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June 20, 2007
Column #1,347
"Taken Into Custody"
by Mike McManus

Father's Day was not joyful for millions of fathers who had a divorce forced upon them,  whose children were "taken into custody" by the mother who filed for the divorce.

Indeed, Stephen Baskerville is a father who feels "taken into custody," since he can't see his children, when it's not authorized.  For example, Father's Day fell on a weekend when he did not have custody.  Fortunately, one daughter had a piano recital, and he was able to attend and chat with her and her sister for a few minutes afterward. That was his Father's Day.

Baskerville has written an important book not yet released by Cumberland House, "Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage and the Family."

He purposely does not tell his own story, because he doesn't want to be dismissed as an angry father. However, as the President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, he has a national perspective on what happens to perhaps 700,000 fathers a year, 7 million in a decade, when their wives file for divorce. 

Very few fathers file for divorce Why? Consider Massachusetts, where custody is granted to the father in only 2.5 percent of cases, but the mother gets it 93.4 percent of the time, and joint custody is permitted in only 4 percent. In a divorce, fathers lose regular access to their children.

However, even if the mother is an adulterer, who moved in with a boy friend, fathers lose their kids thanks to "No Fault" divorce laws in which the court won't consider who is at fault.  Why not?  Surely, in this case, the father would be the better parent. "No matter how faithless," writes Bryce Christensen, "a wife who files for divorce can count on the state as an ally."

The court says it is acting in "the best interest of the child."  What rot.  The best interest of the child would be served by the court telling the couple to work out their differences, leaving the child with a married mother and father.

That virtually never happens. Whoever files for divorce always gets it. There is no defense. The U.S. Bill of Rights supposedly protects citizens against being "deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law."

Where is "due process" if a divorce is always granted?

"The advent of No Fault divorce in the early 1970s...has left fathers with no protection against the confiscation of their children," writes Baskerville. As this column has argued, No Fault should be called Unilateral Divorce, because what was entered into by two people is typically ended when one spouse calls a lawyer.

"The result effectively ended marriage as a legal contract.  Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family," argues Baskerville.

Children need the protection of that law for at least 20 years.

Children of divorce are three times as likely to be expelled from school or to get pregnant as a child from intact parents, and are five times as apt to live in poverty.

Arguably, the whole of Western civilization is built upon the enforcability of contract law. "A society without contracts lives in mud huts, except for dictators. A contract is needed for people to cooperate to build something larger than themselves,"  says attorney John Crouch.

But when a spouse's feelings change, the solemn oath "till death us do part," is worthless. What's more, the law takes the side of the miscreants and punishes their victims.

A typical father sees his kids every other weekend. He must move from his own house, rent another, and often pay confiscatory child support. Baskerville paid 65 percent of his $38,000 income as a Howard University professor. He still pays for day care for children, aged 10 and 14, who don't go.

If he doesn't pay, he can be jailed, without a trial.

Why not ask the court to lift the day care charge? "It would cost me $10,000 to go back to court.   And going back to court is risky. It could take away my right to see my children."

Baskerville makes a case that the "divorce industry" of lawyers, court-appointed psychologists, and judges who depend on them for campaign contributions and state legislators who are often divorce attorneys - will never reform itself.

The only hope is if religious leaders fight for change.  The Catholic bishops have been considering the marriage issue for two years, but are not calling for divorce reform.  They are issuing TV spots endorsing marriage.

How lovely and how irrelevant.

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