As I reflect on the recent death of Rodney King, I am sitting in a waiting room in a Family Court in Brooklyn along with about 40 other families who can’t “just get along.” Each party has a grudge, an injustice, some manner in which they have been wronged. No one wants to be reasonable, or responsible, as the primitive urge to mate has been replaced by the greater primitive urge to win. Romance has been alchemically converted into revenge. The only conclusion I can draw is that these people have nothing in common and, were it not for sex, they would have gladly killed each other long ago.
It’s the same in Family Courts all over America. You would think that if people could not manage to live together, they would want to stay far apart and out of each other’s lives as much as possible. But no. The instinct to meddle, the desire to punish, the greed of pure ego and selfishness conquers the rational parts of the brain and the Family Court is the arena in which former partners do battle.
Pity the children.
The children are often more adult than the adults who fight over them. Children who should love both parents are poisoned as each parent teaches the child to hate the other. Each parent fights to maximize custody time, for where custody goes, so does child support. It’s a simple and sadistic formula - custody equals money. Taking money from the other spouse is punishment and a victory. It’s like Spec Ops or some insane video game. You can see the passion in their eyes - the former partner will suffer for the indignities, for the divorce, for moving on. The emotional desire to see the other party financially broken, homeless, suffering and sorry he or she wronged the other, the desire to be seen as the wronged victim, permeates the court like a Frankensteinian Tesla coil gone berserk. A dead marriage becomes revived into a living monster - “It’s Alive!”
The word of the day is “entitlement.” Everyone feels entitled. He owes me this. He owes this to the child. She owes me for how she treated me. Women feel entitled to win the case for no other reason but their gender. I’m the momma. Men feel entitled to win because they feel they are the victims and that the deck is stacked against them. So many women in the system. Women clerks, women referees, woman judges, even women court officers with guns. Everyone believes the woman, why don’t they believe me? Men feel manhandled.
Hatred for new lovers and wives is endemic. The new paramour is never referred to by name, just by titles like “her” or “slut.” How dare you be happy? How dare you replace me?
Everyone wants justice. Justice is defined as “I win and the other parent suffers for life.”
No one really listened much to Rodney King. His words sounded noble and good, but people kept rioting because they wanted to riot. They felt like victims, they felt entitled to riot. They stopped acting like adults, and started acting like - well, Family Court.
Why is this relevant? Well, as bankruptcy filings have gone down, I’ve been thinking of picking up the slack by handling matrimonial cases again.
Pity the lawyer.
Marvin Wolf is a regular contributor to Local Talk.