Thursday, January 26, 2012

Absentee fathers a growing epidemic in America

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Absentee fathers a growing epidemic in America
By Jeffery M. Leving

One in three children in America, according to the U.S. Census, live in homes where their biological father is absent.

I recognize that this trend is worsening not becoming better, reaching epidemic proportions that must be addressed.

Oftentimes we turn to the statistics, which show that this problem is acute. But sometimes we have to assess our changing cultural norms that are sometimes best portrayed in the mainstream entertainment media.

When I was young, television had a dramatic power over manipulating our perceptions and in turn our attitudes.

The TV was filled with programs that reinforced the image of a family as being one with not only strong mothers, but strong fathers working in partnership.

Today, for a lot of reasons, that has changed. Instead of programs like Father Knows Best, the Brady Bunch or even Andy of Mayberry which reinforced the notion that single-parent fathers can raise their child with success in our changing world, we now have violence defining manhood to young boys and porno to watch.

We also have programs that minimize or deprecate the role of fathers.

Today’s popular TV genres about families often subjugate the role of the father to a status considered insignificant.

A good example of this is in the reality show TV genre. And one program in particular that I believe reflects this minimization of the importance of a father figure in today’s society is “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

Forget about the sex and the scandals. That’s the distraction from the real challenge we face. What I see when I watch the Kardashians is a family out of control driven by the absence of a father figure. The biological father is gone and replaced by a substitute father, Bruce Jenner, who is marginalized and often belittled in the television reality show. In fact, it seems as if his role is intentionally defined as the punching bag for all that goes wrong.

Reality shows like this are often brushed aside by some as “trash TV,” but the reality is that these types of programs can have dramatic consequences for our young people and how they engage parental responsibility and fathers rights when they come of age.

I am concerned about our society. And while I don’t want to blame the Kardashians as the only source for this trend, they are symptomatic of a wider problem.

The notion that romanticizing families with absent fathers or even weak father figures is a dangerous one, especially if it has no counter balance in our society.

And our society needs to fight to restore the parental balance in the environment in which children are raised.

We know from the data, that children raised in father-absent environments can be prone to problems and challenges that include poverty, crime and jail time, teen pregnancy, abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and even obesity.

It can be particularly acute on girls who learn to live without a caring or loving male figure in their lives, creating challenges for them in terms of how to deal with men when they become older. That could explain the excessive drama of the Kardashian girls.

The role of a father must be protected. Our judicial system needs to overcome gender bias that places all blame for divorce on the father or male partner.

This is one reason why I have been so pro-active in reaching out to help men in divorce. I recognize that defending fathers rights in divorce is not just about their share of assets and their immediate family, but also because insuring that fathers rights are protected has a direct impact on improving the world in which our children are raised. Any man’s loss of a child diminishes mankind.

The consequences of father absence is directly addressed in many of my books and publications. It’s important.

Our society has an important stake in insuring that fathers rights are protected. And one way to do that is to protect how we view fathers.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

Being a good divorced dad means not giving up on your kids

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Being a good divorced dad means not giving up on your kids
By Jeffery M. Leving

Most divorced fathers want to spend as much time as possible with their children but oftentimes, for a variety of reason, feel they can’t.

Being a “Good Divorced Dad” oftentimes depends on how much time a father is able to commit to their children. It’s one of the topics I address in detail in my new book, which comes out this Spring, “How to be a Good Divorced Dad: Preventing the Divorce Process and Its After effects from Hurting Your Relationship with Your Children.”

Sometimes, the causes that prevent divorced fathers from becoming good dads have to do with the provisions of the divorce agreement, limiting the time they can spend with their children. Other times, the factors involve personal hurt or lack of self-esteem caused by the divorce. You may be a father physically but not in the spirit that allows you to put the strength and time into it that is required.

In many cases, divorced dads accept a restricted role that is often imposed on them by these circumstances.

But you can change that and you can be a great divorced dad who becomes a role model for your children for years to come.

My book walks fathers through the process of identifying the obstacles that prevent divorced fathers from protecting their relationship with their children.

I call them the Seven Deadly Sins of failed divorced fatherhood. They are: the terms of the custody agreement; orders of protection; financial problems; legal trickery; gender bias; guilt; and anger.

In each instance, there is a strategy to improve the amount of time you spend with your children and to improve the quality of that time.

For example, in the case of having to live under the terms of a very restrictive custody agreement, you can become available to your ex-wife to assist her by being there to help with the children. Too often, the personal animosity that results from many divorces prevents this, but your children need you.

You have to watch for opportunities when your ex-spouse will need help with the children and be there to take advantage of the opportunities. And you have to strategically think about how you approach this, not feed into the anger.

You may be hurt about the divorce. Your ex-wife may be a vengeful person. You need to control your own emotions for the benefit of your children. Why allow your former spouse’s anger to impact your relationship with your children?

A good lawyer will also be able to help with the language in your custody agreement to facilitate opportunities to increase contact with your children. They can be built into the agreement.

In each of these challenges you will want to insure that the time spent with your children is quality time. You need to work on that, but there are methods to help you do that. Planning your time with your children will vastly improve the relationship.

Having a competent, experienced attorney at your side will help avoid many of these challenges, such as avoiding an order of protection that is based on false allegations against you. Many father are coerced by guilt and a gender-biased system into believing that they must admit to fault when there is none.

My book has a list of questions divorced dads can answer to help make them stronger and more effective divorced dads. Knowing them. Thinking about them. And answering them will help improve your experience with your children.

The point is don’t give up. Control the process of divorce in order to control your relationship. And make sure your rights are properly represented when you begin the divorce.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Safety of children is always a number one concern

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Safety of children is always a number one concern
By Jeffery M. Leving and Ray Hanania

Three senior judges on the bench in New Zealand ruled that neither the father nor the mother of a child conceived out of wedlock should be given custody of the new born baby girl.

It was the result of an unusual case that involved alleged infidelity, religious views and cultural traditions that the judges thought might result in harm to the child.

It all began when a married man had an affair with a single Muslim woman. The woman then became pregnant, but kept the pregnancy secret from her parents and brothers.

In many Third World countries, cultural tradition takes a severe view of unmarried women having affairs, let alone having a child out of wedlock. It is common in many countries, including in some parts of the Muslim World where the woman is from, that the family would punish the woman for bringing “shame” on the family name.

In many cases, the women involved are murdered by family members in a grisly practice dubbed “honor killings.” Honor killings are banned in many Muslim countries but the practice continues outside of the law and often without any punishment for the offenders.

In fact, even some families who have immigrated to Western nations like New Zealand and the United States, where the practice is considered a crime, continue to practice “honor killings.”

In this case in New Zealand, the already married biological father sought custody of the child when he learned that the woman he had the affair with had a baby as a result of their affair.

But the New Zealand courts concluded that despite the fact that the father would have been the most responsible parent to raise the child, they denied the request. They also directed that the child be placed in foster care and be removed from the mother.

In their ruling, the judges, according to media reports, expressed concern that the process might result in identification of the mother and that would put the unwed Muslim woman in jeopardy of becoming the victim of an honor killing if her parents and relatives discovered her secret.

It’s an extreme example of where safety is given priority over custody in parental rights cases. In this case, the father clearly should have been given custody, but the judges feared doing so might result in the identification of the woman he knew as being the mother. That would have started a chain reaction that could have resulted in the mother being punished.

As a lawyer who represents fathers in child custody cases, I recognize that the safety of all of the principles in a relationship must be protected, including the safety of the child.

This is an unusual case where the judges believed they made the right call for everyone’s protection.

While we often do not encounter such safety issues stemming from cultural traditions here in the United States, they can happen.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and radio talk show host.)