With Justice for ALL (quote from the pledge of allegience U.S.A.)
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Comments from those involved in the Courts
Subject: Re: Fw: Legal considerations from "the other side of divorce" Divorce Reform Discussion List
Dear Patricia: Thank you for your eloquent and heartful commentary on the problem with divorce law. Simply stated, it is unfair. Divorce law today is anti-marriage and anti-family to its core.
The unfairness is a result of a mindset that truly believes that anything good for an individual is intrinsically good. Accordingly, it presupposes that marriage does not exist when process is invoked, (not that it ceases to exist when process is concluded). That mindset ignores the obvious. Individuals exercise individual rights individually. Marriage and family is not supposed to be about individuals. As a consequence of marriage being effectively terminated at the beginning of process, all other individuals, besides the one instigating the process, lose.
The plight of the abandoned middle-age housewife with few job skills and age-impaired remarriage prospects is indescribably sad. You may be surprised to know that the rationale for no fault divorce included protecting stay-at-home wives from the depredations of unfaithful and abusive husbands where those housewives could not afford to prove fault. Instead, the process itself has become a source of abuse where even the most faultless wife can be abandoned by the most wrongdoing husband without need for justification or adverse consequence to the wrongdoer.
Likewise good men, husbands and fathers, are abandoned for no reason everyday. Consider the plight of the young working man, husband and father, today. If his not-so-age-impaired young wife should decide to leave for any or no reason, she can, taking half of the marriage's property and a substantial portion of the man's future paychecks with her.
Any married young working man today lives with the prospect that at any time he may find that he has lost his home, that his children's mother is sleeping with another man, that the other man can see his children every day and night while he must wait until the weekend after next for a visit, and that all this must be funded by him. He cannot find different work that may pay less but provide more time with his children because the support is based upon "historic income", "imputed income", or "income potential". If he loses his job, even through no fault of his own, his support obligation continues unless he pays for legal representation to modify and the court believes he really is "involuntarily underemployed".
Divorce destroys on the emotional and psychological level, those never married, those married, and those now unmarried. Many young men opt out of commitment by avoiding marriage. Can they be blamed? We live in a society where law applauds men for their responsibility if their child support checks are timely regardless of whether they married their children's mothers or whether they have any relationship with their offspring.
At the same time that same law persecutes men who at one time were good husbands and fathers if their payments are untimely or short. Often they desperately want to be with their children and are denied access. While the law may say that visitation cannot be withheld for non-payment of support, as a practical matter no father in arrears can enforce a visitation order.
How many good men fall into dispair and live unproductive lives of bitter despondency? How many others are encouraged to take advantage of the system and shack up with a woman who got a sweet divorce deal and don't really care about their role as step-significant other? How many others conclude marriage is just a bad idea altogether? Who among this group of men do we call "deadbeats"? Unfairness?
Your letter speaks loudly to me and to many other lawyers and scholars who acutely feel the pain of injustice. Until the law is family-friendly and marriage-friendly, individuals will always manipulate it to the disadvantage of those they should love most. This will be true as long as the only interest our divorce laws serve is self-interest. Thank you for taking the time to write, and for sharing your insights with those of the List.