The Custody Paradox

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

I Miss You …

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Day 683

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Let The Kids Decide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Riding The Wave (Sometimes The Wave Rides Me)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Being Gollum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Bitch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

One Year, And Four Empty Beds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

The Great Paradox of Family Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Judged Unworthy

I have tried to write this post for a long time. I am dumbfounded at the results. Put simply at the end of June I was restricted to supervised visitation, and that my mom and sister were the approved supervisors. I will talk about the whole experience down below. I have lost every motion in court. Not most, but every motion. I have yet to file a motion on my own behalf beyond the counter-petition for divorce. In a dispute like this, no one is actually wrong all the time, and the other isn’t right all the time. This is at its core a selfish dispute, so neither party is looking out for the other. By definition each party is trying to take some form of advantage of the other for their own benefit.

The Motions: It was fairly straight forward. It said that I should no longer have my out of home visits with my kids without supervision. That I didn’t have appropriate boundaries when talking with my kids. It specifically says I continue to have inappropriate conversations with my children and confuse them. The other motion was for there to be a redistribution of GAL fees, because I have caused the largest share of the expenses, and should be responsible for a greater portion of the fees.

The Trigger: When I told my son, and the other kids that I didn’t believe that he belonged locked up. I created a conflict between what their mother has told them, and what I was telling them. I am assuming they were upset and went to their mom and made a big deal about the fact I don’t tell the same story as her. I thought it was important that the kids know that my son was not as bad as they had been told, and more importantly that he isn’t bad just because he has done bad things. Those things don’t define who he will be, but are a bread crumbs on the trail of where he has been. My step-daughter said this to me before I could get it out of my mouth when I was telling her what I had talked to him about, and she’s eight. I just want him to understand he is always becoming the man that he will be, and that others don’t determine that for him. That he has a chance in this world.

The Hearing: Well there was talking. Very little of it had any content of matter. Opposing counsel insinuated without evidence that I am hurting my kids by parenting them. The therapist stood up and recommended that I have supervised visits in part because I was undermining her relationship with her clients. The sole way I was undermining her was by not allowing her to undermine my relationship with my kids, in particular my oldest son. The GAL made a few grand statements that amounted to know real facts or evidence, but a final opinion that he agreed with the position that I should have supervised visits. The judge talked to my ex-wife and her statements were basic comments of she only wants to protect her children and that she believes they should have a relationship with their father, but … Its always the “but” that gets you. When the judge talked to me, I explained what I had said and why. The GAL interrupted me intimating that I don’t have the moral authority to father my son, and that I owed him an apology for what I did in the past, when he sexually molested my step-son. I told him that I had apologized to him, and had talked at length with him about the whole situation. He spit some nastiness my way that if I said something similar would have landed me a contempt charge.

The Results: The judge ruled that I should have supervised visits. Only my mother and sister were mentioned as supervisors. Neither one talks to me, but goes to church with and socialize with my ex-wife. I haven’t had more than a few counseling sessions with my kids. My ex-wife is trying to end those as well, because we talk about inappropriate things there. This is the word to describe what I do and say. It has been the narrative her attorney started from the beginning. My first attorney told me it was to get under my skin and to ignore it, but he was wrong. It was setting the tone for the future when she planned to take my kids away from me in any meaningful way. The court has heard it so often, that it doesn’t even ask for an explanation about how it is actually inappropriate, but accepts that is who I am. I have each of my three kids for an overnight visit for exactly one night. My oldest not at all, since he has been in state custody for the majority of this time. I get to see him twice a week. At least him being in custody allows for me to see him unhindered.

The Takeaway: This is tough. I have to figure out how to see my kids. I don’t trust my sister and mom. I am afraid that they are going to do whatever it takes to stay in my ex-wife’s good graces, so that they continue to benefit from contact with my kids. My mom recently had two of the kids overnight, and chose not to try and include me. This isn’t the first time she has done this. My sister has my girls on a regular basis, and has never attempted to include me while I am going through this. Not that school is in session, it is very hard to figure out how to do therapy appointments. I am going to have to figure it out soon. Somehow paying the therapist that is trying to remove me from my kids lives is of the utmost importance to the court. My attorney walked out of court and said to me that she didn’t think she was going to take another case in my state. This was the second case she has had that just didn’t make sense how the judge and everyone else behaved. It didn’t follow normal protocol from our neighboring state that she normally practices in. She also confirmed that the appeals courts in my state have a tendency to not set aside trial verdicts but to provide the judge with instructions that allow them to keep the verdict that they gave. GALs can’t be cross examined in my state and he hasn’t thus far been made to issue an actual report. I believe that he doesn’t want to put a report in writing, because the weakness of his case will be exposed when someone reads it and isn’t compelled by his emotional response to everything.

The Chaos: I had asked for someone else to supervise. Opposing counsel said that wasn’t an option. I asked for someone my attorney knew, and my ex-wife knew. My ex-wife called this person and told them that I as a delinquent dad, and that I could have scheduled to have her supervise at any point. I told my attorney this, and her response was that I cannot control her behavior. The thing is, I need an answer and I am getting mixed signals. I think I should be able to use this person after that phone call. I am afraid my attorney has given up right out of the gate.

The Future: The judge decided that we should have a limited custody eval. After she was done lecturing me about my wife, who hasn’t had any contact with anyone but me in the case for months. This is a court services professional that will do an investigation of their own, like the GAL, but has a different legal definition. This person will make their own recommendation to the court. I of course will be paying more of these fees than my ex-wife, because that is how things go for me. I hope that there is a difference in what this person’s opinion of me is.

Ten-Foured,

JeD