In several US States, New York State included, divorced fathers have only obligations: to provide their children with child support fixed at a certain level of their income, regardless of the economic conditions and mum’s income. Seeing their children: optional; if mum wants. In any case, there is nothing the State will do to protect the basic right of a parent – the father- to see his children.
US fathers rights vacuum looks yawing, even more so when one considers that father rights are making dramatic progress elsewhere. In Germany for instance, joint custody is the rule. New legislation is currently being drafted to extend joint-custody to unmarried fathers, who until now could only enjoy custodial rights if the mother agreed.
Progress in fathers rights are unfortunately still opposed with the sadly enduring argument of the “best interest” of the child stuff. In a recent article in the UK Telegraph, Tim Lott expresses his compassion for Louis de Bernières, a non-custodial dad who sees his kids on the weekend. Yet Lott dismisses joint-custody, on the ground that it is not practical: too messy for the kids, who might have to change home every week.
Truly, Lott’s argument does not fly very far. Chaos is not the necessary outcome of joint custody. Quite the contrary, granting automatic joint-custody to fathers might make mothers more receptive to dad’s desire to see his kids and help parents find arrangements, while sole custody surely fosters mothers’ intransigence. The fact that in England roughly one-third of fathers don’t see their kids after divorce proves it. And finally, since when civil rights progress should be impeded for lack of practicality? On this count, women’s access to the labor market should have been denied for its possible consequences on the mother’s relationship with her children.