Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Broken System: Halls of Justice

An article in the Huffington Post titled, A Broken System: Halls of Justice discusses the perception of the legal divorce process vs. the hard reality of how it works.
In reality, many parents experience disingenuous and fraudulent motion practice for months and even years prior to a hearing or court hallway encounter. All while being subjected to financial hardship as a direct result of court actions and, many times, disingenuous litigation playing out.
When a parent is sometimes dealing with an opposing party with deep pockets, compromised ethics, and a lot of skin in the game put into false allegations they often use money and litigation as weapons to pressure and force situations to procure outcomes favorable for themselves but adverse to the child and other parent.
As I have often mentioned, one of the most difficult obstacles to divorce reform is that people just cannot believe that in a democratic society the system can be so bad. They view situations such as mine as uncommon aberrations not the norm. Partly this is because many, including myself, know people who have divorced in more or a less amicable manner. This is possible, even likely, when two reasonably intelligent and reasonably moral people go through the divorce process. The problematic cases arise when one or both parties does not act ethically. Like rotting meat, this attracts unethical lawyers and others involved in the divorce process because they smell easy money.

Often, again my case is a good example, this leads to massive fraud and other criminal actions that are not only tolerated but encouraged by a divorce industry because it is so financially beneficial to them. Sadly for many money trumps ethics. The tragic part is that often the money comes from the ethical law abiding party. Worse it always hurts the innocent children.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Gender Stereotypes

It sometimes amazes me how prevalent gender stereotypes are. On NPR this morning I heard a story about the Washington D.C., police chief Cathy Lanier who is stepping down to take a position with the NFL.

The story mentioned that only 3% of police chiefs are female which is of course is unfortunate. However, in the story Katherine Spillar with the National Center for Women and Policing, a project of the Feminist Majority Foundation argued that it was unfortunate because, "Women tend to use a more community-oriented style of policing, are better communicators, can de-escalate potentially violent situations before they turn violent."

So rather than arguing against societal stereotyping and laws such as limitations on women in the military which result in few women reaching the top echelons in police departments, Ms. Spiller tries to use stereotyping to argue that women are better than men. The irony of her argument is simply incredible.

But then, to NPRs credit, they also talked to Dorothy Moses Schulz who is the author of a book about female chiefs called "Breaking The Brass Ceiling." Ms. Scultz responded to Ms. Spillar's comments with:
"Whether women all have better communication skills or are all better at de-escalating - I mean, those are basically sexist generalizations that there's no proof to."
It is nice to see some intelligence in gender discussions.

Eventually people will also understand that awarding undeserved alimony to women just reinforces the stereotype that women are weak and unable to take care of themselves.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Real World Divorce

Real World Divorce is an online book written by several authors including the remarkably talented Philip Greensspun who has been a computer scientist, educator, pilot and entrepreneur, often at the same time.  The book is a concise and clear overview of the reality divorce, mostly in the United States. It isn't pretty.
"When young people ask me about the law as a career," said one litigator, "I tell them that in this country whom they choose to have sex with and where they have sex will have a bigger effect on their income than whether they attend college and what they choose as a career."
Divorce in this country is for the most part highly profitable for the unethical and criminal and detrimental to the honest and innocent. Family court and the divorce industry are so damaging to children they are effectively the leading cause of child abuse. It is heart wrenching. Yet little is done about it. Why? As they say -  it's the money, stupid.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lifetime alimony Debate

Although it is from a few years ago, a debate on lifetime alimony on the Diane Rehm Show is still interesting.

"Lifetime alimony payments may soon be a relic of the past" - sadly we are still waiting for this to be true in all but cases where it warranted.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Tragedy of Legal Bias

A few weeks ago two year old Mason Wyckoff of Iowa was given a fatal overdose of oxycodone by his mother Stephenie Erickson, who then proceeded to do the same to herself. Mason's death was ruled a homicide.

Mason's father Dillon Wycoff had been trying for months to get the authorities (police, child protective services and the court) to intervene but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Why? Quite simply because Iowa laws are biased against fathers. In the state mothers receive sole or primary custody in 73% of cases while fathers receive the same in just 8%. There is little doubt that if it was Mason's father that was endangering him, Mason would would have been immediately taken from his custody. But he was in his mother's custody simply because of her gender.

There is a massive amount of evidence demonstrating that shared parenting is best for the child in almost all cases. And if that is the default, then when it is decided that that non-joint custody is better for the child, custody will go to better parent. When you start with an assumption that it is better for the child to be with the mother then it is very difficult to give custody to the father. Often, as in Mason's case, with truly tragic results.

A quote in the article linked to above from MIT researcher Philip Greenspun states:,
“It is not rational for fathers to fight for custody because their chances of winning primary or shared parenting are insignificant.”
which, in my experience, is absolutely true. Despite a ruling by the custody evaluator that parenting during the marriage was joint as well as the fact that my ex-wife had never used a dime of her income for the children, my lawyer strongly advised, even pushed, me to accept less than joint custody. She stated outright that the court almost always awards custody to the mother, unless she agrees otherwise. I ignored the advice and luckily obtained joint custody. Well, technically it was joint but for all practical purposes I had primary custody. I have no doubt that it would have been highly detrimental for the children if primary custody went to their mother. How much so is speculation.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Permanent vs. Open Durational Alimony

Arvo, a legal information and lawyer directory site, has an interesting question on their legal research section asking if permanent alimony is always awarded in New Jersey for marriages over 20 years. Three lawyers answered pointing out that New Jersey got rid of permanent alimony several years ago and replaced it with open durational alimony, which may, emphasis on may, be awarded in cases where the marriage lasted more than 20 years.

I was married less than 20 years when Spring divorced me yet have to pay permanent, as in until I die, alimony but I was unfortunately married in Minnesota.

Back to New Jersey. Some say that there is little difference between permanent and open durational alimony other than the words as permanent alimony was never meant to really be permanent. I disagree.  The words matter.  "Open durational" strongly implies that it will be changed in the future. "Permanent" implies the opposite.

Only a minority of states still have permanent alimony. Hopefully the rest will change their laws soon.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Percentage of Men Awarded Spousal Support Increasing - Barely

Although the Supreme Court ruled long ago that spousal support laws must be applied equitably to men and women, the reality is that 97% of the time support is paid for by the man. In fact, the number of men receiving spousal support has only grown by 0.5% since 2000. Given that in 40% of households women earn more than men, this is pretty solid evidence of inequity.
Three percent of men in divorce cases receive spousal support, a figure that is up 0.5 percent since 2000, according to the 2010 census. The census found that about 12,000 men receive spousal support, and 380,000 women receive it.
Hopefully with the rising number of same-sex divorces and the growing realization that it is often female second spouses who carry the burden of alimony as much as their husbands, this situation will change and we will finally achieve what the Supreme Court mandated decades ago.

The reality is that alimony reform is good for everyone, even, I would argue, those who currently benefit financially from the lack of justice in alimony awards. My ex-wife Spring divorced me, never used a dime of her income for the children, was not the primary parent during the marriage according to the custody evaluator, can make just as much money as me according to the vocational evaluation, committed perjury in court and has a lawyer that clearly committed criminal fraud. Yet, she gets well in excess of $30,000 per year from me until the day I die.  On the one hand you could say that she wildly succeeded financially. But I have to believe as some deep level she knows what she did to me and the children. That she knows what she did to her integrity. There are things more important than money.