Posts tagged ‘Father-Child Relationship’

Incarcerated Fathers & The Law

Editors note: This article is educational and not intended as advice for
a specific matter. The laws of each state vary, and readers should seek
legal advice from a licensed attorney in the appropriate state.

It is not revelation to prison readers that American Society has
declared war on crime. All wars generate collateral damage and, in this
case, the damage consists of families of those who bear the burden of
the public’s wrath with crime. This is particularly true of the most
vulnerable and defenseless members of society – the children of
imprisoned men. These children, through not fault of their own, are
often denied spiritual and emotional nurture by their fathers. Never
forget: Incarcerated fathers are parents, too. Fathers are not “social
accidents” as many people have been incorrectly taught due to
negative male-stereotyping.

As an advocate for fathers’ rights for over two decades, I’ve long
understood that positive father involvement is vital because fatherless
children pose a high risk for leading lives of poverty, addiction, and
crime, as documented in my book Fathers’ Rights (Basic Books).

Children are the future of our society, and this is no less true of the
children of incarcerated men. Imprisoned fathers are responsible for
most of the 1.5 million minor children of incarcerated parents. We
need to break the cycle of criminality through positive father-child
involvement because the most reliable predictor of crime is neither
poverty nor race, but growing up fatherless.

Several years ago I represented an incarcerated father I will call Bob.
Bob became embroiled in a divorce and visitation dispute that was as
bitter as it was high profile. Yet I was able to reunite him with his
children and keep him connected to them. This required aggressive
and strategic litigation on my part, but it was worth it. I pursued
visitation for Bob and did not give up until I had obtained a court
order. The court even ordered specific dates and times for phone
visitation. Upon release, he was reunited with his family.

Obviously, visitation is more difficult for incarcerated fathers. However
it is possible. Often a letter or note from a law office motivates
reluctant caregivers to let fathers back into their children’s lives so
bitter legal battles can be avoided. My goal is never to use the law to
manipulate mothers or make their lives miserable, but to maximize
responsible father contact for the child. In Bob’s case, I had to right
hard. It meant going to court many times, initiating discovery, and
correctly persuading the court that the best interest of the minor
children would be served by consistent paternal contact that could be
insured only by court-ordered visitation. Successful litigation kept this
father connected with his kids.

A court order is meaningless without something to back it up. In the
jurisdiction where I practice, that something can be the contempt
power of the court. When a visitation order is violated by mom, then I
can file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause against the mother in the
civil proceeding requesting that the court find her in contempt for
violating the order. If mom is held in contempt of court, she can be
sentenced to a period of time in the county jail. In Illinois, we can also
recommend an alternative to contempt proceeding, because visitation
interference is a crime in my state, which can be prosecuted by the
state’s attorneys office. This decision is best made on a case-by-case

A critical reason for maintaining visitation, even if only by phone, is to
attempt to prevent the possible termination of parental rights. One
possible problem for incarcerated fathers is the potential threat of
court-ordered termination of parental rights in an adoption. Illinois
courts have held that an incarcerated father may lose his parent rights
if he has shown little interest in his children. Failure to write, telephone
or otherwise communicate or take an interest in his children can
constitute grounds for termination of those rights. This sets the stage
for adoption of his children. In fact, a recent Illinois legislative
initiative gave birth to the Baby Abandonment Law, which allows a
biological mother to legally abandon her infant without notice to the
father under certain conditions. I believe this law is unconstitutional
and ignores the rights of fathers.

If you feel your parental rights may be threatened, familiarize yourself
with the laws of your state and, if it becomes necessary, find a family
law attorney in your state to protect those rights. More importantly,
make sure you educate yourself in the art and craft of parenthood. The
law can be hard on incarcerated dads; it’s harder on those who don’t
invest some energy into being a good dad.

I believe many incarcerated men are ready, willing and able to
contribute to their children’s lives. There is a significant social cost to a
narrowly punitive policy, which may not take account of the needs of
the children of incarcerated fathers. If we recognize and change this
policy, we may achieve a reduction of crime without requiring new
taxes by simply promoting positive father-child involvement.
And in a similar vein, incarcerated fathers need to understand and
protect their parental legal rights. Incarcerated fathers are parents,

Jeffery Leving is an attorney and founder of the Incarcerated Father Project. His practice will respond to any inquiries you may have about fathers’ rights as much as possible at The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., 19 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 450, Chicago, IL 60603. (312) 807-3990

March 4, 2009 at 10:59 pm Leave a comment

New Law Would Help Keep Dads in the Picture

Representative Gerald Mitchell’s pro-child House Bill 2491 easily passed the House of Representatives in a landslide vote of 77 to 23. This legislation can help many fathers remain an active part in their children’s lives, as it would allow non-custodial spouses (who are generally fathers) the right to object to the other spouse’s removal of the children of more than 100 mils away within the state. Such a bill is important as many child relocations are motivated by hate and parental alienation, thereby leaving child causalities throughout the state.

Bill 2491 tells me that our legislators may realize the psychological benefits to “children of divorce” in having two parents instead of one. Our legal system, which allows parents to divorce the children from the “other” (non-custodial) parent. The future of our society depends on it, as the United States is now the world’s leader in fatherless families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers. That means we have 17.4 Illinois children growing up without full-time fathers or who are completely fatherless. The bottom line is fathers are vanishing from the social landscape and as demonstrated by the following facts outlined in my new book, “Fathers’ Rights”, the importance of pro-child legislation is necessary to protect our society.

+ Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and higher rate of chronic asthma and speech defects;
+ Seventy-two percent of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers;
+ Eight percent of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes;
+ Three of four teen suicides occur in single-parent homes;
+ The absence of a biological father increases by 900 percent a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. (Often these assaults are committed by stepfathers or the boyfriends of custodial mothers).

Too many children are effectively cut off from relationships with their fathers due to causes beyond their control and understanding. It is to be hoped that these causes are not beyond the control of our legislature.

Any measure that strengthens the father-child relationship or that enhances a child’s God-given right to two natural parents is a step in the right direction.

I applaud House Bill 2491 and all that it stands for.

Loop-based attorney Jeffery M. Leving, a specialist in asserting the legal rights of fathers, is also the author of “Fathers’ Rights” (Basic Books).

March 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

No More Vanilla Visitation: Some Ideas to Maximize Your Weekends with Your Children

By Beth Neuman
Let’s face it. Many divorced dads don’t get the luxury of living with their children or even seeing them every week. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy the time that you do get to spend with them and plan activities that will strengthen your relationship.

Whether you’ve got your kids for a weekend or a week, there are a wide variety of activities single dads can do with their kids, no matter what their interests and ages are.

Young Children:
+ Children’s Museum – These museums offer a safe and fun learning environment. There’s sure to plenty of educational activities to keep them entertained for hours.

 +Petting Zoo – Young children are fascinated by animals. Interacting with animals can open up the lines of communication – even with your youngest tot. Just make sure to keep an eye on where they (and you) are stepping.

 +Pet Store – You don’t have to get a new pet to enjoy a pet store. Take time to look at all of the different animals. If you’re feeling like super-dad, you can even buy them a pet. It might be wise to stick with a small hassle-free pet, such as a fish or turtle, or risk incurring the wrath of your ex-wife.

 +Park/Picnic – Venture out to a new park, pack a picnic lunch, and don’t forget the juice boxes, snacks, and plenty of napkins.

 +Concerts/Theatrical Event – If you’re brave enough to handle an arena of screaming tikes, why not take them to a concert or play. Check your local community centers or online for information.

Older Children:
 +Board Game Night – Remember when you used to stay up all night wired on coke playing Battleship, Operation, and Monopoly? Relive those days with your own children. Order a pizza, get a couple two-liters bottles of soda and let the games begin!

 +Video Games – Teach the young ones a few new tricks. Warning: modern video game controllers are much more complicated then the two-button joysticks of the Atari-era.

 +Shopping – Although this might make some kids (and dads) cringe, others love to get out and look around in stores, etc. Be sure to talk to you kids and be firm about spending limits. You will survive.

 +Bike Ride – Why not take a nice bike ride to your local ice cream or candy store? You probably could use the exercise anyway. Just be sure that the kids can handle their bike before you’re a mile away from home.

 +Pool – Cool off and take a break by relaxing in the water. Pools are inexpensive and can keep your kids entertained for hours!

 +Theme Park – Six Flags and other theme parks are all over the country. Just make sure you pick a good day – rain can put a damper on things, but nothing is worse than being stuck for two hours sweltering in a long line.

 +Camping – Map out a camping destination and head for the great outdoors. This is a perfect activity for older children and teens. All you’ll need is a tent, a cooler full of food, a first aid kit and an industrial-size can of bug spray. And yes, S’mores are as good as you remember.

 +Museums – Many people that actually live near or in a city don’t take the time to see the tourist attractions and museums that big cities have to offer. Note: make sure this is something that interests your children otherwise you’re bound to hear a lot of sighs and see a lot of eye-rolling.

 +Sporting Events – Don’t mess with success. For generations dads have been taking their children to the ballpark to bond with them. Eat hot dogs and cheer for the home-team and impress your teen with your sports knowledge.

 +Concerts – Ask your kids about their favorite bands and find out when the next one will be in town for a concert. You might be surprised to find you’ve actually heard of them. Regardless, they’ll always remember singing along with their favorite band with their dad.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s not really what you do, but how you do it. No matter how you spend your time, make sure you really reach out to your child and try to communicate with them. Spending quality-time with your child is essential to maintaining a great father-child relationship after a divorce. They need to know that you are there for them and want to spend time with them.

March 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment