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Dr. Helen

A number of readers have emailed this article from Bloomberg News:

Ari Schochet has grown so accustomed to being sent to jail for missing alimony payments that he goes into a routine.

Before his family-court hearing, Schochet, 41, sticks on a nicotine patch to cope with jailhouse smoking bans, sends an “Ari Off the Grid” e-mail to friends and family, and scrawls key phone numbers in permanent ink on his forearm.

The former Citadel Investment Group Inc. portfolio manager, who once earned $1 million a year, has been jailed for missing court-ordered payments at least eight times in the past two years as he coped with the end of his 17-year marriage.

The reason he ran afoul of the law was simple. He was out of work for most of that time, a victim of a weak economy, and he ran through his savings trying to pay his wife alimony and child support that totaled almost $100,000 a year.

“It’s a circle of hell there’s just no way out of,” Schochet said. “I paid it as long as I could.”

Here is the saddest part about Schochet’s case:

“When I tell people what’s happened to me these last two years they say, ‘Your story can’t possibly be true, and you must be in court because you beat your wife,’” Schochet said. “This has nothing to do with anything other than money.”

Both men and women always think it’s the guy’s fault when he gets screwed over by the courts. White Knights and Uncle Tims smugly think this type of treatment won’t happen to them and treat other men like crap.

Here is the bottom line. No man should be in jail for not being able to pay this type of support, particularly the alimony. It is unjust, unfair and an infringement of human rights. Anyone who supports these laws is a tyrant. They are slowly being changed in some states as discussed in the article, and also note that it is often Democrats who are proposing change and White Knight Republicans like Florida Governor Rick Scott who veto them, though they often have pressure from women’s groups who want these antiquated laws to continue their privileged lifestyles.

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All Comments   (18)
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The point is that sometimes people get the best advice available and yet still do the most stupid thing. And it ends up costing them.

Where did I learn the ins and outs of marriage and divorce law? Same place I learned the ins and outs of contract law, real estate law, financing, and everything else I have to know to do my job. In real estate courses required for a license and continuining education required to maintain a license.

These textbooks are full of actual case studies. An unmarried couple wants to buy a house, but one party is involved in a divorce. What is the central issue, how did the court rule and why? Or a divorcing couple wants to sell their house before it gets foreclosed on. What are the legal ramifications of the sale, how did the court rule and why? Or some guy lives with a girl for two years. She leaves him and moves to California. He later falls in love and gets married, and now wants to buy a house. Little Miss Nobody shows up from out of nowhere after ten years, claims common law marriage--all she has to do is go down to the courthouse and file for common law marriage--and he cannot buy the house without her signature. And if he does, it's half hers. How did the court rule in this case and why? If you think his newlywed is going to be happy about this situation, you're delusional.

It goes to the situation I mentioned earlier. This guy, who is cheating on his wife with a girlfriend and who has children by her, wants to buy a house for her while in the middle of a divorce. I told him he couldn't. But if I had been his soon-to-be ex-wife's agent, I'd have told her to sign the papers.

I would have asked her a simple question. Do you want to screw him out of a couple thousand dollars, or do you want to screw him out of a house? All she had to do was sign the papers, and on the day of closing, move in and change the locks. It wouldn't have cost her any money, and the house would have been hers. There is absolutely nothing he could have done about it. A man cannot evict his wife from her own house. The girlfriend's signature is not on the contract, so she has no legal claim to the house whatsoever. The soon-to-be ex-wife would have been perfectly within her rights to live in the house, deny him any and all access, and simply wait for the inevitable foreclosure. Yeah, she will take a hit on her credit, as her name is on the contract, but it's not going to cost her any money. So she has to rent for a few years, but then she's getting divorced anyway. He, on the other hand, is totally screwed. He's out thousands of dollars, his credit is ruined, and he can't get a mortgage to buy a house for seven years. So much for the girlfriend and her illigitimate children, who are left with nothing.

That's exactly how I would have counseled her if she were my client. I do know the law. I have to, in order to give the best advice to my clients.

Becoming a realtor is a lot like becoming a lawyer. In fact, the only difference between a realtor and a lawyer is that a realtor cannot represent someone other than himself in court and cannot write a contract. Only a lawyer can represent someone other than himself or write a contract. A realtor can only fill out a contract, written by a lawyer, and all the contracts for the Real Estate Commission are written by lawyers. That doesn't mean realtors don't need to understand the law. We do, so that we can give advice accordingly to our clients.

Listen to me, don't listen to me. I have no control over that. All I can do is give you the best advice I can. If you choose to ignore that advice, and the deal blows up in your face, that's your problem, not mine. I don't get paid, but there's always another buyer who will listen to reasoned advice.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Well, rayc2, it certainly is true that a lot of people enter into a marriage or go through a divorce without prior knowedge of the legal consequences. But that doesn't make it any less stupid or any less their problem.

It's a lot like buying a house. In fact, marriage and real estate are inextricably linked. As a realtor, I have to have a detailed knowledge of contracts, financing, real estate law, marriage law, and divorce law, because I have to be able to counsel my clients.

As for your idea of pre-marriage information classes, I really don't think that would make much of a difference."

If counseling and advice doesn't do any good before a major decision, then why do we employ people to explain the ropes when buying a house? Title insurance? What's that? Mortgage insurance? Property taxes? Interest rates? Fixed rate? Adjustable rate? Credit rating? Home inspection? New roof? Termite damage? Sole buyer or joint buyer? Down payment and amount financed? VA? FHA? Jumbo? Balloon payment? What do you mean that I also have to pay for garbage and water? Let's call the whole thing off! People do back out of the deal sometimes once they have more information, don't they?

Where do you go to learn about the ins and outs of marriage and divorce law?

"These arcane laws, like presumptive paternity and permanent alimony, are the real problem. Until these laws are changed, nothing is going to change."

We don't have to agree on the first part to agree on the second part. My preference would be do away with arcane state sponsored marriage altogether and allow partners to tailor their domestic relationship agreement as they see fit...enforceable under contract law. Since that isn't likely any time soon, then at least have a law that requires people to be informed about the legal consequences of marriage before the act. It seems like the only humane thing to do since they have so much more to lose than simply buying a house.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, rayc2, it certainly is true that a lot of people enter into a marriage or go through a divorce without prior knowedge of the legal consequences. But that doesn't make it any less stupid or any less their problem.

It's a lot like buying a house. In fact, marriage and real estate are inextricably linked. As a realtor, I have to have a detailed knowledge of contracts, financing, real estate law, marriage law, and divorce law, because I have to be able to counsel my clients.

As for your idea of pre-marriage information classes, I really don't think that would make much of a difference.

A couple of years ago, I had this young, newly married couple come into the office. They wanted to buy their first home. I counseled them, explained the contract, the financing, how much of a down payment they should make, the price range they could shop in, what their monthly payments, property taxes and utilities would be. I found them a nice little 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a fenced back yard in a quiet neighborhood with good schools and easy access to shopping. It really was the perfect starter home for them. They loved it, made an offer, and it was accepted.

What does that mean? It means the contact goes to the title company for closing, which normally takes four to six weeks. I counseled them again and specifically warned them to not make any major purchases before the deal was finalized, because the lender is going to do a credit check the day before closing and if there are any major purchases on their credit report, the lender will deny funding.

And what did they do? They ignored my advice. The week before closing, they went out and bought over $10,000 worth of furniture for their new home. They were excited and overly-anxious, I understand, but their stupid spending spree derailed the deal. The lender, just as I had predicted, denied funding at the last minute.

Now, this young couple doesn't get their dream home. They're out $1000 in earnest money, and they have $10,000 in furniture with no place to put it.

All of this could have been avoided. This young couple could have simply waited until closing and funding, and then bought the furniture, as I recommended. But, no, the whole deal blew up in their faces.

The point is this. No amount of counseling, or informed advice, is going to change people's behavior. Stupid people do stupid things. And there's really nothing that you or I or anyone else can do about it. They are going to do what they are going to do, irrespective of the advice given to them.

A major decision, like getting married, or a major purchase, lkike buying a house, is in fact life-changing. If you don't know what you're getting into from the beginning, well, that's just stupid. And it is your problem.

I've had to counsel divorcing couples, desperate to sell their home before it got foreclosed on. As a couple, they could afford the payments. But as individuals they cannot. And when it does get foreclosed on, that goes against both of their credit ratings.

I had this one guy come in a couple of years ago. He wanted to buy a new house. He had some girl with him and a brood of kids. At the moment of truth, I said, "Sign here and intitial every page. Your wife has to also sign and intitial every page." He said, "This is not my wife."

Well, who is it then? Oh, I see, this is the girl you've been cheating on your wife with. "We're separated." I don't care. You cannot sell or buy a house without your wife's signature. "We're on very good terms." I don't care. Until the divorce is finalized, you cannot sell or buy a house without your wife's signature. That's the law. Bring your wife down here to sign and initial these documents, and have her show up at closing to sign and initial the final documents, otherwise I can't sell you a house. "But we're separated." It doesn't matter. Separated is not the same as divorced. This deal was doomed before it began.

People who make major decisions or major purchases without knowing what they're doing are truly stupid. Those who ignore the adviced of informed professionals are even more stupid. And that's their problem.

These arcane laws, like presumptive paternity and permanent alimony, are the real problem. Until these laws are changed, nothing is going to change. No amount of counseling or information classes is going to affect people's behavior. They are going to do what they are going to do, against the best advice. And ultimately that is their problem.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
All the more reason to not get married: A justice system that can't say 'no' to women who cry.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I read this article this morning and found nothing really shocking in it. As egregious as these antiquated permanent alimony laws are, and as discriminatory against men they reveal the court system to be, they really only exist in a limited number of states.

In Texas, for example, we don't have permanent alimony. We have what the article would call limited duration or rehabilitative alimony. If the wife leaves the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom, take care of the household and raise the children, then upon divorce the husband is required to pay alimony for a period of time, normally two to five years, while she returns to school or enters a training program in order to return to the workforce. Once she is self-sufficient, the alimony requirement ends. Child support, of course, does not, nor should it.

I really don't have a problem with that. Community funds, community property, sweat equity are essential components of a marriage. Spouses share money, a house and chores or duties necessary for the upkeep of a home. And these should be amicably and equally divided or compensated for in the event of a divorce. If she leaves the workforce to take care of the house and children, then he should be required to continue to support her until she can re-enter the workforce and support herself. That's perfectly reasonable.

Child support, however, is another matter entirely. Yes, a man has a moral obligation and legal requirement to support any and all children that he conceives, until they are 18. No one is going to question that. But what about the millions of men who are legally coerced and forced to pay child support for children they did not conceive?

Forget about alimony. That's only about money. If you were so stupid to not know the divorce laws and alimony requirements of the state you live in before you got married, that's your problem. Stupid is as stupid does, and you can whine and complain about it after the fact all you want, but there's really very little you can do about it, except go to jail, until or unless the legislature changes the alimony requirements. There are several movements in this regard in these permanent alimony states, now that women are required to pay alimony to their less successful ex-husbands. It is all about money to them also, after all.

Where are all these women, suddenly enraged by having to pay alimony, on the issue of paternity fraud? Nowhere to be found.

The doctrine of presumptive paternity is well over 600 years old. It goes to the essence of everything that is wrong with antiquated marriage and divorce laws. But you don't hear any women complaining about it, of course not. If there is one thing women will never agree to change, it's guaranteed child support in a marriage situation.

If you think paying alimony is a problem, try paying child support for children that are not yours. Women will never have to face this problem. Everyone knows who the mother is. No one knows who the father is, except her. That's the way she wants it. As long as she has a stupid husband on the hook for guaranteed child support, she has no reason to care.

Paternity fraud is far more egregious, exploitative and discriminatory than any form of alimony. You hear women suddenly complaining about alimony, now that they're required to pay it. But you will not hear one complaining about paternity fraud. Why should she? It's all to her advantage.

Meanwhile, millions of men are forced to pay child support for every child their wives conceive, even if none of the children are theirs.

Only one state, Georgia, has made any progress in this regard, but not much. It did not eliminate presumptive paternity entirely. It merely allowed men to petition the court for non-payment of child support for children that can be proven to be not theirs. Petition the court, like that's going to change anything.

Presumptive paternity remains the death knell of the marriage contract. Only a complete and utter fool would agree to pay child support for every child a woman conceives.

This is why I have never been married. I refuse to be a cuckold. I refuse to pay for another man's illegitimate child. I refuse. Since women are unwilling to compromise on this issue, my only option left is to not get married.

Women complain about paying alimony to a derelict ex-husband. You don't hear one complaining about accepting child support from a betrated ex-husband for a child that isn't his.

And that is the true hyprocisy of it all.



47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"If you were so stupid to not know the divorce laws and alimony requirements of the state you live in before you got married, that's your problem."

I don't agree with this. Many, if not most, even smart, people are ignorant of what the legal consequences of marriage are. They enter into marriage with the best of intentions and assume that 1. Their marriage won't end in divorce like all those other lesser people...and 2. As long as they do the 'right' things (work hard, treat their spouse well, don't cheat on them etc) they will be treated justly if their marriage does end. It's only during the process of divorce that many people get their rude awakening to the reality of it. I would like to see state sponsored marriage laws abandoned and replaced with tailored civil domestic relationship agreements. Barring that I would like to see, at least, that men and women have to attend pre-marriage information classes as a requirement before getting married that explain all of their rights (and non-rights) and possible consequences of divorce. The men's classes should be provided by a men's advocacy group, such as AVFM, and women's classes should be provided by a women's advocacy group, such as NOW.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The second issue (and yet another reason not to get married) is that the laws can be changed at any time.

A guy who got married in 1968 under fault-based divorce laws may have gotten a divorce in 1982 under no-fault divorce laws. He could not have foreseen the change in divorce law.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good point.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to get aggravated at the unfairness of all of this. And it certainly is unfair.

But only a certain type of man gets into these alimony traps - and that type is not sympathetic to me.

They can be found years beforehand poking their pudgy finger into your chest, with a smug grin on their face, saying how "no wife of mine will ever work" and how they are chivalrous real men etc.

So let them do their thing. When the irresponsible sit-at-home screws the gardener out of boredom, these Real Men (TM) have got to continue paying. Even when they miscalculate their ability to keep the Little Woman, and her real motives, they have to continue paying for her.

These leeching women turn into bossy, useless, nonskilled people years and decades later. They can't work with people, and they can't take care of themselves. He created the sit-at-home monster, I'd rather the Chivalrous Real Man pay for her than me as a taxpayer (or her parents or other family). Causal party pays, sounds fair to me, plus he still gets to brag about how great he is, supporting a woman without breaking a sweat.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're forgetting something...sometimes, the husbands aren't as you describe. Sometimes they do think it would be better if their wives would work but their wives refuse to. He didn't create the sit-at home monster, she created herself and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. If he had no control over it he shouldn't be held responsible for it. This is one reason why I advocate for an end to 'one-size-fits-all' state sponsored marriage laws to be replaced by tailored domestic relationship contracts of the couples own choosing. The Chivalrous Real Man could then negotiate with his wife to stay home with the kids and make certain guarantees to her in return which could be reflected in an addendum to their domestic relationship contract. The other guy (you?) could tell his wife "honey, I would prefer that you work, like me, and bring in some income for the family, but if you choose not to, since I have no control anyway, I will at least support you while we are married but I don't promise anything after that." Then, when the marriage most likely ends, each person will receive the 'justice' that they deserve, instead of the non-justice imposed on them.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
So long as we pay women to be single moms and/or divorce for a check, we'll continue to have a problem with them doing so.

Do away with child support, and this whole thing of who gets the kids will cease to be a problem.

It shouldn't be a contest on who gets the lion's share of the marital estate, based on how much time they spent with the kids and who worked their butt off. Basing custody on who did what only perpetuates that situation, and the divorce is changing that.

Any solution that perpetuates that standard - that "in the manner to which she has become accustomed" crap, needs to go. You're a big girl, dust off that degree in french poetry and lesbian studies and go get a job based on the choices you made.

Possession of the kids should be by whomever can best provide for them without a subsidy, and without enabling another stay-at-home alcoholic.

Reward success, instead of punish it. Reward responsibility, instead of learned helplessness.

I know, that's heresy these days, to expect feminists to *actually* be as good as men. They're the eternal uber-victim.

So, stop victimizing women by marrying them and enabling them to become helpless single moms. Just say 'NO'.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not sure about the doing away with child support entirely thing but the rest I can agree with. Marriage laws are written with an underlying attitude as though state sponsored marriage is the same as holy matrimony... 'cleaves unto the woman and becomes as one flesh, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, honor and obey, as long as you both shall live etc. Of course the reality is nothing of the sort. The modern spousal relationship is more likely just a temporary pause in a long string of serial monogamous relationships (at best). I don't know why churches continue to act as agents of the government in perpetuating this huge 'bait and switch' scam that is probably the greatest source of injustice and misery in too many people's lives.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm a single dad of two. I had to pay an additional $25,000 for the privilege, after the divorce (unlike women who have only to show up and ask for it), and endure the worst fecal-storm my ex could summon over the decade since my divorce.

My ex defies the court order to pay support, and our dickless Attorney General (Gregg Abbott) refuses to enforce it due to her gender and his lack of a 'Y' chromosome.

I'm the single parent that I advocate - I'm doing it on my own, with no support from the other parent, and certainly not by demanding the state rob anyone else to pay for my 'reproductive decisions'.

I worked to improve myself, and my modest living standard is due to my efforts, alone. In contrast, the other party had no job skills, developed no job skills, even when there was time and resources to do so that were provided by me. Since then, the other party would rather get drunk and fight with boyfriends and the police at 2am, instead of using the time and freedom from her duty and daily responsibility to children to get a career started.

So, I propose that parents bid on supporting the kids. "I can do it with 20% of your money." vs "Well, I can do it with none of your money." Granted, that cuts the state out of it's 'take' (in billions), and does away with the instant martyr-mommie, so it's a heretical concept for feminists and statists.

Having the state enforce a third party's (theological) concepts of duty and responsibility on two people who neither agreed to it nor desire it is more of the meddling business that I'd rather see the state cease doing. The progressives' dogma isn't any better or worse than faith based meddlers'.

If a couple has a religious covenant in addition to their state marriage license, without a written contract that names them in it, it's up to them to act on it and live up to it. The state has demonstrated, consistently, it's inability to apply it, and it's just enriching lawyers at the expense of the litigants and their children.

The state should be involved in terminating the relationship and severing the interdependence, not enforcing some half measure in perpetuity to the sole benefit of women who've developed and maximized their professional helplessness. It creates perverse incentives and resentment, and a rational response is (for those on the wrong end) to avoid what should be a good thing for all parties.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like the approach of coming to specific, written agreements, but you can't contract for a third party who is not a party to the agreement, i.e. children. The state would still be stepping in and imposing its will if there are children, on top of the fact that prenuptial agreements don't always wind up being ironclad in court.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Marriage does not impose an expectation on women to bear the children that might result from that marriage relationship. She can unilaterally abort all of the children that arise during her marriage without any consultation with her husband, The supreme court has ruled that requiring permission from her husband would constitute an undue burden on her reproductive rights. Men should be treated equally under the law and have equivalent reproductive rights and not be automatically presumed responsible for children arising during their marriage unless they agreed to it beforehand. Anything else would be an undue burden on men's own reproductive rights. The state could define the terms of a child rearing addendum to the domestic relationship contract but both parties would have to agree to it before hand, for each child, to protect their rights.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hopefully, these legal agreements would be more enforceable under contract law and not be subject to the social activism of family courts.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
And this work both ways....sometimes it is the man who refuses to work or sometimes, if the woman makes more money, it is the man who stays at home with the kids and he would also need to make sure he gets the same guarantees from his wife.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's criminal that this type of thing is still happening in 2013.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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