Albert Mohler recently interviewed Stephen Baskerville. Dr. Baskerville is a professor at Patrick Henry College and author of the book, “Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage and the Family.”
Mohler: I find fascinating the fact that you have a rather aggressive title here: you’re talking about a war against fathers, marriage and the family. There are a lot of people who, I think, are unaware of this war. Help us understand it.
Baskerville: Most people are unaware of it until they are sucked into it—usually through the family court system, divorce or some other method. Americans would be very shocked if they knew what was going on in this country under the name of divorce—“no fault divorce.”
What we call divorce has become essentially a euphemism for government officials, courts primarily, and social service agencies to invade families—to separate children from parents who have done nothing wrong; to plunder the parents for everything they have in many cases and even to criminalize the parents and jail them without trail; to turn them into criminals in ways the parents are powerless to avoid.
The overwhelming victims of this are fathers, though at times it happens to mothers as well. Usually it is not a matter of gender bias, it is a matter of power and money—of the huge machine that has grown up in the last four decades around the question of “no fault divorce,” child custody and related issues.
Mohler: Now in your work you really demonstrate how the “no fault divorce revolution” and the law has brought enormous consequences. Can you help spell those out for us? I think an awful lot of Americans, especially those who are younger, aren’t aware of how the law really has been transformed in this area.
Baskerville: That’s right. The term “no fault” understates the problem. It really is unilateral divorce—involuntary divorce. It allows one spouse to force divorce on the other without the involuntary spouse having done anything wrong. In other words, your spouse can divorce you without you having done anything legally wrong or agreeing to the divorce. In fact, it goes further than that. Maggie Gallagher … describes it as the abolition of marriage, and that is really what it is. The marriage contract is not in any way legally binding anymore. It can be broken without consequence by one spouse unilaterally—the other spouse has no choice. Divorce is simply forced on that spouse. And most often it’s the father.
Mohler: Let’s just revisit the situation before “no fault divorce.” At that time society privileged marriage as a contract above other contracts because it was understood to be more than a contract. Marriage was understood to be the basic building block of civilization. And to dissolve a marriage was understood to be an issue of such consequence that there had to be cause. I think that’s what people don’t understand. When it says “no fault” it really means “no cause.” You don’t have to have a cause now. One spouse can simply decide that he or she—and in a lot of cases it’s both—doesn’t want to be married anymore and there is nothing the other spouse can do to prevent the divorce. Isn’t that the ultimate issue here?
Baskerville: That is correct. And to be fair, though, this was happening even before “no fault divorce.” “No fault divorce” laws really just put the nails in the coffin. They just codified what was already taking place. Therefore, simply repealing “no fault divorce” and reinstating fault in divorce would not solve the problem.
The issue today has really become child custody: by shifting the battle into the area of children they turned children into political weapons. Because what happens is not only can one spouse unilaterally divorce the other, but she—and it is usually the mother—can take the children with her (or sometimes the father does it to the mother), but in most cases the mother can divorce the father, and without any grounds, take the children. She doesn’t have to give any reason. After that point the father’s contact with the children when it is not authorized by the government becomes a crime. He can be arrested for trying to see his own children without having done anything legally wrong. And this is what’s shocking: they just turned children into political weapons and political tools.
Mohler: I’ve been concerned for years about what I’ve called the divorce industrial complex. You really do a great job in your book in demonstrating how there is an entire pernicious economy based upon and encouraging and facilitating divorce.
Baskerville: It’s huge, that’s right. And what’s most important about it is this huge machine is government based. It’s not just private entrepreneurs in this case, it is government officials. It’s lawyers, it’s judges and it’s the huge social services bureaucracies … it’s a huge entourage that is not only profiting from divorce, but increasing government power over private lives in very dangerous ways.
Mohler: Professor Baskerville … you were talking about the fathers as victims of this and I think in that context that’s clearly the right way to talk about this. But ultimately, children are the victims of all of this.
Baskerville: Well, that’s exactly right. This is the main cause behind the epidemic of fatherless children—that 24 million fatherless children in this country are not that way because the fathers have abandoned their children, contrary to government and other propaganda. Overwhelmingly, it is because fathers are forcibly kept away from their children. Fathers who have done nothing wrong are forcibly separated from their children. We know that fatherlessness is the single greatest predictor of social and personal deviance among children, alcohol and substance abuse, crime and low educational attainment and yet we are told that fathers are abandoning their children. This is not true.