I’ve criticized Christian conservatives on numerous occasions for their often meager efforts to defend marriage and fatherhood from the ravages of our current family law system. I’ve also criticized them for focusing on sideshow family issues like gay marriage, as well as their sometimes mean-spirited attitude towards gays. For some examples, click here.
I’m pleased to say that there are indications that some leading religious figures are starting to address real family issues, such as divorce, custody, and the way millions of fathers have been driven out of the lives of the children who love and need them. One of them is Michael McManus, the founder of Marriage Savers. His group works with troubled couples, and his program is said to have helped save 100,000 marriages over the past couple decades.
I’ve previously praised McManus for his efforts to help struggling couples and prevent divorce–for one example, click here.
Over the past 12 or 18 months, McManus has been increasingly vocal about the need to meaningfully address the family law system and divorce, and he has endorsed Shared Parenting. In McManus’ new Marriage Savers Report Card 2007, he writes:
“If parents agree to a divorce, they should have equal access to children – Joint Custody or Shared Parenting. Today’s norm of Sole Custody removes one parent from the lives of their children, I argued. However, of the six states that passed the strongest Joint Custody laws, five experienced the largest drops in the divorce rate: Montana, Kansas, Connecticut, Idaho and Alaska. Why? ‘If a parent knows they will have to interact with the child’s other parent while the child is growing up, there is less incentive to divorce,’ says David Levy of the Children’s Rights Council.'”
McManus also notes:
“America’s divorce rate is the world’s highest because the law permits one partner to unilaterally end a marriage even with no allegation of adultery or abuse. What was begun by two people willingly is terminated by one person against the will of the spouse in 80% of cases. This is called ‘No Fault Divorce,’ because no fault need be alleged to get the divorce. Result: innocent children are scarred for life; they are three times as likely as those from intact marriages to be expelled from school or to have a baby out-of-wedlock, five times as apt to live in poverty or to commit suicide, and 12 times as likely to be jailed. Also, the divorced live 4-10 years less.”
His solution is one which has both merits and problems–Mutual Consent Divorce. He writes:
“In my newspaper column I called for a change in the law in cases involving children to ‘Replace No Fault Divorce with Mutual Consent Divorce.’ Either spouse could file for divorce on grounds of adultery, abuse, etc. But if no such fault is alleged, both parties would have to agree. ‘Government has an interest in the future of children, and they’d be best served if parents worked out their differences,’ I asserted. Attorney John Crouch, President of Americans for Divorce Reform, estimates that change would cut divorce rates by 30%.”
McManus also notes that the National Association of Evangelicals passed a resolution this year identifying “‘easy divorce’ as a social evil to be challenged, and committed NAE to improve ‘marriage and divorce law.'”