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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