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Fathers legitimately frustrated, not ‘angry’
By PETER G. HILL
Peter G. Hill lives in Weston.
August 03, 2009 6:00 AM
I read with interest the July 30 article by Steve Urbon on SouthCoastToday.com, “Patrick grilled in Wareham.”
First I would like to take the time to thank Gov. Deval Patrick for availing himself to listen to the public as he did in Wareham and has done throughout the commonwealth. I have lived in this state since 1986, and I have known of no other governor who has been more available to listen to the concerns of the public at large. Despite recently reported disappointing poll numbers, he deserves much praise for being available and working as he does.
I am saddened by the depiction of the fathers advocating for equal, shared parenting rights as angry men. In 2004, there was a non-binding referendum on the ballot in which 86 percent of the electorate voted in support of equal shared parenting. Despite this overwhelming support, such equal shared parenting legislation for fit parents has not moved out of the Judiciary Committee at the Statehouse. This committee is stacked with lawyers and some who do divorce work, a direct conflict of interest.
Rather than the term “angry” men, one could depict fathers as frustrated with the lack of progress on issues related to fatherhood and the raising of their children. Parents will often take lesser roles to spend time with their children. Parents take hiatuses from work to spend more time with their kids. So why, when you get separated or divorced, does one go from a parent to a “visitor,” especially if you are a dad? One should not.
As for the issue of restraining order abuses, we have the well-meaning but detrimental Violence Against Women Act to thank for that. This act was not made gender neutral and has allowed for an explosion of restraining orders and false allegations. Most people do not realize that if a woman fills out a restraining order form, all she has to say is that she fears for her child’s safety, check off a box on a piece of paper and the father is prohibited from seeing or contacting their child. All one needs is a very vindictive ex and the child loses a parent.
People ask, “Is there no trial before this?” The answer to this is no. There is no due process when it comes to restraining orders — none. In Massachusetts, some 20,000 to 50,000 restraining orders are taken out each year, with many for custody purposes only. This is wrong and actually puts in danger those men and women who need society’s protections. We lose just under 100 men and women each year to intimate partner violence. Some take out restraining orders and some do not. Some realize that piece of paper does not stop a violent person, and some take it out thinking it will protect them, and it does not.
I do applaud the governor that he stated he has reached out to the chief justice of the probate court on shared parenting and other family equality issues, and has committed to talk to the Statehouse leaders on shared parenting. These steps by Gov. Patrick show a willingness to start to lead on this issue. If the governor truly does start to lead on the issue of equal rights for fit fathers, I guarantee you this will benefit the commonwealth’s children.
Up on Ration Shed; with thanks to PETER G. HILL of South Coast Today
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Onward – Jim