March 9

Political Change

I haven’t seen that there is much that can be done in my case, or any number of cases like mine. I have talked to men and women who fall into similar situations. The fact is there shouldn’t have to be losers when we talk about custody, but if it goes to trial, there will be losers. That is what courts do, they decide who wins. When a case goes before the court, there are generally 4 parties represented. One is you and of course another is your spouse or ex-spouse. The third is an idea called “The best interest of the child,” often mistaken as being the children. Who is this fourth party involved? The state. Who represents the state? The court. That’s right, by entering the court room to argue your custody case, you have invited the state into the upbringing of your children. Once they are there, they will stay there. The state’s interests are protected by the court. The attorneys on both sides will appeal to the state’s interests at times to try to shift the state’s/court’s thinking towards their client’s interests. The third party may or may not be represented. Sometimes this idea that the arguments revolve around is argued by the the parents attorneys. Sometimes this idea has its own representative. Four party negotiations are not a simple matter, but once you are in court, the advantage goes to the state’s interests. Each jurisdiction may have different interests, and each judge may have different opinions about those interests, so there isn’t a singular list of things to address here. What needs to be addressed is that the state has an interest in most custody cases.

In my recent reading, I am very much of the opinion that to change things, I have to seek political change. I may not be able to affect any changes in favor of my relationships with my children, but I can affect change for them. I have talked about the costs of the state being in the middle of our families in other posts. I am not going to go into them at length here. I am simply going to say that the state taking an interest in my family’s dynamics without their being some form of criminal misconduct on one parent’s part is dangerous to our freedoms. This does not simply endanger our parental rights, but it endangers our rights in general. The state using children as an argument to get involved in private matters during custody cases is simply just the state gaining a foothold into other areas of our lives. What is even worse, is the state is being represented by a court system that is making decisions outside of their authority. Our elected officials are invading our homes, but our courts acting as an oligarchy.

Much of this has been caused by our elected officials not wanting to get their hands dirty, so they give the court authority to make decisions they shouldn’t be making. Child support is a great example. The legislators in most states have delegated the authority they have to set a child support schedule to the courts. In most states the state supreme court will in one way or another set the child support schedule. This is advantageous to the elected officials, because they won’t be blamed for taking the money from the payers or shorting the payees. Without the oversight of the other branches of government, the courts can choose to do what they see as the best interest of themselves and the state. They understand that there are Federal matching funds for collecting child support, and the legislators can ensure that some of that money makes it way to the courts. There are government jobs tied to having to maintain processing centers for child support payments.

The question is how do we affect change. Where do we attack first. One of the first things I see needing to be struck down is the Bradley Amendment. It gives no means for paternity fraud to be fixed. It doesn’t deal with the realities of life for the person paying child support. It is a key ingredient to the dehumanizing of the payer, usually the father in the public eye. Along with the Bradley Amendment, the criminal penalties for non-payment of child support need to go away. Traditional civil penalties are enough for dealing with court orders that fall under the civil courts. A family court doesn’t even hold the same evidentiary standards as normal civil court, so it has no place in applying criminal penalties for anything.

Two things need to go hand in hand for the next step of change. One is the idea that the children have a right to a portion of the parents income. Its a silly notion that really exists to justify child support at very high levels, and to justify the transfer of income without a tax consequence. It is the equivalent of a theological debate over the law. No one listens to it, until they see the utility of it in their lives. The other is to get the legislators to accept responsibility for child support rules or calculations. The two go hand in hand because it is this accountability that will get them to listen. Now it returns to an issue that has political capital. The state representatives now have a reason to come up with calculations and rules that benefit their constituents. This becomes a campaign issue. Our Federal representatives can be pressured to change the nature of child support. The matching funds need to go away. States should not be rewarded for their role in destroying the family. The tax consequences of child support need to be changed. This is an income transfer from one adult to another for the purpose of raising their children. There is no requirements for how the money is spent, so without any accountability, its just income.

Pressure then needs to be placed on the states to make child support something that is not required or even the norm in cases. Both parents have a right to support their children as they see fit. There is no fairness in this. If one parent has more money available to provide nice things to the children, then they should be allowed to use it as such if they choose to. In reality this isn’t different than it is now, except the court has decided that one parent will have this money by their ruling. Hard work and financial planning are not the deciders. Most parents will take good care of their children. The parents can work out expenses as they see fit. Any required expenses should simply be split in half legally. Each parent being responsible for 50% of the expense according to the law. I can tell you, I would rarely hold my ex-wife to that standard, and would simply pay most of my kids bills. The image of the deadbeat dad needs to be eradicated from the political discourse. Our elected officials who choose to use such language need to be punished at the ballet box. The culture that men are bad, and lazy needs to be attacked at every place it is seen. Men cannot afford to ignore these things anymore.

Child support orders should be a total amount, divided into monthly amounts due. It cannot be raised or lowered. It should be treated as most other debts. If a parent paying child support is filing for bankruptcy, the child support due should be treated as one of the highest priority debts, and receive some of the largest funding through the process. When the bankruptcy is over, the child support should be considered paid in full. By this model child support is simply an award like any other civil case. The law needs to stop looking at every father as a potential dead beat who does not want to care for his children. Most men who filed for bankruptcy would emerge better able to pay directly for the child’s needs.

I know what needs to change. I have some ideas about the specifics. I know that these ideas will be flushed out over time, and working with others. Right now I need to find some political allies to fight the fight with. I need to find some elected officials who are already fighting the fight. Its time to to change things. Its time for fathers to make it clear that they matter, and they care, and they will destroy your career if you are betting against them.

This was somewhat of brainstorming session. I would love for some comments and ideas to sharpen my thoughts on this. I am actively looking for groups that are taking real political action, and politicians that are ready to stand with fathers.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

December 15

Income Based Child Support – Defacto Alimony

Buffalo Bills - Alimony Ale

The more I think about this, the more it is true. Any form of child support that is based on someone’s income is defacto alimony. Alimony is based on the principle that a man’s ex-wife deserves to be supported near the same level she was in the marriage. That she has become accustomed to the lifestyle, and thus deserves it. This is one of those ideas that drives me nuts. Its not a right she had in the marriage. Its a principle that encourages divorce if the man is losing his income earning potential. If his income is dropping, then so will her lifestyle, but if she divorces him before or at least early in the fall, then she can get herself a guarantee of the lifestyle they have, even if he falls to a point where that is unsustainable. Sounds ridiculous, but it is how things work, or worked. Since most states have limited alimony now instead of lifetime alimony.

Anytime a there is a new right gained through divorce that didn’t exist in marriage, there are going to be issues. The principle of alimony is based on rights that don’t actually exist in marriage. She is a guaranteed beneficiary of his income through divorce and alimony, even though in marriage she was not guaranteed this, but naturally received something similar. As the wife of this man, his income naturally benefited her as it did him. Other than the fact that alimony indentures or enslaves a man to his ex-wife, the further problem is it only looks at income to determine what is the correct amount. If we were to ignore the first problem, and its hard to ignore, then it would be more reasonable to determine what was spent on the lifestyle, and then determine the amount that should be paid for alimony. Most high income earners don’t spend anywhere near the totality of their income for their lifestyle. Alimony was a treat for the rich in divorce that has been extended to the rest of the population. When the rich paid alimony, they often had the resources to continue living their lifestyle as they always had, at least when they only had one ex-wife. The middle class on the other hand are struggling to save a little and maintain their lifestyle. There simply isn’t enough income for both parties to live a similar lifestyle as before. This has taken time, but it has made alimony look like a bad deal.

Now all the same arguments about lifestyle have been applied to the child support calculators. The children suddenly have a right to a lifestyle. Most children are granted primary residency with the mother, so the father has to pay child support to her. There is a practical aspect that says that one parent needs to pay for all the needs of the child. Its too difficult to manage otherwise. I am not a big fan of the law being practical, because whenever it is people’s rights are stomped on. This is no different. Children have been given the right to a lifestyle that the parents provided. This benefits the parent, usually the mother, that has the primary residency of the children. She gets the money to spend as she wishes. If she isn’t taking care of the kids basic needs is the only way that how she spends this money gets scrutinized. Effectively alimony has been rolled into child support. Giving the children a right to lifestyle and building it into child support does this.

Since half the population stands to gain from this system, its hard to fight against it. Fathers have been made into indentured servants for their children. They are forced to work at certain level to maintain their children’s lifestyles. Both alimony and child support have many means to freeze the current state as they see fit. You must go back to court and get approval to lower the amounts. The court is under no obligation to lower the amounts, even in cases where the payer has lost income earning potential, but they are obligated to further raise child support if the earning of the payer increase. The payer will not be allowed to go to school to better their ability to earn if it means earning less. Many men become trapped in jobs that have no upward mobility, because they would have to change jobs and accept a lower salary for the time being to regain headroom in their ability to earn again, and they cannot afford the support payments and earn less.

I hear the arguments for this type of child support and the means for enforcing it. Many come down to the idea of why should the children suffer because the father has made bad career choices. the constant drone of he is obligated to pay for his children. The seemingly irrefutable argument that children cost way more than the child support that any man pays, and that the mother is shouldering the majority of the burden. The first idea is flawed. If the parent suffers financially, it is natural the children will suffer as well. When married parents have financial difficulties, the children feel them directly. A false dichotomy has been created when the parents aren’t married, where the only parent’s financial problems felt by the children is the residential parent. The second argument seems to assume that the only way a father can pay for his children’s needs is through child support. I have argued before that most of these problems are already solved with criminal neglect laws. If the father is not supporting his children, and they are neglected, then prosecute him. Most fathers will spend what is necessary to care for their children without ever having to see a court room. The third argument really depends on the financial status of the parents. Most middle class and above situations don’t fall in this category. The father’s child support pays for 100% of the kids expenses, including the extras-curricular and luxuries. There is enough left over for the mother to better her lifestyle as well. In most cases the mother is not required to expend any of her resources to care for the children. This includes the costs of a larger home and vehicle to use for the children.

The natural way of economics in familial structures is very different than what the family court imposes on people on a regular basis. Children and others benefit from the income of those they live with. No one has any obligation to care for those who don’t live with them. Children really aren’t much different. So long as the children are properly cared for, it should not be the business of the court how this happens. Shared parenting would allow the children to benefit from both parents and their abilities. The system now allows the children to benefit from both parents, but they never see the reality of this. They see one parent providing, while the other parent does not. Often the parent they see provide for them isn’t shouldering the burden, because they have taken the resources from the other parent to do so. It would be natural for the children to have to pull out of sports or other activities during a financial crisis, and for most families a divorce constitutes a financial crisis. The family would eliminate unnecessary expenditures to free up the money to pay for the crisis. With support, the residential parent is allowed to do this. They can even use the support to do so. The payer is often left with so little discretionary income left that they are unable to dig out of the crisis until such time that they are no longer obligated to pay support.

I have seen this play out in my life. It hurts to see her be able to eliminate the debt in her life, while I am called by creditors. She has a newer car, and can afford to repair it on a regular basis. She can provide the things I would want to provide for my children. I am left with debt that I won’t be able to pay off for years to come. I have to shop for gifts that I hope they see the meaning in, because they are of little real value. I am not able to provide the luxuries that I would like, while they have them at their mothers. Many would tell me to be happy that my children have these things, but when their mother is able to gain credibility in their lives through these things, and I cannot provide the things I would choose. My income is used to provide things for them that I may not choose to do so. Simple things like TVs in their rooms. I would not approve of, but they have them at their mothers, and my income paid for it. i Phones; I would never purchase these for my children, but they have them using my income. These are just a couple of things that I have lost say in, but am required through support to pay for. My children benefit from my income while I do not.

The only thing that most women lose by leaving the fathers of their children is access to the man and his skills. The man is often shamed for not providing these things. If there are boy children, they often take advantage of them for these things. The man loses so much more. He loses his income, significant time with his children, his authority in his children’s life, and his ability to be seen providing for his children. The children only see their mother providing, even though the resources she uses came from their father. The cost of divorce lies squarely on a father’s shoulders, and all too often they aren’t the ones who initiated the divorce. Many like to say the cost is bore by the children, but that is only true because of the losses that happen to the father, or in rare case the mother. The children would be much better off if the parents were told to figure things out, and take care of your kids together. Let nature takes its course with the parents, and there will be less animosity and fighting. We need to stop using the worst examples to set how we are going to handle the average cases for everyone.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

November 6

Co-Parenting?

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57

There is a lot of talk out there about co-parenting. For those who have not been through the courts recently, co-parenting is the new term for working together as parents living in separate households. You have to take some type of court ordered co-parenting class when you divorce with kids now in most jurisdictions. The Federal government has encouraged this through legislation and incentives. The classes are a few hours long if they are provided through the county or court services. Some courts allow you to find a qualifying program on your own, and some require you to do it as more of a joint counseling session. This is really a part of the child centered divorce movement. Something that I have talked about in the past. Something I think at best is a bad way to raise kids, and at worst is a manipulative idea to sugar coat making choices that benefit others appear to be for the children.

The idea of co-parenting is sound. The problem is we are dealing with people, and people aren’t always logical or fair. To further exacerbate the issue, we are dealing with people who are naturally in the middle of a conflict or more likely multiple conflicts. Sometimes the core conflict is raising the children. If this is the case, then co-parenting is not going to be a reality. The best these couples can hope for in the future is some form of parallel parenting. If divorce is founded in a power struggle of any kind, it is going to create a power struggle in all aspects of the relationship, at least in the short term following the break up, but it could be a long term proposition regarding the children. If the divorce is founded on the basis of growing apart, we are dealing with a couple where one or both are feeling like the other person did not hold up their part of the deal. There will be some animosity from one or both people, and that will lead to conflict. The most likely place for conflict to play out is regarding the children, because in the end the assets will be divided and you will have yours and they will have theirs, but the kids are still shared. Immediately after separation there are some key points of conflict. The income that each have coming in. This is intensified if one parent doesn’t have any income of their own. Each person feels like they should have the fruit of their labor, and when one person’s labor was for the benefit of the household without pay, they tend to feel entitled to as much of the other person’s income as their own. Physical assets and cash become the next issue. These are things that the parties can put their fingers on and feel. They want as much of that as possible, especially since up until a short while ago, they were all at their disposal. Cars, homes, jewelry, cash, and just stuff become the prize. Savings, investments, and debts come into play next. These things are usually handled the same by the court all the time. They are the easiest thing for the court to figure out. Neither party wants any debt, and both want the assets and savings, but these will be split quite easily by the court. I have made recommendations on handling all these things in other posts. I will beat that drum again fairly soon. The last thing both parties have to fight over is the children, and they can fight over this until the children are grown adults, and then outside of court until the day one of them dies.

In theory co-parents will work to be on the same page in decisions, and provide the kids with a united front in the same way that parents do when they are together in the same household. A major problem with this idea is its based on a view of the family unit from the outside looking in. When parents are together, the united front is often only a public view of how things work. Everyone presents a similar face to the world, but what happens in the home is often very different from household to household. Some separated parents can provide the same face, but more often than not the rational of making your family look good to the outside world is outweighed by the desire to make the other parent look worse than you. Sometimes one parent wants to make the other look bad, but in all cases each parent wants the world to believe they are the better parent. In the real world parents aren’t always on the same page in intact homes. They usually have a line that they require the other parent to be respected by the children. They agree on most major decisions or have a way to mitigate them. One parent will allow the kids to cuss a little, and the other might let them have sodas at restaurants. Usually the parent who feels the strongest on something rules that thing when they are together. This doesn’t have to change when parents are not in the same household, but it usually does. I blame the courts for this. Undermining one parent gives extreme advantage to the other parent in court, and comes with the potential of cash flow. The courts are built to handle conflicts. More than that, the courts are built to be adversarial. The people who we hire to handle these affairs have trained to be in these courts. The entire system is set up to increase conflict, and though the system preaches to the parents that they need to get along and figure out this parenting thing together, they encourage conflict in their very nature. The fact that there is an opportunity to get some advantage over the other person is the problem. The odds that both people are completely reasonable during the initial breakup and divorce process are fairly small. The odds that one person is so apathetic as to not care is also fairly small, so we throw these people into a system where they can ask the court to decide. Their actions are justified because the court as an authority has decided it as so.

Reality is most couples could figure this out on their own. Most have done it before seeking out lawyers. They have working plans and share responsibilities with the kids in a way that both are satisfied, or at least content. Neither parent has lost anything through the court process, so they can bend to make things better for the kids. This is the only time in any divorce that the kids are actually being looked after. During this time, parents will often work out whether and how to celebrate events together or not. Before lawyers and judges are involved, I have observed that most couples do just fine taking care of the kids needs, and continuing to raise them together. So much of the legal process is based on Federal Welfare benefits, and the government not being saddled with the bills for these children. This isn’t the economic reality for most families in the West. Most families can separate in a way that both parties can move on without going to the government for handouts. For a year and a half all my kids bills were paid by me, and I was able to live my life without struggling. My ex was able to take care of her bills, and though she struggled, she decided to keep her job with the school system, even though she could double her money as a skilled nurse. This decision was fine with me. It had little bearing on me. My kids had all they needed, and were able to stay in their activities. She was free to do what she pleased to take care of herself. The court doesn’t care about the example already set forth in this year and a half. Custody laws provide that someone should have to pay child support, and so once the lawyers were involved, hers sought to increase the amount to the maximum amount possible. The end result is I struggle a lot to make ends meet now, I owe lawyers 5 figures, she pays for all the kids things, and somehow doesn’t have money to make ends meet on a regular basis.

Co-parenting is a misnomer. In some ways its like snipe hunting. Its something that each family figures out over the course of time if left on their own. While the courts interject themselves and so often rob one parent of their rights in the name of the children, there is no real hope of co-parenting. A successful co-parenting relationship makes it hard for their to be a winner. The system really doesn’t care about the children, not in any way that matters. It is really only concerned with the money. They are less likely to be overruled if one parent is made out to be sub-standard, and the other one the gold standard. The court has to choose what aspects of parenting are most important. Right now those things are the things that mothers do. I don’t know if that is a result of deciding that mothers should raise kids or mothers raising kids has caused the bias, but there is a bias, and the court uses it to decide which parent to punish and reward everyday.

The biggest lie I here is that the real losers in divorce are the children. So long as the courts continue to pick sides in divorces that there is no reason to do so, the real losers are the kids and the dads. Dads lose so much time that they rarely get the big moments that naturally occur in their kids lives. If they do, its dumb luck or through a video the mom chose to send him. The kids lose the strong comforting presence that a father provides. I see this in my home. How much the two kids who live here all the time crave that, and how threatened they are by my kids coming over. I shouldn’t have to wait for her to screw up, and then go after her for the kids. The ongoing nature of custody cases makes it almost impossible to to develop a healthy relationship unless one parent quits. Too often fathers do give up, and the do so for the sake of their kids, and maybe for their own sanity. If I have any hope of finding solid financial ground anytime soon, I have to give up. There comes a point where I have been told that I am no longer the protector of my kids. I have been usurped by the government in that role. If it were another man, I would be able to challenge him, but I can’t beat the government. They have the power to take more and more away from me. I hope the years that I was there everyday, and the time we have now is enough to be a fixture in their lives as adults. I don’t know, and won’t until that day comes. Co-parenting is the big lie that I have to deal with. I am told to co-parent with her, but since she has the time and the resources, she gets to make the decisions. I might be able to get the court to call her a bad girl later on, but the decision is already made.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

October 22

The End Is Near

The End is Near

I know I have said this before, but the judge is done. She wants us out of her court. The lawyers realize that we have been drained of our resources to a point where we cannot afford to do go much farther. I come out the loser in this, and it is just a matter of how to mitigate the damage, so that I am able to start out on a stronger footing. I started this journey hopeful, and I have lost most of that hope. The system will destroy any hope you have, especially if you are a man. The fact that we are litigating things that shouldn’t be litigated in our society is sick, but it is the way things work. The system is designed for winners and losers, so don’t let anyone tell you that there is suck a thing as a good divorce. The only good divorce is one that never sees court.

For those who haven’t read my story, here is a little background of how we got here. My wife left me in July 2011. She was going to seek happiness, and thought I should do the same. She moved from the small town that we lived in to the suburbs. At first I paid for all the kids expenses, but she was wanting child support. We shared time with the kids equally. She filed for divorce after I met someone else. It was about a year and a half after she moved out. I had abandoned our home to live closer to where the kids were going to school. She demanded child support when she filed. My lawyer made it pretty clear, though I wasn’t listening, that if she didn’t want shared custody, that I wasn’t going to get it. I had this pie in the sky idea that the what the legislative branch codified into law was going to be honored. It wasn’t, and the lawyers were right. Over the summer of 2013 my son sexually abused my soon to be stepson. He was almost twice the kids age. My son had emotional issues, but they generally were only issues at his moms. She used his issues to objectify my soon to be wife and her two kids. My time with my kids has been reduced once already. Just enough to knock us off of equal parenting time, and to increase my child support by more than double. I went to a 6/8 split on every two weeks. I either had the kids for four nights or two nights on alternating weeks. There is a lot more this story, but I will leave that up to you to read my earlier posts. If you are curious start at the beginning. I walk my way through everything in the first posts of the blog. I spend very little time with my oldest. I cannot face what he did. He threatened the other boy with losing me if he talked. This boy has already lost his daddy in divorce. His daddy chose to walk away without a care.

I haven’t received the new parenting plan, but I have been told that if I don’t accept it, then we can go to trial. I have been told by the GAL that he would recommend less time with my kids. I have always wanted equal time with my kids, and it keeps getting reduced. The GAL hints he might recommend more time, but not equal time if I were to leave the woman I am with. There is a restraining order in place that keeps my son from being around her or her kids, so he cannot live with me. I believe that he belongs in a treatment facility for the long term. He needs help. Barring that, I would have wanted divided custody, so the three still had the same time with me, and he would be full time with mom. The schedule I have seen that is likely in the parenting plan is a 5/9 schedule, so I lose another day. I get the kids for 5 days straight, and she gets them for 9 days straight. Its not much better than the every other weekend scenario. I get one more day than that schedule, but I go longer without having them in my home. I am slowly losing the ability to be an influence in my kids life. They never help around the house, or clean up after themselves. They are becoming more and more selfish. I can only hope to regain some influence in their life when they are grown. The settlement is pretty simple. Either she gets her portion of my retirement, or she gets her portion of my retirement and takes out the rest for me to have in cash. There are some debts that need to be paid in the process. Those debts will not be paid if I don’t get the cash. Its really that simple. I suppose there is a third option, but I won’t explore it until what I want is exhausted. That would be to get out an amount just for the debts that have to be paid, so there is a concrete number to work with. I am appalled at how bad lawyers are at math, so it has made these things more complicated.

My lawyer thinks we can have things rapped up by the end of November. I can only hope that is the case. I am exhausted. My health is not what it should be due to stress. I am ready to move on with the rest of my life. This chapter is almost closed, and the next will close in 8 years when my youngest graduates high school. I then have 3 years before all the kids are out of the house, and begin seeing the world. I had wanted to show my kids the world, but this divorce has shattered all possibility of me being able to do that. Maybe some can come along on their own, and I can still show them some of the world.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

October 20

Rights And Divorce

Nomad children in Changtang, Ladakh

This post was somewhat inspired by this post over at A Voice For Men. Mostly the phrase used, which is one I remember from my government class in college, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” The AVM post calls this a universal truth, but its not. It is the most basic concept of the US Constitution. If you read through the founding documents of the USA, you will find that the overriding theme is that no person’s rights supersedes anyone else’s rights. We fought a war over this discrepancy, and amended the Constitution to guarantee these rights to everyone. This is no small thing. I do not know of another case in the world where two factions in the same country fought over another group of people, and it was not for the purpose of deciding who controls this third group, but one fought to retain control, while the other fought to free them. Usually wars for freedom are started by the those who are oppressed, and they may or may not gain the support of others in the population. In my mind the USA’s largest character flaw as a nation was complimented by its unique characteristic of seeking freedom for everyone. This is what has made the USA the greatest nation in the world in almost every way measured over the last century or more. This is not really a for the sake of argument. I know that there is some national pride buried in those comments, and I do not intend to suggest that other nations don’t have things to be very proud of, but is undeniable that the USA has had the greatest impact on the world over the last century, and in most cases it has done so with this same character, even when the results have not been what everyone has desired. I will reserve judgement on the last couple of decades, history will be written by our children, but I doubt that history will show an USA that has the same character that has made it great. As I say this, I do so believing that how we treat our own citizens is probably directly reflected in our policies in the world, and how we treat our own citizens is where we get to the topic of my post.

American Life

Most people move through life oblivious to the rights they have, because no one has ever truly interfered with their rights. Those who are victims of crime, know all too well that the rights we cherish rely very much on the respect of others to maintain. Our rights are not enforceable when someone bigger and stronger wants their way, unless there are enough other people who value your rights present to make sure your rights aren’t impugned. This is something most of us just don’t think about, nor do we want to think about it. The reality of this is scary, because there are always people bigger and stronger than us. Even if you are the biggest, strongest, baddest mother fucker around, it only takes a couple people deciding to challenge you together to turn the tables. I think this is why the great American action stars are so compelling. We see in them, the hope that we can fight for ourselves and others. Most people don’t know or understand what their rights really are, and I am not talking about the government granted rights, but the Constitutionally guaranteed rights. Everyone needs to go back and read the Constitution and its Amendments about once a year. I have put some links below for people to check out. They all have unedited versions of the Constitution to read, and some have commentaries. I did not select them for the commentaries, so read them if you like, and make your own judgments.

We live in a society that has unprecedented freedoms. Almost nowhere else in the world can people move as freely as we do. Not only do we have the freedom to do so, but we have the means to do so. We can get in our car and go thousands of miles and have no contact with anyone from the government. We can change jobs, or quit jobs as we see fit. Our homes are ours, and the government has large obstacles to prevent them from intruding our homes. We can make and break contracts without government involvement. This is all a matter of course, and we do it everyday. The government isn’t involved until someone’s rights are not being recognized. Under normal circumstances, we cannot sign away our Constitutionally guaranteed rights. Those portions of contracts are automatically voided. This is a side effect of the thirteenth amendment. It prohibits indentured servitude, so signing away your rights puts you into a position that when evaluated is equivocated to indentured servitude. These are protections we don’t think about, but are there when we need them. The most heinous Federal crime you can commit is not murder but to take away someone’s civil rights.

In everyday life in the USA, there are no classes. No one is given preference, officially, by the government by their birth right. We have social and economic classes created by the individual’s circumstances. These do not translate to different rights. There can be an argument made that these people have power from their position that effectively gives them preference, and that is true and unavoidable to some degree. The key is that it is not codified into the law that there are people who will receive special treatment by the government.

Divorce Creates Classes

This post isn’t so much about the law as it is about the realities of what happens in divorce. I have posted before about how one parent becomes second class during divorce with children. They lose many rights, or maybe more aptly put, their rights are superseded by those of a higher class. The more I think about things, I truly believe that there are 3 classes created in divorce as things go right now. There are the children in the first class, and then the custodial parent in the second class, and the non-custodial parent in the third class. Children are not given any responsibilities in the process, and their words and feelings are cherished beyond that of anyone else. The custodial parent is granted great freedom to care for the children. They are generally given the benefit of the doubt in parenting decisions, and allowed to ignore the rights of the non-custodial parent. They don’t have a right to the non-custodial parents income, but as the custodian of the children they are granted full access and control of a portion of the custodial parents income. I say they are second class, because their status as the custodian of the children grants them these rights. The non-custodial parent has few rights, and not just with the children. They live under constant threat of severe penalties if the court decides they are not paying their share. There is no guarantee that their time with the children will not be interfered with, and it takes too long through the courts to enforce your rights to participate in decision making. The court is likely to review decisions made, and not give one shit about whether you were within your rights to veto a decision, but instead measure the decision to decide if it were in conflict with the principle of “The Best Interest of the Child.” If it is not in conflict with this principle, then you will not receive any relief from the court for your rights being ignored. Generally the custodial parent will not change once it is decided by the court, so the custodial parent feels confident in their ability to make any decisions that they want. The court can change things if their is a material change in circumstance, and this is something that is not clearly defined, so the court gets to decide when they will hear arguments. Once they hear arguments, they can change their mind. If the custodial parent changes, then the second class becomes the third and the third becomes the second. Instantly one parent will be granted all the rights of the first class, and the other parent will be reduced to a wallet for the children to draw out of for their “needs.”

First Class: The Best Interest of the Children

Children are granted new rights when divorce comes. These aren’t necessarily things that they will recognize themselves, because one parent is the custodian of the rights. If there is any dispute with the parents over the kids, then they are given a voice. There are professionals/experts that the court employs to speak for the children or rather their best interest. Their voice is filtered by these people, so the real power that the children receive is granted to this third party. This doesn’t mean they aren’t heard, but it means that what they say is filtered, and the parents have little room to question these things. The truth doesn’t matter. The “Best Interest of the Children” is really the first class, not the children. You might say in the end, the children represent the concept, but they are actually the fourth class, because in the end they don’t matter to the process as people. The “Best Interest of the Children” on the other hand is the states stake in the decision. The state uses this to decide who gets the power on their behalf, and can change their mind when it suits them. Because it is this philosophical concept represented by a third party, it can be initiated without either parent asking for it. Once the third party is involved, they are involved until the children are grown. This means that every parenting decision is possibly in question. All it takes if for one of the children or the other parent to make them aware of the decision, and they feel obliged to weigh in. The primary thing in play is child support. This is based on the legal principle that the children have a right to a portion of the parents income. This is a right that I find nowhere outside of family law. The children gain this right when the parents aren’t married. Its really just a legal bait and switch to justify the confiscating of one person’s income for the benefit of another person. This is very different than taxes that are to benefit the community.

Second Class: Custodial Parent

This is the one that gets the rewards. The gain the right to control a chunk of the other parents income. They are given the benefit of the doubt in all child rearing decisions. They are allowed to alter schedules without consulting the other parent, and the worst that will happen is the court will tell them to not do that anymore. The custodial parent has very few consequences for not living up to their part of the bargain. The court doesn’t really want to hear the arguments between the parents, so they have a tendency to just give the custodial parent broad sweeping authority over the kids for expediency’s sake. Sadly the court stepped in to begin with and took away parental rights from one parent, and then they don’t want to deal with the consequences. It would be nice if parental rights weren’t stepped on for the sake of practicality. What is worse is these decisions are made by the court while the parents are at their worst. They generally haven’t had a chance to get their feet under them, and the end result is the animosity between the parents is prolonged, and rarely has a chance to heal. It is only natural that if one parent has all the financial resources available and the majority of the time with the children that they will make most of the decisions regarding the children. Its not right. The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld that being married or not has no effect on your parental rights, so who are these family courts to decide to how to divvy up the parental rights for expediency. Who are they to decide that one parent has lost their protections, their civil rights.

Third Class: Non-Custodial Parent

This class has very few enforceable rights. The rights haven’t been removed in so many words, but in practicality. If there has been a court appointed representative for “The Best Interest of the Children,” you will be questioned in every decision. If the other parent wants to question your decisions, then surely a court appointed representative will be appointed. Even though the terms have changed to parenting time, the reality has not changed. The children have one parent and home, and they visit the other parent. In some cases a grandparent or uncle may have more contact with the children than the non-custodial parent. It is fair for all involved to shame this class, because they must have done something wrong. People who have not been through the system seem to think this is logical, and half the people who have been through the system profit from such thinking. This leaves somewhat less than a quarter of the adults out there who want to correct this opinion. That is a pretty small bunch to change things, and they tend to be a bunch who are being bounced around like a pinball trying to have a significant role in their children’s lives. There is a lot going against this class. They are similar to other government created lower classes. They have some control over their lives, but not control over their resources. The only hope for those in this class is that something happens, and the pendulum swings in their direction and they get to swap places with the custodial parent, then they will have the illusion of freedom again. The state has imposed itself on their family, and they know that even though the ability to make decisions for their family may be theirs if they become the custodial parent, the state or court has taken over their family and has the authority to make whatever decision they think is best. Courts won’t hear disputes between married parents. They throw them out simply because they are married. Having children and not being married is potentially handing 18+ years to the state to decide for you. Most non-custodial parents lives are paused. They can’t afford to do the things they dreamed about. They have to be ready to respond to what the custodial parent decides. They learn to cherish the time they spend babysitting their own children, unless the custodial parent has turned the kids against them. The only hope they have is that when the children are grown, they are returned to the full status of citizen of the USA.

Fourth Class: The Children

The children have no real say. The court appointed experts choose what the court hears about the children. Neither parent has a right to add to the court record for the children. The principle seems fair, except this third party in the end represents the state. They are there to ensure that the state does not incur costs due to this case. The children’s opinions may be heard, but they don’t become a part of the case, unless the expert decides to add it to the case. The children never had many rights to begin with. Until you are a full citizen of the USA, you don’t have many rights. The children inherit their rights from their parents. If the parents are married, they benefit from both parents income and affection. The parents share the duties as they see fit, and the children receive what the parents decide is right. The richest parents in the world may choose to force the kids to earn everything, because they believe that this will make them stronger adults. If both parents don’t agree, then there is some form of negotiation involved between the parents. Sometimes it is as simple as one parent makes them work for things, and the other gives them things. It just plays out in the politics of the parents bedroom. The kids belong at the bottom of the classes, but this system has turned what little rights they had into a legal principle that is divorced from the real children involved. Children should be granted the right to shelter, food, education, and medical care. These should be the parents responsibility to provide. The children do not have a right to luxuries that the parents are able to provide. This is where the legal concepts that are applied are dead wrong. They children have no rights to the parents lifestyle. They are simply beneficiaries of that lifestyle to the level that the parents want to provide it. This principle doesn’t break down when parents aren’t married. The legal principle is used to extract money from one parent and give it to the other, but the other parent still has the freedom to determine just how much of this wealth will benefit the children. What the children lose in this case is the right to see both parents care for them and provide for them. the system has become so expedient as that the non-custodial parent providing through the parent is good enough. To lawyers this makes sense, but the children often walk away believing that only one parent buys them things, and provides for them. The other parent doesn’t do anything for them. This creates animosity that the child does not deserve to feel. The child is a victim of the system. Some say the child is the biggest victim, but I believe that the non-custodial parent is. The children lose few civil rights, but the non-custodial parent loses the right to the fruits of their own labor, and if they are unable to earn they are at the mercy of the court as to whether they will be held to account for the same amount every month. The children are made to pay by the animosity that is created in this winner takes all system. The court nearly guarantees that if one parent wants it all, then the children are robbed of the possibility of the parents having an acrimonious relationship.

How Do We Fix It

I think the court wants concrete fixes. They want things to be perfect. The current system gives them illusion of fixing something. Civil rights have been abandoned through the civil courts, and due process has been satisfied. On the surface at least. A court of law is required to take away someone’s civil rights, and the family court is is not a court of law. In most states it is defined as a court of equity. It is their job to satisfy issues that aren’t legal in nature, and to apply the law as best they can. Issues of property when in dispute. The only fix, and no its not perfect for everyone, but its fair. To protect the rights of both parents and the inferred rights of the children the time with the parents should be presumed 50/50 in all cases where the children are not at a real risk. Perception is not reality. We live in a country where a crime has to occur before we are punished, so if there is not a real risk based on facts to limit contact with a parent, then it shouldn’t happen. Time and money need to be separated. Required expenses for the children need to be split 50/50. There is no excuse for doing it any other way. The parents aren’t married, so their ability to pay should have no weight on who pays. Any other expenses are up to the parents to figure out. If the parents can’t agree to a schedule or one parent refuses to agree or abide to a schedule then the court should impose a standard schedule that gives each parent equal time with the children. Without money on the table, I don’t think for most parents, at least in the long haul, this will be an issue. The parents are free to agree to a schedule that is unequally split. The parent who has the kids more time is fully responsible for the extra expenses that this time creates. The children are the most valuable item. The court should stop presuming that parents can’t share custody if they don’t get along. Both care for the children, and if there weren’t a winner take all system in place, then they will figure out how to care for the children. If the children aren’t being cared for adequately, not to be confused with to parents abilities, then criminal proceedings should pursued, and if one parent is deemed the cause of that, then those parents can be tossed back into the old ideas that are essentially based on the idea of one parent abandoning the children to the other parent. Neither parents should ever have court orders forcing them to make payments to the other parent, simply for being a parent. If there are no real expenses that a parent has failed to pay for, then there should be no order to pay. The courts need to stop being practical and start dealing with the real world. Child support and primary custodianship create bastards, a thing that was reviled not that long ago, because the children often grew up with problems. Now it is the norm, and our children have the same problems.

The Constitution

Ten-Foured,

JeD

October 9

Economic Realities Of Divorce With Children

they're 35 years old, thrice divorced, and living in a tarp down by the river

The economic realities of divorce are talked about all over the web. The problem I always encounter when reading them, is they don’t apply to everyone. A big number of the people that are profiled or talked about fall in lower income brackets. These are people who are going to struggle either way. Both parents end up struggling under these circumstances. They would struggle together or apart. When they are apart, it very difficult for both parents. Many don’t have jobs that have paid leave, so a sick kid is lost money. This is why so many “single” mothers feel justified regardless of how the father is getting by. They are barely making it on their own, and need every penny they get. No doubt in their minds, it is all the man’s fault. I don’t agree with this stance. I understand that the obstacles of low income people are sometimes insurmountable. If we cared, we would remove the burden of child support from men who don’t live above the poverty level. We would pick up the slack. Rather than spending all the money trying to track down these guys and collect, we should just spend that money for the kids. I generally don’t believe in government funded charity, but if I have to choose between a direct wealth transfer between two poor people for 18 years, and spending tax money, I will choose the tax money. Increasing the animosity between the couple and making it hard for the father to act as a father is not best for the kids. Our society would be better off if low income families had fathers that were able to be engaged.

Now that we have cleared a path through the low income families that are at the center of this discussion, especially in polite company. Now we are putting men who make good livings, and want to be involved in their kids’ lives. The system favors having the mother have the children, because it maximizes child support. As discussed before, child support is a profit center for the states, or at least a major contributor to government jobs, and people’s reliance on the state. Men generally take on the financial burden when the marriage is ending. They feel responsible for making sure the family makes it through this thing that threatens everything that is safe for those he loves. Most divorces are instigated by the wife, so its natural that the husband still feels protective of her. During this time, she is able to live off of his generosity and figure out how to take what she can. There is no excuse for child support from a father who is active in his kids life. He will support them. Instead we see the states inferring the rights of lifestyle based on the parents income to the kids. My kids have a better lifestyle than I do, and they will until such a time that I am no longer forced to fund it through their mother. You see as you move up the economic spectrum that fathers are being left in dire financial circumstances, and the mothers are living pretty much the same lifestyle they had before. I see “single” mothers who live in the homes they lived in before the divorce, while the fathers are barely scraping by in apartments that are hardly large enough to share with their kids. The lifestyle that he once had is forever gone to him, or at least until such time that the kids are grown. This may not be true after you reach a certain level of wealth, but even the Robin Williams with all of his success was stretched beyond what he could bare, and was spending more money supporting ex-wives than he was supporting himself.

In most areas of law, you cannot have a ruling that causes something to happen, and then use that something to get another ruling that you want. This is akin to sending a soldier out to war, and then charging him with murder for the actions that were demanded of him. In family court every rulings effects can be used to change something else. Take time away from a parent, and then you can raise their child support. That is an indirect result of the previous ruling. The court is preventing you from doing something, and then punishes you for not doing it. Everything is intertwined. This gives attorneys and the courts great leeway in how to handle case. You will hear it said that this is necessary, because each case is unique, but the truth is the matters that should be before the court are that unique. There could be, and I would argue should be standards that are applied universally to these cases. As things go right now, the court will use tools that aren’t normally allowed in court, because children are involved. Everything is obscured through these professionals.

Now back on track. Divorce means that the money that a family had now has to support two households. The family court has decided that it needs allow one house to have most of that money, and the other needs to earn most of the money. The principle is based on the idea that the money earned by both parties is the families, even though there is not a family in the same way that there was. You are both parents of the same kids, and those kids are active in both parents families, but the divorce says that the parents are not family anymore. The money is not the family’s money anymore. The money is each parents own, or it should be. The fantasy that there is still a family unit is what drives this. This fantasy makes the long term damage of one party for the benefit of the other justified. There is no driver for the mother to seek out ways to make more money. It is simpler to target the man for more and more money. Since the money follows the kids, everyone looking in sees that the kids are okay, and no one pays attention to the man, who is struggling everyday now. The man who has to choose whether he takes a vacation alone or none at all. A man who makes enough to take his family to Disney Land, but has to wait and here how Disney Land was with their mother, because the money he would spend on that vacation was sent to her.

The part that is hardest for me to fathom is that men accept this, and even embrace this. They have bought the idea that this is being a good dad. That taking care of the mother is noble. What they don’t see is that they are taking care of person who constantly undercuts them, and makes them with their children. These men are looking at themselves with pride for paying their support, while the mother of their children is reminding the kids of all the things he doesn’t buy for them. These men wonder why as their kids get older and older that they are losing touch with their kids, and some never regain that connection. The system as it is now makes martyrs of the mothers, and villains of the fathers. The fathers are living well below their abilities to support a woman who wants nothing to do with them. The system of present gives the mother the benefits of being married without the responsibilities, and gives the father the responsibilities without the benefits.

I know I am still scatter brained. Heading to court next week, and my brain is swimming with too many ideas.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

October 7

Why Child Support Is Mandatory

keith's child support

To most of us today, child support is a matter of course. If you aren’t married to the mother of your children, then you pay child support. This wasn’t always the case though. Normal, hard working men took care of their children regardless of the status they held with the mother of their children. As a matter of fact, the legal definition of marriage is a fairly recent thing. Marriage law was governed under common law. Now that is a rarity as well. So why is it automatic that men pay women child support? How did this become the norm?

If you go back in time to the 60s and the 70s in the US, you will find that there was a lot of political activism surrounding the sexual revolution. You started to hear about dead beat dads. A thing that largely wasn’t a problem until promiscuity was the norm for young women. Dead beat dads are a consequence of loose women. Maybe not wholly, but the epidemic that led to the outrage is a result of this. There are a number of social and scientific factors that led to this, and birth control availability is one of them. People like to pretend that birth control always works, but it doesn’t. It certainly becomes an issue when there are mind altering drugs involved, and this era had a lot of that as well. As these girls became women with daunting task of raising kids alone without a father, the term deadbeat dad emerges.

These numbers grew over the next couple of decades. Court ordered child support starts to become more common as these mothers seek assistance in raising these kids. Most of the men paying child support never wanted the child. All they wanted was the sexual gratification. Whether knowingly or not, they had abandoned their children. Under common law in most states, this allowed the mother or community to seek financial support for the children. Mostly when the mother was living off some form of government assistance. Before this time, very few people had heard of child support, let alone known anyone that paid it. Now it was common enough that everyone knew at least a recipient or payer of child support. The majority of people weren’t concerned that they would ever have to pay child support themselves.

A fair chunk of these men not being fatherly minded resisted paying the support, and when they lived outside the jurisdictions of the courts ordering support, it was difficult to find ways to enforce collection. The Federal government was increasingly becoming the primary source of funding for the assistance programs, and so felt that had a stake in child support collections. They increased efforts to collect child support, and laws were passed to give the states more ways to collect child support from reluctant fathers. As more laws were passed by the Federal government, they saw that not all states and jurisdictions cared to collect child support. The decided it was not enough to give the states the tools, but they needed to give them incentives. They started to reward the states with some form of matching funds for every dollar of child support they collected. There were also incentives for having your collection rates at high percentages.

Whether it was an expected and desired side effect or unexpected, I don’t know, but the end result was that states saw that collecting child support could mean new revenue. If there were more support ordered in the courts, then they would collect more support and have more matching funds. They also saw that having more orders would also increase their collection percentages, because the vast majority of men wouldn’t dodge their responsibilities. As time went on the Federal government required that child support dispensaries be created and the income withholding order became the norm and even required in all Title IV cases. Financially the states started adding fees to the service. All in all the states make money through the dissolution of marriages and unwed parenting.

The states are now stakeholders in the breakup of families. Even though history clearly shows that the breakdown of the family unit is a leading indicator of the downfall of a society, the states are invested in the process. Financially it pays for them to do so. This is an artificial economic increase for them, because no new money is made. Now for those like me, who don’t really trust government to begin with there are other factors that also fed this process. One is statistically men are savers and women are spenders. Transferring money from men to women will generally mean that more money moves through the marketplace, and there are more taxes to collect. Women vote more than men, and there are more women than men potential voters. Women are more likely to vote for candidates that will make sure they are taken care of. It is certainly easier to hand out someone else’s money, than it is to do anything truly constructive for this country. The idea has been sold that because the children have a right to what each parent’s income can provide, then they must have a right to the income itself. Its a mixed up thought process, because all of us that have had kids in traditional marriage know, is kids have a right to the luxuries you are willing to provide. Only when you are a child support payer is that idea flipped. It doesn’t extend to the child support recipient. There is no requirement for them to spend any of the money on the kids, so long as the kids are generally taken care of.

Child support creates a second class of citizen. It also tends to keep money out of savings. Men are paying enough that they can’t save for themselves. The money they would save is being spent now on the kids, either in their own household or in the other parents. Men with one or two kids generally spend what they would have anyway on top of child support. Men with more kids are left with little to maintain themselves. If they want to have their kids any amount of time, then the costs of housing alone will make it difficult for them to save. This to states that want increased tax revenues is a good situation. The money continues to move, so they get more in terms of sales and income taxes. Its a short term view of economics. The states would be better off when each generation can save. They pass wealth on to the next generation, and each generation becomes richer. Government is freed from taking care of more and more of its population. In a freedom loving country like the US, this is a good thing. The poor are the hardest hit in these schemes. The problem is government always tends towards controlling the population. These systems keep men under control. They don’t have the finances to be distracted by what is going on in government, and are subject to such high penalties for non-payment that they don’t risk doing otherwise.

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 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 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