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Study: Economy contributes to gaps in dad engagement

Gender neutrality is highly valued in a lot of facets of life in Little Rock. Few would disagree that if a woman and man are doing the same job that they should be paid the same.

In family law, the system talks the talk but sometimes does not walk the walk when it comes to gender neutrality. Mothers often enjoy a presumption of preference in questions of child custody. Finding ways to strike a balance to better support fathers' rights is a worthy endeavor.

In the shadow of the latest Father's Day celebration, it only seems appropriate to examine the state of fatherhood in America, and that is something that has been done through an inaugural study by the group Promundo.

The good news, says the report, is that fathers are more engaged in the lives of their children than ever before. The bad news is that most fathers responding to a survey say they don't feel they get enough support from society. Just because the Family and Medical Leave Act upholds gender equity in the terms of extending benefits, fathers say they still get the short end of the stick when all is said and done.

Money makes a difference, too. Fathers in the upper income brackets tend to be more empowered by society to fulfill their parenting roles than are dads in the lower income range. The report says 95 percent of low-wage workers of either gender don't get paid leave for any major life event, including a child's birth.

In response to the findings, the report suggests:

  • A federal payroll tax of 1 percent to pay for paid parental leave of between 12 and 16 weeks for both mothers and fathers

  • Passage of a living minimum wage and justice reform to support fathers in co-parenting arrangements and paying child support

  • Better support for education and health services related to family planning

  • Fostering change in employer attitudes to reinforce parenting's contribution as an economic value, regardless of gender.

This being the first year of the report it's not likely to result in any immediate change. In the meantime, fathers still have rights. To understand them and uphold them means consulting with experienced legal counsel.

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