My parents still live in my home town of Bethesda, Maryland and still get the paper newspaper. Mom sent me a clipping from the Washington Post in the U.S. Mail (she will be their last retail customer!), an obituary of David L. Levy. After spending the family savings on a custody lawsuit under Maryland’s “pick one parent” system in 1985 he started a group to advocate for shared parenting, thus lobbying against the interests of the $50 billion/year divorce litigation industry. As my blog posting on Maryland’s new custody law shows, in 30 years he made zero headway (though the organization he founded does have a nice web site; Guidestar shows that they operate on a budget of less than $200,000 per year (i.e., one lawyer in one custody lawsuit makes more than this advocacy group has at its disposal)). Maryland continues to operate a winner-take-all system, soon to be under new rules drafted by people who get paid to appear in court during custody disputes, and parents continue to pour what would have been the children’s college savings into trying not to be the loser.
[His death before achieving any change shows that Marylanders who don't like the winner-take-all system would do better by moving to an adjacent state than lobbying against one of America's most successful industries. Child support guideline numbers are lower in Virginia (though still profitable over Bill Comanor's actual cost numbers), thus giving plaintiffs less of a financial incentive to seek sole custody of children. Virginia's guidelines also cover unlimited amounts of income, at a straight 2.6 percent of gross income rate for one child (compare to about 11 percent in Massachusetts when judges extrapolate and about 6 percent in California) after a defendant earns more than $35,000 per month. This certainty reduces the chance that a case will go to trial. Someone who lives in western Maryland could move across the border into West Virginia where child support revenue that can be spent by a successful custody plaintiff is capped at about 5X the basic cost of a child (additional amounts are obtainable through litigation but must be placed in trust for the child). Do parents also seek sole custody for non-financial reasons? "You also see it where a parent has few friends or is jealous of the child's bond with the other parent. Seeking primary custody is typically done for the parent's gain, not out of concern for the child," said a litigator just over the border into Pennsylvania. In those cases that are not financially motivated moving to Virginia wouldn't be helpful, but Marylanders who live near the Delaware or Pennsylvania borders can move across to those states, where 50/50 shared parent tends to prevail by guideline (DE) or custom (PA, even in the rural areas).]