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History of Gender-Biased Family Law in the US - Why Is It Important for Men to Understand This?

This article discusses some of the reasons behind why the family law system in the US has arguably become highly gender-biased against men, particularly if they happen to be the only party working outside the home.

You will probably find the discussion, as with future articles I shall write, rather politically incorrect. That's OK with me. The regular slicing and dicing of men in the US divorce system stands as a fact and I challenge you who disagree to respond with well thought-out comments that don't attack me on a personal level.

As you read on you might notice that I try to keep my own writing on this hot-potato topic as objective as possible and attempt to avoid casting broad negative generalizations against various players in the scenario. Particularly, I have no axe to grind against women. I write without bitterness or anger. That doesn't mean that I do not objectively see the system as taking advantage of the working male.

A working male undeniably faces a broken system biased against him. This is not to be taken personally. It's just where the system has landed after some major changes designed to justly empower women, many of whom, before its reform, found themselves destitute at near-poverty levels and often with children to support. When and how did these changes happen? The system while attempting to reform itself, got lost sometime between 1972 and 1982, according to a senior divorce attorney I interviewed. During that pivotal era, the family law system in the US worked through state legislators in a genuinely wholesome and well-intended attempt to reform a broken system.

Divorce before 1972 generally favored working men. Unfortunately the process produced scores of newly single women destitute and alone with their children, and thus, at the mercy of the social welfare system.

In response to this growing problem, some very politically powerful women's-rights groups influenced state legislators to initiate corrective changes. These activists claimed with a lot of truth that the system was bound to harm society through its harmful injurious effects on the most innocent of participants, the children.

So states changed laws, and attitudes changed in courtrooms so that working men faced certain financial obligations from which they could no longer so easily avoid or minimize with good legal representation.

This significantly reduced the impoverishment of newly divorced housewives and mothers. Also, the new practice of coming down more severely on the family breadwinners who were generally male created a bonanza of new money to be made. As the divorcing party with the higher earning potential, these men would pay lots of money to get a fair shake.

The more unfair the system became, the more these men felt a willingness to fight it out. And through their careers, many had the resources to do so at great expense. The more unfairness they perceived, the more they seemed to fight it, win or lose.

Simultaneously as alimony and child support trends stiffened, fewer women and children became displaced into poverty. That was of course great for society and especially for children, always the worst victims of divorce. With fewer women and children in need of public assistance, government-run welfare and other public aid programs saved huge sums of money. Ex-husbands provided funds previously shouldered by these programs.

The further that the legal system and state laws pushed men, the more everyone benefited. Thus under the guise of protecting the many struggling post-divorce single mothers who during their defunct marriages had sacrificed careers to stay home and raise children, the highly profitable financial slaughter of competent working males became commonplace and justified.

In summary, as the legal system tightened down on working men involved in divorce, two serendipitous phenomena emerged for lawyers and for the government.

1. Lawyers found legal fees more abundantly obtainable when the ostensibly
wealthier of the two parties (usually the working male) was placed on the
defensive in a divorce.

2. Governments benefited financially. Placing the burden of support on the working male saved the public welfare system millions that it might otherwise have spent supporting divorced women as they languished in poverty or attempted to transition back into the workforce.

This comfortable arrangement if not actually the cause of a system stricter on working men, certainly left no incentive to ease the situation. Gradually it over-corrected more and more to where it currently stands in 2010.

Hopefully someday the pendulum may actually swing somewhere towards the middle. That will only happen when women as a group catch up to and even surpass men as the more economically viable gender. In the meantime as men, we're forsaken to deal with the realities of the current system. We absolutely need to navigate it in the most well-informed and proactive manner possible. This leaves little room to waste resources on unproductive anger.

Yes, in most cases the current family law system of divorce in each state does tend to neglect the rights of the working male but not because anyone hates men personally, so move on and dismiss any impulse to anger over it. If you are a working male and facing divorce, you're going to need all your psychological resources to not give in to the anger that unfairness inevitably produces, but I argue that it's well worth the effort. It really is not about you being male so keep everything in calm and reasonable perspective.

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