"Every established system has its persistent flaws, regardless of how often or eagerly they're pointed out. In Accidental Dad, Joshua McDowell presents his case against the treatment of single fathers in a tangled system seemingly designed to make them fail. McDowell takes readers through his story from start to finish, where he successfully joined the small percentage (6-11%) of single fathers who fought for custody and actually won.
He offers this unique perspective in an unadulterated form, revealing his intimate details of teenage fatherhood, the pain of accusations and doubts, the loss of innocence, the swelling of fatherly pride, and the deep-seated frustration with a system he claims is largely biased against paternal custody. From the heartfelt and brutally honest Acknowledgements section, we see McDowell laying himself bare, which prepares us for his vivid, sincere accounts of life as a teenager with a child of his own.
The adult voice of the author, however, peppers in facts, statistics, and anecdotes that provide depth and context for the story of his youth, and the deeper we go into the book, the more we begin to understand both the author and the underlying societal issues he's trying to explain. While this book is largely directed at the struggles of single fathers, it is also an indictment of a country plagued by broken homes, faulty welfare systems, and a general lack of support from authorities to ensure the safety and protection of individuals and families, regardless of age, marital status, or wealth.
The level of sentimentality between the chapters switches drastically at times, with some relying on the power of a contributor's story, and others delving deeper into his personal struggles and successes as a young father. At times, there are moments of "Woe is me," but the personal accounts that he and others share are powerful and undeniable. In other words, he puts his proof where his prose is. Whenever the narrative flow begins to lean towards opinions or personal diatribes, hard facts and statistics bring the reader back to center, and we realize that this is far more than a personal story, but a clarion call for change that could affect hundreds of thousands of people, both now and into the future.
The book shifts from personal memoir to proffered advice about halfway through, with great tips and strategies for handling courts and judges, financial obstacles, and "mothers' dirty tricks". This is far from a how-to guide though; it is a behind-the-scenes confessional, legal advice handbook, and a motivational speech all rolled into one, making it very hard to put down. Like binge-watching a new television show, every chapter brings us deeper into McDowell's life, and more invested in how his story will eventually play out.
While the advice and insight McDowell provides might not be useful for every reader, this book is ultimately about belief: the belief that good men can change a broken system if they work together, that societal assumptions can be shifted, and that the love between a father and his child can overcome any obstacles. Overall, McDowell writes with compassion and engaging sincerity, while still delivering a useful and professionally-penned guide to life as a single father." -SPR Self Publishing Review
"This story from a single dad about combating the court system for custody is moving and inspirational.
Single fathers are getting the short end of the stick in the United States family court system, Ohio writer JoshuaMcDowell argues in his new book, Accidental Dad. Combining substantial research with numerous anecdotes, McDowell makes a compelling case that the legal system works against single fathers seeking custodial rights of their children.
Accidental Dad is a semipolemical self-help memoir. It recounts McDowell's childhood, the psychological effects of losing his own father at a young age, the birth of his son when he was a senior in high school, and the years-long battle for sole custody of his son that followed. Research is cited throughout to support the book's underlying thesis: family court systems have an ingrained bias in favor of mothers and against fathers, particularly unmarried single fathers.
Much of the research is authoritative, including statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The book highlights the breakdown of traditional family structures, the negative effects of fatherless homes on children, and how biased courts reinforce these trends.
A few references are less than stellar, however. Fatherhoodfactor.com, for instance, is a blog that's treated as a primary source. One chapter uses urbandictionary.com to define "baby mama drama," degrading the book's tone into talk-show territory.
That same chapter, "An Angry Mother's Dirty Tricks," is the book's greatest weakness. Allegations of dirty tricks during McDowell's custody battle, including accusations of physical violence,throw readers into the middle of a personal and ugly conflict without information or testimony from the other side. The book could stand without this chapter and with fewer references to specific mothers.
The best chapters offer practical advice for other "accidental dads" on how to improve their circumstances and win custody of their children. Dads are told to work hard, to be punctual, not to succumb to negativity or divisiveness, and to act humbly and respectfully in court.
These same chapters explain the legal process of custody disputes, the different forms and motions to file, and selection of and cooperation with attorneys: "The attorney has expertise you don't have, but the attorney can't make an angry, bitter, aggressive father look like Mr. Nice Guy." These informative and helpful chapters steer the book toward the realm of self-help nonfiction.
Photos of McDowell and his son help make Accidental Dad a heartfelt endeavor. Even more than his arguments about the family court system, McDowell's story of trying to be a devoted father--with the odds stacked against him--is moving and inspirational." -Forword Clarion Reviews (Scott Neuffer)