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December 10, 2004

Comments

Sheelzebub

Okay, typhonblue, you've been talking about contracts and lying, evil, scheming women. What about the real-life example I presented to you? A man who told a woman that he wanted to marry her and father the child they conceived? She would have had an abortion if she knew he felt differently. He didn't bother making that clear until her seventh month, when he skipped out on her.

Ahem. Waiting. . .

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Once again, and I'm amazed that no one has grasped this concept, both men and women choose to have sex, but only women choose to carry a pregnancy to term.

It's not that we don't grasp that concept; it's that, unlike you, we grasp the gravity of expecting someone else to get an abortion.

If the state was that interested in child rights to parental money, the mother would have to pay child support to any children she gave up and remained unadopted.

The state doesn't require child support in this case because this case simply doesn't happen. Women placing their own children for adoption go to private agencies, which take responsibility for placing the child. These private agencies have a surplus of takers, because women placing their own children for adoption are placing healthy infants, and there are way more infertile couples wanting healthy infants than there are women wanting to place them. There are way more infertile couples wanting healthy infants than there are women wanting to place them because the process of maternal bonding starts during pregnancy, and so even women who might have thought in the abstract that giving up a child for adoption is a good thing find it difficult to do in practice. And also because there are plenty of infertile couples.

There is a surplus of certain kinds of children waiting for adoption: older children who have been removed from abusive or neglectful homes. These children's parents don't pay child support for a different reason: they've screwed up badly enough as parents that the state wants them out of their children's lives. It is, in general, not a good idea to try to play it both ways: parents who are expected to pay money are parents who will also want to continue to otherwise play a role in a child's life. If you really, really want a parent to have nothing to do with a child, you're best off forgoing that person's money, even if it's not fair, and even if the parent really owes support to the child. Some parents (men and women) are simply that dangerous.

Further, women are allowed to have children with frozen sperm from dead men and sperm donors who will never have anything to do with the child. With the sperm donors the woman has to sign a contract waving away her right to sue them for child support. The state doesn't intervene and say that women *can't* do this, because she's waiving away rights that aren't hers.

The state doesn't do this because the state's primary concern, in enforcing child support laws, is keeping children off its welfare rolls. In the vast majority of cases, a couple waives the right to support from the sperm donor, and another man (or sometimes a second woman) accepts the support obligation that the sperm donor just waived. When it's a single woman going through sperm donation, it's an older single woman who is financially secure enough to be able to afford infertility treatment and still believe she can support a child on her own. If she's depriving her child in any way by doing this, the state doesn't care, because the child doesn't wind up on the welfare rolls. You can be sure that if there were a rash of children of single mothers, conceived by sperm donation, showing up on the welfare rolls, there would be a big political push to ban artificial insemination of single women.

And I'll have to say that, personally, I'd rather live in a world where artificial insemination wasn't available at all than in a world where it was considered perfectly socially acceptable for a father to abandon his child - if those two worlds were my only two choices (and believe me, I know the strength of the desire for children that brings people to seek sperm donation). So I'm not about to jump on the child abandonment wagon because parental rights and responsibilities are severed for sperm donors.


typhonblue

Okay, okay, okay... How about this? Before a woman can give birth she must get a signed contract from a partner in order to ensure the child has two people supporting him/her? The child goes to adoption if the mother can't find a second party to agree to support or isn't interested in being part of the child's life.

That way *every* child -- not put up for adoption -- born will have access to the resources of at least two people.

As for people opting out of their contractual obligations... if it's a signed financial contract between two people, I don't see why it should be any less enforcable then a business or credit contract. Further the risks for being in arears for child support(prison) are higher then the risks of any other sort of debt, therefore it should be even *more* enforcable.

As for Sheezelbub's anacdote... What can I say? People are smeg. Up in Canada we've had a recenct court case where a lesbian who got pregnant via donor sperm broke up with her live in partner. Apparently the mom-to-be thought her lover was behind her 100%, but when all was said and done, she wanted no part of the child. The mom sued her former partner for support and lost because there was no enforcable contract between them (such as marriage.)

One case where my contract system would save the day perhaps?

Btw, as my example illustrates, sperm donation clinics in north america *don't* make sure that the potential child has access to the resources of two parents. In fact the husband of a woman undergoing insemination has the option to bow out of his obligations to the child, and the non-pregnant half of a lesbian couple won't even *have* obligations unless she signs a contract explicitly stating her desire to support the child. And, of course, there are the single women who've decided to use this service as well, who automatically don't have a second partner to help out.

If my idea to allow men to opt out of child support even before a child is concieved --and in a situation where all precautions were taken against concieving -- caused such upset... I'd imagine all of you must be steaming at the thought of those women using donated sperm to raise children who don't have legal access to a second source of income. Maybe you should start a campaign against this! It could make a great plank in a feminist platform: "End unregulated donor inseminations! Women don't have the right to sign away a child's access to his/her father's money(or other source of parental support) just so they can be mothers."

A final note:

"And I'll have to say that, personally, I'd rather live in a world where artificial insemination wasn't available at all than in a world where it was considered perfectly socially acceptable for a father to abandon his child."

Your statement is disingenious. It's a far sight between making something legal and making it socially acceptable. Abortion is legal, but women still avoid mentioning it in public. Also, you can't legislate "social acceptability".

Besides, it's *legal* for a woman to abandon her child(adoption), why not a man?

La Lubu

Signed contract before giving birth? Mandatory abortion or adoption otherwise? I think not. Do you really think my friend should have had her two children ripped from her arms because her husband split? Or that I should have my daughter ripped from my arms because her father thought drug abuse and living in the gutter was more fun than fatherhood? Gimme a break. That would be punishing the responsible party (the mothers, in these cases), while letting the irresponsible party off the hook....in these cases, to sire even more children who for all I know may be abandoned, too. Do you not see where this plan of yours would present a problem?!

When, in fact, the solution to unwanted fatherhood is quite simple:

(a). get a vasectomy
(b). do not have sex with unsterilized women
(c). only have sex with postmenopausal women
(d). masturbate

...and a few other ideas I left out, but you catch the drift. Basic sex ed, really. Sperm + egg can = pregnancy. Birth control can fail. Or, a woman could be lying about being on the pill, or having an IUD, or whatever. Or, maybe she forgot to take the pill. If she isn't sterile, and he isn't sterile, she can get pregnant. And we're back to: do not have sex if you are not prepared for that sex to result in a possible pregnancy. Or, see a doctor, pronto.

Why is this so difficult for you to understand? A child is not a piece of property. A child is not an inanimate object to be bought or sold or bargained away. A child is a living, breathing human being. That is what makes your contract proposal bullshit.

typhonblue

La Luba sayz (in quotes):

"Signed contract before giving birth? Mandatory abortion or adoption otherwise? I think not."

Okay maybe the adoption thing was too much.

But you also seem to be upset about abortion. Why is that? Do you think a woman's choice is more important then a child's welfare?

"Gimme a break. That would be punishing the responsible party (the mothers, in these cases), while letting the irresponsible party off the hook."

Responsible parties? They were the ones who decided to have sex without first getting a contract signed. As for your specific examples, we're talking about a thought experiment, there *are* no real life examples of a thought experiment. If you had existed in my thought experiment, you would have a signed contract prior to giving birth. Thus there would be no forced adoption. And if, in this THOUGHT EXPERIMENT, the person who signed that contract skipped out on you, the government wouldn't take the child away, but would enforce the skipee's part of the contract to the best of its ability.

"In these cases, to sire even more children who for all I know may be abandoned, too. Do you not see where this plan of yours would present a problem?!"

And a whole bunch of women have babies and abandon them. Are you upset about their behavior as well?

"When, in fact, the solution to unwanted fatherhood is quite simple:

(a). get a vasectomy
(b). do not have sex with unsterilized women
(c). only have sex with postmenopausal women
(d). masturbate"

Is it? A vasectomy isn't as good as depo or norplant, neither is female sterilization. And the final option is asking a person to live like a monk just because he wants to keep his autonomy.

"Why is this so difficult for you to understand?"

It's difficult because I see a disparity in choices. A man does not get to make the choice to abandon his child, only a woman can do that. Legally he's obligated to support his issue in a way that women are not. (In fact, another interesting case involving donor insemination is the government's research into making the donor accountable for child support in the event that the mother dies. That could only make sense in a society where men have no legal option to abandon their children.)

"A child is not a piece of property. A child is not an inanimate object to be bought or sold or bargained away. A child is a living, breathing human being. That is what makes your contract proposal bullshit."

I think you should be more upset at the women who are "bargining away" their children's rights.

Other then that I'm not sure what you're getting at with this. You seem to be saying X is Y therefore ~Z. Without any connection between X, Y and Z.

Yes children are "living breathing human beings". But what does that have to do with making people accountable for a child's welfare? If society believes it's in the child's best interest to have access to two sources of income, then society should make sure each pregnancy is preceeded with a contract to just that effect. This hodgepodge makes no sense to me. The child is only entitled to two sources of income when the mother *decides* s/he is entitled?

Once again sounds like the mother's choice is the more important issue. More important, even, then the child's welfare.


Amanda

Just don't have sex, typhon. What's the point? Seriously, what's the point? If you think that women are so low and scheming, just have nothing to do with them. Give everyone a break.

As I said before and I'll say again, the idea that women are trying to trap men with pregnancy doesn't even come close to passing the reality test. I cannot tell you the number of times I've seen women who want an abortion struggle because a boyfriend is pushing for marriage and baby instead.

typhonblue

Amanda says(in quotes):

"Just don't have sex, typhon. What's the point? Seriously, what's the point? If you think that women are so low and scheming, just have nothing to do with them. Give everyone a break."

That's pretty hard to do, since I am a woman.

Being a woman puts me in a very good position to argue this point. I understand, abstractly, that this is an unfair situation for men, but it isn't an issue that would ever affect me personally, so I have little emotional involvement.

"As I said before and I'll say again, the idea that women are trying to trap men with pregnancy doesn't even come close to passing the reality test. I cannot tell you the number of times I've seen women who want an abortion struggle because a boyfriend is pushing for marriage and baby instead."

Well. Not sure how a contract wouldn't have helped these women, after all, if their intentions to abort were made plain and the man couldn't handle that, he could have sex with someone else instead.

zuzu

How, exactly, are Norplant or Depo better than a vasectomy or a tubal? Do you have links to reputable sources?

How old are you, typhonblue? You seem like you're very young and you have no concept about how things work in reality. Let's just discuss the following statement:

As for people opting out of their contractual obligations... if it's a signed financial contract between two people, I don't see why it should be any less enforcable then a business or credit contract. Further the risks for being in arears for child support(prison) are higher then the risks of any other sort of debt, therefore it should be even *more* enforcable.

I'm a litigator. It's my job to bring litigation to enforce contracts. So I'm very well aware of how much time and money is invested in the enforcement of contracts.

Now, for a business, with a huge amount of money at stake, it might be worth it to spend a lot of money to enforce a contract. Because legal fees can easily reach six figures -- attorneys don't come cheap. My time bills out at over $200 an hour, and I'm not even a partner; they bill at $400 and up. It can take me days and days, even weeks, to write or respond to a motion. If I bill 40 hours at $200 for a single motion -- let alone the time I would spend on the phone, meeting with the client, looking over the paperwork, doing the research, drafting up the papers, doing service, doing discovery, and on and on and on -- we're talking $8000. And that's IF I only bill 40 hours, because it can easily take longer to get it right, depending on the issues involved.

Litigation is expensive. Corporations with deep pockets regularly find ways to keep costs down. An individual without a whole lot of resources might well decide that their resources would be better spent on taking care of the child.

And even if you win, there's the little matter of collecting. In the US, the general rule is that a prevailing plaintiff can't collect attorneys fees except in certain situations, such as fraud, civil rights violations or egregious misbehavior in the actual conduct of the case. So you might wind up with a Pyrrhic victory, since you have huge legal bills (because you can't do contingent fees in domestic cases) AND you can't collect, AND you have to spend money to collect.

As one of my professors used to say, you can always sue. The question is, can you win?

zuzu

As for your specific examples, we're talking about a thought experiment, there *are* no real life examples of a thought experiment. If you had existed in my thought experiment, you would have a signed contract prior to giving birth.

Some people live in the real world.

typhonblue

zuzu wrote(in quotes):

"As one of my professors used to say, you can always sue. The question is, can you win?"

I'd imagine the government agencies responsible for collecting child support have many of those resources and more. And these aren't large companies that the government is collecting from, they're citizens, often with few legal resources. Certainly nothing compared to the government.

If the government can get taxes, it can get child support.

typhonblue

zuzu wrote (in quotes):

"Some people live in the real world."

Yes. And some people want to imagine a better one.

One with *true* equality.

La Lubu

"If you had existed in my thought experiment, you would have had a signed contract prior to giving birth." Well, my friend lives in the real world. She had a signed contract; it was called "marriage". Didn't work out that way though, did it! And what zuzu said about contracts is right on the....errrr..money. 'Government agencies' don't really give a shit about enforcement as long as the children are not on the welfare rolls. If the irresponsible party (and yes, you will find some women on my state's 'deadbeat parents' list, and yes, they are pond scum too) has property to get ahold of, or a job with a regular paycheck, liens can be put on them....but if the person is craftier than that and keeps assets out of public records then there really isn't anything the responsible party can do but suck it up and move on. What's the difference between your example of allowing deadbeat parenting and my example of illegal, societally uncondoned but de facto deadbeat parenting? Well, in your case someone has to explain to the living, breathing child that not only were they not wanted, but that they are in fact nothing, worth nothing, and are undesirable people.

You did allude to a problem that 'living like a monk' would present, and there I agree with you. Women and men do have sex drives, and are not going to live like monks and nuns....the majority of us, anyway. We will be having sex. That is why child support laws exist, to give a mechanism to provide for the child's welfare. And you're still under the illusion that I think this only goes one way. I've used gender-neutral language to reflect the fact it does not; I know several men with custody of their children because it was the child's mother who thought drugs were more fun than parenting. Ok? Let's be clear.

See, this is not a "thought experiment". It was actual life before the advent of child support laws. It was much more grueling then, because women who were left behind with children were almost always legally barred from jobs that paid enough to support a family, and legally barred from pursuing an education for a higher-paying job (which in any case, almost all employers wouldn't have hired them for, anyway). Society at the time condoned this. Women weren't supposed to be having sex, anyway. Women whose husbands left them were believed to have done something to make him leave. Watching their children suffer was supposed to be punishment for these women. Lynn brought up the fact that the maternal bonding process begins in pregnancy. It does. Perhaps it would not for you, but you don't know that. You are under the illusion that this is not a scenario that would ever happen to you. Let me remind you; forever is a long time.

To recap: people will have sex. Some of this sex will result in pregnancy. Most women are not going to have abortions or give their child up for adoption. Their children will be born. These children deserve support from both parents. These children need to have the backing of a society that will at least tell them in effect, yes, you deserved a responsible parent even if they didn't get one. It makes a difference for those children to at least know that they are equal in value to those children who were more fortunate to have two responsible parents, even if they don't grow up with the same resources.

And in the meantime, there has never been an easier time for a man to avoid unwanted fatherhood. Vasectomies are easier and cheaper. People are more candid when discussing sex during the dating process. More women are availing themselves of surgery to avoid unwanted motherhood. More women have already had two or three kids during a previous marriage, and have had their tubes tied. It has never been easier for a man to meet a woman who not only agrees to not produce any of his children, but has the medical records to back it up.

So, not much need for these guys to live like monks, no?

But, if he chooses to take the risk of fatherhood anyway, he better be prepared to pay child support, because the chances are great that his female partner is not going to get an abortion or place the child for adoption.

As aj said, you are not going to achieve "true equality", since only women get pregnant. No getting around that.

La Lubu

And in my real-life, non-thought experiment example, the male half of the equation (it is an insult to fathers to call this man a "father"; real fathers don't ditch their kids) knew well beforehand that in the event of a pregnancy, I would not be having an abortion nor would I be placing the child for adoption. His "contract" in your scenario, would have read something to the effect of "I accept those consequences", because otherwise, the only relationship he would have would have been with his right hand. Do you see? People like that can and will default on that contract too, just like they skip out on their landlords, and skip out on their other bills.

And I still hold that women are not going to be lining up at the gate to sign these bogus contracts. A man who would offer this contract isn't just saying "I don't want to be a father." He's also saying, "I'm not in this for the long haul. I won't be there for you during anything remotely hard...job loss, poor health, family crisis, dog dying...whateva. Your vagina is the only thing I want out of you. I do not want to recognize you as a complex, fully-fledged human being with complications. I just want to ejaculate in something that feels better than my hand."

Now, if you want to sign on to something like that, hey, be my guest. But don't be surprised if the scenario doesn't work out the way you planned.

zuzu

I'd imagine the government agencies responsible for collecting child support have many of those resources and more.

The government is not in the business of using its own resources to enforce private contracts. When the government gets involved in collecting child support, it is because the claimant is asking the government to enforce an order of the court, not a private contract. In order to get the order of the court, the claimant must hire a lawyer and engage in litigation.

The government has an interest in making sure that its orders are followed, not in making sure that private contracts are honored.

La Lubu

typhonblue says: "not sure how a contract wouldn't have helped those women, after all, if their intentions were to abort and the men couldn't handle that, he could have sex with someone else instead."

He could also have sex with a partner for whom it is impossible to get pregnant, and avoid any hassles like this altogether. Or get a vasectomy.

typhonblue, you apparently life in a world where people go hopping randomly into bed with one another and do not discuss intracacies of their relationships beforehand. Almost everyone else does not live in that world; we actually discuss topics like this before making the relationship sexual. And we agree, and we have sex.

But life is naturally chaotic. And contradictory. Some women who thought a trip to the clinic or adoption agency would be so simple find themselves bonding, and realize it's not so simple. Some men who thought abortion would be no biggie, find themselves having second thoughts too, about the child who could be. In the real world, abortion, adoption, pregnancy, marriage, raising children...these are not simple subjects, but complex. It's easy to be prosaic about abortion if it's not your feet in the stirrups. It's easy to tell others they should give up the child they've already bonded with to total strangers. And it's easy to tell a partner that children are ok, or that it's a risk worth taking, if you are counting on the birth control working.

Tell ya what, why don't you get back to this conversation when you've had more real-world experience. When these are not just "thought exercises" for you. For most of us, this isn't an abstraction; it's real life.

Amanda

Typhon, if you're a woman, you're free to present any man you have sex with a contract before hopping in bed with him. That will go over like a ton of bricks, but go fer it. And leave the rest of us alone. It's hard enough to get my boyfriend to remember that he promised to make me coffee in the morning. How can you possibly expect people to stick to contracts like this? Hell, people promise to love and honor until death do they part, yet 50% of marriages end in divorce. Isn't that "breaking a contract"?

typhonblue

I think my thought experiment has served it's purpose. It's clarified the predjudices of the people here and allowed me to get to the heart of the matter:

Women can legally choose to abandon their children, men cannot.

Let's look at this more closely. "Legally" means that once a woman has chosen to abandon her child, the government no longer considers her culpable for child support or care. "Choose" means that *she* chooses, no one else does.

Now, people here will say that when a woman chooses to abandon her child, a man is no longer culpable as well. But this is not the same. The man has not *chosen* to abandon his child. This is made obvious by the court cases where men try to get their rights reinstated after the mother of their child has abandoned him/her. Further, if the man *does* get his rights re-instated, does that make the mother responsible for child support to *him* after she has legally abandoned her child. No.

Obviously the reverse is not true, because men have no recourse to legally abandon a child (without the consent or absence of consent (in the case of death) of the child's mother.)

Yes, men abandon children. But they are not allowed to choose to legally whereas women *are*.

As far as I'm concerned what's good for the gander is good for the goose. Either give men the option to legally abandon children(that women have) or take it away from women.

If you value equality that is.

La Lubu

Women cannot legally abandon their children, any more than men can. Women who split are subject to the same legal ramifications that the men are.

Women cannot legally place their child for adoption without the father's permission.

Haven't you ever read a newspaper and seen stories about women who abandon their children for days to go drinking or drugging? And doesn't it say somewhere in the story that the police are charging the said mother with neglect, abandonment, etc. etc., and if convicted, she stands to serve x number of years, and meanwhile the children have been either placed with their father, or another relative, or the state's Childrens' Services? I've never read a story of abandonment where it read "the police just let her go back to the bar, and bought her another round."

Men can and do sue for child support too. And receive it!

I am now fully convinced that you live in an alternate world where all women are no good, period, and you presumably get the title of "One Good Woman".

Feminazihatemartyr

Child support in its own right isnt so much the problem as much as the rates being assigned and the fanatically biased bureaucrats who set them. The majority of the rates are utterly disproportional to the actual cost of caring for a child. Few politicians ever address this point and fewer still are motivated to take action.

typhonblue

La Lubu says (in quotes):

"Women cannot legally abandon their children, any more than men can. Women who split are subject to the same legal ramifications that the men are."

Abandonment in the form of putting a child up for adoption is available to women. In fact women can walk into any hospital, police station or fire department and drop of their child, no questions asked. (A law created in responce to women killing their children, apparently.)

Of course, once a woman has child custody she is not allowed to neglect that child. However bringing this up is irrelevant to the point I'm making. A woman can give up her legal responsibilities to a child at any point. Just because she has to *do* something to indicate to the authorities that she has given up her responsibilities (such as handing her child over to them) does not negate this.

Women who "split" after giving up their children to the authorities suffer no ramifications. Even if the father decides to step in and take child custody, the mother has no further legal responsiblities. But if the mother has custody, the father does not have the option to give up legal responsibilities by handing the child over to the authorities (or filling out paperwork, or whatever makes sense.) Simply because the father has no legal choice to give up his legal responsibilities to a child.

As for your point about women needing the consent of fathers to give up their legal responsibilities... I haven't come across that *anywhere*. Some states give fathers a certain amount of time to step in and claim their rights to the children, but at that point the mother has given up all her responsibilities to her child. Including the responsibility to give the father child support if he has child custody.

typhonblue

Cases where women have to pay child support are cases in which the woman is interested in retaining her rights to her children. Where a woman is not interested in retaining her rights to her children, I doubt she has to pay child support, since she can legally abandon them.

La Lubu

Nonsense. Every man I know who has custody of his children has an order to receive child support. Some receive it. Others are pretty much in the same boat I'm in, that zuzu spoke of, where the cost of trying to get it isn't worth the hassle.

And as for the previous poster, here in Illinois child support rates are based on the income of the noncustodial parent and how many children there are. It's a percentage formula. In the case of a parent making the minimum wage, the percentage they pay usually isn't enough to care for a child. In the case of millionaires, it's more than enough. But the percentage formula exists in order to keep a wealthier non-custodial parent from withholding money that would no doubt be spent on the kids (in the form of private school, extracurriculars, vacations and such that those of us of more modest means don't really get to indulge in much if at all) if the parental relationship hadn't fallen apart---in other words, punishing the kids for the actions of the other parent. And then there are cases of "putative income", where the noncustodial parent deliberately refuses to work or takes a much lower-paying job in order to punish the other parent. If the noncustodial parent has legitimately lost a job through a layoff, they can petition the court for a reduction in child support. Noncustodial union brothers of mine do this all the time after a layoff (it's their second stop after the unemployment office) and always receive it; they just have to show their layoff slip. Custodial parents who take issue with this court decision piss off judges. Judges are generally not happy when folks waste the courts' time.

typhonblue

La Lubu says(in quotes):

"Nonsense. Every man I know who has custody of his children has an order to receive child support. Some receive it. Others are pretty much in the same boat I'm in, that zuzu spoke of, where the cost of trying to get it isn't worth the hassle."

Let me ask you. Do the women they recieve child support from still have rights to the children? In other words, do they get visitation?

typhonblue

Actually, a better question would be:

When these women ended up in court deciding the child custody issue, did they go there wanting to give up both their rights and responsibilities, or did they go there wanting to get their rights enforced?

La Lubu

Whether or not the mother chooses to have visitation, she still must pay the court-awarded child support to the father. That is, if she bothers to have a job or own property. The court and law enforcement generally do not bother with men or women who don't pay child support but don't have tangible assets. Those people get away with it. You know, like they always did, and like you would want them to. Courts don't tend to bar noncustodial parents from visitation unless they have abused their children.

Neither a man or woman can unilaterally decide they want to give up their parental rights and responsibilities. Courts are very reluctant to terminate parental rights, even in cases where they clearly should. There are two reasons for this: one is that it eliminates a potential resource for the child (meaning, even if the parent is a deadbeat, that it could terminate inheritance rights for the child for that whole side of the family...part of the child's rights are terminated), and that it rewards the bad behavior of abandoning a child.

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