Actor Greg Ellis has appeared in numerous films, TV shows, and video games over the course of his lengthy career, but his most recent project is certainly his most personal.
Following a harrowing experience in the family law system, Ellis penned a book titled, “The Respondent: Exposing the Cartel of Family Law.”
I had the opportunity to speak with Ellis about the issues with the family law system, how victimhood culture has intensified the bias against fathers, his organization that seeks to help families stay out of the divorce court machine, and so much more.
You can listen to the interview via the SoundCloud embed, or read the transcript below.
Q: You wrote your book, “The Respondent: Exposing the Cartel of Family Law,” after your own experience within the family law system. What is the desired outcome of your book? What do you want people to come away with, either after having read your book or in hearing you speak?
ELLIS: I think people who are going through the vicissitudes of the family law system right now, are stuck in the divorce trap, to provide them with some hope that there’s a way out and to shine a light on the cartel of family law, the corrupt system that doesn’t provide a presumption of innocence; to reform and improve the system, the one-branch of our legal system that doesn’t provide a presumption of innocence, that has no due process, where parents and partners and ex-spouses and spouses are found guilty until proven more guilty; and to maybe learn some information that might help them along the way.
Q: Why do you think the family law system is biased, as opposed to other systems?
ELLIS: How long do you have? Well, I think our family law system is antiquated and outdated. It’s a quasi-kangaroo court. It’s caught in that middle ground. And I think it’s reflective and indicative of our current cancel culture. I think there is a bias towards men and fathers, which is clear in the statistics if you look at them in family law courts, divorce courts across America. And I think that we have a system where there isn’t really an escape. The silver bullet, as I call it, in family law, which is the majority of allegations of domestic violence are false. The result, and the way it goes is the TRO or temporary restraining order, EPO, emergency protection order, are not sustained once the case moves to a permanency or evidentiary hearing, and shows that the majority of domestic violence allegations are false or unprovable.
This is an affront to the real victims of domestic violence — and this echoes and parallels, I think, what’s going on in broader society with victimhood being the new social currency, and this economy’s booming. And false allegations, once made in family law courts, because there isn’t due process, there isn’t a presumption of innocence, there is no way back from that. It is reputation savaging and destroying. And even when an individual clears their name down the line, the damage has already been done. The separation between parents and their children, it’s basically splitting, destroying families, and costing our citizenry a tremendous amount of money at the expense of the American divorce machine, which is an annual nearly $60 billion a year industry.
Q: Do you think — because obviously the system was set up prior to victimhood being currency like it is today, do you think that current culture of victimhood has just sort of amplified the problem within the family law system?
ELLIS: Yeah, I think to a large degree it has. And I think, like any law or legislative bill that’s passed, it eventually gets misinterpreted or interpreted by attorneys and they find a way around it. When I think about family law, I think about the laws that have been passed with regards to, say, shared parenting. There aren’t any apart from in Kentucky and Arkansas, 50/50 default shared parenting. Which means that if there is acrimony in a divorce proceeding, that the go-to baseline presumption is biological father and biological mother have 50/50 shared parenting time. But then the proof is on the accuser rather than the accused to actually prove why that shouldn’t be the case.
And when we look at some of the laws that have been put through, particularly by, ironically, President Biden … the Adoption and Safe Families Act is another. These, for example, the Adoption and Safe Families Act … offers financial incentives to the states that increase adoption numbers. To receive the adoption incentives and bonuses, local CPS or Child Protection Services must have more children, they must have more merchandise to sell. And funding is available when a child is placed in a foster home with strangers. And states get reimbursed $6,000 for every child that’s placed into foster care, and 4,000 children a day lose a parent in family law court. So it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that there’s big money in trafficking and profiteering from children and breaking up families.
Q: What specifically do you believe should be the first major change in family law that could get the ball rolling? You mentioned the co-parenting law in Kentucky. Is there another sort of legislative thing that you think would be the first step?
ELLIS: Yeah, I think the biggest step — and it may not be the first, it may actually take the longest — is to introduce the presumption of innocence, jurisprudence, the burden of proof must be on the accuser and not the accused. We need to introduce that into family law. Certainly, 50/50 shared parenting, which Arkansas and Kentucky have. I think it’s on the docket in Missouri and in Ohio as well. That’s coming up very soon in Ohio. A divorce must start with a default presumption of what is in the best interest of the children is for both parents to equally share in the parenting. I think we have to address false allegations of domestic violence, accountability and punishment for parents who make them. We don’t have that because even in our criminal law system, criminals get more rights than families do in family law. We have perjury laws, we have Miranda rights, we have the right to an attorney. You don’t have that in family law. And I think we also need to educate experts, parents, judges, and attorneys on how to better notice the signs of parental alienation and hold alienating parents accountable.
Q: Did writing this book and speaking with others who have dealt with the same situation or similar situations lead you to any new insights regarding the way in which the modern world has devalued fatherhood and family?
ELLIS: Yeah, huge. I mean, from talking with Erin Pizzy, who started the first domestic violence shelter 51 years ago. When she looked into what had happened with, I think, it was the first hundred women who came into her shelter, I think 62 of those women were just as or more violent than the spouses they’d left. The irony is that so many of these laws that had been set up and so many of the agencies and movements and organizations, particularly, dare I say, some of the domestic violence support groups for victims and women and girls, they are raking in millions and millions of dollars of grant money, and many of them aren’t really interested in meaningful change. They’re interested in money and profit.
And what else did I learn? I learned that “toxic masculinity,” “smash the patriarchy,” all of these messages that seem to have started recently over the last few years were actually started in a 1969 meeting of [third wave] feminist movement in New York, where they pivoted and decided that they would focus their messaging and their branding on two words, “toxic masculinity.” And all these decades later, here we are. The devaluation of men, the devaluation of fathers. I’m worried about our younger generation, particularly our younger generations of boys, who are hearing these messages, who are falling behind at school, and so on so forth in society.
I wrote the book to make — I didn’t want to write the book, I had to. I wrote it to make sense of this government sponsored devastation of my life, at first, and destruction of family and then others. I wrote it to let my children know that I haven’t abandoned them. I wrote it to tell other similarly-situated men and sometimes women, mothers and fathers, that they’re not alone. And perhaps most of all, I wrote it to ring the alarm about a broken system and call for social change and family law reform.
Q: Did your personal experience reveal any unpleasantness within the acting and Hollywood community? Did people in that community have anything to say when you became an advocate for fathers?
ELLIS: There has been some blowback, and obviously I hear along the grapevine. I mean, look, it’s 2021 and I’m going out talking about the bias in family law court towards fathers. I’ve written a book about it. So of course, who wants to hear from a Caucasian heterosexual male from Hollywood whining about his own personal story? This is bigger than that. This isn’t a story about Left versus Right or conservative versus liberal. This is a parent issue; this is a human rights issue. And I think it’s a national health emergency, too. If it can happen to Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt, me, it is, has been, and will continue to happen to tens of thousands of fathers, and sometimes mothers, as well, across Western civilization. I think family breakdown is the single greatest threat to American society right now.
Q: Aiming toward the solutions end of the equation, you’re president of an organization called The Respondent. Can you explain exactly what that is and what The Respondent seeks to accomplish?
ELLIS: So, “The Respondent” is my book. “The Respondent” is my book and video and podcast series, “The Respondent: Exposing the Cartel of Family Law.” And what I built from the ashes of my experience rose like a phoenix from the flames, I guess, is the charitable extension to the book, which is called Children and Parents United, or CPU.
But our mission, yeah, our mission is to promote and improve child wellbeing by providing information and resources to policymakers, legislatures, practitioners, and the general public resulting in enhanced relationships and reduced conflict for those children and parents navigating our current family law systems. And we do that right now through three cost-effective, practical, solution-based programs. Communication, workshops and programs that promote improved interpersonal relating, so when trust breaks down, we can help rebuild those bridges. Mediation, so solutions-oriented intervention experts to help resolve conflict disputes that work outside — they have experience of the court system, but they work outside and parallel to the court system so we’re not churning people back into the system. And CPU Law, we call it, which provides legal advice, supports the mediation process, and … legal procedures so that if two people do actually want to settle and come to resolution on a marriage and actually do choose to divorce, then we can help them draw up those papers so they don’t have to get churned into the divorce trap, which is what I call the system.
And keep people out of court. That’s the main thing we have to do. The blatant plundering of people’s estates, which goes on all the time by these judges, attorneys, and the legal system, which basically make up the state bar associations. They write their own playbook, they write their own rules, and someone needs the Red Cross of divorce, and that’s what CPU [is].
Q: What success have you seen with the organization?
ELLIS: Well, we’re a fledgling organization, but we have — so, for example, our mediation, I took on the first case of mediation myself.
And nearly six years, this couple had been churned around the family law court system, nearly $2 million spent, and in six years, no resolution. In an afternoon and a half, I was able to resolve their case by working just purely with the two of them myself. So we have immediate success. We have ways and means that we can help people and think outside the box, and we know the perils and pitfalls of what goes on in family law across America. So we can keep people out of court and we can get success. That’s just one of the meaningful ways that we can help people who are in vulnerable positions in family law.
Q: If you’re sort of contrasting this to our current behemoth of a system, do you think it’s possible to dig ourselves out of this system that we currently have and transition into something more equitable, like the organization that you have? And how long do you think such a transition would take?
ELLIS: Yeah, I do think it’s possible. I think it’s going to take a multi-pronged approach to excavate and dig ourselves out scoop by scoop in terms of case by case. That’s what I try to do with individuals and couples and families. And then the bigger approach, in terms of our social policies, our familial tapestry is torn, putting pressure on politicians and legislatures and passing new bills and new laws like we have in Arkansas, like we have in Kentucky, like we hopefully will have in Ohio soon and maybe even Missouri, and do it on a state by state basis.
But we do need to get it to the federal level and really, really get to the heart of the matter with the president right now. He’s a Catholic man, he’s a father, and if he really genuinely cared about families, one would think that he would be aware or at least do something about or at least change the laws. … It was his bill in 1974, which I think is getting rewritten right now and is going to make it even worse for families. And he’s ignorant of that fact, and he needs to smart up, get aware, and really change it for the better, not for the worse.
Q: Would this drive of yours with your experience and your book and your organization ever propel you to run for office of some kind?
ELLIS: I haven’t ruled that out. I haven’t really thought about it too much, to be honest. In fact, I’ve walked a lot of red carpets in my time in the entertainment business. I’m more interested in walking up the steps of legislative buildings and providing testimony and speaking to not just my experience, which people can read about in “The Respondent,” but it’s really just a vessel for so many others — fathers, mothers, parents, partners, spouses that are going through this, particularly children. Any time we strip away a child’s right to have a biological father or a biological mother present for their childhoods, we’re really just — it’s a recipe for disaster. So, yeah, if that happens, I wouldn’t say no. But quite frankly, the state of politics today, it seems like the prerequisite to be a politician is you don’t have integrity.
Q: Is there something that we haven’t touched on in this interview regarding either your book or family law in general or any kind of cultural topic, cancel culture, that you would want our readers and listeners to know?
ELLIS: Good question. No, I think the book is worth — it’s a good read. The one thing I would say is, for anyone who’s going through what I went through or knows someone who is, I also have a companion free downloadable ebook called “The Code,” and that’s available at TheRespondent.com, and that offers immediate interventions into wellbeing for anyone — parents, children, families struggling to cope with the family law system, or life in general. Those impactful and immediate relief strategies that help you survive what I call in family law or high-conflict divorce “six silver bullets and the magic ballistics of family law war.” So, yeah, I would just encourage people if they need help — and also say to the listeners and viewers, if you’re going through this, you’re not alone. It may seem like the world has turned upside down and you are in this alone and there’s no hope, but ride out that existential wave of terror or angst and you’ll get to the other side, and there is hope. And hopefully my organization will grow and build and more people will become aware of it.
Q: And how can they get to that organization? And what are your social medias, if you have any to plug?
ELLIS: Sure. TheRespondent.com has all the information about the project, the book, the nonprofit, episodes, the free downloadable ebook. RealGregEllis.com has information about me and socials — @ellisgreg on Twitter. It’s where I can usually be found. I’m on Facebook and Instagram, too. On Instagram, it’s RealGregEllis.