The Guardian recently published an article detailing the rise of law firms dedicated to representing men and fathers in divorce and the debate over whether such firms are necessary.
The article begins by chronicling the struggles one father encountered in the family court system that left him with exuberant child support payments and little access to his children – a plight familiar to many dads.
Although family laws are supposed to be gender neutral, judges and lawyers tend to interpret the statutes based on personal beliefs. In many cases, divorcing men still face outdated and pervasive gender stereotypes in family court. That disadvantage has led to an explosion in firms that specialize in men’s divorce across the country, such as Cordell & Cordell, which is the largest men’s divorce-focused firm in the United States.
“As a society we’ve made progress regarding gender in a number of areas,” said Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and CEO Joe Cordell. “But the dark corner of the room when it comes to civil rights, I can tell you, is dads’ rights in family courts.”
The article noted, however, that the emergence of such firms has also produced its share of critics who claim their existence is both unnecessary and sexist against women.
That argument misunderstands the mission of firms like Cordell & Cordell. The point isn’t to wage any sort of gender war against women, but rather to level the playing field and help men overcome inequalities in the system that unfortunately exist.
Statistics illustrate the imbalance many men and fathers face when going through divorce:
- Only 17.8% of fathers are custodial parents
- Custodial fathers who receive child support are paid, on average, $700 less than custodial mothers
- 30% of custodial fathers receive child support; 55% of custodial mothers receive child support
One of the biggest issues facing men, in Cordell’s opinion, concerns false allegations of abuse. According to a 2011 Stop Abusive and Violent Environments report, 85% of protective orders are entered against men, and Mr. Cordell estimates that a majority of those are used as tactical divorce considerations rather than protection from abuse.
When men are the victims of domestic violence, which includes 1 in 7 men, they often find a lack of resources to get the support they need.
At the end of the day, firms like Cordell & Cordell exist because their attorneys have a unique familiarity with the male perspective in family law cases. That experience enables them to better express and accurately represent their point of view.
In the end, it is an issue of fairness.
“To suggest to me that guys asking for fairness in family court are guilty of some sort of anti-feminist position or sexism is beyond response,” Mr. Cordell said. “It’s an insult to guys.”