Thursday, May 19, 2011

Custody Evaluations

Much has happened in the last two months that has kept me away from this blog...including me finally having read Alec Baldwin's book, A Promise to Ourselves, which left me thinking about more father's rights and finally pushed me to make time for this blog again.

In particular, I'm focused a bit on custody evaluations and what happens during them.

First. if you are about to undergo a custody evaluation...DO NOT RELY ON YOUR LAWYER TO PICK HIM OR HER.

I cannot stress this enough.  While your lawyer can recommend someone to be your evaluator I would highly recommend that you retain the right to agree to who the final choice is...and you are the one who will end up footing the bill for their services...and your lawyer barely knows you so why would you think they can select wisely for you?

Let me tell you part of our story...
Billie J. Bell was the evaluator for my DH's custody case.  The first time we met her it was apparent that she did NOT like my DH.  She was abrupt with her answers and dismissed lots of our questions by telling us to "ask our lawyer."

When we heard we were having a custody evaluation done, DH and I spent the next 2 months gathering documentation from friends and relatives and putting together a binder with photos and medical reports and letters of recommendation and school reports and grades and just about anything else we could think of that might be considered pertinent for determining the custody of a child.

During that first meeting we handed over our precious binder...she opened it up, read the first page, flipped through it quickly, paused at a letter of recommendation from my uncle who was a Representative of the Oregon House of Representatives...took out the page and tossed it aside remarking, "Well, this one is a waste of time...what could a Republican possibly have to say."  Additionally it was very clear to us that the fact that DH was in the military was a giant negative in her eyes.

DH's time with her lasted approximately 1 hour.  She informed us that she would be asking us to disseminate a packet to people who could provide a recommendation and ask them to fill it out.  She wanted all the documentation returned by a certain date.

No problem....the date was still a month away...she told us to take the binder back as she would "never look at it."  and while we were frustrated, DH and I figured we'd just better do things her way.

Now, just so you don't think we were total pushovers...DH did complain to his lawyer about her dismissive and negative attitude toward his personal beliefs, his political beliefs and his job, however our lawyer told us that it wasn't enough to "change" evaluators and ultimately we'd have to file a formal complaint with the state to get anything done about it...

It was too bad we hadn't had a chance to meet her BEFORE we paid her $3000 to dig into our lives and our friend's lives...we never would have agreed to her as the evaluator.

There is more to our personal story and I will finish it later, but let me just stop and focus for a minute about your first meeting with an evaluator.

They have one get the dirt.  They will ask you questions all about your difficult time getting custody, the frustrations of working with your ex to co parent, the time you get to see your kids, etc.

And when you finally have an outlet to tell someone all about the awful things you've endured just trying to receive equal and fair parenting time with your kids...too many of you dads open the floodgates and spill your guts...all the hurt, frustration, anger, sadness comes spilling out.


If you need to spill your guts call a psychic your your best friend...go see a to the not use the evaluator as a way to release that pent up frustration of the unfair shake you are getting as a father.

You can't spill your guts to the evaluator.  You can't speak badly about your ex.  You HAVE to learn to correlate everything back to the children and what is best for them...or you will be picked apart as a bitter, unhappy ex who is just trying to "steal" away the kids to punish their former spouse.

In our almost included anger management classes...which for anyone who knows my DH can laugh right along with me...if there is one man in the world who remains calm under pressure its him, but he made the fatal flaw of assuming that Ms Billie J. Bell was unbiased and impartial and was a friend that would hear him out and understand his pain.

Do not bother with a binder of all the wonderful things about you and your kids...So many websites told us this was a perfect way to introduce ourselves...its not.  In fact, I think it irritated Billie J. Bell that we presumed that she would be interested.  We quickly discovered how important it was to play by HER rules or ELSE.  It was very disheartening...and were I to ever go through it again I would not play the passive role that I played.  I was sure that the courts would be fair.  They aren't.  I was sure that Billie J. Bell was unbiased and impartial.  She was not.  I was sure that it would all work out the way it was supposed to... it didn't. 

How do I know that?  Because 4 years later there we were...
* custodial parents of one child
* siblings separated
* child was moved more than 60 miles from the maternal unit
* father still disciplines the way he see's fit and has never taken those anger management classes recommended by Ms. Billie J. Bell.


And the result?
* child we currently have custody of no longer suffers from all those behavioral and aggressive problems that were blamed on DH's awful parenting by our custody evaluator.

Funny how that works...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Who's to Judge?

I had a friend send me a link to an article that was about two different mothers who gave up custody of their children in order to pursue other interests and dreams...

I'm having mixed feelings about this.

First - the article is found here... And it starts off with the sentence, "Rahna Reiko Rizzuto says that she never wanted to be a mother."  Then follows up with "...when her sons were 5 and 3..."

Hmmmm...first major problem...If you don't want to be a mother...why are you having children...and not just one child, but two???

But...I don't want to digress into nitpicking this woman apart.  The thing that this article made me really think was also a topic of conversation among my friends and I and centered around this question...

Do you judge mothers who don't have custody of their children?

First, you may be wondering why this is pertinent information for a father's right's blog.  Well, consider the family court climate in our country that we KNOW caters to mothers first...and then consider if a mother who doesn't have custody of her children is criticized and much harder does that make it for you dads to receive equal and fair parenting time...or even full custody of your children...simply because your ex is afraid of the stigma of a mother who "gave up her children?"

Now, I know that you fathers get a bad rap for not sticking around, doing more with the kids, attending every activity, etc.  In fact, the article was terrible, as far as I was concerned.  When I read it I wondered where the author, Lylah M. Alphonse, has been for the past 10 years and if she's EVER known anyone who was divorced that was male and non-custodial.

She actually makes this statement about mothers who choose to not have custody of their children, "But it shines a light on a glaring double standard: When a man chooses not to be a full-time parent, it's acceptable—or, at least, accepted. But when a woman decides to do so, it's abandonment."

Ok...let me jump on my soapbox for just a many of you fathers chose to not be a full-time parent? 


Thats what I thought.  How many of you were even given the option?  Yeah..  Strike one against Laylah. 

Second, in who's world is it "acceptable - or, at least, accepted?"  I'm guessing the same world where fathers just let the judge know they aren't interested in being a parent anymore.  Strike two, Laylah. 

Finally...I think I may have actually laughed when she said for a woman its termed "abandonment."  For you dads we just use the terms dead-beat and loser.  You should thank your lucky stars that its not abandonment (*note sarcasm puhleeeze!)  Strike three, Laylah.

You're OUT.

The unfair glossing over of the issue that fathers aren't even considered as a primary custodian isn't mentioned in the article.  Just the fact that these two women who made the choice to give up custody are some kind of "new breed" of women.  It almost made it seem like we're supposed to pat them on the back for their progressive attitudes and thank our lucky stars there are women out there like this.

And yet, if a father were to make that same statement or decision he is tried and hung without the benefits of a jury or trial. 

I suppose the big picture idea is that once a parent you are always a parent.  Regardless of whether you are custodial or not.  Just deciding one day that taking care of these children you brought into the world isn't what you want to do anymore is about the most selfish thing I've ever heard.

And that goes for mothers OR fathers.

I suppose another lesson is to not judge what you may not understand...but its really hard and we're not especially.

So I have to end with one of my favorite of the 16,135 comments that were left on this article...

"I couldn't finish the article, I got bored with her story just like she got bored with her kids."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Applauding Illinois

Steve Watkins was a divorced father who had custody of his daughter, Alex, from his first marriage.  He met and married his second wife, Jennifer, who gave birth to their daughter, Sidney. 

Jennifer and Steve had a weird relationship.  Mostly because Jennifer Skinner's idea of the perfect marriage was Steven and his daughter Alex in their own home and her and Sidney living in her grandparents home (where her mother and father also live) and they (Jennifer, Steven, Alex and Sidney) could "have dinner a few times per week."

Fifteen months after their marriage, Steve and Jennifer separated and Sidney became the center of a bitter divorce and custody battle.

November 25, 2008 Steve Watkins arrived at the home of Shirley and Kenneth Skinner (Jennifer's grandparents) to pick up his daughter Sidney for his visitation.  He arrived at 5:30PM and 20 minutes later was dead.  Shot twice in the back of the head.

Shirley Skinner has been charged and convicted in the murder of Steve Watkins and is serving a 70-year sentence.  Jennifer Watkins retained custody of Sidney.  Dale and Penny Watkins (Steve's parents) have custody of his oldest daughter Alex and have been awarded visitation priveleges of Sidney.

Well, that was until Jennifer skipped town and disappeared.

On March 1, 2011 an arrest warrant was issued to jail Jennifer Watkins indefinitely until she complies with the visitation awarded to Steve's parents, Dale and Penny Watkins.

On March 2, 2011 the Illinois House Committe passed the Steve Watkins Memorial Bill.

To read a comprehensive story on this case go here.

I suppose the Steve Watkins story is truly the worst case scenario in a custody battle situation.  If you take the time to read the whole story you will be amazed at the truly heinous actions of Jennifer Watkins.  You will shake your head with disgust that this woman has been allowed to retain custody of her daughter.  You will wonder how many thousands of dollars of therapy might help little Sidney when she is old enough to understand the actions her mother and her mother's family took to keep her away from her father.  And you will wonder if the right woman is in jail for the murder of Steve Watkins.

But, there is a bright star in this sad story.  In Illinois if a parent choses to not abide by the court ordered visitation schedule there are two ways to try and enforce the court order.

1.  Criminal Court.  The victim (the person not receiving the visitation) reports the violation to the States Attorney and they prosecute.  The first two violations result in a fine and the third violation makes it a Class A misdemeanor which heresay shows police departments refuse to enforce because they consider it a petty crime.

2.  Civil Court.  The victim files a contempt case against the abuser of the visitation priveleges.  Remedies for visitation abuse are outlined in 750 ILCS 5/607.1 and currently include a modification of the visitation order, supervised visitation, make up visitation, counseling, or other appropriate relief as deemed equitable.

Whats the reality?  Well, I don't think Illinois is more advanced than any other state and I think I can pretty safely say that most of the time it results in N.O.T.H.I.N.G.  Maybe a lecture on being nice from the judge...maybe a slap on the hand...maybe threatened jail time.  But nothing that would deter someone from refusing visitation a second time.

And in a well-stated sentence from Illinois Fathers the end result is, "...This trend of dismissal sends a powerful message that visitation, the primary vehicle for non‐custodial parental involvement with their child, is
insignificant and trivial."

The death of Steve Watkins has resulted in a step forward for non-custodial parents.  Who, for the purposes of this blog are most often fathers.  Now, in addition to modifications, supervised and makeup visitation or counseling, the judges in Illinois can jail a parent, revoke their drivers license, revoke their professional license(s) and increase fines against them.

Its already got many people lamenting its passage.  The inspector general with the Secretary of State doesn't want to have to enforce revoking driver's licenses.  Members of the State bar agree.  And then there are the oppositions that focus on battered women who are just trying to protect their children.

I agree that abusers should have limited or supervised contact with children and I hate to be a cynic, but Jennifer Watkins tried crying abuse to remove Steve Watkins from Sidney's life too.  False allegations are all too common.

I'm applauding Illinois' step forward to enforcing visitation and parenting priveleges.  And when I look at the face of Steve Watkins and his two beautiful daughters... I can't help but feel they did the right thing.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thumbs up Research

I am constantly keeping my eye out for good solid research on the benefits of shared parenting and recently I found a gem of a paper written by Dr. Linda Nielsen.

Who is Dr. Linda Nielsen, you ask?  Well, she's the Professor of Education and Adolescent Psychology at Wake Forest University and just happens to be one of my new favorite people.

Dr. Nielsen has her very own website, which may not be fancy, but is easily navigated to buy her book, Between Fathers and Daughters, find helpful father friendly links and a great list of articles that she's written such as Demeaning, Demoralizing and Disenfranchising Divorced Dads or one that I'll definitely be digging into soon, Stepmothers:  Why so much stress?

But, the meat and potatoes of this blogpost is to focus on a recent research paper about Shared Parenting. 

Shared Parenting: A Review of the Supportive Research is written, well, like a research paper.  But if you can get past the classroom typeset there is a virtual goldmine of great information.  For example, she talks about the present system of mother's having primary custody which relegates fathers to seeing their children a minimal amount of time.  She makes the statement that by not allotting more time to fathers there is an unstated accusation they they are not committed to their children.

I think its pretty safe to say that is a fairly common assumption made about fathers both by the judes and the legal system and by general consensus after the court days are done and the custody papers are filed.

I found this particular idea about why fathers tend to continue to disengage from their children's lives very interesting, "First, because most fathers are awarded so little parenting time and because the children live almost exclusively with their mother, fathers are seldom able to maintain an authoritative, engaged, intense relationship with their children. Moreover, 35 percent of these fathers have no legal say in how their children are raised.

Being legally disenfranchised and physically marginalized, the father often feels demoted to a “Disneyland Dad”, an adult “playmate” or an “uncle” who can do little or no real fathering.

Then too, the mother’s behavior and attitudes often make the father feel unwelcomed and excluded (DeCuzzi & Lamb, 2004; Trinder, 2008). Indeed, too many mothers move the children such a distance away from the father that his contact is drastically reduced or ends altogether. Feeling discouraged and disheartened, unwanted and unnecessary, many dads realize from the outset that they have little or no chance to be the fathers they once were."

But gets even more interesting when she correlates this disengagement with the father-child relationship and makes quite a bold statement about the worth of a father...

"Even children and young adults who are successful in other areas of their lives often suffer from the loss of their relationship with their father. 

The question thus becomes: Even if the research were to show that shared parenting contributes absolutely nothing to children’s financial, social, educational or psychological well being at any point in their lives (which is not the case), what if shared parenting does contribute to children’s having an ongoing, meaningful relationship with their fathers for the rest of their lives?

Is their relationship in and of itself not worth as much as the other measures of “success” for children of divorce?"**

**Note that the bold is my own addition because I LOVE that question and I want to make sure you now have it rolling around in your mind.

W.O.W.  What a different point of view than our legal system has set as the precedence of determining custody.  Why is a good relationship with your father not more important to the judge and jury determining custody of a child?  Why has that relationship lost its value when thinking about the "best interest of the children?"

(Are you loving Dr. Nielsen as much as I am yet?)

How did our fathers become an afterthought?  Fortunately, Dr. Nielsen shows research that more and more people are agreeing that fathers have an important role to play in a child's life.  Unfortunately, for the purposes of this paper her conclusions are based on a shared parenting strategy where no parent has less than 30% of a child's time.  Thats still a far cry from the 50% I advocate for in this blog, but its a start. 

She continues through her paper to focus on the conflict between parents and concludes with this thought, "In shared parenting there are trade-offs to grapple with: the benefits of living with both parents versus the inconvenience of living in two homes, the challenges of coparenting versus the “winner take all” single parenting.

There are also die-hard beliefs that need to be set to rest: the belief that children will not benefit from living with both parents after divorce, the belief that fathers are generally inferior to mothers as parents, the belief that children only benefit from living with both parents when there is no conflict between them.

Despite these tradeoffs and challenges, the research is abundantly clear on this: only allowing fathers and children to live together 15 or 20 percent of the time is not in most children’s best interests. This view is widely held by experts who do research, mediation or therapy with divorced parents as evidenced by the research presented in abundance throughout this paper. Our society and our legal system can – and must – do better than this."

Hear Hear, Dr. Nielsen!  I applaud your ability to demonstrate the value of a father in today's society.  I only wish we didn't have to convince the courts of their worth.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm not the Father

I'm back!  I know you are all thrilled to find me back and ready to spread the good word of equal and fair parenting rights for both mothers and fathers.  My 2-week sabbatical was well spent adoring my soldier during his R&R time while he took a break from Afghanistan.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

I got an interesting "Action Alert" from the American Coalition for Fathers and Children about comedian Carl LaBove.  If you haven't heard his story yet, its all about how he was married, had a child with his wife, got divorced, paid child support but was denied access to his daughter.

That was part 1.

Part 2 starts when Carl LaBove found out he wasn't actually the father of the child, confronted his ex-wife who admitted having an affair with his good friend who is now dead from a tragic accident, had an agreement with his ex-wife that she would drop the child support requirements, she did nothing and let the State of California continue to badger him.

Part 3 finishes off with the aftermath...Carl LaBove now has an adult "daughter" who he barely knows, but still sought him out to hear his side of the story (I love her for that.).  He has had his license, passport and credit all destroyed for the past 2 decades.  The man isn't even allowed to DRIVE.  And finally, he is STILL being hounded to pay more than $188,000 in back child support and fees for a child that isn't his.

You can read the story from Yahoo News here.  Or, if you are more of an NPR kind of person you can read their version here.


This is truly the tragedy of a man finding out that the little girl he was madly in love with and who desperately tried to see her every moment he could, but was continually thwarted by the ex-wife as much as possible (sound familiar?)...

If you want to see a video interview of Carl from the ACFC National Family Law Reform Conference please click here and scroll down to the section titled interviews and click on Carl LaBove's name.  Its pretty interesting to hear how before he knew he was not the father he suffered many of the same frustrations that divorced men have in dealing with an ex-wife who makes it hard to see your child.

I am particularly amazed that the State of California continues to believe that even though it has been proved through a paternity tested that Carl LaBove has a zero percent chance of being this child's father; he should actually continue to pay child support to a woman who cheated on him.  Gee...nothing like twisting the knife once they stick it in you.

Because in order to get this order erased Carl LaBove has to show he was coerced into signing his agreement with his ex-wife.

Now I suppose I should say that Carl is not above a little reproach here...  You kind of want to give him a slap upside the head and say, "What were you thinking?!" He had been told by his ex-wife that he wasn't the child's father, but he never got paternity testing done until now.  His lawyer never suggested it...the divorce from his ex-wife took SIX years (kill me now!) to finally be settled.  Within that six years he discovered he wasn't the child's father...he had a verbal agreement with his ex that he didn't have to pay child support, but he still signed the documents stating he would.


Does this make any sense to you at all?

Carl LaBove is speaking out...and, in fact a week ago went to court to get this ruling of child support overturned.  The actual petition won't be heard until March 29th...

He, like so many others that have come in contact with the family courts, is frustrated and angry at how these courts seem to never listen...never hear the man's side.  In Carl's own words“The day my ex-wife blurted out that Sam had fathered my daughter – that was the day my life changed forever. I was devastated. But after all these years, I’ve learned to forgive. Now I’m just mad at the unjust law. I want to set the record straight and get my life back. I’ve been punished long enough for a crime that was committed in my bedroom. I’ve made it my mission to help others in my situation who are suffering from an unfair law.”

Now, I know this blog is supposed to be about father's rights...but don't you think this just highlights all the problems fathers have in the family court system?  Is it the bad lawyers who don't make the case?  The sneaky ex-wife who just wants to "stick it" to her ex-husband?  The "deaf" judge who automatically assumes the worst of the father and never gives the benefit of the doubt?  The law that doesn't clear a man from a responsibility that should not be his?  Do we go so far as to blame those who don't pay attention and vote for whoever is running for that judicial seat (because nobody really pays attention to who is running until you have to stand before one of them and try and explain your case.)

This feels like one of those moments when I should jump on a soapbox and holler, REFORM!  But I'm not even sure that really makes any sense.  The reality is that until people start to pay attention to the injustice in the family court systems...until people who aren't actually involved in the system start to care about what kind of crazy rulings are being thrown around by elected officials...

Well, until then...none of this is going to change.  

I have many a single mother friend who probably cringes to hear me say what I say.  But, I still ask you to spread the word, dear readers and share your viewpoint. even if it's not the popular one, and maybe we'll see that reform start to happen...    

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review - A Promise to Ourselves: Fatherhood, Divorce, and Family Law

Today's post is a guest book review.  Meaning that I actually have not read this book even though it is on my "to read" list.  Instead, a supportive friend offered to read the book and write down her opinion of it and I jumped at the chance to have 1.  a guest contributor and 2. someone else's opinion.

The book is called A Promise to Ourselves:  Fatherhood, Divorce, and Family Law.  It was written by Alec Baldwin.  In case you aren't familiar with why Alec Baldwin would be writing about this topic, I suggest you read up on his personal struggles with the biased family law court system here

So, without further commentary - Thank you, Janet, for your book review:

A Promise to Ourselves: Fatherhood, Divorce, and Family Law

In A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce, Alec Baldwin puts a celebrity face on dirty secrets which few know, and even fewer understand, that comprise America's current family law system. Contorted to favor custodial parents--usually women--and structured to perpetuate expensive, legal conflict, the only winners in ongoing custodial wars are the paid professionals associated with the case. The biggest losers are children over which wars are being fought, followed by non-custodial parents. Hopeful non-custodial parents usually enter the family court system, perhaps having heard a whiff of what hell might be coming, confident that decisions are made based on the facts of the case, fairness and what is best for the child. A Promise to Ourselves dispels that naivete and then breaks it all down.

Mr. Baldwin uses anecdotes of his own experience and that of other non-custodial parents--usually men--to expose the systemic dysfunction that allows one parent to hold a child hostage from the child's other parent, often beggaring the non-custodial parent in the process. However, these memoirs are much more than a cathartic exercise. Supported by studies, and an expert interview, Mr. Baldwin goes deeper to address Parental Alienation Syndrome and provide strategic advice to non-custodial parents fighting for their child's fundamental right and developmental need to have healthy relationships with both parents.

It's all spelled out: well-funded legal opponents having no incentive to seek win-win solutions; custodial parents who violate court orders with impunity; courts that do not enforce their own orders or effectively penalize parents that violate orders; courts that do not closely evaluate testimony that is contradictory, reflecting a conflict of interest, or containing an obvious lie when it favors custodial parents; custodial parents that actively alienate their children from their non-custodial parents; parents that rely on false abuse charges as a legal strategy and more.

I recommend this book to anyone, but especially to non-custodial parents who are entering or are currently in the family court system. I couldn't put it down, reading it in a day, because it was so truthful and resonated so well with experiences that are known to me. It contains all of the wisdom that comes from hindsight and is the guidebook that many non-custodial parents wish they had at the beginning of their legal journeys

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Short sabbatical

I apologize for my short sabbatical over the past couple of days.  My husband is home from Afghanistan for 2 weeks and I've been all consumed with his return.

However, I don't want this blog to go totally by the wayside.  So, I am reprinting here an article that was part of what spurred me to start this blog.  I'd be interested to hear your thought on the article.  One of the first comments I received on this when I reprinted it on my Facebook account was from a stepmother married to a man with two daughters.  She made the observation that every father she has come across fighting to see his children knows exactly who and what they are fighting for.

I appreciated the thought.  Why is it that "parents" are lumped together in the family court system.  The reality is that more often than not the father just wants an equal amount of time with his children.  If courts were more fair wouldn't there be less fighting and arguing?  Less appeals for more visitation?  Less casualties in the children?

Fathers continue to fight for more time because they are so poorly represented.  Make the bias disappear and so does so much of the "warring" between parents.       

Childhood Casualties of the Family Courts

By Tracy McVeigh
The Observer

Fathers still have the odds stacked against them when it comes to custody battles in the family court system, but are warring parents forgetting what and who they are fighting for?

When Paul returned home from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, he found his key no longer fitted his front door.

"My wife had changed the locks on the house I was paying the mortgage on, and my kids were inside with her new bloke," he said. "I can't tell you what I felt, trying to make sense of it all. It was a bad dream. She had a lawyer lined up to talk about money and they seemed stunned when I said I wanted contact.

"I had kids because I wanted to be a dad. I am a dad, not a sperm donor."

His little boys were then aged three and 18 months. He hasn't seen them for almost two years and struggles on with his legal battle.

In the past, public sympathy may well have rested with the court, assuming it was doing its best for the children. But now there is growing evidence that family law has spectacularly failed to keep up with the changing role of men within the home and that children are suffering as a result. Judges are accused of stereotyping, making a legal presumption in favour of the mother and awarding meagre access rights to dads.
With the maturing of the "men's movement" into more child-centred lobbying and support groups, and with rising numbers of divorce lawyers moving into mediation work and away from adversarial courtrooms, there is a growing understanding of the raw deal many fathers – and children – have been getting from the secretive British family court system.

This week, the consultation period will close on the family justice review, commissioned in part because of money (the present legal system costs the state more than £800m a year), but also intended to make the process quicker, simpler and fairer.

"Fathers and grandfathers regularly tell us that they do not feel well served by the current system," admits the Ministry of Justice in its introduction to the review, which will be heard by a panel of experts and chaired by pensions watchdog David Norgrove. Final recommendations are due by autumn 2011.

Many professionals, including Resolution, a collective of almost 6,000 lawyers across the country who are committed to nonconfrontational divorce, hope it will usher into law the concept of shared parenting, and back mediation, not courtrooms, as the place to settle disputes over children.

It was in a speech to Families Need Fathers last Sunday that Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the family division of the high court and Britain's most senior family judge, warned that parents harm children by using them as "the battlefield, the ammunition" during divorce proceedings.

Families Need Fathers is at the forefront of a shift in tone in fathers' rights – away from the notorious stunts of Fathers 4 Justice, which involved grown men dressed as superheroes unfurling banners on public monuments, towards a professional lobbying approach, deploying reasoned argument and concern for the child.
A measure of its mainstream status is that David Blunkett and novelist Louis de Bernières are among the group's patrons.

"He [Wall] was bang on the button," said Liz Edwards, vice-chair of Resolution, who as well as being a family lawyer is a trained mediator who favours a "round the kitchen table" approach for couples who are splitting up. "We find you can stop the process becoming a huge conflict if you give people information," she said. "They won't even talk about custody and courts. They will be focusing on the children. Mediation can take the heat out of a time when people are in a lot of pain, make people see they need to focus on the child.
"A lot of people cannot afford to litigate over children and end up having to sort things out all by themselves and do it well. Very wealthy people who have nothing to lose financially go through all their issues in the courts.

"Ultimately, it's the children who will look at their parents and the job they did and they can be very critical. Parents have to realise that what they are doing at this point may well decide their future relationship with their children."

She said it was impossible to ignore the part that fathers' pressure groups had played in highlighting issues previously hidden behind the secretive doors of the family courts.

"Fathers being more involved has brought new problems. Some children now have to live with parental conflict, instead of living with the sense of rejection that came when the father walked away.

"We have to decide what we want for our children. Mediation is not about rights as much as responsibilities to the children. It's asking people, 'can you put your children first?' "

The government estimates that one in four children has separated or divorced parents. Despite all the evidence that children thrive best when they enjoy the support and love of two parents, only about 11% of children from broken homes will go on to spend equal amounts of time with each parent.

A significant number of fathers, some estimate as many as 40%, will within two years of the split lose all contact with their children. Previously this had been seen as a sign of male fecklessness, but now it is also being recognised that dads are being pushed away, not only by the residual conflict with ex-partners, but also by a legal system that works against them maintaining relationships with their children.

"A lot of our members are not men with great careers but ordinary men who go out to work in order to bring home money for their families. When they lose that family, everything breaks down for them. We have had five suicides so far this year," said Mike Kelly, spokesman for Real Fathers For Justice, distinct from Fathers 4 Justice.

"It was seen as comical and that wasn't the message we wanted out there. Fathers and grandparents were suffering. It had been an in-your-face campaign, but it was time to move on and reflect the seriousness of the issue that was seeing us getting suicidal phone calls from fathers in a spiral of depression that they couldn't see a way out of."

At the time, he says, "there was no political will to stop the gravy train running", but the group had helped to shine a "public light" into the family courts. "But we can't take credit until change has happened, and judges are vastly behind the times and parents are being forced in front of them like criminals. All they've done is fall out of love. One isn't guilty and the other innocent."

Ian Julian, 49, is one of the tiny percentage of fathers in the UK to have won a shared residency court order for his son, now aged 16. But that was pared away into alternate weekends when his ex-wife sent their son to boarding school against Julian's wishes. He has had to move four times to follow the house moves of his former wife.

"When I first went to a lawyer, she told me I had no chance of anything, but I was prepared to go to 100 lawyers to find one who would take my case," he said.

Julian now works as a "McKenzie friend", someone who gives moral support in court to a litigant who can't afford legal representation, and is a trustee of Families Need Fathers.

"I've heard a judge call a man 'possessive' for wanting more than two hours a week, and others make 'no contact' orders on hearsay evidence," he said. "I've known mothers taken back to court for ignoring contact orders, but nothing is done. Bad behaviour isn't just tolerated, it's encouraged. Some of the judges I have sat in front of have traditional values along the lines of a woman's place being in the home. But it's not the experience of the average British family and a father seeing a child once every two weeks isn't a meaningful relationship."

For modern fathers, expecting and expected to be far more involved with childcare than perhaps their own fathers were, it can come as an enormous shock when they hit a legal system running on a whole different set of presumptions.

"One weekend in a fortnight is what's commonly awarded and it's not a meaningful time," said Adrienne Burgess, director of research at the Fatherhood Institute. "It allows fathers to drift out of their children's lives. If we want to keep men in children's lives we might have to work a lot harder. High-quality relationships with their mother and their father is what is successful for children after separation. Having one without the other doesn't help them much."

But Burgess makes the point that shared parenting requires more than just more enlightened judges. "It's interesting that in the past 30 years, men's involvement with their children has gone up 800-fold, but there are fewer father-headed lone-parent families than ever as it's overwhelmingly mums who get the children.
"The courts may prioritise mothers to a ridiculous extent, but it's also going to be hard for us women to give up. True shared parenting means not getting your own way, which is tough. When the child might not run to you first at the school gate, that's hard," said Burgess.

Without doubt the present system seems to be serving no one very well and certainly not men like Paul. He received an up-to-date photograph of his children a few months ago, posted anonymously. "I'd like to think it was my wife," he said. "She knows we both love them like nobody else ever can."



Sir Bob Geldof who had a protracted custody battle with his ex-wife, the late Paula Yates
"There's this emptiness, this utter loneliness, and you ask, What have I done? Why has this happened? The despair of going to the door that was your home, the door to this thing that locked away the crap of the world and having to knock and hearing their laughter inside... And this life that was yours a week ago. That is their home, your home, this is your family, and now you have to knock and ask can you come in. And when you're with your children, it's not like, 'Great, I've got three hours with my children', it's 'There's a second gone, there's another second gone' – and all the time it's the going, it's not the being-with. This is the thing that destroys people."

Author Louis de Bernières after his partner Cathy Gill left taking the couple's two children, Robin, five, and Sophie, two
"It was really dreadful. The worst thing, practically, was finding the house so quiet because it was always so full of laughter and rampaging and stampeding. The emotional desolation is hard to describe. There were many times when I felt suicidal."

Writer Tim Lott
"Parting from my wife, Sarina, and children Ruby and Cissy in 1999, left me with too many agonising memories to count. The lonely weekends in the parks alone with other sad single dads. The lies I told my children in order to reassure them – 'Isn't it wonderful – you're going to have two homes instead of just one'. The memory that sticks in my mind is of Ruby, then seven years old, running after my car screaming for me to come back after my designated weekend was over. That image – of her running down the street after me, as I stared at her diminishing image in my rear-view mirror – still replays in my head."

Writer William Leith, who is now back with his partner
"I remember the weekends. Going to pick my son up on a Saturday morning. I remember walking down the drive of the house where my son lived, where my ex lived, where I had lived. The anxious moments on the doorstep. The sudden, terrifying thought that I might have come at the wrong time, or on the wrong day.
"My son! There was always a rush of emotion, a balloon expanding in my chest. As a father, when you are separated from your child, you feel vulnerable, even if you see him a lot. It's the separation. It's the sense of not belonging.
"You stand on the doorstep, and you hear your son's voice, and you feel two things, the tremendous rush of love for your son existing inside the hollow pang of separation."

Monday, February 7, 2011


Did you start laughing when you read the title of this post? feels like a big joke.  Like whoever came up with that idea had definitely not ever been divorced and lived in a world of rainbow skittles, fuzzy bunnies and happy little elves.

The reality is, however, that when you go through a divorce and there are children, you, as the father, are expected to co-parent with your ex-wife regardless of your custodial status or the amount of visitation you have received.  You are also expected to co-parent with your ex regardless of the amount of drama, trouble and terror she may try to inflict on you for trying.  AND, to top it all off...if you decide to disengage from that parenting responsibility its very likely that you will be back in court and have more restrictions put on your ability to spend time with your children. 

Co-Parenting is defined as, " arrangement in a divorce or separation in which the parents share legal and physical custody of a child or children."

Unfortunately, for the men who I'm reaching out to through this blog, co-parenting's real definition is something like this, " arrangement after divorce in which the father is required to uphold the rules of the mother's home, agree with her decisions, occassionally is allowed to voice his opinion which may or may not be taken into consideration, and ultimately run his household just like hers."

Cynical of me...isn't it?

Often when things get too difficult between exes, the non-custodial father disengages and ultimately sees less and less of his children.  There are lots of reasons behind this type of disengagement.  In a study of 40 disengaged fathers the following factors were found:

Percentage that mentioned
Access difficulties90(36)
Father's decision to cease contact33(13)
Practical difficulties (distance,finances, work schedule)28(11)
Child(ren) not wanting contact18(7)
Legal injunction16(6)
Early pattern of no contact (prohibiting future contact)5(2)

Please note that the fathers surveyed were able to choose multiple reasons behind their choice to disengage.  If you aren't quite to this point I thought it was time to talk about co-parenting because the ultimate goal behind the co-parenting theory is to do something that is good for your children.  So, while you may not be able to completely effectively co-parent there are some things you can do: has an article about rebuilding trust with your ex that I though applied to what I think would help when trying to co-parenting with a difficult ex.

1.  Keep your promises.  And I am going to go a step further and say that if you make a decision you need to stick with it.  If you say you are going to pick up your kids at a certain time...make sure you do it.  Those little inconsistencies cause way more drama than you want in your life.  I promise you that.  As a co-parent, its important to provide stability for your children when they are in your care.  Most likely many of the routines your children have with your ex can carry over into your home.  You don't have to do everything the same, but stick with your decisions.  Mixing it up every time they come to see you will cause your ex to claim you don't know what you are doing and ultimately that you aren't a fit parent.  Whether you like it or not, they are going back to their mother's house and telling her all about their time with dad.  It will get back to her...and she will react.

2.  Be considerate.  Note that I didn't say be a doormat.  Being considerate doesn't mean you have to back down or be the "flexible parent" every time.  But it does mean that you will usually get more kindness when you show more kindness.  Pass along pertinent information to your ex about school events or homework or sports.  Never speak unkindly about your ex in front of your children.  Never raise your voice to your ex in front of your children.  Its better to walk away and respond with the comment that you need to discuss this later whent he children aren't around.  Maybe this should be titled try and be the bigger person instead of being considerate.  Ultimately, if you make efforts at kindness the people that see them...your children...will remember them.

3.  Ask her opinion.  Yep.  I actually gritted my teeth when I wrote that.  I know how hard it is to encourage your ex to have input in your time with your kids, but, there is value in even just letting her think she has some say in what you are doing when your children are in your care.  I find this to be especially true when your child is having a hard time with something.  For example, if you have a child with nightmares or who doesn't sleep well.  Asking your ex if there is something she does that helps the child with this problem will result in two things.  1.  She senses you trust her as the child's mother (and thats a BIG deal to her.) and 2. She may actually have a good plan that works for you and provides cosistent parenting for the child. 

It may feel like a stretch for you now, but think about it the next time something comes up that you might be able to ask her opinion on.

4.  Last, but not least...Apologize.  Remember that blog post a few days ago about what factors played in the demise of your marriage?  If you truly have something to apologize for...and you are ready to say the words...a heartfelt apology may go a long way in making her easier to parent with.  You may be surprised that even long after the fact - an apology may help your ex release some of the anger built up from your divorce.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

James' Story

I think that occasionally a real story about the bias found in family courtrooms is important to highlight exactly how far it can go.  In this story, not even multiple jail sentences could sway the judge to change custody from the mother to the father.  I've inserted a few comments that you can identify by their vivid PURPLE type. 

This is *James' story...

Nearly 10 years ago a little girl was born.  Then her brother was born.  And shortly after that started a custody battle fought over 6 years.  The family courts repeatedly held the mother in contempt for defying their ordered visitation schedule.  They sentenced her to jail on three different occasions.  She never sat a single day in a jail cell and still retains full custody of both children.

The following timeline provides you with a synopsis of their father’s fight:

April 2001--Carrie born

March 2002--Curt born

In the spring of 2003, James was scheduled to go appear before a judge to finalize a court ordered visitation schedule for his two children.  However, James' job required that he testify in Supreme Court on the same day as his custody hearing.  Despite letting the courts know of the conflict, the judge declared that his absence indicated a lack of commitment.  The court order handed down in James' absence granted full custody to Donna with James to have visitation completely at her discretion.

(James knows now what he didn't know then.  1.  Make sure you have your own attorney and 2.  Never trust your opponent's attorney.  I wonder what would have happened if James had been able to be at this first court date.)

In the spring of 2004, Donna agreed to a temporary order that would be reviewed and finalized in court in the fall.  When the fall rolled around, the court date was delayed due to a Department of Social Services (DSS) allegation that James was using crack and molesting his daughter Carrie. James was barred from contacting the children.

Six months later, in May 2005, DSS had cleared James of all allegations and they all went back to court to determine the new visitation schedule.  Prior to court, James, Donna, and their lawyers are able to set up a visitation schedule for the next several months that everyone agrees upon.

(A father never fully recovers from false abuse allegations.  In my opinion this is one of the worst, underhanded "tricks" that an ex can pull.  The effects of an allegation are far reaching - it’s never just a small issue.  You can lose your job, your home and your friends.  More blog posts on this to come.)

One month later, the children meet James’ girlfriend, Jane. Donna stops all visitations between James and the children.

Three months later in September 2005 both parties go back to court and a judge hears both sides of the story.  He puts down a new order that says that James is to provide Donna with a two-week notice when he wants to see the kids. If Donna has no pre-existing obligation, James gets visitation with the children.

(I question the judge's sanity at this point.  It’s been two and 1/2 years and Donna hasn't exactly been cooperative or forthcoming with the children.  Now all of a sudden she's going to change that behavior?)

For the next seven months James requests to see the children dozens of times. Donna allows him to pick them up for a few hours on five occasions.  She refuses any overnight visitation.

In April 2006, James proposes to Jane. When word gets back to Donna, she goes crazy and refuses to let James see the children for 7 months until November 2006 when he is finally allowed to spend one afternoon with the children.  James, Jane, Carrie and Curt go to the park and have a wonderful time.

Finally, in December 2006 Jane decides to see if she can help and calls Donna in desperation to try to agree to get her to modify the court order so that there is a set visitation schedule, rather than the back and forth of James requesting and Donna denying.  Donna finally agrees to every other weekend visitation and a judge signs off on that order in January 2007.

(Jane is a saint.  I don't know many women who would put themselves in the line of fire like she did.  I'm not sure how she did it, but she must have had the angels on her side when she got Donna to agree.)

Things go well until August when James, Jane, Carrie and Curt go on their first family vacation.  When the children return home to Donna she immediately halts visitation, claiming the children have declared they don't want to visit James anymore.

(Typical - if the children have fun then visitation can't be allowed.  Angry mothers want that anger to extend into angry children.  That is very sad.)

A month later, a judge holds Donna in contempt for denying visitations and orders her to pay James’ attorney's fees and gives her a suspended jail sentence.

(I asked.  She ended up paying around $1,000.  Four and 1/2 years and the only consequence is about $1,000.)

Four months later in January 2008 Curt is available for James' visitation schedule, but Carrie starts missing visitations again.

It takes six more months until July 2008 for another court date.  James asks the judge for custody. Instead, the judge amends the court order and gives James more time with the kids, but Donna retains custody. The judge also holds Donna in contempt for the second time, orders her to give up 15 of her weekends to James for the missed visitation and a second suspended jail sentence.

(What is going through the judge's mind at this point?  That it's better to keep the status quo?  How many chances does this mother get before the judge realizes that status quo is NOT WORKING?)

It's now October 2008 and James' has been fighting for five and 1/2 years for a chance to see his children regularly.  Once again, they are back in court and Donna is held in contempt for a third time.  Her behavior at the exchanges when James' would pick up the children would incite drama.  The judge had ordered her to not be present at the exchanges, but she did not comply. 
Over the next two months, the children find out James and Jane are having a baby.  When Donna finds out the exchanges hit rock bottom.  James is now taking a police officer with him to exchanges; Carrie refuses to go and runs from everyone including the officer.  Donna calls DSS again and claims that James’ house is unsafe.  DSS investigates, refutes her allegations and tells Donna to comply with the court order.  Donna refuses to sign their findings and stomps out of the DSS office.

It’s now February 2009 and they are back to court again. Donna is found in contempt for the fourth time in a year and a half. The judge orders her to spend her weekends in jail, but subsequently ends up once again changing his order to suspend her sentence.
“And so here we are. February 2011. Twenty-four months of uninterrupted visitations. Two summers of having 50/50 custody. Our son was born, and Donna didn't spontaneously combust. The kids love and adore James, and I daresay they're pretty fond of me too. Their little brother thinks they're demi-gods, and I think that they would skin graft him onto their backs if they could. Things are good, but five minutes after a scheduled pick-up, I am texting James, "You get them okay?"

I don't know that we'll ever be able to fully relax. We worry about the kids constantly. I am 100% confident that their grades would skyrocket if they lived over here. But we have fought and fought and fought until we are battle-weary. I don't know if we will have strength enough for tomorrow's battle, whatever it may be. Every time something comes up, I think that I can't do it again. I don't have enough strength left to fight again. But so far, we keep on fighting. We look at them and we find the strength from somewhere. I pray we continue to find the strength. But more so, I pray that we won't need it.”

*Names have been changed to protect the family.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What did you do?

“Divorce is the psychological equivalent of a triple coronary by-pass. After such a monumental assault on the heart, it takes years to amend all the habits and attitudes that led up to it.” -- Mary Kay Blakely

Confession time...I have never been divorced.  I watched my parents go through a divorce.  I've watched friends get divorced.  I've watched my sister get divorced. 

I've experienced the aftermath of my husbands divorce, but I have never gone through the legal process that would dissolve a marriage. 

So, do I have any business writing about it?  Can I possibly understand the pain and anger and sadness associated with getting a divorce?  I'd like to think I can understand.  I'd like to think I can empathize with the myriad of emotions that must be felt by both the male and female side. 

Let's consider first that based on data offered by the Center for Disease Control - there is a marriage rate at 6.8 marriages per 1,000 population and a divorce rate of 3.4 divorces per 1,000 population.  Aside from the very humorous fact that the Center for Disease Control offers data on marriage and divorce, the point I'm trying to make is not that I can do simple math, but that 50% of marriages are ending in divorce.

Next comes the big question...WHY?  Why does divorce happen?  What happened from the time you said, "I do," to the time you found yourself looking at The Causes of Divorce - When Love Can't Carry On list?

According to Yahoo! Associated Content the top reasons people get divorced are (in no particular order):
1.  Money
2.  Cheating
3.  Poor communication
4.  Change in priorities.
5.  Lack of commitment to the marriage.
6.  Sexual problems.
7.  Addictions
8.  Failed expectations of your spouse
9.  Physical, emotional or sexual abuse

So, which one are you guilty of?  Or, which one is your ex-spouse guilty of?  Actually, just from my personal experience I have found that most divorces happen because more than one of the above reasons (and maybe even a few that aren't listed) is a constant companion in the marriage.

Now moving on to the real meat and potatoes of this blog post.  Which one of those should remove you, as a father, as a constant figure in the lives of your children?

I'm not going to mince words here...if you have an addiction that is uncontrolled and in any way dangerous (i.e. you drive drunk, you like to shoot up while the kids are in bed, you bring home prostitutes...) I'm of the opinion your time with your children should be supervised or non-existent depending on the severity of your addiction. 

Abuse is another no-contest reason for me.  Abusers should not be left unsupervised with children.  Ever. 

I know that there are lots and lots of false allegations out there...remember I've been investigated as an abuser myself.  I'm not talking to you that have been wrongly accused.  I'm saying if you actually abuse another human being you need some help and you do NOT need to be around your children without supervision.
Let me ask you again - which one(s) on the list are you guilty of?

Let me just throw out this idea - Issues, problems, irreconcilable differences between adults have nothing to do with a father's love for his children and should not prohibit him from spending equal time with his children.

So, you had an affair.  You cheated on your wife.  You made her feel unloved, worthless, belittled, and embarrassed. (just to name a few) She is angry.  You are angry.  She is hurt.  You feel guilty.  Morally, you have made a mistake of enormous proportions.  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

You mismanaged the household money and have overspent.  You can't pay the mortgage on time.  Your ex-spouse is D.O.N.E. with living paycheck to paycheck and asking her family to supplement your income.  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

You and your ex can't talk to each other without it ending up in a shouting match with each of you trying to outdo the other by increasing your volume.  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

You no longer want to work a 9-5 job and have decided to follow your dream, move to the country and become a farmer.  Your ex isn't as excited about your new dreams...  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

You simply do not want to be married.  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

You and your ex were sexually incompatible...whatever that means.  You are not physically able to relate to each other.  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

You married a woman who you expected to be a certain way and do certain things that are crucial for your happiness.  She isn't the woman you thought she was.  It doesn't mean you should lose the right to be a father.

In fact, none of these should even be a factor in limiting your time with your children from the equal and fair distribution of 50-50 shared parenting.  

"During my years as a psychotherapist I have experienced many cases in which parents wage bitter custody battles against one another. In these battles, one parent is attempting to obtain sole custody of the children while severely restricting the visiting rights of the other parent. Under these circumstances you might be led to believe that the battle was being waged against someone who was alcohol and drug addicted and was abusive to the children. At least that would make some sense of the angry situation. However, in all too many cases there is no such addictive or abusive process going on. Rather, the motivation of the vindictive parent is to exact revenge against the other parent for sins having been committed between the two of them and having to do with their relationship and having nothing to do with any legal or violent issues. For example, an angry wife and mother may feel so entirely disappointed by the divorce that she is swept away by anger, rage and the desire to punish the former spouse by demanding sole custody." - Dr. Allen Schwartz

Is this what you are experiencing?  Are you losing the opportunity to be a father because of your ex-spouse's anger?  More often than not the answer is yes.  And, unfortunately, the family court bias is not only allowing this behavior, but encourages it by upholding the unjust and unequal standard that mothers receive custody and fathers receive visitation.

It's time for that bias to go away.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Deadbeat Dads

I remember the day(s) when my husband's guilt over not being able to be a constant figure in his children's lives would overcome his normally logical mind and he'd throw his fists in the air, rend his clothing and cry out, "Oh why did I become a deadbeat dad!" 

OK, not really, but there were many many a day (and occasionally we still revisit this issue) when he feels like maybe he could have done more, fought harder, spent more money, found a better lawyer, agreed to his ex-wife's demands, done a double back flip, found the magical unicorn or develop the cure for cancer...and in that way could have provided a better life for his children instead of being a "deadbeat dad."

And then I gently rub his shoulders, pull out the dictionary and read for him...


The definition:  A father who willfully defaults on his obligation to provide financial support for his offspring

The Wikipedia definition:  Deadbeat parent is a term referring to obligor parents of either gender that have freely chosen not to be a financially supportive parent in their children's lives.

The Wiktionary definition: A man, especially one who is divorced or estranged from his partner, who fails to provide monetary child support when he is legally required to do so

The legal definition:  A father who ignores a Court order to pay child support more...This one from the "Deadbeat Dad Forum":  In my definition a deadbeat dad is a man that has fathered children either in a marriage, or any type relationship, and has denied his parenthood to that child.  This man does not feel he needs to be in the child's life in any manner. Or does not pay his court assigned child support. Thus leaving the full responsibility to the mother.

Are you a deadbeat dad?

Are you willfully and purposefully walking away from your children?

Are you an immoral person who does not care for their offspring?

Are you refusing to pay child support?

Have you denied your parenthood?

I'm willing to make a wager on the fact that if your are here, reading this blog, you do not fit the definition of deadbeat dad...and yet, I know so many divorced men who walk around with guilt oozing out of their eyes, ears, fingertips, sweat glands, and air follicles. 

You may be one of them.  I know my husband is (thankfully not as frequently as he used to be, but...) occasionally still one of them.  They belittle their contribution to their children and blame themselves for not having been given the same opportunity as their ex-wife and mother of the child to be a part of the child's life.

They feel guilt for having "given up."  They feel guilt for having "failed."  They feel guilt for not seeing their children more often.

(Hum the Jeopardy countdown song with me here...)

Sorry, I was just going back over those definitions to try and find the one that says a deadbeat dad is a dad who pays their child support and has been court ordered to not access his children more than..._____(fill in the blank with your visitation allowance here)____.  Who spends every last dollar he has on a long line of lawyers promising THIS time it will be different...and continues this journey until his child(ren) finally reach an age where they voice their own opinion or become adults.

I don't see you?

We'll visit the societal requirement of divorced dads being gluttenously full of guilt in another blog post, but what I hope you dads that are out there reading this blog now will understand is this:

1.  There is a bias in family courts against awarding a father custody and/or more parenting time.  You not receiving custody or more parenting time does not make you a deadbeat dad.

2.  More money spent on a lawyer is rarely/if ever going to change the judges mind.  Choosing to not spend that money does not make you a deadbeat dad.

3.  Your ex-wife will continue to make demands on you as a parent outside of the court ordered agreement.  She will try to make you do and agree to what she wants.  Sometimes you will think she is right.  Sometimes you will think she is wrong.  When you refuse to comply with her demands or agree with her this does not make you a deadbeat dad.

4.  Your ex-wife will not suddenly realize that you should see your child more frequently.  Your inability to convince her of this does not make you a deadbeat dad.

5.  At some point the fight is no longer worth it.  When you realize that you no longer want to fight, THIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A DEADBEAT DAD.

Yep...I said it.  At some point, fighting the ex-wife for custody or more time or even for the time you've got on that court document, but that is being denied to you, is no longer worth it. 

In a five year period of time my husband went from an every other weekend arrangement to 50/50 shared custody to having the two youngest full time then back to every other weekend then to only on holidays and a month in the summer to custody of one child and summer/holiday visitation with the others.

Did reading that make your head spin in a circle?  Tell me what judge in their right mind can look at that progression and say, "Yep...I definitely did what was best for those kids!"  It looks to me more like a case of, "What mood is the judge in today?  Does she/he like fathers or mothers today?"

I think the hardest thing my husband ever did was admit to me he didn't want to fight anymore.  He just wanted to accept what was given and move on the best he could.  He struggled with depression and anxiety from that decision.  He worried his children from his first wife would feel like he was choosing his second wife (and I was pregnant at that time) over them.  He wondered if they'd ever forgive him.

Take a minute and reflect on where you are at in your journey through the divorce/custody/courtroom battles.  Are you just starting out full of hope and determination to win your fight?  We (the collective we) are your cheerleaders and hope you succeed. 

Are you in the middle of your journey and feeling the wear and tear of constant court battles, unreasonable rulings but still forging on ahead?  We (again - that collective group of us) offer you all the virtual strength that we can. 

Are you at the point where its time to say enough is enough and I'm ready to move on? 

You are not giving up or giving in.

You are simply accepting what is. 

You are not forgetting your child(ren).

You are agreeing to let other priorities back into your life.

This collective we...well, we're behind you...applauding your strength to make this decision and want to remind you that this does not make you a deadbeat dad.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You don't NEED a dad...

Here is the bad thing about doing research on hot topics like this find a whole bunch of websites that you don't really want to expose as even existing, but have to divulge in order to respond to their idiocy conclusions about fathers.

I found one such's fodder for many a blogpost to come.  The Liz Library just can't say enough about how completely unnecessary a father is.  Except, of course, for that sticky little subject of the actual conception of a child, according to The Liz Library a father is pretty much unnecessary to the health and well-being of any child.  Got it dads?  We simply don't need you. 

As I read just a sampling of articles and comments that Elizabeth J. Kates, Attorney at Law has compiled I felt like I was one of those cartoon characters who starts to get hot under the flushed...the red creeping up my neck...puffs of steam shooting out of my ears until I clicked on the link where I discovered she actually has a RADIO SHOW where she publicly makes the kind of comments I was reading...

...and my head exploded.

So, without further ado - Ms. Kates has compiled a large list of successful people who grew up in father-absent homes to support her claims of your (and dads...I'm talking to you, here) complete and utterly useless existence in your child's life. 

Lets start with the Presidents of the United States...the list is long and as I clicked on the name of each one a very striking trend began to appear...

U.S. President Gen. George Washington - father died
U.S. President Thomas Jefferson - father died
U.S. President James Monroe - father died
U.S. President Andrew Jackson - father died
U.S. President Andrew Johnson - father died
U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes - father died
U.S. President James A. Garfield - father died
U.S. President Grover Cleveland - father died
U.S. President Herbert Hoover - father died
U.S. President Gerald Ford - abusive father
U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton - father died
U.S. President Barack Obama - parents divorced

Hmmmm....Just for fun I interviewed President General George Washington and got his take on all this.

Me:  So, Mr. President...when your father died at age 10 were you relieved that you no longer had this useless man in your life and could fulfill your great destiny as the father of our country?

Gen. Washington:  Errr...No.  I missed him terribly and cried my eyes out nightly.  But I always remembered what he'd had a chance to teach me in those 10 years of life that I got to spend with him.

Me:  Oh...well you must attribute your ability to achieve great things due to the close relationship you had with your mother.  Because, we all know, that as long as you've got your mother and forge a close bond with her you don't need a dad.

General Washington:  Errr...No.  I do love my mother, but actually I was sent to live with my older half brother after my father died.

Me:  Oh....well, Mr. President you aren't cooperating very well with this theory that you are a great man in part...or at the very least...despite the fact that you had no father or father figure in your life.

General Washington:  Errr...well, I thought it was a stupid theory to begin with. 


Me:  So, what you're saying is that if you could have had your father in your life for your entire childhood you would have welcomed that opportunity?

General Washington:  Of course...what kid doesn't want a loving father to be part of their life?

Me:  Good point, Mr. President.

I know...I know...I'm being a little facetious here, but its the only way I know how to respond to what I consider absolutely ridiculous claims that a loving caring father is not an asset to a child's life and well-being.

Let me rephrase that...A loving caring father is an asset to a child's life and well-being.

How do I know this?  I know this because my father was an asset to my life...actually, he still is.  Oh, and my husband's father is an asset to his life and still is.  And I'll bet if I start to poll the children of those men out there that really want a relationship with their kids I will find that their children can even see a reason for their dad to be around.  They may express it in different ways...but ultimately the meaning behind the words is the same. 


A 16-year old might say, "We have fun playing basketball together."

A 10 year old might say, "He taught me how to beat the hard part in that video game."

A 6 year old might say, "He takes me out for icecream."

A 3 year old might say, "Daddy play with me."

Even President Obama, the President to have experienced a situation most similar to what many of your children are experiencing...even he said, "[My father] had left paradise, and nothing that my mother or grandparents told me could obviate that single, unassailable fact," he later reflected. "They couldn't describe what it might have been like had he stayed."

Even as a man who had achieved the most powerful position in the world, Barrack Obama sounds like a little boy who wishes with all his heart that he'd had a chance to spend time with his father.

Now if THAT doesn't speak volumes louder than the dribble offered up on Ms. Kate's radio show...I'll eat my blog.

And now I'm leaving The Liz Library, but can't help but add the best part of Ms. Kate's long list...  At the very bottom in small type you find this little gem, "(Interesting, though, how "motherlessness" is almost glorified in our society, e.g. Disney.)   At, we don't "hate men". We hate lies."

ha ha ha...ho ho ho...hee hee hee...Thats a good one, Liz.

Now my parting thought...Dads...we DO need you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This is why I care...

Today I read about a friend's custody fight that ended in a miserable lack of anything closely resembling justice and realized that my years of sedentary standing by were done.  I've had enough.  I've been saying for years...actually for the past seven years...that I was going to figure out a way to get my voice heard and a catalyst for real changes in the family court system. 

I'm a writer...I'm a blogger.  I feel like I can express myself best via the written word.  And there just isn't enough places for father's to tell their painful stories of being legally pushed out of their children's lives.

And so I started Your Father's Fight.  I called it that so that if ever a child or product of divorce were to happen upon this website they might wonder if their own absent father didn't try this hard to find them, see them, parent them, nurture them, love them.  They might wonder what kind of legal system would advocate an absent father in the life of a child.

I am not an advocate of "dead beat dads."  I am not an advocate of abusers...emotional, physical or otherwise.  I am not here to tell mothers they should give up their children.  What I am here to say is that a child has a right to both parents...and both parents have a right to love and spend time with and share in the life of that child.

My qualifications to speak out on this are simply that I am a child product of divorce.  I have a brother and five sisters and all of them are also products or children of divorce.  I have three parents.  I have a mother and a stepfather and a father.  And I'm finally at a point in my life where I'm not angry, harboring resentment or feeling guilty about loving each and every one of them. 

I am a wife.  More specifically, I am a second wife to a man who was married to someone else for 13 years. 

I am a mother.  I have a beautiful little girl who has enriched my life in ways I never imagined.

I am a stepmother.

I have a stepdaughter who lives with me and her father.  I have two additional stepchildren who live with their mother.  I have personally written the checks out that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs to help my husband fight for his right to see his children.

I have been called every name in the book by the ex-wife.  I have had my stepchildren call me every name in the book courtesy of the ex-wife.  I now enjoy a truce...and mostly peaceful existence with this same ex-wife.

I have watched my husband sob out his heartache at the court rulings that refuse to give him access to his children and demand that he pay more child support while simultaneously taking away visitation.

I have watched his children bound into his arms during visitation and sob out their heartache that they can't see him more often and I have seen these same children refuse to visit him on the few days per month the courts ruled were sufficient for him because now, suddenly, they are supposed to be afraid of their father.

I have been investigated (as has my husband) by child protective services based on lies and false accusations.  And I have had child protective services clear our records with a shake of their head and a muttered, "So many children who are really in trouble.  Why am I the lackey for bitter exes?"

I have an enormous network of and women...who have had similar experiences and who all agree that something should be done...but all feel powerless to actually do anything about it.

This is a blog that I hope opens the minds of people worldwide to stop and think about the real victims of the current flow of family court bias...  It's not the mother, and it's not the's ALWAYS the child.