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Parents' Rights

No issue is more sensitive -- and few issues are more troubling to
Libertarians -- than the role of government in family life. On the face of things, the federal government has an even smaller role in that area than it does in most. The Constitution keeps the Federal Government out of issues like defining and licensing marriage, regulating homeschooling, or using tax policy for "socially engineering" the makeup and function of the family.

However, there are some areas of family life in which the federal
government arguably has a role to play. The Constitution ordains that all Americans receive the equal protection of the law, and it prohibits involuntary servitude.

In both of these areas, the federal government has failed America's
families and, in particular, its parents.

Equal protection of the law pre-supposes fairness for those coming
before the bar of justice. Yet in divorce proceedings, the states routinely
award custody of minor children to one parent or another, relegating
the other parent to the status of "second-class citizen" -- not because
the latter parent has been convicted of any crime, or found unfit, but
because of a prejudice in favor of father or mother as the best "single"
parent. Unfortunately, the Courts award exclusive custody to mothers in 85% of the cases,
when the father has maintained an active and nurturing parental role.

This is a matter of federal interest under the 14th Amendment, even
intra-state. Once one parent or another, possibly with a child in tow,
moves to another state, any shadow of doubt is erased. It becomes an
interstate matter, and by definition therefore falls under federal

As citizens, we should demand that the Attorney General and the Justice Department's civil rights
division to investigate state policies which violate the 14th Amendment
rights of parents and to pursue the elimination of those policies in court.
The default presumption in any divorce proceeding must be for joint
custody of minor children. Failing the waiver of that presumption by one
parent, or proof that one parent is unfit, to deny any parent equal
access to, and equal participation in the raising of, his or her children
is clearly an abuse of law and repugnant to the Constitution.

Above and beyond the matter of custody comes child support. While it is
reasonable to assess support for a minor child when circumstances
dictate that he or she will be living exclusively with one parent, the
matter has been inflated into, literally, a federal case.

The 13th Amendment prohibits involuntary servitude. In the
Slaughterhouse Cases, the Supreme Court clearly and unambiguously ruled that this
prohibition applies to "peonage" -- the attachment of criminal liability
to failure to pay, or work off, debt. Yet, across the nation, hundreds
of thousands of non-custodial parents find themselves in court, often
charged with felonies and facing prison, for their failure or inability
to pay child support. Further, the federal government has intervened to
the extent of maintaining a special database to track "deadbeat
parents" across state lines in order to enforce these draconian and
unconstitutional laws.

The Federal Government should protect individual rights and sue states which attach criminal liability to child
support obligations and, if necessary, to charge government officials who
administer that unconstitutional criminal liability with violations of
the civil rights of non-custodial parents.

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