3 The UK situation for men and fathers - a brief summary

The UK is the divorce capital of western Europe as indicated by the government Population Trends for 1994. There are 315,000 marriages and 178,000 divorces each year in the UK which means that divorces make up some 57% of all marriages. The actual probability of divorce has been calculated by government statisticians to be 42%. Around 75% of all divorces are called for by wives.

The percentage of lone parent households that are mother-headed is 91% [General Household Survey]. There are some 40,000 disputed custody cases every year which are decided by family court judges. These judges will listen to recommendations from court welfare officers who visit the family and write 35,000 reports every year. The welfare officers work in the probation service which deals with mostly male criminals, this makes it difficult to see fathers in a positive light. The result is that family courts award mothers sole custody in 71% of cases and fathers sole custody in 7% of all cases, joint custody is awarded in the remaining 21% of cases. Many fathers report giving up an expensive custody fight for their children after advice from lawyers who say they can't win. It is very common for mothers during custody battles to receive state funded legal aid. A custody battle is therefore a very unequal war of attrition. Many fathers report that efforts to have contact with their children are blocked by mothers, and the courts will not enforce the right of children to have contact with their fathers.

Family benefits are paid to nonworking mothers and lone custodial fathers. These benefits are available irrespective of wether the parents were married. This has resulted in the annual expansion of lone 'never-married' mothers at the rate of 16% per year. Crime in the UK is at an all time high and many studies have linked the rise of crime directly to welfare and in particular to the rise in the number of lone-mother households. The result of mother-custody is that the child is more likely to be criminal, to take drugs, and to perform less well at school. Within the inner city areas that have high incidences of lone mothers many young men have simply been outbid by the state.

A serious problem for the government is how to get demotivated men to pay for children they have been excluded from, and often are never allowed to see. It is reported that 50% of fathers involved with divorce lose all contact with their children after three years. The Child Support Agency was setup to obtain money from excluded and absent fathers. Fathers report that CSA pressure comes just at a time when they are getting over the loss of a wife and coming to terms with their situation of spending a lifetime in slavery without their children. For many this is too much to bear. Since the agencies start in 1991 there have been 45 suicides of fathers and children directly attributed to the CSA pressure.

Very few studies have been carried out on the effect of divorce on fathers in the UK. One study by the Cheltenham Group surveyed 1500 divorced and separated fathers, 346 replies were used. Their report is alarming, 50% of those surveyed reported very negative or extreme attitudes towards women. The law was heavily criticised with 43% reporting bias towards women and an additional 48% reporting they were completely dissatisfied with the law or that the whole system required changing. The experience of divorce was stressfull as reported by 83% of fathers, of these 41% reported clinical stress i.e. losing job, consulting psychiatrist or doctor for physical or mental illness. No legal action was taken over children in 39% of cases with reasons given such as: 'couldn't afford it', 'solicitor advised against it', 'no chance of winning'. Of those surveyed 99% wanted more contact with their children. Wives were reported as receiving 79% of assets of the family. The average total transferred to women was reported as 58,000 [comprising 9,913 at marriage, 18,804 at divorce, 22,158 for the children (made over 10 years), and 7,091 for the ex-wife (made over 10 years)] with an additional 29,306 paid on average to lawyers at divorce by men.

The total cost of all this in: lost productivity, and lost investment; to the country is unknown. Fathers report serious depressions which can last for years. Work motivational level plummets and some lose their jobs. It is frequently reported that fathers are left with large debts on credit cards and loans to pay. During this period of high vulnerability some fathers report being involved in further disputes with friends, family, neighbours, and acquaintances. Some fathers report being involved in a work or car related accident, perhaps as a result of stress. Many men now consider the state to be their enemy.

You can read in these pages the risk undertaken by men on entering marriage and fatherhood:
A Warning to Men

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