The Custody Paradox

This is the personal follow up to The Time and Money Conundrum. Once I started breaking down all the influences on things, I just couldn’t stop, and it was far too long to continue with my personal story. Mine is unique, but the ending is not. That to me is the just one of the incredible paradoxes of our system. Every path seems to lead to the same place. A place where fathers are relegated to inconsequential adults in a child’s life who are merely held accountable to continue to pay for their well being. The only real question is often how much are you going to spend to postpone the inevitable. I know there are victorious fathers out there, and I by no means want to discourage those who have the will to fight, it is your children’s well being at stake, but I cannot stress enough that the fathers who win are statistical anomalies in the family court system. Every judge has a couple to reference to prove that they surely do not have a gender bias in their decisions.

I had a court date a few weeks ago to settle child support issues. I had previously agreed to leave the current parenting plan in place to move things along. I wasn’t going to win so long as the GAL was involved. That plan is terrible. It gives me no parenting time excepting supervised visitation. Something that me nor the kids are very willing to do. She intimated that she would allow pretty much whatever the kids wanted. I never realized that of course they needed to know they could ask, and she has made sure that hasn’t happened. I have discovered that she has no qualms lying and bending the truth to get exactly what she wanted. I am not sure what she has built up about me in her head to justify treating anyone this way. Maybe she doesn’t need me to be a monster to act like this. I just know that I wouldn’t do the things she has done to anyone. Taking a kid from an able and loving father is about as terrible as you can be. Its the creation of the legal wall between parent and child that is terrible. Plenty of parents do things on their own to build up walls between them and their children. The difference is the parent and the child have the power to fix what is going on in their relationship without threat of jail hanging over one of their heads. As I said the purpose of the hearing was to discuss child support. I thought I was going to have to pay the maximum according to the child support scheduled, and she thought that I was going to pay some astounding amount more.

You might be wondering how on earth is she do more than the child support calculator comes up with. Its simple, her lawyer took a part of the code that makes up the child support schedule and twisted it up to mean something it wasn’t intended to mean. Her attorney also knew that our judge didn’t like me, and was apt to rule that having the extra money was in the best interest of the children. I have gambled a few too many times with this judge thinking she might go with some rational ruling. I even thought that she might split the difference on some issues that we couldn’t agree on making neither of us happy, but ending the issue. I have been wrong every time that I have done this. My attorney was afraid the judge might even increase the order from what they are asking for if we went into court, so we negotiated something that was slightly less crippling. The rule that she was using was a reference to “non-exercise of parenting time.” In case you missed it above, I have no parenting time. She was prepared to go into court, and say that I have not exercised parenting time that she has offered me outside of the parenting plan, and because of that, I should have to pay more. The purpose of the clause is simple. Lets say that you have a 10% reduction in child support for having a standard visitation schedule, and you choose not to use your parenting time for 6 months. The court would then adjust the child support using this clause to pay the custodial parent back for time they didn’t take. They wouldn’t change the rest of child support unless the other parent didn’t agree to start exercising their parenting time. In six months the non-custodial parent could return to court to remove the adjustment after demonstrating that they are now exercising their parenting time. Not only is my case a ridiculous use of the clause, but it is based on her word that she has offered me time(she hasn’t) that I haven’t exercised.

Now lets talk about the paradox of custody and child support. The courts take away time from a parent and raise child support. This results in the non-custodial parent having to work more hours, and thus having less time to spend with their kids. The custodial parent can take the non-custodial parent back to the court and raise the child support based upon increased income. It becomes a cycle where the non-custodial parent works more hours to meet their household needs and child support while the seeing their children less, which will lead to increased child support continuing the cycle. The core legal concept that is in play here is that some portion of your income actually belongs to your children. When the children are in a two parent household it is assumed that this portion is spent on their behalf, but when parents are divorced it is only assumed that the custodial parent is spending this money on the child’s behalf. This concept is the one that drives child support rates up so high. Another concept that attorneys will explain to you is that the court views child support as being fluid, and that when a non-custodial parent covers the expenses that should have been covered by child support, then the custodial parent would pay them back for those expenses. The truth is that the money never moves the other direction without a court order, and the courts will almost never make that order. This is simply a principle that is attached to the child support legal philosophy to justify the actions taken by the courts. It literally never happens. The closest you get is a parent who doesn’t take care of the kids will lose the custodial role to the other parent, but that fight is a gigantic uphill battle.

I try to remain hopeful. I am literally in the final stretches of this painful journey. Soon my kids will be able to make their own choices, and they will know it. They still have no idea what type of control they already have in their teen years. Their mom isn’t going to let them know what power they have. I will forever mourn not having them in my house to have late night and dinner time chats. For them to know and understand what it is to be a part of my family. I sometimes dream about them rejecting their mother for the choices she made, but the truth is that they have been raised in her house, and they are likely to see things from her view for a very long time. What I can do is be there for them when they call. I can ensure that my step-kids have the best relationship their bio-dad will allow. I can open my house to those who need a home. That is the next adventure for me and my family. More on that to come.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

The Time and Money Conundrum

** Disclaimer – I had not intended this post to be this long, but once I was writing it all had to be said. I also intended to have a personal aspect to it, but I will right the personal side to this post in a separate post. **

Anyone who has been through the divorce process has had it explained that the issues of child support and parenting time are decided separately. In theory this seems like a good thing. You are addressing the needs of the children separately, and this makes sense, because they are different needs. Anyone who has been through the divorce process also knows that this is all a bunch of crap. The two issues are so intimately tied together, that you cannot discuss one without discussing the other. It simply is not possible.

For those that have not been through the wondrous experience of a divorce that includes court rooms, lawyers, GALs, and lots of journal entries, have no fear, I can share how some of that works. My experience covers a large number of the potential issues that arise. If this is your first time at my blog, then let me explain. I have gone from super-dad to dud. I have gone from involved in my kids every moment to observer of the few that I am allowed to see. This didn’t happen because I changed in some dramatic way, but because the court chose a course for us to take, and it was necessary for me to play my part. If you wonder about how court works, take the time to watch “Divorce Corp.” It is a mind-blowingly accurate depiction of the things that you are going to face in divorce court if there is any kind of battle at all.

Parenting Plan

The parenting plan is officially the first thing that has to be decided for custody. The legal principle in play is “the best interest of the child.” It will be applied to determine how much time and the schedule of that time that the children will spend with each parent. In most states the children have no official say in this process. They are talked about, and may seemingly receive representation through a GAL, but the truth is that they have little or no say in the decision. This is because the parents under the law have the say, but somehow this is twisted and the court gets to decide. The GAL doesn’t actually represent the children, but the legal principle of “the best interest of the child.” This is not the same thing at all, and the children have no say in this. This does not mean that court and GAL won’t go through the motions of interviewing and discussing things with the children, but ultimately they are children and thus are considered to have poor judgement. There are only two possible routes for this to go. One is the parents agree to something, and the court will approve it. The other is the parents can’t agree, and the court will decide. Both of these can go poorly. I will discuss them separately below. The thing you have to know and understand is that the parents are no longer actually in charge of their children’s future. The court is, and thus the state. Once parents involve the courts, and it’s impossible not to when going through a divorce, then the children’s future is largely determined by the state. The process is not that different than if your kids were subject to a CINC (child in need of care) investigation. Every detail of your capabilities as a parent can be called into question, and some rare cases the courts have taken the kids from both parents. When it is all said in done, legally there is very little difference between a custodial parent and a foster parent.

Parental Agreement

This is usually the easy path. The judge will typically agree with anything the parents come up, so long as they don’t believe that you will be back in court later to fix the strange decisions that you made in the original plan. It won’t ever be submitted exactly as you intended. There are some unwritten things that have to be in any plan. There has to be a custodial parent. This is typically determined by which parent has the largest time share with the kids. In an equal parenting time or shared parenting agreement, this will typically be the parent who earns the least. These things are important, because they come into play later when child support is discussed. There are some other key things that will need to be in the plan to meet the state’s standards regarding a complete parenting plan. These include things about military service and the decision making process that will be used when the parents disagree. You can look up what your state has in it’s “boiler plate” for custody agreements. Some counties go a little farther with things, so you the best place to check for this information is your county’s court house, or it’s website.

If there isn’t some sort of state legislature to encourage shared parenting agreements, the court tends to be reluctant to award them. There are a few misconceptions about them that the court seems to accept as truth. One is that the parents rarely actually divide their time with the kids equally, and that the actual arrangement will be something more traditional. The other is that they increase conflict, because neither parent has the veto power over the other parent. This really just plays into the problem of handling domestic matters in court to begin with, because every case is viewed as a conflict that needs resolving. The courts don’t want to be bothered with every little dispute that comes up in raising kids, so it is easier to ensure that one parent has absolute power when it comes to making decisions. This presents a problem with shared parenting agreements, because they are rooted in the idea that both parents have a veto on pretty much all decisions that matter, and in small decisions the parent who has the kids generally makes them (which is logical).

Court Decides

I am grouping a number of different things into this. It includes decisions by agreement that come after the court has already indicated how it was going to rule as well as decisions fully made by the court. These situations often involve a guardian ad litem or GAL. You will know what a GAL and/or judge thinks is the right decision. At that point you are negotiating for better than is likely to happen in court, and not for what you want. This leads to agreements that are mostly one sided, and the other parent is just glad it’s not as bad as it could have been.

The court likes these decisions. They are the type that are rarely changed. Even if the couple come to court often, the ruling is almost always in favor of the custodial parent. If you pay attention to what’s going on. Custodial parents get charged with contempt of court for moving across the country with their children without court aproval. The remedies are as far reaching as they have to pay for long distance travel for visitation to they have to move back. It generally favors paying extra for travel, but with no enforceable clauses to make it happen. If a custodial parent runs off with the kids, then we get amber alerts and parental kidnapping charges which carry jail time. There is a huge difference in how the parents are treated from this point on. The custodial parent will have very few limitations on how they behave, and the only remedy for them not behaving well is to have a hearing to “show cause.” The judge has wide leeway on how to handle these types of hearings. The custodial parent usually is admonished at wort, unless they are directly defiant to the court.

Child Support

There are a lot of factors to child support. The how, the why, and the realities are what I am going to try to cover here. For purposes of this discussion, child support is the money mandated by the court to be transferred from one parent to the other, and is legally defined as income that belongs to the children. That last part is important. It affects how taxes are handled, and it affects what the judge is willing to rule regarding child support. Even though you were allowed to budget how money was spent while married, once you are divorcing that money is by statute allocated to the children and handled in a specific way, which is generally an income transfer from one parent to the other. Below we will cover the different aspects of child support from the different layers of policy that govern it. This will include Federal policy, state policy, and local court policy. The layers come down to what is going to happen to you in court, and it affects how you can defend your position, and why it all seems the same, but is different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Federal Policy

The federal government has impacted child support in multiple ways. The most daunting of which is they have made it a Federal crime to not pay child support. They use the word willfully in the law, but try and explain the difference between willfully not paying child support, and not being able to pay child support to a judge. Judges have been known to rule that people are willfully unemployed or underemployed, which by extension would equate to willfully not paying child support by extension. They have also made it illegal to travel outside the state or the country in an effort to avoid paying child support. This again is trying to crawl in the head of the person. The actions aren’t illegal, but the reasons behind them. Without third party testimony of conversations that indicate your state of mind, the court is left to judge your intentions. Hearsay is generally not allowed in criminal court, but it seems when it comes to child support those rules aren’t enforced. The real issues is the courts will generally judge intent by results. So not paying child support will imply the intent to not pay child support. A whole lot of this relies on the court to use their judgement to determine your intent. Also remember that most people who don’t pay child support, and haven’t actually done so intentionally, don’t have money to hire an attorney that has much talent. Winning is your arguments against a seasoned Federal prosecutor is going to be an uphill battle.

The Federal government has played a significant role influencing state polices as well. They have mandated that states work together to collect interstate child support ordered. They have empowered state courts to suspend drivers and professional licenses even when the ruling is in a different state than the one that the license is held. This is a direct attack on the ability of the license holder’s ability to earn income in the immediate future. The philosophy behind this and a number of the other tools used in the recovery of child support is that these “dead beats” have money or have access to money through friends and family to pay the child support, and this is leverage to get them to take advantage of those resources. Again this is not going to be the case for the truly poor person who owes child support, they simply aren’t paying, because they don’t have any way to pay.

Yet another way that the Federal government has made an impact is in what child support actually is. First it defined as money that belongs to the children. A concept that currently only applies when the parents are not married. This is not to mean that the parents have no say on how it is spent. It actually means that one parent has no say in how it spent, while the other parent has all the say. Their responsibility is to insure that the child is taken care of, not that the money received has any role in it. Now that definition plays an interesting role when it comes to taxes, because the children are your dependents, the money given to dependents isn’t a change in income for either party. This is a key difference between child support and alimony. It also plays a role in how high child support is, and the increasingly lower alimony payments. The end result is that typically there is a higher combined tax rate between the two parents, because the child support payer is normally the higher earner of the two. The IRS and other tax agencies have done studies, and found that alimony has a net loss in taxes, but child support has no impact on tax revenue. This is known as a policy driver. The tax code itself has no impact on how child support policy is developed, but the results or impact on taxes becomes a driving force in how to handle child support or alimony, because the same policy makers are responsible for taxes and spending taxes.

There are two things that could provide relief for the non-custodial parent that have been closed off. The first is that accrued child support cannot be forgiven. The custodial parent cannot go to court and ask for the child support obligation that has accrued be reduced or removed. Federal law has taken away the courts ability to do so, and the rational is that the money belongs to the children. Lets not forget that the money is going to other parent even if the children are long grown. The other is any form of bankruptcy. The child support debt is not considered a debt by the bankruptcy courts. fr may non-custodial parents, child support is the greatest debt that they have, and its the very thing that is holding them back from being able to stand on their own. This avenue is taken away from them with no other alternative for seeking relief.

The final thing that the Federal government has done that affect child support is provide matching funds for child support recovery. The original intent looked like it was going for actual “dead beats,” but the end result is the states have forced most non-custodial parents to pay child support through their state dispensaries, and that it is behoove of them to force the parent who makes the most money to pay the child support, because they will pay more. This in the end has them “recovering” more, and get more funds for success from the Feds. The states did not have the intense need to assign child support to every case before they were getting paid to do so.

As you can see the Federal government have put most of the key pieces in place to either force or encourage the states to have policies that will have child support assigned to every case, and to enforce the payment of the support with all of their bureaucratic might. These laws are largely rolled up in the social security and welfare act, and the driving force is the expense of single mothers on the system being softened by having income from the fathers. The massive machine that has been put behind it isn’t justified by the savings. You can follow the politics and realize that there is a far larger agenda in play, and that agenda isn’t good for fathers in general, and specifically it isn’t good for the bread winner of any family in the event of a breakup. Know and understand that the Federal government has made your family a political token in the pursuit of votes.

State Policy

The states have a number of responsibilities in all of this. Some of the biggest ones are edicts from the Federal government, and are enforced through the matching funds mentioned above, and of course by threatening to take away highway funding (the go to threat for Feds). They are required to have a state child support dispensary, and they are required to have a child support schedule or guidelines. There is some direction on how these operate, but for the most part things are left to the states. That doesn’t change the fact that the mechanisms that the states have chosen are remarkably similar due to the fact that it was easier to copy what other states have implemented to receive those special funds from the Feds. The states do have some leeway to make decisions on how to implement Federal guidelines, and how aggressively they pursue “dead beats,” but they have little discretion in how aggressively they assist other jurisdictions in pursuing “dead beats.” When you are unable to pay the full amount of child support, the state and county that your case is in has more to do with the consequences than the state and county that you live in.

States are held accountable to pursue child support in all cases where a single parent is getting assistance that is Federally funded. Some states take this really seriously, and others allow mothers (yes this is mostly mothers) to claim “absent father” and move on. There are a number of times that the custodial parent wasn’t taking anything from the other parent, because they knew that they couldn’t afford it. This is the case in poor families where the parents respect each other. The state will pursue child support to reimburse for aid. The custodial parent doesn’t receive much if any of the child support in these cases. The state rarely cares if the non-custodial parent can afford the child support, and their is very little aid for a “single” person who can’t make ends meet.

To get the matching funds mentioned above the states have to have a child support dispensary for collecting child support. The mandates don’t require the states to put all child support through these agencies, but they encourage it by calling all money that moves through it “recovered” child support. Which is what is needed to get matching funds from the Feds. Most states have made it compulsory that all child support go through the dispensary, and if it doesn’t, then it will be classified as a gift by the court. The legal machinations are dubious, but try to beat the system, and you will lose. The dispensary has the legal means to pursue unpaid child support using all the tools that government has provided, even though a large number of the states have privatized this aspect of child support. They usually get a cut of the child support. The courts will usually attach a fee to the child support to cover the charges from the dispensary, raising the child support paid by as little as a few dollars per month to 10% of the total amount paid. I will write about the history of how most of these agencies were started in another post, but just know that there is one man who has become very rich off of this system.

The other major responsibility of the state is to create a child support schedule and guidelines. These of course have a number of Federal requirements to meet for them to be complete. The states do have a wide leeway on the actual numbers that are used. The end results seem to vary dramatically. I am actually working on a generic calculator to show an estimate of what you would pay in each state. Its a long process, but the results so far have shown me just how far apart the states are in the final numbers that the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay. So like all good politicians, the legislatures in most states have found ways to remove themselves from this political hot potato. Most have made the state supreme courts responsible for creating the guidelines. They then simply approve them without any discussion. This gives them a fair amount of distance from the discussions that happen regarding child support. Most states use the USDA cost for raising a child tables to use as a baseline for child support, and then do magical math on it to make it look more complicated than it really is. Check your numbers out here https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/tools/crc_calculator/. They have become politically biased as they have become the standard for child support calculations. At my income with four children, it shows that 100% of my income is used for the children. None for anything else. This is a ridiculous position, but it greatly affects how much child support is taken from me and probably you, if you are reading this post.

The state have taken a number of things that used to require court orders, and given bureaucratic agencies the ability to take action without a judges approval. Suspending professional and driving licenses is one of these. Increasing the order temporarily to catch up for back child support is another. Many states have provided other “administrative” remedies that don’t require the court’s approval to execute. Child support collection is so important in our nation that due process is not necessary in the process. Many in the legal fields will try to explain how this is due process, but if you don’t get your day in court or have agreed to the the action, you have not had due process.

When it is all said and done, the states take every opportunity to receive the matching funds from the Federal government. Its free money, and who doesn’t like free money. Your fearless leaders have chosen to pass the buck of responsibility to the supreme courts of the state, and they in turn use boards to decide on the guidelines that will be followed. The politicians are able to hide behind the Federal guidelines for their actions. So far no one has to take responsibility for the pain caused by the system.

County/Parish Policy

There isn’t a lot to say here. The general policy is for them to execute the state guidelines and statutes in the court. Most states provide a fair amount of the money from Federal matching funds back to the county, and to encourage the courts to act in the counties best interest, the counties give the courts a cut of that money. The more money raised through child support, the more money the courthouse has to spend. They become the tail end of the money funnel, but they are the leader

Larger counties will add their sets of rules or guidelines to extend or clarify what the state has done with their policies. Often these are presented to those entering the family court in a class and a pamphlet. The first thing you will notice is that there is an assumption that the results will look a certain way. This is your first clue of what your court results are likely to resemble. The common terms used are “standard visitation” and “minimum parenting time schedule.” The rest of the pamphlet will focus on how child support and visitation are not connected, and you are obligated to pay even if you are being denied visitation.

The courts are generally required to have a divorce class. It focuses on paying child support and getting along. It is generally a wast of time, because you are either already wanting to get along, or you don’t give a fuck. Either way, its a waste of time, and doesn’t change how people will behave at all.

Court

All the things above come to play in court. The ultimate ends are the court whenever possible will use conflict to increase child support, because this increases the amount of money that comes their way. The state guidelines give many ways for the court to make child support higher than the calculator says. Ultimately the best way to increase child support is limit the access to the children for the party that makes the most money. If you review cases that have a trial, you will see that the end result is typically the same regardless of the path that is taken. Don’t believe a lawyer who tells you that each case is fact specific. You will find that most cases end up with the parent who earns the least having the kids most of the time, and the parent who earns the most will have them between 4 and 8 nights a month. The reason for this, is money. This is will generate the maximum child support, and thus the most money that is paid back to the court through the Federal matching funds to the states.

Shared Parenting

No one likes it except the non-custodial parents and the children. It has the least amount of child support, and the lowest amount of conflict years down the road. If it were the default situation, there would be far fewer conflicts to begin with that are worthy of the court’s attention. This is bad for lawyers, bad for the courts, and bad for selfish custodial parents. The laws as they are now, still have child support, and the custodial parent is defined as the parent who earns less money. If that isn’t transparent, than I don’t know what is. It is bad for the business of divorce for parents to be allowed to figure out how to raise their children together.

Who is it not bad for? Society is better off when both parents are raising kids. There are fewer unwanted pregnancies by young women and teens, there are fewer criminals. The end result of shared parenting is the next best thing to two parents staying together in one household. There are fewer suicides from parents who couldn’t live with the results of court. There are fewer murders of former partners and children. The only losers are the government. Even the custodial parent makes out better, because finances are negotiated between the parents, and the burden is shared more fairly. The custodial parents do not become as reliant on income that isn’t theirs. Custodial parents tend to have financial crisis as the children age out of child support.

It is time for us to fight for more shared parenting legislation. The type that makes it hard for a court to go with traditional rulings. Time for states to be forced to use the matching funds to support increased involvement by non-custodial parents, instead of funding the machines that keep parents from their children. It is time to hold our elected officials accountable for their decisions. This includes the decisions to pass the responsibility to non-elected bodies, so that they may not have to face the political consequences of such decisions.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

I Miss You …

I have put off this post in hopes that I wouldn’t really need to write it. The sad truth is, that hope is based on ideas and principles that just simply will never be at play in my case. I go back and forth from being damn near suicidal to overly optimistic. No one would have ever described me as manic, but the thoughts in my head are just that. I know I am not unique in this. I read stories everyday of men who are walking the line of life and death in their heads. Only they know the darkness that surrounds their thoughts. Its sad, but one of the things that keeps me kicking is that idea that somehow my ex-wife would find a way to get at my life insurance, and metaphorically piss in my grave. The idea of the harm that it might do to my kids is hard to even consider, since I have died to them many times already as the courts and their mother have taken me from them. I have no idea what they really think about the situation. Someday I might hear from them what life was like. I will probably be heart broken regardless of the answer, for they will either share my pain or they will have judged me as unworthy. I spend too much time thinking about the things that they might be thinking, but I never hear. I miss my kids everyday. There is no way for my heart to be full again. I cannot love my step-kids or my wife the way I ought to be able with them so close, but so far away. In a strange way, it seems that it would be better that they have died, because I would not have the constant reminder that they are so close, but yet unreachable. I know this sounds crazy, but it feels true right now.

I am honestly shocked at how few men have turned violent over the loss of their children. I don’t think its good for society that we so readily accept this as normal, and even try to internalize this such that our hearts don’t hurt quite so much. We were built to love by providing and protecting our families. There is fine line where we are treated as dangerous for this, and relegated to provider, but its not really the role of provider, but one where we are enslaved to the mother until such time that the children are released into adulthood. The line between provider and slave is often a thin one, but it is one that every divorced man has felt the difference at some point, even if they have not been relegated to simply a means of financing that which they have no authority. The emotions surrounding this situation is almost impossible to describe to anyone that hasn’t been through it. Its not something we are supposed to experience in the land of the free, but after a couple trips to the county courthouse, you realize that we don’t live in the land of the free, because anytime someone else’s well being can be used to take away your rights and property, you are not free. Most men want the best for their children, and will do the right thing in regards to the children. That is the right thing from their perspective. The court has inserted itself into the family in a way that makes it the sole arbiter of what is right and wrong when it comes to raising your children. Usually this power is used to make decision making simpler or to expedite the process, but sometimes it is used to tear the kids completely out of a family that is perfectly capable of taking care of the kids. The dangers come from one key legal phrase – “The best interests of the children” This phrase is not defined as it is read. There is a legal definition that implies a whole lot of power to the courts once you walk through the doors.

Growing up, my dad and I had a special relationship. One that I cannot imagine would have happened had my parents divorced, because then more than now, fathers were relegated to weekends. We would stay up late and talk and yell and debate. I would stand in the garage with him while he smoked his cigarettes on cold nights. He taught me to drive, and how to do so many things that are required of a boy becoming a man. He taught me how to love without pandering to those you love every whim. He taught me how to put up boundaries in my life, even with the people you love most, and to demand the treatment that you expect. He also taught me that sometimes you let down those walls for no good reason other than you love the person, and you don’t want them to feel unloved. At the core, he taught me how to balance your needs in life with those that depend on you. I rarely thought about the expenses of our life, though he made it clear that there was a budget, and some things weren’t in that budget. If I wanted it in the budget, then I had to contribute to that budget. He was a warm man, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a strong man. He was always capable of exuding warmth even when he was actively disciplining one of us.

It is taking me weeks to finish this post. A part of me keeps hoping that it won’t be necessary, or that it will have a happy ending. It doesn’t I see my son who lives with his mom periodically. He likes to come by, but he has replaced his soccer with a lot of work. I feel that his mother pushed him to do this. It lowers her expenses, and she finds ways to make him pay for things that should be paid for by her. He is slowly developing into a man. Slower than what I would like, but he doesn’t spend enough time with me to develop faster. My oldest daughter doesn’t see me much. She still seems to have a strong connection when we see each other, but she doesn’t go out of her way to ever see me. My youngest seems to be figuring out that she can see me, but she is in middle school and can’t get herself anywhere. Sometimes she uses that to see me, but I try to limit that to times that she can spend more than just taxi time together. I honestly see my oldest son the most. I get a four hour visit with him at Teen Challenge once a month. He is growing into a pretty good man, though I can’t claim too much credit for that. There are other men who deserve that credit.

Nothing hurts more than to want to turn tell your children that you love them every night, and know that they aren’t going to be at your home for many, many nights for you to get to do that. To go from being a part of their daily rituals to an awkward silence when its time for everyone to go to bed. It hurts to know that they have beliefs about me that simply isn’t true, but they aren’t mature enough yet to share those beliefs with me in such a way that I can share my point of view. I find myself at the verge of tears all the time. Its a hell of thing that we do to our families in the United States. I do hope that our children can do better. I hope they learn the lessons their parents and grandparents did not.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Day 683

That’s the day The day that I finally had my kids all spend the night at my house again. It was 12/30/2016. Nearly two years after that damned ruling. Things aren’t all peaches and cream, but this is a big day. My oldest is away at Teen Challenge. I think this is going to be good for him. If its not, I don’t know what is next. I have had some nights with my other son, and my youngest over the last few months. Not many, but some. I had them for 4 nights, but my middle daughter didn’t spend the night here, but at my mother-in-laws the first 3 nights. She is afraid of my dog that bit her. That in itself was a major deal. Time gives me hope now. It may take until they are adults for me to have the full relationships that I should have with my kids. My heart is fuller, and I have had more time, even without overnights in the last couple of months with my kids than I have had in a very long time. The parenting plan still sucks, but my ex-wife is not holding to the plan, and that is a good thing. As a matter of fact, things have been pretty good with her for the last couple of months. I will count that as a blessing. It may not last, or it could get better. Time will tell. I will start blogging more again, now that my personal story isn’t one of constant defeat. I will tell more of my stories, and my ideas, and how I decided the best way to fight was to not fight anymore. As for the graphic, I love “Bleach,” so why not?

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Let The Kids Decide

There are so many things wrong with my current scenario, but it could play out better than I would have hoped. My ex has told me that she will let the kids decide when they want to spend time with me. The GAL has told her he won’t stand in her way on these decisions, but he won’t encourage them or support them. He has given up on me as a father. That’s some shit. He creates rules that don’t let me parent, then judges me for not being a model parent. The big catch is of course that she isn’t telling them that they have this new found super power. She explained to me that she expected my youngest to want to come over often, and that my middle two probably wouldn’t want to come over much or at all to spend the night at least. My oldest has a lot of work to do that makes all of this too complicated to dig into for him, so we will not talk about him right now. I might dig into things with him in a separate post.

The fundamental problem of letting the kids choose at any age where they are still dependent on their parents is that it creates a competitive environment. Even if the parents don’t compete, if the child chooses one parent over the other, then they risk hurting the other parents feelings. It places the child in a position of power that should not belong to them, because they are not ready for it. They don’t understand the law of unintended consequences at all. They are being made responsible for relationships that they aren’t mature enough to be responsible for.

This weekend, a lot of things have happened. I would call most of the weekend progress. My youngest stayed the weekend. I went to take pictures of my oldest daughter before homecoming. My younger son had dinner with me and my wife after the pictures. He and my youngest came to a family dinner with my wife’s family on Sunday. Notice my oldest daughter chose not to come to dinner.

So first to my youngest. Its awful how she ended up spending the night for three nights, but I am forever grateful for her doing what it takes. I would never encourage her behavior, but I am not surprised at all by her behavior. She has been more and more reclusive at her mom’s house. She spends most of her time in her room. She only comes out to eat. She reads like a maniac (which makes me very happy), and watches a ton of TV and movies, which doesn’t bother me because she is an active reader and athlete. Its background while she does life. She has become nastier and nastier with her mom, and when her mom talks to her about it, she is very clear that she wants to be with me. I don’t believe she is saying live here, but that might come if her mom continues down the path she is on. She means that she wants to be with me in my space, where I can be her father and not some strange friend or baby sitter for them. So I got the phone call asking if she could come stay with us, like I would say no. My kids could call me and say “Dad I am coming over” and I would race them to the house if I wasn’t there.

Now for my son. I took him out to dinner after we took homecoming pictures with my daughter. He chose not to go this year. He didn’t have much fun last year, or so he says. I think he protects his older brother’s feelings a lot more than we ever know, and he didn’t have a date either. I have written about how he has spent most of his life protecting his brother and protecting the world from his brother. At dinner he asked why his sister was allowed to come stay with me for the weekend, and he wasn’t. He said “I don’t understand the rules.” My answer since we are still in court, and can’t speak as freely as I would like is “You need to start asking.” I hope he does. I love when he is here. Some of my fondest memories growing up is the late night talks with my dad. We would often argue and debate. It made me think through my ideas, and it brought us closer together. We did it on into adulthood, and I miss it with him. Maybe me and my son won’t have that same relationship, but we haven’t had a chance to develop it. I want to develop what we might have for the rest of my life. He came to the family dinner, and it was great seeing him interact with the adults and the younger kids. There weren’t any kids close to his age. He is such a great kid. He tends to carry the world on his shoulders. I wish he didn’t, but he did grow up with me, and I tend to do that too.

My older daughter chose not to come. She had homework. This was just dinner from around 5:30 until 8:00. I wouldn’t be so bothered, except this is the fourth time she has chosen to not spend time with me, when given a chance. I don’t know if she is protecting her mom from being alone with my oldest son, or if she has some problem with me. I need to find out. It worries me. It makes me sad. I love her personality, and she doesn’t seem angry with me, but the longer this goes on, the more awkward I feel.

I have wondered for a long time if I ever get a relationship with my kids again. With my youngest, I don’t doubt she will be around forever. She is also my only biological child. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but I suspect it does. I have little doubt with my younger son, he says he wants to spend time here with me, and plans on doing so as he can drive on his own. I don’t know with my other daughter. Time will tell with her. I do think there will be something with my oldest, but I don’t know what it will be. He still desires one, but we have a lot to deal with. That will either be the end or the beginning of what is to come. I hope its a beginning.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Riding The Wave (Sometimes The Wave Rides Me)

In this process there has been very little to cheer for. I had hoped for many things. People told me to be prepared to not get all of what you want. That never prepared me for not getting any of of what I want. What did I want, you might be thinking. Well that is pretty simple. I wanted access to my retirement money without the 10% penalty for early withdraw, so that I can pay off the mounting debt created by this process. This is money after I pay her what is her legal due. I wanted her portion of the debt paid to me, so I can pay off the retirement loan that takes $800 a month from my paycheck that I so dearly need. I wanted to have significant time with my kids, and be allowed to directly provide for them like a normal father. I have not received any of this. I still don’t have a final settlement, or a permanent parenting plan. I have no overnights with my kids, and am allowed less freedom with them than people who are strangers to me.

Let’s start with the easy stuff. The settlement isn’t done. Her attorney has no motivation to settle, and seems to want to go to trial. I am not sure what she gains from doing this. There just isn’t that much money involved, and the majority of it by any legal standard does not belong to my ex-wife. I really just want it done. It would be nice to get more cash out without the 10% tax penalty, but at this point, I just need it done, so I can move forward. I would like to start adding to my retirement again. Someday, I might get to retire. We long ago divided physical assets, and have no real property to speak of. Neither of us have vehicles that were owned when we were together. There just isn’t much to debate. She wants to regain a bunch of money that she thinks I owe her, and I won’t argue with it within reason, so long as we get a settlement.

I am going to have to accept the parenting plan as it is. She will have the right to demand supervised visits whenever she likes, and can tell me no to seeing them on her whim. She has expressed that she will let the kids determine what they want. This idea makes me so angry. It goes against all legal precedence, and against the idea that they are children and not capable of making decisions that belong to the adults. What makes me even angrier is that she has nothing that compels her to abide by these statements. The parenting plan will give me little or no rights. I can’t even be the emergency contact for my kids at school.

Those are the two things that I need to move on, and get out of court. I am afraid that we are going to trial. My attorney has informed me that so long as I am delinquent in my bill to her, she can’t afford to go to trial. I completely understand this, and am somewhat prepared to represent myself for these issues. It doesn’t really matter what the result is. In the spring, I will get my $800 a month back. In another year and a couple of months I will get child support back for my first child, and then the rest over the next 5 years. It will be a net gain of around $35K a year net. I just have to survive until that point. Right now the prospects aren’t so great. I have mounting debt including tax debt, and no further money or means to increase my income. Finding ways to increase my income is something that I currently am working on. Winning promotions and freelance work are my best bets.

So far I have been ridden hard by the wave. I have fought it and been knocked down every time. I have to learn to ride the wave. It doesn’t matter what I think the wave should do, it only matters what it does do. I have started to do this a little with my kids. Its hard. It hurts, but the further we are from court, the more opportunities I get to spend time with my kids. I can’t figure out what motivators she has for when she decides to say yes, but I keep asking, and have to refuse to get angry over her saying no. Riding the wave means accepting whatever I am allowed to be as what fatherhood is for me. It means not plotting what I can do next to get an advantage, so I can petition for what I should have a right to. It means biting my toungue a lot, and praising things that she should be doing as if they were unexpected, and incredibly generous.

Its time I really figured out my budget. I can’t live the way I am. I will die of a stroke if I get too many more knocks on the door from utility bullies threatening to turn off the power or water. I have no patience for them. Its the first time in my life that I have ever felt what it must be like to be poor. I am not poor, but I have to live in a community to be close to my kids that is fairly affluent. That is something, I might have to rethink in the coming year, if I can’t get things straight. Right now I benefit from having a landlord who either doesn’t pay attention or doesn’t care much whether I pay rent. I count it as a blessing that may not last.

I guess the point that I am reaching is that I must give up relying on my beliefs of right and wrong, and just go with the flow. Not that I should stop fighting for what is right, but in my life with my kids, I can’t win that fight. I have to take the fight on for future generations. I don’t know where to start, yet. I think I will solicit the stories of others, and compile them into a book. Something I can use to demonstrate the problems, and something I can use to raise the money needed to get the attention of the people who can change the status quo. It makes me sad, but fighting to fight just isn’t going to make things better.

There is hope for me though, and I will write about that. It doesn’t come in court. It is a hope rooted in who my kids are. Sometimes I don’t trust who they are. I have been cut out the last couple of years, but they still have a lot of me in their past, and I need to trust in that. It may be different for each kid, but I don’t believe that they are all lost. I do have to accept that some of them could be lost. That hurts, but it is a reality that I may have to face. A reality that means that even as adults I may have lost them.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Being Gollum

I hear stories of men winning after years of losing. I don’t see hope of that happening in court. I don’t have it in me to the horrible things that have to be done in my case to win in court. I was a highly competitive athlete, and rules and fair play matter to me. This isn’t how the law works. Its dirty, its imprecise, and values the ability to manipulate people. I loved the game play in sports. Getting in the head of a stronger opponent is one of the great thrills of life. In court opinions matter, and they affect the end result of cases. Getting in everyone’s head changes the rules. The judge isn’t a referee, but a player on the field with a different set of rules. Its all a grand game, and its bigger than any single case. They like to think of it as real life chess, but it doesn’t have rules like chess.

I used to respect what it took to become a lawyer. I used to think their was some nobility in the profession, but the more I am around attorneys, the more I realize that they for the most part have bought themselves into a club that trades favors with each other. This allows them to be overly expedient with a system that is not intended to be expedient. Family law might be the worst case of this. I have seen in in the juvenile courts, child protective courts, and divorce courts.

If you have read my story, then you know that divorce court has not been friendly to me. Like the Gollum in LOTR, I am not given the benefit of the doubt. I am looked at with disdain, and my actions that they approve of are attributed to motives that are other than noble. Their is no winning. It is simply a matter of how I will lose next. I fear like the Gollum that my pursuit of my ring will land me in the fires of Mount Doom. My ring would be actual freedom to be a father.

The Gollum transitioned as a despicable character to a pitiable character throughout the story. You felt sorry for him, but never trusted him. He was a creature to be feared, even when you needed his help. The Gollum was mistreated out of hand by the more noble characters, and to them it seemed the right thing to do. As I watched the movies and read the books, I always became upset by how the Gollum was treated. He was never given a real chance at redemption by those he traveled with. He was simply a means to an end. He knew how to reach the fire of Mount Doom without being detected.

As a father in family court, I am treated with distrust for wanting to have my kids a significant amount of time. That distrust allows the court without any evidence to prove I am not in the best interest of my children. I am feared because I don’t think like a mother. I am mistreated for not accepting whatever I am given as being a victory. I am given no path of redemption, just further restrictions, and those causing it feel justified, because I am despicable in their minds. I am not to be trusted and must be controlled. My value is mostly in the money I can provide, and I have very little more of that. I may burn before I get the ring again.

The other trait that I was most aware of in the Gollum is his jealousy. He was forever jealous of the other characters, and in particular Frodo. Frodo had what he wanted. It ate away at him. He was on the edge of murder multiple times. His internal or not so internal voice was telling him to kill Frodo and take the ring.

Now my jealousy hasn’t driven me to think of murder, but its constant and real. I see other Dads who have their kids on a regular basis. They don’t miss out on teaching them to drive. They don’t miss out on first dates. They don’t miss out on late night talks. I get none of these things. I spend a lot of time wondering what I am missing today. I just took a road trip, and I missed the conversations we would of had while we drive, if they had been allowed to go with me. The pain is at times unbearable.

The Gollum also believed that everyone would get theirs. They would someday get what they deserve, and he would relish in it. It never happened. In middle earth, there was no karma, and there is none in the real world either. Sometimes good people are bad with no consequences, and bad people continue down their wicked path without even a hint of things coming their way.

I too find myself dreaming of when everyone gets theirs. Perhaps the judge gets judged. The GAL loses his kids and has a GAL frown on him. My ex-wife would be accused of something horrible and have to live with the shame of it, and lose what she loves because of it. I think of the time when child support starts falling off, and she struggles without all my money. She will lose starting in just over a year nearly $4000/month. That is the equivalent of $60,000/year in earned income. I expect her to fail financially, and to do so hard. The problem is, I am looking forward to it.

I may not be able to change other’s looking at me like the Gollum, but I can stop being the Gollum. I have to change my internal dialog. I can’t walk around mad all the time. I have to find some place where the Gollum can be the hero, but I can’t do that while I actually think like the Gollum.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Bitch!

This is not a nice post, I am pissed, and I don’t give a crap how people take it. The past few weeks have been shitty. Its been her fault, and I don’t give a fuck about being nice right now. She is determined to fuck every part of my life, because she is a soulless bitch who cannot attract anything to her for a real relationship that is worth having around.

Now that I am completely shit when it comes to everyone involved in the court system here, she wants to just agree to keep things the way they are. That is supervised visits and a no contact order between my step-kids and wife, and my kids. The plus side is that it gets things out of court. It leaves the possibility that she could allow things to change by agreement, but then again she could choose not to, and there is really nothing I can do about it either way. She could let me have more access to them, then she could take it away because she got pissed off. It really leaves me as not much of a father at all. My attorney and me agree that there isn’t any changing the court’s opinion of me, and this would make it possible that if I have to go back to court, I may not have the same judge anymore ,and the GAL would no longer be assigned to the case. If a new GAL were assigned, then it is likely we could get a completely different one, and with a new judge we could argue for that. I won’t say that I have hope anymore, but giving in to this isn’t quitting.

What makes me so angry about this is she isn’t thinking of the kids in any way shape or form. This is all about her having power over me. Its about her not having to parent with me. She will talk a good co-parenting game, but its not really what she wants to do. She wants to do whatever the hell she wants to do. It doesn’t have to do with the kids. At one point I called her a good mother in most ways, but now I call her a pretender. She puts the kids through hell, just like me, to get her way. She is not a good mother. She is a monster masquerading as a super-mom. Its bullshit that the courts and their entourage see her as a star, and me as a looser. Her interference is seen as being an engaged mom, and I am somehow an abuser. The system may allow it, but it doesn’t change the fact she is a monster. It might seem harsh to call her a monster, but the mere fact that she is pushing me out of the kids’ lives makes her a monster. The fact that she used tragedy in my home, and issues with my oldest to win advantage in court and trash me makes her a monster. I had nearly 300 pages of documentation of her bad behavior with the kids, particularly my oldest, and I chose not to use it, because the kids need their mom. I don’t regret it, but I was foolish to think that there was a possibility of her working with me to parent in even a most rudimentary way.

I have been reduced to that of the financier of my children’s lives, and she is the trustee who gets to choose how to spend those funds. I haven’t been given a choice to control how spending happens or what they do. The less time I spend with my kids, the more they become distant from me. I used to think if I could just hold on to something small for a few more years, that maybe I would have a good adult relationship. Its possible, but the probability isn’t all that great. I know plenty of people it has been true with, but they had a malicious ex-wife who trashed them to the kids. Mine manages to get others to believe things about me, and then moves on like she didn’t do anything. Its not the anger that becomes so transparent as children get older. It is the manipulative gas lighting that rallies my mother and sister into her circle, and they think it is okay to keep me out of the loop of what they are doing with my children.

As I said above, my family has chosen to take her side. I never asked them to take sides regarding the children, but I did expect that they would favor me under times of stress. I expected that they would at the very least come around once I was told I am not allowed to see my kids unsupervised. My only conclusion can be is that they don’t disagree with me being supervised. They have to have fallen for her stories about me, or decided that it is better to have access to my kids than to be in my good graces. I really think it is the former, because they would have told me if it were the latter. I will give my kids grace for buying into their mother’s bullshit. I will not give that same grace to my adult family members. They don’t deserve it. They knew exactly what she was like, and have expressed such to me, so they have chosen this path. It was not chosen for them.

I don’t expect much to change. Sadly the driving laws have changed here so that no child really has a full driver’s license until they are 17. The motivated can get it by the time they are 16 1/2, but not many are that motivated anymore. I had hopes that they would get their license and could see me whenever they wanted. My oldest hasn’t gotten a permit yet, and my second has just got it at 15 1/2, so he won’t be any earlier than 17. My third has a chance to to do so earlier. When I was their age, with the different laws, and my motivation, I would have not only received the highest license I could get, but I would have procured a car so I would have the freedom to see my Dad. I never had to face divorced parents, so I don’t know how that changes your motivation. I tried to express to them the importance of getting that license early, but I couldn’t tell them why I thought it was so important. That would have opened me up to more criticism in court. I am pretty sure that their mom figured out what my motivation was, and slowed things down because of that for the oldest ones.

After a meeting last week with her and our attorneys, my attorney said “Well, at least she is admitting she is just being a bitch.” To get financially flush I have need her to receive money in the financial settlement and then pay it back to me. Its pretty normal stuff, and for the most part not something she should be worried about so long as her increased taxes are covered, and they would be. I am not asking her to take any risk, and am offering her between 7K and 10K depending on taxes to do so. This would pay off her car. She basically said that she didn’t want or care that I am okay financially. I had hurt her financially, so she was going to hurt me. She has cost me 10s of thousands of dollars compared to a couple of thousand dollars are her side. I am not even counting the money spent on attorneys at this point. Its the last area she can use to control me. I didn’t do what she wanted with the kids, and have refused to behave as she prescribes through the process. This is the only thing I haven’t lost yet, so she is going to try and leverage it to exact some control. Every other item, I have tempered how I did things to avoid the conflict and try to come out with at least a little of what I wanted on the other end. I don’t give a shit at this point. She will do whatever she wants regardless. I will simply put the offers and the table, and she can choose. That is it. There isn’t anything to fight over. There aren’t a thousand ways to cut things up. Its money that is tied up in retirement. She is the only way to extract cash, so either she does or doesn’t do so. She probably won’t.

I have grand plans on telling the kids the truth someday. They may not want to hear it. They may not have a relationship with me at all. Once I have this case out of court, I will not hold my tongue when it comes to these issues with the kids. My kids will know that their mom has the power to allow us to have a relationship or not. They will know that I would be financially better off if she had chosen to help me, and so would she. This would have been good for everyone not just me.

For 19 years this woman’s opinion has had influence over my every decision. Her anger has kept me from behaving in ways she would object to. My fear of what she might do has made me process my every action through a filter designed to avoid negative reactions from her. I am finished with this. I deserve better. She took away my youth and squandered it, because she wanted to be married before she turned 30 and didn’t think anyone she was actually attracted to would ever marry her.

I was going to say more, but I am running out of steam. I cannot continue to talk about her, it hurts too much. I was going to talk about the things she has taken from me, but that will wait for my next post.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

One Year, And Four Empty Beds

It has been one year and two days since the court decided my home is not fit for my children. I wonder just when it is acceptable to take apart their rooms that they have never slept in, and put them away? At what point do I put truth to the GAL’s words that I have traded in my previous family for a new one? A truth that is created by his actions, not mine own. AT what point do I give up the fight to maintain my sanity?

These questions are ones I really can’t answer. I live my life under the microscope of court officials. Microscopes are neat tools for seeing things very small, but my life with my children is not small. Its big. To see it all, you have to take a step back, and just watch. It can’t be seen in an office with me on the other side of a desk. It can’t be seen in the office of a therapist. It can’t be seen in through the eyes of my ex-wife, who would love nothing more for me to be a bad guy, because that makes her strong for staying with me so long, and a hero for walking away. No one in the courtroom will be looked at as making a bad decision if they give the kids to a loving mom. That man over there could be dangerous. He doesn’t love his children the way their mother does. This is the safe answer.

I spent the first five months since that court order taking my kids out to do activities, but never home. I was not allowed to let them share my life. They merely got a few hours with me, and I am told that this is enough time to be a good parent. I don’t need more than this, and that it is my selfish desire to have it. Bullocks on all of that. I cannot be an effective parent driving around looking for things to keep kids now between 12 and 16 years old entertained. Yes, I selfishly want my kids under my roof. I want to know that they are safe. I want to know that they are protected. I want to hear about their pain and their happiness. There is nothing wrong with this selfish desire. It is not only natural, but it also my right. Every time a case makes it to the Federal courts, the courts come back and say that raising your child is a protected right under the constitution. I know that this isn’t what you see in the family courts, but the family courts are not held accountable to the law.

I was ordered in July to only have supervised visits with my kids. They continued the no contact with their step-family. I have only done two visits. There is nothing interesting I can do with effectively four teenagers and keep them all happy. I can’t do things I love with them, like cooking and watching movies at home. They aren’t allowed in my home. Perhaps I am wrong for not doing more visits. I know the court thinks so. I do go to as many of their events as possible, but it’s hardly a replacement for living with them. I want to live life with my kids, not visit them. Life isn’t about some brief amount of time to catch up with their world. Its cleaning the house together. Its working in the lawn together. Its going to the store together. Its helping with their homework. Its taking the time to talk to them about things in life one on one. These visits don’t give me any one on one time.

My a few months ago was hurt in a soccer game. His mother wasn’t there. I could have gone to jail for taking him to the hospital if things had been worse. The court has decided that it is better for my kids to finish growing up with a single mother, than to share a part of their life with me. I am supposed to prove to the court that I am worthy of being their father. This is an outrage. I am guilty until proven innocent, and I am always subject to being brought back in to prove it again and again and again. There doesn’t have to be any proof that I am harmful in some way, just the mere suggestion that I am.

Early in the fall my ex-wife called me out for not doing the supervised visits. I challenged her on asking for them. Her response to me was that the court agreed with her, and why did I say anything at all to the kids. I responded to her that I am their father rather loudly right outside the soccer fields. Probably not my best moment, but I just about popped.

This past weekend my youngest asked me to work with her on her soccer crosses. I would love nothing more than to do this. To do this, I have to find someone in the potential cold of February that is acceptable to my ex-wife to come watch me play with my daughter. I mostly tried to talk her through how to work on them, and held back tears that I couldn’t just come get her on a nice day and take her to the park to play.

I am not quitting. I don’t know how I would quit. I am trying to find a new tactic. I want to see if we can get out of the fucking court room, and figure some of this shit out without all the extra people. I really don’t understand why she wants all these people involved. She is smart enough to know that they can turn their opinions as quick as they came to their conclusions about me. I don’t understand why anyone wants the court in the middle. It was pretty simple working things out together before we went to court.

I know this post is a bit all over the place. That happens when I don’t write more often. I will have to write more often. There is a lot more I wanted to write, but then my post would have become a book.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

The Dystopian Fantasy

Even before I knew what a dystopia was, I have loved movies and books about them. They are a great backdrop for thrillers that build great characters. Most of them in the past were things that geeks and nerds enjoyed, and yes I count myself among that crowd. The common theme in these movies has been in the building of a utopian society the powers that enforced the rules of the society begin to use the utopian ideals to feed their desire for power. All these stories have one similar idea. That for the utopia to be built the society has to be tightly controlled, and that the people will appreciate the results more than they resent the loss of freedoms. These societies are almost always covertly totalitarian in nature, and their citizens are mostly sheep who avoid thinking of the realities of the society that they live in. To do otherwise would require action on their part.

One of the things that seems universal in these stories is that the children are indoctrinated into the ideals of the society at a very young age. Sometimes they are taken from the parents to be raised by the government at young ages. Other times they are used as spies to report on their parents after daily indoctrination in their schools. The indoctrination continues with continual messages on futuristic video screens throughout the society, and other things sprinkled throughout society. There are rituals of the society that are reminiscent of religious rituals. These rituals not only help indoctrinate, but they help expose those in society who are opening their eyes, because they resist the continuing the rituals.

The fantasy of these stories is that there are heroes that break the dystopia by not going along with it, and are able to hide within the dystopia without being noticed. That is until they are ready to be seen, then they create such a clamor with the people that the dystopia cannot continue to control the lives of the people. A few anarchists can change the world. These anarchists come from one or more of three prototypes. The coming of age teenager who sees the world for the first time with new eyes, and chooses to not go along with the status quot; or the egalitarian in the ruling class who can stand by no longer and watch their peers take advantage of the masses for their own benefit; or the someone from the lowest class who is ignored by society, because they are an artifact the utopia itself creates, and they lead an uprising from the bottom of society.

As a fan, I love the recent excitement surrounding dystopian society stories. As an avid reader, I love that young people are racing to read the stories before the movies come out. The past couple generations have not been avid readers, and it seems that we are raising more readers now than we have since before I was a kid. These stories like “Blade Runner” were on the fringe in the past, and struggled to be successful. The current stories are huge best sellers. My kids love them, and this is something I truly enjoy on my own and can be shared with them. The modern dystopian society story almost exclusively revolves around a coming of age that brings with it an awakening.

Why now do these stories resonate? Why are our youth drawn to stories about broken futuristic societies? Why do these stories have so few adults heroes? Is this how our youth see society? Are the adults so week that our children see no hope in their parents? These questions are important. The stories, the music, the personalities that resonate with our youth tell us a little something of our future. Does this particular class of stories predict a future that we should look forward to, or one we should fear. What part of these stories resonate with our youth.

I believe that these stories resonate with our youth, because they see how broken our society is. They may not be able to put it into words that society is broken, but they feel it. They can sense where things are moving. They don’t have the faith in the past that we have. I grew up in a generation where very few kids experienced divorced parents. The police officer who acted like a jerk had a name and everyone knew it including his peers. The homeless epidemic was filled mostly with men who suffered some form of mental illness. The idea that you could be more successful than your parents was an expectation with hard work. Today our kids nearly all experience divorced parents, or parents who might as well be divorced. The police are to be feared, even when the ones wearing the uniform are not bad people, they tend to view the rest of us as a threat when they are on the job. Our homeless have grown to include men who do not have enough income to pay the court ordered support and take care of themselves, and many of our youth know someone who has had that happen to them. It seems impossible for them to do as well as their parents. This is in part due to their shortsightedness of the years it took to get there, and part is the truth that high paying jobs are shrinking while costs are increasing. They see their parents lose jobs and have to take lower paying equivalents more than anytime before.

Why are there so few adult heroes in these stories? That one has a couple of answers. The first is people love to read and see stories about heroes who are like them. They want to believe that they can be the hero of their own stories. In most past stories with young heroes there is a mentor that will help guide the heroes on their path. Someone who in their own time had been the hero of their own story. These new stories lack that aspect. These young heroes are making their own way. Today’s youth don’t see the adults as being able to change what is going on. Nearly all their parents have either been put under the thumb of the court or have used the power of the court against the other parent. Neither of the parents demonstrates having any power once the government is engaged. Beyond that, we try to pretend that the actions happening through the courts in their lives are just decisions being made by the courts, so neither parent or themselves have any power in the situation. They have professionals asking what they want, and then telling the court to do something else. The feeling of powerlessness has to be incredible. I know as an adult, it is overwhelming.

What our youth see, but we want to ignore is we already live in the beginnings of a dystopian society. The idea that our kids have rights that supersede the parents rights even in what should be considered normal parenting decisions is normal in our legal system. It also considered that though the children’s wishes should be considered, they also are not capable of expressing those wishes, so a government official is going to interpret what they desire for us. This creates a situation where the government is able to impose their will on behalf of children without any real concern of the legalities of the decisions they are making. It has been said that there isn’t anything you can do anymore without breaking a law. If the government wishes to put you to trial, all they have to do is find the laws that you are breaking to do so. It is reasonable to say in our current society, that it is impossible to be a law abiding citizen. The ultimate control a government has is the ability to arrest its citizens anytime it wishes and look like it is still living by the rule of law.

All these stories share the idea that a rebellion is needed, and that these heroes become the leaders of the rebellion. The truth is the world won’t change without a general uprising from the people. One or two people will not lead the charge. The leaders of the world learned after the U.S. Revolutionary war that you have to smash the underground communications. Small uprisings are fine, but a general uprising cannot be allowed. Communist China demonstrated with force when Tiananmen Square was overrun with protesters. The world saw how one man can inspire a political movement to take over the world during World War II. These are all things in our modern world that can be monitored and squashed. The amount of force the government can bring down on its citizens is unprecedented compared to any other time in history. The U.S. fought to keep soldiers from occupying its lands, including its own. As time has continued, we have replaced our police forces to handles domestic law issues with soldiers. We are now living under military occupation of our own governments.

My hope for my kids is that they find in them what we do not have. That they can overcome the inertia that keeps us moving down this road, and change the world. I hope they can escape this dystopia and discover what our founding fathers had dreamed of. I and many I grew up with saw the changes coming, but we thought that we could change the world at the polls. The problem is some were excited for the changes. They thought that the government taking care of us was going to be a blessing, and many still do. We are heading into dark times. My children will suffer more than they already have. Will they be strong enough to find a way to make the world better, or will they just go with the path that has been laid before them.

Ten-Foured,

JeD