Do Families Matter ?

A Response to the Report ‘Family Matters’ [1]

from The Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group, 15 July 1998


The Cheltenham Group, 28 September 1998







Matrimonial and Family Law


Social and financial policies in support of families


Annex : quotations from Marriage and Fatherhood [3]




Critique of Family Matters

The Cheltenham Group welcomes the report Family Matters with its recognition of a number of issues adversely affecting the family. We wish to add to the debate some further issues not covered by the report which we believe are destructive to marriage, in that they act both as encouragement to separation and divorce, and act as discouragement to commitment within a marriage. The issues of concern are identified under two areas :

Matrimonial and family law

The principles applied by the courts to resolve cases of separation and divorce are not those of the letter or spirit of the laws made by Parliament under the terms of the Matrimonial Causes and Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Acts. Further, the principles would not receive the support of the public, if they were known to the public. Matrimonial and family law is therefore comprehensively and seriously compromised, and the principles applied may only be described as degenerate. The only person ‘protected’ by the law is the woman, and less than equal protection is available to the man in most cases. The objective needs and interests of children as defined under the Children Act 1989 are in most cases not being met. The law now allows marriages to be destroyed on trivial and fabricated grounds, and the issues of children and assets are causing immense injustices. Most marriages are ended by a petition from the woman, who knows, before proceedings begin, that she will gain from the process, at the expense of the man. Women may retain many benefits from the marriage after divorce, but this is not the case for the man.

Those men who have sought remedies have found that none are available, and so the legal system involved is also out of control of responsible authority.

Social and financial policy in support of the family

Social and financial policy currently disproportionately supports the ‘family’ consisting of a woman and ‘her’ children, and whoever she cares to live with from time to time. A remarried woman usually obtains unearned income in the form of child maintenance, and so is better off than a normal family. The single-parent family is given greater support than the normal two-parent family, and the single parent has more disposable income after tax than the normal family for every level of gross income.


These two areas therefore do not currently support the family, and particularly men’s position within the family. They provide support primarily for the unit consisting of a woman and ‘her’ children, and her current ‘partner’.

The law and social policies require radical change, to once more recognise, and to provide incentives for the ‘normal’ two-parent family, involving the re-introduction of men’s and father’s rights within the family, to meet the children’s objective needs, to provide justice, and above all else, to reinstate social stability in this area.

0. Introduction

The Cheltenham Group welcomes the report Family Matters with its recognition of a number of issues adversely affecting the family. The report is a ‘breath of fresh air’ amongst so much misguided debate which has taken place over the last 30 years.

Family Matters addresses for the first time a number of the fundamental problems with regard to the family. In particular we welcome the recognition by the report of some specific issues relevant to the family, of which we are already familiar :

and most particularly :

We wish to draw attention to the current situation, and particularly how this affects men. The use of the man’s perspective is fully justified, as it is on men that the burdens we identify primarily fall. We give below further explanation, and references for further reading.

There are major influencing issues which are omitted from the report. We refer to two areas :

This response Do Families Matter ? is intended to bring attention to these two broad areas. This document provides only an outline of the issues, and references are given to further reading, especially Cheltenham Group publications.

Society must ask the question ‘do families matter ?’, as all recent governments, while purporting to address family issues, simply have not done so. The present Labour government is no exception. All recent legislation, and we may mention the Child Support Act 1991 and Family Law Act 1996, neither of which support families, were passed with all-party support.

1. Matrimonial and Family Law

The scope of this section

We can only provide an outline of this area, and to make reference to other Cheltenham Group publications for further details. We provide below a synopsis of :

The significance of this issue

The importance of this area cannot be overestimated. It is the knowledge of the likely outcome of divorce, determined by courts of law, which to a large extent drives the process. The outcomes we refer to are control of children and asset allocation, and ongoing maintenance for children - all of which are allocated in the woman’s favour, whatever her past behaviour.

We explain below that :

The last major reform of matrimonial law was in 1969. Case law decisions in 1973 based on this law in fact overturned Parliament’s intentions, and this was compounded with the introduction of the ‘special procedure’ in 1976. Since this time the divorce rate has increased four-fold. There are now approximately 180,000 divorces per year in the UK, and of these about 100,000 men and 120,000 children have their lives seriously damaged in a process they did not cause and were helpless to prevent.

Due to the changes which we outline, most divorces are now brought using trivial and fabricated reasons. It is no surprise that more than 70% of divorces are now brought by the woman, and that marriage rates have declined.

How this situation came about

This history is explained in full in other Cheltenham Group publications, notably The Emperor’s New Clothes : Divorce Process and Consequence [2], Marriage and Fatherhood : Important Information for Young Men [3], and The NAPO ‘Anti-sexism’ Policy & Lack of Available Remedies [4].

The principal causes are :

The most significant aspect of the law which has changed is that concerned with the basis for divorce and the allocation of assets. The provisions concerning the parties behaviour and the relevance of this to the outcome of divorce are defined in the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act. The corruption of Parliament’s intentions were introduced by case law in 1973 over assets, and this date coincides with the dramatically increased rate of divorce. Previous case law decisions about children, from 1948, had already ensured that women had priority over children.

The basis for divorce, until 1969, that is on the grounds of desertion, cruelty and adultery, were replaced by irretrievable breakdown as evidenced by five factors. One of the five factors was ‘unreasonable behaviour’, and it was for a court to decide what was unreasonable. The senior judges overturned this principle in 1973, by allowing the term ‘unreasonable’ to apply to whatever the person making the allegation thought was ‘unreasonable’, that is to provide a subjective test as to what was ‘unreasonable’. Since then trivial and fabricated grounds have become common, and the unreasonable behaviour petition accounts for most divorces. Solicitors and barristers have accommodated this practice by ensuring that few divorces are contested.

More recent changes to matrimonial and family law have included the Child Support Act 1991, which for the first time ever caused mass public demonstrations due to the unjust treatment of fathers, and the Family Law Act 1996, which incorporates the ‘no-fault’ principle, already introduced by stealth and without public knowledge, into the written law for the first time ever. The architects of this include Brenda Hoggett, former Law Commissioner, now a judge in the Court of Appeal who has expressed clear feminist and anti-male views which we describe in Marriage and Fatherhood : Important Information for Young Men [3]. During the passage of LFA96, a MORI poll indicated that 64% of the public did not support no-fault divorce.

There have been attempts by feminists (see section 3.5 of [3]), to obtain the same outcomes of separation for cohabiting couples as for married couples.

The effects of current matrimonial and family law

The effect of this corruption of the laws has been to marginalise men and fathers within the family. The extent to which this has already been achieved is unknown to most of the public. The response of individuals, when presented with the facts, is often one of disbelief, except for those who have been subjected to these ‘laws’.

The public however are increasingly aware of the rate of divorce, but are unaware of the practices and likely outcomes in detail. It was for this reason that the Cheltenham Group have described the situation in Marriage and Fatherhood : Important Information for Young Men [3], and we can do no better than to quote sections from this work. We do this in the Annex to this report. It should be noted that much of the information we present has never been collected by any Government department. The derivation of the statistics may be obtained from the Cheltenham Group on request.

A review of the social effects of these issues

While most young men do not have access to the information collected by the Cheltenham Group, there is nevertheless some appreciation by the public that men have few rights in marriage. The increase in cohabitation, and falling marriage rate are linked to this knowledge.

A matrilineal society is being produced, with about one third of children raised by single mothers [7].

A young man now contemplating marriage :

Further such young men live in a society in which an increasing proportion of employment opportunities are outside of the roles suited to males.

2. Social and financial policy in support of families

Definition of ‘family’

It is worth defining the term ‘family’. The Cheltenham Group are concerned solely with the usual two-parent family, i.e. a father and a mother who raise their own children. We refer to this as a ‘normal’ family. We do not recognise any other grouping as requiring the level of protection which should be afforded to the ‘normal’ family.

Some background

The single-parent unit has expanded due to both the illegitimate birth rate, which has grown from 3.2% to 34% of live births in 30 years, and the divorce rate having increased four fold in the same period. However, many single-parent units are of divorced women, the majority of whom have abandoned a husband using trivial and fabricated grounds.

We know from statistics that the cost to the nation of single-parent units is approximately 15 billion per annum. If polled the taxpayer would not support this arrangement to which they each have to contribute an estimated 422 per year. Even if they do not agree with the lifestyle, the subsidised payment for the single-parent unit is enforced through the taxation system. The nation is burdened financially and socially with the single parent unit, and those who have acted responsibly are the very people asked to support the irresponsible.

What has led to this situation in the last 30 years is the abandoning of the previous rules of society, particularly of responsible behaviour and loyalty towards others. Further and equally importantly, social policy has been devised without reference to men and fathers and without input from their organisations.

Central and local government grants, funding and community aid is made available to all types of organisations - primarily women’s, and rarely men’s or father’s. Organisation and funding of men’s groups is minimal, and this must surely change. Assistance and protection sought from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to protect men’s and father’s interests is rejected. Since its inception some 25 years ago the EOC has only become involved in 7 men’s related cases.

Social policy, in recognising mothers and women as ‘primary carers’, excluded those men who are also primary carers. Lone fathers get a far rougher deal than lone mothers with fewer services and amenities notified or made available to them. This indirect discrimination pervades the benefits system and continues into pension provision and minimum NI contributions and multifarious state entitlements. Direct discrimination leaves families with a father poorer for all levels of income [8] than fatherless lone parent families.

The present thrust of law which underpins those principles is to reward bad behaviour in women, and to hold men responsible whatever the events which led up to separation and divorce. At the same time social and financial policy supports such women. The terminology used hides the reality. Examples include :

The one common denominator in all this sea of trouble and incompetence is the omission, or rather the deliberate exclusion, from debate and policy formulation of father’s representatives and men’s groups.

Aspects of concern

In the present situation, we have two aspects of concern :

The Cheltenham Group have concern for two major principles :

The Home Secretary’s speech at the launch of Family Matters

We shall not critique this in depth, but simply point out that none of the fundamental principles which we identify here have been addressed, and mention two examples of lack of integrity.

Mr Straw says "It is not for governments to lay down how adults conduct their personal relationships" and "We are not in the business of telling law-abiding adults how to lead their lives", but all recent legislation and his proposals do and will interfere.

Mr Straw says, of some fathers who have complained about the CSA, that they "no longer want to meet their responsibilities" when in fact these fathers are the innocent victims of a vastly unjust system, and when they are forced to send monies to someone who has become a stranger, if not an enemy, and who has gained by the process and is better off than a normal family, at the expense of the men who Mr Straw claims ‘don’t want responsibility’.

We regard this latter comment from Mr Straw is one example of the confused if not deliberately misinforming statements made by government which obscure the reality of the present situation.

3. Conclusions

Significance of the Issues.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the issues that surround family life and the way in which 50% of the population have effectively been silenced. Family Matters, rightly in our view, highlights the failures which society will experience if the present situation continues, that is of social engineering experiments of ‘father exclusion’. However, we would go further and state that Family Matters has been too timorous as to the consequences. Society is likely to endure but too polite in pointing out the longevity of the damage caused to children. That damage will, we believe, be visited upon the next generation over and over again. Additionally, and often overlooked, is the cost of this situation to tax-payers.


The legal system of matrimonial and family law requires radical root-and-branch reform, and social and financial policies should support the ‘normal’ family. Paramount within this should be men’s position and rights.


  1. Family Matters, edited by Dr Clifford Hill & Rodney Curtis, Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group, The Centre for Contemporary Ministry, The Park, Moggerhanger, Bedford, MK44 3RW, 15 July 1998

  2. The Emperor’s New Clothes : Divorce Process and Consequence, 2nd Edition, The Cheltenham Group, February 1998, ISBN 1 900080 03 6.

  3. Marriage and Fatherhood : Important Information for Young Men, 2nd Edition, The Cheltenham Group, 1998, ISBN 1 900080 05 2.

  4. The NAPO ‘Anti-sexism’ Policy & Lack of Available Remedies, The Cheltenham Group, 11 June 1998.

  5. Equal Rights / Anti-sexism, National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), 4 Chivalry Road, London, SW11 1HT, September 1996.

  6. Letter, from Gaenor Kyffin of NAPO Administration, 4 Chivalry Road, London SW11 1HT, 23 April 1997.

  7. Divorce Law Practice : The Invisible Engine of a Matrilineal Society, Dr John Campion, The Cheltenham Group, 31 January 1998.

  8. Farewell to the Family ?, Patricia Morgan, Institute of Economic Affairs, January 1995, ISBN 0 255 363 56 7.

Annex : quotations from Marriage and Fatherhood

Quote 1 : some statistics to illustrate the effects

We give here a selection of statistics. The probabilities are out of 1, e.g. 0.53 means that this applies to 53% of the relevant population. The occurrences are those estimated from the probabilities, based on the assumption, and no better information exists at this time, that these probabilities apply to the whole population. The populations are those of all currently married men, and those divorced in one year.

Outcomes: occurring to a married man

during marriage

Population : all currently married men



Occurrences to

currently married men

be divorced



be divorced by his wife using fabricated grounds



lose custody of his child(ren)



lose custody, and never see child(ren) again



lose his home



lose a significant part of his life savings




Outcomes: occurring to a married man

during divorce

Population : men divorced in 1 year



Occurrences to married men

per year

have no effective defence to a wife’s petition



not receive legal aid



have false allegations made against him



be the victim of malpractices in his legal case




Outcomes: occurring to a married man

after divorce

Population : men divorced in 1 year



Occurrences to divorced men

per year

suffer obstruction to contact with his children



suffers stress



will not remarry



have attitudes to women in general



have attitudes to the law




Item : of assets and legal costs

at marriage and divorce

Value : given in s


per case

Total per year

transferred to women at marriage



transferred to women at divorce



paid to lawyers at divorce (men only data)




Item : of maintenance

after divorce

Value : given in s


per case

per year


per case

(made over 10 years)

%age of

cases to

which this


Total for cases

in 1 year

(made over

10 years)

maintenance for children





maintenance for

(ex-) wives





Quote 2 : some simple comparisons to illustrate the effects

It is possible to estimate the probability that a married parent will raise his or her own children, in a normal family setting, to adulthood. We have 47% of parents who raise their children within the usual two-parent family. For the other 53% who divorce, we know from the survey statistics that about 86% of mothers and only 9% of fathers will continue to have custody of all children. Taking 86% and 9% of the 53% who divorce, we obtain data about those divorced couples, that 46% of women and 5% of men retain custody. Adding these figures to 47% we obtain the figures that 93% of mothers and 52% of fathers will be primary carers responsible for raising their own children to adulthood. The probability that a married mother will remain a primary carer of her own children is therefore 0.93, but for a father the figure is 0.52.

Expressed in simple lay terms, if a man takes the step of marrying and has children there is :

If a woman takes the step of marrying and has children there is :

If a wife tires of a husband, she may :

However if a husband tires of his wife, he may :

It is worth considering the situation of cohabiting couples with children. If a woman tires of a cohabiting man, she may :

However if a man tires of a cohabiting woman, he may :

Hardcopies of this report are available from The Cheltenham Group :

Price 5.00, inclusive of postage & packing

For further information you may contact :

The Cheltenham Group

PO Box 205, Cheltenham, Glos, GL51 0YL


Co-ordinator : Barry Worrall BSc MSc MBCS CEng