Friday, February 18, 2005

Abducting Your Own Child

Do you know anyone that has been through a divorce and lost custody of his or her children? It happens all the time. Maybe it's happened to you. The divorce rate in conservative Oklahoma is among the highest in the nation.

If you are one of the lucky ones that hasn't experienced being separated from your children by a former spouse and the state then take a moment to imagine what that would be like.

Sometimes parents are separated from their children because they truly are a danger to them. But most often a parent is separated from his/her children simply because the other parent had a better lawyer or because the judge flipped a mental coin. In Oklahoma, as in many states, the mother is given custody (80% of the time) because of nothing more than custom.

It's no wonder then that many parents who have had their children taken away from them become desperate in their grinding anguish and do something foolish - like take back their child.

Just this week Tina Faye Lambert, a Sand Springs mother abducted her daughter and spent a night with her before being caught. She was arrested on "child-stealing" charges because her former husband had legal custody of the 8-year old daughter. The Tulsa World article explained that the daughter had wanted to hug her mom goodbye but doesn't say whether the police let her give that hug. I doubt it. Ms. Lambert may or may not be a good mom but you have to understand her longing for her daughter. You have to understand the worried dad too.

Last month in Bartlesville an Amber Alert was issued about an "abducted child". Only later did we learn that it was a case of a father "abducting" his child. Strange how it's always the fathers that get the Amber Alerts.

The saddest part to these awful situations is the children who get torn apart mentally. But I can understand what drives parents to "abduct" their children out of desperation and a feeling of helplessness. To have their action labeled "child-stealing" doesn't seem right.

Courts need to work harder at structuring joint custody arrangements that keep both parents in the lives of their children. Only in cases where a parent really is a danger to their child should they be separated by the state. The Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents Rights are trying to do something about it but while their solution could be right, their focus isn't. They should be focused on the right of their children to have joint custody of their parents.

With more joint custody we'd have fewer parents "abducting" their own children. Best of all, it would be better for the children.

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