|Devoted dads need support NOW|
To celebrate the National Organization for Women’s 40th anniversary this summer, NOW President Kim Gandy has proudly recounted many successes, saying the group is “never giving up the dream of full equality for all.”Unfortunately, NOW’s dogged opposition to joint custody and shared parenting contradicts that ideal.
Kids love, want and need both their parents. When divorcing parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, as long as both parents are fit, they should each be allowed to share in parenting their children. It is not surprising that research shows that children of divorce fare better under joint custody than under sole custody.
Along with divorce attorneys, NOW is the largest organized group fighting shared parenting legislation. They’ve issued numerous warnings, including one that says fathers’ groups seeking joint custody laws are “using the abuse of power in order to control in the same fashion as do batterers.” In their statements the words “husband” and “father” are generally preceded by the word “abusive.”
Using these scare tactics, NOW has blocked shared parenting bills in several states this year, including New York. Even feminist firebrand Martha Burk notes, “With close to half of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s impossible to believe that the majority of divorcing fathers are violent, and it would be wrong to base public policy on the notion that they are.”
The Families and Work Institute found that fathers now provide three-fourths as much child care as mothers do – 50% more than 30 years ago. It is clear that fathers have embraced the call for more involvement in their kids’ lives. Despite an ever-expanding workweek, children today benefit from receiving more hands-on fathering than ever before. And although fathers are more directly involved in their children’s lives, their bonds with their children also are more fragile.
In the late 1970s, in a departure from its initial stand encouraging shared parenting, NOW began promoting sole custody in divorce cases. In most divorces mothers are awarded sole custody of the children, and most postdivorce parenting schedules offer fathers and children less than 20% of their time together. NOW obviously sees no problem with this.
Men who don’t provide for their families are not respected, yet courts treat fathers who do work hard to support their families like absent parents.
Over the past four decades America has come a long way in redressing the grievances of disadvantaged groups, including women, African-Americans, Latinos and gays. The most glaring civil rights violations in America today are those suffered by divorced dads, many of whom have been pushed out of their children’s lives without justification. It’s time for NOW to reexamine its misguided stand against shared parenting and to bring its policies into line with its stated ideal of “full equality for all.”
McCormick is the executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. Sacks’ columns on men’s issues appear regularly in U.S. newspapers.
Originally published on July 27, 2006
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