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Are there judges who are blatantly anti-father and pro-mother? [USA]

Many like to pretend it's not true, but somehow fathers keep losing the custody wars despite a small avalanche of scientific studies demonstrating children's need to maintain full, meaningful relationships with both parents post-divorce.

Some material published in the USA from our friend Yuri…

Bias in Family Courts
National Parents Organization
April 8, 2015 by Robert Franklin

Judicial bias? Are there judges who are blatantly anti-father and pro-mother? Many like to pretend it’s not true, but somehow fathers keep losing the custody wars despite a small avalanche of scientific studies demonstrating children’s need to maintain full, meaningful relationships with both parents post-divorce. Plus, fathers continue to be marginalized in their children’s lives by courts despite their marked increase in hands-on parenting by them. All that is true, but the rate of maternal sole or primary custody in the United States has remained statistically unchanged since at least 1993.

And who knows how much more hands-on parenting fathers would do were it not for that sword of Damocles hanging over their heads — family courts. The simple fact is that every father who can read knows that, if he gets divorced, his chances of maintaining a real relationship with his kids is vanishingly small. So he’s got a choice; he can do what society expects and spend most of his time working and earning or he can curtail his time on the job in order to spend more of it with little Andy or Jenny. If he does the former, he can expect to see his kids every other weekend after the divorce is finalized. If he does the latter, he can expect the same.

In short, he can opt for a full career and a truncated relationship with his children or he can have a truncated career and a truncated relationship with his kids. Seems like an obvious choice. The point being that divorce courts strongly encourage men to limit their involvement with their kids during marriage. After marriage, they order them to.

Here in the U.S., Scott Ritchie’s is a case in point. Read my accounts here and here. Scott and his wife decided when their son was born that he should be the stay-at-home parent. She would support the family until the boy started school at which point Scott would get back into paid work. That was the arrangement they both agreed to and both kept their end of the bargain — until their son started first grade. Then Scott’s wife filed for divorce and, sure enough, was given primary custody despite Scott’s having been their son’s primary caregiver for the first six years of the boy’s life. In one hearing, the judge actually stated on the record that he just couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea of a stay-at-home father and that, in the future, he’d stop reflexively giving custody to mothers.

It’s a cautionary tale for all fathers. At least one small study of family court judges in the U.S. demonstrates their admitted pro-mother bias. The recent analysis of Nebraska child custody cases showed that, in some jurisdictions in the state, fathers essentially never get primary or sole custody, while in others, the mother/father ratio is almost 50/50. How likely is it that the fathers in the second jurisdiction are that much better than in the first? The far more probable conclusion is that the judge in the former believes fathers shouldn’t have custody except in the rarest of circumstances.

Which brings us to this blatant case of anti-father/pro-mother bias out of South Africa (IOL News, 4/4/15). As in the Ritchie case, the father had been his daughter’s primary caregiver for all of her three years. More remarkably, once the pair decided to divorce, they agreed to a 50-50 split of parenting time, for which I applaud them. As I’ve said many times, it matters little to a child who did the majority of the hands-on parenting. What’s important is that she’s attached to both her parents, the loss of either of whom would be a serious blow to her emotional/psychological development. So, despite the fact that Dad did most of the parenting, it was altogether appropriate that the child should spend time equally with her mother and father after they split up.

But apparently the court knew better.

A High court judge told a Joburg businessman that because his child was a girl and only 3 years old, it was not appropriate for him to have “extensive contact” with her.
Instead, the child should live with her mother and he should have contact with his daughter only on alternate weekends.

The father, who argued in court that he was the child’s primary caregiver, has spent hundreds of thousands of rand fighting gender bias in a bid to be a parent to his child.

“Her primary attachment figure is me,” the dad says in court papers.

“She calls for me in the night and comes to me in the mornings for a cuddle.”

He told the Saturday Star this week: “I have spent all my available time in the past three years with her, mostly alone. But the judge said it was impossible to believe a mother of a 3-year-old girl would give her away and that in (the judge’s) experience a minor child belonged with her mother, and I could see my daughter only once a month.”…

On January 20, the North Gauteng High Court judge declared that “the minor child was a girl and should reside with her mother”.

“Joint residency is not in the minor’s child best interests in view of her age and the father should have contact with her on alternative weekends.”

Notice of course that this is “in the minor child’s best interests.” It continues to astonish that every single child custody case is decided in “the child’s best interests,” even when the overwhelming majority of them aren’t. The fact is that judges don’t know the social science on which post-divorce family structure tends to promote child well-being and which don’t. They don’t know the science because they’re not required to know it. So when judges like the one at the North Gauteng High Court intone the mantra of the best interests of children, they’re basically just making it up. That is, they’re consulting their preconceived notions about what children need — a mother, not a father — and issuing their orders accordingly.

The judge’s bias becomes more apparent when we notice his/her issuance of a no-contact order on behalf of the mother despite the fact that it was based on false claims that were later admitted by her. Still, it served its intended purpose of removing the father from the child’s life.

Meanwhile, it’s the father who’s been made to pay for extensive factual and psychological investigations ordered by the court. And, again like Ritchie, this father gave up a lucrative job to be his daughter’s primary parent.

After the couple agreed to file for divorce, his ex-wife secured a protection order against him that allowed him to see his daughter only with supervised access.

The order was later withdrawn.

He believed she was using their child as a “pawn” after the breakdown of their marriage.

“Not only was the basis for the protection order completely false, which my estranged wife later admitted, it was completely malicious and put me in a situation where I was allowed only supervised access to my child.”

The man was served with the order shortly after he returned from a three-week holiday with his daughter.

“I have cared for my daughter my entire life. I have never harmed her. I was insulted and took it very personally.

“My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. I changed my job, gave up my executive position in a company so I… could spend most of my time with her, giving her my undivided attention…
The judge ordered the father to pay for an investigation by private individuals, a social worker and psychologist, regarding parental responsibilities and rights in the best interests of the child.

The father is awaiting this report, which has cost him a further R85 000. “That’s the stigma about being the father of a girl. I can’t accept it. I’ve made a conscious choice to challenge the system,” he said.

By the time his court battle is over, he expects to have spent close to a R1 million.

Meanwhile, this father vows to fight the system that he sees as discriminating against fathers. He’s not alone.

“If I’m not happy with the outcome of this investigation, I’m going to the Constitutional Court. I’ve been advised I’ve got a strong case. I’m fighting for myself and for my daughter. She is the most beautiful, special little girl.”…

A group of fathers filed a multimillion-rand damages claim case against the Family Advocate’s office in Pretoria in 2012, saying they had been discriminated against because they were men. The group have been waiting for a court date for more than three years. “The Equality Court is supposed to bring swift justice,” one of the applicants said.

Steven Pretorius, founder of Fathers-4-Justice, said as more dads fought to secure their rights for greater parental access, there remained an “inherent gender bias against fathers” in raising children.

In many states, provinces and countries, laws are on the books that do not prevent judges from ordering equal custody. But laws are generally no better than the judges on whom we rely to interpret them fairly, honestly and without prejudice. But all too often, that reliance is misplaced. All too often, judges rule with their hearts and not their minds. And all too often, they’re simply ignorant of the important social science on parenting that frankly demands equal parenting time as long as both parents are fit to care for their children.

That of course means that one of the keys to shared parenting is educating judges in the science we have on what actually is in the best interests of children when their parents’ divorce.
 

Stay-at-Home Dad Loses Custody, Part 1
National Parents Organization
November 30th, 2011 by Robert Franklin

I’ve said before that fathers who opt for the stay-at-home dad role should beware. In the event of divorce, courts may still look at them as dads, not as stay-at-home dads. That is, they may get the treatment that’s so familiar to fathers across the country and the English-speaking world – non-custodial status, minimal parenting time, and child support.

The following is a case in point. It’s also a cautionary tale for any father who considers embracing “role reversal.” What the dad in this case found was that, while he accepted a reversal of sex roles with his wife, family courts did not.

Scott and Kathleen Ritchie were married in 1994. At the time, he was a well-paid pilot scheduler for American Airlines and she was employed too. For several years they lived a nomadic existence due to the fact that Kathleen often changed jobs seeking better pay. That took them from Hershey, PA to St. Louis to Chicago, back to St. Louis, to Dearborn, MI, and finally to the Kalamazoo, Michigan area where both had extended family and friends.

When Kathleen discovered she was pregnant in 2003, both parents decided that Scott would be the stay-at-home parent. Kathleen earned more than he did anyway, so the arrangement made sense. For the first six years of their son Kyle’s life, Kathleen worked and received a pay check and Scott stayed home and cared for their son who flourished under the arrangement.

Kathleen got laid off in the economic downturn in 2009 but eventually found work with Conagra in Omaha earning $120,000 per year. She took that job in October of 2009, but they both wanted to stay in Michigan due to deep family ties there. Kyle had started school, so, according to their agreement, Scott would once again start earning. The plan was for both of them to seek employment in Michigan for one year, and if that didn’t work out, they’d pull up stakes and move – this time to Omaha.

From the time she took the job in Nebraska to about the summer of 2010, Scott and Kyle traveled there three or four times, but Kathleen came to Michigan more often. As far as Scott knows though, she never applied for a job there despite the fact that Kellogg’s and Ford had both told her, when she left them, that she was welcome back any time.

Then, in the summer of 2010, Scott got several surprises. The first was that Kathleen had cleaned out their joint bank accounts, placing all the money – $73,000 – in hers. She also cleaned out the account they’d established for Kyle, about $1,500 in all. A month and a half later, she filed for divorce, demanding custody of Kyle into the bargain.

Now, recall that Scott was a stay-at-home dad. He hadn’t worked in several years and was way out of the loop in terms of his resume and his work skills. He hadn’t worked and he hadn’t expected to work because that was their arrangement. Now he had a six-year-old son to care for, no job and no money. But he still had credit cards, right? Nope, Kathleen had cancelled them as well. Scott maintained one credit card he’d had before they married, but with no money to pay with, it was largely useless. Due to his wife’s theft of his share of their joint funds, Scott and Kyle had their backs against the wall – no job, no money, no credit.

Into the bargain, Kathleen also had the utilities cut off in the house in which her husband and son were living. With no job and no money, Scott and Kyle were trapped. This was Michigan in 2010, the depths of the recession.

Now, you might think that all of that would mean a family judge would immediately issue a temporary order giving Scott custody and making Kathleen pay him child support of at least $2,000 per month. Indeed, you’d probably think that the judge would be fairly ticked off at Kathleen for placing a little boy in such dire financial straits. You might think those things because, if a father had done that to his son and wife, the judge wouldn’t hesitate to throw the book at him.

But you’d be wrong. In fact, when they went before Referee Richard Minter in January of 2011, he gave custody to Kathleen.

What were his reasons? Michigan state law required him to consider 12 factors in deciding the relative merits of the parents. Minter decided that all factors weighed equally between the two parents except one – the “capacity and disposition” of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care and… other material needs.” In other words, Kathleen earned more money than Scott as per their agreement, and therefore should have custody.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. There are some six million stay-at-home mothers in this country and they don’t all lose custody on divorce because their husbands did the earning in the family. In fact, virtually none of them do. So how could all those other factors be considered equal between the Scott and Kathleen when it was Scott who did the hands-on parenting?

A few interesting remarks Minter made during the initial hearing suggest the answer. Those made it clear that he simply couldn’t wrap his brain around the concept of a stay-at-home father. Stay-at-home mothers were familiar to him and he enthusiastically approved. But a stay-at-home father was a strange and dangerous animal to the referee. From the trial transcript:

Page 27, Line 7: “But I really struggled with that whole gender issue. And, you know-and that was the first question in my mind as I sat and went through this. Well, a lot of things.

Line 13: “You know, if this were the dad that went away and got a job, and a mom who was home, what would I do? And I really, really struggled with that.

Page 31, Line 9: “On the gender issue, boy, I-the only answer I can give you at this point is that perhaps we are wrong if we look at favoring-and I have always tended to favor stay at home moms. I will admit that. Or stay at home parents. I respect that and admire that very, very much. Given these same circumstances in the future, I will remember this case, and I’m not going to rule in favor of a woman just because she’s a woman from here on in on these kinds of circumstances.

It doesn’t get a lot clearer than that. Minter admits to having “always tended to favor stay at home moms.” He respects and admires them “very, very much.” But when a dad does the same thing, he all of a sudden doesn’t admire it so much. He also admits to having ruled “in favor of a woman just because she’s a woman.”

So in the initial phase of his divorce and custody case, Scott Ritchie lost custody of the son he’d raised since birth, not because he was a bad dad, not because he was violent or uninvolved in Kyle’s life. He lost his son for one reason only – he was a stay-at-home dad in a family court system that embraces only stay-at-home moms.
 

Stay-at-Home Dad Loses Custody, Part 2
National Parents Organization
November 30th, 2011 by Robert Franklin

So it was off to Nebraska for Kyle, in the suddenly-loving care of his mother. I say “suddenly” because before she filed for divorce, she’d never been much of a hands-on-mother. Oh, she loved her son and did what she could for him, but she was a career woman first and a mother second, just the way countless dads are. But once she filed, all that changed and she became the doting mother every judge likes to see.

But Referee Richard Minter’s decision was only temporary. A second judge, Patricia Conlon, would have to rule on the case and make permanent orders. She did that on October 25, 2011.

Conlon’s order is like none I’ve ever read. It can be charitably called “rambling.” Much of it is simple a stream of consciousness narrative that veers from legal order to the tone of a school principal correcting a wayward child, to am amateur psychotherapist and back to judge. Conlon contradicts herself more than once and throughout the 34-page order is at pains to construe every ambiguity against Scott Ritchie, the stay-at-home father. It is, in short, a barely coherent exercise in misandry.

Was Scott a stay-at-home father for all of his son’s life? Yes, Conlon admits that he was, but, according to her, he failed to behave enough like a stay-at-home mother, principally one of, say, 100 years ago.

First of all, it does not appear that the father was a “homemaker” under the traditional interpretation of that concept held by females for centuries who tended to be the “stay at home parent.”

True, he cared for his son night and day. True he was an excellent and loving father who has raised a fine little boy to school age. But all of that meant little or nothing to Conlon. Indeed, her opinion entirely skips the first six years of Kyle’s life, preferring to focus on Scott’s failure to get a job prior to his son’s starting school and move to Nebraska to be with his wife.

Never mind that that was their agreement. Never mind that Kyle was in school in Michigan and had friends and family there. Never mind that, if they couldn’t get work in Michigan, Scott had agreed to move. And never mind that he never refused to move until she filed for divorce and cleaned out their bank accounts.

It’s a strange judge who finds fault with a stay-at-home father for refusing to displace himself and his child to be with his itinerant wife who’s just stated via her petition for divorce that she wants nothing to do with him. As a client of mine used to say, “That just don’t make no damned sense.” Indeed it doesn’t, but Conlon was just getting started.

You’re probably wondering what Conlon did with the fact that Kathleen cleaned out their bank accounts. Here’s how. She found fault with Kathleen’s having done that. It seems that, according to Conlon, Kathleen was living the high life in Omaha, while Scott and their son “did without.” That’s not surprising considering she was earning $120,000 a year of her own, plus having taken the $73,000 from their accounts. A single person can live pretty well on that. By contrast, a man and a little boy, with nothing at all to live on fare decidedly worse. All that Conlon called “cruel” on Kathleen’s part.

But it turns out it was all Scott’s fault. The fact that Scott wanted to stay in Michigan, as they’d agreed to do if possible “led her to withdraw the money from their accounts.” It apparently also led her to refuse to put any of it back when he asked her multiple times to do so. How Scott’s hewing to their agreement that was clearly in Kyle’s best interest meant that he “led her” to make off with their only savings, threatening their child with privation, Conlon doesn’t explain for what must be obvious reasons.

Conlon’s self-contradictions and inconsistencies make reading her order like driving on a curving road; it almost makes you motion sick trying to follow it. For example, one of the reasons she ended up giving custody to Kathleen is that, after she moved to Omaha, she returned to Michigan to visit Scott and Kyle on occasion. That’s a good thing – a mother visiting her son. Except maybe it isn’t; according to Conlon, “she got tricked” into doing so by Scott. How he did that, she doesn’t say, any more than she says why he’d need to “trick” a mother into visiting her son.

Another example of Conlon’s bewildering patterns of thought involves the question of what constituted Kyle’s “established custodial environment.” Under Michigan law, a child’s established custodial environment dictates which parent should get custody, all other things being equal.

Now, follow this if you can. According to Conlon, Minter was wrong to say there was a joint custodial environment because Scott provided that alone at their home near Kalamazoo. Except the minute Kathleen moved to Nebraska, there was a joint custodial environment. That’s because she made the effort to see Kyle after she moved. So Kathleen lived with Scott and Kyle in Michigan, but that’s not a joint custodial environment because Scott was the stay-at-home dad. But when she moved away without either father or son, that created a joint custodial environment because she came back to visit sometimes. You figure it out, because I can’t.

Then of course there’s the fact that Conlon decided that as of the date of the trial, Kyle’s primary residence was in Omaha because he’d spent most of his time there for six months. What about the six years he’d spent in Michigan with his father? She doesn’t say.

Then there are the strictly gratuitous slaps she takes at Scott. The most outstanding of which is her opinion that Scott is narcissistic, believing that Kyle is an “extension of himself.” Her basis for that?

Somewhere (sic) during the course of this marriage, the father began to see the minor child as being an extension of himself and that was evident in his testimony that the wife was “threatening Kyle and me.” This is not rational considering the fact that the child is the child of both parents and not just one, and there was nothing to indicate that the mother was abusive to either the child or the father.

Nothing more supports her amateur’s diagnosis.

But more important is the fact that there was indeed proof of abuse. If stealing all their savings, including Kyle’s, leaving father and child destitute, in the middle of a severe recession when the father hadn’t had a job for over six years isn’t threatening, I don’t know what is. But if you’re Judge Patricia Conlon, it not only isn’t abusive, it’s something to use against Scott. He complained about it in court and that, in Conlon’s telling, renders him irrational.

Well, I know who’s irrational here, but it isn’t Scott Ritchie.

But the real kicker comes when Conlon lists the factors she’s required by Michigan law to consider in deciding custody. There are 12, and they’re all ties, i.e. neither parent comes out better than the other, except in one instance. Like Minter, Conlon found that Kathleen is more able to provide for the child than Scott is.

And of course that’s true. Scott, like almost every stay-at-home parent suddenly faced with the need to go to work, is scrambling to do so in one of the worse economies the country has ever seen. Kathleen of course is in the catbird seat.

But if earning capacity were the thing that tipped the scales, essentially every divorced father in the country would have primary custody of his child. But that’s not so. Indeed, similar analyses of fathers’ and mothers’ contributions describe stay-at-home moms as the next best things to saints, while fathers who go to work every day, just don’t seem to care much about their children. Indeed, that narrative seems to hold that working to support your wife and child is a suspect activity. It likely means the dad is an egoist, more interested in his own career advancement than in his child.

Let the sexes be reversed, however, and that narrative disappears entirely replaced by, once again, the mother as heroine. And so it is in Conlon’s telling. The fact that Scott stayed home, cared for his son and involved the neighbors in the little boy’s life meant that he was the “social butterfly of the neighborhood.” Has she said the same about mothers who take their little ones to the park to visit with other mothers who’ve done the same? What about mothers who have other moms over for coffee and a chat while the children play? I doubt it.

The life Scott led was, Conlon writes, “all due to the efforts of his employed wife.” True, just as it is when fathers work to support their children and stay-at-home mothers. But it’s only when a father stays at home that the activity becomes suspect. Did Conlon notice that Kyle’s care was “all due to the efforts of her stay-at-home husband?” She did not, the well-being of the child having temporarily escaped her notice.

Gone are the encomiums to stay-at-home parents that are so much a fixture of court orders when the parent in question is female. Amazingly enough, Conlon noticed that Kathleen really had little to do with Kyle up until she filed for divorce. Then she became a “more attentive parent than she had been in Michigan.” But no matter that she’d played little part in the boy’s life until it behooved her to do so in her bid for custody. She’s the boy’s mother and Conlon was bound and determined for her to have custody, the facts be damned.

And so Scott Ritchie lost custody of his son. Indeed, during the school year, he barely gets to see him at all – only on certain holidays. In the summer he’ll have him for two months, and that’s it. Now, if Scott follows his wife to Omaha, then custody is 50/50. But just consider what that means in terms of Kathleen’s propensity for changing jobs and moving here and there. As far as I can count, she’s now done that six times during their 14-year marriage.

So what Scott can look forward to is following his ex-wife around the country, dutifully paying child support in order to keep contact with the son he did everything to raise. He’ll be like a dog following a nomadic band of humans hoping they’ll throw him a bone.

In the meantime, what does that do to his ability to establish a career for himself? After all, he no longer has his son, so what’s a dad to do? The workplace is pretty much it, but if he wants to keep contact with his son, he’ll need to keep to Kathleen’s schedule, not his own. And since Kathleen moves so much, Scott will need to do that as well, and at a moment’s notice. How is he supposed to make a career that way? Conlon’s not only damaged Scott’s relationship with his son, she’s destroyed his ability to pursue a career.

And what about the stability of the child’s home? That’s usually considered extremely important by judges deciding custody. But here, placing Kyle with the mother who’s taken little part in his care and who moves every couple of years is preferred to the stable home environment provided by the boy’s father who’s been his sole caregiver almost all his life.

From now on, remember the name Scott Ritchie. He’s the father who did everything right, who played the game by the mothers’ playbook. He’s a doting and fine father who devoted his life to his son, only to have the boy taken from him by courts that blatantly apply a double standard to men and women. Stay-at-home moms get primary custody almost without exception and their selflessness is praised to the heavens.

Stay-at-home dads? Not so much. Ever suspicious of fathers, the courts in Scott Ritchie’s case went to absurd lengths to discredit him for doing exactly what countless mothers do.

The case is a disgrace of which any judge of decent sensibilities would be ashamed.

It seems like good fathers just can’t win for losing.
 

Dad fights for access to daughter
 IOL News
 April 4 2015

By Sheree Bega

Johannesburg - A High court judge told a Joburg businessman that because his child was a girl and only 3 years old, it was not appropriate for him to have “extensive contact” with her.

Instead, the child should live with her mother and he should have contact with his daughter only on alternate weekends.

The father, who argued in court that he was the child’s primary caregiver, has spent hundreds of thousands of rand fighting gender bias in a bid to be a parent to his child.

“Her primary attachment figure is me,” the dad says in court papers.

“She calls for me in the night and comes to me in the mornings for a cuddle.”

He told the Saturday Star this week: “I have spent all my available time in the past three years with her, mostly alone. But the judge said it was impossible to believe a mother of a 3-year-old girl would give her away and that in (the judge’s) experience a minor child belonged with her mother, and I could see my daughter only once a month.”

This was after both parents had agreed and signed off on a settlement for joint residence on a 50-50 basis.

On January 20, the North Gauteng High Court judge declared that “the minor child was a girl and should reside with her mother”.

“Joint residency is not in the minor’s child best interests in view of her age and the father should have contact with her on alternative weekends.”

After the couple agreed to file for divorce, his ex-wife secured a protection order against him that allowed him to see his daughter only with supervised access.

The order was later withdrawn.

He believed she was using their child as a “pawn” after the breakdown of their marriage.

“Not only was the basis for the protection order completely false, which my estranged wife later admitted, it was completely malicious and put me in a situation where I was allowed only supervised access to my child.”

The man was served with the order shortly after he returned from a three-week holiday with his daughter.

“I have cared for my daughter my entire life. I have never harmed her. I was insulted and took it very personally.

“My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. I changed my job, gave up my executive position in a company so I… could spend most of my time with her, giving her my undivided attention.

“In the past three years, I’ve literally done what a mother should be doing. If you look at the 1 068 days of my child’s existence, I took care of her emotional and physical needs for 80 percent of the time.”

In court papers, his estranged wife claims the man was always “working and gambling”, but he countered in his replying affidavit that this was malicious and untrue.

He revealed how his phone was always switched off when he got home, and he would answer it to do work only after his daughter had been put to bed at 8pm. According to the interim court-ordered parental plan, which the judge delivered on January 23, pending the outcome of an investigation begged for on an urgent basis, the child may stay with her father for two weekends a month and every alternate Saturday. He may also have daily telephonic contact with the child.

“It is evident my child needs me desperately. In the past 63 days, I’ve had my child for about 40 days, mostly with sleepovers. If that’s not enough evidence I’m the primary caregiver, then I don’t know.”

The judge ordered the father to pay for an investigation by private individuals, a social worker and psychologist, regarding parental responsibilities and rights in the best interests of the child.

The father is awaiting this report, which has cost him a further R85 000. “That’s the stigma about being the father of a girl. I can’t accept it. I’ve made a conscious choice to challenge the system,” he said.

By the time his court battle is over, he expects to have spent close to a R1 million.

“If I’m not happy with the outcome of this investigation, I’m going to the Constitutional Court. I’ve been advised I’ve got a strong case. I’m fighting for myself and for my daughter. She is the most beautiful, special little girl.”

In 2011, dad Phillip Engelbrecht successfully applied to the high court for custody after the mother of his 2-year-old son walked out on them.

A group of fathers filed a multimillion-rand damages claim case against the Family Advocate’s office in Pretoria in 2012, saying they had been discriminated against because they were men. The group have been waiting for a court date for more than three years. “The Equality Court is supposed to bring swift justice,” one of the applicants said.

Steven Pretorius, founder of Fathers-4-Justice, said as more dads fought to secure their rights for greater parental access, there remained an “inherent gender bias against fathers” in raising children.

Kids scarred by high-conflict divorces or forced to grow up without dads “further suffer at the hands of institutions intended to safeguard (them)”. - Saturday Star
 
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