The Divorce Bargain: The Fathers’ Rights Movement and Family Inequalities

This Article provides the first legal history of the fathers’ rights movement, filling a void in the scholarship on social movements, family law, and the welfare state. A bourgeoning literature examines how feminists and gay rights activists fought to dismantle or to reconfigure marriage in the late twentieth century. We know little, however, about how heterosexual men shaped and were shaped by changing gender norms and family structures. This Article chronicles one important chapter of this missing history. It analyzes how middle-class white men responded to rising divorce rates by pursuing reform of divorce laws and welfare policies. This history helps to explain how keystones of gender and class inequality—the gendered division of labor and privatization of dependency—persisted despite the advent of formal equality and sex neutrality within family law.