Defending Dads

You're doing your jobs. You and your kids deserve better.

Category: Developments

Back to Building the Brand

I had to step away from writing daily for a while. It’s good to be back.

Since the blog went live in April, I’ve posted 130 times. Most of these are Op-Ed pieces. I need to do more instructional/informational pieces on legal issues, practical fatherhood and managing the transition to single fatherhood.

I’ve started a Twitter account and Facebook page that mirror the blog and allow me to connect with users on those platforms who focus on similar issues. There is also a companion YouTube channel that’s been updated exactly once.

It takes a fair amount of work to generate fresh content for these outlets, promote it and monitor the efficacy of promotional efforts.

As things progress, the need for a more formal plan has evolved. Considering the workload involved with rebuilding my life, that’s going to be hard.

I see stories of people who overcome impossible odds to achieve great success all the time, but never thought I would be forced to join their ranks. And make no mistake: I have to become a success. It’s the only way I can ever recoup what divorce has cost me so that I can live well and provide for my children.

I’ve been getting around lately and in my travels, I’m encountering a fair cross-section of people. We converse and I like what I hear. It sounds like life.

At home, life seems to be standing still. Challenge after challenge, bad news followed by more bad news. Yes, I’ve been here before, but never have the stakes been so high. The kids are a key consideration in any move I make.

The kids. They’re growing and changing and evolving daily. I’m so overwhelmed with responsibility, it’s hard to imagine being as effective a father for them as I have been. Of course, I know I have to find a way.

Will this be a fun holiday season for me? I’ll do my best to make it so. I have options. When January rolls around, we’ll see where things are.

 

Excerpt from Damned Good Sense

The following excerpt of my upcoming book Damned Good Sense chronicles the time I was shipped to Texas from New York City as a teen:

The Wakefield neighborhood borders the Westchester County town of Mount Vernon. By 1983, the neighborhood was in transition. West Indians and Hispanics were moving in and whites were moving out. Hattie’s house was on Murdock Avenue just north of E. 241st Street. A ranch number put up in maybe the ’50s, it had two beds, one bath, living room, eat-in kitchen and an enclosed porch. This would serve as my room for the length of my stay. There was a day bed and my paternal grandmother was kind enough to set up a 13″ TV for my entertainment. Not exactly the Waldorf, but I wasn’t picky.

I was vaguely aware that the adults were having discussions as to whether I should spend some time with my father, who had relocated to Arlington, Texas, a growing town sandwiched between the bigger cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth. I was not comfortable with this. I loved my father dearly and thought the world of his second wife and my younger sister, but Texas? I could not conceive of why they would ever want to move there.

As was my habit whenever I found myself in a neighborhood I didn’t know, I spent much of my days wandering, getting to know the place. My explorations revealed a solid, working class neighborhood, mostly small, single-family homes with driveways and carports rather than garages. I didn’t see many people on the streets but I appreciated the quiet. The place reminded of Teaneck, New Jersey where my grandfather once lived, though homes in Teaneck are generally larger and better appointed. I had overheard that my maternal grandmother was tired of dealing with me. If that were true, I figured Wakefield wouldn’t be a bad place to live. Texas? Not for me.

Troublesome fifteen-year olds with divorced parents have so few options in this country. One false move and a kid could wind up at an airport with a one-way ticket to…Texas. On the one hand, it felt good to be going someplace different. I am an adventurer at heart. I had not been on a plane since my grandfather took me to Disney World when I was five years old. I would be reunited with my dad, stepmom and sister! On the other hand, I was going to…Texas.

Regardless, I was brimming with anticipation the whole flight. I recall that the older white woman seated next to me struck up a conversation. Despite my mother’s best efforts, I was so poorly socialized, I didn’t understand why she would want to talk to me. She didn’t know me and she didn’t come from my world. The idea that some people simply talk up strangers on planes was alien to me, but she was so cordial, I had to drop my guard. I talked up the family reunion fantasy playing out in my head, how I was seeing my dad, stepmom and sister for the first time in maybe a couple of years and how they had relocated from New York and everything. She seemed so interested, I didn’t want to disappoint her by clamming up.

When the plane landed, she and I deplaned together. Just as I told her, my dad, stepmom and sister were waiting for me just beyond the podium. For God’s sake, there should have been a film crew there to shoot a commercial for the airline. When my co-passenger and I looked at each other, each saw a heartfelt smile on full display, eyes gleaming, teeth twinkling. We raised our hands in a universal gesture of farewell, and then I turned to face my adoring family. In my peripheral vision, I glimpsed the old girl dab a Kleenex against her cheek before I threw myself into waiting arms. And the music swells…“We’re American Airlines, something special in the air…” Cut and print!

100 Posts — A Milestone

A little humor to mark the occasion…

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What happens when you have a bad divorce lawyer…

ALERT: Divorced Dads Unite!

Any divorced dads in my network should contact me immediately with details of divorce/custody/support issues so that I might put together a presentation for review by pro bono attorneys at a major firm that has expressed interest. Please fill out the form below. All submissions are strictly confidential and no sensitive data is required. Please have documentation of any claims ready. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.

Look Ma…I’m on TV! Well, Kinda Sorta

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

When I previewed this video, it brought a tear to my eye…because it was so awful! But it had to happen.

And what are you laughing at? Don’t think I didn’t see you on that Worst-Dressed Shoppers at Walmart video. People in glass houses and all.

Coming Site Improvements

This blog is powered by WordPress, a robust site building system that allows for extensive customization. Users can choose from a number of pre-designed themes, color schemes and layouts, add prepackaged plugins, widgets and apps or, if technically adroit, manually modify the underlying templates. I’ve found WordPress to be very effective.

Years ago, before there was a WordPress or similar tools, amateur webmasters had to fend for themselves. Web surfers encountered many sites that looked like this:

bad-site

Clearly, that site lacks a professional touch, elegant design and user-friendly organization. The background could induce seizures. Even if the site features the most revolutionary content on the web, its poor design detracts from its credibility.

Even with such powerful tools as WordPress, most sites require further customization depending on content. Now that I have a GoFundMe page and Twitter and Facebook accounts set up for this cause, I need to integrate those endeavors with the blog. I see how that can be done, but doing so calls for reorganization of the blog’s existing content and, as I’ve noted, properly tagging nearly 100 posts. And I need to do all of this while finishing a book and battling about fifty fires beyond the scope of this blog.

Now, it boils down to prioritization and time management. Prioritization? No problem. Time management? Perfectionism sometimes interferes with that. Occasionally, my fear of botching something I’ve never done before leads to procrastination. Once I think I have a proper window to complete the troublesome task, I go to it and do well, but I’m subject to redo a thing until I think it’s right. Nobody’s perfect…least of all a perfectionist! Once I get medical benefits again, I’ll get a little therapy for that. But I digress. I acknowledge that I have a blog full of powerful content and I need to take things to the next level. I ain’t scared.

My vision is to tap into as many permutations of social media as possible to further the cause of dads emotionally and financially devastated by the courts and, due to strained relationships with their exes, alienated from their kids. This is a pervasive phenomenon and certain officers of the court and unbalanced women have got away with bloody murder for too long.

I keep thinking “full circle”. I did my job as a husband and continue to do what I can as a father, court-imposed limitations notwithstanding. My goal is to cast aside the emotional fallout of the battle and focus on the objectives: Getting the word out, raising the funds, seeking the right help and ultimately, winning the war.

Though I have family, friends and a strong support system, none can heal the hole in my heart. The prescription for my ailment is documentation supporting my position, a good lawyer and better experienced, less prejudiced judges who don’t need to flex their legal muscles to feel empowered.

Did I mention that the blog is due for an upgrade?

The Word is ACTivism…

The journey from Corporate America and Suburbia to the Land of Activism and The Agitator Republic has taken me to virtual kingdoms far and wide. I had been content to drop frequent blog posts for months, but now that the blog has a sufficient foundation of content, I need to focus on garnering support for its cause.

To that end, I have floated inquiries to a prominent law firm that does exemplary pro bono work and a renowned national organization for social activism. Additionally, I have started a GoFundMe page to cover expenses related to rebuilding my life and hiring an honest-to-goodness attorney to defend my visitation rights. Preliminary stuff, yes, but even fighter pilots have to start with paper planes.

To offer perspective on my approach, below is the slightly edited body of the email I sent to an attorney at that prominent law firm. Disclaimer: The names of people and places have been changed to protect the innocent.

“I hope this email finds you well.

For several months now, I have endured the tumult of a contentious divorce. I was never able to find quality representation and as a result, opposing counsel wiped the floor with me. I have lost just about everything I was able to put in place for my children’s college fund and my retirement.

It is by no means a fun situation, but I am coping and I have learned first hand how devastating divorce can be to good fathers and their children. Such fathers need quality legal advice and protection from predatory divorce attorneys. Beyond that, the loopholes used by unethical divorce attorneys to batter unsuspecting fathers should be identified and closed.

I have started a blog that tells my story and offers advice to fathers who suddenly find themselves in dire straits. My goals are to call national attention to a long-standing social injustice, lobby for changes to divorce laws and build a database of attorneys who specialize in defending fathers.

Is it possible that the firm’s pro bono group could look into helping responsible, caring fathers maintain their connections with the kids they love and otherwise be less victimized by the divorce process?

Thanks for your consideration and have a wonderful day.”

As for the gem I sent to the national activist organization, a review of this post offers a glimpse of the portrait I painted for them.

And finally, there is the GoFundMe page, which can be viewed here.

Oh my God…the waters of activism are soaking the bottoms of my trousers. I’m scared to think of where this could all lead!

Who am I kidding? I’ve said for months now that this is where I’m headed. Dealing with the pain of alienation from my kids and other nasty issues sometimes hinders my progress, but for me, this is manifest destiny. These days, my ups outnumber my downs.

ACTivism definitely helps.

Nuts and Bolts

Here is what we’re looking at:

  • In order to write a coherent letter to my local member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I need my lawyer to review my divorce to identify the loopholes that should be closed;
  • Once I write this letter, I have to wait for a response that may or may not come;
  • Regardless of any response — or lack thereof — I will need to follow up on my overture;
  • I need to connect with as many fathers as possible who have gone through experiences similar to mine;
  • These fathers will need to sign a petition — maybe I’ll go to change.org;
  • The petition will need to be forwarded to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives;
  • There will be more follow up;
  • I’ll need to learn grant writing to appropriate funds to research how, nationally, the family court system is flawed and diminishes the quality of life for fathers and the children of separated parents;
  • I must network with as many father’s rights groups across the country as possible;
  • We will need to gather as much information about family law as possible and make it transparent for fathers in crisis; and
  • I’ll have to eat, drink and sleep this cause to the bitter end.

None of these steps will be accomplished without complications, but I’m past the point of caring. The changes needed in the system are not just about my kids, but future generations of children who, if things go on as they are, will have diminished senses of family, self-worth, decency, integrity and all things that constitute quality human beings.

Nobody is perfect, but when you look around at how people carry themselves, it ain’t a pretty picture. This all stems from declining standards of conduct in the home.

One of Michael Jackson’s many classics was Man in The Mirror. I had been cynical about the lyrics when the song was released. Now that I have kids, the song makes perfect sense.

If I can get through these next 6 months or so standing tall, I’ll know there’s nothing I can’t do. But it hasn’t been about me for the last 10 years; not since I heard the first of two tiny hearts beating through ultrasound machines. Now, it’s all about the legacy, the gifts of decent lives, genuine family and the understanding of how to appreciate it all.

Vision

A simple recounting of my experience being forcibly separated from my kids is too narrow a scope for this blog. Rather, the blog should be:

  • a means of support for fathers with similar or worse experiences;
  • a clearing house of information helpful to fathers unfamiliar with the legal system;
  • a database of family law attorneys and their tactics, good faith or otherwise; and
  • the basis of a movement for changes to family laws across the nation that acknowledge fathers can and should be allowed to be more than simply providers of financial support with limited visitation rights.

Certainly, these are huge undertakings, but if this blog can spare one other deserving dad the anguish of being reduced from a fulltime parent one day to a voice on a phone and occasional visitor the next, it’s worth the effort.

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