Single parenting is challenging, especially when money is scarce. It's taken a huge toll, hitting home today when my daughter pointed out I've turned into Scrooge.
Alarmed, I asked her why she thought so, and she calmly explained "You've grumbled you don't like Christmas, we got a midget tree this year, and we didn't even go to Massachusetts to see all our cousins. I'd say you kinda ruined Christmas for us."
Sadly, she's right. However, the Me of Christmas Past was a very generous, loving Santa. But the Me of Christmas Present is fraught with the repercussions of being a 24/7 single mom who was on the "mommy track," an ex who hasn't met his court ordered financial obligations for years, and a Court system that's broken.
Being a coach, and not wanting to be Scrooge forever, I decided to "reframe" my situation by creating a chic name to enhance my declining status. When "nouveau poor" popped into my head I excitedly googled it hoping to buy the domain name and launch a new business, but the name is already taken. However my disappointment was offset when I stumbled upon the Onion's clever video about the discrimination we "nouveau poor" face thanks to the "old poor." A few belly laughs later, I had to admit some of it hit too close to home.
Our legal system, and the way Courts can be used to destroy a spouse (and even an ex), is a huge piece of how I've joined the nouveau poor. The family law system now in place, thanks to no-fault divorce and a family law business that's mushroomed around it, allows a vindictive spouse, despite his/her documented crimes against the marriage, to abdicate familial responsibility and further destroy what's left of the family. To me, that's the definition of criminal.
I used to believe the Courts were about justice. My prolonged divorce, and post divorce ordeal, has left me heartbroken to learn America's form of justice, courtesy capitalism, means "no money, no rights" for me and "Yes! You have money! Now let's destroy the other side!" for my once-upon-a-time husband.
Throughout the many years my divorce took, I drove my lawyer crazy questioning the unfairness of the legal system and how it was forcing me to spend dwindling money I dearly needed to put towards the food, sneakers, and tutoring our daughters needed.
Each time I pointed this out, my lawyer would look me in the eye and exasperatedly say, "Sharon, when are you going to get it. It's not about justice. It's about how you play the game." Next I'd pleadingly ask, "Can't the Judges see he's bringing me to Court all the time and for ridiculous reasons? Can't the Judges put a stop to this? And each time my lawyer would patiently repeat, "It will end when one of you runs out of money."
And my attorney was right. Despite the fact several attorneys have told me I have been screwed thanks to the way the other side played the game, that significant legal mistakes were made on my side, and that I shouldn't walk away because my rights were violated, there is nothing I can do because... I've run out of money.
Simply put, I have no access to justice while my ex bankrolled his way to being above the law, with no accountability to the family he created or society's morals. And I've learned that rather than being about "justice for all" our legal system is about money, who's got the attorney with the best game, and that when attorneys make mistakes, despite how much you spent for them to get it right, its "Sorry ma'am. It's going to cost to fix this, and... you've run out of money."
Return on investment, enforcement, accountability and a place to turn when you need help because your lawyer's made mistakes are simply not part of our legal system. It's like medicine was years ago when doctors were gods beyond reproach and they protected by each other to keep it that way.
Think I'm exaggerating? Not according to a 2010 survey done by the World Justice Project's "Rule of Law Index" discussed in last year's Huffington Post article by Dan Froomkin titled: "Access to Justice in the U.S. is at Third-World Levels." It's an eye opener and not a comforting thought should you need to pursue your rights.
My apologies for the "bah humbug" attitude, but should life demote you to the ranks of the nouveau poor thanks to divorce, job loss, being foreclosed upon, medical bills, whatever... I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. I'm right there with you.
Now, what are we going to do about it?
Follow Sharon Zarozny on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brilliantexits