F. Roger Devlin writes: Stephen Baskerville’s Taken into Custody details for us the brutal police-state machinery which has grown up in the past forty years to encourage, enforce, and profit from it. Here is the reality behind such commonplace euphemisms as “marital breakdown” and “custody disputes”:
A man comes home one day to find his house empty. On the table is a note from his wife saying she has taken the children to live with her sister or parents or boyfriend, or to a “battered women’s shelter.” Soon after comes a knock on the door. He is summoned to appear [at] a family court within a few hours. In a hearing that lasts a few minutes his children are legally removed from his care…and he is ordered to stay away from them most or all of the time. He is also ordered to begin making child support payments, an order is entered to garnish his wages, and his name is placed on a federal government database for monitoring “delinquents.” If he tries to see his children outside the authorized time, or fails to make the payments, he can be arrested. Without being permitted to speak, he is told the hearing is over…
The man may be accused of domestic violence or child sexual abuse, in which case there may be no hearing at all…but the police will simply come to the door and order him to leave his home within hours, or minutes, even if no evidence has been presented against him…The man may also be ordered to pay alimony and the fees of lawyers he has not hired and threatened with arrest if he refuses or is unable…If he refuses to hire a lawyer he will be ordered to pay his spouse’s lawyer. Either way, he will pay $50,000–$150,000 and possibly
much more…If he refuses to answer questions or pay he can be jailed without a trail…If he objects, he can be ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
At his “trial,” he will be interrogated about the most intimate details of his family life.
And no answer is correct. If he works long hours, he is a careerist who neglects his children. If he cares for his children, he is failing to earn as much income for them as he might. If he disciplines his children, he is controlling or even abusive. If he does not, he is neglectful. If he does not bathe them, he is neglecting them. If he does, he may be molesting them.
All this costs him “$400–$500 an hour, and the ordeal lasts as long as the lawyers and judge wish to drive up the fees.” Whatever the outcome of the trial, for the rest of his children’s childhood they and he will live under constant surveillance and control by the court. He will be told when he can see his children, what he can do with them, where he can take them…what religious services he may (or must) attend with them and what subjects he may discuss with them in private…He can be ordered to work certain hours and at certain jobs, the earnings from which will be confiscated…If he loses his job or is hospitalized he will be declared a felon and jailed for failure to pay child support. His home can be entered by officials of the court…His financial records will be demanded and examined by the court and his bank account will be raided…His children can be compelled to act as informers against him. He can be ordered to sell his house and turn the proceeds over to attorneys he has not hired.
Baskerville notes that the very monstrousness of the injustices being committed against fathers prevents some people from accepting that they are taking place. A common initial reaction to the horror stories is “if things are really as bad as that, wouldn’t we have heard about it before now?”