Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Matthew Wisz: Dad's Have Rights Too

Matthew Wisz is the founder of a organization called Dad's Have Rights Too.  This organization, founded in 2009 strives to obtain equality in the area of parenting rights.  Wisz states the following about the mission and goals of Dad's Have Rights Too:

"Our main goal is to restore Equal Custody Rights to Fathers and Mothers affected by Divorce, the break-up of the family, or Children born to unmarried parents through support, Education and Family Court Reform.

We do this by providing information, Education, and the knowledge to effectively use available Shared | Co Parenting resources, to all Fathers and Mothers desirous of remaining actively involved in the lives of their minor children both during and after a Divorce or similar domestic relations action."

Though there are surely cases where mothers unfairly lose rights to their offspring, it is a far more prevalent problem faced by modern day fathers.  It is unfortunately common in this society that when the adult relationship between the parents ends, the mother is free to do and go where she pleases with the child, regardless of the emotional and/or financial cost to the father.

Matthew Wisz has a very personal connection to this cause.  Wisz's first son,  was born in 2008.  Soon after his birth, Wisz was involved in a tragic accident. At which time his ex left him, and filed for divorce and custody of their son. Mr. Wisz currently has visitation every other weekend for two hours supervised.

 I watched this happen with my own ex husband with his older two children while we were still married.  His children's mother chose to make a move two states away and because he didn't feel he'd be able to win in court, he didn't fight it.  In matters of a custodial parent attempting to move away with a child, Matthew Wisz advises, "On this matter, I would have to say there probably is a group of fathers who have lost their children due to the custodial parent moving away...however, most states have a clause which protects fathers. If the father has a custody/visitation order, then most states require the custodial parent to notify the courts and basically get "permission." The problem lies with fathers who do not get an order, who allow the other parent to control the relationship between father and child. The lesson here...get it on paper, make it legal. Without that paperwork, the other parent will control everything."

When I asked Wisz how he defines losing parental rights, he responded, "to lose your parental rights is legally defined by the courts as any time a parent loses legal rights to the children.Losing your ability to make parenting decisions, losing the ability to decide basic fundamental things about their children. When I lost my parental rights, felt like the end of the world."

Determining a parent's right to involvement with their kids is based upon a concept called "the best interests of the child."  Wisz raises a good point about the best interests concept when he states:  "Whether or not a state law mandates equal rights to both parents, family courts appear instead to rely on a concept called "the best interest of the child." Since that notion is wholly subjective, an undefinable rule with no standards or accountability, in practice it rests on the personal whim or bias of the family court. In order to "redefine" these laws, we first must define the current law.What does "the best interest" really mean? Clearly the "best interest" between my ex and I, are NOT the same.

Our argument for equality and equal parental rights is based upon the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This position was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Troxel et vir. v. Granville, 530 US 57, 67 (2000). The Court stated that parenting is a fundamental right protected by the US Constitution. In Troxel, the court wrote: The liberty interest at issue in this case -- the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children -- is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.Based on this argument, what family courts do on a daily basis, could be considered unconstitutional."

For the purposes of societal perception of this concept which, as Wisz agrees, is a very subjective thing, it seems we believe that the child's best interest is simple:  M-O-M.  Especially in cases of parents who are not together.  To be true, with mommy is a wonderful place to be.  However, with daddy is a wonderful place as well and just as important.  Maybe its because the overwhelming degree of dead beat dad horror stories that we hear every day that the good dads out there get lost in the shadows.  The unfortunate bottom line though, is that in cases of divorce or splitting up, adults have a lot of problems separating their own personal feelings for the other from the relationship of the other parent to the child.  Since my ex and I divorced there have been times when he's made me so crazy I could scream.  There's been times he's been a REAL jerk to me (and I to him).  There's been times when differences in parenting techniques have made us argue.  However, never for one moment has it occurred to me to do anything to disturb our shared parenting plan.  The shared parenting plan is paramount to me above any other petty disagreement we may have.  Why?

Because our son adores his dad.

Because how his dad feels about me has absolutely nothing to do with how his dad feels about him.

Because just because we disagree on MANY topics doesn't make me right and him wrong.

Because if the tables were turned, and he had custody, this is how I would want to be treated.

Because at the end of the day, no matter what occurred between my ex and I, or how he drove me crazy or pissed me off, I always know that when it comes to our son, that he would lay down and die for him.  End of story.

These are things I wish that more women would consider with regards to approaching a parenting relationship over a child of a failed love relationship.  Its not going to be easy, most of the time, its not going to be fun.  But when you bring a child into the world, both parents should feel equally obligated to raise the child, and in such, should equally share the privilege of raising the child.

Matthew Wisz works diligently not only to change public perception, but also custody laws.  Wisz states that, "personally through my grassroots organization (DHRT) I have devoted my life to bringing light to this issue. I average 60+ hours a week, researching  other cases, gathering information for other fathers. I have spent my life savings funding legal assistance for other fathers. I write on average 45 letters a week, these letters go out to state senators, judges, state attorneys, etc. I personally created Dads Have Rights Too in order to help educate fathers on the importance of being in their child's life, and the importance of fighting for every chance they can get to be in their child's life."

Further, Wisz informed me that there are things YOU and I can do to help change public perceptions.  "Speak out! Raise awareness through inviting friends and family to join our fight. Many fathers believe "it will never happen to me" just like I did...then it becomes a reality. This is not a "fathers rights" thing...this is a "human rights" thing. Everyone deserves equal rights to their children. This is the next big civil rights movement...you can either be apart of it or not, but either way, it will happen."

This IS a civil rights movement!  Its a shame that dads can even be likened to a minority, as far as being presented with a set of unfair stereotypes, barriers, and hardships...  But its true.  Wisz provided me with many interesting facts and statistics.  Consider if you will:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes – 10 times the average.
Do you think that fatherlessness is not that prevalent? That this is not that BIG a deal?

  • 24 million children (34 percent) live absent their biological father.
  • 43 percent of first marriages dissolve within fifteen years; about 60 percent of divorcing couples have children; and approximately one million children each year experience the divorce of their parents.
Please join and follow Matthew's cause by finding him here.  Also support this important cause by SPREADING THE WORD!  I invite all readers to share this posting and encourage other bloggers to interview and get to know this dedicated, devoted, and driven gentleman!