There is an injustice in the court systems regarding fathers’ rights. Many fathers are losing not just custody but the right to see their children. It’s a common tale, and though awareness is starting to spread throughout the country, not enough is being done to combat it.
The Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement was founded for this very purpose.
“We’re trying to expand our awareness, expand our outreach and basically give other fathers some hope out there. We’re trying to promote legislative change,” David Vesper, international studies major and leader of the Alaska chapter, said.
The main issue concerning fathers’ rights is layered within many obstacles. Because there’s no jury within many of these cases, the ruling ends up being a power struggle. Many cases rule in the mothers’ favor.
“Family law is a civil issue. The standard of evidence is not the same as criminal. You’re innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court, so it’s up to prosecution to find that person guilty. When it comes to civil court, one person has to be more believable than the other,” Vesper said.
The court system itself is still ingrained with traditional beliefs and values.
“[The system] is based on the 1960-1970 family structure if you will and that has drastically changed throughout the years… But the system hasn’t,” Gary Lytle, professional piloting major and page editor for the Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement Facebook page, said.
The issue is not just a legal issue. There are many social and cultural issues ingrained within the laws of family court. Many cases involve a parent being accused of domestic violence, even though there’s no proof to back it up.
“’I’m scared. Look how big he is compared to me,’ and that’s enough for a protective order. Once that protective order is initiated, that’s the silver bullet,” Lytle said.
The ‘silver bullet’ Lytle refers to is when a parent in court is accused either by the opposing parent or the child of violent or abusive actions. At this point, the court will suspend all rights of the accused, even if the accusation itself holds no water. Furthermore, the parent usually accused is the father, not the mother.
Despite these obstacles, the Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement stands tall in their belief in equal opportunity for parenting.
“Some people out there believe in mother’s preference, you know, like ‘mothers know best.’ There’s also research that shows that fathers are just as capable,” Vesper said. “To us, we feel that fathers and mothers are equally capable of raising children.”
The Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement will be hosting a town hall event on April 13 at the 49th State Brewing Company. The event runs from 6 – 8 p.m. and will spread awareness throughout the community about the cause. The founder of the movement, Thomas Fidler, will be a keynote speaker.