Wednesday

Gender Bias in the Florida Court Sytem: Economics of Divorce

1. Men customarily retain more than half of the assets of the marriage and leave with an enhanced earning capacity. The remaining family members are left with less than half of the marital assets and a severely diminished and declining earning capacity.

2. A homemaker's contributions of time and energy, as well as the opportunities she has foregone, often are minimized by Florida's courts. Many judges are especially reluctant to acknowledge that these contributions are a genuine resource of a marriage.

3. Post-divorce families headed by women are the fastest growing segment of those
living in poverty.

4. Older women whose marriages end in divorce are most likely either to have abandoned their own aspirations or to have devoted their lives to furthering their husbands' careers. They are not adequately compensated by application of the present system of alimony and equitable distribution of marital assets.

--1990 REPORT OF THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT GENDER BIAS STUDY COMMISSION
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And so, Florida fixed this by enacting "joint custody" law?


In the marriage, I was a student and homemaker. This was agreed upon because we knew we'd never "get rich" off of a military salary (especially with child support going OUT of the house). I did work seasonally so that there would be some money for the holidays. When I divorced, we had no assets--only a shitload of debt. In the divorce paperwork, neither of us bothered to sort it out: debt was debt, he had debt in his name solely, I had it in my name solely, and we had it our names together. Interestingly, a lot of my debt was student loans, which I did use to support the FAMILY while we were married. One day, I'll be paying those off. The rest of the debts? Well, you know how that goes....

My credit was shot to hell for many years, although this began before the marriage even, because we had lived together. Somehow though, he was able to get one new car, and then another when he got re-married (wife unemployed). I had a vehicle given to me so graciously by my mother...and it nickeled and dimed the hell out of me with her footing at least half of the bills.

I lost that good ol military health insurance (Tricare) and dental immediately, although I swear there was supposed to be a grace period or something. Good thing I was healthy.

He got that good ol military housing with bills paid. I, on the other hand, had to initially beg him to co-sign on an apartment (remember, my credit..also I couldn't qualify on my income) so that I wouldn't be homeless while I tried to find a job and finish college. I can promise you that for nearly 2 years of my life, there was a yellow notice on the door each month, plus late fees, sometimes, because I could NEVER pay the rent on time.

Trying to navigate the government housing system was a mess. Public housing and/or section 8 was always full. And they would advertise in the paper when they would start "accepting" applications (but you have to have a newspaper, right?)--that window was always brief. Some wait 10 years. In 10 years I figured public housing should be the LAST thing on my mind.

There was also another income-based housing which required an infinite amount of documents and multiple checklists--which I always feared because they wanted to know your rental history...and well, I was "evicted" once when I left my abuser, and the apartment, many years ago. Also a wait list. (I do have to report to you that after 3 years, my name was in the top 60!!!)

Other bills? Let's just say I still remain in the habit of checking my mail once every week and a half!!!!

I learned how to survive on assistance from here and there: Foodstamps and Medicaid: Staple items for any poor family. I could not get TANF because I did get [voluntary] child support. Free lunch. WIC: When we aged out of WIC, it was a sad day. Food Pantry: allowed you to last another week when your foodstamps ran out. Also GREAT for when they have Thanksgiving and Christmas "specials." Community assistance: Great little here and there money when your lights or electric got cut off. Daycare assistance and headstart: Lifelines when you work or go to school.

Surviving on gubment assistance is no cake walk either. It requires patience, effort AND time...which is very difficult when you have to juggle family matters and employment issues. Social workers have major attitudes, wait times for APPOINTMENTS are long, and for NON-appointments, sometimes you have to get up at the crack of dawn. It is also very violating and you feel that you have no autonomy. And watching everyone in poverty is depressing, especially when your own condition is situational, not generational.