It is not 'intelligent' couples who prolong separations, as a judge has claimed, but the adverserial family courts
Sir Nicholas Wall, England's most senior family court judge, said on Monday that intelligent couples made divorce more painful, and also that "often the mother, who finds herself caring for the children, is able to use her power over them to deny the father contact".
I think what the judge was getting at was that shrewd, sly and nefarious people and their lawyers jockey for the slightest advantage make the divorce process more like a world war. As part of the process of scheming, mothers manipulate and use the children or else deny the father contact. This is disgusting from top to bottom and I've seen and heard of it more times than I can count.
It's a little bit rich, this, since it fails to take into account the practical reality that the person who is caring for the children probably doesn't have as much money as the person who is working, so ends up using different leverage. Sure, it's not brilliant parenting to take your children as hostages in a sour squabble, but there's economics underneath that, not a predisposition of gender.
What? Since the person caring for the kids doesn't have "as much money" its ok for them to USE INNOCENT CHILDREN FOR THEIR OWN ENDS? How is that defensible? Not "brilliant parenting?!?!?!" Children who fail to make critical bonds with their father at a young age suffer PERMANENT LIFELONG DAMAGE. This is a PSYCHOLOGICAL FACT. Look it up. But according to Ms. Williams, that's ok. Those of you thinking Mom always does right by the kids? TAKE NOTE.
The more contentious idea is this: "As a rule of thumb my experience is that the more intelligent the parent, the more intractable the dispute". I suspect a conflation, here, of "intelligent" and "loaded": a couple determined to chase a court settlement for their divorce might be quoted between £15,000 and £20,000 by a cheap solicitor, £30,000 to £50,000 by an expensive one. But that is a straightforward divorce: a strikingly "intractable" dispute would run to six or eight or even 10 applications to court over a number of years, and then you would be talking about £100,000, or even more.
Intelligent people are more apt to make a wise choice? No. The wily and the shrewd are, and will spend as much as they can to GET as much as they can. Also if they are emotionally distraught, they will spend themselves into bankruptcy. Men get practically nothing as a matter of fact (lose all your money for 2 visits a week? Please.) so they spend like crazy just to try to get something like JOINT custody. Get that? Bankrupt yourself just to see your kids often enough to be reminded they are your kids if you have a penis between your legs. Plus many mothers quite literally get dad all but shut out and take his money too. False accusations of violence, manipulating the children to refuse to see him, moving away: all easy and common to do.
Even to be able to put your hands on the lowest estimate, "middle-class" wouldn't quite do it; you'd also have to be wealthy. Liz Edwards, vice-chair of Resolution (a collection of family lawyers who also train and accredit mediators), counters that divorcing couples do borrow from their parents, remortgage and even sell their houses to fight these cases: "I have had clients with all sorts of levels of wealth." But to fight one of these protracted, bitter contests, you would have to be brimming with cash.
Mom is holding the cards to begin with. Why? Its legally presumed she'll get the kids. So all dad has left for his side is to draw out the battle and make mom poor, not that she'll be poor for long after taking 40-50% of his salary for the next many, many years. My ex and I fought for years - there is a 3-6 month lead time between court dates. Meanwhile? My son had no dad in critical developmental stages of my life - written verbatim on the report submitted to the court by a social worker of THIRTY YEARS EXPERIENCE.
And that's probably a good thing, even if unintentional (one supposes it wasn't with the aim of deterring litigants that the court process became so eye-poppingly expensive). The family courts are an incredibly bad tool for the job of divorcing, and should only be used as an extreme: making it extremely expensive is not a bad way of enforcing that. The intractable super-rich would demonstrate more intelligence if they realised that their strung-out divorces were really no different to anybody else's, and all that was distinguishing them was a lack of financial restraint.
You are fighting for your children, madame. How is making it necessarily a life-crushing financial event a "good thing?" It doesn't act as a deterrent. As you just pointed out above, people mortgage the house and sell off their assets for this fight. You're a man - your ex offers you one or two monthly visits and demands your house and half your income. This will end your ability to ever have another family. So you'll what, agree and end the matter because its too expensive to fight? You've never fought in family court madame. It shows.
Nevertheless, as Ruth Cain, lecturer in law at the University of Kent points out: "Sir Wall says, explicitly, that separating is a failure of parenting. So he's making a tacit point that the middle classes shouldn't split up in the first place. It's unrealistic, it stigmatises divorcing couples, single parents, and mothers." And that's fine – judges being, since the dawn of due process, known for the occasional eruption of conservative opinion. But what is not fine is the fact that a lot of this obstinacy, so damaging to families and so scarring to the lives of children, is not so much signified by the fact that the couple has ended up in court as created by the court process. It's adversarial, which we all accept, and I imagine might be quite intellectually thrilling if you're a corporate behemoth arguing property law against your peer.
"Middle classes shouldn't split up in the first place." That's a conservative opinion? Isn't it simply common sense? Don't get married to eventually split up? Don't ruin the lives of innocent children with divorce? No? Too "conservative" of me? Yes, the court process is INTENTIONALLY adversarial. It should be changed. The problem is going to court is by its VERY NATURE adversarial. These two parties, mom and dad, disagree and probably hate each other. That's not going to end well. The best solution. STAY MARRIED AND STAY THE FUCK OUT OF COURT. But there I go being 'conservative' again.In the context of a divorcing couple, however, it simply involves listing negative things about the other person in the hope of scoring more points with your assassination than they score in their assassination of you. Such a performance could almost have been designed to extinguish the possibility of agreement. It is not uncommon at all for parties to make huge, poisonous claims against each other which turn out to be unfounded. Cain says briskly: "The men always claim that the women are insane, the women always claim that the men are abusers."
I'll be biased, because I am. Most men aren't savage animals that beat their own wives. Beating a man you have a conflict with is rarely done, but we are to believe men savagely attack their WIFE? The most macho men I know of wouldn't dream of raising a hand in anger at their wife, who is their kind and adorable darling. Have some men struck a woman? Sure. The woman, unless very submissive, typically call the police or go to the hospital to get treatment and therefore have physical evidence of abuse - but there is almost never an offer of physical evidence in family court. Why? Because there is none. Its a ruse.
As for women being crazy, not all are, of course, but look. The super-thin image of women plastered on magazines and billboards, the hyper-sexualized image of women, starting at ever younger ages, the concept of permanent youth shoved in women's faces, the competition for men and jobs, the obsession with surgically enhanced celebrities.... all of this creates TREMENDOUS anxiety in women. TREMENDOUS anxiety. Women are VERY sensitive creatures. Its simply how they are made. Next thing you know, one night her husband is too tired to have sex and she thinks he doesn't find her to be attractive anymore. Since she has no self-esteem, irrational and emotion-fueled fits of rage and argument soon ensue - to her husband's confusion and bewilderment - and unless her problems are discovered and checked, its not two weeks before she's talking to a divorce lawyer. Byron said "Women are a reflection of all that is wrong with society." Greedy, lecherous, lusty Western society is pretty fucked up. Due to their sensitivity women are the primary victims of this. Ever look into the statistics on how many girls and women are on ANTI-DEPRESSANTS?
YES, madame. These men's wives ARE crazy.
If this were simple rancour, you could be forgiven for throwing up your hands and simply saying they're all mad – any couple who can't negotiate and ends up in court is mad by definition. But the process is more subtle, as Edwards explains: "When you're together you accept that certain things are happening, and you can counterbalance them, and you make them work in the best way you can. When you're apart, you really go for it. By the time you've said it three times, and a lawyer's reacted, and a Cafcass officer has reacted, and a judge has reacted, you really think there's an enormous danger to your child."
Many family lawyers recognise this, of course: Resolution's stated belief is that any case that ends up in court is a failure, not just of the parents, but also of their respective solicitors.
What a joke. Ever sit across from person who tells you the best they can do is to offer you your own child twice a MONTH unless you offer to pay another $500 a month in "child" support, bringing the total to $1400, or HALF your monthly income!?!?!? And you're telling me that if I refuse and we wind up in court its a failure of the lawyers? Her lawyer maybe. But if mine agrees to that, I'm firing him/her. This is the way family courts do business because the law is so slanted towards the mother, they have no incentive to capitulate or offer anything at all. In fact the biggest complaint the "women's" movement has of the current system is that father's make it expensive by threatening to appeal their custody cases. How terrible. Appeal. Men appeal because they get screwed over to begin with, and the ones that threaten appeal are grasping at whatever they can because THEIR lawyer AND hers are both telling him you're pretty much fucked from every angle so agree to just get a little raped before the judge believes some of her lies and you get nothing. Men have no legal right to their children after divorce - that's a fact. But if a man fails to pay child support OR health insurance for the child FOR ANY REASON OR NO REASON, they can be JAILED, that is, DEPRIVED of their FREEDOM, something the founding fathers of the nation only wanted to happen when a CRIMINAL ACT has been proven beyond a "shadow of a doubt." So if a man is laid off and misses his $1,400/month OR MORE child support payment, he goes to jail and the child support accrues with interest while he's in there (true)?
No offense but that's the gender war equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Imagine doing that to women? This is beyond just unfair laws. This is war.
They run courses to avert acrimony that they hope, in the long term, will become as routinely sought as an antenatal class.
For that message – keep out of court – to really come across, it might be even more helpful for a senior judge to say it. Judges love to fix on one or other class, one or other gender, and blame them for their failure to take responsibility. They should take responsibility themselves, by issuing less of this stern chiding, more in the way of public warning: courts will ruin you, they will take your divisions, expose them, magnify them and ignite them. You will most likely never claw your way back to a civilised relationship afterwards. And it's not even a conspiracy to make money (although they do, also, make money). It's the way they were designed.
What? A "public warning." Wow, that'll work. Courts ALREADY RUIN YOU and give horrible divisions. AND MANY PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY MEN, NEVER CLAW THEIR WAY BACK TO A CIVILIZED RELATIONSHIP AFTERWARD. I had a friend who had a rather civilized divorce, compared to others; the girl is such a nervous, untrusting wreck her current relationships average about 2 weeks. Mine have gone much longer but also always fail... Making family court horrible has already happened. Advertise it more? Sure, go ahead. But I doubt that'll make people less crazy. There was something making family court really distasteful years ago - social stigma, mainly given by religion, and the fact that you would get NOTHING from family court if you were the one that petitioned for the divorce and if you were injured and got something, it wouldn't be much - and you would both pay lawyers tons of money. This created REAL disincentive to get divorced.
LET'S BRING THAT BACK.
People go to court to GET something from it. And they do! Men pay a fortune to get visitation with their kids (if their ex doesn't hit them with a false claim of domestic violence that is believed), and the women get the house, kids, and half his retirement and income.
THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS NOW.