In an anecdotal study by the website Custody X Change, custody time between dads and children was evaluated with each state ranked. Oklahoma came in 49th. It wasn’t surprising to me as someone who has been litigating custody cases to find that Oklahoma didn’t show up very well in this study. Regardless of the wishful thinking that has resulted in many believing courts are more “father friendly” the reality is that most dads are fighting a battle that spots the other side a few points before they ever walk in a courtroom.
Nobody is talking about the clear gender bias that has been impacting fathers within domestic courts for years, and continues to play out in courthouses across the United States. Anecdotally, I’ve rarely received calls from mothers that are saying they were unfairly treated at the courthouse because they were a mother. However, that’s a common complaint by fathers who have been through the process. (It does however happen to mom’s in some cases though.)
It doesn’t require a lot of digging though to see how the institutional bias against fathers is allowed to play out. States have been allowed to pass their own laws regarding parental equality in family law cases, which has created a patchwork of laws that encourage or hinder parental equality post divorce. Two states in fact (New York and Rhode Island) don’t even have a statute which provides a policy of encouraging equal parenting by the parents, and based on the outcome of recent attempts in New York to change that, it does not appear likely its going to change any time soon.
The issue is really one of accountability though. With Court’s having incredible discretion, their reasoning for making custody decisions is rarely challenged or even understood. That’s why I’ve worked with my friend Representative Mike Osburn of Edmond, Oklahoma to draft House Bill 1151, the Equal Parenting Amendment, which will be introduced in this coming Oklahoma legislative session.
HB 1151 will clarify the policy of the State of Oklahoma that equality in parenting for both parents is preferred, and if equality isn’t ordered by the court it must explain why. In Oklahoma a statutory mandate for parental equality or equal access ends after the temporary order hearing based on the current interpretation of language that this law intends to correct.
It is time that parental equality generated as much interest and passion as any other civil right. I’ve previously written on the topic of parental equality as a civil right should you wish to read more. A parent’s right to parent their children is a fundamental right and it shouldn’t be so easily taken away or limited without clear justification.
I hope you’ll contact your legislator and ask them to support House Bill 1151 so that all parents wither mother or father will have an equal opportunity to parent their children.