Mindy Hitchcock authored the “No Parent Left Behind Plan,” which establishes single parents as equal partners in the important job of raising their children.
Lawyer wants no parent left behind in the wake
By Debra Talcott
One way to measure the success of a woman is to see how well she turns the negative experiences of her childhood into the strengths of her adult life and career.
Such is the case for attorney Mindy Hitchcock, who has found her niche in a specialized area of family law. Hitchcock takes pride in helping single and divorced fathers exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities when it comes to having healthy relationships with their children.
“Dads should be aware of their options, of their right and responsibility to remain in their child's life, because of the enormous difference it makes on a child's wellbeing and chances for success in life. Dads matter just as much as moms,” says Hitchcock, the mother of two adult children.
Hitchcock recognizes, from her own childhood, that divorce is a scary time for most people and that families may be scarred for life by the trauma.
“That makes it very satisfying to guide parents through the process without all the hard feelings and blame that usually occurs at this time. To the extent I can show my clients the importance of allowing their children to love both parents without guilt, I know I have helped that family move forward to a better future.”
In contemporary society, where more than half of all babies are born to single parents, Hitchcock’s clients are more often single than divorced fathers.
“Single dads are persona non grata in the court system. The mother and child are considered the family, and the father has the right to pay child support. Divorced dads can at least expect joint legal custody and some amount of physical custody. Single dads get nothing, without fighting for it, sometimes for years.”
That is why Hitchcock authored the “No Parent Left Behind Plan” to address this new reality. The plan is designed to establish single parents as equal partners in the important job of raising their children. Available for a flat fee, the plan eliminates the need for expensive and lengthy legal battles in the event the couple later separates, according to Hitchcock.
“The plan is meant to start things off on the right foot for this new family, whereby single parents voluntarily file a case establishing joint legal and physical custody for them both, without setting a structured parenting time schedule or paying child support because they are still living together. Then, if the couple does break up, they can go to court to establish parenting time quickly and easily. The less time people spend in court, the happier they will be!”
Now Hitchcock is working on the final revision for an eBook titled, “7 Things Single Fathers Must Know.” The electronic format is meant to be easily accessible to single dads searching the Internet for answers.
“It is not for sale, nor is it a literary masterpiece. It’s a simple compilation of my own experience and things my male clients have told me they wish they had known from the start.
It will be available as a PDF download on the front page of my lady4justice website.”
Hitchcock’s personal story is as compelling as her work. Growing up in Dearborn Heights, she herself was a child of divorce who suffered when her father left the family home.
“My father was my hero, and I adored him. When my parents divorced, I was devastated by the loss of him in my life. I was 13 and started getting into all kinds of trouble.
Fortunately, I was able to get out of the negative spiral I was in, but many kids who lose their fathers in divorce are not so lucky.”
When she was older, Hitchcock questioned her father about why he had never tried to get custody of her and her siblings. Her father explained that his attorney had told him that unless their mother was a prostitute or drug addict, he would never be granted custody.
“That was 45 years ago, but it is still true today in many cases.”
Although she saw her father some weekends, Hitchcock says the relationship was artificial-nothing like it had been when the family was intact.
“Meanwhile, my mom did everything she could to convince us that our dad didn't love us and had never wanted us. She was immature, and certainly had her reasons to be bitter, but trying to punish our father by convincing us he never cared for us was probably the worst thing she could have done.”
Divorce leaves negative effects on the children-regardless of their ages when the divorce occurs. Hitchcock believes that in her own family the impact of that parental alienation factored heavily into the problems with self-esteem that she and her siblings suffered.
Hitchcock credits her former husband, the late William “Bud” Johnson, for inspiring her to buckle down and use her good mind to go to law school.
“I met Bud in my early twenties, when I was still suffering from the repercussions of my parent’ divorce and living in a world of hysteria and no common sense. Bud was 24 years older than I, and he became my mentor. He was a self-made man. He grew up in poverty, next door to Berry Gordy’s family on Hastings and St. Antoine, and he had taken himself from that environment and gone on to travel the world.”
Despite achieving an undergraduate grade point average of 4.0 at Wayne State University and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Hitchcock says she never would have considered law school as a possibility before knowing Johnson.
“Bud helped me stretch my vision of myself. He brought focus and discipline back into my life.”
After earning her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School in 1985, Hitchcock was a general practitioner who tried several different areas of law before seeing her talents as best suited for family law.
Hitchcock is quick to explain that she will not have contact with fathers who are not committed to providing both financial and emotional support for their children.
“After all, how can a father claim to love his children if he does not support them?”
Hitchcock says her issue is with mothers who do not put their children's best interests before their own feelings.
“My beef is with mothers who use parenting time to manipulate fathers, either by limiting their parenting time to get more money as tax-free child support or simply to punish the men for leaving them. The children were not part of the parents’ intimate relationship; they are innocent, and their right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents needs to be protected.”
Hitchcock is the proud parent of 27-year-old twins, Alex and Alexis Johnson, who are following in their mother's footsteps. Alex earned his mechanical engineering degree from the University of Michigan and currently attends Wayne State University Law School while serving as office manager in Hitchcock’s Bingham Farms practice. Alexis has a marketing degree from Eastern Michigan University and is applying to Wayne Law School. She does marketing and public relations for the Oakland Pet Adoption Center, one of
her mother's favorite organizations to support.
“I am also a big supporter of Paws for Life, a nonprofit animal rescue and adoption group. I have volunteered at Common Ground in Oakland County, and I do pro bono legal work for The 313 Project in Detroit.”
Hitchcock was honored at The 313 Project annual “Reasons” dinner in April for her exemplary service. The organization, which incorporates Detroit's area code in its name, was started at Wayne State University Law School in 2009. It reaches out to the city's underserved citizens through pro bono, educational, and charitable efforts.
For someone who often sees the sadness in life through her work with disillusioned fathers, her pro bono service to the area’s disadvantaged citizens, or her support for abandoned and abused animals, Hitchcock is one of those special people who remain optimistic when others might become jaded. Her secret weapon for keeping a positive attitude is remarkably simple.
“One of my favorite things to do when I have free time is dancing-not professional-purely for fun.”