For family courts, men have a distinctive feature: anger, which makes them suspect. Most of the problem is that claims for orders of protection are unscreened, and women get them like over-the-counter medication. Dudes who are unfairly cut out from their children are not in the mood to express their feelings in a poised manner. They scream, and rightly so. That’s when women’s finger pointing at men’s menace becomes self-fullfiled prophecy. When the sucker vociferously expresses his desperation, woman can say:”you see, the guy is out of control; take him away from me and my children.”
I must say that almost every time I have been in court, I have fallen in the trap. I cannot get the”poised” demeanor. When I am stuck in this tiny, dark room on the fourth floor of the Manhattan Family Court (the “support” floor), having to hear the same inept charges of Solomon (my ex-wife’s lawyer), I can barely put myself to take it. And I am either expelled or threatened to be expelled.
Ultimately, it is not the form of the protest that matters, but its content. What Baldwin rightly shows in his book A Promise to Ourselves, the only thing you cannot do is questioning why you are here and the way the folks handling your case do their job. Dump as much money to lawyers, fine. But do not question the system itself, even with your lawyer. During the time I was representing myself in my child abuse trial, while waiting for the judge to let us back in courtroom, I noticed that Solomon and the law guardian Octobre were laughing at my laud complaints about the abnormal duration of the trial. I came to realize that these folks – judges, lawyers, law guardians, support magistrates, clerks- bond together, even if they might be in opposite sides in the courtroom. They work in the same bleak place everyday -courts- take the elevator, the subway, eat together. Questioning why on earth the best interest of your children end up being in their hands? You are messing up with their daily pittance.
That’s why, I guess, courts ask well-off fathers like Baldwin to take anger- management sessions. With these, Baldwin both confessed his “guilt” and acknowledged the raison d’être of the system. He did so to be able to see Ireland, his daughter. Funny enough, the shrink in charge of helping him to manage his anger asked him for a hug at the end (A Promise to Ourselves, p.104). The inquisitor was not fully satisfied with a confession. He wanted to be greeted. For those who cannot afford anger management therapy, courts order supervised visitations. The agency delivering visitations is incompetent? Pick another one. The alienating parent spoil supervised visitations? Shut up, and stick to another round of supervised visitations.
If the system were smarter, it would try to canalize fathers’ anger by allowing them to expel it. Imagine: one day a month, fathers would be authorized to throw shoes at family courts. I ‘ll take it.