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By David Vesper
Chapter Lead, Alaska
Fathers’ Rights Movement
On June 7th, a young woman from Fairbanks sent the Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement a series of screenshots from text messages from her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. She was also the mother of his child. Within the messages, there were egregious and false accusations against the father about abuse and a set of conditions that must be met by him in order for him to see his child. The father’s girlfriend was astounded to learn of the vindictive and relentless pursuit by this mother to interfere with the father-child relationship.
I explained to her that these actions were a common occurrence. In high conflict post-relationships, children become victims of circumstances between the parents and both the Federal and Alaskan governments endorse this behavior through the current codes, statutes and Civil Rules written by legislators and lawyers that focus on the financial aspects of family above everything else. This confrontational aspect of Alaskan Family Law creates the conditions in the family household for contentious and adversarial divorce and custody cases. Since Alaska uses the Percentage-by-Obligor model of Child Support and amounts are dictated by “awarded visitation” for the noncustodial parent. The child becomes a financial asset in the transfer of wealth from one parent to another. To secure custody, one parent may maliciously accuse the other parent of domestic violence. This silver bullet tactic is usually successful in these cases to secure custody of children.
To help this young woman understand the typical situation in Alaska, I penned a hypothetical situation that fathers may endure in Alaska and posted this on the Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement Facebook page on June 7, 2018:
“Why do fathers abandon their children?
Based off of experience with other cases I have seen and even with myself, many fathers run away from these types of mothers because it would be a losing battle to deal with them. The crazier the woman, the farther away the man will go because he knows society just will not believe him if he reports it. He understands that women can get away with things that men cannot. So, to avoid the trouble, men will run.
Then… you see a case where the mother is ticked off. She will call him names in front of the children. Gain their empathy because she is now all alone. All the while, she is programming the children to hate their father.
So, when the father thinks things have calmed down and tries to come back, the mother will display this gatekeeper mentality by denying him visitation. After all, the attention is back on her now. So, she is trying to advance her cause among her social circle by displaying herself as the savior of her children.
Meanwhile, the father understands the situation has not changed and may either leave for good or try to make up for time lost with the children if he accepts the fact that the mother will not change her attitude.
Now, the mother looks for social affirmation in order to look for justifications of her actions towards the father. Of course, girlfriends and white knight guy friends will come to the rescue because this father’s name has been dragged through the mud. This support system by the mother would go to great lengths to support the custodial interference by the mother to the father.
Once that happens, the father may just give up completely. After all, who would want to endure that emotional and psychological abuse? So, he leaves again and again and again.
After a while, the mother senses victory against the father and celebrates her achievement. She continues to get the support and is, therefore, able to establish the “single mother” role that is championed by society. She celebrates both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. She goes onto social media taunting the tough lifestyle of single parenting… even following single mother Facebook pages and posting their memes. The mother would even take credit for every achievement earned by the child. Every feature, look, and activity of the child is because of the “single mother” role that allowed her to overcome the odds. She may even interview for a “new” dad for her next relationship while, at the same time, tell her children that their “real” daddy doesn’t love them anymore.
At the same time, the father, either legally or socially, is basically banned from becoming a part of the child’s life. He may go on with his life and even remarry and have more children of his own. He believes that his oldest child is better without him because the child is emotionally conditioned to believe whatever the mother and her friends and family have said about him. To abandon the toxic relationship with the mother, the father feels compelled to abandon the child as well.
If Child Support is involved, it usually means that the transfer of wealth from one parent to another is an exercise of control for the recipient and submission for the other. Control then alienates the father more from his own child. If he has not paid child support, he is now a deadbeat dad. Yet, you and I do not know if he could afford the payments. He is already paying for a house, car, groceries… everything you need to sustain a home… and… his lawyer’s fees, her lawyer fees, court administrative costs, court-ordered training or classes and etc. Many times, the father is in the arrears before the first payment is in effect because payments are retroactive to the time the mother filed and not when the judgment was made. Now, he realizes that he cannot afford this and maintain a house. He falls further behind. His missed payments are reported on his credit report as a “public” debt. All the while, his ex is calling him a deadbeat. Now, the state gets involved and takes away his license and certifications. He can’t perform at his job. He is now fired. He went from a six-figure salary to bankruptcy and facing jail time. So, when we see a deadbeat dad, can he afford it?
If domestic violence was alleged, it becomes the silver bullet tactic that would legally shut the father out of his child’s life for good. In Alaska, we have more incentives for “victims” to claim abuse on a “perpetrator” without recourse and Due Process many times. Now, the father has a history for which the violence may have been reciprocated. But, we will never know who was the perpetrator and who was the victim. All that matters in Alaska is the person requesting a Protective Order is automatically the “victim” and the accused is the “perpetrator.” But, he doesn’t file because who will believe him? He cannot even go to a Domestic Violence shelter in Alaska because they do not offer services for men. But, she filed and she is now the “victim” in the relationship. He is now stereotyped for the rest of his life and he knows that he is innocent!
Regardless of how the custodial interference occurred, the negative ramifications are the same and the child suffers most of all.
So, when we hear of deadbeat dad and perpetrator… was that the whole truth? Was it worth destroying someone else’s life to make one person feel better and justified in their actions?
This is what I see from this woman. So, I ask, what can we do to help?”
Within 48 hours of this post, over 70K people have seen it around the world. It had been shared over 600 times. Most of the comments left on the post were similar with comments on how they could relate to the story:
“Was too <sic> much truth to this article.”
“My life’s story for going on 13 years now.”
“My husband’s story with his ex.”
“How <sic> sad the child suffers.”
So many people across Alaska and the world were able to relate to this story. The only solution would be to narrow judicial discretion with rebuttable 50/50 presumption of child custody, reform Child Support to reflect today’s families with the Income Shares model that the majority of the country uses for their guidelines, restructure the punitive enforcement mechanisms with incentives for the obligor with programs by the Child Support Enforcement Division that provide job training, certifications and job placement programs for unemployed noncustodial parents, transfer accusations of domestic violence to criminal courts so the accused may have Due Process afforded by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution or raise the evidence standard to “clear and convincing” in Family Law, and clearly define “the best interest of the child” in Alaskan statutes.
However, Alaska’s only approach to reform was HB 368 Shared Parenting Bill that was introduced by REP Gabrielle LeDoux on February 21, 2018. In late March, REP David Eastman added his name as a co-sponsor. HB 368 was the first step to narrowing judicial discretion by applying rebuttable presumption of 50/50 shared child custody. What we have found out was that this bill was quietly introduced to the floor in February and not many legislators know about it. The bill died in committee without a vote or hearing.
If you believe that children should have both loving and fit parents in their lives, contact your state legislator in both the House and Senate and ask for their support. Odds are, they did not know about this bill. You can contact them at www.akleg.gov. Until there is meaningful and comprehensive reform and Family Law, the Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement will still advocate for our children to have both parents in their lives.