Archive for September, 2015

Judge Judy: a way to privatize family court?

See the above link to a short Wall Street Journal profile of the quick-witted 72 year old Judith Sheindlin. It was written to announce the extension of her current CBS contract through 2020 at a presumably far higher salary than the $47 million she earned in 2014. Her show began in 1993, the same year that The People’s Court went off the air. Some of the other juicy tidbits of the article include the following:

*Her show is the highest rated 30 minute daytime program and has been for years.
*She credits her Brooklyn childhood with giving her the street smarts necessary to success.
*She started as a family court judge in 1982 and in 1986 became a supervising judge.
*She shocked her peers by allowing the press into the courtroom.

Since perjury is virtually never prosecuted in family court, it would take someone with Judge Judy’s street-wise skills to succeed in a privatized version of the court, which would at least allow the parents trapped in that morass to escape from the $30,000. in attorney fees that can be run up in just a two day divorce trial.


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Review of “A Promise To Ourselves” by Alec Baldwin

I assume that the author chose the plural pronoun for his title because he wanted it to apply to everyone who finds themselves in family court, as opposed to a celebrity-focused autobiography. The beginning and end of the book does this very well, whereas the middle portion is devoted to his personal child custody dispute.
Since the book has 15 chapters, rather than give chapter summaries, here are ten highlights which Mr. Baldwin wants to convey as warnings and admonitions:

*”To be pulled into the American family law system in most states is like being tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road late at night. No one can hear your cries and complaints , and it is not over till they say it’s over.”
*”The problem (in family court) lies not only with antagonistic lawyers who perpetuate conflict but also with the judges who sit idly by and do nothing to rein them in.”
*”There are times when dissolving a marriage is the best decision a couple can make (which was the idea behind no-fault divorce in the 1970’s). American taxpayers, however, continue to fund a system that turns a sensitive and private decision into a destructive process that leaves few unscathed.”
*”I had a contentious divorce because I wanted to have a meaningful (sic) custody of my daughter.
I refused to settle for becoming a Disney dad…I wanted to be a real father, and the system punished me for that.”
*Baldwin refers to an all too common situation-in-utero parental alienation: “I suppose that in hindsight the alienation began that afternoon, before she was even born.”
*Another common court maneuver is the move-away, as Baldwin’s attorney warns, “You must stop her from leaving or the case will be held in California, which is not so good for you.”
*”The end result is that couples that come into litigation as middle-class homeowners depart significantly poorer, renting apartments or condos that fall below the standard they once took for granted…the average cost of divorce runs between fifteen and thirty thousand dollars.” This doesn’t include the inevitably vast amount of lost income.
*At one point Baldwin went a full nine months without being allowed to see his daughter. During the divorce litigation, his child’s most innocent years, the time from birth to middle school had ended.
*”I believe that the default position of any court should be 50/50 custody. Unless there are compelling reasons, backed by evidence, that either parent is unfit and should have their custody reduced…either parent should qualify for one-half. Period.”

Alec Baldwin is perhaps the only male celebrity to throw their delicate child-custody case open to the public, although in California anyone with an ID can peruse any family court case at will. Robin Williams is a celebrity who, in a sense, put his case up on the screen. It is said that his suicide was due to the fact that he was under financial pressure from a divorce to do a sequel to “Mrs. Doubtfire”. It is said that since that film had elements of his own case, a repetition of those feelings was too painful to contemplate again.

In summary, I would ask Mr. Baldwin, as a good Democrat, to put some pressure on his political allies, trial lawyers and family court staff, to help end this heinous system.

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The Single Most Important Parenting Action We Can Take Today

It takes a lot of chutzpah to choose the above title for an article but Ms. Stafford really pulls it off. I would say that it’s some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever read.
In it she talks about how her dad, a busy college professor, always made time for her and her concerns.
My only question for Ms. Stafford (and especially the Huff-Po, which supports politicians who have never addressed the all-important equal parenting issue) is “How about the millions of dads, and less well-connected moms, who are kept away from their kids by family court for months or years at a time and thus can never listen to, much less see their kids?”

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What’s the Matter With Boys? A review Of Leonard Sax’s “Boys Adrift”

The issue of male underperformance in the past generation has been explored by prominent cultural critics Charles Murray, Philip Zimbardo and Christine Hoff Sommers.
Dr. Sax, following up his best-selling “Gender Matters”, seems to have devoted his career to the issue and is certainly considered a global expert on the subject.

Ch. 1 Sax notes that the greatest gender disparity has occurred at universities: in 1950 70% of students were males, whereas it is only about 40% today.
Ch. 2 Quoting recent developmental brain research he says, “Trying to teach five year old boys to read and write may be just as inappropriate as it would be to try to teach three year old girls to do so.”
Ch. 3 Sax believes that excess time on video games is behind the fact that that 12 year old boys now perform only as well on real-world science and math tests as did eight-to nine-year olds in 1976.
Ch. 4 Dr. Sax notes that children in the US (usually boys) are three times as likely to be on psychiatric medications as are children in any European country.
Ch. 5 This may be his most controversial chapter: “…the very same endochrine-disrupting chemicals that accelerate puberty in girls may delay or disrupt the process of puberty in boys.”
Ch. 6 He explores the “Failure to Launch” phenomenon: in much of the US 25% or more of males 30 to 54 are neither working nor looking for work.
Ch. 7 Sax notes that in the past 50 years homicide rates among US youth have risen by more than 130 percent, while suicide rates have risen by almost 140 percent.
Ch. 8 In this summary chapter, Dr. Sax makes a compelling case for single-sex education, especially in a society in which almost 50% of boys grow up in fatherless homes.

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