Non-Resident Fathers in Britain

Bradshaw, Stimson, Williams & Skinner
(University of York SPRU).

Economic & Social Research Council
Programme on Population and Household Change
Seminar March 1997

(A review by Robert J. Whiston, FRSA).

This is an excellent if, at 20 pages, a rather short pilot into the uncharted waters of Non-Resident Fathers and, by implication, fatherless children.

From the very beginning (page 1) the very pertinent and political point is made that, in these sensitive times of accounting for the tax-payer money, Non-Resident Fathers are not likely, if ever, to be dependant on public services, i.e. state benefits, on the scale presented by single mothers. This nicely parallels the situation with regard to single fathers, with custody of children, who are also less likely to call upon, or be a burden to, state resources. (OPCS “Population Trends“, verifies the fact that almost 70% of lone fathers are in full-time employment compared to only 40% for lone mothers – almost half of which are in part-time employment).

Whether these two points will lead to a realisation by Gov’t that, at a stroke, expenditure can be slashed by allowing the very many fathers who want to bring up their children a major share in the process, is problematical.

Many of these fathers it would appear have captured the knack that is said to elude so many women, i.e. they are able to combine home with work commitments. By strategies that include balanced days, being self-employed or working at home, men have overcome the very obstacles said to pose the greatest barriers to women returning to the workplace.

Whether this feminine inability is by design or accident, or a function of the different socio-economic class between the two groups is debatable (and with so little data or research directed towards fathers, we couldn’t possibly comment at this stage).

It is perhaps worth noting that later on in the Paper figures show that 20% of fathers that were made childless and Non-Resident simply dropped out of the labour market. This should be compared with other estimates that up to 40% of divorced men become less economically active.

Perhaps inadvertently, lone fathers have pioneered a viable way forward for policy makers. Ever practical, men have pre-empted Gov’t initiatives by employing full or part-time help (usually female) to help with meals, shopping, clothes washing and buying. The Gov’ts variation on this theme, of course, is the preferred gender reversal approach where millions of pounds will be committed in a ‘macho’ attempt to show who’s in charge.

It continues (and we’re still on page 2) in the same vein with some frighteningly poignant observations that are perhaps lost on the rather dull brain cells that are bequeathed politicians and are mandatory for civil servants. The Paper is unequivocal in its castigation of the assertion that fathers are feckless. Almost stridently it mocks, with the aid of statistics, the hollowness of that and the imported term from the U.S. of Deadbeat Dads. Unfortunately, both expressions have entered the popular culture with a vengeance. The York Report explodes the perceived persona as essentially a mythical creation. The blame for this is firmly placed on the Murdoch Press during its successful courtship and ingratiation of the Thatcher administration. Figures from the statistical dept of the Dept of Social Security amply demonstrate that the number of so called dead-beat-dads match almost exactly those fathers who are unemployed or disabled and unable to work.

Commentators all too easily forget that we have, from the 16th century onwards, records and private diaries of men detailing the delight taken in fathering children and being a father to children. Fathers have always enjoyed joining in games and watching their children’s development (see “Roads to Divorce” Prof. Stone, Princeton University (trilogy) and “Fatherhood Reclaimed“, Adrienne Burgess).

Reading this paper I can’t help but feel the authors haven’t quite come to terms with the relevant dynamics. Fatherhood, for a man, is a serious but unspoken role he knows his peers and the community at large will judge him by. Less mature males, boys and young men, may be more disposed to so-called macho tendencies and haven’t this commitment fully developed. However, in my personal experience, as an employer, even the most wayward apprentice is pulled up short by his entrance into paternity. The transfiguration is truly remarkable.

Where I question the Paper is in the notation that 50% of lone fathers are widowers. Way back in 1971 – before the onslaught of the 25 or more divorce reforms measures – only 20% of men became lone parents through divorce; the vast majority became so via widowhood. By 1991 widowhood had taken a back seat as a source of lone fatherhood accounting for 25% and divorce over 50% (OPCS Population Trends No.71 pp31. See also ‘Lone Parenthood & Demographic Change’, Haskey, and “Lone Parenthood: Coping with Constraints and Making Opportunities” published by Harvester Wheatsheaf 1991).

The Report makes no mention at this juncture that after bereavement a male spouse gets no state ‘widows’ pension and must continue to work or sign-on as if available for work (despite his domestic and child commitments).

Another criticism I have is in the decision to exclude children attending Boarding School. No distinction is even attempted between termly and weekly Boarders. And worse, they are categorised along with children put into residential care, hostels (Borstal, remand and prisons too, I shouldn’t wonder). This not only builds in a bias but could be construed as bigotry and class prejudice of the very worst kind. Not perhaps the open mind one would have hoped for in such a survey.

Perhaps in excluding children at boarding school the research team presumed they were from intact family groups, or that parents who send their children away couldn’t love them very much. The truth is children at boarding school come from both divorced and intact families.

In addition, I would have thought it obvious that Non-Resident Fathers have a great deal in common with the parents (fathers) of children at Boarding School in so much as they only see them at set times and for both parents and children the occasion is charged with anticipation. Brief re-unions are well remembered and the time spent together is regarded as precious, even priceless.

Invariably, it’s the father that make the commitment and foots the bill to make boarding school possible. He alone makes the financial sacrifice to make it happen. That fatherly financial commitment cannot and should not be disdained, especially when one considers that female head of households (regardless of income) appear not to rate such educational expenditure as essential. In my many years associated with boarding schools I have never come across a mother making the same personal financial sacrifice.

What is also frequently neglected is that many of those who do attend boarding school do so on grants, bursaries etc that match parental contribution. Eton, for example, has a phenomenally high percentage of places paid for by its own foundation, and until recently Assisted Places helped many others on the borderline.

The Paper admits disappointment with the size of sample due to budgetary constraints and the response from those it was able to identify and enlist. If only FNF, ManKind Initiative or other Men’s’ groups had been contacted the sample could have been much bigger than the final 590 interviews of Non-Resident Fathers. Any concern, from a purely statistical view point, that FNF or ManKind members may have presented a skewed basis could have been controlled for and, failing that, deployed as a very useful control group to validate results.

On page 3 the paper declares “There are men who don’t wish to admit to paternity“. The examples cited are those where paternity is doubted by the man, where the mother is confused as to whom she was sleeping with at the time, where the father knows the child lives in another/new household or where the mother is a married women and her husband is not the father.

In the above circumstances I should have thought it very natural, even understandable for men not to make waves.

Only later do we realise this paragraph relates to a mere 8% and 16% of men in survey results. But by then the damage has been done, the innuendo has done its work. Yes, there must always be (for the above reasons) a tiny minority of men who play down their paternity role. I’m sure the authors didn’t intend to infer such a slight but the unfortunate wording ought to have carried a caution or prefix. But by the same token it is estimated that women give birth to between 20% and 40% children who are not fathered by their husband/partner. Suggestions that fathers should conduct a DNA paternity test to ensure wifely fidelity, and paternity, have been greeted in the media with howls of anger.

It may be minor point, but the reader is left confused as to whether the children in the other households relate to already married women, someone else’s cohabitee, a girlfriend (who has now married someone else) or some other permutation of the above social arrangements.

Response levels from the different social groups within the Non-Resident Father category are eloquent in their betrayal. Single unmarried fathers were far more likely to refuse to participate in the survey in stark contrast to formerly cohabiting and married men who were most likely to co-operate (ref.: Patricia Morgan, The Warrior Class).

And as if to endorse matters, in Occupation Class terms the manual social class were also less likely to co-operate. This gives us a tantalising glimpse at what could be a mirror image of the female incidence of lone parenthood and the probability of such mothers successfully receiving, or not, regular CSA payments.

Elsewhere in the paper married fathers again demonstrate a greater interest in their offspring when compared with fathers from cohabiting relationships with single and unmarried fathers bottom of the heap at being the least likely to participate in paternal involvement.

On page 4 of the report some of the main characteristics of Non-Resident Fathers are itemised. These include a greater propensity to leave school at an earlier age, to be in the manual working social classes, be living in “social” housing, not to own a car, be unemployed (inactive) and have a low income. This applies to all fathers, regardless of martial status, who were contacted for the sample – irrespective of whether they subsequently took part in the survey or not.

These alarmingly mimic the traits found in children of lone mothers and one is left wondering if, by accident, the majority of the survey were composed of such children (see Profs. Halsey, N. Dennis and Patricia Morgan).

We know that children raised in Single Mother Households (SMH) distinctively tend to: leave school early; have poor or few academic attainments; have a lower social/occupation class than their father; be unemployed; be living in rented accommodation; be or have been in trouble with the law; for girls to be strong willed and boys weaker willed; and for girls to be more likely repeat their mothers social custom of birthing before or outside of marriage. All of which cries out for correlations to be made with existing survey results emanating from research into single mothers households.

In general terms the trends seen are those we have come to expect in the urban ghettos of America.

Social aberrations of repeating social behaviour, for so long measured on the female side of the social divide, appear to also add up from the other direction. In fact, one questions whether the word aberration is entirely appropriate here. Is it a function of a man’s social class, i.e. his illegitimacy, his maturity, loss of identity and sense of purpose (see Norman Dennis) or simply a function of crude economics bludgeoning into a fragile social fabric ?

Do middle class white males yearn to be involved but find the price tag too high, whereas working class men simply don’t bother or feel they’ve nothing really to contribute and so don’t exhaust themselves emotionally ?

Is there an obvious, or only an instinctive and illusory, correlation here ?

When surveys again and again show children of single lone mothers disadvantaged whenever their father is shut out of their formative years could the reverse be true ? Namely that children become over-achievers when brought up by a single father and when contact or visitation rights are awarded to the ex-wife ? Is there research to support this hypothesis ?

The caveat, however, to all this must be that “contact”, either by amount or intensity, is predetermined in large measure by background forces – and as such must surely rate the very highest priority by the generation after us.

T1. A summary of salient features revealed by the survey of Non-Resident Fathers is listed on page 6. It is divided into;

A) as they applied to their previous circumstances and

B) where Non-Resident Fathers now find themselves:-

A)

Their past circumstances

  1. 89% had only one previous relationship
  2. 67% had been married to the child’s mother, 23% cohabiting.
  3. 53% had only one child apart.
  4. 15% were teenage fathers
  5. 36% were aged 20-24, 33% were over 25-30 and 16% were 31+ when they became fathers.

B)

In their current situation

  1. 58% were now living alone
  2. 24% had remarried, 18% were cohabiting.
  3. 70% were living in households without children
  4. 29% had step children, 15% had only some of their former children, 37% had new children in a new relationship, and 20% had a mixture of types of children (100%)
  5. 33% of fathers were “inactive”
  6. 21% had children 0-4 yo, 45% 5-10 yo and 35% had children 11-18 yo.
  7. 53% had only 1 child and 36% had two absent/apart.
  8. 95% of fathers were white European.
  9. 36% were living alone & 34% living with a partner

Although the paper reports that “only a minority of fathers apart have children under school age” the tables reveal that the minority is in fact 21% (0-4 year olds). With 45% and 35% representing the 5-10 and 11-18 age groups respectively. Comparisons with the age/incidence of divorce is inevitable.

In asking, “why some fathers stay in contact with their children” the report, from our viewpoint, poses the wrong question. From a father’s perspective the question should be “How is it that so many men remain in contact despite all the grief and obstacles thrown our way”. One could very easily take issue with the assertion that it was Non-Resident Fathers who had to “overcome” certain practical and emotional barriers to see their children. To then add the phrase if he is “to function co-operatively as a parent with his ex ¬partner” simply serves to underline the prosaic disconnection of authors and public.

Is it all down to men ? Do women play no part in the proceedings ? Are they merely passive spectators to the problems men haphardously appear to inflict on themselves ?

From the sample it is evident that fathers biggest grievance (bigger even than the CSA) is the difficulty in trying to see their children. Contact was made in 47% of cases with only 21% of Non-Resident Father not seeing their children within the last year.

This alone must suffocate the cries from the pro-CSA lobby, stifle the pro-unmarried mothers’ brigade of Anna Coote, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt – not forgetting the motley crew of prejudiced politicians in “sensible shoes”.

T2. Summary: Frequency of visits by Non-Resident Fathers (%).

once a week

47

once a fortnight

14

once a month

7

once or twice a year

10

1 -3 years

8

more than 3 years

10

Not at all

3

Intriguingly, this is reported as a much higher incidence of contact than recorded by previous surveys. In fact the discrepancy sent the researchers scurrying off to see where and why the differences could have arisen. Of particular concern was the oft-quoted Bradshaw & Millar (1991) which found that lone mothers reported that only 25% of lone fathers had contact once a week, and 31% had not had contact for over a year, 40% of fathers had “lost contact” (as if it were a misplaced door key) with their children within 2 years of separation or birth of their child.

The switched-on and up-to-speed amongst you have probably guessed by now how the anomaly arose. Yes, Bradshaw & Millar’s data was culled from single mothers only and a female perspective ! Even after the York researchers statistically tweaked for variables such as marital status at child birth and length of lone parenthood considerable differences still remained that can, I believe, only be reconciled by ascribing them to attitudes.

Such discrepancies have since been found in other major US studies underscoring yet again the ability of lone mothers to skew data regardless of the consequences.

Indeed, in a subsequent letter the University of York concludes (and therefore not in my first draft) “that it is difficult to reconcile the figures” regarding the amount of fatherly contact and “that someone must be being economical with the truth”. (Addendum :: Absent Fathers ?, Bradshaw, J., Stimson, C., Skinner, C. and Williams, J. (1999) , Routledge, London).

The radical differences found by the University of York’s report concerning fatherly contact with their children is shown in T3.

T3. Non-Resident Father:

Bradshaw & Millar

University of York

Not seen child in the last month

51%

28%

Separated less than 3 years and not seen child in the last month

77%

59%

Non-Resident Father that have paid maintenance

(*)

77%

Non-Resident Father currently paying maintenance

(*)

57%

Non-Resident Father home owners who give all or part of home to wife

(#)

59%

(*) cf “much lower in B & M survey”.

(#) these fathers were less likely to also be paying maintenance (20%) compared to those Non-Resident Father who had opted for cash settlements.

Clearly, not only do mothers of a particular kind want fathers out of the picture but are determined to keep him out by duping researchers with exaggerations that appear to make fatherly disinterest “official”.

One can’t help feeling touched by the pathos of it all. On the one hand mothers are prepared to use fair means or foul to keep their children’s father at bay while on the other, almost desperate fathers cherish each contact no matter how trivial or fleeting.

Fathers find the world blind and deaf to their needs. No wonder they find themselves literally and metaphorically buried under a relentless avalanche of feminist and official dismissiveness. The contact they so cherish is constantly demeaned as having no meaning or consequence to the child.

A glance at the summary on page 12 (see below) shows the tragedy that is the deal dealt to Dads and what they must live with. Suspend belief for a moment and reverse the genders. Can anyone imagine the heartache if the same time allotments applied to mothers, year in, year out ?

Comparative data outcomes in post divorce scenarios can be made by referencing “The Emperors New Clothes” (1997) a study undertaken by the Cheltenham Group.

Children, it would appear, are used yet again as weapons to gain superior advantage. In the divorce process they become unwitting economic weapons in the blitzkrieg for assets. In the post-divorce scenario they are elevated to traitor status should they show feelings toward their father.

This paper does not attempt to discuss the emotive subject of psychological blackmail or emotional abuse known to many of us as PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome).

The researchers then postulate what could be the barriers to contact and without itemising them but go on to discuss the work of Seltzer (1991) in the US who suggests a link between contact and maintenance. In Australia Sutton (1996) has also shown a positive link between access and income but suggests a further connection after that of relationship with one’s ex-partner and the sense of loss of control (presumably for the man). The York survey bore out Seltzer and Sutton findings but found when comparing different types of fathers (single, married, cohabiting) it is the simplest of factors that influence outcomes, e.g. whether the father lives less than 3 miles or more than 25 miles away from his children, whether he was married at the time of birth, his age and if employed.

The York report confirms these earlier findings in their sample but perhaps rather incongruously, also found that Non-Resident Fathers who have good weekly contact or relations with their own families, e.g. seeing his own mother, positively affected outcomes. This could perhaps be correlated with observations already made concerning social background (see page 2 of the Report).

T4. In a summary on page 12 the York study found that of the sample of Non-Resident Fathers;

  • 54% had their children to stay overnight, 2 or more nights.
  • 60% had their children to stay for longer at holidays.
  • 46% who did not stay of which 15% of fathers said they had nowhere for the children to sleep
  • 6% of those who saw their children had fully shared care (shared residence ?) of at least 104 nights.
  • 44% said they didn’t see their children enough.
  • 66% said their children would like to see more of them.
  • 55% said they did not have enough control over when they saw their children (see “contact” above)
  • 81% said they got on well with their father.

NB – Only 6 men said their children had caused hem problems with their partner.

These findings parallel in part a survey conducted by the Cheltenham Group (The Emperors Clothes) which surveyed attitudes of men after exposure to the divorce regime.

In the US, the Bureau of the Census records the compliance rate of US fathers paying child support as ordered by the courts as follows:

T5.

a) Joint custody 90.2%

b). Visitations rights only 79% (contact/Access in UK)

c) Fathers with no rights 45%

In other words, American fathers with joint custody (shared parenting) were paying maintenance in 90.2% of cases. The compliance rate dropped the less the father was allowed to see his children until right at the bottom fathers with no rights whatsoever paid maintenance in only 45% of cases.

It can be argued that much of the emotional turmoil and administrative costs (CSA) could be slashed if custody and Access were linked to payments. It is truly remarkable that even in the worse case scenario, i.e. 45%, the tenacious bond that binds fathers with their children is still so apparent. Maintenance payments and contact with their children are inextricably linked because of all the fathers who failed to pay the ordered maintenance payments 86% came from those who had no visitation rights.

In the UK no father has the automatic or enforceable right to see his children after divorce. Few people are aware especially politicians (upon whom we all depend) that a father may apply for it and it may be granted – but he has no statutory protection or privilege.

It would be wrong and perhaps crude to attempt a comparison but using the data from Summary 12 the situation in the UK and the US appears to be thus:-

T6.

UK

US

Shared Residence

6%

90%

Regular contact

47%

90%

Non-Resident Father NRF with some Access who have made some payments

77%

79%

Non compliance

28%

38% (*)

*. Derived figure, i.e. 86% of the 45% with no rights.

T7. The York study analysed the time fathers spent with their children and found that:

  • 36% attended parent evenings at schools
  • 35% helped with homework
  • 25% dropped off or picked up the children from school
  • 24% taxied their children around
  • 23% babysat their children
  • 39% were involved in none of these (but presumably in other activities -RW ?)

Then, as if pursuing a Pulitzer prize, the report states, “One question these findings raise is whether this level of involvement with children is any less than a resident father would have !” (their exclamation mark, not mine). And then goes on to adds insult to injury by declaring in the same paragraph, “The contact of the Non-Resident Father may not be as regular but the time spent with the child may be longer and the quality may be better”. The “comfort factor” for a child to sleep in a home knowing their fathers presence offers them total reassurance is completely overlooked.

For those of you who aren’t yet reeling from this teenage logic let me explain by way of an analogy; When you’re being chased by a ravenous grizzly bear you’re grateful to find a sturdy log cabin and lock yourself in. But when someone pushes you into a cell, locks the door and throws away the key you’re a prisoner.

In the alternative: If this contact is as good, if not better than resident fathers get then all fathers should be granted custody and only mothers should be awarded the privilege of this superior quality time. By allowing only visits on prescribed days their contact will be of better quality than spending all day with them. After all, both they and the children (not to mention the economy, women’s rights and employment) will be all the better for it – and Harriet Harman will have proved a point.

PART 2.

Rather surprisingly the report sample found that only 43% of fathers had been contacted by the CSA. Of those assessed only 39% had experienced an increase in payments whilst 27% had a lower figure agreed (base of 107). However, and for 4 pages, the Report strongly condemns the CSA as being “counter-productive”, “appalling” and ill-conceived”. It rounds on the manner of introduction “with hardly any research having been undertaken into the circumstances of Non-Resident Fathers”.

It describes its administration as “chaotic” and defying all definitions of fairness. The CSA it continues is based on the principal that “biological father’s absolute and unreserved responsibility” toward their children. In fact the last part of this report is a “must” for students, devotees and campaigners against the CSA.

The average weekly maintenance per child was found to be £26.00 (£16.00 if the father was unemployed). The majority of NRF (Non-Resident Fathers) gave informal monetary help and gave more if they were not paying maintenance regularly. This would perhaps reflect the constraining confines they themselves operated within. However, 28% of NRF had for one reason or another never paid maintenance. This finding is in keeping with historical trends and of the court system page 9 immediately prior to the introduction of the CSA. Of the sample, 59% had handed over their house and were found to be less likely to be paying maintenance than the remainder (who had settled with cash, insurance and pensions).

NRF who are either currently married or cohabiting are some 150% more likely to be paying family maintenance than unmarried NRF.

If the NRF was over 24 years of age when he first became a father he will be 478% more likely to pay maintenance than if he were under 20 and not married.

Where the NRF has 2 or more children he is 163% more likely to have contact with his children.

Overall NRF are 300% more likely to have continuing contact with their children than no contact at all.

There was wholesale (62%) dissatisfaction with the CSA and “the formula” used for calculating paternal contributions.

T8. Those NRF who believed their CSA Assessment was too high gave their reasons as follows:

  • 95% said it didn’t take account of all living expenses.
  • 85% said the amount was simply too high. (1)
  • 71% thought it would leave them worse off.
  • 68% it did not reflect the true cost of housing.
  • 54% it took no account of costs in seeing children.
  • 59% took no account of any debts.
  • 44% didn’t take account of current family’s needs. (2)
  • 38% because “the formula” didn’t allow travel to work costs.
  • 33% didn’t benefit the children because the Ex-wife was claiming one or more state benefit.
  • 22% because he had made a “clean break” settlement (3).

(1) This is systematic of the system. It would be especially true of Interim Assessments where a typical assessment would be £85 per week/per child only at Finally Assessment for it to be reduced to the national average of around say £35 per week /per child).

(2) Re-marriage can be undertaken as advocated and prescribed in the 1969 Act but second wives live out their lives in relative poverty, if not penury.

(3) Couples who had made satisfactory arrangements found their settlements overturned by a ruling which compelled husbands to pay maintenance in addition to the settlement.

T9. The York study showed evidence of some of the consequences of CSA interdiction;

  • 61% thought they would be affected in the following ways
  • 84% would have to cut back on necessities.
  • 94% to cut back on luxuries.
  • 80% would forego annual holidays.
  • 49% would have to go into debt.
  • 28% would have to down size their housing, i.e. find cheaper.
  • 22% would not even be able to afford to see their children.

T10. Just over half the NRF (base of 63) expected the assessment would affect their personal lives/relationships:

  1. 64% thought it would upset their current partner.
  2. 18% said it would cause a break down with their current partner (see 1 above ?).
  3. 49% thought it would upset their former partner.
  4. 18% thought it would cause a breakdown with their current partner (see 3 above ?).
  5. 27% that it would upset the children.
  6. 7% cause a breakdown with their children apart.
  7. 13% none of these.

T11. The changes in normal behavioural patterns has as the study rightly highlights, not been adequately quantified. It will come as no great surprise too those with an intimate understandingly of such a blunt and brutish system that the negative economic spin-offs outweigh the gains:

  • 32% said they would stop or reduce informal payments and informal treats/ gifts for their children.
  • 30% said it had put them off becoming a father again. 25% would give up work altogether.
  • 21% are now deterred from taking a new partner. 17% would work fewer hours. 10% would seek to gain custody (residence) of their children.

These findings are in line with a survey conducted by the Cheltenham Group (The Emperors Clothes) which went on to detail the scale of asset transfer and psychological impact on men of fatherlessness and the divorce process.

T12. The reasons stated by fathers in their disagreement with the principal of their “absolute and unreserved responsibility” were as follows:

  1. 77% if it made them worse off than their Ex, i.e. child’s mother.
  2. 76% if the amount was higher then the cost of the child.
  3. 71% the mother re-partnered.
  4. 69% if the mother obstructed access/contact
  5. 60% if the mother was in full time employment.
  6. 56% if the children did not benefit, i.e. their mother was on Income Support.
  7. 52% if they had lost contact with the children.
  8. 45% if they had new children/step children.
  9. 38% if the mother had a part-time job.
  10. 23% if relations were poor between children and father.

All the above are very interesting and, with time, could be worked up into an alternative cost saving strategy. Items 1 to 5 reflect deeply embedded cultural beliefs pre-dating our century. The equivalent in the 18th and 19th century was bereavement when re-partnering meant the acceptance by the new partner of any and all baggage from the previous union. If it was possible then what has changed, men or the fiscal and taxation regimes ?

Items 6 to 10 are perhaps indicative of reactions to events outside the control of Non-Resident Father calling for reassessments. Biting the bullet and limiting any maintenance payments to say only 3 years is an approach that could make good the promises of the original 1969 Reform Act, which intended that divorcing couples should be capable of remarriage but never delivered.

In an age of equality where women make up 50% of the current labour market it is perhaps anachronistic to insist that “biological fathers have an absolute and unreserved responsibility” to financially support children.

This belittles the role and ability of women and is yet another example of treating women as children. It takes away their power of decision. It insulates them from culpability, responsibility and accountability. It emphatically implies that they have no choice, no input and no control over their circumstances – in this case, when and with whom they become pregnant. Women are now in control of their bodies and we must adjust to a new situation.

Is it not more symptomatic of the real situation for men to be told some weeks later (and too late) that the woman has decided to be a mother and that henceforth he is to be a father. The rights to abort or negotiate the decision are out of the man’s hands. After all, wasn’t it trumpeted by the activists that the Abortion Act would, at last, give women real control over their bodies ?

An egalitarian society must come to terms with the inversion of the dogma. If it is applicable to fathers, then which of the following propositions apply to wives and partners ?

a). “That no biological mother shall ever have the absolute and unreserved responsibility for their children”.

b). “That all biological mothers shall always have absolute and unreserved responsibility for their children”.

Could it be that society’s defence mechanism has been turned in on itself and that by default women can now exercise capricious control over men ?

Or could it be that the old magical incantation of blaming and burdening men for everything has outlived its usefulness and that a new mantra is required ?

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4 responses to “Non-Resident Fathers in Britain

  1. Pingback: USA - Fatherless Children « Equal Parenting @ Ration Shed

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  4. Pingback: Custody in Britain (Robert Whiston, Strasbourg Conference, Oct. 23, 2013) | Platform for European Fathers (PEF)

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