Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Twisted Path to Justice

The fight for justice is never easy. Most people know that Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King had many setbacks. But lost to history are numerous average everyday people who often suffered horrendously and repeatedly by the actions of the perpetrators of injustice. I place myself and my children in this category.

On The Minnesota Alimony Reform site is a recently published story by a man who also contacted me. His story is a classic example of how far the villainous will go to tyrannize the innocent in order to protect their power and wealth.

The story, like so many others, will be viewed as unbelievable my many. The public unfortunately simply doesn't understand just how common and how real such stories are.

Here is a quick synopsis:

  • The man's wife left him to live with her mother and her mother's boyfriend in another state. Their one child was left with the father. 
  • Less than a week later the wife's mother moved out and she started living with her mother's now ex-boyfriend. This was four years ago. 
  • In the divorce the man was required to pay his ex-wife over $21,000/year in alimony. 
  • The man is now near the point where he cannot pay his bills. 
  • After the Cohabitation Law was passed earlier this year in Minnesota, the man went back to court to eliminate or reduce alimony. His situation was a textbook example for why the law was passed. 
Here was the result in his words:
What happened was beyond the worst case scenario. Not only was my request to change to spousal maintenance denied but the judge actually INCREASED spousal maintenance and made the increase retroactive back seven months. The judge also is requiring me to pay her attorney’s fees in addition to my own attorney fees. And a surprising development: the judge demanded weekly phone calls between our son and his mother and overnight stays during visitations. While I myself have supported and pushed for this as well it concerned me because NEITHER ONE OF US ASKED FOR ANY CHANGES TO VISITATION IN OUR MOTIONS TO THE COURT.

People may be surprised by this but I am not. I'll admit this is one of the worst examples of injustice I have heard but my own story is similarly outrageous. And I have talked to far too many people that have stories nearly or just as bad. Examples include the newly married couple who were forced to increase alimony payments to an ex-spouse simple because they got married and the person who lost his job and was put in jail for his inability to pay alimony. These injustices, often constituting clearly criminal actions, are simply ignored by the court, the legal system and law enforcement. This is the reality.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Consumer Review Fairness Act & Lawyer Reviews

Congress has recently passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act which voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service.

When I first heard about the law I was excited because I thought it would protect people who wrote online reviews of lawyers. But unfortunately, I do not think that is the case. It would prohibit a lawyer from putting a clause in a contract that reviewing him or her online is prohibited but would not, as far as I can tell, make it any more difficult for a lawyer to sue for defamation.

Here is what happens if you say something negative about a lawyer online. First off it probably disappears in short order because lawyer will intimidate the site owner where the posting was made into removing it. This happens even if your posting was 100% truthful and backed up by facts.

Have you ever wondered why Angie's List has reviews for plumbers, electricians, mechanics and other services but not lawyers? They have made a conscious decision that it is not worth cost of dealing with all the lawsuits that would result. Oddly, there had been a bit of a backlash against this as some people will not sign up for Angie's List because they won't allow reviews of lawyers.

Here is the case of one poor woman who was told to pay $558,000 to a law firm because posted a one star review on Yelp. I don't think the court would award that amount or any amount of money if she gave a one star review to a restaurant, do you? Unfortunately the legal system is able to get away with actions, often criminal actions, that the public is not. Classic corruption., a site that explicitly allows you to review lawyers, simply removes bad reviews. I know, I posted one on Nelly Wince and it went away. Presumably because she had it taken down. Nice review system.

If you are say hosting your own site then the lawyer or law firm will intimidate you directly.  They likely will file a defamation suit even if you are clearly within your rights in making the posting. The merits of suite do not matter a whit. The point is to use the legal system to make you spend money and time in defending yourself. It is to ruin you financially.  It is to subdue you. This was pretty much Nelly Wince's tactic during Spring's divorce suite against me. Lawyers, at least the bad ones, are really good at using the law to harm the innocent. And there is precious little anyone can do to stop them.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that many states, including Minnesota, have SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) designed to prevent just this. But unfortunately they do not work well when the abusive party is a lawyer. As I say, classic corruption.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

More Discoruagement

I can't seem to get a break. I received a call from the Minnesota Judiciary on a request I make a few months back for statistics on permanent alimony or spousal support as it is known in the state. I was informed there that no data available on how often alimony let alone permanent alimony is awarded. I had hoped to get statistics on permanent alimony by county because there is a widespread belief among lawyers and legislators that permanent alimony orders vary widely by county. One state senator said that if I could get statistics showing that, it would be helpful in making the case for alimony reform.

I have often heard and read that permanent alimony in Minnesota is rare. Unfortunately no one really knows as the data simply does not exist on how often any type of alimony is ordered by the court. I would say unbelievable but given my experience it is par for the course.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


I am discouraged.

The Minnesota Supreme Count denied my motion to change the Lawyers Rules of Professional Conduct to include:
The investigator assigned, if a lawyer, shall not be in active practice in the same area of law that the lawyer under investigation practices in. The investigator assigned, if not a lawyer, shall not be a person who works in a profession which commonly receives referrals from lawyers who practice in the same area of law as the lawyer under investigation. 
As I wrote about before, The Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board recommended that my petition be denied.  They said there was no need for it. Which is laughable given the evidence in my complaint against Nelly Wince. Wince so clearly violated the ethical rules and committed criminal fraud that I do not think it is even theoretically possible to have better evidence against her. Yet it was all ignored. Occasionally, lawyers and judges will tell me that the issues I have with Family Law need to be addressed by the legislature. But when they so blatantly ignore current law, what good would better laws have?

I am discouraged.

Spring divorced me. The custody evaluator ruled that she was not the primary parent. A vocational evaluation determined she could make just as much money as me. The children spend far more time with me than Spring and I pay everything for them - both of whom are now in college. Spring committed perjury and her lawyer Nelly Wince clearly committed criminal fraud and fraud upon the court.

I host all the holidays. I don't discourage the boys from seeing their mother but they have gotten in the habit of limiting their time with her. This Thanksgiving they spent one night out of five at her place.

Yet, Spring managed to take most the assets at the time of the divorce and I have to pay her in excess of $30,000 per year until he day I die. The amount actually grows every two years automatically. I can never retire. I can never remarry as that would allow Spring to seek an increase in alimony and would obligate my new wife to pay alimony to Spring should I lose my job or become disabled.  

I am discouraged.

I have a job that I work at every day. I just got off a two month period where I worked an incredible amount of hours, much of it on the road. I do not dislike my job but the fact that the benefit of it goes almost entirely to reward Spring and her lawyer for criminal actions is not exactly motivating. If I lost my job the likely scenario is that I would go to court to reduce alimony and be told to come back when I have no money, Then when I went back after having transferred my remaining assets to Spring I would be told to come back when I have maximized the debt on my credit cards. Then after I had done that, I would be thrown in jail. You may think that would never happen but that is the way the system works. The responsible and honest are financially raped, repeatedly raped, by the criminals.

I am discouraged.

The threads of hope are slipping through my fingers.

Sunday, November 20, 2016 Petition to Reform Alimony

Catherine Conlin has created a petition to reform alimony in California.

Specifically Conlin seeks to:
Remove unlimited jurisdiction by the California Family Law courts over long term Marriages with no children. One spouse should not be eternally responsible for the other once a divorce is final. End family law jurisdiction at 5 years, no matter the length of the marriage.
The petition has been signed by hundreds of people. Many have included comments about injustices in the Family Law Courts.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Alimony Is Bad For Women And Based On Flawed Logic

Emma Johnson on says that Alimony is bad for women and based on flawed logic. I could not agree more. Many of her arguments are ones that I have also made. In most cases alimony degrades women because it implicitly treats them as less able than men. 
Suffragists and feminists before us fought bitterly (and joyously, one would hope) so you and I have financial and legal parity with men. We have a way to go, but for the most part in this country women have opportunity to support themselves. With opportunity comes responsibility. You choose to be financially dependent on someone else (like a husband), you take a risk. If that marriage ends and you have little career equity and low earning potential as a result, you must pay the consequences of the downside of that risk.
Take alimony out of the career-planning equation and we force women to take full responsibility for their careers and finances from the beginning of adulthood. This is critical if we are going to close the pay gap, which has little to do with workplace sexism, and more to do with women choosing lower-paying professions and stepping away from careers to devote to family life.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Crazy Alimony Story

Most people are simply uniformed about how bad the alimony situation is. Time and time again, I hear the comment, "that just can't be" from people who hear my story or others of the same ilk.

A recent story posted on Minnesota Alimony Reform fits into this category.  This poor couple has paid and paid to his former wife despite that fact that the court actually ordered him to move the children away from the mother because it was in their best interest. It is a strange world we live in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Petition to Change the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility

As I have mentioned before, earlier this year I submitted a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court to change the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Basically my petition seeks to increase the chance of a fair investigation by reducing conflicts of interest. Sadly, but predictably, The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility has recommended that my change not be accepted. Below is a draft of my response to them. 
Re: In Petition to Amend Rule 6, Section A of the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility and Letter Regarding the Matter Received by Me dated October 12, 2016.  
Dear XXX,
I am writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility's recommendation against adopting the rule change I petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to make regarding Rule 6, Section A of the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility. 
My petition seeks to amend the Rule to include:
The investigator assigned, if a lawyer, shall not be in active practice in the same area of law that the lawyer under investigation practices in. The investigator assigned, if not a lawyer, shall not be a person who works in a profession which commonly receives referrals from lawyers who practice in the same area of law as the lawyer under investigation. 
In your response you state that sufficient safeguards are in place already. This is difficult to understand  given the facts in the complaint I filed against with your office. Indeed the behavior of your office had been blatantly unethical and likely criminal. 
I will remind you that:
  • My complaint against is backed by the strongest, clearest evidence possible. It is difficult to understand how a reasonable person could think otherwise. 
  • The original investigation never addressed the specific complaints. 
  • The appeals process, likewise, did not address the the complaints. 
  • The investigator was a person who makes his living off referrals from divorce attorneys. Your claim that this does not create a conflict of interest is difficult to understand. 
Furthermore, the “appeals process” you mention in your letter is rather opaque and consists of nothing more than a letter addressed to your office.  
It is evident that your office does not work to enforce the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility but rather works to shield lawyers from complains that they broke the rules. As far as I can gather your office rarely, if ever, takes action against a lawyer unless they have been charged by law enforcement with a crime. I doubt you have ever disbarred or even reprimanded a lawyer for lying in Family Court which is the very reason it is so common.  And if you do not believe that it is common for lawyers to lie in Family Court you are simply out of touch with reality. 
The Rules  on Lawyers Professional Responsibility are like the Iraqi Constitution under Saddam Hussein - a nice document but not followed.      
The devastation caused by the failure to take action of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility against lawyers who break the rules is enormous. It harms the innocent, including many children, and drives many victims to self-destructive behavior including, tragically, suicide. It also creates a culture of crime which is the logical outcome when people see that the privileged and powerful are able to operate outside the law. 
I doubt you consider yourself unethical and a criminal. Pretty much no one, no matter how badly they behave, does. But your actions show that you are. 
Please ensure that this letter is passed on to all Directors and Assistant Directors at the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility and confirm that you have does so to me. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Family Court Reform

A Petition2Congreess initiative seeks  Family Court Reform and Parental Rights. It is well worth signing. Action sought is:
1. Conduct an investigation into the policies and practices conducted in the family courts across the US and by the American BAR Association. Individuals found to be in violation of their oaths of service shall be reprimanded or removed and recommendations shall be made for long term reform. Of particular concern are abuse of judicial discretion, failure to provide equal protection and due process, failure to adjudicate cases in a timely manner, and failure to uphold Constitutional rights of parents to determine what is in the best interest of their own children.
2. Conduct an investigation into child custody laws, practices, and long term impacts. Provide recommendations for updates to state law that are consistent with Supreme Court rulings that uphold the rights of each parent to have essentially equal, ongoing, and meaningful relationships with their children. True 50/50 equal and joint custody and decision making should be the default in all states unless a parent is determined to be unfit or agrees to another arrangement.
3. Conduct an investigation into child support and alimony (spousal support) laws and rulings. Advise and direct courts to develop new policies and practices that adequately provide for the basic financial needs of children being cared for by one or both biological parents not living in the same household, without violating the inalienable financial or property rights of either biological parent. True 50/50 financial responsibility for children based on USDA national guidelines on the cost to raise a child should be assumed unless otherwise agreed upon by the parents.
4. Conduct an investigation into the impact of The Violence Against Women Act, it's effectiveness, and how gender discriminatory policy impacts practices, policies, and judicial decisions in family court and the American justice system. Federal and state laws and programs must be consistently and fairly written and enforced to provide equal protection under the law for both men and women in family court and in programs intended to protect families and children from domestic violence.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Divorce Corp

This video is from about 3 years ago but is still quite relevant.

The thing that strikes me, and I mean that almost literally, is that even here the presumption is that the spouse receiving lifetime alimony was a homemaker. In my case, that was patently not true. The court appointed custody evaluator ruled parenting was joint during the marriage. Furthermore the vocational evaluator ruled that Spring could make just as much money as me if she wanted to. Yet, despite joint custody post marriage, I have to pay Spring massive alimony until the day I die. Spring basically left me because she lost interest in having a family and wanted easy money. Her lawyer assured her, quite correctly, that she could do so. All it would take is a bit of crime but there was essentially zero risk for them in that.

The result is that I am essentially a slave - I'm not sure what else you would call someone ordered by the government to work until death for the benefit of another. Furthermore, I can never retire or remarry as that would oblige my new spouse to pay alimony to Spring should I become disabled. That is not a risk, I am willing to take.

How is this all possible? Money. Divorce is a massive industry. An industry that makes money not by being efficient and fair but rather by being inefficient and unfair. Certainly there are many good family law lawyers and judges but there are far too many bad ones. Sadly, even the ones who act ethically themselves all too often ignore the crimes and injustices committed by their colleagues.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

MGTOW - Benefits of Feminism?

MGTOW - Men Going Their Own Way, a somewhat strange organization, has a somewhat strange video on The Benefits of Feminism. It isn't really much of a video just someone speaking while a few pictures display on the screen.

MGTOW and the video, as near as I can tell, appear to be a reaction against injustices men have experienced taken a bit too far. They essentially believe that men are better off without marriage or even loving relationships with women. They would rather men buy sex and companionship when needed outright rather than essentially do so, as they believe, through marriage.

The mistake they make is applying actions committed by individuals to an entire group. Which is pretty much the way racism, discrimination and sexism work. Some examples:

  • They state that all women are bad at managing money. That is patently ridiculous. I know many women who are good at managing money and many men men who are atrocious at it. 
  • They believe that all women are essentially predatory on men. Love is just a tactic to get money. Maybe I differ with them on this because I have been in a quite good loving relationship for over five years now. And it isn't like I have a lot of money anymore. 
Nevertheless, there are some quite interesting points made in the video. For example, they discuss how (some) women use men as a back-up retirement plan. I personally know of two women that are doing just this. Both date older men with money. They are seemingly head-over-heals in love and hint often of marriage. Yet, it is clear to me that if the man's wealth was at the same level as theirs, essentially flat broke, they would have nothing to do with him at all. But, and this is where I differ from MGTOW, is that it is clear to me that not all women are this way and certainly there are men that do the same. 

MGTOW makes many other very good points about how men are unjustly treated. These include the fact that nearly all military deaths are of men, the preponderance of dangerous jobs are done mostly by men and that most health research dollars are spent to help women. Where the organization fails is that rather than pointing these out as examples of unjust treatment instead devolves into an attack on women.  

I believe in justice. It doesn't matter what the gender (or race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, whatever) is. Maybe that is why I am far less outraged by Spring's actions, despite being unethical to the extreme and criminal to boot. She is just a person with serious moral issues. The world is full of them. What is far, far worse is a legal system that not only promotes injustice but where criminal actions are routinely committed and covered by as a matter of course. Society cannot "fix" bad people. But they can make just laws and enforce them consistently and equitably. 

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.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Program

Minnesota's Guardian ad Litem Program, which to be honest I had never heard of before, was designed to ensure the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Apparently, there has been concerns for some time regarding how well the program is run and how effective they are in protecting children.
“Many concerns have been raised about the use of guardians ad litem…most complaints are connected with guardian activities in family court cases, primarily in contested divorce actions. Complaints have focused on guardian bias towards either women or men, lack of oversight and accountability, inadequate training, inappropriate communication between guardians and judges, and other inappropriate behavior…”- Evaluation Report, Guardians ad Litem, 1995: MN.
A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger (C2A) is an active organization seeking to correct abuses in the program.

“A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger” (C2A) is a group of parents and professionals who are joining together to offer support to families negatively impacted by Minnesota’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program, and family court system. A Call to Action advocates for needed change by raising awareness and through advocacy efforts.

I cannot say definitively how well the Guardian ad Litem program is run but the C2A site certainly feels like a familiar story. Those who profess, and often believe, they are doing good while simply indulging their thirst for power are the most dangerous type of victimizer.  A bad cop, lawyer or judge is far more dangerous than an overt criminal. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Virginia Alimony Reform

There is a cogent post over in the 2nd Partners & Partners Club section on the Virginia Alimony Reform site.
Virginia allows a woman to work so, why even allow permanent alimony? After 10 years marriage, social security allows a woman to collect against a former husbands benefits without affecting the husband's benefits so, why does a former spouse also need permanent alimony? In Virginia, spouses split all assets including retirement so, why is a former spouse also entitled to permanent alimony? Like me, have you also ask yourself these questions?
I am married to a wonderful man who has been sentenced to lifetime alimony. This means that I too have been sentenced to lifetime alimony. Instead of looking to a bright future, planning our retirement and being able to assist children and grandchildren when they need it, we live in fear of the State increasing the awarded "a free meal ticket" to a grown adult. This person is in our marriage and our life. I feel like this is legally supported polygamy. How do you feel?
Although 97% of the time when the court orders alimony the husband is the payer, it is important to understand that often the alimony paid by the man is also effectively paid by his new spouse or partner.  Oddly, more women pay alimony to their spouse's ex-wife than then do to their own ex-husband. Which goes to show just how messed up the system is.

Alimony reform is not a man vs. woman issue - it is is a justice vs. injustice, and often such as with my situation a criminal vs. law-abiding, issue.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

More Stories

Minnesota Alimony Reform has been listing stories from real people that highlight the real injustices that occur with alimony awards in Minnesota.  They are quite honestly often painful to read but at least they are people I can commiserate with. Some new ones have been recently posted. Check it out.
Permanent maintenance is a total joke! Let’s see. Child support ends when the child reaches 18 or finishes secondary school. But yet you have to pay an ex joke of a human forever?? My husband passed away 17 years ago we had a daughter together. She just turned 18 and is cut off Social security now. I never received Social security for the rest of my life. Why should that be any different? I never worked while he was alive. He wanted me home. What makes an ex so special?! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Change Requires Persistance

One of the most insidious events in my divorce was when the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board totally whitewashed my complaint against Nelly Wince.  It is one thing that Wince lied and committed fraud. It isn't hard to find bad people. But when the very institution that is designed to ensure lawyers act ethically and operate within the law blatantly does just the opposite, it is a much bigger problem. That is not just a crime against an individual, it is a crime against society as it undermines and subverts the entire legal process.

The evidence agaisnt Nelly Wince is ironclad. So much so that no one has ever refuted it.

Earlier this year, I sent a freedom of information act request to the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board asking for the documents in my complaint agaisnt Nelly Wince. I found out that all documents had been destroyed per the Lawyers Rules of Professional Conduct. (as odd as that sounds) While reading the rules I decided that I would see if I could change the rules.

Rather than trying to change the rule on document retention, I focused on a smaller, hopefully less controversial change.

The investigator who looked into my complaint agaisnt Nelly Wince was a divorce mediator. A person whose very livelihood depends on referrals from divorce lawyers. If this isn't a clear conflict of interest, I do not know what is. This is where I focused my attention.

Now how to change the Lawyers Rules of Professional Conduct is a far from transparent process. It was really only with the help of a sympathetic state senator that the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board told what the process is - this in itself is pretty disturbing.

The process is to petition the State Supreme Court, in a very specific manner, for the change. I did this. The specific change I am seeking is to add the following to the rules:
The investigator assigned, if a lawyer, shall not be in active practice in the same area of law that the lawyer under investigation practices in. The investigator assigned, if not a lawyer, shall not be a person who works in a profession which commonly receives referrals from lawyers who practice in the same area of law as the lawyer under investigation.
Pretty reasonable I think.

In my petition I specifically asked to be kept informed when the petition would be heard by the Court as well as the result. I heard nothing for six months. This week, however, I received an email from the court granting a request by the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board for a two week extension to the time in which they need to reply. The order was actually signed by the Chief Justice. And it included a case number.

Using the case number, I was able to look up the details of the case on the court's website. There I found my petition, communication directing the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board to respond, their request for an extension as well as the granting of the extension that I received. Again, the granting of the extinction request was the first communication I received from the court.

The case also included a petition submitted by a lawyer also regarding the Rules of Professional Conduct but on a wholly unrelated matter. I presume they lump such petitions together.

It will be awhile before I know the result of my petition. The Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board has until October 14th to respond to the court and who knows how long it will take before a decision will be made after that.

I am 99% sure my petition will fail. If I actually do succeed I suspect I will be the first non-lawyer in the history of the state to successfully petition for a change in the Lawyers Rules of Professional Conduct. I'll admit a part of me holds out hope for this. But even if it fails I take comfort in the fact that people at the Supreme Court, maybe even the justices themselves, have read not only petition but the background information I provided along with it. That can only help.

I did what I was supposed to in Spring's divorce of me. I told the truth and acted ethically despite the fact that Spring and Wince were not only acting unethically but criminally. Sadly they got away with it. My petition is a small but significant step in making it less likely others will suffer as I and my children have from corruption with the legal system.

The effect of such corruption on the children, including my children, breaks my heart. It is bad enough when a child's parent is a criminal. But is is far worse for a child to have a parent that is a successful criminal. When you get away with crime it builds a near insurmountable barrier to regret and remorse. Without regret and remorse there is little chance of forgiveness.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Corruption Has Consequences

One of the most insidious aspects of corruption is that it invariable spreads in a disease like manner. A judge such as Richard Mearly who clearly rules based on personal whim rather in a just and law abiding manner, an organization such as Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board which blatantly protects lawyers who break the law, and county attorneys such as Bennie Sonsang who actively work to shield criminals and hurt the innocent do not limit there unjust actions to just family law. These same judges, lawyers and prosecutors are involved in cases across the board.

Tragically in Minnesota this week a police officer shot and killed Philando Castile, a black man sitting in a car who he had stopped for a broken taillight. Castile was shot four times while his girlfriend and her four year old child sat in the car. Although it is difficult if not impossible to know exactly why the police officer pulled the trigger, I think it highly unlikely Castile would have been shot if he was white. As governor Dayton stated, “Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have.”

So how did this happen? What is the culture that allows a police officer to so easily gun down a black man? Certainly racism is part of the issue. But the enabling factor is a corrupt legal system. If the same event had happened 30 years ago there would likely have been no consequences for the police officer at all. It would have been a minor news event.  It would have been covered up.That doesn't work so well in cases where we have live streaming as Castile's girlfriend had the presence of mind to do.

It is near impossible for people who are not victims of corruption to understand those who are. There is a tendency to believe that the victims are exaggerating. That things aren't as bad as they are making out. The truth is that the reality is often far worse than the victims even know.

All forms of discrimination whether based on nationality, religion, gender, or sexual orientation are really just consequences of corruption. Corruption is simply just one group oppressing another. It is a form of organized crime. It is easier to do if the ones being oppressed are identifiable by color of skin, national origin, religion or any other category but it also works quite well when the victims are poor saps who are being divorced.

There are few options for justice when the legal system itself is unjust.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Illusive Freedom

Today is the 4th of July. While I was out running this morning I, perhaps unsurprisingly, was thinking about freedom. I was daydreaming about giving a speech to a group of divorce lawyers. It went something like this.

When a crime is committed it is a tragedy for the victim and, I would argue, for the perpetrator. However when a crime goes unpunished it is a tragedy for society because an unjust society cannot thrive or even continue. 

In my daydream, I ask the room full of lawyers if they believe that all family law attorneys are 100% honest and would never knowingly lie in court or commit fraud. I imagine zero hands would go up. Then I ask for a show of hands stating how many believe most family law attorneys are honest and ethical. I imagine many hands would go up. Then I ask how many think the legal profession should aggressively prosecute the lawyers who do commit criminal acts. As I see the uncomfortable shifting I give them a break and tell them that no show of hands is needed. But maybe a better way to think about it, I tell them,  is to substitute pedophile priests for unethical lawyers.  I doubt anyone believes there are no pedophiles priests. Nor does anyone believe the majority of priests are pedophiles. But does that mean we should tolerate the bad ones?

Perhaps another analogy would help. In Iraq under Saddam Hussein clear cases of murder often went not only unpunished but rewarded by the government.  Here in Minnesota, as the facts in my case clearly demonstrate, criminal actions within the family law system not only go unpunished but are often rewarded by the government. Now maybe you think murder is more serious so the two aren't comparable but given the high rate of suicides by victims of unjust divorces and enormous transfer of assets from the innocent to the criminal, it is clear that by any measure that the problem is enormous. And, as this site has unequivocally shown, it is pervasive. A lawyer who commits a crime is bad enough. But when that lawyer is protected by the Lawyers Office of Professional Responsibility and County Attorney it is not matter of a few bad apples. It is institutional corruption.

Yet I am optimistic that our society can become more just. We have show time and time again that we can overcome injustice and become better. I have no doubt that the terrible injustices that occur within the divorce system today will one day be a thing of the past. But it won't just happen by itself. We need to all work together to achieve it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Reality of Lifetime Divorce

One thing I have heard over and over from people who have gone through an unjust divorce is that they thought they were the only one. I have felt this way many times. It just seems so impossible that what I experienced could be anything other than a fluke. After all, how can society be so unfair? How can Family Court reward the bad and punish the good? How can it so callously destroy children's lives?  It is almost a coping strategy to think that what happens to you is not what normally happens. But it does. Take a look at this video:

Unfortunately that same denial of reality is what keeps legislators, law enforcement, good lawyers and ethical judges from addressing the problem. They just do not believe the problem it exists other than as a rare misfortune.  They believe the system works and no changes are needed. They are wrong.

The reality is that injustices in divorce affects many people Just in Minnesota it causes the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars from the law abiding to the criminal. It costs millions in lost tax revenue. It destroys lives. It harms children. It teaches hundreds of thousands if not millions of people that the legal system is fundamentally unjust. And it is destroying the institution of marriage. I could go on and on.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For

I don't really talk much about my divorce, especially at work, but little by little I have become less reluctant to do so.  Given that most people at work know the girl I have been dating for the last five years it isn't really a secret that I am divorced, but the reality of situation isn't something I go into detail on much.

Maybe it was the horrible incident in Orlando that caused me open up or maybe it was just the moment but I was having a conversation with a person, who happens to be gay, at work whom I have know, and consider a friend, for decades.  He mentioned something about retirement and I made a comment about that the fact that it is pretty much illegal for me to ever retire. That opened it all up and in a matter of minutes I told him about the curse of lifetime alimony that I am under and the fact that not only retirement but remarriage is, for all practical purposes impossible for me.  Ever.

The topic changed to same-sex marriage and I told him that when the whole issue came up a few years back came up I was conflicted. I don't believe the government has any business regulating who can marry who but under current law, at least in Minnesota, it opens up a whole new segment of the population to the horrible injustices that occur in Family Count.  It is analogous to giving women the right to be drafted and fight in combat - during the height of the Vietnam War.

Equal rights are good. But you have to be careful what you wish for. Yet hope springs eternal (it has to for me or I could never survive) so maybe, just maybe, as same-sex people start getting divorced some of more heinous aspects of family law will change and change for the better. Same-sex marriage went from an impossibility to reality in just a few years. Maybe the most unjust aspects of alimony can eliminated before too long as well.  I hope so.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


I have been thinking about entitlement lately. There is an old joke that there are two types of people in the world - those who believe there are two types of people and those who don't.  I am more of a spectrum type person philosophically. For example, people aren't either good or bad, everyone is a bit of both but there are those who are more toward the totally good end whereas others are closer to the opposite end.

This is true with entitlement as well but in my mind there is a cleaner dividing line in the middle. If you believe life is about doing good for others then you are the non-entitled side. If you think the world owes, you are are on the entitled side.

I recently heard a couple stories on the radio about young graduates. One was about a woman who graduated from a fairly prestigious public university over a year ago but was still living with her parents. She was working part-time as a waitress because that was all she could find. She thought the school should reimburse her the cost of tuition. I am sorry but anyone of reasonable intelligence who says they can't find full time work today just isn't trying. Maybe she wasn't able to get the nice cushy six figure 30 hour a week she had hoped to land with her history major but she has no one to blame but herself for that. I put her pretty high on the entitlement quotient.

Contrast that with another story I heard about a woman who had just received her PhD in a hard science.  She was an undocumented immigrant who came to the country as an infant with her parents. She never had any help with school, financially or otherwise. She wasn't even able to apply for most scholarships given her undocumented status. She made it by working hard. And the kicker is that she wanted to make her parents proud for all they had done for her. She felt lucky. She is rather low on the entitlement quotient I would say.

People such as Spring who not only believe that world exists to take care of them but even when they have everything they could possibly want commit the most heinous crimes to get even more have about as high an entitlement quotient as there is.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Alimony In Florida

Ayo and Iken has an interesting discussion on how alimony works, or doesn't, in Florida.

I would like to see the permanent alimony disappear. I think there are only select situations where it should actually happen. I feel like it is being misused and it’s not the intent of the original law. I see situations where, it’s mainly men, are paying permanent alimony to a woman who at the time did raise the children, wasn’t able to earn, but has now chosen to only work part-time and kind of hangout and do their thing while the ex-husband is continuing to work to try to meet that alimony obligation. I just don’t think it’s fair and equitable. Something needs to change. I don’t know how to fix it, but I’m not happy with the current state of the law.
-- Kristal Knox 

In Minnesota, I pay permanent alimony to a person who divorced me, was not the primary caregiver of the children according to the custody evaluator and who can make just as much money as me according to the employment evaluator.

The family court system is far, far more dysfunctional and unjust than people realize.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Ohio Alimony Reform

Ohio Alimony Reform (O.A.R.)  is is yet another state organization hoping to reform the most severe injustices of current alimony laws and rulings. Like many such organizations it takes its inspiration from the successful Massachusetts Alimony Reform effort.

O.A.R.'s goal are pretty straightforward:  

  1. Preserve the Viability and Logic of Legal Marriage.
  2. Promote Family Peace and Well Being Following Divorce, via Fairness.
  3. Establish Consistent, Predictable, and Reasonable Alimony Amounts and Duration.
  4. Enable Parties to Remain Whole after a Divorce;  Able to Rebuild, Have Hope, and Eventually Retire.
  5. Outline and Weight the Factors that are Fair, Feasible, Complete, and Unambiguous in Establishing Spousal Support.

Like most alimony reform reform goals it is hard to disagree with them. Pretty much the only people that do disagree with them are those who don't understand them. That is why in Massachusetts alimony reform passed the legislature unanimously with full support from the Bar Association and Women's groups.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Half of Misogyny on Twitter Comes From Women

A study in the U.K. has found that half of sexist tweets come from women. Based on the amount of press the study has received, this shocking to some people. Dr. Helen Smith is not one of them.  Nor am I. If you think men are more sexist than women you are at best uninformed. That or, ironically, you are sexist.

Humans like to categorize. They like to say all men/women/blacks/whites/Asians/gays/whatever are this or that. When you think that way you are being prejudiced which is nothing more than missing the trees for the forest. It is not viewing people as individuals but as part of a group. That is wrong.

Sadly our laws, which are supposed to treat people as individuals, often fail miserably. This is especially true when it comes to divorce and alimony.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Unethical Amnesia

A new study (and here) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that when we act unethically, we’re more likely to remember these actions less clearly. They call it "unethical amnesia" and it may help explain how people can act unethically without being racked by guilt.  In essence, such people forget they acted unethically.

One of the things that amazed me during my divorce was the sheer amount of unethical and criminal actions committed by so many people. From Spring committing perjury, to Nelly Wince's fraudulent actions, to Rachel Corinth's attempt to use my kids to steal money, to corruption at the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, unscrupulous actions abounded.  Unethical amnesia is a concept that makes sense. I would guess it applies to anyone who does bad things. People do not think they are bad; they suppress it through a combination of rationalization and ethical amnesia.

But of course there are people that do act ethically. People who care about others. People whose actions are driven by their conscious. It is sad that our family law system so often rewards those who act unethically and punishes those who do not.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's The Law!

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed into law HF 1333. The bill allows for modification of alimony upon romantic cohabitation in addition to remarriage. I personally know several people, including spouses of people paying alimony to a former spouse, this will benefit. Not only that but it will make Minnesota a little less of an anti-marriage state as it will reduce the likelihood of people not getting married just to continue getting alimony.

Of course people will still game the system (let's be real here) but it is a major step in the right direction.

I am amazed and pleased with the rapidity that  this law went through the legislature as well as the level of support it achieved. I can only hope this a a harbinger of more fundamental reform.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Minnesota Senate To Vote On Cohabitation Bill This Week

The Minnesota Senate is scheduled to vote on the SF 3420, the companion bill to HF 1333 that passed the House last Wednesday, early this week. The vote was originally schedule for Monday but it looks like it will now be Tuesday.

The bill will allow judges to consider cohabitation (and to be clear this is romantic cohabitation not just having a roommate) in addition to remarriage as grounds to terminating divorce. Given the level of support HF1333 had in the House, I believe the bill should pass easily.

I am surprised and encouraged not only with the level of support for these bills but the rapidity with which they have moved through the legislative process over the last few weeks. But realize it is a modest first step toward more comprehensive alimony reform. Still, I can only be encouraged that the time has finally come reduce some of the most glaring injustices within the family court system.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cohabitation Bill Passes Minnesota House!

Minnesota House bill HF1333 which allows for modification of alimony upon cohabitation with a non-relative of the alimony recipient passed today by a vote of 112-9. Not only is this great news in its own right but it indicates wide support for alimony reform in the Minnesota legislature.

The companion bill in the Senate, SF 3420, is moving forward with every indication that it is just as widely supported.

For more information visit Minnesota Alimony Reform.

Very good news indeed!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Not Every Ex is a Psychopath

Although I don't believe Spring is truly a psychopath, I'll admit that she has many times done things where I have called her a "psycho" in my thoughts.

Why? Well here is an example. Recently I opened a letter addressed to me yet without a return address. Now normally I do not open letters without a return address because when I first stated my career I was trained not to. You see at the time the Unabomber was active and I was working in a position that was pretty much his preferred target. Ever since I have been in the habit of tossing anything without a return address.

But I absentmindedly opened this one and in it I find a printout of a spreadsheet of costs that Spring apparently expects me to pay her. At least that is what I assume it is because there was no letter or note inside stating this or anything else. This costs are for such things as her increase in car insurance after my eldest received his driver's license and other such nonsense. Why she would expect me to pay these costs is beyond my understanding.

The divorce decree, just to complicate things, not only required me to pay massive spousal support, child support, insurance for the kids, etc. but also required Spring to pay each month back to me a small amount for the kids insurance and medical/dental costs. (there was no mention of my paying the increase in her car insurance once the kids received their drivers licenses) She quit paying anything about a month after the divorce was finalized.

Like most people my medical and dental deductibles have gone up. Both kids have had their wisdom teeth taken out, received college vaccinations, have had to go to the doctor for various illnesses. And, of course, I am the one that takes them to the doctor and dentist.

On top of that, Spring had no involvement with let alone paid any costs associated with them choosing a college or paying for it. I did all the college visits. I went to the parent orientations. I take them to school (both go out of state) and pick them up. Spring has told both that she will never use any of the money eared by me and transferred to her for their college costs let alone use her own income.

Yet she sends me bogus bills to pay her more money. The only reason I can think of is to harass me. But why on earth would she want to harass me? She left me not the other way around. There is something seriously wrong with her morality.

But is she a psychopath?

Yesterday, I read a pretty interesting article in Discover magazine titled Into the Mind of a Psychopath. The article was about Robert Hare, the person who created the psychopathy diagnostic test.

The test includes 20 items: glibness/superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, need for stimulation/proneness to boredom, pathological lying, conning/manipulation, lack of remorse/guilt, shallow affect, callousness/lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, promiscuous sexual behavior, early behavior problems, lack of realistic, long-term goals, impulsivity, failure to accept responsibility, many short-term marital relationships, juvenile delinquency and criminal versatility.

A clinician scores each item with 0 (no presence) to 2 (definitely present). Psychopaths score 30 to 40 points. The general population typically scores less than 5. The average score for prisoners is 23.

Now I am not a psychologist (although I did minor in it in college) and I won't attempt to rate Spring but in my opinion she clearly gets top scores for pathological lying, manipulation, lack of realistic long term goals, lack of remorse and parasitic lifestyle.

People love to categorize. But categorization often distorts reality. People are not either a good person or a psychopath. There is a continuum from a totally good ethical person to the worst psychopath you can think of. I do not think Spring is so bad that she ranks as a clinical psychopath but she is pretty clearly more toward that end of the spectrum than is the bulk of humanity.

So maybe when Spring harasses me in the future I shouldn't think "psycho" but rather "psycho tendencies".  Unfortunately that just doesn't roll off the tongue quite so easily. What I really want is for the divorce to just be over. Then I wouldn't have to think of her at all.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prince - R.I.P.

As you probably know, Prince died two days ago. He was only 57. Prince was an incredibly talented musician. For one of his albums, he not only produced, arranged and composed it but played all 27 instruments on the recording. He was arguably the greatest living guitarist when he died.

I can distinctly remember walking out of a theater having watched Purple Rain feeling amazed by Prince's talent.

Minnesota is a land with a rich history of musical talent. Bob Dylan, The Replacements, Husker Du (with Bob Mould) and Soul Asylum to name a few.

I have traveled a lot and everywhere I go I hear Prince. It always makes me proud to be from Minnesota. Not just because of his talent but because Minnesota is the kind of place that a five foot two scrawny eccentric minority kid can become a superstar. Maybe that is why Prince continued to live here.

Prince was well know for denouncing record company contracts calling them a form of indentured servitude and even slavery. Young musicians are often conned into signing contracts when they are just staring out only to later learn that they are obliged to make a set number of albums for the record company. But they cannot make anything they want; often the contracts specify they have to follow the artistic direction of the company and the company can accept or decline the albums. So they are essentially locked into the contract until the record company decides to release them.

I do not know if Prince every spoke about lifetime alimony but you can bet he would have thought it was an even worse form of slavery than a record contract. I love Minnesota but lifetime alimony and a corrupt legal system are huge problems here. Justice is not something that just happens. The laws need to support it and the legal system needs to ensure it.  When that falls apart, as it has in Minnesota, it causes real harm to innocent people and indeed all of society.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Why Child Custody And Alimony Reform Should Not Be Mixed

Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed an alimony reform bill on Friday due to concerns over a child custody provision. Scott very likely would have signed the bill if it had only dealt with alimony reform.

The proposed Florida bill would have directed judges to presume joint parenting was best for children before considering the specific details of the case. While this is eminently reasonable, it has nothing to do with alimony reform.
Alimony reform, which has wide support in Florida, was killed because a child custody provision was tacked onto it
Although you can certainly argue that child custody may need reform in Florida, the issue is far less detrimental to children than unjust alimony awards. And making alimony awards more just actually helps with custody issues.

In my case, I am pretty well convinced that the only reason Spring tried to get sole custody of the children was because she thought it would get her more money. In the end, the Court's joint custody ruling ending up being little different than if I had been awarded sole custody. Alimony reform removes one of, if not the primary, reason people fight over custody.

Minnesota Alimony Reform is quite rightly focused solely on alimony reform.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Minnesota Alimony Reform Updates

There has been a huge amount of activity with the new Minnesota Alimony Reform organization.

  • Stephen Hitner, the founder of Massachusetts Alimony Reform, came out to Minnesota and gave a really nice and informative presentation. In 2012 Massachusetts enacted comprehensive alimony reform. The law was passed unanimously in the legislature and had, and continues to have, strong support from virtually every interested organization both nationally and within the state. 
  • A bill to termination alimony due to cohabitation rather than just remarriage is well on it's way to becoming the law in Minnesota. The bill has gone before two committees in the House and one in the Senate and was approved unanimously by all three.  
  • The postings on the Nightmare Stories page continues to grow. These often heart-breaking stories highlight just how injust current alimony laws are and the pain and suffering they cause.
Check out the Minnesota Alimony Reform's News page for more updates. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Immoral Behaviour

I ran across and interesting New York University Study which concluded that doubts about career potential can pave the way for immoral processional conduct.

In a nutshell - if you motivated to go into a profession but are told you don't have a lot of potential for the field then you are more likely to endorse and engage in immoral behaviors.
The results showed that those highly motivated to enter the business world and who were told they did poorly on the test were more likely to endorse the immoral act (i.e., breaking the contract) than were those who were informed they did well.
Students, who were determined to enter the legal field and told they performed poorly on the test, were comparatively more likely to say they performed these “immoral” behaviors.
Now the interesting thing is that in the study the subjects were randomly told that their potential wasn't very good. In real life, the people who lack potential are usually the ones who receive the most negative feedback. So the most incompetent become the most likely to act immorally. Which, I suspect, is pretty self-reinforcing. After all, if being bad is the best way for you as an individual to succeed (because you can't by competency), you are more likely to act immorally.

It is the classic dumb bully stereotype - if you lack brains but have muscle, then use your muscle to get your way.

To prevent the bad people/bullies from winning through bad behavior is exactly why we have laws. But the laws need to be enforced to do any good.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Florida Alimony Reform Politics

I ran across a great article on pending alimony reform legislation  in Florida on the CBS 19 television station site, which oddly is located in Texas.

The current alimony situation is so bad in Florida that the author asks, "Why would anyone get married in Florida?"

Minnesota is every bit as bad as Florida so I'll ask, "Why would anyone get married in Minnesota?"

As I write this I am listening to a segment on the radio about a college professor in her 40s who has not yet achieved tenure and is depressed about it due to the financial uncertainty that brings.  She is working with a a career coach.

I can't help but think - try losing everything and having to pay over $30,000+ a year in alimony until the day you die. Try having no hope of ever retiring. Try not being able to remarry because that would oblige your new spouse to pay alimony to your ex-spouse should you become disabled. Try being in that situation not because you did anything wrong but because of clear criminal actions by your ex-spouse, her lawyer and others in the divorce industry. You know nothing about financial uncertainty.

One thing I hate about my situation is that I've lost a lot of emotional empathy.

Monday, March 21, 2016

They Know Not What They Do?

In the gospel at Palm Sunday mass, Jesus is quoted as saying from the cross, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

Many times I have wondered how people who commit crimes and other unethical acts can possibly not know what they are doing. I often think that of course Spring knows she committed perjury, Nelly Wince knows she committed fraud and lied in court, Judge Mearly knows he ruled unethically, the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board and County Attorney Bernie Sonsang know they corruptly conspired to cover up criminal activity. How can they not? There actions were blatant after all.

But the reality is they probably do not think they did anything wrong. The key is that they rationalize the actions away. Spring probably believes that lying in court is just how the system works. (she actually told me this at one point) Nelly Wince likely thinks the same. They all have their reasons and those reasons are enough to assuage their consciences.

But still, their actions are wrong. And illegal. We have, in general, pretty good laws. Where we fail is on the equal and just enforcement of this laws. Leaving alimony awards up to the discretion of a judge without any guidelines, provides a wide open door to abuse. For examples take a look at the stories on the Minnesota Alimony Reform site. We have good laws agaisnt fraud but apparently they don't apply so much when it comes to certain people.  Minnesota Lawyers have laudable rules of ethical conduct. But they are pretty much ignored and the Lawyers Office of Professional Responsibility rarely, if ever, takes action against a lawyer unless the person has already been convicted of a major crime.

Because the laws and rules are not enforced consistently and equitably, they come to be seen as optional by the unethical.

Although there are variations, in general there is remarkable consistency in laws and ethics across religions, non-religious value systems and countries.  Collectively, we know what is right - sadly, on an individual basis our species is not so good. Murder, bribery, and fraud are universally condemned by law. Yet, in many countries they are quite common. Why? Because the laws are not well enforced in those countries. Well enforced laws are what keeps the the individuals who are able to rationalize away their unethical and criminal actions in check.

Despite all the evidence I have of crime, in some cases indubitable evidence, the criminals go unpunished and unchecked.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Computer Bias or Human Bias?

NPR has a fascinating story on, Can Computer Programs Be Racist And Sexist?  The concern is that even though learning algorithms, such as used by recommendation engines (like Amazon's) or search engines (like Google's) start off as completely unbiased they may evolve to reflect the bias of the people using them.

A Harvard study cited found, "found that when someone searched in Google for a name normally associated with a person of African-American descent, an ad for a company that finds criminal records was more likely to turn up." Why? "Because people tended to click on the ad topic that suggested that that person had been arrested when the name was African-American, the algorithm learned the racism of the search users and then reinforced it by showing that more often."

Regarding gender bias the article states that studies have show that women are shown more lower-paying job ads then men. This is due to the fact that women click on the lower-paying jobs less than the higher paying ones. Why would woman do this? You might say that our sexist society teaches woman that only lower paying jobs are open to them. Or you could say that out sexist society teaches women that men will work at the more dangerous and stressful jobs in order to protect and make money for women. No doubt both are partly true.

I have some background in technology and know that it would be nearly impossible to eliminate such bias in learning algorithms because you would have to purposefully introduce a counter-bias to correct for it. And, of course, everyone would have a different opinion on exactly what that counter-bias should be.

So if we cannot programmatically correct for bias what can we do? We can think. We can use knowledge to understand. If you know these systems may be biased you can take that into account. If you are looking for a job in a profession dominated by members of a different gender, know that you might have to look a bit harder.

Bias is endemic. Learn to recognize it. For example, this week I finished a novel that was recently written and authored by a woman. In it, a couple has a hole in the wall of their house. The wife complains that the husband hasn't fixed it. The implicit bias is that somehow the wife is unable to fix it herself. That is sexism. Recognizing and being aware of bias is all its forms is the key to overcoming it.