How often do deadbeat dads go to jail?

I agree.

Strangely enough, that same lawyer said that------in her experience------women were generally better parents. In her experience, they were more patient, better nurturers, better listeners, and better educators. Particularly in the immediate aftermath of a divorce they were better able to get down to the business of parenting.

A disappointing amount of men move away, or become detached to their kids because they get involved with other things after the family splits up. In a lot of respects the courts are simply responding to what we already know intuitively: woman are most often better parents.

What upsets many men is that there is a significant amount of men who are great parents and who have every intention of being active in their kid’s lives but who are nonetheless painted with the same brush the detached man is painted with.

Those men can succeed (for the benefit of themselves and their kids) with great effort; the effort required to overcome the anger/bitterness of many ex-wives, and a court system that treats them as second class citizens.

That happened to me. One example, mom filed with CSE in a different county the day after out first temporary court order so I called to tell them that CS was supposed to be decided at our next hearing in 6 weeks and should I even bother filling out the paperwork they demanded when CSE could take months? “Well the estranged parent has to pay child support, you can’t get out of it.” Me: “facepalm.”

That’s just one example. While the two judges we had were cool, I got nothing but the deatbeat dad attitude from everyone and no help unless I paid for it, while I was the one who started the case and was fighting to try and be dad. And boy, someday I’ll have to tell my story, it’s a crazy one.

I understand the attitude though. The people you have to deal with spend 99% of their time dealing with deadbeat dads. Anytime I got the attitude and tried to bring up the fact that I wasn’t, it felt like I was trying to brag about what a great guy I was, so it was easier to just accept the attitude. (I’m certainly not great, just normal in a sea of deadbeat jerks)

To be honest, there’s still a big difference between being a single dad and mom because it’s not the norm. I’ve always thought, half seriously, that the one thing that will help equalize the attitude is not that more guys do the right thing, but that more moms become deadbeats themselves.

Admittedly, my experience with Family Court dates to the mid-to-late 1970s in Florida, when they were just barely coming out of the dark ages with regard to fairness and justice (I do not believe Florida has come much further than that, though.) I was a spokesman/advocate for the local chapter of a Men’s Rights organization, and the stories I could tell of the courts’ rampant and pervasive injustice toward fathers in any divorce/custody/support case would curl your hair.

Going into court, the presumption is that the mother will get custody, and the father is scum. At any time I would raise a motion to make a point, the court’s attitude is, “Who the hell do you think you are, boy? You got the wrong set of gonads to have any standing here.” On the other hand, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous my ex’s claims were, they were treated as gospel by the judge, and she was given just about everything she asked for, even though I had written, documented proof that she was lying through her teeth!

I find it instructive that Oakminster’s experience is in jailing women for failure to pay child support (due to not having primary custody), NOT for thwarting the father’s right to court-ordered visitation. They may lose custody, and be compelled to pay, rather than receive, child support, but are not facing a jail sentence for “willful and deliberate denial of visitation.” The days of men getting “routinely” screwed may be over, to some extent, but it most certainly is not a “level playing field.”

My experience is coming to an end soon. I have 3 kids and have been paying child support for approximately 13 years. My youngest emancipates in 4 months.

I never had an issue with CS. IMV, life is too short to wrapped around the axle over money. My accountant said “A lot of men get bitter and remain under-employed etc and hurt themselves and their kids. Treat it like a tax, and just go out and do your best.” Good advice, I think.

My experience was 1998-2000 in Ohio, a state my lawyer called a “mother friendly state.” In my experience it was a “presumption is that the mother will get custody, and the father is scum.”

I was amazed, and angry at the general attitudes. I took Lamaze classes for all 3 kids, was in the delivery room, taught them to read, never missed a P/T conference etc etc etc etc etc etc; in short I could prove I was involved from the very beginning. It meant little.

Early on, “thwarting visitation” was common. When she wasn’t thwarting visitation, she would simply leave the kids and disappear. It was common to bring the kids home after a week in the summer (we alternated weeks all summer) and sit outside for an hour and she wasn’t there. Later I would find out she was out of town. That kind of idiocy/discourtesy/unkindness was common.

I learned early on that a woman can abuse the system of visitation with impunity.

That may be a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, though. Wouldn’t we naturally expect that a custodial parent would be less likely to face a jail sentence for denial of visitation than a non-custodial parent would for non-payment of support, regardless of gender?

After all, throwing the custodial parent in jail seems as though it would be much more disruptive for the kids. I would think that that in itself might go a long way to explain such a difference in the likelihood of serving jail time.

So unless we can show that fathers who have custody are more likely to be jailed for denial of visitation than mothers are, I’m not convinced that this example in itself illustrates the lack of a “level playing field” in family court.

(Not that there couldn’t be other factors keeping the playing field uneven, of course; having no personal experience or professional knowledge myself in these matters, I’m not risking any categorical pronouncements about the way it is or isn’t. Just pointing out what seems to be a logical flaw in one particular argument.)

More to the point, however, is that the custodial parent (in the overwhelming majority of cases, the mother) can thumb their nose at the court-mandated visitation order with impunity, and at no time are there serious sanctions contemplated againt them. If the “deadbeat” father is thrown in jail, would that not be “disruptive” to the children in that they would not be getting regular visitation? If the custodial parent was faced with jail time, and the non-custodial parent could be awarded temporary custody for the duration of the jail sentence, it seems that would go a long way to levelling the playing field.

The supposed “apples-to-oranges” comparison is heavily slanted in favor of the mother, due to the natural reluctance of the courts to throw “mommy” in jail, but by biasing the custody hearing in favor of the mother, we have accomplished a grave injustice to all the good, decent men out there who simply desire to be a fuctional part of their children’s lives, and play an active role in their upbringing.

Sure, but it seems pretty evident that jailing a custodial parent would generally be more disruptive than jailing a non-custodial one. So I can see why courts would be more aggressive about locking up non-custodial parents for non-payment of support than locking up custodial parents for denial of visitation.

Mind you, I’m not denying your point that it’s unfair that mothers get to be the custodial parent so much more often than fathers do. I’m just arguing that it seems to make sense that courts would be more likely to try to avoid jailing a custodial parent than a non-custodial one, whether it’s a mother or a father.

Well, Oakminster did mention having personally witnessed cases where he has “seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation.”

That sounds to me like a fairly serious sanction.

It’s been my experience that the threat of losing custody time, or even a temporary or permanent transfer of primary custody, is a better bulwark against “alienating” custodial parents than jail time.

Also, you want to make sure your non-custodial client’s children develop an ardent and everlasting hatred for your client? – Get the opposing custodial parent thrown in the slammer – no amount of “reunification counseling” is going to sort that out.

Legal aid didn’t do squat for me other than to advise me that I would have to petition in the state that imposed the order I wished to modify. If I had had the money to return to that state, I wouldn’t have needed to modify the order. The deck is stacked in the woman’s favor and I doubt many men would dispute that.

Legal Aid gave you correct advice. A child support order issued in one state generally can’t be modified by a court of another state. Perhaps they could have offered you a referral to the appropriate office in the other state, but there was likely nothing they could do in the state you were in. You should have thought of that before leaving the state where the order was entered.

Also, you and several other displeased fathers in this thread are making broad generalizations about the entire system based on the alleged facts of a particular case. That’s just silly.

Why not file to modify under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act? That way, you can do everything you need to do from the comfort of your home county. There has to be a UIFSA office in your state, unless you’re referring to a support case from decades ago.

It’s important to realize that there are two components to this lack of fairness. 1) is that the courts are biased in favor of mothers. 2) sometimes the courts are making the correct decision but life itself is unfair. Society and biology have assigned to women a role that has tremendous benefits in this particular circumstance, and the reverse for men. (The significance of this is that there’s also a downside to these roles. But progressive societies regard the downside as a tremendous injustice and turn over heaven and earth to mitigate them. That doesn’t happen when the advantage works the other way.)

You’re calling it a “fairly serious sanction” when it happens to women as a consequence. What about when it happens to men as a routine custody decision. Is that also the short end of the stick?

Whoa…I’m not sure what you mean by displeased. I think the system largely works. In general women do a better job of parenting. In general I think too many men become ‘deadbeats’ in ways in addition to financial.

Still, I think the system is a few decades behind the times when it comes to recognizing the societal value that active fathers play (and there are more than a few studies to back that up) and often does an injustice to those fathers.

I respect your experiences and haven’t taken attacked them. But please take a step back if you’re implying that a “few displeased fathers” are making some broad generalizations that couldn’t be echoed by millions of people, men and women alike, and from both ‘inside’ and outside the system.

I have no doubt that my [our] experiences are common to millions of people.

ETA: That injustice is just as often visited upon the children, who are innocent bystanders.

Sure, any man who’s unfairly denied custody has got a raw deal. No argument there.

My point, however—which I don’t seem to be getting across very successfully, for some reason—is simply that if a mother is deprived of custody as a consequence for having denied visitation, then I’d call that a genuine punishment, not just a nominal wrist-slap from the “mommy is never wrong” crowd.

And it appears to flatly contradict DHMO’s sweeping assertion that “at no time are there serious sanctions contemplated against them [i.e., against custodial parents, mostly mothers, who deny visitation]” (emphasis in the original).

On the contrary, if we are to believe the personal testimony of the self-described veterans of family court posting here, sometimes there are indeed serious sanctions not only contemplated but implemented against custodial mothers who deny visitation.

That’s all I’m sayin’.

Kimstu
I appreciate your tone and reason.

From my purely anecdotal experience those sanctions are so thoroughly few and far between as to merit the “at no time” comment. Now I recognize and concede my life experience is hardly a scientific sampling but if I only had a nickel for every comment like DHMO’s…

My own experience, the feedback from friends, feedback from DR lawyer friends, stuff I read (including the few displeased fathers in this thread…), the prevalence of fathers rights groups seeking to affect changes in the system-------all of it----- suggests to me that I am far from being alone.

Well, in the case of parenthood, not really. Nobody has made any serious attempts to enable men to take over the burdens of pregnancy and labor, for example.

And even in progressive societies, mothers on average put in much more time on childcare and homemaking than fathers do, even when both parents work full-time. Society seems content to leave such matters to be dealt with on a family-by-family basis, even when the net result on average disproportionately burdens women.

So while I would certainly agree with you that custody decisions can often be unfair to men, I certainly wouldn’t agree that society has really made any heroic efforts to mitigate all the inequalities that are unfair to women. In fact, ISTM that one of the reasons men tend to result family-court injustices so bitterly is that it’s one of the few places in a traditionally patriarchal society where men actually do have the unpleasant experience of being on the receiving end of gender discrimination.

Mind you, I don’t think it’s okay for men to be discriminated against in that way, or in any other way for that matter. I just think that overall, even in progressive societies, men are still a long way away from being more discriminated against than women are.

I don’t mean to appear to be beating a dead horse here, and I realize we are all [mostly] on the same page. The title of this thread struck a raw nerve, not just due to my personal experience with Family Court, but, as I mentioned earlier, I was a spokesman for the Tampa chapter of a Men’s Rights group. I had discussions in many forums with literally hundreds of [admittedly self-selected, not a random sampling] men who had been done wrong by “The System.” I had several interviews on talk radio, public-access cable, newspaper articles and personal appearances.

The part I found most perplexing was how when the phone lines were open and I spoke with callers, the vast, overwhelming response from women was hate, vitriol and venom: How dare men think to have a Men’s Rights group! Men are in charge of everything—They don’t deserve to have anything more given to them!

As I patiently explained to the audience, we were seeking exactly what the Women’s groups claimed to be seeking—Equality. This was in the late 70s and 80s, and the Equal Rights Amendment was still big news. I reminded my listeners that the text of the Amendment says, in part, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

We were trying to get the players in this drama (Judges, Legislators, Lawyers, etc.) to look at all relevant information and base their decisions on the facts as presented, without any preconcieved or biased views coloring the outcome. There were laws passed by the Florida legislature which mandated that fathers would be given equal consideration in custody cases. Judges continued to award custody to women in a heavy-handed disregard for the State Laws. Appeals went to the Second District Court of Appeals and the Florida State Supreme Court, where the courts ruled that in all cases, fathers should be considered equally in custody issues. The lower courts continued to award custody almost exclusively to the mothers.

This was the issue that ours, and many other Men’s Rights groups were trying to change. Again, fairness, justice and Equality should have made the issue a slam-dunk, yet we found a huge mountain of resistance, mainly from Women’s Rights groups, who, as they put it, were not ready to give up the upper hand, now that they control the courts.

An article which appeared in the Florida State University Law Review Journal in 1998 suggests this is still an ongoing problem:

LAGGING BEHIND THE TIMES: PARENTHOOD, CUSTODY, AND GENDER BIAS IN THE FAMILY COURT
CYNTHIA A. MCNEELY
Copyright © 1998 Cynthia A. McNeely

It’s a good read, and quite instructive.

And 13 years old.

See, here’s the thing. It seems to me, based on 6 years of an almost-exclusively family law practice, my reading of the social science literature, and general life experience, that mothers do tend to do a better job of “mothering” than fathers. Certainly some men are better at child rearing than some women, but for the most part, the reverse is true.

Now, the ideal situation is a child raised by both a mother and a father, but when there’s a separation, a choice has to be made. What has been missing from this conversation so far is the element that is the cornerstone of all state statutes and jurisprudence – “the best interest of the child”. It’s not about the father’s rights or the mother’s rights. Strictly speaking, the courts don’t care about the parents’ “rights” in a custody case. The job of a judge is to see that the best interest of the child is served.

What a judge cannot do is apply knowledge gained from the world to begin a custody trial with a presumption that the mother will be more likely to end up with primary physical custody. But, if, after applying the relevant statutory and case law to the evidence adduced in each particular case the best interest of the child is served by placing the child with the mother more often than with the father, so be it.

What I’m saying is, you can’t look at a purely numerical disparity (OMG, mothers get the kid 75% of the time!) and take that as prima facie discrimination. It may very well be that 75% of the time (just making that figure up) the mother has proven to the judge to have been the better parent. Blame nature, I guess. Just as you can’t get worked up that there are more male fire fighters than women fire fighters, because it’s more likely that the guy can lug around the hose, climb ladders faster, etc.

**
I agree with you 100%.** I think it is a general, but true observation that women are better parents. And so I don’t think that the statistic (which I imagine is greater than 75%) is discriminatory. Even then, I think that bias means that is some cases the man will be discriminated against, and that the father’s and the children s interests aren’t served.

But I don’t think its an all or nothing proposition. Even if the averages don’t change (which would mean that some fathers would be shafted) there are many things that could be done to protect the best interests of the child.

**1) Requiring the custodial parent to remain in the area so both parents can have equal, loving access to the children. **In a handful of cases recently judges have disallowed custodial parents to move because of the reason given. *I can’t tell you *how many woman I know who have detailed exciting plans to move with their kids, and leaving behind active and loving fathers. It shouldn’t be right that a custodial parent should put their interests above the child’s interests. Yet it happens all the time. Custody should not be the same as “they are now my personal property.”

2) Non-custodial parents should have equal rights to school decisions, medical decisions and other day to day important issues. See above. I have seen first hand the many times that [most often angry] mothers make unilateral decisions -----large and small-----without the courtesy of consulting the father. Believe me, I know that these things are not easy. Divorces are hard. But while we make a lot of hay with the whole “dead beat dad” thing, a common sentiment among many women is “you left us.” No, many of us did not. We may be divorcing, but we’re not divorcing the kids.

**3) The standard visitation schedule needs to be liberalized. My kids and I had/have the good fortune of a very liberal visitation arrangement (something I had to pay my ex-wife for). But its hardly a wonder that fathers become detached when the standard visitation is designed to estrange the father from his kids. There are 30 days in a month. I am amazed and appalled that any sane person would consider the standard visitation good for the kids.
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4) There needs to be penalties for custodial parents who undermine visitation.
Many women have visceral connections to their kids and consider a man thats leaving them to have violated the *family. * Many quickly realize the power that custody confers, and in this one area that can exert both power and control. Thats ripe for abuse. I think someone mentioned up thread that men hold/held sway in many areas and abused that power. Thats true. In this area, women most often hold power, and many many many times abuse that power for punishment and to vent anger and resentment.