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The [German] Marriage Law Reform of 1977 — misanthropic and antisocial

Book information


Excerpt from The Secondhand Man, e-published with the author's permission

The Marriage Law Reform of 1977 — misanthropic and antisocial

Nowadays it is not only the victims of divorce who doubt that justice is meted out equitably in divorces in Germany, in the sense in which people understand justice should be.  More and more singles [sic] too prefer not to marry at all, rather than to eventually have to become divorced again, to have to hand over money they can ill afford and to have the State interfere.  By now this objectionable message has reached politicians and, increasingly, jurists; not to mention experts from psychological professions who are being confronted daily in their offices by the suffering of people affected by divorce. 
    Remedial measures are being developed for separated couples, to bring them, if not back into sharing their bed once more, at least to a common negotiating table.  New professional branches are coming into existence, intended to survey the pile of rubble that a marriage turned into, to sort it and to teach ex-partners of marriage to sweep it under the table with decor.  Only one thing is not happening.  No nonpartisan advisory board is becoming vocal that works intensively to find solutions to the problem, that summarizes the serious consequences of the 1977 Marriage Law Reform and draws from that the only possible conclusion, that what is presently being practiced is misanthropic and harmful to society. 
    Only one secret study is said to exist, so wrote Focus in the 40/1994 edition, that is supposed to be in the desks of the FDP [Free Democratic Party], waiting to be revealed.  It is said that it contains proposals for the strengthening of the self-determination of each couple after divorce and is to meet the demand, such as by the Association of Support-Payers [in the original: Interessenverband der Unterhaltspflichtigen (ISUV)], to put time limits on support payments.  It seems though that 

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even in 1997, in spite of the steadily growing need, the hour of revelation has not yet come.
    The fact is that the Marriage Law Reform of 1977, so highly praised by its creators, leaves fathers and mothers on the battlefield of divorce, not as allies that have mutual respect for one another in the interest of common children but almost exclusively as winners and losers.
    In the meantime, of over two-and-a-half million single mothers and fathers, about 330,000 live at or below the poverty line.  Over and above that there are two million intact families who too live in similar circumstances.  A large proportion of them is comprised of partners of whom at least one is already divorced and obligated to pay support to the first family.  The number of bankruptcies that are divorce-related and affect small and medium-sized family businesses whose incomes are sufficient to sustain one family, but not two or — after repeated divorce — even three families, is increasing rapidly.  In consequence of these bankruptcies the number of unemployed as well as that of those who are recipients of unemployment benefit- and social-support payments is increasing simultaneously.
    Since the income of a father who is the sole income-earner and who is at the same time obligated to pay support generally does not or at best badly suffice for two families, there are hundreds of thousands of children who grow up in crowded living conditions or are even homeless.  Every eighth child in the West and every fifth in the East lives in poverty.
    The consequence of the daily frustration and the rapidly increasing growth of poverty is experienced in the example of a dramatic and extent of acts of youth violence and criminality that has never been seen before, say, shoplifting, physical violence, arson and vandalism driven by the impulse to destroy.  Many parents who themselves originate from broken family relationships are not in the position any longer where they can be examples of an intact family life to their children.  As we watch, it is becoming more and more rare to find parents who are willing to bear the responsibility for their children and partnership for twenty years or longer. 

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Accordingly, they impart to their children that a divorced marriage is in every case better than to master a difficult one.
    The children are always the ones who suffer the consequences.  In 1993, about 130,000 minors were forced through a court decision to forego one of their parents, a parent whom they love and don't want to forego.  These parents were predominantly the fathers.  It isn't just that the valuable father persona is by force being removed from the lives of these children, but also the important role model that is to an equal extent irreplaceable for sons and daughters in bringing about social and sexual orientation.
    Out of love, a good thousand children whose fathers were violently torn from their lives are annually being abducted by those fathers, because the mothers, according to decisions by the Courts, are in complete possession of all rights of determination over these children, rights that they don't exercise in the interest of the child but, rather, abuse these rights by exploiting them highhandedly and in an extortive manner against the father.
    Several thousands of fathers flee annually into foreign countries, further thousands repeatedly change their domicile within Germany or hit skid row, so that they remove themselves from the judicially prescribed support payments to their divorced wife.  Many of them would voluntarily comply with the support-payment obligations if their children hadn't been taken from them according to the Court-decision.
    In about 40 percent of custody disputes the mother alleges sexual child-abuse, to erase the father from the life of the children.  Almost 95 percent of these allegation are after thorough investigation found to be without foundation and to be freely invented.  Suicide amongst fathers and children of divorce is, next to traffic deaths, the most frequent cause of death.
    It gives one shivers of horror to think that at least every fifth murder victim died in connection with a separation or divorce. 

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    Not the least of all, an increasingly gigantic divorce industry feeds on the miserable consequences of the divorce battles.  The cream is skimmed by expert witnesses, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and, ahead of them all, the State.  Normally a divorce costs between DM 3,000 and DM 10,000.  However, if it should happen that the battle between hate-filled and revenge-seeking partners surges for years even over the last chipped milk jug, the bill can climb quickly by three to four times that.  More than a few lawyers deliberately drive the costs higher.  Even basic points of law are only too often ignored, to fan the monetarily rewarding fighting spirit of the divorce opponents to new heights, time and again.
    Even though there can't be anyone who is inclined to demand a return to the old principle of fault and the misery of washing dirty laundry in public out of the era from before "the divorce reform of the century," nobody can close his mind to the fact that things aren't right when every greedy adulter/ess/er can be taken care of by the other for life.
    In 90 percent of all divorce cases, which on appeal wind up today in the Superior State Courts, the main issues are money and assets — according to Family-Law Justice Siegfried Willutzki of the German Family Law Consortium, in Focus 47/1994.  Fairness and the wish for a mutually acceptable ruling fade as the duration of the litigation and — basically tied to that — its costs increase.
    As if the approaching bankruptcy had wakened them from the sleeping-beauty-stupor of male vanity, more and more men put up a defence against being degraded to mere wallets and sources of financial support.  At a time when everyone is threatened or even heavily pummeled by unemployment, an increasing debt load and inflation, nobody can afford the luxury of generosity.  There's haggling over every Mark.  And more and more often it is that, while that takes place, financial destitution and social decline look over the shoulders of the antagonistic ex-partners. 

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    For about 1.7 million divorced women and mothers there remains after divorce only the walk to the welfare office, considered to be abasing.  Inexorably, there they meet the divorced men and fathers who are not any less being spared that walk.  All divorced partners of marriage are equal on the path to economic ruin.  Men's- and women's lobbies too revolted for a number of years now in unusual harmony against the Marriage Law Reform that has been in force, virtually unchanged, for just barely twenty years.  Men and fathers bemoan their incapacitation with respect to their access and custody rights to their children, as well as the ex-family's unlimited right to support.  A small band of upright fathers already trekked recently to the Federal Constitutional Court, to finally force a reform of the current support laws.  Furthermore, men find energetic support in numerous interest groups.  Often it is to be learned there that the current marriage laws are hostile to men and that in its current structure that is designed to lend support to "runaway-wives" it realizes the equalization of the sexes about as perfectly as the alchemists' making of gold.
    Women and, in the front-lines, feminists of all political colours demand less in the way of financial measures, but rather far more in the way of social measures that are to get at the roots of the problem.  The family system isn't right any longer, so they say.  Man as head of the family is said to have failed.  That only an extensive change to the nature of man towards a type that is molded by women to be perfectly family-oriented would provide a remedy.  That it would be best if woman were to revive the historical evolutionary archetypal heritage of the matriarchy and show men who truly is the strong and the weaker sex.
    A comparison with other countries shows that many nations long ago took the edge off the divorce wars.  A divorce model that would have a viable future for Germany could be constructed after the Danish example.  Danish couples merely announce their intention to divorce at the local office of the Public Registry, without having to endure the months, often years, of exhausting and financially depleting disagreements, 

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and without the clever judicial fine points that divorce lawyers produce.  The marriage will be divorced six months after the publicly announced intention to divorce, as long as the couple hasn't reconciled in the meantime.  One moves to the Court only when husband and wife disagree. [see my footnote —WHS]
    It is to be hoped for Germany that the debates that are carried out in numerous media reports are ultimately followed by actions that secure the equality of husband and wife in divorce processes, without giving excessive weight today to the male side of the scales and tomorrow to the female side.
Only, it is too bad, that — as so often — for measures against the decline of the family too there is a lack of resources in the fiscal system.  These resources probably were poured exactly into that pot of social assistance out of which all of the divorce victims must be cared for. 

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[Next: Socially uprooted: TORE, OLLI, MASCHA
(testimonies by children of divorce)

© Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, Germany 
 

____________
Translator's Note:
Only time will tell whether the Danish experiment does indeed provide a model that should be emulated by other countries.
    If anything is to be learned from history, it is that it does repeat itself. 
    It was in the beginning of the Russian Revolution that the Communists attempted to make good on their promise to make free love (today it is called sexual freedom) permissible and even a principle of the law.  They established a procedure somewhat similar to that now in force in Denmark, only, they didn't provide for a waiting period.  All a couple intending to divorce had to do was to declare their marriage no longer in force at the local magistrate's office.  The fee was minimal (five kopecks - about a nickel) and the divorce instant.
     However, within about two years that simple procedure had caused such social chaos that divorces were quickly made to be considerably more difficult.  There were the issues of parental rights and property division that had to be addressed.  It was found that even the Communists could hardly afford to build a great socialist state without the help of families, and that families played a crucial role in the upbringing of children and in the creation and stewardship of assets.
    Let's hope that we can learn from the Russian communists' experience.  However, given the fact that we learned nothing during the interval of almost a hundred years after that failed Russian experiment with the family, the hope that we in the "free" West can learn anything in that regard is obviously in vain.
    History does repeat itself.  The Danish experiment with the family and no-fault-no-cost divorce is a repetition of the Russian experience with the abrogation of marriage.  Certain actions bring about specific consequences.  The terrible consequences of the Russian experiment with the family are repeating themselves in all of the "free" West.   Rebecca O'Neill addressed that in her report "Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family",
 Sept. 2002, CIVITAS 
(See also The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage, The Atlantic Monthly, July 1926; The Communist Manifesto; and a more exhaustive history of the evolution and destructive social impact of Soviet divorce laws)

—WHS

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See also:

Study report: [US] Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: at least $112 billion a year (2008, Institute for American Values; Georgia Family Council; Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Families Northwest)

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Posted 1999 06 07
Updates:
2000 06 03 (to replace page header and to install link to Communist Manifesto)
2001 02 08 (format changes)
2001 07 26 (added reference to Free Love)
2007 12 16 (reformated)