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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.
“Thirty eighth, I agree that people fight over timeshare because it impact child support. However, it is often more perception than reality.
“Thirty ninth, I do, however, agree that it is a problem that the support is based on earnings and not how it is spent.”
“Thank you. YES! YES!!”
“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.”
“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….