Dads Against the Divorce Industry
DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.
DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.
The Fatherhood Movement: A Constituency In Search of a Representative
Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
In the last presidential election the outcome was largely determined by the male vote. And in customary political fashion, the victor is now courting the groups that worked hardest to secure his defeat - feminists, homosexuals and the NAACP.
In the first weeks of the first hundred days, not one word was said on behalf of the group of fourteen to twenty-five million who most likely voted in support of the current administration - Dads. And like most (and I cringe to use the word) dysfunctional parents, this administration is not focusing on the family member that wins the awards and makes constructive contributions. Instead, the energy and focus has been directed to the "bad seed" who has been the most contentious and destructive of family harmony.
To add insult to injury, it now appears that the Republican/Conservative compassionate mantra to replace the liberal dogma of "Deadbeat Dads" will become "Serial Dads". And while Fatherhood groups have labored ceaselessly to eradicate slurs with objectivity, even the administration that held the most promise has chosen to join the N.O.W. chorus. And the federal Divorce Industry continues unabated in its efforts to reduce paternal stature.
But then, sad reminders of the invisibility of Fatherhood - and its disappearing role in marriage and child rearing - are ubiquitous. The other day, columnist Debbie Schlussel castigated the anti-Father Rosie O'Donnell for her "latest vocation, baby factory for celebrity mothers". It did a Dad's heart good to read this prominent female attorney and columnist say these words in retort: "Wrong. A family is a mother and a father. No matter how famous or wealthy the mother, fathers matter. And Rosie's erroneous contention to the contrary only illustrates that, once again, she's not qualified for the job." Now that's representation - unfortunately, Debbie Schlussel is not among the elected who are making the laws that disfavor Dads.
Another reminder was the recent letter of reply I received from Senator Charles Grassley. Most Fatherhood advocates recognize that the Violence Against Women Act is not only unconstitutional, but that it is also one of the primary weapons of mass destruction in the gender-feminist's arsenal for waging war against Fatherhood. One need look no further to support this notion than the comments of Letty Cottin Pogrebin (co-founder of MS Magazine), who in 1990 issued the following declaration of hostilities: "... Dads are pathological bullies who abuse their children." Senator Grassley's reply indicated that he has capitulated to this contentious and unfounded slur - even when faced with the evidence of more than two hundred scientifically sound studies which demonstrate that women are at least equal, if not more likely than men, to initiate violence against their intimates. Grassley replied, "As your Senator, it's important for me to hear from you … I appreciate hearing your continued opposition to the Violence Against Women Act … I voted in favor of this legislation and it became public law 106-386 on October 28, 2000." Oh, OK Chuck, never mind.
Unfortunately, this reply characterizes that which Dads most often hear in response to their pleas for equal treatment under the law. The posture of most legislators and legalists is supine before the gender-feminist cohort. Like Neville Chamberlains responding to the threats of tyrannical intimidation, they seek appeasement - turning a blind eye to the war against Fatherhood and family.
Many fatherhood advocates are expending vast energies, in the best American tradition, in attempts to work through their representatives to effect change and right the wrongs that are rampant in America's family courts. And one must acknowledge their valiant efforts to play by the rules - even when those efforts are best characterized as two steps back for every step forward. Nevertheless, people like Dr. Gregory Palumbo of the Oklahomans for Families Alliance has made some headway, and remains unflaggingly dedicated to the effort. Dr. Wade Horn of the National Fatherhood Initiative, while not strictly a Dad advocate, has dedicated his efforts on behalf of children. And he has met with no small success in launching a comprehensive demonstration program to maintain the relationship between kids and their Dads in West Virginia.
During the past decade there has been a gradual and grudging acknowledgment that Dads are important, and that the Divorce Industry is grossly in need of downsizing. Some of the most vocal supporters of this trend have been female columnists such as Kathleen Parker, Cathy Young and Maggie Gallagher, whose columns and books are standard references in the literature of the Fatherhood movement. Debbie Schlussel may well become another. My earlier excerpt from her recent column fell short of conveying its full impact. She was demonstrably aware of the powerful research results that are emerging in support of Fatherhood: "Study after study shows that kids raised by single mothers are more likely to suffer from depression and become violent, to commit crime and go to prison, to do lousy in school and be aggressive toward teachers, to be unsuccessful and to get divorced and have children out of wedlock." And she cites chapter and verse.
Elsewhere, on behalf of Dads, Roger F. Gay and Dr. Gregory Palumbo have developed a model for assessing child support that seeks to achieve fairness and parity, in parental financial responsibility and federal/state taxation, that addresses several critical issues for non-custodial Fathers throughout the country:
"(A) The financial resources of both parents; (B) The ability of each parent to support themselves; (C) The cost of day-care if the custodial parent works outside the home; (D) The expenses attributable to the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child; (E) The tax consequences to both parties resulting from spousal support awarded, if any, and the child support award, and determination of which parent will claim the child as a dependent; (F) Expenses in the exercise of visitation; (G) The existence of children of other relationships; and (H) Expenses arising from other factors as the court may determine relevant in a particular case."
Still, the fraternity of disenfranchised Dads can't get real traction with those whom they have elected to be their representatives. How to solve this dilemma?
Some months ago a new voice broke forth on behalf of the legion of displaced Dads, in the person of Dr. Stephen Baskerville - a Professor in Political Science from Howard University. And his strident message, as recently presented on the "O'Reilly Factor" is this: "If States have the power, if government has the power to seize control of children, and micromanage the private lives of citizens who have done nothing wrong, there is no stopping the State." "… what most people don't realize is that we have in this country government officials who forcibly tear fathers away from their children with no grounds of legal wrong-doing, either proven or alleged. We've created in this country a very dangerous and destructive machine. It consists of judges, lawyers, bureaucrats, bureaucratic police, and many others who all have a vested interest in one thing. And that's ripping away as many fathers from their children as they can."
Dr. Baskerville has also written convincingly against the basic tenets of the child support division, arguing, "This engine of the Divorce Industry is destroying families and the Constitution. … Never before have we seen the spectacle of the highest officials in the land -- including the president, the attorney general and other Cabinet secretaries, and leading members of Congress from both parties -- using their offices as platforms from which publicly to vilify private citizens who have been convicted of nothing and who have no opportunity to reply. Under the guise of pursuing deadbeat Dads, we now are seeing mass incarcerations without trial, without charge and without counsel, while the media and civil libertarians look the other way." (Insight Magazine: Vol. 15, No. 28 -- August 2, 1999)
While I have had direct communication with Stephen Baskerville, and have read much of what he has written, I have not heard him directly make the suggestions that I will offer. If he has, then they need to be reiterated. I can say that his writings and appearances have prompted me to articulate these conclusions and recommendations. The primary hurdle to overcome is tinged with irony for divorced Dads, in that it means enlisting the aid of the perceived "enemy" - plaintiff's attorneys. As most non-custodial Dads know, it is difficult to find a Dad advocate among those who practice "family law". Whether knowingly or not, plaintiff's attorneys have become the consigliores of the Divorce Racket. But there are those who do recognize the abuses and injustices. Attorneys in the Detroit Michigan area have launched lawsuits against the State charging unlawful seizure of assets, unequal enforcement of parenting time, and violations of federal constitutional due process rights as related to Fathers. A Texas attorney has suffered threats of delicensure for challenging the constitutional legality of "no fault" divorce. A group of Chicago attorneys openly advertise themselves as Father advocates.
Given that Fathers have not been able to influence their representatives to provide fair, let alone constitutional, statutory provisions - and that the family court systems have virtually abandoned any pretense of due process - the laws that are currently making Dads mere visitors and wage slaves must be challenged at the highest levels of legal redress. The battles need to move to the State and Federal Supreme Courts. And this will require the mass initiation of class-action lawsuits on behalf of a representative sample of abuses being perpetrated against non-custodial Dads in each of the several States. The very predictable status of "non-custodial" has become legal shorthand for Divorced ("deadbeat") Dad(s) and must be remedied.
Individually, Dads have gone bankrupt, and/or have even mortgaged their futures fighting to maintain their parental rights to have a balanced influence in their children's lives - most often failing to achieve anything resembling equity in the narrow venue of the heavily feminist-agendized "family courts." That is not predictive, however, of what they are more likely to achieve outside of that venue, and in the glare of the public spotlight.
There is yet another reason to pursue this type of agenda. It is estimated that there are more than 14 million non-custodial Dads out there. Individually, they might expend $10,000 or more in their individual pursuit of justice - to no avail and at great personal sacrifice. But if 14 million Dads were to put up just 5 bucks apiece in support of the class action approach, that could create 70 million dollars in formidable clout. If they can't get elected representation, maybe it's time for Dads to come together to pay for legal representation that will challenge the enduring injuries of the legislative status quo.
Perhaps the voices that have spoken so eloquently on behalf of Dads (Baskerville, Palumbo, Gay, Horn, Parker, Young, Gallagher, Schlussel - to name a few) can be enlisted to coordinate collection of funds; the selection of representative cases; and the enlistment of plaintiff's attorneys. And maybe other known, reputable individuals will come forward to offer their service as well. Rosie O'Donnell need not apply, thank you. But Mel Gibson would be welcomed.
The agenda must be clear. What cases will be selected and what battles must be fought? I would suggest the following:
- The presumption of Joint Physical Custody is the only equitable, constitutional and morally acceptable principle we can and must accept. Alternately, The spouse filing for divorce must be regarded as the one most willing to abandon the children to the other parent. We cannot continue to reward selfishness and simultaneously expect to preserve the institution of marriage.
- Child support awards must be real world based and financially equitable. The guidelines presented by Messrs. Palumbo and Gay should become mandated - if not en-Toto, then piece-by-piece.
- False allegations of abuse of child or spouse must be punished for what they are - felonious perjury.
- Denial of parenting time; slander of the absent parent; and parental alienation must be met with financial and custodial penalties.
- If divorce is to remain a legally adjudicated outcome, with family courts as the venue for doing so, due process must be present to effect just outcomes.
- Ex-parte judicial orders of restraint must come to a halt - this is a violation of due process.
- "Imputed" earning ability of the non-custodial parent must be overturned as an utilizable factor in determining child support awards.
- The systematic registration of employment, and automatic imposition of wage garnishment must be reversed. They constitute a violation of privacy and a presumption of guilt that is inconsistent with due process.
- The determination of child support "arrearage" must meet real world tests that allow for unemployment, layoffs, illnesses and other factors that intact families must face.
- Recourse to "debtors prison", suspension of professional licensing, and suspension of the license to drive must be recognized as violations of constitutional rights.
Most importantly, the message needs to be that which I have heard from literally thousands of divorced Dads with whom I have had contact; "I want my kids back - they're mine too." If the legislative body chooses not to hear, then it must be made to listen.
Back to DA*DI's Home