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99 Wash. U. L. Rev. 1869 (2021-2022)
Nonmarital Fathers in Family Court: Judges' and Lawyers' Perspectives

handle is hein.journals/walq99 and id is 1905 raw text is: NONMARITAL FATHERS IN FAMILY COURT:
This   Article presents findings   revealing   judges   and    government
attorneys' perspectives regarding nonmarital fathers as parents. The
findings are drawn from original empirical data generated in a rigorous
and extensive five-year qualitative study investigating the experiences of
low-income litigants in family court. Specifically, this Article examines the
perspectives of the judges and family court commissions who preside over
IV-D child support cases as well the government attorneys who bring
actions to enforce child support orders. These legal actors place a primacy
on fathers' role as economic providers and characterize the fathers as
disengaged dads because they do not reliably pay child support. When
fathers counter in court that they are engaged dads who provide nurturing
and caretaking to their children, judges and government attorneys
admonish them stating that parental involvement is not relevant in support
enforcement cases. Yet, when fathers attempt to affirmatively assert legal
claims to gain access to and parenting time with their children, those same
legal actors silence them and tell them that the court cannot hear their
parenting claims and they must pursue them in a separate proceeding
*    Jefferson Burrus-Bascom Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School. The
author thanks David J. Pate, Jr., Amanda Ward, Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong, Daanika Gordon, Garrett
Grainger, Chloe Haimson, Sarah Ishmael, Rachel Johnson, and Emily Frank for their many valuable
insights and contributions during our collaboration on the qualitative study described in this Article. This
study is supported by two research awards provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under
Grant No. SES-1323064 and Grant No. SES-1421098. This study would not have been possible without
the support of NSF and other funders, including the University of Wisconsin Law School, the Institute
for Research on Poverty, the Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholars Program, the Sheldon B. Lubar
Research Chair, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School. I also acknowledge with
appreciation the assistance of the officials of the courts where this research was conducted. Finally, I am
especially grateful to the many participants in this study who have been willing to share their experiences
and perspectives on access to justice for low-income litigants in child support enforcement proceedings.


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