When asked about opening his law firm’s first office in the UK, Scott Trout, Managing Partner of Cordell and Cordell, one of the largest family law firms in the United States, stated:
“It was a big step for us to go to the UK, I was over there pretty much for the last year and a half, going back and forth just trying to make sure everything was opened up, and one of the things I was interested in seeing was whether or not guys in the UK face the same situations as in the US. I didn’t think it would be, but it was amazing. If I didn’t know there was an accent, I would think I was in the United States. The same issues that guys face in terms of discrimination in the UK are the very same things that guys face and the troubles they have in the United States.”
Setting aside which of us has an accent for future debate, this statement is remarkable in its implications. The Managing Director of one of the largest family law firms in the United States has openly admitted that men face discrimination in both US and UK courts. Yet by any normative measure, the odds should be remote that the family courts of two nations with different juridical traditions and political structures would converge in creating precisely the same gender disparities in their practices.
Trout’s statement is significant, but unsurprising to me. A Co-Founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, an international child advocacy organisation focused on making shared parenting the cornerstone of family law, I bear witness daily to corroborating evidence from both countries shared with me by other parents.
It’s impossible to listen to the heartbreak caused by US and UK family courts as told by those (mostly fathers) separated from their children for all but “standard visitation” and continue to see the phenomenon as a coincidence. It isn’t only fathers who suffer: The entire extended paternal side of the family is similarly disenfranchised, proving “child custody” is anything but a Woman vs. Man issue.
Clearly both countries follow the same “business model,” where special interest industry groups profit from the business’s rapid expansion at the expense of certain consumers. Which explains the equally transatlantic pushback by “anti-establishment” forces in the divorce industry. On fairness and equality grounds, shared parenting has overwhelming support – more than 70 per cent - in the general population. “The Best Interest of the Child” is paid lip service to in family law, but in fact it is the best interest of those who profit from an adversarial system who are served in fact.
Fatherlessness is an epidemic in the US and the UK, but in both countries is completely ignored by policymakers. It’s time they’re held accountable. Those responsible for implementing and defending current family laws often tell discriminated against fathers to “Man Up.” Turnabout is fair play. Please read and share your thoughts on my recent post which sets out the scale of the crisis in the USA and which are aimed at GOP - the nominal party of the family: Republican’s Should Man Up on Fatherlessness.
Terry Brennan is Co-Founder, Leading Women for Shared Parenting