By Maurice Fisher
Fisher is a mental health therapist who lives in Roanoke.
As a mental health professional, I have had the privilege of being involved in myriad domestic cases concerning child custody, visitation and child support. Many of these cases get resolved in heathy ways for the children and the parents. Other cases emit toxins well beyond the break-up of the parents that negatively affect the children as well as the biologic parents.
To be sure, there are many men and women who successfully co-parent their offspring after a domestic separation or divorce has occurred. Additionally, there are as many men and women who separate and/or divorce and work in concert in the best interest of their children relative to the children’s health, mental health, safety and general welfare.
However, there seems to be a growing number of people, especially men, who eschew their moral, legal and financial responsibility for their children. Relative to meeting the financial responsibility for one’s children, typically these men are referred to as “dead-beat dads,“ but this term is not descriptive enough as it does not contemplate the vast ways in which some men abdicate their moral and legal responsibility. According to professional women, terms such as “sperm donor” and “loser” seem more fitting. There are several typical hybrid scenarios I commonly hear about in Virginia court rooms that warrant illumination.
First, there is a case where a “loser” is required to pay a minimal support amount (e.g., an almost insulting amount such as $150 per month for a child which parenthetically is less that 5 dollars daily), but does not consistently pay the support and yet wants to have joint legal custody, visitation and dispense punishments to the child as he see fit. If is noteworthy, that most of these “sperm donors” typically work “under the table” such as odd jobs or handyman work so as to avoid detection by the court system. Often this same “loser” verbally abuses and berates the biologic mother at will.
Corrective Action: The current laws need to be changed to correlate the timely payment of child support with rights to visitation. If the “loser” does not want to visit his child then so be it, but he needs to be legally forced to pay for the child’s support. A competent therapist can help the child understand that the father is de facto a “loser.”
Second, there is a case of a “loser” committing major felonies and being sentenced to state or federal prison for multiple years, but wants to have a voice in his children’s lives. This is typically because the “loser” wants to control and manipulate the biologic mother, not because he has any real interest in the child. Often the biological mother of the child wants to move on, perhaps get with a decent person and have that new male adopt her child. Irrespective of the fact that the “loser” is a criminal, he has not lost his parental rights and thus has a say in the child life.
Corrective Action: Change or amend the current statues such that if a “loser” finds himself incarcerated more than a year, he automatically has his parental rights terminated.
Third, there is a case where a “loser” has a lengthy history of domestic abuse toward the mother of his children, the children, and/or both. Eventually, the female attempts to get away from her tormentor and get a protective order which the “loser” consistently violates. Once the children’s mother finds safety elsewhere, the “loser” desires continued contact with the children in the form of ongoing visitation, joint legal custody and/or physical custody so as to continue to abuse the children’s mother. In these cases the “loser” has not modeled how to be a responsible man, but “how to be an abuser” for his children.
Corrective Action: In these cases the “loser” should have no contact with his offspring unless it is supervised by a third, non-family party until a competent mental health professional has given clinical approval for non-supervised visitation and involvement. .
To be sure the “planet loser” has a growing number of women who exist there, but it is overpopulated with men. Until Virginia legislators and judges quit placating these men by accepting their “tales of woe,” the pattern worsens and the ones who ultimately suffer are the children.