Abstract Family


Taking into Custody, by Stephen Baskerville

My book review

Taken into Custody cover

The subtitle "The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family" sounds melodramatic but it's all true. This exposé of the divorce industry and its abuses is very eye-opening and hopefully will help to stir action. It is very well researched and contains copious footnotes. Time and again, I found one of the facts incredible and unbelievable, but then I checked the footnote and then looked it up on the Internet to confirm that it was indeed true.

This is a strong call for action for limiting of no-fault divorce, presumption of shared custody, rationalizing child support, and reforming of domestic violence laws.

But some caveats:

  • Most importantly, I don't think that the gender bias is quite as strong as he says. The "war on fatherhood" is less convincing than "the war on marriage and the family". The chapters "Fathers and Feminism" and "Politics of Fatherhood" are weaker than the others, and also aren't necessary to reach the conclusions and recommendations of the final chapter. Unfortunately, the book will turn away some potential female supporters of divorce reform by its overemphasis on the gender bias.
  • Also, a underlying philosophy of Taken into Custody is anti-big-government. It will play into the hands of those who want to portray family-law reform as a right-wing cause.
  • Family law differs considerably from state to state, and the book presents something of a composite of the worst of all states. For example, the author says that false accusations of domestic violence won't affect later child custody hearings, but in some states they will. An important call for action is for a presumption of shared custody rather than a presumption of the mother getting full custody, but many states such as PA already do that. It would be very helpful for the book to have an appendix or references about differences between states, though I guess that would go out of date pretty quickly.
  • Adultery is not discussed, but in fact the legal protection of our imaginary "right to consensual sex without restrictions" is a very big part of the war against marriage and the family. In most states, adultery is not only legal, but it cannot even be a consideration in child custody or child support or divorce settlements. Probably Prof. Baskerville doesn't mention adultery because A) the gender bias isn't clear -- probably as many men have affairs as women if not more; and B) It doesn't fit with the anti-big-government theme.

In summary, this is an important and powerful book, but I'm afraid that it won't get as much attention as it deserves because of its overemphasis on gender bias and its political conservatism.