Mid-Missourians share stories of fatherless Father's Day at rally

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JEFFERSON CITY - Fathers shared stories of custody troubles at the Missouri Fatherless Day rally Friday. 

The attendees advocated for equal rights for dads at the state capitol. MO 4 Shared Parenting organized its first rally Friday as a way to educate the community about fathers that do not have the opportunity to spend Father's Day with their children. Even though the state legislature is not in session, the organization felt the timing was right with Father's Day approaching.

MO 4 Shared Parenting President Linda Reutzel said educating the public on how the family court system affects equal shared parenting is important. Reutzel said she believes separation and divorce have become part of the cultural norm.

"Every person has a father, every person has a son or a nephew or an uncle that has gone through divorce or separation," Reutzel said. "If there are children involved, then it's serious. You could actually lose contact and equal access to your child."

Reutzel said she believes the Missouri court system have a bias toward mothers, which often leaves fathers in a difficult situation. 

The rally included about a dozen men, women and children sharing stories and meeting with one another. Most talked about their struggles in the family court system and how parents' disputes on schedules can affect joint custody agreements.

Father Matt Jones shared his story with the group. Jones is a divorced father of three with visiting rights every other weekend.

"The cards are really stacked against fathers when it comes down to custody," Jones said.

Jones said one of the uphill battles many fathers face is the perception that all fathers are "deadbeat dads". He said even though not every family experiences custody battles or divorce, the public should be aware of the issues people in the community go through.

"Improving fathers' rights, giving them better access to shared parenting, not necessarily calling for full custody, but shared parenting creates a better community in general," Jones said.

MO 4 Shared Parenting had two bills in committees this past session, which advocate for paternal rights in custody agreements. Reutzel said the organization plans to continue to take legal action in the fall.