BOOK REVIEW News Weekly
The criminalisation of fathers and parents
, November 22, 2014
TAKEN INTO CUSTODY:
The War Against Fathers, Marriage and the Family
by Stephen Baskerville
(Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing)
Hardcover: 368 pages
Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg
Most Western family law courts and systems are greatly skewed against fathers. There is an inbuilt bias against dads, and many are turned into criminals for having done nothing wrong.
Dr Stephen Baskerville
The facts on this are quite clear. Consider which parent is awarded custody of children after divorce: women are, some 85 per cent of the time in many Western countries.
This is not because the dads do not want the kids, but because the family law courts and tribunals invariably side with the mothers here, even if the dad may not be at fault. Indeed, the majority of divorces are initiated by women. And feminism and political correctness have ensured that women will usually get the benefit of the doubt, while men are looked upon as the villains.
Now of course in a marriage it takes both spouses to make it work, and most divorces also entail faults with both partners. Sure, there are some dead-beat dads, abusive husbands and irresponsible fathers. But there are also mothers who are equally at fault. There are irresponsible mums, abusive wives and so on. Yet the way the law treats these matters, you would think that women are almost always right, while men are almost always wrong.
I know men who minister to dads after divorce. The grief, depression and, sadly too often, the suicides, are all too common. They are profoundly disillusioned at a system that seems to be totally biased against them, and the lack of proper and regular access to their own children is often the last straw.
I too have known about this firsthand, witnessing the family law system in action. I have seen seemingly happy marriages one minute, and broken families the next, when the wife and children pack up and leave, leaving a dumbfounded, shocked and grieving dad behind.
Far too often in these situations, this may be the last time a father sees his wife and children. A police presence or court order will keep them from even being allowed to speak to the spouse or see their own children. No wonder so many spiral out of control in uncontrollable despair and depression, with many taking their own lives as a result.
Many have written about all this and documented it in some detail. As but one example, a very important book appeared in 2007 by American political scientist Stephen Baskerville, entitled Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family.
It is a must-read for all who are concerned about how the family law system — in Australia no less than in the United States — is siding against men, and causing untold damage to society as a whole.
Says Dr Baskerville, “The principal assault on the family today comes directly from government.” He is referring to no-fault divorce and a legal system which has decided ahead of time that men are the problem.
He writes: “Governments throughout the United States and other democracies are engaged, by accident or design, in a massive campaign against fathers and fatherhood, and … this campaign lies at the root of a larger crisis that is undermining parents generally, threatening the institution of marriage, destroying the family, and ruining the lives of children.”
The book details the gross injustice of “the systematic seizure of children by government officials and the criminalisation of their parents”.
The author continues: “A parent today who has committed no legal infraction can have his (or sometimes her) parenthood and relationship with his children criminalised entirely through the actions of others in ways that are completely beyond his control. [The book] focuses largely on fathers and divorce, because these are the ones most commonly involved.”
He notes that custody “is not the right to parent one’s children; it is the power to prevent someone else from parenting his children and to marshal the penal apparatus — courts, police and jails — to ensure he stays away from them”.
All this has become a vast, entrenched and often self-serving industry: “What we are describing here is the divorce industry, a massive and largely hidden governmental and quasi-governmental machine consisting of judges, lawyers, psychologists and psychiatrists, social workers, child protective services, child-support enforcement agents, mediators, counsellors and feminist groups, plus an extensive host of economic interests, such as divorce planners, forensic accountants, real estate appraisers, and many others.
“These officials and professionals invariably profess to be motivated by concern for the ‘best interest’ of the other people’s children. Yet their services are activated only with the dissolution of families and the removal of parents. Whatever pieties they may proclaim therefore, the hard reality is that they have a concrete interest in encouraging family break-up, and virtually all their power and earnings derive from the harm that divorce inflicts on children. ‘Fights over control of the children,’ reports one former divorce insider, ‘are where most of the billable hours in family court are consumed’.”
In some 370 pages Baskerville provides a wealth of detail, facts and statistics as he documents this process in the U.S.
I encourage all News Weekly readers who are interested in this to get his book and master its contents. In the meantime, he has written articles on this, which in much briefer fashion make the same case.
Let me appeal to just one, where he sets out what he calls “Five Myths about No-Fault Divorce”. These are:
Myth 1: “No-fault divorce permitted divorce by mutual consent, thus making divorce less acrimonious.”
Myth 2: “We cannot force people to remain married and should not try.”
Myth 3: “No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children.”
Myth 4: “When couples cannot agree or cooperate about matters like how the children should be raised, a judge must decide according to ‘the best interest of the child’.”
Myth 5: “Divorce must be made easy because of domestic violence.”
Each of these five myths is well worth looking at, but let me focus on just the second and third ones he lists.
As to the second, he responds: “It is not a matter of forcing anyone to remain married. The issue is taking responsibility for one’s actions in abrogating an agreement. With no-fault divorce, the spouse who divorces without grounds or otherwise breaks the marriage agreement (for example, by adultery or desertion) thereby incurs no onus of responsibility. Indeed, that spouse gains advantages.
“Courts therefore do not dispense justice against a legal wrong. Instead, every divorce is granted automatically, and the courts simply divvy up the goods — including the children — according to any criteria they choose, including separating the innocent spouse from his or her children without having to give any reason.
“Because the divorce creates work and earnings for judges, lawyers and other court personnel, there is a strong incentive for these officials to reward the guilty spouse in order to encourage more divorces and more business for the courts. As Charles Dickens pointed out, ‘The one great principle of the … law is to make business for itself’.”
As to the third myth, he replies: “This does happen (wives more often than children), but it is greatly exaggerated. The vast majority of no-fault divorces — especially those involving children — are filed by wives.
In fact, as Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows, has shown, the no-fault revolution was engineered largely by feminist lawyers, with the cooperation of the bar associations, as part of the sexual revolution. Overwhelmingly, it has served to separate large numbers of children from their fathers.
Sometimes the genders are reversed, so that fathers take children from mothers. But either way, the main effect of no-fault is to make children weapons and pawns to gain power through the courts, not the ‘abandonment’ of them by either parent.”
Obviously much more can be said about all this, and Baskerville certainly does in his fact-filled and very important book. No-fault divorce laws have been a monumental disaster for Western societies, with men being the biggest losers; but everyone suffers as a result.
Speaking about the Australian scene, Murdoch University law professor Augusto Zimmermann says this: “Ultimately, no-fault-divorce undermines justice as it rewards irresponsible behaviour and makes a complete mockery of marital vows. Perhaps those who are marrying should consider declaring at their wedding ceremonies, ‘I promise you nothing’, or ‘I will leave you whenever I want’.
“To stabilise marriage, the Family Law Act must be amended to remove the present incentive of no-fault divorce, which enables a spouse to unilaterally leave a marriage without any fear of losing custody of children and property. This egregious legal anomaly is a standing invitation to irresponsible behaviour.
“If this urgent reform is not undertaken, the Family Court of Australia will continue to perpetuate injustice by rewarding those spouses responsible for grave marital misconduct and by separating children from their legally blameless parents” (News Weekly, March 1, 2014).
He is quite right. Whether such vital reforms can be achieved or not remains to be seen. But for the sake of men and women, our children, and society as a whole, we must make a real attempt at it. And not just our Family Law Act, but the entire family court system.
Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com
Stephen Baskerville, “Five myths about no-fault divorce”, Catholic News Agency (Englewood, Colorado, U.S.), undated post-2007.
Augusto Zimmermann, “The innocent victims of ‘no-fault’ divorce”, News Weekly, March 1, 2014.