Defiant Dads

Defiant Dads: Fathers' Rights Activists in America

Jocelyn Elise Crowley
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Defiant Dads
    Book Description:

    All across America, angry fathers are demanding rights. These men claim that since the breakdown of their own families, they have been deprived of access to their children. Joining together to form fathers' rights groups, the mostly white, middle-class men meet in small venues to speak their minds about the state of the American family and, more specifically, to talk about the problems they personally face, for which they blame current child support and child custody policies. Dissatisfied with these systems, fathers' rights groups advocate on behalf of legal reforms that will lower their child support payments and help them obtain automatic joint custody of their children.

    In Defiant Dads, Jocelyn Elise Crowley offers a balanced examination of these groups in order to understand why they object to the current child support and child custody systems; what their political agenda, if enacted, would mean for their members' children or children's mothers; and how well they deal with their members' interpersonal issues concerning their ex-partners and their role as parents. Based on interviews with more than 150 fathers' rights group leaders and members, as well as close observation of group meetings and analysis of their rhetoric and advocacy literature, this important book is the first extensive, in-depth account of the emergence of fathers' rights groups in the United States. A nuanced and timely look at an emerging social movement, Defiant Dads is a revealing investigation into the changing dynamics of both the American family and gender relations in American society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6012-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 A Coming Revolution in Fathers’ Rights?
    (pp. 1-13)

    Superdads Member 1: What are fathersʹ rights groups doing to change the fucked up rules that favor women?

    Juan: The Violence Against Women Act clearly protects women. State by state, however, things are improving. There is one Internet support group that is very helpful. But in our state, it is primarily a select group of assemblymen and state senators that continually block legislation and hold up fathersʹ rights in the Unites States. (Our organizationʹs) problem is that we have no money.

    Superdads Member 1: I know what we should do. We should get the unions involved.

    Juan: The problem is,...

  5. 2 The Origins of Fathers’ Rights Groups in the United States
    (pp. 14-38)

    What, exactly, do fathers do within modern families? The answer, of course, varies across racial, ethnic, and class lines. But even within these broad socioeconomic categories, a high degree of diversity exists in the attitudes, aptitudes, and behavioral styles of individual fathers. Some fathers are emotionally very close to their children, listening to their school-day struggles on a regular basis; others are not. Some fathers spend significant amounts of time playing with their children outdoors; others do not. Some fathers place primacy on the financial benefits that they can bestow upon their children; others do not. Some fathers regularly undertake...

  6. 3 Membership Dynamics in Fathers’ Rights Groups
    (pp. 39-75)

    Bruce: Thanks for coming tonight. I would like to begin this evening with a simple question: What can this group offer you? There are a couple of points I want to make.

    This group is like having ʺlegal insurance.ʺ The attorneys here can help you. They are hoping to have you hire them, but you donʹt need one usually. Most cases can be resolved by default or agreement, not trial. But you will be prepared if you need to go to trial.

    We sell and have onsite our stateʹs family law code book. You might need to consult this book...

  7. 4 Becoming the Chief: Patterns of Leadership and Governance in Fathers’ Rights Groups
    (pp. 76-106)

    Carlos: We have many purposes here, but I want you all to know our principles. First, be the best parent that you can be. Even if you only have one hour of supervised visitation per month, make the most out of it. Second, work to make your situation the best it can be. This organization can help you in realizing that goal. Third, spend time changing the system. It is easiest for the court to divide child support and child custody in traditional ways. You all should try to change the system, but remember that the first two points that...

  8. 5 Money Changes Everything, or American Child Support Policy
    (pp. 107-144)

    Jasper: I really want to get cameras in court, but I cannot do this alone. What is my purpose? Tapes are cheaper than transcriptions. Cameras also get people to act properly in court. All of the crooked judges in the system need to be scared. Judges are like tyrants. They rule over the court and the transcriptionists listen to them. Anytime they do something wrong, the transcriptionist will write ʺinaudibleʺ on the transcript to cover up for the judge.

    (This philosophy about the courtʹs abuse of power pervades the group meeting. At the end, Jasper cuts to the chase of...

  9. 6 The Custody Wars
    (pp. 145-173)

    Lawrence: I hope that all of you are voting, because we must get joint custody legislation passed through this legislature. I want to read to you a list of several individuals who are running for office in the state. Some of them are divorced with kids. We must invite them to our meetings, because more and more of our representatives are in the same boat as us. I have an important rule of politics to share with you. Help candidates out with the election and they will help us with our issue of joint custody!

    Beyond overhauling the child support...

  10. 7 Frayed Ties: Fathers’ Relationships with Mothers
    (pp. 174-211)

    Fathers for Kids Member 1: I am really frustrated. I have had two custody evaluations done. The first one was done right away. But we didnʹt get to court in time so the evaluation became too old for us to use. So, we had to begin again with another custody evaluation. But the latest news is that my ex-wife went ahead and registered my daughter for summer camp. I am sure that she did this to keep me away from my daughter.

    Fathers for Kids Member 2: Well, my ex blocked me from obtaining my childʹs school records. My ex...

  11. 8 The Ties That Bind: Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children
    (pp. 212-246)

    Alvin: Current child access training is filling a void. We are actually pioneers in providing this service; there is no government program designed to do what we are doing. Since we are in a church, letʹs begin our meeting with a prayer.

    (Members pray in silence.)

    Alvin: You should all know that we are not affiliated with a fathersʹ rights group. We are a childrenʹs rights group. There are millions of noncustodial mothers impacted by the types of problems that we are going to discuss today. Our focus is on the children. We educate people on issues related to childrenʹs...

  12. 9 “Crooked Trees,” Activism, and Healing in Dissolved Families
    (pp. 247-270)

    Researcher: ʺJust so I have an understanding of your family situation . . . I always like to draw a family tree for all individuals participating in this study. Do you have custody of your son?ʺ

    Devin: ʺNo, I do not. . . . Itʹs a crooked tree.ʺ

    The fathers who are the subject of this book had complex stories to tell about their family lives. Many were understandably angry that their adult relationships had fallen apart. Many were also sad and depressed that their wives or girlfriends had left them, or that they had felt, for whatever reason, the...

  13. Appendix A. Research Methodology
    (pp. 271-275)
  14. Appendix B. Unstructured Interview Guide
    (pp. 276-278)
  15. Appendix C. No-Fault Divorce Legislation Dates, by State
    (pp. 279-279)
  16. Appendix D. Number, Rate, and Percent of Births to Unmarried Women and Birthrate for Married Women: United States, 1950-2003
    (pp. 280-282)
  17. References
    (pp. 283-300)
  18. Index
    (pp. 301-306)