Why did I choose this title? Because for over 30 years a rising chorus of individual complaints has led to organized groups, highly acclaimed research, award-winning pathetic videos, conferences, & even presidential task forces clarifying that what often results from divorce & family courts is financial devastation & excessive trauma to entire families, but more often &severely to women & children. Since all the efforts have yielded limited tangible reform & since negative fallout from divorce includes high financial cost, focusing on costs might wake up media & politicians! Figuring the total cost is impossible, but numbers will be staggering as the few here indicate. Formal statistical analyses are urgently needed. Indeed, we need presidential campaign debate ( I had petition** on web about this for 2004 election, 2005 spoke** in front of NY Matrimonial Commission, then sent huge report (some**) to 100+ media, senators, etc., & fall 2007 sent updated 2005 report (some**) to co-chairs of current debate commission, plus Carolyn & Rory Kennedy about judicial accountability -including on non-divorce topics) ! But only compassionate, constructive solutions should be solicited including preventive programs regarding conflict management & challenges of good partnering & parenting. This will be impossible if we fail to interrelate enough key pieces ( surely at least the framework of which female inequity is a part) of the complex puzzle of life!
In 1821 Thomas Jefferson said “The germ of the destruction of our nation is in the power of the judiciary.” The reason given was for lack of checks & balances. The U.S. financial crisis is turning global. Isn’t the challenge that our self preservation instinct (primarily selfishness) must become better balanced with our social instinct (desire for family & friends)? Doesn’t that have to include better male-female relations? In 2002 I sent the NYTimes via their noted op-ed writer, Thomas Friedman, letter** & 150 articles from around the world, 12 from here, indicating that lack of female equity was a core if not THE core problem of the world. As you know lots would disagree. The U.S. has thrived because we evolved as a new land of hope. Could it be that because that hope has never been all-inclusive, the power of compounding of interrelated problems HAS built a base that IS ready to spiral out of control if not checked? ANYTHING subject to the power of compounding will eventually quite abruptly spiral out of control if not checked!
I believe Gloria Steinem was right when she recently said the problem is our “addiction to dominance.” It has allowed the profit motive to run amok because our legal system controls virtually everything. It is often not about justice but who can win. It is more about legal process & legalese than morality. It has allowed CEOs to manipulate ridiculous contracts which means less wages left for others (most especially those on lowest rungs such as many women), pushes up housing &other costs due to McMansions, etc. & rippling effect, pushes up health costs from defensive medicine & outrageous liability premiums, & often totally impoverishes families in divorce or more often the wife relative to the husband. Women are more likely to be forced into foreclosure & bankruptcy (unpaid bill costs get passed along to all taxpayers), especially since legal scams often prey on women. Consumer Federation of America found women were 32% more likely than men to receive sub prime loans. The Mortgage Fraud Blog estimates the cost over $ 1 Billion annually. Fraud occurs when 2 parties have a fiduciary relationship and one makes a statement fitted to deceive when they know other was relying on the data. It happens regularly in court, but rules of evidence make it hard to prove or deny, so the more savvy lawyer wins. Courts also need transparency. Obama said “we can only make profound political changes if we first change the spirit of the community.” That must happen in race and gender relations as well as throughout the legal system. That’s hard because humanity is strongly subject to the power of indoctrination. That’s why abusive behaviors cycle. National dialogue would surely help.
As most here know, but the general public does not because media fails to tell them, if the husband is abusive in any manner, he can often collude with courts to force the mother to settle for less if she wants custody, or take custody from her, even if she has been deemed a good mother till now. Then we know the court orders her to pay him child support from her usually far more meager income &jails her for failure to do so. Who pays for that? Taxpayers. People in abusive relationships miss far more work, too. “Workplace Statistics” ** on the web quoted a survey by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence** - 21% of full-time employed adults were victims of domestic violence & 64% of them indicated their work performance was significantly impacted. The CDC says intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8.0 million days of paid work, the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs. “Mother Jones” reported $4.1B spent on medical and mental healthcare as a direct result of DV and $1.8B wages and productivity lost; but 73% of DV goes unreported- hidden costs- due mostly to women’s lack of faith in the system.
I calculated a very rough low estimate** of cost to operate shelters across U.S. to be about $2B annually, not counting volunteers. Wives rarely have comparable lawyers to their husband , & cases often extend years, including after settlement when wives return repeatedly for enforcement with bounced checks, countless delays, bogus motions, need for custody evaluators if there is a custody dispute, etc. , etc.. Lawyers are rarely in a hurry because they bill by the hour. Remember selfishness is part of human nature. That’s why we MUST have enforceable checks and balances! It is impossible for clients to prove exactly how many minutes were spent in preparation, in traveling, etc., and it must be awfully tempting for lawyers to round up here and there, if not lots more!. Court rarely starts on time so the billing clock keeps ticking. Often one has to wait for a witness, etc., then trial can be moved to later that day or be postponed. But the clock keeps ticking, but not only for the lawyer but for the operation of the courtroom if empty. Who pays for that? Taxpayers. Who pays for the almost inevitably greater health needs, including often PTSD from so much stress & lost or diminished work time? Taxpayers, because single mothers often have scant or no health insurance, including for kids. Karen Huffer, M.S., M.F.T. wrote an entire book** about it called “Legal Abuse Syndrome,”- 20 years of research supporting her thesis that “ the American Court system is a public health menace.” ALL Nature requires checks & balances and we’d better take heed! Many noted sources increasingly emphasize that a stable family is the ticket to the middle class. Isn’t that common sense????
A retired judge just told me a colleague used to say loudly to anyone who would listen as he opened the courtroom door- “Do you know how much it costs just to open this door?” This judge just very nicely took time to decipher for me a “guestimate” figure for per diem cost** to operate a single court room in NYC. His total is $4,211 ! ! He derived the per diem cost for the 5 usual people in the court room- judge, clerk, officer, reporter, law secretary as $1,871. He noted the building charges were very approximate- depreciation, capital improvement, maintenance, fuel, electricity, cleaning for $2,340. He did not include office supplies /phones/or benefits (over $600+ total) such as health insurance. We are known to be by far the most litigious nation & over a decade ago were reported to litigate 10x more per person than England. Then when you factor in that we have too few enforceable checks & balances about who can sue, all sorts of delaying tactics & bogus motions, etc. it becomes clear that divorce has become a business (61% of all civil litigation) & that the legal system may well be the biggest business anywhere! A recent NYT business article by Ben Stein noted that similar cases can be decided totally differently just one circuit away because judges & lawyers pick what precedents they wish to quote. April ‘06 Journal of Family & Economic Issues-** “Divorce & its direct / indirect economic consequences cost U.S. $33. 3 B yearly. NYT recently reported that similar immigration cases had rulings vary 3-76%by judge. Hmmm……….????
(blog below needs updating)
Excerpts from a few cases follow: (more details re #2,3 on blog- advocateforlegalaccountability.com)
1) U.S. Supreme Court,** United States v. Lanier No. 95-1717, March 31, 1997 After 1 1/2yrs the court unanimously vacated & remanded the case of Former Judge Lanier serving a 25 yr sentence for having required several women to give him oral sex to keep custody. The court’s reason was they had upheld other types of convictions “so long as the prior decisions gave reasonable warning that the conduct at issue (misleading term in this case for oral sex) violated constitutional rights.” WHAT?? Does anyone need warning that requiring oral sex is wrong? (Prosecutors can set parameters to sway outcome & THAT must stop! ) Who paid for all the court time, & remember there is a high per diem cost? Taxpayers. It is a good bet that many of the affected families had health problems, etc. that impacted society in general. Kids with emotional problems, etc often wind up in special ed. Those classes are usually only 1/4-1/2 the size of regular classes adding at least a third more to the several thousand dollar (often 10-15+ thousand) annual student cost. If in regular classes, they often disturb others or require tutoring, etc.
2) Liliane Miller, Mecklenberg Cty, NC, case 96-CVD-6407-JVH-** Judge Jane Harper gave custody of 2 sons to father even though she had earlier ordered him to attend abuse counseling, which he never did &mother had heretofore always been a good mother. She jailed the mother for non-payment of child support saying she wasn’t trying hard enough to get a new job. Husband was making $300,000 &wife had only had small part time job & was surely already suffering from PTSD. Her house foreclosed (2nd mortgage bank forfeited $120,000), she declared bankruptcy leaving $50,000 cc debt and $25,000 car debt, etc. plus bankruptcy fees. She officially was declared to have PTSD & assorted health problems, which got her a $4,000 grant for paralegal training & food stamps $400/mo. Oldest son took 6 yrs to complete HS, & finally got a $4,000 Pell Grant for community college. I don’t begrudge her ANY of above , but it ALL does cost taxpayers when in fact it should be costing her well-healed ex! Liliane was in & out of litigation for many years, so pick a number like 20 extra court days & multiply by per diem court costs of her area. In NYC it equals $82,000+ now! Consider multiplying ALL bogus days in the U.S. times per diem court cost- a HUGE number! She got back custody of oldest when father hit him. Judge still did not return younger son! Judge was often very condescending to her as homemaker. Outrageous! !
3) Chana Taub, Brooklyn, NY Index #s18748/05;350319/07-** Judge Sarah Krauss ’05 ordered wall be built in middle of home even though wealthy husband was going to live elsewhere. Judge gave order of protection, but then recused for bias. Judge Carolyn Demarest-mid ’06, still on 2nd filing- not enforced maintenance, child support, any order she gave husband. 1st divorce filing jury denied divorce - Judge D. would not let them hear testimony of interview of wife by expert domestic violence witness, etc., etc. She charged jury to consider long term marriage, implying wife did not find husband’s behavior too abusive (vs tons acknowledged data on domestic violence). She still allows husband to take rent from wife’s properties & ignores full discovery plus his expensive surveillance system (vs Judge Krauss’ order) of wife; allows LOTS delays - Blames wife!-& clearly false testimony from husband, ETC! Judge Carolyn Demarest is condescending & worse (? Illegal) to wife as homemaker- said since wife pretty should be sales clerk; on 1/29/08 said “usual court observer (me) & press (reporter had reported mostly neutrally & hasn’t returned) are having a ‘chilling effect’ on court function;” 3/7/08 ordered house out of foreclosure but 4/04 said it can go forward since “wife must learn she can’t live in “palatial” home (3,000 sq ft plus husband wealthy), restricted wife renewing order of protection, ignoring death threat to daughter re mother. Husband has several outrageous side suits. Between 2 spouses legal bills are near$3M, husband’s being 2x -he usually has 2 lawyers; judge has implied he can’t pay maintenance, ETC! Wife now has liens as payment. Past 2 weeks she was in courts 2x each & meeting atty, preparing papers. It’s a fulltime job! ! Official complaints yielded nothing! Many have noted female judges more often are hard on women. THIS MUST STOP NOW! It requires immediate national dialogue because it is destroying lives ! !
4)A friend of mine has been in courts for almost 10 yrs- bounced checks, no pay for kids’ medical expenses, etc., several side suits, ex not show up & all sorts other delays, now having to sell modest home even though ex lives far better, makes about $200,000/yr, has girlfriend, vacations, etc. Similar stories- quite common!
5) Gal has 950sqft home foreclosure, lost custody of child due to abusive lawyer ex, $63,000 for 1 mo. forced institutional psych eval. (PTSD)- all cost taxpayers; wouldn’t $63,000 have been far better spent getting home out of foreclosure? Why ex not required to stop foreclosure, pay $63,000; how did ex get custody??
Our addiction to dominance is usually husbands over wives, but courts often aid and abet the dominance, including female judges. A presidential task force** found that abusers are twice as likely to seek custody, & another study found about 70% of them get it. U.S. courts sentencing kids to torture have to be the worst statistics on this planet! U.S. census statistics** show that ex-wives’ standard of living drops an average of 45% (Some men’s increases.). Many suspect part of custody issue is not wanting to pay child support & also impoverishing the wife. Shouldn’t judges be more questioning when husbands claim little or no income when that has not been their fairly recent history? Shouldn’t there be some enforceable way for an ex-wife to get a review of her case if her ex lives significantly better than she does? Too often getting enforcement for healthcare & other needs, including college, is minimal. Then society (ie. taxpayers) picks up the healthcare tab, pays for Pell Grants for college, etc.. For most the divorce rate is 25%. The 50% rate is for those from divorced families, more proof that dysfunction cycles. Fallout costs from divorced families must be huge when you consider that various statistics say 30-37% of all people have been divorced.
Everyone knows no one emerges from divorce unscathed, often cycling poor behaviors into adulthood - high cycling divorce rate is one proof. It is common knowledge we are the most litigious society. Could the fact that according to studies appearing recently in the NYT that 51% of women today are unmarried and young people take 10-20 years longer to settle down be their reaction to all the above, even if subconscious? The need for world leadership is stronger than ever. How can we lead when our legal system increases the negative cycling from dysfunctional families? What can we do? How about state contests for compassionate constructive ideas? How about an emergency Think Tank from numerous highly regarded authors who have written about interrelated subjects (some sources & ideas in my handout). Judicial accountability must be the primary theme & include enforceable checks & balances on judges, lawyers, prosecutors, & other court actors. Educational programs re conflict management & challenges of good partnering & parenting (such as Lynn Gold-Bikin’s Partner’s **high school program) must be required everywhere & have adaptations for all grades. Our entire society needs to be clearly offered more help. The debates have opened Pandora’s box re national conversation about race- this needs to include gender- we can start by discussing legal accountability in general as well as health care costs, foreclosures, and Leave No Child Behind- since the last 3 topics are already on the table. Our Kids Kant Wait So Neither Can We ! ! Kent Keith, Esq. (Harvard, Oxford, PhD), expresses our sentiments. He wrote “Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments, Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World,” ** – “Nothing is more important than what happens to the children. If there is hope for our children, there is every hope. If there is no hope for our children, there is no hope at all. The future of our world depends on the kinds of people today’s children turn out to be.”
I’d like to close with quotes from “Positive Quote of the Day” to which I subscribe- “Compromise is art of dividing cake in such a way everybody believes he got biggest piece.” (Sherry Rothfield) “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” (Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, English author) Most sincerely, Susan Titus Glascoff, Masters – Health Advocacy & Math, Exec. Dir. Nat’l Advisory Bd to Nat’l Coalition for Family Justice (501C3), 3 sons, 2 stepsons, 5 grandkids, (2 Who’s Whos, 3rd being considered)