To Protect Father-Child Relationships Judges Must Do More

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Over the past few decades, research has shown the importance of fathers to their children’s well-being. These studies show children in father-absent environments are almost four times more likely to live in poverty, are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, have significantly lower educational attainment, and are more likely to be sexually active.

Over the past few decades, research has shown the importance of fathers to their children’s well-being. These studies show children in father-absent environments are almost four times more likely to live in poverty, are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, have significantly lower educational attainment, and are more likely to be sexually active.

Judges Pen - 2016Children in father-absent environments are also more likely to engage in juvenile delinquency, have higher risk of being victimized by crime including sexual assault and domestic violence, and are more than twice as likely to commit suicide

Despite this information, many people still fail to understand the importance of fathers. According to research by Joan Berlin Kelly, 50% of mothers “see no value in the father’s continued contact with his children after a divorce.”

In light of this alarming statistic, it is perhaps not surprising that a study published by the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry found that “40 percent of mothers report that they had interfered with the noncustodial father’s visitation on at least one occasion, to punish their ex-spouse.”judge You Failed - CRBlog2016

A recent report by the Federal Administration for Children and Families describes a harmful phenomenon called “maternal gatekeeping,” in which mothers interfere with fathers’ access to their children. According to this report, “more than half of nonresident fathers offered accounts of gatekeeping behavior, ranging from refusing to grant physical access to making frequent last-minute schedule changes.

Gatekeeping also came in more indirect forms, such as refusal to communicate in person or by phone, withholding information from the father about the child, or berating the father.”

Motives for maternal gatekeeping vary. In some cases, mothers use children as a weapon and deny fathers access to their children as a way to punish them. In other cases, mothers use children for financial gain.

According to the ACF report, “mothers would sometimes restrict access when a father failed to provide ‘extras’ over and above the required child support.”We need a winner - 2015

Given the importance of father-child relationships, Judges need to do more to protect them. First, judges need to ensure fathers who live apart from their children’s mothers have adequate parenting time with their children.

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