June 23, 2001
MALEVOLENT MOMS VS.
Millions of dads did not
experience a good Father's Day last Sunday. They are divorced and deeply
miss day-to-day contact with their kids. Contrary to conventional
wisdom, they did not initiate divorce proceedings - but were pushed out
of the marriage by their wives.
Did you know that 70% of
divorces are initiated by women? That is the estimate by Dr. Sanford
Braver, who studied 1,000 families getting divorced in Phoenix in the
largest study of divorced dads ever conducted. The fathers were
unwilling partners of the divorce.
Another myth is that women who
initiate a divorce do so because their husband has been unfaithful or
physically abusive. Not so, according to Braver. ''Adultery is not a
very important factor, ranking only 6th in the reasons wives seek a
divorce and violence ranks 16th,'' he said.
The most important reason for
the divorce, according to 57 percent of the mothers who shoved the
fathers out, was ''a gradual growing apart'' which for centuries was not
even a legally justifiable grounds for divorce. Passage of no-fault
divorce allowed divorce for trivial reasons.
What about all those stories
about deadbeat dads?
Of course, there are many of
them, but most never married the mother of their children. Data
compiled by Child Abuse Enforcement authorities lump together divorced
dads and those who sired children out-of-wedlock to make the picture as
bleak as possible.
Consequently, divorced dads
have been given a largely undeserved black eye.
Braver's pioneering book on
this subject, ''Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myth,'' was praised by The
Washington Post as ''an important work which...adds a crucial element to
the debate on fatherhood and on how we regard - and treat - divorced
fathers in our society.''
Braver asserts, ''Fathers who
are unhappy in their marriage back down from divorce. They foresee the
loss of their entire family, with the children going with their mom,
along with the house. So fathers step back from the brink. However,
mothers don't fear losing their kids.''
While some Father's Day stories
noted that there has been a 50% increase in the number of dads bringing
up their kids, only 4 million are doing so compared to 14 million
In today's mail, I received a
letter from James asking me if I could put him in touch with a church
that would ''stand with me in prayer for my lovely (but prodigal) wife
Sharon's restoration as well as our marriage...God knows the longing in
my heart to be reunited/reconciled with Sharon regardless of what took
place in her life to change the way she sees me.''
Several years ago, Floyd wrote
to say, ''I am one of those grieving fathers who was divorced from his
children. Their mother remarried and took them to another state without
notifying me, and the courts looked the other way when I contested the
legality of this action. I did not see my children for a decade. These
were their formative years.'' His daughter was molested by her
Seven months later, he wrote
again. He resented the phrase ''deadbeat dads'' which was hung around
his neck, while no one talked about the ''malevolent moms'' who forced
an unwanted divorce and then prevented visitation by moving far away.
A child needs both a mother and
As President Bush said at the
National Summit on Fatherhood, ''We know that children who grow up with
absent fathers can suffer lasting damage. They are more likely to end up
in poverty or drop out of schools, become addicted to drugs, have a
child out of wedlock or end up in prison.''
The President added, ''If we
are serious about renewing fatherhood, we must be serious about renewing
It is time to consider reforms
of the law which would honor such a perspective.
Ideally, if children are
involved in a marriage, neither the mother nor the father should be
allowed to force divorce on an unwilling partner and on the children,
except for such serious reasons as adultery or physical abuse.
At the minimum, there should be
a two year cooling off period, during which joint custody is required
and the taking of classes by the parents to improve their communication
and conflict resolution skills, with the hope of saving the marriage.
Bush said, ''We all live, it is
said, in the shelter of one another. And our urgent hope is that one of
the oldest hopes of humanity... to turn the hearts of children toward
their parents, and the hearts of the parents toward their young.''
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.