CONSIDERATION FOR EVALUATING BILLS
The National Family Law Policy Center evaluates bills in terms of sound policy and constitutionality. What the Center considers to be sound policy is that policy which moves towards our guiding principles and which moves towards greater adherence to constitutional guarantees for all fit parents and their children.
As it stands today, all 50 states have family law codes which presume 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 sets up two unequal classes of fit parent. More importantly, this sets up two unequal classes of children. This, of course, is profoundly unconstitutional but so firmly established in 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 creating a sub-class of children without the benefits of a mother and father in their lives. All children deserve to have a mother and father in their lives. All children have a right to have two full and equal parents in their lives that should be 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 simply because the parents chose a marital path the government official or the state does not like.
The best interest of the child slogan 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 lives and families; that demand adjudication of rights before state 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 only because fit parents are divided into factions making their voices weak.
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 fit parents causes harm to children just as surely as unfit 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 real and specific harm, provided that states act within the boundaries of constitutional guarantees. The rules for state actors are well-established by the federal courts.
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 minimum 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. This applies even where the two parents may not agree on the degree of risk.
On business and economic impact, The Center believes that the destruction of lives and families wrought by family law has strong ripple effects in the workplace and a big detrimental impact on our economy. The Center encourages economists to begin studying and recording these impacts so that businesses can begin including the negative impacts of family law into index rankings of a state's friendliness to business. Any parent facing losing a child they love will be distracted at work. Nothing in their lives will be more important or more consuming of their thoughts. Naturally their work productivity will suffer. What may ultimately be more impactful are the accidents caused by divorce. It is widely reported that the Captain of the Exxon Valdez, that spilled massive quantities of oil in Alaska, had relapsed into heavy drinking shortly before the spill. What gets little coverage, is that at roughly the same time he and his wife started divorce proceedings. Could the fear and uncertainty of divorce and child custody cause a recovering alcoholic to relapse, absolutely. The Center believes there is a significant hidden negative impact on business and our economy directly caused by unconstitutional divorce laws. Our rankings will bring exposure to this issue.