The Time and Money Conundrum

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

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

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

Parenting Plan

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

Parental Agreement

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

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

Court Decides

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

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

Child Support

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

Federal Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

County/Parish Policy

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

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

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

Court

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

Shared Parenting

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

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

Are We The New Babylon?

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

The Great Paradox of Family Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

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

Things Are Looking Up

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

There Is No Logic

If this were not happening to me, I truly would believe that this is all an exaggeration. My oldest son was the primary reasoning for my time being limited. His victim lives in my house, and that prevented him participating fully in my household. It was made clear that he would not be left out of anything. Me and my wife pushed ourselves to figure out how to make room for him in our household, because to not do so was clearly going to prevent me from having my other kids in any significant way. We worked with my stepson’s counselor and got to a point where she was comfortable with reintegration starting.

We pushed to go ahead and start the process with my son. We were told that he couldn’t handle it. That he was not ready for reintegration. Yet still my time is limited with my other kids. My oldest son has been taken back into state custody. He physically assaulted his mother, and most probably has violated his probation in other ways. I still have not been granted more time with my other children. The therapist that is making recommendations has expanded the scope of why the kids are not spending as much time with me. In part they are not allowed to spend as much time with me as before, because they aren’t receiving the kind of time they want with me. So they say. Less time with them, means less time of any kind, and it means that the time we have is less comfortable. I am being fed with circular logic that makes no sense. If what you just read looks like I didn’t proofread, then read it again. That is really the type of reasoning I am dealing with.

So I have had a few overnights with my kids, and had been able to bring them to my home for the past few weeks, but still very limited. There has been some email communication back and forth between myself, the therapist, my wife, and my ex-wife. The discussion wasn’t a pleasant one. The therapist, a social worker of 2 years experience, decided that she thinks my wife is delusional and paranoid and is imagining risks to her children and herself. To be clear, my wife thinks reintegration of my son into either household is risky. He has sexually abused 3 of the 5 other kids. He has physically attacked his mother, and viewed sexually inappropriate material on the internet while on probation for a sex crime. It might be arguable about what his risk is, but it is not unreasonable to believe there is a risk.

I have a new attorney. She specializes in high-conflict divorces. She herself has been through a pretty nasty one. She sees a lot of issues with the case and the current situation. She is working towards remedying some of the problems my previous attorney has caused or allowed, and fixing the current situation.

I am dumbfounded at the lack of reasoning that is involved by the people making decisions that affects other people s lives in significant ways. The therapist enjoys telling me that she will not defend her therapeutic interventions, and that the kids are her clients. She needs to explain whatever I ask, I am the parent and legally I am the client. The kids can be her patients, but they are not the clients. They cannot legally be the clients, and this is something that can affect her license to practice. I am sending a formal complaint to the state licensing board. It is quite thick.

I am convinced more than ever that court and its hangers-on are not capable of determining “The Best Interest Of The Children.” The best interests cannot be determined by people who don’t have to live with the decisions that are made. The parents, even ones that can’t agree to which way is forwards are more likely to be able to get there. They have to live with the results.

My hope is that through all of this, that the relationship I have with my kids is not permanently damaged. Its damaged now. As far as everyone is concerned who makes decisions it is more important that the therapist who continually creates a larger and larger integrity gap with me isn’t undermined in the kids eyes. It is fine to undermine the relationship with me though.

It is also clear that not only is alienating a parent overlooked by the court, but encouraged. Every decision I make is questioned, and my ex-wife is never questioned. My children see that what I decide doesn’t matter. They see that time with me isn’t important. They know that my authority is meaningless in their life. The GAL, the therapist, their mother, and the judge have all affirmed this with their words and actions.

This is all bullshit. I ask myself how long do I continue to fight. I can’t make myself quit, but I don’t know how long I can keep going and not lose all that I am.

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.