Father's Rights-The Orlando Times
The Importance Of A Father’s Presence
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A father’s role in their child’s life is imperative for their well-being. In fact, a father’s involvement in their child’s life has been traced to positive development and behavior in children, such as higher language skills and academic achievement.
Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological father in the home. Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, go to prison, and much more.
The University of South Florida examined the records of all births in Florida from 1998 to 2005 - more than 1.39 million live births. It linked father absence to earlier births, lower birth weights, and increased risk of infant mortality.
They found that regardless of race or ethnicity, the neonatal death rate of father-absent infants was nearly 4 times that of their counterparts with involved fathers. The risk of poor birth outcomes was highest for infants born to Black women whose babies' fathers were absent during their pregnancies.
This is likely due to complications such as chronic high blood pressure, anemia, and more being prevalent among women whose babies' fathers were absent during pregnancy.
Additionally, pregnant women with absent partners are more likely to report smoking during pregnancy and get inadequate prenatal care.
Thankfully, fathers in Central Florida who want to be in their child’s life have support.
One such resource is The Fathers’ Rights Movement (TFRM), it is a movement whose members, both men and women, are primarily interested in issues related to family law and child custody.
They are passionate about empowering fathers to stand up for their rights and to educate the public and family court system about the importance of fathers in society, as well as bring greater awareness to the imbalance and injustice that affects the rights of fathers. Especially since fatherless children are 4 times more likely to end up in poverty and 2 times more likely to drop out of high school.
“Every day, fathers are losing their rights and contact with their children due to outdated biases that diminishes the role and influence of a father,” states their website. “We are here in support of fellow fathers and families that suffer from this injustice, to share your stories, to connect you with the proper resources to overcome your blocks, and to inspire our society to address the issues in our family court system that is hindering child development and damaging the family unit.”
TFRM was founded by Thomas Fiddler after he and the mother of his children separated, and his time spent with his kids was reduced. He fought diligently to be in his children’s lives equally and he started the movement to educate the public on the importance of 50-50 custody for all children.
Membership is open to anyone who has the same desire as the movement, regardless of familial or educational status, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other differentiating factors.
The Florida Chapter began in 2015 with the creation of their Facebook page.
“As a social worker I’ve seen the detrimental effects of the fatherlessness,” said Jessie Weiner, a social worker, and an editor with the Florida Page of TFRM. “The deadbeat dads that people talk about, these aren’t the people that fight for their children, these aren’t the people who reach out to me.”
Since the Florida Chapter is relatively new, they hope to soon begin monthly meetings and events for local fathers. An upcoming Father’s Rights Conference is in the works to be held on October 3rd in the Orlando area.
Additionally, men in the state of Florida must understand their legal rights as fathers and how to take advantage of them.
For starters, a man can only seek visitation rights in the state of the Florida if they are the child’s biological or legally adopted father. If a man believes he’s the father of a child, he can request a DNA test that will prove he is the child’s parent; this is known as “establishing paternity.” After paternity has been determined, Florida family law courts will enter a paternity order so that the father can claim his legal rights.
Dads have several custody and visitation rights. One is the right to physical, internet and phone contact with their child on a regular basis. In situations where the parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, a judge decides. The father has the right to go back to court to request that the visitation order be enforced or that the other parent face penalties for restricting their rights.
The father also has the right to know about all the activities that their child participates in as well as take part in these activities. The father also has the right to alter the original court judgment if an informal visitation agreement between both parents favors him.
Florida family law courts prefer stability in a father’s life since it is best for their child. Fathers could also lose rights to visitation if evidence of sexual violence, child abuse, domestic violence, child neglect and child abandonment is provided to the court.
If the father’s physical or mental health is in question, the court could decide to deny a father some of their visitation rights or force a father to have visitation in a supervised setting. The court also requires the father to provide an environment that is substance-free for their child; otherwise their visitation rights will be limited.
Kenneth Gallagher, founder of Father’s Rights Orlando, has been practicing family law and advocating for the rights of husbands and fathers since 2002.
“Historically dads had a really hard time in family court as far as receiving adequate time sharing and custody issues, so I felt there was a need that was not being addressed,” said Gallagher. “[Father’s] need to get good legal representation and follow the advice of their attorney through the process.”
There are many factors that contribute to man not being a father to his children. Whether it be lack of maturity, high incarceration rates for males, specifically for minorities, and others.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma that it is a normal occurrence for minority men abandon their children. While that is an issue, as according to the 2012 U.S Census Bureau and National Center for Fathering, 57.6% of Black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent their biological fathers. U.S. Census Bureau
Some suggest that it is not always by choice.
“These are not fatherless homes because dads don’t want to be dads, these are court imposed fatherless homes,” said Weiner. “Did you know that Florida received almost $35 million last year because of the establishment and enforcement of child support.”
“No woman can teach a boy to be a man. These little girls need to know what a true man is for them to have better mates. There are so many things in our society that are associated with the fatherless,” she added. “Children need their fathers. It’s that cut and dry.”