Responding to the Rationale of Father Custody under Coverture

A while back, when former TWRA supporter ‘Edita Munoz’ decided to leave our group, she criticized every angle of our ideology and along with that being the endorsement of mother custody in the younger years as stripping away the father’s authority. It seems here we TWRAs have come full circle in having disagreements regarding the proper placement of custodial rights.

Over time I have become more knowledgeable and learned many things since I first started putting my thoughts, opinions and research out for the entire world about a year and a half ago. In the earliest drafts of the TWRA position I state that the Tender Years Doctrine, or presumption of child custody in the favor of mothers when the children are very young, should be brought back. My main reasoning behind this was to try to put a stop to what our laws are allowing the unwed father to do and to allowing the divorced father to escape his responsibilities of financial support or, even worse, allowing him to place his rightful burdens on the mother at divorce and using the children as a weapon to do so.

As part of my collaboration with Jesse Powell* on the cultural core beliefs of what a TWRA is, some minor changes have occurred in our ideology. First, in the issue of fatherhood, TWRAs do not recognize the unmarried man’s paternity as legitimate. In our ideology we state:

“Have fatherhood be only legally recognized when it arises from legal marriage to the natural mother or from adoption proceedings, unless said father should legally marry the mother and be responsible for all bills and necessities from pregnancy/birth and be liable to support the mother and child as a husband is entitled from that point on.”

This is because, in a patriarchal society, distinctions are always made between illegitimate and legitimate births. Not only is this good for women but it is good for children as well. The unmarried father does not have a valid contract of marriage with the mother and thus does not have patriarchal authority over, nor responsibility for, the mother and the children she bears. For instance, I remember reading a news report a few months ago about a mother, apparently suffering some sort of mental derangement after giving birth, who had allegedly claimed she found a newborn on a Hawaiian beach but, come to find out, it was her own child. The reports said they would “look” for the father of the child to see if he wanted rights and to be responsible for the child.

The entire time I was thinking they are going to “look” for the father? Obviously if they have to search for him he wasn’t around when all this was going on and wan’t married to the mother. If he was married to the mother then he would already be the legal father and they would know exactly who he was. On the rationale that the unwed father is not the head of any household and does not hold authority and responsibility for the actions and well-being of the mother and child, we exclude the unwed father from our discussions of fatherhood.

In the coverture that TWRAs endorse the husband is the head of the family. He has the authority, as we state,to decide where the family will live. That means his wife’s legal address and that of his children’s is wherever he lives. We also state that marriage is to be a permanent and legal binding of a man and a woman, “only to be legally severed in cases of severe abuse, infidelity or abandonment.”

Jesse Powell states:

“It should be kept in mind, when father custody prevailed that did not mean children always lived with their fathers away from their mothers, what it meant is that the father would decide where the children lived… The likely rationale for father custody after divorce was probably that marriage and family was considered to be the man’s project and the man’s responsibility and that therefore the man should decide how best to execute his family mission and family purpose, the care and upbringing of children being part of his family mission. So basically when a man married a woman the idea was that the man was choosing the woman to be the bearer and caretaker of his children. The man then was to become responsible for the welfare of his wife and his children both. This meant if at some point in the future the man and wife split up the man was still responsible for the children of the marriage as the man was always responsible for the well being of the children from the beginning. So the father would have custody of the children after a divorce because it was always the man’s responsibility to provide for the children and it continued to be the man’s responsibility to provide for the children whether he was still married to the children’s mother or not.”

Under coverture, the above story regarding the beach would not have happened. The woman would have been pressured to marry when she discovered she was pregnant (if not the biological father, then another man who would accept her and the child as his own) or her child would have been outcasted as a “bastard” and she would be shunned from civilized society. In childbearing strange things can happen to women. The coverture would have been a way to protect her and the child because the husband would have been responsible for her actions and well being and he would oversee everything that was going on. The pressure would be on him to control his wife’s behavior and provide her with the things she needed. If she was suffering psychologically after birth she and the child would still have been safe and taken care of because of his responsibilities to look out for them. In this way, coverture is guardianship of women and the guardianship of children necessarily.

Child labor was indeed common in the earliest days of American history and I do applaud the early feminists for their efforts to protect women and children from exploitation in factories. The rationale that the father had a right to the children’s labor I believe was a part of why father’s were given custody of their children but there is a much larger issue here to consider. Another reason, as Jesse Powell notes, was the large investment the husband made in the children.

Under coverture, the husband was responsible for everything. If the children or his wife had needs, he was responsible to provide them. A woman had a right to buy necessities for herself and the children on the husband’s credit. All she needed to do was prove that the goods or services were necessaries and prove that she was currently legally married to the man who’s credit the goods were being charged to. Part of his responsibility was for the wife’s actions. If she had committed some kind of criminal act or misdeed he was responsible for it and he was responsible for dealing with her behavior. His wife and his children’s behavior directly reflected upon him. This made men to make a large investment in the family. It entailed high sacrifice on his behalf, but also the high reward of having a wife and family to carry on his name and his own legacy. The intention of patriarchal societies is to get fathers to make a high investment in women and children and build civilization through their hard work of providing for families.

I do not not believe that there is actually a current “bias” against fathers in our courts today as MRAs claim, but whether there is a “bias” or not does not matter in regards to what TWRAs believe in and advocate for. Complaining about a “bias” says that one wishes or campaigns for things to be “equal.” TWRAs do not seek “equality” under the law. We believe that the father should be fully responsible for the support of his wife and children. We do not believe that support or alimony should be a two-way street. It goes one way. The father is to support the children and to support his wife. Now, if she’s done wrong and been unfaithful he should not have to pay her alimony. She should simply be on her own. However, he is still to support himself and provide all the essentials for his children and no obligation should be imposed upon the ex-wife for the support of her husband. He is a man and he is to be liable to support himself despite his wife’s actions.

Divorce was rare in coverture days so, in most cases, child custody was never an issue. Most men realized that young children needed to be nurtured by mothers. In the TWRA beliefs we do not say anything of the Tender Years Doctrine as we once did. We simply say that young children need to stay with their mothers. However, the husband has the authority and sole responsibility and should decide where the children live. He should never be allowed to impose the responsibility of support on the mother but he should be allowed to decide where they will live. Whether the children live with him or not he should still be solely responsible for the support and still have authority to make decisions regarding their lives and well-being.

This is what’s it’s about. I do believe in father custody (as in his authority to make decisions regarding the children’s lives and well-being and where they live) as long as his responsibilities remain. This ultimately does protect women as well as children. Women should have the right to expect support and guardianship from their husbands but should never be allowed to overturn the decisions he makes unless it is an extreme situation. Women having authority over men and men being allowed to evade responsibility causes society to degenerate into the mess we have now.

It is the right of the traditional woman to have guardianship and have security. Feminists told women there was no such thing as security and they should just go out and imitate male promiscuity and refuse to marry. Yet, somehow, study after study has shown that in the last 50 years women have become increasingly unhappy. Women supposedly “have it all” yet somehow are more miserable and suffer from more physical and mental illnesses than ever before. Apparently, “freedom” wasn’t quite so free after all.

TWRAs want our privileges back and we want our security. We just want men to be men again. If men would lead, women would start to follow.

* TWRAs are not longer collaborated with Jesse Powell. However, this article still remains relevant to the cause.

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