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Divorces and Social Engineers

Fathers face off against the marriage movement.

REASONONLINE, December 2003 by Cathy Young

It is now a truth more or less universally acknowledged that children are better off when they have fathers and when their fathers are actively involved in their lives. But where do we go from there? Should the government be promoting fatherhood, marriage, and two-parent families? Or should it simply get out of the way and stop hindering fathers who want to do right by their children? The debate has pitted fathers' rights activists against advocates for marriage and "responsible fatherhood."

The government' s fatherhood programs, an offspring of the Clinton era, are thriving under Bush. One Bush-era innovation is marriage promotion: The government has spent millions on programs to encourage poor people on welfare to get married and to help them develop better "marriage skills," an effort that has drawn criticism both from feminists who worry about women being pressured to stay in abusive marriages and from libertarians less than thrilled by social engineering. Read More ..cently, some fathers' rights activists have declared the administration' s efforts part of an insidious machine that undermines rather than bolsters family and fatherhood.

The first salvo was fired by Stephen Baskerville, a political science professor at Howard University, in a May column for National Review Online that decried "government as family therapy." The government, Baskerville wrote, actively undermines marriage by allowing no-fault divorce and pursuing "one of the most dishonest and destructive policies ever foisted on the public: child-support enforcement."

In his view, government programs aimed at inculcating "life skills" and improving relationships simply serve to bring even more of the family under state control. "Here we see the culmination of a government perpetual-growth machine that has been building for decades: Destroy the family through welfare and no-fault divorce; then evict and criminalize the fathers; then institutionalize the children as state wards through various ‘services' to relieve single mothers."

Just a week later, the National Review site published an acid response from Tom Sylvester, a research associate with the Institute for American Values (co-founded by David Blankenhorn, author of the much-discussed 1995 book Fatherless America). Sylvester depicted Baskerville as an extremist spokesman for a "small but vocal group" of disgruntled divorced fathers, and went on to laud the Bush administration' s pro-marriage programs as a much-needed effort to strengthen families and thus ultimately help the cause of limited government. more recently, in October, the MensNewsDaily site has featured a roundtable discussion between marriage advocates and fathers' rights activists, including Baskerville and Sylvester.

The fathers' rights activists, so often dismissed as angry men, make some excellent points -- including some aspects of their critique of the "marriage movement" and the "responsible fatherhood" advocates. Blankenhorn' s writings, for instance, are based almost entirely on the assumption that the primary cause of fatherlessness is men walking away from their wives and children. He and other conservatives believe that the answer to father absence is for men to embrace their responsibilities and for society to hold them responsible. In Blankenhorn' s striking metaphor, "Men do not volunteer for fatherhood as much as they are conscripted into it by the surrounding culture."

In fact, two-thirds of divorces are initiated by wives. This isn't just a matter of who officially files for divorce: As Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver reports in his 1999 book Divorced Dads, about two-thirds of the time it' s the wife who wants out of the marriage. In many cases, non-custodial fathers find their relationships with their children thwarted by their ex-wives.

To some extent, government policies contribute to the situation. Despite nominally gender-neutral child custody laws, in practice fathers are still at a disadvantage. What' s more the courts and the government are far mopre interested in enforcing child support than in enforcing non-custodial parents' access to the children.

Some thought-provoking studies, particularly by University of Iowa law professor Margaret Brinig, suggest that women are more willing to end their marriages because they know they are likely to get sole custody of their children. Brinig and other scholars have also found that more frequent joint custody awards correlate with lower divorce rates.

Unfortunately, many fathers' rights activists undermine their cause by resorting to extreme rhetoric. Baskerville, for instance, claims that courts, lawyers, and bureaucrats have a vested interest in promoting divorce and "ripping away" fathers from their children: As he put in on The O' Reilly Factor in October 2000, "the more children they take away from their parents, the more business there is for their courts and for those who are the recipients of their patronage."

When Sylvester pointed out in the MensNewsDaily roundtable that a spouse, not the state, files for divorce, Baskerville' s retort was even more extreme: "This is like saying the German state was not involved in the Holocaust because its victims were often turned in by their neighbors."

Baskerville, whose diatribes against the "divorce industry" have appeared not only in conservative publications but in libertarian ones such as Liberty, makes a good case that divorce increases government control over families. Once a couple has split up, the courts become involved in decisions that were previously made between husband and wife: whether to send the children to a private school, what kind of religious training they should get, how much money to spend on their clothing and other expenses -- and, no less important, how much time each parent will spend with the children. But is there any way to avoid that?

Baskerville argues that the spouse who elects to leave the marriage -- except on clear grounds of "fault," such as adultery, physical violence, or substance abuse -- should forfeit child custody, possibly with little or no access to the children. But not every divorce without an officially recognized "fault" is frivolous, as some fathers' rights activists would suggest.

Baskerville' s proposal would force many people to choose between losing their children and remaining in an emotionally intolerable marriage. And one can imagine a disaffected spouse waging psychological warfare to push the other to file for divorce, or making false allegations of physical abuse or other "faults."

Yet there is no getting around the fact that the "marriage movement" supports extensive entanglement between state, therapy, and family. Obviously, we' re not talking about shotgun marriages arranged by Big Brother. But in a federally funded pilot program in Oklahoma, cited as a model by marriage promoters, workshops that teach communication, conflict resolution, and other marriage skills are virtually mandatory for welfare recipients.

Principles aside (such as the quaint idea that the government shouldn't be micro-engineering people' s private lives), it' s hard to imagine that this approach could be effective. Even voluntary, individualized marital counseling is far from a surefire way to keep a marriage together. A large workshop that offers one-size-fits-all solutions to people with distinct personalities and problems doesn't hold out much promise.

Besides, low marriage rates and high divorce rates in low-income communities are related to plenty of economic and social factors that have nothing to do with poor communication. While the problem of fatherlessness is real, a federal initiative that throws taxpayer money at untested programs and turns Uncle Sam into a marriage counselor is not a real solution.

In a culture that values personal freedom, there is no real "solution" to the problem of divorce. Yet there are ways to minimize its negative effects, such as creating policies that ensure both parents have a meaningful post-divorce role in the children' s lives. Joint custody, the alternative preferred by more moderate fathers' rights advocates, may not be a panacea, but for all its drawbacks, it would accomplish that goal.

Contributing Editor Cathy Young is a columnist for The Boston Globe and author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (Free Press).

Women's Post Newspaper

"Canada's national newspaper for professional women"

The Family Responsibility Office Under Scrutiny

On June 9, 2005 the McGuinty government announced the passage of Bill 155, legislation that promised to increase enforcement, improve fairness and enhance efficiency at the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).

However, the legislation did not address the problem of accountability and, as things now stand, the FRO is a threat to every Canadian affected by a government regulated support and custody arrangement system. Think of George Orwell's 1984 and you'll have a good picture of how issues are handled at the FRO.

They have legal power to extort money from Canadians, but are not responsible or accountable for their actions.

Last year an FRO staff member decided not to wait for a court date to review the financial status of an out-of-work truck driver and took it upon themselves to suspend his license because he was, understandably, behind on his payments, having lost his job earlier in the year. Although he was looking for work, the FRO cut off the only way he knew of to earn a living. His suicide note explained how he'd lost all hope. Is this what we want FRO to be doing?  Read More ..

Mother had sex with child sons | Toronto Star

Mother confesses to sex with sons

Had intercourse with 2 teenagers

Pleads guilty to incest charges

A Kitchener woman has pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with her two teenage sons on separate occasions.

Paternity Fraud Australia

Fathers May Get Money Back in Paternity Fraud Cases

18 March, 2005
FindLaw, Australia

Proposed new laws will make it easier for fathers to recover child maintenance payments if DNA testing reveals that they are not the child's father.

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2005 allows people who wrongly believed they were the parent of a child to recover any child maintenance paid or property transferred under an order of a court under the Family Law Act 1975 .

"The bill is intended to make it easier for people who find themselves in this position to take recovery action without the need to initiate separate proceedings for an order from a court of civil jurisdiction, such as a State, Local or Magistrates court," Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said.

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Smoke-free apartments in Winnipeg

Canadian Press
 September 20, 2006

WINNIPEG -- Smokers in search of an apartment in Winnipeg will soon have fewer buildings to choose from now that one of the city's largest landlords has opted to go smoke-free.

Globe General Agencies, which manages about 5,000 units across the city and thousands Read More ..ross parts of Canada, will ban smoking for all new tenants moving into its 75 buildings as of Oct. 1.

Existing tenants who smoke will be allowed to continue, but the company sees the policy as a first step toward making all its buildings entirely smoke-free, said president Richard Morantz.

"Really this is just all part of providing a safe and healthy environment for our tenants," Morantz said Tuesday.  Read More ..

Female Bullying - Aggression Study

"Relational aggression is behavior specifically intended to hurt another child's friendships or feelings of inclusion in a peer group." -

Nina S. Mounts, Ph.D.,
The Ohio State University
Human Development and Family Life Bulletin
A Review of Research and Practice
Volume 3, Issue 2, Summer 1997  Read More ..

Our Most Popular Web Page

Sex Offenders
Female Sexual Predators

Hundreds of them.... female teachers who sexually assaulted 12 year old boys. Read about a lesbian tennis coach who sexually assaulted her 13 year old female student.

Read how a 40 year old female sexual predator blamed a 7 year old boy whom she claimed was "coming on to me" and whom she "hoped to marry someday."  Read More ..

The Guardian newspaper logo

Female Teacher jailed for sex with boy

The Guardian, UK
August 16, 2005

A married primary schoolteacher was jailed for 15 months yesterday after admitting having sex with an underage teenage boy.

Hannah Grice, 32, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of indecent assault on the boy, who was aged 14 and 15 at the time of the offences.

Sentencing her at Stafford crown court, Judge John Shand told Grice, from Cannock, Staffordshire, she had abused her position of trust.

"Cases such as this are, of course, made worse by the fact that you were a member of the teaching profession," he told her. "You should have been very sensitive indeed to child welfare issues." Grice was also ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Read More ..