Fathers Rights Attorney Battles against Gender-Bias Stereotypes
Jeffrey Leving, the author of "Father's Rights" who has appeared on "Nightline" and numerous other talk shows, shared his views on the current state of father's rights with staff writer Steve Warmbir.
Q: What's the biggest obstacle the fathers rights movement has to overcome now?
A: Educating judges, educating lawyers and educating the public as to the changes in gender roles and parenting which has occurred in our society, which is being ignored by many, many people.
There are a lot of women working full-time. There are a lot of women out there who have virtually no contact with their own children. The children are being raised by the fathers. And when those cases go to court, gender bias in the system often places those children with the mother and destabilizes the entire environment the children have been living in since birth because of gender bias.
Q: Assess the current strength of the fathers rights movement in Illinois.
A: Unfortunately, it's not nearly as strong as the women's movement because I don't think men have the ability to organize the way women can.
Men are, as boys, taught to be very competitive. They're taught not to hug and kiss each other as opposed to what little girls are taught. And they are taught that their role in society is to be a breadwinner, to support a family and not need help from other people.
Q: How challenging is it to represent fathers in court?
A: It's very hard representing fathers in custody, visitation and cases where fathers are being defended against false abuse allegations.
Q: Why is it so difficult? Is the message getting across to judges that fathers are interested in their children's upbringing?
A: The message is getting across, but it's getting across very, very slowly.
A lot of people believe that the father shouldn't have any role other than paying support.
And that's why the child support system is so ineffective because the child support system focuses on punitive measures and putting fathers in jail. And putting fathers in jail doesn't collect child support. When a man has lost everything he holds dear, his children, his wife, his home, and he's all alone and he can't even visit his own children - which are the most important things in his life - the threat of jail is not going to be a motivating factor for him to pay support. …