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June 19, 2004
Column #1,190

                                       A Sad Father's Day
                               
Father's Day will not be a happy one for millions of fathers who can't see their children due to an unwanted divorce forced on them by a wife and courts which do not allow a spouse (of either gender) to fight for the marriage. Consider the "Last Will and Testament of A.T. Renouf:"

"Last Friday my bank account was garnished. I was left with a total of $00.43 in the bank. At this time I have rent and bills to pay which would come to somewhere approaching $1500 to $1800. Since my last pay was direct deposited on Friday I now have no way of supporting myself. I have no money for food or for gas for my car to enable me to work...

"I have tried talking to the Family Support people....Their answer was: `we have a court order.' I have tried talking to the welfare people in Markham, since I earned over $520 in the last month I am not eligible for assistance.

"I have had no contact with my daughter in approx. 4 years. I do not even know if she is alive and well....I have no family and no friends, very little food, no viable job and very poor future prospects. I have therefore decided that there is no further point in continuing my life. It is my intention to...feed the car exhaust into the car, take some sleeping pills...

"I would have preferred to die with more dignity.

"It is my last will and testament that this letter be published for all to see and read."

A.T. Renouf signed his will on the day he died, Oct. 16, 1995.

Rev. Alan Stewart, said upon his death, "Andrew mentions two government agencies: Family Support garnishes his wages and Welfare tells him that he still really has the money the other agency took away."

Four times as many men kill themselves as women. Why? At least two-thirds of divorces are filed by women. Divorced men are also four times as likely as married men to commit suicide.

This is an extreme case which led to the loss of a daughter's father, the ex-wife's loss of child support and most tragically, the loss of a man's life.

The evil Andrew does not mention is the divorce over which he had no choice. LSU Law Professor Katherine Spaht says America's divorce system "fails to achieve justice, because even the person who is at fault can be the one who destroys the marriage. It is as if the person who injured you, can sue you for damages.

"There is no defense, no due process. It is offensive. There is no other place in the law where the wrong-doer has a remedy. And the victim, the innocent party, has no defense."

Consider a more benign case of Stephen Baskerville, "one of many involuntarily divorced fathers," as he put it. "I never agreed to divorce, never gave her grounds for one. She never had any accusations of adultery or domestic abuse." He does see his daughters three days bi-weekly but adds, "I have crushing child support, $1,200 monthly on a salary of $40,000, on which I could not survive if I did not live with my mother." Nor can he deduct what he spends on the girls.

He is a professor at Howard University, and is president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, the largest father's group with 45,000 members in many local groups.

Baskerville has a proposed solution, a federal law, the Parents' Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2005" for which he is lining up support among pro-family groups in Washington. His bill cites Supreme Court cases which assert that the right of parents to the care and custody of their children is "a fundamental right protected by the First, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments" as "more precious than property rights."

Yet courts treat the right of parents "as a non-fundamental right." His law would add federal protection of the right of parents to the care and custody of their children. It would shift the burden to the government to demonstrate that the "interference or usurpation is essential to accomplish a compelling government interest."

This law would not federalize state laws on marriage and divorce.

However it would make appeal to federal courts possible, if the constitutional rights of parents are violated. That happens daily.

A fresh idea worth considering.

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