The plight of divorced dads
Barbara Kay, National Post
Published: Saturday, December 08, 2007
No other topics I write about so consistently provoke passionate personal response as those dealing with systemic discrimination against men. When, for example, I point out double standards for boys and girls in the health care system, or expose the use of bogus statistics around domestic violence, my inbox fills with male gratitude simply for acknowledging an obvious fact: Our culture is profoundly misandric.
Of the myriad forms of discrimination men cite, one looms over the rest: The egregious treatment meted out to fathers in the throes of contested child custody following the "no-fault" divorces most of them did not initiate or desire. My files bulge with stories of disenfranchised fathers ripped from their children's arms and lives. They have lost their homes, their careers, fortunes, friends and reputations, often on the basis of false allegations of abuse (for which their female accusers are virtually never punished). I wouldn't mention such anecdotal evidence, if the anguish in these testimonials didn't jibe with objective data confirming the shameful gender bias that dominates the family law system.
About half of all marriages end in divorce. Women are twice as likely to initiate a divorce as men, largely because they can be fairly sure they'll end up with control of the children. Where shared parenting is the default template, divorce rates plummet. Men are six times as likely as women to commit suicide within the first two years after a separation: That they kill themselves from despair rather than their ex-wives for revenge is, ironically, a tragically eloquent rebuttal to the feminist credo that men are inherently dangerous to women. Although 25% of women make more money than their spouses, 97% of support payers are men (even in cases of shared parenting). Mobility decisions favour women: The psychological comfort to a Vancouver mother of moving near her Toronto-based family will be privileged over the psychological devastation the virtual loss of his children causes the Vancouver-bound father.
Misandry in family law begins with an ideology that views children as the property of women, even though many peer-reviewed studies show children want and need both parents, and no studies show sole parenting by a mother serves children's best interests. This ideology is instilled in judges during training sessions featuring feminism-driven materials, and subsequently often plays out as unaccountable kangaroo courts. The result is that an adversarial mother who initiates a divorce against the will of the father --however indifferent her parenting skills, however superb his and even if the children spend their days with nannies or day care workers --pretty well has a lock on sole custody of the children. If she denies rightful access to the father, she will never be punished at all. Conversely, if he withholds money, he will be criminalized: His picture as a "deadbeat dad" may appear on government-sanctioned Internet sites, and if he goes to jail, as is likely, he will serve a longer sentence than cocaine dealers.
Most men think such kafkaesque scenarios can't happen to them. Happily married men parenting with equal diligence believe in their hearts that men who find themselves savaged by the family law system are congenital losers, or were demonstrably lousy husbands and fathers. Many such "winners" are in for an unpleasant surprise.
"We want to pull away from the idea that parents have rights in relation to their children," said Jennifer Cooper, chair of the Canadian Bar Association's family law section, representing 2,200 divorce lawyers. "Parents" in this statement is the hypocritical lip service feminism pays to humanism: She meant "fathers," for women's rights today are never "pulled away from," only supported or furthered. In the days when children belonged to both their parents, it used to be said that children were "hostages to fortune." Today they are hostages to feminism and the state.
In his new, cleverly titled book, Taken into Custody, Stephen Baskerville, president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, paints a bleak picture of the routine injustice a divorcing father can expect when a woman initiates a divorce. Baskerville baldly warns: "If I have one urgent piece of practical advice for young men today, it is this: Do not marry and do not have children." His book, like many others of the genre, makes a persuasive case. Men should read them. If the system does not become equitable, don't be surprised if men choose increasingly, and with reason, to play their trump card: Voting for equality with their condoms.