Another example of why men in the U.S. are going on strike from marriage and having kids.
Ari Schochet has grown so accustomed to being sent to jail for missing alimony payments that he goes into a routine.
Before his family-court hearing, Schochet, 41, sticks on a nicotine patch to cope with jailhouse smoking bans, sends an “Ari Off the Grid” e-mail to friends and family, and scrawls key phone numbers in permanent ink on his forearm.
Schochet, who said he worked as a portfolio manager at Citadel Investment Group Inc. and Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG) and once earned $1 million a year, has been jailed for missing court-ordered payments at least eight times in the past two years as he coped with the end of his 17-year marriage.
The reason he ran afoul of the law was simple. He was out of work for most of that time, a victim of a weak economy, and he ran through his savings trying to pay his wife alimony and child support that totaled almost $100,000 a year.
“It’s a circle of hell there’s just no way out of,” Schochet said. “I paid it as long as I could.”
Schochet and ex-spouses in similar changed circumstances say New Jersey’s law unfairly imposes lifetime alimony on them. If they fail to make payments, like the $78,000 a year Schochet owes his ex-wife in alimony, they can be jailed for contempt of court regardless of whether they have a job or resources.
“When I tell people what’s happened to me these last two years they say, ‘Your story can’t possibly be true, and you must be in court because you beat your wife,’” Schochet said. “This has nothing to do with anything other than money.”
Since April, he has managed to leave the jail following each appearance after Firko acknowledged his efforts to secure a well-paying job. Schochet now works part-time as an entry-level stock transfer agent, a job that leaves him with about $100 a month in disposable cash after garnisheeing and taxes. He’s got a steady girlfriend and job prospects.
“It’s amazing how small you can live,” said Schochet, whose longest jail stay was 11 days. “I’m down to paying for electricity, water, my cell phone, Internet and gas. Friends help out with whatever else I need.”
All that may be in jeopardy after he faced Firko again yesterday to explain why he was rejected for a court-required $500,000 life insurance policy naming his ex-wife and children as beneficiaries.
“I have been more than patient with you,” the judge told Schochet.
The judge ordered him to surrender to authorities and the head of the work/release program gave him until 6 p.m. yesterday to report to jail, where he will spend his evenings and leave during the day for the next two weeks, when his case will be reviewed by the judge on Sept. 9. His release is conditional on paying $25,000 in arrears.
“What am I supposed to do?” he said in a phone interview yesterday. “This is so against the law, so against my civil rights. Now I’m stuck in the system again for months. It’s just unbelievable. I have no recourse. The legal system has totally stepped away from me.”