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.

Time Is Love

where is the love?

This is something I learned while working in ministry. That’s far in my past, but the lessons learned about relationships still ring true. Time is love. I talk a lot about child support, and the harm it does. This is the flip side of the argument. This is where things hurt worse. Losing authority in my kids life through child support is something I can’t stand, but it is how the system works. A system that needs to change. This is the less tangible side of the problem.

If you have ever been involved with youth ministry, there is the idea that is passed on to the leaders that “Time = Love.” I used to think it was just a phrase to motivate you, but as I saw it at work, its true. People feel loved by you being available to them with your time, and choosing to spend time with them, when there isn’t anything in particular to do together. Just hanging out. Young men do this naturally with each other. As we grow into adults we don’t continue to do this as well. We get busy, and doing “important” things becomes more pressing than just spending time with people. Friendships become less important than colleagues, we even pretend that our colleagues are our friends to try and fill the gap, but it doesn’t work. In the end we all become a little lonelier.

Our kids need time. That is the only thing that matters. They will remember hanging out while you work on the car or fixing a bike or even cleaning the kitchen. These are the times that you talk about life. These are the times that you transfer your knowledge not just about the thing you are doing, but you get to talk about your experiences from the past that can help train them, and they get to tell you their stories that explain how they are being shaped for life. This can’t be replaced by the car rides to practice or games. The conversations just aren’t as organic as they are when you are just doing life. I think this is especially true for men and their children.

The same attitude gives mothers the advantage in custody. The tasks are more important than anything. Mothers tend to be more attentive to the tasks of child raising, especially when there are two parents involved. All custody cases really seem to focus on the kids in such a way that if you read the documents involved, you would think that that all children function at the same level as toddlers. The basic care and feeding of the children is the focus. The end result of mother centered custody is the kids don’t get the benefit of a father who forces them to care for themselves while being the safety net. A father who draws them alongside them instead of just ordering them around or just taking care of them. Children deserve a mother and father because they balance out each other. Yes a man has usually acted as provider, but he should be allowed to do that on his terms. The current system reduced him to a wage slave, and that isn’t the role of father. He is a provider, and in that role he also gets to train his kids about providing for themselves.

I have yet to see a man who is an active father who doesn’t provide for the needs of his kids. These are things that when raised to the challenge of being a single or divorced dad that most men just do. All of the things that the court make all important about the kids are taken care of. I have also seen very few mothers who are very good at teaching kids to leave the nest. I don’t know how many kids from single mothers who don’t learn to ride a bike until they are much older than the kids raised with an active dad. This might sound stupid, but allowing the kids to crash is part of teaching them to ride a bike, and mom’s aren’t very good at that. The pictures you see of men tossing babies in the air that so many people like to make fun of, but the truth is this is part of men teaching their kids to fly. In healthy families kids look to their mom for comfort, and their dad for security. Even as a baby they learn that their dad isn’t going to let bad things happen to them, even when something scary is happening.

Kids are being robbed of their security through divorce and the courts. Men have to figure out how to put the wrongs away, and do their best to still be fathers with only 1/3 or less the time they had before. Any justification for this falls on deaf ears with me, because divorce changes everything. The idea of keeping this normal for the kids is lost in divorce. Pretending that you can come close is absolute bullshit. Women are being rewarded with money and power for keeping the fathers at arms length and limiting their time. Kids suffer for this. The become unsure of themselves. The person who was their security is struggling to care for himself now. He no longer can pay for the things he used to, and their mother can, but she can only because she receives money that the father cannot talk about. None of this makes the children feel secure.

Relationships are not about quality time. They are about time. The children deserve the most time they can get with both parents. They need the comfort from mom, but just as much they need the security of dad. This is something the court doesn’t recognize. The long term ramifications of kids who fail to launch don’t seem to matter. All that matters is that the kids succeed in school, and don’t go to jail. The system is broken. It doesn’t account for all the intangibles that ultimately matter. The court can’t account for them, but it can take a more neutral stance. One that says that parents are required to take care certain aspects of the kids needs, and each should have to do it.

Kids need time with each parent, and lots of it. When the parents are thinking of the kids, then they will do this naturally, and ultimately when the parents are left on equal footing with equal time and responsibility for the kids, then this is much more likely to happen. The parents are more likely to work together. It doesn’t matter how many words are used to say that should occur, it wont’ occur so long as the parents aren’t operating from equal footing. The courts do a huge diservice to the kids by not working for the parents to have equal footing in most cases, especially cases where the parents are both able, willing, and in close proximity to each other. This is something to fight for. This is the case to make to our legal overlords.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Income Based Child Support – Defacto Alimony

Buffalo Bills - Alimony Ale

The more I think about this, the more it is true. Any form of child support that is based on someone’s income is defacto alimony. Alimony is based on the principle that a man’s ex-wife deserves to be supported near the same level she was in the marriage. That she has become accustomed to the lifestyle, and thus deserves it. This is one of those ideas that drives me nuts. Its not a right she had in the marriage. Its a principle that encourages divorce if the man is losing his income earning potential. If his income is dropping, then so will her lifestyle, but if she divorces him before or at least early in the fall, then she can get herself a guarantee of the lifestyle they have, even if he falls to a point where that is unsustainable. Sounds ridiculous, but it is how things work, or worked. Since most states have limited alimony now instead of lifetime alimony.

Anytime a there is a new right gained through divorce that didn’t exist in marriage, there are going to be issues. The principle of alimony is based on rights that don’t actually exist in marriage. She is a guaranteed beneficiary of his income through divorce and alimony, even though in marriage she was not guaranteed this, but naturally received something similar. As the wife of this man, his income naturally benefited her as it did him. Other than the fact that alimony indentures or enslaves a man to his ex-wife, the further problem is it only looks at income to determine what is the correct amount. If we were to ignore the first problem, and its hard to ignore, then it would be more reasonable to determine what was spent on the lifestyle, and then determine the amount that should be paid for alimony. Most high income earners don’t spend anywhere near the totality of their income for their lifestyle. Alimony was a treat for the rich in divorce that has been extended to the rest of the population. When the rich paid alimony, they often had the resources to continue living their lifestyle as they always had, at least when they only had one ex-wife. The middle class on the other hand are struggling to save a little and maintain their lifestyle. There simply isn’t enough income for both parties to live a similar lifestyle as before. This has taken time, but it has made alimony look like a bad deal.

Now all the same arguments about lifestyle have been applied to the child support calculators. The children suddenly have a right to a lifestyle. Most children are granted primary residency with the mother, so the father has to pay child support to her. There is a practical aspect that says that one parent needs to pay for all the needs of the child. Its too difficult to manage otherwise. I am not a big fan of the law being practical, because whenever it is people’s rights are stomped on. This is no different. Children have been given the right to a lifestyle that the parents provided. This benefits the parent, usually the mother, that has the primary residency of the children. She gets the money to spend as she wishes. If she isn’t taking care of the kids basic needs is the only way that how she spends this money gets scrutinized. Effectively alimony has been rolled into child support. Giving the children a right to lifestyle and building it into child support does this.

Since half the population stands to gain from this system, its hard to fight against it. Fathers have been made into indentured servants for their children. They are forced to work at certain level to maintain their children’s lifestyles. Both alimony and child support have many means to freeze the current state as they see fit. You must go back to court and get approval to lower the amounts. The court is under no obligation to lower the amounts, even in cases where the payer has lost income earning potential, but they are obligated to further raise child support if the earning of the payer increase. The payer will not be allowed to go to school to better their ability to earn if it means earning less. Many men become trapped in jobs that have no upward mobility, because they would have to change jobs and accept a lower salary for the time being to regain headroom in their ability to earn again, and they cannot afford the support payments and earn less.

I hear the arguments for this type of child support and the means for enforcing it. Many come down to the idea of why should the children suffer because the father has made bad career choices. the constant drone of he is obligated to pay for his children. The seemingly irrefutable argument that children cost way more than the child support that any man pays, and that the mother is shouldering the majority of the burden. The first idea is flawed. If the parent suffers financially, it is natural the children will suffer as well. When married parents have financial difficulties, the children feel them directly. A false dichotomy has been created when the parents aren’t married, where the only parent’s financial problems felt by the children is the residential parent. The second argument seems to assume that the only way a father can pay for his children’s needs is through child support. I have argued before that most of these problems are already solved with criminal neglect laws. If the father is not supporting his children, and they are neglected, then prosecute him. Most fathers will spend what is necessary to care for their children without ever having to see a court room. The third argument really depends on the financial status of the parents. Most middle class and above situations don’t fall in this category. The father’s child support pays for 100% of the kids expenses, including the extras-curricular and luxuries. There is enough left over for the mother to better her lifestyle as well. In most cases the mother is not required to expend any of her resources to care for the children. This includes the costs of a larger home and vehicle to use for the children.

The natural way of economics in familial structures is very different than what the family court imposes on people on a regular basis. Children and others benefit from the income of those they live with. No one has any obligation to care for those who don’t live with them. Children really aren’t much different. So long as the children are properly cared for, it should not be the business of the court how this happens. Shared parenting would allow the children to benefit from both parents and their abilities. The system now allows the children to benefit from both parents, but they never see the reality of this. They see one parent providing, while the other parent does not. Often the parent they see provide for them isn’t shouldering the burden, because they have taken the resources from the other parent to do so. It would be natural for the children to have to pull out of sports or other activities during a financial crisis, and for most families a divorce constitutes a financial crisis. The family would eliminate unnecessary expenditures to free up the money to pay for the crisis. With support, the residential parent is allowed to do this. They can even use the support to do so. The payer is often left with so little discretionary income left that they are unable to dig out of the crisis until such time that they are no longer obligated to pay support.

I have seen this play out in my life. It hurts to see her be able to eliminate the debt in her life, while I am called by creditors. She has a newer car, and can afford to repair it on a regular basis. She can provide the things I would want to provide for my children. I am left with debt that I won’t be able to pay off for years to come. I have to shop for gifts that I hope they see the meaning in, because they are of little real value. I am not able to provide the luxuries that I would like, while they have them at their mothers. Many would tell me to be happy that my children have these things, but when their mother is able to gain credibility in their lives through these things, and I cannot provide the things I would choose. My income is used to provide things for them that I may not choose to do so. Simple things like TVs in their rooms. I would not approve of, but they have them at their mothers, and my income paid for it. i Phones; I would never purchase these for my children, but they have them using my income. These are just a couple of things that I have lost say in, but am required through support to pay for. My children benefit from my income while I do not.

The only thing that most women lose by leaving the fathers of their children is access to the man and his skills. The man is often shamed for not providing these things. If there are boy children, they often take advantage of them for these things. The man loses so much more. He loses his income, significant time with his children, his authority in his children’s life, and his ability to be seen providing for his children. The children only see their mother providing, even though the resources she uses came from their father. The cost of divorce lies squarely on a father’s shoulders, and all too often they aren’t the ones who initiated the divorce. Many like to say the cost is bore by the children, but that is only true because of the losses that happen to the father, or in rare case the mother. The children would be much better off if the parents were told to figure things out, and take care of your kids together. Let nature takes its course with the parents, and there will be less animosity and fighting. We need to stop using the worst examples to set how we are going to handle the average cases for everyone.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Co-Parenting?

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57

There is a lot of talk out there about co-parenting. For those who have not been through the courts recently, co-parenting is the new term for working together as parents living in separate households. You have to take some type of court ordered co-parenting class when you divorce with kids now in most jurisdictions. The Federal government has encouraged this through legislation and incentives. The classes are a few hours long if they are provided through the county or court services. Some courts allow you to find a qualifying program on your own, and some require you to do it as more of a joint counseling session. This is really a part of the child centered divorce movement. Something that I have talked about in the past. Something I think at best is a bad way to raise kids, and at worst is a manipulative idea to sugar coat making choices that benefit others appear to be for the children.

The idea of co-parenting is sound. The problem is we are dealing with people, and people aren’t always logical or fair. To further exacerbate the issue, we are dealing with people who are naturally in the middle of a conflict or more likely multiple conflicts. Sometimes the core conflict is raising the children. If this is the case, then co-parenting is not going to be a reality. The best these couples can hope for in the future is some form of parallel parenting. If divorce is founded in a power struggle of any kind, it is going to create a power struggle in all aspects of the relationship, at least in the short term following the break up, but it could be a long term proposition regarding the children. If the divorce is founded on the basis of growing apart, we are dealing with a couple where one or both are feeling like the other person did not hold up their part of the deal. There will be some animosity from one or both people, and that will lead to conflict. The most likely place for conflict to play out is regarding the children, because in the end the assets will be divided and you will have yours and they will have theirs, but the kids are still shared. Immediately after separation there are some key points of conflict. The income that each have coming in. This is intensified if one parent doesn’t have any income of their own. Each person feels like they should have the fruit of their labor, and when one person’s labor was for the benefit of the household without pay, they tend to feel entitled to as much of the other person’s income as their own. Physical assets and cash become the next issue. These are things that the parties can put their fingers on and feel. They want as much of that as possible, especially since up until a short while ago, they were all at their disposal. Cars, homes, jewelry, cash, and just stuff become the prize. Savings, investments, and debts come into play next. These things are usually handled the same by the court all the time. They are the easiest thing for the court to figure out. Neither party wants any debt, and both want the assets and savings, but these will be split quite easily by the court. I have made recommendations on handling all these things in other posts. I will beat that drum again fairly soon. The last thing both parties have to fight over is the children, and they can fight over this until the children are grown adults, and then outside of court until the day one of them dies.

In theory co-parents will work to be on the same page in decisions, and provide the kids with a united front in the same way that parents do when they are together in the same household. A major problem with this idea is its based on a view of the family unit from the outside looking in. When parents are together, the united front is often only a public view of how things work. Everyone presents a similar face to the world, but what happens in the home is often very different from household to household. Some separated parents can provide the same face, but more often than not the rational of making your family look good to the outside world is outweighed by the desire to make the other parent look worse than you. Sometimes one parent wants to make the other look bad, but in all cases each parent wants the world to believe they are the better parent. In the real world parents aren’t always on the same page in intact homes. They usually have a line that they require the other parent to be respected by the children. They agree on most major decisions or have a way to mitigate them. One parent will allow the kids to cuss a little, and the other might let them have sodas at restaurants. Usually the parent who feels the strongest on something rules that thing when they are together. This doesn’t have to change when parents are not in the same household, but it usually does. I blame the courts for this. Undermining one parent gives extreme advantage to the other parent in court, and comes with the potential of cash flow. The courts are built to handle conflicts. More than that, the courts are built to be adversarial. The people who we hire to handle these affairs have trained to be in these courts. The entire system is set up to increase conflict, and though the system preaches to the parents that they need to get along and figure out this parenting thing together, they encourage conflict in their very nature. The fact that there is an opportunity to get some advantage over the other person is the problem. The odds that both people are completely reasonable during the initial breakup and divorce process are fairly small. The odds that one person is so apathetic as to not care is also fairly small, so we throw these people into a system where they can ask the court to decide. Their actions are justified because the court as an authority has decided it as so.

Reality is most couples could figure this out on their own. Most have done it before seeking out lawyers. They have working plans and share responsibilities with the kids in a way that both are satisfied, or at least content. Neither parent has lost anything through the court process, so they can bend to make things better for the kids. This is the only time in any divorce that the kids are actually being looked after. During this time, parents will often work out whether and how to celebrate events together or not. Before lawyers and judges are involved, I have observed that most couples do just fine taking care of the kids needs, and continuing to raise them together. So much of the legal process is based on Federal Welfare benefits, and the government not being saddled with the bills for these children. This isn’t the economic reality for most families in the West. Most families can separate in a way that both parties can move on without going to the government for handouts. For a year and a half all my kids bills were paid by me, and I was able to live my life without struggling. My ex was able to take care of her bills, and though she struggled, she decided to keep her job with the school system, even though she could double her money as a skilled nurse. This decision was fine with me. It had little bearing on me. My kids had all they needed, and were able to stay in their activities. She was free to do what she pleased to take care of herself. The court doesn’t care about the example already set forth in this year and a half. Custody laws provide that someone should have to pay child support, and so once the lawyers were involved, hers sought to increase the amount to the maximum amount possible. The end result is I struggle a lot to make ends meet now, I owe lawyers 5 figures, she pays for all the kids things, and somehow doesn’t have money to make ends meet on a regular basis.

Co-parenting is a misnomer. In some ways its like snipe hunting. Its something that each family figures out over the course of time if left on their own. While the courts interject themselves and so often rob one parent of their rights in the name of the children, there is no real hope of co-parenting. A successful co-parenting relationship makes it hard for their to be a winner. The system really doesn’t care about the children, not in any way that matters. It is really only concerned with the money. They are less likely to be overruled if one parent is made out to be sub-standard, and the other one the gold standard. The court has to choose what aspects of parenting are most important. Right now those things are the things that mothers do. I don’t know if that is a result of deciding that mothers should raise kids or mothers raising kids has caused the bias, but there is a bias, and the court uses it to decide which parent to punish and reward everyday.

The biggest lie I here is that the real losers in divorce are the children. So long as the courts continue to pick sides in divorces that there is no reason to do so, the real losers are the kids and the dads. Dads lose so much time that they rarely get the big moments that naturally occur in their kids lives. If they do, its dumb luck or through a video the mom chose to send him. The kids lose the strong comforting presence that a father provides. I see this in my home. How much the two kids who live here all the time crave that, and how threatened they are by my kids coming over. I shouldn’t have to wait for her to screw up, and then go after her for the kids. The ongoing nature of custody cases makes it almost impossible to to develop a healthy relationship unless one parent quits. Too often fathers do give up, and the do so for the sake of their kids, and maybe for their own sanity. If I have any hope of finding solid financial ground anytime soon, I have to give up. There comes a point where I have been told that I am no longer the protector of my kids. I have been usurped by the government in that role. If it were another man, I would be able to challenge him, but I can’t beat the government. They have the power to take more and more away from me. I hope the years that I was there everyday, and the time we have now is enough to be a fixture in their lives as adults. I don’t know, and won’t until that day comes. Co-parenting is the big lie that I have to deal with. I am told to co-parent with her, but since she has the time and the resources, she gets to make the decisions. I might be able to get the court to call her a bad girl later on, but the decision is already made.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Rights And Divorce

Nomad children in Changtang, Ladakh

This post was somewhat inspired by this post over at A Voice For Men. Mostly the phrase used, which is one I remember from my government class in college, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” The AVM post calls this a universal truth, but its not. It is the most basic concept of the US Constitution. If you read through the founding documents of the USA, you will find that the overriding theme is that no person’s rights supersedes anyone else’s rights. We fought a war over this discrepancy, and amended the Constitution to guarantee these rights to everyone. This is no small thing. I do not know of another case in the world where two factions in the same country fought over another group of people, and it was not for the purpose of deciding who controls this third group, but one fought to retain control, while the other fought to free them. Usually wars for freedom are started by the those who are oppressed, and they may or may not gain the support of others in the population. In my mind the USA’s largest character flaw as a nation was complimented by its unique characteristic of seeking freedom for everyone. This is what has made the USA the greatest nation in the world in almost every way measured over the last century or more. This is not really a for the sake of argument. I know that there is some national pride buried in those comments, and I do not intend to suggest that other nations don’t have things to be very proud of, but is undeniable that the USA has had the greatest impact on the world over the last century, and in most cases it has done so with this same character, even when the results have not been what everyone has desired. I will reserve judgement on the last couple of decades, history will be written by our children, but I doubt that history will show an USA that has the same character that has made it great. As I say this, I do so believing that how we treat our own citizens is probably directly reflected in our policies in the world, and how we treat our own citizens is where we get to the topic of my post.

American Life

Most people move through life oblivious to the rights they have, because no one has ever truly interfered with their rights. Those who are victims of crime, know all too well that the rights we cherish rely very much on the respect of others to maintain. Our rights are not enforceable when someone bigger and stronger wants their way, unless there are enough other people who value your rights present to make sure your rights aren’t impugned. This is something most of us just don’t think about, nor do we want to think about it. The reality of this is scary, because there are always people bigger and stronger than us. Even if you are the biggest, strongest, baddest mother fucker around, it only takes a couple people deciding to challenge you together to turn the tables. I think this is why the great American action stars are so compelling. We see in them, the hope that we can fight for ourselves and others. Most people don’t know or understand what their rights really are, and I am not talking about the government granted rights, but the Constitutionally guaranteed rights. Everyone needs to go back and read the Constitution and its Amendments about once a year. I have put some links below for people to check out. They all have unedited versions of the Constitution to read, and some have commentaries. I did not select them for the commentaries, so read them if you like, and make your own judgments.

We live in a society that has unprecedented freedoms. Almost nowhere else in the world can people move as freely as we do. Not only do we have the freedom to do so, but we have the means to do so. We can get in our car and go thousands of miles and have no contact with anyone from the government. We can change jobs, or quit jobs as we see fit. Our homes are ours, and the government has large obstacles to prevent them from intruding our homes. We can make and break contracts without government involvement. This is all a matter of course, and we do it everyday. The government isn’t involved until someone’s rights are not being recognized. Under normal circumstances, we cannot sign away our Constitutionally guaranteed rights. Those portions of contracts are automatically voided. This is a side effect of the thirteenth amendment. It prohibits indentured servitude, so signing away your rights puts you into a position that when evaluated is equivocated to indentured servitude. These are protections we don’t think about, but are there when we need them. The most heinous Federal crime you can commit is not murder but to take away someone’s civil rights.

In everyday life in the USA, there are no classes. No one is given preference, officially, by the government by their birth right. We have social and economic classes created by the individual’s circumstances. These do not translate to different rights. There can be an argument made that these people have power from their position that effectively gives them preference, and that is true and unavoidable to some degree. The key is that it is not codified into the law that there are people who will receive special treatment by the government.

Divorce Creates Classes

This post isn’t so much about the law as it is about the realities of what happens in divorce. I have posted before about how one parent becomes second class during divorce with children. They lose many rights, or maybe more aptly put, their rights are superseded by those of a higher class. The more I think about things, I truly believe that there are 3 classes created in divorce as things go right now. There are the children in the first class, and then the custodial parent in the second class, and the non-custodial parent in the third class. Children are not given any responsibilities in the process, and their words and feelings are cherished beyond that of anyone else. The custodial parent is granted great freedom to care for the children. They are generally given the benefit of the doubt in parenting decisions, and allowed to ignore the rights of the non-custodial parent. They don’t have a right to the non-custodial parents income, but as the custodian of the children they are granted full access and control of a portion of the custodial parents income. I say they are second class, because their status as the custodian of the children grants them these rights. The non-custodial parent has few rights, and not just with the children. They live under constant threat of severe penalties if the court decides they are not paying their share. There is no guarantee that their time with the children will not be interfered with, and it takes too long through the courts to enforce your rights to participate in decision making. The court is likely to review decisions made, and not give one shit about whether you were within your rights to veto a decision, but instead measure the decision to decide if it were in conflict with the principle of “The Best Interest of the Child.” If it is not in conflict with this principle, then you will not receive any relief from the court for your rights being ignored. Generally the custodial parent will not change once it is decided by the court, so the custodial parent feels confident in their ability to make any decisions that they want. The court can change things if their is a material change in circumstance, and this is something that is not clearly defined, so the court gets to decide when they will hear arguments. Once they hear arguments, they can change their mind. If the custodial parent changes, then the second class becomes the third and the third becomes the second. Instantly one parent will be granted all the rights of the first class, and the other parent will be reduced to a wallet for the children to draw out of for their “needs.”

First Class: The Best Interest of the Children

Children are granted new rights when divorce comes. These aren’t necessarily things that they will recognize themselves, because one parent is the custodian of the rights. If there is any dispute with the parents over the kids, then they are given a voice. There are professionals/experts that the court employs to speak for the children or rather their best interest. Their voice is filtered by these people, so the real power that the children receive is granted to this third party. This doesn’t mean they aren’t heard, but it means that what they say is filtered, and the parents have little room to question these things. The truth doesn’t matter. The “Best Interest of the Children” is really the first class, not the children. You might say in the end, the children represent the concept, but they are actually the fourth class, because in the end they don’t matter to the process as people. The “Best Interest of the Children” on the other hand is the states stake in the decision. The state uses this to decide who gets the power on their behalf, and can change their mind when it suits them. Because it is this philosophical concept represented by a third party, it can be initiated without either parent asking for it. Once the third party is involved, they are involved until the children are grown. This means that every parenting decision is possibly in question. All it takes if for one of the children or the other parent to make them aware of the decision, and they feel obliged to weigh in. The primary thing in play is child support. This is based on the legal principle that the children have a right to a portion of the parents income. This is a right that I find nowhere outside of family law. The children gain this right when the parents aren’t married. Its really just a legal bait and switch to justify the confiscating of one person’s income for the benefit of another person. This is very different than taxes that are to benefit the community.

Second Class: Custodial Parent

This is the one that gets the rewards. The gain the right to control a chunk of the other parents income. They are given the benefit of the doubt in all child rearing decisions. They are allowed to alter schedules without consulting the other parent, and the worst that will happen is the court will tell them to not do that anymore. The custodial parent has very few consequences for not living up to their part of the bargain. The court doesn’t really want to hear the arguments between the parents, so they have a tendency to just give the custodial parent broad sweeping authority over the kids for expediency’s sake. Sadly the court stepped in to begin with and took away parental rights from one parent, and then they don’t want to deal with the consequences. It would be nice if parental rights weren’t stepped on for the sake of practicality. What is worse is these decisions are made by the court while the parents are at their worst. They generally haven’t had a chance to get their feet under them, and the end result is the animosity between the parents is prolonged, and rarely has a chance to heal. It is only natural that if one parent has all the financial resources available and the majority of the time with the children that they will make most of the decisions regarding the children. Its not right. The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld that being married or not has no effect on your parental rights, so who are these family courts to decide to how to divvy up the parental rights for expediency. Who are they to decide that one parent has lost their protections, their civil rights.

Third Class: Non-Custodial Parent

This class has very few enforceable rights. The rights haven’t been removed in so many words, but in practicality. If there has been a court appointed representative for “The Best Interest of the Children,” you will be questioned in every decision. If the other parent wants to question your decisions, then surely a court appointed representative will be appointed. Even though the terms have changed to parenting time, the reality has not changed. The children have one parent and home, and they visit the other parent. In some cases a grandparent or uncle may have more contact with the children than the non-custodial parent. It is fair for all involved to shame this class, because they must have done something wrong. People who have not been through the system seem to think this is logical, and half the people who have been through the system profit from such thinking. This leaves somewhat less than a quarter of the adults out there who want to correct this opinion. That is a pretty small bunch to change things, and they tend to be a bunch who are being bounced around like a pinball trying to have a significant role in their children’s lives. There is a lot going against this class. They are similar to other government created lower classes. They have some control over their lives, but not control over their resources. The only hope for those in this class is that something happens, and the pendulum swings in their direction and they get to swap places with the custodial parent, then they will have the illusion of freedom again. The state has imposed itself on their family, and they know that even though the ability to make decisions for their family may be theirs if they become the custodial parent, the state or court has taken over their family and has the authority to make whatever decision they think is best. Courts won’t hear disputes between married parents. They throw them out simply because they are married. Having children and not being married is potentially handing 18+ years to the state to decide for you. Most non-custodial parents lives are paused. They can’t afford to do the things they dreamed about. They have to be ready to respond to what the custodial parent decides. They learn to cherish the time they spend babysitting their own children, unless the custodial parent has turned the kids against them. The only hope they have is that when the children are grown, they are returned to the full status of citizen of the USA.

Fourth Class: The Children

The children have no real say. The court appointed experts choose what the court hears about the children. Neither parent has a right to add to the court record for the children. The principle seems fair, except this third party in the end represents the state. They are there to ensure that the state does not incur costs due to this case. The children’s opinions may be heard, but they don’t become a part of the case, unless the expert decides to add it to the case. The children never had many rights to begin with. Until you are a full citizen of the USA, you don’t have many rights. The children inherit their rights from their parents. If the parents are married, they benefit from both parents income and affection. The parents share the duties as they see fit, and the children receive what the parents decide is right. The richest parents in the world may choose to force the kids to earn everything, because they believe that this will make them stronger adults. If both parents don’t agree, then there is some form of negotiation involved between the parents. Sometimes it is as simple as one parent makes them work for things, and the other gives them things. It just plays out in the politics of the parents bedroom. The kids belong at the bottom of the classes, but this system has turned what little rights they had into a legal principle that is divorced from the real children involved. Children should be granted the right to shelter, food, education, and medical care. These should be the parents responsibility to provide. The children do not have a right to luxuries that the parents are able to provide. This is where the legal concepts that are applied are dead wrong. They children have no rights to the parents lifestyle. They are simply beneficiaries of that lifestyle to the level that the parents want to provide it. This principle doesn’t break down when parents aren’t married. The legal principle is used to extract money from one parent and give it to the other, but the other parent still has the freedom to determine just how much of this wealth will benefit the children. What the children lose in this case is the right to see both parents care for them and provide for them. the system has become so expedient as that the non-custodial parent providing through the parent is good enough. To lawyers this makes sense, but the children often walk away believing that only one parent buys them things, and provides for them. The other parent doesn’t do anything for them. This creates animosity that the child does not deserve to feel. The child is a victim of the system. Some say the child is the biggest victim, but I believe that the non-custodial parent is. The children lose few civil rights, but the non-custodial parent loses the right to the fruits of their own labor, and if they are unable to earn they are at the mercy of the court as to whether they will be held to account for the same amount every month. The children are made to pay by the animosity that is created in this winner takes all system. The court nearly guarantees that if one parent wants it all, then the children are robbed of the possibility of the parents having an acrimonious relationship.

How Do We Fix It

I think the court wants concrete fixes. They want things to be perfect. The current system gives them illusion of fixing something. Civil rights have been abandoned through the civil courts, and due process has been satisfied. On the surface at least. A court of law is required to take away someone’s civil rights, and the family court is is not a court of law. In most states it is defined as a court of equity. It is their job to satisfy issues that aren’t legal in nature, and to apply the law as best they can. Issues of property when in dispute. The only fix, and no its not perfect for everyone, but its fair. To protect the rights of both parents and the inferred rights of the children the time with the parents should be presumed 50/50 in all cases where the children are not at a real risk. Perception is not reality. We live in a country where a crime has to occur before we are punished, so if there is not a real risk based on facts to limit contact with a parent, then it shouldn’t happen. Time and money need to be separated. Required expenses for the children need to be split 50/50. There is no excuse for doing it any other way. The parents aren’t married, so their ability to pay should have no weight on who pays. Any other expenses are up to the parents to figure out. If the parents can’t agree to a schedule or one parent refuses to agree or abide to a schedule then the court should impose a standard schedule that gives each parent equal time with the children. Without money on the table, I don’t think for most parents, at least in the long haul, this will be an issue. The parents are free to agree to a schedule that is unequally split. The parent who has the kids more time is fully responsible for the extra expenses that this time creates. The children are the most valuable item. The court should stop presuming that parents can’t share custody if they don’t get along. Both care for the children, and if there weren’t a winner take all system in place, then they will figure out how to care for the children. If the children aren’t being cared for adequately, not to be confused with to parents abilities, then criminal proceedings should pursued, and if one parent is deemed the cause of that, then those parents can be tossed back into the old ideas that are essentially based on the idea of one parent abandoning the children to the other parent. Neither parents should ever have court orders forcing them to make payments to the other parent, simply for being a parent. If there are no real expenses that a parent has failed to pay for, then there should be no order to pay. The courts need to stop being practical and start dealing with the real world. Child support and primary custodianship create bastards, a thing that was reviled not that long ago, because the children often grew up with problems. Now it is the norm, and our children have the same problems.

The Constitution

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Economic Realities Of Divorce With Children

they're 35 years old, thrice divorced, and living in a tarp down by the river

The economic realities of divorce are talked about all over the web. The problem I always encounter when reading them, is they don’t apply to everyone. A big number of the people that are profiled or talked about fall in lower income brackets. These are people who are going to struggle either way. Both parents end up struggling under these circumstances. They would struggle together or apart. When they are apart, it very difficult for both parents. Many don’t have jobs that have paid leave, so a sick kid is lost money. This is why so many “single” mothers feel justified regardless of how the father is getting by. They are barely making it on their own, and need every penny they get. No doubt in their minds, it is all the man’s fault. I don’t agree with this stance. I understand that the obstacles of low income people are sometimes insurmountable. If we cared, we would remove the burden of child support from men who don’t live above the poverty level. We would pick up the slack. Rather than spending all the money trying to track down these guys and collect, we should just spend that money for the kids. I generally don’t believe in government funded charity, but if I have to choose between a direct wealth transfer between two poor people for 18 years, and spending tax money, I will choose the tax money. Increasing the animosity between the couple and making it hard for the father to act as a father is not best for the kids. Our society would be better off if low income families had fathers that were able to be engaged.

Now that we have cleared a path through the low income families that are at the center of this discussion, especially in polite company. Now we are putting men who make good livings, and want to be involved in their kids’ lives. The system favors having the mother have the children, because it maximizes child support. As discussed before, child support is a profit center for the states, or at least a major contributor to government jobs, and people’s reliance on the state. Men generally take on the financial burden when the marriage is ending. They feel responsible for making sure the family makes it through this thing that threatens everything that is safe for those he loves. Most divorces are instigated by the wife, so its natural that the husband still feels protective of her. During this time, she is able to live off of his generosity and figure out how to take what she can. There is no excuse for child support from a father who is active in his kids life. He will support them. Instead we see the states inferring the rights of lifestyle based on the parents income to the kids. My kids have a better lifestyle than I do, and they will until such a time that I am no longer forced to fund it through their mother. You see as you move up the economic spectrum that fathers are being left in dire financial circumstances, and the mothers are living pretty much the same lifestyle they had before. I see “single” mothers who live in the homes they lived in before the divorce, while the fathers are barely scraping by in apartments that are hardly large enough to share with their kids. The lifestyle that he once had is forever gone to him, or at least until such time that the kids are grown. This may not be true after you reach a certain level of wealth, but even the Robin Williams with all of his success was stretched beyond what he could bare, and was spending more money supporting ex-wives than he was supporting himself.

In most areas of law, you cannot have a ruling that causes something to happen, and then use that something to get another ruling that you want. This is akin to sending a soldier out to war, and then charging him with murder for the actions that were demanded of him. In family court every rulings effects can be used to change something else. Take time away from a parent, and then you can raise their child support. That is an indirect result of the previous ruling. The court is preventing you from doing something, and then punishes you for not doing it. Everything is intertwined. This gives attorneys and the courts great leeway in how to handle case. You will hear it said that this is necessary, because each case is unique, but the truth is the matters that should be before the court are that unique. There could be, and I would argue should be standards that are applied universally to these cases. As things go right now, the court will use tools that aren’t normally allowed in court, because children are involved. Everything is obscured through these professionals.

Now back on track. Divorce means that the money that a family had now has to support two households. The family court has decided that it needs allow one house to have most of that money, and the other needs to earn most of the money. The principle is based on the idea that the money earned by both parties is the families, even though there is not a family in the same way that there was. You are both parents of the same kids, and those kids are active in both parents families, but the divorce says that the parents are not family anymore. The money is not the family’s money anymore. The money is each parents own, or it should be. The fantasy that there is still a family unit is what drives this. This fantasy makes the long term damage of one party for the benefit of the other justified. There is no driver for the mother to seek out ways to make more money. It is simpler to target the man for more and more money. Since the money follows the kids, everyone looking in sees that the kids are okay, and no one pays attention to the man, who is struggling everyday now. The man who has to choose whether he takes a vacation alone or none at all. A man who makes enough to take his family to Disney Land, but has to wait and here how Disney Land was with their mother, because the money he would spend on that vacation was sent to her.

The part that is hardest for me to fathom is that men accept this, and even embrace this. They have bought the idea that this is being a good dad. That taking care of the mother is noble. What they don’t see is that they are taking care of person who constantly undercuts them, and makes them with their children. These men are looking at themselves with pride for paying their support, while the mother of their children is reminding the kids of all the things he doesn’t buy for them. These men wonder why as their kids get older and older that they are losing touch with their kids, and some never regain that connection. The system as it is now makes martyrs of the mothers, and villains of the fathers. The fathers are living well below their abilities to support a woman who wants nothing to do with them. The system of present gives the mother the benefits of being married without the responsibilities, and gives the father the responsibilities without the benefits.

I know I am still scatter brained. Heading to court next week, and my brain is swimming with too many ideas.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Why Child Support Is Mandatory

keith's child support

To most of us today, child support is a matter of course. If you aren’t married to the mother of your children, then you pay child support. This wasn’t always the case though. Normal, hard working men took care of their children regardless of the status they held with the mother of their children. As a matter of fact, the legal definition of marriage is a fairly recent thing. Marriage law was governed under common law. Now that is a rarity as well. So why is it automatic that men pay women child support? How did this become the norm?

If you go back in time to the 60s and the 70s in the US, you will find that there was a lot of political activism surrounding the sexual revolution. You started to hear about dead beat dads. A thing that largely wasn’t a problem until promiscuity was the norm for young women. Dead beat dads are a consequence of loose women. Maybe not wholly, but the epidemic that led to the outrage is a result of this. There are a number of social and scientific factors that led to this, and birth control availability is one of them. People like to pretend that birth control always works, but it doesn’t. It certainly becomes an issue when there are mind altering drugs involved, and this era had a lot of that as well. As these girls became women with daunting task of raising kids alone without a father, the term deadbeat dad emerges.

These numbers grew over the next couple of decades. Court ordered child support starts to become more common as these mothers seek assistance in raising these kids. Most of the men paying child support never wanted the child. All they wanted was the sexual gratification. Whether knowingly or not, they had abandoned their children. Under common law in most states, this allowed the mother or community to seek financial support for the children. Mostly when the mother was living off some form of government assistance. Before this time, very few people had heard of child support, let alone known anyone that paid it. Now it was common enough that everyone knew at least a recipient or payer of child support. The majority of people weren’t concerned that they would ever have to pay child support themselves.

A fair chunk of these men not being fatherly minded resisted paying the support, and when they lived outside the jurisdictions of the courts ordering support, it was difficult to find ways to enforce collection. The Federal government was increasingly becoming the primary source of funding for the assistance programs, and so felt that had a stake in child support collections. They increased efforts to collect child support, and laws were passed to give the states more ways to collect child support from reluctant fathers. As more laws were passed by the Federal government, they saw that not all states and jurisdictions cared to collect child support. The decided it was not enough to give the states the tools, but they needed to give them incentives. They started to reward the states with some form of matching funds for every dollar of child support they collected. There were also incentives for having your collection rates at high percentages.

Whether it was an expected and desired side effect or unexpected, I don’t know, but the end result was that states saw that collecting child support could mean new revenue. If there were more support ordered in the courts, then they would collect more support and have more matching funds. They also saw that having more orders would also increase their collection percentages, because the vast majority of men wouldn’t dodge their responsibilities. As time went on the Federal government required that child support dispensaries be created and the income withholding order became the norm and even required in all Title IV cases. Financially the states started adding fees to the service. All in all the states make money through the dissolution of marriages and unwed parenting.

The states are now stakeholders in the breakup of families. Even though history clearly shows that the breakdown of the family unit is a leading indicator of the downfall of a society, the states are invested in the process. Financially it pays for them to do so. This is an artificial economic increase for them, because no new money is made. Now for those like me, who don’t really trust government to begin with there are other factors that also fed this process. One is statistically men are savers and women are spenders. Transferring money from men to women will generally mean that more money moves through the marketplace, and there are more taxes to collect. Women vote more than men, and there are more women than men potential voters. Women are more likely to vote for candidates that will make sure they are taken care of. It is certainly easier to hand out someone else’s money, than it is to do anything truly constructive for this country. The idea has been sold that because the children have a right to what each parent’s income can provide, then they must have a right to the income itself. Its a mixed up thought process, because all of us that have had kids in traditional marriage know, is kids have a right to the luxuries you are willing to provide. Only when you are a child support payer is that idea flipped. It doesn’t extend to the child support recipient. There is no requirement for them to spend any of the money on the kids, so long as the kids are generally taken care of.

Child support creates a second class of citizen. It also tends to keep money out of savings. Men are paying enough that they can’t save for themselves. The money they would save is being spent now on the kids, either in their own household or in the other parents. Men with one or two kids generally spend what they would have anyway on top of child support. Men with more kids are left with little to maintain themselves. If they want to have their kids any amount of time, then the costs of housing alone will make it difficult for them to save. This to states that want increased tax revenues is a good situation. The money continues to move, so they get more in terms of sales and income taxes. Its a short term view of economics. The states would be better off when each generation can save. They pass wealth on to the next generation, and each generation becomes richer. Government is freed from taking care of more and more of its population. In a freedom loving country like the US, this is a good thing. The poor are the hardest hit in these schemes. The problem is government always tends towards controlling the population. These systems keep men under control. They don’t have the finances to be distracted by what is going on in government, and are subject to such high penalties for non-payment that they don’t risk doing otherwise.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Prepare For Your Divorce

Love, Commitment and Adulthood

From the start of your marriage, you should prepare for your divorce. This is truly the case when you plan on having kids. You need to protect your ability to live on and live well after divorce before you get married. This might sound a bit crazy, but its true. Its sad that the world has come to this, but it has. Men are not treated fairly in court, and so they need to limit their damages the best they can. Traditional marriage with children should be forgotten, because if that is the route you take, then you will be punished for it later.

Prenuptial agreements are worthless if there are children. The court and clever lawyers can eliminate most parts of this agreement in the “best interest of the child.” Understand that this principle applies to all decisions the court makes. From who gets the house to how property is divided. The only time a prenuptial agreement holds real weight is when she wants it to, and when there are no kids involved. The one value that they have is that it may set the tone for where you start negotiating. They won’t save you in court, but they might help you stay out of court and get a fair deal through mediation and negotiation.

You must be an equal partner in every way with the kids duties. Not just doing half the work or care for the kids, but half of each type of work. Make sure you have a flexible job, and slow down the promotions. They won’t do you any good anyway after divorce, because she will just get a bigger chunk. Try and have a job that pays around the same as the job she has, and yes she must have a job too. Take as much time as she does doing things with the kids alone. Discourage breast feeding. Yes it might be better for the kids, but it takes you out of the duties of feeding the kids when they are infants. It will be argued that this creates a bond that you can’t have. Take the kids to school half the time, and pick them up and do the homework with them at least half the time. Making breakfast and dinner anytime you can, and make sure you are doing it regularly half the time. Go clothes shopping and school shopping. Nothing that involves your kids should be done without your active involvement. You should probably only have one child as well. Child support in the future is far less with one child, and makes tearing the family apart less appealing.

Be alert to the possibility of divorce pending. A year or two off, stop looking for raises. Start taking more time off, and if you are hourly, then work fewer hours. Use this time with your kids. This lowers your pay while you are married, so you are held to a lower standard for any child support and maintenance. Understand that I am advocate of equal parenting time, and I believe that men and women should care for their kids. I don’t believe that court ordered child support is the correct mechanism to do this. Not only does lessening your hours set a lower bar for future earnings when calculating child support, but it also prepares you for the truth of what is to come. You can increase your hours to help with the economic burdens of divorce, and it not be used against you in most states. You will also need more time off to deal with things that used to be divided duties when you were together. Including tagging the cars and other mundane tasks you don’t think about when you are married, because usually one of you is more able to take care of that issue on any given day. If you are working to your best potential at the time of divorce you are likely to not only suffer from having to share your income with your ex, but also having less income coming in do to your new time constraints. Divorce courts don’t deal with the realities of the economics of divorce. They tend to go with a “greater good” philosophy in their decisions. These are masked in other terms, but generally men are more likely to get along without assistance after divorce, even when monies are taken from them. If they shift the kids to one parent in a legal context, and the other parent pays them, then it is likely that the greatest number of people in the case are going to be okay. The kids and mother are taken care of and the men are likely to get along, even if not so well.

You need to have a go bag. You should have all the things you need in a bag that you have access to, even if you don’t have access to your home. This should have the basis you need to survive. Clothes and money should be in the bag. Anything you use daily should be in the bag. It could be doubly helpful in other situations, but think that you might be out of your house for a few weeks and not have access to things you use everyday during that time. If she pulls the trigger and gets a restraining order, its going to take some time to sort things out. You should have enough immediate cash to allow for you to live during that time, including getting some shelter. Think hard about this and put the bag together. Having the cash is important. Make sure to include having enough cash to meet with a lawyer for some advice as well.

Start putting money aside early. Have a bank account that you stash a certain amount in every paycheck. This is handy when things are good for buying presents without snooping, but let it grow. This is your nest egg. It will get you started when you are looking for new housing, furniture, and all other things when you start over. This should not be a shared bank account. This is yours and only yours. The more you have, the better off you are when divorce is eminent. This can also give you the balls to lay down the law when you need to lay down the law in your relationship. This can be some alpha boost, and may help you in your relationship long term, and avoid the very thing you are preparing for. Insurance so to speak.

Have a family law attorney on retainer. As soon as you have the money to put an attorney on retainer, do so. Give them a mailing address that your spouse doesn’t have access to. You don’t need to have anything for them to do. Just find a good law firm, and put them on retainer. If things go south fast, you don’t have to worry about getting this money together or spending your safety net money for this. You just have to make a phone call and go in and meet with them. Given this advantage, you can go ahead and file for divorce and set the initial rules of engagement if her opening isn’t to file then tell you. This will keep you from being caught flat footed legally. This can be the difference between months of panic, and quickly resolving things in a favorable way.

These are all hindsight is 20/20 types of observations. I am sure there are more, but the point is that you should plan for the likely end of the relationship before it hits you. Once you have the law firm on retainer and money automatically going to an account as a safety net, you don’t have to think about these things again until you need them. They will comfort you rather than hinder you while you go forward and try to beat the odds. They may be the difference in you divorcing and not. It may be counter intuitive to you, but not fearing divorce may very well prevent it. It wouldn’t have for me, but I would be in better shape if I had these things in place. I wouldn’t have needed the go bag, but having the money and the attorney would have stopped me from making certain decisions I felt I had to in the heat of the moment.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Cheaters: Kill Them All

Cheater

In my Facebook feed I see this slide show of cheating responses.. Some of them are very funny. By the end of the slide show, I am thinking to myself that there are very few that deal with women cheating. The premise is that its okay to figuratively burn a man at the stake for cheating, but what about the women. I know from experience that the message men get when their women cheat is to forgive them, and that it is just a sign that there is something wrong in the relationship. The man is told that her cheating is his fault, and that his cheating is her fault. I have commented on this before, but the glaring absence of harsh consequences for women in this slideshow I think makes a good point on our culture.

Check out this not really related, but entertaining video from Metallica’s Kill Them All album while reading the rest of this post.

Women are absolved from their bad behavior. Men are punished regardless of whether they are the ones that committed a real wrong or not. I know that my ex cheated on me, and I was never allowed to live it down. At that time, I struggled with what I could have done to prevent this. I bought into the Christian BS that told me that if I had been the “Biblical” husband that I was called to be, then this would never have happened. This kind of magical thinking hurts men in their relationships. Men should hold women to account for their actions. Their should be consequences for behaving badly, and though yes the desire to cheat might be a sign of issues in the relationship, it is is not license to actually break your wedding vows. That is a moral failure that our society treats as otherwise.

The slideshow shows a slice of reality when a man cheats. We see that their property is forfeit. Society thinks its okay for it to be destroyed or otherwise disposed of in the fits of rage the women have. Even the one man in the group who is cheated on targets the other man, not his wife. Its like she has no duplicity in the actions. He wasn’t wronged by his neighbor, but by his wife. That fact escapes him, and he has no problem destroying the man’s reputation in the community, but from the message it seems that he will be keeping the cheating wife.

Now understand that a man who does the things that are shown in this slideshow to a women or her things will go to jail. Some of the women might get a slap from a family court judge, but they will not see any jail cell for this destruction of personal property. A man would be hauled off in cuffs. Even with what is shown, the man is likely to get hauled off to protect the woman from his potential anger at her destroying his stuff. Women get a free pass to this bad behavior. We are told that the law does not allow us to seek our own justice in these cases, but here we are celebrating the punishment of bad, but not illegal behavior with what is often illegal behavior.

In my own marriage, I was subjected to overt cheating around 4 years in. I chose to stay with her, and that led to much of what this blog has been about. I to this day have not recovered from the emotional damage that relationship has done to me. I continue to be abused through the family courts, and as a man who earns just shy of 6 figures, I can’t pay my rent this month. More on that in another post. I was made to feel guilty for her cheating. I had pastors and therapists try to get me to evaluate my role in her cheating. As I look back at it, I have to ask how is it I didn’t even get to have an orgasm, but somehow I am at fault. Men need to stop accepting these arguments. Violating the marriage vows is an action that is not justified by any amount of satisfactions with the marriage. It isn’t acceptable for men to do it, nor should it be acceptable for women to do it. Fixing a marriage after such an act requires that the person who committed the act to regain the trust of the other person. There is no way to fix any of the other problems in marriage without regaining the trust. Men are often expected to not only skip this, but to accept near full responsibility for the problems that led her astray. When a man cheats, he is expected to deal with it, and often pay for it for the rest of the marriage. He is expected to regain her trust. He is expected to fix the problems in the marriage. Now I will admit that when there is cheating there are often other problems that lead to the vulnerability to cheating, but it doesn’t justify the cheating. When cheating has occurred and the trust is regained, then both partners need to work on the other issues. Its a fallacy to believe you can work on those problems before trust is regained, and in cases where trust cannot be regained, then the relationship is over.

I know many men that will attempt to rescue the marriage because of the kids. This is not a good idea. The motivation is wrong, and usually only one sided. I say this to both the men who have cheated and the men who have been cheated on. The women know that they are likely to gain control of the kids. They will play along to take their time figuring out their next move, and you will pay for it. If the kids are all you have to stay together for, then start the divorce now. I don’t say this because I don’t believe the kids are worth, but because society doesn’t tell her the kids are worth it. You see she will believe she is the better parent, and will have no problem taking the kids from you. The fact the court will play along with her will make her feel justified in her actions. Later when the kids are messed up without a good father in the house, she will be allowed to blame you for that failing to. Men need to understand that there is no winning, so limit your losses. Walk away and figure out the life you can build with the new constraints that will be on you. Don’t live for another decade like I did. All it does is make you feel like you wasted a decade of your life. I say this knowing that I would not have adopted my oldest 3 children, and would not have my daughter. All of which I love dearly, even my oldest that I can’t figure out how to engage anymore after what he did. I I had left my ex when she cheated on me, I would likely be a millionaire now in both my retirement and my savings. I would have the freedom to start my own company and live by my own rules. I am now forced to work for her benefit and comfort. I struggle to maintain the little I can afford. I earn about 40% more than the median family income is where I live, but have to budget my lifestyle based on someone who earns around 30% less than the median family income.

Its time for change in the results in these situations. Nothing will change if men continue to just suck it up and take it. I watch so many men who are stuck. Myself included. I never thought I would be counting down the time until my kids grow up, but I do. I have 7 years and just shy of 9 months left on this sentence. I used to look forward to every moment of raising my kids. Now I see every disappointment as I cannot provide for them directly. I can’t afford to take them out for ice cream. I can’t take them to a ball game or a festival. All things that I earn enough for them to do. My income affords them these things with their mother. Their experience with their mother is so much better than they get with me, because I have to pay for it. Fatherhood, the greatest gift god gave me, has become my prison.

Here is another slideshow that demonstrates how things differ for men and women. Divorce cakes that show violence against the men is acceptable. There are a couple that show the opposite, but I am still struck by what people find acceptable. This one might be a stretch, but I had the same reaction to it, so I share it.

Ten-Foured,

JeD