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The Federal Bureau of Marriage?

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

Follow the Money

The "best interest" standard also transforms Judges into dispensers of patronage who can appoint evaluators of both parents and children. Here we begin to glimpse the political dynamic that will be fueled by the funding proposed by the Bush administration.

Family courts are controlled by bar associations. To satisfy their members, judges can hire them at public expense or at litigants' expense. "Lucrative patronage positions," writes legal scholar Herbert Jacob, "are generally passed out to the judge's political cronies or to persons who can help his private practice."

A judge can even order litigants to hire his friends, on pain of incarceration. Legally unimpeachable citizens who give neither grounds nor consent for a divorce are ordered to pay attorneys and psychotherapists they have not hired for services they do not want, and may be jailed for not complying. A father can be ordered to sell his house and turn the proceeds over to attorneys he has not hired for a divorce he did nothing, legally speaking, to bring on.

Judges also appoint "attorneys ad litem" to ostensibly represent the children's interests. These officials are notorious

At the very time churches are relinquishing their role as guardians of what is supposedly a sacred covenant, they are being recruited as government informers.

for cronyism and for advocating the removal of fathers. In 2001, a two-year investigation into court appointments in New York state by a special inspector general found "cronyism, politics, and nepotism" in appointments of attorneys ad litem and other officials. In March 2000, four Arkansas senators were convicted on federal racketeering charges connected with contracts for attorneys ad litem and child support enforcement.

The patronage clients most likely to benefit from the Bush proposals are psychotherapists, who likewise serve mostly to provide a rationale for removing fathers. "The marriage of law and psychology has reached the heights of disproportionate power for the psychologists. . . in the family courts," writes Margaret Hagan in Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice. Psychologist Sanford Braver calls such expert advice little more than guesswork. He writes, "There is absolutely no credible evidence that these [methods] are valid predictors of which spouse will make the best primary parent. In fact, there is no evidence that there is a scientifically valid way for a custody evaluator to choose the best primary parent."

Braver attributes their obvious father-hostility to gender bias, but pecuniary interest may be a sounder explanation. He quotes one evaluator to the effect that almost all his business would be lost were not fathers routinely removed.

Already ubiquitous in custody proceedings, psychotherapy has been developing a new market as an alternative to litigation. This has also made it appealing to the federal marriage promoters. Many states now require divorcing couples to undergo counseling, mediation, and marriage education of the kind being mandated by the Bush administration. Not only is there is no proof that such programs reduce divorce, it is fairly obvious that they thrive on it. According to the Administration for Children and Families, "Marriage education is a research-based approach that teaches couples how to build and maintain healthy, stable marriages and handle marital distress and breakdown." The last word slips in the government wedge, since all the counseling in the world is superfluous so long as one parent can simply take the children and leave.

"Mediation was pitched to the public as a service that would reduce the costs of litigation," writes Judy Parejko, herself a mediator, in Stolen Vows. "It sounded really good. But such well-intentioned messages served to cover up that no-fault was inherently forced divorce."

Parejko describes how her colleagues actually encouraged divorce. She claims her court-affiliated work was terminated by a judge and she was locked out of her office for trying to repair marriages. "They were in the business of mediation, charging a hefty fee for their settlement work," she writes, "and without a steady flow of customers, their business would dry up."

Half the jurisdictions in America now mandate marriage education during divorce. "The programs offer instruction in how to behave during a divorce and afterward, for the benefit of the children," explains the New York Dally News. Such provisions convey the appearance that officials are trying to minimize divorce; in fact, they shift blame onto the parent who fails to cooperate with it. "The fact that one parent didn't want the divorce — or that one of them had broken the promises they'd made when they were married — these were issues I was supposed to ignore," writes Parejko.

The administration claims its marriage measures are "voluntary" — that is, unless you want to keep your children. Conducted by professionals with a financial stake in divorce, these programs add clients to the gravy train and further transfer control of children to the state. Revealingly, the Canadian Bar Association pushes for coerced parent education, so parents who are involuntarily divorced must also be involuntarily educated into acquiescing in the loss of their children: "The CBA urges the federal government to require parents to take mandatory parental education before they are permitted to pursue court proceedings involving their children."

At first glance, it appears the government is requiring parents to attend the classes before it will permit the divorce; a closer look at the careful wording reveals precisely the opposite. The court can still summarily remove the children, and parents who want them back must first accept government instruction in how to behave toward those who have taken them away. "We want to pull away from the idea that parents have rights in relation to their children," says Jennifer Cooper of the CBA's family law section, which represents 2,200 divorce lawyers.

Noting that mobs of unhappy dads who haven't seen their children for months or years now picket the homes of judges, the Guardian newspaper recommends that the protesters

The healthy marriages project appears to be largely a vehicle for expanding the already formidable child-support enforcement apparatus.

be silenced with instruction: "The system first needs to educate parents and provide a range of services, such as mediation and parenting classes."

The Washington Post describes a measure in Virginia that makes parent education "mandatory for anyone, married or not, who goes to court over custody, visitation, or child support." Again, the fine print reveals how the measure, far from checking divorce, will insert additional layers of officialdom between parents and their children, and intimidate parents who object to having their children removed.

Next Part: Innocence is no Excuse
Other Parts:

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.

Index to more of Stephen Baskerville's articles

Stephen Baskerville's website

See also:

Feminism For Male College Students A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)

whiterose.gif (6796 bytes)The White Rose
Thoughts are Free

Posted 2003 07 08
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)