A father’s battle, a father’s love

By Casey Meserve

Fri Jan 18, 2008


MANOMET-John Griffin is the divorced father of two, and his love for his children shines through when he talks about them. “I’m very lucky, I have my son seven days out of 14,” Griffin said. His son is 13, his daughter is 15.


“I haven’t seen my daughter in about a year and a half. She doesn’t want to see me,” he said.Parental alienation syndrome, he calls it, when a child vilifies one parent, sometimes with support from the other. “Divorce damages children,” Griffin said, “but shared parenthood and both parents working together damages them less.”  “It hurts me,” he said, “but it hurts the child a great deal, too.”


Griffin is a member of the Fatherhood Coalition, a group of men and women often maligned by other organizations as “the abusers’ lobby,” charged with opposing restraining orders aimed at protecting victims. But for Griffin, it’s all about doing what’s best for his children. He says the group is trying to end the persecution of divorced and unwed fathers by the family courts and state and federal law, and making it easier for fathers to be part of their children’s lives.

Here they can be themselves. They can tell their stories to sympathetic ears. They can learn how and where to get help from people who have been there before. They can get advice from legal experts, counselors, and even tax professionals, about dealing with their ex-spouses, their children, and the abuse they might be accused of committing, or even the abuse they may be victims of themselves.


Women are encouraged to come to meetings and talk with the men who often see themselves as victims of a legal system that labels them as guilty before their cases are even heard. Wives, girlfriends and even mothers all attended the recent meeting in Manomet. During meetings the group focuses on sharing parental responsibilities with the mothers of their children; they serve as a support group and social networking group for non-custodial parents.


The social part is important to members, Griffin said. “Oftentimes during a divorce, friends don’t want to get in the middle of it, and you find yourself isolated. You’ve got no home, no family, no friends, and you find yourself with a huge financial burden.”

The Fatherhood Coalition is also advocating for changes in family law and educating its members and the public on the importance of both parents being part of the family.


Bills in both the state House and Senate would require divorced parents to share parental responsibilities, unless there is strong evidence that to do so would be dangerous to the children. A major part of that is shared parenthood.

The bill, called An Act Relative to Shared Parenting, is co-sponsored by 44 representatives in the House, including Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, who represents three precincts in Plymouth.


According to the National Library of Medicine, studies show that children raised by two parents are more likely to do better in school, and less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol, less likely to get into legal trouble, and less likely to be involved with teen pregnancy.

“It’s about kids, not about fathers’ rights,” Griffin said.


The Plymouth/Cape chapter of the Fatherhood Coalition meets every other Monday at the Manomet Branch Library. The local group currently has 91 members and is part of the larger group of Massachusetts fathers. There are no easy answers for fathers or mothers involved in domestic abuse or custody battles, and changing laws can make it more difficult, but these fathers want people to know they love their children and want what’s best for them.


“It’s probably too late for us, but we’re fighting for the next generation,” Griffin said. “Nothing is going to change unless we change it.”