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Politics of Family Destruction

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  • Politics of Family Destruction

    All I have to say before I let you read this article, is, the greedy
    **** family-destoyers (male & female) will get what they deserve.
    Including but not limited to: lawyers, judges, parents, lovers, family
    members and politicians.
    Anyone that contributes to the destruction of families.

    I would like to personally shove them down into the depths of hell
    with the heel of my boot, for what they've done.

    The Politics of Family Destruction

    November 12, 2002

    by Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D.


    The debate on the family is becoming increasingly politicized.
    President George W. Bush proposes federal programs to promote marriage
    and fatherhood and to enlist churches. Liberals respond that
    government does not belong in the family but then advocate federal
    programs of their own.

    Yet the more polarized the issues become the less willing we are to
    look at the hard politics of the family crisis. Family policy is still
    discussed in terms set by therapists and social scientists: the rate
    of divorce and unwed motherhood, the level of poverty, the impact on
    children, the social costs. As if we don't know.

    As a social scientist, I do not deny the value of data (I intend to
    marshal some myself). But therapeutic practitioners have established
    such a hold over family policy that they have paralyzed our capacity
    to act. Writing on single motherhood in Commentary magazine, the
    eminent political scientist James Q. Wilson grimly concludes, "If you
    believe, as I do, in the power of culture, you will realize that there
    is very little one can do." Like many others (including the Bush
    administration), Wilson is reduced to advocating counseling and

    What seems missing here is old-fashioned politics, the kind that did
    not hesitate to make moral judgments and even express outrage. The
    politics of the prophets, for example.

    The facts are well-established among social scientists, but a kind of
    ideological correctness on both left and right seems to keep us from
    confronting the full implications of what we know. We are afraid to
    challenge the accepted clich├ęs about marriage breakdown, even when it
    becomes clear that they don't correspond to the evidence.

    We should begin, therefore, with the uncontested but seldom-mentioned
    facts. First, marriages do not simply "break down" by themselves.
    Legally, someone'and it is usually one'consciously ends it by filing
    official documents and calling in the government against his or her
    spouse. According to Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, the authors
    of Divided Families, some 80 percent of divorces are unilateral. One
    spouse usually wishes to keep the family together.

    When children are involved, the divorcing parent is overwhelmingly
    likely to be the mother. Scholarly studies by Sanford Braver, Margaret
    Brinig and Douglas Allen, and others estimate that between 67 and 75
    percent of such divorces are instigated by the mother. Feminists and
    divorce attorneys report that the number is closer to 90 percent. Few
    of these divorces involve grounds like desertion, adultery, or
    violence. "Growing apart" or "not feeling loved or appreciated" are
    the usual explanations.

    The divorcing parent is likely to get custody of the children and
    coerced financial payments from the divorced parent. Brinig and Allen
    even concluded that of 21 variables, "who gets the children is by far
    the most important component in deciding who files for divorce."

    Clearly more is at work here than husbands and wives deciding to go
    their separate ways. Under no-fault laws, divorce has become a means
    not only of ending a marriage but of seizing monopoly control of the
    children, who become weapons conferring leverage backed by penal
    sanctions. The devastating effects of divorce and fatherlessness on
    both children and society are now so well-known that there is no need
    to belabor them here. What is seldom appreciated is the broader threat
    the divorce regime poses to ethical and constitutional government. In
    fact, there is today no better example of the link between personal
    morality and public ethics'between the fidelity of private individuals
    and the faithfulness of public servants'or the connection of both with
    the civilized order.

    Significantly, as secular political sophisticates focus narrowly on
    the sociological, it is Pope John Paul II who has come closest to the
    root of the problem. In January, he issued what many saw as a
    surprisingly strong statement against divorce that specifically
    singled out lawyers and judges for criticism. For his pains he was
    attacked by lawyers, journalists, and politicians from both the left
    and right. Yet his characterization of divorce as a "festering wound"
    with "devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague"
    is as accurate politically as it is socially.

    Since the advent of no-fault divorce, a multibillion-dollar industry
    has grown up around the divorce courts: judges, lawyers,
    psychotherapists, mediators, counselors, social workers, and
    bureaucratic police. All these people have a professional and
    financial stake in divorce. In fact, despite pieties to the contrary,
    public officials at all levels of government'including elected leaders
    in both parties'now have a vested interest in increasing the number of
    single-parent homes.

    The politics of divorce begins in family court, a relatively new and
    little-examined institution. Family courts are usually closed to the
    public and their proceedings are usually unrecorded. Yet they reach
    further into private lives than any other arm of government. Though
    lowest in the hierarchy, they are "the most powerful branch of the
    judiciary," according to Judge Robert Page of the New Jersey family
    court. "The power of family court judges is almost unlimited," Page

    Secret courts have long been recognized as an invitation to chicanery.
    "Where there is no publicity, there is no justice," wrote British
    philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham. "It keeps the judge himself
    while trying under trial." Judges claim the secrecy protects family
    privacy, though in fact it seems to provide a cloak to violate family
    privacy and other protections with impunity.

    Family court judges are appointed and promoted by commissions
    dominated by bar associations. That means they are answerable to those
    with an interest in maximizing the volume of divorce litigation.
    Though family courts complain of being "overburdened," it is clearly
    in their interest to be overburdened, since judicial powers and
    salaries are determined by demand. The aim of the courts, therefore,
    is to increase their workload by attracting customers, and the divorce
    industry has erected a series of financial and emotional incentives
    that encourage people to divorce. "With improved services, more
    persons will come before the court seeking their availability," Page
    explains. "As the court does a better job more persons will be
    attracted to it as a method of dispute resolution." Doing a "better
    job" really means attracting more divorcing parents with generous

    A substantial body of federal and state case law recognizes parenthood
    as an "essential" constitutional right "far more precious than
    property rights" (May v. Anderson). In Doe v. Irwin, a federal court
    held that parenthood "cannot be denied without violating those
    fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of
    all our civil and political institutions." Yet such apparently
    unequivocal principles are never applied in divorce cases, where
    judges routinely remove children from forcibly divorced parents
    without providing any reason.

    Once a parent loses custody, he or she no longer has any say in where
    the children reside, attend school or day care, or worship. Worse, the
    parents who have been stripped of custody are in many ways treated as
    outlaws. A personalized criminal code is legislated around them by the
    judge, controlling their association with their children, their
    movements, and their finances. Unauthorized contact with their
    children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents
    have been arrested for running into their children in public places
    such as sporting events and church, for making unauthorized telephone
    calls, and for sending unauthorized birthday cards.

    Parents whose spouses want a divorce are ordered to surrender personal
    diaries, correspondence, financial records, and other documents
    normally protected by the Fourth Amendment. Their personal habits,
    movements, conversations, writings, and purchases are all subject to
    inquiry by the court. Their home can be entered and their visits with
    their children monitored in a "supervised visitation center." Anything
    they say to their spouses, family, friends, counselors, and others can
    be used against them in court. Their children, too, can be used as

    Forcibly divorced parents are also ordered, on pain of incarceration,
    to hire cronies of the judge. In what some see as little less than a
    shakedown, family courts routinely order forcibly divorced and legally
    unimpeachable parents to pay attorneys, psychotherapists, and other
    professionals with the threat of jail for not complying.

    Family law is now criminalizing constitutionally protected activities
    as basic as free speech, freedom of the press, and even private
    conversations. In many jurisdictions it is now a crime to criticize
    judges, and parents have been arrested for doing so. Following his
    congressional testimony critical of the family courts in 1992, Jim
    Wagner of the Georgia Council for Children's Rights was stripped of
    custody of his two children, ordered to pay $6,000 to lawyers he did
    not hire, and jailed when he could not pay.

    The principal tool for enforcing divorce and keeping ejected parents
    away from their children is a restraining order. Orders separating
    parents from their children for months, years, and even life are
    routinely issued without the presentation of any evidence of
    wrongdoing. They are often issued at a hearing where the parent is not
    present; they are sometimes issued with no hearing at all. "The
    restraining order law is one of the most unconstitutional acts ever
    passed," says Massachusetts attorney Gregory Hession, who has filed a
    federal suit on civil rights grounds. "A court can issue an order that
    boots you out of your house, never lets you see your children again,
    and takes your money, all without you even knowing that a hearing took

    Hession's description is confirmed by judges themselves. "Your job is
    not to become concerned about the constitutional rights of the man
    that you're violating as you grant a restraining order," New Jersey
    Judge Richard Russell told his colleagues at a training seminar in
    1994. "Throw him out on the street, give him the clothes on his back
    and tell him, see ya around.... We don't have to worry about the

    Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Women's Bar
    Association, wrote in a column in the association's newsletter that
    divorce-connected restraining orders are doled out "like candy."
    "Everyone knows that restraining orders and orders to vacate are
    granted to virtually all who apply," and "the facts have become
    irrelevant," she reports. "In virtually all cases, no notice,
    meaningful hearing, or impartial weighing of evidence is to be had."
    Yet a government analysis found that fewer than half of all orders
    involved even an allegation of physical violence.

    It doesn't take much to violate such restraining orders. "Stories of
    violations for minor infractions are legion," the Boston Globe
    reported on May 19, 1998. One father was arrested "when he put a note
    in his son's suitcase telling the mother the boy had been sick over a
    weekend visit." Another was arrested "for sending his son a birthday
    card." Parents are arrested for attending their children's worship
    services, music recitals, and sports activities'events any stranger
    may attend. National Public Radio broadcast a story in 1997 about a
    father arrested in church for attending his daughter's first
    communion. During the segment, an eight-year-old girl wails and begs
    to know when her father will be able to see her or call her. The
    answer, because of a "lifetime" restraining order, is never. Even
    accidental contact in public places is punished with arrest.

    Restraining orders are in fact more likely to cause than to prevent
    violence, since laws separating parents from their children can
    provoke precisely the violence they are designed to prevent. "Few
    lives, if any, have been saved, but much harm, and possibly loss of
    lives, has come from the issuance of restraining orders," retired
    Dudley district court justice Milton Raphaelson wrote last year in the
    Western Massachusetts Law Tribune. "It is the opinion of many who
    remain quiet due to the political climate. Innocent men and their
    children are deprived of each other."

    Domestic violence has now been federalized in a legislative agenda
    whose conscious aim is to promote easy divorce. Donna Laframboise of
    Canada's National Post wrote that federally funded battered women's
    shelters in the United States and Canada constituted "one-stop divorce
    shops" whose purpose was not to shelter women but to secure custody
    for divorcing mothers. The Violence Against Women Act, renewed by
    Congress in 2000, "offers abundant rewards" for making false
    accusations, writes Professor Susan Sarnoff of Ohio State University,
    "including the 'rights' to refuse custody and even visitation to
    accused fathers, with virtually no requirements of proof." The law's
    definition of domestic violence is so broad that "it does not even
    require that the violence be physical."

    Authorities bully some women into taking out restraining orders by
    threatening to take away their children. The February 20, 2001,
    edition of the Massachusetts News described how Heidi Howard was
    ordered by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services to take out
    a restraining order against her husband and divorce him, though
    neither parent was charged with any wrongdoing. When she refused, the
    social workers seized her children. Reporter Nev Moore claims to have
    seen hundreds of similar cases. Government officials can now impose
    divorce not only on one unwilling parent but on both.

    While the domestic violence industry is driven by federal funding, the
    main financial fuel of the divorce machinery is "child support," which
    subsidizes and encourages unilateral divorce. Bryce Christensen of the
    Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society argues for a "linkage
    between aggressive child-support policies and the erosion of wedlock."

    Those accused of failing to pay child support'"deadbeat dads"'are now
    the subject of a national demonology. Yet a federally funded study by
    Sanford Braver, published as Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths,
    found government "estimates" of nonpayment are produced not from any
    official statistics but entirely from surveys of custodial parents.
    Braver concluded that "the single most important factor relating to
    nonpayment" is unemployment.

    Braver is not alone. Columnist Kathleen Parker has concluded that "the
    'deadbeat dad' is an egregious exaggeration, a caricature of a few
    desperate men who for various reasons'sometimes pretty good ones'fail
    to hand over their paycheck, assuming they have one." Deborah Simmons
    of the Washington Times likewise found "scant evidence that
    crackdowns...serve any purpose other than to increase the bank
    accounts of those special-interest groups pushing enforcement."

    Child support enforcement is now a massive industry, where revolving
    doors, financial transfers, and other channels connect family courts
    with legislators, interlocking executive agencies on the federal,
    state, and local level, with private contractors.

    To encourage divorce, child support must be set high enough to make
    divorce attractive for mothers, and setting it is a political process
    conducted by officials and groups that thrive on divorce. About half
    the states use guidelines devised not by the legislature but by courts
    and enforcement agencies. Yet even legislative enactment is no
    guarantee of impartiality, since legislators may divert enforcement
    contracts to their own firms.

    The ethical conflicts extend to the private sector, where collection
    firms also help to decide the levels of what they are to collect. Not
    only does an obvious conflict of interest impel them to make the
    burdens as high as possible to increase their take in absolute terms
    (and to encourage divorce), but the firms can set the levels high
    enough to ensure the arrearages on which their business depends.

    While working as a paid consultant with the Department of Health and
    Human Services (HHS) during the 1980s, Robert Williams helped to
    establish uniform state guidelines in the federal Child Support
    Guidelines Project. Predictably, Williams's guidelines sharply
    increased support obligations in many states. Economist Mark Rogers
    charges in Family Law Quarterly that they resulted in "excessive
    burdens" based on a "flawed economic foundation." Williams himself
    acknowledges that "there is no consensus among economists on the most
    valid theoretical model to use in deriving estimates of child-rearing
    expenditures." Donald Bieniewicz, author of an alternative guideline
    published by HHS, writes, "This is a shocking vote of 'no confidence'
    in the...guideline by its author"'a guideline used to incarcerate
    parents without trial.

    Governments also profit from child support. "Most states make a profit
    on their child support program," according to the House Ways and Means
    Committee, which notes that "states are free to spend this profit in
    any manner the state sees fit." With substantial sums at stake,
    officials have no incentive to discourage divorce, regardless of their
    party affiliation. Notwithstanding rhetoric about strengthening the
    family, neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers are likely to
    question any policy that fills the public coffers.

    The trampling of due process in child support prosecutions parallels
    that in domestic violence cases, since a parent may legally be
    presumed guilty until proven innocent, and the parent will not
    necessarily have a lawyer or a jury of his or her peers. "The burden
    of proof may be shifted to the defendant," according to the National
    Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which approves these methods.
    "Not all child support contempt proceedings classified as criminal are
    entitled to a jury trial," adds NCSL, and "even indigent obligors are
    not necessarily entitled to a lawyer."

    In the decades since the inception of no-fault divorce, family law has
    gradually become an ethical cesspool. Attorneys such as Hession charge
    that tapes and transcripts of hearings are routinely altered in family
    court. Hession's forensic evidence was published last year in the
    Massachusetts News. When his client, Zed McLarnon, complained about
    the tampering and other irregularities, he was assessed $3,500 for
    attorneys he had not hired and jailed without trial by the same judges
    whose tapes were allegedly doctored. "This is criminal misconduct,"
    attorney Eugene Wrona says of similar practices in Pennsylvania, "and
    these people belong in jail." In May 1999, Insight magazine exposed a
    "slush fund" for Los Angeles family court judges into which attorneys
    and court-appointed "monitors" paid. These monitors are hired by the
    court to watch parents accused of spousal or child abuse while they
    are with their children.

    The corrupting power of forced divorce now extends beyond the
    judiciary, validating the pope's observation that its consequences
    spread "like the plague." In 2000, four leading Arkansas senators were
    convicted on federal racketeering charges connected with divorce. One
    scheme involved hiring attorneys to represent children during divorce,
    a practice generally regarded as a pretext to appoint cronies of the
    judge. In the April 29, 1999, edition of the Arkansas
    Democrat-Gazette, John Brummett wrote that "no child was served by
    that $3 million scam to set up a program ostensibly providing legal
    representatives to children in custody cases, but actually providing a
    gravy train to selected legislators and pals who were rushing around
    to set up corporations and send big checks to each other."

    The affair illustrates one reason legislators protect judges and their
    associates in the courts. Divorce attorneys are prominent in state
    legislatures. Tony Perkins, who sponsored Louisiana's celebrated
    "covenant marriage" law, reports that similar measures have failed in
    some "seemingly sympathetic legislatures" because of "opposition from
    key committee chairmen who were divorce lawyers."

    The potential of child support to become what one Arkansas player
    termed a "cash cow," providing officials with "steady income for
    little work," has been exploited elsewhere. The Washington Post
    reported in July 2000 that a top adviser to Prince George's County,
    Maryland, executive Wayne Curry received contracts without competitive
    bidding for child support enforcement within days of leaving the
    county payroll. In March 2002, Maryland announced a criminal
    investigation of Maximus, which runs Baltimore's program. The alleged
    misconduct included collecting money from parents even after their
    children had reached adulthood and then refusing to refund it. The
    whistle-blower expressed fear for her personal safety, according to
    the Baltimore Sun.

    Throughout the United States and abroad, child support enforcement has
    been plagued with corruption. Kansas awarded a contract to Glenn and
    Jan Jewett, who were involved in bingo operations in Las Vegas and
    spent time in federal prison for drug trafficking, forgery, concealing
    stolen property, and writing bad checks. The DuPage County, Illinois,
    child support system has been under investigation for fraud. "A string
    of foul-ups plaguing Ohio's child support system," included "millions
    of dollars worth of improperly intercepted income tax refunds and
    child support payments," according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and
    WHIO television in Dayton. In Wisconsin, "Parents who owe nothing have
    been billed thousands of dollars," according to the Milwaukee Journal
    Sentinel, including a man billed for children in their 40s, who "was
    compelled to prove his innocence."

    In October 1998 the Los Angeles Times investigated fraud and due
    process violations in the L.A. child support enforcement system.
    Deputy District Attorney Jackie Myers had left office in 1996 because,
    he said, "I felt we were being told to do unethical, very unethical
    things." In December 1999, Insight reported on the case of a father
    left by the district attorney's office with $200 a month to care for a
    family of four. One month, the district attorney "took all but $1 of
    his $1,200 paycheck."

    Following the Times series, HHS was moved to investigate criminal
    fraud in the city's system, but the General Accounting Office found
    the investigation "consisted of just two phone calls"'one to "one of
    the DA office employees who had engaged in misconduct." HHS apparently
    "did not interview any of more than a dozen people who a confidential
    informant claimed had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing within the
    child support program."

    The divorce industry depends on the widespread violation of what most
    people still hold to be the most solemn promise one makes in life. It
    is no coincidence that public officials whose livelihoods depend on
    encouraging citizens to betray their private trust will not hesitate
    to betray the trust conferred on them by the public. Likewise, a
    society where private citizens are encouraged not to honor their
    commitments is a society that will not hold public leaders to their
    promises. Maggie Gallagher's observation that marriage has become "the
    only contract where the law now sides with the party who wants to
    violate it" raises the question of whether we are willing to allow our
    government to be an active party to deceit and faithless dealing.

    Our present divorce system is not only unjust but fundamentally
    dishonest. For all the talk of a "divorce culture," it is not clear
    that most people today enter the marriage contract with the intention
    of breaking it. "If the marital vows were changed to '...until I grow
    tired of you,' or '...for a period of five years unless I decide
    otherwise,' and the state were willing to sanction such an agreement,
    then divorce would not be such a significant event from a moral point
    of view," attorney Steven L. Varnis writes in Society. "But there is
    no evidence that the content of marital vows or marital expectations
    at the time of marriage has changed." Varnis may be only half right,
    but even so, the point is that the marriage contract has become
    unenforceable and therefore fraudulent. Until this changes, it seems
    pointless and even irresponsible to encourage young people to place
    their trust and their lives in it.

    One may argue that government should not enforce the marriage
    contract, or any contracts for that matter (though the Constitution
    holds otherwise). But I am not aware of anyone who suggests the
    government should be forcibly abrogating contracts, let alone luring
    citizens into contracts that it then tears up. If we truly believe our
    present divorce policy is appropriate, we should at least have the
    honesty to tell young people up front that marriage provides them with
    no protection. Let us inform them at the time of their marriage that
    even if they remain faithful to their vows, they can lose their
    children, their home, their savings and future earnings, and their
    freedom. Not only will the government afford them no protection; it
    will prosecute them as criminals, though without the due process of
    law afforded to formally accused criminals. And let us then see how
    many young people are willing to start families.

    It is one thing to tolerate divorce, as perhaps we must do in a free
    society. It is another to use the power of the state to impose it on
    unwilling parents and children. When courts stop dispensing justice,
    they must start dispensing injustice. There is no middle ground.

    Stephen Baskerville

    Originally published in Crisis Magazine. Republished by permission of
    the author.

  • #2
    Politics of Family Destruction

    "Ryanguy" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected] om...
    All I have to say before I let you read this article, is,
    I skipped the rest and instead went right to the article. I hope that was


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