Law, Recommended

Divorce and the ‘Silver Bullet’

Divorce is almost always an ugly and painful experience. But for parents with children, there are additional heart-rending realities to confront. No loving parent wants to be absent for their kids’ many firsts and bests—the first tooth falling out, the first goal scored, and so on. Countless goodnight kisses will be missed, and at crisis moments when they need you most (and for the many moments when they don’t need anything more than knowing you’re close by), one parent will not be there to provide advice, compassion, and comfort. Also hanging in the balance are hundreds of thousands of dollars of shelter and vehicles and toys and books and worthless junk priceless only to you.

These stakes drive people to lie. Lies are at the messy heart of divorce, almost by definition. Sometimes the lies are so large and consequential that lawyers and judges are pressed into service to officiate a death match of he-said-she-said. But there is a lie among lies that practically guarantees child custody, optimal parenting time, the money you’re sure you deserve—and maybe even the family dog. And you don’t need a shred of evidence to back it up.

Two years ago, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s marriage dissolved amid allegations by Heard of abusive behaviour by Depp. Last month, Depp finally responded by alleging that Heard had got the truth exactly backwards and that it was he who had been the victim of abuse. In a similar fashion, during Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce, Jolie accused her then-husband of criminally abusing their son Maddox on a private jet. Pitt was eventually exonerated and Depp is presumably hoping for a similar result. The truth of these allegations and counter-allegations can be almost impossible to unravel, but the dynamics are similar to those at the center of the millions of divorces every year that do not involve celebrities. The false allegation of physical or sexual violence is an off-the-shelf divorce hoax so effective that it has earned the nickname “the silver bullet.”

It goes like this: At the inception of a divorce, one parent falsely accuses the other of abusing them or their children and claims they believe it will happen again. Depending on the country and jurisdiction, it might only take an affidavit of a couple of pages. No evidence or corroborating witnesses are needed, due process be damned. Now the police will arrive and haul the targeted parent out of the matrimonial home with protective orders, offering scant access to immediate legal recourse. What he or she says in their own defence is rarely of any significance. From this point forward, they are unlikely to see their children again for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

The targeted parent is now struggling in the tar pit at the center of a Venn diagram where the circles of family and criminal law intersect, hemorrhaging money for legal fees on two fronts simultaneously. Barring celebrity money, they might be living on a friend’s couch and contemplating bankruptcy. They are not only in danger of losing their children, but also their home and their liberty. And they’re in danger of gaining a criminal record that will follow them the rest of their lives. Roll credits.

The magic frosting on the silver bullet is that it succeeds even when it fails. Why? Because it doesn’t matter all that much if the story falls apart over the subsequent weeks or months; it just needs to stand up long enough to provide an instant and massive advantage at this crucial inflection point of a divorce blitzkrieg. Unlike the laundry list of criminal charges Jussie Smollett recently managed to dance around, rarely are there legal issues to sidestep for the perpetrator of this kind of hoax.

In the back rooms of the sausage factories where divorce is made, the silver bullet is an open secret. Some unscrupulous divorce lawyers even recommend it to their clients. False allegations may be employed by either parent, but, given the prevailing winds of culture, the gun is far more often in the hand of a woman. Such a claim might be controversial to some, but not among many lawyers working within the system.

“It’s almost as if the Constitution is suspended in family court,” says Melissa Isaak, a veteran family lawyer in the state of Alabama who heads a firm that specializes in defending men embroiled in contested divorce. “People don’t understand that in the family law arena, domestic violence is used as a tool. Essentially the silver bullet is the best way to destroy your opponent and win the game…and women use this far more than men, in my experience.”

Unfortunately, good data to back up the claim are hard to find for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s difficult to differentiate between deliberately false allegations and unsubstantiated claims due to misinterpretation. Secondly, the data that do exist are rarely split by sex. That said, this Texas law review is one of many sources that suggest there is a problem and it’s on the rise. In the US alone there are 820,000 divorces a year. If you multiply that number by the estimate of false child sexual abuse allegations during divorce in one study covered by the Texas review, it’s clear that one can make a safe bet that every week hundreds of families throughout the West detonate with the help of this relatively simple manoeuvre.

Inconvenient Gender Symmetry

Domestic violence is a societal ill that can have horrific consequences. Men are undeniably more violent than women, making up as much as 80 percent of all convicted violent criminals in America. Thankfully, abhorrence of spousal and child abuse is now central to Western morality, and we have developed strong legal mechanisms that provide police and others with the necessary latitude to protect women and children from dangerous men. As a result, domestic violence rates have been declining for decades. In the US, rates of serious intimate partner violence against women fell by 72 percent between 1994 and 2011.

However, the dynamics of intimate partner and family violence are as surprising as they are sensitive. The data indicate that women are as likely as or more likely than men to introduce violence into a relationship. For example, recent surveys have found that an equal percentage of men and women reported being the victim of partner violence in the past year. Uni-directional violence is directed at men 70 percent of the time. Mothers kill their children at about the same rate as fathers.

In today’s social climate, many readers will find this relative symmetry so counterintuitive as to be unbelievable. Many factors contribute to making these numbers difficult to contend with, and it would take a separate essay to explore them with the care they require. I will spotlight just one data point that might help ameliorate our cognitive dissonance: While men are much more violent (and tend to cause greater injury in a violent encounter due to greater strength and size and other factors), the vast majority of male violence is inflicted on other men, often in the service of the protection of women and children. This is what the average man’s biological nature calls for. According to the numbers, the safest living arrangement for a Western mother and her children involves a home with the biological father. The more social scientists study intimate partner violence, the clearer it becomes that it is best tackled as a human problem, not a gender one.

A happier statistical story is that Western women have achieved parity in much more positive ways. In the US, for example, 57 percent of women now participate in the workforce, compared with 69 percent of men. Many more women are graduating high school and college. Sixty percent of college undergraduate degrees and 52 percent of PhD degrees are earned by women. The biggest work challenge we face today is how to level the playing field for working mothers, who, for reasons that cannot be overcome by force of will and social engineering, are better equipped for the very first months of a child’s life. Given these new realities, we might reasonably expect to see something approaching parity between the sexes when it comes to child custody in divorce. But this isn’t the case. In the US, for example, mothers initiate divorce 69 percent of the time (for educated women it’s 90 percent) and wind up with custody of the children at least 82.5 percent of the time.

There is also growing gender symmetry in finances. Today more than 66 percent of US families are dual income, and the woman makes more than her spouse in 37 percent of families. Additionally, proper scrutiny of the wage gap shows that it has closed to the point of being negligible. Yet, despite this financial parity, fathers continue to pay more than 85 percent of child support, and when mothers are ordered to pay, they fail to do so more often.

The no-fault divorce laws that swept through most of Western society in the 1970s and ‘80s made divorce much easier and fairer for women. But these laws had another effect. Today, an estimated one in three American kids live without their biological father in the home. In 1960, eight percent of children lived in a home with only their biological mother and today more than 23 percent do.

These numbers raise an interesting question: Does this level of fatherlessness matter? The answer is indisputably that it does. According to dozens of official sources, these children are at a greater risk of having more difficult lives according to just about every measurable metric. They are more likely to misuse drugs, experience abuse, or go to prison. They are twice as likely to drop out of high school and live in poverty. They are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. This is just to name a few of the effects.

The latest research shows that equal time with both parents is, except in extreme cases, the best scenario for kids—even those who until recently were considered too young to be away from mothers. In 2000, United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously stated, “Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” Today, many Western fathers and those who love them believe that those working in family law must have missed the memo.

Putting Our Children Last?

Families throughout the West are living through an overcorrection in divorce law. Starting in the 1960s, we correctly set about making things equal and safer for women and we overshot. Critics of divorce systems throughout the Western world say they are gender biased from top to bottom in favour of mothers, which is what makes it possible for some to game the system in ways as egregious as false allegations. Critics believe countless aspects of divorce law need to change in order to reduce the adversarial nature of a system that pits one parent against another on a tilted playing field. Despite growing awareness, change is painfully slow.

“Problems of bias in family court are ubiquitous throughout Western countries and solutions are still light years away because a whole industry has built up around it with money and jobs at stake,” says Dean Tong, a forensic trial consultant with decades of experience who has worked court cases in all 50 states and who is also the author of multiple books about about criminal allegations in US court. “For the mainstream media, this is a hot potato issue because the radical change needed would start a revolution.”

At a time when modern fathers are bombarded by messages about the deeply corrosive effects of “toxic masculinity,” they are confronted with a family law system rife with outdated gender ideas every bit as sexist as those faced by women in other arenas, past and present; a system that sometimes seems downright hostile to their efforts to be active and effective dads. Many fathers now gaze upon the growing excesses of the #MeToo movement on college campuses and in corporate boardrooms and wonder why no one listened as they sounded the alarm about the weaponization of #believewomen in the family courts. Similarly, while journalists rightly alert us to policies like the American immigration laws causing the split of a few hundred migrating families at the country’s southern border and urge us to empathize with the psychological trauma of parent-child separation, there seems to be much less interest in family laws doing the same to hundreds of thousands of parents and children as a matter of course.

So how do we ensure better results for mothers, fathers, and children? One legislative solution is called the “equal shared parenting presumption.” Under these laws, a divorce between parents starts from the default presumption that what is in the best interests of children is for both parties to share parenting equally. Deviations from this baseline demand more explanation by the judge, effectively circumscribing the state’s freedom to make arbitrary assessments about which parent is “better” than the other, and making it more onerous to justify an outcome other than a 50/50 time split.

There are dozens and dozens of groups pushing tirelessly for this change. One such organization is Leading Women for Shared Parenting. Their statement on divorce and parenting reads, in part: “Parental separation should not spell the end of a relationship between a child and one of its parents. Forced separation from one’s own flesh and blood in the absence of abuse is morally wrong and socially irresponsible.” A shared parenting bill just passed the Missouri House. Another bill authored by Senator Karin Housley passed the Minnesota Senate Family Care and Aging Committee last month. “There is nothing more sacred than the parent-child relationship,” Housley said. “This bill is to protect children who have loving, responsible parents who are ready, willing and able to share equally in the responsibility of raising them.” The first shared parenting law passed in Kentucky last year and there are now more than 20 states with bills trying to do likewise. If the idea grows like no-fault divorce has, I believe it will be a good thing for families everywhere—and not just nuclear families. When we deny our children a parent, we are also denying them a whole village of loving people, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

This is just the beginning of the change that is needed. Today, tools built as shields for women are too easily fashioned into bullets that are literally killing men. Suicide statistics must be treated with great care, yet no numbers tell the story more starkly. American men kill themselves almost 4 times more than women in regular circumstance. But fathers who have become ensnared in the divorce system kill themselves eight times more. That appalling figure is worth repeating: For every child who loses their mother to suicide during or after divorce, eight children lose a father. We need to be honest with ourselves about the conditions driving such despair. And we need to ask ourselves as a society: If the ratio was flipped eight-to-one in the direction of mothers, would the situation be considered anything less than a state of emergency demanding political triage? After all, these numbers represent our brothers, sons, and fathers.

A silver bullet heralded my own divorce. In the end, the charge against me was dropped, but the betrayal changed me forever. My ex-wife and I spent more than $250,000 on lawyers to fight one another over our children’s right to have equal access to both of us. She believed what was best for our children was for them to live with her 42 weeks a year. I didn’t care for that proposal and had to claw my way back to the 50/50 time with my children that should have been ours from the start. The process was cruel and embarrassing for everyone, but I learned a lesson that may bear repeating here.

If you truly know your relationship is doomed, then for the love of all that is good, put it out of its misery humanely. Lay down the gun with the silver bullet in the chamber. Sit with your no-good spouse and a mediator and a large pot of coffee and work out your complicated future in an afternoon. This way, you might walk away with some dignity, if not the dog. You’ll know you gave the respect due your children and the good times you surely shared.

And if you do decide to unleash something vicious, keep in mind that lies are like bullets—they often make unintended victims of the innocent. Sometimes they even ricochet and pierce our own scared, disappointed hearts.

Correction: The original version of this article claimed 40 percent of men reported being the victim of serious partner violence in the past year. This was incorrect. This has been changed to “an equal percentage of men and women reported being the victim of partner violence in the last year.” A statement about female to male intimate partner murder was also retracted. We regret the errors.

James C. Coren is a pseudonym. He can be reached here.

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  1. Morgan Foster says

    ” A silver bullet heralded my own divorce.

    Well, now. You’ve teasingly made your history a part of your article.

    You should tell us, why did she shoot? Your version.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      “You should tell us, why did she shoot? Your version.”
      Wouldn’t that be the rest of the article up to that point?

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Andrew Mcguiness

        No. The children are a weapon, not the reason for using the weapon.

        • karen straughan says

          Not true. Children are better described as an asset of the marriage–perhaps the primary asset.

          After reading an article in The Daily Mail a few years ago, called “Agony of Being a 50/50 Mum”, it became clear to me that for a lot of mothers, sole custody is an end unto itself.

          From the article: “Imagine, then, the agonising pain of being privy to your child’s life for only half the time. The milestones missed. The lost cuddles before bedtime. The long nights spent wondering if they are sleeping sweetly or crying out for Mummy.”

          The author was unbelievably sympathetic toward the mothers described, who are forced to not have their kids with them all the time, and the ones she interviewed expressed incredible emotional/psychological difficulty coping with being separated from their kids for days or weeks at a time. Meanwhile, a much larger group of divorced dads gets to feel that ALL the time–for days or weeks or years on end. Twitter feminists, those paragons of compassion, have a term for them: “whiney, entitled man-babies”.

          Children absolutely CAN be turned into weapons when one parent wants to hurt the other, or into leverage when one parent wants to coerce the other. But the difficult truth is that there are a LOT of women out there who want sole custody not to get back at the other parent, not because of safety concerns, but because they just want it.

          Add in the financial considerations–if you don’t get sole custody, there’s no reason to let you keep the house. And of course, child support is based in part on parenting time. The more parenting time you have, the more child support you get. For a woman selfish and uncaring enough to deprive a man of any meaningful involvement with his children (and deprive her children of a dad) just because she wants them all to herself, this is probably going to bolster her motivation to aggressively seek sole custody.

    • Having been through a truly awful and unwanted divorce battle, I can tell you that there is no answer to such questions. In my case, I offered to split everything right down the middle. Her answer, “I get more. A lot more.” No amount of mediation will work with someone filled with spite and greed.

      • Mediation is one of the problems: true mediation has to be voluntary, but the courts turn the mediation process into a “let the best liar win” rubber stamp contest.

        That is, they save $$ by having some person listen to both sides for a half hour instead of having to pay a judge to listen to the whole story and consider evidence.

  2. Yup. When I called my mother on her questionable behaviour while calmly sitting at the kitchen table, I soon found myself held in a room being accused by my aunt of abuse, with the police on speed dial.

    Slandering me to her side of the family, I was ostrasized and villainized, asking myself why it felt like I was getting divorced. My parents divorced 30 years ago, but once a person starts the silver bullit thinking pattern, it seems to stick.

    It’s been hell, but in calling out her behaviour I found out she’d been lying for 10 years, saying she’s been financially supporting me the whole time, which is utterly untrue, likely to get money out of my grandparents. I guess if the ex-husband is out of reach, a son will do just as well.

    • Nobody says

      I knew a boy who had his mummy’s birth date tattooed on his chest when he “entered adulthood”…right across his heart in huge roman numerals. He will never understand or believe that mommy dearest used and manipulated him and stole his father from him. Daddy is the villain of the piece though the young man has never cared to sit with dad or dad’s people to hash it all out. It is sad that women actually believe children are perfectly fine without fathers.

    • Ardy says

      My mother used to beat my father, on a couple of occasions putting him in hospital. She was 5′ 2″ and he was 6′ tall. I asked him one time why he put up with it and didn’t hit her back and he said “Son, men don’t strike women, it is only cowards who hit women” So the stiches went in and he was back on his bike cycling 9 miles each way, even through a foot of snow, to work overnight, then work as a gardener during the day.

      It took me up to my mid thirties to learn to have any trust in women.

      When she died the old boy got a bit teary, I said “She was an absolute bitch dad who made our lives a misery, lets go down the pub for a few beers.”

      He only stayed because he knew she would put us in an institution if he left.
      I am eternally thankful for this kind man who put up with so much for us.

  3. Janice C. says

    Johnny Depp has a terrible addiction, did you not hear the video??? And you used him as your example anyway? Show me a person who gets that intoxicated at home who does not hurt someone else physically. How interesting that two addicts (as Pitt admitted he was and got treatment) are the two examples of the great husbands? I feel like I had to keep rubbing my eyes.

    Technology is going to make it very easy to record evidence of abuse, so this issue of “abuse with no one single bit of evidence, right” is moot. The idea that women are secretly beating men is just or responsible for men who beat women… so much for common sense and experience. Gross personal ethics are on display in this article, not even an attempt to hide them.

    • Dave says

      The writer didn’t hold them up as great husbands at all. I think you should read more carefully perhaps.

    • My wife is an alcoholic. She was never physically abusive when she drank. I’m not sure you should use the fact of alcoholism as proof of abuse… one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.

      • OleK says

        “My wife is an alcoholic. She was never physically abusive when she drank. I’m not sure you should use the fact of alcoholism as proof of abuse… one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.”

        Thank you. Not everyone behaves the same way when intoxicated – this isn’t exactly a secret. Myself, A MALE, I just get tired and fall asleep at the bar/table/couch.

    • Zach says

      Pretty sure you need to reread the article. I suggest you check your bias at the door first.

    • Thylacine says

      Janice C.: You might like to know that statistically, women are more likely to be addicts than men are.

  4. No system is perfect and there will always be a potential advantage from false accusations but the chamge that would make the biggest difference is for there to be negative consequences to a false accusation. Currently there are none whatsoever but if following investigation it was found that no abuse had taken place this was taken into account in custody and the division of assets then it would no longer be the magic bullet. This is no more than sensible, any mother, and it is overwhelmingly mothers not fathers, who would falsely accuse a father of abuse knowing the affect on the child and their relationship with the father has decided what she wants is more important than damage to the child. Such a person is not a fit parent. In a similar way a false accusation to gain in the divorce settlement is akin to fraud and if discovered should result in financial loss. The issue is that female misbehaviour however egrigous is almost never punished. This is not just the case in family law but that is the area most affected. Another area that needs change for the sake of children is the repeated refusal by women to obey court orders regarding access by fathers to their children. In the UK there is effectively never consequences for this and it is therefore very common.

    • karen straughan says

      A false allegation can actually still reward the mother. Goes like this:

      Judge: Well, okay. You’ve been completely exonerated sir, but you haven’t seen the kids for more than 6 months. It’s likely that their mother has been… telling them things about you. The guardian ad litem says they’re telling her they’re scared to be alone with you, and that they’re angry with you for abandoning them. And frankly, their lives have already been disrupted enough. However it happened, this is their new normal and they’re used to it. Granting custody to you would only disrupt their lives further, and seriously distress them. How about this? Supervised visitation, four hours, every other weekend with a family reunification specialist. Sound good?

      Father: But she lied to the police, to you, to the kids. Under oath, even. Surely she should be sanctioned in some way!

      Judge: Well see, here’s the problem with that. If she’s penalized financially–through the division of marital property, say, or less child support or maybe… you know, a fine. Well, that will damage the situation for the children. Their sole carer will have less money to care for them, see? And if we were to… uh… you know, prosecute her for perjury, that’s also going to have a negative impact on the children. Seeing their sole parent arrested and prosecuted? I’m not prepared to put them through that.

      Father: So now I need to be supervised around my kids, and only get to see them for 8 hours a month? With a specialist?

      Judge: The guardian ad litem can probably provide you with phone numbers for services that don’t charge out the nose.

      Father: What?

      Judge: Well, it will be your responsibility to pay for the supervision and the specialist. If you can’t afford it, that’s your problem.

      • Sam says

        As sad and ridiculous as this sounds, this is exactly how it goes. I know. I have experienced it first hand.

      • Dmax888 says

        I’d say that the problem with Family Courts has probably more to do with the ideologically driven specialists supplementing the Judges decisions with harmful suggestions. The GAL would be one of them, especially when they come from a psychological/sociological background. Way two many Marxist supporters celebrating the destruction of the family unit. Why aren’t these specialists more regulated regarding their ideological stance!?

      • Thylacine says

        Karen: As a former family lawyer in Alberta, Canada, I can attest that what you say is completely true. Another twist: After dad is ejected from the family home, made to pay support and legal bills, etc., he has nothing left over for a new home with separate bedrooms for each of the kids, so the judge says he can’t have overnight visitation.

  5. Stephanie says

    My cousin recently went through a breakup with his babymama (the kind of welfare queen that has 6 kids from 3 men because she doesn’t want to work), and while I was seeking advice for him a lawyer friend told me that the courts prefer to give custody to women because fathers tend to work long hours, sometimes out of town. It seemed like such a catch 22: either you support your family or you get to see them. It’s a choice no man should have to make.

    I’m not so sure I agree with the author that no-fault divorce was a good thing. Divorce because of verifiable abuse, cheating, alcoholism, drug addiction, ect, sure, but so many couples are divorcing because the spark has faded and they want new love. Considering the effect on children under 18, that seems a feeble reason to cancel the vow “till death do us part.” As a newlywed maybe I shouldn’t be lecturing people on commitment, but it seems to me people should be expected to keep their vows.

    • E. Olson says

      No fault was a good thing for feminists because it opened the door to 50-50 asset splits + child support, which disproportionally benefit wives and disproportionally hurt husbands (most of the time). As for splits based on a faded spark, the research suggests that odds of “finding love” the second time round are terrible – particularly for middle-aged women and/or women with children who initiate 70% of divorces.

      • I ended up spending $1.35 for every dollar I collected in child support.

        The notion that females make out like bandits is as riddled with cognitive dissonance as the reversed-sex version feminists tell, about how men get off scot free. I have a long list of horror stories associated with family courts.

        Our institutions suffer from multiple problems. The biggest is a problem of approach: treating divorce as a combination criminal justice case plus property dispute, instead of recognizing that every member of the fgoing amily needs to not only heal but reconnect with the other family members – not reconnect in the sense of going back to how the relationship once was, but in a new sense of building a new relationship: coparent instead of spouse, in the case of the divorcing couple.

        The sort of thing I see on this thread, where people reassure each other than both the courts and the opposite sex is out to get them and the only way to win is to assume from the outset not only that they’re fighting dirty, but that they’re going to sneak attack you on the first move…this is just feedback loops turning the problem into an exponentially larger verson of the same problem.

        • ennede, I agree with your last 2 paragraphs, but if you truly spent $1.35 for every dollar you collected then you did make out like a bandit. You provided 28% of the total support amount. To be clear, I’m not advocating for reducing child support amounts here, but I think we should be honest that the support payer (usually men) who care and pay what they’re ordered to pay when they’re ordered to pay it do indeed provide a large percentage of the financial needs of the children.

  6. Peter Rowe says

    In Australia we already have a shared parenting presumption but even that has not cured the problems you have highlighted of false accusations. If anything these claims now seem almost routine as they potentially provide an exemption to the presumption. I am truly shocked at the ease with which domestic violence orders are handed out, even where there is no actual allegation of violence. Sometimes raised voices seem to be enough.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      I attended court with an acquaintance in Australia who was accused of domestic violence. He denied it, and explained to me that there had been an altercation but no violence. Part of the evidence was some furniture that had allegedly been damaged – he told me it was not damaged when he left the house for the last time. I believed him: I talked to him for a long time, plus, I knew his wife and knew she had lied in a similar situation in the past (not about me – I wasn’t invollved in that way). He had a lawyer, who was overworked, and who tried to get the police to provide details of the accusation but didn’t get it until after the case. It was a quick affair, one of many in a row, he was simply asked to stand up where we were sitting in the audience area, the magistrate looked at the papers in front of him and made some unexplained remark to himself about what they contained, and ruled that this guy should be barred from all contact with his child. Afterwards, his lawyer told him that he’d found out that he’d contacted his wife by phone, while under a no-contact apprehended violence order. We went to the pub for a berr and he put his phone on the table, saying, ‘She’ll call in a moment.’ I didn’t believe she would, but she did.

      Anyway, in the end, he had to pay ongoing child maintenance and not see his child.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      I know, from the experience of an acquaintance. I actually wrote a detailed post about but Quillette ate it when I tried to post and I can’t be bothered writing it again.

      • ga gamba says

        Yes, Quillette sometimes has that problem. There are a couple of work arounds. The simplest is to copy and paste your comment in a text editor prior to hitting the Post Comment button. Browser extensions are an alternative tool, though they do consume resources such as RAM. I use one called Lazarus that works well enough – there are others. It autosaves your comments and allows you to select from a list of previous versions. You may configure options for how long a period in days these are to be retained.

        BTW, a culprit for my comments being eaten is usually my including more than two hyperlinks. A work around for this it to remove the http(s), the www, and replace the dot with (dot) so that becomes quillette(dot)com/2019/04/16/divorce-and-the-silver-bullet/

        Another culprit is my use of a VPN.

        • K. Dershem says

          GG, thanks for the heads up. I use a VPN as well and sometimes have issues with comments disappearing.

  7. Arche Lasalles says

    So men are entitled to equal custody so they don’t kill themselves?
    If you’re at a point of suicide because you can’t get what you want you’re hardly parent/husband material.
    Statistics indicate concerns but are not necessarily proof of entitlement or competence. Whilst I don’t doubt unfair play, anecdotes are not hard statistics.
    Safety must be a priority & unfortunately our word is usually all we have. Welcome to our world. It’s not fair but t’is.

    • Pirus says

      The sort of double standard I have come to expect from feminists. Whenever someone points out the glaring injustices in family law, they dismiss it rather than sticking to their core principles they otherwise hold.

      So if we follow your argument you are against equality of outcome. Competence is all that matters and world is unfair. Tough get used to it.

      • Arche Lasalles says

        Pirus, calm down dear, be specific. Exactly what injustice? Data?

        Correlation is not causation. Suicide is a mental health issue. It’s most likely that these guys had pre existing mental health issues prior to their divorces AND it probably drove it.

        More men commit suicide? Maybe more men don’t seek help. Maybe more men can’t deal with not being ‘in control’. Maybe more men lack mental fortitude. But ohhhh no, the ‘ol she devil made ’em dot it….again.

        Listen pal, as convenient as irrational feminist extremes maybe to your victim mentality they are not the reality of most women. Company you keep? I don’t know any women looking for favours only doling them out since dot.

        ‘Clean up your room’, get back to us then…

        • Pirus says

          Yep. A typical feminist response. fast and loose.hardly worth responding to .LOL.

        • karen straughan says

          “More men commit suicide? Maybe more men don’t seek help.”

          Well, they certainly seek help from the family courts. They just don’t get it.

          “Maybe more men can’t deal with not being ‘in control’.”

          Or maybe they’re depressed and despairing because they themselves are being controlled by a state apparatus in such a way that they can’t see their kids? I’m sure you’d tell a woman unjustly deprived of contact with her children as suffering “control issues”, wouldn’t you?

          “Maybe more men lack mental fortitude.”

          Oh, the ridiculousness of that statement, once you read the Daily Mail’s article “Agony of Being a 50/50 Mum”, that describe women who have to share custody equally as depressed, despairing victims of cruel circumstance. All while the majority of men after divorce can only dream of having such a pleasant thing to moan about.

          • Chad Jessup says

            Imagine, in a similar vein, the KKK uttering those statements about poor Blacks who commit suicide.

            Arche’s comments are heartless.

          • Del says

            I was lucky enough to have a legitimate 50-50 divorce. I may not have liked my ex at the time but there was never a question about putting our sons first.

            The big obstacle was finding an attorney who would go along with it. We went through at least four attorney meetings before one would execute our own agreement. One woman acted like we were trying to steal her purse for suggesting that we were capable of understanding our own situation. Eventually the total cost was $800 U.S. But that was 25 years ago

        • Ashley says


          @ Arche Lasalles

          That’s one gigantic list of one baseless assumption after another!

    • neoteny says

      Safety must be a priority

      Safety for whom? Safety from whom?

      • Arche Lasalles says

        Neotenty, are you serious? The safety of those at risk from those who pose a threat.
        If an allegation of abuse is made that is substantially credible ie previous history etc then custody restrictions should follow.
        How many more deaths do you need?

        • karen straughan says

          “If an allegation of abuse is made that is substantially credible ie previous history etc then custody restrictions should follow.”

          Arche didn’t read the article.

          Firstly: All a woman needs to get an order of protection is to make an unsubstantiated allegation. No previous history needed. In some places, all a woman has to tell the judge is that she has a concern that he MIGHT become violent. Again, no history needed.

          Second: The article indicates that women are at no substantially bigger risk of intimate partner homicide than men are, and that mothers are as likely to kill their children as fathers.

          • “that mothers are as likely to kill their children as fathers.”

            At least in the UK thsi si not true. Mothers are in fact the most likely people to kill their children by a good margin and even exceeds the probability of the father and a non-father boyfriend killing a child. Fathers are in fact the safest person to care for a child.

        • Kat says

          What about the safety of the children? Why is that not important? A parent who is prepared to make false allegations in this situation is abusing their children yet we routinely leave children with their abusers.

    • James says

      Ha! Arche, your words and your tone say it all. Firstly, the writer doesn’t say things are definitive. But listen to your likely reasons for men killing themselves! 🙂 They must be control freaks, etc. Some might be. Or they could be miserable without their kids. They maybe have lost the spoils of a life’s work because of a person who has the issues you ascribe to men. I suggest you go chat with a few divorce lawyers.
      As the writer says: If women were kicking themselves at 8 times the rate of men, I’m sure you would be as dismissive and glib about the likely reasons.
      If we listened to people like you we would just believe what you say and might believe falsities we’ve been spoon fed for a couple of generations about things like domestic violence. In that realm there ARE good stats and it’s clear: women are as violent and men.
      Your snide tone goes a long way to proving the writer’s point. Men and women can be mean.

    • karen straughan says

      Ah, there’s that ubiquitous “compassionate feminist” I referred to in my reply to Morgan Foster.

      Meanwhile, women who have 50/50 custody and are miserable and unable to cope emotionally are given unironically sympathetic write-ups in mainstream media. Those poor women! They have to SHARE? How inhumane!

    • Thylacine says

      Arche: You don’t understand the dynamics. The father is a perfectly loving, healthy father at the start, but after a couple of years of being raped by the system, his mental health deteriorates and he sees no way out of the on-going torture.

  8. Wentworth Horton says

    There needn’t even be an official complaint made, just establish the narrative between parent and child. This can be done at anytime after birth and before there is even talk of divorce. When the divorce does come it plays out like a little Manchurian Candidate , the child will know it but not know it. Until they themselves have children and the student becomes the Master. Obli di obli da.

  9. What I learned from close friends and family who’ve been through this: If your relationship is on the rocks, and you think a divorce might be in the offing, and especially if you are a man: start collecting evidence NOW. Maybe you go to therapy, work it out, and you never need it. No harm done. But showing up in court with a filebox of neatly sorted, easily-referenced hard-copy records (psych records, medical records, text messages, emails, receipts, photos, paternity test results, etc.– if it’s electronic, print it ALL out, with dates and times), will go a long way toward protecting you from your soon-to-be-ex’s most ridiculous accusations. Your lawyer will thank you. Judges DO know about the silver bullet strategy, there’s just not a lot they can do when there’s no evidence of anything. And your best shot at gathering the documentation you need is before your spouse files divorce papers, moves out, or kicks you out.

  10. Bob Johnson says

    No-fault divorce has honestly been a civilizational disaster. Our freedom to abandon the obligations of marriage without good reason (addiction, abuse) has caused untold suffering for children. A renewed right needs to make it an issue; no-fault divorce has reduced marriage to an elective obligation, not two becoming one flesh

    • E. Olson says

      I agree, and would add that I do not see why the party who files for divorce without verified documentation regarding a legitimate cause (i.e. infidelity, abuse, addiction) should be entitled to any marital assets (or any pre-marital assets of the partner). If you are unhappy with your marriage and want it to end, the termination should itself be adequate “reward”.

    • I agree that no-fault divore has been “a civilizational disaster”.

      Our institutions for coping with the flood of divorce and custody issues is insanely dysfunctional, and turns families that are hurting into opposing armies that will spend literally decades attacking each other.

    • ms100 says

      The bottom line is that people need to be better judges of the people they have children with. At the very least, don’t get married so you don’t get totally screwed over financially.

    • I welcome the “renewed right” making this a huge issue for the foreseeable future. It would be awesome to see them paint such a huge target on themselves…

    • methylethyl says

      My immediate inclination is to agree wholeheartedly. But I don’t know anyone who’s gotten divorced for no-fault type reasons– you know, “I’m tired of being married” or “irreconcilable differences”. I only hear secondhand stories about it. Maybe it’s the milieu I live in, but 100% of the divorced people I know well enough to have close knowledge of their divorces… they’ve gotten divorced because of mental illness, abuse, infidelity, and addiction. That’s it. I don’t personally know anyone who’s gotten a divorce for any other reason, and therefore have a hard time believing it’s that common. My best guess is that it’s a rich-people thing?

    • JustAnon says

      it hasn’t cause anything but people really want to believe that divorce is bad just because they have a priori normative assumptions whose validation is more important than the truth

  11. Galileosdaughter says

    As a lawyer I practiced family, or matrimonial, law for 10 years until I could no longer stomach it. My main reason for leaving was because I saw the abominable treatment handed out to men under the law. When I was acting for the wife, most of them very quickly presented me with the statement that the husband had abused the kids, often sexually. Under the laws of the Canadian province in which I practiced, I had no alternative but immediately to seek a Court order barring the father from seeing the children. This was done on the affidavit of the wife. No additional evidence was needed. Usually the no visitation order would be in effect until the divorce hearing, often years later. Later in the process of our relationship the wife, playing the all sisters together card with me, would hint that she had lied in order to establish her control over the divorce. I could not tell a Court this because of solicitor/client confidentially, so the father continued to be shut out of any relationship with the children. I never came across any father who used this tactic. After several years and a significant number of similar situations, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to be involved in such a travesty of justice and left.

    The most significant injury I came across in a divorce situation, was when the wife beat up her husband so severely he was hospitalized for several days.

    And, yes, I am a woman, who tries to believe in justice as an abstract concept, available to all equally.

    • Morgan Foster says


      Thank you for mentioning the wife-on-husband beating story.

      This is a problem seldom understood by anyone who doesn’t have regular conversations with criminal defense attorneys and police officers.

      Women do beat up men. They do it because they can, and because they know that if the men fight back it will be the men who will most likely go to jail. (A few women don’t get away with it. The children don’t back up their stories.)

      You remind me a little of a woman I knew who told me she gave up being a rape counsellor in disgust over the number of women she dealt with who lied about being raped.

      A Quillete article for another day, I think.

      • diom3d3s says

        I was a battered husband until I spent three years collecting mountains of evidence of abuse by my wife. This was necessary to protect myself against false allegations of abuse by me, which my wife told me should would make in the event I ever reported her conduct. I was never allowed to leave a beatdown session. I had to worry about lighting and camera angles while being hit, having objects hurled at me and threatened with knives (I could go on). F all this. I will never be the same.

      • Thylacine says

        Grant A. Brown, “Gender as a factor in the prosecution of intimate partner violence,” sexuality & culture, 2004, pp. 1-139. It’s all there.

    • “When I was acting for the wife, most of them very quickly presented me with the statement that the husband had abused the kids, often sexually. ”

      And as a woman who didn’t present such a story, I got shafted. I saw other women – who like me could not afford a lawyer, and who did not know the correct ways to game the system – get even more shafted. (Would I have gamed the system if I’d known how much heartache it would save me? One of those questions I’ll never have an honest and complete answer to.)

      Blaming “feminism” (or “the patriarchy”) does not get at the real problem, or suggest a fix.

      The real problem is that the institution is dysfunctional – behaving like a corrupted system. In such a system, people adjust to exploit the biases – the system thus naturally favors those who “game” it. Those who can’t or won’t exploit the biases get squashed.

      • JoshP says

        Maybe you got shafted, orrr maybe you got the treatment that most men in family court have come to expect. If it broke your heart that much, have some empathy and caring for the men who face that situation 85% of the time.

        Just like it doesn’t feel good for you it does not feel good to them. The heartbreak they feel is just as real. You ponder what you would do if you could go back with the knowledge of how to game the system…. seems to me the answer is clear as day. It doesn’t matter what lies you have to tell on your poor ex as long as you don’t have to suffer the heartbreak of a divorce where you weren’t favored over a man.

        • Josh, I agree with a lot of the criticisms of feminism, but it does not do any good to simply assume that all men are victims and all women who complain about injustice can have their words dismissed because they all supposedly enjoy privilege. That is exactly the sort of thinking that made feminism go spiraling out of control.

      • Stephanie says

        Ennede, you stated above that your ex-husband covered 73.5% of your expenses. It is your ex-husband that got shafted and you should apologize to him.

        • Uh, I don’t remember saying my ex-husband covered 73.5% of my expenses. That is not correct.

          I said that for every dollar I received in child support, I paid $1.35 collecting it. I got ZERO help with expenses.

        • No, at no point did I lose custody.
          My husband also won custody of his kids, so that is another piece of anecdotal evidence that works against the narrative that men are mistreated just because they are men. Anecdotal evidence cuts both ways.

      • Tome708 says

        Ennede, maybe the institution of marriage has been corrupted. Should we need an entire industry because husbands and wives can’t act like grown ups and learn to honor their commitments. The “system” is overwhelmed and dealing with issues that should be rare.
        I have an idea that will help. Men marrying women doesn’t work. Let’s have men “marry” other men and pretend it’s the same.

      • It is possible for women to get ‘shafted’ but not very likely. Can you say how you got shafted what happened and what you thought what would have been reasonable instead.

    • Thylacine says

      Galileo’s Daughter: I was another Canadian family-law lawyer with similar experiences.

  12. GregS says

    As a divorce father, I knew I would face institutional bigotry but I didn’t understand how deeply rooted it was until I was waiting in the offices of our county social services for a mediation session with my ex.

    On the other side of a standard office divider, two women were fielding phone calls for social services. If a woman called, they forwarded her call, if a man called, they put him on hold. The reason I knew they were doing this, is because they were joking about it.

    Their term for voice-mail, was male voice.

  13. E. Olson says

    Any parent who accuses a spouse of abuse without corroborating police, social services, or medical records is not fit to have custody of a child. If such abuse did indeed occur, and the parent did not seek/take help from police or social services or medical attention for injuries, then that “silver bullet” parent is equally guilty of abuse. If such abuse did not occur or is greatly exaggerated – i.e. a simple spanking for misbehavior becomes sexual abuse, then the “silver bullet” parent is abusing the child by contaminating and blocking their relationship with an innocent parent. In either case, the parent should automatically lose what they no doubt were using the “silver bullet” to achieve – child custody and/or a more generous financial settlement. There need to be severe legal and financial consequences for false accusations in divorce and child custody court.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @E. Olson

      “Any parent who accuses a spouse of abuse without corroborating police, social services, or medical records is not fit to have custody of a child.”

      Fully agree, and I would extend this as a general principle to any charge of physical OR sexual abuse against another person, whether a spouse or not.

    • “Any parent who accuses a spouse of abuse without corroborating police, social services, or medical records is not fit to have custody of a child.”

      But what if the parent rapes them in ways that leave no evidence? My father raped me by demanding I give him oral sex. There was no evidence. It went on for years and I knew no one would believe me. If my mother had spoken up – my father got more and more blatant as I got older – would you truly argue that she should lose custody and I should have been left with my rapist father?

      I get there are crazy parents who lie. That doesn’t mean that all accusations are untruthful. Any abuser who is remotely intelligent or able to control his/her abuse (women abuse too) knows that if you leave no trace, there is no proof. It is not hard to leave no trace, as long as you don’t penetrate.

      I’m sorry I’m being blunt but people just don’t get the full picture. Again, just because people abuse the system doesn’t mean that every accusation is false.

      • Ardy says

        That was very different in my childhood.
        A friend of mine’s sister mentioned to another mother in the area that her father was coming in the bedroom and doing nasty things to her.
        A group of the local fathers (all ex 2nd WW soldiers) got together and questioned him, they beat him so badly he was in hospital for a week.
        My friend told me that the group told his father ‘if he touched her again they would kill him.’

        No more problems, but that could not happen today as the group of fathers would be in jail.

  14. Jean Levant says

    One would believe this article has been closely supervised by Quillette’ s E. Olson. No, of course, I’m just joking. A good article, James, very convincing alas.

  15. Robin says

    Thought provoking essay…

    “Lay down the gun with the silver bullet in the chamber. Sit with your no-good spouse and a mediator and a large pot of coffee and work out your complicated future in an afternoon.”

    Sounds like a reasonable male approach to a problem. Sadly the Duluth model of family violence arms every women with a silver bullet. The legal community always advises them to use it and the system incentivizes it by leading to your emotional financial ruin and her financial gain. Both things seen as desirable by an angry, bitter ex spouse.

    It is a vast wealth transfer system from men to women. I’ll add too that you falsely presume that women or the court system cares about ‘the best interest of the children.’ I think the evidence is overwhelming that they don’t give a damn about them, they are merely a tool and means to an end. Children come out last under that model which is why so many of them are statistically likely to have the worst outcomes in society.

  16. Throughout the animal world, females typically raise their offspring alone. The male has no interest and no responsibility.

    Humans have evolved a different model, obviously and fortunately. However, some men still hit the road, and many women would prefer they did, albeit with one caveat — keep the checks coming. And when women find a wealthier mate, the preference is that he think of himself as the father in every sense — so much easier if the bio dad can be rid of altogether. I’ve seen it firsthand, replete with lies to turn the kids against their own dad.

    This is not to let men off the hook. They’re more likely to cheat, and so more likely to bring on the divorce in the first case.

  17. E. Olson says

    Perhaps a little levity to a painful topic?

    Divorce Court Custody Hearing: The kindly judge asks 10 year old Bobby about his preferences for post-divorce living arrangements.

    Judge: Bobby would you like to live with your mother?

    Bobby: No sir, my mother beats me.

    Judge: Then would you like to live with your father?

    Bobby: No sir, my father beats me.

    Judge: Well then Bobby, who do you want to live with?

    Bobby: Please sir, let me live with (insert name of sports team with a hopeless losing record), because they don’t beat anyone.

  18. 20 years later, when we meet I give her and her husband a hug, we’ll have an occasional dinner together, and we call each other to discuss our children (now in their 20s and fully on their own). But it wasn’t always that way….

    Every interaction I had with the family courts was stacked against, and in many cases actively hostile towards, the father. 50-50 default care assumption should have been the standard long ago.

    When she filed for divorce she didn’t make any claims of physical abuse, but since I was fighting for more than the standard visitation at the time (1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends from 6pm Fri to 6pm Sun and every Wed 6-8pm — 1 week in the summer and portions of every other school holiday). I ended up with nothing more for my effort and expense. She was the primary caregiver for our very young children so the judge saw no other possibility.

    I took all the debt and split what little we had about 80/20 to her benefit. All I really cared about was getting more time with my kids. In the end none of that mattered. And in the process she ended up claiming I mentally abused her – a near-silver bullet at the time. She forgot to mention that she was physical several times – hitting and/or throwing things when she got upset. I was a terrible husband to her, but I don’t think I deserved the physical violence aimed at me.

    Later when she took me back to court for more child support I was told by the judge that I needed to “get my priorities straight” in his final ruling, and interrupted my lawyer’s questioning to argue against me during the proceedings. At the time I had been paying significantly more than ordered for years, but not as much as she thought I should. My lawyer warned me that the judge wouldn’t care about anything other than what percentage of my income I was paying. I was naive and thought that the judge would follow the actual wording of the law which allowed him to consider things like the shared debt I was still paying off, other expenses I was voluntarily paying, and extra time I was spending with the kids.

    My bottom line though is to let go of all the hate. I never said a negative word to the children about their mother and supported her (even if I disagreed) to their face. I even had to confront my parents when they started talking ill of her in front of them. I think it paid off in the long run… for my health, but most especially for my children’s.

    • DrSpinosaurus says

      As a child of a physically and mentally abusive mother – who did everything she could to destroy her husband until he finally left – I was assailed daily with lies about my father. She had 100% custody of us, because that was how it was in the 70s. . I learned to hate my father for 16 years until I realised my mother was a pathological lier with a narcissistic personality disorder. I was too late to recover a childhood, but I did reconcile with my father. Eventually children see through the fabrication. I was determined not to let my marriage fail. So I stayed with my wife despite the constant physical and mental abuse for almost 18 years. History has such an awful way of repeating. I left in the end to provide a refuge for my children away from my wife. It cost me 150% of all of our assets to divorce. I had to get a loan to pay for the 50% of assets we didn’t own, but they court felt I would eventually earn. She decided not to work, so I had 100% of the childcare costs. Fortunately I had the income to pay for this but for years I was earning 5 cents in the dollar after tax, divorce loans and childcare. Then after she tried to kill one of the children in a drunken public rage, the children moved in with me. I still had to pay child support so they could have the option of returning to her, should they choose to. I didn’t care so much about the money, other than it made it so hard to provide for my kids when they were with me. It was an irony, because I had to work less to be home for them, but I had less to look after them because I was enslaved by the court to their mother. Eventually the children were old enough to make their own decisions and they too could see through the lies they had been told. The Australian Family Court and no fault divorce has been there my entire life supporting the down trodden woman, but leaving the children in the wreckage. I agree with CP, it just easier to let go of all the hate, pay the “fine” for being married, and be there for the children when they need you. I found my father, and my children found me – eventually. Hopefully my children will break the cycle, and never need to see the inside of a family court again, but sadly I think it will be because some of them will shun marriage and children for fear of a third generation of failure.

  19. Great topic as more countries wrestle with declining birthrates. No intelligent male will ever get married or have children with a woman who has this kind of personal politics on her agenda–meaning that by and large, progressive women will bear the brunt of this issue, mostly by being avoided by men who know better. This has been one of the worst policy decisions since at least the time of slavery in the south. Now the trouble is–women are such a large voting block, so what lawmakers would dare take on this issue? The demise of Western civilization is mostly premised on this one issue. There is no single issue that bears a larger role than what we’ve managed to bring about through the various incentives to destroy marriage.

    • Stephanie says

      MB, yes, that should be the lesson for marriageable young men: avoid dating leftists unless you want to be trapped in indentured servitude.

      • 370H55V says

        Sadly, some of the so-called pro-life anti-feminist young women aren’t a whole lot better.

  20. If divorce is unavoidable and there are kids, you should prioritize trying to work things out with the ex. Yes, yes, I know the entire thing is 100% his or her fault, and impossible to boot, but do it anyway: if you can’t work things out with this person outside of court, you won’t like what that person will do once he or she weaponizes the court against you.

    The trick is that you have to establish communications with a person who honestly thinks everything is your fault without doing anything to legitimize the notion that you are to blame. You have to stay open to the reality that you’re more to blame than you think, and that the anger against you might be legitimate, but on the other hand you also have to make it clear you are not volunteering to be a doormat. You can point out that the kids need the two of you to be able to coparent and you know he or she loves the kids as much as you do (always remind the other person that they really are what you want them to be, because it often becomes self-fulfilling prophecy).

    Divorce causes intense pain, but following the seemingly obvious or intuitive paths toward trying to resolve the emotional conflict does not work as one would think it does. Partly this is because divorce opens up a lot of ‘new business’ that must be taken care of – most crucially the question of how the children are to be cared for – and this gets in the way of seeking closure. Also, though, it is because people underestimate the extent to which we move from individual identities to a group identity – marriage is a social unit – and when that shared identity is murdered, we have a hard time detaching – people tend to think that if the other person understood how betrayed we feel, they would (ought to) care: we have difficulty comprehending that the other person genuinely doesn’t give a hoot about us or our problems any more. And both ex-partners think the other should be the one to do the listening, not the talking.

    However taking the time to get together, talk, get to a point where you can be civil – if you love your kids, you owe it to them to do this. Being able to get together to do things with your child, so that he or she can have the experience of doing things with both beloved parents (stepparents really do have an obligation to be good sports) – is the best gift you could give your child, if you and your ex can give the gift in full sincerity, without grudge or resentment or hidden passive aggressive retaliations.

    • K. Dershem says

      Ennede, this is excellent advice — thanks.

  21. Arche Lasalles says

    Oh my Arche, check out all that righteous indignation, how dare you!
    Who knew men never lie?
    Who knew the courts were sometimes unfair?
    Who knew women were sometimes unfair?
    Wh knew mens mental health issues were the fault of women?
    Who knew data was irrelevant when making sweeping conclusions of bias systems when ‘The daily Mail’ could tell you?
    Who knew most systems need fine tuning & that some systems aren’t perfect but the best ones we have.
    Put your big boy/girl pants on people. Unfair play by some is not a licence to burn down the house just because for once it’s sometimes men on the receiving end.

    • This same argument could be made about most things that are unjust. I think we should at least try to make progress. I’ve thought quite a bit about ways to make things more equitable for parents who care about their children and the best idea I’ve heard is the 50/50 split… Do you think it is “burning down the house” to implement that presumption? As for combating the “silver bullet”, I haven’t heard a good way to combat that yet – do you have some recommendations?

      • Arche Lasalles says

        CP, it’s not a pie we’re talking about it’s children.
        Each family varies as do individuals. Whilst 50/50 works great for many & is probably a relief to most women given that their ex’s never spent any where near that much time in the past with their child it just isn’t always practical & most importantly helpful for children.
        Say one of the parties works & always has worked long hours it’s hardly in the ‘best interests’ for the kids to be home with their new spouse or alone is it?
        Quantity isn’t necessarily quantity.
        Each case on it’s merits is what I recommend.
        My problem with this piece is that it suggests the mental health issues of a parent decides the best interests of the child.
        As for the silver bullet, yep it’s like all other fraud. What can you do? Fraud for gain is a human condition & of course we should improve measures to prevent it.
        But fraud like mental health or any other ‘excuses’ don’t trump best interests of children.

        • Arche Lasalles says

          Apologies, “quantity isn’t necessarily quality”

          • Arche, I agree re quantity/quality. However, my experience is that you need quantity to get to quality. Quality seems rather serendipitous when it comes to children. And it is nice to hope for each case on it’s merits, but I’ve never seen that happen – there’s a default in the law and variation is difficult. Asking a judge to fairly judge each case on its merits is further from the current system than 50/50 – at least where I live. I didn’t read the article as suggesting parental mental health should play into what’s in the best interest of the children, but I can see how you got there… if that’s what the author meant then I agree with you. Thanks for the response.

          • I’ve been thinking more about my own quantity/quality experiences with my children. If all I wanted to be was the “fun” parent I would have focused solely on experiences – what you might call quality. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to be a real parent – the positive and negative things – the time just being together. In my case the law simply didn’t account for a father that wanted to be involved and judges were unwilling to go outside of the letter of the law.

        • Pirus says

          Ah the same old same old. Straight out of women’s aid literature. Words used my own familfy court judge who justified her decision to allow ex to.relocate hundreds of miles away. Long story.

          It is quality that matters she said (meaning visitation during holidays is good enough for the father). Also that she felt mother was better in touch with child’s emotions and that child.needs one main home… That’s it.

          I thank my lucky stars though. I read and hear about harrowing stories every day, about father’s loosing all meaninfull contact with their children. Child alienation is another huge issue which is only slowly getting some attention.

          Enforcement of orders is another huge issue.

          And yet all is dismissed by psudo scientific studies cherry picking data from otherwise secret family court outcomes. Guess who is behind such studies. Women’s aid and other feminist lobby groups and university professors.

          • Arche Lasalles says

            Pirus, I get judges are unfair sometimes. But isn’t the real problem judge accountability?

            Mate, I feel your pain. I have a son & brothers too with very real fears for them. I also happen to genuinely believe & live one must make real sacrifices for ones children once they commit to them.

            As much as it may suit you to believe, i’m not talking through my arse or parroting extreme feminist propaganda with no real life experience. Ive put up with over 20 years of catering to a husband with mental health issues to put it mildly for the sake of my children’s best interests at the expense of my own as I know many of my friends have.

            No, it’s not fair, I don’t know what freedom or love is maybe one day I will maybe I won’t. But it’s worth it. Forsaking ones self interest is the road to substantialism.

            So, I put to you, are you strong enough to let some injustice slide for the benefit of most not withstanding working on improvement?

            Social responsibility is made in such ways.

        • Jean Levant says

          “…a relief to most women given that their ex’s never spent any where near that much time in the past with their child it just isn’t always practical & most importantly helpful for children.”
          Not wrong, Arche. It’s not really about equal time sharing (not for all of us at least), it’s rather about keeping the father in his crucial part of child nurturer. But how do you do in case of divorce? I just don’t know.

          • Arche Lasalles says

            It’s crucial alright even not at it’s best, no arguments there.
            I think the work that Jordan Peterson is doing is particularly relevant here for both men & women. The importance of responsibility & maintaining some traditional semblance of the best of masculine feminine role modelling in the home needs to get out there even if it can’t happen under the one roof.
            Endemic self interest needs to be addressed.
            Perhaps we need God after all to rise above it?

      • Arche Lasalles says

        Hey CP,
        I agree the judicial system has a long way to go & my ‘merit’ suggestion is not reality. I just think it’s a better goal to work towards rather than 50/50.
        I’m not suggesting the time spent should be on ‘outings’ or ‘fun’ times rather the parent is actually available.

        • Arche, yes! Being actually available is definitely my idea of quality… but in my experience that requires quantity. I’ve thought quite a bit about this over the years and my stumbling block has always been how to get concepts like “merit” into a law. What would that law look like?

          A similar item is child support. My situation was: 25% of my net available resources, no tax deductions, all insurance costs, zero flexibility, and I still need rooms, clothing, food, etc. for them when they were at my house. I didn’t think that was fair at the time and I still don’t… However, I never came up with a law I felt would be better. What is “fair” anyway? And how would the concepts of “fair” or “merit” even be represented in a written law? Ultimately I just accepted that there are deadbeats out there which requires the law to set some minimum financial commitment, since you can’t force someone to care, and the current % is as arbitrary as any other would be.

          Like child support percentages, 50/50 visitation is certainly arbitrary, but at least it would allow parents who care to have a chance of getting to those all-important quality times.

          Anyway, I really appreciate the conversation Arche.

    • James says

      Your paraphrases have no relation to anything said by anyone on this page. So you’re arguing with a phantom. No one is advocating burning anything down. Hence the exploration in the article of policy changes that can be made. You’re not helping the conversation.

      • Arche Lasalles says

        A thousand apologies James. It was a group reply to the ‘outrage’ to my comment further up the page. It ‘mysteriously’ showed up here out of context for those with short memories.
        Oh, & the ‘prism’/prison of your understanding isn’t necessarily reality.

      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        Arche Lasalles, that’s just a plainly vicious ad hominem and not justified by anything in the article.

  22. Thank you James and Galileosdaughter and Karen Straughan.

    My wife and I recently had an unpleasant encounter with family court as we lost primary custody of our granddaughter. We naively assumed the scales of justice would be balanced and learned the hard way that they are not. Now we can no longer protect our granddaughter, and we feel like fools who have lost at three card Monte.

    It is consoling to know that we are not alone.

  23. KeninNZ says

    Here in NZ I’ve been supporting Dads going through separation and the family court for 15 years and have seen this behaviour numerous times. Finally the court appointed psychologists are starting to clearly identify and lable these false accusers.

  24. Stewart says

    The law is, so often, an ass. After my divorce, I was only given the right to send my children letters and presents a few times a year despite no allegations of any sort being made against me, and doubts being raised about my ex-wife and daughter’s testimonies by the judge. My ex then tried to keep me out of the loop about my children’s education which took over a year and an inquiry by the central government’s ombudsman to resolve. After that, she left the country. Having finally ascertained her new location after 17 months of searching, I learned today that too much time has passed for any action to be taken against her. So, this article is well-timed from my perspective.

    I’m not writing this for sympathy or to indulge in competitive woe like the 4 Yorkshiremen. Being a parent, to me, is all about doing one’s best for one’s children in whatever circumstances one finds oneself. No matter the situation, nothing changes that. I always have to opportunity to do what I think is best, even if the available options are not necessarily those I would have chosen. As Marcus Aurelius put it “Does what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, sanity, self-control,prudence, humility and straightforwardness?”

    Many schools of philosophy talk about the benefits of difficult experiences and I’ve found this an enormously useful approach. As a Stoic, I focus on what I can control, rather than the vagaries of the legal process. My ex’s behaviour is her issue, not mine and in some ways, she’s given me an opportunity to improve myself – “When anything tempts you to be bitter, do not say ‘This is misfortune’ but rather ‘To bear this worthily is good fortune'”. If I ever do see my children (and I don’t put the odds of that over 50%), they will hopefully meet a better person than they otherwise would have.

    • Stewart, my condolences. Your words and approach are wise and refreshing; it is good to hear that Aurelius and Stoicism are alive and well; I wish that others had such a useful outlook in these situations. Best wishes going forward.

  25. Joana George says

    If somebody reading this has an acquaintance considering using the silver bullet, or just initiating a divorce, I recommend giving them a copy of Fatherneed by Kyle D. Pruett.

    It’s a great book on the importance of fathers and it’s written with a clear focus on children and in a very non-confrontational manner. If there is anything that can get through to these women it should be the well-being of their kids.

    I know this may sound ridiculously naive, but I think a lot of these women do actually care a lot about their kids. It’s easy to get blind with the negative emotions present during the divorce and come to a point where you honestly believe that your ex is such a monster that the kids are better off.

    • I don’t think it is naive at all to think that ‘a lot of these women do actually care a lot about their kids.’ If we want to solve the problems we should start from the assumption that both parents genuinely love their kids, and are just emotional (because divorce is incredibly emotional). That is not only the case, but if you start from any other assumption, it is inevitable that in no time at all we will be making the same mistake these women make – and the ideologues who give these women bad advice are often responding to their own memories of a specific situation, and generalizing from there to what they imagine are universal truths about all men, or all failed marriages, or all broken families.

  26. Rational Number says

    Divorce is just financial redistribution from the one entity to the other. Typically M to F.

    Should a F use #vaginalprivelege, she will “take my kids”, thus get more child support, get the house, and get the kids, thus depriving the father of access – often simply to cause hurt.
    The legal system encourages deception and the strategic use of DVO’s. Child support is also not tax assessed, conveniently.

    Recently in Australia, a M took out a DVO against his F partner. The feminists and the lefty ABC claimed it was strategic and and abuse of the system. The reality is, he wouldnt have done it had not the system been abused by females for decades to the extent that if you suspect your partner will do it, you should get in first.
    Reap what you sow in this instance.

    • das monde says

      Family law is for greater social stratification between men, namely, checking moderately achieving men (on a statistical scale). Just ask Dale Vince, Boris Becker, or even Robert de Niro, Michael Avenatti recently.

      They say, give a man a power to know who he really is. Family courts show a lot what women do with power.

  27. quijibo says

    Screw marriage. Screw reproducing. It’s just not worth the risk anymore.

  28. Pingback: Divorce and the ‘Silver Bullet’ | Sassy Wire

  29. Hobson's Choice says

    What follows are the low lights of my 10+ years experience with family law courts/police in a Southeastern U.S. state. I have no way of knowing if what follows is a representative sample, nor am I suggesting as much. The only thing I can say for sure, is that this is the honest to God truth. In fairness, more often than not, there are 3-sides to a story. Here’s mine:

    As a young 20 something in my final year of college, I began dating a girl 1-year my junior. After approximately 9 months of dating she became pregnant.
    At about 6 months into the pregnancy, she called me by phone and ended the relationship. To her credit, she was honest enough to admit her parents (who she lived with) encouraged her decision, promising they would support her and the baby if she did. Her father really disliked me, although on reflection, I can’t say I blame him too much. In his eyes, I corrupted his baby girl – let the record show, she had been corrupt prior to my arrival.
    Anyway, in the preceding weeks, my stopped answering my phone calls after I requested to attend her OB appointments.
    Within 2 weeks she had changed her cell and house phone numbers. Within 8-10 weeks the family had sold their house and relocated without so much as a whisper like they were in the fucking witness protection program; although I did eventually find out where after some investigatory work.
    About 4 weeks after than, I received an anonymous call informing me that my ex had delivered our child a week ago (10 days early).
    I, of course, went straight to her house, but her father refused to let me enter their home or bring the child outside where I was standing. For good measure, unbeknownst he called the cops and reported that I was trespassing. I was made aware of this when the cops showed up.
    I then hired a lawyer and 6 months later I was awarded standard visitation rights (every other weekend and one weekday, plus alternating holidays)
    For having the please of seeing my child, the court order me to pay $1,200 a month child support. You may be thinking that sounds like a lot. As I recall, I had similar feelings about the matter, and for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which included the fact that she lived on a golf course with her parents without a bill to her name; while I was effectively forced to moved into the back bedroom of my grandmothers house b/c I couldn’t afford to live/eat on my own. I have it on good authority that I’ve paid for many of her vacations and Louis Vuitton purses.
    After MY FIRST NIGHT of visitation, I returned my child the next day (to my ex) at 12 noon. And then at approximately 6pm I received a phone call from my ex saying she had taken our child to the emergency room after FINDING A MYSTERIOUS HEAD BRUISE. #SILVERBULLET
    I was then, for the next 7 months, investigated for child abuse by the department of child and family services, during which time I was not allowed to have contact with my child or my ex. Investigators interviewed all of my immediate family as well as a number of my close personal friends.
    The investigation concluded at hearing where investigators presented all manner of exculpatory evidence, including, but not limited to, both the investigator and the attending ER physician independently admitting that neither were positive there was EVER A BRUISE TO BEGIN WITH. Both claimed to err on the side of caution.
    After the judge reinstated my visitation rights in full – despite opposing counsel’s request for supervised visitation, you know, just in case I was really a child abuser – he took an additional 30 seconds to verbally warn my ex about making false allegations in the future. That was it. She got a verbal warning.
    In the 8-9 years that followed, I was forced on two separate occasions to take my ex back to court due to her various attempts to prevent me from seeing my child. Her father even contacted me once, and said that if I would just walk away, they wouldn’t make me pay child support.
    One of those time she wouldn’t let me see my child because she found out I was getting married (a full 7 years after she had broken up with me). In that particular instance it took me a full year to get back in front of the judge (yes I paid support during the entire time). Her excuse? She swore, she never prevented me from seeing the child. She claimed I was an absentee father. That if I didn’t see the child, it was because I chose not to.
    Oh did I mention she completely turned our child against me? To this day, my child will still not tell me they love me. I think, I’ll stop there.

    • Hobson says

      My apologies! This is terrible. You can hardly read this. I put a space inbetween each of the short paragraphs. I’m not sure why they aren’t there now. Again, my apologies.

    • I’m so sorry about your experience. I know others who, upon receiving the same offer, simply took the deal and walked off, not because of the money, but because they just gave up, tired of the battle. The children are the ultimate victims. I know one who eventually convinced herself her father had done horrible things to her when she was little, even though I remember her as a child crying because she didn’t see him enough. Brainwashing works.

    • 370H55V says

      While it is truly noble of you to want to play a role in your child’s life, it seems like a lot of your wounds appear to be self-inflicted. As painful as it might have been, you would have been better off if you had simply disappeared as the child’s mother and her parents wanted you out of its life. You should have acquiesced to that and moved on with your life. You would have saved yourself a lot greater pain later.

      • Hobson's Choice says


        There’s something to be said for self-inflicted wounds. I agree with insofar as there’s a principled argument for why I “would have been better off if [I] had simply disappeared.” There’s no doubt a legitimate argument can be had on this view. That said, however, as stated, your argument appears to have presumed what it needs to demonstrate. Namely, that I would, in fact, be better off had I simply disappeared.

        On this view, one could claim to be “better off”, if and only if, after having properly assessed the costs & benefits of each choice (cost benefit analysis), one had determined (subjective metric) the choice to disappear provided the greater benefit (leave one better off) comparatively. So, for example, it may be the case that after having assessed the costs/benefits of each choice, one had determined that the long-term psychological costs incurred from not playing “a role in [their] child’s life” out weighed the potential benefits (n aggregate) enjoyed in the short-term. Of course, this is a simplistic example that leaves out the many other considerations that would be included in a real-world setting, e.g., the effects of each choice on the well-being of the child (both short & long-term).

        It’s not clear that you considered this in your calculus, other than to say, “As painful as it might have been,” which is at least as errant as not considering the costs at all. To understand this, simply replace “painful” for “costly,” which leaves you with the claim, “As costly as it might have been, you would have been better off.” Well, no, not really. Claiming to be better off irrespective of the associative costs of that decision, is to incautiously accept the very thing you need to demonstrate. Surely, there is some level of pain, some cost that we would agree is prohibitive, no?

        Of course, that’s not to say that for others, who have been or are currently in a situation similar to mine, they wouldn’t in fact be better off if they simply disappeared. It’s just to say, it’s not necessarily the case that they would be. These types of decisions are always difficult to adjudicate. For one, such decisions are, by definition, predicated on any number of circumstances unique to that individual and his/her situation. Two, people either allow their emotions to enter the decision-making process when making judgments under uncertainty or are completely incapable of preventing it. Two, people are prone to a host of cognitive bias that may distort their decisions, e.g., hyperbolic discounting, bandwagon effect, framing.

  30. I’ve been divorced for 10 years now; I’m a woman who’d been home full time with my kids, 4 under 13. My ex worked full time supporting us and was rarely home even on weekends. I wanted to go back to work, but he strongly discouraged me, saying he liked it better with me home and I should do that. Eventually, I ignored him and started part time work at a university.

    Our marriage was terrible. He was verbally abusive – I was worthless, I was ridiculous, no one would want me except him, and so on – but I stayed because I thought I could make it work and the kids were so small and I believed (and still believe) children need their father.

    It became impossible to stay as his abuse ratcheted up and started on the kids as well. He was also a closeted gay man but denied it and said he “just” enjoyed gay porn (which he watched, a lot). Therapy never worked; when the therapist agreed with me, he stormed out, said she/he was a ‘piece of shit’ and he demanded we go to a new one. This happened three times before I quit going. He kept threatening he would divorce me if I didnt’ do x or y, and I was scared of divorce, so I agreed. Eventually it became obvious I needed to leave.

    The process was worse than I imagined it would be, and I imagined it would be terrible. He wanted full time custody, which was obviously a no-go. I offered 50/50, but he wouldn’t budge. He then told everyone I had refused therapy, that this had come out of nowhere, that he was worried I was mentally ill, and so on. I know he did this because mutual friends came to me in concern. He’s very believable.

    Anyway, the divorce was 2 years long and then it dragged on another two years because my ex demanded ‘non confidential therapy’ even though we’d had that during the divorce, a monstrosity called a ‘parent coordinator,’ who is a psychologist who charged $12K to pretend she was a therapist, but who really met with us a max of 10 times, didn’t meet with all my kids, openly laughed at my adolescent daughter when she said her father had abused her (“he keeps touching me. Aren’t I allowed to say ‘stop touching me?’ It’s my body!” Therapist laughed.) She then wrote a 70 page report to the court upon which custody was supposed to be determined.

    At several points in the process, my kids started talking about abuse, and each and every time they were ignored by therapists. It’s blatantly illegal, but the therapists were so terrified of going to court and testifying – I don’t know why – that they would refuse to see my kids again if they brought up my ex sexually assaulting them, or tying them up with ropes and locking them in the closet. This happened on several occasions. The more fractured our marriage became , the more things that were hidden came out. This is why abuse sometimes becomes more obvious during a divorce. I heard many very disturbing things but when I tried to get therapy for my kids – several occasions – as soon as they heard I was in the midst of the divorce, they declined taking the kids on. It was awful. When the non confidential therapist after the divorce heard about it – again from my kids – she dropped us entirely and refused to report anything at all to the court. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as seeing her was torture.

    I was told multiple times that it was dangerous to suggest or state my ex abused my kids even though he had and even though the kids told court representatives and doctors he had. I was told if I brought it up, the court might decide to take away my kids entirely as they’d assume I was lying. I did not find any ‘bullet’. Now it’s possible it varies from state to state. But I doubt it.

    I was told by a lawyer friend that divorce court is like ‘exiting the United States.” I think the courts are awful and both men and women suffer. I think there are many excellent judges and lawyers, but there are also really awful ones, and the system itself is swamped and dysfunctional.

    I think the author is very bitter and this is clouding his judgment. I get why, but I wish he would not generalize his own individual experience as a larger gender-centered one applying to the larger population (without even a study to back it up). We all suffer during a divorce, the kids most of all, each in our own ways.

  31. Pirus says

    @d. Good for you , you left and by the sounds of it he deserved it. But as I undrestand you did get custody of your kids.

    So the system worked for you. I wonder why when it doesn’t for so many fathers.

    • No we shared custody. We basically ended up with what id proposel from the get go, only he paid much less – tens of thousands – because he lied about his salary and assets ans my lawyers advised me to just move on. Since the kids were ky priority that wasnt hard. Howeve he has a six bedroom house and i love in a two bedroom.rental nad he has far more money. Oh well

      • Pirus says

        I sense you consider shared custody a bad deal, and you are correct as that is the absolute minimum a mother can normally expect.

        Fathers who get anything close to 50/50 shared custody would be over the moon over the miracle that must have happened.

  32. Brad Walton says

    The author mentioned that changes in divorce after 1970 law made divorce fairer for women. but I did not see any particulars. The remark surprised me. Some months ago I made some notes on Victorian matrimonial and divorce law, in which, so far from being the victim of unfairness, the woman had a distinct advantage. I share my notes below. They adumbrate the state of matrimonial and divorce law from about 1880. I imagine that the laws were somewhat similar in Canada.


    Breach of promise for marriage.

    The law goes back to the time of George III. Women were to be granted punitive damages for a breach of promise of marriage. A woman’s breach of promise had no redress in court. Furthermore, a woman’s false claim that a breach of promise had been perpetrated against her (not infrequently made) carried no legal penalty. Moreover, if the woman, upon making a false promise of marriage, had received gifts of money and /or jewelry, and the fraud being proved against her, was under no legal obligation to return the gifts. However, a man having behaved the same way toward a woman could face five years of penal servitude.

    Maintenance of a wife.

    Uxorial maintenance was a wife’s right and a husband’s responsibility. Originally this privilege depended on the wife’s obedience, cohabitation with her husband, and observance of decent behaviour. These conditions were waived in 1857. After that, the husband’s responsibility of uxorial maintenance remained in all circumstances, including the wife’s abandonment of her husband. The deserted husband could not legally compel his wife to return. However, the absconded wife retained the right of maintenance from her abandoned husband. If he failed to support her, the court ensured her maintenance either by the confiscation of her husband’s property, or the garnishing of his wages. If the husband attempted to evade his responsibility, he was imprisoned. However, the wife, no matter how rich, was under no obligation to maintain her husband, if he became sick or destitute.
    If a wife absconded and then wanted to return, the husband was legally obliged to take her back, restoring her to all her former wifely rights and dignities, or face imprisonment. However, since the imprisonment of the husband was generally an inconvenience to the wife, in 1884 this penalty was replaced by the confiscation or sequestration of the husband’s property in her favour. There was no time-limit placed on a wife’s desertion. After years of absence, she could express a wish or returning, and on being refused, she could claim the right to possess herself of his property.

    The disposition of the wife’s property during her life…:

    A series of Acts passed during the second half of the nineteenth century allowed wives to retain ownership of their property. However, their husbands were not absolved of the heavy responsibilities legally demanded of them during the age of coverture. Thus a wife was possessed of her own property while, by her right of maintenance, retaining a claim to that of her husband, while he remained without any claim on any part of hers, even in the direst circumstances.

    …and after her death:

    The wife could leave her property away from her husband, to anyone she chose, even if she had acquired her property by his gift. The husband was obliged by law to settle his property on his widow.

    A wife loans, the husband gives: Any money passing from the wife to the husband could legally be considered a loan. Any money passing from the husband to the wife could only be considered a gift. A wife was legally entitled to call in a loan to her husband, even if it should result in his bankruptcy.

    Disposition of property and creditors

    A married woman, even when separated from her husband, and released from all duties toward him or her children, retained the privilege of having her property exempt from seizure for debt. Obviously, the husband had no such privilege.

    Husband’s vicarious legal responsibility for a wife’s civil wrongs.

    As you may remember from Oliver Twist, the husband, not the wife, was liable for all infractions of civil law committed by the wife. If, for instance, a wife slandered anyone, her husband could be sued. This was so even in cases where the wife had deserted her husband. If the wife committed a crime in her husband’s presence, the law assumed that she had done it under his coercion. In the practice of the Victorian courts, this presumption was strictly maintained, even with respect to very serious crimes.

    Divorce Law , approximately last two decades of the 19th century

    A man could not obtain a divorce except via the High Court. The process was so prohibitively expensive, that the vast majority of men could not afford it. A woman could, for a few shillings (payable by her husband), obtain a summary separation, confiscation of her husband’s property, and an order for her maintenance from his earnings (up to a rate of 2/3 of his income for life), at the neighbourhood Police Court (an expedient not open to husbands). Her own property remained untouchable in any settlement. She was under no legal obligation to apply it even to the maintenance of her children. Nor could it be demanded by the husband, even if he were incapacitated by disease or accident.

    While the wife had to provide reasons for wishing to separate, the courts had a policy of believing her implicitly. If a disagreement arose as to facts, the burden of proof lay with the husband, who was often compelled to prove the negative. The cards were so stacked against the husband that, inspite of the punitively heavy cost of being separated or divorced, few divorces were ever contested.

    Endowment of Adultresses Out of Damages to the Husband

    Before 1895, in the case of a wife’s adultery, the husband could demand damages from the co-respondent (i.e. the wife’s “seducer”), for the injury done to him in breaking up his home and exposing him to mental anguish and material loss. The damages were paid by the “seducer” into a fund belonging to the wronged husband and often settled by him on his children. In 1895, however, an instance of “judicial legislation” determined that the damages should be surrendered to a board of trustees as an endowment to the adulterous wife. If she had had the prudence to choose a wealthy “seducer,” the transaction was very much to her benefit.

    Custody of Children

    By the late 19th century the common practice had become to award custody of the children to the wife upon an allegation (which did not need to be proved) of “cruelty.” Moreover, the estranged father remained responsible for the costs of the children’s maintenance and education.

    Impunity for Offences Against the Husband

    In the second half of the 19th century wives became increasingly immune to penalties for offences against their husbands. These immunities were established either by the law as determined by statute or administration, or by making the injured husband pay his wife’s damages against himself. Examples:

    a) Impunity for Insolence, Insult, Slander, and Libel.

    The 19th century abolished the ancient customs for outrages of this kind (public shaming, corporal punishment, etc.), effectively making this behaviour lawful. A vindictive wife could publicly waylay and insult her husband, harass him at his place of work, slander him to his clients or his employer, libel him by postcards sent to his workplace or his club, all with impunity. Her husband could not procure a divorce from her on such grounds. However, a wife’s complaint of the same behaviour in her husband was considered just cause for divorce, with all its concomitant advantages to her and her children. If a husband retaliated against his wife’s insolence and slander, the penalties of jail and corporal punishment awaited him.

    b) Impunity for Neglect

    The wife could repudiate every one of her duties, neglect her household, her children, and her husband with complete impunity. The law offered her husband no remedy. On the other hand, if the husband neglected his wife, she could get a summary separation at the Police Court, along with the confiscation of her husband’s property and/or the garnishing of his wages. In addition, the wife could allege almost any non-work-related absence on her husband’s part as an instance of “neglect,” and find her suit for separation accepted.

    c) Impunity for Violence and Assault

    If a husband under no matter what provocation struck his wife, he could be sentenced to imprisonment and hard labour, divorced, deprived of his property, and see his his wages garnished, all through the prompt action of the Police Court. If a wife assaulted her husband, no matter how seriously, she received a fine which her husband had to pay. If a wife assaulted her husband with more than usual atrocity, she could be sent to prison for a tiny fraction of the time that would have been imposed on a similarly offending man. On her release, her husband was bound to take her back and support her, unless being extremely wealthy he could afford the exorbitant fee which the High Court charged men for a divorce (a cheap, Police-Court separation being unavailable to men). In 1896, a magistrate, fearing a fatality, requested from a woman, who had all but murdered her husband, to agree to a separation order, so that her victim could live apart from her. She agreed. Her unfortunate husband could henceforth live in safety, but had to maintain her for the remainder of his life.

    d) Impunity for Adultery

    A statute of 1895 determined that a woman could commit adultery with complete impunity, so long as she proved that she had been neglected. “Neglect” on the husband’s part included such behaviours as spending an evening with his friends rather than with his wife, or coming home late from his club. It was therefore relatively easy for a woman to find a pretext for engaging in adultery without fear of her husband divorcing her.

    e) Impunity for Desertion

    If a man deserted his wife, even to escape her violent assaults, he could be arrested and imprisoned. This law obtained during the whole period under discussion here. Before 1857, a deserting wife could be compelled by law to remain with her husband, or, if she had escaped, to return to him. After this date, however, all restraints and penalties against a wife’s desertion were dropped. A woman could justify her desertion by alleging “cruelty,” which, again, comprehended almost any husbandly behaviour that the wife disliked. Moreover, by an Act of 1884, the Courts absolved themselves of their theoretical duty to imprison a wife for refusing to obey an order of restitution of conjugal rights. No compulsion or restraint of person or of property was to be applied to the wife. However, the same act provided that a deserting husband could be compelled to return to the matrimonial state with his deserted wife, his disobedience being punishable by the confiscation of his property. Moreover, the wife retained the power to procure the arrest and imprisonment of her deserting husband. Moreover, by remaining judicially separated from her husband, rather than divorced, she retained his services as her provider and prohibited him from remarrying. If she committed a civil injury against anyone, her estranged husband could be sued. Her estranged husband could not obtain a divorce from her.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      Interesting stuff – can you point us to sources for it, please?

      • Brad Walton says

        Sources include mainly the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870, 1882, 1893. Also. E. B. Bax, “The Legal Subjection of Men,” 1895. (Bax was a barrister). Another myth about married women in English speaking countries was that they could not own property before the last decades of the 19th century. In fact, married women could own their own property from Elizabethan times. See Allison Anna Tait, “The Beginning of the End of Coverture: A Reappraisal of the Married Woman’s Separate Estate.” Yale Jrnl of Law and Feminism, vol. 26 (2014)

  33. B Nelson says

    When children are involved in divorce there are no winners. And I saw many a parent (too many) who was willing to use his/her child(ren) to get back at the other – despicable.

  34. The article rightly focuses on the most serious false accusations, but it bears mention that false accusations of delinquency in child support are even more numerous, and come with built-in tripwires including suspension of passport and loss of driving privileges. Outside the context of divorce, if someone made false sworn claims that caused another person to lose some privileges of citizenship, the normal course is for some sort of criminal sanction alongside civil liability when the falsehood is found out. There are laws already on the books that would allow for this in the current context. However, to be able to be enforced, the legal system has to give vitality to those laws.

  35. Pierre Pendre says

    My wife divorced me under Belgian law at the end of the 70s. It wasn’t unamicable; the marriage was just over. I took no part in the process and left it all to her. A case had to made to persuade the court to grant the suit and it was put together by her lawyer and her. Her story wasn’t powerful enough to his way of thinking to the extent that he eventually asked her in exasperation: “Do you want this divorce or not.” I wasn’t painted too black but more so than necessary.

  36. cryptical says

    I find it interesting that the author stops short of arguing that no-fault divorce laws should be repealed. I agree with the other commenters who have said they’re the real root of these problems. Marriage is indeed a commitment, a promise made that shouldn’t be broken except in the most dire circumstances. It isn’t just the lack of equal access to both parents that harms children, it’s the fracturing of their parents’ relationship, the very entity that brought them into being. Every child of divorce’s wish, except perhaps in cases of genuine abuse, is that his or her parents would get back together.

  37. says

    There is lots of evidence of the failings of the domestic violence industry. Read Harvard Law Schools Prof . Jeannie Suk- At Home in the Law: How the Domestic Violence Revolution Is Transforming Privacy.

    There is data which shows how prevalent false domestic violence are. Magistrates in Queensland, Australia, issue family violence orders ” on demand” after a 2 minute “hearing” at which no one is heard. Queensland Magistrates are notoriously corrupt, more than a few fester in jail. As a consequence of no due process retaliatory orders abound (the husband gets one against the wife after she gets one against him) . By way of contrast “next door” in woke New Zealand, which has due process rules similar to ours in the US of A, due process averages 45 minutes. The consequence is that the kiwis have one nineteenth of the domestic violence tsunami flooding the Aussies. Domestic violence is fault based divorce by another name. Real violence is dealt with by the criminal law

    The core problem of divorce is that, despite the changes in the 1970s its still run by the dregs of the legal profession. They are, by definition, high conflict mongers, financially incentivized to delay and choreograph pantomimes, and to retail litigation investment schemes for profit . Its like declaring Russia capitalist and then leaving the KGB to administer capitalism. It just doesnt work.

    Thats why we desperately need the rule of law, not the rule of lawyers.

    • James says

      “Domestic violence is fault based divorce by another name. Real violence is dealt with by the criminal law“

      This is exactly true

  38. Excellent article – we call it “Divorce by 911” around here.

    I think the real point is that these lies are corrosive and pathologize society on every level to nuclear-disastrous effect. When a wife pulls this trick, everyone knows it: the kids, the neighbors, the family (both sides), the police, the lawyers and the court. It’s mendacity, cowardice, corruption and cynicism to the nth degree, and once the ball is set in motion, nobody is willing to say the emperor has no clothes because almost everyone has a vested interest in keeping it rolling. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is one of the big 10 for a reason, and perjury was hated by both the Romans and the Greeks because they knew it was the path to sorrow and the end of civilized society.

    I also think most of the anodyne solutions proposed are feel-good measures that will have zero effect on the process, and remember that’s exactly what it is. Unless and until a husband’s (or wife’s as the case may be) constitutional rights are taken away only after he is convicted of a crime, then nothing will change the dynamic that much. If the wife knows she can get her husband arrested and thrown out of the house essentially forever with a simple phone call to the police, with no consequences to herself, and basically win the divorce right there and then, then she will do it. If she knows that she can easily and painlessly get him arrested, but that he’ll be back in the house the next day, and will be able to remain there, legally, until he gets a fair trail, then it’s a different kettle of fish.

    I have my own heartbreaking and darkly humorous sh*tshow traipse through the looking glass, “The Mouth of Truth”, which you can read here:

    The only antidote to the depravity and deceit is the integrity of the individual, as Jordan Peterson is fond of saying. No one gets away with anything.

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  40. A C says

    Does anyone know the meaning of “exonerated” anymore?

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