By Richard Thomas
Board Member, Illinois Fathers
This Father's Day, cherish the moments you have with your children. Now is the time to reach out to fathers who are unjustly kept from their children and remind them that although judges can take their kids away, judges can never take your children out of your heart.
We have seen firsthand the psychological, social and emotional havoc wreaked on children by family courts, which routinely "award" non-custodial parents very little parenting time with their children.
We simply can no longer ignore the impact on children who are not having substantial contact with BOTH parents. This child that witnesses the court grant such measly time towards visitation is left hurt and wondering. Is bonding not important?
When a child grows up without constant, substantial contact with the non-custodial parent (mostly fathers) the consequences are serious and life altering.
It has a negative ripple effect throughout the child’s life and thus impacts the community and society as well. Because of uncertain bonds in children’s lives post-divorce, mental health care professionals are increasingly called in to try to heal something that divorce injured and the courts have shattered.
The lack of substantial bonding has led our youth to self-esteem problems, depressions, hopelessness, current and future relationship problems, and has led to the epidemic of psychotropic medications prescribed to children and adolescents.
Visitation with fathers is sadly every other weekend for most children of divorce. This is because the judge orders it so. Over the course of 18 years of a child’s life, that makes bonding extremely difficult.
We desperately need to devise ways to get across to family law courts just how much preventable damage they are doing. Children spell their love T-I-M-E, and parents cannot transfer their unique contribution to their children when the time to do so has been unjustly stripped from them by the courts.
Of the myriad examples we could write about regarding fatherhood, we have chosen Richard Hull’s story:
About a year ago, he found out he had terminal cancer and is now at the age 63. He wanted to live long enough to see his last son’s wedding.
On a moment’s notice Richard became the fatherly embodiment of the poem by Dylan Thomas who urged, "Do not go gentle into that good night…rage, rage against the dying of the light!"
On May 14, at a gorgeous wedding, Richard tenaciously clung to life. Richard Hull, newly retired detective, loving husband and most of all dedicated father, died the next day around 4 p.m. having given his last full measure of devotion as a husband and as a father.
At the wake, there was a very large screen projecting a lifetime of photographs of a devoted father and husband. All that life is and should be was in those "moments to memories" collage of photographs.
Moments of happiness, sadness, laughing, crying, learning, loving, hugging; moments of lessons learned, pearls of wisdom delivered, teachable moments, births, graduations, weddings, deaths, triumphs, tragedies, little moments and big moments were all captured in the great tapestry of Richard’s life.
Right before closing the casket the youngest in the midst gently inserted crayon drawings as they thought, "Grandpa was sleeping."
My heart, mind and soul flooded with thoughts and emotions at the wake and thereafter, and one of those thoughts was, "There are myriad parents begging to be the parents that Richard Hull was; however, they are unjustly kept from doing so by the standard, indefensible visitation policy."
In general, all parents want a life that leads to a collage of memories of well-parented children. Let's work together to move our family courts towards maximum involvement between children and parents.
Please get involved with family court reform at www.illinoisfathers.org.
Fatherhood ties us together in an inextricable web of mutuality because "what impacts one, impacts us all."
Happy Father's Day.
The mission of Illinois Fathers, an Illinois Not for Profit Corporation, is to assist non-custodial parents in maintaining a meaningful and substantial relationship with their children and to educate the general public about the importance of such parent/child relationship.