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

Lies and Betrayal

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

Marriage

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

Justice System

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

Truth Matters

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

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

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

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

Family Comes First

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

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

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

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


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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Conflicts of Interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

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