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

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

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

Are We The New Babylon?

Well are we? I am thinking of the United States when I say this. Babylon rose to the status of empire twice. Once around 2000 BC and again around 500 BC. At these times it was the cultural center of a large portion of the world. I also like to think of Babylon, because it was a pivotal kingdom in the Old Testament or Torah. It represents throughout the Bible how an empire can be glorious and so quickly only become a fabled story just a few generations later. Babylon stands also as a symbol of arrogance. The tower of Babel was built in what would be a part of the Babylonian empire, and the city of Babel would be its capital. Babylon had a legal system that seemed to systematically mete out unfair justice depending on the particular crime and the accused. Babylon’s story itself is not that different than other empires throughout the World’s history. It is one of the oldest, and in a way, it is the original history that keeps repeating itself in future empires.

This was going to be a much longer post, but I lost my train of thought. The question stands though, are we the new Babylon or Rome. Societies that rose to such power based on principals that later were lost and then they crumbled into something that only shared the name of the original. The United States once stood as the greatest society of the modern era. Not only were we pushing limits on technology, but we were a society where people were allowed freedoms that seem extreme to the rest of the world. People thrived in our culture. I think when the United States stood up to tyrants around the world, we lost what made us unique. We started to fear what the world had to offer, and we started to strip our society of the freedoms that made us great for the fear of what might happen. The great depression further exacerbated the situation. A couple of generations never wanted to fear the loss that was experienced during that time. The end result is taking away risks, which is the same as taking away freedoms. They go hand in hand. When you take away risks in an effort to make things better without the effort imparted by the people who benefit, you end up with societal losers that because of these safety nets end up damaged in some way. Whether that is the fathers without children, the homeless ex-soldier, or the child without a father, they are all victims of a society that has over-zealously tried to protect those that they see as the weak to the detriment of others. Government provided securities come at a cost, a cost far too high for society. Sadly society never recognizes the cost until its too late.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

The Great Paradox of Family Court

There are so many paradox in family court, that it might be hard to single one out as the great one. Perhaps my view is skewed, because this is the one that is used to beat me about the head and chest until I submit, well at least get pushed back. Every man might have a different idea of what qualifies as the “Great Paradox” in their case, but this is my bog, so fuck them. You get to hear my story. If you have your own ideas, I would love to hear them. Put them in the comments.

The paradox that I m talking about is that you aren’t supposed to talk to the kids about what happens in court. The majority of decisions made in family court dramatically effect everything about their lives, but we aren’t supposed to talk to them about these things. We aren’t supposed to tell the kids that mom and dad don’t agree on things, and that they are fighting over things in this mysterious court somewhere. Decisions are made that change their lives, sometimes dramatically, but we as parents are supposed to not talk to them about these things. We are simply supposed to say that the court decided that they are no longer allowed to see their dad regularly, or you are now going to stay with your dad full time who is moving 800 miles away, so you won’t see your mom very often. These are the things that we are not supposed to talk to your children about.

On top of the fact you are not supposed to talk to your kids about these things, their are “professionals” who do talk to your kids about these things. The GAL, therapists, and custody evaluators all are allowed to use their judgement to talk to your kids about these things in your stead. They can say whatever they want, so long as the court is willing to listen to what they are peddling.

I can understand this position if divorces and custody were determined within a couple months, but the truth is that most cases stay in court until the last child is 18 years old. This makes parenting your children difficult at best and impossible in some cases. Courts like to pretend that kids are somehow too naive to understand what is going on around them, and too stupid to understand. They often worry about the harm done to children by understanding that their parents are not in total agreement about things, while not realizing the kids knew that long before the divorce proceedings started.

In the “Land of the free, and home of the brave,” we are supposed to parent as the family court likes or risk losing the right to parent. We are not to exercise our constitutionally protected rights or we risk losing the right to parent. The battle cry of those who are conquering our rights is “in the best interest of the children” said in calm tones before or after each statement they make. All it takes is some time in family court to realize that your rights don’t matter at all. They don’t matter, because we have built a system the requires great means to protect your rights.

I am left with the options of parent my kids as I see fit when I have time with them, and potentially lose my time with them, or to be a father in name only. I can choose to not parent my kids, but have time with them(maybe). That isn’t even a given. The core argument is that me and their mother are not supposed to disagree, and if we do, then the court needs to pick who is right even on issues where there isn’t a right person. They will choose the same person almost every time, because that is the most likely way to get the other person out of court.

I finally watched Divorce Corp. a few weeks ago. The statement that stood out to me as absolute truth is that it doesn’t matter how good the parents are. They could be two of the worst parents who together can hardly care for their children or two of the best parents who would both excel at parenting alone or together. When they walk into court, the court will decide which one it judges better by standards that are not always obvious. Gender bias plays a role here, but this isn’t always the case. All too often you have one parent who has no problem trashing the other parent, and by doing so, they end up looking better to the court, especially if they are clever about it. Once the court judges the parents and decides which it will support, from that moment on the chosen parent might as well be in the top percentile of parents and the other parent might as well be in the bottom percentile of parents. The reality doesn’t matter. This is why in court the most aggressive parent wins.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Things Are Looking Up

This is somewhat of a strange post. Things have been hard the last few months. To some degree my perspective is shifting and I am able to see things from a different angle, but I have also lowered my expectations of the circumstances around me. Lets play a little catch up, before I get into all of that.

In my last post, my oldest son had been arrested at school for battery against his mom. She also handed over a tablet to the police that was filled with child porn and other gross, inappropriate, and illegal material. I was crushed as I prepared to make space for him at my home to find out that everything really wasn’t going to work out. I was at a hearing for him. He wasn’t there, and mom wasn’t there. His attorney didn’t really understand where he was, and no one had communicated to him where my son was living now. He is in a county run group home. He asked me to walk with him after he got a new hearing date. He told me that this case was a clear case of self defense and that the strange relationship between his mother and him is why my son is reluctant to defend himself in court. He also told me that there was nothing interesting on the tablet. If there had been, then he would have been charged, or his previous probation would have been violated. Everything that shattered my hopes was a lie. This changes everything. Not only is reintegration in my home a possibility, but his mother essentially has tried framed him for two crimes. One that never happened and one that she committed against him. I still can’t wrap my head around doing that to my own child. When I was dropping off the other three kids at their mom’s house, my youngest waited until the others were in. She asked me if she wrote a letter to the judge, would I read it to her. I told her I probably would not be allowed to do that. I said if she wanted to write one, then I would give her an envelope with the address and a stamp. I also told her that it probably wouldn’t be read by the judge unless it became evidence, but the GAL, my attorney, and her mom’s attorney would get copies, and it would force it to be talked about. She is still pondering if she wants to write it. She is afraid that no one will do anything, or it will make things worse. She had asked me while we were at the group home, that if all this was about them, then why doesn’t anyone really care what they think. The three kids all told me that they haven’t talked to the GAL in close to 6 months. That means he didn’t even talk to them before he he pushed for the current schedule.

I am not sure what happened when they got to their mom’s. They either confronted her or she interrogated them. Both have happened in the past. The therapist who has caused me so much trouble was involved. She believes that this is dangerous for my son, and that he needs to take responsibility. I firmly believe that it is dangerous for him to learn that he is bad, and has to take responsibility for the actions of other. He is not a scapegoat. I found out that even before I took the kids to see their brother, that she and their mom had met with the kids. They told my kids that because of my behavior and inappropriate conversations with Jon that there were 1 of 3 things that could happen. They might not be able to see me at all; they might have supervised visits with me; or they nothing will change. This conversation should never have happened. They are attempting to alienate me from my kids. My 14 year old told them that he wouldn’t do supervised visits, and that he would figure something else out. They challenged him, and he just repeated himself. My 11 year old said she wasn’t happy with that idea, and that she would be able to speak freely with me with someone writing everything down. I think she said the idea was just stupid. My 13 year old said she thought it was all stupid, but that they didn’t actually think anything would change. My 8 year old step daughter said the other day “He isn’t bad, he’s just done bad things.” I told my son this when we were there, and he almost cried. I repeated, and told him I think he needs to hear it, because he doesn’t believe it about himself, and he agreed. He struggles a lot with that idea. His mother and therapist aren’t helping.

I am working at bringing my son home. He doesn’t belong where he is. When I found out the truth, I called my wife, and before I could say anything, she was thinking of ways to bring him home. The idea scares her a lot. Fortunately my step son’s therapist now works for the county youth detention center, and I think she can work with us for reintegration. She was truly great with him, and I think will be able to navigate the pitfalls that we may be facing.

The therapist for my son has recommended that I have no contact or at least supervised contact with the kids. She has placed her relationship with the kids over mine. The GAL has yet to pipe in on these things. I think it is a great sign that my ex filed a motion to modify parenting time. I think it stands out that the GAL is not supporting this, and they are desperate for a change. If my son stands up for himself, it is likely to change custody for the rest quickly, especially if I am asking for him to return to my home. They are claiming I told the kids their mom made it all up to get my son out of the house. I made no such claim, but I am sure that my kids are smart enough to put together as I did that if all of the lies are actually lies that is the only option. They also don’t seem to know that my information is from my son’s attorney, and not the kids. My new attorney is ready to go after this with way more aggressive tactics than my previous one. I think we are going to file a counter motion to give me primary custody and her the standard schedule, and for me to have sole legal and residential custody of my oldest. Next week, I may have good, great, or horrible news. We shall see.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

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

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