ifeminists.com: A central gathering place and information center for individualist feminists.   -- explore the new feminism --
introduction | interaction | information

ifeminists.com > introduction > editorials

Replace "Best Interest of the Child" with "Protect and Support the Child's Family"
April 21, 2004
by K. C. Wilson

There are two critical flaws in the "Best Interest of the Child" doctrine that forms the basis for all family law in Euro-rooted countries: Its lack of definition, and its assignment.

Whatever is done in any case must be whatever is in the best interest of the children. Not the adults, the children. No one can argue with that. It sounds so noble it's unassailable, which creates its danger.

Without operational definition of what exactly may be in any one child's best interest -- much less all children's -- it joins "In the name of the Lord," and "National Security," as a cover for crime. It can justify any act. Indeed, one of the ironies of watching legislators struggle with family law is to see them first say, "There is no 'One size fits all,'" only to use "best interest" as the one for all, and as though it had any meaning. Relying upon it is an abdication by legislators.

Without definition, "best interest" means whatever the user wants at the time of its use. That brings us to its second problem: in whose hands it is given.

We will not argue that a child's best interest must be paramount in every case. At issue is, what makes any legislator, judge, or social worker an appropriate judge of what it is for any child? So this slogan -- which is all it is -- is a cover for a power-grab. Those who use, legislate, or rule by it, rarely care about children but seek power over others.

Which returns us to the first problem: a cover for hideous crimes. In the name of "best interest," children have their families reduced by half or completely eliminated. In divorce, the belief seems to be that all children's interests are always served by having only one parent and replacing the other with money, plus allowing the mother to block even visitation or move to another continent.

Who says this suits the child? Who ought to be the judge?

An alternate basis for family law lies in not taking the interests of the children out of the parents' hands. Divorce is an admission the adults do not get along, not that they no longer love their children or are suddenly incompetent parents. Those who cannot see how this could work see only power and hierarchy, not the distinct roles and areas of care that characterize a family.

General systems theory appeared in the social sciences in the 1960s at the same time as ecology and holistic medicine. All are signs of re-discovering systemic thinking instead of exclusive reliance upon Aristotelean linear thinking. (Seeing the whole at once with all inter-relationships, instead of only one, one-dimensional cause- effect line in isolation.)

General systems theory views a family as an eco-system. You cannot affect one part without affecting all others. If you remove or introduce an element, there is no way to predict how benign or malignant that will eventually prove. This is the danger of intervention.

A child's family is its extended womb. Reptiles and insects give birth or lay eggs and leave. But the complexity of the human requires we extend the womb to the social-emotional realm until adulthood. This womb is defined and managed by those with a life-time tie to the child: its parents and their families. Being closest and a permanent part the child's life, they are best to do so, not transient judges or social workers.

A child's family exists whether the parents are married or not. Unless, of course, society imposes a different paradigm: that, somehow, because of the state between its parents, a child must no longer have its family.

Which is the point. Whatever may happen between parents, a child's family is those who are part of him or her forever. It hardly matters if the parents hate each other or where each lives. Physical location and number of homes are irrelevant compared to a consistent womb.

For divorce, those who really do care about children seek to protect and supporting a child's family as its family while keeping the adults apart, not assume parental roles for themselves as with a child's best interest. We could keep divorce strictly between the parents and not involve the children. Society's only function would be to protect and support the child's family as its whole, intact family.

That means both parents, equally, at once. A normal, balanced family as far as the child is concerned.

Copyright © 2004 K.C.Wilson. K.C. Wilson is the author of Co-parenting for Everyone, Male Nurturing, Delusions of Violence, and The Multiple Scandals of Child Support, all available as e-books at http://harbpress.com.

ifeminists.com > home | introduction | interaction | information | about

ifeminists.com is edited by Wendy McElroy; it is made possible by support from The Independent Institute and members like you.