January 8

Day 683

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

October 4

Let The Kids Decide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

August 11

Being Gollum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

June 20

Things Are Looking Up

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

March 9

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.

October 27

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

October 6

Prepare For Your Divorce

Love, Commitment and Adulthood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Foured,

JeD

September 29

Feminism: The Results

SlutWalk NYC 2011

This is where feminism has taken us. Watch the video

It a time not so long ago a man hitting his wife was largely ignored, or so the story is told. I don’t know that was ever really true, but that is the story. I do know that feminism has brought us a world where men can’t be harsh with a woman without intervention from others, but a woman beating on a man is considered entertainment. We have seen the video of Ray Rice hitting his now wife on the elevator. If you haven’t then check it below. It seems that defending yourself is only okay withing certain boundaries. I see her hit him at least twice. Yes he is a big strong man, but she is not a child. The world wants us to treat women as children. If they hit you, then they it can be returned. If it is, then you should limit yourself, so as not to hurt her. I have said it before, but we are going to see more Ray Rice scenarios, and they are going to be worse. As men are treated as if the smallest things are the same as big things, the ones who don’t or can’t avoid the confrontation will escalate it quickly, because they will be handled the same regardless. Feminism is on a path of making things more dangerous for women, not less.

June 9

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