Definition of Dad vs. Father and a Discussion of Dad’s Rights

First, Let’s Define Dad

The words ‘dad’ and ‘father’ are very similar on the surface and yet, I think to many people they hold very different meanings.  For the purpose of this article I’d like to define the difference in my eyes between a dad and a father.

Here’s Google’s definition of “dad”:

definition of dad parenting popular posts divorce  Definition of Dad vs. Father and a Discussion of Dads Rights

I disagree, Google. There is a difference between being a dad and a father.

A dad is someone that is there for his children. A father is something else; a father is more of a biological term than a role or relationship.

A dad is someone that is there for his children.  A dad watches and actively participates in their lives.  A dad helps them grow up, raises them, nurtures them, attends dance recitals and baseball games and is present.

Next, Let’s Define Father

On the surface you’d think the definitions between dad and father would be the same – but they’re not. They are very different, in fact.

A father is something else; a father is more of a biological term than a role or relationship.  A father is a the birds and bees version of a parent. They are a reproductive assistant, if you will.  Father’s need only contribute the biological components necessary to produce the child.  After that, the their role and obligation to the child is over.

A father doesn’t need to be present to have a have a child.  They don’t need to participate to make their biological contribution.  A father doesn’t need to be present to be a father. Therein lies the difference when attempting to define the difference between a dad and a father. Of course, this distinction is my own and you may or may not agree or buy into my differences. Though, I know there are single moms out there that know there’s a distinctive difference between the two. They see every single day what the differences are between being a dad and being a father mean to their child’s life.

Defining a Father’s Rights vs. Dad’s Rights

51XFVfMqY6L parenting popular posts divorce  Definition of Dad vs. Father and a Discussion of Dads RightsI attempt to make the distinction between a dad and a father so that I can carry those definitions into a discussion on dad’s (father’s) rights.  The U.S., and to an extent, the world, has seen an epidemic of fathers that abandon their families and children, often before the child is even born.

For whatever reason they don’t want to be parents.  They choose not to participate in their child’s life.  They choose to be selfish over being selfless.  Many (too many) men have taken this path of fathering a child but leaving the ‘dad’ part up to someone else – sometimes mom or sometimes another man that’s not afraid of stepping in to fill that role.  In many cases I get that the mother and child truly would be better off without the father in their lives.  That’s a shame, really and it’s no excuse.

There is no excuse.

Some Fathers Setting the Unfortunate Precedence

It’s not just up to dads to be dads. It’s up to moms to allow dads to be dads, too.

I would argue that the trend in fathers abandoning their children and choosing to not participate compelled the courts in this country to pass laws (or at least have some sort of unwritten preference) that attempted to protect the rights of the child, and to some extent, the mothers that were left to raise the child on their own.

Often, the courts would default to siding with the mother and the father (or dad) was left to prove his worth or value in the child’s life to the court. But what about when a father decides to also be a dad?  What about when a father has to be a dad? When it’s so engrained in his soul that he’s nearly incapable of not being a dad?

Many states make this dad’s outlook on spending time with his child, being involved in his child’s life and actively participating in the child’s life very much an up-hill battle.

The Progression of Family Law

Some states’ laws are beginning to turn around somewhat and correct this perceived ‘imbalance’ in rights and de facto anti-dad lean.  Last year (2011), Florida passed legislation that, among other things, modified the definition of ‘Substantial Time Sharing’.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, allow me to briefly (and very non-technically) explain how child support is calculated.

Florida Child Support Calculation Change

Child support in the state of Florida is calculated using a complex formula that incorporates each party’s income and expenses, standard of living and finally the amount of time the child spends with each parent.  The child support amount can be calculated at various tiers of time-sharing.

For example, a parent may be obligated to pay $500 in child support when the time-sharing is split on a 20/80 basis.  However, if the time-sharing split is 40/60 (the old ‘substantial’ cut-off) the obligation may be reduced to $200 or even down to $100 at a 50/50 sharing arrangement.  At each ‘tier’, the child support obligation goes down.

The support amount takes a more dramatic decrease once that ‘substantial’ level of sharing is reached.

On January 1, 2011 the definition of ‘Substantial Sharing’ in the state of Florida was lowered to 20% time-share.  For a more detailed explanation of this change in the law, please see my blog post “The Winds of Change”.

To interpret the intentions of the law may be a bit fruitless – they are politicians, after all.  I’ll make an attempt anyway.

I would say the state was hoping to even the playing field for dads that want to participate by removing any financial incentive for a parent to want to fight the other parent from having the child a few more nights a year.  Basically, the parent would receive the same child support amount for a 40/60 split as they would for a 20/80 split.  That gave both parents incentive to share the child more.

Obviously, no law is perfect and I can see a scenario where a marginally-involved parent (somewhere between a father and a dad) would seek to share time at or above that 20% (which is every-other weekend) simply to get a reduction in child support.  Again, no law is perfect but I feel the benefits to dads that are interested in spending more time with their children but must haggle over a few nights because of the ‘substantial share’ rule being set too high.

Dads as Second-Class Parents

I think a lot of involved dads share this feeling with me.  Many times I feel like a second-class parent in my son’s life.

It hurts. It hurts a lot, actually.

I feel like, in the eyes of the court and in the eyes of my ex, she’s the parent and I get to ‘borrow’ my son now and then.  I see no reason why dads shouldn’t be afforded the same rights and access to their children as mothers do.  I see no reason why the default sharing shouldn’t be 50/50 unless one parent or the other can prove why it should be something less than equal.

I understand that women carry the child, give birth and, more often than the father, raise the child solo.  But how much are the laws (and some individual’s behavior) actually discouraging fathers from participating in their children’s lives?  A father should fight to be a dad tooth and nail but a father also shouldn’t be required to fight so hard.  The chips shouldn’t be quite so stacked against the dad that genuinely wants (or needs) to participate.

How do you distinguish between the definition of dad and the definition of father? Do you have a story you’d like to share? Use the comment form below or contact me to tell me your story.

Father and Son by Suraphat, on Flickr

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Comments

  1. Athena says

    Hi! I live in Utah and am 30yrs. old (my name is Athena). I have a 19yr. old brother who 3mos. ago had a baby boy. Right after he was released from the hospital his mother (my bro’s girlfriend) took him to live with her at her mother and step-dads place. It took her a week from then to even come over and let my brother actually spend a few hours with him. My brother was there with her through pregnancy. through all the hours of labor with her, and was there when she gave birth, but because she lets her family’s emotions towards my brother sway her she listens to them. The night she came she decided she didn’t want to stay the full night and had her mom come get her but instead of telling my brother she tried to sneak out at 11pm—so when my brother questioned her she played the, ” i don’t wanna talk about it”. Eventually she left with the baby and now our family has only seen him a handful of times since. He will be 3mos. the 22nd of this month. My brother has a lawyer and they have a date set for mediation but it kills me that all this time has still gone by and she believes like her family that being a “DAD” equals money! Too many women feel that child support takes over precedence of the real duties of being a “DAD” or know what that really entails. My brother will not be spending his first Father’s Day with his son, she refuses to bring him by. If they can come to an agreement state law only allows my brother 9 hrs a week, which is 3 hours for 3 days. They are not married and I understand that he is a small baby but to me that is crap. Mother’s have a lot more rights and the good men who want to be a “DAD” not just a “FATHER” are left having to find lawyers or help groups to get them in the right direction to even get a fighting chance to keep their rights. My brother wants to actively participate in his child’s life but because he doesn’t want to be with her she thinks he doesn’t deserve to see their child and that he now needs to prove with money how much his child means to him. Am I the only one who sees a major problem with her actions but yet this is what a lot of women do then cry about being a single parent. This is her choice not his and we as his family actually want to be in this child’s life which rarely happens and she pushes us out to. Frustrating but loved the article and you put in to light just how it is and the actual definition of a “DAD”….not just “FATHER”.

  2. Heather says

    My husband and I both have fathers, and he has a dad who raised him. This came up recently as we were discussing a trip we are taking over the weekend. On the way we are going to see my husband’s bio father. I asked him if we should get a gift or a card, etc. His response was “No, but I need to call my dad.”
    Fathers who aren’t sure- Deliberately ignoring being a “Dad” when your kids are small carries the effects over to his being an adult.

  3. Anonymous says

    Wow it’s really great to see so many men who are determined and wants to be apart of their child(ren) lives. I have a baby daughter and the sperm donor decided that during my 5th month of pregnancy that he did not want the baby. I have since had my daughter and she’s going on 4 months and he has never seen her, does not want to see her, will not answer my phone calls, and made it clear to others that he doesn’t want to be in her life. Yes the hurt felt like a ton of bricks. I look at the situation and I look at my beautiful baby and realizes that she is to precious to be in his presence anyway. He can eat —- and crawl under the biggest rock and die. I am mommy and daddy.

  4. says

    If children don’t have access when they are young they will likely rebel as teenagers and take things into their own hands, causing a rift between them and the parents who raised them. It is much better to deal with it from the beginning. Children need to have both biological parents and equally when possible. They need their parents to know who they are themselves. I know this because I am one of them. And two generations later I still regret not knowing my father even though I had a wonderful dad.
    Funny to find this today, I posted about it myself this weekend.

    It is a hard thing to deal with and no easy answers. Good luck to all of you especially the children.

    • CJ Smith says

      That’s just not true. If the man doesn’t want to be in the child’s life…so be it. Just don’t put the sperm donor down when you’re around the child. Let that child grow up with you and your husband if you’re married. Let that child find out on his/her own what that sperm donor is really like and let his actions dictate his/hers. Your child will know who and what is important in life and it’ll be the sperm donor’s loss when he comes to realize that he screwed up royally. Sometimes it takes a child to teach us a thing or two. You can’t love, hate, or miss something you don’t know….so that will stay open minded. He made his own bed…let him sleep in it. The child is much better off without him in his/her life. I would be afraid the child would be screwed up worse being around the biological idiot.

  5. Andrej Petrovski says

    I have never felt pain until I was unrooted from my daughter. I still feel like I just visit her and don’t really have quality time with her. Michigan’s (and I’m sure many other states) approach to parenting as the un-custodial parent is the most unfair practice I’ve ever heard of. I wish the law would change and I wish there could be a strong movement in state legislation resistance to cause change for the dads that actually want to be a part of their children’s lives. Grouping us with the fathers that left their children is the most unfair act of all time … my heart still bleeds for not being able to be with my daughter and to have to pay child support to someone who makes MORE THAN 110% the salary I make. . .

    • says

      Ugh, Andrej – my heart actually ached a little while I was reading your comment. I can relate, though. The bias of the legal system and some judges is absolutely mind-boggling. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a dad that’s actually trying to participate when all the system does is try to prevent you from seeing your child. I’m definitely going to be looking into pro-father movements and put my hat in the ring. This discrimination against dads has got to stop.

  6. Oscar Ramirez says

    Awesome post, I just recently became a father, dad but the mother of my beautiful baby boy is and was with someone else during her pregnancy. It ripped me to pieces. I was not allowed to see my son developed, I wasn’t even informed when my son was born I found out a week later when I received a call from my insurance company wanting to know how my wife and new born were doing. I immediately seek legal counsel and have spent a pretty penny and shed plenty off tears I finally got to meet my son on 10/29 four months after his birth. It’s hard but I cherish each hour I get with him. I can kinda understand why their are so many dead beat dads. The court make it hard and VERY $$$$$$ for fathers to take responsibility! !!! For now I have joint legal custody but do hope to get 50/50. It’s been worth every penny! !!!

    • John says

      I am a Daddy who went to court after my wife and i filed for divorce. I want to tell every Dad out there that the court has changed the am a witness to the 50/50 custody law… My 3yrold son lives with me for a week and his mother for a week splitting every holiday. and mothers day with mother and fathers day with daddy… If you truly want to be in your childs life fight research and get a lawyer and let him know you mean business and always keep reading and researching the law.. Remember its not about the parents but the CHILD… Thats the main concern of the court… Research the 50/50 law and get familiar with it your CHILD IS THE KEY NOTHING ELSE…

  7. Marilyn Bellis says

    Thank you for your thoughts! I have been trying to explain to my daughter that just because her exboyfriend was a sperm donor doesn’t make him a dad. You explained it perfectly.

  8. Aaron Kingsbury says

    I have to take this “sperm donor” vs “daddy” topic with a grain of salt. I’m sure it’s true in most cases, but not in mine. My ex moved so far away that I can’t see my daughter more than 8 times a year. She’s always trying to make me jealous that her husband is being called daddy and spending all the time with my daughter. And then I’m criticized for being a sperm donor. She says I’m confusing my daughter. I have joint custody here in Texas with my other son and his mom and it’s a great arrangement for all of us because we get along. So moving to New York won’t work. I’ll just lose my son too. I’m having a hard time with all this.

  9. just saying says

    I’ve never heard anyone say “heavenly dad/daddy” I personally strive to be the best FATHER I can be, and in that, at times being that guy who gives hugs after scrapes, teaches how to ride bikes, and all that… yeah, that’s being “daddy” But over all… Father > Dad

    • says

      Well let me just say that to often we honor the wrong man on fathers day. let me break it down.
      First you have a son, he is the root of a man, now from that root you will grow a man, a good man maybe, or a bad man, nevertheless a man. if he have a son and choose not to participate in their child’s life, and many men have taken this path of fathering a child but leaving it up to someone else to train and be there for that child. this is a daddy. a son who becane a man, who begat a son. he should not be honored on fathers day. when a man become a father, it is because he is a provider for the son he begat. a son became a man who begat a son, a man who will say as for me and my house we will serve the lord. Fatherhood is the crown of manhood, and every man who begat children can not wear that crown, lets give honor to whom honor is due!– sometimes mom or sometimes another man that’s not afraid of stepping in to fill that role.

  10. Claire says

    Excellent post! On the flip side there also needs to be a separation of “mother” and “mom” as not every woman that gives birth to a child is capable or even willing to be nurturing toward a child. My dad (non-custodial parent) and I have a very close relationship while my mother (custodial parent) and I are practical strangers. I have many moms – - the women that have been surrogate sources of emotional and spiritual nurturing. Custody issues are tough and too often the interest/desires of the child get’s lost in the post-divorce politics.

  11. says

    Yeah, I agree it’s messed up. But I think there are other equal unfairnesses. In extremely messed up cases, with really messed up families (not talking of simple divorces here) courts give deference to a mother simply because she’s the mother, but they also gives deference to the parents simply because they’re the parents (over, say, a more capable grandmother or uncle or whatever relative). They should just be able to look out for the best interests of the kid, but it’s just not an easy thing…

  12. bizznesman says

    Hello

    I’m in the middle of a divorce and have been battling with my ex for a 50/50 split with my daughter. I have adopted her daughter (our oldest) when she was 4 years old and have been a father and a Dad for her all her life. I’m paying for her (our oldest) college education and she lives with me when school is out. However my ex does not want to split custody with our youngest and just wants me to see her on the weekends. I was unemployed for sometime and finally got a job that required me to travel Monday – Thursday every week so I had to setup the custody to see our youngest on the weekends. During that time (7 months), I saw her every weekend and ensured she was financially well-off. Now, I have positioned myself in the company to have a nice work from home schedule and travel every other week. I have talked to her on several occasions but she will not budge. I have an attorney and trying to use the legal system but she keeps postponing the case. This is hurting my daughter and I relationship b/c I’m not helping with homework and I have very little knowledge about school activities. Please note that these are the things I did on a regular when I was married. They live three minutes away and I’ve been asking to assist with transporting her to all her activities. I’m being force to be a second class parent in my child’s life. I need help…

    • says

      Hey Bizznesman – I feel your pain my friend, I really do. It makes me sad and angry to hear other stories of fathers that want to be a part of their childrens’ lives but they’re being prevented for selfish reasons. I’m not saying that men don’t do stupid stuff too, but BOTH parents should be thinking about what’s best in their new relationship (a divorced or separated one) and it seems like few rarely do.

      I can certainly offer you moral support and encourage you to ‘hang in there’. I’m not sure what else you can do given that you’re going through the proper legal channels. I know it feels like the long way around the block but it’s the right way to go about it. Keep your eye on the prize, keep the pressure on and I’m confident you’ll get what it is you seek. I hope the judges in your area are able to see what’s best for the children up there as well!

      Feel free to come back and share your story any time!

  13. says

    The sad truth is so complex. Men are generally irresponsible, especially these days. Boys are discouraged from being men, and have no direction.

    Feminism, consumerism, “safety”-ism, and so many things in society just kill masculinity. And being a dad has to be tied to being masculine, and teaching both your sons and daughters what being a man is all about.

    The promotion of single motherhood has been a disaster in the world. It is the terrible fault of both men and women. These laws you are rightly complaining about are a by-product of this great tragedy.

    Real men have to fight to re-establish masculinity in the world, as the dominant and driving force of social good and progress. Which includes raising a family, protecting them, and taking care of them.

    • says

      Masculinity has to do with respect for others, including women.
      I think that the majority of parents, male or female would prefer to have a partner to share the responsibility of raising children.

      I don’t believe that most men are irresponsible, but if they are it is by choice. No one has forced it on them. And I’m sure there are some women who are also irresponsible, but again not all.

      Lets remember that it was male dominance and lack of respect for women that contributed to the feminism and “safety”-ism you are complaining about.

      Children need to be taught respect for others and themselves not dominance over others.

  14. says

    I’m the DADDY of twins boys, born just 4 weeks ago. And my wife, soon to be ex, is acting like a total B word!
    She has children from a previous relationship that I have taken on as the sperm donor has never been a part of their lives, so they call ME Dad.
    Now that I have my own children, my wife wants to compare how I treat MY INFANT CHILDREN to her Pre-teens!
    How insane is that!? I treat infants like infants, and I treat Pre-Teens like Pre-Teens.
    Now she wants to leave me because she says I see her children as a burden and wants to fleece me for child support.
    So because of her insanity, I may not be able to see my children everyday, which is killing me! Not to mention that I may have to pay more than I can afford so I can see them as often as my ex and the courts say is appropriate.
    any advice guys?
    By the way, I live in AZ.
    I guess I’d like to know if you think I’m doomed or is there a chance that I can come out of this

    • says

      Hey, thanks for your comment. I am not an attorney and nothing I say should be taken as legal advice. That said, I’m happy to try and answer some of your questions and, if you’d like I can also have the attorney that guests posts on my site take a look at your questions as well. First, I need more info on your situation. Would you answer some questions for me (either here on by email)? If you don’t want to post your answers here, you can use my contact me page instead.

      1. Did you legally adopt your STB-EX’s pre-teen children?
      2. Is the paternity of your twins in question or being contested? I assume you are you on the birth certificates, correct?
      3. Why do you think you won’t be allowed to see your children? Laws vary by state, of course, but for the most part, states require a ‘good reason’ for either parent to be denied contact. If you SEEK 50/50 from the beginning (if it comes to that) then, unless she can prove a good reason why you’re not fit to have them 50/50 then you should be granted that visitation. The ‘good reason’ can also vary by state and, according to a state site, AZ is a no-fault divorce state. This may play a factor in your chances of getting 50/50 as well (it’s a good thing).
      4. Ultimately, if your relationship does end in divorce, what do you want?
      • says

        If the relationship doesn’t work, to tell the truth I’m not sure what I want. I know that I want to be with my children everyday. I know that I don’t want to be the guy that pays child support. I didn’t grow up with my father so I don’t want to do the same to my children. My mother told me all kinds of things about my father, some true, some not so true. In either case, I didn’t see him in a good light.
        Like everyone else in the world that’s married, we have our problems. The BIGGEST problem that we have now is that her mother is fanning the flame instead of trying to de-escalate a given issue.
        Now that I think about it, I think I want out! I can’t deal with the in-laws anymore.
        How much child support do you think I wold be made to pay for twins? I make about $50k a yr

        • says

          Well, I always encourage people to try to work things out if at all possible because, despite the grass looking greener it rarely is. Sometimes throwing in the towel is the best thing and you’re the only one that knows the answer to that question.

          As far as child support goes, that depends on a few factors: your income, her income, the amount of time each of you spends with the children and the “formula” used by the state to calculate the support payment. This varies from state to state.

          My advice to you is stick to wanting time with the children. Most states favor a 50/50 split unless there’s a good reason not to (for either party). If you get 50/50 or more and you make a comparable salary your child support should be minimal. I say again DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR RIGHT to see your children. It’s so much harder to change your mind later. Trust me.

  15. sweettart24 says

    I def agree there is a major difference between father and dad. Unfornantly my daughters father is just that a father. He sees her once a month and likes to pat himself on the back for it. I even tried to encourage a 50/50 share and I seldom ask for any child support. I became very lucky when I met my current husband. Almost immedatly he put on the role of daddy for my little girl and she’s never been happier. In her eyes he is her real daddy and you couldn’t convince either one of other wise. I thank god for blessing my family with the man we needed to raise my baby girl. I thank god everyday for wonderful men like you who say “I want to be there” because so few children are blessed with a daddy.

    • Rebecca says

      @sweettart24,
      I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from. I have a 6 year old son who is amazing! His father is just that..a father. He has never really taken an interest in his life. He has recently been released from a rehab center/mens institution and I feel so angry. I am married now to a phenomenal man who would risk his own life for my son. He is his true daddy and they both have a very strong bond towards eachother. ..I am angry because he is trying to call us now that he is out and I want nothing to do with him..My son says that he want’s ‘mommy’s last name’…He has NEVER helped me to raise him emotionally nor financially. I have no idea why he thinks that he can just waltz back into our lives. I feel like his being back will cause such a major disruption. I ask God to help see us through all of this and that our son remains the focus of all the decisions…Keep us in your prayers:)

      • Tina says

        You are sooo in my prayers. Im in a very similar situatiin snd its devestating. I have to put all my trust in god…scriptually he says he will bear your yolk. Give those burdens, thoyghts, pain, unforgivness over to him. Your child will be protected and so will you! Peace i leave with you!

  16. says

    I had a Father and a dad in my life. I recently let my Father know exactly what I thought of him in my life…in as nice a way as possible. Sending a check occasionally on a birthday means nothing compared to having a relationship with your little girl or little boy. My life is such a reflection of that. All I ever wanted was a relationship with him.

    On the other hand, I want my boys’ dad to be as involved as he can. They need a dad as much as they need a mom. I think it is simply unfair for dads not to have the opportunity to be a vital part of their child(ren)s lives. It just makes me sad when the courts aren’t fair minded towards the parents and don’t take the children’s needs into account, which should be the most important aspect in a divorce involving children.

  17. says

    It's too bad that some parents don't want to play an active role in their children's lives. I know quite a few dead beat mothers too, so it isn't just limited to fathers. These type of people (mothers AND fathers) have no business having children period, and for the sake of humanity they shouldn't.

    Indeed, the taxpayer funded child court system was created to benefit children and grant them rights that are upheld by law because they are entitled to support from both parents. I had to fight my daughter's dad tooth and nail through the courts- all because he was pissed off and resentful about me marrying someone else, NOT because he was a dead beat. So you have people who abuse the system in so many different ways while the children are those who ultimately suffer.

    Don't want to pay, put in time, or be a parent? Don't have kids. PERIOD.

  18. says

    I think a 50/50 co-parenting situation would be ideal. However, as you mentioned most "fathers" are not willing to put in the time, and this has become the norm. Maybe that is why the court system favors the mothers. Not fair, but often the most likely scenario. I am in a situation where my kid's Father spends at most a few hours a week with them, and is moving out of state in a couple of months. I have always been willing to share custody to a point. Do I leave my children with their father in an unstable environment where they come second to pretty much everything else in his life; or move on raising them in a safe, healthy environment without him in the picture so they don't have to deal with the continual let down because their father is not a suitable parent? You can't make a father be a Dad. I totally see your point, and you are obviously a rarity in the shared custody battle. The bad fathers give you Dads a bad rap!

  19. jessb27 says

    Unfortunately my oldest has a father and not a dad. He has never stepped into the dad role and over time my husband, her step-dad has taken over the role as her dad. Very sad that some guys just can't seem to get there.

  20. perilsofdivorcedpauline says

    I think 50-50 custody is the ideal and where I live dads generally get it if they want it. Kids need to have a relationship with both parents, and I don't think mothers should be favored over fathers. I think many women have a hard time with this concept because so much of our personhood is wrapped up in being a mom, which leads some of us to believe that dads are not as competent.

    • M_oa_SD says

      Thanks for the comment, Pauline. I appreciate your feedback and it's nice to hear calls for equality coming from the other side of the isle, so to speak.

      I don't recall the source – I believe it was during my divorce at some point, but someone said, "Different doesn't mean it's worse. It's simply different." Parenting styles are bound to be different between the genders and I think the sooner both sides understand and accept that the better.

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