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.

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

The Lost Boy

Lost City

I have posted about my son multiple times. For lack of a better term, we are estranged. What he did in my home is hard to forgive, and unforgettable. I don’t know what our relationship will be over the next few years. I am afraid that when he returns to his mother’s house, that she will push him over the edge, and that he will get bounced back into the system, and never recover. More than any of my kids, I really have no idea how things go for him. With the others, I can imagine personality traits and other possible futures for them. For him, I see nothing. I can’t predict in my imagination where things will go. So much of what he is interested in are lost to him for what he has done.

I love my son, but have no idea how to help him. The pain he has caused and the malice that it was done with terrifies me. I wish his mother would let him walk this path more alone, because I do believe that his success will come only through him doing what needs to be done. He needs to change his thinking. He needs to see how the future looks all alone, and decide how he is going to change that. Her volatility with him scares me. I don’t believe that he and her have fixed much at this time. I think that that she will return to her old ways with him, when things become tough. I truly hope that I am wrong. This would be tragic, and it would start off his early adult life in and out of treatment centers and some form of incarceration. Most people are not able to recover from this.

I think that the GAL is likely trying to pressure me to change my life such that he can live with me full time. I have struggled to understand exactly what he is trying to get to happen, but this would make sense. If he has decided that I might be able to provide the structure that he needs then, he would think that he needs to force me to do that. I don’t believe that I can. Not and still have a life with my other kids. I would have to move to a place where I can provide the controls that he needs, and I would have to dedicate almost all of my time to it. I have said this before, and I stand by it. I can’t sacrifice the other five kids involved for the sake of one. I believe that doing so would create more problems with the other five, and the greater good of everyone would not be served. I struggle a lot with this. I used to believe I could do it all, and I could save the world. Now I realize that I can barely save myself, and that is yet to be seen. I need to know my limits and abide by them to be effective for those that I care about.

I met with my son and his sexual abuse counselor last week. He had a letter for me. The letter was a pretty standard therapeutic apology. When he spoke, I heard for the first time that he understood the impact of his actions. I gave up a long time ago that he would understand that his actions weren’t justified or right because he wanted them to be. My hope has been that he will learn that the impact of his actions on others matters, and that he needs to see past his own desires and impulses before he takes any action. He showed hints of understanding the actions were wrong. It was the best I have seen him in a long time. I still fear that he is duping everyone, and will move forward doing as he pleases. He is heavily medicated, but seems to tolerate it well. This makes me wonder just how strong his will is, and how he will handle coming back to his mothers at semester. I do believe he is in the right environment right now, and wish I could find a way to keep him there. The structure and discipline seem to be working. He is on a path where going from high school to the military would probably increase the foundation that is being built. He showed genuine remorse over not being able to be in my life the way he would like to be, and understanding that it was his actions that led to this situation. I saw him try to work up the emotion when he was talking, but there was a turning point where his real emotions came out. I said at one point that there are a lot of people involved who view my responses to the situation as wrong, but that when I view the complete picture, I cannot abandon the victims in this. This is what he threatened them with. I see the damage done everyday. I see the pain the little boy feels, and have to find ways to help him through it. The wounds are still raw a year later for me, for him, and for his mother.

I call this post “The Good Son,” because like the movie, he is charming and most people wouldn’t believe the things he does. At one time I was duped into believing it was just his relationship with his other, but he was working both of us over pretty good. With her it was escalate the anger, and with me it was tap into my compassion. She also used him for her advantage. They aren’t that different in many ways. Would things have been different for him if we had gone our separate ways years before, I don’t know. I suspect that root of his issues started when he was a baby. His genetics combined with the type or lack of nurture he received in his home with his biological family created his inability to attach in healthy ways. He has coped with this in some very unhealthy ways, and was far smarter than anyone gave him credit for. Sometimes I wonder if I have watched a serial killer grow under my roof, and other times I wonder if only he could recognize the broken pieces inside of him, then maybe he can find a path to a healthy life. I wish life were neat and tidy, and things worked out for the best. I don’t believe that they do for most people anymore. Many people convince themselves that life is great, but in reality life hurts. That is the feeling we have the most of. Its time to find a way out of being stuck in past hurts, and that is part of the reason I write this. It is therapeutic, and helps me let go of things that are stuck in my brain spinning round and round until I am exhausted. I don’t understand illogical responses things much, even when I factor in emotion. I would like to believe in karma, but my life shows no evidence that when someone does things without thought for others, that they are paid back in some cosmic way. My life tells me that those who don’t care for how things affect others will get ahead in life, and have most of what they want. People want to be around them, because they are judged as successful. Those who care for others are treated as weak, and tend to be societies s losers. Its enough to make you want to drop out of society and exist as far off the beaten path as possible. The life of Daniel Boon sounds really great to me most of the time.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

The End Is Near

The End is Near

I know I have said this before, but the judge is done. She wants us out of her court. The lawyers realize that we have been drained of our resources to a point where we cannot afford to do go much farther. I come out the loser in this, and it is just a matter of how to mitigate the damage, so that I am able to start out on a stronger footing. I started this journey hopeful, and I have lost most of that hope. The system will destroy any hope you have, especially if you are a man. The fact that we are litigating things that shouldn’t be litigated in our society is sick, but it is the way things work. The system is designed for winners and losers, so don’t let anyone tell you that there is suck a thing as a good divorce. The only good divorce is one that never sees court.

For those who haven’t read my story, here is a little background of how we got here. My wife left me in July 2011. She was going to seek happiness, and thought I should do the same. She moved from the small town that we lived in to the suburbs. At first I paid for all the kids expenses, but she was wanting child support. We shared time with the kids equally. She filed for divorce after I met someone else. It was about a year and a half after she moved out. I had abandoned our home to live closer to where the kids were going to school. She demanded child support when she filed. My lawyer made it pretty clear, though I wasn’t listening, that if she didn’t want shared custody, that I wasn’t going to get it. I had this pie in the sky idea that the what the legislative branch codified into law was going to be honored. It wasn’t, and the lawyers were right. Over the summer of 2013 my son sexually abused my soon to be stepson. He was almost twice the kids age. My son had emotional issues, but they generally were only issues at his moms. She used his issues to objectify my soon to be wife and her two kids. My time with my kids has been reduced once already. Just enough to knock us off of equal parenting time, and to increase my child support by more than double. I went to a 6/8 split on every two weeks. I either had the kids for four nights or two nights on alternating weeks. There is a lot more this story, but I will leave that up to you to read my earlier posts. If you are curious start at the beginning. I walk my way through everything in the first posts of the blog. I spend very little time with my oldest. I cannot face what he did. He threatened the other boy with losing me if he talked. This boy has already lost his daddy in divorce. His daddy chose to walk away without a care.

I haven’t received the new parenting plan, but I have been told that if I don’t accept it, then we can go to trial. I have been told by the GAL that he would recommend less time with my kids. I have always wanted equal time with my kids, and it keeps getting reduced. The GAL hints he might recommend more time, but not equal time if I were to leave the woman I am with. There is a restraining order in place that keeps my son from being around her or her kids, so he cannot live with me. I believe that he belongs in a treatment facility for the long term. He needs help. Barring that, I would have wanted divided custody, so the three still had the same time with me, and he would be full time with mom. The schedule I have seen that is likely in the parenting plan is a 5/9 schedule, so I lose another day. I get the kids for 5 days straight, and she gets them for 9 days straight. Its not much better than the every other weekend scenario. I get one more day than that schedule, but I go longer without having them in my home. I am slowly losing the ability to be an influence in my kids life. They never help around the house, or clean up after themselves. They are becoming more and more selfish. I can only hope to regain some influence in their life when they are grown. The settlement is pretty simple. Either she gets her portion of my retirement, or she gets her portion of my retirement and takes out the rest for me to have in cash. There are some debts that need to be paid in the process. Those debts will not be paid if I don’t get the cash. Its really that simple. I suppose there is a third option, but I won’t explore it until what I want is exhausted. That would be to get out an amount just for the debts that have to be paid, so there is a concrete number to work with. I am appalled at how bad lawyers are at math, so it has made these things more complicated.

My lawyer thinks we can have things rapped up by the end of November. I can only hope that is the case. I am exhausted. My health is not what it should be due to stress. I am ready to move on with the rest of my life. This chapter is almost closed, and the next will close in 8 years when my youngest graduates high school. I then have 3 years before all the kids are out of the house, and begin seeing the world. I had wanted to show my kids the world, but this divorce has shattered all possibility of me being able to do that. Maybe some can come along on their own, and I can still show them some of the world.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Rights And Divorce

Nomad children in Changtang, Ladakh

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

American Life

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

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

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

Divorce Creates Classes

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

First Class: The Best Interest of the Children

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

Second Class: Custodial Parent

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

Third Class: Non-Custodial Parent

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

Fourth Class: The Children

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

How Do We Fix It

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

The Constitution

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Uniformity Would Help

Skewed Uniformity

As I have engaged and researched the divorce and custody world from different angles, I see that so much of what happens varies from state to state, and even from county to county. As a more libertarian thinker, I find this generally a good thing in theory. The fact that those closest to the people make the rules. The practice is something altogether different. Every state has its own divorce and marriage laws. There are some key things that vary between localities that can make a world of difference.

First Federal Law plays a big role in this. To give the illusion of uniformity there are some standards set up by Federal Law. One is that marriage carries a reciprocal agreement between the states. Basically if two people are legally allowed to be married in one state and they move to another state where they are allowed to be legally married, then that marriage will be honored by the other state. On the surface the relationships are the same. The standards that each party are held to can vary widely from state to state. None of this matters much, unless you are in divorce court. You enter into a marriage in a state that has limits on property division and maintenance, and you can end up getting divorced in state that has no limits and often decides to inequitably divide property. You may live in a state that infidelity matters or doesn’t when you marry, and move to state that is the opposite. Understand that this changes the deal. How a contract is broken is a part of the contract, so moving states changes the contract, and for most people they are unaware of the change of terms. What is worse, is one partner can move to a state that is favorable to them, and after meeting the residency period in than state, they can file for divorce. A ruse of moving for work or or schools or other factors, and the other spouse is to follow can allow one partner to choose a more favorable location to break the marriage contact. Infidelity can have a large effect in some states, and no effect in others. This again changes the terms of the contract.

These same principles are applied to child custody. There is even more Federal ambiguity added to the mix. Federal Law requires states to have child support formulas and systems in place, and have enticed them to up collections through matching funds. The results are that states have figured out that this is a profit center. So much so that my state has instituted in the guidelines for child support that the parent who earns more should pay child support to the other parent, when they share custody 50/50. This is because the state will get more matching funds with the higher calculation. Moving states changes the terms that you will have the when having kids with someone, and in divorce you may not know the terms were changed by moving across the state line. This is a major issues for people who live near state borders, and a large part of our population does. Trade and population centers are often along the state borders. It allows for companies to take advantage of changes in laws in both states without having to turn over an entire workforce. Whether you have shared custody or limited time, and how much you pay in child support is the domain of the state that the the kids go into the courts care either from divorce or birth depending on whether the parents are married. It doesn’t matter what the state laws were where you were married, because they don’t have the jurisdiction.

I am not a fan of the courts being in the middle of all this. I am also not a fan of state sanctioned marriage, but under the tax laws, its is hard to not accept the government domain in relationships. For most of us, we can’t afford to not accept it. I believe that it would be easier to combat the problems with the system, if there were simply one system. Marriage and child custody legislation should be largely federalized. Marriage and divorce should look the same in Miami, Chicago, Springfield, and Sacramento. It shouldn’t matter where you live,the contract should be the same. The terms you are breaking the contract under should be the same, and the issues of child custody and support should be the same. This is an area where we are constantly dealing with the rights of people and the constitution gets stomped on. If the laws are already under Federal purview, then it is more likely to receive the scrutiny it deserves. By the courts, by the president, and by congress. Even more importantly, it would be a valuable topic for the press to cover. No longer do you have the crazy people up in Nebraska making some kooky law for a few people in the high plains, but you have a singular standard that will affect nearly half the population. Most of the problems of the current laws would be absorbed by the Federal government, but now the few activists who want to fix things in each state can fight a unified battle to fix the problems with the system.

I think that long term, there needs to be a simple child custody rights amendment added to the constitution. This amendment should define clearly what the child’s rights are from their parents. I think these rights are pretty simple. They deserve food and shelter. They deserve an education. The deserve to be treated humanely, and to be free from abuse. They deserve a relationship with both a father and a mother. I say this knowing that homosexual couples will adopt children. I think there needs to be a provision that there is someone who has the rights to act as a father for the child. We need to reboot our thinking and accept that kids need male and female influences in their life. These relationships are important. I am not really sure how that one plays out, but I do think it is important. Relationships are imperfect, so this last one might be hard. This amendment should also define a parents rights. The parents rights should include the right to spend significant time with their children. The right to make decisions in their child’s life regarding health, education, and religion. The child has the right to an education, but the parents have the right to choose the manner of that education. It should define who has the ability to settle disputes and how they will be settled. I don’t think a courtroom is the right place. I think that perhaps court is the place where they can come to agreement as to who will settle disputes. This should be a trusted clergy person, therapist, or other person who will develop a relationship with both the parents and the children. There should also be a means for the the parents to change who that person is, because that person should be someone who is trusted by both parents to assist in these disputes. I am sure that there would be far more details than I can think of this moment, but it would have a tremendous effect on the process that we follow now.

This amendment would create a culture where men and women would not have to get married to raise kids together. I think it would be common that parents would have a parenting plan that would guide them in their decision making and living arrangements. I could see parents choosing to live together as a couple or simply as parents in a contract to raise a family together and to share the expenses of raising the children. I think in the long term, it is likely that men and women will choose to raise a family together and have separate romantic relationships. This is something that might even change how homes are built. I could see homes with three spaces in our future. A family space that has the kitchen, dining, living, and children’s spaces. A mothers apartment and a fathers apartment. Each apartment would have private sleeping, bathing, and limited cooking spaces. There would also be a private living room for each parent. The parents would be free to run their apartment as they please. They would share decision making on the shared spaces. The kids would no longer have to shuffle from father to mother. If the parents don’t get along well, they could schedule their time with the kids such that one is responsible for taking care of the kids and the larger portion of the home for a few days and then the other. The children would have easy access to both parents when they need or want them. Activities and homework can be a joint effort without either parent having to go to the others home. When romantic partners are in the house, they wouldn’t have to have any contact with the children. The arrangement could be simply for the time it would take to raise the kids to a certain age. This may not be an arrangement that everyone would want, but it is the type of flexibility that having an amendment that guarantees both parents and children certain rights with each other would lend itself to. Traditional marriage would still be an option. It would squash the current culture that surrounds the single mother heroes our society so loves. Men would have equal access to their kids, and financial responsibilities according to the law would be limited to the guaranteed rights of the children.

Without strong marriage, and we don’t have strong marriage, flexibility in parenting relationships is necessary. The current paradigm is one where men pay the bills and women take care of the kids. It is based on the illusion that this is what the marriage contract represented, and that it should be mimicked as much as possible. This is not what the contract was, and even if it were, the contract is void. The marriage is one that essentially says that I as a man will take care of you financially and protect you physically and in turn you will comfort me and care for my treasures, including my children. When that contract was broken, then the wife was left to figure out how to care for and protect herself. The man still provided for his children under his own roof. The only time a man was held to account, historically, as he is now was when he abandoned his family. If you read the legal path of how we ended up where we are, it is all based on the concept of women being abandoned with their children by men. This has never been the majority of the circumstances. It has always been far more common for women to choose to walk away from men. As a matter of fact, they were far more likely to walk away from their kids. They don’t do this now, largely because the money comes from having the children.

Its time to stop having different standards around the country. Its time to stop pretending that one dynamic works for all families. Its time to stop handing out cash and prizes to one person, while extracting them from the other. Its time to stop pretending that statistical averages actually define how people manage their money and lives. Its time to remember that all parties involved have rights. It is said that divorce is worse than having a spouse die. Part of that is because all the worst parts of the spouse are magnified in the current system, while the best parts are unavailable to you. In the death of a spouse, you lose the burdens with virtues. You are able to idealize the memory of that person. Your former spouse in divorce is remembered at their worst, because the current system encourages people to be their worst.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

Beating A Dead Horse

beating a dead horse

I harp on this idea. Its fundamental to what is wrong with child custody in America, and probably throughout a large portion of the world. One parent is rewarded with for limiting access to the children by the other parent. Here are a few ways to that this could be fixed, and could be done quickly. For things to get better, these are cases where parents should be allowed to go back to court and get it fixed quickly once changes have been voted on. Yes the courts would be overwhelmed, but this kind of change could save a lot of kids from living their life estranged from their fathers.

To truly simplify things, child support should be clearly defined to cover certain things, and only those things. I should preface that I am talking about situations where the mother and father live in a reasonable proximity to split the duties of raising the kids. So in other words, your typical divorce. Not an abandonment case or other complexities that people like to talk so much about. Lets define child support to pay for education expenses, health and dental fixed cost, and basic needs. The basic needs might need to be spelled out, because some people think a cell phone, X-Box, and car are basic needs. It is not one parents job to support the other parent while they raise the kids. If it were, then they would be married, so in divorce or cases where the parents were never married, it is the responsibility of both parents to have enough income to support their household. Now this child support could go to either parent. Lets just say that it is divided proportionally, and that the lower earning parent pays the higher earning parent. I know this is backwards from what we do now, but it makes sense. The parent with more money coming in is more likely to be able to pay these required fees, even if they exceed the estimates. The parents should be required to keep track of the real costs, and pay the other parent the difference one way or the other every quarter. This is a business relationship after all, or that is what I keep being told at least. Actual medical and dental expenses should be split by the parents, and for fairness sake, I guess it should be done by proportions of income. All other expenses for the kids are negotiable. If you don’t agree, then the parent who wants to spend money on them should pay for them.

If in divorce it is determined that choices that were made by the parents for one to sacrifice career to be the caretaker of the kids, then alimony should be used. It should be time limited, and then it is a transfer of wealth that has tax consequences as it should. So if the ex is required to support the other persons household, it is done in a way that he/she can support it with lower taxes. This is the real world that the rest of us live under when we pay someone or get paid by someone. Again, this should be time limited. It should not go on infinitum. You are divorced, and thus you should be required to find a way to support yourself adequately. I would put a cap of 5 years from the date of the alimony order on this. This gives you time to get a bachelors degree if you think that is the way to go, and you don’t have one.

Now lets talk time. Since both parents are responsible for their own households now, then time share should be negotiable with a lot less spite. There is not money to be had by having more time with the kids. I truly believe that most parents can have this discussion with a lot less friction and animosity than when money is also on the table. Its cute to talk about these issues like money shouldn’t matter and will be worked out based on the time after its figured out, but no one separates the issues. I earn just shy of $100K/yr and after child support, I am expected to maintain a home for me and my 3 or 4 kids on less than $30K/yr. I cannot provide near the lifestyle that I should be able to, and constantly have to choose whether I do something with them or I enjoy a little of the lifestyle I should be able to provide them without them, knowing their mother has the means because of child support to provide what I should be able to provide directly. If child support were more limited, then I could do these things with my kids. I could appear to be the provider that I am for them. Fundamentally it there is going to be an imbalance in the households. That is the nature of comparing two different people. This isn’t a bad thing. The bad thing is the government, not hard work is determining which way the imbalance goes. I would have to nearly double my income to have the same spending power that she has. This is because my CS goes up as my income goes up. Even in the current system, CS orders should not be something that can be adjusted upward. People should be allowed to work to improve their lives. If I earn an additional $1000/month, I should see close to $700 after taxes, but I won’t. CS will take a good chunk of that, and I will be lucky to see $350. I work too hard to see so little. It is assumed that I would spend a certain percentage on my kids. I wouldn’t, or if I did it would be to do something with me.

I have heard stories from people that their mothers saved all the child support, and gave it to the kids when they were grown. This sounds noble, but the truth is that this is still taking money from one person against their will and giving it to another. Should the father support their children? Yes, they should. Should the father be compelled with the same force that the IRS has to collect taxes to support their children at a level that government has decided is proper? No, this is immoral, and goes against what the USA stands for. This is a clear reminder that we are no longer operating under the constitution. That the constitution of our country is simply a historical document that people talk about, but has no real power anymore.

The problem is everyone wants to talk about fair solutions. There aren’t any. Someone always has the advantage. The problem is the government is deciding who the winners and losers are. They aren’t the referees though, making sure that the rules are followed. They are effectively making marriage till the kids are grown financially. You can marry again, but the kids make it so the government can force you to work at a certain level until your kids are grown. As bad as simple divorce is, this makes it evil. No one should be enslaved to another. Slavery is antithetical to the US way of life. We fought multiple wars including our own civil war on this premise, but here we are imposing slavery on men just for having children. The majority of children would be well taken care of by one or both parents without this. The very few who would not should not create a rule that affects everyone. Fairness is a pipedream. It will never be found. It is better to allow the natural progression happen.

The other point I want to drive home, is this. Custody should be 50/50, unless the parents agree to something else, or there is some criminal finding that prevents that. The criminal finding should require that charges are pressed, and the the parent is found guilty. If measures are taken during the trial process to protect the kids, they should be reversed if the the parent isn’t found guilty. The family court is essentially labeling fathers as potential abusers and stripping them of their rights. The courts need to be pressed into accepting that all parties have rights, and no ones trumps the others. As it sits right now the kids’ rights trump all other rights. One parent is made the keeper or steward of those rights, and thus gets all the goodies that go along with that. Divorce creates an imperfect family. Pretending we can make it better with the right court orders is sick. Both parents should be given equal opportunity to raise the kids. Disney Land Dads are a side effect of fathers not having authority in their kids lives. CS transfers most authority to one parent, usually the mother. Ultimately she gets to make the decision by paying or not paying for certain things. For most of us dads in the middle class and lower, we don’t have the funds left after CS to fund what we think is important on our own, so the mother gets to decide. This means that mom is in charge, literally. This is the message that the kids get. This is profoundly unhealthy.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

To Fight the Fight, or Not

Clint Hester Finishes his Opponent at Wild Bills Fight Night

This question is one that I have struggled with. I have a real problem with the fairness of things, or more the unfairness. The system ultimately stands on these three principles. One, the children’s best interest is the underlying right that trumps all other rights. I have seen this through the process, and its is the giant hammer to smash all problems. Two, the mother is generally considered a better arbiter of the children’s best interest than anyone else involved, and the experts will back this up. Three, it is all actually about child support.

My first point is this. The children’t best interest is strong enough to strip everyone else of their rights. You may not know it, because it only becomes an issue in divorce and a few other more obscure child welfare type cases, but the children have a right to a portion of your income. That’s right, they don’t just have a right to the benefits that you bestow upon them as a parent, but a right to the actual income. This of course is child support. The child’s best interest determines whether a father or mother are allowed to be involved in the child’s life. Some might say this is right and correct. With what I have seen in the system, and I have seen a lot. I have adopted kids through foster care. The bar needs to be raised. The bar should require criminal negligence of some sort to remove kids from a parent. I am sorry, but children are raised in imperfect circumstances all the time all over the world, and guess what. Many of them grow up through those circumstances to be great leaders. You might even argue that they grow up to be great leaders because of those circumstances. Another right your children are bestowed, but you may not about is lifestyle. The kids have a right to maintain a certain lifestyle. Without divorce, you wouldn’t know this, because most kids don’t know how to advocate for themselves through the system, but the principle comes into play during divorce. One parent is deemed the keeper of the kids lifestyle, and thus they get all the benefits after divorce of maintaining that lifestyle, while the other parent is required to continue to fund a lifestyle they are not able to maintain for themselves. I read comments on blogs a lot, and the underlying argument used by many, is that we, NCPs (generally fathers), should be happy our children our being taken care of. The truth is, I expect no less. My children deserve to be taken care of. I am also fully capable of doing so. I am not only capable of doing so, but capable of doing so with my own income and resources all by myself. The system generally punishes the parent who can say that. The other parent will receive control of the kids, and get the benefits of the children’s lifestyle. In the name of the children’s best interest, one parent is chosen to outrank the other, and the other parent is quite literally indentured to the other parent until such time the children are considered legally emancipated from their parents. The court does so very pragmatically. They seem to be looking out for the children on the surface. The truth is the court is actually trying to limit whether or how often the parties return. When one parent is so substantially limited in their spending abilities and power over the children as an authority in their life, then it less likely that disputes will return to court. This is at least the theory that they operate on. The truth is that a few years after divorce the parenting time and arguments have usually subsided when both parents are granted equal access and control or authority in the children’s lives. This does not mean that each parent takes equal responsibility, but that things work themselves out in a way both parents are happy with the resolution. This leads to better outcomes for the kids. When the court chooses sides, the parents are more likely to spend more time in court, and ultimately this is money in the bank for lawyers and court systems, so they aren’t really motivated to limit conflict.

The second point is that the mother is generally considered better at determining what is best for the children. I will agree on the principle, but not on the importance of the idea. Mother’s most definitely look out for the children’s needs as children. Father’s on the other hand take on the task of raising adults. It is the combination of the two ideals that benefit the children. Ours society is full of overgrown children. They are healthy and unproductive. They spend their time doing thing of no value. Our society has also neutered fathers in every family law case I know of. It is a father who divvies out the harsh punishments. It is a father who demands that a child participate in taking care of the business of the house. It is the father that children run to when they have made a major mistake and need the hard, and sometimes cold, solutions that a father provides. When the father is shutout, or limited in his authority in his kids lives, they lose this. I will talk about how this is true in my family later. The mother is the nurturer. She provides an important factor to raising kids, even older ones, but without the God designed balance in the kids lives, then they will be well nurtured and cared for, and totally incapable of taking on the world on their own. Like I said before, I struggle with the unfairness of it all. I also have to face the realities presented to me. I am not going to get a fair deal. I am still my kids father. I am going to live my life without a significant portion of my income. I will have to tell my kids no, when I should be able to say yes, but finances won’t allow it. I know plenty of people with less money, but it is terribly frustrating to have less income at my disposal than my ex earns, while she has more income at her disposal than I earn. The courts have more than reversed our incomes and granted her control. She will, even with her limited capacity, nurture my children. She won’t raise them into adults. That will probably happen when the kids are legally adults, and she becomes tired of them. They will run to me, and I will have to give them a serious dose of reality. I will care for them, but with heavy hand. I will be more the mentor than the father at that time. I will have to teach them how to be adults in a very short period of time. For some of them, this will be an easy challenge, and for others this will be miserably difficult.

The third point is the most true. All the rationalizing in the other two are really for the purpose of this one. Child support is king. The states earn money by collecting child support. They get money from the payors and payees for handling the transaction. In some states this is a pretty hefty percentage. In others, it is a flat fee. They get this for imposing themselves into the middle of the case. On top of that, they are being paid by the Federal government for collecting support. Child support falls in the category of welfare. Part of the legal underpinnings of child support is that the mother has been abandoned and the father is not taking responsibility for the children. The courts artificially create an abandonment scenario in most cases, just so long as one of the parents wants to push it. This allows them to impose child support. Child support is in part punitive for abandoning your children and wife. Modern divorce of course is driven by women. Women don’t want to be in the confines of their marriage, and thus step out. The courts allow them to do so, and yet maintain their lifestyle, so long as their are children involved to justify it. The actual and marginal expenses of my children do not equal what I pay in child support. This includes their lifestyle expenses. She is never called upon to use her income to fund the children. Yes the calculators make it appear that she does, but if you look at how the formulas work, then you will see that it has very little effect on the numbers how much she earns. The payor’s income is the primary determining factor of child support. I have my children nearly equal time, but not equal enough any more. I have to maintain a home and feed them, and all the other things that a parent does for their children. None of this matters. I have to figure out how to do that on what I have left. I am amazed at how many men figure this out. It is a testament to how men operate, that they figure this out. Statistics show time and time again that years out from divorce, men are winning, and women are not. How can this be. There is only one way that this can be. Men are stronger emotionally and intellectually. I am not making a judgement based on sex, but more on the fact that society does not save men from failing. This forces them to be stronger. In the same way that father’s make their children stronger. When people look at divorce reform, and how to make things better for everyone, they need to look at child support and alimony. These transfers of wealth are the single biggest drivers in frivolous divorce. They are also the primary drivers in most litigation in divorce. If child support is more clearly defined as to what it is supposed to fund, and then the calculations are based on funding those things, they numbers will go down. Men will be able to be active providers in their children’s lives, and they will tend to disappear less from their children’s lives.

As to the question posed in the title. To fight or not. Well that one is harder to address. I have lost a lot of money fighting. I have lost my time fighting. I have lost my authority fighting. I am not sure any of it was worth it. I was a bit delusional in believing that the the rules and legislation from the state government would give me a leg to stand on. The courts are still pretty autonomous, and they make their decisions as they see fit. Understanding that no one in the higher courts wants to deal with domestic issues helps to put in perspective that the family courts are given a tremendous amount of freedom in these cases. The other thing that rules the day, and allows for the courts to do as they please is the concept of “The Best Interest of the Child”. This is a concept that is self contained in your case,so it can’t include all children that are connected to the case. It can only involve the children of the parties that are sharing parenting. So a man with 3 kids by 3 mothers can end up in 3 different courts, with 3 different and possibly contradicting definitions being applied to the case under the guise of the “Best Interest of the Child.” In my case the best interest of one child is being held up above the best interests of the other children. He rules the day. This would be my oldest son, who without remorse sexually abused a kid half his age. My lack of warmth towards him is what matters most to the court. My desire to protect the other kids from his is deemed harmful by the court, because it hurts him. This is the standard that we are abiding by in family court. If we were married, we could petition the state to take him back into their care. He is demonstrating psychological disorders that we were not prepared to deal with. I might sound cold in saying this, and it doesn’t demonstrate the entirety of my feelings, but the state gave us a problem to deal with so they didn’t have to, and we are not well equipped to deal with that problem, so they should shoulder the responsibility of that problem. I love my son. A day doesn’t go by, where I don’t think about him, and grieve the loss of seeing him grow into the man who could be. I hope that he turns his life around, but all I see is patterns of him never taking responsibility for his actions. Life happens to him. I know how easy it is to fall into that trap. I have done it through the divorce process. I am now looking to take control of what I have control over, and move on. It pains me that so much control has been stripped from me, but these are the cards that I am dealt. Much of it is un-American, but that doesn’t change reality. I do my best. I am working at not taking pleasure in the idea that she will fail in the long run, because its not good for me. It will be even worse for me, if she doesn’t fail, and figures it out. The one thing, I will take from this is, I will not be friends with my ex when this is all done. I do not relish major events where I get pushed to the side, so the kids can please their mother. I know that their life is not as good as I could provide in my own home. I will not thank her for raising my kids, regardless of the responsibility she takes. I won’t because, I did not choose this. I would gladly raise my kids in my home. I would provide for them from my checkbook. Instead my kids don’t know or understand that I am still their provider. That I pay enough in child support to pay their mothers rent and utilities with money left over for the car payment. That all they have in their mothers home is in part paid for by me. This makes me sad, but there is nothing I can do about it.

I am done fighting. I will take what I can with my kids. I am not allowed to give them responsibilities in my house. I am relegated to a hotel to provide babysitting services, so their mom gets a break. A privilege I get to pay for. They won’t understand this for years, if ever. I can’t let them watch the step-sibling, even for a brief amount of time. I can’t leave them home alone, even though they are old enough to care for themselves for a few hours, and the autonomy teaches them responsibility. I cannot ask them to do chores, because they feel like servants in my home. The fight has cost me additional freedom beyond what divorce cost me to begin with. My only words of advice to men is they should go nuclear from the start. Don’t worry about your parenting relationship with the your ex. You can try and mend that later. She is unlikely to hold back, and you are likely to end up right where I am at. Women have the advantage, so don’t be afraid to paint the picture of her as a monster. Win the war, then be fair in your treatise. That is the only way to engage family court. I also want to scream at the top of my lungs for men to start fighting the fight before they are facing divorce. Get your representatives to change the standards for family court, and to put teeth in the laws they are writing. Get them to require that criminal actions that affect the children be involved to limit the time a dad has with his kids. With the most recent ruling. I have only seen my kids a few days in the last month and a half. This is not right, but it there is nothing I can do to change it. My only recourse is the courts, and they are not likely to defend my or my children, for they have taken the stand already on behalf of my children in favor of their mother. I will not fight. It hurts too much. I am working on creating ways to connect with my kids, so that they still come to me on their own. I will write about some of those next.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

I didn’t really get time

pocket watches

I thought that I had at least won some time with my kids. I haven’t had a weekend with my kids in the month of May. My first weekend is the weekend of 6/6-8. My middle schoolers will be leaving for a missions trip on 6/7. I won’t get them back until the Friday for Father’s Day. The following weekend is mine, but their mother is leaving for vacation with them for 9 or 10 days, and then she has the 4th of July Holiday. I lose a day off of that weekend. I don’t get a full weekend with my kids until July 18th. Thankfully I get 3 in a row then, but I haven’t figure out how their mother will take some of that away from me. My youngest will get at least one more full weekend with me in that time, but that is it. I suspect the alienation will be in full swing when I get them back for any period of time. I already see differences in how they react to me. I am not sure what I will do if this continues. I will not leave them in a protracted battle for custody. When people ask how fathers can check out, they haven’t been through this. They haven’t seen their children tormented. They haven’t had the thoughts that it is better for their kids to believe they are a loser who left them, than for them to be continually subjected to the active hate of their father from their mother. I am not finished, but there has to come a time when I am done. The lesson learned is that the parent who is most aggressive, and the most likely abusive is going to win custody. They have no boundaries to stop them from doing whatever it takes to win. Winning wasn’t even what I wanted. I just wanted to spend time with my kids, and have money when I have them to enjoy things with them. If I can’t have that, then I may be best served by moving away and petitioning the court for extended visitations over the summer. Of course that won’t be easy to win while she has the school job, and has summers off herself.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

I Got Time

Time

I went to court, and learned that basically the GAL is a hired gun. The opposing counsel proposed a schedule that takes one half of a day away a week. I have had my kids 7/14 days, and now will have them 6/14 days. Not so bad, right. I can’t call this a full on victory, or even a victory at all. You see, it was opposing counsel who told my ex to accept this. I don’t know why. I like to think its because she really knows what she is doing is evil, and doesn’t want to make it worse. I do believe that people answer after death for what they didn’t suffer/pay for in life. I feel sorry for divorce attorneys. I am pretty sure the evils they have participated in will make for some rather horrible answering in the afterlife. The GAL had no objection, even though there was so many problems with me as a father, and he was ready to strip me of most of my rights. This ultimately came down to child support.

The child support system in my state requires that we have near equal time, like 49% and 51% or totally equal to use the equal parenting time numbers. Taking one half a day a week away puts me back into the standard child support calculations. It nearly doubles my child support. There is nothing I can do about it. We will have to tighten our budget. Its sad that nothing matters, but the child support in the grand scheme of things, but its the truth. I am ultimately a paycheck. What’s even worse is its okay to berate me for not wanting to pay as much child support as possible, but its not okay for me to argue that keeping the money makes me a better father. If it were about the kids, the court would punish the parent unwilling to work with the other parent on the issues that matter.

I keep seeing how things are changing. How the laws are becoming friendlier. I don’t benefit from these. The system still hasn’t taken those views. The system has ways to ensure that you get back in line. I make a good living. I am for lack of a better term, middle aged. In a few years, I will be half way to retirement from when I entered the work force. I will be taking home less money than I did in my first full time job. A time when I lived in a cheap midtown apartment, and still cooked most of my meals at home. I had just enough money to eat my lunches out, but on a budget. I am required to maintain a home for me and my three or four kids on what I earned when I didn’t know anything. I earn a little more than triple what I earned then, but will be taking home the same amount of money. None of this accounts for the differences in cost of living that has happened in the last 20 years.

So here is the challenge. To win my kids hearts and minds while their mother tries to buy them using the money I earned. To find activities that will excite them, entertain them, and teach them without spending much dough. I have to do so with all the extra restrictions they are putting on me to. I am being chastised that I shouldn’t leave the kids home alone, ever. Mom does this more than I do, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Remember the kids are 13.12. and 10. We aren’t talking about little ones, but ones that are soon going to be in the 5th, 7th, and 8th grade. They aren’t allowed to babysit the stepkids at all either, even though my daughter is going to start babysitting for other people, but won’t be allowed to sit at my house for a run to the store. My ex is going to run a sabotaging campaign against me, but there isn’t much I can do about that. My kids need to find their own voices, and stop parroting what their mother says about me.

There will come a time that if I haven’t won my kids time, and I am not allowed to parent freely, that I will just have to quit. I hate the idea. I have thrown up at the thought of it, but there are limits to what I can do. Any fathers with words of encouragement, please share them. I see the end being closer than I had hoped. Its a terrible thing to wish for your kids to grow up quickly, but that is where I am. It is where I can have a relationship with them without constant interference by their mother. I played nice. I didn’t want to make her out to be a bad person, because that would be telling my kids the same thing. I should have know that none of that would matter to her. She wants them to believe that I am a bad person.

I will be telling my son that marriage can be a wonderful thing. I will also tell him to never have a child with a woman. To go get a vasectomy, and adopt a child if he wants one, and do so without a partner. By no means let a wife adopt them as well. This way, you will actually get to raise your child. You won’t be faced with someone stopping you from being able to love your child everyday. Trust me I understand how my ex feels when the kids are gone. I understand that she doesn’t want them to go. I also understand that my kids deserve a mother and a father, even if we aren’t very good at it. Time and time again studies show that the relationship matters more than the quality of the person. What my ex is doing to the kids is evil, and she has made them a party to it unwittingly.

Ten-Foured,

JeD