How is it that such a glaring injustice operates in the light, yet nobody is seemingly able to do anything about it? I frequently hear other fathers (and sometimes mothers) discuss all of the motions and filings in court, claiming to have the right legal argument to win their case. This is not just locally, but the superior, supreme, and federal court included. But I almost never hear of any one of these gallant efforts carrying any measure of success. Why? As I sat down with an who-shall-remain-unnamed activist, we discussed some of these issues. The below diagram is an outline of funding and what shapes the narrative and public perception.
While this may look complicated, it is much simpler than it sounds. In any conflict one has to identify the players involved and their motivations. For anyone not familiar with the systems in the US (and most other countries,) the flow of money is the most critical determinant of an outcome.
Follow the Money
In this case have two sources of funds: Parents in conflict, and federal Title IV-D incentives. If you follow this flow you will see that that nearly all roads end with attorneys being paid, and the state collecting the rest while the children, families, and social security payers lose. This last part is important. Welfare reform was an important subject for the well off–they did not want to have to pay for it. With Title IV-D, the funds come out of the Social Security coffer. These funds are collected only on the first $143,000 of income thus the majority of the burden is actually on the middle and lower classes.
Now going back to our flow of money, bear in mind that GALs are attorneys even though they have no child psychology nor social work training (in most areas). These GALs are hand picked by judges. Judges are attorneys who profit heavily when working as “retired” judges. That means they are hired after retirement to collect exorbitant per-diem rates from the county/state while collecting a hefty retirement. For this you need a heavy caseload, and many of these judges hear family law cases as a result. Referees/Masters are usually junior attorneys who are thinking of going into government/judge tracks. These attorneys may not be doing as well in private practice and/or are seeking a political career, they are also hand picked through connections in the Bar.
The point we are trying to drive home is that everything about this system is intentional, and to profit from it requires a connection and motivation to continue the status quo. A GAL who acts against a single winning parent model will not be asked back. A therapist who outs the abusive parent that is legally abusing the other will not be referred any more conflicted spouses. A custody master who awards shared parenting and thus minimizing child support collections will not be hearing any more cases. This is the reality of our system. The laws are broken because they are written, enforced, and maintained by those who profit from this system–attorneys.
“But What About Our Free Press?”
Now the next point, why the media silence. When I took my story to the media I was met with–silence. No replies. My emails were read, my voicemails received, my appointment requests unanswered. Why? The answer was right there in front of me, on the TV, in the pages of the newspapers/websites.
“Do you have someone you know with Mesothelioma?”
“Contact the law firm of Wescrewem and Robb! We make sure you get the award you deserve!”
“Has your elderly loved one been abused?”
Sounds familiar? This is a major part of the problem. Follow the money. Print, online, and broadcast media receive a massive amount of funding from attorneys. During daytime TV you cannot go a single ad break without an attorney advertisement. Do you think they will print your editorial when their sponsors will pull a multi-million dollar contract as a result?
This is not the matrix, this is the reality. Our system is hijacked, it is broken, and people are dying as a result. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, until you are so deep in it that there may not be a way out. Innocent fathers crowd cold jail cells with criminals, children are turning to substances to cope, failing at school, suffering emotional trauma, for what? Profit?
Things Must Change
The final point in this is a positive one, and that is about change. It can be done. Despite this massive financial hurdle, public awareness today can reach beyond this paywall. People can communicate through social media, community groups, churches, and other means beyond the private media. Take your story, share it. Come out of the closet. Tell those you know, your colleagues, your community members. Seek out speaking opportunities, do not be ashamed of having been robbed of being a parent. Get the word out. You will be amazed at how many other people have lived through this, but were also too afraid to share, fearful of the public perception and possibly retribution from a defensive judge.
Perspective is everything, and to not understand the human condition is to be ignorant of how the world works. Any company (including non-for-profits) have a mission, and they have a duty of self preservation. Non-for-profits (NFPs) are not excluded from this. An NFP is run by a CEO, a CEO who has employees, who has commitments, and is likely making a handsome income. The psychology of a standard company is that of an individual, but free of any moral or ethical obligations. An NFP should be above this, operating on a charter of doing public good within the mission it sets out to do. But there are many groups (in this community included, we left them out on our links page) who seek to continue the status quo. Without this conflict they cease to exist, and the mission in those cases becomes secondary to the fiduciary responsibility. This is no more true than in the case of Domestic Violence groups. I abhor domestic violence having been a victim. But to watch these DV groups argue that shared parenting leads to increased domestic violence citing the rare anecdotal case while ignoring the overall statistics is–disheartening. Shared parenting reduces domestic violence. Remove the conflict, remove the violence. But instead we have the DV groups actively pushing the narrative that somehow shared parenting will somehow turn men violent.
Another consideration is one of the law makers themselves. Politics is a dirty game. You do not get elected on simply charm and good intentions. To get on the ballot means having the resources to get the signatures, which costs–money. Advertise with–money. You get the money through donations, the party, and political favors. Those come through connections, connections that expect you to pay those favors back through contracts and shifting government resources to their interests. This is nothing new, it is corruption as old as human history. But why do we let it go on? Politicians will take a stand on shared parenting, we have seen this in KY and other states. We just need the public will to push them to sign the bills.
The final piece to this is the formation of the bills and the committee assignments in state houses. The judiciary should be excluded. The fact that the attorneys / Bar are the benefactors of conflict and divorce, they absolutely must be recused from taking part in this debate. Children are not a resource to be pilfered for profit. Children need parents, and their psychological well being is certainly not the domain of attorneys. Even the agriculture committee would stand a better chance at forming legislation in their interest.
Children do not need perfect parents. They just need parents.