Children need their fathers.
If you take away anything from this blog and the words that follow, I want it to be that sentence. I’ll say it again: Children need their fathers.
I’m a collaborative family law attorney who is passionate about shared parenting. When a divorce involves children, parents need to create and honor a parenting agreement that allows equal custody. As a child of divorce, I know all too well how the lack of equal parenting can negatively impact a child’s life. My childhood revolved around two main terms: primary parent and secondary parent. These terms were given to my parents during their contentious divorce. They fought over everything and brought me into conflict that could have and should have been avoided. As a result of their divorce process, my mother was considered my primary parent and had custody of me the majority of the time. My father was named my secondary parent and I only got to see him every other weekend and on Wednesday nights.
It wasn’t just the legal documents that referred to him as my secondary parent. It was a common phrase that was used by anyone who read my files including my teachers, school administrators, and even healthcare professionals. As a young girl in elementary school, I didn’t know what the term really meant. To me, it meant that I missed my dad because I no longer got to see him every day. This went on for 11 years… the majority of my childhood. As I entered adulthood and chose a career in the legal field, I finally realized what that term really meant. I was seen as a prize in my parent’s divorce. Rather than agreeing to a shared parenting agreement or healthy co-parenting, they both wanted to be the primary parent. It was a title that eventually went to my mother, which meant my father got the title of secondary. As an adult realizing this for the first time, I knew that something needed to change. Children should not experience this type of conflict and court-sanctioned titles just because their parents chose to divorce. If two parents can equally create a child, they must be able to equally parent a child.
Unfortunately, my story as a child of divorce is just one of millions across the United States.
According to the National Center For Health Statistics and statistics from the National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends, approximately 747,000 marriages in the United States ended in divorce in 2019. Other research estimates that at least half of those divorces involved children. Keep in mind, this is a statistic from just one year. I’ve researched these trends in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, and also discuss them on the “Divorce, Healthy!” podcast. In a recent survey conducted by Emma Johnson of Wealthy Single Mommy, hundreds of divorced and singles mothers were interviewed about their parenting schedule and income. The Single Mom Income and Parenting Time Survey found that of mothers surveyed:
- 13% have 50/50 parenting arrangements
- 36% have majority time responsibility, with visits with the dad
- 51% of single moms surveyed have their kids 100% of the time
As an alternative dispute resolution family law attorney and child of divorce, I’m on a mission to change the way people divorce and co-parent in the United States. Through out-of-court divorce methods, we can help spouses and their children in a healthier way. Here are six reasons to choose an out-of-court divorce process. As a result of this method of divorce, the wellbeing of both parents and their children are prioritized. For instance, in collaborative law divorce proceedings, each spouse is represented by their own attorney. Together, the four people (two attorneys and two spouses) come together in a room to discuss their divorce. As a group, they work to create an agreement that is fair and balanced for everyone involved, including their children. I’m proud to say that this method of divorce has been noted to create a healthier environment for children and supports the concept of equal and shared parenting.
There are other efforts nationwide, and even worldwide, that share the same concerns that I have about the lack of equal parenting efforts and how this often results in fathers as secondary parents or non-custodial parents. The book, The Boy Crisis, written by Warren Farrell, Ph.D. and John Gray, Ph.D., dives into issues that face boys in the United States. Through their research, the authors find that boys are growing up with less-involved fathers and are more likely to drop out of school, drink, do drugs, become delinquent, and end up in prison. This book offers a comprehensive blueprint for what parents, teachers, and policymakers can do to help America’s sons become happier, healthier men and fathers as well as leaders worthy of our respect. Dr. Farrell also presented his research during TEDxMarin in 2015. In the below video clip, he shares what is causing a worldwide Boy Crisis and how we resolve it.
In addition to The Boy Crisis, below are a few organizations that I am proud to support personally and professionally due to their commitment to equal and shared parenting:
National Parents Organization:
I’m honored to serve as a board member for the executive board of directors for the National Parents Organization (NPO). We support the mission to improve the lives of children and strengthen society by protecting every child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. The overarching goal of NPO is to promote shared parenting by educating parents, divorce professionals, and legislators. The organization also works to reform family courts and laws in every state. Click here to learn more about NPO and its work nationwide.
The Fathers’ Rights Movement:
The Fathers’ Rights Movement is a group of men and women who are committed to helping loving fathers enjoy their full rights and responsibilities, as well as helping children have their fathers in their lives. Their goal is to help fathers who want equal, shared parenting to understand their rights and to give these fathers the support and resources they need to successfully navigate the frustrations built into the family court and child custody systems. Click here to learn more about their mission and work.
Founded in 2001 by Jessica Seinfeld, the Good+ Foundation has become a leading national nonprofit that works to dismantle multi-generational poverty. It does so by pairing tangible goods with innovative services for low-income fathers, mothers, and caregiver. This creates an upward trajectory for the whole family. Seinfeld believes that stronger fathers build stronger, more resilient families and the more that society invests in fathers in their capacity to be engaged co-parents, the greater impact we see on children and families as a whole. Seinfeld wrote an op-ed about how investing in fathers can tackle poverty issues nationwide. In it, she addresses the need for child support reform:
“… reforming child support must start with setting “right-size payment orders” that assess each dad’s actual income or employment status more frequently. This, coupled with co-parenting, fatherhood, and employment support, will make it possible for non-custodial fathers to continue to have meaningful engagement in their families and communities.”
Seinfeld and Good+ Foundation are working with the Aspen Institute’s Ascend group to further study an evidence-based approach to child support. Click here to learn more about Good+ Foundation and their work.
Moms for Shared Parenting:
Moms for Shared Parenting is an activist organization, led by women. Their mission is to promote equally shared parenting, with a focus on what is best for children, while simultaneously closing the gender pay gap. This effort includes passing shared-parenting laws in each of the 50 states in the United States, educating the public about shared parenting research and best practices, and torpedoing the patriarchy by changing minds and attitudes about parenting. Click here to learn more about this movement founded by Emma Johnson.
Society must work together to keep fathers in the lives of their children after separation and divorce because once again, children need their fathers.
While my law office is based in North Carolina, I am committed to sharing information with families around the world. The issues impacting divorce expand much further than my practice area in North Carolina and my law firms in Greenville, Beaufort, and Raleigh. Through my extensive research and by sharing this knowledge with others globally, we can keep fathers in the lives of the children that they love.
Click here to read more about AN|R Law and healthy methods for divorce including collaborative law, mediation, and settlement. Listen to the podcast “Divorce, Healthy!,” read “The Cure for Divorce Culture,” and join the conversation by following our firm on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.