S. K. Baskerville
I receive letters, calls, and email messages almost daily, and they always begin with words like this: “You won’t believe what happened to me.” But I do believe it, because not only have I witnessed many such cases; I have written entire books explaining why it happens.
Here I will distill all that down to practical information, though I must confess that there is not a lot to offer. Some may sound harsh and counterintuitive, and you may have to unlearn some conventional wisdom. For the standard “how-to” manuals on divorce written by lawyers and other divorce practitioners are full of self-serving platitudes that could hurt you badly.
First, it should be understood that, on your part, divorce is not really an option. You have given your word as a gentleman, and you are required to keep it. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, and it works only if that is understood. And again, if nothing else, this is in your self-interest and everyone else’s, because if marriage establishes fatherhood, [as argued elsewhere in the book] divorce destroys it. Beyond simply acknowledging legally your wife’s desertion or adultery, you have no business undertaking legal action against your family. Marshaling the public justice system and other government machinery against family members, especially one to whom you have sworn lifelong love and honor, for private differences forfeits the moral high ground, is unmanly, and surrenders to the state your authority over your family. You will deserve whatever opprobrium people heap on you. Sorry, but you cannot have it both ways, complaining about the depredations of the divorce system and then trying to take advantage of it yourself.
That said, the harsh reality is that divorce can be, and usually is, inflicted unilaterally and involuntarily on men, without their having given any legal grounds (“no-fault”). From here on, we will assume that this is the case for you.
You must also understand that if your wife files for divorce, there is a good chance that you are the one who will be blamed. You will be blamed by the courts, social workers, psychologists, and counselors, because it is in their financial interest to blame you. But you may also be blamed by family members, including your own children. This is even if you are legally blameless and you object strenuously to the whole divorce in the first place. Your wife can desert the home, carry on a half dozen affairs, abuse the children, and file for divorce with no grounds, and it is likely that you will be blamed.
This will strike you as bizarre and irrational. You may react like many men: “anti-father bias” proceeding from “stereotypes” needs to change though a campaign for “gender equality,” and so forth. This jargon will not help you. It will only frustrate you and encourage you to bitterness and self-pity and inspire contempt in others. What you are witnessing is the unchangeable order of the universe. It is a universal principle that the man is always held responsible for his family. The divorce courts have simply manipulated this truth for their own purposes. This is why you must always hold the ultimate decision-making authority. Relinquish it, and you will then serve no practical purpose and become disposable.
You must further understand that the divorce courts are not “unfair” or “inefficient,” and the judges are not “biased” or “stupid” or in need of “education.” They are crooked. They know precisely what they are doing, and they do it with ruthless efficiency. They may mouth feminist clichés one moment, and then turn around and profess pieties about traditional motherhood the next, but these simply rationalize what really drives them, which is money and power. The courts are run by venal judges, lawyers, and civil servants who are all united in one object: to take control over your children and use them as leverage to loot and criminalize you. The first principle and first action of divorce court is to separate children from their fathers and keep them apart as much as possible.
This is not cynicism; it is simply the way the system operates. Nothing is served by directing anger against the judge or lawyers. They, too, are effectively prisoners of the system (albeit well paid ones). Any judge or lawyer who tries to administer honest justice will himself be punished.
This is why they cannot be persuaded by logic or morality. If the courts do not seize control over your children, they have no reason to exist, and the huge entourage of functionaries they employ would have no work and no earnings. Never waste your time, money, or sanity trying to obtain justice from the courts. You will not.
The divorce manuals written by lawyers, therapists, and other divorce operators are full of pious sanctimonies professing concern for your children. But no divorce practitioner ever lost a minute’s sleep over your children. “I don’t love your children,” one judge confesses. “It is a legal fiction that the law’s best interest is your children.”80 None has ever done or will do anything for your child that they are not well paid to do. In the eyes of lawyers and functionaries, your children are walking bundles of cash. Whoever gets control of them gets the cash, from either the taxpayers or your bank account. Sanctimonious professions of concern about your children and other people’s children are their most potent weapon. Great courage on your part is needed to stand against it, because those posturing as children’s defenders can make themselves credible only by casting you as the greatest threat to the welfare and safety of your own children.
None of this is to say you can “win” by listening to me. You cannot. There is no way to “win” in divorce court. The only way to avoid losing your children is not to have them in the first place.
So what do you do when you come home one day, the children are gone, and you find a note from your wife and a summons from the court? Frankly, there is not much you can do. You must prepare yourself psychologically to lose your home, your savings, and, most importantly, your children. You could soon face child support payments so high that you will soon become homeless, and if you cannot pay, you will be sent to jail indefinitely with no trial. All this can happen within days or even hours.
First, you must set aside all pious sanctimony about doing the right thing in the courts. You will not be rewarded for it, and it could cost you dearly. Doing the right thing means rescuing your children from the clutches of the divorce operatives, who will certainly exploit and destroy them, and then staying out of jail yourself.
The moment you walk into a courtroom, the first thing the judge will do is legally remove your children from your care and control. The order will be called “temporary,” but from this moment on and for the rest of their childhood, you may have no contact with your children without court authorization, and anything you do without permission subjects you to incarceration without trial. No burden of proof requires the court to justify this action. The burden of proof — and the enormous expense it entails — is now on you to get them back.
The typical response of men who harbor the illusion that they are in charge and capable of manly action is that “I am going to hire the most aggressive kick-ass lawyer I can who will go in there and do what it takes.” Fine, but you must realize that your lawyer is not really on your side. He is in collusion with the other lawyer and the judge, and their aim is to maximize the litigation and drive up the fees as much as possible for all concerned. You can gauge his honesty by how much he acknowledges this reality. If he promises you the moon (or simple justice), he is on the take. If he is honest about how powerless he is to help you, then he is probably stuck in a game he does not like. For if he were truly honest, he would soon be disbarred.
One measure can help maintain some semblance of justice and accountability: never go to court without hiring your own court reporter to record everything. It is expensive, but it can save you money and trouble in the long run. Try to hire one from a different jurisdiction, because reporters are pressured by judges and lawyers to falsify transcripts. Yes, the courts are that corrupt.
In the end, your only constructive course of action is to object publicly — and loudly. If you have any public profile — as a lawyer, journalist, writer, clergyman, professor, businessman — you can use it to publicize the injustice. Simply as a citizen and householder with a family to defend, you can take the moral high ground and proclaim the truth: write letters to the editor; get editorials published in the newspaper; approach television stations; make a big noise. Like all corrupt officials, judges hate exposure. This action can backfire on you, and the judge can punish you for it, though that, in turn, can look bad for him. If you are at all successful, it can even provide you some protection by informing the judge that what he does will be exposed to public view. You must gauge the likelihood for success of this or yourself. This is consistent with your duty as a leader.