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Education Reporter

Taken into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, Stephen Baskerville, Cumberland House 2007, 368 pages, $24.95

Until it happens to them, very few people realize the power family courts have to ruin their lives and their relationships with their children. In Taken into Custody, sociologist Stephen Baskerville exposes increasingly out-of-control bureaucratic machinery that functions without accountability or oversight. "The separation of children from their parents for reasons that have nothing to do with the children's wishes, safety, health, or welfare is now routine," as Baskerville proves.

When fathers "lose custody" of their children, most people assume the fathers did something wrong. But women actually initiate at least two-thirds of divorces. "No-fault" divorce usually means divorce against one spouse's will. Since judges give custody to mothers over 93% of the time, fathers now routinely lose access to their children through literally "no fault" of their own.

Baskerville shows that policies intended to protect abandoned low-income wives and mothers have actually created huge financial incentives for middle- and upper-class women to divorce their husbands. With the near-certainty of child custody, and of gaining control of most of their husband's income through child support payments, divorce becomes a power play, and for many women a much more attractive option than making the marriage work. The government deplores the divorce epidemic at the same time that it perpetuates it.

The book carefully and exhaustively documents the extent of abuses against fathers' and parents' rights. In most states, a mother can get a restraining order against a father without demonstrating that he has done anything wrong. As months go by and it is illegal for the father to come near his own children, the already small likelihood of joint custody steadily decreases. Family courts subvert due process by punishing fathers who have not broken any law.

What Baskerville describes as a "war against fathers" is also a massive expansion of state power. "The criminalization of the father is, quite simply, unavoidable so long as we are willing to enforce unilateral divorce with children," he says. "With the father an outlaw, the children may be in the 'custody' of the mother . . ., but it is more accurate to say that ultimately they have become wards of the state, which establishes what amounts to a puppet government within the family." Every American needs to know about the horrifying abuses of power this book exposes.

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