By: Mr. Daniel Frazier
[Originally Submitted As A Term Paper For A contemporary social problems Course Taught In An Academic Institution; Reprinted With Author’s Permission]
The children of our society have been plagued with a social problem that has become increasingly volatile from decade to decade. A problem that has created, and is still creating, future generations of adults with increasing mental and emotional problems that could have easily been avoided. This social problem is DIVORCE. Men and women have been getting together, finding out it just isn’t going to work, and splitting up, throughout history. It wasn’t until 1969, when then California Governor Reagan passed the no-fault divorce statute. No-fault divorce caught on quickly in other states, and soon became adopted in some form or another by every state in the nation. These statutes were the beginning of an increase in divorce rates that has reached epidemic proportions in society today. Divorce rates that have reached a staggering 60%, plus or minus a few percentage points, over the last three decades.
Although these statutes started out with good intentions, aimed at helping women get out of abusive relationships, they quickly became used to abuse the system and turn marriage into nothing more than social experiment involving trial and error in relationship building. Men and women were, and still are, marrying mostly out of love for one another, but knew that if it didn’t work out, they could quickly get a divorce and try again. Another aspect of the no-fault divorce statute was to lower the acrimony and conflict often involved with divorce, an aspect that also failed miserably. A statement in an article called “End No-Fault Divorce?” says, “No-Fault divorce may have lowered the status of marriage, but at least it improved the working conditions of divorce lawyers” (Gallager, www.firstthings.com). Instead of curbing conflict, it created a win-lose dichotomy that has risen to heights of extreme violence, not only for the divorcing couple, but the children, if there are any, as well. Our society’s children have suffered in monumental proportions because of these statutes and the willingness of special interest groups, which I’ll cover later, to exploit them to serve their own selfish agendas.
I would now like to talk about the effects of divorce on our children -- effects too often ignored and/or attributed to other acceptable DSMIV diagnoses. I have delved extensively into the problems our society’s children face, and have witnessed it personally with my own child. The emotional and psychological problems our children face run the gambit from mild behavioral problems to suicide. Next is a partial list of the effects of divorce and more specifically, fatherlessness, as it is the father that the child loses constant and meaningful contact with approximately seventy-two (72%) of the time (New Hampshire Division of Vital Records Administration, 2004), and in most of these cases, the father is given visitor status of four days a month with his children – and more importantly, the child is given this same limited access to a meaningful relationship with his or her father. In a report of statistics and studies that support shared parenting and joint custody of children after divorce, studies that include statistics from not only researchers, but also the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, and DCYF, fatherless children account for:
• 90% of all runaway and homeless children
• 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions
• 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers
• 85% of prison youths
• 63% of youth suicides
• 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
• 80% of rapists motivated by displaced anger disorder
Children living without their fathers, or having constant contact with them, have more accidents and injuries, are at greater risk of child abuse, higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, greater frequency of sleep disorders, and lower self esteem (www.ancpr.org), just to name a few of the mental, emotional and social problems our society’s children are faced with after divorce. Even the Journal of Family Psychology is quoted as saying “that children in joint custody arrangements were as well adjusted as children in intact families, and better adjusted than children in single parent homes” (March 2002, Vol. 16, No. 1)
Another aspect that cripples our children’s well-being is the denial of visitation, by in most cases, the mother after divorce. I quote here from Warren Farrell’s book, Father and Child Reunion, which states; “Research by Drs. Judith Wallerstein and Joan Berlin Kelly revealed that approximately 50 percent of mothers either saw no value in the father’s contact with his children and actively tried to sabotage it, or resented the father’s contact. For example, “One gently bred matron smeared dog feces on the face of her husband when he arrived to see his children.” (Farrell, page 104). Denial of visitation, or parenting time, as it should be called, is as rampant as disparaging of the other parent, more so by the mother than the father according to Farrell’s book: “When Glynnis Walker conducted a nationwide study of children interviewed an average of eight years after their parents’ divorce, she found the following: 54 percent of the children said that only their mothers spoke badly of their fathers in front of them; 12 percent said that only their fathers spoke badly of their mothers” (Father and Child Reunion, page 106). Disparagement is another facet that I had to endure personally with my divorce as I was informed that my son was being told that his father didn’t love him and didn’t want to see him -- not informed by my son -- but by adults who witnessed it personally, when asked of his mother why he couldn’t see daddy, when in actuality I was being denied visitation as payback for upsetting her. Disparagement not only caused unimaginable mental anguish for my son, but also caused him to become violent to the point of having to be removed from daycare. The previous example is just a sampling of the statistics, reports, and research performed on the effects of divorce and single parenting on children -- information that has been duplicated by numerous researchers and studies with the same consistency over the last three decades. Research and studies that beg the question “How come we aren’t doing something to reverse the trends?” – a question that brings me to the next phase of this paper -- the reasons our children’s mental, emotional and social well-being is all but ignored by society when it comes to divorce. The answer, as incredibly sad and horrendous as it is, is that divorce is a multibillion dollar a year industry, where those who have the most to gain financially -- the special interest groups -- are willing to ignore those that have the most to lose, our society’s children.
Let’s start this section with a quote, “There is something bad happening to our children today in family courts that is causing them more harm than drugs, more harm then crime and even more harm then child molestation.” (Judge Watson L. White, Superior Court Judge, Cobb County Georgia). That’s a powerful statement when you consider the source. So how come necessary change is so slow in the making? Let’s look at Linda Griebsch, Public Policy Director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, who is opposed to any shared parenting bill whatsoever. This same person is also Chair of the G.A.L. Board, the very same people who are supposed to look after the best interest of our society’s children, and heavily influenced by someone who clearly has her own interests at heart. A person who is openly anti-Father, and who outright lied to the Senate, with the false claim that California repealed their shared parenting laws as unworkable and doing more harm then good, in order to kill a shared parenting bill. Her positions of stature are clearly a conflict of interest, if not blatantly unethical with regards to what’s truly best for our society’s children. Another special interest group is the attorneys. Although more attorneys have spoken out in favor of shared parenting than not, many are dead set against it. Why? Because their livelihood depends on the current win-lose dichotomy that is the current family court system. They profit from the constant and repeated litigation involved with making sure the courts continue to give custody to one parent, and limited access to the children of the other parent. Honey Hastings, an attorney of approximately twenty-five years, as well as the Chair of the Family Law Task Force, not only stood up against HB529 (a shared parenting bill currently in legislation in New Hampshire) at a commission hearing, at which I was present, but claimed that in her years as an attorney, she has experienced “no” bias in the family court system –a claim that just about any attorney could tell you, if they chose to be honest, and many do, is not only false, but that she clearly has an agenda that has nothing to do with the best interest of New Hampshire’s children. Again, a clear conflict of interest in terms of her and Honey Hastings’ position of stature and influence on a task force that was put together solely for the purpose of court reform. Then you have the family court system itself. Paul Clements, of Dads Against Divorce Discrimination, uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, that the family court system of New Hampshire receives over $2,000,000 a year from the Child Support Enforcement Agency (“CSEA”) of New Hampshire. In others words, the more child support the courts award to one parent, usually the mother, the more kickbacks the courts receive as the CSEA retrieves the said child support -- another incredible conflict of interest that in no way reflects the best interest of the children. I think it’s quite clear why the special interest groups so strenuously oppose legislation that would help society’s children. Our society’s children are being crippled mentally and emotionally because of the selfishness and greed of others.
What can we do about it? We can start – and have already started -- by opening the public’s eyes to what’s really going on behind the scenes and how detrimental it is to our children. We can lobby our legislators with every means possible to enact change. This is a task, in and of itself, that is very difficult because of the influence given the special interest groups over the years – an influence afforded them by government funds -- funds that have been used to lobby against, possibly illegally at times, and being investigated as of the writing of this paper by the proper authorities, any legislation that involves shared parenting and family court reform. We can ask our doctors, psychologists, counselors, teachers, day care providers and others to start looking into family circumstances when children suddenly start having behavioral problems, and get both sides of the story -- not just what the father or mother says, as is the case most of the time. These same people need to acknowledge the importance of both “fit” parents having a constant and lasting relationship with their children after divorce. We need to pass legislation that not only reaches the goals of shared parenting, but holds our judges responsible for deviating from those statutes, especially in today’s family court system where there is absolutely no accountability whatsoever for the rulings handed down by a majority of the judges handling family court matters. We need statutes that penalize blatant disregard for court orders by parents as well as perjury and false allegations -- all of which run rampant in our court system today -- known as the Silver Bullet Technique and used to get the upper hand in divorce proceedings, because there are no penalties handed down, even when the perjury or false allegations are admitted to by the offender. Even though these Silver Bullet tactics more often then not ruin the victim, usually the father, the courts still ignore it – something that I learned first hand when I presented documented proof to the court of perjury. Not only was it ignored, but I was still ordered to pay the money that was fraudulently awarded in the first place, and actually lost parenting time with my son as well. I learned quickly not to attempt to assert my rights in Family Court. By acting as advocates for our children and bringing the nightmarish stories of what happens within our family court system, we can enact the necessary changes and help reverse the negative effects of divorce on our children.
Will these things help every child of divorce? No. There will always be situations that will cause our children to suffer needlessly, but the overall results “will” be for the greater good, and many, many children will benefit by these actions. I’m going to end this paper with a couple of quotes that I feel exemplify the kind of forces that are working against not only societies children, but marriage itself. “There's Robin Morgan, one of the founders of Ms. Magazine, saying in 1970 that marriage is ‘a slavery-like practice’ and arguing that ‘we can't destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage’ (extracted from an editorial by Melanie Kirkpatric, Associate Editor, Wall Street Journal, called The Sisterhood, Defrocked. Kate O’Beirne provides a reality check for anyone who thinks “feminist” means “pro-woman.” And another good quote: “The words ‘prejudice’ and ‘corruption’ do not really convey what family courts are about. They are the linchpins of a massive political machine that thrives and grows by systematically destroying families. Within this machine individual judges are ‘no more than blind executors of the system's own internal laws,’ as Vaclav Havel has written of another kind of apparat, laws which are ‘far more powerful than the will of any individual.’ What we have, in other words, is a system of bureaucratic terror, the kind of terror that has never before been seen in the United States. “ (Professor Stephen Baskerville, Howard University, in symposium on Reign of Terror, Insight Magazine, June 18, 2001).
Hopefully in time, and sooner, rather then later, society will become aware, and outraged, at what is being done to our children.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This paper was given an “A” for a grade, was highly praised, and my Contemporary Social Problems Professor highly urged me to have it published.