Cash, Kids and Correspondence – What’s wrong with Family Justice?
Consider two married couples – the Alphas and the Betas.
Mr Alpha is an older guy, driven and hard-working – ruthless, cupiditous, avaricious. Not too rich yet, but it is clear to all that he’s going to be. Mrs Alpha is a very beautiful model. She is also ruthless. She wants cash. He wants sex and power/control. Both are narcissists.
They enter into an agreement. The agreement runs roughly as follows (whether expressed or implied). He says to her: “I want sex on demand. I want you to raise my kids. The house, our cars, and everything about our lives must be perfect, as must you. You must laugh at all of my jokes. I can also have sex with other women whenever I feel like it, and you will be fine with that – I want a Stepford wife”
She says “OK, I can do that. What I want is your cash”
She is, in essence, a prostitute. He is a client. But they are both realists. Both grown-ups. They have made a deal.
Now we have the Betas. They meet at university. He is studying accountancy. She is studying law. They fall in love. They marry and have kids. Their deal is that there is no deal. They simply love each other. When they have their kids, they agree that Mrs Beta will stay at home and raise the kids, and Mr B will go out and bring home the bacon. She foregoes her career.
Fast forward 25 years. Both couples divorce. The reasons are unimportant. Both women say “I want half the cash”. Both men say “I want 50-50 co-parenting and shared residence”.
These aspirations all sound fair enough, don’t they?
But let’s see what actually happens.
Mrs Alpha does not get 50% of the cash. She is seen as greedy for wanting half. After all, Mr A is now worth £250 million. It’s interesting how societal prejudices kick in here. Interesting how we blame a trade union for causing disruption to commuters when their members strike, rather than blaming the employer for unreasonable practises. Interesting how we think of Mrs A as being a gold-digger for wanting half the cash, but we don’t vilify Mr A for being greedy in wanting to keep 90% of it (I am assuming that Mrs A has been a good and dutiful Stepford wife, pace their agreement). She simply says “You wanted a whore and you got one. Now it’s time to pay”. That seems reasonable, does it not? But the courts balk at giving her half. Seeing, after four years of litigation, the ‘lie of the land’, she settles for £15 million. Now, this is a lot of money for most of us, but that is not the point. The point is that it ain’t half. An injustice has been done.
But she gets the kids.
Now let’s look at Mrs B’s case. The Beta communal dosh is modest, at £500,000. She ends up with less than half because Mr B has squirrelled some away abroad, and doesn’t say too much about his pension. She doesn’t push it because, again, she has seen how the court is looking at it… She settles for the house (perhaps with a charge over it in favour of Mr B) and monthly maintenance. It’s just not worth the aggro of pursuing things further – the costs are out of all proportion to the potential gains. As the French say, “Ca vaut pas la peine”. Or you could, amusingly, change the gender of the noun, add a small spelling change, and it still makes sense: “Ca vaut pas le pain”… Again, an injustice has been done.
But she gets the kids.
The “system” favours men in financial matters, and women in children matters.
Well, how about blaming men? Or, perhaps more accurately, paternalism. The whole system is predicated on the notion that girls and women are ‘sugar and spice, and all things nice’. That’s why they get the kids. Pretty patronising to women, no? And it does men no favours either. If the family court system favours women in child-related matters, it is the fault, ultimately, of paternalism – as a lawyer might say “volenti non fit injuria” (roughly “no injury can be done to a consenting party”). Men made the crappy system, men suffer from its injustices, child-contact-wise.
But, rather than looking at matters in this political kind of way, we could see them in a more anthropological kind of way. It’s not anyone’s “fault” that men get the bacon and women get the kids. It’s just how it was always meant to be, since we first dropped out of the trees onto the Savannah. Men went out and hunted stuff to eat, whilst women stayed in the cave and looked after the kids. It’s simply that nature has designed us for particular tasks according to our respective physiologies. That sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?
Having said all of this, we now live in the 21st century. Could we not evolve a bit?! The relevance of ‘muscle’ has long-since outlived its usefulness. Cash is the new muscle (Sorry, Robert Winston, not brain). And women are just as good at getting it now as men.
Equally, men have learned to co-parent, and many men make better caring parents than many women.
Women have become more like men, and men more like women.
It’s time to give women half the cash and men half the kids. And for there to be correspondence between the two things.