A call to dismantle the divorce industry
By Kathleen Parker
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, Feb 10 1999
Men loved it; women hated it.
Not Titanic but a recent column I wrote about so-called "deadbeat dads" and the industries and bureaucracies created to pursue them.
Men said thank you. "At last someone has told my side of the story." Women questioned my gender: "I can't believe a woman would write such a thing."
To recap briefly, I said that government dollars were being wasted to collect paltry sums in unpaid child support from "deadbeat dads," who are largely mythical. Both of these statements are true as ever and deserve repeating, no matter what figures some may pull from the stat vat. As some wisely pointed out, you can prove or disprove anything with numbers.
Forget the numbers. Common sense, observation and experience tell me that deadbeat dads aren't as numerous as we've been led to believe. Government waste, meanwhile, is a foregone conclusion.
More important than any study or statistic is what we know to be wrong with this picture. The system of adversarial attorneys, advocacy agencies and judges constitutes an industry that deserves to be outlawed for crimes against humanity.
If our goal is to help families survive divorce and to assist children in maintaining healthy relationships with both parents, the divorce industry has to be dismantled, burned and buried like the monster it is.
This brilliant idea isn't my own. In fact, a petition for a class-action suit against the divorce industry -- nebulous though it may seem -- is being circulated by "We, the People," a grass-roots organization of 270,000 noncustodial parents.
Steven Rosamilia, president of the group, referred me to his Web site (www.wevote.com), where lawyers aren't welcome. The group calls itself the "anti-lawyer party."
What these noncustodial parents have in common is the knowledge through experience that they've been robbed of their children by judges who favor mothers and unfairly punished by an inflexible custody system that doesn't take into account non-custodial parents' personal circumstances. Or the fact that they change.
A typically irate noncustodial father -- a well-known movie actor who asked me not to use his name -- called a few months ago. He raged and nearly wept as he described the loss of his children, the ineptness of the presiding judge, the punitive child support and his ex-wife's unwillingness to let him see his children.
The actor pointed his finger primarily at judges: "Who is a judge to tell me when and how often I can see my own children?" he asked. "Why does he get to decide that my children only need their father four days a month? On what basis? Who gives him the right!?"
For whatever reason, people enter The System and inevitably live to regret it. I don't know the solution -- nor could I describe it in a single column -- but there has to be a better route. The marketplace now provides certified divorce planners (www.InstituteCDP.com), lawyers or accountants trained to help couples work through financial issues before divorce. Some sophisticated couples might seek family therapy on their own to work out a custody arrangement.
One thing's clear: Anything couples can do to avoid the courtroom battlefield, where people who once loved each other become winners or losers, has to alleviate if not forestall most post-war trauma. Only The System would suffer, while "deadbeat dads" would become a glossary word in history books describing a socially barbaric era.
Copyright © 1999 Orlando Sentinel Online.