Dr. Phil had quite the guest in Siohvaughn Funches-Wade on his show yesterday. The former Mrs. Wade sought the most public forum to tell the world that she’s not crazy, to accuse her ex Dwyane Wade of child abuse and to talk about how his celebrity status was the most significant factor in her losing custody of their two boys. This latest interview with Wade’s ex surely is not winning her any brownies points with the Miami Heat star, and she certainly didn’t impress the family court judge who eventually awarded him custody of their kids.
There have been a rash of high profile custody battles lately. The battle for custody between R&B singer Usher Raymond and his ex-wife Tameka ended with him gaining primary custody of their two boys. Most recently, Deion Sanders was awarded full custody of his two sons, ages 13 and 11, with ex-wife Pilar gaining only partial custody of their 9-year old daughter. In both cases, each couple went through a lengthy and contentious battle with the fathers emerging victorious. (If one can call a fight for taking one’s kids away from a parent a victory.) Do these celebrity custody battles ending with the father obtaining primary, or in some cases full, custody of one’s kids, signal a shift in men being favored in court over women in child custody cases?
Not so fast.
Though father’s rights is becoming a modern movement in the family court arena, overwhelmingly women are still being awarded primary, full or sole custody of their kids in divorce proceedings with custody hearings. According to the U.S. Census, as of 2009 only 1 in 6 child custody cases ended with the father being granted primary custody.
Google ‘father’s rights’ and a variety of results will surface; instructing men on how to fight false abuse allegations, how to petition for equal time with their children and how to minimize child support payments. While that last phrase sounds a bit sketchy, doesn’t it stand to reason that if there is no questionable issue with a father remaining in his child’s life, then shouldn’t he be entitled to the same benefits that a woman would be under the law? Also, when the family court playing field is leveled by access to income, as is the case with Dwyane Wade, Usher and Deion Sanders, does the mother lose out because of lack of income? Or does the abundance of income give the father the means to prove his fitness as a primary caregiver?
Such are the questions that Siohvaughn Funches-Wade wanted answered on the Dr. Phil show. She spoke candidly about her divorce from Wade and her desire to raise their kids. On her ex-husband’s celebrity status possibly swaying the court’s decision on custody, she said: “Well a lot of it had to do with Mr. Wade’s celebrity and a lot of it had to do with his money. But I’ve seen the court system in a way that I’ve never seen it before. I went into that place hoping to get help for my children and I, but I found judges in the courtroom quoting statistics for Mr. Wade. They would speak about him as if they were introducing the starting lineup for a basketball game.”
Also, she touched on her portrayal as ‘crazy’ in the media during the custody battle, saying: “Well, my ex-husband had a publicist. And as far as the records reveal, it (the retainer fee) may have been approximately $20,000 per month. When you’re able to pay someone that amount of money a month to plant your stories…”
It doesn’t sound like she and D-Wade have had much contact regarding coming together for the benefit of their kids. While she may have thought her interview with the psychologist might have been her best hope of getting Wade’s attention, it comes off as another desperate attempt to smear his name in hopes to build a case for the return of her sons. Despite what she says, unfounded allegations of abuse and neglect against her ex are about as helpful to the health of her kids as his publicist’s attempts to paint her as mentally unstable.
With all the recent high profile custody battles going the way of the fathers, what’s your take? Should father’s rights be more of an issue in the court? Or in cases where appropriate, should the courts attempt to equalize the time and money invested by both parents into their child/children?