Government or parents: Who decides the “best interest of the child?”

Where did family court judges get the power to decide what church or which school the children of divorced parents must attend? Family court judges have amassed extraordinary power by co-opting and changing the definition of a time-honored concept: “the best interest of the child.”

This rule originally came from English common law as compiled by William Blackstone in 1765, and meant that parents are presumed to act in their own children’s best interest. For centuries, English and American courts honored parents’ rights by recognizing the legal presumption that the best interest of a child is whatever a fit parent says it is, and should not be second-guessed by a judge.

When states revised their family-law statutes in the 1970s, the “best interest of the child” became disconnected from parents’ decisions, and family courts assumed the discretion to decide the best interest of children of divorced and unmarried parents.

The notion that persons other than parents should decide what is in a child’s best interest is illustrated by the slogan “it takes a village to raise a child.” Those who use that slogan understand “village” to mean government courts, government schools, or government social workers.

We urge you to read the complete and disturbing article, Cut the Power of the Family Courts, by Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of Eagle Forum.

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18 Responses to Government or parents: Who decides the “best interest of the child?”

  1. American Dad says:

    This is a much more serious problem than most people realize. Fathers are often at the mercy of the courts, even those who are caring, support their children financially and emotionally, and put job advancements aside to remain as close as possible to their kids. I have seen it in my own family and the devastation is heartbreaking, both to the fathers and their children. And if the mother remarries and moves out of town, there is no consolation for the father. The court sides with her in 9 ½ out of 10 cases. She can sleep around, drink heavily or do drugs and leave the children unsupervised, but she is the “sainted” mother, after all and that takes precedence with the courts. Phyllis Schlafly deserves a medal for shining the bright light of day on this family nightmare.

  2. Stanford says:

    Everything you say is true, Dad. I can attest to the fact that fathers are treated as though they are merely a token part of the conception process and then can be discarded. This is manifested throughout the country and the courts are the major facilitators. The children hear their mothers railing against their fathers and have the idea in the back of their mind that their dads don’t really care about them, even when that is patently false. But the courts give merit to the argument by dismissing fathers except for their paychecks.

    Schafley’s article is very important and should be widely read. The courts should not be able to dispossess fathers so flippantly. The children are the ones who are ultimately and irreparably harmed.

  3. Doc says:

    Please allow me to say here that also, the judicary has been doing this for YEARS! I’ve had friends that have been forced out of their kids lives for no reason other than the word of a vindictive spouse, who’s just pissed because she’s not getting her way. Sadly, it’s the norm nowadays.

  4. todd says:

    Are not the examples from this article cases in which the parents’ can’t agree on what is in the best interest of the child?

  5. ann marie says:

    You all don’t even know the problem in Family Courts.
    I am currently in court for the apx eighth time thirty years after a divorce in an action in which I am being whipsawed by the lawyers. Some of these have been about custody, some about money and some about whatever my vindictive ex-spouse can do to “destroy me” to quote him.

    And no one in the court system cares.

    If I survive, I intend to go to the State legislature to see if we can get this changed.

    It is so destructive to the families involved.

  6. Stanford says:

    “THIRTY YEARS?” It seems your children would be adults by now. Mandated child support only extends to age 18, although many fathers pay long past that, willingly assisting their college students with tuition and beyond. Are you still looking for lifetime spousal maintenance?

  7. Sally Forth says:

    todd:
    Mediation works quite well in the cases you describe. There is give and take on each side and regardless of the degree of animus, solutions can be found that benefit the child/children.

    Parents who put their own hatreds (of the person they once thought enough of to have a child with) over the welfare of their offspring, are not doing the job they should be doing for their children. Sadly, the most vengeful are often the custodial mothers. The courts should not be so automatic in making such placements. Gestation does not a parent make.

  8. ann marie says:

    Stanford,
    After a twenty five year marriage in which my family and I put him through nine years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, one year of internship and other “understudy” and nine years of working in his office all the while having and raising four children, we were divorced.

    The court gave me spousal maintenance unless remarry, death or change by court. He has tried to change it before, the court would not let him. I have never asked for an increase, but now I really need what he gives me.

    Do you have any opinion on that fact scenario, which is played out a lot in the divorce in long marriages?

    Frankly, unless one works in their young years, they can never make up for those lost years. I would appreciate your thoughts if you read this.

  9. Disgusted says:

    ann marie:
    And you received no benefits from a marriage that you stayed in for twenty-five years and was committed to enough to produce four children with this man? As the wife of a doctor, it is a certainty you lived better than most. I have zero respect for you thinking that this man owes you lifetime support. Were you also educated? Do you work now to supplement your income stream from this man/monster you obviously hate so much? The bottom line is your expectation of lifetime support. I’m a divorced woman, with two children still under my roof, and of lesser means, I’m certain, than you. I would be ashamed to utter the words you wrote in your comment. I have never spoken in a deprecating manner about my children’s father and we all have benefited. The fact that our lives took divergent paths had nothing to do with our mutual love for our children. We once loved each other, also. I am sad for you. It’s clear you won’t go on with your life as you cling to ongoing lawsuits to siphon money from your cash cow. How Pathetic!

  10. Calypso says:

    Give me a break, ann marie. If your family contributed to your ex-husband’s education, they must have had the means to do so, or would not have been able to kick in on his education. Did it occur to you that they did it as much for you, their daughter, as for him? They obviously wanted to ensure you had a secure future as the wife of an M.D.

    Wasn’t the topic here about the overreach of the court system rather than your selfish demands? Get a life!

  11. ann marie says:

    I appreciate all the opinions given. I think that most of them reflect the current opinion.

    If a court found that I had made huge efforts to become self sufficient, which it did, would that change anyone’s mind?

  12. Frankly Speaking says:

    ann marie:I’ve know women like you who wouldn’t remarry if the most fabulous man in the world asked them. They are more intent on keeping the money coming in from their ex than moving forward with their own lives. Anger is what motivates them because their happiness derives from forcing their one-time spouse to become the ATM of their dreams. You gave yourself away when you said this was the eighth time in thirty years you’ve been to court against your former husband. Even though the backward courts forced him to pay endlessly for the ‘privilege’ of once having been married to you, I suspect he thanks God every day that this is no longer the case. Even with the unfairness directed at him, he wins, you lose. I wonder what your grown children think of your actions. You’ve taught them some valuable lessons of how not to conduct their lives. If they’re sons, you’ve taught them that the regretable end of a marriage can equal a lifetime of vengence.

  13. Jack says:

    Yikes! A real horror story. But the poor guy is still a winner. He got away.

  14. Sgt. Preston says:

    To answer your question ann marie, “If a court found that I had made huge efforts to become self sufficient, which it did, would that change anyone’s mind?”

    The answer is a resounding NO! I’d bet the farm that your lawyers used the time worn argument that you had been given the “expectation” of a certain style of living, and based arguments on the fact that your means would be altered. This is an outrage, of course, as are your multiple excuses for being a lifetime leech. You never answered the inquiries regarding your education which can be assumed as at the very least some college. Most MDs are not going to spend years married to someone lacking education. Obviously you are capable of supporting yourself, if you can spend time at your computer and continually defend the indefensible. These financial awards are based on dark ages thinking. Why don’t you get off your pampered ass, get a job and get a life? You might also find some self-respect along the way.

  15. ann marie says:

    I don’t expect many of the bloggers here will come back to read these late postings. But I will write anyway.

    I thought this was a conservative blog. Unfortunately, it is not, at least as far as the comments here go.

    The comments almost all seem premised on a libertarian, every person for themselves, duty, promises, justice and need be damned ethic. There does not seem to be even basic human respect toward one with whom a commentor disagrees.In addition, the comments are based on assumtions not supported by any evidence.

    The comments like the ones here are one of the reasons possible conservatives don’t become one. The thinking is irrational, rude and not a one looked for dialogue about the situation. It is not a mentality anyone with a heart would want to be a part of.

  16. Twin Cities Transplant says:

    My divorced sister sent me this post and got quite a laugh from your indignation over the comments. She was married for 17 years, still had children at home and received not a dime of spousal maintenance. She worked throughout the marriage and continues to work. Her children do receive support from their father who is a loving and dedicated parent to them.

    Promises? With approximately 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s safe to say many promises are made with fingers crossed. A decision one makes at 21 doesn’t always hold at 40. People change. That is not cold, heartless or “libertarian,” it is a fact. Expectations that a “promise” made by a horny youth indebts him until the end of his life, are ridiculous. Child support is quite another matter. Alimony is from another era when women married as teenagers, lacked education and had no job qualifications or means of support. Thankfully, we have come far past that. Spousal maintainace has limits. The divorced women I know who were on the receiving end of such payments (many are not) received money for three years, max. This is not a liberal or conservative issue, but it is a matter of self respect and personal responsibility, which I think of as fundamentally Republican.

    You indicated you worked in your husband’s practice. You could find a similar job if you had any intentions of doing so. You have also said you have been in court repeatedly although your children are grown. I consider this a sad commentary. You’re the one who sounds like a liberal wanting others to support you.

  17. ann marie says:

    Twin Cities,

    Please note, I do not object to disagreement, just the rudeness and stupidity of the comments.

    You respond with a polite disagreement. Thanks.

    “Alimony is from another era when women married as teenagers, lacked education had no job qualifications or means of support.”

    That was true. Now the women work a job and leave the kids to be cared for by someone else a good part of the day. It is good for the women who get divorced because they build social security, experience and growth in their fields. That era’s women never did for the most part.

    Of course the effect on the kids is yet to be figured out.

  18. Blackbeard says:

    ann marie, I agree with you. This dude deserves to pay for the privilege of living with you. All men are creeps and do nothing worthy of any woman. They are useful for two or three things, and in your case, the chances are he didn’t mow the law or change the oil in the car, so only one. Then when you became a pain in the ass, he wanted out and you took him to court and took him to court and took him to court……

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