Divorce & Family Law - Does It Affect Us All?

Posted at 06:45am on 18th September 2008
Other Posts on Books & Reading: The Isolation of Being Unable to Read

STATISTICS OF SINGLE PARENTS

What do you think of when you read of mothers raising children without fathers? Does it incite you to indignation? Rage? And if so, against whom? The mothers who so ruthlessly exploit the benefits system with serial offspring by multiple fathers? The feckless fathers who abandon them? Or the systematic onslaught of successive governments who have dismantled the best-known building block for the stability of society: marriage and the family unit?

Whilst we are (rightly) concerned with such matters, we appear to have allowed the other end of the spectrum to have slipped from our sight. In fact I’d go further. I’d say we have deliberately obliterated it from public scrutiny. I refer, of course, to divorce. And the fact that the legal dissolution of marriage almost invariably results in children being raised without fathers.

I read, recently, an excellent review of Stephen Baskerville’s book, Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage and the Family. Written by Todd M. Aglialoro on insidecatholic.com, it raised a number of interesting points. Chief among them – for someone like me who has been through divorce – was the paradox of women who pursue an agenda throughout their marriages which is at odds with their claims in the divorce courts. They are, says Mr Aglialoro commenting on the book, rejecting outright any notion that a woman "belongs" at home with her children, but in divorce courts asserting that children belong at home with their mother.

It appears, that within radical feminist ranks there is some dissension when it comes to divorce and child custody. Mothers, whilst clearly in favour of fathers being more involved with the domestic chores surrounding the raising of children during the marriage, are at pains to eliminate paternal involvement when the marriage ends. This leaves them in a dichotomy. The empowerment they seek in having sole custody of their children has the unwanted effect of curtailing the empowerment they seek in society. Care of children is likely to penalise their ability to climb the greasy pole of their particular profession.

NO FAULT DIVORCE

Successive governments have encouraged the erosion of marriage through no-fault divorces, and of paternal participation, in favour of ever-increasing state involvement. In addition, a deep-rooted antagonism towards men has been fostered by far-reaching feminist influences and militant lesbianism. Fathers are assumed to be deadbeats; mothers the natural protectors of children. But as the Shannon Matthews case shows, children are at greater risk from single mothers and their abusive partners than from their own flesh-and-blood fathers.

Baskerville writes of the family becoming ‘government-occupied territory’ where ‘the children experience family life not as a nursery of cooperation, compromise, trust and forgiveness’ but as one of tyranny. How, he concludes, ‘having thus become wards of a police state’ can they not develop a ‘chronic disrespect for authority?’

It is a fact that the children of divorced parents exhibit more behavioural problems than those living with both parents. This was certainly my experience and that of my children. The constant power-struggle over access when the children had made other plans, and disappointment when, having cancelled their arrangements they then found themselves let down, had its effect. As did the rows over unpaid school fees or forgotten birthdays. With one daughter increasingly involved in the drugs scene in a bid to force her father and me together, her sibs were subjected to stigma, distraction and fear.

INSIDE DIVORCE

My novel, A Painful Post Mortem – inspired by these experiences – demonstrates some of the emotional traumas experienced by children from broken homes. Yet as the characters show, state involvement is often more harmful than helpful. When Katya becomes involved with a gang who are guilty of burglary and rape and her mother seeks help from the authorities, they are, themselves, at odds with one another, the police advocating greater maternal responsibility, and the Courts deriding Kat’s mother for her ‘Victorian’ attitudes.

We are rightly concerned with street crime, drugs, an increase in cruelty to animals, the disintegration of human dignity and compassion. Until we re-establish the principles of the family as the basic building block of society then we are, in my view, doomed to a continuing downward spiral. What are your views?

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