Family courts adjudicate – divorce, custody, child abuse, child-support enforcement, even adoption and juvenile crime – depend on one overriding principle: remove the father.
“Most people mistakenly assume metal detectors were installed in courthouses because of criminals and terrorists,” observes Dr. Stephen Baskerville, an assistant professor of government at Patrick Henry College.
In fact, retrofitting courtrooms with metal detectors and other security enhancements was prompted by concerns over violence perpetrated by fathers whose families have been sundered and children have been stolen by what Dr. Baskerville calls “the divorce regime.”
The advent of no-fault – or, as Dr. Baskerville calls it, unilateral – divorce decades ago brought into existence a huge and ever-metastasizing apparatus of coercion, intervention, and social engineering that subsists on the destruction of flawed but salvageable marriages.Although divorce can be initiated at whim by either party, the system described in Baskerville’s infuriating but indispensable new book, Taken Into Custody, is designed to encourage women to file first. Not that it matters all that much: Whenever a divorce ensues, under the logic of the “no-fault” system, either parent can end the marriage and both are considered equally at fault, so the children immediately become the property of the State. Which is what this is all about.
“Now, that’s more like it!” exclaim defenders of the Total State: Another helpless man is arrested for the supposed crime of being a divorced father.
After all, writes Baskerville, when a family is broken up each child becomes “a walking bundle of cash” — not just for the custodial parent or relatives, but for the large and expanding population of tax-gorged bureaucrats who “adopt as their mission in life the practice of interfering with other people’s children.”
This system is rigged to treat fathers as dangerous and disposable. “In fact,” as Baskerville correctly observes, “it is no exaggeration to say that the existence of family courts, and virtually every issue they adjudicate – divorce, custody, child abuse, child-support enforcement, even adoption and juvenile crime – depend on one overriding principle: remove the father.”Regardless of the specific facts of a given divorce, the father is generally treated as useful only for making the initial biological contribution to conception and then to provide regular child support payments once his children are seized by the State. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget the father’s value as the object of a State-created cult of ritual execration.
Since the early 1990s, the public has been relentlessly barraged with propaganda about “Deadbeat Dads” who, with the calculated malice of Dickensian villains, heartlessly refuse to provide their struggling ex-wives and estranged children the means to avoid starvation.
A staple of radical feminism, the Deadbeat Dad is also dutifully denounced by mainstream conservatives like Alan Keyes and Oliver North. The child support enforcement mechanism is a bi-partisan creation: The enabling legislation was signed into law by Republican Gerald Ford in 1975; funding has been boosted by Congress under both Democratic and Republican control; and in 2002 the Bush administration eagerly carried out a nationwide “Deadbeat Dads” enforcement sweep under a program called “Project Save Our Children” created by Bill Clinton.
The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and its state franchises constitute an army of 60,000 enforcement agents (all of whom are permitted to carry firearms under the “Deadbeat Parents Enforcement Act”). This means that in its successful war on parenthood, the OCSE deploys a force thirteen times larger than that mustered by the DEA, which has 4,600 agents employed in the fraudulent “war on drugs.”At the center of this system is the family court, a legal venue that operates secretly and with plenary powers. Baskerville describes the “regime of involuntary divorce,” particularly the family courts, as “the most authoritarian institution in our society today.”
The divorce regime has infected our legal system with concepts entirely foreign to Anglo-Saxon law, “such as the principle that one could be decreed guilty of violating an agreement that one had, in fact, not violated,” writes Baskerville. A father who is an unwilling party to a unilateral divorce “could be summoned to court without having committed any legal infraction; the verdict was pre-determined before any evidence was examined; and one could be found `guilty’ of things that were not illegal.”
Through the family court system, “Citizens who are completely innocent of any legal wrongdoing and minding their own business – not seeking any litigation and neither convicted nor accused of any legal infraction, criminal or civil – are ordered into court and told to write checks to officials of the court or they will be summarily arrested and jailed. Judges also order citizens to sell their houses and other property and turn the proceeds over to lawyers and other cronies they never hired.”
In similar fashion, family court judges “regularly order involuntary litigants to pay the fees of attorneys, psychotherapists, and other court officials they have not hired and jail them for failing to comply.” The system is a racket by any rational definition, and it’s often operated with undisguised, vulgar corruption.
In 1999, an Insight magazine investigation learned of a “slush fund” controlled by family court judges in Los Angeles; donors included court-appointed “monitors” who received lucrative government pay-outs for keeping parents (generally fathers) accused of domestic violence under surveillance during child visitations. In Marin County, family court judges were caught funneling child support and alimony payments to preferred attorneys and other cronies.
However, as Baskerville notes, “the real scandal is not what is illegal but what is legal.” Even if scrupulously operated, the family courts are not tribunals of justice, but rather “revenue-generating engines for state governments”; in fact, as Baskerville observes, states frequently depend on child-support moneys to balance their budgets. Which is why the State does everything it can to abet and capitalize on divorce – and why hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of fathers find themselves in the equivalent of debtor’s prison.
As he points out, “the astonishing but incontrovertible fact is that with the exception of convicted criminals, no group in our society today has fewer rights than fathers…. A father can be deprived of his children, his home, his savings, his future earnings, his privacy, and his freedom without any … constitutional protections.”
Baskerville has collected and documented a small but representative sample of cases in which fathers dragged into divorce court have been slapped with impossible child support judgments, deprived of the means to earn enough to pay those judgments, and then jailed for contempt. Some who have been driven to publicize their plight have been jailed or otherwise punished for seeking redress, since “in many jurisdictions it is a crime to criticize family court judges or otherwise discuss family law cases publicly.”
The system also makes use of extra-legal means to punish dissidents. Baskerville recounts how a State-allied virago named Liz Richards operates an identity theft and blackmail scheme through her group Family Court Reform of Annandale, Virginia. Richards circulates e-mail messages “threatening to publicize information that she obtains through government files on the private lives of politically active parents” who criticize the system. The material used to blackmail critics includes financial information pried from parents by family court judges and somehow supplied to Richards.
Meanwhile, “Deadbeat Dads” routinely find themselves publicly vilified, summarily imprisoned, and financially ruined. They are “routinely ordered into employment, the wages from which are then confiscated.” In an Illinois case, a custodial father stayed at home to care for his three children, only to be arrested under an obscure and asinine state law that makes it a felony for a man to be deliberately unemployed.
“Rendered permanently insolvent by … incarceration, [such fathers] are farmed out to trash companies and similar concerns, where they work fourteen- to sixteen-hour days,” writes Baskerville. “Most of their earnings are confiscated for child support, the costs of their incarceration, and mandatory drug testing.” In addition, “the courts are also not above summarily jailing children who fail to cooperate with the criminalization of their parents.”
How can an imprisoned man pay child support? And how can a man whose wages are automatically garnished be accused of failure to make payments? Don’t bother posing logical questions of this sort to those in charge of the child support enforcement system.
One spectacularly smug judge who richly deserves a beating gloated that he enjoyed incarcerating fathers who failed to make payments. He calls the jail his “magic fountain”: “Of course, there is no magic. The money is paid by his mother, or by the second wife, or by some other innocent who perhaps had to liquidate her life’s savings.” Some judges have seized the bank accounts of grandparents when a father has been accused of an arrearage in child support payments.
Baskerville makes a compelling, if not irrefutable, case that the “Deadbeat Dad” epidemic is a deliberately engineered hoax. He points out that “the government machinery [for child support enforcement] … was created not in response to claims of widespread nonpayment butbefore them, and that it was less a response to `deadbeat dads’ than a mechanism to create them.”
Here’s how the process works, in brief:
“A parent [generally a father] whose children are taken away by a family court is only at the beginning of his troubles. The next step comes as he is summoned to court and ordered to pay as much as two-thirds or even more of his income as `child support’ to whomever has been given custody. His wages will immediately be garnished and his name will be entered on a federal register of `delinquents.’ This is even before he has had a chance to become one, though it is also likely that the order will be backdated, so he will already be delinquent as he steps out of the courtroom. If the ordered amount is high enough, and the backdating far enough, he will be an instant felon and subject to immediate arrest.”
Fathers in such circumstances are often imprisoned for having any unauthorized contact with their children, and the terms of that contact are defined entirely by their kidnappers. The children are often indoctrinated to see their fathers as their enemies – if not by embittered ex-wives, then by officials of the system itself. One inconceivably repellent example was offered by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who in 2004 actually “tried to enlist the state’s children in an art competition to depict their own fathers as criminals. Cox offered free Domino’s pizza to children who participated in the campaign to create billboards vilifying their fathers.”
Once it learned of the nature of the competition – call it the “Pavlik Morozov Memorial Art Contest” — Domino’s withdrew its support. Mike Cox, who really deserves to get his back dirty, continues to afflict Michigan.
By Baskerville’s reckoning, “nearly a quarter-million parents could now be incarcerated” on child support-related charges. To relieve the pressure on jails and prisons overburdened by America’s inmate population – easily the world’s largest – some officials have suggested alternate means of imprisoning “Deadbeat Dads.”
In Georgia, a sheriff and superior court judge recommended the creation of a literal gulag — “detention camps specifically for fathers.” A city planning commission in Pittsburgh considered a proposal to “convert a former chemical processing plant … into a detention center” for fathers.
It’s hardly surprising that fathers trapped in this Kafkaesque system are often – not occasionally, mind you, but frequently – driven to despairing acts of despairing violence. In 1996, four days before he was to receive a medal of valor for his role in rescuing victims from the Murrah building following the Oklahoma City Bombing, Terrance Yeakey committed suicide. Yeakey could surmount what he witnessed on the morning of April 19, but he was over-matched by the horrors that descended on him when he fell behind in child support payments arising from a bitter divorce.Other fathers direct their rage at those immediately responsible for their predicament.
“The most volatile court in the nation, where judges are killed on the bench, is family courts,” notes Bruce Howell, administrator for the Montgomery, Alabama Juvenile Court. “When you’re dealing with people’s children, they get really upset. Family court is where it all happens, and judges get killed right on the bench. People whip out guns and start shooting them in front of the courtroom.”
Ugly as it is to say so, it must nonetheless be said: At least some of the judges on the receiving end of the violence Howell describes deserve something akin to what they got – not being summarily gunned down, of course, but some combination of professional ruin and personal humiliation.
The instinct to protect one’s children is the single strongest impulse implanted in our nature by our Creator. It easily eclipses the need for food or fame; it is even stronger than the primal drive to create children in the first place. When a flawed but conscientious father whose marriage ends without his consent has his children taken from him, “we call him a `monster’ and a criminal for doing what any normal parent is expected to do” — fight back against those who have attacked his family and threaten his children, using whatever means he can muster.
Those who employ deceit, coercion, and blackmail to separate an honest father from his children really shouldn’t expect to be immune to very ugly consequences – beginning, but hardly limited to, unemployment and irreversible ostracism from decent society. And the worst of them really ought to end up like Mussolini.
(To hear a radio interview of Dr. Baskerville in Quicktime audio, click here.)Portrait of a policy failure: Somehow, this young father was left unmolested to raise his two beautiful children. How on earth did such a thing happen?