It All Began With Welfare
The marriage initiative ostensibly targets the poor, a group which has a higher
concentration of fatherlessness. It is easier to justify government Intervention into the
lives of the poor because poor single mothers make a claim on government welfare. But
remedies that begin with the poor have a way of spreading.
Once we turn attention to the middle class and mention divorce, we enter a political
realm that has been obscured. Bringing up middle-class divorce reveals the difficulty, and
perhaps dishonesty, in the question of whether government can restore marriage, because
government itself has already abolished it.
In many ways, divorce has become the middle-class extension of welfare, creating
single-parent homes among the affluent. In fact, all the major institutions of the divorce
regime juvenile and family courts,
child support enforcement, domestic violence
units, child protective services, and recent programs to promote fatherhood were
created as ancillary to welfare. No-fault divorce extended these services to the middle
class because that was where the money and political power were.
As with welfare, the main clients of the divorce regime are mothers. Academic studies
consistently document that two-thirds to three-fourths of divorces are filed by women,
Laws advertised as avowing divorce by
mutual consent actually created unilateral divorce, permitting one spouse to dissolve a
marriage without accepting any liability for the consequences.
usually without legal grounds. The proportion may be higher when children are involved.
Attorney David Chambers writes in Making Fathers Pay that "the wife is the
moving party in divorce actions seven times out of eight." Shere Hite, the popular
researcher on female sexuality, found that "ninety-one percent of women who have
divorced say they made the decision to divorce, not their husbands."
This is not surprising given the emotional and financial incentives the industry offers
mothers to divorce, including automatic custody plus windfall
child support. A
Canadian-American study found that "who gets the children is by far the most
important component in deciding who files for divorce."
The official view that fatherless children are products of paternal abandonment does
not bear scrutiny. No scientific evidence indicates that large numbers of fathers are
deserting their children, and, when pressed, no responsible authority asserts it.
Governments are removing the children. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of
this. Identifying fathers as the culprits has not only justified draconian enforcement
measures against them, it has also allowed for policies that contribute further to
fathers' absences. Virtually every problem handled by the divorce apparatus, including
child custody, child-support enforcement, child abuse, and even juvenile crime. Is
premised on the absence of the father. The first principle of the divorce regime is,
therefore, to remove the father.