The Displacement of Fathers During Divorce

The displacement of men from the lives of their children either through divorce or single motherhood is part of larger cultural shift in American life. This shift has left a considerable number of fatherless children who are much more at risk of failure as they mature. Many commentators see this development -- missing fathers and fatherless children – as the source of many difficult, if not intractable, social problems. Absent their fathers, these children in alarming numbers become young suicides, pregnant teenagers, juvenile delinquents, disorderly adolescents, high school dropouts, drug abusers and youthful convicts. In some strata of American life, families increasingly become matriarchal, with men and fathers reduced to something more than sperm donors but much less than full-fledged parents. The men’s and fathers’ rights movements draw energy from this cultural disruption.

For sure, the liberalization of divorce, which removed the concept of fault from a marital breakdown, makes it much easier for one spouse to end a marriage against the wishes of the other. Indeed, no-fault divorce opened the door for many people to escape what liberalization supporters called "loveless marriages." Men’s rights and father’s rights activists contend, however, that the liberalization of divorce laws, which happened in the developed world beginning in the 1960s, now puts men at a decided and unfair disadvantage, particularly in the areas of child custody, visitation and support. The collision of men’s rights and fathers’ rights with the heightened sense of women’s independence has politicized marriage and family law.

That women, by two-to-one, now initiate more divorce actions, gives some idea of the changing dynamic of marriage and divorce in America.

Many men come to feel not only threatened but also victimized by wives who move to end marriages unilaterally or against their wishes. Unwanted divorce and noncustodial parenthood undermines the authority of men who feel their role in the lives of their children reduced to that the occasional visitor - a difficult transformation for many man and a devastating one for men with a traditional view of marriage, family and children.

The road to a divorce is never a smooth even when the marriage ends by way of an uncontested, no-fault action. Even when a couple divorces by mutual consent, as many do in jurisdictions where spouses file jointly for a summary divorce, the failure of the marriage usually means arguments and disagreements about the division and distribution of marital assets and debts. When marriages are childless, the divorcing spouses, one way or another, end the marriage and can go each go a separate way without ever having to see one another again. When marriages involve minor children, divorcing spouses quickly realize that although the marriage is over, each remains a parent for life. And here is where the problems begin. Divorced parents must maintain contact.



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RELOCATION BLUES -- Some noncustodial fathers come to believe they are unfairly treated when custodial mothers move the children beyond easy visitation. Problems happen when the custodial mother relocates, with the approval of the courts, and the children now live far from the noncustodial father. 


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