Sunday, November 02, 2008

Legalized Prostitution?

Photo of John Cleese

I’m going out on a bit of a limb here, I think, with this opinion of mine. I’ve brought up my thinking in private venues but have not aired it publicly, so to speak but here goes.

At the outset, I’m very much pro child-support. Parents who have divorced/parted ways, are legally, ethically and morally bound to support the children of their union and in the manner in which these children would have been raised if their parents had stayed together. This rarely happens. One parent will default or appeal to the courts for alleviation of financial support and the child or children suffer. Studies have proven that after a divorce, children’s quality of life deteriorates, particularly if in the custody of the mother, while the non-custodial parent has a corresponding lifestyle improvement. This is completely unfair to the innocent victims, the children.

That aside, I have enormous trouble with the outrageous alimony paid to the ex-spouses of former marriages/common-law arrangements. Even for a short duration of said union.

I have no dispute with the fair and equitable sharing of joint accumulated wealth accrued within the duration of the marriage. And the equal sharing of communal property attained through both efforts, is fair when the partnership is over.

But when it comes to the break-up of a short, childless, second or third marriage, there are often demands for a huge share of the partner’s wealth, completely out of proportion to any amount that the suing partner brought into the union.

One case in point is that of John Cleese, writer, actor and director of Monty Python fame. And there are many more I can think of, Guy Ritchie and Madonna, Anna Nicole Smith, etc.

He is selling off properties to pay for his recent divorce and subsequent obscene payouts to his ex-wife. His third wife. Properties bought prior to this marriage and with his money.

Don’t these huge settlements make marriage some form of indentured prostitution? As in: I’ll share your bed, but dammit if you leave me or I leave you, you’re gonna pay and pay through the nose for each historical leg-over? This is equality?

Is it the men who are so foolish and besotted as to believe a younger penniless woman is enthralled enough with their looks/physiques/personalities and not their wallets so as not to request a super-tight pre-nuptial agreement?

Is it the women who see their tickets out of poverty in the pockets of the wealthy old boy rather than in their own abilities?

Is it in the overall inequality of our society where women are still deemed to be dependent on men?

Either/or, there is very little room for love, compassion, respect or kindness in such volatile arrangements. And to me, it is a giant step backwards for women.


  1. I totally agree. It's absurd that John Cleese is having to raise so much cash to pay for the divorce, especially as you say when some of the properties were bought prior to the marriage. This sort of thing does cast women in an unfortunate light as manipulative gold-diggers. I'd like to hear her side of the story though.

    Huge divorce settlements must be one reason why female wealth is gradually equalling men's and may soon be greater.

  2. This is so out of my range of experience I can't really comment with any authority. My (3) close relationships have been with men as impecunious as myself, only the first of the 3 ended in divorce. As far as I recall we shared our vast communal wealth of around 300 British pounds, no property and few belongings equally, and said an unfond farewell. (No children).

    It sounds like an injustice in such cases as John Cleese's, but the law is more often fair than not, so perhaps there's more to it than we are told. If not the law needs changing!

  3. Nick:
    There is just something about unearned wealth that sticks in my craw.
    Even if her side of the story is he wasn't a very nice person, a cheater, etc., I still think she doesn't have a right to these incredible amounts of money.

  4. T:
    I've been through an acrimonious divorce and the emotions get tangled up with the finances very quickly. But there were children involved who were being unduly punished.
    I'm talking here the short marriage by the inpecunious woman to the wealthy older male. (Or in some cases gender reversal with the older woman/younger male).
    Nothing but a money grab?
    I know it happens all the time but it still doesn't make it right in my mind.
    But I could be missing something.

  5. www - Couldn't agree with you more. Middle age men are often stupid, under the misapprehension that they are as handsome and virile as they thought they were when they were young - so, sad, misguided fools, we think we are loved by such younger women for ourselves. The misconception, and pathos, is as deep as for those pretty women who want to believe they are loved for other than their looks. The truth in both cases is devastating.

    You're so right, no good is served to either men or women when exploitation is rewarded like this.


  6. OF:
    For some reason, I am reminded of that conversation between Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein when she said to him:
    "Darling, we should have a child together, with my looks and your brains."
    And he responded:
    "The mathematical odds would be, my dear, it would have my looks and your brains."
    I am quoting from memory.

    The expectations of all such alliances are always disappointing.


  7. I can't help feeling the roots of this problem go deeper, perhaps to the very heart of the marriage process itself. In my meager experience (only 5 marriages, all bar the last ending in divorce) virtually no-one is sufficiently mature to make the marital decision until they're at least fifty. (I'm being generous to others here; I was 52 when I married my fourth wife and we divorced four years later).
    Broadly, over half of marriages end in divorce. Therefore, marriage is a failed institution. Let's do away with it before the age of fifty. Let young couples form their unions and have the children, but raise them in a more community-orientated scenario so when the inevitable separation occurs, they are not so devastated by the loss of a parent. Also, by promoting a community-style environment for young people, less animosity would result when break-ups happen.
    Of course, there are drawbacks, as I'm sure TOSOS readers will rapidly point out!
    Incidentally, my last marriage took place when I was 56. I now believe I'd finally matured sufficient to make the right decision at that point in time, so hopefully there'll be no further Adams nuptials.

  8. RJA:
    You don't mention the biological urge for procreation your scenario - I think the initial primitive drive in our twenties is of the breeding/nesting one, so we grab someone and have children. This has a profound effect on our future lives. At forty and fifty, at maturity, women's clocks have wound down. I like your idealistic community environment of the 'it takes a village' approach but it doesn't adapt well to this high tech urban society most of us live in.
    I'm referring more to the Paul McCartney and Lee Marvin fellahs, marrying/common-lawing young inpecunious women and having this huge payout at the end of it all. Out of all proportion to communal property.
    I think an agreed upon salary for services rendered throughout the liaison would be far more honest and upfront and negate the necessity for these massive, public lawsuits.
    PS and I think you're probably our resident expert on marriage. ;^)

  9. I have a lawyer friend who always offers a free prenup as a wedding present to any friend getting married - two minutes listening to his stories and they all happily agree to one!

  10. What a great gift, Conor. And it should apply to everyone contemplating partnership.


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