Two days before Father’s Day, about 40 people, mostly fathers, gathered in front of the Texas Capitol on Friday to air their frustrations with family court practices and with the demise of House Bill 453, which died during the legislative session in May.
The bill would have established equal custody of children during family court proceedings following a divorce. Currently, judges award primary custody overwhelmingly to mothers during this period.
“There’s a high connection — and this is supported by much research — of kids in the criminal justice arena, at risk for being in the juvenile justice system, at risk of being in the mental health arena and the lack of both parents involved,” said David O’Connor, a child and adolescent psychiatrist from Austin who spoke at the rally.
“Equal parenting not only decreases that risk for the child, it decreases conflict among the parents, it decreases the litigation between divorced or unmarried parents,” O’Connor said.
The rally, organized by Texans for Parental Equality and Parental Alienation Awareness Organization USA, lasted about two hours and had many speakers who volunteered to tell their stories of dealing with child custody in family court.
“When somebody wins custody, somebody loses, but children also lose,” said Shelly Toner, a child activist from San Antonio. Toner herself does not have custody of her two children. “Moms can’t be dads, and dads can’t be moms,” she said.