Filmmaker Examines Fathers Rights In America
Nicholas Szabo is a filmmaker whose documentary “Father Figure” examines America’s problem with fathers rights. You can learn more about Szabo’s film and actually watch the full 99-minute movie by visiting the “Father Figure” website.
MensRights: What is “Father Figure” about?
Nicholas Szabo: “Father Figure” is a video documentary about fatherlessness and it goes into depth from micro and macro level perspective so from a father who is about to get divorced, what they face, the discrimination in family courts and so forth.
But, it also goes a little bit further into what this means for society in general. If we have a lot of fatherless children, what does that mean? A lot of divorced dads – what does that mean to society? A lot of women who are divorced – what does that mean to society?
MensRights: Could you give a couple of examples of what fatherlessness does mean to society?
Nicholas Szabo: It’s really a scourge upon society. It’s actually an engine for devolving a civilized society.
Fatherless children are more susceptible to crime, drug abuse, drug addiction, getting involved with gangs, juvenile delinquency, sexual confusion, mental illness, etc., and all of these are well documented in studies.
For a child, the best setting for growing up is a two-parent family: a mother and father present, and divorce disrupts that. Typically, the father is reduced in visibility in a child’s life and this can lead to all sorts of issues for society as a whole.
MensRights: So why did you decide to make this video?
Nicholas Szabo: I was confronted with divorce and, like a lot of guys out there who get married who really don’t think divorce would occur to them, at the time I didn’t realize how easy it is for a woman just to go to a lawyer and file paperwork.
Then, drag you into the court system where fathers are very likely to lose their income through child-support and even alimony, lose their family home, lose their children, and lose pretty much everything they’ve worked for in their whole life.
When I started looking at these issues deeper, I thought, “Wow, if I’m a person who didn’t realize this and I thought I was pretty well versed in what goes on, then….” but I really had no clue. That was the impetus to create the “Father Figure” video.
MensRights: You finished in 1998 and it’s been 14 years since then. What changes, if any, have you noticed in the treatment of fathers in family courts and the epidemic of fatherlessness since the film first premiered?
Nicholas Szabo: It’s generally not good. Fatherlessness has increased. I’ve seen statistics now where 41% of children are now fatherless.
What this means is we’re pretty much developing two societies: one where children growing up with fathers are typically and statistically better adjusted to life in general, and another group of children growing up without fathers.
Now there are some successes. Some men are getting educated with places like MensRights.com and DadsDivorce.com and are able to fight by getting a lawyer that can fight for them.
Family courts still have a bias toward men and are not allowing them custody. They’re involved in their children’s lives with joint custody and other arrangements, but still a lot of times the children end up primarily in the mother’s household.
MensRights: Finally, what solutions do you propose to combat this growing problem?
Nicholas Szabo: Really, there are two scenarios that I see that can reverse this trend, but it’s going to be a very hard thing to reverse just because there’s a super structure in place already that goes against fathers and men.
First, if you focus the discussion on what effects it has on children, and children are our future, children will push our society to new levels and so forth. If you can show – and there are plenty of bona fide studies that show that fatherless children are a drag on society and educationally and so forth – if you can present that to judges, the government, that there is a need for the government to take this seriously and to see what’s happening statistically to kids that grow up in fatherless homes, that may change your mindset.
The other solution or at least something that we can push towards is presumptive father custody. Right now, it’s presumptive custody for mothers. Judges are biased. That’s just the way it is. They will assume that the children belong with the mother and leave the father out of it.
But if policies were based on showing that, typically, during a divorce the kids do better with a father figure – they are better adjusted, better behaved, better educational opportunities and so forth – then I think we would see a turnaround.
Watch Nicholas Szabo’s interview with MensRights.com and DadsDivorce.com editor Matt Allen: