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March 11, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Once again I must put off the second part of my post on Anne-Marie Slaughter’s latest interview. As yesterday, this article is simply too important to ignore (Orlando Sentinel, 3/8/16).

The piece is nominally by Florida family lawyer Mark A. Sessums and he’s writing to virulently oppose Governor Rick Scott’s signing into law the recent bill reforming alimony and parenting time for children when their parents divorce. I say “nominally” because Sessums is doing little but channeling NOW’s talking points.

Now, given that Sessums is a family lawyer, it’s no surprise that he opposes the bill that so resoundingly passed both the House and Senate. Both the alimony and parenting time portions of the bill make much easier the process of figuring out who pays whom and how much, and how much time the kids get with each parent. And when parents can figure that out, there’s much less opportunity for conflict. And less conflict means less money for Sessums and his pals down at the yacht club.

This of course is the primary reason why, in state after state, it’s family lawyers who can be counted on to lobby against passage of reasonable legislation of the type just passed in the Sunshine State. NOW and other groups that claim to act on behalf of women are the other reliable lobbyists against reform of alimony and parenting time and indeed, such has been the case in Florida these past few weeks. NOW and the League of Women Voters have been prominent in their opposition to even the most modest reform, which Florida’s bill certainly was.

So it’s no surprise that Sessums basically repeats NOW’s arguments against reform.

Any argument in favor of the current alimony scheme is necessarily based on the premise that the recipient of alimony, about 97% of whom are women, can’t be expected to take responsibility for her own choices. So, if her husband chose to go to medical school and specialize as a surgeon and she got a BA in education and taught third grade, the concept of alimony has it that, when she divorces him, she should not be asked to live on the salary offered those who pursue her particular occupation.

Why? Well, alimony was originally established at a time when the range of women’s choices of occupations was much narrower than it is now and their earnings were potentially inadequate to meet their needs. But that is no longer the case. Now nothing interferes with women’s ability to earn except the choices they themselves make. Ergo, opposition to alimony reform invariably invites us to pretend we live in a far distant past. To its credit, the Florida Legislature declined the invitation.

And, as we see so often, it is precisely the position of organizations like NOW - that women are in fact helpless, unable to care for themselves and thus dependent on men – that leads them to oppose reform of alimony laws. Gone from their narrative is the strong, independent woman and in her place Little Nell, seduced, abandoned and cast on society’s refuse heap by a heartless cad.

So Sessums first claims that alimony reform is unfair. What would be fair? He hastens to tell us.

If fairness were the desired result, the solution would then be simple: just equalize net income for a period equal to the length of the marriage.

How absurd. Sessums is a family lawyer and knows quite well that there’s more to a divorce settlement than alimony. There’s also the division of property. Let’s consider some hypothetical numbers. Our surgeon (John) earns $400,000 per year and our teacher (Jane) brings in $50,000. They’ve been married 20 years. Now, according to Sessums, that means that, when she divorces him, John must begin paying Jane $175,000 per year and continue to do so for the next 20 years regardless of everything else. But of course Sessums the lawyer neglected to mention the property the two own. Thanks almost entirely to John’s earnings, they live in a house valued at $1 million, drive two expensive cars ($50,000 each) and have stocks and bond worth another $1 million.

Over the years, Jane has contributed 1/9th of their income, but receives half of their property in the divorce decree. She walks away from the marriage with a cool $1 million plus a nice car despite the fact that she paid for almost none of that. Had she been single all that time, do you suppose she’d have been able to save $1 million on her teacher’s salary? No. In fact, she’d have only earned that much over 20 years. Like most people earning what she does, she’d have saved next to nothing.

And then there’s the fact that, for the 20 years of their marriage, Jane lived much, much better than she would have had she not married John. She lived in a nicer house, ate better food, took trips to Italy and France and never woke in the middle of the night grinding her teeth about how to pay to repair the leaky roof. In other words, because of John, Jane lived a much better life than she provided for herself.

But to Sessums, all that plus the $1 million she takes from the marriage doesn’t constitute fairness. What’s “fair” is that John give her an additional $175,000 per year for 20 years ($3.5 million + $1 million = $4.5 million total) for divorcing him. Seriously, that’s how these people think.

Amusingly, women reading Sessums’ piece are outraged in the same way I am. Here’s an excerpt from one of the comments:

I am a woman and wow, am I insulted by this article! I am not weak, I am equal to a man! I share the same responsibilities and rights of a man. I am responsible for my well being in marriage as well as when divorced. This article paints women as stupid, weak and helpless.

That about says it. But Sessums, like NOW and the LWV, isn’t interested in actual women or that they mostly think they’re “responsible for my well-being in marriage as well as when divorced.” No, the great champions of women routinely believe them to be “stupid, weak and helpless.”

But Sessums is just getting started channeling feminists who want us to believe that today’s women can’t take care of themselves. Needless to say, they also want us to believe that men and women are enemies.

What is being advanced is a catastrophic reduction of amount and length of alimony.

Why? Because men have the necessary votes to pass an alimony reform bill in the Florida Legislature. Men are politically stronger than women. And women are afraid to tell their stories. This is might over right at its worst.

See what I mean? Yes, it’s the Evil Men with Power just waiting for the opportunity to oppress helpless women. Of course the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate was Kelli Stargell, who is of course a woman. I suppose Sessums believes she’s just an ignorant dupe of evil, oppressive male senators, because, well, something.

But beyond that obvious fact Mark, let me make it simple for you. For years now Florida has had an alimony statute. It’s one you seem to like, since you’re arguing against changing it. Who passed that law, Mark? That’s right, it was the Florida Legislature that was made up almost entirely of men. I guess they hadn’t figured out the whole “oppress the women” thing, right?

Come to think of it, for example, women’s suffrage was passed by an all-male Congress and domestic violence laws and funding were similarly passed by predominantly male legislatures and that those and other male legislatures have been responsible for passage of every law benefitting women ever. Remember child support? Recall how draconian are its calculation and enforcement? Men are mostly the ones to suffer under those laws, and male legislatures passed them. What about laws shielding women from registering with the Selective Service System. Yep, passed by male legislatures.

Gee, it’s beginning to look like male office holders aren’t dead-set against women after all. Could that be because they were all born of woman, nurtured, swaddled, sung to, read to by their mothers? Could it be because, in addition to their moms, they have sisters, wives, daughters, grandmothers and other female loved ones whom they don’t wish to see hurt? Or could it possibly be that male legislators know that women vote, and in greater numbers than do men?

My guess is it’s a combination of all of the above and probably other factors. Suffice it to say though, that Sessums’ ridiculous notion that alimony reform is just a power play by men against women is the type of argument a person makes when he, well, doesn’t have an argument to make.

For bull goose loonies like Sessums, obvious facts are of no consequence. NOW’s given him his script and he’s not about to take his eyes off of it.

His article is so bad, I need another post to do it justice. Stay tuned.


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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