Louisiana La-Legal

In-Depth Article, Father's Rights

The Fix Is In

No Man Can Count On Justice In Family Court, Argues An Angry Professor

By Stephen Baskerville
January, 2003

A few facts

37.9% of divorced or separated fathers have no access or visitation rights. (Census Bureau, September 1991)

40% of mothers reported that they had interfered with the non-custodial father's visitation on at least one occasion in order to punish the ex-spouse. (Frequency of Visitation by Divorced Fathers; Differences in Reports by Fathers and Mothers, Sanford Braver et al, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1991)

Approximately 50% of mothers see no value in the father's continued contact with his children. (Surviving the Breakup, Joan Kelly & Judith Wallerstein)

On the other hand...

There are significant numbers of fathers who are just flat out deadbeat dads. For these fathers, it is just a matter of avoiding any responsibility for the welfare of their children.

It should not be forgotten also that there is such a thing as deadbeat moms. If you search the databases of outstanding warrants on child support cheaters, you will see that women are included as well.

For the mothers who need help in getting support from a dead beat dad, there are several resources. You can start here:

Deadbeatdadfinders was started by Tery Adams as the result of her own experiences trying to raise her children with no help from her ex-husband.

For a list of Louisiana deadbeat parents (it is a long, long, list) go here.

Monroe, Louisiana . . .
January 14, 2002
CHARLES ELGIN STANLEY, JR., age 39, of Champaign, Illinois, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert G. James to spend 21 months in prison for his failure to pay child support, United States Attorney Donald W. Washington announced today. STANLEY was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $121,261.81. Sentencing in federal court is governed by the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. A Monroe jury had convicted Stanley who has five children living in Louisiana.

Trevor Gallahan's father is going to jail. He has not been charged with any crime. He is not behind in child support. He has not battered anyone. Yet Ken Gallahan could conceivably remain in jail for the rest of his life. What is his infraction? He does not have $15,000 to pay a lawyer he never hired. He was already jailed indefinitely when he could not pay a psychotherapist he also had not hired and was released only when his mother paid the fees.

Debtors' prisons were theoretically abolished long ago, but this does not stop family court judges from using the bench to shake down fathers who have done nothing wrong and funnel everything they have into the pockets of the court's cronies. In fact the looting and criminal-ization of fathers like Ken Gallahan is now routine in divorce courts.

Family courts are the arm of the state that routinely reaches farthest into the private lives of individuals and families, yet they are answerable to virtually no one. By their own assessment, according to Robert W. Page of the New Jersey Family Court, "the power of family court judges is almost unlimited." Others have commented on their vast and intrusive powers less charitably. Malcolm X once called family courts "modern slavery," and former Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas termed them "kangaroo" courts. One father was told by a judicial investigator in New Jersey, "The provisions of the US Constitution do not apply in domestic relations cases, since they are determined in a court of equity rather than a court of law."

The plunder of fathers invariably begins with the taking of their children. Despite formal legal equality between parents, some 85-90% of custody awards go to mothers. This is despite the fact that it is usually the mother who seeks the divorce, and most often without grounds of wrongdoing by the father. In fact a mother can have a half-dozen previous divorces, she can commit adultery, she can level false charges, she can assault the father, in some cases she can even abuse the children, and none of these (except in extreme cases the last) has any bearing on a custody decision.

A mother who consults a divorce attorney today will be advised that her best strategy is simply to take the children and their effects and leave without warning. If she has no place to go, she will be told that by accusing the father of sexual or physical abuse (or even simply stating that she is "in fear") she can obtain a restraining order immediately forcing him out of the family home, often without so much as a hearing. She will also learn that not only can she not be punished for either of these actions, they cannot even be used against her in a custody decision. In fact they work so strongly in her favor that failure to apprise a female client of these options may be considered legal malpractice.

Mothers who abduct children and keep them from their fathers are routinely rewarded with immediate "temporary" custody. In fact this is almost never temporary. Once she has custody it cannot be changed without a lengthy and expensive court battle. The sooner and the longer she can establish herself as the sole caretaker the more difficult and costly it is to dislodge her. The more she cuts the children off from the father, alienates them from the father, slings false charges, and delays the proceedings, the more she makes the path of least resistance (and highest earnings) to leave her with sole custody. In short, the more belligerence she displays and the more litigation she creates, the more grateful the courts will be for the business she provides.

For a father the simple fact of his being a father is enough for him to be summoned to court, stripped of all decision-making rights over his children, ordered to stay away from them six days out of seven, and ordered to make child support payments that may amount to two-thirds or more of his income. Like Ken Gallahan, he can also be forced to pay almost any amount to lawyers and psychotherapists and summarily jailed if he is unwilling or unable.

What is happening to fathers in divorce courts is much more serious than unfair gender bias. An iron triangle of lawyers, judges, and women's groups is finding it increasingly easy - and lucrative - to simply throw fathers out of their families with no show of wrongdoing whatever and seize control of their children and everything they have. Family courts have in effect declared to the mothers of America: If you file for divorce we can take everything your husband has and divide it among ourselves, with the bulk of it going to you. We can take his children, his home, his income, his savings, and his inheritance and reduce him to beggary. And if he raises any objection we can throw him in jail without trial.

The astounding fact is that, with the exception of convicted criminals, no group today has fewer rights than fathers. Even accused criminals have the right to due process of law, to know the charges against them, to face their accusers, to a lawyer, and to a trial. A father can be deprived of his children, his home, his savings, his livelihood, his privacy, and his freedom without any of these constitutional protections. And not only a divorced father or a unmarried father: Any father at any time can find himself in court and in jail. Once a man has a child he forfeits his most important constitutional rights.

The words "divorce" and "custody" have become deceptively innocuous-sounding terms. We should remind ourselves that they involve bringing the coercive apparatus of the state - police, courts, and jails - into the home for use against family members. When we recall that those family members may not even be charged with any legal wrongdoing we can begin to grasp the full horror of what is taking place and how far the divorce machinery has been fashioned into an instrument of terror. As citizens of communist Eastern Europe once did, it is now fathers who live in fear of the "knock on the door."

So what can a father do to escape the fate of Ken Gallahan and millions like him? Very little, and divorce manuals encouraging fathers with advice on how to win custody are not doing them any favors. The latest wisdom informs fathers that the game is so rigged that their best hope of keeping their children is not to wait for their day in court but to adopt the techniques of mothers: If you think she is about to snatch, snatch first. "If you do not take action," writes author Robert Seidenberg, "your wife will. If this advice is sound, the custody industry has turned marriage into a "race to the trigger," to adopt the terms of nuclear deterrence replete with the pre-emptive strike: Whoever snatches first survives.

If you don't have the stomach for this, then you probably should not marry and not have children.

Stephen Baskerville is a professor of Political Science at Howard University.

Reprinted with permission from DadMag.com

Other Comments

1) Very great article. Great details for all type of questions you may have.
2) This is what goes on in Louisiana today. I think it should be stopped.
3) I think this article is completely and totally 100% correct. It's refreshing to see that I'm not the only one going through this type of problem, but it's also depressing to know that there is little to no help I can get.....
4) I think this is a good article however, it seems to lump all mothers into one category. I think men should be given a chance to be heard, because my brother did not know that he had a child until the child was 12 years old; then the mother decided to file charges, when 12 years ago she told him she was not pregnant for him. When he tried to explain it to the judge, the judge told him to shut up he didn't want to hear anything he had to say. All he wanted to tell the judge that since the mother could not take care of the child that he would take the child to live with him and give her visiting right to their child. The judge said he didn't want to hear what he had to say; that I think is wrong. However, in my case my ex-husband decided he wasn't going to help with his child. I did without it and raised her by my self. When she finish college he came to her graduation like the proud father who had been there. There are many sides to this kind of stuff, but fathers should help to take care of the children.
5) Very informative, but it leaves the reader with no hope. If we as a society know that this type of misjustice is present in out judicial systems, can we not change them? Why, as a voter, can't we demand out elected officials put this type of judicial slavery to an end. I guess money makes the world go around.
6) Excellent, informative article. My ex is trying to get custody, but he choked my son, who is back with me. Now I think I can handle this easily!
7) When My EX & I met she was just short of living in her car. I took her in and ended up marrying & having kids. Now she has more than me. I have $140p/mo to live on And feed the kids when I have them. What's up with that? I just don't understand. We Fathers need to get together and put a stop to this. NO More free ride Ladies. I hate generalizing, but most of the men I talk to feel the same way. Good article for those have not yet made the commitment.
8) How sad, but true. My husband makes $38,500 a year. Sounds good, but he must pay the ex over half of his salary, before tax along with 66.9% of all medical, dental, and prescriptions. We are trying to live on less than $1,100 a month while ex is living on her take home of $1,300 plus the $1,320 child support. Her house is paid for as is her new vehicle. My husband also has $300 taken out of his check for their insurance. I'm sorry, but I don't see any justice in the Louisiana court system. Somehow things need to be made so that the man can still meet his own needs for basic life. Not that child support is not important, but men should have a right to continue to be able to live... I can't even go into the fact that the ex has physical custody and even though they have "joint custody" everything must be on her terms. Remember the old saying "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"? Well, it's true and the Louisiana court system falls right into their greedy little hands!
9) I am a woman and this article is exactly what my husband has been put through for the last six years. I cannot believe what women in Louisiana get away with. And I am a divorced woman myself. My husband lives in Indiana and is 800 miles away from his daughters. He just wants the right to visitation in the summer and at Christmas. His ex-wife is totally in control and hangs up on him when he calls. She lies to family and says he is not involved when he has tried and tried to contact the girls. A man should not have to go through this because his ex packed up and moved half way across the country!
10) This is all too true. The only real gender bias in this country is against men. It is obvious everywhere, but especially in family court. This situation is the biggest ignored horror of both the 20th and 21st centuries.
11) Once again Stephen brings us back to earth with a very well-written and proven article.  It is time that misandry (hatred of men) became extinct before misogyny (hatred of women) makes a comeback!  Easy to see:  The Original Feminists wanted true equality.  Once they got it, they were "ousted" by more militant feminists such as Andrea Dworkin, Kathrine McKinney, etc. who preach hatred of men. We cannot retaliate as this will only continue the cycle.  What we MUST DO however is STOP hating each other and start loving each other! Participate in The Million Dads March on June 14th and 15th, 2003.  For more information please see www.milliondadsmarch.org
12) To any women bothered by this article the only way to stop this slaughter is to stop giving money to charities and give it Mr. Gallahan and father's rights groups.  As churches and other charities begin to see a significant drop in donations the church leaders will whine to the political leaders, the laws will be changed, and a balance will be restored.  Money and only money talks in the U.S.A.. 

2002 by La-Legal