Saturday, October 09, 2004

Class action lawsuit for more equitable custody

This CNN story tells of a class action lawsuit in behalf of noncustodial parents. It says:
Generally, children's advocates and family lawyers say, courts find it is in the child's best interest to give physical custody to the primary caregiver. Living with one parent minimizes shuttling a child -- especially a younger one -- between homes. The "noncustodial" parent is ordinarily the breadwinner, still frequently the man, who spends more time away from the child.

The lawsuits seek $1 million in damages for any plaintiffs who may sign on to each class action, meaning the potential damages run into the trillions nationwide. But what the groups really want are changes in the laws, such as a bill being proposed for Pennsylvania by state Rep. Thomas Stevenson.

Stevenson's bill would set a "presumptive standard" that physical custody should be split 50-50 unless one parent can prove that there's a good reason for a different arrangement. Legal custody, which gives both parents a say in issues such as religion, health and education, can be shared equally even when physical custody is not.
A family court lawyer is quoted as being against it, saying:
"And why do they want 50-50 (custody)? Some people want it because they know they can reduce the support they pay to their wives" as a result.
Yes, let's look at financial incentives. Courts pretend to ignore financial incentives, because they say the best interests of the child are more important. But that's hogwash, and everybody knows it.

The family court lawyers and experts have a very strong financial incentive to encourage contested custody disputes. Presumptive 50-50 custody would wipe out most of their income, because most of the family court expenses go into the determination of factors that influence custody, and those factors are impossible to determine.

Custodial parents (usually the mothers) also have very strong incentives to fight 50-50 custody, because they get more money that way. I believe that my wife's attempt to break our 50-50 custody arrangement is driven mostly by greed. She could get a lot more child support that way.

Presumptive 50-50 custody would reduce custody court actions that are motivated by greed.

The CNN article also says:
And they say the deck is stacked because the time a wage-earner spends making money to feed, clothe and shelter children isn't given equal weight to time spent with the child, even though it's just as necessary as nurturing.
This is indeed a peculiar anti-father bias in the law. If a father works like a dog to earn money to support his family, he is blamed instead of credited. The court says that he is spending less time with his kids, so the mother is entitled to custody, increased child support, and possibly the right to move away and permanently estrange the kids.

That is backwards. The time he spends working to support the family is just as important as reading nursery rhymes or changing diapers. In some cases, the mom is not even spending that time with the kids, but using the dad's money to put the kids in day care. The whole family court system is evil and destructive.

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