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J une 2019
F ather ’ s D ay How We Support Fathers Every Day
T hanks to Father’s Day this month, I’d like to talk about the importance that fathers have in their children’s lives and how that relates to family law. I understand the significance of having a father figure in a family, as well as what the absence of a father can do to a child. It’s my goal to ensure that a child goes to the best home and parent, whether that be the mother or the father. Once upon a time, judges thought mothers could do no wrong and dads could do little right. Thankfully, in my 30 years of practice, we have worked hard to change that perception, and it truly has changed. The relationships between a child and parent don’t frame the law, but it can frame the way a judge will perceive it, and family history has a lot to do with that perception. The experiences, schedules, and interactions with a family will often color a judge’s final decision. A judge may see a father completely dedicated to their child and a mother absorbed in other activities even before the divorce begins. Ultimately, this can lead the judge to see that the father would be the better parent to have custody. Being full-time practitioners of family law, we are sensitive to this. The Manely Firm utilizes our collective knowledge to benefit our clients and give them every advantage in court. In one of our cases, our client was a father who was absolutely committed to his daughter. Anyone could tell he loved her with 110% of his heart and put all of his effort into supporting and raising her. The mother was work-oriented;
she focused much of her time on work and the gym and didn’t spend much time at home. When they filed for divorce, the mother took custody of the child, and the father was looking at only visitation rights. However, it was evident to us the mother relied heavily upon the father to take care of the child, and we wanted to show the judge what we could see. Our goal was to get both parties back to where they were before they considered divorce. To ensure that our client received custody of his child, we asked both parents to maintain a custody calendar that included their usual days and what they had done with the child. I told the father that within a year, he would have primary custody of his daughter instead of only having visitation rights. It turned out I was wrong — it only took two months. Dads come in all stripes, and their commitment to their children will influence the counsels’ approaches in helping both parties resolve matters. It’s been proven that the involvement fathers have in their children’s upbringings brings a lot into the child’s life, which is something I not only see every day but have also experienced personally. My own father was largely absent in my life. He went off to the Vietnam War when I was around 2 years old, and he later divorced my mom and was generally not around. Being in this situation helped me in my pursuit of family law. I understand the void that is felt in the absence of a father, and I will do everything I can to ensure
a child won’t be torn away from a loving father and a good home. From marrying Shelia, I also recognize the significance of being the father of a mixed family. We are a blended family of hers, mine, and ours, and I’ve seen how critical it is to help all family members blend into a cohesive unit that seeks harmony. I’ve seen firsthand the power an engaged father can give to their children and what happens when that is taken away. The commitment of a father leads to a happy and healthy life for the child, and that is what I aim to bring into court every day. It’s important to realize that Father’s Day is about much more than getting those good ties; it’s also about reaffirming the ties children have with their fathers. -Michael Manely 1
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