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A FATHER'S DAY LOOK AT DAD DISCRIMINATION: DON MATHIS

If a father walked down Soledad Street in San Antonio until he got to Dolorosa Street, he would find himself next to the Bexar County Courthouse. Soledad means loneliness in English. Dolorosa comes from the root word dolor, which means pain.

 And if that dad went into the courthouse for a divorce, he would likely walk out with a lot of pain and loneliness. That is because Bexar County, like most courtrooms across the nation, awards custody of children of divorce to the mother more than 80 percent of the time.

  Despite advances in gender equality for women, men typically get the short end of the stick in the shish kabob of divorce. Some fathers going through divorce settle out of court for every other weekend with their children – but they do so knowing that is likely the best they can get.   

A dad can easily spend the equivalent of a kid’s college education trying to convince a judge to order a 50/50 custody arrangement – and still not get it.  

According to a 2015 study from Stanford University, men initiated less than a third of all divorces. Generic reasons why people file for divorce include infidelity, incompatibility, substance abuse, growing apart, personality problems, lack of communication, physical or mental abuse, loss of love, not meeting family obligations, or employment problems – all of which can occur to either spouse.  

At one time (just ask your great-grandmother), an unwed mother was ostracized. Now that social stigma is gone and no-fault divorce is the norm.  

The role each gender plays is perhaps the primary reason fathers seek divorce less often than mothers. While men may be seen as the primary disciplinarian of the children in a marriage, women are seen as the primary nurturer. And, for better or for worse, custody courts give a higher regard to the nurturer then they do the disciplinarian.  

But look at the statistics for kids raised without a disciplinarian. Here are results from several State and Federal studies that deal with fatherless homes: ·        
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. ·        
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. ·        
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.     
  • 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. ·       
  • 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.  
This is not to say that kids raised by single moms are doomed to failure or that fatherlessness causes a child to become a criminal. Most children reared in mother-only households turn out just fine. Some kids raised by single mothers, like former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, rise well above the norm – but the statistics remain.  

Fatherless families will begat fatherless families. Little girls will grow up thinking it is normal for dad to be elsewhere. Little boys have no role model to teach them how a father is supposed to act.  

Christina Steinorth, a California-based psychotherapist, reports that daughters of divorced parents have 60 percent higher divorce rates in marriages than children of non-divorced parents. And sons have 35 percent higher divorce rates. Cathy Meyer, a divorce support expert who writes for the Huffington Post, reports that children who hail from divorced parents are twice as likely to divorce as adults.  

Courts perform a disservice to society with the current custody arrangement default system. Judges will typically order one parent, usually the mother, to be the primary caregiver – regardless if both parents are fit and loving.   These same judges will order the other parent, usually the father, to pay child support – even if both parents earn an equitable amount. Census statistics for 2013 show only 17 percent of custodial single parents were men.  

The State also has a financial interest in the destruction of the American family. The Texas Attorney General, for example, receives federal funds for every divorced dad he can list in his Child Support Registry. And the more money the disenfranchised dad is ordered to pay, the more money the Attorney General receives from Washington.  

According to the Attorney General website, Texas collects $11.34 in child support for every dollar spent. Looked at another way, the Attorney General receives $10 from taxpayers every month for every father who pays $113.40 in child support.  

Considering the Attorney General collected $3.9 billion from child support obligors in fiscal year 2015, the Attorney General also collected $343 million from taxpayers.   Considering that most dads in Texas pay their child support in full and on time every month, and that most custodial moms are not destitute, this is a terrible return on the taxpayers’ investment.  

Once in a while, the Attorney General will prosecute a man who is behind on his child support payments, but usually because he is dead-broke rather than dead-beat. Then the court may throw the man in jail – which leaves the county taxpayer to pick up the tab.  

A new way for the Texas Attorney General to punish parents who are behind on child support payments is to block their vehicle registration renewal. The State has many punitive measures to enforce payments. There are no positive reinforcements to encourage people to pay.  

It is time to get the government out of the child support industry. If there is a conviction of violence or a parent does not want custody, child support should be ordered. But if both parents of a child of divorce are fit and loving, 50/50 custody should be ordered – and each parent should be ordered to support their child only during the time the child is with them.  

Divorced dads and moms would both be better off. A father could spend more time with his kids and a mother would have more time to devote to her avocation. This would go a long way to remove the income disparity between men and women. This is what gender equality is all about.  

There’s another advantage to 50/50 shared custody. Children would have equal access to their mother and their father. We need to remember this on Father’s Day and every day: Kids need both parents. 

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