March 20

The Little One

She is my little one. She isn’t so little anymore. She is bigger than quite a few adult women, but she is just finishing up the fifth grade. Unlike her siblings, she is my biological child. Whether people like to admit it or not, there is a unique connection between us. One that cannot be explained through our experiences. The GAL had made the comment that the younger one would have a hard time with his recommendations. Of course I knew that they all would, but she would have the hardest time. The older ones are at an age where branching out from your parents is natural, so they have just accelerated this in their lives. They are acting more like older teens than they are.

I was on a trip with my wife. We took her kids to see their dad, and we combined her expanding business opportunities and a beach vacation for us. The night before we left the little one called me. She asked to have lunch with me when we return. She said she wanted to talk. I of course was curious, but looked forward to spending a little time with her. She is one of the few people in the world who I feel loved by regardless of our mood or temperament. In this way she reminds me of my great grandmother, a woman that she never had the privilege to meet. As I was driving back home the next day, I get an email from the therapist. She wants to meet us to continue the conversation that my daughter wants to have. This made me suspicious of what was to come out at this lunch.

We had a nice lunch. She didn’t really bring up anything of consequence. She told me what she had been doing over the break. When the therapist showed up, she and my daughter told me that at family therapy earlier that week with my ex-wife that my daughter became very upset. She told the therapist that the current arrangement makes me more like a friend and not like a dad. She wants her dad. There was some hint that she seemed to think that I liked the current arrangement, but I know that I have been clear that this is not the case. I suggested that there should be some overnights starting, and if they cannot do them all together, because my oldest would feel left out, then why not one-on-one with the other three. The therapist thought this was a good idea, and also thought that the girls could come together as well. We will see what is figured out for an actual schedule. Nothing is in writing yet.

I told the therapist that this schedule would not allow me to be much of a parent. She wanted to tell me that I could parent at the mall or wherever we were. She didn’t grasp that all the situations she gave me required that I have the influence that comes from intimacy, and without just spending time together doing nothing but life, there isn’t intimacy. I guess in this bizarro world that I live in, it takes the voice of a child to open the eyes of these self serving adults.

I hope that the rest of the kids take notice that there are ways that they can affect what is going on, and take action. Its sad that I don’t have the power as the parent/adult involved, but the family courts have stripped me of that. They have lots of power, because the courts have decided it should be that way. Its not healthy, but it is what we face as men in the court system. Our power comes through the kids, just as it is taken away in the name of the kids interests. The kids actual interests and “the best interests of the child” have to be expressed in terms such that those who are making the decisions see that they are in opposition to each other. There isn’t any guarantee that it will matter to these people. They like to be innovative and creative. They want to be remembered for the impact that they have. They measure success in the short term, and by things that they have defined. None of these people will follow the outcomes into adulthood for the children. They won’t see that ripping a father out of their life, even a pathetic one is doing far more damage than allowing him to remain and forcing the father and mother to figure things out.

I have commented on the system a lot over the past posts. It is severely broken. There are lots of ideas about fixing the system, but no one is asking if the system should be making these decisions. The system should have a check in system. It should ask some questions to determine if a case belongs there at all. There should be very clear circumstances that don’t allow the parents both be involved equally for any case to be heard. Any allegation of abuse needs to be criminal and substantiated by a conviction or a plea bargain. All other cases need to be handled either by agreement or by standard rules set by elected officials not judges. Child support needs to be removed from the equation. Any required expenditure for the kids should be split, and all other expenditures should simply be handled by agreement. If parents don’t agree, then the parent who wants the expenditure, can pay for it. Courtrooms are a poor place to resolve conflict between parents. Parents have to move forward after court. Courtrooms are generally where a relationship is ended not changed. As the separation of parents gets farther away without a courtroom for one to gain advantage over the other, the new relationship as simply parents living apart will develop into something that is functional and perhaps even healthy.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

March 9

Political Change

I haven’t seen that there is much that can be done in my case, or any number of cases like mine. I have talked to men and women who fall into similar situations. The fact is there shouldn’t have to be losers when we talk about custody, but if it goes to trial, there will be losers. That is what courts do, they decide who wins. When a case goes before the court, there are generally 4 parties represented. One is you and of course another is your spouse or ex-spouse. The third is an idea called “The best interest of the child,” often mistaken as being the children. Who is this fourth party involved? The state. Who represents the state? The court. That’s right, by entering the court room to argue your custody case, you have invited the state into the upbringing of your children. Once they are there, they will stay there. The state’s interests are protected by the court. The attorneys on both sides will appeal to the state’s interests at times to try to shift the state’s/court’s thinking towards their client’s interests. The third party may or may not be represented. Sometimes this idea that the arguments revolve around is argued by the the parents attorneys. Sometimes this idea has its own representative. Four party negotiations are not a simple matter, but once you are in court, the advantage goes to the state’s interests. Each jurisdiction may have different interests, and each judge may have different opinions about those interests, so there isn’t a singular list of things to address here. What needs to be addressed is that the state has an interest in most custody cases.

In my recent reading, I am very much of the opinion that to change things, I have to seek political change. I may not be able to affect any changes in favor of my relationships with my children, but I can affect change for them. I have talked about the costs of the state being in the middle of our families in other posts. I am not going to go into them at length here. I am simply going to say that the state taking an interest in my family’s dynamics without their being some form of criminal misconduct on one parent’s part is dangerous to our freedoms. This does not simply endanger our parental rights, but it endangers our rights in general. The state using children as an argument to get involved in private matters during custody cases is simply just the state gaining a foothold into other areas of our lives. What is even worse, is the state is being represented by a court system that is making decisions outside of their authority. Our elected officials are invading our homes, but our courts acting as an oligarchy.

Much of this has been caused by our elected officials not wanting to get their hands dirty, so they give the court authority to make decisions they shouldn’t be making. Child support is a great example. The legislators in most states have delegated the authority they have to set a child support schedule to the courts. In most states the state supreme court will in one way or another set the child support schedule. This is advantageous to the elected officials, because they won’t be blamed for taking the money from the payers or shorting the payees. Without the oversight of the other branches of government, the courts can choose to do what they see as the best interest of themselves and the state. They understand that there are Federal matching funds for collecting child support, and the legislators can ensure that some of that money makes it way to the courts. There are government jobs tied to having to maintain processing centers for child support payments.

The question is how do we affect change. Where do we attack first. One of the first things I see needing to be struck down is the Bradley Amendment. It gives no means for paternity fraud to be fixed. It doesn’t deal with the realities of life for the person paying child support. It is a key ingredient to the dehumanizing of the payer, usually the father in the public eye. Along with the Bradley Amendment, the criminal penalties for non-payment of child support need to go away. Traditional civil penalties are enough for dealing with court orders that fall under the civil courts. A family court doesn’t even hold the same evidentiary standards as normal civil court, so it has no place in applying criminal penalties for anything.

Two things need to go hand in hand for the next step of change. One is the idea that the children have a right to a portion of the parents income. Its a silly notion that really exists to justify child support at very high levels, and to justify the transfer of income without a tax consequence. It is the equivalent of a theological debate over the law. No one listens to it, until they see the utility of it in their lives. The other is to get the legislators to accept responsibility for child support rules or calculations. The two go hand in hand because it is this accountability that will get them to listen. Now it returns to an issue that has political capital. The state representatives now have a reason to come up with calculations and rules that benefit their constituents. This becomes a campaign issue. Our Federal representatives can be pressured to change the nature of child support. The matching funds need to go away. States should not be rewarded for their role in destroying the family. The tax consequences of child support need to be changed. This is an income transfer from one adult to another for the purpose of raising their children. There is no requirements for how the money is spent, so without any accountability, its just income.

Pressure then needs to be placed on the states to make child support something that is not required or even the norm in cases. Both parents have a right to support their children as they see fit. There is no fairness in this. If one parent has more money available to provide nice things to the children, then they should be allowed to use it as such if they choose to. In reality this isn’t different than it is now, except the court has decided that one parent will have this money by their ruling. Hard work and financial planning are not the deciders. Most parents will take good care of their children. The parents can work out expenses as they see fit. Any required expenses should simply be split in half legally. Each parent being responsible for 50% of the expense according to the law. I can tell you, I would rarely hold my ex-wife to that standard, and would simply pay most of my kids bills. The image of the deadbeat dad needs to be eradicated from the political discourse. Our elected officials who choose to use such language need to be punished at the ballet box. The culture that men are bad, and lazy needs to be attacked at every place it is seen. Men cannot afford to ignore these things anymore.

Child support orders should be a total amount, divided into monthly amounts due. It cannot be raised or lowered. It should be treated as most other debts. If a parent paying child support is filing for bankruptcy, the child support due should be treated as one of the highest priority debts, and receive some of the largest funding through the process. When the bankruptcy is over, the child support should be considered paid in full. By this model child support is simply an award like any other civil case. The law needs to stop looking at every father as a potential dead beat who does not want to care for his children. Most men who filed for bankruptcy would emerge better able to pay directly for the child’s needs.

I know what needs to change. I have some ideas about the specifics. I know that these ideas will be flushed out over time, and working with others. Right now I need to find some political allies to fight the fight with. I need to find some elected officials who are already fighting the fight. Its time to to change things. Its time for fathers to make it clear that they matter, and they care, and they will destroy your career if you are betting against them.

This was somewhat of brainstorming session. I would love for some comments and ideas to sharpen my thoughts on this. I am actively looking for groups that are taking real political action, and politicians that are ready to stand with fathers.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

March 9

Lies and Betrayal

This process has taught me to trust very little. I don’t naturally seek people out for utility, but that can be the safest route through life. I used to have very idealized views of people and institutions. Somehow I thought I would escape the realities of these. Some might call me jaded. I don’t think that I have reached that point. I still see the potential in all these things, but my ability to believe in them as more than idea is gone. I am going to go through some of the things here that I have had to change my perspective on, because reality doesn’t reflect the beliefs I so dearly wanted to hold on to.

Marriage

I used to believe that this institution was something holy. It’s not. It is simply something legal that complicates life. Its a cost I am willing to pay for stability in a partner, but the reality is, it is a price she is charging me for companionship. It could be holy. I do believe that it was a holy creation. It was supposed to be a good thing for all involved. The reality is that over time marriage has become a ransom charged to men for a long term partner. Men used to have their own ransom, and that is what made it a more equal partnership. Men used to be the gatekeepers for family. They were also the protectors. They were the ones that if the family were to break apart, would provide resources as they saw fit to care for the mother of their children. The legal realities in the modern world is that men are going to be required to pony up whatever money someone else decides is right to care for his family, and will be required to do so at whatever cost it places on him. His children can be kept away from him, and yet he still be required to pay for them. He is treated as a man who abandoned his children to death, and is being punished as well as required to pay for them. A marriage that includes children is a shitty deal for men. Other than the most outlying cases, men are subject to the whims of their wives as the marriage falls apart. This hasn’t stopped me from entering into another marriage, but it will not include new children, and I enter into it with a very different perspective of what the deal is.

Justice System

There isn’t one. My son was not punished in any significant way for what he did. I don’t want his life ruined, but his victims deserve to see some justice. All they have seen is that he went away for a while, and now all decisions revolve around him. In a very real way, all my kids have lost me through his actions. He has through the fractured relationship that is left from what he did, and his mother’s constant use of him as a wedge to get what she wants. My other three as they have lost significant time with me, because it is unfair to him to be left out. My step kids have lost me, because I am out of the house more to spend the little time I have with my kids. There are now five kids relationships compromised all in the name of his best interests. Some day he will have to face with me the reality of the consequences of his actions, and how they have affected so many people. I dearly hope he will grasp it, and take it to heart, such that he never does something like this again. The family court does not provide justice or even equity. The decisions made have very little to do with law, and so much to do with the judges disposition and opinion. The family court has simply acted a siphon for my money to go to lawyers and other professionals. It has been used to extract the maximum amount of money from me every month to my ex-wife for the purpose of taking care of the children. Children, I would prefer to have in my home to care for in more important ways.

Truth Matters

It doesn’t. As a matter of character, it sure does, but having strong character is a losing proposition. I still value it, but it hasn’t served me in any way that matters, and has done significant damage to my situation. I can only hope that it will have an impact in the future. I know that I feel better about telling my kids why I made the decisions I have, because they are rooted in my character.

The GAL told the court that he talked to each of the kids and explained their recommendations. He said the two older ones were okay with the recommendations, and the that the younger one was going to struggle. That is how he said it, because he didn’t have his reference card to identify the children by name at the moment. When I picked up the kids after court, I asked them if they understood what the GAL explained to them. They told me that they hadn’t talked to him in months, and that me and their mother had explained the schedule he was proposing. Most of his communications apparently have been with my ex-wife, but he attributes them to the children. None of them seemed to be okay with the schedule. They asked how do the fix this.

Now that the social worker/therapist is acting as the custody manager, I have a new slurry of untruths to deal with. I had asked her if I could take the 3 kids with me and my wife and my step-kids for about half of spring break to the beach. She said she would talk to them and see what they were feeling. She did talk to them. She wasn’t very clear to them what she was acting. She came back to me and said that the kids weren’t comfortable with the idea, so she wasn’t going to recommend it. In talking with the kids, I have expressed I was disappointed that they weren’t going with us. My youngest was the first I talked to, and she asked why not. I told her what the therapist had told me, and she told me that she thought it would be weird if my oldest went. She was upset that they weren’t going with us. When I talked to my other daughter, she didn’t like it any better, but was trying to have a good outlook that she was going to be able to go to the beach with a friend later. My son is just pissed. He really wants to go, and doesn’t understand why all this is happening. When the therapist is questioned about their responses on things, she replies harshly. She asks if I think they are lying to her. I want to say “No ma’am, I think you are lying to me.”

I knew my ex-wife would bend the truth to her will. I never thought that so many others would join her. It seems very surreal to me, who has always believed that truth would win in the end, but I have read enough history to know that was a silly fantasy.

Family Comes First

My sister has not spoken more than a few words to me in about a year. I don’t know why. I wish I could say I have stopped caring, but I haven’t. She doesn’t treat my step-daughter well, and comes into contact with her on a regular basis. I know she knows about the custody changes, because her daughter was taunting my step-daughter with them at school. If there were any trauma in her life that I was aware of, I would have reached out to her. At least opened a dialog. I haven’t heard a thing from her. I spent most of my life ensuring she was okay. It hurts a lot to know that she doesn’t share any of that concern for me. I on occasion see my ex-wife coming and going from my neighborhood. This means that she has been spending time with my sister. Somehow the relationship with this woman that my sister never cared for has taken precedence over her relationship with me.

My mother and I aren’t talking. There are a few reasons. One is how her husband decided to get in the middle of what should have been a small conflict between her and my wife. I tried to push the conversation to be between them, and to not use me as a middle man, and he decided to make the conflict between me and him, and publicly shame me. I told him to take a hike. I don’t have the time or patience for that white knighting bullshit. She also knows of the changes. Instead of reaching out to me in any way that matters. She has decided to continue to communicate with my ex-wife in lieu of dealing with me. My ex-wife will be going out of town for an event with my oldest daughter, and my oldest son will be going somewhere for the weekend. My other son and daughter will be with my mother for the weekend. I will have to reschedule my 8 hour visit with the kids because of this. In a very real way, my mother’s time with my kids is interfering with my contact with my kids.

I told my mother that her behavior with my ex-wife was hurting me. She chose to attack my ability to work with my ex-wife instead of address the issues I brought up. One of which was that the relationship was going to be used against me, and it has been. In court the GAL insinuated that the reason we weren’t speaking was because of my relationship with my kids and how I treat them. It will further be used to demonstrate that a relationship with me is not important to them having a relationship with my family. She feels justified in her actions right now. I don’t see how this fracture is going to be healed. Its not going to be anytime soon. I don’t have the emotional cycles left to deal with any of that.

I am not some petulant child just coming into adulthood, and trying to find my feet by walking away from my parents. In these situations parents can count on time fixing things as the child experiences real life for a while. I am a middle aged man who has spent most of his life working for the benefit of others. I have started charities, and given over six figures over the years to their benefit. I have given of my time to strangers for no reason other than they needed help. My character has not suddenly changed. I am still the man that puts others first, but there is a limit to what I am willing to lose without a fight. Sadly it seems that being that person in my family’s life has left me alone. They counted on me to come to their aid, and to bridge the gaps between them. Now that I am the one on the outs, there is no one to bridge the gaps for me. For now these relationships will have to remain on hold. We will see what time does for them.


Am I jaded? Perhaps a little. Am I broken? Sometimes I think so, but not at the end of the day. I know that my kids are all at an age where they have to make decisions of their own. They will one day come to me and we can have an honest conversation. I will do my best to hold my bitterness, or hopefully be rid of it, but not my righteous anger over what she is doing.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

March 9

Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of interest is something that not everyone understands, it is more complicated than simple self motivation. It is more than than someone not being able to represent opposing parties. The basic definition according to Wikipedia is

A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests (financial, emotional, or otherwise), one of which could corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization.

In the most innocuous of cases, the parties in a divorce case have multiple COI. The system creates these severely divergent parties. The pain that one or both parties feel as they head down this road is not usually enough to drive someone who is not otherwise so utterly destructive down the roads that divorce drives so many people. Usually both parties have some care for what happens to the other person, especially in long marriages. They care what happens to the things they have acquired that have memories attached to them. Selfishly each wants the things they like, and there is probably some considerable overlap in those things, but again most people can figure out that given a little space. Both parties care for the children. They want the best for their children, and they believe that given a chance they can provide that. Its not that hard of a path without outside influences to understand that taking away the other parent is going to hurt the children. Without a conflict based system, the majority of divorcing couples even in high conflict divorces will find an equilibrium that is functional and fair. Many will argue that the system allows the weaker party a chance to have their say in the process. The reality is that the court system gives more power to an aggressive person over the less aggressive person. I don’t know that there is a way to change the power balance in a relationship to something more equitable in any process. I would chalk up the inequity to the fact these people chose to have children with each other, so they are bound to each other and the balance that they have created until those children are grown. Its not something for anyone else to fix for them, unless there is physical violence involved, and as much as this is the argument for all cases, it is a select few cases that it is actually a factor in.

The lawyers from the beginning have some COI. The largest one is their pocketbook vs helping their client resolve the case in the shortest amount of time possible and with the least conflict. Conflict drives up their rates. They have to spend more time preparing for hearings and trials, and arguing their points. They have to handle discovery issues. In a simple no frills divorce, the parties come together, and the lawyers will have a punch list of things to go over, and they sign off on the division of assets and a plan for continuing to raise the kids. If the lawyers were actually protecting their clients interests, they would do their best to settle conflicts with compromise, and would communicate with each other when the clients are struggling to do so. There would not be posturing and mudslinging. The system clearly demonstrates that it is the lawyers pocketbook that wins in most cases, but because the system is centered on the fact that you might go to court, it is impossible to be prepared for that eventuality without engaging lawyers. They have created a bubble to trap divorcing couples that the lawyers control to their benefit. Its all cloaked in professional ethics to make it all look legit.

The judges have nothing but COI. They don’t want to be overruled, so they engage third parties to make recommendations, and then support those as if they carry the weight of facts. These third parties are often lawyers themselves, or other court hangers on. The family court system is largely funded on having conflict that requires the parties to show up at court and have court costs. The judges are employees of the state, so they benefit from the child support that moves through system with collection fees attached. Family court judges are either on their way up or on their way down. The ones that are on their way up, want rulings that are not overturned, but get the kind of review that shows how clever they are. This allows them to have some basis to seek promotions, especially if they are seeking appointments that involve public elections. They want enough notoriety to have their name known without a cloud of controversy hovering over the decisions. The ones who are on their way down simply want to avoid controversy, so they don’t get dumped to traffic court or some other obligatory system to keep them employed. Avoiding controversy is ruling in ways that uphold the status-quot in the court system. Making ruling that may be constitutionally correct are not to be favored over making rulings that are inline with your peers.

The third-parties that are involved in family court present with the most COI opportunities that I can imagine. Custody managers, mental health professionals, GALs, etc are all people who are given a significant amount of power over people’s personal lives. They quickly become a means for the court to micro-manage how you live. The profit by being involved, so they are never going to go back to the court and state that they are not needed. They are most likely going to make a case for their ongoing involvement in the case. In a family with multiple children there are further COI that can happen. In my case, I have one child who’s circumstances are very different than the others. He is not able to come to my home at this time, because he sexually assaulted my step-son. I have a healthy relationship with the other three kids. The GAL in my case should have almost immediately asked for separate GALs to represent the kids, because they can’t possibly have the same interests in this case. That is a judgement that he chose not to make, and there is very little recourse for me to take. His recommendations came down to what he considered best for the one child and applied to all of the children. The judge appointed this same child’s therapist/social worker to be the custody manager for the kids, and the exact same conflict of interest exists there. Her concern for my oldest child and preventing him from offending again at least while he is a minor overrules the interests of the other children. When looked at as a singular entity rather than individuals, the greater good is served by serving the needs of the only the most needy individual. Since she doesn’t have the legal status of custody manager, just the role, she isn’t held to the standards of custody managers. Those standards state that she couldn’t sit in this role because of a prior significant treatment relationship with one of the parties involved. When the judge is being creative, these types of things don’t really matter.

The children are often left in the worst position with their COI. I don’t usually say that children suffer the most, because there is a lot of suffering to go around in divorce. In this case they are stuck between loyalties to each parent, to the family unit, to their siblings, and their own self interests. The emotionally needy or demanding parent will get the child’s loyalty out of guilt. Meeting this need is quite probably the worst decision the child can make. It enslaves them to that parent and ties their own emotional well being to that parent’s well being. The desire for a whole family unit is a big driver for the kids, and it can often lead to destructive behavior with a parent who is moving beyond the marriage into their own life, perhaps with a new partner. I think these two combined with some emotional manipulation by my ex-wife led to my oldest son doing what he did. The kids don’t want to hurt their siblings, so they try to figure out what each other are thinking and make decisions and opinions in line with what their siblings will approve of. They tie each other together, even when their own self interests would be served with a different or individual decisions. Their own self interests are the thing that so many kids will look past. They will ignore them to the perceived good of others. When one child doesn’t ignore them, it is often in the worst possible ways. They get what they want with bad behavior. The siblings will often try to make it all okay, but over the long term, they learn that bad behavior leads to results. The children in families where one kid has had significant issues in divorce often have all the children develop issues to gain the same advantage. I see some of this with my kids already. In the end they are likely to resent each other over time. This makes me sad.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

P.S. I leave you with this, because it showed up when I was looking things up and I liked it.