Showing posts with label family court. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family court. Show all posts

03 June, 2012

Homo Viator (The Westward Expanse) Eugene, Oregon: The Great Lane County Paper Chase

Children must be considered in a divorce -- considered valuable pawns in the nasty legal and financial contest that is about to ensue. -- P. J. O'Rourke

...I never try to protect a society which does not protect me -- indeed, I might add, which generally takes no heed of me except to do me harm... -- Alexandre Dumas

Eugene, Oregon -- Other than being the home of Grindbone brother and friend Noah S. Kaplowitz, his girlfriend Becca, and their kids, has a lot of history tied to it. Once a hotbed for union activity... the Wobblies were active here in the 1920's, as well as in the 1990's and early '00s, when then mayor Jim Torrey called it "the anarchist capital of the United States"... not to mention a regular stop on the Grateful Dead Tour... Eugene is still a city made for wanderers and pilgrims. There are no loitering laws, apparently, which makes it a popular summer location for transients, nomads, and other folks who spend a considerable amount of time on the road. And, as Kap and Becca pointed out, there's a lot social nets for folks in need...state and local housing and food assistance, shelters and employment assistance, and the like. It's also a college town -- which speaks neither well nor badly of it -- which means that not only are there folks who really do live Out and About, but there are legions of kiddies who look like they do.

Don't let the apparently overwhelming amount of humanity here -- say, as opposed to someplace else like Norfolk, Virginia -- fool you. Because apparently the state of Oregon has, over the past couple of years, cut funding to children with special needs -- children like their son Henry, who will need life long perpetual care.

Which is to say: the Powers That Be are doing an effective job of turning people's frustrations against one another instead of having it focused on them... where it belongs.

This is nothing new, of course. Coal companies in Kentucky used racism to slow the formation of unions -- a tactic which is still highly effective in border states like Arizona where it's easier to blame the brown hordes than it is to address socioeconomic inequities created by a  near-fascist state government (that was barely kept in check by former Governor Janet Napolitano. I say barely because the fact that she is a Democrat does not nothing to prove that she was inherently more empathetic to the concerns of others. In fact, that she's a Democrat might actually prove she's more of a hypocrite. At least GOP'ers, Tea Bagger Yahoos, and socially irresponsible Libertarians are honest about not giving a shit. It's not much of a higher ground, really. But I do appreciate the absence of bullshit, even if I can't sell my soul wholesale in order to subscribe the shallow rhetoric.

A lie.
If you're unclear as to how completely fucked the system is, look at Family Court.

Kap's friend James asked him to go to court with him. James was notified 22 hours prior that his ex-wife was taking him to court over custody of their kids. James, who coaches his sons' baseball team, is active in boy scouts, had is generally well thought of by most of the people who know him -- even though he's a loud Milwaukee Prussian and a salesman to boot.

His ex apparently left him for a (recovering) junkie.

Naturally the court system is working double-time to ensure that the children are in the best environment.

Anyone familiar with the well-known objectivity of the legal system knows instinctively what this means:

  1. James is guilty until proven innocent, and the burden of proof is on him and not his accuser.
  2. To the court, regardless of common sense, Mom and her junkie BF can provide "a more stable and conducive home environment."

On the outside, the Lane County Juvenile Court Building looks a corporate business park. The only real indication that it isn't is when you walk in and have to empty your pockets for the metal detector. The guard, a retired mall cop who waived people through if they stepped out to smoke, couldn't have been less interested in making sure the building was secure... unless of course, he simply unplugged the detector and advertised free toilet paper.

On the inside, it reminded me slightly of a bad museum. Kids sitting around, waiting to go to court. Grown ups sitting around waiting to find out whether they get to keep their kids or whether they are going to lose them, grown-ups wandering around wondering why they have to outside to smoke. The only art I could find were two badly done murals extolling the moral superiority of whitey and a fatally flawed and watered down historical timeline of the history of slavery. The case worker, who looked like an anorexic 12 year old, was more interested in helping James' ex than in getting a detached picture of the situation.

By the time we got into the court room, two things became clear:

  1. James' ex was playing the system like a skin flute, and
  2. The judge, while she didn't seem to buy any of it, nonetheless, had no choice but to inflict a broken system on a situation where it wasn't necessary.

James' visitation was severely cut and restricted to supervised visitations... which pretty much ruins every plan he made for his kids for the summer. The kids are in the temporary custody of the mother. Apparently because the oldest -- who is 10 -- doesn't want to talk to a shrink -- it means something is wrong. I don't know the details of the situation intimately. But it doesn't take a genius to see that when you have a caseworker who doesn't collect all the facts, a system that will award temporary custody to someone who can cry on command, and a judge who needs to make sure she covers hers and the system's collective asses... all at the expense of the kids ... something is wrong. Somewhere.

We were there along with James' former boss -- who was there to refute a statement by the ex that he was fired because of his anger management problems -- and it all felt so... predictable.  Like every person associated with the system was sleepwalking through the proceedings. The only time the children were brought up directly was when an agreement was made for the first supervised visitation. The court appointed attorney who was supposed to be there to look after the best interests of the children sat and scribbled. The social workers yammered. The judge rolled her eyes. The Court Clerk told me to take my toboggan off.

It was a grand day for American Justice.