Debates about same-sex marriage and gay adoptions always include the argument that a child has the right to both a father and a mother. If that is true, why is a child usually deprived of that right when heterosexual couples divorce? It would seem that maintaining a father’s love and authority would be crucial when a child’s life is turned upside down by divorce. Yet, family courts routinely deprive children of one of their parents, usually the father, restricting his time with his child to about six days a month. The courts make this decision while pompously asserting that they are invoking “the best interest of the child.” But how can it be in the best interest of children to make them forfeit one parent?
When primary or sole custody is given to the mother, the father becomes merely a visitor in the child’s life (that’s why it’s called “visitation”). His only value is to mail a paycheck and be an occasional babysitter. The father loses his parental authority and fades out of his own child’s life.
We hear a lot of talk about the need for fathers to be involved in their children's upbringing. This need should be even more important in times of emotional stress (such as divorce). Some states are considering legislation that establishes a presumption of shared parenting whereby divorced parents divide equally both time and authority over the children. Shared parenting would enable children to maintain strong ties to both parents.
We should return to the traditional rule that parents, even if they are divorced, are the ones who should determine what is in the best interest of their own children. As recently as the year 2000, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that a judge could supersede a fit parent’s judgment about his child’s “best interest.”
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