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Advice to young men: Do not marry, do not have children

By Stephen Baskerville
web posted November 12, 2007

Marriage is a foundation of civilized life.  No advanced civilization has ever existed without the married, two-parent family.  Those who argue that our civilization needs healthy marriages to survive are not exaggerating.

And yet I cannot, in good conscience, urge young men to marry today.  For many men (and some women), marriage has become nothing less than a one-way ticket to jail.  Even the New York Times has reported on how easily "the divorce court leads to a jail cell," mostly for men.  In fact, if I have one urgent piece of practical advice for young men today it is this:  Do not marry and do not have children.

Spreading this message may also, in the long run, be the most effective method of saving marriage as an institution.  For until we understand that the principal threat to marriage today is not cultural but political, and that it comes not from homosexuals but from heterosexuals, we will never reverse the decline of marriage.  The main destroyer of marriage, it should be obvious, is divorce.  Michael McManus of Marriage Savers points out that "divorce is a far more grievous blow to marriage than today's challenge by gays."  The central problem is the divorce laws.

It is well known that half of all marriages end in divorce.  But widespread misconceptions lead many to believe it cannot happen to them.  Many conscientious people think they will never be divorced because they do not believe in it.  In fact, it is likely to happen to you whether you wish it or not.

First, you do not have to agree to the divorce or commit any legal transgression.  Under "no-fault" divorce laws, your spouse can divorce you unilaterally without giving any reasons.  The judge will then grant the divorce automatically without any questions.

But further, not only does your spouse incur no penalty for breaking faith; she can actually profit enormously.  Simply by filing for divorce, your spouse can take everything you have, also without giving any reasons.  First, she will almost certainly get automatic and sole custody of your children and exclude you from them, without having to show that you have done anything wrong.  Then any unauthorized contact with your children is a crime.  Yes, for seeing your own children you will be subject to arrest. 

There is no burden of proof on the court to justify why they are seizing control of your children and allowing your spouse to forcibly keep you from them.  The burden of proof (and the financial burden) is on you to show why you should be allowed to see your children.

The divorce industry thus makes it very attractive for your spouse to divorce you and take your children.  (All this earns money for lawyers whose bar associations control the careers of judges.)  While property divisions and spousal support certainly favor women, the largest windfall comes through the children.  With custody, she can then demand "child support" that may amount to half, two-thirds, or more of your income.  (The amount is set by committees consisting of feminists, lawyers, and enforcement agents – all of whom have a vested interest in setting the payments as high as possible.)  She may spend it however she wishes.  You pay the taxes on it, but she gets the tax deduction.  

You could easily be left with monthly income of a few hundreds dollars and be forced to move in with relatives or sleep in your car.  Once you have sold everything you own, borrowed from relatives, and maximized your credit cards, they then call you a "deadbeat dad" and take you away in handcuffs.  You are told you have "abandoned" your children and incarcerated without trial.  

Evidence indicates that, as men discover all this, they have already begun an impromptu marriage "strike": refusing to marry or start families, knowing they can be criminalized if their wife files for divorce.  "Have anti-father family court policies led to a men's marriage strike?" ask Glenn Sacks and Dianna Thompson in the Philadelphia Enquirer.  In Britain, fathers tour university campuses warning young men not to start families.  In his book, From Courtship to Courtroom, Attorney Jed Abraham concludes that the only protection for men to avoid losing their children and everything else is not to start families in the first place.

Is it wise to disseminate such advice?  If people stop marrying, what will become of the family and our civilization?   

Marriage is already all but dead, legally speaking, and divorce is the principal reason.  The fall in the Western birth rate is directly connected with divorce law. 

It is also likely that same-sex marriage is being demanded only because of how heterosexuals have already debased marriage through divorce law.  "The world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50% divorce rates preceded gay marriage," advocate Andrew Sullivan points out.  "All homosexuals are saying...is that, under the current definition, there's no reason to exclude us.  If you want to return straight marriage to the 1950s, go ahead.  But until you do, the exclusion of gays is simply an anomaly – and a denial of basic civil equality." 

We will not restore marriage by burying our heads in the sand; nor simply by preaching to young people to marry, as the Bush administration's government therapy programs now do.  The way to restore marriage as an institution in which young people can place their trust, their children, and their lives is to make it an enforceable contract.  We urgently need a national debate about divorce, child custody, and the terms under which the government can forcibly sunder the bonds between parents and their children.  We owe it to future generations, if there are to be any. ESR

Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D., is assistant professor of government at Patrick Henry College and President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.  His book, Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, has just been published by Cumberland House Publishing.






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