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Your Rights — Going Fast! Part 3

Rachel Alexander Feb. 12, 2019

{3 minutes to read} “In heaven we have justice. Here on earth, we have law.” So said my Torts Professor, and so it seems indicated by the case we continue to discuss in part three of this article.

This case raised so many issues as to the limitations and arbitrariness of the legal system, it bares summarizing the main elements here and mentioning any we might have missed.

While the court might not be moved to enforce certain terms of an Agreement, it can nonetheless implement others, seemingly solely at its discretion.

Cherry-picking and Child Support: In our case, the court relied on the Judgment of Divorce (JOD) to uphold some terms while dismissing others as untimely. The court upheld the obligation of the mother to pay the full amount to buy out the marital home while ignoring the father’s obligation for back payment of child support.

Is child support no longer a big deal? Until now, it was widely and consistently held that the rights of a child to be supported are sacrosanct. Both law and public policy consider children to be among the most vulnerable population, and the court is charged with their protection. In this instance, the court assigned property rights (the marital home) more weight than the child’s rights (to be supported).

Finality: Orders are meant to be final and dependable to provide litigants a sense of certainty from which to make future informed decisions and manage their lives peacefully and productively. Closure fosters social stability rather than civil unrest. Imagine the chaos and unrelenting angst generated if litigants must vigilantly, relentlessly defend the terms of their JODs. Imagine how hyper alert as to the other parent’s compliance with the terms of the JOD – because any flexibility or fluidity or even cutting your ex some slack could result in your losing the bargain you were promised. How will that affect post-divorce parenting relationships and child rearing? I venture, not well.

A victory for the party with the upper hand: A party who gets a judgment he dislikes can be encouraged to ignore it. If the other party hasn’t the wherewithal, time or acumen to pursue the matter in court, he can potentially run out the clock or wear her down, getting his way after all. Not only can the will of a bad actor triumph over his adversary, but it can also supersede the court’s authority!

In fact, let us turn to this final point: the court as authority. When our trust of one another has broken down, the court can provide protection we can count on. Our social order rests on our reliance on the court as an authoritative body. If people are disincentivized to follow court orders, what do we have if not pandemonium and lawlessness? I shudder to think!