Dilemmas of Indissoluble Parenthood: Legal Incentives, Parenting, and the Work-Family Balance
Brigham Young University Journal of Public Law, Vol. 26, pp. 265-309, 2012
Posted: 4 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 1, 2012
Building upon three main points developed by Patrick Parkinson in Family Law and the Indissolubility of Parenthood (2011), this paper shows that globally there is great legal interest in protecting parenting and parent-children relations; that issues grounded in the indissolubility of parenthood arise during ongoing marriages as well as after marital breakup (or nonformation); and that legal reforms to reduce or eliminate laws creating perverse incentives that impede effective, committed parenting should consider regulations regarding intact families as well as never-married and post-divorce families. This article reviews evidence of the deterioration of families and of parenting in society, including rising cohabitation, increasing non-marital child-bearing, consistently high (and socially accepted) divorce, and growing single-parenting, with attendant high social cost, all indicating a need for laws that support indissoluble parenting. Provisions in the national constitutions of 180 (out of 193 sovereign) nations that protect parents, children and parent-child relations, are reviewed and discussed; they manifest wide global recognition of the principle of indissoluble parenthood and its importance to societies and nations. The silent abandonment of children by time-fragmented parents who are pulled by and focused on other interests and responsibilities is discussed; research about the impact of mothers' employment and fathers' non-parenting upon quality of family life and child development is reviewed to suggest the need for policies that encourage commitment to parenting and reward career and other sacrifices made for children. Some examples of specific legal rules that create perverse incentives to neglect parenting and others that reinforce good parenting are discussed. Persistence in crafting laws to promote recognition of and commitment to the responsibilities of indissoluble parenthood, even despite temporary setbacks and problems, is recommended.
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