Background Commentary: A few months after relocating to Denver, I met some local people meeting to discuss family court reforms. I attended some meetings and expressed my interest in helping, and suggested the local grassroots effort would benefit from affiliation to a larger, national coalition such as National Parents Organization. They welcomed my volunteer support but openly expressed that they were not interested in a national affiliation because they did not want to lose control over the agenda. Subsequently, I composed the following piece on 9/11/13, and presented it to a few folks from this local Denver parent activist group. Ironically, this was also written months before the debut of “DivorceCorp – The Movie,” which I learned of two months later and viewed in a Denver theater in January 2014. The following is this piece, with local references to parties redacted.
If after peer review, and editorial input this piece is considered “article-worthy”, I’m happy to edit it for release.
My Personal Assessment and Insights Concerning Family Court Reform Gilbert T. Tso 9/11/13
“The other night, I referred to the Green Dragon Tavern analogy; we face the same dynamics the American colonists faced when trying to organize against the tyranny of Mother England; when delegates were drafting the Declaration of Independence; when the first Congress was crafting the Constitution of the United States of America, and later when debating the Bill of Rights; the French revolutionaries; the Russian Bolsheviks; the Chinese under Sun Yat-Sen; and the split in philosophy between Martin L. King and Malcolm X … from the perspective of human organization, these dynamics are what makes it a monumental challenge to change or remove a corrupt system.
If we are to be effective and not repeat past mistakes in organizing a coalition to reform family court and the divorce industry on child custody and support, we must face and accept the facts.
a) It’s a fact that individual victims of the family courts and divorce industry perceive the situation from their own personal tragedies – it is their reality and no one is going to tell or convince them differently about who the villains and perpetrators are.
b) It’s a fact that when organizations attract fringe elements, they risk losing credibility among moderates; most Americans are conservative-leaning moderates.
c) It’s a fact that when arguments become personal or emotional, objectivity is often lost.
The system is broken, as evidence by the countless stories told by victimized parents and children. Making this a personal fight may lead to a few convictions of judges, lawyers and/or other players, but the system remains intact and is wiser for how to defend itself against other reformists and activists; in fact, it may serve the opposite of our reformist goals by given the system an opportunity to claim it is not broken after all, and that it will indeed punish its own in the system who “stray” from the “rules.” So then, how many personal fights will it take to bring real justice and reform? … Good luck to our grandchildren!
To me, what is so heinous about the family court system is the profiteering that goes on under the color of law, social and human services, and the so-called “best interest of the child.” For example, a psychological crisis is intentionally inflicted on a parent when his/her children are removed without cause from them – studies have established the emotional and psychological distress a parent encounters when a child is kidnapped, as well as the extremes the parent will accept in order to assure safety and return of the child. This is judicial kidnapping and legalized extortion.
It is my personal belief that until people realize and accept the following allegations, if not basic truths:
1) Divorce, state child support and custody administration are industries designed to profit off families in crisis and citizen’s tax dollars; and
2) Children are the currency used to propagate the machinery of wealth transfer from families to private and state interests, we will largely remain a “special interest,” and likely be labeled by our opposition as a group of “disgruntled litigants.”
If we can’t first successfully convince the public, and then legislators, of these truths, we will never truly reform or eliminate the family court system we have today throughout this country. It’s a nationwide problem and a societal cancer.
Our society is setting ourselves up for major social crises in our teen and young adult populations when generation after generation of children who’ve been compromised by the system become emotional and psychologically damaged adults (addictions and drug dependencies, teen pregnancies, teen suicides, psychological damage and low self-esteem, tendency toward domestic violence and abuse as adults, etc.).
The system is designed to perpetuate itself on the argument for continuing and expanding the need for government and institutional intervention and services, state and federal, to address problems created by the very same government and institutions a generation or two earlier, when it became acceptable to separate children from fit and loving parents; and a system was created to monetize this process of family destruction for the benefit of those operating the courts and divorce industry.
If you agree with my assessment of the Prisoner’s Dilemma as helpful in looking at our situation, then I’ll add the following to hopefully stimulate the discussion on defining “our identity.”
I was just made aware of the passing of Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase, former professor at the University of Chicago (where I got my MBA). Coase wrote a paper, “The Problem of Social Cost,” that led to an entire field of Tort and business theory. Briefly, in law and economics the Coase Theorem states (source: Wikipedia – Coase Theorem):
“‘If trade in an externality is possible and there are no transaction costs, bargaining will lead to an efficient outcome regardless of the initial allocation of property.’ In practice, obstacles to bargaining or poorly defined property rights can prevent Coasian bargaining.”
Putting this in family court reform speak, the Coase theorem may read like the following:
“If after separation or divorce, the parents are left alone to negotiate custody, parenting time and child support, and there’s no intervention by the family court judges, lawyers, GALs, PRE/CFI’s, CSE, etc., the parents will bargain and negotiate an efficient outcome reflecting the parents’ own standards of what’s in the best interest of their children, regardless of the property settlements or even agreed to custody determination arranged during the divorce settlement. In practice, the intervention of lawyers, judges, PRE/CFI’s, CSE, DHS, etc. create uncertainty and confusion for parents confronted with the very real chance that they may lose meaningful contact and relations with their children, thereby causing irrational and non-optimal results most likely not in the best interest of the child, but to the party gaining the most economic benefit from the outcome.”
I believe what we are truly dealing with in the family courts is not necessarily a renegade judicial system, but rather a well-designed legal machine to capture wealth from the transaction costs this legal machine established through laws, and which it can impose through the judiciary on families in crisis seeking a resolution to a domestic and family matter.
I believe we need to reach out beyond victimized parents and recruit into our membership sociologists and social anthropologists who’ve studied child development and families, economists who can speak to the connections I’m making to what’s happening in family courts and wealth transfer; and church and community leaders who can speak to the devastation of families and the impact on their communities due to divorce and forced single-parent homes. With such a core group, our organization can then formulate our platform and develop a focused and comprehensive argument for reforming the family court and divorce industry. Then we bring in lobbyists and legislators, and launch a media campaign targeting the American Bar Association, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, state and county bar associations, large national family law firms, state child support collections agencies, etc..
This isn’t a dad’s rights, children’s rights or mom’s rights issue – this is more like Upton Sinclair and creating public awareness and impact with a novel, The Jungle, which brought about massive reforms in slaughterhouses and meat packing factories, immigrant labor reform, and created was is today the FDA.
Luckily for us, in our generation we have the Internet, social media and social networks … back in Upton Sinclair’s days, they were still sending mail by trains and horses.”
GTT – 06/01/14
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