"He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help." ~ Abraham Lincoln


Is Parenting A Civil Rights Issue?

"We have a Civil Right to be Parents."

In 21st Century America many believe all our Civil Rights have been recognized. To mention a few: freedom of speech and religion, personal liberty, equal treatment for women and people of color. All foundations of a healthy society. But what about the security of family, the right of parents to raise and nurture their own children? 

When my son Domenic was born I'd never thought about Family Rights. I had a two-parent family. None of my friends had been in a custody battle. I assumed I'd be able to share the same love and attention on my son as my parents did with me. The painful experience of a divorce taught me that I was very wrong.

I discovered, as have many parents, that if my relationship with my child is challenged by a former spouse or even a social worker, my child and I have no right to family. A trial may occur, but there will be no jury of my peers. A lone judge will decide what's in the "best interest" of my child. This could include limited or no contact with a loving parent for an entire childhood. 

I've come to believe we have a Civil Right to be presumed FIT & EQUAL parents to our children, unless you are convicted in a criminal court of being a demonstrated threat to your kids. 

Good, average, and poor parents are all FIT & EQUAL parents.

Why? Because one foundation of morality is the supremacy of individual conscience - what many know as "let your conscience be your guide." What more natural obligation does any parent have than to care for their own kids? To be present in their lives in the many roles that only a parent can fill.

Reference From the Vatican web site:

1778. Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right....

1782. Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience...."

A second precept says any law which stops us from acting according to a "well formed" conscience is immoral. Is it any wonder parents and children unjustly separated find it one of the most painful and disruptive experiences of their lives?While it is difficult to compare Civil Rights; what would you find more disturbing: being told to sit in the back of the bus, not being allowed to vote, or ordered to no longer hug the child you love?

Fit parents should decide what's in the best interest of their child. Some think a distinction should be made between good, average, and poor parents. But how can we make a single determination in a multifaceted and dynamic relationship.

Like most of us I have mixed feelings about what my parents chose for me. Times I knew they made mistakes, times when I would have preferred one over the other. I saw our relationship change as I matured, but we all grew together as family through good times and bad.

Only the bad parent should be excluded, one who threatens the safety of their child with malintent. Society justly intervenes for those who seek to destroy the relationship. There would be no potential for growth. This would be a serious crime prosecuted in a criminal court.

In the vast majority of cases parents would be free to establish parenting time as they desire. While negotiating a custom schedule, a default standard would alternate physical custody on a weekly basis. Both parents would share legal custody and would alternate "tie breaker" authority on an annual basis. What would all this mean?

A single judge acting alone could not issue an order that destroys a family. The animosity and terrible waste of resources that goes into Family Court battles about which parent is "better" would be eliminated. Mediation services would be more effective when dealing with equal parents. Children would benefit from regular contact with both parents. Community resources could be better focused on identifying and prosecuting the few bad parents that exist and protecting children.

If we look through our history, the recognition of basic Civil Rights has resulted in some disruption and change -- but overall they have strengthened our society. Our nation has seen an explosion of well- intentioned Family Law in the last 40 years.

It is now time for a Federal Family Rights Act that will recognize and protect our ability to raise and nurture our own children.

 Discussing Family Law Reform
and the Constitution

Is Parenting A Civil Rights Issue?

Very few family law attorneys, and perhaps fewer local courts in America treat parenting matters as a civil rights issue. I have had many practitioners inform me that civil rights or Constitutional issues just don’t come into play with respect to divorce, custody or child support matters. This seems rather strange given that the United States Supreme Court itself has recognized parenting as a fundamental right, Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).

Given the Supreme Court’s disposition, the importance of parenting in general, and the long, deep American tradition of looking upon family as a focal point of our our values and life activities, it should follow that parental rights would be treasured at all levels of society. So why isn’t that the case?

Let’s walk through some possible answers, the problems these present, and some solutions that can help ensure that these rights will be protected at every level of government in a meaningful and productive way.

First, the nature of the relationship between family and the broader society necessarily means that the government and the courts have traditionally been limited in how much protection they can offer to an individual household. This has changed considerably in the last generation, however.

In fact, if anything, rather than the government protecting the family as a unit, in the past generation, there has been more and more intervention from child protective services, local police units, foster parenting agencies, etc. in ways that override one or both parents’ authority within their own home.

Regardless, however, courts often perceive that they are helpless to look behind closed doors and tell what is really happening within a family. They can’t or won’t enforce rights except on matters which occur out in the open – whether these rights are fundamental or not.

Second, there is a similar perception that the enforcement of rights within a family means the protection of women and children, which in turn means protection from a father. That being the case, parenting itself is in no way treated as a civil rights issue, though perhaps women’s rights are being protected on multiple levels in multiple ways.

This results in a bifurcation of the protection of the rights of a woman that is not widely understood. While she maintains a high level of government protection from undesired advances from her husband or boyfriend, she maintains little if any protection from the government itself with respect to her relationship with her children.

Constitutionally, men and women are guaranteed equal protection as to each other, and higher protection as adults than children, with all individual’s protected from intrusion by the government. In an unwritten fashion, however, the law prefers women over men, children over women, and governmental agencies over all. Thus in practice, the government operates nearly in reverse of what the Constitution intended.

Finally then, we approach the crux of the problem. But there is one additional element that needs to be considered – the way local systems of government operate, including their inter-relationship with state and federal levels of government. Local systems lend themselves to corruption via the limited resources that exist for holding them accountable. As people are elected or appointed by their friends within the community, it’s likely there is little opposition at a level that would challenge their credibility or actions. Hence, local officials often are able to ignore significant conflicts of interest that may sway them to handle a matter in a manner that is unbalanced or biased.

But these conflicts exist vertically, through the state and federal government, as well as through the networks of local relationships an official has. This is due to the need for funding to keep these government employees working. That funding typically comes from beyond the local tax base. It is paid for either by the state, or in the case of the collection of child support, about 40% has been paid by the federal government with matching funds. The matching funds were suspended in December 2007, but can be expected to be revived in 2009.

Given the influence presented by these conflicts, it should not be surprising how easily local courts choose to overlook a parent’s Constitutional rights. But is this wrong? Should parenting be treated as a civil rights issue? If so, how?

It’s one thing to note that the Supreme Court’s recognition of parenting as a civil, Constitutional right. It’s another to assert how it should be recognized within the communities in which we live. When it comes to divorce, custody and the rights of parents in relation to their time and the raising of their children, we need to first come to grips with how common it is for children to be raised in single parent households and how regularly father’s are excluded or limited in their role as a parent in these cases.

“The vast majority–84 percent–of custodial parents are mothers, and courts awarded child support to 61 percent of them, compared to 36 percent of custodial fathers, according to 2005 census data. Failure to pay [child support, however,] cuts across gender lines, and less than half of all non-custodial parents met their full obligations.”Child Support Revenues Jump in Obama’s Home State, 08/21/08 By Claire Bushey.

Numerous sources are available to demonstrate that it is the interference by a custodial mother that is most likely to inhibit the time and relationship between a father and his own children, for example: Psychological and Structural Factors Contributing to Disengagement of Noncustodial Fathers After Divorce .

In itself, this raises extraordinary problems for the psychological well-being of the children of divorce. But a significant part of the problem can be resolved by taking away the leverage one parent has to disenfranchise the other from the children’s lives by balancing the power that is left in the hands of both parents regarding the children.

This possibility is regularly set aside in order to protect a mother’s financial support from the father, because courts claim to be ill equipped to resolve differences between parties acting with equal authority, and because it is assumed that the father will ultimately yield to the mother in matters of parenting.

But all three of these assertions bring to light the importance of recognizing and enforcing the protection of a father’s fundamental rights as a parent. Constitutional protections are needed most precisely in cases when cultural stereotypes and assumptions are employed to inhibit an individual’s access to justice – and that is what occurs whenever a father is treated unequally with a mother of the same children.

Until we reach a point where as many families have the father as the custodial parent as the mother, father’s need to be treated with special care and their rights carefully preserved in the courts and administrative offices that govern parenting time and child support.

More attorneys are needed who will stand up for the children, families and fathers that are discriminated against by a system that enables the disenfranchisement of one or both of a child’s parents. 

If you have a matter that demands this kind of attention, please visit my website, ThompsonLaw-IN.com and contact my office today.

A child has the right to:

  • A continuing relationship with both parents.

  • Be treated not as a piece of property, but as a human being recognized to have unique feelings, ideas, and desires consistent with that of an individual.

  • Continuing care and proper guidance from each parent.
  • Not to be unduly influenced by either parent to view the other parent differently.

  • Express love, friendship, and respect for both parents: freedom from having to hide those stated emotions or made to be ashamed of such.

  • An explanation that the impending action of divorce was in no way caused by the child’s actions.

  • Not to be the subject and/or source of any and all arguments.

  • Continuing, honest feedback with respect to the divorce process and its impact on the changing relationships of the family.

  • Maintain regular contact with both parents and a clear explanation for any change in plans and/or cancellations.

  • Enjoy a pleasurable relationship with both parents, never to be employed as a manipulative bargaining tool.

  • The obligation of being a parent does not end after a divorce. It is extremely important to understand that the bond of marriage is completely different from that of parents. This is the most common down fall in today’s society, as a dissolution of marriage takes place so does that of parenting.

Psych Central - "Daughters Need Fathers Too"  ~~  We enjoyed reading the tips in this article about ways for a Father to love his daughter. While some of the advice, may be harder to implement than others considering blended families operate on a different dynamic,we applaud Psych Central for compiling a list that we think is pretty good over all. What do you think about the list? Which ones are your favorites? http://psychcentral.com/lib/daughters-need-fathers-too/00012520

Remain an Equal Parent to your Child!
We only support organizations who show an understanding that children need both parents, and that either parent is equally capable of the choice to perpetrate hate or declare peace.

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