As it stands today all 50 states have family law codes which presume that parental rights are dependent upon marriage between the child’s parents. Where parents are unmarried or divorced, the parents have only those rights which the state determines they should have. This, of course, is profoundly unconstitutional but so firmly established as personal and institutional prejudice as to be so far unshakable.
As with most prejudices, this one causes incredible harm. The harm in this instance is the destruction of parent-child bonds and limiting the futures of our children. Our children deserve to have their constitutional rights in each parent-child association protected to the full extent the constitution allows. Parents and children deserve the certainty in knowing that their bonds will be protected by the courts and not shattered by a single government official on a whim.
The best interest of the child standard is a fear-inducing destructive force that wreaks havoc on our society, on our families, and on our economy. It destroys the will of parents and shatters their dreams. It forces children into single-parent homes where their futures are certain to be less than the futures of other children. It robs parents of their vitality and productivity while producing a generation of children ill-prepared for the demands of a modern economy.
Our courts should be places of hope and justice, where people go for protection of their rights. Family law courts today are just the opposite. They are places of fear and injustice, where good people have their lives destroyed and their parent-child bonds shattered.
The National Family Law Center works towards family law policies that take the fear, uncertainty, and despair out of the system; that remove the power of a single government official to destroy families; that demand adjudication of rights before the state may take action; and that restore the rule of constitutional law in family courts.
The Center may support imperfect bills that move in this direction but where we consider a bill to be plainly unconstitutional we will clearly say so. Our strongest support will go towards bills that comport with our guiding principles and that operate clearly within constitutional bounds. The Center focuses on sound policy and constitutionality while giving no consideration to the difficulty of getting a bill passed in any legislature.
The Center believes in the rights of all fit parents regardless of marital status and will not grant our strongest support to bills clearly designed to protect one group of parents at the expense of other groups of parents or in a manner that clearly ignores the interests of other groups of parents. The Center works towards the goal of all fit parents banding together and telling state governments to respect the constitutional privacy of all parent-child associations. The Center believes that states are able to continue these destructive practices because fit parents are divided into factions weakening the parental voice.
On protecting children from harm, The Center concurs with our federal appellate courts on the proper way to accomplish this, even when parents commit the harm. Our Constitution establishes rules that are adequate to the task of protecting children from harm caused by parents and from harm caused by the state. Our federal appellate courts recognize that overzealous state action in separating children from parents causes harm to children just as surely as bad parents do.
On state authority to protect children, The Center again agrees with our federal appellate courts that states should always have authority to protect children from specific statutorily defined harm, provided that states act within the boundaries of constitutional guarantees.
On exposing children to risk, The Center believes that being exposed to calculated risks and being allowed to take calculated risks is essential to proper child development. Our country was founded by people willing to risk everything on freedom. Our economy is driven by people willing to take calculated risks. Learning to calculate risk in life requires taking risks and learning from failures. Forcing all parents to regulate their children to a common maximum allowable degree of risk is the surest way to destroy our nation’s future. Just as states are the laboratories for sound national policy, parents provide laboratories for children to develop into contributing adults. For these reasons, family law policy should afford parents wide latitude to manage the day-to-day risks their children are exposed to and should not subject parents to the whims of popular opinion regarding risks.