Fathers deprived of their parenting rights like myself know that Massachusetts Shared Parenting Bill HB1400 is being considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee and might become law. If this were to happen, equal parenting rights would be the basis of custody rulings in divorce cases. I happened today to come across a posting of the Simeon Law Firm, titled “Would Proposed Mass. Fathers’ Rights Rule Help Dads or Hurt Kids? One more time, this title frames the conventional, misleading trade-off between fathers rights and “the best interest of the child” that would result from the passing of the bill into law.
What do we have in this posting? Not much, in all honesty. First, the Simeon Law Firm states that evidence of biased rulings – mothers granted sole physical custody of children 84% of the time- is based on 1999 doctoral dissertation. Old stuff indeed, yet that has the merit to exist. Does Simeon Law Firm have better, more recent data? Of course not, but the firm seems to suggest that between 1999 and 2010, Massachusetts probate courts might have – magic- produced more balanced rulings. The punch line? The law would hamper judge discretion, and judges work really hard on each individual family cases (Here Simeon Law firm quotes Scannel -director of the policy and planning for the Massachusetts Society- and Barbar, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s family laws).
The new law would hamper judge discretion, really? We can’t wait for that to happen. Divorced fathers that have spent time in family courts know that judges rarely, if ever, exert their discretion in their favor. On the contrary, judge discretion often aggravates the bias of the law. An equal parenting law would force judges to get off the rails of biased thinking and take into account of fathers’ parenting right. Why would an unbiased family court judge mind? Moreover, where does Simeon Law firm get that justice is the proceed of judge discretion? There might have been a few good judges in the South during segregation times, did that invalidate the need of civil rights?
Ultimately, Simeon law firm’s case rests on the flimsy “best interest of the child” doctrine: a child is better off with mum when parents divorce. Evidence in favor of this doctrine? zero. In half of the world, family laws are not predicated upon it. Can anybody prove that children of divorced parents are worse off there?
A last word. I can’t help but ask myself why would a law firm would vindicate judicial discretion against reform. I guess, from the point of view of law firms, grey areas are good for business. Judge discretion leaves more room for pleas and lawsuits… and the perpetration of things as they are.