- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 9, 2005

Kevin Lowry’s attorneys told him he had no chance to get custody of his children, now 8 and 9 years old, in the wake of his divorce in 1999.

“‘The mother always gets custody,’ they told me,” the 52-year-old Alexandria resident says.

In Mr. Lowry’s case, this held true. He says the court order gives him visitation with his two boys every other weekend and every Wednesday.

“But I have daily contact with them by phone just to tell them I love them,” he says.

The court order will be in effect until the boys turn 18 years old, the age of majority in Virginia, unless it is appealed.

About 85 percent of custodial parents in the United States are mothers, according to a 2001 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Custodial parent means the parent with whom the children primarily reside.

The fathers’ rights movement says this is unfair and is aiming to change it, says Mike McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, a nonprofit District-based group.

“We believe the baseline should be equal time,” Mr. McCormick says. “We’re encouraging states and courts to see there’s a need for equality,” he adds, referring to custody rulings.

Glenn Sacks, a fathers’ rights advocate and talk-show host, agrees.

“A lot of dads feel as if they become visitors in their own children’s lives,” Mr. Sacks says. “They feel pushed to the margins of their kids’ lives. … And we all know that kids need their dads.”

However, Naomi Cahn, a law professor at George Washington University, says the 85 percent statistic is misleading.

“In most of those cases, the divorce is settled out of court and the father is not seeking custody,” Ms. Cahn says. “But in the cases that fathers contest, they actually win either joint or sole custody in about 70 percent of cases.”

Randall Kessler, chairman of the Family Law Section’s Family Courts Committee at the Chicago-based American Bar Association, says there definitely is a trend of growing numbers of fathers seeking and receiving joint or even sole custody of their children.

“It’s a big trend,” says Mr. Kessler, who has been a domestic relations lawyer in Atlanta for 17 years. “More and more men realize the possibility that they can be involved. … It’s not that they didn’t want to be involved — or share custody — in the past; they just didn’t think they had a chance.”

Mr. Lowry says he and other fathers with whom he’s in touch through fathers’ rights groups have not seen a change in court rulings and judges’ attitudes.

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