Ken is just one of thousands, many of whose stories are forever buried in the forgotten dockets of their respective family courts. While suicide is not the answer and will not help to solve anyone’s problems, these victims should not be forgotten.
https://www.fathersforlife.org/suicides/men_who_broke.htm has a comprehensive listing prior to 2011, though not updated since. Read those stories, and know that in nearly each one of those cases, there used to be a loving father who would one day be fishing with his grandchildren–had family court not ruined their lives.
In the last week or so we have been hearing more and more about the stimulus payments, the CARES act, and the much needed SBA loans that are promised to the public. But what about those who have been harmed the most, the non-custodial parents? Well, the more badly you need the funds, the less likely you are to get them. But who will profit? That’s right, the state.
In the legislation several members of our esteemed federal government had ensured that no parent who owes child support receives a portion of this stimulus. Instead, it goes directly to the custodial parent, and thus reflecting as money paid in support that the states then profit from via Title IV-D. So who is the stimulus for exactly? Those who actually need it? Or fattening the pockets of the state?
There isn’t much to add about this in the interim. The various news outlets have reported on this (admittedly very sparingly) but one facet not covered generally is the fact that SBA loan eligibility also removed from those in arrears. That means should the principal of a company (or any principal within the company) be in arrears, that automatically disqualifies the business from being able to apply for a loan to keep up payrolls. This harms not only the employer, but all those in employ of that company as well. And who does that benefit might I ask? ‘Murica!!!
This article is intended to rebuke some of the most common arguments against child support. There are many people selling motions and arguments claiming you can use them to prove child support is illegal. These are all scams, and will only hurt your case in the future. While it is our belief that the current child support system is fundamentally unconstitutional and violates basic human rights of fathers, the current precedent in the United States has failed to preserve the civil liberties of non-custodial parents. We do not agree with them, but we feel you should understand what you are up against if making an argument on a federal level.
Misrepresentation of Interest
A point of contention regarding the impact of family law on constitutional rights is frequently cited under “deprivation of rights under color of law.” This is actually a federal law, a penalty for which is as harsh as murder in the first degree, including death. Essentially it is applicable when a law is passed that seeks to deprive and individual or group of basic civil rights as defined in the constitution. It’s punishment is purposefully stern, the ability to pass laws that interfere with basic constitutional rights essentially nullify what our country was founded upon. This necessitates a punishment that would ensure it would never happen.
So let us take the example where a child support order is issued to a non-custodial parent. In many cases the state passes additional laws that cause the non-custodial parent’s income to be incorrectly inflated (i.e. failure to take into account taxes or expenses) or the custodial parent’s expenses are exaggerated. Now we have a situation where an individual is unable to pay the support amount, and then faces a contempt charge for which he or she may be incarcerated for. Normally when charged with a crime one would be entitled to due process, a court appointed attorney, and the general protections one receives in criminal court. But here in civil court you do not get said protections. So how do they get around it?
Let’s take a look at another situation. The rights of parents are clearly defined in that the state shall not take away the parent’s rights to be in their child’s life, shall not interfere with their ability to parent. This is a fairly fundamental right, after all, we wouldn’t want to be in a dystopian 1984-esque society where the government can just come in and take your children to raise as they wish? Otherwise you would be re-living the Hitler youth, or the orphanages shortly after Stalin’s time full of future servants of the state.
While both of these things make perfect sense (as they should) the courts have found ways around it. In Troxel v. Granville (2000) Washington State introduced the notion that a state defined “best interest of the child” supersedes parental rights that were held by prior precedent. Unfortunately the Supreme Court agreed and allowed the ruling to stand, thus ensuring the state can tilt the tables in its favor. Once we go down that slippery slope, all the state has to do is then act as though the interests of the state are actually the best interests of the child. So what is in the best interests of the child? Is it two parents in conflict while living with one parent 80% of the time? Or is it living under a shared parenting arrangement in a calm and safe environment? It does not matter what the science says, because the Supreme Court says the state can define it. The state needs not justify as to what the best interest is, only state what the best interest is. This tragic manipulation of the law has remained in place without effective legal rebuttal and unfortunately at this point the only way to change it is through legislation.
There is no mistake about it, the state’s sole interest is in generating SSA Title IV-D reimbursement from the federal government. So is it a surprise that we find the majority of cases having a winner and a loser? No, unfortunately there are no surprises here. Family court is consistently predictable, and in the most unfortunate ways. And while the legislators are there to govern and represent the populace, they are not going to wean themselves off of the government subsidies without a fight.
Wrongful Application of Law
Now going back to our first argument, the way to get around that one is a bit more complex. First there is the issue of the amount. As the states have added more and more complexity to these laws, they have made it more and more arbitrary as to what counts as income. So for those of you out in Arkansas that travel to California for work and suddenly have to pay triple to eat (reimbursed by your employer) you’ll suddenly find that attributed as income. Do you have a work vehicle or get reimbursed to use your car? That can count as income. Do your children go to school, but it is just easier for the custodial parent to get help during the day? Sure! No problem, that is allowed. Would you ever do it if finances were tight while married? Absolutely not. But the state has discretion to inflate these figures, and gets paid directly as a result. The most important question that remains is that of incarceration. The key to allowing this to happen while depriving you of rights is to say that you willingly caused an inability to pay. So if you were a construction worker and injured your back, they can say you willingly stopped working and used the pain as a cover for reducing your income. While there are protections that you can try to invoke (i.e. disability) the road to getting that is incredibly arduous, and the expense of securing a favorable judgement using an attorney will be out of reach for many. So once you are found to be doing anything voluntary, they are able to cite you for contempt of court and take your rights. Due to the Bradley Amendment the arrears that are then created are non-modifiable and cannot be altered. This means that for the rest of one’s life, one is under threat of incarceration by the state or other parent.
You might ask yourself, but these judge’s wouldn’t do that, right? Well, let’s talk about another concept.
In the United States, judges are essentially free to do ANYTHING from the bench. In Mireles v. Waco (1991) a judge in Texas issued a warrant for the arrest of an attorney who failed to show up, and instructed the officers to “rough him up a little.” After taking the appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, not surprisingly, the cabal of peer judges refused to find any liability and ensured that judges can do anything while they are on the bench and acting in the capacity of a judge. So while they cannot just pull out a firearm and execute you on the spot, should they issue an illegal order, it is of no consequence to the judge as issuing orders is a part of their function. Very rarely is judicial misconduct punished when it happens in the court room, the only recent exemption to that was the “Kids for Cash” racket in Pennsylvania where the judges actually sold children to private juvenile detention facilities. Anyone who has known those in power long enough will know that they seek a powerful office with the least accountability. Many politicians come to mind for most, but in actuality it is the judges we have to fear.
When you combine these misrepresentations of a “child’s best interest” with the overlapping state interest, add in a dash of conflict of interest, and then polish it off lack of accountability; you end up with what we call family court in America. The last vestige of slavery in the United States.
The most important question here is how do we change it. Judicial immunity is here to stay. The only individuals powerful enough to right this wrong is the Supreme Court, and no group of judges will limit the power of their peers and branch (and themselves.) The next approach would be to limit the fictitious accounting that is commonly used in family courts to secure more Title IV-D funding at the expense of the non-custodial parent. The approach to this is to ensure shared parenting is the norm, and reduce child support orders to realistic amounts, mostly doing away with them in cases of shared custody. The ideal way is to remove Title IV-D funding entirely so that the state laws are no longer perverted by vested interest in perpetuating the miscarriage of justice.
The final step is to remove the teeth from the punishments. This part will again be incredibly difficult as the courts have dug in on the notion that the rights of the child outweighs the rights of the non-custodial parent. But this notion must not be allowed to continue. At no point should one’s liberty be exchanged for the sake of another without that person causing harm or acting in a criminal way. Though a child is helpless in the situation, the courts have failed to maintain their best interest by acting in a manner to restrict the parent’s ability to pay, such as in license suspensions and incarceration. Once an entity has proven itself to be counterproductive in the very mission it uses as justification for its actions, it should cease to hold the capacity to carry out what is in the true best interests of the child. In simple terms, if your doctor has a track record of giving you poison for a higher commission, it is time to revoke his medical license.
All of these changes will come from the legislative end, and must begin with a grass roots movement that exerts pressure on the politicians. The family court industry has run amok and taken the good will and public perception along with it. All those afflicted by the malady of institutionalized indebtedness must make their cases public so that the judicial misconduct can be seen and voted out of their position. It is not in our children’s interest to continue to persecute the parents, fueled by a winner take all mentality that serves to only enrich the politicians.
“Those socialist democrats are at fault! The republicans created this!” (what the Facebook feed screams daily)
Title IV-D is not a partisan problem. Though it was originally passed by republicans (Ford) to reduce welfare spending, it has grown into a problem exacerbated by both parties over time. The right argues against it in that it is more bloated government, democrats are appalled about the encroachment of civil liberties (via incarceration) and equality, while the libertarians have a fundamental issue in that government has absolutely no place in family–it is a community issue. We all agree on the solution. We even agree on most of the methods of getting there. So when I read my colleagues in the fight against this proclaiming that a party is in a certain position for or against it, it is disappointing as it only serves to isolate and polarize the remainder of the community. Title IV-D is not a partisan problem. Both parties have failed to pass any meaningful reform in the last several decades.
In 2018 president Obama enacted an executive order that sought to limit child support based incarceration. When president Trump came into office, he was swift to remove as many of those executive orders as possible, but did in fact leave that order alone. In all fairness, for a politician to secure office they are at the mercy of the public at large and the opinions of the masses. Politicians will not touch this issue due to the effectiveness of the lobbies that actively promote monikers such as “deadbeats” and women’s groups who seek the ability to have men incarcerated without evidence. The attorney lobbies (the bar) have made this even more problematic, while the psychologists who greatly profit from this continue to support the current inequalities as well. This is what is preventing progress, not the political parties themselves.
In reality Title IV-D has spiraled so far out of control that no rational individual can support it given all the facts. A republican should be appalled at the amount of federal spending to support these state efforts, that serve no economic purpose in the grand scheme of things. No democrat would support mass incarceration, especially that of minorities, based on inability to pay. And certainly no libertarian would ever support this level of encroachment by the government into the family. No reasonable person ever should.
With that said, reach out to your local representatives, regardless of party. Hold each one accountable. Go to the town halls, present the issue and elicit a response. Do not let them avoid the question. Make appointments with their staff, sit down for one to one meetings and discuss your case, and how their role can impact change. For state level reps discuss state level issues, for federal level officials discuss Title IV-D and judicial accountability legislation. This is what we desperately need, not to be standing in our own way, isolated on our political islands.
What They Do Not Teach You in Pre-Marriage Counseling
First off, this is not a conspiracy theory. This is my life and that of tens of thousands if not more, I just happened to have documented it more thoroughly, and have done my best to attribute and support my assertions for this article. A skeptic myself, my attention would have been hard to grab with anything akin. Let’s start by looking at the odds. What has a 50% chance of failing, 15–30% chance of bankrupting you, a very real chance at making you want to commit suicide with many doing so regularly? Nope, we’re not talking about drugs! We’re talking about, you guessed it, marriage! A tradition born in a very different society, it has now been reshapen by the state into a social welfare program. While the touted tremendous benefits of marriage, such as a slight savings in car and health insurance might seem tempting, the reality is you can achieve nearly all the supposed benefits with a simple power of attorney or a contract. You can even be on the same health plan in most cases without being married if you cohabitate.
Though most have had some kind of sex education in school, few have any clue about the state of family law in the US and in fact, now in most of the world. Pre-marriage counseling in my case was the usual reiteration about not going to sleep angry, but let me tell you, that won’t mean much when you’re living in your car, your bank accounts frozen, your paycheck seized. But how can this be? What in the world happened? We’ll get to that shortly.
First, let’s look at this map:
If you are not in a dark blue 50% state, you are almost certainly going to lose your children in the divorce, no matter how much you spend, and no matter how evil the lower income spouse is. Maybe you’ll get lucky and the judge presiding over your case will care, but as someone who has been entrenched in this community for three years now, I can tell you that it is the exception. The biggest thing that gets factored in when it comes to the reality, is how much you make, and how much the state can collect in support. That’s right, how much the state can collect in support. You see, like-minded skeptical reader, when the Social Security Act was passed in the 1970’s, they inserted Title IV-D which basically reimburses the states nearly dollar for dollar for every penny they collect in support actions. In the 40+ years since, this has been perverted to such a degree that the states have hijacked the intent of the law (supporting the children,) and created their own laws around this which now skirt the constitution and civil rights in general. Why? Because they can use the federal incentive money on other budget shortfalls and pet projects. Debtors prisons outlawed? Not in family court. Accusations with no evidence? Not in family court, here you’re guilty until proven innocent. And if you can’t be proven innocent, then you’re just guilty. Never mind that it is impossible to prove a negative. Evidence? No need. Testimony is all that matters. Judges are the “fact finders,” their assertion of the truth trumps any recording you might have.
I am not a republican, I am not a libertarian, nor am I a liberal. I enjoy shooting on the weekends, think all races should have equal access to society, that public healthcare is better than private (I’ve lived under both) for most. I am a veteran who once was proud to serve his country. You don’t have to agree with me on all counts. But I think we all agree on the value of the constitution and its intent: Freedom of speech, trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty. But in family court this is not the case. Although not in the constitution, the Sherman Act of 1890 was established to prevent an entity from seizing full control over an aspect of the economy. But the states themselves have gotten around this by forming a vertical monopoly when it comes to funding itself. In the US the state writes the laws regarding custody and support and the formulas used to establish the amounts. The state then enforces it, and directly profits from it. Even in states that have been successful in establishing 50/50 custody guidelines, the higher earning spouse still has to pay child support to the other parent, frequently 30% of the difference in income in most states. Even Kentucky, which now has one of the most robust shared parenting bills, still has not addressed the issue of support properly. Child support has become a disease, a cancer. What was once a normally functioning part of an organism has turned rogue, and the immune system tasked with protection has itself been hijacked by a profit motive. Freedom of speech? Nope. I can’t use my real name here, because of a judicial order, as many of us are gag ordered. For me each court appearance includes a slip that bars anyone not a party to the case from entering. No witnesses to the corruption, except those powerless to change it, silenced by the courts.
Power corrupts, plain and simple. Once judges are elected they are almost impossible to get rid of short of a major controversy. Media will not touch them, politicians will not either, after all, you never know when it will be your turn in front of their bench. While not all corrupt and certainly none see themselves that way, many are emotionally fatigued and have Title IV-D quotas to fill as a part of their duty. The same politicians that help them with their election benefit directly from these added federal funds. As a result, they do what they want to do, and have judicial immunity in all but the most heinous of cases. But for simply ignoring a higher state or federal law and subsequently ruining you and your children’s lives, there is no punitive action you can take. Want to appeal that illegal order? No problem, $12,000-$50,000 and a 5% chance that the superior court will reverse it. That is if you’re right. Judicial complaint at the state level? In the trash. Want to represent pro-se because you don’t have the tens of thousands? Good luck, your 5% chance is now near zero percent. This is the state of things in America. We have allowed a family court industry, comprised of attorneys, judges (former attorneys,) so called “experts” to hijack the moniker of “what is best for the kids.” And while it is known by the medical/psychological community that the best thing for kids of divorced parents is a no-conflict shared parenting arrangement, this $50 billion a year industry has become so brazen that they will go on the record promoting the use of the “silver bullet” as well as clearly admit that they do not want to change the custody laws to maintain this source of revenue. In Pennsylvania an attempt to reform the law has been stalled, the hearing comprised mostly of attorneys and women’s rights groups who are afraid to lose the leverage the children provide, and the attorney fees from high conflict divorces.
Now of course the democrat parents blame the republicans who passed Title IV-D so that the government doesn’t have to pay assistance to these fatherless families. But then you have democrats who have pushed the laws which allows almost any woman to get an order of protection with no evidence, colloquially known as “the silver bullet” which will almost certainly cause the father to lose custody. In the end, it is a bipartisan problem. The only real progress in the last several decades was president Obama signing into law provisions designed to limit incarceration, as prisons were becoming more and more full of fathers who cannot pay outlandish orders. But I can tell you from personal experience, the local judges will still rule to jail you until you can prove yourself innocent. There is no disincentive for them to act immorally and contrary to the law. There’s no scorecard kept, no punishment. So with that said, even if your future spouse seems like the perfect person, the risk is impossible to outweigh with the meager benefits of marriage. Most of us thought the same of our spouses and as we now know, they can hide this for years or simply exhibit it out of nowhere after pregnancy.
I am the DAD that used to be, You were my world, and you loved me but mom said no, that’s how it has to be.
Love you forever and ever, but your mom stopped that cause she’s more clever.
I’ll see you on the other side, and for now I’ll swallow my pride, and do what I have to do, to make the world have a clue.
I am a Dad, YOU LOVED ME AND I LOVE YOU, but mom says we are not allowed to.
NO seeing each other, no being a dad, because that makes mommy really mad.
I hope you see this in due time, that what mom does is a crime.
Some states such as California have gone even further. You might think you have a happy marriage for ten years to your sweetheart you’ve known since high school, but if you are in CA then it is possible for you to get hit with lifetime alimony. So at the age of thirty, your sweetheart you married at the age of 20 has a choice. Maybe you put on a few pounds, maybe its been rough for you the last few years, maybe you’ve grown apart. Now does she leave you while taking the kids and your paycheck, or stay married to the man you have become? Free pass to cheat, lie, steal, and do whatever nefarious things she wants. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won’t, but the law gives the judge the entirety of the discretion. They simply need not like you — no need to justify any legal basis to award it. Only if you appeal do they have to write an opinion, for which you’ll have the tens of thousands right?
Undoubtedly many might see this is as a men’s rights article, and though it disproportionately affects men, there are many women who are estranged from their families and children due to the same laws. Take the case of female physician who works sixty hours a week while her husband is a stay at home dad. Who do you think will get custody in a state that doesn’t do shared custody? There’s more than a small handful of women who are also alienated from their kids, it is real, and it happens. You just need to be at the wrong end of the luck equation, the tables already tilted against you when the interests of the state and the judge are to award custody to the parent with the smallest income.
Ten years ago I was completely unaware of this issue, and until the last few years was quiet about my divorce. But it was only when I began to speak out about it and share my story that I came to the stark realization just how many people have had their lives upended by this. Not just middle aged men, but their parents, new significant others, their children and the children who grow up in these broken, often fatherless homes. We worry about the COVID-19 deaths, a mere fraction compared to those who have lost their lives at their own hands, or at the hands of poverty, substance abuse, and disease resulting from the economic disadvantage or subsequent PTSD. We spend millions on lobbying gun control. And while events like Sandy Hook are beyond reproach, the sad reality is that many more children end their lives due to growing up in these broken homes, parents turned toxic by financial incentive. Many of these children die by their twenties, overdose on opiates to dull the pain. This has to stop somehow. For your sake and that of your children.
The current laws are set up to disincentivise shared parenting and create a situation where there is a custodial parent and a visitor. The reason for this is that SSA Title IV Part D specifically rewards the states based on how much support they collect, matching up to dollar for dollar. This means that the money we all contribute towards OUR social security, is being funneled to the states. While there needs to be some incentive towards enforcing support in cases where a parent chooses to entirely leave the family, the following elements would make the law more just while making the sure that it really is set up with the interests of the children in mind.
Shared parenting is the default regardless of prior arrangements, unless a parent does not want their share, or has a proven inability to do so (severe mental illness, substance abuse, violence etc…)
Anything less must meet the same burden of proof as criminal trials, as constitutional rights should only be able to be taken away in criminal cases. Contempt proceedings can trump those rights currently, thus anything leading to contempt must meet that standard.
Right of first refusal should be by default and irrevocable. Barring anything in paragraph 2, there should not be resources utilized to care for the kids if the other parent is available and willing.
Caps. No more than fixed percentage of income, and no more than a specified amount per child (whichever is less) as appropriate for the geographic region. A spouse is not a retirement plan nor an insurance policy.
Accountability. Child support should be audited to ensure that the parent is spending the money on the children.
Penalties must be addressed. License suspensions must be removed as the possibility of incarceration. Adding another mouth to feed in the prison system while removing an individual from the workforce does nothing to help the children nor the state. Those pathological enough to choose this alternative over receiving what support they do get, should not be the ones allowed to dictate their children’s future.
No payment in alienation cases. Should a parent be found to be alienating the other parent, support should be removed.
Income calculations must be capped at a 40 hour work week, exclude overtime, and based on actual income and not hypothetical income. Currently the law allows for courts to make up their own numbers without the need for any evidence.
Penalties for false domestic violence/abuse accusations. This does not mean that every case where abuse is unproven has the tables turned on the other party, but should there be evidence (i.e. a recording of threats of false accusations) then the other party should serve and equal or harsher penalty for making such accusation.
Remove Title IV-D funding from sates not compliant with the basic outlines.
Substantially limit child support amounts in shared custody cases. Several states that do have shared parenting, have created child support guidelines that still maximize transfer of funds from one party to the other with the goal of collecting Title IV-D funding. Being divorced should not be a taxable source of revenue!
Reform family court procedure. An individual should be able to navigate this arena without the need for a costly attorney, therapists, expert witnesses, GALs, and many others. This alone will reduce a massive financial burden in our society, and pass that on to our children. A social worker should be appointed instead of a GAL. We do not need lawyers deciding what is best for children, but those who actually know mental health and families.
Jury trials. Currently the same judges who benefit from the Title IV-D revenue are the ones deciding the cases. This is a clear conflict of interest. An impartial jury would be removed from these incentives and best able to rule on the matter.
If you search hard enough (actually, one of the first groups of links when you search) you’ll find several blogs and instruction sites on how to kick your spouse out and gain leverage in a divorce case. One common thread is if all else fails, is file a PFA (Protection From Abuse) or child abuse claim. While domestic violence cases can be legitimate, the standard of evidence is entirely too low. The elected officials and attorneys who created this low standard then abuse it to the point of teaching other attorneys how to profit from this low bar. It has gotten so out of control that in Williamson County, Texas, the Assistant District Attorney Leslie Levy, held a seminar to teach other family law attorneys on how to employ PFAs to gain an advantage for their clients in a divorce case. We won’t quote the whole video, but here are some memorable quotes:
Asst. DA: We got this guy kicked out from his house because it was too close to her house. The constable called and said: “You realize the result of this is that he has to leave his house?”
Asst. DA: Yes we do. It’s up to him if he wants to violate that protective order or not.
The purpose of this seminar was to shift the case load from her office directly to the attorneys, since doing the PFA as a part of their case does not put the burden on the DA’s office, which then does not have to be the ones to prosecute. As so many of these attorneys utilize it as a negotiating tool and not as actual protection from abuse, the office is overloaded with prosecuting the cases, which are often rubber stamped by judges. She spends 38 minutes selling the group of attorneys on why doing the PFA is advantageous in divorce and how to file them in a way that requires the least evidence, as well as the technicalities in some of the more easier to stick charges. As in one of our other articles, we acknowledge that domestic violence is real, and something does need to exist for it. But putting in place laws that can be applied with no evidence, destroys families and children. That is not how to do it.
Asst. DA: Who here has filed a divorce and filed a protective order as a part of it? [mostly all hands go up] I love that! …so I would encourage you very strongly if you have one of those cases to do the protective order as part of your case. It gives you more leverage in negotiating a settlement.
Asst DA: My point is that it often will help your case to do it. You’ll get evidence that will be just as applicable in the divorce, it’ll leverage onto your divorce, you can file it into the divorce.
At minute 32 Attorney Levy comments how judges hate to rule on cases involving children when there is no evidence of harm to the child or against the parent. Her solution? File it with the divorce. And why is that? Minute 38, because they feel they are using criminal courts to get a divorce. And in divorce cases, you do not need evidence–just a reasonable fear.
Asst. DA: If you file it into your divorce and do it as a part of a temporary order, that concern goes away…and its not in the code but a preference…so if you file it into yours you can get a better outcome, a better settlement…it will help your case in the long run…I am happy to send you all the forms we use.
Studies show that the best environment for children of divorce is one in which conflict is at a minimum. Unfortunately our family courts are designed to do the very opposite–foster conflict. In an ideal situation 50/50 custody would be the default with very few exceptions. Those situations being when a parent does not want their portion of the parenting time, and those with proven substance abuse/domestic violence histories. The key word being proven; too often unsubstantiated claims are enough to render someone guilty in the eyes of the law. Does that mean that there will possibly be an occasional child abuse/DV case that slips through the cracks? Possibly there might. But this country was not founded on the principle that we should strip away rights from the many because of the actions of the few. While the last several decades have seen a decrease in the burden of proof required for domestic abuse cases to move forward, the unfortunate consequence is that it likely destroys far more lives indirectly, compared to the relatively small number of victims it helps. Domestic abuse is a terrible thing that should be treated with the greatest seriousness, but it cannot be at the expense of innocent victims having their lives ruined when an abuser uses the same legislation against their intended victim.
While in today’s society even basic science is a source of debate, the science of shared parenting is fairly straightforward. In the majority of states where shared parenting is not the de facto standard, the accepted norm is to award custody time in a similar fashion as to what was happening prior to the divorce. While seemingly fair, it ignores the fact that families are a unit where a division of labor takes place that allows the family to operate as efficiently as possible (i.e. the high earner spends more time working) for the given situation. When that situation changes to assume that these roles should continue and remain static ignores the very fact that the situation has indeed changed.
“The approximation rule represents a return to a 19th-century mechanistic view of the universe. It assumes that a complex system—a family—can be understood by breaking it down into discrete measurable units without regard for the transactions and balance among the units.406 It reduces the intricate rhythms of a family’s life together to only those interactions that can be measured with a stopwatch. In so doing, it no more captures the essence of the family than the number of words and lines convey the meaning, value, and essence of a poem.”
The converse to this faulted view of parenting time is shared parenting. Not just joint legal custody, but equal physical custody. On this the science is abundantly clear. Children not exposed to conflict in divorce have lower rates of their own problems in nearly every way–better grades, less disciplinary issues, less drug use etc…. Dr. Linda Nielsen’s work in cataloging some of this research makes it abundantly clear. So how do we lower the level of conflict? While you cannot take the conflict out of divorce entirely, the law should be about reducing it, not fostering it. Our current system rewards the parent who can make the loudest accusation, rewrite the parenting history most efficiently, and lie most effectively. When the goal becomes to convince all those in authority to shape the next twenty years of your financial well being by increasing child support, the tool you have to use is to create as much conflict as possible to make shared parenting seem impossible. It is hard to fault the other parent entirely. They may be looking at a significant drop in lifestyle as a result of the divorce. Nobody wants that. But it should not be about what that parent wants but what is best for our children. Greed should not outweigh our children’s future.
But yet, fully knowing all of the science behind this, it seems our family courts and the professionals involved have sold out our children’s future.
Opening – Sue Helm, PA – Ends at 4:40. Introduction to the legislation.
Steven Meehan & Matt Hale – National Parents Organization, 5:46-18:40.
Overview and cite the Kentucky shared parenting law and it’s success, bipartisan support, overwhelming passage.
Gail Calderwood and Michael Burton – PA Bar Association 19:10-52:00.
The testimony from these individuals centered to describe the current law as just, fair, flexible, and non-prejudicial. Claim that the law has evolved and not presently biased against any gender. This testimony is entirely false when you factor in the facts of custody in Pennsylvania, where fathers receive approximately 30% of parenting time. Claim that the custody is determined by the factors, yet ignore the fact that the judge has discretion as to how to apply them without consideration of evidence. Gail Calderwood claims the law is fair, attempts to claim that both parents are in court on “equal footing” based on her twenty years of practice. Only example of fathers getting custody is when the mother has “serious issues.” “Clear and convincing evidence…high evidentiary bar”–they oppose having clear, direct, weighty evidence be a factor in custody case.
Justin Poe and Mark Ludwig – Americans for Equal Shared Parenting – 52:30-61:20.
Mr. Poe’s testimony regarding parental alienation. Went from full time supervised visits to full time father when ex spouse died. Divorced from next spouse and only received 40% custody, worked out on their own 50/50 agreement, daughter then performed better in school and more engaged. Once the attorney fees were removed from the equation he was better able to provide for her and allow her to engage in activities and pay for braces. Mark Ludgwig – points out that parents who are relegated to partial custody automatically get full custody when the other parent dies. What keeps them from being deemed a good parent prior to this by the courts? Highlights that starting at presumed 50/50 creates a level playing field and creates a need for a burden of proof to demonstrate that the other parent is unfit.
Ms. Estrella testifies that 50/50 custody will create a “…barrier to justice these survivors are forced to overcome.” Cites statistics about child abuse despite the fact that a substantial portion is by women as well. Describes graphic child sexual abuse case. Cites misleading quotes about voluntary versus court imposed 50/50 custody, in that voluntary is better, which ignores the additional harm that comes form conflict created when parents are fighting for custody. Claims 50/50 custody will “tie judges hands” and not allow them to prevent an abusive parent from continuing. Ms. Petio touts the benefits of the current law and states HB1397 “is fatally flawed.” Claims it is not in the best interests of the child “to spend an equal time with each parents.” Cites the following:
Distance (uses example of 45 minutes).
Parents work schedule – cites a parent that leaves for work before school, arrives after school ends.
Parent is abusive.
Claims statue will “enable abusers…to enact further abuse.” Disapproves with the fact that the statue needs clear evidence to override 50/50 custody. States that it takes ability away from the families to come up with “creative” solutions to their custody plan.
Judge Kim Eaton (Allegheny County) and Judge Daniel Clifford (Mongomery County) 1:23:00-1:39:20.
Judge Clifford was a family law attorney for over 30 years, where he served for the PA Bar Association. Judge Eaton has been a judge since 1999 after 18 years as a family law attorney. Claim to have 75 years of combined family court experience. Feel the current statue is “exactly right.” “Everybody who has custody has shared custody…”–this claim is touted and is a legal term. Pennsylvania gives supposed shared legal custody to both parents in almost all cases, but denies physical custody in these same cases. Claims no litigant should not know why they did not get custody. Judge Eaton uses an example of mom being away all the time and using nannies as reasons not to give custody. States that “the factors” have to be reviewed and discussed or the superior court will reject the opinion, however, there is no mention of the fact that the judges can use unsupported testimony to override physical evidence. State the benefits of the current law that allows judges to make their own decisions without needing to weigh evidence.
Maria P. Cognetti Joint State Government Commission of Domestic Relations Adviser Committee, Mary Cushing’s-Schwartz – American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Both are family lawyers. 1:39:30 – 2:01:00
Cognetti claims that her “male clients would not like this bill.” Claims that she has dads who get primary custody that would now lose that ability based on “how hard the presumption is.” Claims that there is no presumption in the current law. Claims it puts parents’ rights ahead of the rights of the child. Opposes Kentucky law. Attorney Cushing’s-Schwartz: “This is the wrong solution.” She goes on for a large portion of her testimony citing extreme examples, particularly emphasizing the father who abandons his family. Claims children want “their lives intact.”
Total speaking time pro bill by those affected by the current law: 22 minutes.
Total speaking time against the bill, mostly by attorneys and those directly financially benefiting from the current law: 92 minutes.
Total speaking time from child psychologists about what is best for the children: Zero minutes.
Total speaking time from parents who are currently alienated from their children by the courts: Zero minutes.
[Publisher’s Note: We are not attorneys nor should you consider this legal advice, just things that we’ve heard other parents say they wished they had done.]
It might have been years of torture, years of abuse, and despite everything you have tried it is still ongoing. No amount of marital therapy has fixed it, and it is getting worse by the day, more and more so in front of the children, who are now getting closer and closer to the day they will remember everything. You don’t want to leave them in that way. You beg and plead, try to reason, and are willing to give up and admit to anything just to get some peace in the house. Make any concession. But it doesn’t work. Nearly every night things are still back at square one, the only question is about what and where, not so much when. You start to understand it is over and you see an attorney. If you’re fortunate they will lay it out to you as it is, and you do some planning, but if you’re not, you’ll be given the false hope of fairness and justice. Do not fall for this trap. While occasionally some are fortunate and do make it out relatively unscathed, a larger percentage will end up far worse. Here are some terms and common traps. Consult a competent attorney for actual legal advice, but these are some things to consider when facing an abusive spouse likely to manipulate the process.
Do not disclose your intention to file for divorce.
Do not disclose when you are moving out.
Do not move out without the following:
Ample evidence of their behavior that is legally admissible.
Secure all financial documents and proof of assets.
Check for any siphoning of marital funds into other accounts.
Secure receipts for big ticket items.
Make some sort of a custody plan if you can. While a toxic ex will unlikely allow this to happen, make attempts via email so they can be clearly documented. In some states this will matter, in others it will not.
Do not allow the other parent to tell the children that you are moving out.
Do not move out if you can. Many states will treat this as abandonment, and it gives them the ability to say that you “ran out on the kids.”
If the other party is willing to leave (without the children) then let them.
If you move out, take the kids for overnights immediately. Until there is a custody order, the other party CANNOT keep you from your children.
Carry a recording device in case they want to try and falsify domestic violence reports. Disclose you have it going in a two party sate, make it plainly visible.
Tell your family and friends what is going on while it is happening. Do not allow the other person to get an edge up by painting you black before you have a chance to defend yourself.
The biggest takeaway here is that you will want to take the high road and not cause any more drama then warranted which is what is in fact–what is best for the kids. But if you are reading this then your cohort will likely not and you should be prepared for the worst. I would like to stress that not every divorce is like this but if you are here, the odds are that is where it is headed.
These are just some of the basics of how to stay away from the worst. Unfortunately many states allow for false domestic violence claims to be taken at face value (courtesy of VAWA) and once that happens you are facing a much bigger battle. The key is to be prepared ahead of time, that way should they choose to go that route you have their motive established in a legally admissible manner. It does not mean that a corrupt court will factor any of it in their decision, but it is the only thing that will stack the odds in your favor.