When Americans talk about gay marriage do they know what marriage is?

Because of my work as a co-author of a book on divorce laws nationwide, friends always seem to contact me when they have a divorce-related question. Here’s an exchange that I had recently with a friend who has an advanced degree in social science and who is married with children. I’ll call him “Joe.”

  • Joe: “Can you talk to my friend? His wife is putting him through hell. She’s hired one of the top divorce lawyers in the state and is making all kinds of accusations. about abuse, child abuse, etc.”
  • Me: “He should ignore all of that. Based on our interviews, virtually every plaintiff alleges abuse and judges mostly don’t believe them. He should focus on cooperating with his former spouse  so that the judge can feel comfortable awarding a 50/50 shared parenting schedule, which is what the researchers find is best for children. If he fights her on all of the little stuff that weakens his case for 50/50 parenting, so he should just cave in.”
  • Joe: “But she wants to control everything about how interacts with their child. The child can’t go to certain playgrounds because she’ll get hurt, the child can’t see certain people because they’re unsafe.”
  • Me: “He should just graciously agree to do his best to comply with her conditions. What is she going to do? Go to court later and file a motion that he agreed not to take the child to playground X and the father took the child to playground X? The first question from the judge is going to be ‘Did the child actually get hurt?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then the motion hearing is likely over.”
  • Joe: “He can’t let her just get away with all of this and push him around.”
  • Me: “Why not? The only thing that matters is the schedule, keeping her from moving out of state with the child, and preserving some sort of ability for coordination and cooperation. Has he asked her to mediate? Litigation is extremely harmful to children and poisons any kind of co-parenting, according to the lawyers we interviewed and the research literature. If he is forced by his wife to continue litigating, some of the best advice to readers that we got for the book was from a Massachusetts business litigator whose friend kept defending family court motions filed by his ex-wife [they’d been divorced for many years but she kept coming back for more cash, using a 22-year-old child as a hook; he lost nearly all of these proceedings; a Massachusetts parent can profit from obtaining child custody until the child’s 23rd birthday]: ‘You know that the game is rigged. Why are you swinging at every pitch?'”
  • Joe: “What do you mean litigation?”
  • Me: “Well, she sued him. A divorce lawsuit is the same as if you sued a guy for charging you to dig a pool in your backyard but not finishing the digging. You wouldn’t expect ever to be able to cooperate with that guy again after you sued him and threw allegations back and forth in court, would you?”
  • Joe: “Actually I think he was the one who filed for divorce. But how is that a lawsuit?”
  • Me: “The only structural difference between that and you suing the pool contractor is that your friend is guaranteed to win his lawsuit because your state has no-fault divorce. But otherwise it is the same. Lawyers, witnesses, evidence, etc. It is an adversarial process that turns co-parents who need to cooperate for their child’s benefit into adversaries, typically permanently if the litigators are to be believed.”
  • Joe: “What’s the alternative?”
  • Me: “Suppose that you decide that you really need to be with some hot 25-year-old. You could try to surprise Susie [Joe’s wife] by suing her. But would you be surprised if her dad hired the best lawyer that he could find to defend that lawsuit? The alternative would be to sit down at the kitchen table, ask her to forgive you for your need to be with the 25-year-old, and see if you could come to a fair agreement regarding the children, the house, etc. Then go to a mediator to work out the details and finalize something legal. Your friend is complaining that he is embroiled in litigation, but he is the one who started a lawsuit. Of course he is now plagued with litigation. Did he expect his wife not to defend the lawsuit?”
  • Joe: “But he was afraid that she was going to file for divorce herself.”
  • Me: “Well, she didn’t, did she?”
  • Joe: “And his wife is a crazy bitch.”
  • Me: “All the more reason not to sue her. If it doesn’t make sense to go around suing the average person, why would you sue a crazy bitch and then expect things to go well? And if the crazy bitch is also the mother of your child? He should send her an email right now saying ‘I apologize for suing you and I hope that you will forgive me and agree to sit down with me at a divorce mediator’s office to come to an agreement that will be best for our children.'”

(I suggested to my friend that he read the “Divorce Litigation” chapter of our book.)

This is some pretty basic stuff and is required for consumers to read by the State of Florida before they can get a marriage license (handbook), but this married guy with an advanced degree didn’t know any of it. He’s a supporter of gay marriage, as it happens, and after the conversation it occurred to me that he has no clue as to what civil marriage is. I wonder how many other Americans who have weighed in on either side of the gay marriage debate are similarly situated in their ignorance of the fundamentals.


9 thoughts on “When Americans talk about gay marriage do they know what marriage is?

  1. When the wife falsely claims abuse the courts will

    a) grant temporary restraining orders
    b) create new visitation schedules until all is sorted out, limiting visitation severely, maybe to phone calls only
    c) demand sessions with court psychologists
    d) order therapy

    The court will do that regardless of whether the judge believes it or not, because the judge absolutely hates the idea of presiding over a case that ends up in the media with him looking like a fool. And justify that for the good of the children.

    Even when all is said and done and the judge removes the restraining order, and restores visitation, bits and pieces of the reduced visitation will remain. Maybe he’ll forget to include sharing President’s Day, maybe he’ll forget to remove the newly added requirement to ask permission to take the kids across state line to the neighboring state where they were born to see their grandparents and their cousins before you and your wife (now ex) had moved together while married to this new state.

    And even so, in the weeks, or months that the new schedule was in place, your kids will wonder where you are, why you’re not there for this event and that event, and will naturally have that much more reason to see their mother as authority figure and parent, and see you as well, occasional father figure, and they will learn who is in control.

    The courts won’t enforce the schedule if the woman decides to violate it. And you don’t have the money to take her to court because she gives you the kids later on Friday then ordered, or demands they be returned earlier on Sunday, or tells the kids they can go to the football game with her and the new husband but makes them ask you permission to go to the football game, or decides not to give you the kids at all one or more weekends. Or tells you she and the kids have made plans to buy them clothes on Saturday and she only needs them for four hours and if you want to nix that, that’s fine, you just need to tell the kids. On and on Sunday, bring them back early because there is a fancy restaurant they are going to to celebrate X, or Y, or Z.

    Or if she comes to the door one day and says the kids don’t want to go with you that day.

    What are you going to do then? Call the cops? They won’t come by, they will tell you to take her to court.

    Or if she forgets or just plain won’t tell you of the meetings with school officials, or invitations to school/church/temple ceremonies?

    What will you do after you tell the school they must inform you of these things because that’s the law, and after you have had your lawyer sent them a note and they still “oops, sorry about that, the teacher didn’t know.”

    What are you going to do when she tells the kids to call her new husband dad? What are you going to say to the family court psychologist when he asks you how much it bothers you the kids call her new husband dad? Or what you think he should do about that?

    And when you have everything documented, and get your court date, it will be six months in the future, and prior to then there will be hearings, and there will be new complaints you are a danger, and there will be court appointed mediation sessions (where you pay not just for your lawyer’s time but for the 1/2 the mediators time as well), and there will be delays and more delays and when you finally get to court 9 – 12 months later you will have spent thousands and thousands of dollars just so you can stand up in front of the judge and say “she is not sticking to the schedule” and he can tell her “you need to stick to the schedule”.

    The courts absolutely positively will not enforce the schedule.

    And you can be

    + the bigger man and accept these indignities
    + or the poorer man and say I can’t afford to fight all of these violations
    + or look at the bigger picture and say this is just a rough spell
    + or think of the future and make sure you’re doing well at work

    And worse, think you’re building a very strong case for 50/50 parenting because you are not the causes of the fights, and you do “cave in”, but basically what you are also doing is not being their for the kids, regardless of how that is not your fault, and cementing in the kids minds that you are not a parent who can be relied on, and that worse, they dare not talk about you that way in front of their mom, and that they should not respect you, or treat you as authority figure, because mom always, and I mean always overrules you, and then when you do make your case for 50/50 parenting, and their is a custody evaluation, you can tell your whole case to a psychologist, and they will still hear the kids saying “I don’t think of him as my father, the new guy, that’s who I call dad”.

    Anyway, don’t ask me what you’re supposed to do, but well, to quote Leonard James McCoy, ” Spock, I’ve found that evil usually triumphs unless good is very, very careful. ” Add to that wealthy enough to afford a good lawyer and hundreds of hours of legal fees, and able to work well for weeks under conditions of stress of pain of not having your children around, while working off hours on divorce legal briefs.

    Shorter me?

    Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome are very real things, and your strategy, while sounding reasonable and logical and data driven, requires the court, judge and various court family psychiatrists to see through all of your ex-wife’s nonsense, each and every time and to all understand your claims and believe in them, and to all act uniformly to stop it, and to have none of them worry about the fallout that should arise if your ex’s bizarre and almost certainly false claims about you turn out to be true.

    It opens up the father who takes it to great risk of having his ex actively alienate the children against him.

  2. Just to add (and maybe you should stop me, I could probably add to this all day)


    > And even so, in the weeks, or months that the new schedule was in place, your kids will wonder where you are, why you’re not there for this event and that event, and will naturally have that much more reason to see their mother as authority figure and parent, and see you as well, occasional father figure, and they will learn who is in control.

    When the kids want to know where you have been, you won’t be able to tell them, “your mom asked a judge to stop my parenting time with you”. You won’t be able to tell them anything truthful. You will have to lie to them. You can’t even sugarcoat the truth.

    You can’t say anything derogatory about their mother, regardless of how truthful it is, even if you have put it in words and context they can understand. And you can’t say anything derogatory about the court or judge either, so you can’t even take the responsibility off the mother and place it on the judge.

    You can’t say, “well a judge wanted to think about how we are getting along.”

    Of course, the mother (and step-father) can say anything and everything they want to about you. Oh, they can’t really, in the bizarro universe you could get to court in a timely and affordable fashion the judge would surely tell them to stop their nonsense, but you can’t get to court in a timely or reasonable fashion.

    I’m not saying you should not be reasonable, and act ethically and with integrity. I am just saying the process is biased against you when that’s the path you take. Because it’s death by a thousand cuts and the truth is not an available defense and your ex-wife knows that and her attorney knows how to defend that and it’s an exploit of the system that has no patch.

    So where were you Dad?

  3. Anon: Everything that you say is true for those cases where the restraining order is granted. And from the legislators and attorneys that we interviewed it seems as though these orders are routinely granted against lower income black men (they show up in court as the only non-attorney in the room and things don’t go well for them, as you might expect). When rich white guys are sued, however, the judges are more skeptical. The plaintiff who is saying “I need $1 million from this guy over the coming years and he is a child molester” has reduced credibility due to all of the previous plaintiffs who made the same demands. The success of abuse claims also varies quite a bit from judge to judge. Certainly the lawyers told us it almost never hurts to try a (single) allegation of abuse/child abuse/etc. But it doesn’t always help a custody litigant and repeated allegations that the judge doesn’t believe can be harmful to a litigant’s case. It is not the slam-dunk that it was back in the 1990s when the tactic was new.

  4. The message then is that the father will be screwed no matter what happens – even in the best case scenario and using the best play book. What is the point then to stick around? Might as well do like that Canadian man and disappear to the Philippines and start a new life.

  5. GermanL: It depends a lot on the state. In Arizona, Delaware, Alaska, and Pennsylvania the father has a pretty good chance at winning 50/50 parenting (note that an equal role is considered a victory for the father in the U.S.!). But in most states, of course, the story is as summarized by Canadian researcher Doug Allen (co-author of the classic Brinig and Allen papers): “Family courts treat the noncustodial parent as purely a financial input.”

    [Separately, I think the U.S. can extradite a guy who doesn’t pay child support from the Philippines and put him in prison here. See http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/no-1-deadbeat-dad-arrested-philippines-article-1.1223294 for a story on the subject.]

  6. I am/was a middle class white guy in tech (learned about web development from you and Alex). The TROs were routinely granted. In fact, Arizona has a program where women wanting a TRO don’t even have to show up in front of a judge, they can ask for a TRO via webcam. The TRO will be granted, a new temporary, highly restrictive parenting plan set in place, and a hearing set for six weeks or more later. If the TRO is overturned, even if the judge determines there was no evidence whatsoever for the need for the TRO, no harm no foul to either the person persuing the TRO or their attorney. In the meantime, the TRO has done enormous damage to the relationships between the kids and targeted parent, and the orders themselves set the stage for further hearings.

    I’d go so far as to say that the lower income black fathers, like most lower income couples, like many couples, almost certainly settled their custody issues out of court, because any lawyer and courtroom time at all was prohibitive to them. Going to court was not a choice they could practically make. (That’s the source of the feminist nonsense that 85% of custody choices make women the primary custodian were settled out of court “amiably” indicating to feminists that this is a decision men want and not an indication of the extreme bias in the system.)

    I don’t know what wealthy fathers can do. A decade ago, I literally paid $400 to an SF divorce lawyer for an hour of his time that he chose to use by yelling at me at how stupid I was because wealthy fathers plan their divorce 2 years prior to filing to ensure they get the kids.

    Arizona has very recently changed to shared parenting but there are still many Arizona fathers going to court with “the standard deal” where they are not considered sharing primary custody at all, but may have some share of legal custody. (And if you got the standard deal, no going back now to the court and getting a shared parenting deal).

    And Arizona’s recent change doesn’t affect the many many judges and courtroom psychologists who are unaware of parental alienation or disagree that there is even such a thing as parental alienation. (I uh, have a bit of personal experience with what the family court system is actually like in Arizona from the father’s point of view.)

    I don’t have an answer for what fathers (or mothers) in this position should do, but I would certainly think that just caving is absolutely the wrong approach.

    If you haven’t, I encourage you as part of your ongoing interest and research to contact organizations like ISNAF, see who attends their symposiums and speak with them. Also stay in contact National Parents Organization (I know you’ve written of their leader Ned Holstein and their film in the past.)

    > “Family courts treat the noncustodial parent as purely a financial input.”

    Absolutely was my experience. I swear, the die was cast the very first day in court with just about the very first question of the judge to lawyers regarding who would be able to pay various legal fees. After that was determined, practically every other decision flowed.

  7. Anon: I didn’t mean to imply “just cave on everything”. I meant that he should “cave on all of the small stuff”. The “small stuff” doesn’t include the schedule, which I thought was obvious due to my previous posting summarizing the latest research out of Sweden showing that 50/50 parenting leads to much healthier happier children than sole parenting + “visitor”. But if the mother says “I want you to spend all of your time with the child reading books selected by me, serving food selected by me, etc.” the right answer, in my opinion is “yes, I will do my best.”

  8. “what marriage is”

    well it was originally designed for exchanging property (wife being the property).

    Now that it is turned around and being used by Lawyers and Judges against Men.
    You don’t like it.

    Vanderbilt married a cousin precisely to keep property within family.
    So did all the Royalty and even genius Einstein.

    While Society may want family in order to have exponential growth.
    It seems you are advocating like corporations forcing consumer into
    automatic arbitration. but I am sure Women don’t want that at all.

    Real issue you won’t touch is that Man is not designed by Evolution
    to raise other Man’s children. It is impossible genetically (incest, etc).

    Now Gays would be doubly in trouble in terms of genetic consequences of marriage.

    Also genetically, Women only can love Babies and Puppies. Men are just means to getting that. No amount of BS will change that either.
    On top of that Women are only designed to be Attracted to Alpha Males.
    Once Alpha Males hormones goes down after having couple of kids. Their attraction level goes down too.

    Genes are only designed for Sex and Food.
    4 millions year ago Men create sperm on demand just like chimpanzees until Women
    hid their menstrual cycle thus Humans get more Cancer than Any species
    ever created by Evolution because sperm cells act like Cancer cells.

    Now this level of stupidity can’t be overcome with laws and rules or any other bs.

  9. Marriage is a sexual relationship that creates a home for the children that typically result from that relationship.

    Not sure what this post has to do with the redefinition of marriage though.

Comments are closed.