March 25

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

August 31

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

August 25

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

June 20

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

March 9

Lies and Betrayal

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

Marriage

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

Justice System

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

Truth Matters

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

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

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

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

Family Comes First

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

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

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

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


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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

March 9

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.

February 23

Daddy’s Gone

This song isn’t really about my situation, but the pain and desire described in the song is the light version of what I feel, and my kids probably feel right now. I certainly hope things get better, but my hopes are pretty small. This song made me cry the first time I heard it, so its one that tugs at my heart. Be prepared, this post is likely going to be long and jump around. My thoughts aren’t clear and there is a lot I want to say. This blog is as much for me to get rid of some of my angst as it is for me to convey the very real issues I observe and experience.

I haven’t written in a while. I was preparing for trial, and then having to deal with the results emotionally. I don’t know that I will ever be able to recover from what has been done. I don’t know that my family will recover. If it does, it will most likely do so without me. It is clear to me at this point that there is no justice in the USA. The freedom and justice that our forefathers fought to protect was lost generations ago. Maybe from the beginning. In a letter to A. Coray on October 31, 1823 Thomas Jefferson wrote:

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account.

I consider Jefferson one of the most astute of the founding fathers. It seems whenever I have disagreed with him, life teaches me that he was correct. I now take all his words to heart as I examine this grand experiment called the United States of America. I am going to break this up as much as I can into sections.

The Trial

Pre-Trial

I approached my ex and asked her if she would stand with me to have the schedule that she had agreed to before. She told me that she wasn’t in a position to go against the GAL’s recommendation. At the time, I thought it was a strange wording, but didn’t think too much about it. I now believe that she asked the GAL to step in, because she had given me a schedule, and that they were working together. Otherwise she would have expressed that she wouldn’t stand with me, not that she couldn’t. I have to remember that she parses words more adeptly than the best attorneys.

My Exhibits

I had presented a number of alternatives to the proposal that would allow me to retain my overnights with the kids, and to spend time with my oldest on a limited basis. He would not have overnights with me. I would spend an evening with him alone and a weekend afternoon with him alone, and I would spend an evening with him and his siblings and a weekend afternoon with him and his siblings. This would be on a two week cycle, so there would be 4 encounters with him and me. Two of which would include his siblings. We also had many pictures with us as a family. This last one should have been compelling, but it was really just one other thing for the GAL to latch onto that excluded my oldest.

Testimony

The GAL

He described a man who abandoned a son. I understand how that is the view of some. I have reasons for my behavior that have been discussed in this blog. I also have had many roadblocks that I simply could not get across, some financial and some put there by my ex, and some self imposed for the sake of the other kids involved. He described my home for the others being a Cinderella story. Not the good part, but that they were treated as the slaves in our home. Made to do unreasonable chores, and sent away without care. This is far from the truth. Again as I have discussed in this blog, they have very few responsibilities at my house, and I felt like I really couldn’t give them many without being accused of being a slave driver. He talked about a few examples of issues at my house. Each one was out of context, and a singular issue not an example of an ongoing issue. He presented his recommendation for parenting time. It gives me a few hours every Tuesday, and every other Thursday. I then have eight hours every other weekend.

The Ex

Her attorney only called her. She kindly made me look like a horrible person. She made a point that I made my daughter go to the daddy/daughter dance with my step-daughter, and got her there when it was half over because I took her to my wife’s grandmothers to get a picture. The truth is that I had told my step-daughter that we couldn’t go to the daddy/daughter dance at her school this year. It was the same night as my daughters. My step-daughter will have three more opportunities to with me. My daughter asked me to bring her. I told her that she didn’t have to do that. She still wanted her to come. I didn’t realize that a good chunk of the high schools where I was planning on having dinner were having a dance that night. After my first few attempts at getting into a restaurant, I took them to a nice bar and grill that I knew they would like the food at. To make things more frustrating, they lost my ticket and took an extra 45 minutes to get us our food. Instead of arriving at the dance less 30 minutes after it started, we arrived 75 minutes after it started. I felt horrible, and then it gets twisted in court to make me look bad on top of it. My lawyer challenged her with a few things, but all in all she didn’t say much. I should have encouraged him to call her as our witness as well, so he could get her more on edge. He was playing by the cross-examination rules, then when I took the stand the other two attorneys asked to have those tossed aside and tried to make my lawyer look silly for thinking they should honor cross examination rules.

Me

I was on the stand for over an hour and a half. First my attorney questioned me. I explained my position on things the best I could. He asked me mostly open ended questions. My ex’s attorney then asked a couple questions. She really didn’t seem to have any focus other than you shouldn’t like this guy, but she seemed a bit befuddled. I suspect she had heard a story that I don’t talk well and expected something very different than I presented. The truth is I don’t talk well when confronted by my ex. She is one of the few people who can set me to stuttering. I am thoughtful when I speak, but that doesn’t mean I am unable to speak off the cuff. My thoughtfulness tends to mean that on many topics I have already put a great deal of thought into what is being talked about. Next the GAL questioned me. Pretty much every decision I made, he twisted into being a poor one. He shouted at me, and badgered me. I did a fair job of answering the questions, even when he didn’t really want me to. At one point he shouted at me “They are just step-kids.” This pissed me off. If I haven’t shared my philosophy about kids here, then I must now. My answer was that I have adopted 3 children, and have had a few more as foster kids. Blood does not tie me to the child, and I did not take it lightly when I had my wife and her two kids move in with me. When they moved in, they were now one of my children, lacking only the legal piece of paper naming it so. I won’t treat them differently (at least intentionally) than I do the other kids. This is why I struggle so much with this. I honestly still don’t believe he is safe to be in the home with his siblings. He hurt them too. It became apparent to me that the GAL was focused on the wedding ceremony we held that wasn’t legal. We were not able to get married because my ex would not allow the bifurcation to happen. We were married a little over a week after the divorce was final. Funny, my wife has the same legal anniversary for both me and her ex. We will celebrate the date we made the commitment.

My Wife

She was rushed through, since the court needed to finish. My lawyer called her and had her talk about her relationship with the kids. My ex’s attorney then cross examined her. Again I was not real sure what her point was. It was an odd mixture of questions. The witnesses were told to wait in the hall, so they couldn’t hear the other witnesses. A partner from my law firm was in the courtroom, and left. She tried to insinuate that my wife’s testimony should be thrown out because she talked to him. She merely introduced herself. The court had no issues with her. It would have been an ethics violation for him to say anything regarding the testimony since he heard the instructions, and he too is an officer of the court. The GAL attacked her on treating the kids poorly and having separate rules for the kids. There are, but they he has them flipped. Her kids are held to more accountability than they are, even though they are quite a bit younger. He also went after her for the wedding ceremony, and so did my ex’s attorney. They were picking at her words. She did get angry and lashed out a bit, but she kept it pretty much under control.

The Judge

The judge ruled in favor of the GAL. She gave an eloquent speech that this was only temporary and that it should be looked at as a reset for me and the kids. My wife and her kids are to have no contact with my kids. My lawyer told me she was leaning that way in chambers. Apparently in another case this worked. I doubt that the other case actually resembled ours. It was probably an absent father, who was then encouraged to be active with all his kids, or some other issue that wasn’t a direct result of his child’s actions. I also got a hint that there was something not being said. I will get to that in a bit. She handed over the decision making to the therapist that has been working with my oldest, and now the other kids. The GAL has less authority than before, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a factor.

The Take Away

There is a small hope the therapist will have a different view of things. The focus is largely on my oldest who is 15. We will see how things go from here. Every time I turn around, I get smacked in the face, so expect no less here. I actually will address this in my next post. I got the distinct feeling through the GAL that the story that is in his head is the one where I ran off with a new young wife and left my family floundering. That I stopped caring for them, and treated them poorly. The timeline does not support this, but his direction of questioning and his atitude seem to indicate that is the story he has bought. Or at least a story of I didn’t let the kids adjust at all. Our separations was 18 months before I ever introduced them to anyone, and that was my wife. I was not incautious in that decision. She wasn’t the first woman I dated. I did not want to cause havoc in their lives. I really do think it is just a matter of time until I lose my right to contact with my kids. The process is just whittling away at what I have. There isn’t much ore that can be taken away. My kids are pre-teens and teens, they aren’t going to be happy with the schedule that is being proposed for long. Pretty soon they will be asking to not have to do it.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

December 22

Time Is Love

where is the love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

December 15

Income Based Child Support – Defacto Alimony

Buffalo Bills - Alimony Ale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

November 6

Co-Parenting?

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD