Here’s the second half of the interview with Natalie Malonis, JD. To read Part One, click here. The second half of the interview touches upon the bias against men in the family court system, common mistakes people make who are embroiled in high-conflict divorce cases and some important advice for anyone who’s about to begin the divorce process.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier: During our conversations, we’ve discussed the bias against men in the family court system. Is this something you’ve always been aware of and how does it influence the way you work with male clients?
Natalie Malonis, JD: I regret to say that I bought into the bias against men in the family law system until I became more informed myself. So, not only was I not aware of it, I did my part to help perpetuate it. Before I gained experience with men who were victims themselves, I operated under the assumption that men were always the aggressors and women were always the victims in abusive marriages. My practice early on was almost exclusively representation of physically abused women extricating themselves from a violent relationship. It was not easy or intuitive to make the shift in awareness, but through experience I did perceive that the bias against men was in place, which made it that much more challenging to represent men who are victims of abuse.
I have also seen that bias diminish somewhat in the last couple of years. I attribute that to an increased public awareness—and in that regard, the work you have done, Dr Tara, is invaluable in bringing this issue into the public’s consciousness. We still have a long way to go, but I am pleased to report that the bias against men in the courts is not so firmly entrenched as it was a couple of years ago.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier: As you just noted, like many of our colleagues, we entered our respective professions (Psychology and Law) believing the lie that men are always the perpetrators of emotional and physical violence and women are always the victims. During my graduate school clinical training, I worked at a women’s domestic violence shelter and went through the 100+ hours of DV training. The only time men being the targets of abuse was mentioned was in the context of same sex relationships (i.e., a man abusing another man). The general attitude of the DV trainers was, “It’s too bad, but that’s not our problem.”
The only mention of women committing violence against men was a Burning Bed scenario. Namely, women commit violence, but only in self-defense after suffering extreme emotional and physical abuse at the hands of some horrible man. Statistics clearly show that women are the aggressors of physical and emotional violence in at least 40% of reported cases. I agree with your last statement that awareness about the fact that men can be the targets of abuse is growing. Can you tell us when you realized that women can be the perpetrators and what led to your realization?
Natalie Malonis, JD: My previous answers describe this dawning awareness, but I would like to remark on a related phenomenon. Early in my practice, when I had a new male client seeking divorce or defending himself in a custody battle—the men never even thought to describe abusive circumstances they were subjected to. It just did not even occur to them that what they were experiencing was abuse. It was normal to them, and they had no other frame of reference because it wasn’t talked about or recognized publicly. This is changing!
In the last year, I have seen a dramatic increase in men disclosing to me the abusive behaviors of their wives. Men are starting to recognize that they can be victims and that abuse can take many forms other than a blackened eye. I do not think this increase in reported abuse from wives is an indication that more abuse is taking place. I think it is a much-needed shift in public awareness and perception that is beginning to legitimize men’s experiences, and men are beginning to feel a little bit safer recognizing and disclosing the terrorism that has characterized their marriages.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier: What are the most common mistakes you see your male clients make in high-conflict divorce cases?
Natalie Malonis, JD: Denial. Men still have a very difficult time recognizing and accepting the fact that they are victims. Society has defined men as aggressors, problem-solvers, protectors, etc. Those stereotypes are extremely difficult to shake. When denial is strong, the man will make several mistakes repeatedly, and these mistakes usually have devastating consequences in a divorce or custody case.
Top on the list is his repeated assumption that his wife or ex-wife can be reasoned with. He keeps trying. He thinks that if he can just make his point or make her understand, she’ll be reasonable and see the light and they will be able to reach agreements that are mutually beneficial or at least not mutually destructive. This NEVER works.
Along the same lines, the man who is in deep denial will believe his wife or ex-wife when she says she will do something or refrain from doing something. In so believing, the man might change his position or give something of benefit to his wife/ex-wife only to fund out in the end that she never had any intention of doing what she promised. I have seen men repeat this same mistake over and over and over in the course of a legal case—each time thinking that this is the time it’s going to be different, this time she means it, this time she’ll do what she promised.
Another very costly mistake I often see is when a man fails to prepare himself in advance and in anticipation of the manipulations and egregious behaviors that inevitably await him. This will be the subject of my first post in which I will detail some very specific steps to take in preparing to divorce an abusive wife. Meticulous preparation can mean the difference between saving or losing a career, life savings, relationships with kids and family members, etc. I cannot emphasize enough the value of preparation.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier: Right! I see denial with my clients, too. I call it the Charlie Brown-Lucy Van Pelt Phenomenon. She keeps promising not to pull the football away and he falls for it every time. Aaugh! If there is just one thing you would warn or advise men about in these situations, what would it be?
Natalie Malonis, JD: When a man is divorcing an abusive wife, it is imperative that he have a battleground mindset—as distasteful as that sounds. This does not mean that he will escalate issues or engage in gratuitous fighting. It means he is ever vigilant that the woman he is divorcing is his enemy and seeks to destroy him. Guys, that is the unfortunate truth of the matter of divorcing an abusive wife. The men reading this forum wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t experienced the behaviors you describe. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t need help and support.
So assuming I am addressing an audience of men who are involved in relationships or ex-relationships with women who exhibit many Cluster B traits—my warning is this: If you’re divorcing, your wife is your enemy who is trying to hurt you. She will run through her repertoire of manipulations to get her way and to hurt you. She will threaten and throw temper tantrums and rage and give you the silent treatment and spread lies about you to people you care about.
And if you keep strong boundaries and all of those tactics fail to give her what she wants, she’ll resort to being nice and seemingly agreeable and humble. This too is another manipulation, and this is when it’s most important to keep your boundaries in place. Until your divorce is a final order of the court, signed by the judge, you cannot afford to let your guard down or think of your wife as anything other than an adversary whose purpose is to make you suffer.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier: Wow, Natalie, thank you. This is so important. The last two paragraphs are also important to practice even after the divorce is finalized when this type of woman (or man) inevitably begins to play games around custody and other ongoing issues.
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Thank you for this article. The last paragraphs have touched a nerve for me. I separated from my BPD/NPD partner last year and had to stay in the same house with the children for a few months while everything was sorted out. In this period her abuse went up ten-fold and I taped many incidents. I maintained the strict boundaries suggested here and never allowed myself to be provoked and insisted on written communication. Finally she seemed to run out of steam and the abusive behaviour reduced. She is now being extremely nice, agreeable and very reasonable about access to the children and arrangements to swap them between us – we live a long way apart now.
The sentence “And if you keep strong boundaries and all of those tactics fail to give her what she wants, she’ll resort to being nice and seemingly agreeable and humble” sums up exactly what has happened to me, but I’ve become increasing unnerved by the change and am still waiting for another explosion.
Do you see this happening very much when men maintain strict boundaries on behaviour?
Natalie Malonis says
Yes, typically as a last resort when other tactics have failed. It does not last because it is usually just a means to an end. Of course, it’s impossible to say that each situation will follow the same course, but in my experience there are some very predictable patterns and this is one of them.
Excellent interview. Ms. Malonis, do you have an e-mail where you can be reached? Thanks.
Old Guy says
I really enjoyed both posts for this interview.
I’m sure most men, and women, who find themselves involved with a PD or high-conflict individual just don’t grasp what they’re dealing with.
Most men likely never considered it possible that a woman could abuse them and after living with one who has done so for years, whether mother, spouse or partner, while all the while brainwashing them into the belief that everything is their, the man’s fault, I guess a suggestion that they are in fact the “abused” spouse would come as a rather shocking revelation.
And I guess it isn’t surprising that someone who might think everything is their fault might go way too far in an effort to be fair.
Particularly if they believe society will castigate them as being “anti-female” or some such thing or perceive them as the “controlling abuser” if they don’t come across as “fair”, i.e., give the PD spouse whatever she wans without “putting her and the children through hell”.
I’m a 2L in law school, and while I have no intention of practicing in this field of law, I saw it first hand when my parents divorced. My mother would rather pay her attorney money to fight over something trivial than make any concession to my father. While I have no mercy for someone racking up billable hours for their own lack of maturity, I don’t like seeing the innocent party suffer emotionally and monetarily.
A motion for a continuance isn’t free. Attorneys don’t show up to court more than they have to out of kindness. They’ve got bills to pay, too, and the spouse that is acting like a child is seeing they get more of a fee than what is necessary. And after all is said and done you still have to deal with that person if you had kids together. I think I’ll just opt for a vasectomy and stay single.
While it is laudable that Ms. Malonis has awakened to the anti-male/anti-father bias of her profession I find merely helping men to cope with ‘the system’, the bias of which she admits and has participated in, to be totally inadequate. To help victims cope with tyranny is to enable it.
What I want to know is what, if anything, are you doing to tear it down?
There are many chinks in the kangaroo family court’s authority to operate – I want to see attorney’s attacking them vigorously. That is unlikely though since the predatory nature of family law is riding a multi-billion dollar a year industry.
Just to name a few:
1) There is no constitutional authority as a basis for family law (please don’t trot out stretching the ‘general welfare’ clause to cover this, that is as overused as the ‘commerce clause’).
2) The kangaroo family courts try and portray gender neutrality while the numerical discrepancy clearly shows a gender bias. In the US women are awarded sole/primary custody over 86% of the time in contested divorce. Any private company showing this degree of gender bias against women would never survive a trial.
3) States have a clear financial conflict of interest in even hearing divorce cases because the states Title IV-D allotments are set based on the child support awards they assess.
4) States routinely engage in jailing obligor’s for inability to pay. Yes, they conveniently wrap it in a tissue thin veneer of ‘contempt of court’ but it is still clearly a constitutional violation. Refer to 3) conflict of interest.
5) Non-custodial parents are subjected to scrutiny that no other artificial class of ‘parent’ is subject to. There are any number of assumptions that are extended to the custodial parent (or parents in intact family units) – but non-custodial parents have strict accounting to the state. Clearly this is an unconstitutional burden. Either ALL parents must be subject to the same scrutiny and requirements or none should.
Helping men cope with ‘the system’ is laudable in the same way offering men a tube of KY as they are being ass-raped by the system is (like saying ‘it won’t hurt so bad this way’). Puleeeeze! What are you doing to tear the kangaroo family courts down?
Great interview! Thanks once more Ms Malonis and Dr T.
True what Old Guy says, that most victims especially those new here, don’t actually grasp the gravity of being involved with abusive women. The denial is a huge factor. I remember the first time I came on to this site, the first feeling I got was of vindication that I was not the one with a problem and that I was not alone. But still I was thinking (then) that only to “some” considerable degree it could be said –“maybe” that her actions were abusive. It was not easy to think of myself as a “victim” of abuse…I mean ABUSE! and I remember thinking that, well for reasons of self-validation maybe I should accept that it was abuse afterall…WELL I DONT THINK LIKE THAT ANYMORE. To the contrary, In fact, these days I worry about the period it’s going to take to deal with the residue of all the abuse I went through for all those years. Now I see the abuse and manipulations in every communication I have with her, and it’s scary – its amazing that we get so blind to the obvious and FOR SUCH A LONG TIME…and I mean this is financially and emotionally VERY costly before and after divorce/separation – worse still, if you share kids – the abuse doesn’t stop for you and the kids. So for those who still think they can stand it, and feel “macho enough” for these women…well, I can only wish them luck because they are going to need tonnes of it further down the road – I am sorry to say but it is not “IF” but WHEN.
As for bickering about the “system” and chastisizing Ms Malonis, I think first, we must be very clear who and what our challenge is and not just take out our frustrations on dedicated people who otherwise have no benefit helping us afterall. Secondly, we must identify the kind of effort we need against the “system”, especially coming from an opponent of these injustices who just happens to be operating within this “system” – surely we can be a little easy on Ms Malonis (in fact, thankfull that there is someone like her assisting male victims on daily basis – what are we doing???).
Our frustrations are valid, no doubt about that, but I fail to see how we must take it out on Ms Malonis. Are we saying that her contribution to thousands of male victims (who are not even fully aware of their own situations) is immaterial and not required here?? At this stage, we all of us (atleast those participating here) know the injustices of the “system” and the fundamental causes thereof (we are the living proof of it), instead we must list the solutions and interventions needed for a just cause to counter/correct the system. DR T and Ms Malonis are part of this positive effort not the other way around. Maybe (and just maybe) the question we can ask Ms Malonis is: “What are her peers –in the system- doing to tear the kangaroo family courts down?” and maybe 3D shooter has a point afterall and maybe next time it would be great to get some interviews/comments from more FL Advocates and even Judges – even if they hide their identities, lol. Come to think about it, don’t they also fall victims to these predators – atleast some do, right?
Ms Malonis, please, you have our sincere gratitude and apologies if you feel that your input here (even your presence) is anything less than necessary – for years, we’ve yearned for such constructive and logical interventions especially coming from women folk, lol. I am sure most people here feel the same way about your (and the good Dr’s) contribution here. We await your full article with much exitement…when is this coming out again?
If you have ever asked a predatory family law practitioner to fight the system – specifically on your behalf – you will always be turned down. As my former attorney flat stated when I called her before a senior partner – it’s not about truth, fairness or justice . . . it’s the law. Any family law practitioner who won’t fight corrupt law while running up billable hours is a predator.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I agree that family law is predatory. I agree that Psychology has also caused a lot of harm as have the more extreme versions of feminism. The real question is WHAT ARE WE ALL DOING TO CHANGE THESE SYSTEMS?
Washington’s corrupt. Corporations have taken over our country and sent our jobs overseas and what are we doing about it? Most Americans grumble about it and then turn on Dancing with the Stars. These broken systems aren’t going to fix themselves. They’re especially not going to be fixed by members of the system who make a profit from the corruption. WE need to fight to change the system through education, awareness raising, protest and with our votes.
I’m grateful that there are attorneys like Ms Malonis and others in the system who see these wrongs and are trying to offset them. It’s a good start. We need more attorneys like Ms Malonis in Family Law for things to become more just.
I get flack from some men’s rights activists who see Psychology and its practitioners as the enemy. They have a right to be angry. The field of Psychology has done a great disservice and injustice to men and fathers with its bias toward females. However, in order for any field/system to change, you need people within the system to see the problem and be willing to stick their necks out and say, “this is a problem.”
I wish change on a grand scale could happen overnight. Unfortunately, these problems didn’t happen overnight; they happened across decades. Our rights are gradually eroding away. It’s not going to stop until average citizens wake up to it and actively work to make it stop.
I agree that her willingness to participate is a good thing – but she needs to have some thick skin and realize that her profession, more than any other, is responsible for this on-going travesty.
As an anecdotal example a few years back when shared parenting was on the ballot in North Dakota (I’d have to go back through my emails as I wanted to start such an initiative in my state) one of the two top financial contributors to it’s defeat were the trial lawyers. The other, state agencies involved in child support. As such, the burden is on Ms. Malonis to show more effort than ‘coping with the system’ to be a useful voice.
The fact of the matter is that attorney’s are accountable to the court before their clients – another conflict of interest. So I don’t put much stock in coddling people through a corrupt system.
While I would describe most of the attorneys I have dealt with as affable personalities and will tell you whatever they think you want to hear, but when the rubber meets the road their allegiance is with ‘the system’ and their clients RIGHTS be damned. I notice Ms. Malonis has dared not entered this aspect of the discussion – which is not surprising. Unfortunately, that is what is needed. While coping mechanisms are useful in the short term – they are ineffective long term.
While I have no grudge against her personally, her profession bears an overwhelming proportion of the guilt for the inequities and injustices that occur and I’m sure she makes good money doing it. Until I see unambiguous action against the corrupt kangaroo family courts by any family law attorney they will be predators in my mind.
Also, I have found that attorneys are experts at linguistic legerdemain which is why I personally choose to use the ‘predatory’ adjective when discussing them. A bit of turning the tables on their own practices.
Now let’s see if she has thick enough skin to be in the game . . .
Natalie Malonis says
Well, Shooter, you’re certainly not the first person to dislike lawyers and you won’t be the last.
While I can’t take responsibility for my entire profession, I can exercise personal responsibility. I do agree with much of what you’ve said about the “system.” In my state (Texas) some jurisdictions have special family law judges and others just have district judges who have general jurisdiction and hear every kind of case. In the the latter instance, you’re pretty hard pressed to come across a judge with a good grasp of the issues discussed in the interview. The laws are broad enough to deal with the issues, but not specific enough to bring these issues to a judge’s attention if he’s not already looking for it. I could go on — but suffice it to say there are many problems within the family law courts, and the results can be stunning. It is also true that access to legal services is prohibitively expensive for most folks, and the fees that are paid are rarely put to their highest and best use.
I would have to also agree that there are a fair amount of predatory family law attorneys, but I don’t think it’s as pervasive as you describe, primarily because it’s very grueling work and the pay scale for family lawyers is toward the bottom among lawyers’ salaries. Most who become family lawyers do so because of some idealistic drive to make a difference and help people. The idealism is usually snuffed out within a year or two and replaced with a hard-edged cynicism 🙂 In any event, there are plenty who are not predatory and not all lawyers are out gaming the system and squeezing their clients for another dime. Some, sure.
I don’t quite understand your comment about me helping clients “cope” with a flawed system. Coping strategies are not my domain. My job is to protect my client’s legal interests, and I must do that within the system as it exists. There’s not an option to choose a different system. If a wife serves a husband with a divorce petition, it specifies which court and when the gentleman must make an appearance, and that’s the court he’s stuck with. I’m there to help him get a fair result. Sometimes justice is the result. Often it’s not, but a guy’s got a better shot if he has a lawyer who knows what s/he’s doing. Right?
I have been actively involved in bringing about reform within the family law system, but for privacy reasons I do not care to discuss the particulars of that involvement. It’s slow. And it’s frustrating, and there are too many political interests influencing the process, but it continues to move forward.
With that, I will respectfully ask that you examine your beliefs about family lawyers and consider that they are not all cut from the same cloth. If you have had a bad experience with a family lawyer, I’m sorry that happened to you.
Natalie Malonis says
By the way, a lawyer does not have a higher duty to the court than to the client, but you’re right that a conflict can arise if the lawyer’s duties to the court and the client are not perfectly aligned. In most instances, the lawyers I work with will give their loyalty to their client even if it causes some friction with the court.
Coddling clients through a brutal process is really not something I’m familiar with. You might note that I recommended a battleground mentality. It’s important for a man to be mentally and emotionally tough as he proceeds through the legal process. His lawyer better be equally tough or the man’s NPD/BPD wife will run circles around both of them.
When I refer to ‘coping with the system’ I am referring to the way in which attorneys encourage compliance/submission a known corrupt proceeding – and all attorneys are well aware of this. The daily violations are too flagrant and numerous to outline them all. But I’ll offer one as an example:
When I married in 1980 family issues were handled as civil matters, as a form of contract law with all the requirements that entails (finding of fault, jury trial, etc.). When ‘No Fault’ and ‘Community Property’ laws were passed they effectively modified the ‘contract’ protections that were formerly in place – i.e. the state, as a third party, modified the contract without the approval of the other parties. This is an example of application of ex post facto legislation that is specifically prohibited by the US Constitution. Have you ever challenged ‘The Law’ in such a case? Would you? My guess is probably not, you would counsel compliance/submission to clearly illegal actions by the state.
I could give numerous examples, this is just one that I am close enough to to whip off a post without sitting in front of my many files that I’ve accumulated over the years dealing with these egregious violations. I would have doubts that you are unfamiliar with many of these yourself.
The question then becomes: Have you ever challenged them? Do you challenge them? Do you challenge them every time until the judge is sick of seeing you walk into the court room? If not, you do not have you are not representing your client’s best interest and are simply mollifying a corrupt proceeding – you are part of it by not challenging the law. You do have the option of challenging ‘the law’ and to state otherwise is disingenuous.
I also find it somewhat offensive that you would use the word ‘fair’ in any observation about the kangaroo family courts. It is a rigged game and if you are a man bend over.
Why do you think trial lawyers are so adamantly opposed to shared parenting? My theory is because the resultant conflict has cash value to them and to foster an environment that is both tolerant and supportive of that conflict. Obviously the state doesn’t like shared parenting, Title IV-D funding is based on child support and primary custody drives up awards and therefore federal cash flow. It is all about the Benjamins . . .
I know that there are attorneys out there that are fighting to one degree or another – some excellent articles in the ACFC publication. They are very rare exceptions though – so any family law attorney who intends to speak to men’s issues with credibility probably ought, by necessity, open with what they specifically are doing to end the madness. All others should be viewed and labeled as predators until they have proven otherwise. Unfortunately, your profession HAS tainted all its practitioners and using broad brush language is as useful to us proles as it is to political bureaucrats – it is the only thing they understand.
My beliefs are rock solid – family law as it is practiced needs to die a quick death. I will work to my dying day towards that end.
Old Guy says
I understand what you’re saying.
I don’t know how family law works in the U.S. but it may be that the problem isn’t so much with the law as it is with, as with any other law, the ability of the “criminal”, as it were, to turn it to their own advantage.
We all know this drives people bonkers when they perceive it as happening in the criminal law system, i.e., the criminal’s “rights” being protected while the victim’s are ignored.
The problem is that you can’t change any system that has developed over decades or centuries overnight and certainly not as quickly as most of those who visit here would prefer.
I’m sure their are many in the legal and psychoanalytic professions who have doubts about certain “truths” imparted to them during their academic years or which are just accepted within their professions.
And in a perfect world, all of these people would stand up and say “there’s something wrong here that needs to be changed”.
In the real world though, it takes considerable strength, fortitude, character, etc. to stand up against the status quo and fight for what you believe is right.
And even if you have incontrovertible evidence to support your position, it will still be an uphill battle of lengthy duration against entrenched interests that in many cases won’t accept the evidence and will simply try to wear you down in the hope that eventually you’ll shut up and go away … while perhaps also doing everything in their ability to portray you as a “trouble maker”, “abrasive whacko” or some similar label that will result in your being ignored.
I think we should be grateful that people like Dr. T. and Natalie Malonis have the courage to question “truths” that I’m sure many in their professions would prefer … or have a vested interest in … not having questioned and the “PD community” definitely wouldn’t want anyone questioning.
It would have been much easier for them to have just turned a blind eye and go along with the status quo.
Old Guy says
Just so there’s no confusion, my comment above was apparently being written as the same time as Dr. T.’s and was intended as a response to 3DShooter’s comment rather than her comment.
As I have stated, the system is systemically flawed. As such, it cannot be reformed and must be eliminated. You cannot reach a valid conclusion from a false premise.
Henry Hoover says
When I read your comment about Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt syndrome, I laughed out loud. That is the EXACT metaphor I used to describe how I USED to be with my STBX. It is so true. I got better!
I appreciate the interview with Ms. Malonis.
As I have faced difficulties with the legal system, especially as it relates to the custody and safety and wellbeing of my kids, I have struggled with dismay bordering on depression such as I’ve never known. I understand the frustrations of anyone who says we should throw the whole system out.
I’ve observed over and over again cases where I did everything right, and she did so many things that were wrong, but by the time information percolated through the process into a summary document, at best my side is depicted neutrally and at worst and too often she is depicted as the injured or better party.
In experiencing this first hand for myself, I’ve wondered if this is how minorities feel facing the criminal system: they just can’t get a fair shake with it – or the closest thing to a fair shake only comes at onerous or impossible financial cost.
Out of that entirely legitimate sense of frustration and disenfranchisement comes the attitude that the whole apparatus should be thrown out.
All of these are difficult problems to wrestle with. I understand that the legal system is beyond bad, it is broken. I am inclined to think however that while revolution is impossible and reform inadequate, the correct approach which is probably still asking too much, is reconstruction.
The problem is that the alternative to this legal process seems to be family feud with bullets flying.
In some respect, calling that fact out helps, because that is the wager that the legal system gives us and it’s good to understand the wager because it establishes what is at stake and puts into focus the reasons we tolerate a system that is so bad: “yes”, say the courts, “we’re bad, but we’re better than the anarchy without us.”
It will take considerable organization to rebuild, unfortunately.
I have ideas for how the system could be rebuilt, but a simple internet forum and the space here probably isn’t suited to those speculations.
I do have two disagreements with Ms. Malonis however, more more like 1 and 1/2.
For the 1/2: I understand how she framed the use of “high conflict divorce” or “high conflict personality” in her own practice, but I worry that her use of the term was both redundant and spurious. Redundant because the real problem was that her clients were in an abusive relationship which she determined through the abuse inventory. Additional labeling and profiling was not necessary. Spurious, because it is additional labeling and profiling, which serves to exacerbate the problem of stereotyping.
We are being stereotyped too much by this system. We are stereotyped for being men, for being fathers, for whatever – the legal system and its functionaries, human beings all of them, struggle failingly if at all, to see us as individuals, so we are all here pounding our fists and shedding tears because we have been forced through a Procrustean hell in the family law process.
So even if Ms. Malonis as a person does not mis-use “HCP”, it is too easy, and too likely, that other attorneys will, and do, and probably did so in the time since you’ve been reading this. As the term is redundant and potentially harmful, I don’t see where it will get us.
My second and more full disagreement is with the contention that things are changing. I suspect this is an anecdotal view and a personal one of hers which seems likely to her because she herself experienced change, but I doubt that there is a significant trend at work.
There is data that women can be violent, and there are hallway conversations about this. People nod and acknowledge “yes we know that happens”. That is not a trend.
The gears of the system churn and they churn according to old stereotypes. A man who claims to be the primary parent and the superior parent is seen as exaggerating, a woman who stays at home with the kids, only to oversleep while neglecting and abusing them, cries because her life is so hard, and the system sympathizes with her. A man asks for an emergency order of protection and his claim is scrutinized, a woman asks for it and it is granted in 8 minutes.
We are told to accept the courts’ actions and demands, no matter how unjust, and that if we resist and demand justice, then the courts will just label us as crazy, dismiss us entirely and we’ll even lose more. Our own lawyers tell us this. In my case my ex was abusing our son – she admits this, and since he was acting out against her she sought to drug him into submission by getting a psychiatrist to prescribe a potent anti-psychotic. My son was six years old. The custody evaluator, who has been in practice in our state forever and who the courts defer to implicitly to the point where all attorneys I’ve spoken with – and I’ve spoken with a lot – say that the courts will just see you as crazy to fight him – he gave her a free pass. The way he did this was to separate the complaints in his evaluation. Complaint 1: abuse. Answer: she admits it but is getting counseling, next problem. Complaint 2: difference of point of view between parents over a medical treatment – and the FATHER is to be faulted with interfering in the delivery of medical care to a minor for resisting the mother when she wanted to treat the child with the drug. (!)
That he protected her this way is so sick and depraved that I feel I should go on a hunger strike in protest. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, sick gross and over the top.
But, the attorneys: the courts will just think you are crazy, histrionic even.
The contours of the problem are very deep. People have called for abolishing the criminal justice system for ages with complaints like this, and the complaints are probably true, but it will not be abolished and nor will the family law system. But even if it is only a little bit of sugar coating, it is still sugar coating to say that the system is getting better.
Good comment D.
I can certainly identify with several aspects you have listed. I too have a spouse that medicates submission from one of my sons and has has had him taking risperdone and Lexapro for quite some time (he has Down Syndrome and she finds drugging easier than parenting).
The other point that I identified with strongly was regarding the role of evaluators. I also had an evaluator who did a hatchet job (he was LDS and wore his bracelet until I pointed it out and told him I was uncomfortable discussing religion and personal habits with him. He made a point to highlight my atheism in his report. He was also likely very republican, not unusual for Idaho, and I’m a libertarian – which he also highlighted in his report). The biggest problem with evaluators is that they are protected by ‘shield laws’ which allow their opinions to stand with challenge or redress.
I hang my head when I look upon the effects that this quack practitioner has inflicted on my children.
I would disagree with your use of the word anarchy though. Anarchy is not equivalent with chaos, which you seem to imply. A better view is that anarchy is the state of the relations before marriage – one where each party may freely leave with that which is theirs and have an expectation of no further entanglements. The violence you allude to is more accurately chaos. I’ll take anarchy over the current system in a heartbeat.
If corrupt systems cannot be abolished then chaos and revolution will eventually prevail.
Keep your head up – it isn’t easy at times even years later. I know . . .
I ahve a friend, who I met on an infidelity survivors site, who went through this type of divorce. It was devestating for him. He offered a settlememt that was very fair, more than what his wife ultimately wound up with after $$ of attorney fees. She tried to destroy him , bringing false allegations of violence and telling people his well founded suspicions re her cheating were due to his being bi-polar.
He is an attorney and feels very much like 3d re family lawyers.
But, I do not feel that family lawyers are responsible for the system we have. Rather, it is society, that has accepted all the nutty propogand from femnisit groups , that has allowed this to happen.
After all,most family law is statutory these days. The electorate is responsible for putting representatives in place who have enacted these laws. So, really, doesn’t the ultimate reponsiblity lay with us, the electorate?
Natalie Malonis says
Sadly there are too many stories so similar to what you’ve described. False allegations are a fairly common feature in these divorces with high-conflict personalities.
I do not understand 3d’s argument re constitutinality of divorce statues. Seems states are always passing laws re a variety of contracts, UCC , that type of thing.
As for the retroactive application, I get that. But, what about enforcement of existing statutes that are in effect after the marriage contract is entered into.
And, I am not sure why the general welfare clause would be a stretch. Isn’t it applied to all types of social situations?
I agree that the system has a profound anti-male bias, as does a lot of society these days.
I tried to post to another comment a couple times today unsuccessfully, so hope this goes through.
This is one of those cases where “Those who have failed to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them” (Santayana). Just the high points – too much detail for a post.
The government was never delegated authority over family matters and it is unlikely that the founders could ever have conceived of that possibility. It is my understanding that earliest encroachment of government into the family was in the form of licensing (the beginning of slippery slope incremental-ism). This, like so many intrusions of government, was to keep white marrying with other races from being officially recognized. Women, in general, didn’t have a right to vote and in the context of the family were largely of the same status as children.
I don’t have the exact time line at hand, but seem to recall that when women owning property and/or suffrage marriage started becoming viewed as a contractual arrangement. As such, breaking the contract required finding of fact and fault before a jury and awards set accordingly. There is a whole body of contract/property law that some view as the essence of government (see Forclosuregate for another example). In this period it was in the best interests of both parties to seek a less than public mutual agreement as a fault based outcome had unpredictable results. More importantly, as it became more acceptable in the 50’s & 60’s it was simply inconvenient for courts to deal with the issue.
New Deal welfare programs were eventually established provided aid and financial support to single women with children. At the time it was generally frowned on in society, but it was a fairly nominal amount.
Then feminism reared it’s ugly head and at first these aid recipients demanded greater funding and launched attack on the stigma of single motherhood. Since women were voters the progressives complied. Some women found they could establish a pretty good living by simply having kids. The tax burden increased and the voters resentment was rising because of the abuses in the system. Keep in mind that with the social changes of the 70’s divorce rates continued to climb and the courts found that the contract law model was becoming unsustainable as the volume increased.
The feminists had a solution for that also – eliminate the facade of contract law (remember the government never has had an enumerated power over the family) and replace it with No Fault. With the stroke of a pen husbands and wives were now equal and were to share equally in all assets in a divorce without any of the previous protections under a civil/contract system. In a nutshell it was simply a convenience for the courts.
This necessitated change in the public mind that is on-going to this day – on Mother’s day we are constantly reminded of the monetary value of Stay At Home Mommy’s. The fact of the matter is SAHM’s are and always have been a liability – in today’s world it is a privilege most never experience (the progressives of the late 19th and early 20th century were adherents of Marx/Engles and this fits with that ideology).
So with this far too brief trip through history we see that a power never delegated to government grew through incremental-ism under the perversion of the General Welfare clause promoted by Marxist inspired progressives (many of the same principles apply to the Commerce clause as well, but that is another subject). If you accept this incremental-ism – the living document philosophy – then there is no limit to government and it will grow without bounds until it consumes itself (for another example look at economic issues).
I realize this is a very brief outline that requires considerably more detail. I leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Your thoughts counselor . . .
sorry about the spelling errors.
3d, I am no fan of no fault divorce and think it has led us to where we are today, with infidelity rampant and no consequences for materially breaching a contract.
But, if there is no authority for the state to legislate marital dissolutions and courts to enforce the legislation, what authority was there, in the past, for court involvement using a stricly contract theory for enforcement? Why were litigants in court at all, seeking redress for a breach, if there was no authority for the government to be involved in the first place.
BTW, I have a son with Down Syndrome, as well. My XW , unbeknownst to me, was , apparently, drinking while she was pregnant with him. So, he has something that is more than just Down’s. He seems autistic, as well.
My XW had almost zero in terms of maternal instincts and I was the primary caregiver for my boys, while she was having multiple affairs and absent from our home.
I ended up with 40% custody and I paid child support to her. She got the house, as well, but she did buy me out for a really discounted amount.
This all happened 17 years ago and I would have been creamed if I tried to fight for more.
In the past – prior to government encroachment – family matters were just that and the men were the heads of their households. A mis-behaving woman could be kicked to the curb with the clothes on her back – and in my case that would have been more than entirely appropriate.
As far as treating marriage as a contract – let me put the question back on you, do you have a signed copy of a ‘contract’? My guess is that you do not.
No, but, unlees there is a statue of frauds type argument, an oral agreement can be binding.
But, my point was that the change it the law, enacting no fault statutes, would not have an effect on constitutional authority for a state to take over. I was pointing out that, for a long time, parties sought redress from the courts, even when there was fault based divorce.
Marshall Stack says
3D has an interesting argument. We can’t get into the heads of the authors of the Constitution, and the world has changed so much in the past 200+ years that it’s hard to relate certain elements of that document to what’s going on around us today. We see it now with restrictions on our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, where much of the argument centers around whether or not that right only relates to a “well-regulated militia” as stated in the amendment.
As far as divorce goes, No Fault divorce just took effect in my state two weeks ago, and I believe we are the last state to do so. I’m no legal expert by any means, but there’s no doubt that it favors the “less-monied spouse”, which one can reasonably infer to be the woman in a majority of cases. In NY, spousal conduct is usually a non-issue in awarding assets or support payments, which would be a double whammy for me if I were to initiate a divorce – I’m the abusee *and* the sole wage-earner. My verbally and emotionally abusive wife would end up getting maintenance and child support, an equitable share of the marital assets (equitable doesn’t mean 50/50, by the way), I’d be on the hook for her attorney fees, and I’d end up working two jobs for the rest of my life to pay for it all.
Maybe that’s fair in the eyes of the law, but it’s not just.
I wouldn’t be too sure on your interpretation of equitable without a pre-nup. Usually No Fault and Community Property go hand in hand – and the latter means 50/50 even if she is a SAHM and never contributed to the accumulation of those assets.
Marshall Stack says
I live in NY, which is not a community property state. Current Domestic Relations Law refers specifically to equitable distribution; the implementation of “No Fault” adds irreconcilible differences to the list of grounds for divorce while still maintaining equitable distribution of marital assets.
In my case, my wife has stayed at home since our oldest was born. I am the sole wage earner, and work two jobs. The attorney I spoke with advised me that my wife would most likely get the kids, the house, attorney fees, and $1200 a month in support and temporary maintenance out of me, regardless of the fact that I have almost 20 pages documenting her verbal and emotional abuse that he wouldn’t even look at. He advised me not to fight for custody of the kids.
I’m currently seeking a second opinion.
I think the key thing to focus on would be custody. In the rare cases where you can get full custody, you are going to be able to make better arguments re the lack of neccessity for maintenance, as the wife is freed up to work.
If you can get 50/50, that seems like a good result, and, again, helps you with the maintenance argument, as well as child support amounts.
I listen to this Marc Rudov guy a fair amount and I think he has a lot of good advice re what men should look out for in courtship. I know the horse is already out of the barn for many of us. But, some of my friends, who are now out ,are actually dating women that feel every bit as entitled as their XW’s do. It’s just that these middle aged guys are so pumped that some younger, good looking woman is interested in them, that they are going to make the same exact mistake again.
Guys, look for ENTITLEMENT issues in the women you date if
In the absence of Shared Parenting law on the books odds are 9:1 that you will not get equitable custody if you are a man. The courts (and evaluators) lean heavily toward women which means you will more likely than not join the ranks of us 13-percenters (every other weekend and Wednesday evenings). Nationally, that is the case 86% of the time. A clear gender bias on the part of the courts – but don’t expect an attorney to point that out.
Marshall Stack says
That’s *exactly* what I’m worried about! On top of working almost 60 hours a week, I do a lot of cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, playing, disciplining, and so forth, and I feel that I am the better parent – more levelheaded, consistent, and far less prone to histrionics over minor things. However, I’ve read tons of anectodal evidence to support what you’re saying.
I worked two jobs, as well and did a lot of childcare and housework. Got the same advice from my lawyer:”don’t bother to fight for custody”.
I am truly amazed that in looking at who is the primary caregiver, courtds seem to complete discount the fact that finanacially supporting your kids is caregiving and that many men , if they did not have to support ex-wives after divorce, could work less and take care of the kids.
I think Ms Malonis recognizes that the system sucks for men. I don’t see how we can blame her or the profession. The populace elects the kegislators who enact these laws and ,in most staes, the judiciary is elected. So, why dooesn’t responsiblity fall on the electorate?
Marshall Stack says
I agree with what ron says about voters being held responsible for the votes they cast, and I certainly don’t blame the legal profession for a flawed matrimonial/family law system. However, I think a lot of the problem in this case lies with society’s view of what is acceptable, and how legislation is put into practice. Laws are passed that may have good intentions, but eventually develop into a system that strictly benefits one group (women, in this case). We’ve seen it in the workplace over the past 20-30 years where equal opportunity laws have led to people getting hired or promoted based on race or gender instead of ability in order to meet a quota set in the name of diversity.
Judges and law enforcement officers abuse discretion on occasion. Male victims get arrested. Good, hardworking husbands and fathers are left destitute by piratical alimony and child support payments. Society, however, seems to take the traditional stereotypical view that victims are always female, aggressors are always male, and women will be left “hopeless and helpless” in a divorce. and many women have indeed been left simlarly destitute after divorce, thus the current system favors women.
I don’t think you can fix this by electing new politicans or judges. I think it starts with a paradigm shift where society as a whole decides that what we’re doing isn’t working. It ain’t quick and it ain’t easy, but it works. It worked for blacks in the 1960s, it worked for women in the early 20th century, and it’s working for the developmentally disabled now.
David M. says
Thank you Natalie Malonis. It’s so refreshing to have an attorney that is not afraid to speak out against the system. Rarely will you find a courageous attorney who will speak out against the discriminatory family court/divorce court system that’s in place in our country today. Most attorneys will not challenge judges or make public statemnets against these systems as one attorney told me- “I have to appear before this judge in the future with other clients so I can’t sign a judical complaint.” And many attorney’s profit handsomely from this corrupt system making several hundred dollars per hour so they don’t want to jeapordize a several hundred dollar an hour job. Thank you for you bravery and willingness to speak out. Keep up the good work. I’m sure you are less than one percent of the attorneys out there. The only other one I know is Lisa Scott. And thank you Dr. Tara for providing this valuable site with great information. David M.
Natalie Malonis says
Thank you, David, for your kind comments.