Divorce, Blame, and Poverty

Ralph Reed, the founder of Faith and Freedom Coalition, asserts that the “no-fault divorce revolution” is the source of US economic woes and that laws making it harder for people to get divorced would help poor woman and children more than more food stamps would.

That is, I am sad to say, bullshit. It does not take into account that woman are the ones who file for a divorce a large majority of the time. “A 2000 paper published in American Law and Economics Review and authored by Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W. Allen reports data (Table 1, p. 128) from several studies across the United States and spanning more than 100 years (1867 to 1995) regarding the percentage of instances where the woman had filed for divorce. Based on the figures reported in Table 1, I calculated that women had initiated the divorce in 68.9% of all cases

According to the analysis in the Brinig and Allen research, women do so because, even with the downside of reduced material income and the social stigma of being a “single mother”, it is better to end the marriage than to stay with someone who treats them like a second-class citizen. Most of the women asking for a divorce did NOT have equal access to resources in the marriage, and did not have a fuckton of co-parenting support by their spouse. The problem (looked at as a common denominator) is not with the women who want to leave; the problem is in the husbands who don’t pull their weight in parenting and who won’t share equal power within the marriage.

My Sweet Babou treats me as an equal and thinks of himself as equally responsible for parenting. Thus, I remain both madly in love with him and have no desire to divorce him. Not a smidge. Not even an iota.

Ralph Reed concentrates on the minority problem by asking, “do we really want to make it easier for a man to discard the wife of his youth than it is for him to fire his secretary, for him to basically go in and say goodbye when 40 percent of all child support is never paid?” No. No we do not. But toughening divorce laws aren’t going to stop that shit. It will just make it harder for women to escape bad marriages. Also, tougher laws to make men pay child support are the way to make sure child support payments don’t disappear. Decent men will keep paying their child support anyway. How about some badass laws going after the deadbeat asshats who don’t man up?

Even Reed knows that guys failing to be men & fathers is the problem. He admitted as much when he said, “we know, 40 percent of the women and children that are thus cast aside end up in poverty … A woman is far more likely to end up in poverty. A man’s income goes up. So, a lot of the poverty problem in America is a problem of women and children abandoned by the husbands and fathers.” Yep. However, making it harder for women to get a divorce won’t help that. Making dads pay child support will help that.

There is an epidemic of guys, divorced from the baby mamma or not, who scarper and decided not to spend their hard-earned money on something as frivolous as their offspring. A part of this is that the manufacturing jobs & taxes on high earners that once supported our economy have been sacrificed on Mammon’s altar and so a lot of men are in poverty themselves. This does not justify their decision to let the equally poor mom bear the burden of raising the child alone, though. Deadbeat is deadbeat.

It may just be that instead of making a divorce harder to obtain, we look at the deadbeat dad problem and stop demonizing single moms. As Cara Lemieux puts it:

“Perhaps, if we shifted our focus and held men more accountable for their roles in creating these single mother households, then we would begin to be able to figure out how to prompt a positive change in society. Until then, we are just adding one more thing for the single mother to worry about -- seeing herself unfairly demonized in another headline. Now, I am not saying that women should be dismissed of the responsibility. What I am saying is if we really want to change the statistics, we need to start talking to the party that is abandoning their responsibilities -- not to the party that is doing everything in their power to live up to theirs.”

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