Symposium

Article excerpt

Q: Are family courts prejudiced against fathers?

Yes: Family-court judges routinely violate the legal rights of fathers and their children.

In England a father is sentenced to 10 months in prison for waving to his children on a street. In Massachusetts a mother is told to divorce her husband or officers of the state will take away her children, and they do. Also in Massachusetts a father who opposes judicial wrongdoing is dragged from his car, assaulted by what appear to be plainclothes police and told to stop making trouble if he wants to see his son again. In New Hampshire a father is incarcerated without trial and beaten to death by jail guards. In Ontario a legally guiltless father is cut off from his children and assessed 96 percent of his salary in child and spousal support for a divorce to which he did not agree, being left with $300 a month.

These are not isolated incidents. They proceed logically when we allow government to take children from their parents. Children today have become the state's most potent weapon for creating tyranny over their parents and the rest of us.

Family courts are the arm of government that reaches deepest into private lives, yet they are accountable to virtually no one. "The family court is the most powerful branch of the judiciary," according to Robert Page, presiding judge of the New Jersey Family Court. "The power of family-court judges is almost unlimited." Often they operate behind closed doors, excluding even family members, and most leave no record of their proceedings.

Secret courts are contrary to basic principles of free government. "In the darkness of secrecy sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing," warned political philosopher Jeremy Bentham. He also added, "Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity ... keeps the judge himself while trying under trial." Judges often claim that secrecy protects family privacy. In fact it provides a cloak for the court to invade family privacy with impunity.

Immune from scrutiny by press and public, it is hardly surprising that family courts and ancillary bureaucracies violate constitutional rights and begin to resemble organized crime -- crime so ruthless and cynical that it uses children to plunder and terrorize their parents.

What is happening in family court is indeed little less than a reign of terror. Throughout the United States and other democracies fathers are losing their children in huge numbers, and many mothers are as well. Guiltless parents are subjected to questioning about their private lives -- Jed Abraham has characterized this as an "interrogation" -- and how they raise their children.

They sometimes are arrested for telephoning their children or sending them birthday cards. They are pursued by government goons and private bounty hunters for impossible debts they never incurred. Their personal papers, bank accounts and homes must be opened and surrendered on request to government officials. Their children, with the backing of government officials, are taught to hate them and are used as informers against them. They are incarcerated without trial, charge or counsel.

Anything a father has said to his spouse or children can be used against him. His personal habits, movements, conversations, purchases and relationship with his children are all subject to inquiry and control by the court. Abraham describes how fathers against whom no evidence of wrongdoing is presented are ordered to submit to "plethysmographs," where an electronic sheath is placed over the penis while the father is forced to watch pornographic films involving children.

Family law is now criminalizing rights as basic as free speech, freedom of the press, and even private conversations. An Arizona father is ordered not to criticize judges to family members. British and Australian family courts have closed Internet sites and prosecuted fathers for criticizing judges. …