By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
Tired of the “deadbeat dad” image and sick of being
nothing more than a paycheck to their children, several single
fathers told The Daily Standard they believe it’s time
for a change in the way they’re perceived.
need their fathers. Children need real fathers who are involved
in their lives, not just some weekend playtime or a quality
of life stipend,” said Paul Fisher, 26, of Celina, who’s
never been married and is active almost daily in the life of
his 1-year-old toddler.
To change the bias, means to change the system, said Fisher,
a computer information technologist. And he’s not alone
in his sentiments. Dan Moorman, 33, of St. Henry and several
other local parents recently organized a local chapter of PACE
— Parents And Children for Equality. Although both mothers
and fathers are welcome members of the nationwide organization,
fathers make up the majority.
The first meeting for the Mercer County chapter is set for 8
p.m. Thursday in the second floor conference room of the Mercer
County Central Services building in Celina. (Use the Sugar Street
entrance.) The meeting is open to anyone interested in the rights
of parents, Moorman said. Those wishing to hold an office or
become an active member of PACE are asked to arrive at 6 p.m.
A second meeting will be held at the same location Nov. 20.
Besides perception, the local fathers say one of the biggest
problems they face is the judicial system, specifically the
awarding of child custody. PACE members across the state are
backing Ohio House Bill 232, which — if passed —
will amend and enact three sections of the Ohio Revised Code
House Bill 232 promises “to ensure that court orders and
decrees that allocate parental rights and responsibilities with
respect to the care of and access to children provide for substantial
equality between the parents except where clear and convincing
evidence shows that substantial equality would be harmful to
the children and to provide for better enforcement of shared
parenting orders and decrees.”
The custody of children is regularly awarded by the courts to
mothers (in more than 90 percent of cases statewide) immediately
after a couple separates, the local fathers say. Without declaring
either parent fit or unfit, fathers are torn from the daily
life of their children by a judge or magistrate who likely never
even met them.
Under the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United
States, parents have a federal right to custody of their children
until proven unfit. Michael Galluzzo of St. Paris in Champaign
County has taken his case on the issue all the way to federal
district court in Dayton where it is currently pending.
“One of the major problems is the attitude of the judicial
system and pandering of special interest groups,” said
Galluzzo, who last year lost a campaign bid for Ohio House of
Representatives for the 78th District. “Right now, governments
reap huge benefits from the collection of child support at the
increasing expense of the taxpayer and parties involved. Will
it ever stop?”
Galluzzo’s case is unique in that no other state domestic
court case on the issue of parental rights has ever made it
to a U.S. federal court. If Galluzzo wins, it would set a precedent
and Ohio’s law on custody could be declared unconstitutional.
Moorman is separated and the father of two children. He believes
a local PACE chapter will be a way for area parents to share
ideas, give each other support and, hopefully, make some changes
in the way domestic court cases are handled.
“Our goal is to enforce the rights of all parents,”
Moorman said, adding he intends to bring in judges, attorneys,
politicians and other speakers to the monthly meetings.
Some of the issues the group would like to bring to light have
to do with child support payments. When a parent takes over
full-time care of their child for an extended period such as
the summer months, they believe support payments should be transferred
to the parent who has physical custody. Currently, support payments
do not change.
Moorman, a business owner, said many times parents don’t
communicate, leaving courts and attorneys to take over. “Then
we have an even bigger mess,” he added.
The local PACE chapter will not be a “bitch” session,
said Fisher, who hopes to contribute to the new group.
“We have no intentions of these meetings being a bashing
of judges, women or public services. We are here to solve some
very serious issues, which will take very serious commitment
and effort,” Fisher said.
Fisher said he is continually baffled by what he is learning
about the legal system while fighting for custody of his daughter.
“It’s like the people who designed this system slept
through civics class,” he said.
Fisher said Galluzzo’s case and his actions are inspirational,
comparing him to David fighting Goliath. While his personal
goal is to provide the best care for his little girl in the
best environment possible, Fisher also believes he must strive
to change a flawed system.
“I have spent a good deal of time trying to grasp the
logic that the current custody and child support system uses,”
Fisher said. “I finally understand why it was so hard
to comprehend. It is wrong.”