Joseph Scialabba is a single father from the Chicago area who unexpectedly lost the mother of his child several years ago. This blog post chronicles his experience with raising a female child alone in the 21st century.
The American Court system: some will call it the greatest legal institution in the world & some will call it an evil empire, depending on which side of the courtroom you happen to be standing on. Before I became a father, my only courtroom experience involved some light criminal proceedings when I was young (I was a hell raiser as a kid, but pretty tame by today’s standards). Youthful indiscretions aside, the first time I really got a taste of how unfair a court proceeding can be was when I began my quest to be get joint custody of my daughter.
Mind you, this was all taking place in the supposed equal parenting-rights state of Michigan. I learned the hard way how unfair our legal system can be. Luckily I was able to afford a first-rate attorney with some help from my family and the dispute was resolved fairly quickly (90 days start to finish). During that three months I was accused of horrible thing after horrible thing, from drug use to much worse. I was told I was not the father. I had to sit and take it. Those 90 days seemed like an eternity but I know of fathers who waited years. Chances are you probably do too. I had to provide proof of everything from my income to my stability and respond courteously to each verbal attack weighed by the other party, at enormous cost to both my finances and my mental health. If I wasn’t able to provide all this in verified and absurd detail, I might never see my child again. Talk about keeping the stakes high.
See, most of the time it seems, from both my experience and to countless others that reached out to me for advice, that the courts do not put both parents on equal footing. Fathers are presumed deadbeats unless they provide insurmountable proof to the contrary. Courts default to the mother in rulings, unless in my case you can prove the other parent is unstable. I have seen custody proceedings break even the hardest of hearts and I wouldn’t wish that on an enemy. Custody shouldn’t be determined merely based on whether or not you can afford a great attorney like me.
While I know there are many fathers out there who are irresponsible and unwilling to take care of their children, or unable to grow up, there are millions of good and decent men out there willing to do whatever it takes to be role models and a positive factor in their kids’ lives. That’s all I really wanted: an opportunity to be a good father. While it seems in 2018 that courts are starting to come around to actually looking at what’s best for the child instead of the parents, more needs to be done from a legal standpoint. Men’s rights matter.
That whole occurrence (the view the courts carried of me in the beginning of the trial) is something I won’t ever forget. The commonly shared experiences of other single fathers who I've spoken to from all over the country is something I’ll never forget either. There are many, many men out there who haven’t seen their children in months or years. They pay their child support and still get jerked around by the courts. We as a nation need to do better and put the children’s overall welfare first. Our children really are the future and the future is at stake.
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