It’s about time psychology and American society gave divorced fathers a voice. Florence W. Kaslow does just that in her most recent book, "Divorced Fathers and Their Families." This award-winning author brings forensic, clinical and life experience with eloquence, sensitivity, hope and a future to those unlucky in love and too often absent in treatments for the wake of devastation caused by divorce. Her vision provides glimpses of positive psychology and the even-handed approach of family therapy.
Professional and lay readers will find this book a page turner. I was immersed in the stories of these unfortunates and also in the author’s professional assessment, intervention and analyses. I read and re-read some stories letting impressions wash over me like rain showering a newly tilled field. Her analyses written in non-technical English were easily grasped in one reading, but the repeated visits resulted from their intriguing peek into these worlds. Guest commentators followed suit with easily accessible material although Andrew W. Benjamin’s erudite legalese made slower, more careful reading imperative even if his step-by-step instructions made comprehensible and applicable his approach gleaned from years of challenging forensic work. Clinicians, divorced fathers and even divorced spouses themselves could glean wisdom, understanding and encouragement from this series of case studies. Followers should quickly emerge when forensic psychology courses nationwide adopt this instructive, provocative and well-written text. It should be required reading. This text excellently combines individual, family, developmental and forensic psychology lore and scientific evidence available to teach students and colleagues how to expand their expertise. One might have wished for more science to be included, but that can occur in the second edition after research has been conducted on the premises set forth in this timely and expertly executed text.
Time also figures prominently in the dissolution and management of lives torn apart by dreams destroyed. Two major commodities tapped in divorce—money and intimacy—recede in these portraits and their meaning. The focus on father/child relationship brings time spent/not spent together to the foreground. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince (1971) elegantly explained this resource and the import of casual everyday routines:
It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important. “Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .” (p. 21)
Kaslow’s non-convenient sample identified time as a commodity in relation to spouses and children. Often lack of time devoted to marital bonding was the major blame for dissolution of the marital union, and, thus, families. These divorcées’ almost universal lament was lack of time with their children due to divorce. Time, its value and subsequent wise use, figure prominently into working therapeutically with divorced fathers.
In the 13 case studies presented, proving a mother unfit was the main way fathers secured primary custody of children. Whether too much time spent apart was due to work over-commitments, a paramour, abuse, or simple detestation, the necessary cultivation of marital bonding did not occur. Such bonding seems most resilient when cultivated in the quiet moments of daily life
Notes taken while reviewing this text indicate the density of the material, in addition to Kaslow’s concise case presentations and analyses as well as the guest commentators’ terse contributions. A word is warranted on the inclusion of “guest” authors in a single authored book—not really an edited volume and not really a single voice. This hybrid model may bother some readers but invigorate others.
Of interest in analysis of the overall book is the transformation from start to finish. The early chapters champion the father and sometimes dismiss and criticize the mothers. Gradually from the first to the later chapters this mild splitting of the outcast mothers was replaced with an almost family therapy even-handed systems presentation revealing the trials and tribulations in each divorced father’s tragedy within his unique family system. Although Kaslow gradually almost reached a system’s analysis when viewing the family, she did so when viewing the treatment of the family by the courts, schools, and other relevant community elements.
It is no surprise that her lofty goal stated at the book’s outset is to impact legislators and laws to be more humanistic and equitable. She telescoped from the clinical session room to the courtroom and coffee klatches where mores and morals are respectively legislated and arbitrated. Only recently have some state forensic systems, like Florida, evidenced the extreme equity found in family systems approaches like Bowen’s (2013) and Haley’s (1987). The vision of enfranchised fathers is the impetus for this book, point, though, is not to make outcasts of the mothers. This pendulum swing misses the best interest of all those involved, not just the children. Kaslow most aptly states:
[Marital partners] should not enter marriage perceiving them to be disposable relationships…happy, long-term relationships need to be founded in and embody genuine friendship, congruent core values and also be rooted in integrity, honesty, and trust. (p.76)
Kaslow’s stated aims are to make out-moded the conflicted, destructive divorces described here. This book successfully moves forward her crusade in the courtroom, the clinical office, lawmakers’ chambers, and those at the kitchen table. By designed reverberation from this primary change, nursery inhabitants and teenagers benefit as well.