November 8th, 2011 by Glenn Sacks
Fathers and Families member Chris Gregory, a Marine combat veteran of Desert Storm and Somalia, recently told an Oklahoma House of Representatives committee that the family law system is rife with injustices and often separates children from the fathers they love and need.
Led by Representative Mark McCullough and Representative Jason Nelson, the Oklahoma House of Representatives conducted an interim study on family law and no fault divorce earlier this month. According to the legislators’ press release here, “Oklahoma’s family law is dangerously failing the children it is supposed to protect, leading some lawmakers to consider reform of both divorce statutes and the foster-care system.”
Oklahoma Legislator Blasts Family Law System
Representative Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), a child of divorce, said:
[O]ur current divorce system is a racket that enriches attorneys and makes children and communities poorer. Divorce scars children and leaves them emotionally disfigured. The current divorce laws are perverse and they are destroying children and our society.
Representative Nelson spoke movingly about his childhood and watching the pain on his father’s face at not being allowed to spend much time with his son, as well as the financial privations the system put upon him. Nelson concluded with a call for a presumption of shared parenting after divorce.
The Chris Gregory Case–an Outrageous but Common Injustice
F & F’s Chris Gregory, the father of three girls who adore their dad, had a standard child custody order forced upon him—an order which granted his ex-wife “exclusive care, custody, and control of the parties’ minor children,” and allows Gregory’s girls only a few days a month with their father.
For the past three years, Gregory has fought in court to get more time with his girls, ages 11, 9, and 6. He has racked up large legal bills, as he was forced to pay for his ex-wife’s attorney—an attorney whose focus has been to minimize Gregory’s role in his children’s lives. He explains:
The court has denied all of my motions to modify custody or seek an equitable outcome.
Gregory, who was asked by Representative McCullough to share his experiences with the divorce system, is a good example of the way fathers are plundered financially.
The financial orders in Gregory’s case are more or less garden variety in a divorce, yet while Gregory earns $7,500 a month after taxes, by court orders he is to be left with merely $2,200 a month to live on. That’s correct–family court leaves Gregory less with less than 30% of his post-tax income. The breakdown is as follows:
Gregory’s monthly earnings after taxes: $7,518
Gregory’s child support: $2,568
Gregory’s alimony: $1,000
Gregory’s garnishment to pay his ex-wife’s attorneys’ fees: $1,726
Total left to Gregory post-family court and taxes: $2,224*
According to the family court, Gregory, a successful Senior Consultant at a major software company who earns a $125K a year salary, should be left with a mere $26,688 a year to support himself and his three girls.
The child support and the attorneys’ fees are garnisheed directly from Gregory’s check. The $1,000 a month alimony is not, Gregory has not been paying it lately, and faces a contempt charge for it. As in many divorce cases, the attorneys’ fees Gregory owes grew out of his fight to be allowed to play a meaningful role in his children’s lives.
Gregory also got stuck with paying 90% of the $69,000 in marital debt. Gregory asked:
If this is a no fault divorce, why have I had to I assume all the fault?
As is the case with many divorced and separated fathers, Gregory’s daughters’ schools have been generally uncooperative, refusing to send him his daughters’ report cards and notices of parent-teacher conferences and other upcoming events, despite his repeated requests that they do so.
*In the original post we inadvertently omitted a few hundred dollars a month of expenses not related to family court. The figure has now been corrected.