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John Murtari Hunger strike for fathers rights.
August 12, 2006 12:46 AM   Subscribe

John Murtari hunger strike protest. John Murtari has been on a hunger strike after being jailed without a jury trail. A PHD in aeronautics, Murtari lost his job and took a lower paying job at an ISP. Unable to pay the extremely high child support payment, he asked the courts to re-adjust his payment. The court denied him. The judge offered him probation or 6 months jail time. Murtari chose jail time with protest. Murtari stated Even Terrorists get a trail by jury. He is finally on a feeding tube, forced down his nose, after loosing 28 lbs. Update with protest photos and his comments on the protest.
posted by IronWolve (60 comments total)

 
I did a google news search, seems only a few papers are even talking about it. Guess nots not news worth for protests about fathers rights.
posted by IronWolve at 12:47 AM on August 12, 2006


So... this guy is refusing to eat, because... he doesn't want to pay the court-ordered child-support? He's a second Gandhi, this guy.

His kids must be so proud.

What an asshole.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:33 AM on August 12, 2006


I'm not sure I get it.
He's on a hunger strike (or not) because he was sentenced by a judge and not by a jury? Is that the issue here?

If it is, then I'm not really sympathetic. There's no God-given right to get a jury trial. I know it's in the US Constitution, but it's certainly one of the more stupider constitutional rigths (the stupidest ones being the right to bear arms), and I don't think there are many civilized countries in the world that grant their citizens that right. Because it's not necessary. Sure, with the right attorneys, the 12 streetsweepers are going to be more malleable than a judge, but that has little to do with justice.

I also don't understand how throwing the guy in jail is going to help him make his child support payments.
posted by sour cream at 1:49 AM on August 12, 2006


If it is, then I'm not really sympathetic. There's no God-given right to get a jury trial.

There are no god given rights period.

his guy is refusing to eat, because... he doesn't want to pay the court-ordered child-support?... What an asshole.

Well, he's obviously really bothered by it. It's irritating to hear people say that "it's just money" when it's actually a question of personal freedom or whatever.

And anyway, how does it make sense to require him to pay money he can't afford?
posted by delmoi at 1:57 AM on August 12, 2006


I don't get it either. If the child support should be reduced based on the new job, then yes, appeal, get it reduced. (If he keeps getting denied a reduction, then I wonder maybe there's a reason.) But even so, he's already behind $60,000, presumably some of which was incurred when the support amount was based on the old job. Also, it sounds like this was really a custody battle ...
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:10 AM on August 12, 2006


Law dork here.

See Murtari v. Murtari, 249 A.D.2d 960 (1998). As of 1995, the support order was $120 per week, or $6,240 per year -- hardly out of line for a person of his education and employment history (he's a software engineer). He must have really tried to get his arrears up to $60,000.

See also Hiromi Sumiya v. Murtari, 275 A.D.2d 928, 929 (2000). "The record supports the court's determination that, based upon the parties' acrimonious relationship and inability to communicate in a civil manner, a change from sole custody to joint custody was not warranted ... The court also properly determined that petitioner's relocation was in the best interests of the child ..." Also, John Murtari represented himself, bad idea.

The ex-wife is a graduate student in Colorado, hardly raking in the money ...
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:45 AM on August 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


If this article convinces me of anything, it convinces me of the following:

1. My decision not to have kids couldn't possibly be more correct.
2. The people working on the male birth control pill should pre-emptively be given the Nobel prize.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:56 AM on August 12, 2006


$60,000 in arrearages means that this guy hasn't paid any support in nearly a decade.

Now he wants to present himself as a martyr because a judge, not a jury, properly held him accountable for a decade of abrogating his responsibility to his own child(ren)?

Screw him and his hunger strike. I only hope that whatever they put in that ng tube burns on the way down.
posted by Dreama at 3:03 AM on August 12, 2006


3. Keep up your arrears or your cellmate will for you.
posted by hal9k at 4:00 AM on August 12, 2006


Just another example of how the so-called "men's rights" movement is an embarrassment for anyone, including myself, who might otherwise think the topic is worth discussion. The majority of these bozos are anti-feminists, sexists, and deadbeat fathers. There certainly are some biases against fathers in family law, but dickwads like this guy are, if anything, counter-examples.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:57 AM on August 12, 2006


"loosing 28 lbs"

Grrrrr.
posted by parki at 5:12 AM on August 12, 2006


As someone who has seen arrears dwarfing this guy's sum, I'd like to advise Mr. Murtari to go fuck himself. Sorry, alimony negligence is a sore point for me.

There's a line between being unable to pay and being unwilling to pay. Screw you, guy, we live in a world where you can't just get away with abandoning your responsibilties.
posted by cavalier at 5:35 AM on August 12, 2006


I can't comment directly on his case because his timeline format makes it difficult to see when, how much he paid and was expected to to pay.

But, a lot of these cases are not just about the money. Often the courts will assign equal custody to both parents, but custodial custody to the wife. That works fine if they're in the same town and she actually does work with the ex on school placement, medical decisions, etc.

But a lot of these men don't get that equal treatment simply because they're men. Men are considered by a lot of judges to be the "second parent." I see divorce with children as a contract to maintain the parent-child relationship as best as possible. After all, you're divorcing your spouse, not your children.

Why should the custodial parent have the right to move the child hundreds of miles away? Especially today it is difficult to maintain a good relationship when you see the child once or twice a year. Daily or weekly contact is a must.

Why does he want a jury trial? I bet it is for the same reason I would if I was in such a custody fight. I believe the average citizen doesn't come into these cases as cynical as the judges. Plus, in Murtari's case he seems to have built up some animosity with the local judges. Of course he would rather face a jury of his peers.
posted by ?! at 5:36 AM on August 12, 2006


Second the "asshole" verdict. I'd say more, but EB beat me to it.
posted by languagehat at 5:38 AM on August 12, 2006


gee, right now, i'm paying 115 a week, have no phd, make less than 30,000 a year and carry health insurance on my daughter, too

the ONLY part i can even begin to have sympathy for is for the child being moved across the country

he's an asshole
posted by pyramid termite at 5:52 AM on August 12, 2006


Sorry, alimony negligence is a sore point for me.

Alimony \neq child support. Skipping out on child support is worse.

Why should the custodial parent have the right to move the child hundreds of miles away?

Because a judge in this particular case ruled that doing so was in the best interests of the child.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:24 AM on August 12, 2006


Because a judge in this particular case ruled that doing so was in the best interests of the child.

in most cases, that wouldn't be right, but i've got to wonder, judging from the way he's acted in other things, if he wasn't doing things that made the ex and the judge believe that some distance would be appropriate

speaking of best interests of the child ...

person - what's your dad do?

child - he passed away

person - oh, i'm sorry

child - he starved himself to death in jail because he didn't want to pay his child support

person - (!!!!)

yeah, THAT'S in the best interest of the child
posted by pyramid termite at 6:39 AM on August 12, 2006


In my brief run as a legal assistant to a special prosecutor assigned to catch up on the backlog of non-support cases in the county I lived in at the time I saw plenty of these maroons. Child support is based on ability to support, not on current salary. It drives me bats that these tools will gladly accept a life of relative poverty in an attempt to avoid paying support for children they helped bring into the world. It's so spiteful. And now this loser wants to garner sympathy for having his ass handed to him for ill-advisably acting pro se to carry out a plot that any competent attorney would have told him8212;and probably did8212;was bound to fail.

I hope they're running liquified crow down that feeding tube.
posted by Fezboy! at 6:50 AM on August 12, 2006


What the hail happened to my emdashes?!
posted by Fezboy! at 6:52 AM on August 12, 2006


I think something here at mefi filters out decimal entities above a certain number. Use hex or the named entity.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:55 AM on August 12, 2006


He might be a jerk, but it kind of bothers me that the mother was allowed to drag the child halfway across the country away from him, block phone contact, and have the judge support it as being 'best for the child'. Basically, they conspired to eliminate his visitation de facto, since apparently she couldn't get it removed in court.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:00 AM on August 12, 2006


Um, he couldn't move to be near his child why?

This is a pile of crap, reading his backstory it's everyone's fault but his, everyone was out to get him in family court, he isn't truly going on a hunger strike to prove a point, he just wants to be a big enough pain in the ass that they'll let him go.

Jerk.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:01 AM on August 12, 2006


I can't comment directly on his case because his timeline format makes it difficult to see when, how much he paid and was expected to to pay.

The math would clarify it pretty well: if he was to pay slightly more than $6k a year and is $60k in the hole and the order came down in '94 or '95, he spent a long time either paying only partially or paying nothing at all.

As for the parent with physical custody moving the child across country? Yes, it sucks. It sucks terribly when you have a child and cannot see him/her as often as you'd like. It sucks even more when contact is limited. But neither situation exempts someone from supporting their child -- and it shouldn't take a judge or a jury or a stint in jail for someone to understand that; especially someone with the intellectual capacity to earn a PhD.
posted by Dreama at 8:10 AM on August 12, 2006


Dreama and ROU Xenophobe: Assuming it is correct ,you can read the particular trial transcript where where the mother petition's the court to move to California.

1) It doesn't seem as though the mother wanted to move in the best interest of the child. She states more than once that she wants to move because that was the only place she could get into school to work on her third degree. (She already had a Bachelors and was finishing her Masters.)

2) There is much back and forth if the father was paying child support. Numerous arguments back and forth, but the gist was that he was paying at least half of the court ordered amount. There are mentions of other judgements he had been forced to pay.

So, I don't think a simple "he owes this amount and that means he hasn't paid at all" will suffice. I also don't think it entirely correct to state the child was moved in his best interest.

Trying to retry this case on Metafilter is a waste of time. I read this thread is an opportunity to look at the broad story. Our divorce laws and divorce courts are skewed toward the mothers needs and often the children and their fathers relationships are not given due consideration. Your experience may differ.
posted by ?! at 8:43 AM on August 12, 2006


Metafilter: 8212;and probably did8212;was bound to fail.

As for this guy, he's willing to starve himself to get out of jail, but he's not willing to pay child support. That strikes me as odd. Seems like paying what the judge has determined is fair would be easier than starving. I wonder if perhaps this is a person who makes bad decisions.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:57 AM on August 12, 2006


The reason the kid moved is because his custodial parent is going to school in the new location. If it mattered so much to this guy, given his background, why would he have a problem moving to California?

I'm with hollygoheavy. He's pissed off that he didn't get the custodial arrangement he wanted, and being a jerk about it.

But that countdown timer thing on his kid's laptop makes me wonder.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:11 AM on August 12, 2006


The "fathers' rights" movement does seem to attract... a certain kind of dad. Well, the fathers' rights groups that get into the newspapers do, anyway.

Here in Australia, we've got one that's actually, seriously, called The Blackshirts. They like to get around in balaclavas, just in case they weren't scaring the living shit out of every human being that saw them already.

There may well be something to the basic complaint that the family law system in many countries is unfairly skewed against fathers, to the detriment of some kids.

But it's damn well not to the detriment of the kids that most of these dudes want to, um, own.
posted by dansdata at 9:50 AM on August 12, 2006


Reading the timeline at http://www.akidsright.org/support_jm.htm

Hes not refusing to pay child support...

It looks like he was paying about 250 a month, court ordered 500'ish a month. The local courts wouldnt redo his support payments, so he went federal and they agreed his payments where too high. He paid over 60K already in child support, 1/2 of what the state wanted. Finally the state court agreed to lower his payments but wouldnt re-adress his back payments.

I dont blame him, hes been treated like hell in court, they state basically used organized crime tactics against him. Hes not protesting against child support, hes protesting with the way his case handled and judgement given.

He wants to pay his child support, he just wants it to be fair, and expenses to see his kid to be included.

Sounds like a caring dad who the courts railroaded because family courts have no rules.
posted by IronWolve at 9:55 AM on August 12, 2006


Overview of his protest

Someone robbing a 6 pack of beer from a convenience store is entitled to: representation by Counsel, strict rules of evidence, and a Jury which must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Don't you think you deserve the same standard before you are separated for years?

Each state had the ability to establish its own criminal code and procedures, but was still required to remain within the U.S. Constitutions guarantees of: a presumption of innocence, real proof, and the protection of a Jury. There has been an explosion in well intentioned Family Law produced in each state, but without the firm guidance of our Constitution. The words "best interest of the child" have been used to justify any state action.

WE ARE NOT calling for MORE FEDERAL INTERFERENCE, but less. The recognition of established constitutional protections to protect families. We only ask the same principles used to protect liberty, also protect the bond between parents and children (probably an even more valued freedom):
It is time we recognize & protect our GREAT Civil Right to be parents to our own children. There ought to be a "significant barrier" the system has to cross before they can interfere with our family life.

We are not looking for MORE laws, but protection. That you and your spouse are both considered Fit & Equal parents (equal in terms of both physical and legal custody). If anyone (a spouse, relative, social services) wishes to challenge that, you have:

1) The right to counsel.
2) The right to be presumed a fit parent, innocent, and deserving of an equal relationship with your kids.
3) The right to protection of a jury. The "state" needs to prove you were a demonstrated serious and intentional threat to your child's safety.
posted by IronWolve at 10:02 AM on August 12, 2006


If it mattered so much to this guy, given his background, why would he have a problem moving to California?

Something like three people have asked this so far, and even though the answer is obvious, I'm going to address it.

A person with a huge backlog of child support payments and legal fees cannot afford to quit their job and move halfway across the country.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:05 AM on August 12, 2006


Dreama and ROU Xenophobe: Assuming it is correct ,you can read the particular trial transcript where where the mother petition's the court to move to California.

I read much of the transcript (yes, I need a life). [Warning to those with lives: the document is the transcript of days of testimony, very long.] It was very depressing, but not because the system failed this guy.

Aside: I think it's sort of weird that the pro-Murtari people posted this transcript. The ex-wife comes across as reasonable, hard-working, and long-suffering. The ex-husband comes across as b.a.t.s. and without any awareness of the impact of his actions.

The ex-wife and sought to move to California to work on a PhD, which she asserted would assist her in becoming self-sufficient. She agreed that she would work to get the son and ex-husband together for summers, holidays, whatever the court ordered, and also agreed that any money the ex spent on travel to visit the son could be deducted from the judgment(s) owed to her. She presented evidence that the current situation was not ideal, as the back-and-forth visitation with the ex was traumatic to the son. There was ample evidence to support the judge's decision.

Putting the outcome aside, the ex-wife followed the rules -- she and her lawyer went to court to present evidence regarding why she should be permitted to leave the area, they had to overcome a presumption against permitting her to move, and the judge ruled that they did present sufficient evidence. The ex-husband appealed, and the Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

The ex-husband does not follow any of the rules -- he has paid $60 per week (generally -- he acknowledged that he hasn't paid $60 every week) because he disagrees with the $120 per week. He doesn't pay his share of medical even though it is court-ordered. He hasn't paid past judgments for attorneys fees. He wouldn't sell the marital residence when it was court ordered that it be sold and the assets divided, dragged his feet, and then played the victim when he was finally evicted by the police, [according to the ex-wife] telling the son that he was going to jail because of the divorce. He keeps appealing every decision, and the ex-wife owes her own lawyer thousands of dollars. Now the hunger strike, which is completely consistent with his "victim"-dramas to date.

In the transcript he acknowledges that he has only worked part-time [with a business he started] since the divorce, and that one reason is that his legal appeals take up a lot of his time. Also, his business has computers and at least one employee, so he knows how to get money together when he wants to.

Excerpt from transcript, cross of Murtari:

Q Mr. Murtari, have you made any efforts to pay on
the judgments that are against you and due Miss Phillipson?
A No, I have not.
Q And what other orders since -- just since the
Decree of Divorce have you disobeyed?

DEBORAH A. McCARTHY
Official Court Reporter

J. MURTARI - CROSS 8

A Orders?
Q Orders of the Court. Either the Judgment and
Decree of Divorce or post-divorce orders.
A Well, I'm not paying the full amount, is that
what you mean, the full amount?
Q Of child support.
A The divorce order said $120 a week and I am only
paying 60.
Q Right.
A There's the other judgments that you had in
evidence that came out I guess after the divorce. I
don't --
Q Did you obey the order of the Supreme Court
regarding sell of the marital residence?
A Oh, no, no, I did not. The order that I was
supposed to sign over the deed and everything, no, I did
not.
Q Right. And did you obey the order of the Court
to vacate the house within 60 days of that order?
A No, I did not.
Q And did you obey the warrant of eviction ordering
you to get out of the house?
A No, I did not.

There may be cases that illustrate the system failing a non-custodial parent by permitting the custodial parent to move out of state with the child. This would not be one of them.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:13 AM on August 12, 2006


Why should he agree to biased orders? Exactly.

The system failed when it used his old job salary to set child support and wouldnt include transportation costs to fly his kid to see him.

Oh ya, he could quit his job and move, while fighting in court and owing money.

Get real, he was shafted by the courts, he wants to pay his support and see his kids. The divorce assets have nothing to do with his vistation rights to his children's love.
posted by IronWolve at 10:34 AM on August 12, 2006


As a veteran of the child support wars from many years ago, I see some things never change. It was my belief at the time that our punative system provides no incentives outside of punishment for child support related disputes. Most non-payment is not the result of a lack of care for the welfare of the child but rather from an inability to find a way to reduce continuing conflicts between the parents.

I still believe 25 years, later that support non-compliance could be reduced by 50% or better by mandating three simple steps:

1. Allow non-custodial parents tax deductions for child support paid.
2. Require mandatory mediation sessions for all visitation disputes.
3. Allow non-custodial parents to pay child support into a separate fund instead of to the custodial parent when a custodial parent refuses to comply with a lawful visitation order.
posted by Xurando at 10:51 AM on August 12, 2006


4. Child support to be used for childrens needs, housing/food/clothes but not boob jobs for the mother.
posted by IronWolve at 10:56 AM on August 12, 2006


IW, you're getting too involved advocating for your post, I think everyone gets that you are upset about this case, and the cause in general. Perhaps at this time you are staying into ax grinding?
Hope this topic doesn't ruin your weekend, be well.
posted by edgeways at 11:07 AM on August 12, 2006


Bitter much, IronWolve?
posted by Methylviolet at 11:13 AM on August 12, 2006


"Child support to be used for childrens needs, housing/food/clothes but not boob jobs for the mother."

Reminiscent of the "welfare queen" anti-welfare argument. If you can show me that the majority of child support arrears are the result of righteous fathers protesting irresponsible mothers, then you'll be persuasive. Until then, your argument is propoganda.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:17 AM on August 12, 2006


So, while the answer to why he might not be able to move to see the child is answered by Mitrovarr here no one has seemed to question this idea that the mother needed to go to California to become self supporting?

"She has been studying linguistics at
Syracuse University and has been admitted to a
PhD program at the University of California. The
evidence will show that this is a reasonable and
realistic goal that she has to become
self-supporting."

While I would encourage people to pursue greater intellectual merit, she too has a responsibility to the child and certainly was not incapable of finding employment in Syracuse, or perhaps pushing a bit more to become a Phd candidate there, maybe Cornell, Binghamton, Rochester, etc. Or if it's near impossible to find employment with her linguistics background, perhaps having made a wiser choice in her career path, which by the timeline she apparently did after birth of the child, was in order. A different problem, but still resting on her shoulders.

The other choice should be that if she feels she needs to get her Phd, she either forfeits custody of the child until said time, or forfeits the right to child support. In a fair system. Not legally of course.

in addition, her attorney's testimony:

"that this is a man with an MS in computer science
who has refused to adequately support his child,
has refused to work to his capacity, could, in
fact, become employed almost anywhere in the
country for income over 70,000"

apparently he's capable of going anywhere to find a job, and responsible to do so, but not the wife. Of course it's simply not true that anyone with a Masters in Comp Sci can simply go anywhere and find a job paying 70K (though I'd concede that he probably could go mostly anywhere in the country and make atleast 35K), since the market has been flooded with people seeking employment.
posted by kigpig at 11:36 AM on August 12, 2006


Our divorce laws and divorce courts are skewed toward the mothers needs and often the children and their fathers relationships are not given due consideration.

Yeah, that's the point the poster was trying to make (and is now hammering into the ground). I don't believe it (as a general principle—obviously there are individual cases), and this example certainly isn't making the point unless you're a fathers'-rights hothead to begin with.
posted by languagehat at 11:43 AM on August 12, 2006


IronWolve writes "Why should he agree to biased orders? Exactly.

Because they are legal orders from the court and as such have the weight of law behind them? Further, the orders presented to this date have not the taint of bias about them.

"The system failed when it used his old job salary to set child support and wouldnt include transportation costs to fly his kid to see him.

As I mentioned above, child support is not set on current salary but on a reasonable expectation of earning capacity. Holding a PhD and a past demonstration of earning capacity does not permit the guy to scrub bathrooms or start a fledgling business to which he cannot devote the time. If he can appear before the court and make a reasonable demonstration of a material development that decreases his earning potential, he would be able to have the amount reduced. Baring that, he does not have the right to arbitrarily set what he sees as proper support payments.

"Get real, he was shafted by the courts, he wants to pay his support and see his kids. The divorce assets have nothing to do with his vistation rights to his children's love."

His conduct in relation to the division of assest affirms the established pattern of non-compliance. He screwed himself by acting pro se in a contentious civil action. The behavior pattern is almost cliche...
  1. Enter contentious divorce
  2. Make bad decisions like fire attorney or disobey orders in the fog of anger
  3. Leave established position through
    1. Quitting to take low paying job
    2. Acting in bad faith so as to be fired and "forced" to take low-paying job
    3. Starting own business which makes income easier to hide and harder to garnish
  4. Appearing before the court to get reduction in support order, equivocating current income with earning potential
  5. Failure to amend order leads to non-compliance
  6. Leading to further resentment on behalf of all parties
  7. Passive-agressive games using the kids as a football
  8. [further iterations and variations on this theme]
I'd hazard a guess that the guy's next move is to happen across a site like this and game the system for SSI payments, which are non-garnishable. Seriously, this case is that textbook.

Anyway, you keep on keepin' on, IronWolve. There are cases where men get shafted by societal and judicial presumptions. The linked instance is clearly not one of these instances.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:01 PM on August 12, 2006


Fezboy, yup there are many cases...

In this case the court admited the orders where wrong in the end, but wouldnt change past orders.

But As I mentioned above, child support is not set on current salary but on a reasonable expectation of earning capacity.

With out a jury, the judge is the one who sets limits, not the community. This is the same as activist judges. If this was about religion, there would be more press.
posted by IronWolve at 12:12 PM on August 12, 2006


How are we able to call this guy an asshole without a determination of that in a court of law, if we can't call Joe Francis a rapist?
posted by rbs at 12:30 PM on August 12, 2006


Mistake #1, getting married. Mistake #2, having kids.
Pretty much all downhill for men after that first step.
posted by nightchrome at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2006


I like your ideas Xurando. These cases seem to reach a really brutal level of strife and pain for everyone. And I agree that the system can make the conflict worse by focusing upon punitive meaures against the noncustodial parent who is out of compliance with the court orders, rather than on a more problem-solving mediation-type approach. (Though to be fair to the courts, sometimes the punitive measures take place after attempts at mediation and other non-punitive measures have failed.)

Fezboy! you have it down to a tee.

FWIW, I agree that the noncustodial dad (generally, and in this case here) should not have to move, and here he had good reasons not to move (an elderly mother). I also agree that the custodial mom should not leave the area as a general rule. Here she had to present evidence, including answering questions about why she was getting a PhD at all, why she couldn't find employment locally, she wasn't attending any of the area schools (e.g. Syracuse didn't have a linguistics programs, she didn't have a prerequisite for Cornell, I think she didn't get into the other schools, etc.).

Maybe the court erred, I don't know. But the judge did have before him all of the evidence that has been identified here as relevant (why get a PhD, why move, why not stay, what are the other options, etc.) as well as all of the evidence regarding the child (how he was doing with the current situation, what would his life be like in San Diego, where would he go to school, the impact of being far away from his father, etc.). It's hard to ask a judge/human to do more than that.

The jury thing -- usually in our system where there's a right to a jury trial the jury decides liability and damages, while judges decide "injunctive relief," which includes court orders about what steps the parties must take, and when. These orders are often ongoing, with the court's "continuing jurisdiction," meaning (often) that the order may be modified over time, and the parties have a particular process they go through for modifying or for showing that the other party is out of compliance. It's hard to imagine how a jury could handle ongoing matters such as child custody orders, child support orders, visitation orders, etc. Would the same jury be called back for each hearing re whether an order should be modified? A new jury?

Also, even for those family law orders that are over and done with -- e.g. division of marital assets -- how would a jury figure out how to value the separate property, the community property, the appreciation of the real estate during the marriage versus the appreciation of the real estate at other times (you have to do it pro rata), dis-entangling co-mingled assets, etc., etc. I think juries are great at deciding certain questions of fact, but not when the questions require math. :) Well, to be fair, you could do the marital assets with a jury with detailed jury instructions, but it would be pretty cumbersome.

Okay I am boring myself now.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:29 PM on August 12, 2006


It never fails to amaze me how many people on MetaFilter just don't understand are incapable of understanding that there are people to whom $6,000 a year is not pocket change and who can not pack up and move across the country just because they want to.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 2:01 PM on August 12, 2006


For those that missed it. The guy in this case was working at his own business when he was served with divorce papers. The child-support was based on what the judge thought the man should make, not what he was making.

ClaudiaCenter: "ex-wife comes across as reasonable, hard-working, and long-suffering". Of course, another might come to the opposite opinion. That's the difficulty of having a single person decide a case. If a group of people can agree to a conclusion I find it easier to believe it isn't a result of bias.

"He keeps appealing every decision" -- Which is what most people and companies do when they feel the court has incorrectly ruled. That's what the appeal process is all about.

languagehat: "this example certainly isn't making the point" That's why we try not to use the specific to prove the general. As I said, "Your experience may differ." Two of three divorced friends got screwed. But I don't base my opinion on that experience. I paid more heed to a friend where I used to live. She worked in family court as an investigator and mediator and her "solution" was very similar to Xurando's.

ClaudiaCenter is bored and I don't know why I am responding to specifics of this case. That wasn't my intent. Enjoy. I'm off to find a baseball game.
posted by ?! at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2006


This guy just didn't want to be divorced in the first place - he didn't want his role as dad redefined by an outside entity. All his pissy behavior afterwards stems from his outrage at this. I can feel sorry for him about the divorce and the accompanying pain. I can't feel the least bit of sympathy for his "plight" afterwards. He chose to make the aftermath as stressful for himself (and his kid) as he could. It was his decision to quit his job and try self-employment even though he couldn't afford it. It was his decision to just stop paying as much child-support as mandated. It was his decision to make all these legal challenges (while still not following the court orders) continuing to dig himself into a deeper and deeper hole. It's frankly not surprising that the judge(s) had little sympathy for him. His wife went to California after he was already seriously in child support arrears -- how is anyone to think she should have curtailed her ability to be "self-sufficient" when he wasn't holding up his end of the deal at all? This is not a case of activist judges, this is a case of a law-breaker getting smacked down. I find it really funny that he wants his case presented in front of a jury because I can't imagine any panel of his peers thinking that he's anything but a self-righteous, arrogant, petty man. Real dads pay for their kids first and challenge the system second (if warranted). If the men's rights movement doesn't have better "heroes" than this, Ironwolve, then it doesn't hold much water at all I'm afraid.
posted by dness2 at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2006


Many of you don't see all the alternatives. Moving is a fact of life, and becoming more and more required in the world we live in. Just like the father shouldn't be forced to move, the mother shouldn't be forced to stay.

My wife moved to a different part of the state to her first husband's home town where she didn't know anyone and had no roots. After the divorce he tried to force her to stay there instead of returning home to her parents so she could rebuild her life. A visitation order was made in which he had custody something like 120 days a year, plus spring break, one week at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

We moved due to my work and we went back to court again as he tried to make the argument she now had to stay where she was or give up custody. We were able to prove that I either had to relocate or lose my job. The judge rewrote the order to ensure he got to keep 115 of the 120 days he had previously. He now got them all summer, spring and fall breaks, all holidays, and six three day weekends in which we fly them down and he flies them back. He also can come up here anytime as long as he gives notice.

While this hasn't solved all the problems, it has changed the childrens life because now they have time with both parents uninterrupted, instead of every other weekend going to one or the other. The kids now are able to participate in activities that they couldn't before due to all the visitation.

You are not going to be able to force families that have broken up to stay in close proximity to each other. We live in a mobile world in a job market in which jobs move to different cities, states and even countries. Hell, webcams make face to face interactions possible as do internet, phones etc.
posted by UseyurBrain at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2006


John didn't quit his job! He was fired after blowing the whistle on a division of Lockheed when he learned they were falsifying reports to the navy on the safety of submarine software, and they wouldn't stop. People might have died, and he couldn't let that happen.

Also, this happened BEFORE the divorce. When he got divorced he and his wife were both teaching part-time and EQUALLY child-rearing.

She didn't need to move so far away, it was her third degree, and she could have gotten it closer. He's in jail as a result of his filing for joint custody. Some people use the family courts to punish others instead of doing what's best for their children. John couldn't follow her because his mother was dying and he was her caretaker. Also, he knew she would have just moved away again.

John has paid as much as he can. This is a man who was once in pre-seminary school...but he changed his mind when he realized how much he wanted a family.

He's fighting to remain a father to his son. His travel expenses have not been allowed in the child support calculations, even though by law they should be. His case was also held in the wrong county.

His son has told a probation officer he wants to live with John. You can see photos of their summer together here: http://tinyurl.com/q78dd

videos of john here:

The Start of an effort using NonViolentAction. (2:30)
http://www.akidsright.org/intro.ram

Why go to Jail? The Need for a Jury. (1:00)
http://www.akidsright.org/jury.ram

The Importance of Family. (:40)
http://www.akidsright.org/family.ram

Teri
"Which feminist along the way forgot to read the manual?" http://feminist4fathers.mensnewsdaily.com
posted by teri in cali at 2:44 PM on August 12, 2006


"Mistake #1, getting married. Mistake #2, having kids.
Pretty much all downhill for men after that first step."
posted by nightchrome at 4:02 PM EST on August 12


Real wisdom, hard earned, there, nightchrome. Best comment of the thread, so far.
posted by paulsc at 3:11 PM on August 12, 2006


"Which feminist along the way forgot to read the manual?" http://feminist4fathers.mensnewsdaily.com

I clicked on this and Zone alarm picked up a virus in a pop-up. Deletable, but I'd reccomend not clicking on it.
posted by kigpig at 4:48 PM on August 12, 2006


How are we able to call this guy an asshole without a determination of that in a court of law

his case has been adjudicated several times by a court and transcripts of his testimony establish it fairly well

"Mistake #1, getting married. Mistake #2, having kids.
Pretty much all downhill for men after that first step."
posted by nightchrome at 4:02 PM EST on August 12


um, no ... and i say that as someone who's been there, done that and didn't see it work out ...

the real mistake #1 - letting bitterness and regret consume the rest of your life to the point where you become obsessed with "winning" some kind of "victory" in a court, especially when the court is concerned with the best interest of the child and not with determining who's "fault" it is

The guy in this case was working at his own business when he was served with divorce papers. The child-support was based on what the judge thought the man should make, not what he was making.

so what? ... if the man really CARED for his kid he would make a real effort to earn that ... and make a real effort to relocate, seeing as he has skills that he can transfer there ... and i'm sorry, but if he can manage to get plane tickets to come back and forth to pick up his son, he can certainly manage to move, no matter how much money he owes

120 bucks a week is not going to break his back ... i don't have a phd, or earn more than 30k a year and it's not breaking mine

god forbid that someone actually sacrifice for his children ... you see, that's the decision you make when you decide to have one, whether it works out with the other person or not ... he has a responsibility and a commitment and he's selfishly refusing to live up to it

fuck him ... he IS an asshole
posted by pyramid termite at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2006


Would you have told Rosa Parks to sit down and shut up because she'd get to the same destination no matter what seat she sat in? This is about civil rights, not about John's child support. John wants to help fix the system for his son, and for all parents. IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANY OF YOU! This is NOT a rare case!
posted by teri in cali at 5:11 PM on August 12, 2006


IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANY OF YOU!

Demonstrably not. One requires children and an acrimonious divorce, for a start. And all the behaviors and actions that lead up to those things. And one must have Mr. Murtari's unique...outlook and determination, shall we say?

The first three are not so rare (fortunately and unfortunately); the last is a bit more scarce.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:19 PM on August 12, 2006


John has paid as much as he can.

Sure, I believe that. Absolutely. After all, why would he lie?

Would you have told Rosa Parks to sit down and shut up because she'd get to the same destination no matter what seat she sat in? This is about civil rights...

I wish I could believe that was black humor.
posted by languagehat at 5:26 PM on August 12, 2006


That's right, folks. ANY OF YOU can have a court judgement not go in your favor and make it your duty to be a dick about it.

I've sort of realized over the last few years that fathers pissed about child support seem to join anti-choice protestors and animal rights advocates among a triumvirate of the most fanatic and extremist of issue groups in the world.

Is there a show of hands of anyone who honestly thinks there is going to be anything, even remotely, that someone can say to change this guy's (or teri's) mind? The Rosa Parks line should be a tip-off that Bin Laden will be wearing a yarmukle before we make any progress here.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2006


Would you have told Rosa Parks to sit down and shut up because she'd get to the same destination no matter what seat she sat in?

would have you told her to burn down the bus garage with all the buses in it?

what a bad analogy

IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANY OF YOU!

*looks at recent letter from friend of the court describing results of recent hearing with ex*

gee, you think it could really happen to me? ... hmmm?

are you trying to tell me that i'm sitting in the back of the bus like a good little ------ instead of fighting THE MAN?

well, all i've got to say about this is ...

1) his attitude is a slap in the face to those of us who are trying to do the right thing by our kids

2) i'll be the judge of when and if "my civil rights" are violated, not you and john, and if i decide they are someday, i'll do my own speaking for myself, thank you very much

3) life isn't just what happens to you ... it's how you react to it ... i don't believe john's reaction to his divorce or his other circumstances shows very good coping skills with the disappointments that come with life ...
posted by pyramid termite at 5:32 PM on August 12, 2006


I think this situation is what they call a "real life situation". One where, someone makes a bad decision and another imperfect persom make a bad decision as well.

The real issue here is that she had an attorney and he didnt. I dont know if he couldnt afford one or if he fired his or what, but this brings up my one change. Attorney's should be available to everyone in every dispute. Family law is still a civil dispute, and you should get at least a court appointed representitive. I know that attorneys make a huge difference in knowing how to handle the courts and judges. I have seen many an idiot try to represent himself and fail miserably. With proper representation, he probably wouldnt have made so many critical mistakes in this trial and DEFINITELY wouldnt be in this situation now...

Still, he is a moron who just doesnt know how to play the game. So many more people are in similar divorce situations and are not starving themselves because they are smart.
posted by subaruwrx at 11:35 PM on August 12, 2006


subaruwrx, Family law is still a civil dispute, and you should get at least a court appointed representitive.

If we appoint attorneys for all civil disputes we would be rewarding the most litigious individuals in our society disproportionately. I hope you can see why this is a bad idea.

1. Allow non-custodial parents tax deductions for child support paid.

xurando, I approve of "support escrow", but I'm not sure which parent pays the taxes on that income in 1. Neither? What's to stop parents from deliberately divorcing for the tax advantage? The spouse? That's how alimony works, but wouldn't the courts adjust the payments to compensate?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:44 PM on August 14, 2006


The Christmas newsletters (http://www.murtari.org/family/) John Murtari sent to close family and friends the last several
years bear witness to a warm and loving family life. Murtari cared for his ailing elderly
mother (now passed) with the devotion of a good Catholic son, and dreamed of guiding
his son with the same attention and time. In those newsletters, posted to his website
AKidsRight.org, John writes about his marriage, his son, and the divorce he tried to avoid
but couldn’t.
.
Early on he wrote the minimal court-ordered visitation time with his son should be short-lived. By the next Christmas he said things weren’t going so well. Each year he wrote with growing concern for the lack of justice in family court and mentioned his increasing involvement in the family law reform movement. By 2005 he joked it was the first year in a long time he hadn’t spent a night in jail. Through it all Murtari maintained a positive outlook.
.
As he sits in the Onondaga County Justice Center now, he continues to speak in terms of peace and forgiveness. With a feeding tube going down his throat to keep him alive he thinks of others first, asking his supporters to be kind when they write or act on his behalf.
.
Murtari stopped eating and drinking in an act of passive resistance when he reported to jail to serve a 6-month sentence for failure to pay child support. “Support is not just financial,” he said, “it’s emotional, physical, mental…parenting encompasses more than just paying money.” “I want to parent my child. I have a right to parent my child. He’s been moved states away and it costs a lot to maintain our relationship.”
.
Murtari’s travel expenses have not been calculated into his child support order, which was wrongly set to begin with by using a former salary, a practice called imputing income. Many parents get thrown into child support arrears when their income is imputed, and they simply can’t ever catch up. The system we have in place now has no room for parents who get ill or disabled, or lose a job unexpectantly.
posted by teri in cali at 7:37 PM on August 16, 2006


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