DIVORCE LAW: by Bill MuehlenbergNews Weekly
Family Law's unending war on fatherhood
, March 20, 2010
Australian family law, the Family Law Act and the Family Court all have a lot to answer for. They have regularly and systematically treated fathers with contempt and derision, depriving them of the most basic of human rights, including the right to see their own children after the breakdown of a marriage.
A devastating critique of the Family Court was penned by La Trobe University historian John Hirst in his 2005 piece entitled 'Kangaroo Court': Family Law in Australia (Quarterly Essay no. 17). In it he highlighted the gross injustices which men receive at the hands of the court. Said Hirst: "The Family Court condemns itself. If its orders have been conscientiously framed to advance the best interest of children, then by its failure to enforce its orders it has been systematically damaging the children under its care."
He rightly points out how fathers are especially disadvantaged and discriminated against in the Family Law process. Many have a theoretical right to visit their children, but in reality they often have no access at all.
Mothers overwhelmingly end up with the children in custody disputes, and often the last thing considered is the actual best interests of the child. A recent case which became headline news provides a glaring example of this. This is how one report covered the story when it broke a few weeks ago:
"A mother found by the Family Court to be violent, untruthful, lacking moral values and responsible for the psychological and emotional abuse of her children has been given custody of them. The father, deemed 'principled' and with 'much to offer his children', has been effectively banned from seeing his daughters. The case will spark renewed debate about family law and the issue of shared parenting.
"The father, who we will name 'Bill' because he cannot be identified for legal reasons, is described by a Family Court judge as no threat to his daughters, a successful parent who is 'courteous' and intelligent. The same judge found the mother, whom we will call 'Jasmine' and who abandoned her first daughter at two and spurned the child's subsequent attempts at reconciliation, had displayed 'dreadful', 'cruel' and 'malicious' behaviour.
"But the judge still ruled that because of time spent apart, the children had become estranged from their father and it was in their interests that 'the children spend no time with the father'. This was at odds with a ruling in February 2008 that Bill should have contact with his daughters." ("Fury at ruling in custody battle", Herald Sun
, Melbourne, January 10, 2010).
Sadly this is not an isolated incident. Many other cases of gross miscarriage of justice have been perpetrated by a biased, anti-father Family Court. Many men have endured misery, depression and despair over the treatment they have received from the system. And far too many men have taken their own lives as a result.
Patrick McCauley recently wrote a strong criticism of such matters for Quadrant Online
, entitled "Killing fathers". In this article he asks the telling question: "why do an entire generation of children lack fathers?"
He says: "The statistics are in, so are the studies - children do not travel well without their fathers, and the levels of unfathered children is at least 10 times greater than it was at the beginning of the 1970s.
"The Family Law Act of Australia sealed the fate of millions of Australian men and their children. Fathers were reduced to 20 per cent access or every second weekend. Many wandered off in despair. Probably [fewer] than 10 per cent were truly irresponsible or violent, dangerous men. The state enacted a law which effectively 'stole' children from their fathers (without any apology). For the crime of marriage failure, most men lost their fatherhood."
He continues, "Women, freed into the massive freedoms of the sexual revolution and the feminist metanarrative, decided to have children without fathers. Single motherhood became a status symbol, an emblem, of the truly liberated woman.
"Both heterosexual women and homosexual women, even sexually confused women, were given state-funded access to IVF programs on the grounds of being 'psychologically infertile'. Fatherhood was portrayed as undesirable, and inconvenient. The state made no requirement that these children have fathers.
"The demise of fatherhood was possibly an unintended consequence of the subtle misandry (the hatred of maleness) which suffused society throughout the late twentieth century. Schools, universities, TAFE Colleges, the public service, hospitals, families became Male-Unfriendly Environments (MUEs) as they were overrun and dominated by women who were both ambitious and maintained an idealistic and fundamentalist feminist narrative. The domestic matriarchy delivered to women the quickest and most significant redistribution of wealth this country has ever undertaken."
McCauley concludes: "Up until the enactment of the Family Law Act of Australia in 1974, Australia was a patriarchy, as were, and are, all aboriginal societies. The Australian patriarchy demonstrated its commitment to fatherhood by taking unfathered part-aboriginal children into the care of the state or the church.
"It is the new domestic matriarchy, which, almost by stealth, has overtaken Australian society, which has declared this act of welfare - 'The Stolen Generations'.
"I would contend that the children stolen from their fathers since the introduction of the Family Law Act are in fact the real stolen generations. And they have been stolen by a fear and hatred of maleness that permeates our whole society. Thus they have banished the fathers, and now the children (both black and white) run ragged, confused and directionless throughout the bush and suburbs of the land." (Quadrant Online
, February 17, 2010).
I certainly agree that we have here a genuine Stolen Generation. It is one thing when wives become single mothers through no fault of their own (e.g., the death or desertion of the husband). They need a lot of support, since they must now do twice as much work with only half the resources.
But it is another thing altogether when there is a deliberate act of bringing children into the world without a father. Single-parenthood by choice, lesbian parenting, and a monstrously lop-sided Family Court process are all conspiring against the rights of a child to have his or her own father. In my book that is a type of child neglect, if not child abuse.
The divorce revolution has unleashed a trail of social destruction and ruin. And the Family Courts have done their bit to devastate fatherhood. The Family Law Act, and all that goes with it, has done so much damage to so many that the best thing may be to simply put it out of its misery, and start afresh.Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com
;Family court no substitute for marriage
No one from the state forces [a married couple] to pool their incomes, if they both work. If they have the traditional gender-based division of household labor, no one forces the husband to hand over his paycheck to his wife to run the household. No one makes the wife allow him to take the kids out for the afternoon. No one has to come and supervise their negotiations over how to discipline the children. When he's too tough, she might chew him out privately, or kick him under the table. When she lets them off the hook too easily, he might have some private signal for her to leave so that he can do what needs to be done.
The typical married couple has regular disagreements over money, child-rearing, the allocation of household chores, how to spend leisure time and a hundred other things. Every once in a while, even a stable married couple will have a knock-down, drag-out, (usually) private quarrel. But they resolve their disagreements, large and small, perhaps a dozen a day, completely on their own with neither supervision nor subsidy from any court.Extract from Jennifer Roback Morse's essay, "Why unilateral divorce has no place in a free society", published in The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals, edited by Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain (Dallas: Spence Publishing Company, 2006). Another version of this essay is at:
Jennifer Roback Morse, "Marriage and the limits of contract: a libertarian case", Policy Review (Hoover Institution, Stanford University), No. 130, April & May 2005.
URL: www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/2939396.html Unjust assault on fatherhood
[Before the introduction of no-fault divorce laws], divorces required legal cause - some ground recognised in law as constituting an adequate reason for the dissolution of a marriage. A spouse could fight the divorce and contest the grounds offered by the spouse who sued for divorce.
Under no-fault divorce, no ground is necessary. By definition, there is no fault ascribed to either spouse - fault is no longer considered to be of legal or societal importance.
Demanded by those who claimed that no-fault divorce would be more humane, the laws actually allowed two very different (but entirely foreseeable) results, and both are disastrous.
The first is the fact that no-fault divorce has allowed millions of men to abandon their families and leave their children and former wives to poverty. The statistics are clear enough - men who divorce their wives and no longer live with their children generally improve their standard of living over the next few years. The family left behind generally has the opposite experience, with children and former wives living at significantly reduced income levels.
The second result is almost the opposite of the first. No-fault divorce has also allowed women to end the marriage unilaterally, usually retaining primary custodial authority over the children. In such situations, men - who are not even charged with any fault by their wives - can find themselves robbed of their own children. No state has yet remedied the unjust assault on fatherhood that no-fault divorce set loose.Extract from Albert Mohler, "A message from Michigan?", Albert Mohler blog, February 25, 2010.