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There are single fathers who really want to be good dads

I feel as if I'm being removed from my daughter's life. I currently have joint legal custody with her mother, but I'm only allowed to see her once a week and every other weekend.

Observer-Dispatch (USA)
21 August 2009

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There are single fathers who really want to be good dads
By Jason Roberts

I am a single father pursuing full custody of my 3-year-old daughter. I currently have joint custody with my daughter's mother, and am only allowed to see her once a week and every other weekend.

How is that fair to my daughter and to me? I don't feel that it is. I have been to court numerous times this year for custody and child support, and have been looked at like a "dead-beat dad." I have been paying child support for more than a year without the court being involved.

There was an oral agreement between my daughter's mother and me about how much money was acceptable and fair for the two of us to separately take care of our child. As time wore on, I was being asked for more and more, despite the fact that I am trying to support myself and my daughter when she is with me.

Now I fear that a judgment will be one-third of my monthly take-home pay. How am I supposed to take care of my responsibilities and my child when she is with me when I'm being taken advantage of?

I'm not saying that I won't pay child support or for her schooling, but one-third of a person's monthly pay is a little excessive and extreme. It seems that every time I am in the courtroom, I am not being seen as a father who wants the best for his child, but as a father who is trying to take his child away from her mother. That is not the case. I just want equal time to nurture and love my daughter.

I feel as if I'm being taken out of my daughter's life. I go to court when expected to be there, dress appropriately, and am respectful to each judge; however I feel the "old school" judges don't see the entire picture and do not take what I have to say into consideration. I've been slandered by my daughter's mother in front of the judge, and never once has he ever asked for evidence of these so-called "indiscretions." I feel as if I am being made an example of.

But it's not only me. There are many great single fathers out there being given the same old story  that a child needs to be and should be with their mother. Says who? The courts. They don't know what type of person we are or, for that matter, what type of fathers we are.

As single fathers, we are given zero credibility or rights, no clear reason for not being given the opportunity to raise our children and to show the world that not all single fathers are bad influences on them. I cannot speak for all of us, but I do know that we are being made the villain for trying to do the right thing and love our children.

I love my daughter with every ounce of my being, and when I am being ordered that I can only see her when the court sees fit, it makes my heart ache. I wonder what I did wrong to deserve such treatment.

This old-fashioned, antiqued family court system needs to be revamped to make way for shared parenting. Let us fathers have rights  the same rights that the mothers have. Give us fathers equality in the family court system. Give us fathers the opportunity to prove that we are good parents and we can do the same job and, in some cases, a better job than the mothers.

Help us fathers, our cause, and the Utica-based National League of Fathers, Inc. There is a bill that needs passing in the state Legislature: the Shared Parenting Bill. In the Assembly, it's A3181. Assemblyman David Townsend has already pledged his support for shared parenting legislation, but we need more support.

Please call your elected state leaders. Ask them to support this bill. The more voices we have, the better chance that fathers have to overcome this and give our children the love they deserve. A girl's first love is always her father, and a boy's first hero is always his father  why are we being portrayed as villains?

Jason Roberts lives in Utica.
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