A Conversation between Joe Sorge and Mark Baer Regarding ‘Divorce Corp.’: Part 8 of a Series

This is the eighth 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 31 through 35, I will start this article with my 36th 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.

Mark Baer:
“Thirty sixth, I was a child of divorce and I will be the first to tell you that parents bribe their children’s affections and children tend to prefer the parent with the financial means – Sorry, but I must disagree with you on that one as well.”

Joe Sorge:
“We do agree that it is possible for parents to bribe their children with material rewards. It is also possible to alienate a parent through psychological manipulation of the children. But the incentive to do either would be vastly reduced if child support were not based on custody time.”

I respectfully disagree. The reason that parents either bribe their children with material rewards or alienate a parent through psychological manipulation of the children is because of their desire to compete with each other or out of anger and other such things.

Let’s take a simple example of how the percentage time share impacts the amount of child support. Let’s say that there is 1 child, mother earns gross income of $5,000.00 per month, father earns gross income of $10,000.00 per month, mother files as head-of-household, and father files as single. The Guideline child support that father would pay mother would be $366.00 per month if father had 50% timeshare, $631.00 per month if father had 40% timeshare, $853.00 per month if father had 30% timeshare, $1,037.00 per month if father had 20% timeshare, $1,179.00 per month if father had 10% timeshare, and $1,280.00 if father had 0% timeshare. Furthermore, the more time that a parent spends with their children, the more it costs them to care for them. Moreover, if father had 50% timeshare, he would need more space in his home than if he had no child living with him. In this example, father pays mother $914.00 more per month if he has no visitation than if he has a 50% timeshare. How much more is it costing mother to have the child that additional 50%? How much more would it cost father if he had the child 50% of the time? I discussed this concept in an article titled “Cost of Raising a Child Calculation Tool – Issues Involving Child Support.”

However, I would not be entirely forthright if I completely disagreed with Mr. Sorge on this issue.  In fact, in my article titled Lessons I Learned from My Parents: Part V, I stated, “While we like to pretend that custody battles are not related to the child support associated therewith, such faux ignorance is by no means blissful.”  Nevertheless, the reality is that the parents manipulation with regard to the issue of child support are based upon a misunderstanding of the purpose of child support, for the reasons set forth in the above example.  That being said, I could also argue that the reason that Mr. Sorge produced and directed this extremely biased and misleading film is because he wants to manipulate the entire family law system to accomplish his own selfish desires.  As previously stated, one such desire is to reduce his child support obligation to an amount that could be paid by a parent of very low means.

Now, if we changed the default process from litigation to mediation, that would be a real solution to the problem.  Litigation is an adversarial process in which both parties play to “win.”  When a family is involved and both spouses are playing to “win,” the family dynamic is destroyed.  An unfortunate byproduct of litigation is that it exacerbates the level of conflict, increases distrust and breeds paranoia.  Doesn’t it make more sense to resolve family matters in a process that is designed to reduce the level of conflict and rebuild trust?  Wouldn’t that “solve the problem?”

Mark Baer:
“Thirty seventh, I think that marriages are partnerships and that one spouse may sacrifice for the other for many reasons. To later deny them spousal support is offensive.”

Joe Sorge:
“We agree, but only in cases where the parties have elected to differentiate their roles. In that case they can enter into a private agreement that provides for the dependent spouse upon divorce. But to make this the default for all marriages is beyond inappropriate and inefficient in 2013. Both spouses work in 85% of modern married households. The laws are out of date, and they put 85% of divorcing couples through an unnecessary and expensive adversarial process.”

With all due respect, Mr. Sorge, while you were married to your wife, she was accustomed to living a certain standard of living based upon your immense wealth. To say that she should suddenly start to live at a standard that she could afford on her own because you divorce is selfish and self-serving. In fact, not only would you have liked for her not to have received spousal support from you, but you would have liked her to receive an amount of child support at the same amount that a person at the lowest income level could afford to pay. To say that I am disgusted by this perspective would be an understatement. As I have said before, “what are the terms of your pre-marital agreement? They can either be the terms set forth in the Family Code or terms that you specifically negotiated as part of the pre-marital agreement.” Don’t call foul, when you opted not to negotiate this issue in a pre-marital agreement. Furthermore, don’t mislead people into believing that premarital agreements don’t work. Such agreements work if they are done properly and if the spouses don’t do things during the marriage to essentially invalidate the agreement.

Moreover, as I keep saying we don’t need to put couples into an “unnecessary and expensive adversarial process.”  This issue can be solved merely by changing the default process from litigation to mediation, which is non-adversarial. 

Mark Baer:
“Thirty eighth, I agree that people fight over timeshare because it impact child support. However, it is often more perception than reality.

Joe Sorge:
“Agreed.”

Mark Baer:
“Thirty ninth, I do, however, agree that it is a problem that the support is based on earnings and not how it is spent.”

Joe Sorge:
“Thank you. YES! YES!!”

Mark Baer:
“Fortieth, of course child support can be re-litigated at any time – because children can be ‘bought’ and changes in ability affect that and many other things.”

Joe Sorge:
“Fine. But make child support the same fixed amount for every child in the state, and the litigation will drop dramatically.”

For reasons previously stated, this will not decrease the amount of litigation, but will cause the amount of child support paid per child to be low enough that even those least capable of paying the support could afford to pay it. Why again is that same figure appropriate for someone worth in excess of $100 Million?  Furthermore, as was addressed in Part 6 of this series, Guideline child support has significantly reduced litigation with regard to child support issues.  

To be continued….

3 comments

  1. A Arete says:

    If a wealthy couple see one or the other’s income drop precipitously, they cannot petition the state to return them to the lap of luxury to which they’ve grown accustomed. So why should society demand that an ex spouse do what the state and tax payer will not? No fault divorce means that we stay married out of choice not duty, and we support our spouse on that basis only. There is no duty beyond the marriage, except to the extent that societal norms dictate. The lower earning spouse will be invented to maintain earning power if they can no longer rely on alimony. At best, temporary rehabilitative alimony for 1-3 years should suffice. Texas has this and the data shows that Texas has no bigger problem of indigent ex spouses than California.

    Also, you ask the rhetorical question about whether kids would rather live with the rich or poor parent. There is data on this that shows clearly that the children do not care about relative wealth, which also has no adverse impact on children even when there is a large discrepancy.

    It is disappointing to see you resort to moral outrage and rhetorical devices rather than looking at the clear data supporting the types of reforms proffered by Sorge. If you take the money out of divorce and limit support to minimal amounts, then the family law system will right size to the administrative procedural process that both you and Sorge seek. After all, there will be nothing to fight over and nothing for the judge to let even the crazy, vexatious ex spouse to fight over. One cannot shift from litigation to mediation without ridding the system of the money that drives the lawyers and clients to litigate, and you have never provided any plan in this regard (besides the repeated sound bite) to make me doubt my assertion.

  2. Interesting perspective you have. Society is not part of the married couple. Society did not force the couple to marry. Society did not force the couple to marry without entering into a premarital agreement that provided for the terms they wanted in the event that they were to divorce. In essence, you are suggesting that society protect the wealthy and powerful spouse who decided to marry and to do so without such a premarital agreement. Everything is a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

    Furthermore, no-fault divorce means only part of what you stated. It means that nobody can be forced to remain married and that “fault” is irrelevant as far as the divorce itself is concerned. However, it does not mean that people support their spouse on that basis only. I guess if you change definitions and concepts in your own mind, you can rationalize anything. I believe this concept is known as gaslighting.

    You state, “there is no duty beyond the marriage, except to the extent that societal norms dictate.” Isn’t the same true for anything and everything, regardless of marriage? I guess you are suggesting that we live in a lawless society. In any event, you have expressed your concept of “fundamental fairness.” Unfortunately, the law is about “legal justice,” not “fundamental fairness.” One of the reasons for this is because “fair” is a 4 letter word that starts with “F.” In other words, fairness is different for each and every person and therefore it is impossible to make laws fundamentally fair. Of course, you are suggesting that your concept of “fundamental fairness” become the law, when you state, “At best, temporary rehabilitative alimony for 1-3 years should suffice.” What makes that universally or “fundamentally fair?” The fact that you think so? If the laws of any given state or country were “fundamentally fair,” they would be duplicated everywhere else. You don’t get to pick and choose which state or country’s laws you want to have applied to your situation because they happen to benefit you. By the way, why else would people forum shop?

    With regard to children and relative wealth, I only know what I experienced in my own family. My two brothers were initially “purchased” by our father because he had the money. I guess their having done things to their mother that they later regretted because of their father’s bribes has no “adverse impact.” From what I know, they had very serious adverse impacts and one thing led to another. We live in our own realities, don’t we? I guess that may also depend on how you want to define “adverse impact.”

    I am afraid that it is the pot calling the kettle black when you say, “It is disappointing to see you resort to moral outrage and rhetorical devices rather than looking at the clear data supporting the types of reforms proffered by Sorge.” You are gaslighting – plain and simple! My article was very well reasoned and based upon my extensive research, my experience as a minor and dependent adult child of divorce, and my experience as a seasoned family law attorney.

    By the way, most of my work is in the mediation arena. How is that possible if the shift cannot occur “without ridding the system of the money that drives the lawyers and clients to litigate?” I really don’t like gaslighting. In fact, I wouldn’t have bothered responding, except for the fact that people actually fall for such traps.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A Conversation between Joe Sorge and Mark Baer Regarding ‘Divorce Corp.’: Part 9 of a Series |

Leave a Reply