Chapter 11. Parental Disparagement


        On the stand, I can make any father look like a piece of shit in two seconds because I know what they don’t know: What’s the name of your daughter’s teacher? What’s the doctor’s name? Dads don’t know these things. Are they good dads? Excellent! They can tell you all about their kids’ homework and other super important things, but I can make them look like they don’t care about their kids because that is not a man’s strength.

—Marilyn York, family law attorney

MARILYN YORK, THE LITHE RENO DIVORCE ATTORNEY WHO PRIMARILY represents men, considers herself a spine-giver. Her profanity-laden pep talks are designed to get husbands, who she considers far too passive and gentle as a group, in the mood for battle. If they don’t engage, York says, they’ll lose the kids and the money. When asked what role acrimony has in a “no-fault” divorce state, York almost laughs off the question. It is no-fault in name only, she says. Litigants always slip in tidbits about the ex—alcohol use, drug use, dirty habits, and on and on. A recent national study of court records revealing that nearly 70% of divorce cases now involve Facebook seems to back her up. Disparaging the other parent has never been more important, and accumulating ammunition against them has never been easier.
York says that she draws the line at the kids. When litigants introduce their children to her—“this is the lady that’s going to protect you from your bitch of a mother!”—she claims to recoil.

“If you bring your kids to my office,” York says, “you better tell them that I’m a realtor.”

But by her own admission, she practices a blood sport, and thinking that the kids don’t know what’s going on is wishful thinking. “Girls,” she says, “want to know everything.” This is not the era of Kramer vs. Kramer, when the loving father offers up his son to the prodigal mother in order to protect him from having to take the stand against one parent or the other. Either people have become more desperate, the system more cruel, or there is simply far more at stake. York recalls stepping out into the hallway during a lull in a hearing to find the opposing attorney coaching her client’s young son with some colorful language. “Don’t forget your dad’s a piece of shit!” the attorney was telling him. York was furious. “Did you really just say that to my client’s child?” she admonished. But she said nothing to the judge. She’s seen worse. The implanting of false memories—“remember when your father touched you that time?”—is a known technique to corrupt children’s memories. Bribes are also common. Depending on the age, kids love toys, nice clothes, cars, freedom, even alcohol and drugs. The goal is to win custody and, ultimately, either score (or avoid paying) a generous monthly child support check. Buy the book to read more…

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