In January I wrote a piece calling Joint Custody: A Trojan Horse for Child Support Avoidance. For those who may not know the Trojan horse was the strategy the Greeks used after a failed 10-year siege on the City of Troy. The Greek fighters built a huge horse statue, hid warriors inside of it, and left it outside of the city walls while pretending to sail away. The residents of Troy brought the horse inside the city walls as a trophy of war and later that night as the city slept the warriors came out of the horse and destroyed the city.
In our current world, a Trojan horse is a disguised malicious computer program that looks harmless so it can sneak in and destroy your computer.
When writing that piece, I did not expect to hear of a real trojan horse appearing in Tallahassee, Florida this spring.
The legislation was introduced in the Florida Legislature in the form of SB 1596 and HB 1325 entitled “Alimony Reform.” Sounds rather harmless. But inside this trojan horse was a mandate for the presumption of 50/50 shared parenting time being in the “Best Interest of the Children”.
And that is something we all want, right? What’s best for the children? And 50/50, also called “shared parenting” or “equal parenting time” sounds so fair, so harmless…
Let’s Analyze This Threat
Let’s take a closer look at this trojan horse.
First, why did a bill about alimony have a legal mandate for shared parenting “slipped in”?
Shouldn’t something this important, this life-altering for families have its own bill? Be on an agenda or a public forum for debate with input by divorce survivors, mental health professionals, concerned parents, and most of all children, who have lived through it? Why did this issue have to be slipped in under the cover of a completely different bill?
This bill was introduced into the Florida session by the Florida Family Law Reform Political Action Committee. This PAC was started by two men who are “permanent alimony payers” under current Florida Law. The Public Relations Chair is a “second wife” who became interested in alimony reform because she did not want to marry a permanent alimony payer and risk having her income jeopardized.
Why Use Alimony as the Trojan Horse?
So, what does this group have to do with shared parenting? What does alimony have to do with shared parenting?
It’s the Trojan horse of the Fathers’ Rights Movement: eliminate alimony, force shared parenting, then eliminate child support.
And it’s all disguised as something that on the surface appears so reasonable, so fair…
Equal, shared, in the best interests of the child…
Many alimony recipients have been stay-at-home parents so long they are no longer qualified to enter the job market, many have stayed home to care for catastrophically ill and disabled children, alimony is the lifeline that enables those children to retain the primary attachment figure and live comfortably. The child support ordered is often not enough to provide everything a disabled child requires.
Certainly not every alimony case in the state of Florida involves a stay at home mother to disabled children. Some cases do not even involve children or child support.
But the warriors inside the Trojan Horse of Florida SB 1596 and HB 1325 are Father’s Rights Group Activists determined to advance their agenda of retaining financial control and eliminating support payments, no matter the circumstance or who is harmed by doing so.
What This Trojan Horse Will Hurt
Nothing angers men as much as the subject of child support, except perhaps alimony payments. Last year I wrote a piece entitled The Terrifying Rise of the Fathers’ Rights Movement, this article drew hundreds of angry messages in my inboxes across social media channels with men spewing hostile words, obscenities and threats. I likened the anger from members of Father’s Rights Groups to the way psychologists describe narcissistic rage when the mask slips and their “true self” has been revealed.
Just as an elderly ex-wife, stay-at-home mom, or disabled children may be harmed by ending alimony payments, children are harmed by inappropriate 50/50 custody arrangements and lack of financial support.
In my original Trojan Horse piece, I wrote that “in theory” 50/50 is a good thing. Equal time with both parents. But the reality is that a child with two homes has no home. Children that are forced to bounce between two homes have no continuity and are denied a sense of security.
Consider this from an LMH practitioner in Child Therapy posted online: “I was horrified at the brainwashing that 50/50 was in the best interest of the child. Especially the 3/3/2 or 2/2/3 divisions of time. This is horrible for a child’s development and creates unimaginable confusion. These kids have the equivalent of “jet lag”. They never know where they are waking up, especially in the middle of the night during normal childhood nightmares. After nearly 18 years in the field, I can count on one hand the number of 50/50 cases I consider “successful”. To even be somewhat successful the parents MUST live in the same school zone and zip code so as not to disrupt the child’s sleep/wake cycles. Even a 30-minute earlier wake time or a 30 minute later bedtime can cause major issues. And with discrepancy’s in income some parents cannot afford even an apartment in the same zip code as the other parent, or former marital residence. Also, even if the child has items at both residences, they are still living out of a suitcase, think favorite blanket, stuffed animal, comfort items, for older kids tablets or laptops needed for entertainment or school. They also tend to have extreme attachment issues with missing pets. Chronic and severe adjustment disorder is inevitable in these custody arrangements.”
The Deception of 50/50
In online groups dedicated to child support issues, thousands of parents report that even with 50/50 arrangements the other parent is only getting the kid(s) one day a week or less leaving them to parent full time with no expectation of support, or even worse.
One mother reported that her ex-husband didn’t make a 13-year-old attend school on his time and she ended up being dragged into truancy court and had to prove to the court that the truancy did not happen on her parenting time. Another posted that she had to pay her ex-child support even with a 50/50 due to income disparity and now she is paying child support to the father who has not picked his kids up or seen them in months. They are due back in court soon.
These situations highlight why we must be vigilant with our politics. We must stand up and fight these well organized, agenda specific PAC’s that are determined to advance policy that damage our children.
Our children deserve stable homes and support in all forms, from both parents – not a Trojan horse designed to destroy them.
Simone Spence is not a lawyer and she does not provide legal advice. She was a child support collections consultant for over 20 years and has written three highly regarded child support collection books. She developed the collections platform “Athena.”
In general, only a licensed attorney can give legal advice, but there is a distinction between “legal advice” and “legal information.” Any non-lawyer can simply recite laws, but it is illegal for a non-lawyer or unlicensed attorney to offer legal advice.
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