Friday, September 26, 2014

TED - You Can Move Beyond Your Past

Last week on the TED Radio Hour there were two powerful  TED speakers who both showed that your past does not define you. Zak Ebrahim is the son of a terrorist who grew up in a violent and hateful environment but chose to devote his life to understanding and peace.  Shaka Senghor was young man full of rage who went to prison for committing murder but was able to transform himself into an advocate for non-violence.

How does this relate to injustice in the divorce system? If Ebrahim can overcome his upbringing then a lawyer can certainly choose to act ethically even if he or she operates in an unethical environment. And if Senghor can reform himself after murdering a man then surely those who committed perjury, forgery or fraud or who simply knowingly lied can redeem themselves.

Zak Ebrahim

Shaka Senghor

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Daily Beast - Is Alimony Anti-Feminist?

The Daily Beast asks: Is Alimony Anti-Feminist? The author, Kell Goff, discusses reaction to New York Daily News Columnist Linda Stasi’s article linking Robin William's death, in part, to alimony payments. I have discussed the same article. The comments are an interesting and somewhat entertaining read.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Abuse and Being a Victim

I have been thinking a lot about a statement in my last post where I commented that despite Spring being violent and controlling, that I never felt like a victim of her abuse. The question I have been mulling over is: why? After all, Spring was violent enough early in our relationship to cause me permanent physical damage (my septum is shifted far enough that the airflow through my left nostril is only about half what it is through the right one) and throughout the marriage and divorce she tried her best to control me. In fact, one of the marriage counselors, a minster she knew, flatly told her that her behavior was evil and passive-aggressive and the professional marriage counselor we met with asked me if I was sure I wouldn't be better off without her.

I think the key reason I did not feel like a victim was because I truly believed that I could help her and things would work out in the end. I had hope. I believed that I had helped her overcome overt violence and honestly, although perhaps egotistically, believed that I could help her overcome her other demons. And just as important, I had married her and chosen not to leave her. I wasn't quaking in fear from feeling trapped. It was just the way it was.

I wonder how others in similar situations react. I am sure many feel abused and certainly Spring's behavior would qualify as criminal domestic violence. It would be easy to say that a woman would feel abused and a man wouldn't but I don't think that is accurate. I know many men that under their wife's thumb, far more, in fact, than the other way around. Although I recognize this view may reflect my gender and experience, most evidence does not show much, if any, difference in gender for the perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse.

Ultimately, I think that it drove Spring crazy that she couldn't make me fearful. Abusive, controlling people get no satisfaction if they cannot induce fear and Spring could not achieve this with me. She couldn't induce fear through violence nor could she do it through bad behavior. In the end, she used the divorce system to hurt me. In fact, hurting me was the whole point of the divorce. Sadly, since the divorce it has become clear she desires to hurt the kids just as much.

Now that I have lost the vast majority of every material asset I accumulated both before and during the marriage and have became a de facto slave for Spring, it might come as a surprise that still don't feel like her victim. I think Spring is a person who has a very broken moral compass and major behavioral problems. I am simply sad for her and feel bad that I failed to help her.

But I assuredly do feel like a victim from the legal system. The fact that Spring and her lawyer Nelly Wince were able to use perjury, fraud and lies to take so much from the children and me is a such a nightmare that it is difficult to convey the true horror of it. The abusive party is the divorce system. It is Nelly Wince, Judge Mearly, the LawyersProfessional Responsibility Board and all the others who committed, aided and abetted the crimes and unethical acts that were committed. Certainly the laws need to be changed, but first current law must be followed and not treated like a joke by the legal system. When judges refuse to even talk to the children to determine if allegations are true or not and evidence of the highest possible caliber is simply ignored, it really doesn't matter what the law is. The divorce system treats the law much like Al Capone did. This has to change or it will destroy our society.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Domestic Violence - A Perspective

Violence, especially domestic violence against a spouse or child, is something that I find abhorrent and difficult to understand.  All the media attention to the Ray Rice story has prompted me to reflect on the realities of domestic violence as well as the way the issue is used and misused today in the divorce system.

As a society we have come a long way. I have read books from the 1800s that quite seriously stated that it was important to hit your wife every once in a while to ensure she knew her place. In the 1950's sitcom The Honeymooners,  the character Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, was famous for making empty threats of physical violence against  his wife Alice such as, "One of these days... POW!!! Right in the kisser!" or "BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!" Sadly, for many of those watching, the threats from their spouse was not so empty.  Spousal abuse wasn't even considered a serious problem issue in those days, it was a subject for comedy.

When I was younger, and even today to an extent, there was a lot of debate regarding corporal punishment of children. Many people assumed  and many still assume that if you don't spank your child when they do wrong they would turn out bad because they learn they can get away with doing wrong.  In my view, hitting a child is child abuse, pure and simple. How someone can strike any child, let alone their own child, is bizarre to me. Hitting a child encourages the child to be violent; it does nothing to correct bad behavior.

Spring grew up in a family where corporal punishment was normal. In addition, she was regularly threatened by her siblings. She once told me that for a period of time her brother threatened her with a knife every night before bed. This may explain, in part, her subsequent violent behavior.

My parents were not ones to strike their children. I was taught that we were better than that - violence was what bad people did.

One of the things that strikes me about the Ray Rice case is that the fiancee he beat up is now his wife. My initial gut reaction was to ask why on earth did she marry him knowing how violent he was? It is crazy. But sadly it didn't take long for me to understand. All I needed to do was to breathe through one nostril. I get a good breath through my right nostril but the airflow through my left is maybe half that. The reason is because Spring slugged me. So hard that it shifted my septum enough to impede the airflow through one nostril. So hard that an ENT doctor today isn't even able to put a scope down that nostril. And this was before we were married.

So what the heck was I thinking in marrying Spring? The fact is that despite my shifted septum, despite the bruises, despite the dodges from objects she threw at me, I didn't feel abused.  And I still don't. I am a guy and a product of my culture. We aren't abused by women no matter what the damage. And it isn't like I was cowering in fear which is my image of an abused person. My reaction to her violence was to try to change her behavior. And I think I succeeded. Gradually she became less physically violent. Before we had children she told me she was worried about how her reaction would be to a crying child. By that point she not only had stopped being violent to me she was self-reflecting on her behavior and recognized that it would be wrong to strike the children. I took this a a good sign. In my mind I had helped Spring be a better, a much better, person.

Hoping to change an abusive person is a common reason people stay with someone that abuses them. My guess is  that the reason Ray Rice's wife Janay stuck with him is that she always hoped to change him for the better. To feel you help someone be a better person can be incredibly alluring. It was for me.

Unfortunately really changing the behavior of an abusive person is very difficult. Abusive people want control. Because I was not cowering in fear, I think Spring changed her tactics from violence to using me. She lied incessantly, stole money, committed forgery, and made me do the bulk of housework and raising the children. It was her way of satisfying her need to dominate me. Ultimately I think she divorced me because I just took it. I turned the other cheek. That she could not take. So in a final act she went for the jugular and turned me into an income source. I have to pay her a huge amount of money every month until the day I die. That kind of control must be incredibly pleasing to Spring.

When it comes to domestic abuse almost all the attention is given to abuse by men upon women. The fact that we have a federal law called the Violence Against Women Act is a pretty good indication of that. Other than the title, the act itself is gender neutral but it has never once been successfully used against a female abuser. When it comes to women committing violent acts against men we are in the Honeymooners era. It is a subject for comedy. Ironically, the Centers for Disease Control states, More Men than Women Victims of Partner Abuse.

The horrible reality of domestic violence along with the false perception that it really only is perpetrated by men against women has led to a surreal situation in the courts where false accusations of abuse are incredible common. The statistics show that the vast majority of allegations of domestic abuse are simply false. As because there is virtually no negative consequence to making a false allegation of abuse, they have become routine in divorce cases.

Spring accused me of being abusive. She repeatedly implied in affidavits that I was violent. (but on the witness stand and under oath she did state that I had never once been violent - sadly this did not matter as the damage had already been done) I practically begged the judge to talk to the children and marriage counselors about the veracity of her allegations as they would have all strongly contradicted her but Spring's lawyer always objected. Spring was the only one in the marriage that was abusive in any sense. Not only does it make me sick that she was able to get away with this but my heart aches for my children knowing they have to live with the knowledge that their own mother did such an incredibly horrible and immoral thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Alimony Reform is Coming - I really hope so

This is a bit over a year old but highlights the tragedy of (mostly) women not being able to get married because of permanent alimonyDeborah Leff Israel, to her credit, did something about it - she started the Florida chapter of the Second Wives Club, now called the Florida Women for Alimony Reform. 

The concept of people such as Spring who were not the primary caretaker of the children, who wasted assets during he marriage, and who are perfectly capable of working receiving lifetime alimony after divorcing their spouse is outrageous. It has to change. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bob and Maureen McDonnell Conviction

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife were convicted this week on federal corruption changes related to gifts received from Jonnie Williams Sr., the former CEO of Star Scientific, a dietary supplement company. 

The jury conviction was decisive. McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion. His wife Maureen was convicted on 9 counts . 

Although there is a huge controversy regarding the conviction, there is little doubt as to whether they are guilty. The controversy arises over the fact that what the McDonnnells did is commonly done and politicians are simply not often convicted on such matters. So maybe we are seeing a little progress in this country. 

The total amount of cash and gifts the McDonnells accepted, $177,000, is amazing to me because the that is less than the alimony I have paid to Spring over the last five years let alone everything she took as part of the divorce. Think about this - Spring and her lawyer have taken far more money and assets from me than the McDonnells were convicted of receiving and, although I don't know all the details of the McDonnell case, I can't image that the evidence against them is stronger than I have against Spring and her lawyer Nelly Wince. I am pretty sure that my children would testify that their mother knowingly committed perjury and the evidence against Nelly Wince is, I think, unquestionable. 

Why is such corruption not only tolerated but openly so in divorce court? Two reasons in my opinion. Firstly it is very lucrative to the lawyers and judges and secondly there isn't anyone in law enforcement who cares enough to stop it. Even honest and talented law enforcement officials would rather prosecute people who are widely viewed as bad such as sex traffickers or, as in the case of  the McDonnells, people that will generate a lot of media attention. Quite simply they want to make a name for themselves. My case would draw little attention and garner little acclaim for the prosecutors even if Nelly Wince was convicted and put behind bars

Monday, September 1, 2014

Players - Lisa Guider

I  have added a page to the Players section for Lisa Guider, the first marriage counselor we met with. Despite the fact that she did not succeed in keeping the marriage together, I really liked Lisa. She did her best and in the end the issue probably wasn't solvable as Spring really had no interest in being married or making our relationship work.