In 1953, Kris Slaughterâ€™s father got full custody of her and her older brother after her stepfather was accused of sexually molesting a child from their neighborhood.
It was the right decision, she said, although it was almost unheard of then for a father to get custody over a mother â€” and it was rare for couples to get divorced in the first place.
Although her mother was accused of nothing, Slaughter didnâ€™t see her again until adulthood.
“She never came back, except for my wedding,” Slaughter, 61, said yesterday. “I really did lose out. Children need both parents.”
Slaughter attended the Fathers-4-Justice rally on the Statehouse lawn yesterday to support a friend from her church who is going through a bitter childcustody battle.
His case has convinced her that the family-court system in Ohio is broken and largely slanted against fathers.
About 80 sign-carrying protesters at the rally the day before Fatherâ€™s Day were about equally divided between men and women. They had many complaints: The system costs too much, takes too long, and frequently is abused on the advice of aggressive attorneys who encourage their clients to make false or exaggerated claims of child and spousal abuse to strengthen their positions in court.
In the end, they claim, courtissued visitation orders frequently are ignored with little or no punishment, and those hurt the most are children.
Almost everyone had a story â€” or at least their side of the story.
E. Scott, 33, of Reynoldsburg, said he lost all contact with his 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son when, after a long and difficult court battle, his ex-girlfriend unexpectedly left Columbus in the summer of 2000, despite having signed a shared-parenting agreement that required court approval for such a move.
Scott credits divine intervention when his brother, who stocks convenience stores with fruit juices in suburban Chicago, saw the two children walk into a store last September.
Scott said he immediately re-established his visitation rights.
He drives to Chicago once a month, and he hopes to have his kids for the second half of this summer.
“But realistically, if she decides to move again, thereâ€™s just nothing that I can do about it,” he said.
Scott, who works in retail security, said the ongoing legal maneuvering between him and his ex-girlfriend contributed to him filing for bankruptcy. He said he stopped paying his child support while his kids were missing.
“Iâ€™m very disheartened by the court system,” he said. “It leads me to feel that Iâ€™m second-rate, my tax dollars donâ€™t count, my opinions donâ€™t count, and that they donâ€™t care.”
Scott Phelps, a computersystems engineer from Gahanna, wore a Superman costume to the rally, hoping to attract attention to his cause, which he says the news media ignores.
“It gets washed away as, you know, a bunch of fathers, a bunch of deadbeat dads who donâ€™t want to pay child support,” said Phelps. “Hey, you know what? I pay $4,000 a month” in child support and alimony. “I have my kids 50 percent of the time.”
He said he is upset at how much it would cost to challenge a Franklin County magistrateâ€™s final decision on the terms of the joint custody of his two children, ages 10 and 7.
“I got a call from my lawyer yesterday,” Phelps said. “He said itâ€™s going to cost $7,000 to purchase the (trial) transcript so that I can object to that order, so I can get in front of a judge.”
And the Superman costume?
“You have to be a superhero just to see your kids,” he explained.
“If youâ€™re a mom, you automatically get your kids unless somebody proves youâ€™re a crack addict.”
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