Press covers plight of non-custodial parents


Stories covering the financial and emotional plight of non-custodial parents, the overwhelming majority being fathers, are rare in the mainstream media. Usually non-custodial parents who, for whatever reason, fail to pay court ordered child support are derided and humiliated in the press and called “deadbeats” often making them scapegoats for the irresponsible decisions of the other parent. Judges and legislators often chime in along with women’s advocacy groups demonizing disenfranchised fathers who have had their rights taken away as parents and their money and freedom taken away forcibly.

Recently, however, a small but growing number of voices in the mainstream media have started to pay attention to the circumstances of non-custodial parents and in some cases openly criticize the child support system.

Early last month several news outlets covered a police operation in Alabama named “Operation Iron Snare.” It was widely criticized by many of those reporting and comments in the online articles concurred with the tone of the articles. The Huffington Post quoted the reactions of bloggers commenting on the operation.

From an August 9th article entitled “Operation Iron Snare: Alabama’s ‘sleazy’ trick to catch deadbeat dads”:

The reaction: Forget sleazy, says Meredith Carroll at Strollerderby. This borders on “cruel,” and is somehow making me “feel really, really, bad” for the deadbeat parents who I should be furious with. That’s for sure, says Tom Fornelli at CBS Sports. “Yes, they deserve what they’re getting, but it just feels wrong.” Plus, the whole scheme is a waste of time and money. Was such an expensive, elaborate ploy catering to the news media really necessary?”

Readers are invited to watch the police participating in the operation through a video featured on the page. Be warned it is disturbing and may make viewers angry.

On September 12th MSNBC, a highly regarded and popular source of news worldwide published an expansive article entitled “Unable to pay child support, poor parents land behind bars” written by Mike Brunker the Projects Team Editor. The Thomas Ball incident was cited in the article marking the first time a national news outlet mentioned the affair.

From the article:

“The threat of jailing delinquent parents is intended to coerce them to pay, but in rare cases it can have tragic results.

In June, a New Hampshire father and military veteran, Thomas Ball, died after dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself ablaze in front of the Cheshire County Court House.

In a long, rambling letter to the local Sentinel newspaper, the 58-year-old Ball stated that he did so to focus attention on what he considered unfair domestic violence laws and because he expected to be jailed at an upcoming hearing on his failure to pay up to $3,000 in delinquent child support, even though he had been out of work for two years.

The ability of judges to jail parents without a trial is possible because failure to pay child support is usually handled as a civil matter, meaning that the non-custodial parent — or the “contemnor” in legal terms — is found guilty of contempt of court and ordered to appear at a hearing.

He or she is not entitled to some constitutional protections that criminal defendants receive, including the presumption of innocence. And in five states — Florida, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina and Ohio — one of the omitted protections is the right to an attorney.”

Although many would argue that tragedies coming about as a result of child support and custody laws are not rare at all and also that Thomas Ball’s letter was anything but “long” and “rambling” this is a very encouraging sign that the rights of fathers are no longer being ignored by the press.


About Robert O'Hara

Bob O'Hara is the U.S. News Director for A Voice for Men. He is a men's rights activist living in the Washington, D. C. area who has done work with S.A.V.E. and is the host of a weekly radio show with news and analysis on men's and boys' issues.

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  • Roland3337

    I can hear that Misandry Bubble stretch more and more every day.

  • Mr. XY

    It’s things like this by the MSM that tick me off. They spin and smear the heart of the issues. Even when they claim to cover men’s issues they don’t. At best it’s double talk. In the end it’s still degradation and belittlement as evidenced by their spin of the Thomas Ball tragedy. The true “MSM” is a bunch of liars and propagandists. I view them as a danger to MSM and an enemy who should neither be trusted nor praised. They should be criticized and attacked at every opportunity even on occasions their reports aren’t that bad….we must redefine the center and hold a hard line with the MSM.

  • http://www.avoiceformen.com Dr. F

    MSM and the issues we talk of in the very same sentence. Wow, this will become one day an uneventful event and I have front row seats for the show.

    My only concern with this here is the word “she” in this bit:
    “He or she is not entitled to some constitutional protections that criminal defendants receive, ..”

    It’s a wee bit dishonest don’t you think.. especially since I saw no reference to “Deadbeat mums”

  • JGteMolder

    Of course, the article still calls Thomas Ball’s manifesto “rambling”, while anyone who read it knows it wasn’t rambling at all, unless you define “rambling” as “long enough it’ll cost you more than a few moments of your time to read it.”

    Of course, then everything that isn’t a tweet is rambling.

    • Robert O’Hara

      Ted Kazinski, the Unabomer, wrote a 50 page 35,000 word manifesto that was published in all major news outlets. It truly was the ramblings of a madman who killed three people and injured dozens of others. The decision to publish his manifesto came under some criticism but was considered beneficial as he said that he would stop his bombing activities if it were only presented to the public.

      Thomas Ball’s open letter was repeatedly called a “manifesto” by the press even though it was nothing of the sort. It was not a demand to change society or start a huge revolution it was simply an explanation of why he did what he did. A clear and comparatively brief explanation as well as a call to action. Hardly the ramblings of a madman. Yet most in the press will have it no other way simply because he was a father protesting his position in the courts as such.

      • keyster

        The press banks on no one actually bothering to read something like that.
        And usually they’re right, no one does.
        As a matter of fact the reporter herself might not even bother.

  • Mr. J

    The phrase “family court” is an oxymoron, meaning it cannot logically exist.

    All responsible people everywhere should ask themselves……”Why” does it exist???

  • Mr. J

    I know I’ll get downvotes for this but I gotta laugh….

    ……..”Tickets” to a stupid “game” reeled them in……LOL…….Why am I not surprised.

  • AntZ

    OT: There has been a sustained attack on MRM-related wikipedia web pages since mid-July. For example, the entry on “misandry” has been completely wrecked and whittled down to almost nothing. Here is a quote from the wikipedia entry on misandry:

    “The accusation of misandry is often effective against feminists because ‘people often confuse men as individuals with men as a dominant and privileged category of people.’ ”

    The fact that misandry has burrowed its way into the wikipedia article that describes misandry is an indication of the severity of the feminist attack against wikipedia entries on MRM issues.

    It has not escaped my notice that this attack began immediately after wikipedia deleted the Tom Ball page. I suppose the feminists were emboldened by their success and have gone on to wreck every MRM wiki page.

    Most of the damage has been done by “anonymous” contributors. In principle, this means we could undo the changes. However, I don’t think we should. Mostly, this message is just a heads up. I do not think there is an “action item” here. Let the feminists inject as much poison into wikipedia as they want to. Wikipedia is hopelessly lost to bigotry, bias, sexism, and hate, and will decline and fade into obscurity as a result.

    • Stu

      Another example of feminists thinking that they can create the truth.

  • LJ

    We need to speak as much as they sensor, overwhelm them, point out misrepresentation and deflection at every turn. If the MRM could figure a way to turn a profit, if we had a Rockefeller, a Jobs, a Gates, we would be heard more clearly. Let us not forget actions are louder than words. People are beginning to wake, and see the world as it is, not as it is reported to be.