Thursday, August 18, 2005

U is also for Upside-Down

It has struck me over the years that divorce law is not only backwards, it is also upside down - it punishes you for what should be good things, and effectively rewards you for bad behavior. Follows a tally of ways in which the New Jersey Divorce System encourages the bad, and punishes the good (feel free to post your own):

  • Taking good care of your children and spouse and taking them on nice regular vacations, or sending them off to regular and lovely events, are all bad – these things will go towards the lifestyle of the marriage, and increase what you pay.
  • Staying married longer is wrong – you will pay higher alimony (remember, >10 years generally means 'permanent alimony').
  • Working hard and earning good money is wrong – you will pay both higher alimony and possibly more child support.
  • Saving and investing is wrong – although the contribution may only or mostly represent your efforts, and even if you had a terrible wife who provided you with nothing resembling any form of support at home, in divorce you will get 50% of the value of your investments… or, more likely, less...
  • Buying a house is wrong – it is likely that your real estate investment will be needed for your spouse and children to live in, so you will lose use of it, be forced to continue contributing to it, and if it ever is sold, realize only 50% of its value, at best.
  • Telling the truth is wrong – The court never punishes those (well, at least women) who lie in their certifications, no matter how outrageous the claims or how obvious the lie.
  • Obeying your judgments is wrong – The court rarely punishes women who fail to live up to their family court judgments. (Don’t try this as a man.)
  • Paying off judgments to your ex is wrong – it provides funds with which your ex can pay her lawyer for new motions against you.
  • Making any significant effort to pay parts of judgments is wrong - If you come up with some money, the courts will accept that this is evidence that you have been withholding funds. (I've seen it!)
  • Saving money post-divorce is a mistake, your ex can attach to it if you ever fail to make a single payment, or lose your job.
  • Spending money on your children’s food and shelter is wrong – the court system insists that child support and alimony comes first.
  • Buying a house post-divorce is a mistake too, as your ex can take a lien out against it, or insist that it be liquidated to support her lifestyle if she gets a new judgment against you.
  • Getting remarried is wrong – your new spouse’s assets can and likely will become community property, accessible to your ex’s legal machinations, and she loses her right to privacy. (I can hear the lawyers saying ‘No! No! This isn’t true! It is. I have seen it happen. You have to keep telling yourself ‘this is divorce law’. Normal legal standards don’t apply much here.)

There are other upside-down things in the law that are even scarier… for example, if one killed their wife in a crime of passion one could realistically be out of jail in 5 years. But being married for 10 years gets you a life of alimony/slavery. Now, where do you think that particular bit of math takes those who value life cheaply, or have a loose grip on their sense of right and wrong in the first place?

Or let’s look at the ‘attaching to your salary’ portion of the law. Muggers, check-forgers and other criminals generally cannot have more than 10% of their income withheld by the state to pay judgments, but alimony payers who are late on their payments can have 65% withheld, without even a hearing to determine ability to pay. (The court will tell you that you can have a hearing later, and if anything inappropriate was taken, you can get it back from your ex. Don’t hold your breath.) At any rate, it is apparently better to get caught robbing a store than to end up tangled up in a divorce.

So, Ma Jersey tells us:
“Don’t let on to your wife that you’re unhappy, or that you need to split, go get a 2nd mortgage, and spend all of it. Spend your savings, and your investments too, as it’s going to get taken anyway, spending's the best thing to do. Be sure you are jobless 8 months before you file, don’t worry at all about losing your domicile, and if you can stay out of work, you won’t have any payments to shirk”

Thanks again Ma. Good to have clear guidance as to what New Jersey thinks is moral.


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