This is the second of a series of articles wherein I share a conversation I had with the executive producer and director of “Divorce Corp.” wherein we discussed the 58 reasons why I was unable to endorse the film. Since my last article covered points 1 through 5, I will start this article with my 6th point. In an effort to eliminate any possible confusion, the items in italics are my responses to Mr. Sorge. They are in italics because those responses were never sent to him.
“Sixth, of course it is easier to file for divorce than to complete it. It is easier to enroll in a class than to complete it. It is easier to sign up for medical treatment than it is to complete it. I can go on and on.”
“On the contrary, it’s easier to revoke a driver’s license than to obtain one. Divorce does not need to be as difficult as it is. Our government has made it unnecessarily difficult – and our victims believe it is no coincidence that insiders profit from its complexity.”
As I said earlier, divorce is difficult because it is the largest financial entanglement people can have. In the event that people don’t want such an entanglement or want to create their own “rules” with regard to their finances, they are perfectly capable of entering into pre-marital agreements. In fact, I appropriately titled my article on this topic, “Everything Is a Matter of Perspective.” Other than that aspect, the other issue again involves the need to change the default process from litigation to mediation.
“Seventh, I can’t speak for other states, but in California nobody ever needs to go in front of a family court judge, even though the judge must sign off on the divorce judgment. In fact, I have stated in the past that I believe some things that parents stipulate to do on their own with regard to parenting plans is a form of child abuse and should not just be signed off on by a judge merely because the parents agree to it.”
“People should have the right to go their separate ways on their own terms. Hopefully that will not result in child abuse. But if it does, that’s a crime, and crimes should be handled in criminal court with a jury, not a family court in front of a tyrant. If parents do not provide for their children, that’s child abuse, and the state should get involved. But the presumption should be that most parents love their children (I would guess the vast majority) and that these parents will do a good job without the state’s heavy hand in the matter (I know there are exceptions, but the system should not dangle children like carrots in front of good people because of the bad apples).”
This is a Parents’ Rights issue and I am by no means a fan of such rights. Even in the Scandinavian countries, if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan and time share arrangement with regard to their children, the matter goes before a judge and decided in accordance with the best interest of the child. As Nancy Zalusky Berg pointed out in a Discussion on LinkedIn, “Let’s not also forget that in Sweden there are many government supports for families and children that do not exist in the US. Health care, parental leave and minimum income standards. The US is the only member of the UN that has not endorsed the children’s bill of rights. Children do not have rights in the US — only parents.” In other words, Parents’ Rights is the problem, not the solution. In addition, changing the default from litigation to mediation would resolve many of these issues.
“Eighth, considering how many people divorce and how many times people go into court for pre and post trial hearings, it would cause utter chaos to our economy to require jury panels in family law court. However, I have written extensively about the problem with judicial bias. Maybe a panel of judges (if it were financially viable) would make more sense than a jury.”
“We agree. We are not advocating jury trials for divorce. Just the opposite, we are advocating that divorce be an administrative procedure no more difficult than filling out a form. But we are strongly against putting one human being in charge of immensely important decisions. If it’s a choice between paying for juries versus putting people in front of a tyrant, we choose juries (as did Thomas Jefferson and our founding fathers).”
The divorce itself is not what makes things complicated. The difficulties arise with regard to issues pertaining to minor children, child support, spousal support, division of property, domestic violence, and the like. As in Sweden, these issues can either be resolved though agreement or through force. The difference is that by not changing the default process to mediation, we encourage legal battles.
“Ninth, people are not provided attorneys in any area of law, except for criminal law. What makes the film makers think that they should get them in family law court? The system may provide minor’s counsel under certain circumstances, at least in California.”
“As above, we think divorce should be so simple that a litigator is not needed. However, if our government is going to insist on making divorce so complicated that the average person cannot understand the rules, then the government must provide citizens an attorney. Acknowledging that this would be prohibitively expensive for an already bankrupt government, we advocate eliminating family courts, as they have done in Scandinavia.”
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, families may end up in court even in the Scandinavian countries. Moreover, the parties are responsible for paying their own attorneys fees. Again, the primary difference is that they believe in peace in the Scandinavian countries, but we like to fight here in the Wild, Wild West. Otherwise, we would change the default process from making war to making peace – mediation. In addition, we don’t like the word “socialism” in the United States and therefore pay lower taxes. Our elected officials have designed ways for the wealthy to enjoy all of the privileges that come with wealth and not pay their proportionate share of the tax burden. Moreover, according to MoneyRates.com, 23 percent of U.S. adults admit to not declaring all of their income to the IRS. If the citizens of this country want the government to “provide citizens with an attorney,” I suggest that they stop doing things or allowing the government to do things that prevent it from obtaining tax revenue it should be receiving. I would also suggest that we not ask for socialist policies and simultaneously frown upon such policies.
“Tenth, it is false and misleading to claim that the laws are made complex in order to force people to use attorneys. A huge percentage of the population feels disenfranchised and don’t use lawyers for their family law issues. ‘National data indicates that 60 to 90 percent of family law cases nationally involve at least one self-represented litigant, while 5 percent or fewer of cases in general civil dockets include a self-represented litigant.’ (Hough, 2010) This reality did not occur as a result of the great recession. In fact, prior to the recession, I attended the Beverly Hills Bar Association’s Annual Supreme Court Luncheon honoring the Supreme Court of the State of California. When former Chief Justice George addressed the audience, he commented that because 85 percent of family law matters are handled without attorney involvement, the State has a problem with the unintended bigamous marriages that result. In other words, self-represented parties are unable to successfully navigate the treacherous waters of the divorce process.’”
“We don’t think that a cabal of attorneys once colluded to create complex family laws solely to improve the business of their friends, even though our victims (and the general public) feel that way. You must admit that attorneys have an image problem – which shows up in every survey of respect for various professionals. We think that state legislatures did not consider the consequences of making the family laws so complex. And given that their friends (practicing attorneys) didn’t complain about the complexity of the new laws, and that a large portion of their electorate (women in the 1960s ad 70s who were being treated unfairly at the time) supported the more complex laws, a rat’s nest of laws evolved.”
I keep saying that this is less about the complexity of the laws and more about the fact that we refuse to change the default from litigation to mediation. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that the public has the misconception that they are best served by retaining lawyers they refer to as “sharks”, “pit bulls,” and “very aggressive.” Aggressive Lawyering is Counter-Productive.
To be continued…