I want you to consider these words from the opening chapter of my friend, Josh Kimbrell’s book, Fatherhood on Trial: The Fight to be a Father in the Age of Divorce.
“As a society, America has overcorrected. America has gone from Ward Cleaver to Raymond Barrone, and the result is that fatherhood is no longer respected as an honorable role to which men should aspire. In 1950s sitcoms like Leave It to Beaver, fathers were portrayed as epitomes of virtue who were good and noble. But by the 1990s, everybody loved Raymond, but Raymond was a moron. Dad has devolved from moral leader of the family to a hapless idiot, wandering around his own home without a clue about his children, career, or life.”
Josh’s story is pretty wretched. I touched on it briefly on Father’s Day, but I wanted to expand a bit, because it is a cautionary tale, as well as a harsh revelation of where this nation is, as a culture, and how the family court system is complicit in discouraging the traditional family.
As Josh further points out in his book, there is a correlation between weak family structures and social adjustment issues with children.
Kids without dads present in the home, or at least maintaining a strong presence in their lives are more likely to act out in inappropriate ways. That includes criminal behavior, drug abuse, failing grades, and a host of other issues that can damage the child, long term.
There’s also the matter of poverty, in that single motherhood is the single most determinant factor in families living in poverty.
All of these issue result in a government that attempts to correct the problem by growing government programs, dipping into the tax payers’ pockets, and throwing money at the issues, in hopes of fixing what was never meant to be addressed by the government.
In Josh’s case, he wasn’t the deadbeat dad that bailed on his family. He was a young man, living responsibly with his wife, maintaining a career in banking, hosting a Christian radio program called Common Cents, and serving as the Chairman of Palmetto Conservative Alliance Foundation, a pro-family, pro-free market public policy organization, based in South Carolina.
Josh’s nightmare came when the wife had a change of heart. A mere month after their son was born, she decided to leave.
That happens, as unfortunate as it is, but the real horror came immediately after. She took advantage of the courts and society’s festering disrespect of the father’s role in the lives of their children, and used it as a weapon against Josh.
Without giving away too much of the story, as it is my hope that you go and check out the book for yourselves, I’ll say that Josh’s story is a worst case scenario of what can happen if the wrong people, with the wrong motives get involved in these cases.
Sadly, the child is always the one to suffer, because they are torn and tossed between the two. They’re denied the full affections and care of both parents.
I work with the family court systems in some of these cases. I’ve also served as a Christian counselor in family situations where the parents are more concerned with damaging each other than protecting the child.
It’s a situation where nobody wins; A circular firing squad at its worst.
Josh has shared his story as both a cautionary tale, and to advocate for family-law reforms. He proposes a change in the family-law system that gives equal weight to both parents, as well as equitable and fair division of care.
That doesn’t mean the absent parent pays the other’s cell phone bill and student loans, by the way.
The legislation Josh promotes is shared parenting, where all responsibility and custody is shared. When a parent fails to live up to the agreed upon arrangements for their portion of care, they forfeit joint custody and that equal time.
Statistically speaking, those parents who spend more time with their children feel more invested in them and are more apt to honor their obligations, support-wise.
This is an arrangement that not only benefits the child, but society, as a whole. It encourages more assured, less troubled youth… aka… fewer social issues to be addressed by an overreaching government.
Josh was a relatively known individual in his community at the time of his legal troubles. The high profile nature of his case, while personally embarrassing, also helped him through public support.
For those fathers who don’t have a community name or don’t have the means to hire adequate representation, how would their story have been different than that of Josh?
The changes that need to be made are wide reaching. It’s not just the custody, support, and criminal procedures surrounding family-law that need to be reformed. The culture and how it sees fathers as expendable after conception needs to be dealt with.
That, unfortunately, can’t be legislated away. That begins with the heart.