This piece is published in today's Washington
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Thanks of course to Barry Koplen. We are all in his debt.
Washington Times, 17 June 2001,
Commentary section (Forum), p. B5.
Appetite for family destruction
A little-noticed commission is beginning work in Virginia that has major
implications nationwide for both families and governmental ethics. Every four years, each
state is required to review its guidelines for
child support. In Virginia the outcome may
be less remarkable than the process.
The last review in 1999 was a classic case of the foxes guarding the hen house. The
review panel was selected by the director of the states Division of
Enforcement (DCSE), and at least 10 of the 12 members derived income from the divorce
system: two judges, four lawyers, a feminist, an enforcement official, two custodial
parents, and a legislator. All these people have a stake in encouraging divorce and
criminalizing fathers and therefore in making
child support as onerous as possible.
"By virtue of the Director of DCSE deciding its make-up, conflict-of-interest
concerns are both evident and also reflective of much larger improprieties."
The words are from the minority report of Barry Koplen, the lone representative of
parents paying court-ordered
child support. A full-time clothier, Mr. Koplen was appointed
only after fundamental decisions had already been taken and by his own account had neither
the time nor the expertise to attend to his duties. Yet he was told he would serve or no
Mr. Koplen set about to educate himself on the intricacies of the child-support
industry. The result was a scathing indictment of how powerful interests can hijack the
machinery of government not simply to line their pockets but to seize children and used
them as weapons against law-abiding parents. Mr. Koplen accused the commission of nothing
less than "criminal wrongdoing" in jailing parents "without due
process of law." He discovered a political underworld where government officials are
feathering their nests and violating citizens rights while cynically proclaiming
their concern for children. "This is frightening in its disregard for due
process," Mr. Koplen wrote. "The violation of constitutional rights [is]
perpetrated by both our courts and the DCSE."
The review process was hardly better than the system itself: "conducted in a
manner so questionable as to cast doubt on its credibility," said Mr. Koplen.
"We had been asked to blind ourselves to the illegal incarceration of thousands of
citizens in our state, to the harassment and pursuit of parents by attorneys on loan to
DCSE." By controlling this panel, judges, lawyers, and plainclothes police are making
the same laws they adjudicate and enforce.
Perhaps most questionable is that the system used in the Old Dominion (and some 30
other states) is largely the creation of one man, who also happens to preside over the
nations largest private
child support contractor. Robert Williams created Policy
Studies Inc., to compound the ethical conflict, while working as a paid consultant to the
Department of Health and Human Services, which in turn imposed his system on the states.
"His companys participation in
child support guideline determination and the
profit it derives from its child support collection division points to an obvious conflict
of interest," Mr. Koplen noted. "His proposals higher numbers meant more
collections" for his company. 
So why should we care about punitive burdens on divorced fathers? If they dont
want to pay child support perhaps they shouldnt have gotten divorced.
That is precisely the point: Most noncustodial parents are divorced involuntarily and
without legal grounds. The same interests represented on the review panels can force
divorce on the parents whose property they then confiscate for the children, of
course. This makes unilateral divorce very lucrative for all concerned. High guidelines,
Mr. Koplen points out, "create an irresistible incentive to divorce for the party
most likely to be rewarded with child custody and
child support." Coerced
support, along with forced attorneys fees, is the financial fuel of the divorce
Academic studies by Sanford Braver, Margaret Brinig
and Douglas Allen, and others confirm that the parent
expecting custody usually files for divorce. Divorcing parents can then plunder their
spouses by an assortment of charges that are "punitive and inappropriate," as
Koplen puts it, and which render them subject to "incarceration and
criminalization." This "civil rights nightmare" is perpetrated under the
guise of providing for children by the very people who are forcibly destroying their
homes. The divorce industry, in short, has turned children into cash cows.
Similar chicanery operates in other states. "The commissions appointed to review
the guidelines have been composed . . . of individuals who are unqualified to assess the
economic validity of the guidelines, or who have an interest in maintaining the status
quo, or both," writes William Akins, a Georgia district attorney writing in the
Georgia Law Journal.
This time around the eyes of the nation will be on Virginia to see if it will continue
to enrich the divorce industry by engineering the destruction of its childrens
The author teaches political science at Howard University, and is a member of the
Virginia Child Support Guideline Review Panel.
Stephen Baskerville, PhD
Department of Political Science
Washington, DC 20059
"A single, seemingly powerless person who dares to
cry out the word of truth and to stand behind it with all his person and all his life,
ready to pay a high price, has, surprisingly, greater power, though formally
disfranchised, than do thousands of anonymous voters."
-- Vaclav Havel
of Stephen Baskerville's articles
Great Child Support Scam Child Support Policy and Robert Williams, by
James R. Johnston
2.) Divorced Dads Shattering the Myths: The
Surprising Truth About Fathers, Children, and Divorce, by Sanford L. Braver, Ph.D,
with Dianne O'Connell (Hardcover - 288 pages (October 1998) J P Tarcher; ISBN: 087477862X
) "Taking on Myth # 6 Who Leaves the Marriage . . . and Why it
Matters," p. 124
3.) These Boots are Made
for Walking: Why Wives File for Divorce, by Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W.
The authors found that "who gets the children is by far the most
important component in deciding who files for divorce, particularly when there is very
little quarrel about property, as when the separation is long." Although the
authors report that women file more often for divorce, by far, and increasingly so, they
purport that this is so because women generally are more attached to the children of the
marriage than the fathers are.