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Archive for the ‘Sanity in divorce’ Category

Parents celebrate important events of the life in their children life, like Bar Mitzvahs or commencement ceremonies. Not me. First, I have been “parented away” for a long time now. I cannot communicate directly with my daughters. Communication through the channel of their mother does not go through, and is unreliable. Ex has no problem impersonating her daughters when she wants to. In these days and age tough, there is Google to bring you news about your offspring, even those you wish were not true, like: My daughters have changed their name or are in the process of doing so. In so doing, they bluntly manifest they have severe ties with their father. Ex’ plans are fully accomplished: my status as a father is reduced to that of a unfortunate “blurb” (Seinfeld is to me a profuse source of references) in their life story. I have been erased.

That may well be, but I am a very resilient fellow. I will be there in case my daughters want to break through Goebbels (ex)’s fences. Meanwhile, I thought of standing outside of the area of the commencement ceremony with the hope of seeing my daughters when people would exit, but I was sick. I had to make do with the video of the ceremony, hoping again that by chance, I could see my daughters there. Instead I saw the speech of the commencement speaker, Mark Zuckerberg.

Mr Zuckerberg is a nice man. Yet a few remarks about a couple of points he raised in his speech to the class of 2017 are in order:

Firstly, Mr. Zuckerberg aspires to create a world where everyone has “a new sense of purpose.” Mr. Zuckerberg  has found his (he created Facebook) and he assumes that “all people want to connect.” That resonates deeply with me because it could not be more wrong in my family. An alienating parent wants her children for herself, she wants them “to disconnect” and she succeeds. She may want them to find “a sense of purpose” only if it is predicated upon the exclusion of anybody who may contradict her influence.

Secondly, according to M. Zuckerberg, “every generation expands its definition of equality” and “the millennials are the most charitable generation in history.” That’s possible, but it is not going to help this country very much. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have been widening since the 1980’s, and even if the number of well-minded philanthropists like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg expands, the wealth they give away will not correct for increasing lack of access to health, education and, for the subjects that matter in this blog, to decent family justice. Charity is not a substitute for a proactive fiscal policy, even less this undergirding grandiose social projects like “redefining equality.” Charitable rich folks care about pet projects, they don’t declare “war on poverty.”

I would have liked to discuss this point with my recent graduate.

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Photo ABC News

Halle Berry (Photo ABC News)

Fact: Family courts bleed fathers to death as they force them to pay absurd percentages of their gross income for child support; if you have any doubt about it, just read the recent comments on this blog.

Fact: On May 30 of this year, the settlement between actress Halle Berry and her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gordon. Berry will pay $16,000 a month in child support, or $192,000 a year to Aubry for their six-year old daughter. Let see: that’s almost enough to pay – each year !- the tuition for a  four-year degree in the most expensive U.S. universities.

Some will see in this agreement a great victory for justice on the grounds that a woman – and a famous one- has to pay child support like the rest of us.  I  for one would not agree. I see a saddening consistency between the Berry-Aubry’s settlement and traditional child support policy for the commoners. The commoners, in their vast majority, are poor, and the poor being poor,are not supposed, according to family courts, to figure out how to make their kids happy.  That’s why family courts are there for: Tell  the poor chap what to do and squeeze the last dime out of him. On the other hand, family courts have no problem with rich folks, provided a privileged kid remains a privileged kid. Thank  God, Halle Berry’s daughter will.  These two parallel facets of paternalistic child support’s policy are always carried out in the name of the best interest of the child.

Fact: There is a Piketty mania going on in this country, but obviously family courts have not heard about it. This Piketty mania spreads Capitalfrom Thomas Piketty’s last book , Capital in the Twenty- First Century, which talks about a wealth inequality fever particularly acute in America. Nobody is saying that family courts are in the business of correcting for wealth inequalities. At  least, they ought not help reproduce them, while stamping the seal of justice on absurd child support payments that secure a kid the standards of living he’s born with.

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H. Collins and children

Do you know who is Holly Collins? Well, me neither, until recently. Holly Collins took her children with her to Holland because her ex-husband was given custody of the kids by Minnesota family courts, while they were allegedly abused. Collins became an international fugitive for fourteen years. I could not help but feel immediate sympathy for her.

A documentary ,”No Way Out but One,” was made about the Collins’ Case.  In a Huffington Post article, Nancy Doyle Palmer interviewed the director of this documentary, Garland Waller. That’s what spoiled my sympathy for Collin.  What is there in this interview? In a nutshell, that kind of non-sense: The justice system grants custody cases to abusers -fathers- like banks mortgages to people before the 2008 financial crisis. Why? Judges believe in the parental alienation syndrome against the whole profession of psychologists. It just takes fathers to accuse “ex” of being an alienating parent, and that’s it: custody wrapped. Hello, have you been to court lately?  Waller does not flesh out the reforms -as she does not give any data backing up her points- but there are not difficult to surmise: “lock’em all (divorced fathers) up.”

Ms Waller appears to be one of these crusaders of the consensus. She pretends 1/ that the consensus (courts favor women) is not the consensus 2/ her alleged consensus (courts favor men) is supposed to put women’s rights under imminent threat. Fortunately, the crusader is on the watch;  she will call for the reforms that will correct this sad state of affairs. Since there are plenty of folks that support the true consensus, they will applaud the crusader, who has set herself up for an easy victory.  If anything, courts are indeed likely to be even more biased for women, whether Holly Collin’s children were abused or not.

I then googled Holly Collins. I found this Glenn Sacks’ article about the case: unlike Palmer’s, there are plenty of facts showing little robustness in Collin’s accusation against her former husband.

I am not done researching the case. Yet, I am in no rush to see “No Way Out but One.” I don’t know yet if Holly Collin abducted her children for the right reasons. I know however that family justice in the US need not reforms grounded in cheap bashing of male abusers.

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The actor Charlie Sheene recently filed for divorce. Unlike most fathers, lucky Sheene will get joint custody of the twins he had with Brooke Mueller. He will also have to pay a monthly $55,000 in child support to Mueller.

Let see; $55,000, that’s 5,000 more than…the 2009 YEARLY median American household income of $49,945 (US Census Bureau). We all know that the alleged job of family courts is to foster children happiness. $55,000 monthly, that’s clearly a new high to the price of  happiness, and a new low to decency.

In the case of Sheene, L.A. Superior Court does not know the difference between child support (what raising a child reasonably – even in Hollywood- requires) and alimony to a spouse, which  is the outcome of a deal between two divorcing spouses. That’s not helping the credibility of family courts.

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On  Tuesday November 17. Brian Lehrer’s guest was Susan Riss, the editor

Scene of "L'argent de poche" (Truffaut)

in chief of Working Mother Magazine.  One of the topics of the show was the new trends in child custody discussed in the last issue of Working Mother Magazine, and what I heard caught my attention. Susan Riss pointed out that unemployment hurt men more than women. That’s no news; the scoop was that more dads are seeking custody and are winning 50% of the time. With the worst recession since world war II came grace. Family courts gave up the tender year doctrine that says that mum is more suited than dad to be with the kids at a very young age. Since unemployed men are at home, they can as well as mum raise the children.

From her interview with Brian Lehrer, Susan Riss is not somebody who seems hostile to the fathers’ rights movement. Quite the contrary. She stated that “joint custody is the ideal scenario in a divorce”. Not something that nut cases contesting the existence of parental alienation syndrome would say. Yet I cannot wait to check the source of her data. And I cannot help regret to have started a divorce at the peak of an economic boom and missed family courts ‘s coming to intelligence.  In 1999, my lawyer told me that joint custody was not an even an option in New York. The stupidest move of my life: I did not ask for custody. Three years after, I was deprived of my visitation rights by a phony trial in child abuse.

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I was not expecting to watch a good movie on a plane, especially in the category “society and family”. I was pleasantly surprised with “Anche Libero Va Bene” ( the english translation “Along the Ridge” is far from literal)  directed by Kim Rossi Stuart (2005). It starts with a single father taking care of his two kids, a daughter and a boy. In this movie, Italians seem like lucky people: there are no family courts, no orders of protection, no financial assessments of the spouses’ assets, no parent barred from the school where the kids go to. Interestingly enough, the parents are not perfect and the kids know that. The father is a caring tyrant, who wants his boy to become a champion swimmer while the boy would rather play soccer. In the end, the  father will come to grip with his boy’s desire, hence the title of the movie (“Midfielder is good too”). The mother is unfaithful. She has left her home and her kids, comes back and swears to be a good mother, take care of the kids and renounce her affairs. The children are not duped.  At some point, the boy  even tells a friend  that “her mother comes and goes”. Yet the kids want her back and do not judge her when she leaves home again.

To me, the blow-out scene is when the boy receives a letter – at school- from his  mother telling him that he is the only man she cares for and that she will explain later. I just have this blog to tell that sort of things to my girls.

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Mazoltuv Borukhova

Mazoltuv Borukhova

Non-custodial parents victim of parental alienation have in common one problem: they cannot easily tell their story. It is difficult for the target parent (Baldwin uses this quite telling term in “A Promise to Ourselves” ) to explain why he is a target. When the nice folks of my building in Harlem asked me “how are the girls? (my daughters, who used to visit me at my place and were known by everybody), I felt that I could not inflict on them the phony child abuse trial, the ruling peppering more supervised visitations for six more months, etc… I go for the unsatisfactory shortcut: “My ex and I have horrendous relationship.”  But  people who are closer to me and whom I told my family court routine cannot but ask:”what did you do to her (my ex-wife)?” When I give them “nothing. I did not abuse her or beat her. I am no worst than the average asshole in the street,” I feel that this answer à la Jack Nicholson in Forman’s One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest is met with incredulity. To be swamped in the same mess for that long, to be the object of such resilient  hate, you must have done something wrong.

Mazoltuv Borukhova’s murder of her ex-husband, Daniel Malatov, tragically proves that target parents are not these nut cases wandering loose in the streets. Malatov could only see his daughter, Michelle, during supervised visitations but the law guardian was pushing for unsupervised visitations. That was perhaps too much for Borukhova, but for Borukhova, it looks that anything between her daughter and her ex would be too much. Borukhova hired a hit man among her relatives to kill her husband and the job was expeditiously done in front of Michelle, the four-year old daughter in a playground in Forest Hills (Queens, New York). Borukhova’s way is perhaps extreme. It has the merit of being totally explicit about alienation.  Alienation is not about love or about over protection of the kid.  The kid is an excuse.  The “target” parent is to be E-LI-MI-NA-TED. From the life of the kid, for sure; financially if possible; from the face of the earth, even better.

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