chapter  6
25 Pages

Fatherhood, law and fathers’ rights: Rethinking the relationship between gender and welfare

ByRICHARD COLLIER

This chapter seeks to contribute to these debates by considering how an embedding of gender neutrality and ideal of egalitarianism in law has played a key role ‘in the creation of a new set of norms for fatherhood’ within the context of shifting understandings of fathers’ rights and responsibilities around post-separation parenting. Drawing on a rather different literature from that which has informed much of the discussion to date, I shall suggest that the present political and policy debate around fathers’ rights has been marked by profound contradictions and tensions. On closer examination, these reflect a deep-seated cultural uncertainty about the nature of contemporary fathering itself. The structure of the argument is as follows. First, I will briefly ground this

discussion of fathers’ rights in the context of a broader, and multi-layered, ‘fragmentation’ of fatherhood in law. This theme is discussed in more detail in the book Fragmenting Fatherhood: A Socio-Legal Study and it is explored here in specific relation to these debates around separated fathers.7 Second,

Quarterly, 2005, vol 17, p 511; J.E. Crowley, ‘Adopting “equality tools” from the toolboxes of their predecessors: the fathers’ rights movement in the United States’, in R. Collier and S. Sheldon, ibid. For A. Diduck and F. Kaganas, Family Law, Gender and the State: Text, Cases and Materials (2nd edn, Oxford: Hart 2006), the ‘fathers’ rights campaigns [do] appear to have had the effect of galvanising the government and the courts into action against mothers whom they see as obstructive’, p 561.