February 16, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
John Bolch is at it again. Actually, on first reading, I was sure this piece was written in 1968 (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 2/13/17). But no, a glance at the date indicated it was posted just this past Sunday. So I can’t figure out why he’s recycling arguments in favor of no-fault divorce that could have been lifted directly from the late 60s or early 70s. Has the man learned nothing in the ensuing decades? Oh, silly me, I forgot, it’s Bolch. Of course he’s learned nothing. That’s sort of his specialty. As usual, he’s tossed off a piece that’s long on vague assertions backed up by no empirical facts and contradicted by much that’s both obvious and well-known (at least by others). Bolch wants certain things to be true and therefore, according to him, they are.
His reason for once again fouling the page at the Marilyn Stowe Blog is a pair of articles on fathers and fatherlessness in The Observer last Sunday.
The first piece told us that the right-wing think tank the Centre for Social Justice has warned that Britain is facing a “crisis of fatherlessness”, in which almost half of all children born today will not be living with both parents by the time they are fifteen. The CSJ’s Chief Executive Andy Cook summed up the argument as follows:
“Over the last 40 years, the meteoric rise in family breakdown has blighted the lives of the poorest children the most. The relationship children have with their father affects their self-esteem, how well they do at school, even whether they are able to form happy, long-lasting relationships as adults.”
Now, for most people with even a casual knowledge of fatherlessness and family breakdown, that’s not only non-controversial, but actually quite tame. The detriments of growing up without a father are far more severe and life-altering than Cook said. But for Bolch, it’s all a myth.
Whatever, there is of course a complete myth at the heart of this argument: that there was some ‘golden past’ before “the meteoric rise in family breakdown” in the last 40 years. Really? I was there then, and I don’t remember it.
No John, that’s not a myth, that’s a straw man. No one has ever said there was a “golden past.” You just made that up because you don’t have a meritorious argument to make in favor of fatherlessness. Why you would want to is another question entirely. One of the great virtues of deriving one’s conclusions from known facts and provable science is that doing so makes thinking easier. One needn’t publicly humiliate oneself by resorting to silly tactics like the above. Or, for that matter, the below.
For a start, the trap the CSJ is falling into is the same one that so many so-called believers in ‘family values’ have fallen into: that the increase in marriage breakdown over those forty years was solely down to the divorce reforms of the late 1960s, which made divorce easier and thereby destroyed families.
Oops. Another straw man. Am I beginning to see a pattern? Again, no one has ever said that family breakdown “was solely down to the divorce reforms of the late 1960s.” Bolch is just making stuff up again. What I and countless others have said is that no-fault divorce encouraged an extremely dysfunctional situation to arise, i.e. a sharp uptick in the rate of marital dissolution. As with any other major social trend, many things went into family breakdown, among them the post-World War II prosperity in the U.S., the increase in women in the workforce, the pill, the decline in social opprobrium directed at out-of-wedlock childbearing and divorce and many others. The (then) new system of no-fault divorce, combined with a much older bias in favor of mothers and against fathers did much to abet a dangerous situation in which fathers are sidelined in their children’s lives. Amazingly, with all we now know, it still does.
And then Bolch goes whole-hog 1960s. You see, I was around then and I remember what was said about no-fault divorce. Bolch recycles the entire sorry mess.
Of course, a simple change in the law does not cause marriages to break down. Those marriages broke down of themselves. The only difference is that after the divorce reforms unhappy couples were able to dissolve their marriages, rather than being forced to stay shackled to one another.
But more than that I don’t really buy into the idea that more families break down now than before. Why should there be any significant difference in how well couples get along in one time compared to another? The only difference, apart from the law, is the cultural pressure to remain together, backed up (or caused) by the stigma attached to separation and, in particular, to single-parenthood. Again, that pressure merely forced people to stay together. It did not make the relationships better. I for one welcome the passing of the stigma of single-parenthood – surely, children are more likely to thrive if their parents are able to get on with their lives, rather than being trapped in unhappy relationships?
For those readers who weren’t alive then, you just took a trip back in time, a time when people were peddling exactly the nonsense Bolch regurgitates. It’s all there: adults who don’t get along shouldn’t be “shackled” to each other. The state shouldn’t be in the business of keeping families together who don’t want to be. When unhappy adults split up, they’re happier and everyone wins. Such was the narrative hawked by many people and to great effect. In the U.S., every state now is a no-fault divorce state.
Of course perceptive readers will notice the lack of any mention of the kids, except for one anodyne mention that, with Mom and Dad deliriously happy without each other, “children are more likely to thrive…” One of the primary and worst aspects of the argument for no-fault divorce was that the children of those marriages were always at best an afterthought, and so it is now with Bolch. The whole point of no-fault divorce is adult freedom and, if the kids suffer, well, you can’t make an omelet…
Predictably, Bolch is fine with children suffering because their parents split up. He nowhere admits what we’ve known for decades - that divorce is traumatic for kids and the younger they are, the worse it is for them. Now, perhaps it needn’t be that way. Courts could, if they wanted, ensure that, even though the adults have split the sheets, the children don’t need to lose one parent in the process. But they don’t do that.
On the contrary, one parent (almost invariably Dad) all but disappears from the child’s life. He does because in the first instance, the court permits him only occasional contact. Then, if Mom decides even that meager amount is too much and interferes with his access to his child, the court can be relied on to mostly ignore his order of visitation. Indeed, as I’ve reported before, that’s the law in Australia. Family courts there are literally forbidden by precedent from enforcing their own orders of child access. Does Bolch know? He knows so little, why do I even ask?
His piece is so bad, I can’t deal with it all in one post, so more on this tomorrow.
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