September 30

Uniformity Would Help

Skewed Uniformity

As I have engaged and researched the divorce and custody world from different angles, I see that so much of what happens varies from state to state, and even from county to county. As a more libertarian thinker, I find this generally a good thing in theory. The fact that those closest to the people make the rules. The practice is something altogether different. Every state has its own divorce and marriage laws. There are some key things that vary between localities that can make a world of difference.

First Federal Law plays a big role in this. To give the illusion of uniformity there are some standards set up by Federal Law. One is that marriage carries a reciprocal agreement between the states. Basically if two people are legally allowed to be married in one state and they move to another state where they are allowed to be legally married, then that marriage will be honored by the other state. On the surface the relationships are the same. The standards that each party are held to can vary widely from state to state. None of this matters much, unless you are in divorce court. You enter into a marriage in a state that has limits on property division and maintenance, and you can end up getting divorced in state that has no limits and often decides to inequitably divide property. You may live in a state that infidelity matters or doesn’t when you marry, and move to state that is the opposite. Understand that this changes the deal. How a contract is broken is a part of the contract, so moving states changes the contract, and for most people they are unaware of the change of terms. What is worse, is one partner can move to a state that is favorable to them, and after meeting the residency period in than state, they can file for divorce. A ruse of moving for work or or schools or other factors, and the other spouse is to follow can allow one partner to choose a more favorable location to break the marriage contact. Infidelity can have a large effect in some states, and no effect in others. This again changes the terms of the contract.

These same principles are applied to child custody. There is even more Federal ambiguity added to the mix. Federal Law requires states to have child support formulas and systems in place, and have enticed them to up collections through matching funds. The results are that states have figured out that this is a profit center. So much so that my state has instituted in the guidelines for child support that the parent who earns more should pay child support to the other parent, when they share custody 50/50. This is because the state will get more matching funds with the higher calculation. Moving states changes the terms that you will have the when having kids with someone, and in divorce you may not know the terms were changed by moving across the state line. This is a major issues for people who live near state borders, and a large part of our population does. Trade and population centers are often along the state borders. It allows for companies to take advantage of changes in laws in both states without having to turn over an entire workforce. Whether you have shared custody or limited time, and how much you pay in child support is the domain of the state that the the kids go into the courts care either from divorce or birth depending on whether the parents are married. It doesn’t matter what the state laws were where you were married, because they don’t have the jurisdiction.

I am not a fan of the courts being in the middle of all this. I am also not a fan of state sanctioned marriage, but under the tax laws, its is hard to not accept the government domain in relationships. For most of us, we can’t afford to not accept it. I believe that it would be easier to combat the problems with the system, if there were simply one system. Marriage and child custody legislation should be largely federalized. Marriage and divorce should look the same in Miami, Chicago, Springfield, and Sacramento. It shouldn’t matter where you live,the contract should be the same. The terms you are breaking the contract under should be the same, and the issues of child custody and support should be the same. This is an area where we are constantly dealing with the rights of people and the constitution gets stomped on. If the laws are already under Federal purview, then it is more likely to receive the scrutiny it deserves. By the courts, by the president, and by congress. Even more importantly, it would be a valuable topic for the press to cover. No longer do you have the crazy people up in Nebraska making some kooky law for a few people in the high plains, but you have a singular standard that will affect nearly half the population. Most of the problems of the current laws would be absorbed by the Federal government, but now the few activists who want to fix things in each state can fight a unified battle to fix the problems with the system.

I think that long term, there needs to be a simple child custody rights amendment added to the constitution. This amendment should define clearly what the child’s rights are from their parents. I think these rights are pretty simple. They deserve food and shelter. They deserve an education. The deserve to be treated humanely, and to be free from abuse. They deserve a relationship with both a father and a mother. I say this knowing that homosexual couples will adopt children. I think there needs to be a provision that there is someone who has the rights to act as a father for the child. We need to reboot our thinking and accept that kids need male and female influences in their life. These relationships are important. I am not really sure how that one plays out, but I do think it is important. Relationships are imperfect, so this last one might be hard. This amendment should also define a parents rights. The parents rights should include the right to spend significant time with their children. The right to make decisions in their child’s life regarding health, education, and religion. The child has the right to an education, but the parents have the right to choose the manner of that education. It should define who has the ability to settle disputes and how they will be settled. I don’t think a courtroom is the right place. I think that perhaps court is the place where they can come to agreement as to who will settle disputes. This should be a trusted clergy person, therapist, or other person who will develop a relationship with both the parents and the children. There should also be a means for the the parents to change who that person is, because that person should be someone who is trusted by both parents to assist in these disputes. I am sure that there would be far more details than I can think of this moment, but it would have a tremendous effect on the process that we follow now.

This amendment would create a culture where men and women would not have to get married to raise kids together. I think it would be common that parents would have a parenting plan that would guide them in their decision making and living arrangements. I could see parents choosing to live together as a couple or simply as parents in a contract to raise a family together and to share the expenses of raising the children. I think in the long term, it is likely that men and women will choose to raise a family together and have separate romantic relationships. This is something that might even change how homes are built. I could see homes with three spaces in our future. A family space that has the kitchen, dining, living, and children’s spaces. A mothers apartment and a fathers apartment. Each apartment would have private sleeping, bathing, and limited cooking spaces. There would also be a private living room for each parent. The parents would be free to run their apartment as they please. They would share decision making on the shared spaces. The kids would no longer have to shuffle from father to mother. If the parents don’t get along well, they could schedule their time with the kids such that one is responsible for taking care of the kids and the larger portion of the home for a few days and then the other. The children would have easy access to both parents when they need or want them. Activities and homework can be a joint effort without either parent having to go to the others home. When romantic partners are in the house, they wouldn’t have to have any contact with the children. The arrangement could be simply for the time it would take to raise the kids to a certain age. This may not be an arrangement that everyone would want, but it is the type of flexibility that having an amendment that guarantees both parents and children certain rights with each other would lend itself to. Traditional marriage would still be an option. It would squash the current culture that surrounds the single mother heroes our society so loves. Men would have equal access to their kids, and financial responsibilities according to the law would be limited to the guaranteed rights of the children.

Without strong marriage, and we don’t have strong marriage, flexibility in parenting relationships is necessary. The current paradigm is one where men pay the bills and women take care of the kids. It is based on the illusion that this is what the marriage contract represented, and that it should be mimicked as much as possible. This is not what the contract was, and even if it were, the contract is void. The marriage is one that essentially says that I as a man will take care of you financially and protect you physically and in turn you will comfort me and care for my treasures, including my children. When that contract was broken, then the wife was left to figure out how to care for and protect herself. The man still provided for his children under his own roof. The only time a man was held to account, historically, as he is now was when he abandoned his family. If you read the legal path of how we ended up where we are, it is all based on the concept of women being abandoned with their children by men. This has never been the majority of the circumstances. It has always been far more common for women to choose to walk away from men. As a matter of fact, they were far more likely to walk away from their kids. They don’t do this now, largely because the money comes from having the children.

Its time to stop having different standards around the country. Its time to stop pretending that one dynamic works for all families. Its time to stop handing out cash and prizes to one person, while extracting them from the other. Its time to stop pretending that statistical averages actually define how people manage their money and lives. Its time to remember that all parties involved have rights. It is said that divorce is worse than having a spouse die. Part of that is because all the worst parts of the spouse are magnified in the current system, while the best parts are unavailable to you. In the death of a spouse, you lose the burdens with virtues. You are able to idealize the memory of that person. Your former spouse in divorce is remembered at their worst, because the current system encourages people to be their worst.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 29

Custody Is The Problem

Elián

Sure divorce is a problem in our society. Its not one that is likely to go away. We have a society where people retain their autonomy after marriage. This means that both people have the chance to continue developing relationships and to be able to make their own living after being married. The social pressures to stay married have largely faded. In sub-cultures there are still some pressures, but this is not the case for larger cultural moors. Those who exist in the sub-cultures that judge divorce, can simply leave them. Most people understand that what was gained or lost together will be divided when you separate. This too is not really an issue. It might hurt to divide up your property, but its something that most people will get over fairly quickly. Divorce hurts people. Kids suffer, and the partners suffer. This should be a short term suffering. Most of the time, people accept there is no real winner in this game, and move on. Children adapt to the new family structure like they would have to a new baby or a grandparent moving in or out of their home.

The problems almost always come into play when you start talking about custody. Custody presents a scenario where there are winners and losers. This is where things get nasty. This is where one or both partners find the will to destroy the other person. Currently women hold the advantage in the same way a 7 foot, 350 pound man holds the advantage on the offensive line. They may not win every time they line up, but they are likely to control the line the majority of the time. The problem is women don’t have a natural advantage, but one that is instituted by the societal ideas and government. The fact there is an advantage to be won is the problem. In the majority of cases, both parents are able and willing to raise their children. Most men are blind sided by the fight they are walking into. Its a bit like one of the Dugger girls walking into a restaurant and finding out that it is a strip club. These men expect fairness and logic to prevail, but the system isn’t built on either of these ideas. It is built on tort. Tort says that if previous courts have ruled a certain way, then it too should rule that way or argue why it shouldn’t rule that way.

The majority of time spent in court by divorcing couples revolves around child custody. This is the case for a few reasons. Both parents don’t want to lose time with the kids, and they believe that they are a better parent than the other person. One of them is probably right, but it doesn’t really matter. Understand that each parent chose, either directly through marriage or indirectly by having risky sex, to have a child with the other parent. Thus the choice should be respected by the court. If neither parent poses a real risk to the children, then they should be granted equal access to raise the children. The court should not become embroiled in arguments over who is the better parent. They should not entertain the idea of what is in the best interest of the child. For one reason, there is no possible way for them to determine what is in actual best interest of the children. Nor under different circumstances do the kids have the right for their best interests to be considered. I would also add that this is a slippery slope, because the court could attain the habit of deciding that it is in the best interest of the child for the state to raise every child. Divorce law and tort is leading down a path that would make that next step a pretty simple one to make. The court shouldn’t entertain this idea also because it is not actually a right of the kids, it is a mechanism used for the court to decide who wins. The children and the parents should be forced to live with the choices that the parents made initially. Just because the parents don’t want to live together doesn’t mean that the court must make this choice. The court should enforce the parents equal access to the children, not choose who gets the majority of the time with the children. Often, if not most of the time, the court chooses sides with the person most likely to keep coming back if they don’t win. This is no way to determine peoples lives. It is a process that allows someone to control and hurt the other party for no other reason than they want to and are willing to. If there is no reason to pick sides, then the court should refuse to do so. As it stand now the court will choose sides, if one party asks them too. Very few fathers will ever ask the court to do so, because they know how the court will tend to act against them, but it is no better for a man to decide to ask the court to intervene simply because they know and understand that the particular court is likely to side with them.

There are only four positions the court should take, and they should be considered in this order. The first is the parents agreed to this arrangement, and the court will honor it. If the parents figured it out, and are both are willing to live the arrangements, then court should stay the hell out of it. The second is the court will enforce some form of 50/50 arrangement. This should be the default. If this were the default, then most parents knowing the uphill battle for something different would choose not to fight. If the end of most custody fights was that there would be no change to the terms, then most fights would not occur. The third alternative is that for some reason it is truly not workable for the parents to have an equal time share. This should be a high bar to reach. One that would require a substantial physical distance or a work schedule that makes it impossible to manage. This is also a situation that should the obstacles be remedied, the the parents would be moved back to a 50/50 schedule. If the distance is created by one parent is likely done for the purpose of winning a larger time share with the kids or is done by their choice not the other parents choice, then it should be awarded to the other parent. Any action that would interfere with one parents rights to raise their children should be rewarded with less time, not more. When time cannot be 50/50, then as much time that is possible should be granted the other parent. If that means that one parent has every weekend, and the other parent has weekdays, then this should be the schedule. Weekends aren’t magical, and if that is the only time a parent can reliably have the children, they should be given that time. The last option should only be used if one parent is deemed incapable or a danger to the children. This option is very simple. One parent has the children most of the time, and the other parent is required to have an appropriate amount of supervision based on the risks they present. They should be given as much time as possible, but it is unlikely that overnight stays, especially ones that are greater than a single night should be allowed. If they are, then it is unlikely they actually present the risks necessary for this ruling, and an appeals court should overturn the ruling for a more favorable arrangement. This arrangement should be reviewed at least every six months to ensure that the risks are still present. When the risks have been mitigated, then the arrangements should be changed to something more favorable.

Most cases shouldn’t ever see a court, nor should the threat of court change the course of negotiations. It should be fairly predictable what the court will determine. As in all these discussions, there are the edge cases. The ones where a family is abandoned by a parent, and where there is real and tangible abuse. I do believe that abandonment is so hard to effectively prove that the course should be taken when a previous abandonment has been ruled there be a course to allow reintroduction of the parent and child. Simple plans with goals that are attainable. If the parent follows the plan, then the end result would be that they have 50/50 time with the child. I do believe there are real abandonment cases, but many of the ones that we encounter of supposed abandonment is a father who has given up when the system keeps kicking him in the teeth, or the prospect of the hell court brings down on them is too much, and they walk. I hear all the time that a real man wouldn’t abandon his children, but the reality is the measure of a man isn’t how much abuse he can take from his ex, and sit by while he is denied the right to truly parent his children. Circumstances are usually more complicated than they first appear. The human psyche plays a large role in how people respond. There is not a formula for what the right response is. We rely too much on a few people judgement of the scenario to make these determinations. People who have no vested interest, and people who truly know very little about the realities we have faced. Neither person should have to say anymore about the other person than I cannot live with them anymore, and I do not want to share my life and lifestyle with them, with the understanding that you are bound so long as you have children.

There are lots of reasons why custody is such a problem. Most of them are emotional. One or both parents have decided that the other parent is a bad person, and feel justified in their actions. The fact the court will make a decision also leads to people asking for the court to make the decision. If the bar for less than shared parenting is set very high, then it becomes less likely that people will ask. Then if the court adopts the position that someone who is fighting to lessen contact with one parent without good cause should be given less access to the children, because they are in fact seeking to harm the children. These everyday custody battles all but go away when there is nothing to gain. Money is another factor that plays a major role in these cases. I think that just as each person in a divorce has equal rights to property, and equal responsibilities to the debt, so should that apply to the children. Each parent has an equal right to access and time with the children, and equal responsibilities for the expenses of the children. When bills are due for the kids, each parent should have to pay half the expenses. How much you earn should have nothing to do with this. People say kids are expensive, but they really aren’t. Clothes, nutrition, school, shelter, and basic healthcare are not that expensive over and above your own expenses. It is the activities and other things all parents want to give their children that are. These are lifestyle items, and they should not be deemed a right to the kids, though today they are. No child support should be ordered. Not taking care of your kids should be handled criminally, and the parents rights should be considered in relationship to the criminal proceedings.

Child support is the biggest drivers of custody battles. The payer doesn’t want to pay their ex, and the payee wants the money. Sometimes they want it solely for the kids, but they don’t want to have to negotiate with the ex for paying it, so child support gives them freedom. I have said it many times before. Child support transfers the decision making power of one parent to the other. This is true for all but the most wealthy and frugal people. Even then, the power is transferred, because the other parent has been given the resources to make the decisions. Many will say its not fair for the richer parent to have this power, but neither is it fair for the court to decide which parent has this authority. It is more fair that the person who earns or has the money by normal rights is allowed to spend it as they see fit. The other parent should have no rights to it.

If custody battles were all but eliminated, the children would have better relationships with both their parents. One parent wouldn’t be second class, and the parent who is able will generally ensure that the kids desires are as fulfilled as is appropriate. I had no problem as I began this journey, before child support, providing extras for my children, even in their mother’s house. I never made a big deal to the kids that I was paying for it. I simply paid for it or gave her some money to pay for it. I won’t ever get reimbursed for expenses I have to cover that I already paid her for in my child support. I have to decide whether I can afford to pay again. Right now I can’t. This is a decision tree that no one should have to use, but a large number of mostly men and a few women have to do all the time. Custody battles really are about the money. Let no one trick you into thinking differently.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 29

Feminism: The Results

SlutWalk NYC 2011

This is where feminism has taken us. Watch the video

It a time not so long ago a man hitting his wife was largely ignored, or so the story is told. I don’t know that was ever really true, but that is the story. I do know that feminism has brought us a world where men can’t be harsh with a woman without intervention from others, but a woman beating on a man is considered entertainment. We have seen the video of Ray Rice hitting his now wife on the elevator. If you haven’t then check it below. It seems that defending yourself is only okay withing certain boundaries. I see her hit him at least twice. Yes he is a big strong man, but she is not a child. The world wants us to treat women as children. If they hit you, then they it can be returned. If it is, then you should limit yourself, so as not to hurt her. I have said it before, but we are going to see more Ray Rice scenarios, and they are going to be worse. As men are treated as if the smallest things are the same as big things, the ones who don’t or can’t avoid the confrontation will escalate it quickly, because they will be handled the same regardless. Feminism is on a path of making things more dangerous for women, not less.

September 24

Limiting Child Support

Dead-beat Dad sale

I find it necessary to argue this issue from two sides. One is that child support is one of the biggest evils in western society, and that it should be abolished. That is my honest opinion. The legal requirement of child support is akin to slavery, while the moral obligation to supporting you children is a whole different issue. The moral obligation to take care of the children you bring into the world is one of the most important ones any man has. Moral obligations and legal obligations are not congruent, nor should they be. If all moral obligations were codified into law, then we would all be slaves.

Child support is crippling. Many men with one or two children can make way with the rates that are imposed, but they do so with much less than they should have. Most men are not in poverty, but many of the arguments that are made revolve around the men that are in poverty. The sad part is they tend to do so in such a way as to cripple the men in poverty. I have four children and feel the impact of the child support in rather extreme ways. The idea that I am proposing is simply to limit the impact of child support. A big part of my reasoning is that men should be allowed to spend from their own reserves on their children. The children shouldn’t see mom buy them everything, and that dad doesn’t buy them anything, especially when the truth is often for those in the middle class and above, that the dad is paying the lion’s share of the expenses for the children. For poorer men, it is even harder. They often after child support, don’t have the resources to decide to forgo something else to spend extra on their child.

Child support’s purpose needs to be redefined. Currently it is defined to support not only the necessary expenses for the child, but also that it is to support the child’s lifestyle if the child still lived with both parents. The lifestyle right isn’t a real right. The parents have always have had the right to determine the lifestyle of their children. There is no good argument that because the parents don’t live together, that suddenly they have this new right. I don’t know how to define correctly yet, but the end result needs to define it as something that pays for the child’s needs, and the needs should be clearly identified. The rights of the paying parent need to be recognized in the process. Financially the paying parent should be allowed to earn a base amount that is untouched. The reality that the children don’t live with that parent is the reason they don’t have the benefit of the home that parent provides. There is no excuse for one parent being left without enough income to provide for themselves the basics of life.

Base Earnings Aren’t Subject to Child Support Obligations

At a minimum the every child support payer should be allowed to earn what is considered poverty level for them self and their dependents. The current system likes to pretend that someone isn’t going to have more children after the first relationship blows up. This idea needs to go away. Men and women should be allowed to pursue relationships fairly unhindered, especially by previous relationships. At least legally. What is more egregious, is the only one shackled by the current system is the one obligated to pay child support. The other parent can continue on as if they have no obligations at all, and legally they don’t. This should be based on each paycheck. Men and women who work odd jobs and other work that doesn’t have consistent incomes should only be held to account for child support when they earn enough to pay it. The argument against this is that the parent receiving child support should be able to rely on the payments coming in regularly. The truth is that if they were together, they wouldn’t be able to rely on that income any better, so why should they living apart have more confidence in getting paid than when together. The idea that divorce and family law can be neat and tidy, while so many people are not that stable, nor should they be required to by the court.

A Maximum Child Support Obligation Regardless Of Income

Child support should not be an endless well. The parties are not together, and the children should be allowed to benefit by the lifestyle both parents are able and willing to provide for the children. This does not mean that the paying parent should be required to pay that money to the other parent. That is certainly an option, but shouldn’t be court ordered in any way. I am not sure what that number should be. My initial thoughts are that it should be no more than $2000/month regardless of the number of children or income. There is no reason that one parent, even if they are able, should be required to fund the lifestyle of the other parent. This number is probably too large, but its a point to start at, and with the other limits I propose will not apply to most child support payers.

A Maximum Percentage of Net Income

As discussed above, net income is the amount of money left after taxes are paid and required benefits are funded, including health insurance. This number should be 25% regardless of the number of children. One quarter of net income is more than enough money to extract from a person without their consent. Each child should be worth no more than 5% of this net income. Again this is per pay cycle, not annually. If you reach a maximum in the pay cycle, you are not obligated to catch up. You don’t pay taxes on fictional income, neither should you pay court ordered child support based on fictional income. The current system requires that people pay a dollar amount regardless of actual income. The courts only discretion would be to lower the percentage, not raise it. Anything more than these numbers would be illegal to collect. The concept of arrears should go away.

Maximum Amount

A maximum amount should be assigned based on the time of separation or birth of the child, whichever came last. That maximum amount of support should be based on the last three years of taxable income. The maximum should be set to the rates that are mentioned above. Child support shall not go up based on the increases in income of the payer, unless they have not been meeting the threshold of being able to pay 5% per child because of low wages during this time frame. The amount should be calculated based on the lowest amount they could earn during that year, and still pay 5% of their income per child.

The Order

An order should be written for a percentage of income. The laws should limit was is taken in the following ways. It will not exceed $2000/month. It will not exceed 25% of their income. It will not reduce the net income to below poverty level based on the number of exemptions claimed. Tax returns are subject to the order as new income, since it was excluded in the net income child support was collected from during the year. When the maximum amount has been reached for the year based on all the criteria above, then no more support shall be required until the next calendar year.

Extraordinary Expenses

Any expenses from medical, dental, or mental health are covered under these guidelines, unless the expenses exceed 75% of the child support paid during the year. In this case the bills that exceed the 75% mark are going to be split 50/50 between the parents.

Opting Out

If both parents choose to opt out, then this is a binding agreement and cannot be revisited. The parents will be required to pay 50% of the required expenses for the children. Each parent is obligated to provide the children with enough clothing for their home and to properly feed and care for them when they are in their care. Medical, dental, and mental health expenses will be split 50/50. Education expenses will be split 50/50. If there is a disagreement about schools and the court rules to place the child in a program that is more expensive than public schooling, the other parent is only required to reimburse to the level of 50% of the costs of sending the child to public school. If the child is pre-school aged, daycare expenses should be paid inverse proportionally to the amount of time that each parent has the child. All orders should be 50/50 time share with the kids unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise or the parents agree to something different.

Results

The end result is that child support payers will know what their maximum required at any given point and time. The burden of child support is limited when income levels are low. If a person has income that is not W2 in nature, then of course they will need to be mechanisms to calculate 1099 income. In these cases it might be beset to treat child support like taxes. The paying parent would make child support payments quarterly when they pay their taxes. Though I am still against child support requirements because it is akin to slavery, this model would loosen the shackles.

Conclusion

I only mentioned it once above, but in general all custody orders should be 50/50 without a compelling reason to not do so or agreement of the parents. The results from this type of change would change how a child support payer views their jobs. There are many men who have lost their motivation to improve their wages, because they don’t see enough of the income increase. The children will typically benefit from the father’s income increase, even when he doesn’t pay additional child support. I know men who have not started their own businesses. In their marriage their wife was against them doing so, and as a good husband chose not to do so for their family. These men under current child support rules continue to choose to not start these businesses, because the risk of the penalties if they can’t meet their obligations are too high. If child support were based on actual earnings and not just a dollar amount, then these men would be given the freedom of choice that married men have. Married men have the right to choose to lower their income to spend more time with their families. They have the right to start businesses that won’t generate income for some time. It is wrong that men lose this freedom because they don’t live with the mother of their children.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 23

Loss Of Hope

Been doing fine since you've been gone

I try hard to move forward. To figure out how to move my life on from this tragedy that has befallen it. Its not simply the divorce, but all that is served up to me through the process of divorce. I see many men who are struggling with the same thing. They can’t move past the point where divorce devastated their life. I know far too many men who have stagnated after divorce. They stop growing personally. They just stop. I have to stop and ask myself, why is this? Why do men and not women seem to be afflicted by this. I don’t think the answer is simply there is a difference between men and women, but that is surely a part of it. If it were merely that, then the man who succeeds after divorce would be an anomaly, and they aren’t. Its more complicated than that. My view of the world is that of someone in the middle class. From my front porch is where I am commenting from. As I move about society, this problem is by far worse in the middle class.

So why might this afflict the middle class more than those below, and those above it? This I think is fairly simple, though not obvious. First lets talk about what the middle class is. The middle class is a place of hope. People move freely through the middle class. Its a place that is hard to escape, but you enjoy most luxuries that society has to offer, if only in small doses. You believe it is possible to have the next big idea and escape into the upper class of society. All the world has to offer, seems available with enough effort and intellect. There are books and movies and modern day folklore that tell the tales of someone moving from their middle class existence into the world of the rich and famous. People in the middle class tend to start at the bottom of a profession, and work their way up as they age to the tops of their professions. Its natural for anyone who is motivated to find their way onto the ladder and make this progression in one way or another. Those who live in the middle class have choice in their profession and can move between professions with minimal cost to their lifestyle. The middle class is a big place to live as well. Its not merely a function of income that keeps you there, but the social connections you have. This is good and bad, but most of us see the relative positives of these connections. In a family structure, those in the middle class have the luxury of deciding how much lifestyle luxuries they will partake in, and whether one of the partners can make their job that of homemaker or to earn more money(and how much). The middle class rarely takes any real risks, because there is a lot to lose. In the middle class, people like to talk about calculated risks, but rarely are the risks real. There is little to lose in the risks that people take in the middle class. The rare times that the risks are real, you see how risk taking can hurt and how it can pay off, but finding the motivation to risk your comforts is a hard step to take for most.

Now lets look at the lower class. This place seems inescapable. You have few real choices in your lifestyle. You see society as a type of jail, and its there to control you. You act out to demonstrate your autonomy when you can. For some this is violent and criminal, and others it is more subtle. You have little to lose, so taking risks costs you less. Some would say that they aren’t risks at all. Often there is little calculation to the risks that are chosen. The purpose is more to remind yourself that you have some level of control in your life. Your world is filled with people who tell you what you need or should do, and warn you of consequences if you don’t. In the lower classes you really don’t believe that there is a way to move up in society, and you believe that if you do move up, the system will find a way to kick you back down. Working for a living sometimes seems futile, especially when you can spend your time figuring out how to get a government and charitable handout that exceeds what you could earn any job you can get. In the lower class, there is little hope. The men in this class make decisions without fear of losing what they have, because they have very little that can be taken away from them.

The upper classes have a very different view of the world. Most people in the upper classes are born there. When someone from the middle class reaches into the upper classes, they really aren’t a part of them. Though their children or grandchildren will likely be. The upper classes have a safety net through your connections. Its more than just money that keeps you there. Every luxury society has is at your fingertips So much so, they are mundane. This is why so many young adults in the upper classes take such crazy personal and social risks. They learn through this risk taking, that the social network they have will prop them back up after a fall. This confidence that is born through this process allows them to continue to take risks when it comes to their financial world. They have room for failed business ventures, and thus can learn lessons practically that rest of us have to read about, and try to apply. This is a tremendous advantage, and one that most of us will never know. The best corollary that most of us will experience is in playing a video game, and being able to restart the game at a checkpoint after failing a tasks or losing a life. To fall out of the upper class, you would usually have to do something that is so damning politically that no one is willing to extend their hand to help you up anymore for risk of losing their support network as well. This is a very high bar to hit, so even the most inept are able to retain their position with limited effort. Loss of wealth usually takes a generation to fall into the middle class, and in this time a sufficiently motivated family will recover their wealth. The upper class doesn’t need hope. They know the costs of their risks, and have the luxury of limiting the scope of the risks taken.

What we see in middle class divorce is the devastation of a man’s hope. First the wealth that he has worked for in his life is plundered. Not just by the division of assets, but by lawyers and the system. There is rarely enough left over to feel like you have sound footing to launch from. We have already discussed how the middle class is actually a risk averse group, so what happens next. The court now tells a man that his future earnings are not his own. They belong to his children, and he must give it to the woman who assisted in the plundering of his wealth. He no longer has the choice of whether his child will have piano lessons or he will save that money to make a better life for all of them. Now he must spend that money on his child whether the child has piano lessons or not. The path to where he was has been artificially elongated by this. More hope lost. Before the devastation of his family,the man had a right to choose to start over in another industry, and work his way back up, or to take a risk and start his own business. The court has decided that the child’s ability to maintain their lifestyle is more important than the man having this right to choose. If he chooses to start a new venture, he may very well be held to account for the same amount of child support regardless of his earnings. Taking such a risk can likely land a man in jail for being unable to pay this court mandated support. For all practical purposes, the man has lost the right to choose his own employment. When people look on a man in this position they are puzzled as to why he doesn’t seem to care about the responsibilities he had before the divorce. The answer is, he has lost hope. He is now more like the man in the lower classes, who has little to lose. He may still exist in the bubble of the middle class, but his thinking is now like that of a lower class man. He believes he has nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, you also tend to believe you have nothing to gain. There we have that the cost of divorce for so many men in the middle class is the loss of hope.

The end result of this loss of hope will be seen in future generations. Lower class men have already began to avoid marriage. There is nothing to gain from it, and the hope that it will provide them with some advantage in life that they would not have otherwise is not apparent. The upper class still have hope in marriage, but things change more slowly in the upper class. They tend to not be concerned with the lower and middle classes, but what happens across society at large eventually bleeds into the higher classes over time. The middle class is quickly seeing little or no value in marriage. This is true for men and women alike. Men are seeing that all the advantages of marriage for them can be taken away by divorce. This is not some breathtaking revelation, it is what is expected. What is not expected is that all the disadvantages of marriage are not simply held onto through divorce, but are multiplied. Marriage is by definition a limited loss of autonomy, but in divorce that autonomy is further attacked. What is worse, child rearing now carries the same weight. Men who have children are automatically made responsible for the woman who bears that child. Our society thinks that this is okay and even right. Our society is blindly running down a path where men will avoid all familial entrapment. They will only find hope separate from women. Ultimately this will bring down our society.

An example of how this is already affecting the thinking of our children, a recent conversation with my 13 year old son went this way. He told me that when he gets married, hes not getting divorce. I explained that he doesn’t have control over that. His wife can end the marriage if she chooses. He then said that he would be careful especially if there were kids. Then he said well maybe he wouldn’t have kids, if he can’t guarantee they don’t get divorced. Then he followed with this. Well if we aren’t going to have kids, then why get married. My 13 year old is already looking at a path that may be eternal bachelorhood, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I will likely give him advice, when it is safe to do so, and that advice will be that if he wants kids, then he should adopt them on his own, and never let a woman become legally the mother of the children. He should have a vasectomy, and give up the idea of having any progeny of his own.

How do we find hope again? How do we climb out of the hole that society throws us in when we divorce? I see no hope until my youngest is grown. I don’t want to wait that long. I don’t know that I will survive if that is the soonest hope I have. What is there to hope for? How do we find our footing again? This system has to be changed, and soon. The evil it does to families is horrible. The fact the system doesn’t consider the rights of all the people in involved is destroying men everyday. In my heart, I know there is some hope, but I can’t put my finger on it. I can’t see it. I haven’t given up, but I want to.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 19

Busting Myths: Child Support Is Necessary

Take off or Bust

Busting Myths

There are a lot of myths surrounding parenting, divorce, and parenting after divorce. These myths are propagated by our culture and carried into our court rooms. These myths need to be removed from our judgement as a society. They often encourage bad behaviour that is contrary to the the stated goals of creating new family units that everyone can thrive in. They encourage decisions that just might not be right if it weren’t for these myths. I am not using statistics for this discussion. We all have had enough people in our lives experience divorce or raising kids in separate households to know what the outliers are. Stop assuming that there is some society so different from the one you live in that exists in the USA that is so divergent that these behaviors are allowed to thrive. There really isn’t one, and the few places that might turn a blind eye are not representative of the norm. I originally planned on this being a single post, but it became way too long. I have made it a series. One that I will likely be adding to over time. I will try and remember to update the links below for all parts of the series.

Abuse Is Common
Conflict Is Unhealthy
The Best Interest Of The Child
Child Support Is Necessary

Child Support Is Necessary

The Myth

The core legal principle used in child support arguments is that the children have a right to be financially supported by both parents, and that it is the courts job to ensure that this happens. The system generally applies the principle by imposing child support on one parent, and they pay it to the other parent. The core idea behind this thinking is that the children will live the majority of their time with one parent, while the other parent would fail to provide for the child in their absence. The most egregious example of bad behaviour used is abandonment. The court assumes a position that one parent has abandoned the family, and it is their job to force them to support the family they left. These parents are then rewarded with a discount if they take the time to see their kids on a regular basis. The court has taken pre-emptive action to protect children. As we have all been told for the better part of a century, children are the real victims of divorce. From the outside looking in, this is a net positive for society. The kids are guaranteed the financial means they need to survive.

The philosophy is that the children have a right to a percentage of each parent’s income, and that they are naturally benefitting from the custodial parent’s income. The non-custodial parents income does not benefit the child unless it is given to the other parent. It is also saying that the child needs a trustee for their rights, and that trustee is the custodial parent.

A big part of this myth is built on the single mom struggling to survive after she has been abandoned by the father of her children. She now has to figure out how to succeed on her own. Movies and TV specials have been produced so much on this subject, it could be considered a genre of TV show. Our culture deplores a man who won’t take care of his family, and has no problem making a deadbeat pay.

The Truth

The truth is child support is big money. There is no bigger money in the divorce and family court industry. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Child support is the most debated item in a divorce, especially when you link it with custody matters in general. There would be very little argument of the general concept of time, if child support were not on the table. Most child custody battles ultimately are started by someone who wants to pay less or receive more in child support. The lawyers like this, because it is a constant stream of money for them over the years. The court doesn’t want to deal with real issues over and over again, but this child support thing is pretty easy, especially with guidelines being required in every state. The Federal government pays the states to collect child support in a form of matching funds, so the more they collect, the more they get. Now the states have figured out they can use this money any way they like, so like taxes, they are aggressive in collecting child support. Private companies are now employed to do this for many of the states. These companies do so in multiple states. This creates a new lobby and industry to keep child support as it is, and increase the number of people who are paying child support.

What also has to be noted is money means control. Even when decisions are supposed to be made jointly, the one with the money will have the last say. This is a fact of life. Child support has been historically such a hot topic, because for the middle class and below, paying child support means losing authority in your kids life. It also means not being recognized as the provider that you are for your children. You as the payor of child support are largely relying on the other parent to convey that you are playing your role in providing the things they need in life and then some.

Governments throughout man’s time on earth has sought to control the population. There is no end to the level of control that the government will take given the room to do so. The family court and specifically child support is a means of control that is too hard to pass up. The means of collection child support has created a new class of person. Anyone obligated to pay child support no longer has the same freedom as anyone else. They must maintain a job to pay child support. They must allow the government to take child support from their paychecks just like taxes. They are faced with severe and sometimes automatic penalties for failing to pay. All these actions can be taken without due process. In California, it was ruled that it is not unreasonable to require a person to maintain a job that allows them to pay their child support at a level the court has deemed reasonable based on the person’s skills. The reasoning is that people have to maintain jobs to pay their taxes. This argument, though on the records is fallacious. Most taxes are paid based on income, not potential income. If you have no income, then you will not be required to pay taxes on the money you did not earn. You will be required to do so with child support, and there is no guarantee that you will be given any recourse if you lose your job and you are not able to find a similar paying job to replace it.

My Take

Most cases do not involve abandonment. This is the truth. Most parents want to raise their kids, and will do what it takes to take care of them. The few who do not want to are the outliers in family law. Divorce is not rare. Over half the population who marries will experience divorce. Child support in its current form is unnecessary. There is a judge I have heard a few personal accounts about who also believes this. His default ruling is everything is split 50/50. The time, the expenses, and everything else you can think of. He orders one parent to pay the other $150/month in support. The purpose of that money is to cover school expenses. That’s it. Everything else is up to the parents to figure out. This guy has it figured out. Divorces are messy, and people can argue a thousand ways to Sunday why their way is better than another. The truth is, most of these arguments have a punitive component built into them. It is not the family courts job to punish anyone. They should ensure that rights are protected for both parents, and that there is a fairly even distribution of property, and then leave them to figure things out on their own. Parents don’t need to have the same set of rules. I bet they didn’t when they were in the same house. Parents don’t need to make the same decisions as each other. Conflict does not have to be erased for the kids to be raised well.

The example I will close with, because I know couples who do this, and the realities would be ignored by the court. These couples are the best equipped to separate their households. They usually have two similar incomes, and they live off of one of the incomes and save the other income. These couples have the wealth to sustain them through the rocky process of divorce. They also each have the means to maintain a similar lifestyle as they have before separation. After going to court, one of the parents will have to pay the other parent, even though their lifestyles were built on less income. The argument will be that it is the child’s right to child support. Understand that in marriage the child has no right to the parents income. Only outside of marriage does this exist. The children have a right to a parents care. Yes the parents wealth benefits the child, but it is not the child’s. If it were, we would all be required to save a hefty chunk of our pay every check to pay for kids things, and then save for them later, because its not ours its theirs.

I grow tired of reading on forums the shaming language used to attack those who don’t think child support is legal or ethical. It comes from men and women. The men are usually the worst, because they have drank the kool-aide and don’t learn from their own experiences. Child support is an evil. Its enslaving. It doesn’t serve the children well. Having two active and involved parents should be societies goal, and pillaging one parent for the benefit of the other won’t do this. Increasing animosity and acrimony between the parents won’t do that.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 19

Busting Myths: The Best Interest Of The Child

gray day over the field of wheat (yesterday was a nice day)

Busting Myths

There are a lot of myths surrounding parenting, divorce, and parenting after divorce. These myths are propagated by our culture and carried into our court rooms. These myths need to be removed from our judgement as a society. They often encourage bad behaviour that is contrary to the the stated goals of creating new family units that everyone can thrive in. They encourage decisions that just might not be right if it weren’t for these myths. I am not using statistics for this discussion. We all have had enough people in our lives experience divorce or raising kids in separate households to know what the outliers are. Stop assuming that there is some society so different from the one you live in that exists in the USA that is so divergent that these behaviors are allowed to thrive. There really isn’t one, and the few places that might turn a blind eye are not representative of the norm. I originally planned on this being a single post, but it became way too long. I have made it a series. One that I will likely be adding to over time. I will try and remember to update the links below for all parts of the series.

Abuse Is Common
Conflict Is Unhealthy
The Best Interest Of The Child
Child Support Is Necessary

The Best Interest Of The Child

The Myth

This is definable and a real thing, and the court should have a role in determining what this is for children who are a part of a divorce case. Most states use this standard for determining custody and other decisions regarding children. They usually have a vague set of standards on how to determine what this is. They also give wide leeway to the officials given the task of defining this for the particular case. Depending on the state and court, this can be per child or the children can be treated as a single entity. Sometimes this is up to the officials making the determination.

The idea is that the children are not able to legally speak for themselves, so someone is assigned to speak for them when the parents don’t agree. In this case both parents have been determined to be unable to determine what is best for their children, so the court will do so. Please understand that if you don’t agree, the state is now deciding what is best from that point on, whether it is at the time of the divorce or at some point later. The state is the de facto legal guardian of the children now.

These officials will evaluate the physical and mental well being of the children, and make decisions based on their determination. The official in most jurisdictions are lawyers who have taken a state provided course in being a GAL and then maintained some form of continuing education. The other type of official that is used is a custody evaluator. These guys can be one person with no specific training or a very comprehensive group of people in a firm with multiple disciplines and training who look at all aspects of the children. Its hard to find out what you are getting if you have no prior experience with the particular firm.

The Truth

This is not a real thing. This is legal mumbo jumbo for whatever the judge, GAL, or other official wants it to be. Even in the best of circumstances, this is a means of crippling one parent so they cannot effectively continue to fight the case, and the case can be decided with some finality. By the time the process is over, it is common for one parent to be viewed as the Patron Saint of Parenting, and the other to be the just barely shy of a child abuser, and they should be lucky to see their kids at all, let alone have them under their control.

What is really being decided is who gets to control decisions about the kids. One parent will be given full control of the kids, and all the resources that the couple has to do do so in the form of child support. It uses the the process to effectively determine that one parent is legally the abandoning parent, so that the other parent gets child support. Current doctrine favors the mother. Maternal aspects of parenting are viewed as more important to the well being of child than paternal aspects. Divorce in the modern era uses this principle to effectively strip children of one parent, and that parent is more often than not, the father. Once child support is granted, especially in the USA, the ability for the parent paying child support to use their finances to inject their preferences in raising the child is removed. They rarely have the means to fund things themselves, and in the cases where they would have the funds to do so, they are paying enough in child support that the other parent can effectively nullify them using the funds the receive.

The legal right generally remains to make certain decisions, but it is only enforceable through the courts, so the it is really not a right that matters. The parent who has the children more and has the right of residency for the children effectively gets to raise them as they see fit with little interference, and the court will generally support that parent over the other without some overwhelming state interest in not doing so. The court does not decide what is in the best interest of the children, but who has the right to decide what is in the best interest of the children.

This principle overrides all other agreements. Anything that was agreed on in a prenuptial agreement is null if this principle can be applied correctly. Certainly certain assets will still be handled by the agreement, but anything that this principle can be used on can be changed by the courts. This includes how the home or homes will be divided, and how other assets that are utilized for the children’s benefit in marriage. If one parent gets the kids, then anything that benefits the kids will also go to that parent. Its pretty amazing the things the courts can include into this doctrine to get the results they want.

My Take

The questions that stand out in my mind every time I hear this phrase is “Why does this matter?” and “Why is it the courts business?” Now understand that most parents ask themselves all the time what is best for their children. Then they balance that with what is best for the family as a whole. It is the parents job to figure out how to raise their child. The standard used by the court not only puts them in the position of the parents, but it also makes the childs rights higher than the parents. I know many people who will argue that as a parent you have given up your rights by having children, but this isn’t really the legal truth, well its not supposed to be anyway. A good parent puts their desires aside for the sake of their children. The paradigm created by the court is one where we are raising spoiled and immature children, because helicopter parenting and indulgence is regarded as being better for the children. A parent making tough choices regarding the balance the family needs will be judged harshly and possibly as unloving. The children being raised in homes that measure the best interests of the children in the same way the courts tend to will be ill equipped to enter the world on their own at 18. In generations past, most children were prepared to care for themselves by age 14, and continued to develop as young adults under their parents tutelage. Now they remain children until the harsh realities of the real world smack them in the face.

This is a club for the legal system to use to get the determinations they want. There are certainly courts that use this in favor of fathers, but that is not the norm, nor does it make it any more right. Its a way for the courts to avoid ruling on evidence, and thus protect themselves from appeals. The family courts are not a court of law, though lawyers run them. They are a means to control the population. Once you are in front of them, the case doesn’t end until the kids are grown. Unlike any other area of law, the family court keeps its hands in your life, once you have come before them. Honestly, even if you haven’t been in the courtroom, because divorce is granted through the courts.

No one can define what this means, but when you say things about the best interest of the child, and can paint what the other party is doing as not being in the best interest of the child, you then sound like a good guy. People who have not been through the system feel good about legislation that is intended to take care of kids, and everyone knows that divorce is horrible for kids. The continuation of the decline of results of kids in divorced households supports that these laws just aren’t good enough, and thus they are given more power. Those of us that have been through the system, know that these principles are by no means in the best interest of the children, and are often the main drivers of these poor results. Its a twisting of the language that isn’t understood until you live it.

This principle is also a key tool for one parent to control the other parent. The parent that the court favors is giving full leeway to behave as they see fit, while the other parent is often saddled with rules that make no sense. In my case, the step siblings cannot be left in the care of my kids, even though I have two kids that have babysat on their own. My kids cannot be left in my care while I work from home, though she can leave them home alone while I work from home and go on a multiple hour road trip. I cannot watch them, because I am working, so they have to be left alone or go with her. Either option for her is acceptable. She got to make these rules up. The GAL gave her all the ammunition she needed to do so. I have also effectively been told that I cannot ask my children to do chores around the house, because they feel like slaves in my home. Without going into details, the core of the chores they have been asked to do revolve around the principle of clean up after yourself, and put things back where you got them.

The end result is my authority is crippled. My children report on me to their mother who takes it to the court. They know that there is very little I can do, and state as much to others, though they still don’t want to face me with those words. In the long run, undermining one parents authority in such a way will also undermine the other parent’s authority. The kids will realize that parental authority is not a right of either parent, and will they will act accordingly with both parents, not just the lesser parent. My ex cannot continue to undermine my authority, and expect me to be effective in handling my sons when they don’t want to respect her authority. When they reach the age that fathers have to take over and lay down the realities of becoming a man, there is no man there for them to respect as they come of age. This creates so many problems in our society.

Things don’t change for two reasons. One half of the people are the beneficiaries of these laws. Why would they want them changed. The system seems reasonable to them. Making the other parent out to be a monster justifies all of their actions, and in the long run they really saved the children from the other parent who would have surely done harm if left to their own devices. The other half of people are so beaten down and tired from trying to just have a normal relationship with their children that they don’t have anything left to try and fix the system. The few that do usually had such horrible results that they see no other alternative than to go after the system.

This is the single worst thing in family court. It is used to do whatever the court wants, and it needs to be changed. I encourage all men and women to get rid of this. This is a tool that as it leaches farther and farther into our society, it will be used to make our children the states. We will not have any freedom in raising our children. There are no societies that have thrived for long that did not allow mothers and fathers to raise their children without interference from the government. Societies that have allowed the government to raise their children directly or by proxy have fallen and often very quickly.

The Supreme Court of the U.S. has stated that being married has no impact on your parental rights, and thusly you do not lose rights by not being married or divorcing. It is antithetical to the American legal system that there should be one parent who is given the full rights of parenthood, while the other parent is stripped of their rights and turned into a second class citizen. The changes to the status of the non-custodial parent extend beyond that of their parenting. They are held to different standards and face different punishments. In many cases actions that the custodial parent takes are not regarded by the court at all, but the very same actions can be used to hold a non-custodial parent in contempt of court. Other “administrative” actions can be taken against the non-custodial parent without the court even getting involved. Understand that once you walk into court with a child custody issue, you are relinquishing your rights to the court. You may end up with title non-custodial parent, and you are now a second class citizen. Also understand that if you win the title of custodial parent, its not permanent, and you could be sitting on the other side of things later, if the court decides it should be so.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 19

Busting Myths: Conflict Is Unhealthy

Conflict (Chess II)

Busting Myths

There are a lot of myths surrounding parenting, divorce, and parenting after divorce. These myths are propagated by our culture and carried into our court rooms. These myths need to be removed from our judgement as a society. They often encourage bad behaviour that is contrary to the the stated goals of creating new family units that everyone can thrive in. They encourage decisions that just might not be right if it weren’t for these myths. I am not using statistics for this discussion. We all have had enough people in our lives experience divorce or raising kids in separate households to know what the outliers are. Stop assuming that there is some society so different from the one you live in that exists in the USA that is so divergent that these behaviors are allowed to thrive. There really isn’t one, and the few places that might turn a blind eye are not representative of the norm. I originally planned on this being a single post, but it became way too long. I have made it a series. One that I will likely be adding to over time. I will try and remember to update the links below for all parts of the series.

Abuse Is Common
Conflict Is Unhealthy
The Best Interest Of The Child
Child Support Is Necessary

Conflict Is Unhealthy

The Myth

This myth is common. You hear that it is better for the kids to not be in around constant fighting. That disagreement is bad for parenting. When there is a lot of conflict, abuse is likely coming. The myth is based on the idea that as couples divorce, the conflict is exposed, because its not hidden behind closed doors. The kids have to live in the middle of a battle zone, and can be the unwitting victims of the constant fighting of the couple. The home with conflict is simply a powder keg ready to explode. Divorce is justified because of conflict. If divorce were not easily granted, then all of these wives are soon going to be the victims of domestic violence.

The divorced couple also has a conflict myth. This is the myth that if two parents don’t agree on things, that the children will be poorly taken care of. They will not have their needs met, and that it is the courts job to limit the conflict. The court will make decisions to give one parent the decision making power to limit conflict. This is all done to protect and care for the kids.

The Truth

Conflict is a normal part of life. People’s decisions are made better when there is conflict, and they have to think it through. The lack of conflict in a relationship is likely the better indicator of a failing relationship. Yes when people cannot resolve conflict, there is a problem, but its no bigger a problem than avoiding conflict. No one agrees all of the time.

Most couples are not fighting all the time. The ones who are, rarely are heading for divorce. Most couples just start putting space between each other. They fight less as they head to divorce. Its the actual divorce process that increases conflict. If the courts stayed out of it, and lawyers were not involved, it would just be a tougher breakup like everyone had with a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past. Kids add to the issues, but again the court increases conflict, because there is advantage to be won or lost through the process.

The idea that parents in conflict cannot parent well drives a lot of custody decisions. I can’t remember a time that there wasn’t some conflict in our parenting, so it is easy to demonstrate that conflict exists. The myth says that parents in separate households can only parent together if they are on the same page about things, and if they are not on the same page, then one parent needs the decision making power. The truth is that the conflict sharpens your thinking on issues and the children will benefit by both parents working through the conflict, even if they never reach a full resolution on most issues. There are only a few things that require both parents to truly agree on for the kids to be healthy. Those are school decisions and medical decisions.

My Take

The courtroom is based on conflict. Its how it resolves issues. The courtroom is the wrong place to resolve a divorce. I honestly would like an official who could handle signing off on the final agreement, and have the power to liquidate assets that the couple cannot agree on, and divide the cash between them. Give them the necessary means to obtain a court order to unhinder protected assets like retirement plans. I would think that a court order like this could be obtained in a similar manner as to how the police get warrants for investigations. It wouldn’t have to go to a specific judge. Most of the conflict will dissolve as emotions cool down in this type of system. There simply isn’t much advantage to be gained, and if there is something that one person really cares about, then they will be willing to offset it with cash or other items. Sure there could be some conflict over certain things, like a family pet, but for most people this process would work out pretty quick once the emotional storm is over.

The courts are involved, because lawyers want it that way. Most people don’t realize that the majority of divorce research is done by groups of lawyers or is commissioned by lawyers who are looking for ways to make more and more money off of divorce. Divorce is one of the biggest profit centers for most law firms, and is a profitable place for even nominal lawyers to make a good living. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and a large majority of these are first time marriages. This means that the customers are almost all newcomers. Criminal lawyers want the repeat business. They are going to do their best to have you come back when you slide to the wrong side of the law again. It is to their advantage to do a good job at a fair price. This just isn’t true for family lawyers. They need to extract as much as possible right now. Most of their clients that divorce again have far fewer assets available to extract from them. Me and my ex had around $100K in assets and my legal bills have crept very close to $20K including the GAL. This means she spent something similar. The lawyers will have taken half our wealth, and very little has changed from what we would have agreed on before regarding assets.

Understand that while the judge, experts, self-help resources, and even your own lawyer warn against conflict while going through divorce, they are continually taking actions that will increase discontentment and increase the desire for conflict. This will drive up the costs all of the way. Now taking away the slow spigot of dealing with conflict as it rises, our system is increasing the amount of “powder keg explosions” that result in divorce. Sadly these “powder keg explosions” are used as excuses for so many of the actions that are taken, but in truth the vast majority of them would be handled at the time to little consequence. There are a large number of things that just wouldn’t have been issues in my case, if they could have been dealt with without her lawyer telling her to hang on to them, and then doing the adult version of tattling to the judge. I know lawyers think its normal to live your life in the shadow of a great overlord in a black robe, but to most of us this is an authority that we don’t want in our lives.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 19

Busting Myths: Abuse Is Common

Abandoned doll, edit I

Busting Myths

There are a lot of myths surrounding parenting, divorce, and parenting after divorce. These myths are propagated by our culture and carried into our court rooms. These myths need to be removed from our judgement as a society. They often encourage bad behaviour that is contrary to the the stated goals of creating new family units that everyone can thrive in. They encourage decisions that just might not be right if it weren’t for these myths. I am not using statistics for this discussion. We all have had enough people in our lives experience divorce or raising kids in separate households to know what the outliers are. Stop assuming that there is some society so different from the one you live in that exists in the USA that is so divergent that these behaviors are allowed to thrive. There really isn’t one, and the few places that might turn a blind eye are not representative of the norm. I originally planned on this being a single post, but it became way too long. I have made it a series. One that I will likely be adding to over time. I will try and remember to update the links below for all parts of the series.

Abuse Is Common
Conflict Is Unhealthy
The Best Interest Of The Child
Child Support Is Necessary

Abuse Is Common

The Myth

This myth comes up whenever you talk about divorce. Abuse is cited as a reason for so many of the laws that affect divorce. The myth is that most divorces involve a cowering woman who has survived vast amounts of abuse over the years, and has finally found the courage to leave her husband, and needs the protection of the court and police to keep her alive. According to the myth nearly half the men who get married will beat their wife at least a little bit, and half of them will do so to the point of risking her life. This myth is so strong that when you hear about a divorcing woman, it is a first inclination to worry about her safety by many people. This myth feeds the “White Knight” or “Prince Charming” characters in all of us, who want to protect the weak from evil.

The myth encompasses physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and marital rape. There are other things that have been cited in more extreme cases, but these are enough. The laws are written to protect women from all of these. They are written with the assumption that a woman wouldn’t be leaving a perfectly good relationship and the security it provides unless something horrible has happened. We have the entire history of man to show that women rely on pair bonding relationships to protect themselves, so they wouldn’t abandon this protection, unless the protector is worse than the other possible risks they face without the protector. It is hard for a happily married or idealistic young man to stomach the kind of horrors that some women might face, and they desire to do their part to protect these women in ways their own husbands have not.

This myth is so strong that the standard forms in most states for filing for divorce are mostly related to protection from abuse. There is often a checkbox and a couple lines to fill out to get an order of protection and an emergency hearing right away. To blow up your family and to put children through this trauma is unthinkable by most people, unless there is a monster lurking in the shadows. The story of a violently abusive husband behind closed doors, and a stable businessman and community member in public has been sold to our culture for a very long time. Behind closed doors all men are possibly a closet sociopath.

The Truth

The truth is that in most relationships there has been some physical aspect to altercations. It might be pushing, slapping, grabbing, or simply pounding on a wall or table. It isn’t the norm for most people to fight like this regularly, and for most the type of contact doesn’t present any more risk than playing frisbee. The couples where this is the norm, it is also generally not just one partner doing these things or even initiating them all of the time. When physical altercation is the cause of divorce, it is usually the first one. Most people in abusive relationships stay there. They are sympathetic to the abuser. No one should live like this, but there is a more complicated psychological reaction to what is happening in these relationships than just the abuse. I won’t claim to understand it, but I will claim that those who stay after abuse generally believe in some way that the abuse is justified or not their partners fault. This is broken thinking, but it is also thinking that keeps them from leaving. The domestic violence laws, well intentioned or not, are misguided. They take away the core principle of American justice, that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It allows the family court to dispense justice without proving fault. It has become a tool for ensuring that women can get what they want in divorce without having to negotiate. This isn’t only a problem for those who have been accused, but for all men going through divorce. There is a concept of “negotiating in the shadow of the law.” This means that in the shadow of how the court is likely to view things based on prior cases, men are not negotiating from a position of equal footing. They are negotiating for something better than they hope for in court, but not for their equitable share of things. This is especially true when it comes to things regarding the children. Lawyers like this system. It allows them to control the amount of conflict and maximize their income. The law saying one thing, and the reality of the process being another thing will allow both the husband’s and the wife’s lawyers to utilize the system to pad their pockets.

My Take

Domestic violence is horrible, but the kind of ongoing domestic violence that these laws are written to handle is not the norm. It is the bar that all men going through divorce are faced with proving they are not one of those guys. The domestic violence laws really just need to be repealed. In a no fault divorce world, domestic violence should have nothing to do with the results of the case. I say this with an understanding that partner abuse has not been a demonstrator of child abuse or future child abuse, so it shouldn’t play a role in deciding what happens with the children. I do think there should be an emergency process for women and men of abuse to use to protect themselves as they head out for divorce. I think there should be a simple process for someone lower than a judge to hear the initial part of a case. The person leaving needs to vacate the house, unless they agree otherwise, and an equal time share with the kids needs to be established right away, unless there is agreement otherwise or a significant compelling reason not to do so. If the person leaving was unable to retrieve their personal items, then police can assist in ensuring there isn’t conflict while retrieving these things. Any other items should be protected with an order not allowing either of them to dispose of, destroy, or sell them. There should be directions to the courts not to take initial possession of the house as a precedent as to who should be allowed to keep the house. I don’t want the advantage to shift to the alleged abuser, but neither should they automatically lose everything based on allegations that haven’t passed any legal test at this point. As I have said in previous posts, the assets of a marriage should be divided by agreement, or the court should force the sale of the items and then the proceeds divided equally by the parties. The court should not decide who gets a home, car, heirloom, or other items. If you rember the story of King Solomon and the women who argued over the baby. His solution was to cut the baby in half. He then gave the baby to the mother who wouldn’t let the child be cut in half. There are two lessons in that story for us in these situations. One, is that it is clearly not the courts role to judge on things of family. The court has no insight no matter how hard they try to find it. Two, that the person who is most aggressive in wanting the child is most likely to allow harm to come to the child for the sake of winning. Our courts routinely ignore this second lesson I also think that fault divorce should be a viable option for the victims of domestic violence. Criminal charges should be filed, and some form of guilty finding or plea would imply fault in the divorce case. This should be the only way to divide the property in an inequitable way.

Ten-Foured,

JeD