Special Report: Deadbeat Moms

Special Report: Kontji Anthony investigates 'deadbeat moms'

(WMC) - Less than 20 percent of children whose parents are divorced live with their father.

That's because in a divorce involving kids, moms are usually given custody.

Some say that's because courts are stacked against good dads. WMC Action News 5 investigator Kontji Anthony shows how some dads are fighting back.

Released 35 years ago, "Kramer vs. Kramer" was a groundbreaking film about a father fighting to retain custody of his son after his wife walked away.

For close to a year, Clarence Hawkins fought a similar battle for his six-year-old son, Jayden.

"I had to fight for my son," said Hawkins. "I know some people would have given up."

Jayden's mom to the six-year-old to live in Florida and for three months, Clarence didn't know where his son was.

"It's kind of crazy. I didn't know what was going on with him. Like where he is at? Is he warm? Is he safe," said Hawkins.

A judge didn't stop her and Hawkins had to hire a lawyer for $8,000 to fight for custody of his son, and force the child's mother back to Ohio for court dates.

"Just because they birthed them and carried them for that nine months and think they're the ones that are supposed to nourish them and take care of them," Hawkins added. "The dads can do that too."

It's a scene playing out in courtrooms across the country, with more and more men becoming stay-at-home dads, and more women working. The relationships between dads and their children are changing dramatically, but when it comes to divorce and custody, the courts haven't caught up — with men usually being cut out of the equation.

Attorney Jeffery Leving is an author and advocate of fathers' rights; even helping pass a joint custody law in Illinois. He's seen some of the worst cases.

"I represented a war hero, a U.S soldier in Iraq and he discovers while he is in Iraq fighting for our liberty, his little boy is beaten to death by his wife's boyfriend," said Leving.

With that, Leving still had to help fight for custody of the other kids.

"Gender bias is a major problem, a critical problem that is causing these problems," said Leving. "That needs to end."

It's why Jamal Arif has been fighting for his son for more than a decade.

Arif said, "When she became pregnant, I realized she wasn't really interested in being a mother."

To avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, Arif represented himself in court.

"A mother is looked at as a nurturer and it's ok for the mother to be in school and be struggling," Arif said. "But if the father is struggling and in school, it's looked at as you know you are dodging your duty when it comes down to financial responsibilities."

Dr. Seith Neiding is a licensed social worker. He says children need to have equal access to both parents.

"I don't feel the courts can legislate good behavior," noted Neiding. "A lot of times they will become angry, rageful, and highly rebellious. They will lie, they will steal and these are the ones that will come to the attention of the juvenile justice system."

As Arif continues his fight, Hawkins is thankful his is finally over.

"Now that he's here there is no greater feeling in the world.The time, the money, the hassle," said Hawkins.

Studies show in 51 percent of custody cases, both parents agreed — on their own — that mom become the custodial parent - leaving the courts out of it.

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