THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Classical liberalism - Part 3. Public Choice
Classical liberalism - Part 4. The Austrian School

Unhappy Father's Day

Louis de Bernières: it'll be an unhappy Father's Day for some - Telegraph.

There was a moving article by auther Louis de Bernieres in The Telegraph for Fathers' Day yesterday. He condemns as "the biggest social scandal of our time" the way the family courts treat fathers and "the cruelty to which they and their children are routinely subjected." If it were not for the fact that a friend of mine is going through a divorce at present, I would have dismissed it as hyperbole. Sadly, it is soberly factual.

There seems to be a mad "women's studies" presumption in our modern system of family justice that women are all victims and all men aggressors. That mothers are saints and fathers sinners. That's not so surprising once you realise that social workers matter far more in the process now than judges. If you are unfortunate enough to go through a divorce, you will be lucky to see the same judge twice. As they dip in and out to suit court schedules they have to rely heavily on the social worker's reports rather than their own wisdom and judgement of the case and the parties. The results are really quite horrifying.

de Bernieres puts his finger on the root of this injustice when he writes;

Mr Cameron, I condemn feckless fathers as strongly as you do, but you appear unaware that by far the majority of relationships involving children are dissolved by mothers. A statistic I have read recently stated that it is 83 per cent. I look forward to your article next Mother’s Day.

And why would that be? Perhaps because women are so advantaged by the system that they do not face the consequences of their actions? They don't have to consider, as men do, that if they break up the marriage, they will almost certainly lose their children. They don't have to consider the financial consequences either, as those are mostly visited on the father. Nor do they suffer any opprobrium for depriving their children of the now much undervalued benefit of a father.

Justice can only be done at the individual level, case by sad case. The full spectrum of good and evil can be found in both sexes as it can in all classes, races and social groups. Whenever "social justice" - i.e. justice at the collective level based on assumptions as to the relative merits of groups - is attempted, it results in far worse ills than those it seeks to cure.

Have a thought for the lost fathers of Britain at their work today, saddened by bitter thoughts of how their Father's Day should have been.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


The Telegraph piece seems to have been pulled sadly..

'There seems to be a mad "women's studies" presumption in our modern system of family justice that women are all victims and all men aggressors. That mothers are saints and fathers sinners'

I think that something like this is true - despite the skepticism of some comments here. There is a generalised assumption that the husband MUST be violent or having an affair, without the need for evidence to back it up.

In fact, there is much defensiveness from some women on this subject. When the point is made that some fathers suffer injustice (with many heartbreaking stories under the line in this piece) another very common response is: 'well what about all the injustices against women?'. Which, while it may be true, is rather changing the subject.

The tone is often scornful - daring you to have the temerity to actually claim that fathers might be getting a raw deal! The honest response would be to look into it, and if some parents are being alienated from their children - then doing something about it. But too often I see a tedious "women must stick together" reaction.

Another good piece on fathers, from Jenny McCartney:


There was a comment on a piece in the Telegraph saying that some US states had enforced absolute equality in the fallout from a divorce. The larger rate of women filing for divorce consequently came down to the same rate as for men.

Don't have the stats to hand I'm afraid. If true it obviously backs up your thesis


Picking up on what you said earlier Tom, "the fact remains that more than 80% of the divorces involving children are initiated by women. Clearly, it's undertaken MORE lightly by them. Have you a better theory than mine to explain why?".

Accepting for the moment that your 80% figure is anything near right.

Reasons for divorcing include being abandoned/cheatedon/unfaithfulness. People seem to be more accepting of this in France from what I read but. It is a big thing to me. Then there is violence, domestic violence and psycological cruelty and I am not being all social workery here. Some guys jus keep putting their wives down. These things could be a poast. There are other legitimate reasons also.

No woman in her right mind unless maybe her husband was very wealthy would want to put herself in the position of raising kids alone on less money. Being a single parent is a nightmare when you don't want to accept living is some hole with no money and no time.

Believe me it is not undertaken lightly. so More lightly? I guess compared with the consequences for women in the first half of the 20th century the "punishment" for a women getting a divorce is less than it was. It's just that they don't *have* to endure the intolerable so much any more.

I think most women still need a pretty good reason to even think about it. I don't suppose any of those guys ever gave them any real reason tho do you?

Women can be so irrational, flighty and sensitive about some things!!!! Just makes a guy want to raise his eyes to the ceiling sometimes.


Apology accepted.

I think we have to distinguish between women with and without children to consider the no woman initiates divorce without good cause statement I made. I was specifically addressing women with young children who work and juggle everything by themselves. Why choose to live like that if there is not a good reason?

I am most flattered that you consider me a baby boomer. Sadly I am half a generation beyond the older limits of that designation. Nor am I well versed in Women's studies, a new discipline long after I graduated from University. :)

Yes, both sexes do run the full gamut of vice and virtue. If all men consistently come off worse ( let's face it, that is a bit subjective and it's difficult to quantify worse) then the system does indeed need to be changed.

My claim that joint custody is on the increase was based on personal experience with friends' children. You know the stats on divorce so that's not a small sample. All those I am familiar with have both joint custody and shared custody.

In poking around in google I find we have to make a distinction here. Joint custody means joint decision making etc while shared custody means physically living at least 40% with one parent. I don't know about it being difficult in the UK to get joint custody (or shared custody) but in Canada with the rather old figures which were all I could find, in 1995 15% of fathers got sole custody, with joint custody in 14% of the cases ( which was noted as a increase from 1 to 14% from the previous year),the balance being sole custody with the mother.

A Stanford Study in 1999 showed 20% shared custody arrangements. I assume the past 13 years has shown an increase in those figures.

Maybe more parents are opting for this arrangement in the best interests of the children. Certainly if one reads the guidelines to be used by Canadian judges under the Divorce Act,

The judge will consider such factors such as:

the relationship that the child has with each parent;
care arrangements before the separation
the child's age and needs;
the child's views and preferences;
the child's relationship with siblings, grandparents and other important people in the child's life;
parenting ability;
the ability of the parents to communicate and co-operate with each other on issues concerning the child;
any family violence, including its impact on parenting abilities or the child's well-being.
The judge will also apply the principle that a child should have as much contact with each parent as is in the child's best interest. In applying this principle, the court will consider the willingness of each parent to take on parental responsibilities and to support the child's relationship with the other parent. A parent's past conduct may not be taken into account unless it affects their ability to act as a parent to the child.

That doesn't sound biased genderwise one way or the other but maybe I am naive thinking in practice it works that way.


You are right. My comment was patronising and I withdraw it with apologies.

I don't think I said that the social workers need to be female to have been indoctrinated with women's studies cliches. The only such report I have personally seen was written by a man - and therefore one at the front line not (as you assume in your womens studies way) in management / idleness.

I didn't know when I wrote it that three quarters of British social workers are women. However, I refuse to be drawn into man vs woman arguments. This is more sociologist vs reality. It's really woman set against man by a state intent on presenting itself as protecting oppressed "minorities" in order to justify directing our lives at the micro level.

You say no woman initiates a divorce without good cause. Is that like the woman's studies notion that all allegations of rape are true because no woman lies? Here's a radical notion for you to shoot down in your baby boomer way; both sexes contain the full spectrum of vice and virtue in equal measure. They are as likely as each other to lie, cheat or be selflessly virtuous. Which brings me back to questioning why in this sphere of justice, men consistently come off worse.

Incidentally I wonder about your claim that joint custody is on the increase. It's very hard to achieve in Britain. Any father who leaves home to escape marital conflict pending a divorce, for example, will be deemed to have shown he is not sharing primary care of the children. This no matter how loving and caring he is and regardless of the role he previously played or his reasons for leaving. A mother who did the same would be able to argue it was to escape his unreasonableness and (while she would open an argument for joint custody by her conduct) would still benefit from the unjust presumption that a mother's love is best.


Now, now Tom. Don't patronize an old lady. Calling me an innocent, which I am not, is NOT an argument. I live in the real word too you know and I have many friends and relatives who have been divorced. In fact my brother was twice divorced and as a father very badly treated by the Australian courts system and forced into poverty despite having a good job. On one occasion, due to a late support payment, he narrowly avoided being gaoled by asking my mother for a temporary loan till payday. If I recall correctly he had his passport taken away so he could not "flee the country" or in fact travel for business. It wasn't easy to be a "dead beat" father in Australia at that time. This in a time before "women's studies" existed.

The life of a single mother, especially a working woman, is one of the most difficult there is. I have witnessed this time and time again as she juggles daycare or after school care with her job and running a household by herself. Trust me, no woman is going initiate a divorce for this "wonderful" life unless she has a very good reason. And you know what? The life of a single custodial father is just as difficult and they exist too and yes, I've known one or two of them.

Louis does not cite his source for the 83% figure but Mr Google yields some wildly divergent figures, but none I saw were less than 60%. But has that changed over the years? The quote below is from a US source, but I doubt any variation in the UK would be significant.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that from 1975 to 1988 in the US, in families with children present, wives file for divorce in approximately two-thirds of cases. In 1975, 71.4% of the cases were filed by women, and in 1988, 65% were filed by women.

But don't get me wrong. I think each divorce case should be judged on the merits of the situation. In the courts or in mediation or however the decision is made. There should be absolutely no preconceived notions brought into these decisions. Everyone suffers in divorce, it's the nature of the beast. In theory, where children are involved I believe joint custody is the best solution unless there are factors which preclude it. Thankfully it seems to be much more common nowadays.

Oh by the way, I take it that if, as you say, the judges are not to blame, it must be those "bleeding heart feminist" social workers' reports causing these "horrifying results". Mmm. Currently 23% of social workers in the UK are men. No doubt they are not in the trenches but in management positions, attending all those lovely meetings.

But it does sound as if something needs fixing!

OK ducking. LOL. I've finished poking the anthill with my stick. I'm not an intellectual or facile with words or arguments. Be kind. The last word is yours as it's your blog.


I can only roll my eyes at your innocence. Long may you keep it. You are blessed.


I agree with Miss Moggs I'm afraid Tom. No reasonable person undertakes a divorce lightly because everyone is a loser in a divorce.

Those statistics are interesting indeed, but in fact they give only the percentage of women who file for divorce. Perhaps that does not equate to them actually making the decision to divorce, but just initiating the process when there is no saving the marriage. Just saying. Women are much more open to marriage counselling than men seem to be.

However those figures are quite substantially swayed to the female side. Thought provoking indeed. Must google it to verify.

Yes I agree that most fathers are at a disadvantage with their children, certainly financially. Regarding accessibility to and time spent with children it seems things are a lot better as more and more divorced couples share joint custody nowadays.

There seems to be a mad "women's studies" presumption in our modern system of family justice that women are all victims and all men aggressors.

That statement both made me both laugh out aloud and also roll my eyes. Tom, Tom!


Understood, Moggsy. But the fact remains that more than 80% of the divorces involving children are initiated by women. Clearly, it's undertaken MORE lightly by them. Have you a better theory than mine to explain why?


Tom, Less to lose than when they lost everything.. but divorce for the average woman and hopefully man also is still a really massive thing. Like marriage its self. Not to be entered into, or undertaken lightly.


I wasn't suggesting that. Rather that if the going gets tough women have less to lose, so may as rational actors think less hard about consequences.


Oh and thinking about your "and why would this be?" comment.


You seem to be almost suggesting here that women are just gratuitously (great word) filing for divorce as an "interesting experience" and a chance to make money.

Come off it Tom. I am pretty sure you still need some sort of reason under law to get a contested divorce. So bad that more women are no longer quite as cowed or disadvantaged by the system.

On family/childrens courts and social workers, especially in the UK I do agree. Tip of iceberg. It looks like the whole thing is getting quite sinister.

There was a lot of fuss on blogs about proposed UK anti terror closed court legislation, but often in family matters this is a rather sinister done deal and more so already to "Protect Children" and everything is sewn up and parents have no rights or recourse.


I agree that Fathers do seem to get a raw deal in the English speaking west these days. Once upon a time the exact opposite was so, but that was wrong and now this end of the pendulum swing seems wrong also.

The sad thing about splitting up a family with kids, pets and CDs is they generally have to spend more time with one parent than the other. So there is a “winner” and a “looser”.

Usually the mother has had more actual time involved with the raising so is the natural choice to keep doing that. Often women do give up career to “Invest” in their husband’s career progression. She should not loose out because together they did that. It is a contract. Not written maybe but a real agreement all the same. She does deserve her share of the joint property.

Basically both loose out, two can live more cheaply together than apart, buying a property is an investment. If it is cut short then the expected return will not be there.

There are no easy solutions only least worse. Everyone looses out.

The comments to this entry are closed.