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REMEMBER DADS YEAR-ROUND, GROUP URGES

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"Father's Day" has become a year-round rallying cry for a group of Utah dads.

FOCUS, a local non-custodial parent advocacy group, hosted a holiday rally downtown Saturday to protest injustices that members say plague many fathers who are separated from their children.A few fathers attended the small gathering with their kids - while others said foiled visitation rights kept them from bringing their own.

Battling stereotypes surrounding non-custodial parents is one of the organization's largest obstacles, said co-chairman Pat Allred.

"People need to know we're not a group of deadbeat dads, we believe in paying child support," said Allred. "We just want to change the unfair child-support standards. The problem is that most guys have to go into poverty to hire an attorney and go to court to try to change their situation."

Allred said monthly support payments often go beyond satisfying the needs of children and become an additional income source for greedy, frequently remarried, ex-partners.

FOCUS members also say the courts discriminate against non-custodial parents by protecting mothers while ignoring the rights of non-custodial fathers.

"If a mother's not receiving child support, all she has to do is call the State Office of Recovery Services and action will be taken," said James Baxter, a non-custodial parent. "But, again, a man will have to pay hundreds of dollars in court just to have his visitation rights protected."

Failure to enforce court-ordered visitation rights, added Baxter, is a form of child abuse because kids are denied the opportunity to spend time with their fathers.

Besides petitioning local lawmakers for improved visitation rights, some FOCUS members would like to see child custody alternated between parents every two years.

"We need to get the word out that being a father does not make you less of a parent," said Allred.