What it feels like to lose a family court relocation case

“I was forced to raise my kids in Texas for 14 years” (NY Post) is an interesting piece regarding how it feels to come out of a garden-variety U.S. family court lawsuit.

The husband and wife both want to get rid of each other, but are trying to be strategic about it (and certainly neither of them seems to care about the kids!). The wife is unwise enough to agree to move to Texas where divorce is not a terrifying prospect for the loser parent. Child support is capped and, by statute, the loser parent can take care of the kids up to 43 percent time, including a 30-day summer vacation. Alimony is capped and generally disfavored. The husband figures this out and sues her in Texas before they end up in some jurisdiction that is less favorable to the “breadwinner parent”.

The mom/author becomes the winner parent, but experiences the win as a loss because the husband won’t agree to let her move with her winnings (the kids) to New York or Boston (the author doesn’t mention it, but if she had moved and the husband ever moved out of Texas, she might have been able to collect 5-10X as much in child support cash; see “Relocation and Venue Litigation”).

The author forgives herself for her role in breaking up the kids’ home:

I was afraid to tell my daughters about the divorce, and I delayed the conversation. Finally, one day when they were playing catch, I told them that sometimes parents live in two different houses and that is what we would be doing and everything else would be the same. They said OK and asked if they could go back to playing catch. I realized at that moment that if I could, in fact, keep everything else the same, or close to it, their lives would be as good as any other kid’s.

This perspective is not supported by the research psychology literature, but Americans have convinced themselves of it. (some references) The “single parent” believes that she will be a role model for the girls:

In Texas, I raised my children and myself, I like to say. Being stuck first in a bad lonely marriage and then held by law in a bad lonely place turned me to steel. For 14 years, I believed that I could withstand any assault and resist weakness of any kind. I could do anything, say anything, fight for anything. I was independence personified, a show of strength that my daughters could rely upon and emulate.

This is true, statistically and anecdotally. The researchers say that children of single parents are more likely to become single parents. The lawyers say that daughters of moms who collect child support are more likely to become child support plaintiffs.

The kids’ inheritance and college funds are diverted to the lawyers:

Although our divorce was finalized in 2003, for a stretch of years after that, there were additional lawsuits over custody and visitation rights, one after another.

Not having read the Nurture Assumption, she believes that her 14 years of litigation and living where she didn’t want to live have influenced how the kids turned out:

[the now-adult daughters] are remarkable people, something I knew from the start and fought to preserve. I am proud of the fight.

Maybe this article will inspire married folks to talk to a divorce litigator at the proposed destination before they move to a new state?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Hedgers Lose Hope

I’ve been reading ZeroHedge regularly since it launched in early 2009 (ironic timing, wouldn’t you say?), and although the comments section there tends to be rougher than a skid row neighborhood, it’s interesting to glance at it to see how the ZH zeitgeist is holding up. It seems that even the world-is-going-to-end crowd at ZH […]
Slope of Hope

How can a computer company lose data that it gathered only a minute earlier?

Dell has refused to accept a return of the XPS 13 2-in-1 that they sold me for $ 2,400 (sampling of issues: it gets stuck in “tablet mode” even when opened as a laptop, it can’t stay connected to a Bluetooth mouse, it stops listening to its touchscreen hardware, and it stops listening to the trackpad (so eventually there is no pointer at all and you’d have to remember all of the Windows keyboard shortcuts to accomplish the basics)).

On the theory that “Maybe 25 hours on the phone with these guys isn’t enough and the 26th hour will be the charm,” I called 877-907-3355 to try to get tech support. This starts with a 2-minute automated process of entering, via voice, the “service tag” (letters and numbers). The automated attendant confirms the service tag. Then it tries to transfer you to “the right department.” Once this resulted in immediate disconnection. When the call was successfully transferred to a human, the first thing that she asked was “What’s your service tag number?” (Before I could give it to her, the call was disconnected, but that’s incidental to the subject of this post.)

As a computer nerd I am always fascinated when companies have a customer service system that asks for some information and then has no way to make the typed-in stuff available to the human who ultimately answers the phone. Also, that it seems to be rare for customer service agents to have access to Caller ID. So a lot of time is wasted in asking the customer a callback number (not to mention the potential for errors).

In the case of Dell, perhaps they have an incentive to waste customer time so that people stop calling for tech support (though how many will buy a second machine from this company?). But that’s not true for a lot of other companies that answer phone calls. If they are inefficient and drop information on the floor it ends up costing them extra customer service hours as well as potentially reducing customer loyalty.

So… why can’t the computers that answer the phone talk to the computers on the agents’ desks? And why can’t they see Caller ID? How hard can that be?

[Okay, and before the Mac fans start dishing out ridicule in the comments section, let me admit in advance that I made a huge mistake by buying this machine! Obviously a MacBook (or even a $ 500 Acer) would have outperformed this $ 2,400 Dell. And if the MacBook had failed for some reason, I would be able to zip over to the Apple Store and get it fixed rather than spending hours on the phone with Dell or returning it to them for service (projected turn-around time: 2+ weeks).]

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

How to lose money: go after the do-gooder market

While down in Ft. Lauderdale I saw a beautiful cruise ship departing. The word “Fathom” was emblazoned on its side. Wikipedia says that this is a “social impact travel” product, set up in 2015. The basic idea is a one-week cruise, of which three days are spent in the Dominican Republic helping young people learn English, planting trees, etc. (web page with options) The line is operated by Carnival on the Adonia and she was built in 2001 and renovated in 2016. The monster ship is configured for only 704 passengers. This kind of “smaller ship” cruising is usually on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

How much does it cost to signal one’s virtue beyond Facebook? $ 399 per person, according to the Fathom site. That includes Carnival-grade hotel and 24/7 food for a week, the organization of “impact activities”, entertainment during the sea days, gym and “wellness” activities, classes, and ground transportation to the activities. It would be tough to stay home and prepare meals from ingredients bought at Whole Foods for less than this!

Given the hundreds of millions of folks on Facebook who express their deep feelings of concern for the world’s less fortunate, Fathom should be raking in the dough, right? If they want to run 40 weeks per year at 80 percent occupancy they need to get 22,500 would-be do-gooders to do more than “like” or “share” on Facebook. Let’s assume a purely American market for these cruises. Hillary Clinton got 48 percent of the popular vote in the most recent election. That represents roughly 156 million people (not all 325 million Americans can vote, of course, but any Hillary voter can bring children on this trip). Let’s assume that anyone who voted for Hillary professes concern for “the vulnerable.” Fathom thus needed to attract only 1 in 7000 of these folks every year in order to prosper.

How did they do? Wikipedia says “Fathom will discontinue operations in June 2017.”

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Message from the Eisenhower Administration: Don’t Lose Sleep Over Cabinet Appointments

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith says that 100 percent of the people whom Eisenhower appointed to his first-term Cabinet were without any previous experience in government (they had been business managers). The country seems to have survived. So don’t lost sleep over whom Trump appoints to Cabinet Secretary positions.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

I Deserved To Lose More

(post originally written February 10th 2012)

We identified FSLR as an In Play stock this morning (link to story from Benzinga Pro). It was gapping lower in the pre-market to a recent support level. As a trader part of my job is to figure out what other traders and investors will do in any given situation. In the case of FSLR it has been on a pretty nice run recently. Its uptrend had begun to accelerate with the strength in the market and the solar sector in particular.

As stocks gain more momentum, meaning their short term moves are accelerating, they tend to attract short-term traders who seek to ride the recent momentum wave until it is over. They are much quicker to exit their positions than longer term traders/investors. So it is important to pay attention to how a stock behaves when it gaps on fresh news in the opposite direction of recent momentum. Questions I asked myself prior to trading FSLR:

  • Will momo traders sell immediately on a gap down?
  • What price action would they need to see in order to run for the exits?
    • Here are two things they might consider:
      • Is the stock below their initial entry
      • Is the stock trading below a key S/R level from the prior few trading days
  • If the stock fails to fill the gap where can it go?

During our discussion in the AM Meeting we talked about the possibility that some traders would sell on the Open if FSLR failed to get above the 47 level. The next support level was around 45.50 and presented a reasonable initial short target. If it got below there then several more points of downside as more traders might rush for the exits.

So I was armed with my key inflection points and ready to trade FSLR on the Open in either direction based on how it behaved at the 47 inflection point. If it failed to rally above quickly I would focus on being short as more longs would be likely to exit to avoid further losses.

In order to trade FSLR on the short side I would need to first “locate” shares. FSLR has been classified by the NASDAQ as “hard to borrow” and therefore it is required that traders ask their clearing firm to identify shares that could be borrowed and then sold short in the marketplace. I put in that request via email (don’t ask me why in 2012 my platform still can’t perform this function electronically) but did not receive a locate prior to the market’s Open. This put me in the position of only being able to trade FSLR on the long side.

Often I will not trade a stock unless I have the ability to trade it long or short. It is a matter of opportunity cost. A stocks price action can change at any time causing me to change my bias. Why would I want to be in a stock that would only allow me to trade it on the long side? This time I decided to trade it anyway.

My initial position was long close to the 45.50 support I had identified during the AM Meeting. I then made a series of several other long trades that really made no sense and I lost some money. Finally I saw the stock bottom around 10:00AM and caught a one point up move. When I got flat for the final time I was slightly negative in the stock. I should have been down a lot more. The easier trades and the better risk/reward trades were on the short side based on the price action and the Intraday Fundamentals for the stock. Live and learn :)

Steven Spencer is the co-founder of SMB Capital and SMB Training and has traded professionally for over 15 years. His email is sspencer@smbcap.com.

No relevant positions

*live trades discussed in this post took place in T3 Trading Group, LLC a CBSX broker dealer

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