Fathers-4-Justice by Dawn Morgan

12/21/06

Lede Fathers 4 Justice, a national non profit inspired by an organization of the same name in the UK, held its first Florida demonstration today outside of the St. Petersburg Judicial Building. Protestors hoped to reach out to the community for support, new members and understanding from the community at large. WMNF’s Dawn Morgan has more.

Story Don Delaney joined Fathers 4 Justice as he watched his grown son divorce and go through a 3 year custody battle that resulted in standard visitation rights, which is every other weekend, one night during the week and some split holidays.

(sound: f4j don: You can’t have proper input to a child 4 days a month. Both bring something to the children. Much more than the “standard� visitation. Want to educate the general public of what is going on and we feel if they understand, they will get some reform in the family courts.�)

Fathers 4 Justice established itself as a nonprofit in March 2005 in Minnesota and has been expanding nationally ever since. Coordinator positions have been filled in 25 states and organizers aim to have the rest filled by February 2007. Don Delaney of St. Petersburg became the Florida coordinator of Fathers 4 Justice just a couple of months ago.

(sound F4j judi: “During child custody matters, 90% of the time full custody is awarded to the mother. Thereby relegating the father to a visitor in the child’s life. That also affects grandparents. They too suffer. We would like to see in FL and across nation, legislation to mandate equal parenting in child custody matters. We believe that 2 parents are better than 1, in marriage and after divorce.�)

Judi Smith Phelps is on the national board of directors for Fathers 4 Justice. She, her husband and their brood of 5 children planned their winter vacation in FL around the protest to support Delaney in his launch of the organization’s Florida branch. Smith Phelps came dressed as Superwoman, a tradition that goes back to the UK organization, to make the statement that all good parents are superheroes. Smith Phelps says as a child, she was a victim of parental alienation when her mother disregarded her father’s scheduled visiting times and family courts failed to enforce his visitation rights.

(sound F4j judi2: “Only recourse is to file a motion for contempt. Sometimes it could be 6months to a year before they are heard and all the while, no visitation. My dad got fed up. Paid mom lump some of child support. Fled to St. Pete. A shame that this has been happening since the 70’s. Society as a whole is accepting mom as better parents and that is not the case.�)

When Smith-Phelps divorced after 9 years of marriage, she and her ex husband agreed to share equal custody of their 3 children. Her 15 year old son Dustin, who was 8 at the time of the divorce, was dressed as Santa Claus to highlight Father 4 Justice’s Christmas motto: “All I want for Christmas is to see my kids.�

(Sound dustin: Parents wanted it to be equal. We live about 10 minutes from each other. It’s pretty easy, we just go our way.�)

When Smith Phelps remarried, she says she faced unfounded abuse allegations towards her 2 stepchildren by her new husbands’ ex-wife.

More information on Fathers 4 Justice can be found through a link at WMNF.org. Or on their website at www.F4J.us.

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