Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Divorce, American Style: A Perfect Storm

In the UK, John Mortimer wrote a book, Felix in the Underworld. It was about the Labour policy that abolished the UK equivalent of AFDC. Instead of the government providing for single mothers with dependent children, no payments would be made unless the woman named the father. Once she'd named the father, the payments would be collected from the named father. As Mortimer wrote, there was absolutely no need for the woman to name the biological father, as long as she named some male who would be responsible to make the payments and largely allow the government to abolish government payments to women with dependent children, thereby saving the taxpayers money.

Clinton read about the UK system, and, as a legacy passed in his last year in office, decided to press for adoption of this system in the US. He succeeded at the Federal level.

The US, however, is a Federal system, unlike the UK. In 38 states, no payments can be required of the father after the children are 18. In the other states, which include Clinton's Arkansas, the support, once ordered, can never be reduced for any reason. In Arkansas (and my state) fathers of 30 year old children are still paying.

In many (but certainly not all) states, the courts watch Lifetime television. On Lifetime, viciously beaten women have no recourse to the criminal justice system.

This myth appears in most published novels. Grisham wrote that most judges refuse to get involved when a man beats his wife or girlfriend. Dick Francis wrote that, when a man beats his wife, the case does not come to trial until after all wounds have healed, and the defence lawyer says, 'M'Lud, the prosecutor says this man beat this woman. Does M'Lud see any evidence of this abuse?' The jury sees no such evidence, and finds the guilty man innocent.

In real life, I went with a police patrol called by a neighbour. 'I heard hitting and screaming,' said the neighbour. The constable, who had a warrant, demanded access to the apartment inside which the fight had been heard. He saw a woman with abrasions, cuts, and bruises who said, 'I fell down the steps. My husband isn't home now.' The constable forced his way in, and found the husband cowering in a closet. The wife was photographed. At the trial, she was not called by the prosecution, who used the photographs and the testimony of the neighbour to get a conviction.

But real life never appears in any Lifetime 'documentary' about domestic abuse, or in any novel.

So the Divorce Court is advised to remedy the deficiencies of the Criminal Courts in the US, and to demand that, if accused of abuse, the man named as father pay at least 140% of his income.

So my judge, hearing that my wife said she was viciously abused, but the police would not help, found me guilty of 'vicious, bizarre, occult abuse.' He said that I had used occult means to beat my wife and children almost to death, but then used occult methods to conceal such abuse from the police.

Under the Clinton law, I cannot ask another judge to review the case.

If I do not give my ex the 200% of my assets and income as I was sentenced, I must go to gaol for life without the possibility of parole.

Before Clinton, most men in states that demanded more than 100% of their income left the state where they were convicted. The conviction was strictly civil, not criminal, and was therefore not extraditable. The few fools who remained in the state where they were divorced were gaoled, then, since the judge didn't want to be responsible for the costs of the incarceration of these men, the judge would set up some delayed schedule of support payments, forgive the unpayable payments, and, after a few weeks in gaol, release the man named as father. Usually, these fools figured out that they had to leave the state where they were divorced. Some went to judges in other states and got a more reasonable settlement.

Clinton changed all that. 1) Not one penny may be forgiven. 2) Not one penny may be re-scheduled. 3) Once the woman has chosen a court, no other court may hear the case. 4) Crossing state lines after a divorce is a Federal offence for the man (if the women still feels threatened after the divorce, she is allowed and strongly encouraged to leave the state).

So I left. Not just my state, but the US. Only, I had a question, and, when I went to ask, the embassy shredded my passport.

So now I am a mojado in this country, with no visa, no passport, no papers if any kind.

Which is highly illegal, and I have no idea what I can do.

I went to a local lawyer who took $450 from me. I said, 'What is your advice?'

'We are required by law to turn you in, but we don't want to hurt our clients, so we have to ask that you never come by or call us again, and we won't tell anyone here about you.'

So I just have to hope I'm not asked for my papers.