NO…STILL DON’T SEE THE PROBLEM?
THINK THIS IS NOT TRUE?
WATCH THIS VIDEO ABOUT HOW FATHERS IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY‘S 11TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT FAMILY COURT, IN FLORIDA, HAVE TO “UNJUSTIFIABLY” PROVE “PARENTAL FITNESS”
The CEO of The Fatherhood Taskforce speaking before the Florida Supreme Court Committee on the Future of Florida‘s Courts.
Emery makes many good suggestions in his article called, “How Divorced Parents Lost Their Rights” and has a good grasp on the process from a psychology perspective. We are, of course constitutional scholars and would like to offer a perspective that hopefully integrates and supports most but not all of what Emery says.
For instance Emery suggests that courts do not involve themselves with parenting disagreements between married parents because judges would make things a mess.
They would of course but that is NOT the legal reason that they stay out of it. The legal reason is that people have the right to make decisions free from government interference. These rights are called privacy rights. Parents have privacy rights to make decisions for their children and the State may not interfere unless the state can show a clear and present danger to the child from these decisions.
Why do family law courts treat married and divorced parents differently? Many people do not realize that parental rights do not depend on marriage and in fact cannot depend on marital status in any way. A hundred years ago this wasn’t so and our family law codes have not caught up with this concept. Up until the early 1970s some states still had bastardy laws on their books that tied the rights of parents and children to the marital status of the child’s parents. In a series of landmark decisions, the US Supreme Court stated very clearly that states may not create second-class parents or second-class children based on nothing more than the marital status of the child’s parents.
Family law has not caught up to this idea because of religious and cultural preconditioning. In other words our society builds into us a series of biases and prejudices against single and divorced parents that is so deep most people don’t even realize it is driving their behavior. Most people believe that it is completely legitimate to invade the privacy of single/divorced parents even where they believe that the privacy of married parents must be preserved.
Constitutionally, this is a completely bankrupt idea. Unfortunately, judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals are almost universally so caught up in these biases they refuse to acknowledge their professional training and simply default to bigoted behaviors without even realizing that is what they are doing. (It’s easy to fall into following statistics to guide decisions. Individuals can choose to follow these as their guide. It is not how the law should be deciding individual rights.)