For Better or Worse?

Posted Friday, September 25th, 2009 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody, Divorce and Marriage, Jurisprudence, Law and Culture, Of Interest to General Public, South Carolina Specific

Any bride-to-be who expects that her intended will be satisfied with once-a-week vanilla sex is either too young or naive to get married.  We men are strange creatures.  Yet the family courts seem fixated on men’s innocuous sexual peccadillos in deciding custody and alimony.  Many a forensic computer examiner remains gainfully employed under the theory that Lowcountry youth are sophisticated enough to find the hidden porno on dad’s hard drive yet remain blissfully unaware of the cornucopia of lurid images that awaits them on the internet.

I have represented men accused of wanting to wear women’s underwear, drink their wife’s breast milk or urine, or take photographs of their genitalia and post them to gay internet porn sites.  While everyone in these cases seems to want to argue whether such acts are occurring, I start with a more basic query: so what if they are?

Even more curious are those divorce cases in which my male client consuming pornography (and presumably masturbating) after the children are asleep is turned into a custody or alimony issue.  If the family courts can’t honor the mutual understanding that husbands pretend not to consume pornography and wives pretend not to notice, marriage is going to become intolerable.  I always assumed that sexually frustrated husbands who turned to masturbation were doing something the family courts should applaud: staying married for the sake of the children.  What are these judges expecting such husbands to do: cheat on their wives?; become so sexually frustrated that they act like caged male gorillas?

I have a standard practice in deposing the complaining wives of such sexually eccentric men.  I start by getting them to agree that their marriage vows included the phrase “for better or worse.” I get them to agree that they meant these vows when they made them.  I get them to agree that “for worse” envisioned standing by their husband through family tragedy, serious health problems, or financial disaster.  I get them to agree that they would stand by their husband if such horrible things occurred.  I conclude by asking them, if they were willing to stand by their husband through these horrible hypotheticals, what was so intolerable about a husband who liked to wear women’s panties [or whatever innocuous peccadillo they are being asked by their husband to tolerate]?  Such questioning does tend to put things in perspective.

I haven’t have the opportunity to use this argument in a trial and am not sure it would work.  There’s a theory in family court that judges respond to emotional appeals, and for some reason family court judges seem as attuned to odd sexual behaviors as a lion is to a wounded antelope.  But marriage would be easier, and family court decisions more just, if we just choose to ignore such harmless behaviors.

2 thoughts on For Better or Worse?

  1. Bill Softky says:

    Awesome, Greg. Loved that post. You should probably get that argument included in pre-marital counseling, or even part of the marriage vows themselves.

    Hell, if the wife doesn’t “feel like it” she should probably be cheering hubby on for saving her the trouble.

  2. I’m not sure that people in South Carolina can really deal with the reality of Sex. The religious culture can’t accept it. It basically disappears from many marriages after a few years. There is a basic opposition to physical pleasure and an obsession with sin. Happiness is apparently acceptable when purchased from Walmart or prescribed by a Doctor, but not apparently from an essentially free fifteen minutes in a bedroom (or the kitchen floor if it’s clean).

    Of course such a culture drives sex underground and twists it into all sorts of weird things. Charleston’s massive Gay culture, which has existed here since at least the mid 1970s can’t be reconciled with the alleged standard practices of the population. It’s all massively conflicted and irrational.

    I’ve run into cases where people were doing things in trailers in Berkeley County which would make a resident of the East Village in New York blanch, sometimes with three or even four people at once. It didn’t surprise the Judge in Moncks Corner as much as it did me.

    My son has had several bouts of Sex Education at School, no one every suggested there was anything good about sex at all. When the kids do it anyway and the world doesn’t end the next morning, they step off a cliff and nothing they learned is of any use.

    After 24 years of practice, I’m amazed at how little sex comes up in Family Court. Certainly it’s a regular issue, but it’s down there about where who gets the automobile is. You would never suspect it is the core activity of a family and the source of children. It almost never gets considered as a healthy and productive part of a functional marriage.

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