MINNEAPOLIS — * What will it take to improve the family-court system and make divorce laws more equitable for men and women? The Fathers' Resource Center, a nonprofit service and information organization in Minneapolis, recommends that courts should:
1. Order shared care of minor children in cases where both parties are fit parents and there has been no history of abuse. This would eliminate some of the hostility engendered in divorce court and result in more incentives to make support payments.
2. Enforce visitation and custodial rights as vigorously as the right to child support is enforced. This would strengthen the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child.
3. Focus on the best interests of the child and not the best interests of the custodial parent.
4. Be less willing to let one parent move with the child to another state.
5. Consider nonmonetary solutions to child support. Look for ways both parents and their extended families (if they are willing and capable) can provide care for the child, to relieve the burden on the custodial parent.
For example, a presumption could be written into the law stating that the noncustodial parent should be the preferred care provider if available. This would save costs and strengthen family ties.
6. Provide free legal representation to indigent fathers. Poor mothers often receive free representation from county attorneys or legal-aid groups, while poor fathers have no similar source of free legal representation.
7. Commission a neutral study on the status of fathers to identify barriers that keep men from being more involved with their families. This could be a joint effort between a research university and a state agency, such as an attorney general's office or a health and human services department. After identifying barriers, look at ways governments, courts, social service agencies, and prisons could help fathers.