This is a letter to a Judge out of frustration of dealing with a system that is foreign to the reality which we live in -this letter is from a parent that has had the life ripped from him/ her. Who has had his/ her child removed by the courts.
This is the second of three postings:
In the first place, to be brutally practical, I do not have the means. As a direct result of your ruling I was forced to resign my position, leave the only residence my family had ever had, and relocate here in order to be with my children. There is also something I find basically objectionable about any parent having to pay money to see his own children when he has been presented with no grounds for why they were taken in the first place. As with a conventional kidnapping, if I begin to pay money for this purpose, where does it end?
More to the point, it is not clear to me what I would argue in a courtroom, since not only have I have been accused of nothing; I have not accused anyone else of anything. In the absence of charges against me, I cannot and will not cooperate with an inquisition into my family life. It is also not my practice to discuss the shortcomings of members of my family with third parties, let alone to construct legal cases against them. Forcing me to do so as a condition of retaining my rights as a parent strikes me as morally equivalent to staging a cockfight. And again, I fail to see where it would end. Frankly, it appears to me that this entire process is designed less to arrive at any determination relevant to the welfare of my children than to provide business for associations of legal entrepreneurs.
Even more fundamentally, I cannot pursue this course because I cannot accept that you or anyone else has any grounds to intervene in my family and tell me when, where, and under what circumstances I may be with my children or to deny me the right to raise and protect them and make decisions for their welfare. In other words, it is not so much a particular ruling that I cannot accept as an unprovoked and unwarranted assumption of jurisdiction over my family. You may reply that this was solicited by parties that include members of my family. Yet this does not alter the fact that it was done without any grounds whatever. It is equally true to say that some 30 years ago the armies of the Warsaw Pact were “invited” to enter the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia, but this does not make it any less of any invasion.
I am also aware of the arguments against the alternative course of action I have chosen. No doubt I will be accused of inflicting an unpleasant experience upon my children by going to see them when I have not been authorized to do so. I have considered this at some length. It is this consideration, in part, that prevented me from responding in kind when my child was originally abducted from her home and before I was summoned to your court. I am sure that I was assisted in this restraint by the conviction that this country’s system of justice is fair and that justice would eventually prevail. (Yet I must regretfully note that this restraint seems to have counted nothing in my favor in your courtroom.) I would like to believe that conviction is still justified, though I am now convinced that this is more likely to be the case by refusing to accept your power to arbitrarily keep me from my children than by hiring a professional advocate to quibble over precisely how much you should do so.
I have also come to the conclusion that I cannot submit indefinitely to what amounts to a kind of blackmail, a blackmail rendered all the more heinous for holding as hostages two children and forcing a parent to stay away from them for fear of how others will respond to his presence. I trust you are familiar with the concept of a “heckler’s veto” and with its legal standing.
It is one thing to refrain from contention in the presence of children, which I have always done and will continue to do. It is another to acquiesce indefinitely in a crime committed against them. In fact it is precisely my concern to avoid further contention that leads me to take a public and open stand against this patent injustice rather than participating in a privately litigated battle that I cannot see will be to anything other than the detriment of my family.
The principal trauma being inflicted on my children is the forced destruction of their family and separation from one or both of their parents, a trauma that has been inflicted by your ruling. Given this, I firmly believe that, far from my harming my children, there are certain lessons in this that they need to be made aware of and that it is my responsibility as a parent to teach them. While I believe I have valid reasons as a citizen to disobey the law in this instance, I want to make clear to you that I also have connected but even more imperative ones as a parent.
It is my responsibility to teach my children that the proper course of action when faced with injustice is to resist and oppose it in a peaceful and dignified way. At some point they must learn that there are higher principles and a higher law they must always obey, even when it means they must break the civil law and accept the consequences for doing so. These are not only lessons that they can learn; they are lessons that they must learn and lessons that, in other contexts, we go to considerable lengths to teach them. In Sunday school my eldest daughter has already been exposed to the quiet courage of the Hebrew women, to the defiant stand of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to the public crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. In school she will soon be reading about the teachings and examples of Socrates, Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. As both a teacher of these ideas myself and a parent, I am acutely aware that there is no point in teaching our children one set of principles as being right in the abstract when we teach them the opposite by our own acts or failure to act precisely at the time when those principles are most needed to confront an injustice. It is perhaps unfortunate, but nevertheless unavoidable, that the circumstances of her life are now such that she must now witness the application of these principles sooner rather than later.
( to be continued )
This piece was originally written by Stephen Baskerville several years ago. It addresses the frustration that many parents face in a court system that is broken. It begs the question of how family courts, Guardians ad litem and the divorce industry can live with themselves at the end of the day.
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