For the second time in as many years, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed popular family law reforms that would bring his state more in line with the current research on what is best for children outside of an intact family home.
The Florida legislature passed a similar bill on alimony and child custody reform two years ago. Back then, Scott vetoed the bill over the alimony provisions. Friday, he vetoed the new bill over the shared parenting provisions. In both cases, he ignored the research and the grassroots popularity that got each bill to his desk, and sided with feminists and lawyer interest groups. It is yet another practical example of the establishment versus the populace fight that is playing out in national politics (and international politics; it seems to be quite the global mood).
Permanent Alimony and Single Custody Hurt Kids
The Florida bills would have ended permanent alimony and set a premise of shared parenting, two areas of family law that have been tangled up since the 1970s. Alimony, or spousal support, fell out of favor in the aftermath of feminism’s second wave. In the early days, when feminists were trying to scare and shame women out of their homes, alimony was seen as a safety trap. Give women alimony, and they won’t get to work breaking the glass ceiling. Thus, courts stopped granting alimony.
In the resulting backlash—loss of spousal support for newly employed, divorced women seemed unfair—alimony came back into favor, but often disguised as child support. Accordingly, NOW and other feminist groups chose to support assumptions of primary maternal fitness for childcare—in divorces only. In all other instances, assuming women were best suited to childcare remained sexist. Hence, the Wednesdays and every-other-weekend and holidays for dad time with which we are all familiar.
What we now know, from decades of studies of Wednesdays and assorted alternates, is that those custody arrangements do not come close to the 33 percent floor of father time that the now-established research says is best for child outcomes. Fatherlessness is the foundation of so many societal ills, and courts often create that fatherlessness.
Despite the research, the primary mother care assumptions hold because without them women faced lower support payments, especially as women’s earning power increased. As with feminists’ monetary goals, family bars played along with assuming maternal custody because high-stakes custody fights are expensive and they have created an entire market of lawyers and family advisors to mediate high-conflict divorce.
Shared parenting policies tend to foster parental cooperation and reduce conflict. Divorce law has become a racket serving lawyers and vocal advocacy groups, who preserve their income streams by pretending that the large and growing body of research on the significant advantages of shared parenting to children do not exist. The family law section of the Florida Bar was so worried about the current legislation that they hired extra emergency lobbyists.
Ignorance Is Also No Excuse
For an example of such evidence-dismissing, see this editorial in Florida from Friday, asking Scott to veto the bill: “If Florida’s child custody law is not broken — and we have yet to hear anyone say it is — why is the Legislature trying to fix it by establishing a one-size-fits-all law, which is opposed by the Florida Bar, the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women.”
Are they trying to claim ignorance by literalism? They haven’t heard the 110 world experts read the 43 peer-reviewed papers aloud. They’ve also missed that shared parenting is far more popular with the public, than say, feminism. It’s a mirror. About 70 percent of the public supports shared parenting, just as about 70 percent of the public refuses the term “feminist.” I submit the crap advocacy (see next section) like what we’ve seen in Florida is one of the reasons why.
Still, Scott cannot excusably claim ignorance on any of this. As of a few days ago, the high volume of calls was running five to one in support of signing the bill. He should know how the bills came up through the legislature—by grassroots efforts. He could have organized a task force to study the bill.
Surely they would have found the research. One hundred ten experts and 43 peer-reviewed papers on shared parenting alone are hard to hide, much less the growing studies on fatherlessness in general. David Blakenhorn’s breakout book on the topic, “Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem,” is 20 years old this year. This information is not hard to find. It is simply inconvenient information for family law bars and feminists. They just ignore it.
Smearing Opponents Instead of Presenting Better Arguments
What did the bill’s opponents have to say that Scott obviously thought was so wise? On Tuesday, while his office was full of advocates supporting the bill, a Florida NOW representative went around poking some of the supporting fathers and complaining that they were being rude, declaring that now the public can see why their wives divorced them. She did not see the contractions either in the outcry should any of those men physically poke her back or in insulting divorced men when she has been divorced four times.
When the bill first passed, the “First Wives Advocacy Group” took to Facebook to accuse one of the bill’s advocates, Leading Women 4 Shared Parenting, of being a “NATIONAL HATE GROUP.” As a member of LW4SP, I quickly noted that the First Wives got our membership wrong, in one instance erroneously calling an established and respected men’s rights authority a member and taking the opportunity to suggest that he is a pedophile. No data. Just slander.
The local news preserved another telling bit of advocacy earlier this week:
‘What did the father do?’ said women’s advocate and co-founder of Families Against Court Travesties Adele Guadalupe. ‘He contributed his sperm. The mother carried the baby for nine months. The mother had the nausea and threw up, probably had to give up her job. The mother had to give birth, the mother has to breastfeed the child. All of the sudden, the mother counts for nothing and the father has a 50-percent right to this child when it’s young? It goes against nature. It goes against justice. It goes against everything we have been brought up to believe.’
The video omitted her first statement calling fathers sperm donors. That’s sexist enough. But also note how she speaks of parenting. That the question is who has “rights” to the child, not what the child has rights to. That the child is an it, not a he or she. That the mother has to work so hard bringing the child into the world that she deserves the right to the child.
Again, leaving aside the child as an object, this is a complete 180 from feminist teachings that created these family laws. Back during the divorce-rate surge, when I was being brought up to believe things, assuming mothers should get custody because they were more fit to raise children was a burden on women’s freedom and independence. But money changes things, doesn’t it?
Scott vetoed needed reforms on a Friday afternoon while making the obligatory yet empty statement about how the family law status quo is in the children’s best interests. That should trigger the BS meter of anyone who has experience with divorce law in these United States. Current family law does not serve families or children. Time and again, the research and our own experience tell us this. The grassroots—and bipartisan—desire for family law reform is high. Hence bills like the one in Florida.
Alas, when money talks, power listens.