardo Porter is right when he suggests to policymakers, in a New Times article from March 5 2014, to try support instead of punishment for low- income fathers (and families).
However, a look at family laws outside the US shows that punishment by family courts also applies to low-income non custodial fathers in countries where the social safety net is better than in the US, in Ireland for instance. Dan Buckley from the Irish Examiner writes that judges are breaching human rights of fathers, keeping them from seeing their children and forcing them into poverty. The targets of family courts there are fathers who can just make it with state benefits. Too often, judges tend to order an excessive amount of child support (maintenance in Ireland) relative to income; the same judges will curtail visitations or send fathers to jail if child support is unpaid.
There is something in out- of- wedlock fathers with kids which deeply bothers our societies; perhaps, the fact that they could be totally autonomous with kids, that they could not need the help from women to educate their children.
I will celebrate when the first custodial or non- custodial father will be elected in office – any office- anywhere.