Court TV
Against The Grain 
Fred Graham talks with with Howard University Professor Stephen Baskerville about the rights of divorced fathers.  
             
10/15/99
                       
                        FRED: Welcome back to AGAINST THE GRAIN, a contrarian look at the law. This week we have Howard University Professor Stephen Baskerville who says that divorced fathers paying child support have fewer rights than common criminals. Now, Professor Baskerville, why do you say that?
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: Well, it's more than just divorced fathers paying child support, its any father. What we are seeing in this country is the criminalization of fatherhood and by that I mean that any father at any time can be turned into a criminal not because of what he's done but because of what the government has done. Throughout this country, fathers who are accused of no wrongdoing, fathers who have not agreed to a divorce or given grounds for a divorce are being hauled into family courts, they are being stripped of custody of their children, all rights taken away to make decisions about their children.
                       

                        FRED: Because their wives are suing them.
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: At the simple request of their spouse, that's right. They are ordered to sat away from their children most of the time, they are ordered to begin making child support payments, they are ordered to pay the fees of lawyers they have not hired, for services they have not requested and if they object or refuse or fail to abide by these orders, they can be incarcerated without trial, without charge and without an attorney.
                       

                        FRED: Anyway, this just sounds so Dickensonian.
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: It is astounding, the reason it is happening is because we have created in this country a very dangerous machine, it's a machine that thrives and grows by taking as many children as possible away from their fathers.
                       

                        FRED: What is the machine?
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: The machine is the divorce industry, it consists of judges, lawyers, custody evaluators, psychotherapists, bureaucratic police, social workers and many other people who have all one thing in common and that is having as many children as possible taken away from their fathers.
                       

                        FRED: Now, some people would say, this is grown up because of the problem of the "deadbeat dad" that doesn't pay child support.
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: Yes, the American public has been subject to a massive propaganda campaign by discoverment that is designed to vilify fathers. The "deadbeat dad", I don't want to say doesn't exist, but it has been the subject of this huge propaganda campaign. Most fathers, most divorced fathers, in fact do pay child support, over 90% when they have visitation rights with their children, but the larger issue here is not why fathers are paying child support, the issue is why they are being made to pay child support in the first place. Child support guidelines are, in fact, are devised by the very people who enforce and apply them. They are made not by legislatures often, but by courts and by child support enforcement agencies.
                       

                        FRED: Now, we read about men's rights groups, this sort of thing, why haven't they been able to level the scales of justice?
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: Well, there's a huge interest here, there's a huge special interest as I say who have a vested interest in perpetuating this regime, this regime of what amounts to forced divorce, of forcing divorce upon father sand their children and then plundering the fathers for everything they have. Child support orders which can be as much as two-thirds or more of their income. Legal fees that are in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars against father who have not hired these lawyers and who have not even sought their services.
                       

                        FRED: Well, do you see any way that this can be rectified, the political process, litigation?
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: What needs to be done is two things. First, we need to arrive at a consensus in this country that no child should ever be taken away from a parent who has done nothing wrong at then very least, a parent who has not agreed to divorce and custody. Secondly, we need drastic reform of the family court systems. These courts operate in secrecy with very little oversight. One family court judge says that family court judges, the power is almost unlimited, and this is true, unlimited power is unaccountable power and it is now out of control. These judges and these courts need to be investigated where necessary, they need to be prosecuted and it needs to be made clear to them they have no right and no power to take children away from parents who have done nothing wrong.
                       

                        FRED: Professor Stephen Baskerville, very interesting. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us.
                       

                        BASKERVILLE: Thank you. 
                        
                        

  
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