About this Episode
Special Episode - JBP #238: The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast with Greg Ellis
Dr. Jordan B Peterson and I discuss my child advocacy series, The Respondent, and my critique of the US family law and court system. We cover divorce statistics, mending relationships, the impact of the divorce industry on families, the incentives behind it, and much more.
Hello, everyone. I'm here today with Mr. Greg Ellis, a best-selling author, TV director, Annie Award-nominated voice artist, and Emmy Award-nominated actor. He's appeared in Oscar-winning movies, directed Hollywood superstars, produced and written television shows, starred in Broadway musicals, and voiced animated characters for movies, television series, cartoons, and more than 120 video games. His major motion picture film credits include The Pirates of the Caribbean series, Titanic, Star Trek, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, and Beowulf. His television credits include 24, X-Files, CSI, Dexter, NCIS, and Hawaii Five-O. With his production company, Monkey Toes, Mr. Ellis has written and directed projects for Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Fry, who's been on this podcast. He's also the host of several popular video podcasts and he additionally founded the child advocacy program, The Respondent, which inspires family champions through his nonprofit, Children and Parents United. His book, which we're going to concentrate on today, at least to some degree, is "The Respondent: Exposing the Cartel of Family Law". It's a call to action, and a necessary one to reform the one branch of our legal system that does not provide the presumption of innocence. Family law. Yeah, well, that's quite a claim that that branch of family law, that branch of law does not provide the presumption of innocence. So maybe we could start by exactly what you mean by that, and why you would make that claim?
Well, yeah, through personal experience. First of all, thanks for having me on, Jordan, it's great to be on your show. I've been looking forward to this for a while. Yeah, family law, the only branch of our legal system where there's no presumption of innocence. Murderers, rapists, terrorists, pedophiles, all get more legal rights than law-abiding citizens. The silver bullet, as I call it, the silver bullet playbook or paradigm of high conflict, divorce, the smoking gun of this corrupt legal system that's become the go-to strategy for divorce lawyers. That guarantees victory, and they encourage the petitioners and the respondents to use, usually petitioners, to utilize this strategy, usually the false allegation of domestic violence, to win in court; to get the cash and prizes for want of a better phrase. I had no idea of the words "family law" before what happened to me happened to me in 2015. And once I started investigating through experience, and through talking with other experts in the system outside the system, it became clear to me that we have a real issue here. And if we can improve or reform the family court or the family law system, expose the cartel of family law as I call it, because it is like a crime syndicate, these quasi-kangaroo courts that they have. You don't get the presumption of innocence, you don't get your rights read to you. I've spoken with fathers in particular who've been ended up in court with false allegations of domestic violence. One told me a story that he put his wrists up and said, "You're honor, arrest me have the bailiff arrest me," and the judge said, "Are you crazy?" and the gentleman said, "No. If I'm arrested, I'll get the rights that a criminal has, Miranda rights, access to an attorney, etcetera, etcetera." And of course, those who are suffering the most are the people who don't have the wherewithal or the financial resources to be able to have representation. Even those who do if you are the respondent, you are behind the curve. The presumption is that you as the accused have to prove your innocence, rather than the accused, which is Western jurisprudence has to prove their case. [...]
It seems like in our society in a lot of strange ways, the accuser now seems to have almost an untrammeled right to be believed. And there's an increasing insistence on that in our culture as well, which is, for example, this is a bit far afield, but German Chemistry Journal, the other day, scientific journal, published their new guidelines for authors in the aftermath of a scandalous chemistry paper they published which hypothetically offended some people. That now, authors have to be - what would you say - governed by the realization that their words will be interpreted by those who read them and that they have the final say; those who read them. Online too, you can be accused of virtually anything and then mobbed for virtually anything, and it's virtually impossible to defend yourself. This notion that merely because someone says they've been offended, let's say in the mildest of cases, that that means you have definitively done something wrong is, well, there's a pervasive and broad-scale move in that direction in our culture. So what happened in your case? You were the respondent in a divorce case, which you didn't see coming, is that - that's correct. I've read your book, it was a while back so I'm pulling all the bits of it back into my memory. But let's go through the story exactly.
Sure. Just very briefly to that point, yes, victimhood has become the new social currency, its economy is booming. And where victimhood is rewarded, responsibility never follows. It's part of the reason I call the book "The Respondent" it's the defendant in a family law case, and the petitioner is that person who actually instigates the proceedings. So what happened to me in the span of I'd say, around eight hours; I'd been married for 20 years, two children, two boys, the meaning of my life. We did everything together. I was that engaged, loving, present father. Family was my everything.
How old were your boys at that point?
10 years old and eight years old at the time.
Okay. And you said you've had quite a stellar career, and obviously, were very busy doing that. So in what sense was your family at the center of your life?
That's a great question. Yeah, I think my now ex-wife and I, we drifted somewhat to become a well-oiled marriage machine. The avoidant in her and the anxious in me couldn't quite get close enough. I think Pia Mellody calls it the Co-addicted loved tango, where we were kind of swaying back and forth, trying to get closer but drifting apart. I would be out of town filming a movie and return, and she'd go out of town because she wanted to work, and I supported that. I would have preferred, she stayed home, but she wanted to work. So I was like, great. So we worked our schedules out, that we could be present. And much of my work was in town in Hollywood at one of the studios.
I had a busy career but I would still say, as you did, that my family was the center of my life. If I had to choose existentially between my family life and my career, I would have chosen my family life. I was busy and working, and well you have to be busy and working to actually support a family. But it's a strange claim, in some sense, right? If you have a career that's really moving forward at a rapid rate, how you can claim simultaneously that your family is still the most important thing to you. I mean it's partly because part of the reason you have a career if you have any sense, is so that you can bring stability and opportunity to your family. That means, in some sense, you can't be with them all the time but they don't need that anyways because they should have some autonomy. But now you said too, your marriage - you said you drifted apart a bit with your wife. So when this happened, this eight-hour period that you're describing, did you think afterwards, oh my god I should have seen this coming, or I did see this coming, or has it remained a shock to you? And then what do you think about the fact that it was a shock? I mean because obviously, the thing to wonder is were you willfully blind, and should have you seen this coming? I'm not claiming that you were, these are, you know, they're genuine questions, but people are gonna wonder, obviously.
Yeah, well look, in the span of eight hours, I was ushered from my home in handcuffs at the behest, I later discovered, of my ex-wife. I was committed to a mental institution against my will, the first of five incarcerations. There was also an incarceration in I called it solitary confinement, but it was a singular jail cell, subjected to a temporary restraining order in divorce court on the basis of a false allegation that eventually was disproven some six months later, but by then, of course, the reputation savaging had been done and it was all over by the shouting. I became homeless and almost destitute overnight, and lost my professional reputation, I wouldn't say it was irretrievably destroyed, but in the small close-knit community that I lived in, in Hollywood close to the studios, it certainly took a big dent.
Everybody lives in a small close-knit community like that if they're working, I mean, the immediate people that you are in contact with and working with intensely, tends to be a quite a small number. It's quite interesting when you get tarred and feathered, the people around you get afraid of the contamination real real quickly, and that's partly because they look at what happened to you. And then they also think, well, we don't really know what went on in the marriage, and people are capable of terrible things, and maybe there were things that we don't know about. And then they're split because they knew you and your wife and so it gets complicated instantly. Then it's easier for people just not to have that much to do with you because they also have choices, right? Because they know a reasonable number of people, then maybe you fall from number one or number two on their list of people to invite to like number 15, and they only ever invite the top 10. And so people don't even have to turn their backs on you that much in order for you to be, well, friendless. And the allegation, what exactly was the allegation? Why do you think that your wife felt compelled to make it, and how do you think she rationalized that to herself if it wasn't true?
Hmm, that's a great question. She had been diagnosed with panic disorder. She wasn't taking her medication. She was out of town. And she had called the police on this particular day, March 5, 2015, and she asked them to come to the house. I'd actually taken the afternoon off, I was at home with my sons playing in the playroom with them. She asked them to come to the house and said that I was confused. The dispatch said, "We can't go to the house if he's confused." She said, "Well, what do you need to hear?" And they said, "We need to hear he's a threat to himself or the children." And then allegedly, sometime later, I think 45 seconds later, she called them back and she said, "My husband's just told me," quote, "I'm sick of this shit. I'm gonna harm the children," end quote. Those 10 words, that 10-word lie was the basis of law enforcement coming, first, it was two to my front door, then it was three, then it was five and a sergeant, and the massing garrison, the threshold of my home without cause, without a warrant. My rights were trampled. The police entered, a smart team from the DCFS Department of Children and Family Services came in, I was shackled in handcuffs with a bar behind my back in a quite affluent neighborhood with the curtains wide open on a Thursday evening.
Right, well that would be a little hard on your reputation all right. Yeah, I would say so. What are people gonna think? What are they going to think? They're gonna think the whole police system is corrupt, and that this is all made out of nothing, and he's actually innocent? It's like, it's pretty damn hard for people to jump to that conclusion instantly. Yeah, that's rough.
What then happened was I was kind of bundled into the back of an unmarked police car and raced off into the - actually one of the most heartbreaking images I remember, was looking up from the back of that police car, and seeing my son, my eldest boy Charlie at the window. And woo, Jordan...
Yeah, that's rough, man.
Seeing my son, my son's childhood at 10 was over. I knew what was coming, spousification, adultification, the vilification, and the erasure of me as a man, as a father, as a patriarch, as a provider. And I was also heading into a terrifying unknown, a dystopian Odyssey. I talk about it as if it's some kind of Kafka trap, but it certainly was Kafka-esque. And then, of course, the word on the street, I mean, some of the stories I later heard back were absolutely insane. I mean, "He's armed, he's psychotic." I mean, she was telling everyone that I was psychotic, and I was bipolar. All of these messages came through to my children as well, when I eventually got to see them, and there was no end in sight. It was just down the rabbit hole we go because I thought I would get justice.
No, no. The justice system is mostly there to stop people who can't reconcile their differences from wreaking social havoc. That's basically what it's there for. To think you're gonna go to the justice system and get justice, it's like, you'll be lucky if it doesn't destroy you, once you're tangled up in it.
It nearly did. It nearly [...]
It's amazing that it didn't and that you managed to get through this. Okay, so this happened, and then you're off to the police station. And the thing is, the police are going to view themselves in a situation like that as white knights, right? Because they've come in, and you can understand that, they've come in at the behest of a woman and God only knows how abused she's been because women do get abused, and that's for sure. And, of course, the guilty act innocent just like the innocent act innocent, probably the guilty are even better at it and so, and then you're going to be viewed with suspicion because men are going to be viewed with suspicion in a situation like this for sure, where there's allegations of abuse. And that's because there are a handful of bad men, and then bad impulses in all of us that can be dragged out one way or another. Okay, so why did your wife double-down on it do you think?
I think there are probably a few possible reasons. One, I think is shame. The emotion or we talk psychology, is an extremely powerful emotion. I think once she'd let Pandora out of the box, if you will, I think the only thing left was hope, and it was hoped for her existence. I think there was fear and panic that instilled in herself about that suddenly, after 20 years of living a great life together and building a great life, and a great home, and a great family, which is so important it's my primary reason for being, that she perhaps was unaware somewhat of the system and how the system comes in. And forces I mean, you know, when I found out that the states get reimbursed $6,000 for every child that they place into foster care, and 4000 children a day lose a parent in family law, there are financial incentives in place. And the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1974 offers financial incentives to the states that increase these foster or adoption numbers. To receive these incentives and bonuses, local child protection services must have more children, they must have more, quote, merchandise to sell. Funding is available when a child is placed in a foster home with strangers, or placed in a mental health facility, or medicated as it's called, usually against the parent's wishes. So I think she was also - her family system of origin, her mother, Appalachian woman, very proud woman, twice, married, twice divorced, she came in strong, moved into the family home, straightaway, the same night. She actually got back - she got to the family home before my ex-wife returned when I was incarcerated. And it was that psychological kind of hammering home that, "You need to do this. You need to do that." And when the CPS came in and said, you know, you need to start divorce proceedings, you need to file for divorce, you need to file for a restraining order, otherwise, your children will go into foster care. That threat I'm sure must have been terrifying for her as well. So having opened [...]
Why did they threaten her specifically? That was the child protection services. Why did they threaten her with having the children go into foster care? Was it because she was hypothetically unable to protect them from you if she didn't take certain actions? What was the reason?
It's my understanding that this is what they do. This is the modus operandi of the CPS because they need to, like traffic wardens, need to have enough tickets...
God help you if you ever get tangled up with Child Protective Services. That's...
Jordan, a few months later, I managed to get the report that the CPS, this woman, oh, this social worker, CPS who came in and ruined, you know, played a large part in ruining my family with the system and removed...
Social worker training is corrupt beyond belief. It's politically correct right to the bloody roots, and so you know, many social workers will come into a situation like that armed to the teeth with the presumption that the whole system is a patriarchal, oppressive system, it's based on the exploitation of women and children, and they just need the tiniest bit of evidence to make sure that you're one of those patriarchal oppressors who they're going to take care of. So that's drummed into them like mad right from day one in social work training, and increasingly, social work as a profession is completely permeated by ideologues of exactly that type. It's God help you if you fall into their hands.
Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. I've learned this through my experience. Look, my sons were - they led a privileged life, it was an earned privilege life, you know. I had to work hard to get out of my small little town in England and go to London, and I don't want to get into the whole earned and unearned privilege, but that's why I'm a believer in just the same as offenses and given it's only taken if you choose to take it, go ahead.
Look, we all have our privileges and our disadvantages. Some of them are earned and some of them aren't earned. And hopefully, we pay for the ones that aren't earned by trying to be good people and by taking the responsibility of that under privilege forward, but it's only a fool and an ideologue who goes after someone for their unearned privilege because the same question can be asked very quickly and very effectively, precisely of them. I went to this Hollywood - I don't know what to call it - meeting on someone's lawn once, where everyone there was talking about the 1%. This was in like Beverly Hills, and it was on the lawn in a mansion, and I thought - I got up and said, "You people might not be in the 1% by North American standards because you don't have $100 million, but you're in the 1% by global and historical standards," is like so who the hell exactly are we talking about here with this unearned privilege nonsense? So a little of that goes a long ways too you know? Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, I was gonna quickly say, my sons, they lead a privileged existence, but they were connected to their mother and their father, their biological mother and biological father, we had a family unit. And to see I mean - you know, a member of the country club, and I would take golfing every Sunday, and family at least family dinner, because we were both out, working, but we would all, that was my thing, we come together as a family if we can every day, and definitely on Sunday for the traditional roast dinner that we do in England. Then to read that report, Jordan, four months later, after I'd been in the fire, a 53-page report from the DCFS and their social worker, I wept. I wept, as I read the questions asked to my sons. Has daddy ever touched your penis? Has he ever put a needle in your arm? I mean, questions that my sons would just - and I was still...
Think about what questions like that do to kids. It's like, okay, first of all, you're telling the kids that there are adults that do this to children. So that's the first thing you're doing with the questions. And that's a bit of a revelation to the average child who's say, eight or 10, who's really not been privy to such treatment. So you're confronting them with the idea of malevolence itself.
Then you're a stranger, and you're asking them these weird questions about, like, deep malevolence and so what's up with the institutions you might say? And then you're implying that their father did this. And if you're the typical, too typical social worker trained in this sort of nonsense, there's the kind of insinuation that goes along with that, that's likely to produce nightmares in the children and phobias. There's a big documented literature on that it's like, what do they call that? It's the false memory syndrome essentially. Like, if you get into the hands of a bad therapist, and they start poking around in your memory structure, or they can elicit stories from children, there's great documentation of all the daycare - remember the satanic abuse scandals in the 1980s? My god, you read about what the social worker types and police too, what they did to children by asking them these leading questions...
...absolutely pathological. And then you'd get kids coming up with these fantasies about what happened that were just, well, and then egged on by the police and the social workers until there was a satanic nightmare at the bottom of it, and none of it ever happened.
One of the proudest moments I have of my sons at eight and 10, getting to page 51, or 52, in that report, and they were asked about me as a father and how they rated me, having rated their mother and it was A-plus, plus, they could so easily, to your point, have been led down the psychological garden path to arrive at answers that were just fantasies and not real. But that lasting impression that was left on them, one of the saddest - I was forced to visit with my son's, which the very notion of I remember one father in family court who was told by a judge visitation and he said, "I will never visit my children. They are my children, " and he turned and walked out. And I'll never forget that. I remember looking back years down the line of visitation where that lead because the visitation monitor happened to be - he had seven AKAs used to be a woman, had a criminal record, and he drove around in a car with stickers of guns and NRA, and not that that's an issue but just it all added up. There was nothing I could do, and I was getting blackmailed, and there was no one I could go to, he was the only conduit. Then I found out that...
He was there to supervise your visits.
Right, to basically let you know, by presence, let my sons know that I was dangerous to be around or to be feared, which I never had been. Every piece of documentation in the visitation reports, at least for the first 18 months was, "We love you, dad. We want to live with you, dad. Can't we see you and Mom? Why is mom doing this?" The first visit was, "Dad, mum says to not get in the car with you because you're gonna kidnap us and you have bipolar." I mean, these kinds of things were just harrowing to me to hear. But there wasn't really, [...] there's nowhere to go. There's no one to speak to but my eight-year-old. I remember one visit, I think it was maybe my second visit, my eight-year-old not only had suicidal ideations at eight years old, my beautiful, innocent, playful lad, and he talked out loud about how he was going to kill himself. And I had to listen to that, as this monitor listened to it and didn't even consider it a critical incident to report it in any way. Who's he going to report it to? And what are they going to do?
That's just more proof of your guilt.
There you go.
Yeah, absolutely, man. Absolutely.
This is why, Jordan, you know, I came back like a phoenix from the flames. I was dead and buried. I mean, I literally got to that edge of existential terror.
That's a long way out there, that edge.
Whoa. Have you visited?
Yeah, I've been there for quite a while. Yeah. About two years.
I feel for you. Mm-hmm. Well, I'm interested, you know, we could talk more about my story, but I'm interested on how we teeter on that long edge. How we...
Well, I was fortunate...
...ride the wave.
You know, I was fortunate maybe in contrast to your situation because what happened to me, didn't happen in a manner that severed my closest intimate relationships. They were still intact, and so when I got very ill and was also being attacked constantly, my friends and my family were like rocks, and so thank God for that. So I didn't lose that, and you know, I don't think I would have lived if I would have lost that too.
I remember talking, Mikhaila came on my show, The Respondent, and we talked about that whole situation again, I was moved to tears, the podcast you did with her when you came back, and just your struggle, and what you've given to society and humanity, and the outrageous attacks from cowards, who are, you know, the cowards think they have courage, and they're placed on the pedestals of social media, and they're not. With what happened to me and my boys, that led me on a journey. I guess the big pinnacle moment for me, and I didn't read that much at school, I only read scripts as I went through my career, whether it be screenplays or doing voiceovers. It was 2016, I went right to the edge. I came back from the edge and I don't know where this came from. But I asked myself the meaningful question, Who am I? I opened up my iPhone and I did a deep dive dialectical with meaningful question and meaningful answer of the thesis, antithesis, synthesis and I got over 1000 answers and questions. I still have them. And that led me through to learn a little about philosophy, phenomenology, affect theory, and just epistemology, in general, and how I could ritualize my way back to be on my feet again because I was fetal. I think my parasympathetic nervous system was just shaking, and the blinds were closed, I couldn't see or hear another human being because there was probably going to be a child laughing which would remind me of the devastation of losing my sons, the meaning of my life. So I had to really get in that deep conversation with self, me, self and the third eye of perception, and really get the walking going again, and talking going again, and trying to get more precise with the words I was thinking and expressing, and rebuild, and reform, and restore not the same life. You know, I say, we have two lives and the second life begins the moment we realize we have only one. But that new chapter, that new episode, and how to self-author, if you will, you know, life is remembered backwards and lived forwards, well, how can I redraft that floppy disk in my mind, if you will, outside...
Why did you decide to bother do you think? Because look, you tell a story in "The Respondent" of well, it's not just an encounter, what would I say? It's an encounter with the arbitrariest form of authority, and then that reputation salvaging; you're accused of doing something terrible, it's so terrible that it's very difficult for people not to view you with tremendous suspicion, as soon as you're accused of that. And so then everything you have is stripped away from you. Well, not everything. That's the issue. It's like what isn't stripped away from you, and why did you decide to continue? I mean, you lost your career, you lost your reputation, you lost your family, and then you're being pilloried constantly. And that's also really hard psychologically because there must have been part of you during all this that was thinking, well, I must have done something wrong. I mean, like, what did I do wrong so that this occurred? You know? All these people are after me, and they're making these accusations of malevolence, and, you know, who's the crazy person here exactly? Is it this weird situation where it's everyone, but not me? It's like, that sounds crazy. So, how do you withstand that? I mean, it must partly I guess, the positive responses to your sons must have been heartening under those conditions, the fact that when you did see them, you could still see that they loved you and that that bond was still there. And so that's definitely a touchstone.
It was for a while, for a long while. But under the unrelenting inescapability of the trauma, you know, trauma resides in the body and the body keeps the score, and going through this, I could see the trauma that was being enacted on them. They lost their grief, they're living grief. I talk about suicide by living grief. You know, some of the fathers, many fathers, some mothers too, who are no longer with us because of that suicide by living grief, the inescapability, that there isn't a finality to the grief, there isn't a finality to the mourning process, to be able to memorialize and later rest. That last chapter of my book, I think it's chapter Funeral For My Sons was I had to find some way to make meaning in that moment, to lay to rest the childhoods that had been stolen from them and that sense of fatherhood, and being that father to them. So that was - and then, of course, I had to find a way to make [..] make through this, and find a way to help, and give back. I think there was part of me that throughout my career had always been what can I get? What role can I get? And we're always living to the next, to the next projected moment of you know, if you're on tour and playing this venue, can I get to a bigger venue next year? Can I play to more people? Make more money? And that's the continuing cycle of projecting into the next moment, not living in the now moment. That's what can I get? And where I moved to was what can I give? How can I give? You know, he was a why can bear any how? Well, I got to the how, and for me, it was working through some kind of story within my own story, which made it more traumatic because even writing the book, I hadn't really authored a book before so I was having to revisit the trauma of the experience, and then read the audiobook, and talk about it. So it's this perpetual cycle, but fueling being able to help people, being able to at least - when it happened to me, Jordan, I looked online, you know, for - I was the black sheep looking online for some kind of help and hope. And the only thing available were 1-800 numbers for attorneys, and law firms, and family law to make money, and books written by women, for women on how to ruin your husband and get the cash and prizes, the silver bullets. The only book I found was Alec Baldwin's book, "A Promise to Ourselves" and I could only get 15 pages into that because - he emailed me and said, "This is the best I can offer right now, read my book." His is literally, it starts in the Star Chamber of family law. Whereas my story as you know, it kind of - that's the second, it's in three parts. Part one is fear, part two is loathing, part three is redemption, and it moves into the second part into the system and the systematic, institutionalized bias of how courts perceive, how individuals within the court system, judges, child psychologists, perceive men, and fathers, and the family unit, and this, you know, the Neo feminist kind of radical fourth wave feminism that devalues the patriarchy. I don't want to go too down that discussion.
Yeah, but well, it's worth it. It's worth - well, you know, if the idea that marriage itself is a patriarchal and oppressive institution, isn't far removed from the idea that the nuclear family, especially a two-parent nuclear family is not to be preferred, say, over a one-parent nuclear family, so what the hell difference does it make if you break one up? How do you know the father isn't just an oppressive, what would you say, exploiter? Because that goes along with the entire rest of your philosophy. And then you might say, well, that's just philosophy. Who cares? It's like, yeah, you wait till it gets ahold of your leg, you'll find out who cares real soon because it's gonna be you. And you think that's not philosophy? It's like, you're going to find out real different, real soon, and you're not going to like a bit of it.
Yeah, see true. When I looked into the stats, when I looked, when I found out that the world leader in children growing up in single-parent households was America, when I found out that 43% of American children live without their father, 63% of youth suicides from dad-deprived homes, I know you've had Dr. Warren Farrell on your show talking about...
The noted men's right fascist.
Used to be on the National Organization of Women. And yeah, he's a real fascist, old Warren Farrell.
But it's like, where have all the mentors gone? Well, there's no surprise we don't have many men or as many men stepping - we're okay, sending them off to war, but you know, in terms of like, stepping into the public conversation, because you know, because patriarchy, because smash him, because believe all. We should listen, yes, but believe all women? No. Time's up. Good riddance. Glad they're gone. Done. We look at organizations like once-great storied organizations, like the ACLU.
You know, gone. Done. Over. Can't be trusted.
Then there's the Southern Poverty Law Center. They're lots of fun, too. Yeah.
Are they? They're just a barrel of laughs.
Yeah, they are. They're just a blast, those people.
I mean, look, when we have an industry, going back to family law, when we have a nearly $60 billion a year American divorce machine, that's what the cartel makes, $60 billion, it's not incentivized to reform itself.
The whole divorce industry can feast on the accumulated wealth of a once stable family. And so...
Obviously, it's going to produce a tremendous amount of parasitic activity. Now, that leads us to a deeper question here too, is, look, many of the people in my immediate family have been divorced and so you know, I don't ask such questions lightly. But we did have a notion in our society for a very, very long time that divorce was wrong. And as I said, many people in my family have been divorced, and they have difficulty in their marriages, and sometimes they establish much more satisfactory, let's say, second marriages. But it isn't obvious to me at all that liberalizing the divorce statutes, especially in relationship to no-fault divorce, which was supposed to be, you know, an easy pathway forward, has produced anything but an absolute, absolute carnage in its wake. So obviously, having lived through these problems, you're very much inclined and motivated to find solutions. What do you think of in relationship to solutions? I mean, I think - I didn't believe this when I was younger, but I think 50/50 custody should be the default in every divorce case, and that both parties should have to argue against that, rather than the presumption being that the children, especially when young, are better off with their mother. I don't say that lightly because I know that particularly for children under nine months old, that maternal care is really primary, but the fact that the default position is custody with the mother puts men in an unbelievably bad situation and the children as well.
I couldn't agree with you more on 50/50 default shared parenting. There have been two states who have passed entucky and Arkansas. Kentucky, interestingly enough, they passed 50/50 shared parenting in a large part because I believe it's illegal for the legal industry to lobby politicians there. And that's the challenge is that when you have such a huge, very wealthy lobbying group, the state bar associations who write their own family law codes in the wild west of family law, they write the codes and they spend money at the last couple of weeks before a bill has dropped, and they lie, and they skew the statistics, and people believe them, and bills don't pass. But Kentucky did pass. Arkansas passed. I'm really excited to say.
When was that?
I believe Kentucky was 2019. Arkansas was more recent, but I literally just heard a week ago that senator, not Senator, representative Rodney Creech in Ohio, this is a bipartisan bill, normally, these bills when they're put through, they usually have about 10 to 15 co- sponsors. We now on that bill, I think we have 68 co-sponsors for an equal shared parenting bill in Ohio. So this is fantastic news for Ohioans, for families, for parents, and for children. I think if we can improve the system and at least through 50/50 shared parenting, we can ease the burden on the mental health system, the physical health system, incarceration rates, dropouts from school, drug rates, child porn addiction, child online porn addiction.
One of the stunning issues of our time, I would say, is that the statistics that two-parent families are better for children are absolutely overwhelming.
And so it's quite the mystery that it's ignored. I think part of the reason that that fact is ignored is because of this pervasive anti-patriarchal philosophy, let's call it that. Because that particular fact sticks so badly in the craw of that philosophy that it has to be ignored. And so...
But then you ask yourself, well, who are we for here? Are we for the kids or for the adults? Because if we were for the kids, we'd be pushing two-parent families. And then that's rough too because if you say two-parent families are optimal, let's say, you're faced with a necessity, in some sense, of having to discriminate against one-parent families. Because if two is better, then one is worse, and then you point to the single mother struggling valiantly against all odds to do a credible job with her kids. It's not like people like that don't exist, and then you're such a son of a bitch for daring to compare her horrible struggle to what's optimal, but well...
Yeah, I know, it's a really good point. I think given the way the system of government is set up, it's very challenging. The system has got so big that we almost need to blow it up and start again. I think...
There's no shortage of people working on that at the moment. Not so much to start it again, but definitely to blow it all up.
Yeah, but in terms of improvements for family law, I think, look, you know, I mentioned the presumption of innocence. Jurisprudence - I talked with Professor Robin McCormick, on my show, and we talked about jurisprudence, and family, and family law, and the burden of proof that must be on the accuser, and not the accused. You know, we're in family law in the Salem Witch Trials, we're in the Spanish Inquisition 50/50 shared parenting, obviously, a divorce must start with the default presumption that what is in the best interests of the children is for both parents to equally share in the parenting. We saw with Brad Pitt's divorce from Angie Jolie and the silver bullet that was used against him. Then he worked tirelessly through the retired judge and he won a victory quote, unquote, of 50/50 shared parenting. That should have been the default starting position. I think false allegations of DV is something - domestic violence.
Okay, let me push back on that a moment. Okay? Because this is what stopped me for years in relationship to - I suppose it was some intrinsic sympathy for the mother-infant bond and some realization that the maternal role is particularly important in the earliest years of childhood development. So what do you do with infants exactly? Do you go for 50/50 custody there as well, and then hope that the men have enough sense to what exactly? It's pretty hard to find a substitute for a breastfeeding mother, you know? I mean, now, lots of breastfeeding mothers go back to work, and so obviously, that can be negotiated. Maybe the issue is that it should be 50/50 regardless of the age of the child. What do men do then when they have no custody of a six-month-old infant? That's a real tough question.
Yeah, that's a really good question. I hadn't actually thought about that. You know, Brad and Angie's situation, they didn't have infants, but obviously, case by case, but the point being that it starts from the 50/50 and then immediately there can be an order if there is an infant, that Mother has primary custody 99% of the time or whatever...
So you think it should be negotiated away from the 50/50 baseline.
There's two things you'd really like to see change. One is the notion of the presumption of innocence has to be brought within the rubric of the family courts and implemented stringently, and efficiently, and the second is we start from the default proposition that it's 50/50 split. What happened to your assets? Let's talk about that. So you had - well, we know that your career was terribly disrupted, but you'd built up I would presume, a reasonable degree of wealth by that point. So what happened on that front?
So initially what happened when I was removed from my home on March 5th and incarcerated, the first visit from my ex-wife and her mother, they arrived with no compassion, they basically slapped pieces of paper down and pens and said, "Write down the usernames and passwords for all of the financial institutions and the bank accounts." ...
You were in custody?
Well, that must have been fun. So what in the world were you thinking when that was happening? [...] Go ahead.
Yeah, I was incoherent. I was dealing with the terror of being incarcerated, and law enforcement, and something I wasn't used to, and hoping that they weren't going to help and that they needed it to do things, and pay bills, and whatnot. Then I find out afterwards, the accounts got siphoned, checks were being you know - corporate checks were being - my signature was being forged. All of this evidence didn't seem to matter. So basically, the acquired wealth from the bank accounts and the brokerage accounts was just disappearing, I find out later. And then the claim is made, that the house, the family residence, was not mine and was hers. And when we met, I think it's fair to say that my career was in a better position, and I brought more financially to the place, to the start of the marriage, but the notion that she nearly won on that as well, just would have been devastating - I don't know if I'd be here speaking with you if I'd lost on that point.
Why that one, particularly?
Because the accumulated - I've been buying and selling properties since I was 17 and started out as an actor in London, so the wealth that I'd accumulated was in the house. You know, it was an expensive house, and so the sale of that house didn't really need -there wasn't very much, a tiny mortgage left on it. So that was really - I put everything into that house because I'm old school. I believe you own - I don't want to owe money to people in America. This whole credit system of you know, you have to get credit, you have to get credit. Where I come from, it's like, no if you want something, you buy it, you own it. And that's...
I see, so you put all the eggs in that particular basket, and that wasn't taken away from you completely.
Because well, the title was - the title to the house was in my name and her name, and as much as she presented in court, that it was her house and I wasn't on title, that piece of evidence was pretty crystal clear. She couldn't steal that.
Was that part of the basis for your ability to rebuild your security let's say?
Yes, yes. I mean, I was homeless for a while. I was homeless for a good few months. the kindness of a few friends who gave me sofas and floors to sleep on...
Why did they do that? Why do you think they trusted you, given everything that had collapsed around you and all the calumny that had been heaped on your name? Why those particular people do you think?
Well, that's an insightful question. That just makes me - I look to what are the commonalities between those individuals? They were all men. There was one woman. So not all men, most of them men, and they'd all been through divorces.
I see. I see. So okay, so they had...
They knew - like there was one gentleman, I mentioned him in the book, Adam Fogelson, who was the chairman of Universal Studios, he knew who I was. His eldest daughter and my son were in pre-kindergarten together, I taught his daughter how to sing, and play piano, and song write. So he knew that even though I was public enemy number one on the streets, and I was being vilified, he didn't believe it. His integrity was so strong, that when the second time, when I finally got released or discharged, he had actually employed a security team, top-notch security team to track the police scanners because he knew I was gonna come up for air. And, of course, I did at the neighbor's house, that was when there was a team of I think, 10 police. This was the second time, five days later, where they just banged on the door, and I opened the door, and they dragged me out and handcuffed me again, and I got dressed down by the Sargeant. And this gentleman just kind of stepped out from the shadows and had a word with the Sergeant and kind of I got unhandcuffed and I walked into what I thought, Jordan, I thought it was homelessness. And he said, "Come with me, someone's been looking out for you." He walked me to Adam and Hillary Fogelson's house.
So you did have some relationships there that withstood the test of time. You can imagine what would happen if you lost that too, man. So I had this client, his wife, just he was a good guy, hyper conscientious professional. And his wife just, she nailed him with accusations of abuse. And she was very attractive and charming, and very manipulative, and malevolent. White knights were riding to her aid all the time and he wanted to get 50/50 custody of his kids. First of all, with the allegations of abuse, destroyed his professional reputation so that means he lost all his clients in his profession. Then she accused him of hiding the money because he was having a hard time making alimony payments because he couldn't make any money because his profession had been ruined. So then he set himself up again, providing health care to basically indigent people on social services, and then he made to go with that, and then she accused him again in court of having money that he was drawing on. We went out to the Science Museum, which is a challenging thing to do with three young kids, and he showed up on time on the van, and he walked those kids through that science museum, and they just had a wonderful time, and I watched him like a hawk, and he was a really good father. And she, pursuing him, her father mortgaged their house, and she spent all their money, which they deserve very nicely because they had raised her to be just exactly the way she was, and it was just a bloody disaster. So they froze his bank accounts and garnished his wages and so that made it very difficult for anybody to hire him. Then they could take away - he had to drive to work because he could no longer work close to where he lived, and then they took away his driver's license because they can do that without court in Canada. So then he couldn't drive, and then they took away his passport because they could do that too. And so in the meantime, to take him through court to siphon the last penny out of him and deny him access to his children, and I went out with him and his children several times; they were all, let's see, two, three and five, I think, three boys. I worked with him for like three years trying to help him negotiate through this without dying, you know? Just because he wanted his kids, and I pulled out every stop to strategize, and we were careful, and he did what we negotiated, and he was really dedicated to his kids, and he just got ground up.
And then all this stuff blew up around me and around...
That story, what you talk about right there, I think I heard you mentioned that maybe a few years ago, that particular story. It may have been that one when you were in practice, but that speaks to there is no escape. It's the zero-sum game of family law, and it is a game to these attorneys. And it's not just no escape for me, as a respondent, it's no escape for the petitioner too like, [...] in his situation. Right? So, the false allegation of domestic violence, it's we need to remind people Johnny Depp has not been found - not only not being found guilty of any crime, he has not been accused of any crime. He's been tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion, guilty till proven more guilty. I think it's that, it's those kinds of, you know, that inability to escape the divorce trap, there's no trap door, there's no way out for both parties. And my ex-wife spent 1.8 - I believe it's $1.8 million on an attorney, her attorney, Judy Bogen, and then after four years, this attorney just filed to the court to be released from the case and I believe is now suing my ex-wife for $450,000 on top of that. So the blatant plundering of an estate and how someone you've worked your whole life, you've started from not a lot and you've plowed your field in your career. And the notion that just because you have a marriage contract because I believe in monogamy, I believe in family, obviously. I made some missteps along the way, I mentioned those in the book, I was flawed. One thing I wasn't was a bad - I was a great dad. I will shout that to the rooftops. I was a brilliant father. My sons loved me and I love them. So if it can happen to me, and it can happen to Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, it can happen - it's happening and has happened for decades from my research to so many people, and there's a voiceless growing group of people who've had enough.
Well, the guys that it really happened to, you don't even hear from them. They're so done, man. Some of them are just dead and the ones that aren't dead, they're done. They're exhausted. They're friendless. They're struggling away. Yeah, yeah.
I mean, it's like, I think I wrote about the - I've talked about the child support hustle, you know, skip child support, go to jail, lose job, repeat. You know, poor, to your point, poor noncustodial parents, many times forsaken fathers, or the patriarch, or the dad who lack the ability to pay child support end up in modern-day debtor's prisons if you will. A person who fails to pay child support can have their driver's license...
...professional license, and passport revoked.
Yeah. That's just in the hands of the bureaucrats who all that's turned over to. None of that has to go through court. It's like you didn't pay? Okay, we'll start stripping you of that which makes it possible to you to make a living. It's like that's really going to be helpful. You're probably hiding money and then maybe you're working below your capacity just for revenge, and that's not acceptable, either. It's like, yeah, that's, I mean, some people might be pushed to that extreme because they think well, how do you be motivated when your money is being stolen out from underneath you, no matter what you do? It's kind of going to take away a certain amount of your drive to provide, let's say, especially if you don't have access to your kids anymore, as well. Turns you into a kind of slave.
Well, that's just it's, you know, judges can set the payment on presumed income.
Presumed income. Yeah...
Not what the non-custodial parent is actually making, causing fathers to enter, and sometimes mothers but mainly fathers, a crushing cycle of incarceration. I remember talking with one father who was in prison, he was in jail in New York, and there was a bail reform and they let everyone out apart from the dads who owed child support. And, of course, while they're inside, the interest is accruing, and if they managed to pay the debts, the fines, and the high-interest rates charged, that money doesn't go to the custodial parent, it's going to the state. So the state...
The additional problem here is, you know, there's going to be young men listening to this, and they're going to be thinking, Oh, my God, I better never get married. And so this whole catastrophe is undermining the idea for young men that marriage is something that anybody sensible would ever enter into. But then that doesn't really help either because if you live with someone for six months or a year, you're basically common law, at least at some point along the way, and it doesn't matter anyways. So what are you supposed to do just forego permanent relationships with women altogether? Because, well, that's hardly a solution. Although it's a solution that not so many - that a non-trivial minority of young men are seriously considering, and there are many reasons for that, but this is one of them.
Yes. Why would you? I was talking with someone the other day through my charity about an app they have called I Do, and it basically marries you and divorces you automatically within a timeframe that will save you from actually paying alimony, and it's worked out by the state that you're in. I mean, the notion that we have to contract marriage, that's where I arrived. I believe in marriage, but the institution, the way it's set up, it's just - it's a fool's errand. Had I known now what I knew then, why can't we get married in the eyes of God, or the eyes of religion, or in a spiritual place of worship? Whatever you, whatever the couple decides to enact that union ceremony, why does it have to be a contract with the state that the state can then come in and negotiate without my say, without either say? They can not even only negotiate, they could just take away what they want when they want. So it's a real challenge, like, where's the ideological line in terms of I believe in marriage, but I would caution younger people...
Well, then the question then is, what exactly are you doing when you caution it? Because yes, but with caution. Well, exactly what do you mean by that? And the answer to that is, well, it's by no means cleared. I suppose the answer to that lack of clarity is something like, well, the laws need to be changed. They seriously need to be changed and so presumption of innocence would be a nice start and default 50/50 custody. What about splitting of assets? Where do you stand on that? I mean, I can't help but think that it's absurd in some sense that Paul McCartney's ex-wife got half of his fortune, and perhaps that's not exactly true, but you know what I mean. We are talking about a default 50/50 child custody arrangement. Is the right arrangement in relationship to assets 50/50 once the marriage takes place? Is that also true, and I'm out of my legal depth here, is that also true in the case of common law marriage? And should it be the case?
Yeah, common law, I'm not too up to speed on that. I would say again, talking with another technology company about a software they have in divorce court what's called a [...]. So all of the financial numbers, the forensic accountancy, all of those numbers go into this machine, and it's spurts out what people have to pay, what people receive in terms of child support and alimony. And this app actually would take in that information, before, during, and after if there is an after, while people are married and if they decide to separate, to actually calculate who brought what, how they brought it. But it's again, how do you determine that? Because the value of...
The value of a mother? I mean...
That's a quick route to divorce right there, man, trying to negotiate all that. Well, absolutely because you partly what you do in a marriage is you enter into it, and you have to with trust, because, otherwise, how can you enter into it? The trust has to presume that you're going to do the right thing here, and you presume that for me, and we'll struggle forward trying to do that, and if we have to negotiate the terms of our eventual disunion, well, it's like we're negotiating the disunion right now. Well, the part that I'm responsible for I can talk to that. I wasn't monogamous. I wasn't faithful. That was probably the biggest - she'd found out after all this happened, that that was the case. So that would be, I would say, the kind of biggest factor. So I just can't see how that's gonna work well, and so... Look, if you look back, what do you - you must ask yourself this, like, 100 times, what did you do wrong do you think that led to the dissolution of your marriage? Or is that an unreasonable question? What did you bring to the table that made things go sideways? You said you were a great father and so hurray for that. But your marriage went sideways, and why? Do you think that this marriage dissolution would have taken place if that had not been the case? I mean, because I'm sorry to push you, but I'm going to because this is so bloody important, you know? What happened to you is so terrible, and happens to many men, and a not an insignificant number of women, it's so terrible that it needs to be dealt into deeply. So you were looking for something outside the marriage, obviously. Perhaps that was because there was something that wasn't in the marriage, or God only knows why. And so... There wasn't emotional intimacy. Go ahead.
Yeah, I was gonna say there wasn't emotional intimacy, there wasn't physical intimacy, the sex had dried up after the first kid, and I tried talking about it, you know, the male sex drive was there. It is there.
Yeah. Okay, so let's go into that. That's a good one because that happens to lots of people in their marriage. You know? I mean... And it happens as you get older, and it happens as you have kids because, you know, you have 15 priorities, but only 10 of them ever get implemented, and maybe like, number 14 is sex or something like that, and so it goes away.
It's really hard for people to negotiate. You said, you, you tried to talk about it. I guess I would like to know how hard did you try, and how many times, and how insistently, and why didn't it work? I mean, I have clients in this situation and I'm talking to both of them. I wasn't the marital counselor, but sometimes I would talk to both. It's like, how often do you think you should have sex? Let's get a range here, okay? Zero times per year is too few, and like, twice a day, that's too many. So now we got the parameters defined here, right? So we're not going for zero. We're not going for you never get out of bed. We're going for something in between that. So we might look at what's acceptable for the average couple and maybe that's something like, twice a week, or three times a week, and that's a place to start. Because it's not optional, this isn't optional exactly. And you say, well, you're going to turn it into a routine, you're going to take all the spontaneity out of it. It's like, well, how's that spontaneity going for you exactly? It's like, well, we haven't had sex in six months.
Yeah, it's really important, and really great points, and I think as well it's not just the sex. I mean, there is...
...you know, there is emotional intimacy, there's affection, there is, you know...
Hopefully, that's all part of sex when it's really working properly. Like, I had this one client who was terrified of women to a degree you can't possibly imagine. He was so terrified of women, he couldn't even get near one and he was in his 40s. He had his problems, believe me, and that was one of them. His mother, who was about 80, was still taking care of him to some degree. She needed to because he had a lot of impairments that were real and profound. And I suggested to her that I take him to a strip club because that was the only place I could think of to expose him to women in any possible sense. She was a very conservative person, this woman, but she agreed immediately, and so we went once a week for quite a long time. One of the things I really learned when I was there, that a lot of the men that were there, were there for emotional intimacy, for whatever they could get, for some touch. Like you think it's pure sexual gratification and, of course, that element is there, but most of these men were desperately alienated, and lonesome, and they were there at - and I'm not being naive about this. I've been in strip clubs, I know what they're like. But the idea that what you're negotiating in relationship when you're negotiating sex is just the climax, let's say, that's just wrong. You're negotiating physical intimacy and that's not optional. Babies die without physical intimacy and children don't grow up properly unless they're played with, and touched, and cuddled, and even animals are like that. So this negotiation is of crucial importance, so I'll go again. You said that you talked about it, what happened when you talked about it?
I was shut down. I mean, I was insistent, at times, I would continue to revisit the subject, I would implore to go and speak with a professional therapist.
Right. Well, there's nothing sexier than a man imploring.
Darling, let's go.
Yeah, I know.
No, but that was one of the tactics, you have to deploy multiple tactics. I tried courtship, I tried, you know, I was exasperated at times. You know, look, what do you think I - what do you expect me to do, go outside the marriage? You know?
I have to - there has to be some, you know...
Okay, so, when I was doing this professionally, we'd start with these framing frequencies, let's say, and then we would - these are people who are entered into this in good faith. So they were trying both to move forward. We'd say have a date this week. What you do as a marital counselor, or a sexual counselor in situations like that when people haven't been intimate for a long time, you say, you're going to have two dates this week, or maybe one, and you're gonna hate it because it's awkward, and you don't like each other, and you're separated from each other. But here's the first rule is no sex to consummation. Zero. You do not do that, to begin with. And so you kind of have the person revert to the first stages of what would have been a protracted courtship, right? You go out, you have dinner, and then they come back the next week, and I say, "How'd it go?" And they say, "It was awful. All we did was fight. We're never doing that again." And the answer was, well, I see, you're never doing that again, eh? That's your solution? No romance now, for the rest of your life? You're just going to live and you're going to hate each other? That's your solution? How about you need to do this 20 times before you're not absolutely bloody awful at it? But it's very hard. You know, if you haven't been trained to think about such things like that, you don't know that you need to take 10 steps backwards. You don't know that you need to forbid full sexual contact for a while while you're kind of reintroducing it. And this, of course, as I said, this was being negotiated between two people and me, let's say. They had already agreed that they were going to do what they could to fix this. So they were both kind of, even though they're resistant to it in their individual ways, they were both willing to experiment to find a solution. I don't know what you do if you have a partner that just refuses point blank to go there.
Well, I think you said it right. The willingness to experiment, and have a little nuance, and a little doubt to rekindle and revisit maybe why you came together to kind of that nostalgic savoring of the first meeting or the first few times, and to try something new.
Yeah, one of the things I often did with people was ask them, "Okay, what attracted you to the other person, to begin with?" Then they'd usually get misty-eyed both of them when they were talking about that because they weren't that happy that their love had disappeared. So okay, so then I'll ask you a deeper question than that. Why do you think your wife was unwilling to engage in those negotiations with you? I mean, it could be, we could say, well, lack of skill on your part in the negotiation, and who the hell knows how to negotiate such things? It's not easy, and it's not like we have professional training in negotiation, even though we should because people are so bad at it it's just beyond belief. They have no idea where to start. And so, why do you think you hit a brick wall? Did you wait too long to start?
I think I floundered because of much of what you talked about in terms of negotiation, you know, too many - from what I know now, I didn't know then in terms of the you statements rather than the I statements. Leading with the I rather than the you [...] communication. The way to understand, and collaborate through, and negotiate through without it being serious, to do it together, to not put demands or non-negotiables down, not that I did it was just in exasperation.
Yeah. Well, couples will come in, one of them will say to the other, like, "You never want to have sex with me, and it's been like that for two years, and I don't see that it's going to change in the future." It's like, well, the other person is set on their heels right away because you basically said, "You've been bad for a long time, you're bad now, and I can't see how you're going to change." It's like, oh, my God, how are you going to start from that? Then maybe in a situation like that, you ask the person if you could have the sex life you wanted, what would it look like? And you can ask each of them that. Well, then at least you got a mutual vision there. I would say men generally would like to have sex more frequently than women. I'll probably get pilloried for that comment, but I don't think anybody reasonable would deny it.
I agree with you and I'll get less pilloried, but probably pilloried too.
Yeah, well, it's generally the case. Not always the case. But you can meet in the middle, that's for sure, or no, I shouldn't say that because that's not exactly right. What you want to do is you want to elaborate out a vision, then you want your partner to elaborate out a vision, and then you want to create a joint vision that's better than both of those that's sustainable. Then it's not compromised exactly. But if you start with accusations, which you're likely to do if you're frustrated, and you have been for like three years, and things are already sideways, you're just not going to go anywhere, and the other person will dig their heels in, and then they hit you with counter-accusations. It's one of the things, terrible failing of our education system is that the rudiments of negotiation aren't taught. It's really...
Particularly interpersonal relating. I mean, this is one thing we haven't - you know, the charity that I started, CPU, Children and Parents United, we have three basic focuses in terms of what we - our programs, and what we want to do, and what we are doing. The first one is communication. We've been talking with Warren Farrell about bringing his couple's communication in and not just couples, but interpersonally relating throughout the generations and friends. Because to your point, when trust breaks down, whooo, how do you get that back? Dr. John Gottman talks about one negative comment has way more power than 50 positive comments. So how do you undo that negative comment?
Yeah, you can tell that if you go on Twitter and see how you respond emotionally. Yeah, well, it's also easier to pick up on. The other thing I used to talk about - one other thing I used to talk about with my clients was, well, here's a tactic, how about you watch your partner real carefully, and whenever they do something you'd like them to do more of, you tell them that you saw it and tell them that you're happy about it? That's really hard because generally, we let normal go unnoticed and we even let good go unrewarded. Or you could really be foolish and punish someone when they do something good. Like, maybe you're a bit jealous and your wife goes out of her way to make herself look attractive when you're going out for a date, might be an indication that she has some sense that maybe at some point in the future, she might sleep with you, but because you're jealous, you don't compliment her wardrobe or you say something snarky about it. And then it's like, do that three or four times and she'll never dress up for you again, ever. And then it's done, you know? And so this idea of watching people and then seeing when they do something you'd like them to do more of and then telling them, that's really...
I think that's a really powerful thing, and that's something that to your point can be - it's hard to take on new routines, new ways of expressing affection if you're not used to it, if you're more stoic, or if you're - we have to - I think we have to give what we'd like to receive. And I think we all like to receive platitudes and affirmations, and you know, "That was lovely that you did that, sweetheart."
Yeah. Especially if it's specific, especially if it's specific. You say, "Hey, look, I just saw what you did. Here's what you did that was specific and like, yes, thank you. That's great."
"That's great." It's funny too because you do have to negotiate details. Think, well, how often do you want to be hugged? It's like, "I don't want to talk about," it's like, yeah, no kidding. You don't want to talk about it, but like, how about never? Okay, never seems a bit dismal. So okay, let's see if we can do a little better than never. So maybe you have a couple and you're talking to them, and you think, "Well, why don't you try once a day, or just try once this week and come back and say how it went." Then you have to be patient with your partner because if you've been estranged from them physically, and you're doing this hug because your idiot therapist told you, it was a good idea, it's going to be perfunctory and a bit cynical. But it's a hell of a lot better than nothing. So you come back and you're kind of irritated about it, you say, "Well, okay, you're practicing, and you're not very good at it so it didn't go that well, but try it this week twice, and see if you can just do it a little better." That works, but you got to be humble enough to know how stupid you are when you start, and it's pretty pathetic how bad you are at it.
Well, you can also laugh, you can also find ways to laugh about it. I think in the room if you're with a third if that third is a therapist, you don't leave with the third, you know? So as much as a therapist can have ideas, I think it does have to come down to the individuals who actually take that suggestion, and really believe in it, and want to actually move it forward in a positive way.
Therapists actually can't give advice, you know? You can only ask people. It's like, you can say, "Well, how often do you want to get a hug?" They don't say, "Never," it's like, okay, it isn't never so, you know, is it once a week or something? But you have to ask, and if you just tell people to do things, they just won't do them. They can't even tell themselves to do things and do them. It has to be negotiated. You can't. [...] tell yourself to do things? Christ, no, you won't listen.
Well, the conversation was I always say the two most important parts of the day are waking up and going to bed and those mini rituals. If you go a bed to sleep, then you're not going to fall asleep. You go back to rest, sleep will handle itself.
How many times, just curious, how many times do you like to be hugged? Are you a hugger?
I mean, you must have a lot of people who come up to you and want to hug.
They do, that happens a lot. Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah, that's fine. It's fine, man, I don't mind that at all. I mean, when my - I'll give you an example of how this works. When my daughter - my daughter is a year-and-a-half older than my son, and so kids that are spaced less than three years apart, have a pretty high risk of fairly severe sibling rivalry, and that can get really out of hand. It's partly because the older child is still pretty young to have an interloper in, you know? Also is called upon to be quite mature very rapidly because when you have a one-and-a-half-year-old, and no other children, you think that's a pretty young kid. But then when you have a newborn, you think, oh, no, that's an adult, man. It's just a short adult. And so there's a big demand on the child to mature. Then she or he can get jealous of the infant, and that can really wreak havoc. So we trained our daughter repeatedly to come and get a hug, and we practiced it. It was like, "Come and get a hug." We practiced that till she got really good at it. We said, "Whenever you're feeling upset, you just come over and get a hug, and then you can have some attention." So sometimes my wife and I would have a hug, and we'd have the kid come in between us and she could have a hug too. So by the time our son was born, she was an expert at coming to get a hug. And so whenever she got upset, she could just come get a hug, but that took, like, you have to train someone to do that. You think you don't have to train that. It's like, you would be surprised what you have to train and what you have to learn in practice.
What it reminds me of, Jordan is my youngest - my eldest boy when he was born, he went to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. We would tell him because we, as new parents, we were listening to the school and it was a very Hollywood school, I say a Hollywood schoolhouse. It was all, "Use your words, use your words." So we drilled this into him, "Use your words, use your words." Then he went to kindergarten and he got the crap kicked out of him every day. He was bullied mercilessly from kindergarten through first grade, no support from the school. And realizing that the tool of "use your words" doesn't do any good when a big kid is coming up and punching you in the face. So then my youngest son, it was slightly different. This may be a second sibling thing, second born, if it's boys, I don't know. But that rite of passage is, you know, just being a little bit more rough and tumble, and roughhousing, the importance of that, you know, going back to the issue of fathers being around.
You gotta use your words, man, but you got to have something to back them up with.
Absolutely. And kids are really good at sussing that out real quickly, especially the bully types. Like, they'll come along, poke you, it's like anything to you? No, oh, well, then I can just pretty much steal everything you have, including your reputation, and your happiness, and there isn't a damn thing you're going to be able to do about that. You think, well, kids aren't like that. It's like, no, you're just naive and like, heaven help your kids because being naive as a parent's not that helpful for your kids. And there's plenty of bullies on the playground, and plenty in adulthood too.
Are there? You've experienced quite a few, but you seem to be holding your own, and you seem to be back, and getting into a full schedule again. I see you are going on tour.
Yeah, yeah. Well, thank God for small mercies and for all the help I have too so. But yeah. Hey, so tell me what happened with your kids? How old are they now? Your boys?
17 and 15. My youngest turned 15 on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. I don't see them. I don't hear from them. My arms are outstretched wide open for if and when, and maybe one day they will, there will be that reckoning, you know?
So why do you think that - why is it that they're not seeing you? What happened as far as you can tell?
Parental alienation. Parental alienation is child abuse, plain and simple. It's brainwashing and it's clear if you look at the history of our family, and then the 18 months, the first 18 months that I was mired in court, and had to have a visitation monitor that they - you know, I actually published this in my book at the end, the two independent psychological evaluations that I was forced to partake in and pay for. I published those, one is 2015 and one is 2019 in December at the end. Neither judge looked at either of them or cared. But in the first one in 2015, December 2015, the psychologist, a psychiatrist included 70, I think was 69 monitored visitation reports, and it's clear and unequivocal that my sons are suffering, they love me, they say in every report, "I love you, Dad. We love you, Dad. I love you, Dad. We want to live with you." And the system didn't care. So that spoke highly to me that the system needs reform, it needs improving on a personal basis. They now have this image of me having not been around that I'm someone to be feared, that I can't be trusted, that I'm dangerous, and none of that is the case, and none of that is true. But...
Their psychologies, their psyches have been so cemented at such a young age, 10 and eight.
You talked about grief too, and the never-ending consequence of this grief that comes from separation without finality. It's like they must have been experiencing that too.
At some point, you know...
We're also betraying the matriarch. Anytime - I remember my youngest, where it was a year in, Jordan, and oh my god, we had a visit. He called me on the phone, I still kept the voicemail, it kept me going. It was medicinal fuel for me to just hear his voice and know what it sounds - I always know what it sounded like, but he called me and he was like, "Dad, dad, dad!" and then his older brother was like, "Get off the phone. Dude, hang up the phone. We're gonna be in so much trouble with mom!" and he hung up the phone. And it's that fear, the irrational, paranoid fear of me, of Dad.
It's got to be easier for them to let you go than to be torn apart on a day-to-day basis.
When I realized, yeah, when I realized that they were, after four years of monitored visitation, I finally got a visitation without a monitor, watching my every move and writing it down. And then I realized that they were both - and they weren't allowed to have their iPhones with them, their phones with them on visits, mom wouldn't let them. But they both had their phones and they were videotaping, and then it became clear to me through other channels, that they may have been fitted, at least one of them, with body cameras. When it got to that place where my sons are being used as a tool against me to try and record incriminating evidence, there has to be an end to that for them. So part of why I came to some kind of resolution and ending on it, and I gave up so much. I mean, she wouldn't even give me through the settlement agreement, she wouldn't give me the rights to know, to let me know if either of our sons were on life support, and the button was going to - the switch was going to be, you know, permission was going to be given that they would die, she wouldn't legally have to let me know. But I didn't even realize at the time that everything in our settlement agreement that I got, which was very little, she hasn't held to anyway because she knows that ultimately, it's going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to go back to court in the same system, zero-sum, and so on and so forth.
One of the things I learned from being a clinician was that restraining orders only work on the people on whom restraining orders work, for example. So I had some clients who had like six restraining orders on them. One of them I remember, he was really paranoid, he was hard to deal with, I got somewhere with him but it's very hard to deal with a paranoid client. And he was clinically paranoid, and...
Which, like NDAs, non-disclosure agreements, really they aren't worth the paper they're written on because people are just going to do what they're gonna do.
Yeah, so enforcing that's very difficult. He used to say to people if they annoyed him, now and then he'd get tangled up with someone who was bureaucratic in their inclinations and he'd say, "I'm going to be your worst nightmare." And you know, sometimes, you might want to say that to someone, but you don't really mean it. He really meant it. Six restraining orders. Oh, yeah. You have no idea.
How do you? I'm curious, okay because this is - the false allegations of DVS and TROs, I mean, you know, over seven - I think it's around over 70%, and I'd have to check on the stat of domestic abuse allegations resulting in a TRO, a temporary restraining order...
Yes, temporary restraining order.
...Temporary restraining order or EPO, emergency protection order are not sustained once the case moves to a permanency or evidentiary hearing. This shows that the majority perhaps, the majority of domestic violence allegations are perhaps false or unprovable. I think this correlation was going on...
[...] Go ahead.
Yeah, the correlation with cancel culture, and victimhood being the new social currency, this is an affront to the real victims of domestic violence. So how do you tackle this, the false allegation, the perjurer if the allegation works every time?
Yeah, [...] absolutely well, then the question is too how do you stop people from using systems that are there to protect the vulnerable from being used as weapons? You think, well, people wouldn't do that. It's like, yeah, you just wait till you tangle with someone who'll do that and you'll change your - Yeah, whooo is right. I don't know why people always make that particular noise when they hear about such things, but yeah. I've seen those systems, well, they've been weaponized against me continually. But I've seen people just brought to their well, same place you were brought to. It's like, you just get tangled up with child protection services for a week, and see what your life is like.
Yeah, no kidding.
These false allegations that are used in family law to thwart the non-resident parent and child relationship need to be dealt with in a way that protects the relationship that is under attack, and in a way to dissuade the making of these allegations or accusations going forward.
One of the things we could warn people about in this podcast is if you're thinking about making such allegations don't be so sure that your own arm won't get tangled up in the machine. Because it's you think, you know, you're gonna leverage this enterprise to punish your partner, and maybe you're willing to do that because you've been pushed to your limit in some sense or maybe just because you're feeling a bit malevolent. It's like, you wear loose clothing close to that machinery and you're going to get pulled in and spit out and so it won't just be you going down that negative pathway. Problem with that is that some people, they get so inclined to wreak havoc and to extract revenge that they're perfectly willing to hang themselves in the window to block out their neighbor's sunlight, let's say.
Yeah, if you're going to go on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, you know?
Yeah, that's right. That's for sure.
This is what I think about with the Pandora's box that she let out. The only thing that was left was hope is those - you know, God will forgive our sins, our nervous system won't. This is that false allegation, you know that technique and tool being weaponized for financial gain. I just wonder when this will reach - we have a president in America, we have a president who's a Catholic father, and grandfather and the Violence Against Women Act was his act in 1974. It was a series of law enforcement grants that shifted the focus away from the problems of the relationship, to a law enforcement approach to domestic violence, resulting in a shift from the prior discretionary approach to mandatory arrest or detainment policies. I think that's the kind of holding space like purgatory, where, like, in my case, Jordan, when the police came, they couldn't arrest me, I've never been arrested. They couldn't arrest me because I hadn't committed the crime, but they had to remove me because I was seen as a danger. Where do they take me? They can't put me in a prison cell for long because I would need my Miranda rights read to me, I'd need an attorney and access to one. You know where people like me end up? 5150 holds. You know, those who need to be on 5150 holes where they end up because they were thrown out into the...? Prisons. So those who are actually emotionally disturbed who need help and need assistance, go to the worst place possible for them, jail and prisons, our prison system. Those men and sometimes women like me, who have a false allegation, false accusation made, there is no real place for the system to - so the police used to have discretion and now, all this money that President Biden created through pushing through his act, and by the way, VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act is being looked at again. They call it stop grants, there was money for stop grants. So to qualify for these stop grants, law enforcement had to adopt these policies of mandatory arrests. So forcing law enforcement to prosecute, or persecute every man who's accused of domestic violence to keep the coffers full, like, this is the incentivise structure that we have. So how can we change that?
Yeah, well, I guess we start to change it by having conversations like this, right? And trying to specify what the problem is because it's really complicated what the problem is, and what the solution should be on a legal basis, what the solution should be ethically, and on an individual basis. So a thousand conversations like this is a place to start.
I think so too. I think more proactive solutions, I mean, that's what I'm trying to do through my new fledgling charity is to have the communication programs.
Where can people find out about that? That's Children and Parents United [..] Sorry, go ahead with the charity.
Yeah, right now Children and Parents United or CPU is our mission is to promote and improve child well-being by providing information and resources to policymakers, the public, practitioners, resulting in reduced conflict and enhanced relationships for those children and parents negotiating our current family law systems, and we have three. The place to find that is therespondent.com. We'll be launching the website for the charity soon, but right now it lives at therespondent.com. We have three cost-effective practical solution-based programs right now, communication, workshops, and programs that we're working out and developing that promote improved interpersonal relating. Mediation, CPU Mediation, which we call it, is to provide mediation services. I just actually I mediated my first case. I wanted to do one myself, just to see. It was a couple who'd been in family law for six years, spent nearly $2 million, no resolution, I was able to find resolution and settlement within six hours on a Saturday and three hours on a Sunday.
That's a way different process than trying to get each person all they can grab from the spoils of the relationship.
Yeah, I heard someone telling me once you don't get what you deserved, it's what you can live with because you're always going to walk away from mediation feeling somewhat aggrieved.
Yeah, at least you can walk away.
Right. Yeah, you have life. Then the other is a public interest law firm, providing legal advice that supports the mediation process, oversees the legal procedures so that if people do want to get divorced, or they do want to separate long-term, that there's the ability to actually draw up those legal agreements and deliver them. But really, we just need to keep people out of court. I joke that we are the Red Cross of divorce, we're growing and building out, but we need resources and infrastructure, and we're hoping to get that because...
Hopefully, this podcast will help. So that's Children and Parents United and that's at the - what's the dot com?
And that's after your book "The Respondexposing the Cartel of Family Law" which is a description of your journey through well, let's call it first, purgatory, and then maybe hell.
I think you're probably right, and by the way, the audiobook will be out soon. We've added - we've been adding sound effects, and ambience, and atmosphere to that, to make it really feel like that hellish journey, you know, so you're actually there and present more so than just a regular like, me reading the audiobook. And I've got a couple of great people who've helped with that, Andrea Romano, who's nine-time Emmy Award winner, she voice-directed it and actually read as one of the psychologists at the end of the book. So hopefully, we'll do some good. And you know, the emails that have been coming back from - I was asked early on by, you know, how it is that the Hollywood marketing, and publicity, and the publishers, you know, who's your target demographic? I said well if we can get the suicide rates down if my book can get to one person that they can feel like they're not alone...
That's a big deal for people to know that they're not alone, and they're not crazy.
I've got a military father who lost his legs in Afghanistan, two tours of duty, was served with false allegations of domestic violence papers. He came home homeless, hasn't seen his kids I think for six years and has been representing himself in family law. And I think about that, Jordan, and it just - it makes me...
Talk about being punished for your virtues, man.
Whoa. You said it. You said it. You know?
All right. Well, Mr. Ellis, looks good to see you on your feet and through this...
Mr. Peterson, you too. Thank you very much.
Pleasure talking with ya, man.
Yeah, you too, man. Really. Keep up the astonishing work.