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Drawing Battle Lines in Custody Wars

February 16, 1986

It was with regret that I read the account of Phyllis Chesler's campaign against equal consideration of fathers in the raising of children. Although my own experience with divorce and the uncertainty of custody issues was pretty much determined more than 10 years ago (but, I suppose, never really completely settled), I still remember the pain and confusion, and I understand how those feelings can interrupt normal, rational judgments. This appears to have happened to Chesler.

Shortly after my daughter was born almost 12 years ago, I was divorced from her mother. After about two years of a joint custody arrangement (very rare in 1974), we agreed that since she spent most of the time with me, (we would) change the arrangements to full-time paternal custody.

Of course, she has continued to enjoy regular visits with her mother since that time. I have raised her without the help of a live-in maid, "help from my mother," or assistance from a substitute full-time female role model.

Living with her father has not created any real handicaps for my daughter. She is well-adjusted, does well in the gifted program at her school and pursues a very vigorous and successful athletic schedule in gymnastics.

I am grateful that her mother agreed to allow me to accept the responsibility of full custody, because back in 1974 and 1976 when these issues were being decided, our society was still reluctant to give equal consideration to fathers as single parents of small children in the absence of accusations of maternal unfitness.

I am glad that, while those prejudices still remain against fathers, they are lessening. However, I am troubled when I read about efforts such as Chesler's to perpetuate the kinds of anti-father stereotypes that we are just beginning to unravel.

Let us continue to be vigilant against sexist stereotypes that pigeonhole women as stay-at-home mothers and men as macho, aggressive leaders. Let us allow for enjoyment of productive contributions from men and women equally, in either professional or domestic situations, with any judgments based solely on individual merits.


Sherman Oaks

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