Jamestown, NC – When I began my program Fathers With Voices in 1996 while living in New York City, I knew I was about to provide a service that was a real need in social services.
However, I did not know just how much of a need this problem was throughout the community.
Through a simple questionnaire I found that men did not know their paternal rights according to family domestic law and they have a basic fear of the family court system.
The above equals to the following:
Fathers are vulnerable to false allegations and false orders of protection (tactics used against them in family court)
Fathers could lose contact with their children but still pay child support (over forty percent of fathers pay child support but don’t know where their children are)
Paying unnecessary and excessive legal fees
Over the past ten years I have heard the most horrendous stories from fathers after a separation and divorce involving their children.
The majority of the stories I heard usually involved fathers losing significant time with their children after being able to see them whenever they wanted. Why the sudden change? In many cases it was due to the ending of a relationship between him and his spouse.
Thereafter the dynamics of his relationship with his child changed. If he is not prepared, he could totally lose a relationship with his child.
However, if he is smart he could cover himself and fight the system (like I did and won custody in 2004) and his child would not be in danger of losing his/her father.
The reality is, there is a definite level of bias treatment within most family court proceedings as I have personally witnessed.
As I have pleaded with fathers over the years, the moment you see the communication with a girlfriend or wife break down, you must begin the process of legally protecting your relationship with your child. Why? Experience has shown me that the more a father loves his child; chances are his child will eventually become a pawn.
Unfortunately, parents fail to realize the level of emotional danger they place their children in when they use their children as pawns.
Nevertheless, experience has also shown me when a man is knowledgeable about his rights he can maintain his status as a father if a separation and divorce occurs. These are some things fathers need to know:
Make sure your name is on the birth certificate-if it is not, go to family court and petition to become your child’s legal father-speak to an attorney also!
If you are not married to your child’s mother and you start hearing comments like” I’m going to move away” or “my child doesn’t need you” go to family court immediately and file for your visitation rights and request an injunction prohibiting her from leaving the state
If you are married you can have liberal visitation rights which means unlimited
Learn as much as you can about your type of case whether its visitation, child support or custody-utilize the internet and some local law libraries allow public access
DO NOT PAY CASH for child support-instead pay in checks or postal money orders-write your child’s name on the top of the money order/check and in the memo section on a check write for child support-also keep detailed records and save everything sent to you by child support
Fatherlessness, particularly within the African-American community continues to be a significant social problem. The effects are many; girls growing up with low-self-esteem, developing promiscuous attitudes and the failure to learn how to develop relationships with men as an adult.
For boys, becoming part of juvenile state operated institutions or the prison system. I share the above findings when men become frustrated (which many do!) to the point they would rather walk away than deal with the constant stress of the “drama”.
Many fathers fortunately listened and later realize not only do they have rights within family court but with proper preparation the system will actually work with them. So please, DON’T EVER, EVER WALK AWAY FROM YOUR CHILD BECAUSE OF THE DRAMA! You have more to give to your child than monthly child support payments!
For more information, contact Eric Legette at: [email protected], or visit www.fatherswithvoices.info