Monday, October 3, 2011

Choice for Men: A Hypothetical Situation

Recently, a topic that never fails to get me riled up has been coming up on the gendersphere. The issue is "Choice for Men," and I think it is one of the few, genuine masculist issues out there.

As I've been mulling it over and talking with opponents of C4M (Choice for Men), ( I think I've drilled down to the core of their beliefs that prevent them from embracing C4M.

Embodied in two parts, I think it could be said like this:
1. Innocent children are due support from the people whose biological material lead to their conception.
2. Biology/bodily autonomy is responsible for women's ability to end pregnancy (and end the development of a fetus, which has no rights to support, before it becomes a child which does have rights to support.)

So now that I think I understand their position, I developed a realistic scenario that I want feedback on.

If you're reading this and have weighed in on either side of C4M before, I'd really appreciate it if you would please respond with what you think a just and fair child support system would do in this situation. You may leave an anonymous comment if you wish.

The Scenario 

James and Janet are married and have two children, two and four years old, Sam and Max. They want to have a third child in the near future if Janet gets the promotion she has been promised. James is a stay-at-home dad with no income and Janet is a consultant. James and Janet are also in an open relationship, and a few times a year they arrange for a weekend to engage in NSA sex with people outside the relationship. (Don't judge!)

Three months ago, James and Janet went off for a weekend and had sex with other people. James has sex with a woman named Annie and Janet with a man named Richard. For simplicity's sake, Annie and Richard are both single. Both use condoms. Both condoms break. Janet and Annie both become pregnant.

Janet, who was not planning on speaking to Richard again anyway, has an abortion. She desired to have a child with her husband, not Richard.

Annie, is different. Annie in her mid-30s and due to a medical problem when she was younger, was told by doctors that she was sterile. She contacts James and tells him she is pregnant. James says that he will pay for her to get an abortion - as he realizes he is partially responsible for her pregnancy. Annie refuses to have an abortion. She knows that James is well-off - he was wearing nice clothes and driving a nice car. Plus, he offered to pay for the abortion. She decides she will try to raise the child on her own, and if she cannot, she will get financial support from James.

She knows that this may be her only chance to have a biological child of her own. She decides to keep the child and gives birth to Charles.

Unfortunately, Annie underestimated the costs related to having a child. Unable to take the time off from work to care for Charles, Annie is forced to take a lower-paying job that allows her enough time to spend with her baby.

Caught in a difficult situation, Annie applies for child support, as she cannot supply her Charles with all of his needs on her income alone.

Unfortunately, James does not have a job - he is still a stay-at-home dad.

Imagine you are the judge who is making the decision about this situation. You have Annie, Charles, James, Janet, Sam and Max in the courtroom with you. How would you rule? What would be most fair to all the people involved?

Would you force James to get a job to support Charles, while taking him away from his own biological, planned children?

Would you take money from Janet to support the child - as she is the one who supports James in the first place - thereby removing support from Janet and James children Sam and Max?

Would you simply award 20% of James income to Charles - which essentially amounts to $0 - and only hope that Annie can find some form of support for her child through charity or fortune?

Would you work out some other arrangement?

Hopefully this exercise has made you think a lot about what presumptions you have when it comes to the way our child support system works. Now, I present one last challenge:

Imagine this situation in a gender-equal world where James and Janet could either be the sole breadwinner in the houshold. If men start becoming income-less house-husbands on a wide scale - do you think women would still be having babies and supporting them alone? Or do you think more women would abort their pregnancies because the man that got them pregnant has no income?


  1. 1) What are Sam and Max doing in the room?

    2) As a judge, what I would do is look at the laws of the state we're all in regarding child support. That's what judges are supposed to do.

    And we don't have enough information to know how this would turn out. Is this a 'community property' state, where James is by law entitled to half of the marital income? If so, do we look at his individual income, or the joint income with Janet to determine how much he can pay? Should we reduce James' obligations directly because he already has children, indirectly because children are part of the 'expenses' that affect his income, or not at all? Do we stay child support as long as James is a stay-at-home dad, and if so, what is his incentive to go back to work?

    BTW, you're not being particularly subtle about using Sam and Max as tear-jerkers here to push the example the way you want it to go, but there is a problem: they were already born when James had sex with Annie. James chose to risk giving them a new half-sibling (who would have a claim on his resources, diminishing theirs) because he wanted to have sex with Annie.

    Outside of the courtroom, you don't present James and Janet as having had any meaningful discussion ahead of time about "what happens if I get pregnant/if you get somebody pregnant". Other people do not always do what you want them to, and if James and Janet did not consider the possibility of "what if I can't get an abortion" or "what if she doesn't want to have an abortion", then you are in essence asking a judge to backstop irresponsible polyamory.

  2. Mythago, thanks for stopping by.

    1) Playing Pokemon?

    2) Good answer, but you know that's a cop-out. When we're discussing the fairness of a legal system, if these events happened in Maryland or Kansas shouldn't make a difference.

    I realize you're an attorney and not using a layman's definition of "judge." Can you divorce yourself from those definitions and come up with a "what would be most fair" conclusion here of your own volition?

  3. 1) Doesn't this court have a daycare center? Sam and Max have no dog in this fight, and they shouldn't be interrupting legal proceedings with a gym battle.

    2) Not at all. If you want a specific answer, it depends on what the law *is*. "The judge should just do whatever she thinks is fair" is how we get into trouble in family court in the first place. (My definition of 'judge' is the same as yours, I assume.)

    If we're talking about getting to make my own rules, though: first I would give Janet and James a slap upside the head for being dumbasses and making people in open relationships look stupid.

    After that, both James and Annie are equally responsible for Charles, legally and financially. If James wanted to share or custody, that is fair - and, incidentally, might mean that either he pays no support to Annie or that she pays support to him. (He might even wish to have primary custody, and since he's already a stay-at-home dad he's got a good argument for it.)

    If James does pay support, what is his income? He's married, so presumably he and Janet are an economic unit - I don't actually know whether child support would be calculated off their household income rather than his individual income, but that would make sense. Otherwise we'd have to pretend that James has no income when he actually is being supported by Janet's income.

    Whether he has to get a job is really beside the point. If James got custody and the judge found that Annie owed a level of support based on her imputed income, she might have to work more hours, too.

    Sam and Max, as I said, have no relevance to James and Annie's legal dispute. Their interests in parental support don't erase Charles' interests. (Otherwise, we would have to say that if James deliberately impregnated Annie and begged her not to abort, that Sam and Max could veto his deliberate parenthood.)

  4. What Mythago said. Great reply.

    word verification: bratta (haha)