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Do family courts violate women's rights as often as they violate men's rights?

How can injustices that occur in family courts be addressed without getting stuck on gender rights?


From: James
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2003 8:06 PM
To:
Subject: child support

To whom it May Concern;

I have an unusual question as it pertains not to "Men's Rights" per se but to the violation of the rights of a woman in much the same manner.

My girlfriend was divorced several years ago after her husband left her alone with three kids. She never sued for child support and received it from him very sporadically. Years later, after supporting a wife and three kids on one income he became involved in another relationship and sued her for child support. We have two children of our own now and are finding it very difficult to make ends meet. He and the child support system in general have been relentless and unconcerned about the presence of other kids (ours), and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

I realize that his is usually a men's issue, but the system can be just as unjust for women. Are there any resources for combating this process that would address the injustice of the system itself regardless of gender?

Thank you,

James

To: James
Subject: RE: child support
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 00:50:48 -0700

Hello James,

Your request is not that unusual. It is just that it happens more often that a man can't afford what he is ordered to pay than that he skips out. However, in most cases when the mother grants the father(s) of her children reasonable access, child support is willingly and often voluntarily paid, often even at a higher amount than that specified by the court order. In such cases it is truly rare that fathers skip out.

It appears that because your girlfriend never sued for child support, a court order to have the man pay child support has never been issued.

If there is no court order, the hands of the child support system are somewhat tied. If there is nothing to enforce, nothing can be enforced.

The first step would be to file for a child support order. In your girlfriend's case the order that will then be issued can possibly go back to the day of separation; I doubt it very much that the man can come up with that much money. However, he should pay something. He most certainly should pay all of what your girlfriend is entitled to from now on.

Your girlfriend should go to the child support system and ask them what steps she can take. She will most likely have to hire a lawyer, unless she is willing to devote a good portion of her time (about 50 to 60 hours for the first month and then perhaps ten hours per week while the case is active) to learn the legal ropes and represent herself. Her chances of winning an award by herself are most likely no worse than with a hired lawyer, but doing it herself will be much cheaper.

Almost all legal costs in a case like yours are comprised of lawyer's fees, and court costs make up only a very, very small portion of the total costs.

If you are broke and destitute, you may qualify for Legal Aid. Find out what agencies are available for that and what it takes to qualify.

Again, the child-support-enforcement system should have some information on that.

If you can't make any progress with any of that, the office of your elected representative will most likely provide information and pointers.

Please let me know how you make out.

Be very careful about getting child protective services involved. If they see anything they don't like about your circumstances, you could become a lot worse off than you are now.

I don't understand why your girlfriend never asked for a child support order.

Regardless of whatever action you take now, you must find all of the legal papers and all payment records that pertain to your girlfriend's case and put them into chronological order. If necessary, go to the court house and ask for their file. Your girlfriend has the right to do that. Have her read all what is in there and ask them to provide copies of the papers that are important and that she is not in possession of. You must look at the court orders that were issued and carefully analyze them in regard to what the respective responsibilities and rights for each party were to be.

You must look at each sentence in the text of the court order, decide whether it specifies any action and who is obligated to perform it.

That will tell you what the details of the claim you must make will be.

Do that analysis whether you will take the case to court yourself or not. You will still have to know what to tell a lawyer if you hire one. The analysis is the first step for communicating effectively with your lawyer in preparation for telling him what you want him or her to do. It is absolutely necessary to do that analysis to be able to construct a claim for filing with the court.

It is important that you collect all of the legal papers and payment records, because it is very likely that the man involved will do that, and you don't want to be surprised with anything that he may bring up that you may have overlooked.

Regards,

Walter

From: James
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2003 4:19 AM
To:
Subject: RE: child support

Hi Walter,

I'm not sure you understood the e-mail I sent you. My girlfriend is actually the NCP. Years later, the kids decided they wanted to live with their dad, and that's when he sued my girlfriend for child support. The original abandonment was forgotten in an uncontested divorce and he got away with paying little or no support for the intervening time between the time he left her and the time he took custody of the three.

James,

I got the impression that he had sued that second wife for child support after becoming involved in a third relationship. If I understand you now correctly, your common-law wife's ex-husband had another wife and another three children with her, and then he had a "relationship" with a third woman.

Your common-law wife's ex-husband "very sporadically" supported your common-law wife and the three children they had together. He then supported another wife with whom he had three more children, after which he left her and took those three children, and he is now suing that second wife for child support for those three children he had with her, and he is suing your common-law wife for child support for the first three children, those that they had together.

My understanding of the circumstances you described may still be wrong, but because you stated that he "Years later, after supporting a wife and three kids on one income,..." and also because you also stated in your original message that your common-law wife "never sued for child support and received it from him [her ex-husband] very sporadically," it would seem that your common-law wife cannot be the "wife and three kids [whom he supported] on one income."

After all, the focus of your complaint appears to be that the ex-husband of your common-law wife did not adequately support your common-law wife when she had custody of the three children she had had with him, and that now he ungraciously does not return the favour of never suing for child support.

On the surface, you are right. The case would seem rare.

There are far fewer men than women who are gold diggers. But is he? He is providing for three or perhaps even six children in his custody, which is even with three children not very easy to do, as you know because of the two children you now have with your wife.

On the other hand, does your common-law wife still have the property that was awarded to her in the divorce settlement on account of her having custody of the three children; and did she ever pay her ex-husband for his share of that property after she no longer had any pressing need for it?

Still, there are some things you can be grateful for. A man in your common-law wife's circumstances would be lucky not to have to sleep in a cardboard box, on a relative's couch or to have no more than a one-room apartment. For one thing, if the sexes were reversed in a case like yours, the woman in your position would most likely already have found greener pastures. Your choices are somewhat more limited.

You would not bring "assets" but liabilities into greener pastures.

You did not respond to my concern about why your common-law wife never sued for child support. Did her divorce settlement grant that she got a generous property settlement in lieu of child support payments?

What did the divorce order state? Who made the mortgage payments if a balance was still owed on the mortgage(s) for that property?

As to whether the system can be fought to force it to be equitable and impartial regardless of the sex of the non-custodial parent, the laws are generally blind to the sex of the parents; the discretion of the judges and other authorities isn't. Nevertheless, this is not a perfect world, and it is not always just men and fathers who get shafted.

The language of the child-support laws is almost without exception gender-neutral. To ensure that is the case where you live, obtain copies of the applicable rules and regulations and study them carefully; and also carefully study all of the legal papers that pertain to the divorce settlement in question. Without doing that you cannot determine whether it was or was not an equitable settlement.

Quite a few people analyzed and wrote about the illogical foundations of the reasoning for the parameters of child support guidelines, which generally don't take into account the financial circumstances of the child-support provider, sometimes not even the limits set by his gross income, and never the fact that there may be a second spouse and other children in the payer's life. The guidelines even state in some instances (and so most definitely do many officials and judges) that second spouses' and their children's interests are secondary to the interests of first spouses and of the children those may have custody of.

To add insult to injury, the income of the second spouse of a child support payer is often calculated into his gross income, based on the sum-total of which the child support amount to be paid is then calculated.

To find some of what one of the foremost authorities wrote on that, search the Net for "Roger F. Gay" and "Child Support Guidelines".

Regards,

Walter

From: James
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2003 7:57 AM
To:
Subject: RE: child support

Sorry I wasn't clear...this should make it clearer...

  1. My common law wife's ex-husband has only 3 children (the children of my common law wife)

  2. She never sued him because she's a nice person, basically and thought a long drawn court court battle would hurt the kids.

  3. He has in fact been making lots of money under the table and lives with a common law spouse whose income is not calculated into the equation

  4. There are only two women involved in the story... my common law wife and his common law wife.

  5. A relative's couch may be exactly where we're all headed.

  6. He took care of a wife and 3 kids (the same kids he now has) when he was married to my common law wife... but now he seems "unable to"

  7. He now takes care of 3 kids and a wife. We on the other hand take care of 2 kids... and pay child support for 3.

From: "Walter H. Schneider" <
To: James
Subject: RE: child support
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 07:38:23 -0700

Hello James,

Yes I did misunderstand the main concern expressed in your message.

When you stated that,

Years later, after supporting a wife and three kids on one income he became involved in another relationship and sued her for child support.

Okay, James, thanks for the clarification.

You will be able to learn a lot from reading what Roger F. Gay wrote about equitable child support guidelines. You must read much of that to understand what needs to be done and what can be done.

It is not likely that you can win anything right now in the courts, but you can work on making it possible that your children and grandchildren don't experience what you are experiencing.

About your wife being nice to her ex, and about her ex not being nice to her in return -- straight and simple: nice guys finish last, unless we all behave like nice guys; many people don't, not all but many.

Was there a house, and did your wife receive the house when she got her divorce? Was there an outstanding balance on the mortgage? If so, who made the mortgage payments?

Are you now paying rent? If not, consider who made that possible.

Walter

(There were no further messages.)


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