October 21, 2008

The Guilty Husband

Justin Katz

In the past decade or so, every divorce of which I've been aware has been initiated by the wife. That's hardly a broad or representative sample, but I do wonder whether the post-divorce cards are so heavily stacked in women's favor that it affects their understanding of and behavior toward their marriages. With this sort of cultural and legal reality (and anecdotal evidence suggests that it is a reality), it's not surprising that the divorce coven would expand:

Some of the fathers on Illinois's Department of Healthcare and Family Services' "wanted" list got there in the following manner — the wife or girlfriend ended the relationship, left with the kids, and then went to the state to get public assistance. Illinois DHFS then went after the father for child support to repay the cost of the assistance. The father — against whom no wrongdoing has been charged — has probably been deprived of custody of his kids and may not even have any visitation rights, and might not even know where his kids are.

While paying the state, the father also has to hire an attorney and fight his way through the courts just to attempt to see his children. Even if he is awarded visitation rights, recalcitrant mothers often flout these orders with impunity. Low- and moderate-income fathers frequently must choose between paying for legal action to obtain contact with their children, and risk jail time for not paying child support, or paying child support and losing the ability to have contact with their children. These men are hardly "walking away" from their "families and responsibilities."

Sometimes a father in this situation has been paying the teenage children directly because the mother has been using the child support for everything but the children. Nevertheless, the father is saddled with arrearages and declared a "deadbeat." When he presents his stack of canceled checks, the state says, "Sorry that money you paid is a gift — you still owe us child support to reimburse the cost of the public assistance." It is irrelevant that the money was used by the children to buy food, clothing and the necessities of life.

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"..it's not surprising that the divorce coven would expand.."

I have to give Oprah and the women of The View a lot of the credit for this problem.

Posted by: Chris at October 21, 2008 12:59 PM

I can think of one male who needs to initiate a divorce ASAP: Tim Hasselbeck.

Posted by: rhody at October 21, 2008 1:22 PM

There is no question that divorce laws favor the woman. And, apologies for getting off track but I have to add: domestic violence laws, wherein it only takes the the word of the woman to lock the guy up, are flat out unconstitutional.

I understand we've had thousands of years during which the system was rigged in favor of the guy, even including violence with impunity, for a variety of reasons. That was wrong. Very wrong. But it doesn't justify going to the other extreme. Both our divorce and our domestic violence laws badly need to be corrected.

Posted by: Monique at October 21, 2008 2:11 PM

From the ones that I’ve been aware, I do believe the cards are heavily stacked in the mother’s favor. Maybe a more apropos is that it is heavily stacked in the favor of the one earning the majority of the family income – regardless of the circumstances. Also, the laws favor what is ‘fair and balanced’ over what is in the best interests of the parties when it comes to both custody and financial matters. In my view, the result of this is it encourages rather than discourages one party taking advantage of another during the marriage and then often getting rewarded for their past behavior based on the ‘same lifestyle’ rule in divorces.

I don’t think that who initiates is necessarily indicative of fault or responsibility for the divorce. Stereotypically, I would say that in the majority of divorce cases, it is the woman who looked to work on the marriage and the man who refused to. But regardless, I do think that men today often shafted in the aftermath of divorces due to the traditional notion of more earning power and less parental skills. And that logic flies in the face of other legal consequences which are based more and more on ‘less traditional’ notions. But like in other most other arenas, choices are not about true equality or responsibility, it is about who wins or loses. It’s about selfishness.

Sorry Rhody, but me thinks Tim Hasselbeck is a lucky man. Of course, in the worldview of The View, a conservative not to mention attractive woman must be evil. Why can't they all be like Rosie?

Posted by: msteven at October 21, 2008 2:58 PM

Be they Elisabeth or Rosie, we can turn off the TV if we're tired of shrill harpies.
Sad to say, they each have a spouse and children that have to deal with them.

Posted by: rhody at October 22, 2008 11:44 AM
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