Rod Bivings, editor and publisher of a new monthly tabloid newspaper called The Father's Forum, says he knows the pain that divorced fathers experience when they are denied custody of their children.
Before his divorce in 1970, Bivings recalled, he visited four different attorneys. Each told him the same thing.
"They said the only way I could get the kids is if she (his ex-wife) was in a mental hospital under lock and key," he said. "They said this was standard procedure because of what they refer to as the 'tender years doctrine,' which stated that all things being equal, children of tender years should go with the mother."
After his ex-wife moved to North Carolina with their two young sons, Bivings, who was managing a jewelry store in Walton Beach, Fla., at the time, was able see his children only about once a year.
'I'm Losing My Children'
"It took me years to overcome the emotional impact of that," said Bivings. "That contact with the children is so important. It's like most of the fathers I've seen. The first thing they say is, 'Oh, my God, I'm losing my children.' "
That, he said, was the genesis of his new, Santa Ana-based publication, which is dedicated to "defending the position of the father" in divorce and child custody cases.
The 16-page tabloid debuted in July, with the editorial promise that "we will report some outrageous events and some points of view that will undoubtedly be slanted toward the father. We do this deliberately, not just to counteract the similar reporting from others, but to help show just how far this insanity has progressed."
In its August issue, The Father's Forum pulled no punches in presenting its view of the feminist movement.
The front page features a caricature of a muscle-bound member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) wearing cleated shoes and stomping a helpless male body. Her T-shirt bears the slogan, "Men Have No Rights."
In an editorial, Bivings declares that, "In the words of their own leadership, NOW has declared war on the male population of our nation."
"That would certainly be a surprise to NOW members, especially to male members who make up about one quarter of our (chapter's) membership," said Wendy Lozano, legislative coordinator for the South Coast NOW Chapter in Orange County.
Lozano views the caricature in The Father's Forum as "obscene. It's extremely violent. We have never taken violent tactics." As for Bivings' editorial, she finds it "extremely offensive and inaccurate . . . the major concern of (The Father's Forum) appears to be the demise of the family, which he appears to be blaming on NOW."
For his part, Bivings maintains that "our focus is not to be anti-woman, anti-mother or anti-female, but to be pro-family. We're trying to repair the damage that has been done to the American family by providing information about what's happening in our legislatures and in our courts."
But Lozano, a lecturer in sociology and women's studies at Cal State Long Beach who has a master's degree and Ph.d in family sociology, views it differently. "The so-called traditional family is kind of an anomaly of the '50s; the breakup of this particular family occurred long before this wave of the women's movement."
Lozano added, "NOW makes a real easy target, especially for people who deal with complex issues with a simplistic approach. I think you do your readers a disservice when you give them information that is so severely biased.
"Obviously, their problem is with custody. . . . I do think most of us would like to see fathers much more involved in parenting and for those fathers who have been intimately involved in parenting before a divorce, certainly arrangements should be made so they can continue to be intimately involved after a divorce, whether through shared custody or other arrangements that the couple work out."
Bivings, co-founder and president of United Fathers of America, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit support group for men and women going through divorce, said he first thought of publishing a newspaper for divorced fathers in 1980, but the time wasn't right.
'We Will Stop It'
"Things happening today make the time right--the feminists and the fact the father's movement has grown. Fathers have been pushed out of their children's lives and they're now banding together to stop it. And we \o7 will \f7 stop it."
At the same time, Bivings, 51, acknowledges that fathers have made gains in the courts.
The tender years doctrine, "deemed antiquated and no longer in touch with today's world," was thrown out in California in 1972, and most other states have followed suit, he said.
Since 1980, Bivings said, joint custody also has become more common. Now, he said, the law "basically says the judge may award joint custody at his discretion if (the parents) don't work out an agreement between themselves."