“Father’s Rights” is a term that is thrown around a lot by attorneys, but what does it mean?
It probably happens at least once a week in our office that we are asked by a father seeking help whether they really have a shot at joint or even full custody in their newly pending divorce case. It’s important for fathers, and mothers alike, to understand what to expect from our office, and most courts in Oklahoma.
What’s the law say?
It is the policy of the State of Oklahoma to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing
contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of their children, and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. That’s found in statute at Title 43 O.S. §110.1.
The Supreme Court of Oklahoma has upheld cases in which father’s have asked for a modification of custody or visitation stating that the father’s argument was supported by recent studies indicating that “the best alternative for a child in a post-divorce situation is to be able to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.” That can be found at Hornbeck v. Hornbeck, 702 P.2d 42, ¶15 (Okla. 1985). The
Oklahoma Supreme Court went on to state in the same case that, “Seeking to minimize the effects of the trauma of divorce and to heighten the child’s chances for a happy and psychologically healthy childhood is clearly a path which the court may consider to advance those interests.”
The Supreme Court in Hornbeck concluded that where the factors affecting the child’s welfare favor the provision of a joint custody arrangement, which will further a meaningful relationship with both parents, that arrangement may be found to substantially advance the child’s welfare.” The court supported the joint custody scheme stating it allowed the child to fully develop relationships with both of his parents while at a young and impressionable stage, and that the order was supported by evidence showing that the development of such relationships is to the benefit of the child.
What does the research say?
The Supreme Court, in the case above, sited to published data to support its decision, including The Disposable Parent by M. Roman & W. Haddad. In a published paper by the same name, Dr. Melvin Roman, Ph.D. states, “Children are not only deeply pained by their father’s absence but they interpret it as abandonment; as a consequence, they feel devalued and guilty.” See Roman, Melvin, The Disposable Parent, Conciliation Courts Review, Volume 15, Number 2; December 1977. Roman goes on to state that, “That is, those children who fared best after the divorce were those who were free to develop loving and full relationships with both parents.” And sighting a study by Judith Wallerstein, he states that children who saw their fathers very frequently-and for some real length of time-were all satisfied with the new family arrangement.” See also Judith Wallerstein, & Joan Kelly, The Effects of Parental Divorce: Experiences of the Pre-School Child, Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, Vol. 14, No. 4, 600-616 (Autumn, 1975).
Furthermore, in their article for the Review of General Psychology following their review of approximately 200 combined works on the subject, Ronald Rohner and Robert Veneziano, state that the vast number of empirical studies show the powerful influence of a father’s love on children’s and young adults social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning. Ronald P. Rohner, and Robert A. Veneziano, The Importance of Father Love: History and Contemporary Evidence, Review of General Psychology, Volume 5(4), at page 382405 (December 2001).
Rohner and Veneziano opine that paternal acceptance/rejection (father love) is heavily implicated not only in children and adults’ psychological well-being and health but also in an array of psychological and behavioral problems, including psychological adjustment problems, including issues of negative self-concept, negative self-esteem, emotional instability, anxiety, social and emotional withdrawal, and aggression; conduct problems, including externalizing behaviors and delinquency; drug and alcohol abuse; cognitive and academic difficulties; and forms of mental disorder such as depression, depressed affect, and borderline personality disorder. Moreover, the love of a father may affect offspring development at all ages from infancy through at least young adulthood.
Smith Simmons, like the Oklahoma Supreme Court, feels that the best interest of the minor child in most every divorce or custody matter involving good parents is for both mother and father to exercise visitation in such a manner that they both are provided the opportunity to develop close and comparable personal relationships with their minor children based on their best interests. The best interests of the children will always dictate the direction of the case, but when dealing with good parents on both sides, parity as to parenting opportunities will often win the day for the good of the children.
We are a firm dedicated to providing the best representation of both mothers and fathers when their relationship with their children is on the line. If we can help, contact us today.