Monday, December 7, 2009

On Baskerville’s “Divorced from Reality” (1 of 2)

In the January/February of 2009 issue of the Christian magazine Touchstone, Stephen Baskerville published the article “Divorced from Reality” (, on the family crisis in the US. I would like to summarize its content, but strongly recommend my readers to read the full text, due to to the extension and depth of Baskersville’s analysis on the issues discussed.

According to the author, the decline of the family structure has reached dangerous proportions, and it is the major source of social instability in the Western world, and a major threat to civic freedom and constitutional government. Quoting G. K. Chesterton, he sustains that the family structure serves as the principal check on government power, and that today family and state confront one another as the primary social organizing factor. He believes that today’s divorce laws are used by the state to erode family primacy, and to enhance its own power as social control. He writes:

“Indeed, many are devastated to discover that they can be forced into divorce by procedures entirely beyond their control. Divorce authorizes unprecedented government intrusion into family life, including the power to sunder families, seize children, loot family wealth, and incarcerate parents without trial. Comprised of family courts and vast, federally funded social services bureaucracies that wield what amount to police powers, the divorce machinery has become the most predatory and repressive sector of government ever created in the United States and is today’s greatest threat to constitutional freedom.”

Baskerville’s main concern are the laws regulating “no fault divorce”. When four decades ago laws were passed to legalize “no fault” divorces, these laws enabled the government, at the request of one spouse, to dissolve a marriage over the objection of the other. Divorce today, he states, seldom involves two people mutually deciding to part ways, but are unilateral in nature, prevailing over the objection of one spouse. He writes:

“Under “no-fault,” or what some call “unilateral,” divorce—a legal regime that expunged all considerations of justice from the procedure—divorce becomes a sudden power grab by one spouse, assisted by an army of judicial hangers-on who reward belligerence and profit from the ensuing litigation: judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, counselors, mediators, custody evaluators, social workers, and more.”

Unilateral divorce generates political and costitutional problems because by its nature, it requires constant government supervision over family life. Divorce expands government power because it involves state functionaries to enforce the divorce and the post-divorce order.

The implications of unilateral divorce are terrible: it allows the government to remove innocent people (usually fathers) from their homes, to seize their property, and to separate them from their children, even if they are innocent of any legal wrongdoing. The state seizes control of his children with no burden of proof to justify why; the burden of proof (and the financial burden demanded by it) falls on him. Baskerville writes:

“By far the most serious consequences involve children, who have become the principal weapons of the divorce machinery. Invariably the first action of a divorce court, once a divorce is filed, is to separate the children from one of their parents, usually the father. Until this happens, no one in the machinery acquires any power or earnings. The first principle and first action of divorce court therefore: Remove the father.”

The divorce machinery can take an respectable parent, block him for seeing his own children without government authorization, arrest him for failure to conform to a variety of additional judicial directives that apply to no one but him; arrest him for domestic violence or child abuse, even if no evidence is presented that he has committed any; arrest him for not paying child support, even if the amount exceeds his means; he can even be arrested for not paying an attorney or a psychotherapist he has not hired.

The growth of the divorce machinery has generated a series of hysterias against fathers so hideous that no one dares to defend those accused: child abuse and molestation, wife-beating, and nonpayment of child support. The accused of these offenses, even in the absence of any formal charge, evidence, or conviction, loses his children and is isolated from everyone, since no one wants to be associated with a “pedophile,” “batterer,” or “deadbeat dad.”

An while all these happens, there is no evidence that the family crisis is caused significantly by fathers abandoning their families, beating their wives, and molesting their children, but there is irrefutable evidence indicating that this crisis “is driven almost entirely by divorce courts forcibly separating parents from their children and using these false accusations as a rationalization.”


  1. The problem is the current legal standard in family court is a "preponderance of evidence." This equals 51%. It makes it easy for a judge to err on the side of any abuse allegation - on the side of caution - on the side of the child. Strong consideration must be given to augment this standard to "clear and convincing evidence" or 75%. Clear and convincing evidence would require judges to abdicate to "real proof."

    Dean Tong, MSc.

  2. Thanks, Dean, for your comments. What you say is what has been said before in other forums: We don't only need to add a new law, we need to restructure the whole family court system, because the system is biased since its very legal procedures.