Mothers across the US are losing their parental rights in the family court system in unprecedented numbers, as women are forced to make a heartbreaking decision: work and feed their children, or be a full-time mother and watch their children starve. This epidemic of having to force over custody is not unknown to me personally: I had a Magistrate overlook 8 Florida Statutes that protected my parental status in favor of my abusive ex-husband during my shore-duty Active Duty military status, citing that though I loved the children and had been the primary parent for over 7 years, my working interfered with my ability to parent. I was NEVER deployed, and was ALWAYS either in Florida or Maryland. I was given the opportunity to be SHORE DUTY ONLY, a gift from the military (in my opinion) to assist me with my single-parenthood prospect. My ex-husband, in the meantime, ceased working altogether, and lived off of my child support payments and his married girlfriend’s generosity. He cut our children off from my family, and would no-show to visitations, or simply refuse to put the kids on a plane (airfare for which I personally paid). When it came time for me to re-enlist, I had a serious decision to make: Continue my career? or Fight for my Children? Now, after my homecoming, while having my children for two months straight, I am still paying an astronomical amount of child support to my ex-husband for the simple privilege of being with my children on a daily basis and involved in their lives.
Our society is becoming more and more patriarchal and organizations such as NOW (National Organization for Women), have been taking note of the dismal prospects of working mothers facing custody proceedings. The reality is, over 50% of custody is being handed over to fathers, many of which have histories of abuse, arrest records, and immoral behavior (aka “parenting style” within the court system). Fathers have massive advocacy groups, and there are even attorneys here in Palm Beach County that advertise for MEN ONLY custody representation! The lobbying presence is large: in a quick Google Search I found 5 major lobby and advocacy groups for father. ZERO for mothers’ parental rights. That’s right, NONE.
In my personal case, my biological pre-teen daughter was handed over to my ex-husband, her adopted father. With my friends and family left shaking their heads in total confusion, the Magistrate, now retired, simply stated that my full-time job out of the area was not in the best interest of our children. Four years of refused visitation with myself and my family, thousands in child support and legal fees, and a relentless slew of insults and bashing of me by my ex-husband of almost ten years ensued. The effects of this court decision, based on the recommendations of a Guardian Ad Litem (friends with my ex-husband’s married girlfriend) without investigation or questioning of ANY of my family or friends cost our family dearly.
The Michigan Chapter of NOW warns women of the hidden agenda behind the Shared Parental/FORCED joint custody, and the Florida Chapter addresses this crisis as it relates to the treatment of mothers by the courts http://www.flnow.org/custody.html. Yet this isn’t in the news, and you have to dig on the internet, weeding out the fathers advocacy groups, in the hopes to find support systems for mothers whose major downfall is that they pursued an education, and work to support their children and contribute to their households.
Meanwhile the US Federal Government forces those same Single Mothers’ Tax Dollars to fund the “Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative” amongst other sexist federal programs focused on idolizing the role of the father, and devaluing the role of the single mother.
This program also touts forcing education of the mother to identify the importance of fathers – even when domestic abuse has been present – as a part of not only this initiative, but also through the “Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. The only program for women is the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns, which assists women already on Medicaid and WIC, pre-delivery and during infancy. See a gender disparity yet?
What options do mothers have? Fall in line with the Nanny State and stop working? Do we warn our daughters that if they work while in a marriage that produces children, they should be aware that it doesn’t matter if the husband rapes, degrades, beats, or cheats – your parental rights will be under siege so long as you self-sustain? Perhaps instead of the Department of Justice focusing on whether the civil rights of a thug were trampled, they should focus on the systematic destruction of the civil rights of the American MOTHER.