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The Federal Bureau of Marriage?

Liberty Magazine, July 2003
The Federal Bureau of Marriage?
by Stephen Baskerville

It All Began With Welfare

The marriage initiative ostensibly targets the poor, a group which has a higher concentration of fatherlessness. It is easier to justify government Intervention into the lives of the poor because poor single mothers make a claim on government welfare. But remedies that begin with the poor have a way of spreading.

Once we turn attention to the middle class and mention divorce, we enter a political realm that has been obscured. Bringing up middle-class divorce reveals the difficulty, and perhaps dishonesty, in the question of whether government can restore marriage, because government itself has already abolished it.

In many ways, divorce has become the middle-class extension of welfare, creating single-parent homes among the affluent. In fact, all the major institutions of the divorce regime —juvenile and family courts, child support enforcement, domestic violence units, child protective services, and recent programs to promote fatherhood — were created as ancillary to welfare. No-fault divorce extended these services to the middle class because that was where the money and political power were.

As with welfare, the main clients of the divorce regime are mothers. Academic studies consistently document that two-thirds to three-fourths of divorces are filed by women,

Laws advertised as avowing divorce by mutual consent actually created unilateral divorce, permitting one spouse to dissolve a marriage without accepting any liability for the consequences.

usually without legal grounds. The proportion may be higher when children are involved. Attorney David Chambers writes in Making Fathers Pay that "the wife is the moving party in divorce actions seven times out of eight." Shere Hite, the popular researcher on female sexuality, found that "ninety-one percent of women who have divorced say they made the decision to divorce, not their husbands."

This is not surprising given the emotional and financial incentives the industry offers mothers to divorce, including automatic custody plus windfall child support. A Canadian-American study found that "who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce."

The official view that fatherless children are products of paternal abandonment does not bear scrutiny. No scientific evidence indicates that large numbers of fathers are deserting their children, and, when pressed, no responsible authority asserts it. Governments are removing the children. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this. Identifying fathers as the culprits has not only justified draconian enforcement measures against them, it has also allowed for policies that contribute further to fathers' absences. Virtually every problem handled by the divorce apparatus, including child custody, child-support enforcement, child abuse, and even juvenile crime. Is premised on the absence of the father. The first principle of the divorce regime is, therefore, to remove the father.

Next Part: The Ministry of Love
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This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Liberty, PO Box 1181, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Annual subscription US$29.50. Copyright 2003, Liberty, all rights reserved.

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Posted 2003 07 08