Sunday, June 21, 2009

The singularity of fathers

On this Father’s Day, first I want to congratulate all those fathers who read this blog and who fight for the cause of joint custody. Second, I want to use this celebration to highlight the singularity of fatherhood.

In days like this, always someone, in all good faith, approaches us to congratulate us for being father and mother at the same time. Although I almost understand the goodness behind this congratulation, I should object it because it is born from a radical confusion between the roles of the father and the mother. Being father and mother simultaneously is impossible. Those of us who believe in joint custody, we do so precisely because we know that the roles of father and mother are not, I repeat, are not interchangeable. A child needs to have a father and a mother, and if one of them is not there, no matter how much the other could try to fill his or her space, filling it is impossible. Fathers and mothers bring absolutely different but equally important elements to the lives of their children.

Another face of this confusion is that many expect that fathers to be nothing more than a mother with testicles. The differences between men and women are not a mere cultural construction, but they are born at the root of male and female natures. Men are and should behave like men, in the same way that women are and should behave like women. We should not feel less for being men.

The fact that sole custody decisions are usually awarded to mothers indicates that in many cases courts tend to forget that in the development of a child, both parents have different but equally important tasks. One of the most important statements of Beck v. Beck, the 1981 case that set the foundation for joint custody in New Jersey, is:

…that although defendant’s care of the girls was more than adequate, she is limited by an inability to be both a father and a mother. 86 N.J. 493 (1981)

In other words, fathers are only capable of being fathers, but also mothers are only capable of being mothers, and their children need both: “there is a real purpose in fatherhood as well as motherhood.” (86 N.J. 493)

When courts award sole physical custody to mothers, the mother, they only repeat a gender biased prejudice that should be eradicated from the courts, especially when they are deciding the well-being of the children these courts are supposed to protect.

No comments:

Post a Comment