Divorcing Your Parents

I was telling the Butcher about Tom Smith and he was like “Oh, the guy who thinks getting pregnant from a rape is just as bad as getting pregnant out of wedlock?”

“Yeah, that dude.”

“You know, I was thinking about how much it must suck to be his daughter.”

“I know, right? Imagine discovering that a person who might someday be called on to make medical decisions for you–like if you’re in a car accident or something–can’t tell the difference between you having sex because you want to and when you’re raped, because both are embarrassing to him.”

“Can she divorce him?”

And you know, I don’t think there’s a legal mechanism to sever familial bonds like that. But then I was thinking about how some gay families still face instances where, even though they’ve tried to set up all these legal contracts that would force the world to treat them like they’re married in places they legally can’t be, some douchebag family member will still swoop in and try to claim the ability to make medical decisions or to inherit instead of the loved on.

It might be a useful legal mechanism to be able to say “No, these people have no ability to make decisions on my behalf. They cannot inherit from me.”

And then, on MSNBC, a commentator named Krystal Ball began to speak and the second her name appeared on our screen, the Butcher said, “See? There’s another person who needs parental divorce.”

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11 thoughts on “Divorcing Your Parents

  1. Most states let minors who want to be outside their parents’ legal control (and who are also willing to do be without their parents’ financial support) go to a judge and have themselves declared “emancipated minors.” I thiink that probably qualifies as divorcing one’s parents.

  2. A will would solve the second problem. I don’t know about the first, aside from voluntary estrangement, which I would recommend for her and her child.

  3. B, I think a health-care proxy plus a contingent power of attorney would work. And txmere is right about a will. Notice that all of these things require the daughter to be proactive and get legal documentation of her wishes, but I guess that’s similar to getting a divorce.

    And she’d still run into trouble if the staff at this hypothetical medical facility had religious objections to abiding by her healthcare proxy. The power of attorney would deal with that, but it might take the person holding it going to court to get an injunction.

  4. This all presumes that the Daddy’s Little Girl(TM) in this case would seek a permanent restraining order / judicial involvement in her family travails, no?

    It’s not out of the realm of possibility that DLG thinks this is all “perfectly healthy / perfectly normal.” It might suck to be this sperm donor’s child, but for all we know, this sort of thing is what passes for love around their kitchen table.

  5. As for the Krystal Ball issue… I went to elementary school with Scarlett Greene. And my dad lives across the street from Donald Duck.

  6. Andy,

    Yes it would.

    But law is a blunt tool. A hammer rather than a scalpel. Better she take the responsibility than try to change the law to deal with this problem.

    The default position of granting certain rights to parents will result in undesirable outcomes but it is still preferable to not having that presumption. Better for those who want to exclude their families from having any legal power than to require everyone to make a specific legal choice at 18 {or date of emancipation} and expect them to remember to update it as relationships change.

    Imagine the possible episodes of ‘The Good Wife’ or other legal drama that could result from Jim having broken up with Edna and moved in with Donna only to be hit by a car and be dependent on the deeply hurt and not the least vindictive Edna.

  7. Mark wrote “But law is a blunt tool. A hammer rather than a scalpel.” only a short time after advocating exactly the opposite in terms of marriage. Interesting.

  8. OK, this makes even less sense (via HuffPo):

    “Tom Smith is committed to protecting the sanctity of life and believes it begins at conception,” she said in a statement. “While his answers to some of the questions he faced at the Pennsylvania Press club may have been less than artful, at no time did he draw the comparison that some have inferred. When questioned if he was drawing that comparison, Tom’s answer was clear, ‘no, no, no.’ Tom was speaking to the difficult decision faced by his family, not the nature of his daughters conception.”

    Wha… diffi… concep… not… huh??? Is he referring to the birth of one of his grandchildren?

  9. Honestly, the idea that this is a “difficult decision faced by his family” makes me want to puke. So, if all of them but his daughter would have decided she should have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption, she would have had to go along with that?

    I’m sorry, that’s somehow even more disgusting than just “Rape, premarital sex, it’s all embarrassing for the woman’s dad.”

  10. Professor,

    Fair point.

    Here is the distinction as I see it.

    Requiring civil contracts to give legal authority to couples instead of allowing ‘marriage’ to have legal implications would, among other benefits, allow people a more certain compliance with their wishes by outsiders {as in the case of hospital personnel raised by nm} and it would facilitate termination of partnerships.

    For people who wish to break all legal bonds with their families, my only point was that it would be more problematic to alter our current legal presumptions about the legal standing of family than to have individuals who wish to opt out to do so.

    The Teri Schiavo case several years ago was a good example of what happens when well-meaning people want to go screwing around with the law in order to cope with a specific situation. As much as I sympathized with her family, the Florida legislature and Congress had no business trying to use legislation to deal with one case.

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