Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rights of deadbeat dads

Wendy McElroy writes:
Although I detest the present judicial system, it is difficult not to cheer on this lawsuit (.pdf) filed on February 23rd in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut. It could be a sign that the systematic abuse of the civil rights of 'deadbeat dads' is coming to an end. The civil rights suit is on behalf of Larry Mason and Modesto Rodriguez who were arrested in October 21st, 2006 during a 'deadbeat dad' sweep conducted by three State Marshalls (John Barbieri, Brian Hobart, and Jon Gallup) who are now among the Defendants.
Sounds like wishful thinking to me, but good luck to them.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What's wrong with child support formulas

I noted the absurdity of basing child support formulas on adult clothing, alcohol, and tobacco consumption statistics, but I really think that the problem runs deeper.

The basic premise that underlies the academic analyses is that a father who is a head of a household and is living with his child will not voluntarily spend any more on on his child than a man who pays court-ordered child support to a mom of a kid he never sees.

That is crazy. Many fathers work long hours and make incredible sacrifices for their families. The idea that he would make those same sacrifices for a wife who betrayed him and a child he never sees is nuts. I cannot even see the rationale for it, and I cannot find where any legislative body has expressed a rationale. It is as if someone decided that there is no social benefit for fathers to be involved with their kids, and that the law should create monetary incentives against it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Betson-Rothbarth estimator

Ever wonder what sort economic analysis goes into child support guidelines? Most of the states use something called the Betson-Rothbarth estimator. You probably think that it is based on some expert economic analysis of child expenses. Instead, see this explanation:
In the early 1990s, PSI asked David Betson of the University of Notre Dame to revise the Income Shares methodology. He also used an income equivalence approach, borrowing a technique from Erwin Rothbarth. The Rothbarth methodology compares changes in levels of household spending on purely adult goods to determine child costs. The idea is that looking at pure adult goods reduces the problem of shifts between adult and shared goods after having a child or an additional child. For measuring child costs, Betson specifically uses a particular bundle of adult goods to measure a household's level of well being-this bundle being adult clothing, alcohol, and tobacco. In other words, he replaced the food-only indirect measure with spending in three adult-only areas and switched from shares of consumption to levels of consumption. Because the cost tables are based on a Betson version of Rothbarth's earlier research, they are sometimes referred to as Betson-Rothbarth tables.
This is wacky. I haven't found Betson's paper yet, so I don't know how it works exactly. But apparently the analysis isn't based on any child expense data at all. The idea seems to be that if a couple with no kids spends twice as much on adult clothing, alcohol, and tobacco as a couple with one kid, then a couple with one kid should spend half their money on the kid.

There are too many things wrong with this approach to list right now.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Former governor has gay lover and wants custody

New Jersey news:
Former Gov. James E. McGreevey has revised his divorce lawsuit against his estranged wife and is now seeking sole custody of the couple's 5-year-old daughter -- and child support. ...

McGreevey, who resigned as governor after announcing he had had an affair with a male aide, has retained a new lawyer ...

Last month, after McGreevey originally filed for divorce, Matos McGreevey issued a statement disputing his claim that they had reached a settlement. "We continue to have profound differences about what our daughter should be exposed to, and until they are resolved, there will be no agreement," the statement said.

The revised lawsuit filed by attorney Matthew Piermatti asks a judge to grant custody of Jacqueline to the former governor and grant visitation rights to the former first lady. It seeks child support from Matos McGreevey, leaving it to the judge to decide the amount.
I am guessing that his wife does not approve of his living situation, but will have to cook up some other reasons to persuade the judge.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Woman Hits Boyfriend With Baby

AP reports:
ERIE, Pennsylvania — A woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to swinging her four-week-old son like a bat to hit her boyfriend, fracturing the infant's skull.

Chytoria Graham, 27, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child in a plea agreement with prosecutors. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years because the child was under age 12. There is no mandatory minimum if the victim is older than 13.

The charges stem from an Oct. 8 incident in which Graham returned from a night of drinking and began arguing with her then-boyfriend, Deangelo Troop, authorities said. The argument turned violent, and Graham grabbed her son Jarron by his feet and swung him, hitting Troop and fracturing the infant's skull in the process. When Graham put the boy down, Troop punched her in the eye, police said. She then called authorities. ...

Jarron, who made a full recovery, and Graham's four other children are currently in the custody of her parents.
I am still wondering how a 27-year-old woman manages to have five fatherless children, and whether the boyfriend had any relation to the 4-week-old baby. I am also wondering whether she called the authorities to get medical care for her baby, or to get the police to arrest her boyfriend. And I am wondering how drunk you have to be to use a baby as a club.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Oral argument at the appellate court

I just argued my appeal before the California appellate court in San Jose. I argued for myself, and so did my ex-wife.

On appeal, we get three judges. They are even real judges. We had Nathan D. Mihara presiding, with Wendy Clark Duffy and Richard J. McAdams.

First Mihara asked me how much time I would need. I said that I didn't know because I had never done this before, but that I expect that it will go quickly if there are not too many questions. I think that it ended up taking about 25 minutes. I say "I think" because there was no clock in the courtroom, and the security guards confiscated my electronic devices at the entrance. I had no way of watching the time. Maybe next time I'll bring a simple wind-up non-electronic clock.

Mihara smiled and said that they had already reviewed the papers, and invited to make comments that would supplement those papers. I had already made my best arguments in the papers, so I am not sure the oral argument really makes much difference.

I started by saying that our divorce case has already lasted 3.5 years, and may last another 2 years. This appeal mostly concerns several ways in which the lower court deviated from guideline in ordering child support. I elaborated. My ex-wife was given time to make her statement. I made a brief final rebuttal.

The judges were polite and receptive to the arguments we made. They only showed a general familiarity with the law and the case. We did not get any sharp pointed questions that would show that the judges had seriously thought about what they might do in the case. Maybe their minds were already made up and they were just being coy, but I did not get that impression.

Appeals courts are known for being overly concerned with formalities and technicalies. That is, they will find a way to uphold the lower court by saying that some party did not file some goofy paper on time, if they can.

But these judges did not mention any technicalities. Even when my ex-wife claimed that one of the five or so issues on appeal was not timely because my appeal was filed four days late, the judges did not seem interested. I don't think that this is any indication one way or the other about whether the court will rule based on such technicalities. Maybe they just weren't prepared to discuss them today. Maybe they thought that discussing legal technicalities with a non-lawyer is a waste of time. Maybe they want to decide on an outcome first, and then find whatever justification they need for the outcome later. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they were trying to reach a conclusion on the merits, and they will have to study the law and the record in the case to do that.

At the end, Mihara said that we would get a written decision within 90 days.

They didn't mention the fact that I currently have another appeal pending in the same case. There is a good chance I'll see at least one of those judges again in a couple of months.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Family court judge discovers homeschooling

William Duncan writes:
Last week, a trial court in New Jersey handed down an interesting decision involving divorcing parents who disagree about whether the children should continue to be home schooled. The seven children who live with the mother have been home schooled to date. The court says the father consented to the schooling but is now challenging its continuance. The court eventually says it will not rule on the father's request to end the home schooling, but only after a startling opinion.

The court first orders that the children be tested for the grades they would be in if they were in public school (this portion of the opinion is very confusing since it is not separated from a discussion of an earlier case). The court then opines at length about the perfidy of the school district allowing the children to be home schooled without state intervention. Noting that the school district had not sent officials to the home to check on the children’s progress, the judge said: "This is shocking to the court." The court characterized the children as being "left unsupervised" solely because of the lack of state intervention. (I suspect children who are at home with their mother would not describe themselves as "unsupervised.") The judge also found it shocking that the state Department of Education allows parents to home school without state intervention.
This is an example of a family court judge sticking his nose into a matter where judges would have no role in an intact marriage; assuming the discretion to rewrite the laws as he sees fit; and ultimately showing himself to be incapable of coping with the problem anyway.

The decision doesn't say whether there was a custody dispute, or if the father is willing to do something himself about the kids education.

I say the court should have just ordered joint custody to the parents. If the mom wants to homeschool on her time, that's her business. The dad can send the kids to public school, he should be able to. The public school may not like kids switching in and out, but it should have to get used to it. The school's problem is the least one here.

At any rate, the judge has no business saying that the homeschooling laws are shocking.

We may be headed for a money trial

I just gave my ex-wife the list of accounts that she asked for in court last week.

Unfortunately, it won't do any good. My financial statements are not good enough for her. She wants to subpoena the financial institutions herself, and do her own accounting of all my money for the last ten years.

I don't understand her theory for thinking that I owe her money. We met with an overpriced lawyer named Chip Rose who was supposed to clarify matters, but he only muddied them. He had his own theory about how the case should have been handled, but it didn't match either the law or what the judge has done, as far as I could see.

If she continues on this path, we could spend another year fighting about money in court. It is all based on a theory that I might have deceived her, but I've actually told her the truth at all times. I don't even know what deception she might allege.