Monday, January 31, 2005

Divorce cases skewed toward women

The NY Daily News reports:
Judge: Divorce cases skewed toward women

One of New York's top judges started tongues wagging after suggesting divorce leaves men with the short end of the stick when it's time to divvy up the dough.

In a speech last week, Court of Appeals Judge Robert Smith suggested courts aren't always gender-neutral - and the marriage contract is often skewed in favor of the woman, according to the New York Law Journal.

In divorce cases involving working women and stay-at-home husbands, Smith said he suspects men still don't get their fair share.

"I read a case where the wife was a dental hygienist and the husband said, 'That's marital property.' The court said, 'You're right, it is marital property. You are getting 7%,'" the Law Journal quoted Smith saying Thursday in a speech to the Family Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.
The judge is stating the obvious. Something should be done.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Friday, January 28, 2005

Hope for some legal changes

John sends this Wendy McElroy column on Removing Legal Incentives To Lie and Law aids paternity fraud victims.
Paternity fraud cases typically languished until two pivotal events last year.
The first was a June court decision in the case of Whittier, Calif., construction worker Manuel Navarro.
Mr. Navarro's saga started in 1996, when a woman who lived in his neighborhood named "Manuel Nava" as the father of her twin boys. Child support officials assumed Mr. Navarro was the father and sent a summons to his sister's home. When Mr. Navarro didn't respond within 30 days, the court established a $247-a-month child support order for him by default.
This "default" practice is not uncommon in California. More than 70 percent of the state's child support orders were established by default — a rate that is "dramatically higher" than in other states, Urban Institute researchers said in a 2003 study of California's child support system.
In 2001, with DNA proof that he was not the father, Mr. Navarro, represented by Miss Ferrer, sued to have his child support order thrown out. A lower court refused, saying too much time had elapsed, but Mr. Navarro won on appeal. ...
The second pivotal event came in September when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a paternity fraud law called AB 252, which allows men to challenge established child support orders under limited circumstances. It went into effect Jan. 1.
Of course, Navarro isn't going to get his money back, and his false accuser will not be prosecuted. The new law gives the man a little more opportunity to challenge paternity, but there will still be men who have to pay in spite of DNA proof.

That 70% figure is really amazing. The next time you hear about a California deadbeat dad, remember that he was probably not even allowed his day in court.

Family court drives man to suicide

The man who caused the L.A. train wreck turns out to be a victim of the family court:
According to investigators, Mr. Alvarez is an itinerant laborer with no fixed address. When detectives asked him to volunteer to a search of his residence, Mr. Alvarez said he did not have one, that he had been bouncing from couch to couch since he had a falling out with his wife, Carmelita.

She filed a restraining order against him two months ago, saying he was prone to drug-induced hysteria. ...

Mrs. Alvarez got an order of protection against him in December, forbidding him to see his children. Mr. Alvarez began to threaten suicide to friends, investigators said. Late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday, Mr. Alvarez cut his arms and stabbed himself in the chest but the wounds were so superficial, he remained conscious.

He drove onto the railroad tracks in Glendale, not far from the Los Angeles city line. Investigators believe that Mr. Alvarez wanted to die under the wheels of the train, but that when it approached, he reconsidered. With his tire apparently caught between the tracks, Mr. Alvarez jumped out of the Jeep and ran.
I wonder whether the family court judges even realize what a blow it is for a father to be ordered not to see his kids.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Human values similar to those of chimps

Here is some science news:
Chimps' Sense of Justice Found Similar to Humans'

Inequities big and small can lead people to believe that life is indeed not fair. But how humans respond to unfair situations depends on the social circumstances: inequality among friends and family, for instance, is less disturbing than it is among strangers. The results of a new study indicate that the same is true for chimpanzees, a finding that sheds light on how our sense of fairness evolved.
Yep, I am disturbed by injustices to my kids. Glad to see that chimps see it the same way.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Male, pro-feminist, homosocialist

I just listened to Hugo Schwyzer on the Glenn Sacks radio show. He teaches gender studies at a community college, and he recites the feminist line about men always exploiting women. He subscribes to a theory called homosociality that says men are only attracted to beautiful women for the purpose of impressing other men. They guy is so kooky that it is hard to believe he is serious. You can download the mp3 and listen for yourself.

Schwyzer also comments on how he and Sacks were very friendly to each other, even tho they vehemently disagreed on the air. He says:
If I were a woman who had come to the feminist movement out of my own intimate experiences of oppression and brutalization, there is no way in hell I could have bantered so freely and so warmly with a man who held such radically different views from my own.
Yes, the female prof who walked out Of Summers' speech is unlikely to banter freely and warmly with someone of differing views. Most woman don't learn how to respectfully disagree with someone.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Watching human misery in court

Sitting in family court was depressing. I saw a man in an orange jumpsuit with handcuffs behind his back listen while his ex-wife argue that she should be able to sell his $750,000 without being bothered to get his signature at the jail. She said that her real estate broker did not like him. She argued about whether he should be allowed 24 or 48 hours to get everything out of the house. He sat there crying like a baby, and not even his own lawyer would listen to him when he wanted to ask a question.

I saw a woman try to get a default judgment against a man for not showing up. Somehow the judge figured out that he didn't show up because she had him put in a jail across the street.

I saw a man complain that he was unable to pay his child support judgment. The judge granted him a hearing, but suggest that he get a lawyer, because he'll be going to jail if he loses.

I saw a man lose his kids as his wife got permission to move them to Arizona. The critical factor seemed to be one isolated incident in which they had a fight and the man slapped his wife once or twice. She called police but did not press charges. The DA prosecuted anyway, and he spent a week or so in jail. I never figured out how the fight was related to the Arizona move.

I saw a man try to convince a judge that he needs medical marijuana. While his argument seemed very weak to me, it also seemed like his wife was just using his personal vices to keep him from seeing his kids.

I saw a father beg to the court for an opportunity to visit his child for 2 hours every 2 weeks. The judge agreed, provided that the second hour is supervised by Jay Muccilli, a kooky local psychologist. The mother protested, and wanted him limited to a 1-hour supervised visit.

I don't see how the judges, lawyers, and psychologists sleep at night. They are all profiting off human misery.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Anger Management

I just saw the movie Anger Management
with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. plot summary:
Sandler plays a businessman who is wrongly sentenced to an anger-management program, where he meets an aggressive instructor.
The movie makes fun of court-ordered therapy with some kooky shrink who has worse problems.

My mom sends this comic. I'm not sure why.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Another court delay

I thought that I was going to get a court hearing today, but the court-appointed psychologist refused to show up! Apparently he had some technical gripe about a subpoena for documents in the case. Even if that excused him from bringing the documents, there was a separate request from the court for him to appear to testify.

My guess is that he would have been held in contempt of court, except for the fact that the court depends on these fruitcake shrinks. The judge scheduled another hearing for next month.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I get my day in court

I survived a day in court. My wife's lawyer called an emergency motion to postpone our Friday hearing. She (the lawyer) said that she was recovering from having her gall bladder removed.

I showed up with a 6-page brief. At first the judge refused it. He said, "If you are just giving it to me now, then you as might as well keep it." I pointed out that I just had a couple of days notice, and could not have gotten it to him sooner. So he took it.

The judge ended up denying my wife's motion, and leaving the Friday hearing on the schedule. Then my wife's lawyer demanded attorneys fees for having to bring an emergency motion, and the judge ordered me to pay her $1,000!

It makes no sense to me. She brings an unnecessary losing motion, and I have to pay her for trouble in wasting the court's time!

Oh well, I guess I'd rather pay her for a motion that she loses, than pay her for a motion that she wins.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Psychology is like a religion

Bob suggests:
I have a great idea for you to discredit the psychologist in court. Just compare the field of psychology to religion, and the judge will understand that it is worthless.
Hmmm. Maybe I should find out whether the judge goes to church first. Bob adds:
If the judge goes to church, you have it made. Most people don't favor rival religions. If the judge is in therapy, you may have a problem.
Bob also sends this local story:
Wednesday's fatal police shooting was the first in Fremont since Feb. 19, 1998, when Fremont police killed Michael Frederick Samson, a child psychologist involved in local education issues, as he lifted a large ax and stood ready to strike his wife and young daughter.
No, not all child psychologists are ax murderers, but I'd be willing to bet that they are less mentally stable and rational than the general population.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Gall bladder delay

My wife is definitely trying to delay the Jan. 21 hearing. Her lawyer's firm filed this, to be heard on Jan. 18:
Edward L. Chun, declare and say as follows:
1. I am an attorney with the law firm of Bosso, Williams, Sachs, Atack, Gallagher and Sanford, and if called upon to testify to the facts contained herein, I could competently do so.
2. This matter is scheduled for an evidentiary hearing on January 21, 2005.
3. Ms. Gray is recuperating from gallbladder removal surgery, and per doctor's orders, is out of work for at least two weeks.
4. It is therefore necessary to continue the evidentiary hearing.
What he neglects to mention is that the surgery was on Jan. 5, she was only in the hospital one day, she is able to do legal work, and she is expected to be fully recovered on Jan. 19. It also doesn't say whether or not she is prepared for the hearing, or how much time she needs, or whether she is working on some other case instead.

Oh well, I guess the judge will take pity on her gall bladder, and postpone the hearing a couple of months.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Days for dollars

This Canadian story says:
The last thing Joanne Contino expected after she increased her ex-husband's access to their son was to see a judge slash her child-support payments. ...

In short, the court will consider whether an increase in access time mandates a reduction in child support -- a notion that has been dubbed "days for dollars."

"It is fundamentally wrong to link custody and support," Mrs. Contino states in a brief filed by her lawyers, MacDonald & Partners, LLP. The brief warns that single mothers and children will inevitably be those who suffer most from such a trend.
So women have already discovered that they can collect child support without spending it on the kids, and now this Canadian wants child support payments without even having to take care of the boy.

On the subject of child support, someone writes:
At the heart of child support is the notion that one parent can be replaced by money. It has become a tax-free economic incentive to destroy marriages and families.
and recommends The Law And Economics Of Child Support Payments by William S. Comanor.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Lawyer delaying tactics

My wife's lawyer is trying to get a Jan. 21 hearing delayed. The lawyer had some minor surgery, but she scheduled a motion for Jan. 18, so apparently she will be healthy by then.

Her paralegal said:
We would like to continue until approximately February 21. It will be necessary for Dr. Johnson to be at the hearing, and the court would not give me his availability until I have some specific dates to suggest. I can't suggest specific dates to the court without (1) knowing whether you are agreeable to continue this matter and (2) your availability. As to whether Ms. Gray needs the preparation for Dr. Johnson or other witnesses, I am not aware what her preparation will entail, and this matter is covered by work product privilege at any rate.
I responded:
You want to delay a month because Gray is out for 2 weeks? You want me to agree to a delay without telling me how long the delay will be? To whom are you talking at the court?

I would like to come to an agreement on this, but you are not giving me much to work with. It sounds like the two main problems, from your point of view, are Gray's lack of preparation and Dr. Johnson's availability. But you don't even know whether Gray needs preparation time for Dr. Johnson. If you find out Gray's needs and wants, then maybe we can work out a compromise.
The paralegal responded:
The purpose of this e-mail is to give you notice that we are appearing ex parte for an order shortening time to hear a motion for an order to continue the evidentiary hearing set in the above-referenced matter on January 21, 2005. At that motion, we will also request reasonable attorney's fees and costs for the necessity of bringing the motion. The ex parte will be heard on Thursday, January 13, 2005, at 1 p.m., in Department 6 of the Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, California.
That was 7 hours ago. I did not appear. If she has scheduled an emergency hearing, she should have told me by now. I really don't see how she could think that I owe attorneys fees to pay for her stalling tactics. A friend of mine has bet me a dinner that I will have to pay anyway, just because the court is so biased against me.

Mothers On Trial

I ran across a 650-page 1986 book, Mothers On Trial, that tries to make the case that mothers are unjustly denied custody too often. This was news to me, so I took a look.

On page 79, it claims to have scientific evidence that there are only 8 reasons why American fathers battled for child custody. They are:
  1. Economically and psychologically refused to subsidize their ex wives' motherhood by paying alimony or child support; didn't want to move out or sell marital home or liquidate and divide other marital assets; wanted companionship of and control over the children they had to support
  2. Punished "uppity" female behavior (desire to return to school, work, or career or to have an independent intellectual, religious or social life)
  3. Punished maternal nonmarital sexual activity (heterosexual and lesbian) during marriage and after divorce
  4. Punished wives' initiation of divorce
  5. Had patriarchal concept of children as paternal "property." (A) Punished and prevented ex wives from moving away (the Apartheid factor)
  6. Had patriarchal concept of children as paternal "property." (B) Initiated divorce and forcibly separated mothers from children by physically ejecting mothers
  7. Had patriarchal concept of the male as the "su¬perior" parent, and competed with mothers for exclusive intimacy with children (the Smother-Father factor)
  8. Were infertile or were remarried to infertile wives
Nowhere does it mention the most obvious reasons: that the fathers love their children; that kids do best when fathers are actively involved; and that the mothers may be unfit.

The book drips with man-hating nonsense on every page. I will soon be returning it to the library.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

British fathers losing kids

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
LONDON - A British cabinet minister has an illicit love affair and fathers a child. When the news becomes public and it emerges that his private and public lives have become entwined, he resigns.

The recent woes that drove Home Secretary David Blunkett from office last week have a familiar ring. Yet instead of denying his indiscretion and clinging to office like previous errant ministers, Mr. Blunkett did the opposite, broadcasting his liaison and rejoicing in his child. Contact with his toddler, he said, was more important than political prestige.

Almost overnight, Blunkett has become a hero to a burgeoning movement that has dramatically raised its voice: noncustodial dads. ...

The group [Fathers 4 Justice] estimates that 100 British children lose partial or total contact with their fathers every day. About 2 million children , they say, now live separately from their fathers. When a relationship goes wrong, fathers charge, they almost never get custody and are frequently denied court-mandated access.

"There has been a strange alliance between feminists who feel women should have rights to their children, and ... judges who feel that children are women's work and can't see why men should want to get involved anyway," says Jim Parton, a former chairman of Families Need Fathers, a charity. ...

"Conservatives believe that there should be a strong legal presumption in favor of both parents having equal rights in the upbringing of their children," said leader Michael Howard recently.

The Labour government has responded that 50/50 rights rarely work in practice because of everyone's busy schedules ("children can't just be divvied up like furniture," says one official).

Ms. Cross of the Solicitors Family Law Association agrees, saying that, "50/50 is the wrong way around - it gives conceptual rights to the parent rather than thinking about the child."
When lawyers say "thinking about the child", they mean litigating the child. They like vague rules that screw the fathers, because it maximizes the legal fees.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Parental paranoia and risk-taking

Mike sends this comment on an earlier post:
"We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this."

But according to Evan's internist, if you do this regularly as a college junior, you end up with mono. Evan, who claims all dishes and glasses in his house go through the dishwasher and are not shared, had to withdraw from all his classes this week. Mono has non-trivial consequences: he's still home in bed running a fever, and though the chance of liver failure now seems remote, the doctor wouldn't consider letting him return to school until next Monday at the earliest. (Decision should be made later this afternoon.) So we're stuck paying for rent this quarter while he's not in school, not to mention the possible tuition penalty for late withdrawal. And he'll have to make up the quarter over this summer or become a 5th year undergrad. Not something he had planned.

"We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever."

I think you miss the point of all these things. Yes, the probability of the risk is small -- a mathematician might argue it's negligible -- but a normal parent doesn't want their kid injured. Sure, only one out of 10,000 kids might poke himself in the eye trying to use a fork to remove the knot in his shoelaces, but most of us still tell our kids not to do try it. Wanna bet Jim McMahon's mother wished she'd effectively cautioned *him* not to do it?

Bob has a point, but the world is also different now from what it was a few decades ago. I was walking around NYC and riding the subway myself by age 9 (1961), but I'd consider nuts a parent who let their 9 year-old do that today. Same goes for hitchhiking: I did quite a bit of long-distance hitching when I was in college in the early 70s, but I'm sure my son would never consider it now... not even in CA! Is that due to stricter laws or greater fear?

Yes, very few of the kids walking home alone at night in the US might be kidnapped ( but we don't want it to be our daughter, so she's picked up and driven everywhere. It may be paranoia, but it makes us feel like we're doing as much as we can to protect her. Relying on "probabilities" seems dangerously misguided.
Mike sounds like my wife. She drove across the country with the kids instead of flying because she felt like she was doing to protect the kids that way. When I pointed out that the probability of a fatal car accident was much higher than a plane crash, she said that it seemed dangerously misguided to rely on probabilities.

The Klaaskids site is very misleading. It tries to give the impression that there are 200k American kids who are kidnapped by strangers every year. That number is too high by at least a factor of 1000.

Most missing kids are teenage runaways. The vast majority of kidnapping cases are custody disputes, and they are almost always caused by the mother denying visitation to the father.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Another kooky evaluator

A reader sent me an court-ordered evaluation from "Ariana Sarris, LMFT, Family Law Investigator". It is just as sloppy and incompetent and mine. It says:
The other issue that is very significant here is Father's depression. He has clearly been in a depression for several years. His motivation to work has been impaired by this depression. He needs to get psychiatric evaluation for appropriate antidepressants, as well as go to counseling. Counseling alone is not helpful here, He needs the medication. This is very important because being home alone with his son at school much of the day will only enhance his isolation which Mother was concerned about.
The amazing thing here is that a court bureaucrat, who is not even a psychiatrist or a psychologist, claims to have made a determination for the necessity of psychiatric drugs, without any examination or expertise. Her basis is just the Mother's gripes about him and his child care, and this info from a child psychologist:
Tony Hoffman, Ph.D.: Dr. Hoffman was called regarding Rex [age 8.75, name changed]. He indicated that he had worked with the parents while they were still trying to reconcile and afterward. He had just seen Rex. He said that he had seen Rex occasionally until the interview with me. Both parents had assured him that Rex was handling the situation well, but on that morning, before the interview, both emailed him with concerns about his well being. After the interview, both emailed him distraught about Rex. Dr. Hoffman has seen him since. Dr. Hoffman suggested that it was best that both boys go with Mother because he felt that Father is depressed, he has guns in his house, and he is doing good parenting now to win, and to get Mother. He questioned the quality of Father's attachment to his children. He also said that Mother was looking into a private school for Rex, but can't afford it at this time. In the meantime the schools in the Hollister/Salinas area were very good out in the rural areas.
Now Hoffman really is a psychologist, I guess, but his report appears to be remarkably incompetent, based on this summary. He was called to get info about the child Rex, and he says nothing useful about Rex. Instead he offers an assortment of unsupported opinions about Father. He says that Father is "depressed", but it is not clear whether he had made a clinical diagnosis, or whether he had even treated Father. He offers opinions on guns and rural schools that are almost certainly outside his expertise and irrelevant to the evaluation.

The Father said that he confronted Dr. Hoffman, and he denied giving some of the above opinions. But he also refused to supply a written correction to the court. So it is impossible to say what Tony Hoffman really told Ariana Sarris, but it seems likely that both of them are so incompetent and unethical that they should lose their licenses. I just don't see any innocent explanation for these statements.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Teaching times tables

I picked up the kids at school yesterday. Third grade is finally starting
to teach multiplication. I was pleased to see a child with a worksheet
with about 40 multiplication problems on it.

Then I looked more closely. Every single problem was multiplication by one! There was 1x1, 2x1, 3x1, on up to 10x1. My kid could do that a couple of years ago.

My other kid is in Kindergarten, where they are learning the letter M this week. Sigh. If I don't get greater time-share with the kids, they may end up morons. Or worse.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Divorced Fathers Network

I went to a support group for divorced fathers, the Divorced Fathers Network. The one-hour meeting was run by the founder. His book was available for $10. He tried to get everyone to memorize their mission statement:
The Divorced Father’s Network is a grass roots peer support non-profit founded in 1987. Based in Santa Cruz County, DFN is dedicated to improving the lives of children, fathers and mothers by supporting engaged, effective shared parenting after divorce.
Strangely, the mission statement is not on his web site.

He was a bit defensive about the group; he implied that some people are critical of men attending a meeting with other divorced fathers.

His group does have the respect of the courts. He said that they give certificates to those who attend 12 meetings, and apparently some fathers have to present the certificates to the family court in order to comply with court orders. I didn't think that it was a very productive meeting.

A reader (who calls himself Masculiste) writes:
It's not supposed to be productive. It's supposed to do what the courts want it to do, as long as it wants the funding to continue...
I guess I am a little naive. I thought that it was a genuine support group. When I got to the meeting, the leader asked me why I was there. I mentioned that I was looking for ideas on dealing with the courts, among other things. This seemed to be squarely within the groups charter, as I want the court to let me do more shared parenting. But every time I started to say something in the meeting, the leader rudely cut me off. I couldn't figure out why, as he let others talk.

Now I wonder if the group is funded by the court, on the condition that no one be allowed to criticize the court. I wasn't going to criticize the court, but maybe the leader thought that I might. If Masculiste is correct, then the group is creepy.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The rope-a-dope strategy

My custody situation is depressing, so I look for encouragement whereever I can find it. I just bought a bunch of fathers-rights books. Unfortunately, they mainly confirm the bad news I've discovered already.

I did like this suggested strategy on page 242 of Custody for Fathers: A Practical Guide Through the Combat Zone of a Brutal Custody Battle.

A father caught up in a raging custody battle should know when to pull back and take cover. After surviving the blast, he can then reassess, regroup, and rearm. When mom is in a knockout mentality, she is not open to negotiations. Dads' ability to the knockout is what will force mom into negotiating a settlement. Muhammad Ali very successfully defended his heavyweight championship title against the younger, stronger George Foreman by covering, blocking, conserving energy, and then knocking out fatigued Foreman. Ali called his strategy rope a dope.

Think of a custody battle as a 15 round prize fight where the winner is not decided until the final round. Moms generally win the first 5 rounds of a custody battle. The traditional mom bias gives her an advantage in the early stages of litigation.

Note: A father's strategy during the first 5 rounds is to hang tough, avoid a knockout, remain standing, and be prepared to address the real issues.

The rope a dope strategy is the correct counter maneuver to guerrilla warfare in the early rounds. Responding in kind will be tempting, as the reflexive tendency to defend mom's charges by an aggressive counterattack is only natural. Dad must understand that mutual combat only feeds into her charges of immature behavior. This is the time to act restrained and polite. However the planning and strategizing phase should begin immediately by: Compiling important data, taking photographs, keeping a diary and gathering witnesses.

A custody battle is very expensive, time consuming, and exhausting. You want to survive the experience without depleting your bank account and with your dignity in tact. A never-ending conflict has no winner and the children are the biggest losers.
The strategy doesn't work in boxing ring very often, and probably doesn't work very often in family court, but I can only hope.

I also just got some encouragement from the movie The Aviator. It portrays Howard Hughes as a mad genius who is nearly driven out of business by rival Pan Am airlines. Pan Am lobbies Congress to grant it a monopoly on international flights. When Hughes stubbornly refuses to concede, he is forced to testify before the Senate and endure a lengthy character assassination. He proudly sticks to his principles and ultimately convinces the public that it is better served by two international airlines than one.

Update: Mike writes:
Then googling "sandplay" turned up a surprising number of links. Never heard of it before, so I can't wait to hear what my wife knows about it and whether anyone uses it at her center.

It is surprisingly hard to find negative comments on it. This article at least mentions the issue of whether its value should be reviewed.

I did, however, find sites from which you could order sandboxes in the precise recommended sizes. Perhaps replacing the girls' box in the backyard with one of these sanctioned ones would improve your standing in court.

Well, here's hoping this year will be better for you than the last. Happy new year.
Thanks. Psychologists are completely overrun with quacks, I am afraid.